People, there comes a time in every action stars life where they realize they can't go on like this. They realize that if they do one more running jump off a flaming semi-truck through the windshield of their buddy's Mustang while shooting at bad guys in a helicopter with a grenade launcher in mid-air and holding an armed nuclear device...well, they will probably break every bone in their body. So, the Arnold Schwarzneggars, Bruce Willi and Sylvester Stallones of the world reluctantly hand over their AK-47s and RPGs to the Jeremy Renners, Tom Hardies and Joseph Gordon-Levitts of the world. Now, one of three things can happen to these post-stardom action stars:
1. They go on to become governor of the highest populated state in the United States of America. I'm not sure how; it just happens. 2. In denial that their time is over, they star in The Expendables. 3. Both.
...and may God have mercy on the souls of whoever's unlucky enough to see the either of those last two. I mean, holy sweet mother of mercy, how does a movie like this happen? I understand that it's supposed to be paying homage to the big action blockbusters of the 70's and 80's, but...it's like they weren't even trying. Look at the freaking cast list! This movie has arguably the biggest action star cast of any movie since the beginning of time, and they couldn't even bother to come up with a vague semblance of a plot. I seriously bet that I could explain the entire premise of this movie in one sentence. You know what? I'm gonna try; here we go: a team of mercenaries is given a mission to take out a South American dictator, who also happens to be a front for an ex-CIA officer, at which point explosions and slo-mo ensue. Ta-freaking-dah! You think I'm exaggerating? Watch it and see for yourself. I am not responsible for whatever brain-melting madness ensues. I guess, looking back the acting didn't suck that bad. There are definitely no memorable performances, but there's nothing that completely utterly sucked. Same with the script. Sure, it's full of trite action movie cliches that make you want to take an ice pick to your ear, but it's mostly harmless stuff. Action movies can still be really enjoyable if they deliver on the action scenes, which The Expendables doesn't. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely action scenes, but there's a huge problem with them that takes away from the movie as a whole. Action scenes, particularly climaxes, take their power from the fact that the viewers don't want anything bad to happen to the characters when they are so close to attaining their goal. They like them, they might identify with them, and their yearning for the protagonists to reach the end credits is what usually gives the climax it's intensity. Take Saving Private Ryan, for instance. What gave the climax it's intensity was the fact that you knew each of those characters. You wanted each of them to make it out alive, and that wanting is what kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering if your favorite characters would make it out okay. If the characters in The Expendables had been thought out, it would have been okay. Unfortunately, there is nothing to differentiate between the characters. We don't know any of them, or anything about them, and even if we do, The Expendables misses out on the next thing that makes action scenes so good: the "coolness". When you do action scenes in a movie, there should be something that sets them apart. This also means that you need to find the right balance between action scenes to keep the pacing up, and scenes for character development to keep the audience rooting for the characters. Too many action scenes and the climax feels like a let-down; too few and the pacing is too slow. I'll use Skyfall as an example this time. There were several action scenes to keep the audience at the edge of their seats, and they were all different. From the fight at the top of the train, to the silhouette fight in Shanghai, to the awe-inspiring climax, each action scene in Skyfall had something to set it apart. The action scenes in The Expendables are set apart reasonably well, but the balance is off. There are too many fight scenes, so the climax is just an incredible let-down, filled with special effects that a fourth grader could have done in Adobe After Effects. The action scenes, therefore, fail on both levels, and the movie fails as well. There is no reason that this movie should suck the way it sucks. There is no excuse. Once again, I know it's an homage to the action blockbusters of the late 20th century, but Stallone seems to have forgotten what made those movies what they were. Granted, they were usually stupid and brainless, but they were fun, and that's what made people want to see them. The Expendables misses out on that, wasting an incredibly talented cast on action scenes that build up to a crappy climax. The character development and plot are both nonexistent, the acting is unmemorable as is the script, and the whole thing is about as thrilling as an episode of My Little Pony. Avoid this like the plague, because that's what it feels like watching it.
I can still remember the day that it was announced that Sam Raimi's Spiderman 4 was cancelled...and then in the same breath a reboot of the series entitled The Amazing Spider-Man was being put into production. I was pretty young then, but even I saw that it was a pretty obvious cash grab, and a cheap one at that. There's a certain amount of time that has to pass for a reboot to actually be a reboot. Usually this is enough time for a new generation to come along, one that doesn't know the story of the original, even if the original is something as culturally iconic as Spiderman. In any case, I saw the movie about a week after it came out, though I wasn't exactly keen to. What did I think? I thought it was okay...ish... Let me go into a little detail. (I'm going to be drawing a few comparisons to the Raimi Spiderman movies, seeing as it's basically impossible not to. These comparisons will not influence my overall grade on the movie, however.) I'm not really going to go into much detail in the synopsis, seeing as most people already know it by heart. Peter Parker is your average, slightly nerdy (kind of a hipster in this version) teenage guy trying to get through life. He is bitten by a radioactive spider, and gets spider-like super powers that allow him to crawl on walls and such. After his uncle is shot and killed, Parker becomes the masked superhero Spiderman, and hunts down his uncles killer. After defeating him, he decides to continue to rid the streets of New York City of crime, be it robbers or giant CGI lizards. And so, a cultural icon is born. I'm going to start out with the movies biggest strength: the casting. I cannot think of a movie with more pitch-freaking-perfect casting than this movie. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone both seem born to play the respective roles of Peter Parker and his love interest Gwen Stacy, and are a much more likeable pair than Tobey MaGuire and Kirsten Dunst. Martin Sheen is a fantastic choice as the wise Uncle Ben, and it's this that makes it so much harder knowing he's not going to survive the first act. Sally Field, one of my favorite actresses, is also a great choice as Aunt May, and is, in my opinion, much better than Rosemary Harris, despite a lack of screentime. Last but not least, Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy is one of the highlights of the film, and the role seems made for him. As for Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors and his villainous alter-ego the Lizard...let me get into that... Alright, for me, the biggest flaw with the movie is the antagonist. Granted, the Raimi movies didn't have the strongest bad guys either, but I just have a laundry list of issues with the Lizard. First off, he just isn't that scary. I grew up watching the animated FOX Spider-Man, and that version was what I first envisioned the Lizard looking like: basically a huge lizard with ripped clothes that walks on two legs. For me, if the design of the Lizard had been more like that, he would have been more menacing, and thus a stronger villain. Unfortunately, in this he looks more like the Incredible Hulk's skinhead cousin. He's almost too humanoid, and not enough...lizard-y. Secondly, I still don't understand his grand evil master plan. I've seen the movie four times now, and I still don't understand why he would want to turn the whole city into lizards. It didn't make sense the first time I saw it, and it still doesn't make sense now. Rhys Ifans is alright in the role, but the role itself could use some work. Those are the biggest strength and flaws of the movie, and the rest of my thoughts can be summed up pretty quickly. Another one of the bigger strengths is Marc Webb's direction, which can especially be seen in the fight scenes, which are pretty cool on their own. Sam Raimi's trademark cameo is hilarious, and there's a lot of other great comedy, too. Unfortunately, there are another two key flaws which kind of work off each other. One, and I can't stress this enough, we have all seen the first half of this movie before. The cast helps a lot, but it still doesn't change the fact that most of us could skip the first half of this movie, come in, and have a perfect idea of what's going on. It was done before in the most literal context possible, and worse, it was done freaking recently. Secondly, watch a couple of the trailers. Look at a few of the posters. What do most of them say? THE UNTOLD STORY. No. This is a story that has, for the most part anyways, been told before. We were promised insight into what happened to Peter's parents, and we barely got anything! One of the deciding factors in me wanting to see this was the fact that I wanted to know what happened to the Parkers. Where were they? I saw that these movies would tell me, and I decided to go. Were my questions answered? No, they were set up to be answered in the sequel, if then. In any case, that part was just disappointing to me, and takes away from the movie quite a bit. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man definitely isn't amazing, but it holds up alright. It has a terrific cast, and there's great direction and comedy, but there's also a heckuva weak antagonist, and, let's face it: we've seen most of this before. In the end, what could have been a terrific movie ends up being a bit of a disappointment instead. Still, it's good, and it's a pretty solid superhero flick. If I may say, though, this is one of those movies that gives off a strong "the sequel's going to be better" vibe. The second one will have the freedom to tell it's own story, the same cast and director with some new (and talented) faces, and what is hopefully a stronger antagonist in Jamie Foxx's Electro. We'll just have to wait until 2014 to find out.