Brittany Runs a Marathon
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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Extremely satisfying in terms of fast-paced action and character depictions, but still an average film in terms of plot and villains - as its predecessors. Although a big fan of Tom Cruise, I did not expect at all such high Rotten Tomatoes score for this latest installment of the "Mission Impossible" series as I believe that it is indeed an impossible mission to renovate such a formulaic approach to the action genre and deeply traditional action hero like Ethan Hunt. It turned out that I am totally right, as the film has a hilariously confusing script full of plot-holes and over-complicated twist-and-turns that contribute nothing to character development, especially of the villains, which remain the weakest link in any "Mission Impossible" film. For example, Henry Cavill's character was hyped up as a worthy villain of Ethan Hunt, but his capabilities and behaviors just fluctuated throughout the film to the point that the audience could not decide whether he really is a villain of superior intellectual and physical mights or just a henchman with a mediocre skill set. Also, it is necessary to differentiate this film from an action film with intentionally simple plot (in order to solely focus on the actions) like "Mad Max: Fury Road", since Christopher McQuarrie did try to make this film more substantial, plot-wise, with a lengthy sub-plot about Ethan Hunt's private life, which turned out to be too cheesy to be effective, several under-developed sub-plots (about "The Apostles") and characters (like the "White Widow"), and one half-hearted utilization of the "nuclear fallout" motif that is only slightly correct, technology-wise, and mostly useless and illogical, also technology-wise. Of course, at the end of the day, one goes to the watch a "Mission Impossible" film not for its plot but for its actions and for the appearance of an ever running, ever heroic Ethan Hunt. In that aspect, this film is just a perfect choice with non-stop action sequences throughout the film until the very end in exotic and beautiful locations. To sum it up, this is indeed an excellent action film for this Summer, but could not be a new benchmark for the action genre as someone might hope after knowing its ridiculously high Rotten Tomatoes score.
Despite its being an animation, this delightful film still bears all the trademarks of Wes Anderson from character arc (or lack thereof), plot structure, cinematography style, color palette, and so on. Normally Wes Anderson's films are always full of heart and quirkiness, and his greatest works would occur when he could achieve a perfect balance between his warmhearted approach to the subject matters (even the darkest ones, some of which are heavily implied in this film) and his tendency to mark the subtlety of his film with bizarre characters, sentimental stories, and sometimes hilarious plot devices. This film leans a little bit to the quirky side, partly due to the somewhat limitation of the stop-motion format of this film in depicting human emotions, and also due Wes Anderson's over-reliance on playing with words and languages. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this film thoroughly for its amusing characters and chaotically optimistic plot, but more importantly, I admire Wes Anderson for his smart and surprisingly humanistic sarcasm while dealing with such poignant and relevant themes like racism, discrimination, public manipulation, propaganda, and desensitization of animal cruelty. A serious and frank depiction of tragedies is important, but a lighthearted caricature of the truth that can both entertain and evoke emotions from the audience is even more difficult, and sometimes more useful.
A perfect example of how Hollywood destroys a masterpiece of a novel with a mediocre and totally Americanized adaptation. Once I thought that only the legacy of Japanese manga has been annihilated in the West by Hollywood, it turns out that even winners of the prestigious Booker Prize could not escape that fate. I can't believe that the director, the script writers, and the producers, most of them are American, none is English, had the gut to totally rewrite the whole wonderful plot of the original novel, to even replace a fine English character of modern English literature with an American guy of mediocre characteristics and typically American bravado, and of course to give the two leading roles of this film to two American actors, who are also fine thespians but had to unfortunately go along with the subpart script (including Gwyneth Paltrow, who had to play a character of the finest Englishness and understandably failed to deliver aside from the faked accent and remarkably similar appearance). I do not know how A. S. Byatt must felt while watching this film, I hope that she did not care or got enough money from selling the copyright of her most cherished book to care, as the elegant contents and characters of her marvelous book were unmercifully butchered by an American team who only cared about "selling" this adaptation to the general American audience (they did not buy it either, as the film bombed at the box office) by retaining very few important plot points, introducing several unnecessary and cheesy "melo" elements, and even misinterpreting the focal points and the sense of beauty of the original novel. For ones who have not read the book, this film might be passable with the beautiful scores by Gabriel Yared (his music really evokes a sense of melancholy from the audience about a time that has just passed), or the nice surprise of Jennifer Ehle, whom everyone knows as the "true" Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride and Prejudice" (if only Paltrow could learn a thing or two from Ehle...), and even Lena Headey, who would be much later known for her role in "Game of Thrones". But for ones who already fell in love with the book before embarking on this adaptation, watching this film must be an excruciating experience. Personally, I just feel bad for those who watch this film before reading the book, as they have to endure a horrible adaptation that lacks any beauty of the book, while being spoiled the major plot points of the book, which A. S. Byatt had meticulously constructed throughout the novel in order to delight, and amaze her readers. Such a waste of original materials!
The last one-third is a little bit draggingly slow but the film as a whole is a fresh take on such a traditional genre like legal thriller. Of course, as this film is directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, ones who are already familiar with his works must already be able to figure out that this would not be a conventional "whodunit" and indeed the basic mystery was already laid out bare right at the beginning of the film, whereas it would not be difficult to guess the major twist of this film after its first half due to the pretty limited cast and settings. But "solution" was never the focus of this film, as instead Kore-eda chose to primarily follow the psychological evolution of his characters through their emotions, their lies, and their moments of hesitancy. Similar to many Japanese films, the cast of this film is not entirely strong and thus the performance of some lesser ones (including the lead Masaharu Fukuyama) did slightly undermine the effect of Kore-eda's meticulous portray of modern Japanese minds, but the excellent Suzu Hirose and K?ji Yakusho were still able to make this film a memorable one with their pivotal roles. Some might say that this film lacks a little bit of finesse as Kore-eda rushed to deliver his message of exposing the serious prejudicial issues of the current Japanese legal system. Partially I agree with this sentiment, but it seems that Kore-eda never intended to deliver a "wholesome" experience, he just wanted to share his perspectives of the modern Japanese society with a lot of nuances (nothing totally good, nothing absolutely bad, it is all up to everyone's own judgement), many layers of emotional connections from one to another (despite the ever existence of social barriers like "traditions", "morals", "ethics", preconception - the "prisoner" in this film asks himself and his lawyer again and again about whether or not he should have been born), and many seemingly ordinary lives that still deserve care and attention from the society. In that aspect, Kore-eda has once again delivered an amazing experience for the audience.