Friday, August 7, 2009
This movie is a jumbled mess. Stephen Sommers has directed better films in the past, but Rise of Cobra is just a schizophrenic nightmare.
Sommers' past films--notably The Mummy--managed to keep a comfortably brisk pace while still making the audience care about the admittedly-silly characters. G.I. Joe, on the other hand, seems content to completely focus on the action. There are many flashbacks that explain the backgrounds of several characters, but most of those scenes are more annoying than interesting.
The action scenes are decent, though there's nothing to rave about. The special effects are pretty terrible, though that might simply be because of "style." The entire film comes across as a live-action cartoon in nearly every possible way. However, there's a rather large amount of swearing and a violence for this to be considered a childrens' film, which is rather odd. One wonders what exactly the target audience was for this movie.
In all honesty, there's not much more to say about the film. It's not terrible, but it's not great.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Half-Blood Prince is not entirely without disappointments, however. While the dark seriousness of the story is not necessarily a bad thing, it does take away some of the "punch" that The Order of the Phoenix excelled at.
Another problem with the film is the fact that it lacks a real ending. While The Order of the Phoenix managed to create a conclusion where one really didn't exist, here we don't even have any sort of closure at all. Although we are told exactly where the characters are going and what's happened at the end, we still don't have the emotional closure that is necessary for the film to work on a purely emotional level. This very well may have been the intent of the filmmakers, as Dumbledore's death is meant to be an emotional blow, but the simple fact is that the ending is not satisfying. It feels as though we are given an invisible "to be continued" message when we shouldn't have needed one.
Eight points for Gryffindor.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It is, however, a decent-ish movie.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen lacks solid character development, good scriptwriting, and a coherent plot. And yet, for all it's flaws, there are still select moments where it's highly entertaining.
Revenge starts off with a brief prologue, followed by a great action scene that sets up the plot very well. In this story, Optimus Prime and his team of Autobots are working alongside NEST, a small U.S. military force led by Major Lennox, to eradicate the Decepticons from the face of the planet. When an ancient evil enemy, The Fallen, moves to destroy the Earth, Optimus Prime and the Autobots find themselves nearly powerless against this new Decepticon threat.
The film feels very much like the original animated series, as we get the same globe-spanning (and oft-ridiculous) sci-fi war adventures of the Transformers. It's a lot of fun, even if it comes off as convoluted and silly.
Mikaela (Megan Fox) has nothing to do in the movie. All of her important scenes only serve to advance the plot in a very small way, and it's obvious that the scriptwriters were just looking for something to do with her. Nearly all of the other secondary characters are similarly useless or annoying, with the notable exception of Major Lennox, who continues his role as the .
The two new "comic relief" characters, Skids and Mudflap, are extremely annoying. They're portrayed with a large number of racial stereotypes (which makes absolutely no sense), and serve to do nothing other than sit there and act like morons. They could have been completely taken out of the story and the film would have been better for it. It's not exaggerating to say that they're the worst part of the movie.
The rest of the Autobot cast is relatively ignored. Ironhide and Ratchet are given only a few lines in this film, and serve as background characters along with Arcee, Jolt, and Sideswipe. While this might seem sad, it ultimately works, as they really are mere soldiers in a war, and aren't extremely important characters anyway.
It's been said by some that a film is filled with depth, while a movie is superficial entertainment. By those definitions, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a terrible film, but a so-so movie. Normally the battles and "fun" elements of the story would be enough to elevate the movie overall, but the bad stuff here is just so bad that it's hard to enjoy the whole.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Star Trek is an insanely fast and fun re-imagining of the Star Trek franchise, and it generally works. Those who pine for a methodical, thought-provoking film may be disappointed, as this film makes momentum its primary concern. If the 1978 Star Trek: The Motion Picture was focused on slow plot development with minimal action, then this new Star Trek is its polar opposite. While there is plenty of character definition and development, this film does it in a very quickly-cut style, giving us hundreds of great character "snippets" rather than a few dozen longer sequences. Sadly, the film is perhaps too focused on the momentum, often interweaving too many subplots into the narrative in order to keep the pace going strong. It's a trade-off, and while I'm not sure it was for the best, it certainly keeps the film interesting, which is, at the very least, fun.
"Fun" may be the key word in this new film, which seemingly ditches the science fiction "thinker" feel of the old Star Trek for a much more exciting narrative. Humor similar to that seen in Star Trek IV (the one with the whales) abounds in this film, which may annoy some and thrill others.
The characters of Scotty and Chekov are played mostly for laughs, and while 80% of the time it works, every fifth gag comes off as childish and stupid. Hopefully that'll change by the time the second film rolls around,
One significant point must be addressed: two of the main characters become romantically involved. Every time I hear myself or anyone else bring up that relationship, I have to stop and take a moment to gather my scrambled thoughts up off the ground. While the film certainly explains why their coupling should occur, it is still very off-putting. However, the humorously shocked reactions of the other characters to this relationship both acknowledge and alleviate viewers' concerns.
Some of the plot choices in Star Trek are confusing. Why exactly did the writers feel the need for a Willy Wonka-style "Scotty's stuck in a water pipe" scene? It added NOTHING. Also, the reveal of the film's backstory was badly done, leaving many--including myself--scratching their heads as to why the choice was made to reveal the central driving force of the external conflict in such a schitzophrenic and vague manner.
Another seeming plot hole is the fact that Kirk and most of the main characters are mere cadets, yet are almost instantly promoted to being the senior staff of the Federation's flagship by the end of the film. From what I've heard, there was a bit of dialogue that was cut from the film which explained that, due to the time-altering events of the film's prologue, the timeline is attempting to "mend itself" by pushing the same people from the Original Series into their same roles, despite the altered state of the universe. That line would have gone a long way to explain things, and I'm not exactly pleased that it was cut.
There are several events in this film that are so mind-shatteringly epic that they forever alter the Star Trek universe. This new series of films is not the same Trek we've known for 40 years; this is something entirely different, slightly akin to Joss Whedon's Serenity. Some may not initially welcome the change; it took me about twelve hours to accept it. Now that I've had a good morning's sleep, I've realized that I love this new movie. It's character-based, fast, and fun.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
And even after all of that, I am honestly not sure what to think of this movie.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not an X-men film, nor is it entirely a Wolverine film. It's actually a strange amalgamation of various elements that all come together into an oddly-constructed narrative.
The plot basically follows Wolverine as he goes through the various events that will lead him through his membership in the superpowered black ops unit, Team X, and end with him losing the memories of his past.
An odd amount of time in the film is actually spent on a dozen or so other mutant characters that honestly feel like "extras" in a film that should be centered solely on the title character. At times, the film feels like a video game with the way that it constantly switches from character-fight-scene to character-fight-scene.
Some characters ultimately work (though the story might have been better-told without them), while others only hold the story back. Most of them fit into the latter category.
Wolverine's biggest flaw is that it doesn't allow you to feel for the character(s). While Hugh Jackman gives it his all, the script, direction, and editing don't allow for the film to work on the personal level that it should. Also, there are many changes in Wolverine's story that seem rather odd, such as the choice to make Sabretooth, a villain seen in the first X-men film, Wolverine's half-brother. Since Wolverine has his memory wiped in this movie [not really a spoiler], it would make sense for him to not remember Sabretooth, but how exactly did Sabretooth go from a cold and calculating murderer to a blonde guy who just stares funny at people and has no memory of anything having to do with Wolverine?
BAD CONTINUITY MANAGEMENT.
The visual effects are... hit-and-miss. There's nothing that really blows the mind of the viewer, nor is there really anything with much artistic quality. Many of the special effects are actually pretty bad.
All in all, this isn't a terrible film, but it's not amazing either. Go see it if you're a huge comics fan (if only because this will be the subject of many a geek-discussion in the months and years to come), but otherwise wait until the DVD, then NetFlix it.
As I have recently learned, if you are a female, this film apparently is much, MUCH more enjoyable, and you should add another five points to the below score. (thanks, Hugh Jackman). :P
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This direct-to-DVD feature is actually two films--Hulk vs Thor and Hulk vs Wolverine--on one disc. However, unlike its deceptively simplistic title, these two animated shorts are not simple fighting matches; they are complete stories which both feature the Hulk as the main antagonist.
Hulk Vs Thor:
This short film is slightly longer than its Wolverine-centered counterpart. Additionally, the story is far more straightforward and epic. This tale is a mythological epic that literally takes the heroes and villains to Hell and back, all with a grand style befitting of its source material.
Everything in this animated Asgard glows with a supernatural light and is sculpted with an angelic grace. This truly feels like a supernatural realm, and is not easily confused with our world.
Thor himself is well-designed, not looking too chunky or overly feminine. He looks, sounds, and moves exactly as he should.
The story is simple, yet takes several turns. At the start, Hulk vs Thor deals with Thor's evil half-brother, Loki, attempting to use the Hulk as a weapon against Asgard. Of course, the Hulk is a monster that cannot be controlled, and apocalyptic chaos ensues.
Bruce Banner's character is given a surprising amount of depth in this story, with the importance of the Hulk/Banner duality in the spotlight. A twist in the plot allows for a deep look at what makes Bruce Banner a hero, something that is rarely--if ever--seen in his other stories.
This tale deals with themes of life, death, love, and self-sacrifice. The epic scale of Thor vs Hulk is remarkable, especially considering its short 45-minute length.
The animation is practically flawless, mixing artistic flair with fluid-yet-brutal motion. I do wonder, however, at the apparent lack of on-screen blood. It seems strange that certain scenes in Hulk vs Thor that show on-screen sword wounds are oddly devoid of the animated blood that permeated Hulk vs Wolverine. After all, it's not as if the film was going to get a rating below PG-13 anyway. Perhaps this film was not originally meant to be coupled with the grittier Wolverine story? Perhaps Marvel Studios wants to be able to air this film on television? In any case, the fact that the story takes place in a magical land covers up for any perceived lack of realism.
All in all, the film is great at what it is: a 45-minute superhero action/drama. Though it may not stand up as high as many of DC comics' animated movies, it's definitely a great feature that fans of action, comic books, mythology, or animation in general can enjoy.
Hulk vs Wolverine
Hulk vs Wolverine trades drama for carnage-filled fun. I was very, very surprised at the level of violence in this film. On-screen characters are dismembered and disemboweled. However, this is not a simple carnage-fest; there is in fact a story here.
This story takes place before Wolverine joins with the X-men, but after he has escaped from the Weapon X science lab. The actual narrative is simple: the government wants Wolverine to track down and possibly kill the Hulk, who has apparently gone on a rampage. However, Wolverine's old Weapon X teammates have special plans, both for Bruce Banner and Logan himself.
One thing that's immediately obvious is that the character designs are a bit different in this film than in Hulk vs Thor. While the designs in Thor were elegant-yet-strong, the characters here have a "clunkier" feeling. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as it reinforces the gritty tone of the story, but I would have appreciated Wolverine looking a little less goofy.
On that note, however, Wolverine is characterized pretty perfectly, just as Thor was. Voiced by the excellent actor who also voices Logan in Wolverine and the X-Men, Wolverine's voice has the perfect amount of grit.
The Hulk/Wolverine fight is one of the best and most brutal fights I have ever seen in animation. It's bloody, tense, and genuinely surprising.
The real story kicks into gear, however, when the Weapon X team shows up.
The villains of Weapon X are a lot of fun to watch, but while Omega Red, Deathstryke, and Sabretooth are mostly just out for Wolverine's blood, Deadpool is genuinely funny. His morbid humor is both slightly disgusting and completely hilarious. It's the first time he's ever been seen in animation, and it's nice. It'll be great to see him return in Marvel's future stories.
If there is any real flaw with Hulk vs Wolverine, it's that the story is practically non-existent. It's lots of fun, but after seeing Thor's deep and meaningful development on several different characters, Wolverine is just a bloody thrillride. However, as a bloody thrillride, it's awesome.
All in all, this is a really great DVD movie. It's thoroughly enjoyable, and has some of the best action animation on this side of the Pacific Ocean. The DVD has some great commentaries that highlight the little details, making the experience for comics fans that much better.
Friday, March 6, 2009
The twelve-issue comic maxi-series Watchmen was published in 1986, and has now become recognized as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. Its deep study of the psychological reasoning behind superheroic characters has influenced every facet of the comic-book industry. The story is gritty, realistic, and shockingly dark at times. It is not a tale for children, as its content is entirely too mature.
Many had previously (and infamously) called Watchmen "unfilmable," citing its overly complicated narrative and nonlinear storytelling. Zach Snyder, director of this 2009 film, has now proven them wrong.
For those who don't know, Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985, where costumed vigilantes exist in the real world. With one major exception, none of the so-called "heroes" have superpowers, and many of them are slightly insane. The presence of these vigilantes has completely changed the world, with the U.S. winning the Vietnam War and the subsequent events of the Cold War becoming even more heated. In the present time of Watchmen, the "doomsday clock" stands at five minutes to "midnight," when nuclear devastation will be upon the world. The main plot of Watchmen revolves around a core group of "heroes," complete with lengthy individual flashbacks. When one of these heroes is murdered, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens millions of lives.
Fans of the novel may be dissatisfied with certain alterations to the original story. However, the changes all work in the end. Several alterations are actually superior to the original tale.
Zach Snyder will forever go down in history as the one man with the ability to adapt comics into motion picture form while still maintaining their original integrity. Watchmen practically uses the original novel's panels as storyboards, yet still somehow makes them work in motion. This may be the single most visually well-done film I have ever seen.
Parents must take note: This is not a film for children. Heck, it may not be a film for you. There are at least two notable sex scenes in the film, though only one of them was very graphic. There was also quite a bit of nudity in the film, but only once was it ever used in an unnecessary way. Curses are thrown about like lawn darts, though never without reason. The violence is brutal and bloody. When a younger friend of mine asked me if I thought her parents might allow her to see the film, I replied, "Nope. Your daddy would drag you out of the theater. Too many broken bones and naked people."
Watchmen was always a tale of moral ambiguity, and this film is very accurate to its source material. This is not a simple film in which the characters are identified as "good" or "evil." This is a story about realistic human characters with real human flaws. Those looking for a superhero film will be disappointed: Watchmen is no such thing.
This film is an elaborate series of stunningly beautiful musical montages. Watching Watchmen is like eating New York cheesecake drizzled with strawberry glaze. I found myself wanting to cheer at the action scenes, which are overly stylish, yet kinetic and real enough to seem plausible. Set to electric guitar rock combined with traditional superheroic orchestral fare, the action in this film makes the men in the audience feel like eight-year-old boys again (provided that the on-screen bone breaks and cracked spines don't make them vomit)
Sadly, Watchmen does have its narrative flaws. Even the original novel felt lacking, as though the reader was only privy to short glimpses into the lives of these complex characters. This film has the same problem, but does make up for it somewhat with its highly enjoyable visuals.
All in all, Watchmen is not a perfect film, but is still very good, acting as the new standard for comic book adaptations.