Have you ever been hanging out with a little kid in a group of adults and he makes a fart joke that just happens to have the perfect timing and words to be hilarious and the entire group bursts out into raucous laughter? At that point you can do nothing but look at the kids parents in sympathy because you know that for the next 12 years or so that kid will do nothing but fart jokes, ever looking for that magical humor lightning to strike twice and probably lead him to a future career as tow truck driver, mall security guard, or writer of a bitter and acerbic movie review blog. Basically if it doesn’t involve flatulence he will no longer think it funny just because a bunch of moronic grown ups laughed at a joke he made at age 6.
That’s pretty much what I see happening here. Robert Rodriguez teamed up with Frank Miller and came out with a mind blowing movie that was lauded for it’s camera work and noir heritage. Since whenever he’s not doing a film like this or Machete he is doing films with titles like The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl one can only imagine he is very hungry for a repeat of that adulation and as I pointed out in my review of Machete Kills he is of the “humor and excitement through repetition” school of movie making it makes sense that he would be totally cool with doing essentially the same movie with a few new characters in it. The problem is the original Sin City was mind blowing for it’s originality whereas this film ends up feeling like you just watched a really well done documentary on a subject you are already very familiar with.
Not that it’s bad. If you loved the original Sin City and found yourself wishing it would go on for another 102 minutes your dreams have come true. Also if you are a fan of Cool World-esque cartoonish camera angles, black and white, and gravel voiced monologues forgetaboutit. If you feel guilty because every year you skip the Film Noir festival at the Castro Theater you could probably fill up your artsy dark movie tank and dash off into the night like a pretentiously mysterious Spanish gentleman in a romance novel.
First off, sorry I have been so lax on my writing lately. I have had two back to back shows and am still up to my neck in work. However I have nothing lined up for most of June so I hope to get caught up on my movie reviews, as well as Star Trek and the occasional true nerd rant.
So X-Men: Days of Future Past. I loved it. Veteran readers of my blog may see some irony in that statement as I have said that time travel as a plot device is the tool of the amateur scriptwriter (one could also say that sarcasm is the tool of the amateur movie reviewer, but that’s neither here nor there) but I have seen a few films (Looper, for example) where it has been used effectively and this is one such film.
I think it boils down to two factors: how it is used and how it is explained. If you use it as a non-pivotal plot point that propels the story without dominating the flow I think that is good. If you use it as a tool to avoid actually writing a story and/or and carte blanche to destroy a story that is already flowing that is bad. Time travel used poorly is a non-religious version of deus ex machina (another writing tool I rail against). As for the explanation, time travel is constantly rife with plot holes and gaps. This is one of the few times I will say that a major plot point is better used with a minimum of explanation as to how it works, or what effect it can have on the timeline.
Pretty frickin’ awesome.
It cannot be said that either DC or Marvel is batting 1000 when it comes to movies but I have to say for the most part Marvel does way better than DC. Sure, they have had their Hulks, Wolverine Origins, Howard the Ducks, Ghost Riders, Daredevils, and Electras but for the most part when they set out to do a cinema exxxxxxxtravaganza they pull it off and it has only gotten better since Disney took over (thanks Disney. You are still evil but I appreciate your movies). DC, on the other hand, is still struggling to do anything more than mediocre with any comic book that doesn’t have “Bat” in the title (and even the last Batman kind of sucked. Plus let us never forget or forgive Batnipples). If you lower things down the the base level and compare worst to worst Electra was better than Catwoman, Ghost Rider was better than Green Lantern, Daredevil was better than Jonah Hex, and the collective sum of all the evils released by Pandora that plague mankind is better than Batman and Robin (Haw. Mythology humor. Every day I get better and better).
Of course my Review-y sense tingles whenever I see the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy. I want my comic book movies to be taken seriously by the studio, not turned into a laugh-a-minute circus. Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede is not a song designed to make you take anything seriously. Time will tell.
All that aside I thought Captain America: the Winter Soldier was freaking awesome. It had almost all the elements needed for a fun, exciting movie: a story with drama, great action, great special effects, appealing characters, excellent camera work and editing, a guy with a shield, and S.H.I.E.L.D. They stayed true to the Captain America from Civil War in that he believes in the true freedom of America rather than the compromises we seem to be making every day (Retro Capt. image courtesy of the Marvel Comic t shirt category).
Of course the true strength of a comic book movie comes from the villain rather than the hero and in this the Winter Soldier excels. He is truly bad ass and strong enough to kick the hell out of Captain America but not so over the top that they have to come up with a magic bullet to kill him. In this regard Captain America is probably one of the best super heroes in that he is powerful but not so powerful that you have to have him fighting a god like Thor or Superman. When villains and heroes are on the level that a human could at least compete with them through luck or skill than they become much more interesting and engaging. I would be a grease stain on the sole of General Zod’s boot but against Scarecrow I could get lucky if I held my breath. It wouldn’t feel like a total waste of effort to try to run him over in my ’79 Thunderbird.
Naturally it wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t find something to bitch about. I can’t really talk about this without dropping some spoilers so skip ahead to the last couple paragraphs if that bothers you. SPOILER ALERT! The part that bugged the hell out of me is how freaking stupid the bad guys plan is. How exactly does a successful, rational human being working in politics decide the thing to do is follow the plan of a captured Nazi scientist to control the world through what can only be described as Nazi tactics? A scientist who wants everyone who is part of his secret plan to swear fealty to Hydra and whisper Hail Hydra in each others ear? And his plan is to launch three flying death fortresses that will kill 20,000,000 people based on an algorithm developed by that scientist around his own already proven murky sense of morality? The one who used to work for the most evil regime in history and who looks and sounds like he heats his house in the winter by throwing babies in the furnace? Who wants to recreate an organization that was so evil and dangerous that they had to form a special task force just to stop them? That guy?
Also how about that guy having his consciousness transferred into a computer made of reel to reel machines circa 1976? My iPhone has about 10000 times the computing power.
They just can’t let go of the scope issues. Instead of making this about a power struggle inside S.H.I.E.L.D. it has to be about Hydra somehow infiltrating the organization created to fight against them and then coming up with a really dumb and expensive plan to kill millions. How about a S.H.I.E.L.D. plan to read every email, text, and listen to every phone call in order to restrict our freedoms? Or is that hitting too close to home? I don’t know. I just found the whole base concept stupid. An analogy I thought of while headed home last night is that a movie is like a submarine, navigating the Sea of Disbelief. A good plot cruises long on the surface, enjoying the sun and fresh air. Every time you do something that makes the audience say “huh?” you dive another hundred feet under the water, causing the hull to strain as all the pressure of disbelief gets stronger and stronger. Some movies creak and groan, some movies spring leaks, and some are totally crushed like a beer can against a frat boys forehead.
This movie wasn’t on the crushed side but I could definitely hear the hull plates groaning. The story starts off with Captain America (Chris Evans-What’s Your Number?, the Avengers, Scott Pilgrim versus the World) running laps with his African American side kick (are we not as a nation over that yet?) Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie-Real Steel, Hurt Locker, Pain and Gain). He gets picked up by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson-Her, The Prestige, We Bought a Zoo) in a Corvette and goes off on a mission to save a SHIELD ship from pirates. If you saw the opening scene from the Expendables you have seen this segment, except Captain America gets into an extended fight against the main pirate.
They rescue a bunch of hostages including SHIELD Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández-Warrior, Thor, the Avengers). Black Widow reveals she has a secret mission to recover data from the computer, a fact that pisses off Captain America. Back in the USA Nick Fury (Samual L. Jackson-Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, the Incredibles) tells him to suck it up and then shows the Captain a secret project to launch three giant flying death stars who’s job is to assassinate enemies from the air using sophisticated targeting. Captain Americas belief in the American way makes him very unhappy with that.
On the drive home Nick is attacked by a ton of guys and barely manages to escape. He shows up wounded to Captain America’s apartment and tells the Capt that SHIELD is compromised. He gives Steve a USB drive right before he gets shot by an assassin. The assassin is the mythical Winter Solder and kicks 7 kinds of crap out of Captain America every time they meet.
Fury dies and the Captain goes to SHIELD headquarters. He is double crossed and has to flee. He hooks up with Black Widow and together they try to figure out who is behind the whole thing. Guys get shot, Winter Solder kicks more crap out of Captain America, giant flying aircraft carriers shoot at stuff, and bad guys never learn to try to shoot at Captain America’s legs under his shield. A master plan to control the world is revealed and Capt has to stop it with help from Black Widow, Falcon, and the woman of my dreams Colby Smoulders. Some old faces from the last movie surface to screw with Steve’s head.
Great comic book movie. Two stars. Now that I’m used to him being Captain America I really liked Chris Evans in this film. The rest of the cast nailed it too. One star. Great action, especially for PG-13. They kind of pushed the envelope and didn’t shy away from collateral casualties. One star. The Winter Soldier was freaking awesome. One star. My future wife Colby Smoulders was in this one and looking super hot. Somebody let her know she is destined to marry me. One star. Awesome CGI and special effects. One star. The back story of the Winter Soldier and Captain America was great and almost made up for the stupidity of the rest of the evil plot. One black hole. Robert Redford resurfaced and rocked it. One star. Overall super fun and exciting to watch. Three stars. Total: twelves stars.
The black holes:
Not a lot, but the one I have is pretty big. The whole Hydra/SHIELD/flying death star evil plot was like the finest 40 year old oak fermented wine, only substitute stupidity for wine. Sorry but it really pulled me out of the theater into the back ally where it gave my suspension of disbelief a sound thrashing. Two black holes. The 40 year old reel to reel computer housing the downloaded intellect of a human was super dumb too. It really felt like Disney was clearing out an old props warehouse and decided to get one more run out of the props from War Games before selling them off for scrap. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of nine stars. Very fun and well worth your time. Date movie? Sure if she likes comic book movies and super heroes. Otherwise take her to see the Grand Budapest Hotel. Bathroom break? The film runs a whopping 136 minutes so odds are you will need it. There’s a scene towards the last 1/3rd where Captain America is on a bridge looking wistful and trying to sort out the morality of something that is pretty disposable. Most of the non-action scenes that don’t involve Nick Fury don’t contribute much to the movie so honestly any time you see Steve and Black Widow not blowing stuff up is a great time.
Thanks for reading. Fun movie to see and review. Most other films took the wise road and opted to not go head to head with this juggernaut so not a lot to see. I think I’m going to see Cesar Chavez on Sunday with a person I am very interested in (more optimistic souls might call it a third date but I am just going to try to enjoy the day) so look for that review soon. I have a big tournament coming up and am going to spend a lot of time this next week painting some new figures. I’ll try to get some stuff written this week (probably more Star Trek). Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu and post comments on this film or review here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend and enjoy this film. Talk to you soon.
I have had about eight of my friends ask me to express my opinion on this recent major change in the geek-osphere. To be perfectly honest, I am kind of apathetic. Thirteen years ago, prior to the Phantom Menace, I would have seen this as a betrayal and disaster on the order of Benedict Arnold having sex with the captain of the Exxon Valdez in the reactor room of Three Mile Island and giving birth to the most treasonous, mutated disaster in the history of the universe.
That, of course, was when I still believed that Star Wars and George Lucas were paragons of sci fi virtue to which nothing short of season 4 of Star Trek TOS could compare. However, like finding your sisters journal and discovering that not only is she no longer a virgin but has had enough action to put some porn stars to shame (at the time I remember being both really upset and jealous at the same time) George has ruined whatever virtue Star Wars ever really had by whoring it out to death and then selling it’s corpse to weird sexual fetish people. Like a creepy child molester dressed as a clown (ugh!) he has put his filthy hands all over his own creation and touched all of it’s bathing suit parts in ways that will continue to resurface for decades and the question I have to ask is “Can Disney really screw it up any worse?”
Sure, as their acquisition of Pixar has proven they can’t absorb anything without infusing it with their weird brand of cheerful corporate smiley totalitarianism, but say what you will about them (believe me, I have) the one thing they are good at is making films. It does seem that whenever they dip into the science fiction pool they seem to come out with John Carter of Mars or Tron Legacy, but as bad as films may be I would take all the bad in every Disney sci fi movie combined (yes, even Around the World in 80 Days) to having to watch even one full minute of Jar Jar Binks on screen.
The thing is, George Lucas might have been visionary and a special effect genius back in the 70’s but honestly he sucks at making movies. Disney can actually hire good actors (rather than guys who should haven’t even been considered for the role of C3PO) and create a romance that doesn’t make me want to sterilize the entire human race. While their stories are pretty pat and lame they don’t look like they were written by a brain damaged eight year old. Most importantly, they don’t have a Death Star sized ego or the drive to control every aspect of the film. They are fully capably of hiring good directors, writers, and producers rather than feel the need to do it all themselves.
I think the recent amazing hit the Avengers is a perfect example of that. They seem to have understood that the fans didn’t want to see Tinkerbell team up with the Hulk (image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category) in a fight to save dogs from Cruella DeVille and for the most part gave us what we wanted. I can only hope they have the same understanding with Star Wars and opt to stay away from giant racist cartoon rabbits who make me want to punch every fat white bearded man I see in the head.
So bottom line, I think I am OK with this huge merger. Lucas scored big ($4.05 billion. Remember begging your mother to buy you that Hoth Han Solo action figure? Guess where all that money ended up) and I hope he enjoys it. My only hope is that Disney hires Joss Whedon to direct the next one and he produces a movie that makes all other Star Wars (after Empire, of course. I’m not asking for the Second Coming here) look like the dross they are, and that George Lucas is so shamed by what he did to a great series that he either moves to Tibet to become a penniless monk or chokes on his own bile.
Sorry no new reviews for a while. Headed to Texas tomorrow and am painting my ass off tonight. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu.com. If you have comments on this topic feel free to post them. If you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks, and have a great night.
P.S. I suppose I should say something about Disney also acquiring the rights to Indiana Jones. However, again, after the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull how much worse can they damage it? Honestly, I was never that much an Indiana fan. Also, can someone explain to me how the 13 crystal skeleton aliens all died in the control chairs for the space craft and the last one cut off his own head to hide out in the jungle somewhere? What part of that makes sense? You can thank Lucas for the aliens as well.
OK, I finally got around to seeing this film, and a couple things struck me as painfully stupid. I’m only going to as one tonight, as Dave keeps wanting me to post more frequently, but this one is bugging the hell out of me.
Here it is. Peter Parker walks into the very high security OsCorp building, complete with some serious security guards, and manages to convince the receptionist that is is some foreign guy. Is she so dumb that she never thought to check an ID? Especially after he seems vague and confused as to the whole intern thing? Then, a few minutes later another guy shows up who probably has legitimate ID and they frog march him out of the building. At that point Peter is more or less free to roam the building at will and defeat hi tech security in order to get into the radioactive spider room. How stupid do they think we really are? This is just dumb.
The Spider Man picture I pulled out of Dave’s Marvel T Shirt collection. I am a fan of those old school images.
For those of you who don’t follow this sort of thing, Warhammer 40,000 just got their 6th Edition rulebook last week. In the world of miniatures this is kind of a huge event, and as a fan of the game and a huge fan of the 40K backstory I have been following it closely.
So I came up with this scenario and am wondering who would win. Space Marines are incredibly tough, with reflexes, strength, and training to put the hurt on almost anything. Furthermore, they are to a man encased in advanced battle armor and armed with very destructive weapons (bolters, for the most part). Finally, they would see the alien symbiote part of Venom as a xenos abomination and Eddie Brock as a heretic for consorting with xenos.
On the other hand, I honestly believe that Venom would be able to force itself in through the respirators of the power armor and choke to death or even spike the brains of the Marines inside. His ability to enhance Eddies already high strength makes him capable of throwing a Rhino around.
It would be close, and I think it boils down to equipment. If the Space Marine squad were armed with one or more flamers I think it would go badly for Venom. I’m going to give this one to the Marines.
The Venom face I got from Dave’s Marvel Comic t shirts by the way.
Can someone please explain to me why this movie was made?
I’m not saying it was bad (I’m also not saying it was good. Like so many movies lately it qualifies as entertaining and not a whole lot more). I’m just saying that the best term to use in describing this movie is unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the Spider-Man story as told by Sam Raime 10 years ago. It is a reboot, but not truly a reimagining. It doesn’t come up with anything new or exciting. That acting is not any better. The special effects are superior (after 10 years I would be shocked if they weren’t improved) but the action scenes are significantly less exciting or well shot. Overall it’s just another Spider-Man movie that will fade into the mishmash of other mediocre comic book movies like an Alka Seltzer tablet dropped into a toilet bowl.
(Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category)
It’s really hard to do a review about a franchise reboot without comparing it to the first film and since today is the 4th of July and I have a BBQ to get to I’m not even going to try. Honestly, this film, while better technologically, is not as good as the first Tobey MacGuire film. Sorry fan boys. There it is.
There are a few other words that could be used to describe this movie. I suppose I have to give them competent. The movie is competently made in the same way you expect your dentist to fill your cavity competently. You would be shocked if he was incompetent and drilled the wrong tooth, or slipped and drilled a hole into your brain. However, would you want to go to a tattoo artist who was merely competent? Obviously competence would be a requirement for a good tattoo artist, but I would want someone both creative and artistic, with the ability to come up with something amazing that I had not thought of myself. For a hallowed franchise such as Spider-Man competence is not enough. There are no glaring plot holes, bad direction, or bad acting. Just nothing mind blowing.
Another term I would use to describe this story is glossed over. Every aspect of the Spider-Man story felt rushed and glossed over. The spider bite? Glossed over. Remember how in the first one Peter Parker spent a lot of time trying to even figure out how to use his powers? They sort of did that here but rushed through it and kind of, well, glossed it over. Ben Parkers death and the dramatic effect it had on Peter Parker? Glossed over and hardly mentioned. Development of a villain to fight? Glossed over. The action scene were brief, glossed over, and felt included out of a sense of obligation rather than a desire to make an action film (I liken it to my mom forcing me to bring my little sister along to everything as a kid). Even the romance between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, which seemed to dominate the screen time, felt stunted and malnourished. Critical aspects of it was seriously glossed over. I hate myself for saying this, but I found myself missing Kirstin Dunst as Mary Jane Parker. At least she and Tobey MacGuire had some on screen chemistry and the romance was allowed to develop organically. Here the romance is shoved on the screen and we are told they love each other but not offered any real evidence. The movie feels like they took every minor story from the Spider-Man canon and trimmed off all the corners in order to fit them all into a single 136 minute film. The funny thing is Sam Raime did the same thing and managed to come up with a great movie. Here it all just feels rushed and abbreviated.
Another term I could use here is enhanced, and I don’t mean it in a good way. The only time they really did anything different from the Sam Raime version is in making Peter Parker a super stud even before the spider bite. One of the greatest thing about Spider-Man is Peter Parker was pretty much a mundane “every man” before gaining his powers. In this film instead of being an awkward nerd about to graduate high school he is a good looking, skateboard riding, fashionable, scientific genius, contacts wearing hipster-esque dreamboat. There is none of the “Peter Parker coming of age” development that so aided the first couple movies (emo Peter Parker in the last one kind of derailed that aspect pretty badly).
A final word I will use to describe this movie is predictable. I don’t think I need to explain it any further.
Anyway, I could go on but won’t. Here is the story: Peter Parker gets bit by a genetically enhanced spider. Now go rent the 2002 Spider Man and you are good to go. Substitute Dr. Curtis Conner for Norman Osborne, the Lizard for the Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy for Mary Jane (blond for red head, basically), and Police Captain Stacy for J. Johah Jamison. Add in some odd ball continuity issues (how is it Peter Parker’s dad’s glasses are exactly Peters prescription?) and cut out a lot of the cooler story aspect in order to make more room for awkward chemistry-less romance. Get rid of the huge sweeping camera shots that made Spider Man swinging through NYC so cool and instead use the camera quick cut editing that has plagued movies for the last five years for everything that even smells like action. Throw in a grandiose evil villain plot that makes little sense and you are done.
By the way, a few weeks ago I posted a discussion as to why TWOK is the best of the Star Trek movies that I think applies to this movie in comparing it to the Sam Raimi one. If you recall, in the first movie the Green Goblin was more or less motivated to keep his company from being sold out from under him and then to either recruit Spider Man or destroy him. There was a personal and believable motivation that worked extremely well in conjunction with a well developed villain. In this movie Dr. Conners seems to have no real motivation for what his sceme is, and instead of having an axe to grind with Spider Man he has some dumb plan to save humanity by destroying it. The scope of the story actually hurts itself. Movies are always better when there is a personal reason for the antagonist to go after the protagonist. As soon as you expand his (or her) animosity to include the faceless unwashed masses of humanity you stop caring. As an audience we need to connect with a character and care about what happens to him or her. There isn’t enough caring to be had for the entire population of New York City.
Another issue I had was something Jason brought up a while ago about Spider Man running around without his mask on. In the comics he was religious about always wearing the mask. He never, ever ran around in the suit without it, to the point that even as a zombie he always wore the mask and talked about how it reminded him of his humanity. In this movie he couldn’t find enough excuses to take off the mask while wearing the suit. It’s like someone filled it with itching powder.
Finally, there were some real inconsistencies with regards to Spider Man’s powers. Did he have spidey sense or not? Sometimes it seemed like he did, like when he had to dodge bullets fired from three feet away. Other times he couldn’t sense a bus coming at him. Can he cling to buildings or not? He seems to do it all the time but then at the end needs someone to save him and haul his ass up the side of a building. When you see it you will understand.
Sigh. The stars. Comic book movie. Two stars. I am a Spider Man fan and will give it a bonus star for that. One star. No real glaring plot holes. One star. In spite of the difficulty in generating chemistry, I thought almost all of the acting was pretty well done. One star. I am a huge Emma Stone fan (Crazy, Stupid Love, Zombieland, the Help). I wasn’t really digging her as a blond but still. One star. CGI and special effects were nigh flawless. One star. Overall I was generally entertained and felt I got my money’s worth. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. Somehow not quite getting the story right IMO. One black hole. Very limited action, and what action there was felt purposefully shortened and rushed through. One black hole. The whole “glossing over” of so much of the canon. One black hole. Peter Parker as the cool kid. One black hole. It feels weird calling a movie derivative when it pretty much clones the original. I guess I will have to say I am awarding a black hole for lack of imagination or vision. One black hole. Finally, one more for creating a totally unnecessary film. This is basically the appendix of movies. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of three stars, which in my mind is a terrible score for a comic book movie. The Avengers scored a total of nine stars, and in my opinion is pretty much exactly three times as good. I still want to see the Avengers a second time, and honestly would not see this one again. Should you see it once? Sure, why not? It’s not bad, and you will probably enjoy it. However, a year from now it will have faded into the background. Overall it seems made more for kids that adults, and the kids in the audience seemed to love it (especially the little rug rat next to me who spilled his drink all over the floor, ruining my popcorn and more or less screaming through the first 30 minutes of the film until his dad had to take him out. Kids are generally cool, but parents generally suck). See it on a big screen, and honestly this is one of the few movies I am going to recommend you see in 3D. Seems like most of the action was designed to go better in 3D. Date movie? I supposed. This is another one that will neither enhance nor inhibit your campaign to get her into bed with you. Bathroom break? Dead easy. The dinner scene with Peter, Gwen, and her family is 100% worthless filler. The first time you see Peter Parker tap on Gwen’s window feel free to cut out, use the restroom, check your email, make a couple phone calls, and chat with the theater manager for five minutes.
By the way, during the course of writing this review I found out an answer to my original question as to why they made this film. Turns out the Sony license for Spider Man requires them to produce a movie in a timely manner or else it reverts back to Marvel (Disney). They had to rush something out and opted to go with mediocre rather than good. Too bad.
Thanks for reading, and I’m truly sorry I couldn’t gush about this movie a little more. It’s not bad. It’s just not great. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu.com. I don’t know if I am going to have time to see a lot of films this week as I am getting ready for Comic Con. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here. If you have off topic questions or suggestions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great 4th of July! Talk to you soon.
Anyway, Brave. If this were a stand alone Disney movie I would have to call it brilliant. As a Pixar film I’m going to have to call it mediocre. Still entertaining, but just not to the standard that I have become accustomed to.
Have you ever known a couple who start dating, move in together, and over the course of time end up looking, dressing, and sounding exactly like each other? This seems to be what is happening with the marriage of Disney and Pixar, except in this case it is Pixar, like the subservient personality in the relationship, that is evolving into Disney, not so much the other way around. This film definitely has a Disney flavor to it, and I for one feels this bodes ill for Marvel laboring under the thumb of Disney. Of course, the Avengers was amazing so maybe I don’t have to worry so much. (Marvel Comics Con image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category)
Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar to any of you Disney fans out there: a young princess is being cajoled into something she doesn’t want to do by her parents and wants to rebel. She meets a witch who gives her a spell that goes horrible awry and has to spend the rest of the film dealing with the consequences and trying to fix it. This is where I get disappointed in Pixar. I expect them to come out with some thing clever and original, not something so formulaic and Disney cookie cutter.
Not to say it wasn’t fun or entertaining. (some modest spoilers incoming so if you want to miss them skip ahead a couple paragraphs) The story is of young Merida, a Scottish princess and tom boy who loves archery and horseback riding. She is the darling of her giant father the king, Fergus, who lost his leg to a terrifying bear Mordu, and the constant headache for her uptight mother Elinor. She has three young triplet brothers who are total scamps.
Anyway, her mother wants her to marry one of the sons of the three clan heads. She doesn’t want to get married (and given that she is like 14 in this movie I can’t really blame her) and causes all kinds of trouble. She wanders into to forest and finds a witch who gives her a spell to cast on her mother to change her. Her mother gets turned into a giant bear and it is up to Merida to keep her hidden from her father (who is known as the “Bear King” and kills all bears on sight) while trying to figure out how to reverse the spell. Scottish highlander hijinks ensues.
As I do with pretty much all kids movies I will forgo my normal star/black hole rating system. I generally judge them on how the kids in the audience reacts, and in this case they were enjoying the hell out of it. Lots of cute action, bright colors, and funny Scottish accents.
The animation was as amazing as I have ever seen. When you see it I invite you to pay particular attention to the animation of Merida’s horse Angus. It is unreal how cool and real it is, while still being a cartoon. The story is linear and simple enough for kids, but the characters and dialog are entertaining enough to engage an adult. Overall a very good movie. If I were to pick one thing to complain about it’s in calling the movie “Brave”. While no one in the film acts in a cowardly manner I didn’t see anything I would consider examples of extreme bravery. Normally if you call a movie Brave it’s because you want to impart some important lesson about bravery. Maybe a young warrior froze up on his first battlefield and has to face the demon of perhaps being a coward. I didn’t see Merida do a lot that would be considered excessively brave, and her father seemed brave enough when backed up by 200 of his clansmen. The title of this film feels like a final comprise among producers after a long debate. I’d be willing to bet the original working title was something like “Merida” until they realized it was pretty much exactly like Mulan.
So should you see this film? Absolutely. Bring the kids if you have them, or see it with some adults at a late showing. You will not be disappointed unless you are a hard core Monsters Inc. fan. Date movie? Are you kidding? This film was made to be a date movie. If this doesn’t get her blood pumping plug her into a power outlet as her robot battery needs recharging. Bathroom break? Honestly this is one of those movies where it is hard to find a dead space. No one scene is really critical, but they are all entertaining and add to the story. If I a gun to my head (or, more relevantly, a bursting bladder) I would probably say the scene where Merida teaches her mother how to fish. It drags on a while, and while entertaining is not really a critical element to the script. Plus, if you didn’t have to use the restroom before seeing all that splashing water will probably make it a priority, if you know what I mean.
Thanks for reading. Please vote for me in that contest. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here. Any off topic questions or comments email to email@example.com. I am getting super busy in the next two weeks getting ready for Comic Con and the biggest Warhammer tournament of the year for so I might be cutting back on movie reviews for a little while. I will probably see Ted this weekend and if I can find the time and stomach for it Magic Mike, although my early warning suck radar is blaring on that one. Today I’m off the Sacramento, party capitol of the Central Valley. Have a great day.
So I have a question about Spider Man. It looks like in the new movie they are adding in the artificial web shooters that he should have had from the beginning. I know I asked about this stuff before but another question occurred to me.
As any fan of the comic knows, Peter Parker used science to invent his web shooters and web fluid, which creates webs that dissolved after an hour. While this is cool and all, I have to wonder about how Peter Parker keeps himself supplied with web fluid.
Think about it. Spider Man shoots webs at every opportunity and in the comic he would often have to stop to replace his web cartridges. However, give the fact that he is a full time student, photographer, and spends hours a day patrolling New York City when does he have time to cook up more web fluid? He is pretty broke most of the time, so where does he get the raw material? I would imagine it’s it made of pretty esoteric chemicals. Where does he go to get his stuff? Also, couldn’t someone trying to find him analyze the webs and track him down through his suppliers?
Anyway, that’s it. This image I got from Dave’s Marvel comic t-shirt collection. Very very cool IMO.
I saw a trailer for the new Spider Man move and I have to say I had my first “Uh oh” moment. First of all, the one thing that Toby Maguire had right was he looked like the kind of dork Peter Parker really was. They managed to emo that out of him in the last movie, but he looked exactly like what I would imagine Parker looking like. This new kid looks like some kind of male model. Sure that might work for the girls out there, but are they really the target audience for this film?
The second thing was in all the Spider Man comics I read in my life I can count on like three fingers the number of times he would run around in costume but without the mask. It was so a part of his personality that he even wore it in the Marvel Zombies series. Yet the trailers show him without mask more than with. I guess they want to show the new guys pretty face.
Finally, while I know the quest to find Peter Parkers lost parents was a part of a few comics, first of all it wasn’t the burning question on his mind all his life. He had a very pleasant childhood with Ben and May and until the Ultimate series never even seemed to care that much. Furthermore, when he did find out he had to go to Algiers to investigate. Another thing that made Spider Man so cool was the fact that Parker was pretty much an average kid like everyone else, but this movie seems to want to make him out to some kind of “chosen one” or something.
On the other hand it looks like they are bringing back the mechanical web shooters, which I like. That whole shooting webs out of your arm sounded lazy to me. Also, technically if he could organically shoot webs out of his body shouldn’t the web spinners have been coming out of his butt?
The Spider Man image comes from Dave’s Marvel comic t shirt collection, by the way.