Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Movie Reviews *Spoilers*

I've been disappointed with all the summer blockbusters thus far and I've been remiss in reviewing them. Here are some thoughts. Maybe I'm getting old and cranky or maybe I've just seen too many movies but I find they're all making the same mistakes. They're either mindless action sequences riddled with inconsistencies strung together with a moronic plot delivered by bad writing or they just fail to get the the tone right.

Iron Man 3

I already reviewed it here Movie Review: Iron Man 3 Spoilers

Star Trek Into Darkness

I think I enjoyed myself in this film better than I did the first one, but I'm not sure why. I thought the first had captured the characters well but had a dumb plot centered around an underdeveloped villian and had horrible visuals based on shaky-cam and lens flares. The creators might have actually read my complaints and tried to address them in this film. The villian is well developed, there's a plot which is a metaphor for our response to 9/11 and there's less shaky-cam and lensflare. Win! Right?

Well not quite. This film made the choice to focus on the Kirk-Spock relationship at the expense of the other characters. It's a valid choice but they have less of those interesting characters they had in the first film. Second they get Kirk wrong. All that maturing that happened in the first film, gone. In the original Kirk was the middle between Spock's logic and McCoy's emotion. Now he's just the Stephen Colbert persona, doing everything based on his gut, and they contrast that with Spock.

Everyone else is stupid too. Remember in Star Trek when Khan quoted Moby Dick (which the plot also referenced). In this film there's literally a scene where Kirk yells "What was I supposed to do!" and the Admiral yells back "I'm not listening to you, you don't listen to me!". No he didn't have his hands covering his ears while saying "nah nah nah I'm not listening to you" but it was remarkably close.

Kirk fires Scotty in this because Scotty has some morals. Then this happens and I don't think the stupidity needs to be explained:

  • Kirk: "Chekov, you were once in engineering right?"
  • Chekov: "Yes, sir"
  • Kirk: "You're now chief engineer, get a red shirt"

There's another scene where Spock literally calls Old Spock to ask what to do.

But really, overall it just makes no sense. The villian's scheme is overly-complex to the point of being ridiculous. Apparently there are no security forces anywhere on or near earth, let alone at Star Fleet. And then you get to the end. They need Khan's wonder-blood to save Kirk so Spock has to chase him, alone, on foot over flying cars throughout San Francisco. Meanwhile McCoy, having discovered wonder-blood, takes another person with said wonder-blood out of a cryo-unit to put Kirk in it. I just don't understand how anyone could watch (let alone write) this and not moan at the stupidity.

But the worst sceen was just before and was worse not because it was dumber plotwise, but because it was horrible movie making. They copy the most famous scene in all of Star Trek and have no idea what emotion they want or how to get it. In Star Trek II they kill Spock in act of self-sacrifice and friendship and it's topped off with an over-acted scream that's been parodied countless times. This film copies the scene and oh look, they swapped roles, how clever and ironic or something. But the death was obviously not real because they had just shown McCoy bringing the tribble back to life. Kirk and Spock are barely friends in this reboot so there's much less resonnance. And moments before dying Kirk was realigning the warp core by literally swinging from rafters and kicking it with both feet like a gorilla. I honestly didn't know if I was supposed to be crying or laughing.

Someone please call Ronald D. Moore to write the next Star Trek film.

Man of Steel

Superman was exactly what I feared it would be once I heard Christopher Nolan was involved. While he did a great job on the Batman films, he used the same tone for his Superman movie and Superman has always been a different character and the contrast between him and Batman has been a staple of the comics for decades. If you accept the film on it's own terms, and I realize that you're supposed to, it's not bad. But I had a hard time doing that, it just wasn't Superman to me.

In my world, Pa Kent doesn't tell Clark to let a bus of school kids (his friends!) die in order to keep his secret. And in my world, Superman tries to save innocent people whenever he can and he doesn't kill his enemies no matter how bad they are.

It did the effects pretty well even it did copy the alien designs from other films. I thought the 3D view screens were pretty neat. The fights between Kryptonians never looked better and the destruction they would cause was spectacular. I also liked that Lois was smarter than she's ever been, but while I love Amy Adams there wasn't much chemistry between them (the script didn't develop it) and the kiss was completely unearned.

A few weeks after seeing it, i barely remember it. How Man Of Steel Should Have Ended is pretty good.

A few days after I wrote the above I saw Film Critic Hulk's analysis and it's long (19,000 words!) but good, THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAMATIZING CHARACTER and has a 6,000 word followup A FEW CLARIFICATIONS ON HULK’S MAN OF STEEL ARTICLE

World War Z

I've not read the book but I kind of want to. It apparently treats the notion of a zombie apocalypse very seriously but it separate oral narratives so it's hard to adapt to a film. The movie added a main character and a bunch of quests to send him around the globe.

That's all fine but I hated the way it looked. Lots of shaky-cam running with lots of closeups. I was unfortunately sitting in the second row so that might have influenced what I thought, friends sitting further back really liked it. Shaky-cam has it's place to give a scene a sense of confusion and immediacy, but I don't see the point in a whole film being that way. It gets redundant. I was thinking about walking out but it turns out I'm glad I didn't. The last set piece was the best part of the film. It's also the ending added at the last minute, and filmed differently so that it was about tension and suspense.

It did start with stupidity. It was one of those scenes where otherwise thoughtful characters meet and are suspicious of each and barely talk so they just become more suspicious. I actually said out loud "Just use full sentences and be done with this". It's just bad writing, forcing an emotion for no logical reason. And the ending was just groan inducing, though better than the original one planned. Honestly, they just should have written the family out of the film and it would have been much better.

Pacific Rim

This was the best of big action flicks I've seen. Guillermo del Toro is remarkably gifted at bringing something improbable to life and making it look good (e.g., Hellboy and Pan's Labrynth). Pacific Rim is giant robots vs giant monsters and it definitely delivers that. I wish at least one of the fights was in sunshine so you could see things better, but it's easier to hide things in the dark and rain. Still it wasn't shaky-cam and you could see what was going on.

I didn't watch any trailers for it beforehand and didn't know much about it other than it was taking its premise seriously. I had heard there was a plot and real characters. I was a little disappointed that it was a cartoon plot and anime characters. The governments just shut down the robot program for an ineffective wall so the marshall has to go it alone. Soldiers with daddy issues and needing a retired soldier because there's an old robot. The worst are the scientists, breathlessly getting out as many words as they can very Speed Racer style and acting completly unlike real scientists and for some reason without any government backing. There's a lot about the soldiers bonding via a neural connection, but I think the relationships in Top Gun look like Hamlet in comparison.

Ron Perlman is fun, as always. There's an extra scene in the middle of the credits, stay for it (though I was expecting it to happen earlier in the film).

I want a T-shirt that says "The kaiju want the little dude"

Update: Drift Compatible goes into some details of the genres that Pacific Rim was maneuvering.

This is the End

How would Hollywood celebrities faces the apocalypse? Some of this was funny, particularly the various cameos and some of the (what I hope are fake) characterizations, particular Michael Cera. Some bits went on way too long, but if you inclined to see the film, it will probably deliver enough so that you'll enjoy it.

20 Feet from Stardom

So far this is the best film I've seen this summer. A documentary about backup singers. Great music and interesting stories. It seems that like 5 woman have sung every song you've ever heard. And you'll never listen to Gimme Shelter the same way again.


The Dad said...

Hmm, perhaps it would have been more appropriate to simply link to this:

The Dad said...

Let's try that again: