Sure, I could’ve been a better blogger and rushed to type my thoughts after being flabbergasted (at IMAX size, no less) by James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad while it was still cool on opening weekend and before everyone decided it was “over” because it didn’t make $400 million at the box office, as if the HBO Max day-and-date release was never a mitigating factor. What else is there to say about a film so nakedly audacious about its primary objectives, so cocky about its body count in all the trailers and interviews, and so thorough in exceeding its dark-humored, extreme expectations? Besides adding that, yes, I too said “wow” and “YUCK” more times than I could count?
Thirteenth time’s nearly the charm for the long-running film series, which needed to make up for the ground lost by JJ Abrams’ 2013 superfluous Wrath of Khan remake. This time around the Powers That Be went with a different style of director — Justin Lin, mastermind behind four Fast and the Furious entries, including the one where nearly all the heroes teamed up and became the AAA Avengers with their very own Fast and Furious Cinematic Speedway. Lin knows a little about diving into established universes, and a lot about spectacularly timed whiz-bang action sequences. I assumed sight unseen that Star Trek Beyond would therefore have some of the best starship battle sequences in all of Trekdom (or at least it had better), but would he be capable of the kind of cerebral depth that the old-time fans demand from their Enterprise crew?
The worldwide phenomenon about two unique individuals from very different worlds — one who’s itching for justice, one who’s given some thought to law enforcement — passed $300 million this weekend at the U.S. box office and proved major studios are still capable of putting out product that can contemplate serious topics even while reveling in visual flair and not shying away from moments of intensity or even a few tears.
No, not the one with the angry costumed guys in it.
While my son is off living at college and my wife finds other things to amuse herself, my Wednesday nights have become one-man movie nights at home. I work an earlier shift that day, arrive home mid-afternoon, and watch stuff and things for a while. It’s a pleasure I’ve rarely afforded myself, as evidenced by the towering pile of unwatched DVDs and my slowly lengthening Netflix queue.
On Twitter I’ve not been one for constant live-tweeting, but a few months ago I spent one Wednesday live-tweeting my viewing displeasure of Batman and Robin at a friend’s suggestion. This past Wednesday I repeated the experience at absolutely no one’s suggestion with a fifty-cent Blu-ray rental of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, starring Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, exactly one female, and Academy Award Winner Nicolas Cage as the notorious Marvel antihero. Collected below for posterity or whatever are the results of that experience.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Pacific Rim the Best Men’s-Adventure Film of the Year!
So far, anyway. I’ll admit my opinion is skewed because I don’t watch every theatrical release. I certainly didn’t see 6 Fast 6 Furious, which might or might not be a five-star men’s-adventure flick for all I know, but the 6F6F trailers showed a sign of weakness: two female characters sharing a scene, even though it was a scene of angry pummeling. Not counting extras or one-line background fillers, I counted four female characters in all of Pacific Rim: two robot drivers; one of those drivers as a young girl; and, with 95% certainty, at least one of the monsters. None are onscreen at the same time, spaced apart by several men and minutes, just as you’d expect from an awesome boys-club tale of manly-man heroics.
From an audiovisual standpoint, the IMAX 3-D version of Prometheus was one of the most overwhelming, immersive experiences I’ve ever encountered. Beyond that, results varied. Possible spoilers abound, but nothing intense enough to require the services of my usual spoiler guardian.
I’ve only seen one full episode of Lost, but I got the impression from its viewers (haters who refused to stop watching as well as genuine fans) that they had to answer all the deepest questions themselves. Much of Prometheus was like that for my son and me. We liked its approach to the spiritual questions it raises, as well as the additional questions engendered by those questions in turn. In my experience that’s par for the course in any serious reexamination of What It All Means. Even if the movie’s answers and suggestions don’t remotely match mine, it’s intriguing to watch other people’s thought processes at work through the constructs built from their own set of evidence.
If we’d seen it on a smaller screen, I might’ve been more disappointed. Luckily for Prometheus, I have a hard time concentrating on aesthetics when my field of vision and my limited hearing range are in maximum sensory overload. Whenever vehicles crashed, it was like a full body massage as the whole theater vibrated with malevolence, and a special treat for my ears that cause such despair when they miss little sounds and entire conversations in everyday life.
As far as people go: Lisbeth Salander Prime was in top form as our main character. It’s refreshing to see a film where a character can wear a cross, stand their ground, and espouse non-Jewish religious views without being a source of intense comedic ridicule or die a grisly death. Granted, she’s the subject of mild comedic ridicule, but then there’s occasionally satisfying retribution in the form of grisly deaths. I also approve of her enduring the most excruciating of hardships while armed only with canned space epidural.
I was enthralled by Michael Fassbender as the android David, who combined Data’s existential aspirations with Wall-E’s cinephilia and Crow T. Robot’s amoral curiosity. Idris Elba seemed an odd choice for the role of the cantankerous, nebulous pilot, but the Stephen Stills squeezebox went a long way. I was mollified by the one or two human moments that Charlize Theron was allowed to experience in modes other than hard-as-nails. The Tom Hardy lookalike met the minimum requirements of the standard skeptical-significant-other role. I barely recognized Guy Pearce disguised in gallons of elderly makeup as Professor Farnsworth and wish he hadn’t been irrelevant to the entire third act.
In general I wish more had been done with the supporting cast. I wouldn’t’ve minded an extra half-hour of character moments, which were the hallmark of some of the previous films. When characters are pondering deep subjects and waxing philosophical, it means a lot more if I’m given reasons to care about their opinions, regardless of whether they’re informed or shallow. Without that emotional foundation, the inevitable kill-spree meant no more to me than one from an average horror film, which is all the more disappointing if you consider that the majority of the film was more sci-fi than horror.
About that kill-spree: although the creature effects achieved their goals, the simplistic drives for some beings and unexpressed motivations for others each failed to coalesce into an effective bad-guy presence. Yes, they were big and strong and physically menacing, but I’ll be really surprised if I can remember any of them fondly three years from now. Prometheus achieved the rare reaction of creating backgrounds and settings that were more vibrant eye-candy than the beings gallivanting in front of them and blocking my view. When you find yourself wishing that movie characters would move aside so you can see what cool things they’re blocking, the movie has gone wrong somewhere.
Perhaps my opinion would’ve improved if I’d consumed any of the pre-release viral-video supplements. I ignored all of them for two reasons: avoidance of spoilers, and preference for experiencing the movie as a work of art unto itself. I grow impatient with any movie that requires homework before I’m supposed to see it. I’m fine with viewing such material months after the fact in the form of DVD extras, but I’m of a mindset that doesn’t yet appreciate movies as the climax of an interactive cross-platform viewing game. If character moments in the movie were minimized with the expectation that the viral videos would pick up the slack in that area, then this isn’t my kind of filmmaking.
It’s possibly my kind of DVD-making. But I’m gonna need a bigger TV.
Ridley Scott’s newest science fiction milestone commands the cover of the May 18th issue of Entertainment Weekly, whose sidebars in previous issues about the Alien prequel/spinoff/homage/whatever may already have said too much. If the official American trailers, several international trailers, viral-marketing future DVD extras, epic-length WikiPedia entry, and half-baked rumor sites haven’t whetted your appetite for advance knowledge (true or false), EW’s article also reveals which character is not quite human, which ones are corporate toadies, and which one is our primary protagonist. Along with those Dell-logic-problem clues, factor in the Hollywood pecking order of Academy Award Winner Charlize Theron, Academy Award Nominee Young Magneto, Lisbeth Salander Prime, Stringer Bell, Leonard Shelby, two male unknowns, and one female unknown. Savvy viewers should be able to calculate their order of elimination in the finished product with a margin of error of ±1 corpse.
If you mean to save yourself for the American release date of June 8th, hiding from the Internet will not be enough. TV ads have now been unleashed to the networks so that the Midwest will finally get a look-see. Expect more magazines to follow in EW’s footsteps in the weeks ahead, including the inevitable TV Guide cover straining to cash in on the hype with the most tenuous of TV connections. I predict a showcase along the lines of “Twenty Best Movies Starring Actors from The Office: Prometheus, Bridesmaids, Get Smart, and More!” I won’t be surprised to see ancillary merchandise at the comic shop. The true danger zone begins June 1st when the movie opens early in England because of favoritism. Expect Internet hall monitors to place their sites futilely on emergency spoiler lockdown when waves of soccer-hooligan trolls begin tweeting drunken screen shots and plot-loophole complaints live from their theater seats.
I count myself among the wave of fans who saw James Cameron’s Aliens before seeing the original Alien and consequently have a hard time discussing contrary opinions with old-school fans who were marked for life when they saw the classic chest-bursting surprise on the big screen. I may rank the four films differently, but to this day I don’t hate any of them (the two crossovers are another story). I hope not to hate this one as well, but with so much time remaining for so much more to be ruined, I may need to play the hermit card and go underground like Newt till it’s safe. I can’t just nuke the Internet from orbit, so there’s no way to be sure.