John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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Another children's book series adapted into a potential movie franchise? Ugh!!! Directed by Eli Roth?? Wha??!!
So in this story (originally published in 1973 so it predates a lot of most children's book movie adaptations), a young boy named Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle John (Jack Black) in his large creepy [i]Addams Family[/i] style house after his parents are killed in a car accident. From the outset it's pretty clear that all is not quite right within this house. Unsurprisingly the boy's uncle turns out to be a warlock, a good warlock, and his best friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a good witch.
Eventually Lewis grows accustomed to his new supernatural surroundings and begins to learn the ways of witchcraft. Unsurprisingly Lewis finds out that the old house was once owned by an evil warlock called Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) who has hidden a clock within the walls of the house. He has done this because he wants to turn back time to the point that mankind never existed and the hidden clock will somehow allow that to happen via some magical alignment or something, I dunno. Of course this can't happen because Isaac has been long dead and buri...oh the young boy disobeys his uncle's orders and uses a magical book to cast a spell which raises Isaac from the dead. Of course.
So what does this movie offer that we haven't seen before? Rhetorical questions my dears. Yep this movie offers [b]nothing[/b], quite literally nothing. Am I being harsh? No I genuinely don't think so. The highlight of the movie is clearly and obviously Jack Black as Lewis' uncle. Yes even though we have seen these kinds of Black performances before they are undoubtedly enjoyable every time. Whilst they have clearly tried to give Black a kind of Dr. Strange-esque/Vincent Price-esque look and quality which does actually fail, it's still charming. The way Black interacts with his spooky house is a fun element.
The rest of the cast are drab predictable and uninteresting whilst the villain could have been played by literally anyone because it really didn't matter. There is a coming of age element in the story with Lewis' parents not being there and him having to learn to come to terms with that and his uncle. There is also the usual school bullying aspect thrown in there too and Lewis making friends with a random kid who helps him. It doesn't turn out the way you expect it admittedly but it's not groundbreaking stuff. Will kids pick up on it? Maybe, maybe not, I lean towards them being interested in the flashy effects more than anything.
Other than Black the only other element I did like was the 50's setting in a typical all-American 50's small town (or so it looked). Yeah we've seen this before but there is something so cozy and charming about these kinds of settings. A warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia even though I wasn't even alive at the time. I think it's down to all the old sci-fi and horror movies I've seen and enjoyed from that specific era that draws me in. Obviously I'm not alone in this because many of these kids flicks tend to have these small town settings. The interior house sets were also a plus for me with their thick wooden design and gorgeous old-worldly supernatural decorations. I [b]love[/b] a good solid well dressed period-set haunted house.
But that is also the problem with this movie, it just feels too similar to so many other movies. To be more specific, this movie basically feels like another [i]Goosebumps[/i] movie. I mean its literally the same spiel with the same lead actor! The special effects look no different, the same obvious CGI throughout. The various monsters and creatures could easily be straight out of said franchise. It's all the same, if Slappy had turned up it wouldn't have looked a bit unusual at all.
The plot also didn't really help. I have not read the original book so I cannot say how accurate everything is, but Jez is this a mess. The evil witch wants to rewind time right back to a point where he can stop mankind from ever happening, but why?? Why would anyone want to actually do that if they could? Wouldn't that mean that the evil witch himself wouldn't exist? What would he gain from this? Then there was a whole load of hocus-pocus about the clock in the wall turning back time so he can erase mankind or whatever. What's so special about that clock? Why hide it in the house? Then the lower half of the house (which seems to get bigger and bigger the further into the movie, like the Tardis) turns into a big clock of sorts with huge cogs and gears which gets stopped by merely dropping a magic 8-ball into them.
I mean I realise this is a kids movie but it's just too meh and despite being based on a book, it's completely the same as many other kid flicks. I mean how many supernatural children's movies have there been now?? (all trying to ride the coattails of [i]Harry Potter[/i]). Heck even the movies poster isn't much to shout about and it looks fairly derivative. The plot is boring and makes no sense. The visual effects are terrible (CGI baby Jack Black?) but the actual sets are top banana. Black is good but much like everything else here too familiar. And lastly there's no real tension because the villain and his plan is utter nonsense.
This basically felt like a Poundland/DollarTree [i]Harry Potter[/i] and the third generic sequel in the [i]Goosebumps[/i] franchise.
OK so let me start this review by explaining my initial thoughts on this movie and its basic premise. As I'm sure many are aware the basic idea in this movie is how civilisation has crumbled after a devasting war and the remaining humans have, for some reason, decided to mount all the remaining cities on wheels so they can 'drive them around' so to speak. Well although this sounds cool on paper (in a kind of [i]GamesWorkshop[/i] related way) I also found it to be simply ludicrous.
Obviously I know this is based on a fantasy novel and the entire concept is outlandish science-fiction, but really? So firstly I would have to ask how the feck mankind is supposed to have put their cities onto such huge chassis. This would mean they would have had to dig up famous landmarks (such as St. Paul's in London), load them onto the chassis, and then somehow fix them in place to said chassis. I then found myself asking what about the rest of London? How did they decide what to save? Are all the other buildings custom made for the new London-on-wheels or have they also been dug up and planted on the chassis?
I then found myself asking the most fundamental question (I think). What is the actual point in building (or putting) a city on wheels? How does that benefit the city? I mean yeah sure you could move it to the coast in the summer but it just seems so utterly stupid. Just looking at these things they look so fragile, vulnerable, and in one case completely top heavy. A neat fantasy idea for a cool image and again it sounds wicked on paper, but when you actually see it in live action and try to think about it logically it raises [b]so[/b] many questions. Also the fact that mankind has done this after an apocalyptic event really makes little sense. Not to mention the fact they still seem to have a lot of technology, materials, food, water, and working men to actually build all this stuff. These vast mobile cities are damn impressive feats, yet they go around destroying each other.
My last nagging question relates to the land itself. It seems that the surface of the Earth has changed since the '60 minute war' and countries like the UK have now joined mainland Europe (?). Anyway, considering how vast the mobile city of London is (and I assume some other cities), it got me wondering if there was enough space on the land for all these mobile metropolises. Heck even the smaller mobile cities are pretty big and its indicated there are many of them. I mean you could ask the same about ocean-going cruise liners in our present day and obviously there is plenty of ocean for lots. But if there were loads all roaming around on their own accord I'm sure there would be problems. This also led to me ask what state the land would be in. These gigantic mobile cities tearing and grinding up the earth as they piledrive along. The land would be wrecked, flattened, no trees, no plant life, no animal life, a complete wasteland.
As for the actual movie, well its a mixed bag really and does indeed remind you of some other large budgeted sci-fi movie failures of recent. First off it is very much your bog standard [i]Star Wars[/i] type clone with all the usual bog standard characters. Mix in some other very common elements from some other well known classic franchises (I don't even need to mention them) and this is the inevitable result. The only aspect of this movie that was slightly fresh was the steampunk aspect, which I liked.
But yeah you have your standard unwilling hero who finds himself thrust into a war of which he was somewhat naive about (and in this case looks disturbingly like Justin Trudeau). The standard strong female character who is trying to get revenge. The standard well-spoken leader who is actually behind closed doors the nasty villain. And then basically a whole load of background characters doing the usual stuff for both sides. I also have to mention that yet again we have a clear case of all the goodies being a multicultural bunch. Whereas all the baddies are all white, just like in [i]The Last Jedi[/i]. A strange and increasingly obvious Hollywood trend.
I mean in all honesty, aside from the admittedly cool and intriguing visuals, there isn't really that much going on here. It has the exact beats (both character and plot-wise) you would expect from a sci-fi feature of this ilk, literally scene for scene. In one sequence the main villain Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) wants to unleash this cyborg from a prison so it can hunt down and kill the main hero Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). Now Weaving's character is highly important in this movie, he has sway and power. Yet in order to release this cyborg he destroys the entire prison killing everyone. Couldn't he get this thing out without doing that? This attack also highlights how vulnerable and badly designed these mobile vehicles are, in this case a spider-like walking prison. One shot to a leg joint and down it goes.
And speaking of the cyborg (a clear Terminator rip-off called Shrike), what was that all about? From what I can gather these things were men that have been killed in battle and then resurrected with mechanical body parts. And apparently there was an entire army of them. This particular one looked after Hester as a child after her mother had been murdered. Why this killer cyborg decided to do this I don't know. But the really odd thing is the fact that the cyborg offers to turn Hester into an undead cyborg (because she is suffering depression from the murder of her mother). Hester agrees (!!) and makes a promise with Shrike. But in changing her mind Hester breaks that promise which triggers Shrike to continually hunt her down in order to kill her and transform her into an undead cyborg (eh???). This entire subplot was just idiotic and was completely pointless to the movie. You could literally remove it all, utterly aimless.
Of course Shrike eventually tracks Hester down to a city in the sky (yes that's right a city in the sky, in the clouds if you will...ahem) and in the ensuing battle the city starts to fall apart. Shrike gets badly damaged and Hester does find her original love for Shrike is reignited as the cyborg is obviously about to expire. And in typical action movie fashion despite the entire city falling apart around them with explosions and debris, both Hester and Shrike manage to muster enough time in order to have an emotional farewell (in true [i]Terminator[/i] fashion).
So yeah suspension of disbelief is required for this movie. Whilst that might sound obvious for a sci-fi fantasy it's a bit different for this one seeing as its sorta supposed to reflect upon certain obvious political issues of our current time such as capitalism, climate change, easily manipulated governmental systems, non-renewable energy etc...Cities that 'eat' and 'absorb' other cities which only benefits the few (in the cities) instead of everyone which would possibly lead to a better future. Basically saying, or highlighting, how society can/could eat itself. This can be easily detected in the story but the sci-fi element is so zany with its wheeled warrior cities the social commentary kinda gets smothered. Not to mention the sheer quantity of horrendous greenscreen effects and shots. Stand aside [i]Star Wars[/i] prequels, there's a new joker in town.
So yeah, the wheeled tank-like cities concept is engaging but ultimately really stupid. The rest of it is by the numbers science fiction which can be somewhat fun but only when the characters are actually onboard some kind of moving vehicle (they aren't very good characters that's why). Once they fall off onto the ground the movie literally stops dead, which is weird when you think about it. This is a highly imaginative and packed world for sure but as said before it owes so much to other films and tries to do too much. I felt like I was watching the final movie in a trilogy (or more!). The movie really feels like it needs sequels but I doubt that will happen. One thing I will say, I reckon this has future cult status written all over it.
A young lad comes back from the dead to take revenge against the ruthless gang (of slightly older lads) that murdered him. There is no crow to help this young man though, no this lad comes back from the dead as a supernatural highly skilled street racer so he can...umm...race the gang members one by one and kill them in bizarre car accidents. You wouldn't think it though as the start of the movie feels more like the arrival of an alien being more than anything. Anyway, [b]really[/b[ not too sure why he doesn't just come back and simply shoot them or whatever, but the gang are street racers themselves so I guess that explains it, kinda.
So yes, the plot of this movie is your typical revenge thriller. Your typical supernatural tale of an innocent person coming back from the dead to avenge their untimely death at the hands of some baddies. But it is indeed strikingly similar to the bird-related graphic novel that sprouted from the brain of one James O'Barr that's for sure. One has a heavy rock theme whilst the other a heavy car theme. The genesis of O'Barr's supernatural tale started way back in 1981, with the graphic novel eventually coming out in 1989, and finally followed by the movie in 1994. Of course the similar plots could just be coincidental, but it does get you thinking.
Anyway, as I said the very start of this movie is hella cheesy and looks more like the introduction of an alien being landing on a deserted desert highway, in a souped-up car. The effects are of course incredibly 80's lookin', naturally, but boy do they look good. Think of the speedy visuals from 'Tron' but set against a silvery full moon in a desert and finishing with a reveal shot of the mysterious hero clad in an all-black with a racing helmet. The whole sequence is gloriously goofy yet at the same time the epitome of retro coolness.
The Baddies: Now these dudes are a small bunch of (five) young guys, probably in their early 20's, led by one much older guy named Packard (Nick Cassavetes). Not sure if he was actually supposed to be older or that was just down to the fact they cast Cassavetes as a young man in his early 20's when he clearly wasn't. Anyway these guys are, again, the epitome of the classic 80's gang. Nick the leader is a bit of a greaser with his hairstyle and black leather jacket. Whilst his young henchmen are a mix of drugged up punks, weasely rats, and your cliched high school bully type all with silly names. It's an odd blend really because Nick is shown to be quite mentally unhinged and perfectly happy to actually kill people. Whilst his cronies are often more light-hearted, acting as comedic relief being all goofy and dumb. Clint Howard (who looks too old for the part) plays the brains behind the gangs car mods and sports a weird haircut that's straight outta the 1977 film 'Eraserhead'.
The bad guys are an interesting bunch. They mostly seem to be young adults that don't appear to do anything of use. Yet they seem to own this huge garage chock full of mechanical equipment for maintaining cars. We know they take part in crime, petty and serious. And we know they force people to race their souped-up cars and keep them when they win (by cheating). But we only see two of them with some kind of manual labour job, whilst Packard does nothing accept cruise around lookin' for fights, races, and watching his girl. So how do they afford to keep this large garage with all its gear? Do they actually run a service for people? Or do they fix up their victory cars and sell them? How have they not been busted by the cops yet??
The Girl: I did find it amusing that the sweet innocent girlfriend of Packard (Keri played by Sherilyn Fenn) actually continues to go out with him despite the fact he's clearly bad news. Don't get me wrong she knows he's bad news but never really seems too upset over it. She lodges some complaints here and there sure but she never really goes for it. The fact that he constantly threatens her and claims he owns her should really be an alarm bell to get the hell outta that relationship; nah she just protests a bit then carries on. I was like, girl go to the police for God's sake.
The Hero: So Packard and his mates killed this poor kid Jake (Charlie Sheen). Luckily he comes back as a supernatural force to take revenge...in a supernatural super-powered car. Again don't get me wrong its a super cool concept but...really? Like why does he need the car? If you're able to come back from the dead (or given the powers to do so by a greater force), you don't need a supercar surely. Anyway we know this is just an excuse for fast car racin'. The bad guys steal and race cars so the only way to beat them is race them, apparently. Jake is decked out in an all-black tinted helmet with an all-black jumpsuit which is covered in metal parts which represent other victims. I didn't quite get this, were these parts supposed to represent former victims of Packard's gang?
Another thing I didn't get was what Jake was supposed to be. For starters he comes back from the dead in a different body, he says it was the closest to what he used to look like. But what's going on with that? Why doesn't he come back in his original form/body? Who's body does he come with? Next up, is Jake a ghost or not? At the end Jake and Keri leave town together to start afresh. But is Jake actually alive? Is he a rotting corpse? A ghost? Reborn completely?? Immortal? Invincible?
The Car: The car in question was a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor. A high-performance supercar designed and built in 1981for demonstration purposes. It most definitely looks the biz in this that's for sure. All black, completely tinted all round, low to the ground, and with a very sleek curvy aerodynamic spaceship design. The car is very effective throughout the movie (much like the DeLorean was for 'Back to the Future') and certainly emits a mysterious, dangerous and speedy quality. Alas the actual races we get are clearly filmed at low speeds which spoils the fun but the sight of this car lining up against some other classic all-American muscle cars is a sight to behold (for petrolheads anyway).
Another aspect the movie seems to hint at is the fact that Packard knows of The Wraith (never called that in the movie I think). When Jake turns up at their garage (in his all-black attire) and shoots up the place, Packard acts as if this has happened before. He doesn't actually seem particularly scared either, as if he's seen this black-clad vigilante before. All in all Packard is as cool as a cucumber when you'd think he'd be terrified like the other guys. So it kinda seems there's a history here which is odd because Jake only turns up in the area at the start of the movie so...what's going on here?
This movie really is the quintessential naff 80's action flick. It has all the ingredients from the wacky villains to the wicked cars to the plot that really doesn't add up when you think about it. But somehow none of that really matters. The supernatural element isn't really that spooky or tense or anything, it's just quirky and fun. The special effects are actually pretty solid. The race and crash sequences are fairly well done in a Saturday morning cartoon kinda way ([i]Pole Position[/i]). Sheen's lifeless performance is odd but Cassavetes and his henchmen are clearly enjoying themselves while they chew up the scenery. Whilst Randy Quaid as the local sheriff pretty much plays a character we've seen him do before. If you like comicbook type flicks then you'll like this. In fact it does feel like an update of a 30's pulp comic character, kinda. Highly enjoyable fast food trash.
This inevitable sequel apparently seems to be an entirely new story which isn't linked to the original, something that took me by surprise. Not that I recall much from the first movie as almost all movies these days are the same garbage over and over, but the original did leave off with that invisible boy writing a new book. So we're not going to see what happens with that then??
Instead this movie takes us on another route to yet another sleepy small all American town with another bunch of kids. Its the usual spiel, two young boys out for adventure, an older sister trying to get into college, the apparent single mother, and the local school bully. It's your bog standard setup all round. Naturally the boys eventually stumble across Slappy the dummy who eventually reveals himself to be alive. At first the boys think this is great but soon discover the dummy is evil. Alas its too late because Slappy is already setting his plan in motion to bring everything Halloween related to life in order to make Halloween forever...just because.
So essentially what we have here is exactly the same story as the first movie (Slappy trying to take over a town), but with a different set of kids. There really doesn't seem to be any proper rhyme or reason to having everything turned into a cheesy Halloween festival, not really sure why Slappy is so obsessed with this idea. I mean, once everything is looking like Halloween town with goofy monsters and trick or treat decorations running around, then what? What is Slappy's endgame here?
This movie is so damn cliched and predictable too. Right from the start when we're seeing the local town with all the various Halloween decorations up everywhere, you know straight away all these things will be coming to life at some point. And sure enough. Not only that but many of these creatures are the same damn creatures from the first movie! We've got the werewolf again, the abominable snowman, the gnomes etc...The only difference this time is they replaced the massive gnome attacks with gummi bears (of which there was only a small toy bucket full of gummi bears, yet when they attack there's like millions of them). But what's more, the visual effects are awful! The CGI throughout this movie is really average to say the least. Not even on par with the first movie.
Everything is as cliche as the Halloween decorations. Yes admittedly this is based on a kids book franchise and yes this is supposed to be for kids, but come on! The cast isn't specifically bad per se but simply safe and unimpressive. It's like this is their first gig after being picked up from some crappy kids cable channel. But it doesn't help when the script gives them the corniest dialog possible and they're doing the most cliche things possible. It's like the writers got their ideas from the big book of movie cliches that have been done a gazillion times before. I mean seriously, the whole school bully angle, Jesus Christ how generic can you be??
The only highlight in this entire cliche-ridden movie is the brief return of Jack Black as R.L. Stine. From the second Black steps up to the camera with his first line of dialog the movie goes up a gear. But this is only temporary as Black flits in and out of the grand finale until its all over (he misses it). The kids save the day and Stine turns out to be of no use after all. I suppose its good that the big Hollywood movie star doesn't save the day but clearly this movie needed more Black. The difference in quality he brings with his comedic acting is as clear as day (loved the 'IT' reference). Big mistake leaving him out.
Spoiler alert! The movie ends on yet another cliffhanger which theoretically should lead into the inevitable third movie. But firstly, they did the same at the end of the first movie and didn't follow that up so...And secondly, this sequel failed at the box office so I'm not sure if we'll see a third.
Much like his 1998 action car flick 'Taxi' Luc Besson found success with this hitman/car action flick which was somewhat slick but also rather stupid (accept 'Taxi' had no hitman). So naturally just like the Marseille set car romp, this hitman thriller also wound up with a sequel which amped up what came before it ('Taxi' actually went on to have 4 sequels).
So this second entry starts off in exactly the same way as the first movie. Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is seating peacefully in his car waiting for the precise time to start his latest mission. The only difference here is Martin is now sitting in a black Audi A8 (probably for money/sponsorship reasons). Cometh the hour cometh the man, accept this time Martin is stopped in his tracks by a hot female dressed in a skimpy schoolgirl outfit (mmmmm). Turns out Martin is just about to be carjacked by a gang of African American males...and their white female accomplice? So long story short, Martin obviously beats the shit outta these guys and calmly carries on with his latest mission.
This one scene pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this new entry. The action will be more exuberant and heavy hitting, whilst inexplicably strewn with females in ridiculously skimpy outfits for no real reason. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever to have that hot chick in the schoolgirl outfit other than giving the male audience (and director presumably) a boner. Cos why would this gang need her? Do they really need her to carjack one man? (there were 4 of them). Look I'm no PC prude believe me, but I'm just pointing out the obvious in this movie (and it gets worse).
Indeed the characters of the movie do get more ridiculous. The main bad guy Chellini is played by Italian actor Alessandro Gassman, and he does he solid job. But is it just me or does this guy look identical to Benicio del Toro?? I just couldn't help but feel that maybe, just maybe, they wanted del Toro and couldn't get him, so they hired a lookalike. But then we have the real coup de grÃ¢ce, the villainess Lola played by Kate Nauta. Now this femme fatale is beautiful and there's nothing wrong with highlighting that don't get wrong; but she literally spends the entire film's runtime in her underwear I kid you not. And boy does the director get the cameraman to make the most of her ass, lips, legs, and feet in heels from every angle possible. It gets to a point where you think you're watching one of those soft porn 'girls n guns' type videos where sexy girls in bikinis simply fire guns (so I've heard, ahem!).
As I've said the action is ramped up in this sequel, ramped up to 11! Naturally Martin is an invincible superman who cannot be beaten or injured (like all Statham flicks). So there's no real tension anywhere to be found. This time he manages to spot a bomb on the underneath of his Audi via a puddle. He then proceeds to knock it off via launching the car into midair whilst flipping it so the underside strikes a crane which tears off the bomb. Oh and Lola shoots at a helicopter with her machine gun which causes it to explode. Yeah, that actually happens.
But one of the most idiotic parts of the movie is a simple plot device. That being, the really pathetic way in which they bring a character from the first movie back for this second movie...and it's pointless. Yep in this movie Inspector Tarconi (FranÃ§ois BerlÃ (C)and) is back because he's come to the US to visit Frank for his holiday. Really? There is absolutely no reason for this character to come back in this sequel other than for face recognition. He serves no purpose to the movies continuity because of the different setting and he serves no real purpose to the plot. Take him out and replace him with someone else or not a tall. I mean, good for the actor, not wanting to deny him work but its such a typical lame move in so many movies.
I honestly didn't like this movie much because it bears no proper resemblance to the original concept in the first movie which was also lost very quickly. Its like Besson had a reasonably decent idea for a semi-serious gritty action thriller...and proceeded to ruin it with outlandish ideas. And those outlandish ideas just got more and more outlandish to the point of farcical. The inspiration for this franchise is pretty clear with the action, cars, and sexy women, but the overall execution is sloppy. The final action sequence with the jet showcases that sloppiness perfectly with the shocking CGI. It all ends up looking like a videogame cut-sequence, funnily enough much like many of Statham's action movies. Lots of style (and underwear) but very little substance.