The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a pretty tough story to screw up. The book was written as a simple children's adventure tale told from a singular point of view, and that is what it is loved for. Peter Jackson doesn't seem to understand what he's trying to do with the film adaptation. The movie struggles just to figure out what it is trying to do and tries so hard to pad itself with irrelevant Tolkien lore that it eventually starts to fall apart cinematically.
Not content to simply tell the first-person (well, technically "second person") account of Bilbo Baggins' adventure to The Lonely Mountain and back again, this Hobbit film tries to incorporate other plot threads from the complex tapestry of Tolkien's extended Middle-Earth lore. This creates two problems:
- The story loses its narrative focus and suffers cinematically from poor pacing and confusing scene transitions,
- The movie's tone shifts wildly from light-hearted fantasy to overly-serious forebodence.
If only you hadn't been blinded by your fanboyism, Stephen; you could have warned us!
The Dark Knight Rises' opening scene reminded me a lot of the opening scene of Dark Knight and put a bad taste in my mouth, as if this movie would end up being just a bigger version of Dark Knight and that Bane would feel too much like the Joker.
Fortunately, the movie ended up going in a different direction. Dark Knight was all about the Joker setting up his master plan, but never being able to follow it through (since he never fully breaks the spirit of Gotham's citizens, and Two Face gets covered up by Gordon). This movie, instead, focuses on the villain's master plan actually working! In essence, this movie follows up on Dark Knight by essentially establishing the version of Gotham City that Joker was striving for. Bane succeeds where the Joker failed. Bane throws Gotham into total isolated anarchy and breaks the spirit of its people the way that Joker just couldn't do. Rises offers apocalyptic spectacle that actually works! So many movies try to make the villain's plot too grandiose, and make the threat so immense, that the movie sort of falls apart and gets silly. In this case, however, the apocalyptic vision of Gotham works exceptionally well. [More]
I have to say that I was impressed with how quick a 2 hour and 16 minute movie could feel. The Amazing Spider-Man is slightly shorter than The Avengers, but it is just about as well-paced. Despite being stuck with another telling of Spider-Man's origin, the movie manages to keep things moving along without getting boring. It does this by offering a very different version of the characters and events leading up to Peter's transformation into Spider-Man. But it lacks the same emotional impact that the first movie had and ends up feeling a bit more sloppy.
First and foremost, Andrew Garfield is not your father's Peter Parker. He's much more confident and outgoing, as well as being tall and handsome. I would even go so far as to say that he comes off as being cocky. As such, he doesn't quite live up to the socially-outcast-nerd identity that most fans assume. Garfield's Peter Parker does, however, express his techie, intellectual side much better than Tobey's previous interpretation of the character. Even before Peter is spider-bitten, we see him inventing unique tools and gadgets, manipulating photos for the school paper, and offering Uncle Ben suggestions for fixing a leaking washing machine.
A major point of the movie's early plot is the mysterious disappearance of Peter's parents. Richard Parker's work in genetics is something that apparently got him in trouble with some unreputable individuals, and he and his wife Mary had to leave Peter with Ben and May and run away. When Peter learns that his father used to work with Curtis Connors at Oscorp, he sneaks into Oscorp in order to find out what they were working on. It is here that he wanders into a room containing the experimental spiders that give him his powers. Despite his intelligence, and fondness for science and technology, he just starts playing around with stuff in the lab. You'd think a smart guy like him would know better, but whatever. [More]
Prometheus is a disaster of almost Phantom Menace proportions. Its script is a comedy of stupid that makes the Three Stooges look like Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.
This movie lost me completely about 10 or 15 minutes in, when Noomi Rapace's and Logan Marshall-Green's crackpot archaeologist characters (Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway, respectively) are explaining their mission to the newly-awakened crew of the Prometheus. They tell the crew (consisting predominantly of scientists) that they had discovered stone tablets all around the world that depict giant men pointing to a particular constellation in the sky, and that they believe that these tablets constitute an invitation from humanity's extra-terrestrial creators that they should visit them in space. They dismiss the possibility of coincidence by saying that a.) the art lines up exactly, and b.) the particular star cluster was too far away for any of those primitive cultures to have been able to see with the naked eye, and so aliens must have told them. The hypothesis itself doesn't upset me on its own. But when asked by a mohawked, punk geologist what actual evidence they have to believe that aliens had intelligently engineered life on earth, Shaw responds that she has none, but it is what she "chooses to believe".
These two crackpot archeologists' wild-ass hunch, thus became the basis for a trillion-dollar space expedition in which scientists and engineers were drafted into without even being told where they were going or what they were doing.
Now, if this silly setup had ended up being my only complaint with the movie, I'd let it pass, and Prometheus probably could have turned into an excellent science fiction (or space fantasy) movie. Unfortunately, Damon Lindelof's script is unbearably bad, and is completely dependent on every character (despite being scientists, engineers, and a hyper-intelligent andriod) being dumb as a rock. [More]
Hooray for Hollywood reboots/remakes! Are you as sick of them as I am? Normally, I’m not a big fan of reboots and remakes, especially if they involve changing the details of an origins story (see my X-Men: First Class review). But there are exceptions to every rule. Case in point: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes completely rewrites the origins for Planet of the Apes that was depicted in the third film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. The original story involved survivors from the future, ape-run world being sent back in time to 1970’s earth and giving birth to an ape named Caesar who would eventually lead other apes in a violent revolution against humanity. In the original origin story, all the cats and dogs of humanity were killed by a plague, and humans started taking in apes and chimps as household pets. Eventually, those apes would be trained to serve as a subservient laborer class before revolting under the leadership of Caesar.
In some ways, Rise of the Planet of the Apes could be considered a “remake” of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in that it tells a different story for the origins of the ape-run world. [More]
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