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Posted on 7/11/12 11:37 PM
When The Amazing Spiderman was first announced, the reaction from most people was along the lines of "it's too soon for a reboot!" Well, in my opinion it's never too soon for a great Spiderman film, and that's what Amazing Spiderman is.
The film starts with a flashback when Peter was a young boy. He walks into his dad's office to find out that someone raided it. Upon finding out, his parents immediately take him to Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and then leave. Fast forward to the present and Peter is a nerdy high school kid who hasn't heard from his parents since then. While cleaning up the basement one day, however, he finds his dad's old suitcase, and in it is a picture of his dad with another scientist. His aunt and uncle are hesitant at first to reveal who that scientist is, but in the end his uncle informs him that that's Doctor Curt Connors. Eager to find out about his parents, Peter heads to the building where Doctor Connors works and while there gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider. Before long he starts showing some very strange side effects. Meanwhile, his relationship with Uncle Ben starts to get strained due to all the time Peter spends with Dr. Connors, who is trying to find a way to make human bodies perform self healing and thinks he may have found the solution in an equation Peter gave him. Things aren't helped by the arrogant attitude Peter gets thanks to all his newfound powers. However, when a heated argument between him and his uncle ultimately leads to a terrible tragedy, Peter learns that with great power comes great responsibility, and turns into the masked vigilante known as Spiderman.
On the night before going to see The Amazing Spiderman, I decided to watch the original Spiderman to see how the two would compare. A lot of people complain that the original hasn't aged well, but I disagree. Yeah, some of the CGI looks outdated and The Green Goblin Costume is terrible, but other than that it's still a solid film, one that I like even more with each new viewing. That's why when I walked in to see The Amazing Spiderman I thought for sure I would get a feeling of déjà vu.
That didn't happen. Yeah, the film touches on a few similar plot points of the original, but other than that it's a completely different film, and even those similar plot points are handed differently enough not to feel like a rehash of the first.
So how does it compare quality wise to the original? Well, Peter Parker discovering his newfound powers doesn't quite have the same magic that the original had, but then again it doesn't even try to. Also - minor spoilers in the next couple of paragraphs for those unfamiliar with the Spiderman origin - I thought Uncle Ben's death was handled better in the original.
Other than that though, everything else in Amazing Spiderman is just as good, if not better, than the original. I've heard some complaints that the first third of the movie is boring, yet I disagree strongly. I found myself hooked on the film from the very first scene. The film does a great job of balancing out several different plot threads and keeping them connected (the mystery surrounding Peter's parents, Peter learning how to use his powers, his strained relationship with his uncle and later his aunt, his romance with Gwen Stacy, Uncle Ben's killer, and Dr. Connors' transformation). Granted, it doesn't resolve all of them, but that actually helps set it apart from the original, as it makes it feel like part of a bigger story, whereas in the original trilogy, each new film was more of a standalone pic.
The performances really help the film. I thought Tobey Maguire did a great job as Peter Parker; however, his performance as Spiderman was kind of weak. Here not only does Andrew Garfield nail Spiderman, giving him all the quips and one liners we expect from Spidey, but he does Peter just as well, managing to give his own take on the character, both keeping the essence of what makes Peter one of the most popular alter egos of a superhero, while also making him different enough to stand out from Maguire's take on the character, who played him as your lovable, awkward nerd. Garfield keeps the awkward bit, yet he also makes him an outcast, someone more conflicted due to his parents leaving him when he was still a kid (one of the most heartfelt scenes in the film is when Uncle Ben tells Peter to be more like his dad, Peter angrily asks where his father is).
Martin Sheen also gives a strong performance as Uncle Ben, keeping the warmth Cliff Robertson brought to the character, while also giving him a more colder edge as well. Sally Field gives a different performance than Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, yet again one that works just as well. Whereas Harris's Aunt May was very trusting of Peter despite him obviously keeping stuff from her, Fields' Aunt May is more concerned over Peter and his continuous disappearances, as well as upset that he's not telling her the truth (spoilers - the scene at the end where Peter finally gets the eggs for her is both funny and touching).
Another good performance is Dennis Leary as Chief Stacy, who in this more version is much more hateful towards Spiderman, while the relation between Peter and Captain Stacy is one of the highlights of the film. Also, while I was very disappointed that Dylan Baker never got the chance to play the Lizard, yet Rhys Ifans is a suitable replacement, while the Lizard is arguably the second best villain in the franchise behind only Doctor Octopus with his tragic storyline (spoilers - though admittedly his grand scheme is kind of predictable. I mean as soon as that device that good shoot particle in the air was mentioned, you could tell it would play a major part in the climax).
The really standout, however, is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, who gives the best performance of a love interest in a superhero film since....oh, I don't know....maybe Michelle Pffier in Batman Returns (who had the advantage of playing a superhero as well). She makes Gwen smart, sympathetic and more than able to take care of herself, while the chemistry between her and Garfield is particularly strong.
The film is also one of the funniest superhero movies I've seen. As said before, Garfield gives off numerous one liners when he's behind the mask, while there's several hilarious scenes in the movie (the funniest being a scene involving a great cameo appearance by Stan Lee).
I must admit I wasn't really expecting much action-wise from the film, given that this was Marc Webb's first big budget action film, and yet I was pleasantly surprised. The action scene at the end is incredible. It's worth the extra price of 3-d alone (the scenes with Spiderman swinging through the buildings are some of the best uses of 3-d I can recall). Meanwhile, the special effects are just as good ,with the CGI used on the Lizard being particularly impressive.
The score is also another strong point of the film. James Horner gets a lot of heat for reusing the scores of his films, and while it's true that you can detect notes in the score that are very familiar to those used in other movies scored by him, it's still pretty fantastic.
Fans seem to be split right down the middle regarding the reboot. They seem to be decided into two camps - one that didn't like Raimi's trilogy and found the new film to be the Spiderman film they've been waiting for, while the other is still mad at Sony for rebooting the original film and is practically begging for Raimi to return. In my opinion, I can't understand the need to choose one version at the expense of the other. I loved the original trilogy (I even have a higher opinion of the third film than most), and yet I loved the reboot as well. True, it'll probably end up being the weakest superhero movie of the summer (unless The Dark Knight Rises disappoints), but that says more about the strength of superhero films this summer, as in my opinion this is still one of the best Marvel adaptations, and arguably the second best Spiderman film behind only Spiderman 2, full of heart, humor, action, and strong performances with an ending that feels both satisfying and at the same time leaves you breathless for a sequel.
Posted on 11/22/11 09:46 AM
Like 300, Stardust is one of those few films based on a graphic novel that isn't a superhero movie. While 300 was a war epic with bits of fantasy thrown in, Stardust is a pure fantasy film, and like nearly all fantasy films that aren't Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia, it disappointed at the box-office. That's a shame, because it deserved huge success.
Tristan is a young man of 18 who lives in a small village called Wall (it's named that way because it's right next to a wall that is guarded by a 98 year old man who doesn't let anyone cross) He's sweet on a girl named Victoria, who is far above his class, doesn't share the same feelings for him, and prefers another guy, Humphrey, over him (though she doesn't mind toying with both of the guys affections) Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall, there exists a magical realm, called Stormhold, where the king is on his death bed. He calls forth all his sons (well, the ones who are left, as they do have a knack for killing each other) and tells them that the one who can achieve his precious ruby will be the new king, which he launches into the sky just before dying. The ruby goes up into the stars before heading back down to earth. However, in doing so it caught a star with it, and brought it down to earth. Victoria and Tristan see the star shooting across the sky, and in an effort to prove himself, Tristan vows to get the star for Victoria.
Unfortunately, he can't even get past the old man guarding the wall and returns home dissapointed. That's when his father tells him the story of his past. 18 years ago, Tristan's father made it past the wall and discovered the magical world behind it. There he fell in love with a beautiful woman who was captured by an old peddler lady, and in the one night they spent together Tristan was brought into this world. Unable to keep him, his mother sent him back to his father, along with several gifts, one of them being a Babylon Candlestick, which can transport the owner to anyplace they think of. Eager to see his mother, Tristan lights the candle, yet while doing so, his mind returns to Victoria and the star, and instead of being transported to his mother, he is sent crashing down on the star, which turns out to be a girl named Yvaine. She is not particularly impressed with Tristan, but he does have a Babylon Candlestick, which is the only thing that can send her back to the sky. Since there is only enough left in the Candlestick for one more use, Tristan makes a deal with Yvaine - if she can come with him back to Victoria, he will give her the candle. Yvaine reluctantly agrees, and they both set out on a journey back to Wall. Unfortunately, the remaining Princes (there's now only two of them left; they're habit of killing each other has only intensified after their father's death) are after the ruby Yvaine now wears on her neck, while three witches saw her falling from the sky and want to capture her and eat her heart, which will make them all beautiful. Along the way there's also a Unicorn, goats that aren't all what they seem, Pirates, and Robert De Niro in a dress.
Yeah, I'm sure we can guess what happens between Tristan and Yvaine. If you're looking for a film that offers a new twist on the fantasy genre, you'll probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're looking for a good old fashioned adventure movie, well they don't get much better than this.
The story may seem bloated with way too many characters, but on the contrary, the amount of characters is part of what makes the film work. Like all the best fantasy films, it creates a rich universe filled with fascinating creatures and objects from two headed elephants to ships that fly in the air collecting lightning to sell, as well as many great characters. It also manages to make all these elements work together and be crucial to the plot instead of just making it an obstacle course.
At the heart of all this is a tale of a boy learning to become a man and the growing romance between him and the girl. The two main characters seem to have been written as nods towards fairytales and classical mythology, and like the good old fashioned nature of the story this helps give the film a certain charm. Tristan is like many heroes we grew up reading; he's not very bright or strong, and he seems to survive mainly through an array of magical objects given to him by older wiser characters; however, he's also very loyal and kind of heart. All this helps make him a person we can sympathize and relate to. Yvaine is in many ways like all those princesses in fairytales; she seems to have a knack for attracting trouble wherever she goes; However, the filmmakers wisely decided to give her a few more traits to not make her feel so helpless. She can have quite a bit of a temper at times, and she's pretty sarcastic (particularly when she's expressing her displeasure at being taken to Victoria - "hmm...Murdered by Pirates. Heart torn out and eaten. Meet Victoria. I can't decide which sounds more fun..."). Both are played very well by Charlie Cox and Claire Dane respectively, who have great chemistry together.
While the two main leads are the heart of the film, it's the supporting players that steal the show. Mark Strong and Michelle Pfeiffer are both great as the two main villains of the story, particularly Pfeiffer, who is both cunning and (despite the fact that she was pushing fifty by the time the film hit theaters) beautiful, at least at the beginning (one of the amusing parts about her character, Lamia, is that she loves both being beautiful and using magic whenever she can, particularly on helpless victims. However, every time she uses more magic, she loses more of her beauty, so you can imagine the type of conflict this creates) Mark Strong plays Septimus, who is not as powerful, but just as cunning and ruthless. Robert De Niro, meanwhile, is hilarious as the fearsome Pirate Shakespeare (apparently, the name sounds really fierce to the ears of Pirates) who has the funniest scene in the entire movie (it's cheesy, but in a good way). The rest of the cast is also strong, while Ian Mckellen offers a great narration to the story.
Given the amount of characters in the film, I was kind of worried how the climax would pay off, but thankfully, my worries were misplaced. Everything comes together perfectly in the finale, which is both big, tense, and emotionally rewarding, while even managing to squeeze a little bit of humor as well (curtsey of the princes, whom whenever they die come back as ghosts to follow the living ones)
Stardust is a perfect example of what a lighthearted fantasy film should be like. In fact, outside of the Lord of the Rings films, this is arguably my favorite fantasy film of the last decade. It's full of humor, heart, and great performances, and is just a whole blast of good fun.
Posted on 11/14/11 12:18 PM
300 is the kind of film where critics seemed to be at a disagreement with most people. It currently holds a 59% score on Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, it holds a 90% score by Rotten Tomatoes users, which is more than what a lot of classics scored, while on IMDB it has a rating of 7.8. At the box office, meanwhile, it was a massive success, grossing over 200 mil domestically, making it the highest grossing historical epic unadjusted for inflation, while it was an even bigger hit on the home market. So what's the reason between the huge difference in reception between critics and audiences?
Like director Zack Snyder's Watchmen, it's going to be a little hard writing a brief plot synopsis, but while with Watchmen it was because the plot was too complex to fit into one paragraph, here it's because there's so little plot so to speak of. Basically, an army of one million Persians has arrived on the shores of Greece, causing the King of Sparta to take 300 big muscular men to go fight them, despite the protests of the High Council, who are secretly being paid by the Persians to claim that this is a time of holiness where the Spartans shouldn't fight (King Leonidas simply claims that he and his men are just going for a stroll) That's basically the whole plot of the movie. Okay, there's also a subplot involving the king's wife, Gorgo, trying to persuade the Council to send help, but that part has very little impact on the story. Heck, they could have removed all the council stuff, and just shown the part with Dilios at the end giving his inspiring speech and that would have been enough to convince us that the council agreed to send help afterwards.
It's easy to see why critics weren't as enthusiastic about the film as audiences. Calling it style over substance is an understatement. Most of the runtime is spent on the greatly outnumbered Spartans battling all the Persians with the help of an awesome soundtrack and a lot of slow motion. The film doesn't earn its R-rating lightly, with blood and limbs flying everywhere, enough to please most guys, while having 300 muscular men dressed like wrestlers with capes also makes it perfect eye candy for ladies. In short, it's a definite crowd pleaser, and it succeeds very well in that regard.
However, even ignoring plot and character development, there are a couple of problems I found with the film. The battles are greatly staged with excellent choreography, but they're also lacking in tension. I always feel that the best wars are those which you don't want to happen, because of the amount of dread and hopelessness leading up to it. The battle of Minas Tirith in Return of the King is a great example of that. The tension you feel as you watch the massive armies near Minas Tirith is incredible, and then when the war actually starts it feels almost hopeless because no matter how much the warriors of Gondor try, the armies keep getting closer and closer to the walls. I was practically on the edge of my seat the whole time.
Unfortunately, no such thing occurred with 300. You'd think that 300 soldiers up against an army of a million would be incredibly tense, yet therein lies the problem. The numbers are so mismatched that in order for the Spartans to have any effect on the Persians, each one of them has to kill hundreds. This means that most of the battles are basically the Spartans moving through the Persians and killing them as easily as if they were punching bags. Very, very few of them die in these battles. Heck, we don't even see them get injured (Dilios is shown after one fight scene with a bloody eye, yet we don't actually see that occurring, while the same thing can be applied to all the scratches we see on King Leonidas' helmet, though the rest of his body stays unscathed. I guess the Persians always aimed their blows at his metal helmet, not his unprotected skin)
The Spartans, meanwhile, feel no dread or hopelessness during these battles. They're incredibly confident, shouting battle cries at the top of their voices, and competing to see who can kill the most Persians. It's the Persians who feel frustration and fear, as they try one different tactic after another, from giants, to rhinos, to sorcery, most of which causes a lot of damage to them while doing nothing to the Spartans (whenever an elephant or rhino comes, it has to be shown knocking or trampling Persians, while it ends up getting killed before even reaching the Spartans) Basically, the battles are about as tense as a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Another problem I found with the film was the lack of sympathy. The Persians are shown to be very cruel, with the leaders and captains yelling and whipping at the rest to move forward, while all of them worship their king, Xerxes, who is carried on a massive throne that needs dozens of slaves to support it, while every time he feels frustrated he executes those who disappoint him. However, while the Spartans have more freedom, they still aren't that much better. There is a scene where the Spartans all stare up in shock at a tree that the Persians have made using the corpses of villagers they slaughtered. Apparently though the Spartans think nothing of throwing their weaker babies off cliffs and putting their kids through brutal training, while in a scene that is almost ironic, they are later shown to be using the corpses of Persians to build a wall, acting as casual as if they were using rocks. Remind me again whom I'm supposed to be sympathizing with.
Moving onto the acting, well it's not like any of the roles here are particularly challenging. However, I will say that Gerard Butler is great as King Leonidas, giving his character a real sense of authority and power (not to mention he gets to yell the best line in the movie "This is Sparta!") Also impressive is David Wenham as Dilios, whose narration of the events is a nice touch. The visual style, meanwhile, is amazing. Since most of the film is done in front of blue screen, it allows Snyder to put his visual creativity to full use.
As pure popcorn fun, 300 is pretty entertaining, featuring numerous battle sequences that are well staged even if they're too one-sided, all in tune to a great soundtrack. If you're looking for a film with a great plot and characters then I'd suggest looking elsewhere. However, if you're looking for some mindless fun, then 300 might just do the trick, despite a number of flaws.
Posted on 11/11/11 01:06 PM
I missed reviewing Unbreakable when I was going through superhero movies in chronological order, so I figured now would be the perfect time to review it. Unbreakable was M. Night Shyamalan's follow up to The Sixth Sense, and while it wasn't as critically or financially successful, it still fared pretty well in both regards, and it's not hard to see why.
The film starts off with the birth of Elijah Price. It is a joyful moment for everyone, until the doctor horrifyingly discovers that he has a disease that makes his bones incredibly fragile. Fast forward to the present day, and David Dunn is returning home on a train, which ends up crashing, killing everyone on board except David who comes out completely unharmed. Confused as to how this happened, David finds a note on his car a few days after the crash, leading him to Elijah, who has spent his entire life collecting comic books as a way of distracting him from his physical problems and now owns a store that deals with rare comic book art pieces. Elijah believes that comic books characters are exaggerated versions of real people and that if there is someone as weak as him, then there must be those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum. He believes David is one of those people. Although his son likes the idea, David at first believes this is just an attempt to con him, and is all too happy to return back to his usual life, especially now that things are going well with his wife after the accident. However, he begins to notice strange stuff about his life that he never noticed before and with the help of Elijah begins to solve the riddles of his past, while discovering what he can do in light of these revelations.
Unbreakable is a superhero movie, but it's different from most. It's much more of a drama than anything else. There are no guys in capes and costumes, no big action sequences, no plots involving the destruction of a city. Instead, it's a small film dealing with a guy discovering what he is and his relationship with those closest to him. This isn't a surprise, as M. Night Shyamalan is not the type of director known for huge spectacle, but rather relies on mood to carry his films and unlike so many of his later films, this one has a story that allows him to excel on that.
This film is incredibly well told. Despite its slow pace, I was more absorbed in it than a lot of big budget action movies. The scenes involving David discovering what he's capable of are extremely well done (such as the weightlifting scene) while I loved the mystery of David Dunn's past and all the twists and turns the film takes in explaining it.
In a drama like this, the acting is particularly important, and the cast doesn't disappoint. Watching this film and the Sixth Sense, it's almost hard to believe that Bruce Willis typically stars in big, dumb, over the top action movies, given how quiet and subtle his performance is in this movie. He also has strong chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, who is brilliant (as always) as the thoughtful and observant Elijah Price, as well as with Spencer Treat Clark, who portrays his son Joseph (given that the previous kid star in an M. Night Shyamalan film was Haley Joel Osment, he had some pretty big shoes to fill, and yet he does really well all things considered)
The climax, meanwhile, is another strong point of the film. M. Night Shyamalan puts his skills at creating a strong atmosphere to good use here, with his long slow shots building a sense of dread that is much effective tension wise than simply blowing stuff up. Also, like all Shyamalan films, Unbreakable has a great score, curtsey of James Newton Howard (who is to M. Night Shyamalan what Danny Elfman is to Tim Burton or John Williams is to Steven Spielberg)
On the down side of things, there's the final twist that occurs at the end. It felt like Shyamalan was trying too hard to give off a similar ending to Sixth Sense, yet while the twist in The Sixth Sense made me want to watch the film all over once again just to pick up the clues, the twist in Unbreakable actually hurt the film for me. Granted (spoilers) it is a nice reference to the hero/villain relationships that are found in most comic book movies, but at the same time it really hurts the character of Elijah and the relationship the film built between him and David; not to mention it doesn't make much sense either (if Elijah believed himself to be the villain, then why did he spend so much time and effort trying to find the hero, who would most likely end up putting him in jail?) Not only that, but even if I were to accept the twist, it still wouldn't give me the incentive to go back and watch the film and pick up the clues leading to it like the Sixth Sense, since there are so few clues so to speak of. Also, at times the comic books elements of the story felt at odds with the rest of the film, even though they much more toned down than usual.
Overall, Unbreakable is a superbly acted, deeply moving, well told and well shot origin film that succeeds despite a weak last minute twist. There was talk not too long ago of possibilities for a sequel, and while I wouldn't mind that (provided it's more along the lines of Shymalan's earlier films and not his more recent ones) I'm not anxious for it either, as Unbreakable is a complete story as it is.
Posted on 10/29/11 12:52 AM
There are times when expectations can really hurt a film. Case in point: Iron Man 2. It earned a 74% positive rating by critics and over 300 mil domestically, yet in both cases it was seen as a disappointment.
At the start of the film, we see an old man in Russia dying in his bed, watching a video of the conference Tony Stark held at the end of the first movie (where he revealed some very surprising news) His son, Ivan Vanko, comes in just before the father dies, and after grieving for the loss of his father, he sets out to build a new type of weapon. Meanwhile, back in the states, Tony Stark seems to be having the time of his life. He's succeeded in bringing one of the longest periods of peace on record, and is huge celebrity. Unfortunately, the palladium that is keeping him alive and powered his suit is also poisoning him, while the government, particularly Senator Stern, is pressuring him to hand the suit over, claiming that they need it because other countries are trying to build similar suits, but Tony Stark assures them that no one will posses the technology for at least another ten years. He's proven wrong, however, when Ivan Vanko attacks him during a car race. Tony wins, but now Senator Stern has even more of an excuse to get his hands on the Iron Man suit. Meanwhile, the blood poisoning is reaching a dangerous rate with Tony, and seeing how he hasn't long to live, he begins to behave recklessly, alienating his friends. Then as if to make matters worse, a competitive rival to Stark, Justin Hammer, sees potential in Ivan and frees him from prison, before instructing him to build him an army of suits to take Iron Man down.
It was a sign of how much I loved the original that I bought Iron Man 2 on DVD as soon as I had the chance (I missed seeing it in theaters) and I'm happy to say that I greatly enjoyed what I got. In fact, when I first saw it, I honestly thought it was even better than the original, though it hasn't held up as well on repeat viewings, but it's still a lot of fun.
First off the weaker points. The Story is not as strong this time around, lacking the freshness and well pacing of the first. There are a number of dull spots in the film where it doesn't seem sure where to go, while there are times when it's almost difficult to suspend disbelief, even beyond the usual range of a franchise that involves a guy making a suit in a cave under the eyes of terrorists (Spoilers - Howard Stark leaving encrypted messages in an old model of a building was a little too hard to accept, which therefore hurt the drama of Stark finally finding a replacement for his arc reactor) It also suffers from a Spiderman 3 problem with too many characters added into the plot, though not to the same degree. Take Agent Coulson, for example, who is hardly seen in the film and then comes to give a dramatic goodbye to Stark. Yeah, I'm sure we'll all miss a character we hardly even saw. Also, the references to other Avenger characters seemed practically forced into the plot, which added to the pacing problems (something the director himself complained about, saying it was the studios decision) Finally, I know this sounds like I'm going too deep into details, but peeing in the suit? What is this, an Adam Sandler comedy?
On the other hand, practically everything else about this film is as good as or better than the original. First off, it's nice to see a superhero film where the identity of the hero is known to the public. Instead of getting another movie where the main character has to run off unexpectedly with some lame excuse to fight crime, we get one whom is loved by the public, though at the same time is more vulnerable because everyone knows his identity. The cast is even better this time around, with the new additions mixing in well with the old ones. Robert Downey Jr. is once again amazing as Tony Stark, with so much charisma and humor that it's actually more fun to watch Tony Stark when he's not in the suit. He also manages to make us feel sympathy for him, even when he's acting like a total jerk (him dying from the suit gives a strong dramatic arc to the story) while the chemistry between him and Gwyneth Paltrow is even better than the first. Meanwhile, the director Jon Favreau gets much more screen time this time around as Happy Hogan and he makes the best of it (His fight with a guard is not only hilarious, but it's also one of the most believable fights involving a security guard, as for once he doesn't drop down on the first punch)
As for the new cast, well first off Terrence Howard was unable to return for the sequel as James Rhodes, and was replaced by Don Cheadle/Iron Monger. While it may create some continuity problems, I actually thought it was for the best, as this time around, Rhodes is much more hostile toward Tony Stark, something Cheadle I think does better than Howard (as for the suit of Iron Monger, it's even cooler than the newly designed one for Iron Man) Sam Rockwell is a funny addition as the almost childlike Justin Hammer, while Mickey Rourke shines as the menacing and cunning Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, even if for the most part he's in a lab building droids. Samuel L. Jackson, well he's Samuel L. Jackson. I've yet to see him give a bad performance, and he doesn't break that streak here as the tough Nick Furry. Scarlett Johansson doesn't really have much to do in the - ah hell, who cares. She plays Natalie Rushman/Black Widow, who fights crime in a skintight outfit; that's enough for me. Besides, she also has some fine chemistry with Jon Favreau.
The action is an improvement over the first. Granted, it's still lacking in tension, but it is better staged and more impressive. The highlight is the battle at the race track, while the climax is practically an all out war (spoilers - though I felt Whiplash is defeated too easily) Not to mention the chemistry and humor in the climax more than make up for any disappointment in the action. In fact this is arguably the funniest superhero movie I've reviewed so far.
I mentioned in my review of Spiderman 3 of a trend in superhero franchises, where the second film is better than the first. Iron Man 2 broke that trend. To be fair though, making a superior sequel to Iron Man is a lot harder than making a superior sequel to Fantastic, and even if it's weaker than its predecessor, Iron Man 2 is nonetheless a blast of fun. I think what hurt its reputation the most is that a lot of people were expecting a sequel of Dark Knight caliber, but while I didn't go "wow" when the credits rolled like The Dark Knight, I still couldn't help but give a chuckle at the final scene in the movie (the medal ceremony, not the forced in Avenger one)
Posted on 10/27/11 02:02 PM
Watchmen has a reputation that's almost hard to ignore. At first glance at the rating on Rottentomatoes, you'd think this was merely an average superhero movie. However, looking at the reviews you'd realize just how mixed they are, with some critics calling it a masterpiece, while others absolutely loathed it. At the box office, its performance was almost legendary. It opened very well, thanks to the goodwill Snyder received from 300 and the film's striking look, but then it completely collapsed week after week, so that half of its box office total came from the opening weekend alone. Nonetheless, I entered the film with an open mind, ready to expect the unexpected.
Like The Dark Knight, it's difficult to describe the plot of Watchmen in a mere paragraph, so I'll stick to the basics. The film is set in an alternate 1985 where masked crime fighters exist and where America won the Vietnam War, which in turn helped Nixon stay as president. The war was won thanks mainly to the efforts of Dr. Manhattan, a superhero with extraordinary powers (he's also the only one in the movie with any powers so to speak of) He's part of a league of heroes known as The Watchmen, yet due to protests, the government has banned any masked heroes. Meanwhile, there's a growing dread of a nuclear war happening soon due the cold war between the US and The Soviet Union reaching dangerous heights. At the beginning of the film (yes, we're still at the beginning) a man known as Edward Blake, who used to be a member of the Watchmen, is murdered, causing a still-roaming-free-despite-the-ban crime fighter known as Rorschach to start investigating, fearing that someone is trying to eliminate members of the Watchmen. As his investigation continues, more mysterious events start occurring and Rorschach begins to discover the secrets behind a very dangerous and world threatening plot.
I can see why this film collapsed so hard at the box office. A lot of people blamed it on Warner Bros. selling Watchmen as something it wasn't, but I disagree. The trailers were pretty vague, not really giving much about the film, leaving it pretty much up to the audiences to discover what it was about. The only real mislead was selling it heavily as from the director of 300, which despite being based on a comic book and having a similar style had little in common with Watchmen. I don't think Watchmen would have done great no matter how it had been sold. It's simply too out there for most audiences. The closest comparison I can think of would be Batman Returns and even then the comparison isn't that close (at least Batman Returns was rated PG-13)
Watchmen is gritty, dark and almost shockingly violent (there's a scene where a boy bites off the cheek of another boy, and another one where a pregnant woman gets shot - and no it's not by a villain but by one of the Watchmen who was the cause of her pregnancy) It's also very plot focused with little in the way of big action scenes. This means those expecting X-men or Spiderman are going to be pretty disappointed. On the other hand, those expecting V for Vendetta or The Dark Knight may also be disappointed. While those films were very grounded in realism, this one has a number of fantasy elements, namely in the form of Dr. Manhattan. Forget the fact that he's a blue naked guy (and the film isn't afraid to show it) how about the fact that at one point in the film he travels to mars and builds himself a gigantic flying mechanical device? In short, those looking for a gritty realistic film and those looking a fun action film will both likely be disappointed.
On the other hand, those who watch the film with a more open mind may find quite a lot to like. As said before, the film's plot is much more complex than your average superhero movie and deserves re-watching. I've heard many say that this film can only be appreciated or understood by those who've read the graphic novel, but I disagree. I never saw the graphic novel and I had no trouble understanding and enjoying the film.
Also, the visual style of this movie is amazing. It truly feels like a graphic novel come to life. Some of the shots, particularly those taken in the rain - or later on, the snow - are absolutely breathtaking.
Another thing that really sold the film to me was the characters. They all felt very real to me, especially when they start talking about their lives before the team dispersed, discussing topics such as the villains they had to face or the suits they were (Laurie Jupiter's comment about how ridiculous her suit was actually pretty amusing when you consider that her comment basically applies to almost all female costumes in comic books) or when they meet up with old and retired former enemies, how there's a certain respect they have for each other. If there really was a team of masked vigilantes, this is how they probably would be.
The former team is also given a wide range of distinct personalities. You've got the smart and un-human Dr. Manhattan (Bill Crudup); the tough and independent Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre 2 (Malin Ackerman) - for those wondering about the 2, it's because her mother was also part of the team and was the first Silk Spectre - the nerdy and shy Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson); the calm and calculating Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Mathew Goode), who is widely considered to be the smartest man of earth; the annoying and obnoxious Edward Blake/The Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan), who although he dies in the beginning of the movie appears in numerous flashbacks during the course of the film; and finally, there's Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) who's my favorite character in the film. Not only is he by far the coolest looking, with his coat, black hat, and mask that has ink blots that constantly change into different shapes, but he's also incredibly menacing is his don't-mess-with-me type attitude (interestingly, he becomes best friends with the member of the watchmen he is least like - Niter Owl 2) I like how Snyder chose his cast to be free of big names. This makes it easier to be more immersed in the characters themselves than the actors playing them.
On a side note, maybe it's just me, but Jackie Earle Haley reminded me a lot of Christian Bale, and not just when he was in his mask and growls like Bale's Batman but when he's outside the mask too. The scene of the doctor interrogating him in prison, where he sits there calmly and quietly and answers in short cool answers reminded me so much of Bale in movies like Equilibrium that it was almost uncanny.
On a much more major note, there's the dialogue, which isn't one of Snyder's best attributes and it shows in this film. Some of the dialogue comes off as a little too corny. Also, while Rorschach's voiceover was a nice touch to the film, at times I felt he was over explaining things (instead of leaving them for us to interoperate) while at other times, he would go off in long winded talks where the filmmakers were obviously hoping he would come off as cool, when in reality, he came off as cheesy (Like the time where he decides to tell us of a joke he once heard - no kidding. It reminded me of The Matrix Revolutions where during one of his philosophical talks Agent Smith chose one of the dumbest topics to philosophize on - breaking a plate of cookies)
Then there's the ending, which I didn't buy. For those of you who don't want spoilers please skip to the next paragraph, for the rest - yes, having a common enemy would unite all the nations and remove fear of a nuclear war, yet the way the film was making it out, with newspapers complaining about how there's nothing interesting in the world to report, you'd think everyone was singing and dancing without a care in the world. I mean let's face it, people will be people, cold war or not. Also, the number of flashbacks in the film made it feel a little unfocused at times.
Moving onto the music, I like the decision to include classic songs into the film's soundtrack, even if at times the song didn't quite fit what was going on in the scene (like The Comedians Funeral) though other times the song was perfect for the scene (like the one that played as Rorschach and Night Owl flew to Antarctica) Finally, while there weren't that many of them, the fight scenes were incredibly well shoot with stunning choreography (particularly the one where an assassin comes to kill Ozymandias) They are a little too one sided, but that wasn't nearly as bothersome as Snyder's previous film (though on a side note - spoilers - I must admit the scene where Silk Spectre shot Ozymandias, who pretended to fall backwards had me practically wanting to shout to her "shoot him again! Can't you tell he's bluffing?" I mean seriously, this guy brags about being able to catch bullets, do you really want to drop your guard with him?)
I strongly believe that there will come a day when The Watchmen will be better regarded, maybe even becoming a cult classic. Granted, it has its flaws, with corny dialogue, a slight lack of focus and a not too convincing ending, but it also has a strong plot, amazing visual style, and great characters that feel more real than most superheroes, making it a masterpiece, albeit a flawed one.
Posted on 10/24/11 10:30 AM
The Dark Knight. What more does there need to be said about this film that hasn't been said already? Following months of massive hype, the film was released to huge critical acclaim and earth shattering box office records. It wound up as the highest grossing of the year and the highest grossing superhero film on record, even when adjusted for inflation, selling more tickets than the likes of Spiderman and Superman. It's currently tied with Iron Man as the highest rated superhero film based on a comic book, though it has a much higher average rating. It also currently stands at No.9 on IMDB's list of highest rated films, making it the highest rated film of the last decade and by far the highest rated superhero film. It also received the highest amount of Oscar nominations for a superhero film, while it missing out on a best pic nom was considered a huge snub and is arguably the reason why the academy would later expand the nominations to ten instead of five. It's received so much acclaim that it's suffered from a certain degree of backlash (few films have been called overrated as much as this film)
Usually I start off my review with a brief description of the plot. Unfortunately one paragraph simply won't do the film's plot justice (heck, you need several viewings to fully understand the film) Basically, to put things in a very simplified manner, the film involves the plights of Batman, Lieutenant Jim Gordon (who later gets promoted to Commissioner) and newly appointed District Attorney Harvey Dent to stop the crime wave in Gotham City. Unfortunately, just when things really seem to improve, the mafia in desperation turn to a man whom even they have no idea just how dangerous he can be - The Joker.
Watching The Dark Knight reminded me of watching The Godfather Part 2. No, it's not just because that they're both highly acclaimed crime sequels with a long running time, but because of the similar experience I had with them. In both cases, I came in with very high expectations due to all the praise the films had received and was initially let down. I enjoyed them, but I didn't feel they lived up to their hype. However, with each repeat viewing I began to enjoy them more and more, and realized how much I had missed on my first viewing. By the time of my third or fourth viewing of The Dark Knight I was left with a "wow" feeling after the credits started to roll.
This is a film where even the title has a deeper meaning to it. There's a reason why it's the first film about Batman not to have the character's name in the title and why it's called The Dark Knight other than how cool the title sounds. Not only is this the first Batman film not to feature any bats in it, but The Dark Knight is also a very accurate description of what Batman is.
The film can essentially be seen as a comparison between Batman and Harvey Dent, who is dubbed as Gotham's White Knight. Harvey is in essence a true hero. He is well loved by everyone, he doesn't hide behind a mask, he challenges the mafia directly instead of lurking in the shadows, and he obeys the rules and works within them. This makes him a much more positive icon to the city, and yet it also makes him much more limited and much more liable to be corrupted or fall (as Harvey himself says "you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain") Batman, on the other hand, is not your best description of a hero. He broods in the shadows, wears a mask, he's hated as much as he is loved, he lives by only one rule (never kill anyone) and has no trouble using any methods on criminals he's sees necessary, even if it involves throwing someone off a building. However, all this allows him to do things regular heroes can't do, such as taking the blame for crimes he didn't commit. The film demonstrates just how much more than a hero Batman is by comparing the different fates of Harvey and Batman. The ending of the film can seem a little confusing on the first view, but with repeat viewings one realized just how deep and complex it is (it also demonstrates another theme of this movie which is how sometimes the truth is not enough. Spoilers - having Batman say in the end in a voiceover how people deserve more than the truth and then showing Alfred at that very moment burning a letter Rachel wrote to Bruce, preventing him from knowing that Rachel intended to marry Harvey Dent was one of the most brilliant scenes in the movie)
In fact, it's almost interesting how much Batman actually bears in common with The Joker, with the one rule Batman put on himself being the one line that really separates them, a line The Joker throughout the movie is determined to push (he even tries to get Batman to kill him) Speaking of The Joker, one thing I've noticed in comic book adaptations is how difficult it is to find a convincing reason as to why the villain would want to destroy a city. The Joker is arguably given the most convincing reason, which is no reason at all. There's no logic to The Joker's actions, he's not out there for revenge or greed, he simply takes pleasure in watching the world burn (On a side note, I've noticed how a number of reviews have complained that for someone who claims he's just a dog chasing cars, he sure seems to have what seem to be very well thought of plans. I think they misunderstood what the Joker meant when he said he wasn't a guy with a plan. I think he meant that there simply was no real purpose to his actions, except maybe to prove how people are just like him. Also, I don't think his plans were very well thought of. They were incredibly risky and seemed to have been formed on a mere whim, which is probably why they were able to work so well, because the police were used to much more organized operations from the mafia)
One of the many things I loved about the film is how they went out of their way not to give The Joker an origin. We're not sure where he came from, we don't know his names, we're not even sure where he got his scars (having the Joker's story of how he got his scars change everytime he tells it was a nice touch) One of my complaints about the batman films pre-Nolan that The Dark Knight solved was how they gave The Joker an origin yet not Two Face, which I think is completely wrong. Because the Joker has no motivation or compelling reason behind his actions, an origin feels pointless and actually lessens our fear of the character. It's a problem with so many horror remakes as well; they try to explain the actions of a character that we're not supposed to feel sympathy or compassion for. On the other hand, Two Face is a much more conflicted villain, and therefore needs an origin so we can understand why he's doing the things he's doing.
One can't talk about the Joker without mentioning the brilliant performance of the late Heath Ledger. I remember how so many were skeptical when it was announced that Heath Ledger would portray the Joker, and how his mere voiceover in the teaser completely changed people's view of him. He really buries himself into the character, coming out completely unrecognizable (unlike The Joker in the original Batman, where most of the time I was watching Jack Nicholsen and not The Joker) He's creepy, deadly, psychotic, and his mere laugh sends a chill down your spine (The scene where Batman interrogates him in jail had me starring in shock at just how crazy the Joker was) In fact, he's the type of villain that most horror films would love to have. I also like how Ledger didn't try to go too over the top or tried too hard at humor. This makes him much more menacing and also gets a much bigger laugh out of you when he says or does something funny (the mere sight of him emerging out of the hospital after setting up the explosives and then stops and presses the button repeatedly until the explosions finally goes off had me laughing hard) Rarely has there been a character whom you could fear so much and yet find him so funny at the same time. It's almost hard for me to watch any other portrayal of The Joker without thinking how much it pales in comparison to Ledger's. His Oscar was well deserved.
The performance of Ledger is so great that I've heard many say how he outshines everything else in the film. Personally I disagree with that, because the rest of the film is pretty amazing two. In fact, my two favorite scenes from the movie (Batman confronting Dent and the ending) don't even have the Joker in them. Also, it's not like the rest of the cast is weak; in fact, this film arguably features the best cast in a superhero film ever. Christian Bale continues to greatly balance portraying the spoiled and carefree Bruce Wayne (or so he appears to the public) and the menacing Batman (his growling has increased from the first film, but while that's another thing people love to complain about, I actually think it's logical that with time Batman's voice would grow thicker and thicker as a way to further disguise his voice) Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman remain strong supporting players to the film, while Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart are welcome additions to the cast as Rachel Dawes (replacing Katie Holmes, who was unavailable for the film) and Harvey Dent respectively.
Even on a pure entertainment level, there's a lot to enjoy. There are several impressive action scenes throughout the film, the highlight being the chase through the city, where we see Batman using his Batpod for the first time (and it's one of the coolest vehicles ever) Granted, Nolan still uses a lot of shaky-cam, which can make the action a little hard to follow at times (particularly the fight between Batman and The Joker) but then again, this is a film you're going to have to watch more than once to fully get, so it's almost suitable that the same applies with the action scenes.
Like almost everything else about the film, the drama is top notch (spoilers - Rachel's death is one particularly heartfelt scene) It helps that the conflicts in this film are not just black and white. In his attempts to prove how cruel people really are, The Joker puts the people of Gotham through a number of situations where they're almost guaranteed to turn against Batman and the police. This puts a lot more weight on the climax, where Batman and The Joker are not just fighting physically like they would in a lesser movie, but fighting to prove whether or not people deep down are all just as ugly as The Joker, which in turns makes the resolution all the more rewarding (spoilers - a number of people I know have protested against it, saying that in real life the people in the ferry boats would have done exactly what the Joker wanted, but I disagree. Yes, a lot of people would have wanted the other boat blown up but how many would have willing to have the death of hundreds of people on their conscience, even criminals? I think the film demonstrates that idea perfectly, showing how despite the fact that the majority on the first ferry boat voted for blowing up the other one so they could be spared, no one had the guts to do push the button themselves)
While many agree that the lack of a best picture nomination was a huge snub for the film, I also think the lack of a nomination for best score was another major snub (though in that case, there was some behind the scenes drama that prevented it from getting it) Hans Zimmer's score is so epic it pulls you into the film. The music for the Joker, known as"Why so serious?", is especially noteworthy in the way it builds up so incredibly and effectively (take the scene where the Joker is about to tell Batman about the origin of his scars - the music for the scene hits all the perfect notes at the right time, and the same goes for the scene between The Joker and Rachel)
Finally it goes without saying that the special effects in this film are great. Nolan continues relying on practical effects, using CGI only when necessary (like the effects on Two Face) which goes really well with the gritty realism of the film, and means that even the effects are likely going to withstand the test of time, just like everything else in the film.
Simply put, The Dark Knight raises the bar for superhero movies, one that has yet to be matched. Not only is it my favorite superhero movie, it's one of my favorite movies ever. A lot of people say that once the fanboy hype dies down the film won't be as well regarded but I disagree completely. This is one of those rare films that gets better and better with each viewing. If you saw it once and felt letdown from all the hype, I'd advise you to watch it again, because you'll probably appreciate much more on repeat viewing. Almost everything about this film is masterfully done, while the ending is one of those that doesn't seem to scream at you "come and see the sequel!" but instead leaves you feeling completely satisfied with the film and wanting more.
Posted on 10/23/11 02:00 PM
Normally, a gross like the one of Hellboy wouldn't be enough to get a sequel going. However, Hellboy was also well recieved by audiences, convincing Universal to get the rights for the sequel, and releasing Hellboy 2 four years after the original. Sure enough, it proved how much audainces like the first as Hellboy 2 scored a much bigger opening weekend than the original Hellboy. Unfortunately, someone thought it was a good idea to open Hellboy 2 a week before a movie starring a certain someone who dresses up as a bat, and Hellboy 2 fell hard in its second weekend. That's too bad, as this film certainly deserves big success.
In a prologue, we see Trevor Broom telling a young Hellboy the story of the Golden Army, a powerful army made for the leader of the elves, King Balor, to battle the humans, controlled by a mystic crown. Despite the fact that the army is winning easily, King Balor is not a cruel person, and he offers a truce with the humans, splitting the crown into three pieces and giving one to the humans, so that the Golden Army can never rise again. Flash forward to the present day, and King Balor's son, Prince Nuda is attempting to gain control of the army. He steals the piece of the crown belonging to the humans, kills his father and steals the second piece, yet his sister, Princess Nuala, manages to escape with the third piece. Meanwhile, Hellboy and his crew are on Prince Nuda's trail. Things are going to be difficult, as not only are there a number of personal problems among them (Liz being pregnant, a new person in charge, Hellboy revealing himself to the public, etc) they are also up against one very tough and determined enemy.
So how is Hellboy 2? Like so many superhero sequels, basically everything that worked in the original works even better here. Granted, one can almost always expect a sequel to be bigger in scope, but this one is also better in terms of drama as well, with a number of interesting conflicts, all given the time they need and handled incredibly well.
The characters are a huge asset to the film. It's worth watching this film just to see Ron Perelman return as the titular Hellboy, who is perhaps my favorite superhero. He's certainly the most interesting one, not just because he's red with horns and the tails, but also because of his "do before you think" attitude, not to mention his sarcastic nature and the way nothing seems out of the ordinary for him. He also feels conflicted at times, because he bears more in common with the creatures he's fighting than the humans he's protecting (Having Hellboy reveal himself to the public was a nice twist, as not only would it have pushed belief too far with having him constantly fighting monsters in public areas and still remain a myth to people, but also because we got to see how people reacted to his presence, from those who were fascinated by him to those who feared him, thereby increasing his doubt and confusion)
The other main characters are more fleshed out this time. Selma Blair returns as Liz, who it's nice to see working with the team and feeling more confident about herself, while the film also advances the romance and tension between her and Hellboy, who is unaware that she's pregnant with his kids. Doug Jones gets a much bigger part this time as Abe Sapien, who despite all his intelligence is at a complete loss at how to express his feelings to Princess Nuala, who is brilliantly portrayed by Anna Walton (I particularly liked the way the scenes transitioned between Hellboy and Liz and Abe and the princess during one of the quieter parts of the film) John Meyers doesn't return in this film, but then again, he wasn't really much of an interesting character. He was simply there in the first film to help introduce as to the world of Hellboy, and now that that part's been taken care of, his presence really isn't needed.
One of the weaker aspects of the first film I thought was the villain. That's not the case here. Unlike Rasputin, Prince Nuda is a much more complex character. He's not exactly evil, but he's also extremely hateful towards humans, and is frustrated at his father for not destroying them when he had the chance. He even tries to convince Hellboy of his plight on more than one occasion (in one of those times, when Hellboy is fighting a forest spirit, he tells Hellboy that this creature is the last of its kind, thanks to the humans, and asks him if he really wants to kill it for people who will still fear him afterwards)
The film is also practically bursting with visual imagination. There's a scene where Hellboy and his friends walk through a sort of underground market that is filled with so many imaginative creatures to and fro. The effects are also very convincing. This film was made on a budget of 85 million, which isn't much compared to what big budget popcorn flicks usually cost, and yet it looks better than films with twice its budget, thanks to Del Toro continuing to rely on more practical than computer animated effects. Meanwhile, the Golden Army is really a sight to behold.
Finally, this film is just a whole lot of fun. There are several entertaining action scenes, with the final battle between Hellboy and Prince Nadu being particularly epic, even if the ending is a little predictable (spoilers - you'll probably figure it out as soon as Princess Nuala tells Abe about the connection she shares with her brother) not to mention kind of sudden. There's also plenty of humor to go with the action and drama. I must admit I was worried at first that the new member leader the team, Johann Krauss, could have been far too cheesy, with his weird appearance and thick accent, but his bizarre nature actually helped give the film its weird edge.
Simply put, if you enjoyed Hellboy, chances are you'll enjoy Hellboy 2 even more. There's still the effective combination of memorable characters, visual imagination, humor, action, and drama, all even better this time around, while the villain in this film is big improvement over the original Hellboy movie. The Golden Army may have been the lowest grossing superhero movie of the summer, as well as one of the more modest grossing superhero movies in general, but it's one of the best in my opinion. In fact, I'd have a hard time choosing which film was a bigger blast - this or Iron Man. It's almost a shame that Del Toro doesn't plan on continuing the film series.
Posted on 10/22/11 11:28 AM
More than anything, Hancock was proof to Will Smith's huge draw power. Despite not being based on any previous source material and receiving mixed reviews, Hancock scored the third biggest opening weekend of the year for a superhero movie, while worldwide it wound up being the second highest grossing superhero movie behind only The Dark Knight.
While people may love Will Smith, they sure don't like John Hancock, at least not in the beginning of the movie. He's a very powerful superhero (apparently the only one of his kind) and yet while he typically captures the criminals, he's incredibly reckless, usually causing more damage than help during his rescue attempts. Not only that, but he's also an alcoholic with a very unlikable personality. During one of his "heroics" he rescues a well meaning driver, Ray Embrey, from being hit by a speeding train by standing in front of it. Of course, the onlookers aren't too pleased (as they rightfully point out, why didn't Hancock just lift Ray's car instead of wrecking the train?) but Ray stands up for him by pointing out that he would be dead now if it weren't for Hancock. He invites Hancock to dinner, much to the fascination of his son and contempt of his wife. Afterwards, the good natured Ray decides to try and help Hancock improve his attitude and become liked by people, and as they continue with their attempts, John starts not only to improve personality wise but also uncovers secrets about his mysterious past.
This film went through numerous re-writes from a number of different writes, and when watching the final product you sure can tell. The film introduces a number of interesting ideas, yet at times doesn't seem to know what to do with them. There are plot elements that are introduced too suddenly (like the "hey, let's put Hancock in jail" plotline) which can make the plot a little jerky at times.
On the other hand, this is still a compelling film. It certainly wasn't the big dumb action film I was expecting when I first saw it. The mysteries of Hancock's past (not to mention the character himself) kept me hooked. There are a few big action scenes spread throughout the film that are pretty good but they all feel second to the drama in the film. Some of the comedy is a little weird (such as Hancock literally shoving a guy's head up another guy's - well, let's just say I'm slightly surprised it managed to avoid an R-rating), while I noticed a lot of critics complained about the plot twist that happens halfway through the film. Personally, I thought it was an interesting turn of events even if I didn't buy it completely (spoilers - while it does explain why Hancok was drawn to the Embrey's it didn't explain Ray. I mean what are the odds that the one person who would support Hancock would also happen to be married to Hancock's former lover) It also allowed for us to feel some genuine concern for Hancock (the hospital scene is one particularly tense scene that had me on the edge on my seat)
Finally, the film is supported by strong performance from the cast. Will Smith has been known for mainly playing likable characters with a lot of high energy (him screaming "Aw hell no!" is practically a tradition in his films) so having him playing a mean-spirited more grounded character was a pleasant surprise. Jason Bateman gives a fine performance as the well meaning Ray, even if the character comes off as a little too much of a goody two shoes at times. Charlize Theron, bring off a great sense of conflict as Mary, who doesn't want Hancock in her life, and yet doesn't want to let down Ray either (there's one particularly touching scene when she visits Hancock, and asks him not to disappoint Ray)
Overall, I can't disagree with most of the critic's complaints against Hancock, but I also think the positives outweigh the negatives. Out of all the films that crossed 200 mil domestically in 2008 this one I think is the weakest while in terms of superhero films this arguably ties with The Incredible Hulk as the weakest superhero film of the summer (though if forced to choose between them, I'd slightly prefer Hancock) However, in both cases it says more about the competition than it does this film. Despite the feeling I got that at times the film doesn't seem sure where to go, it's nonetheless an interesting take on the superhero with good action, compelling drama, and strong performances by the cast.
Posted on 10/20/11 03:38 PM
When The Hulk was released in 2003, there were some pretty big expectations on it. However, the film failed to live up to such expectations and while it was still financially successful, it's disastrous holds caused the studio to abandon plans for a sequel. Marvel would later get the rights back for Hulk and five years later it released The Incredible Hulk, which fared better both with critics and at the box office, though in both cases the difference was only slight.
While it's a reboot of the first film, The Incredible Hulk can in a way be considered a sort of sequel to it at the same time. Picking off five years after the original film, we find Bruce Banner working in Rio, which he fled to at the end of the first film. He's been learning to control his emotions and even has a watch to keep track of how many days he's spent without any transformation. He seems to be doing great progress, yet one day he accidentally cuts himself and a drop of his blood lands in one of the bottles the factory he works in is producing, which gets shipped to the USA, causing some severe side effects to its unfortunate consumer, which in turn causes General Ross to trace the bottle back to Rio, where he send a team to capture Bruce, who escapes by transforming into Hulk (so much for controlling his emotions) and returns to Virginia, where he finds Betty (who in a slight change from the events of the first film has no idea Bruce is Hulk, though that doesn't last for long) and together they head towards the mysterious Dr. Blue who may be the only one who can help them, all the while trying to escape General Ross and his men, while Bruce's old rival, Emil Blonsky, has plans of his own.
It's easy to see why this film appeals a lot more to fans than the first Hulk. Marvel pretty much plays it safe with this film, and delivers exactly what fans want, which is Hulk Smash (he even says that line in the movie) Personally, I didn't see too much difference in quality in the two films (as evidenced by the similar ratings I gave them) despite how different they are from each other. Both I think are solid, if nothing more.
Out of the two Hulks, I have to admit this one is certainly the more action packed and faster paced of the two, which makes for a more entertaining time (though at the same time it lacks the mystery of the first movie) Unlike Batman Begins, this film was a reboot of a film that was an origin movie, so rather than doing the origin of Hulk all over again, the film wisely shows the origin in a few flashbacks at the beginning, therefore allowing one to follow this film with ease without having to have watched the original Hulk.
The film also has a decent supply of drama, which while nothing great, works pretty well, particularly the romance between Bruce and Betty (the scene with Betty sitting next to Hulk brought King Kong to my mind) which is helped by the strong performances of Ed Norton and Liv Tyler respectively (I'm sorry to hear that Norton won't be returning to star as the titular character in the upcoming Avengers film) William Hurt is a suitable replacement for Sam Elliot in the role of the tough and angry (though at time pretty humane) Ted Ross, while Tim Roth is great as the cunning and ambitious villain Emil Blonsky.
The special effects meanwhile have improved greatly (it's amazing how much CGI can advance in a mere five years) The Hulk feels much more real, though I must admit the original Hulk is usually the one that comes to mind when I think of Hulk. Finally, the climax battle between Abomination and Hulk is pure epicness (which is made all the more impressive when you consider how it seems Marvel Studios usually has trouble with the climaxes in their films)
It's almost hard to compare the two Hulk films with each other. While the first film aimed high and only partially succeeded, this film aims much lower and pretty much fulfills what it promises. It's not as fun or as memorable as the best of the Marvel adaptations, and it's arguably the weakest film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, as well as easily being the weakest comic book adaptation of the summer of 2008 (to be fair, when you're up against Iron Man and The Dark Knight, that's not saying much) but it's still an entertaining pop corn flick.