Saturday, June 16, 2012

Moving To A New Street

In the process of fully moving away from my old yahoo account, which is the primary email address for this blog, and into my gmail account. I have created a sort of "sister" blog that I will be using to post my future blog entries. You can find the link to it here.

This is a change I've wanted to make for a while. Hopefully this will help me do more entries and reviews.

Have a good day, and I hope to see you all on the other side!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Promtheus Review Part 2: The Spoiler Edition

So, here's the thing about Prometheus: it had the potential to be a really epic science fiction story. In fact, the first two thirds are very much more 2001 rather than Alien. Instead of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre In Space" Prometheus dared to ask some very profound questions about the origins of humanity as well as where we're going. However, instead of answers, we were given more questions (typical of Lindelof scripting...).

Prometheus is far from being a perfect film. This is obvious in the many things I find questionable about the film. This is actually saddening to me because it's very clear Ridley Scott wanted to tell an original science fiction story that was supposed to inspire questions on who we are as a species and our place in the universe while also scaring the pants off of us.

This movie does make you ask these questions but also brings up questions pertaining to the characters' intelligence as there are some really questionable actions taken in this film. Take the two redshirts who get lost in the alien ship. Near the beginning of the film these two guys seem to be particularly genre savvy when the team encounters a dead Engineer. They freak out and decide to head back to the ship only to get lost in the catacombs.

The first issue I have with this is that one of these redshirts is the very same guy who owns the probes that are mapping out the structure. So this guy is the one with the map and he still gets lost? Oh, and did I mention this guy is also a stoner with a bong built into his space suit? While it makes sense that a stoned moron would get himself lost in an alien ship it still doesn't make sense because the map can be also used by the folks on the Prometheus as well. So it'd be simple to not get lost considering. Yet these guys do.

So the two stoned idiot redshirts have to spend the night in the creepy alien complex. They continue to freak out at the very idea of running into an alien (which is the only smart thing these guys do) and then decide to spend that night in the creepy room with a giant Engineer head and hundreds of vases sweating alien death goo. Of course, like any other horror film, there are some alien monsters slithering in the goo. This is when things get stupid.

So when a two foot long alien snake rears its Freudian head out of the goo instead of maintaining consistency of character the two redshirts try to PET THE ALIEN!

Because who wouldn't pet this thing?

Of course it doesn't help that this alien is giving very clear signs that it doesn't want to be fucked with like hissing and flaring up like a cobra. You know, the universal signs for "Don't fucking touch me you stoner idiot!" Of course, the redshirts don't get the message and promptly die horrible deaths.

Then there's Halloway's idiocy. It doesn't help that Halloway comes off as an annoying prick who wears sandals on a space ship (I'm not even joking about this, he wears fucking sandals). He is the first to take his helmet off when they realize the atmosphere is breathable. Of course the others try to tell him not to but he merely responds with "I'm not wearing this thing anymore!" Because who needs a helmet when you've got sandals? It's not like there's and alien plague that can mutate you into an alien monstrosity. (He gets infected by an alien plague. Big surprise...)

Then there's the lack of interconnectedness and logic that the last act of the movie has. This starts when Shaw learns she's pregnant with Halloway's mutant alien progeny. This leads to the movies most memorable scene where she goes to the med-pod to get the damn thing out via a cesarean. The only problem is that it isn't a cesarean. The damn machine is only calibrated for males! This raises so many questions on its own. Firstly, it's Vickers who owns that med-pod. Vickers, who is very clearly a woman, has an emergency medical pod that only works for male patients. Why? This doesn't even feel necessary. It only adds a whole five more seconds to the scene. She gets the cesarean anyway!

So after this scene Shaw crawls into a nearby lab and finds David tending to a still living Peter Weyland (played by Guy Pearce in old dude makeup)! Why is he played by Guy Pearce in old dude makeup? (It turns out that it's tied to cut scenes in the movie where he is shown as his younger self, which makes some sense.) It doesn't help that Back To The Future's old dude makeup still kicks the crap out of the makeup work done here (seriously it's not good). It turns out Peter Weyland wants to ask for more life from his creators (like the parallels to Blade Runner here) and plans on waking up the last living Engineer on the planet to do so. Shaw warns him that the Engineers aren't interested in humanity's survival. Of course she fails to make her point by saying that she gave birth to an alien squid thanks to the alien death goo. The thing isn't mentioned again until Shaw uses it to kill the Engineer in the climax.

Oh, and Shaw never really minds running around after her surgery. Like an emergency not-cesarean is something you just walk off. This could be hand waved with futuristic medicine as touted in the Weyland Industries website but it still feels wrong.

Like I said before, the last half of this movie feels like a jumbled mess of different screenwriters' ideas. And the last act of the movie is undoubtedly a mess. But the first two thirds are still very good.

Case in point: David's introduction is by far the most memorable scene in the movie (behind the cesarean scene). David himself is by far the most memorable character, in fact, I wished David was the protagonist of this movie. It would've given this movie an interesting twist had the focus been on David as he helps mankind try to find answers to their origins. It would've been interesting to have David face the horrors these Engineers created to destroy humanity. To have mankind's salvation under the threat of their creators be their very own creation. It would've been an interesting look into the themes of creation, destruction, and godhood as well as promote an understandable reason for the Engineers' desire to destroy mankind: Mankind has the potential to create and reach the level of their creators, and that scares the shit out of the Engineers. David is proof of mankind's potential to create in their own image, just like the Engineers, and he is immune to their weapons of mass destruction (as seen by his handling of the alien death goo).

You see, already it looks like there is the potential for a great film here. It's that potential that keeps me interested in seeing what they do with any potential sequel. After all, David is still alive, and it looks like he'll be getting his head back onto his body considering Shaw hauled it out of the wreckage of the Engineer ship along with his head. David is the reason I hope for a sequel, because he is the key to making Prometheus more than a prequel/spin-off to Alien. David is the key to turning the series Prometheus starts into something that could be the next Blade Runner, if not a truly epic science fiction film franchise.

If you feel like commenting on anything in this portion of the review, feel free to do so. I welcome your own opinions and would love to discuss this film in greater detail.

Image from and is property of 20th Century Fox.

Friday, June 8, 2012

"Prometheus Has Landed" - Prometheus Review (Non-Spoiler Portion)

The prodigal son returns! Ridley Scott, director of such science fiction classics like Blade Runner and Alien, has returned to science fiction with "Prometheus." Over the course of this film's development we have seen it metamorphose from being a clear-cut prequel to Alien to something more than just a prequel. Since the first teaser many have wondered what Prometheus was. Is it a prequel to Alien? Is it an original film? Is it a meta-prequel? So, after seeing the film, some may wonder what my take on the identity of this film is and the answer is that Prometheus is a film that strives to be something truly original but is bogged down by the so-called "DNA" of the Alien franchise within its makeup.

I will begin the non-spoiler portion of the review by saying that Prometheus is truly a beautiful movie to behold. From the very first shot it's clear that Scott has a talented eye for visuals. The initial shots of primordial-Earth are spectacular and the rest of the film is beautiful as well. The look of the film is definitely one of the selling points here, and this even goes for the 3D (yes, I saw this in IMAX 3D, mostly due to scheduling) which is well done. Not once did the 3D detract from the story unfolding in front of our eyes, in fact it did help immerse viewers which is how 3D should be done (I even forgot I was wearing 3D glasses because it was so seamless).

As for the story, well, you pretty much get the gist of it from the trailers: Shaw (played by the always amazing and always beautiful Noomi Rapace) and her fellow archaeologist/lover Halloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover evidence of an alien civilization who created the human race as well as a star map pointing towards a distant planet. They manage to convince Peter Weyland (played by the always charismatic Guy Pierce in old dude makeup) to fund an expedition to the distant star system in the hopes of discovering the race who created us. Weyland's company, Weyland Industries, builds the good ship "Prometheus" (played by a special effect) and puts together a crew consisting of Shaw, Halloway, a crew to fly the ship, scientists, a security team, and an android named David (played by the ever impressive Michael Fassbender) in order to reach the planet to find answers. Of course, things aren't as they seem and what the crew of the Prometheus finds could spell doom for the entire human race.

It's a standard plot found in science fiction, however it's the characters and the execution that are what make such dime-a-dozen plots into multi-million dollar franchises. Here, we have a number of very talented actors and actresses, a talented director, and a somewhat skilled writing crew (more on them later). The result is a somewhat mixed bag of great ideas and characters woven together with less interesting versions of both the latter and former.

Of course, to start off, we have the characters. Of the supposed 17 crew members on the Prometheus we regularly focus on about five of them. These are Shaw, Halloway, David, Janek (played by Idris Elba), and Vickers (played by Charlize Theron). Shaw, and somewhat Halloway, are the primary protagonists. As per an unwritten law in the lore of the Alien universe Shaw represents the lead female protagonist (commonly called "The Ripley" in some circles). Rapace plays her well enough, even though I found her character to be somewhat flat and uninteresting. The main distinction between Shaw and the other characters is her religious views, noted by the cross worn around her neck, and how it drives her desire to "meet her makers." This trait produces a lot of interesting notions and issues due to the discovery she has made and what it means for humanity. Throughout the film other characters, mainly Halloway her polar opposite, wonder what she must think having revealed that it wasn't "God" who made man but aliens, called Engineers in the movie, as if she should be having a crisis of faith upon making this discovery. This, coupled by her infertility (which is brought up way too late into the story), sets up an interesting arc that is never really explored in the film. I say this because, at this point, how could she still have faith? Shaw lives in a world where man has essentially become god, as the existence of David shows and mentioned in Weyland's TED video, science is an overpowering force in this world and Shaw, a scientist herself, still clings to faith. It would've been interesting to see this get explored throughout the movie much more than it did. In the end, Shaw's faith is never strained and remains intact. However, Rapace still manages to make you care about Shaw, which is a testament to how talented she is as an actress.

Halloway is another creature altogether. Marshall-Green's character comes off, as I stated before, as Shaw's polar opposite. This makes the fact that the two are lovers all the more interesting and slightly confusing. Halloway isn't religious, he's more scientific, a skeptic, and a bit of a bonehead really. He's the first down a dark, uncharted, hole and the first to take off his helmet on an alien planet regardless of the obvious health risks it poses. I really didn't like this character all that much to be perfectly honest. Sure he plays an important role in the movie but that role is reserved strictly for plot. His more scientific interest isn't at odds with Shaw's faith, which could've provided some fun conflict for the couple, and with that in mind there also isn't a real redeeming quality to the character that justifies why Shaw loves him apart from handsome factor. The lack of science vs. faith conflict in a script from one of the head writers of Lost (Damon Lindelof) is down right shocking in my opinion.

Idris Elba, however, manages to take a flat character and add some life to it as Janek, the captain of the Prometheus. Of what little screentime Elba has he manages to convey a character who has seen it all and done it all. I particularly liked the scene he had with Theron's character Vickers.

Speaking of Vickers, Theron manages to play the character as a complete bitch, which is good. She's a driven, calculating, and cold businesswoman who has a clear goal: "make sure everyone does their job." And she doesn't fool around, especially when she has a flamethrower. She's the first to wake up from cryo-sleep and the first thing she does is push-ups in her future-undies (or "fundies" as I call em) whilst still dripping with stasis-goo (the scene is alone worth the price of admission, folks). However, she does have a human side, regardless of whether or not the captain had his suspicions of her being a robot as he well finds out later on.

Then there's David. Oh boy is David fun to watch! Of the characters, I think David was the most fleshed out of them all. The first scene you see of him he's alone on the ship while the others are in stasis and he's just killing time with bicycle-basketball, watching his favorite film Lawerence of Arabia, dying his hair to make himself look like Lawrence of Arabia, and conducting a creepier version of inception on the sleeping crew members with his dream helmet. As said in many other reviews, Fassbender steals the show as David. He manages to be a likable character with his robotic tendencies while also being devious as per the unwritten requirement of a robot in an Alien movie. Needless to say, had David been the protagonist of the film, it would've been an awesome movie.

To round out the cast of characters we have some no-names and red shirts who really don't seem to belong. In fact, apart from the exposition scene at the beginning of the film, the ship felt empty even though there should be like 17 people roaming around. I honestly think they should've made it just these five characters and like three more to compose of the entire crew, that way we could have a lot more meaningful deaths in this movie instead of your average horror movie fodder.

So that's the characters, what about the story? Well, like I said before, this film has the makings of a great original sci-fi epic but is bogged down by the sparse references to the Alien franchise. Had someone cut the references to Alien as well as some rather unwelcome horror scenes you would have a solid science fiction film that could've been right up there with 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the very beginning, Prometheus feels more like an epic than a horror film. This is further solidified by the epic score by Marc Streitenfeld which I feel has been getting under appreciated due to it feeling out of place in the scope of the film, some feeling it wasn't "scary enough." In fact, I feel it's the horror elements that don't belong in this movie. Yes, you can kill off characters in spectacularly horrifying ways or have scenes of body horror and still not be a horror movie. 2001 is a science fiction epic but the best part of that film is technically a horror movie. However, where the first two thirds of this movie are all sci-fi epic, the last falls apart and heads straight into sci-fi horror territory and it really isn't needed.

Regardless, what horror there is in Prometheus is actually good. The most gory scene being fairly memorable. However, it does feel forced at times.

And with that, I give Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" 3 screams you can't hear in space out of 5

For the SPOILER filled portion of the review, see Part 2

Friday, May 18, 2012

What should happen next in the Terminator franchise.

Like death and taxes another Terminator film is basically inevitable. It's a recognizable brand, and we all know Hollywood likes recognizable brand names. Rumors have spread across the internet about the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the franchise since the end of his governorship. This comes out after the proverbial car wreck that was Terminator Salvation, which I consider to be the worst film at least Terminator 3 was funny. However, as Hollywood continues to drill into wells that have been practically dried up for years, I've grown to acknowledge the fact that remakes and sequels aren't just inevitable they can be valid as well. Take the new Spider-Man film, for instance, it has been 5 years since Spider-Man 3 came out which isn't a long time, yet as I see more of the revamped story they're pushing the more I feel like it could actually tell a genuinely original story. After all, we let comic books get away with it. However, until seeing the new Spidey film I will keep hoping this will be true.

Back to the subject of the Terminator, it's not surprising that many say this franchise has nothing new to show us, we've seen everything that needs to be seen. This is true, what was needed to be seen was pretty much what we saw in Terminators 1 and 2. But that doesn't mean there isn't more to the story. After all, most movies imply they exist in a fully realized universe, the Terminator movies more so than most. Add time travel to the mix and you can pretty much come up with any story you wanted to tell, and that is where the new vein can be tapped. We need to see something new from this world, no more focusing on John Connor's destiny or his purpose, we've covered that, instead focus on a realm that hasn't entirely been tread upon: Skynet. If there's one character that is as ominous, and mythical, as John Connor it's Skynet. In the first Terminator both Connor and Skynet are merely talked about, John more than Skynet, but both are key characters in the Terminator mythos. Kyle Reese talks about John Connor being the savior of mankind who helped them rise up against the machines. John is made out to be this great military leader, and in the sequel we finally get to meet John, as a kid. Even though I find his portrayal in Terminator 2 to be, lacking, you still can believe that John feels like he has the world on his shoulders. He wants to stop Judgement Day because he is afraid of his own destiny, this drives him to try and change the future and it seems to succeed at the end of Terminator 2.

But even though Terminator 2 has a hopeful ending, which is totally fine, it contradicts the ideas in Terminator. Terminator can be seen as being about the inevitability of Judgement Day. It can't be stopped, like the Terminator, and simply running away from it won't help. You have to accept it and fight through it. The fact that both John and Skynet are directly created due to time travel further solidifies this idea of inevitability. Without the future's meddling in the past none of this is possible, a paradox would ensue, thus Judgement Day is inevitable because it MUST happen otherwise the universe may implode. This is one of the few things I actually like about Terminator 3, it's consistent with the first film's theme of inevitability. As Arnold says in the film "Judgement Day is unavoidable."

So why am I saying all of this? Because this would make for a great motivation for Skynet. We've seen the human side of this war, a side driven by human emotions and human drives. John Connor and his mother don't truly want the war to happen, this is why they try to change the future. They do so because of irrational fear and a desire to survive. This is a driving point for most of their actions. Skynet, however, has always been handwaved as being a typical genocidal artificial intelligence. It becomes self aware and realizes mankind is its greatest threat so it makes a preemptive nuclear strike against them? This may sound like a logical decision that a computerized intelligence would make but think about it for a second. Skynet is an artificial intelligence that is considered to be smarter than mankind, sans all the irrational emotions. There are literally billions of alternatives Skynet could've considered and just might have, yet it chose an action that is actually rather irrational if you take it at face value. It sees humans as a potential threat, one may even say it is afraid, and in an act of self preservation, fear, decides to wage nuclear war on humanity. Again, a non-human artificial intelligence would think of billions of other possible solutions yet it chose this one. Why? Because it knew it HAD to.

What I'm suggesting here is that Skynet isn't driven by a cold and calculated antipathy for humanity. Instead, it simply knows what must be done in order to keep the universe from falling apart or risking the possibility of having itself wiped out from history altogether. Terminator suggests Skynet is trying to change history. At face value this is a clear goal for an antagonist, it wants to kill the leader of humanity through retroactive abortion. However, what if Skynet was merely ENSURING the future? Think about it for a moment. Skynet, as told in Terminator 2, is said to be based off of the remnants of the first Terminator, the one that came from the future. It is logical to assume that Skynet knows this fact, after all Arnold is able to tell Sarah Connor about Skynet's creation in T2. It then makes sense that this super-intelligent machine could then piece together the events of Terminator 1 and know that not only is it the product of time travel but that John Connor is as well. If the goal all along was to kill John the best move Skynet could've done was do nothing, but it doesn't.  I believe it's because Skynet truly isn't a malevolent entity, it is merely ensuring that things play out the way they're supposed to.

I also believe that this idea should be part of any future film they make because it could not only add so many new ideas into a franchise that sorely needs new ideas, but also show Skynet in a new light. This could provide a great shift in focus from the dated fear of nuclear war to more modern ideals that actually embrace technology and ponder on the motivations of artificial intelligence. While still delivering on spectacular Arnold-isms and mind blowing action and special effects.

Of course, that is just my opinion. If you have your own thoughts please share them in the comments or on my twitter. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Death Day Stargate! A look at the first year without Stargate.

May 9th marks the first year where Stargate fans have been without something related to this beloved science fiction franchise. As many know already, the third and final series in the ever expanding universe of Stargate shows, Stargate Universe, aired it's last episode entitled "Gauntlet" exactly one year ago. With it, the Stargate series as we know it came to a bittersweet close. Since then, fans have gone through the various stages of grief with all the rage, anguish, and petitions that any show could possibly ask for. However, time seems to heal all wounds and while there are still folks out there who are "fighting the good fight" as it were most have simmered down and are more or less thankful SGU got a somewhat "complete" ending. That or they went on to complain about more controversial endings to other great science fiction epics...

Still, in the year since we saw Destiny fly off into the big black yonder, a lot has happened. Fans were crushed to hear that any hopes of getting a tv movie made to tie up loose ends simply wasn't in the cards for MGM. While no franchise is ever truly dead in Hollywood it's safe to assume that for now Stargate has gone dormant. In other news, Syfy continues to alienate its fanbase with more cancellations and more reality tv shows, but then that's show business for you. However the biggest piece of news to come out this year was the sad news that Stargate composer Joel Goldsmith had passed away in April. Goldsmith's work composing music for each and every Stargate show will never be forgotten and is still loved by fans the world over. Even as I write this I'm listening to a bootlegged copy of the Stargate Universe soundtrack (bootlegged because you can't find it anywhere else sadly, if I could legitimately purchase it I happily would).

Apart from that, things have been quiet. Actors have moved on to different projects, producers as well, and everybody seems to have moved on. However, there will always be fans who will never forget the Stargate series and how it has affected their lives, this Stargate fan included.

Happy Death Day Stargate, we miss you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"The Avengers Is Awesome, or Proof That Joss Whedon Is God of All Geeks." - My Review of The Avengers

Ever since the release of the first Iron Man back in 2008 The Avengers has been at the forefront of almost every geek's attention (this one included). Well four years later The Avengers finally assemble and the result is probably one of the best action movies to come out in years (which is really sad and really great all at the same time). This spectacular feat is thanks to the combined efforts of the cast and crew of the film who worked on it. Everyone must have been working at 120% because it shows. The movie lovingly sets up each and every character with a clear motivation (yes even Loki) and shows how they feel about what's going on without going too deep. The action scenes are always awesome and better yet: comprehensible! It's truly sad that shaky-cam has managed to turn action scenes into a mess of blurs and nausea inducing  pans and sketchy cuts. While it does have it's place in filmmaking, I feel it's horribly overused. Here, director Joss Whedon has decided that it's better if we can actually see what's going on and enjoy the spectacle of the images we can clearly see.

Which brings me to my second point: Joss Whedon was born to direct this movie. I now shudder at the thought of someone directing this movie who isn't Joss Whedon. Some may think that I'm one of those Whedon purists who thinks everything he makes is pure gold. It's not true. I hated Dollhouse (albeit admittedly I should say I hated the idea of Dollhouse, I never watched the show.) and haven't seen a single episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I'm just not into it). And I'm very well aware of how fallible the man is, he wrote Alien Resurrection after all... However, I do know that like any other good storyteller he has his strengths and weaknesses. Whedon is great at making fun and memorable characters who are full of so much wit and charm you can't help but love them. This trait of his shines in The Avengers with almost every line being a clever retort or one liner. This movie is legitimately funny (whereas movies like Transformers are funny in the fact that someone thought they were funny) but isn't throwing joke after joke in your face to tide you over until the next action scene. Whedon's talent for wit works perfectly with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, the pairing of which I was eager to see when first hearing of Whedon's involvement, RDJ has some of the best one liners in the movie.

However, cleverness isn't the only thing Whedon has talent for he also manages to be very good at directing action scenes. Again, the action in this movie is spectacular. It's on a level that Transformers can only dream of. This is because of the fact that, regardless of how bombastic the action sequences are, they have meaning and purpose and are logical progressions of the story. An excellent example of this is the fight between Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America near the beginning of the movie. At this point, Iron Man has only just met Captain America after saving his ass from Loki so undoubtedly Iron Man feels very full of himself. So when Thor swoops in and steals Loki away from them as they're flying back to SHIELD Iron Man is miffed that some blond haired reject from an 80's rock band decided to steal his prisoner. So he goes after him and the two duke it out in a forest until Cap arrives in an attempt to quell the fighting because they're supposed to be on the same side. This action scene is a perfect reminder of how these characters feel like they can take on Loki by themselves because, hey, they've taken care of trouble by themselves before they don't need help. The clashing egos are established through this fight and we keep coming back to this theme later in the movie. It's action that shows rather than tells us what is going on, and Joss Whedon manages to capture this perfectly.

While I normally tend to separate reviews into non-spoilerish and spoilerish, I felt this was important to convey, even if it spoils an action scene in the movie. Nothing feels wasted in this movie, not even secondary characters. Everyone feels like they have a reason for being in this movie, even Cobie Smulders' (How sexy is that name? Seriously I wish it were my name.) SHIELD agent Maria Hill feels like she belongs there (and that outfit...).

Everyone in this movie is great. Robert Downey Jr. of course, is always awesome. He's fun, snarky, and actually manages to convey levels of his Tony Stark that we have only barely seen in Iron Man 1 (which were sadly forgotten in Iron Man 2). I love the scenes with him and Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, where they're working together as a scientific duo discussing their own issues and what they mean, and the scene where Tony is zapping Banner in an attempt to make him Hulk-out.

Mark Ruffalo quickly erases any issues I had of him taking up the mantle of Bruce Banner after Edward Norton dropped out (I loved The Incredible Hulk). Ruffalo portrays Banner as a guy who has somewhat accepted his other half, albeit unwillingly (we get some backstory on his attempts to deal with his problem that really work out great). Considering the fact that this character is the same one from Incredible Hulk the fact that Banner does have a level of control over "The Other Guy" make sense (even if this control is precarious at best). One of my favorite lines from the movie is about Banner's trick to keeping the Hulk at bay. Plus, the character of the Hulk himself has some great moments in the movie, most of which are with Thor.

Thor kinda comes off as one of the weaker characters in the movie, though this is mostly because Chris Hemsworth has to play a more alien character compared to the rest of the team. However, that doesn't mean he is bad. In fact, I rather liked him. His connection to Loki gives him a unique perspective on things and somewhat puts him at odds with the rest of the team as he is fighting his brother. This adds a depth to the character that was needed in order to keep the character from becoming simply source of exposition. He is mostly used for exposition to folks who don't know what's going on, and when he fights he really brings the hammer down (no pun intended).

Chris Evans returns as Captain America, a role I believe he plays far better than his previous super hero persona. However, If there is a character lacking in strength here, it's Cap. While his general fish out of water outlook on modern day life manages to make him sympathetic, Cap seems to fail in the one place I hoped he wouldn't: being a credible leader. I never fully buy Cap as the leader of this team, instead, at worst, it's more like they all just work together, at best Iron Man seems to come off as the more credible leader (mainly because of Robert Downey Jr.). Sure, Cap gives them orders here and there, but I was really hoping that his journey to becoming a leader in this movie would be more powerful.

Jeremy Renner is introduced to the cast as Hawkeye, a SHIELD agent who specializes in sniping... with a bow and arrow. When I heard Hawkeye would be in this movie I felt that he would be the weakest character in the film because he didn't get the opportunity to be introduced in his own movie. That, however, isn't the issue here. In fact, Hawkeye is given some great character scenes with Black Widow and his trick shots with his bow are truly awesome. Jeremy Renner continues to solidify himself as an action badass thanks to films like Mission Impossible 4, this actually makes me want to see the next Bourne movie he is currently starring it.

Of course I must mention Scarlett Johansson's performance as Black Widow. Wow! What an improvement over her appearance in Iron Man 2. Albeit, Iron Man 2 was laughable at best, but Johansson really brings the character to life in The Avengers. She feels like a character, and not just a tacked on piece of eye candy like I felt she was in IM 2. She continues to be a totally badass assassin/interrogator while conveying a depth to her character regarding her history. She has a great scene with Loki halfway through the movie that is probably one of my favorite scenes.

Speaking of Loki, Tom Hiddleston is down right sinister as the angry Asgardian. I didn't see Thor so my opinion of him wasn't colored in any way. I bought him as a villainous trickster and master manipulator. My only complaint would be his ridiculous helmet. I mean, it's silly, even if you compare it to the other characters' choice in attire. Sure, Captain America wears an star-spangled outfit, sure Thor is dressed up like.. well Thor, but it's easier to sweep those under the rug of suspension of disbelief. Cap kinda has no other identity other than being Captain America at this point, he's been frozen in a glacier for 70 years, plus the guy who designed his uniform was a huge fan of Captain America so it is somewhat justified. Thor is, well Thor and to be honest his getup isn't all that ridiculous if you think about it for a moment. Loki, on the other hand, is shown in two different outfits in the movie: a very suave looking black and green suit, and his more Asgardian clothing, sometimes wearing said silly helmet. The helmet is what put me off. Every time I saw it on him I couldn't help but giggle.

 Then there's Loki's motivations for wanting to attack and rule the earth were somewhat... lacking... it didn't detract from the fact that this guy had a clear goal: ruling the world. Simple and clean, which is good for a movie that already has so much to deliver.

This brings me to another point: simple and dumb are two different things. People claim that action movies are "big dumb popcorn flicks" and that really is the wrong description. Action movies are simple, or at least they should be. The overall premise should be fairly simple, what you do in the execution of that premise is what makes a movie dumb or not. The simple premise of Loki wanting to rule the world works for a movie like The Avengers because there is so much else going on at the forefront of the story. You have the story of these great heroes having to learn to work together, and having to learn how to deal with their own issues while working together. Everything works in The Avengers, because the premise is simple, but the execution is brilliant.

So for those wanting to know what I thought of the movie: It's amazing. Go see it! Now! It's an action movie that doesn't insult your intelligence and is by far one of the most impressive movies I've seen.

I give The Avengers five of Loki's silly helmets out of five!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"The Fire Rises" - My "The Dark Knight Rises" speculation

Warner Bros. has released a new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises that reveals more of the plot as well as shining a new light on characters once barely seen in previous trailers. After watching this trailer for a good long while (I've watched it over a million times, isolating every pixel and analyzing every frame of footage) I have decided to accumulate what I've learned from the previous trailers in order to get a sort of sense of how this movie will go. By no means am I spoiling the story since this is all simple conjecture on my part.

So to begin this speculation let's start with how this film will begin, which everyone knows by now (for those who don't this is the only piece of SPOILERS in this and should just skip to the next paragraph to avoid it), begins with the introduction of Bane, our new villain. Bane and some of his lackeys are willingly captured by CIA agent Littlefinger and brought aboard his private jet as they take Doctor Pavel (the same doctor from the viral marketing campaign) back to the states. When it's revealed that Bane is one of the masked men the CIA has captured he tells the agents he intends to crash the plane and kidnap Pavel for his own nefarious plans. From what we know of Dr. Pavel he is an expert on nuclear fuel cell technology who has been missing for some time. The reason why Bane wants a nuclear fuel cell specialist is still obscured in mystery, but unnerving to say the least. Does Bane want him to build him a bomb? Perhaps the fuel cells are needed to power some sort of superweapon capable of wiping out Gotham? I believe it could be anything at this point, however, from what I've devised to be the "plot" I believe these fuel cells are to keep power running within the city, I'll explain why later. Needless to say, the prologue is action packed and quickly establishes Bane as a total badass.

After that we will no doubt be taken to Gotham where we see how the city has recovered after The Joker's reign of terror 8 years prior. Batman is nowhere to be found as he is being hunted by police for his connection to a series of murders actually committed by Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne is probably enjoying some much needed rest after his ordeals and is beginning to believe that the time when Gotham no longer needs Batman is finally here. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon and the rest of Gotham's finest are also enjoying the peace that has come since a majority of the mob is now in jail thanks to Harvey Dent and Batman. We will no doubt be introduced to Joseph Gordon Leavitt's GPD officer John Blake who may be a reluctant member of the special unit charged with apprehending Batman. No doubt Gordon is reluctant to hunt down Batman since he knows the truth about Harvey Dent. In either case things will probably be very mellow as the movie slowly unfolds and reveals what's been going on since The Dark Knight.

We will then see the arrival of Selina Kyle/Catwoman as well as some chilling scenes with Bane as they put their plans into motion. We also see Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate, a new board member at Wayne Enterprises whom Bruce Wayne grows fond of. And from what we've seen in the trailers there will be some sort of party or benefit where it is revealed that the mayor of Gotham plans to relieve Gordon of his position as Commissioner since "this is peacetime." During this benefit Selina Kyle will probably approach Bruce (knowing full well who he really is since it is looking like she and Bane are somehow related to the League of Shadows from Batman Begins) and give him the warning of an "oncoming storm." Bruce is unnerved by this, fearing the peace he has fought to attain for Gotham is being threatened.

Skipping ahead to the infamous football scene from the trailers where Bane blows up the field as the game is being played. He addresses the citizens of Gotham in a big reveal and then proceeds to wreak havoc. It is then that Bruce must take up the cowl once again in order to combat Bane and Catwoman. We may then see some attempts to apprehend Bane, Catwoman, and yes even Batman that fail miserably as the situation worsens. This ultimately comes to a head when Bane and Batman fight one on one with a significantly weakened Batman (I assume he's been inactive for the 8 years of peacetime so he's lost his edge somewhat) easily beaten by Bane. He removes Batman's mask to reveal Bruce Wayne and shows his true face to the rest of Gotham. However, Bane doesn't kill him, believing his punishment must be more severe. He then has Bruce cast into the bowels of some dark League of Shadows prison outside of Gotham where he will rot while Gotham gets destroyed. After this happens, Bane will probably release all the prisoners in Arkham and whatnot and recruit them for his army. While this happens, the government (seeing as they've become involved as per the prologue) decides to put the city under martial law and isolates it by blowing up the bridges that lead into and out of the city. JGL, Gordon, and the others are trapped in Gotham as Bane continues to establish a military presence within the city. (SPOILERS: This would explain why Bane needed Pavel, to make a nuclear reactor capable of powering the city when the government cut it from the grid.)

As Bruce is rotting in the gulag, JGL (who I assume is the onlooker we see in the teaser trailer when we see a tired Batman fighting Bane) goes to see Selina Kyle and asks her if Bruce Wayne is still alive, she claims she doesn't know and is clearly conflicted in her decision to help Bane (she does so mostly out of fear). JGL, Gordon, and the rest of the Gotham police are trying their best to stop Bane but what they're doing isn't enough and it eventually puts Gordon in the hospital. Meanwhile, Bruce has been training in his cell in order to get back into shape and escape. With the help of another inmate Bruce is able to coax the League guards down into a riot which allows him to escape. He makes his way back to Gotham and finds it under siege. He confides in Alfred, who is worried that taking on Bane will mean the death of Bruce, and then plans on finding a way back into Gotham. After he manages to sneak back into the city Bruce visits an ailing Gordon who pleads for the Batman to return in this darkest of hours. Bruce is reluctant, wondering if "he (batman) even exists anymore." "He must," pleads Gordon, "He must." This prompts Bruce to take on the Cowl once more as he begins to rally support with the help of JGL, Fox (Morgan Freeman), Miranda Tate, and even Catwoman, who does a heel face turn after being encouraged by Batman to stand up to Bane, in order to gather fighters to take back Gotham.

JGL encourages the rest of the Gotham Police to stand up to Bane's forces and they begin to revolt (all the massive fight scenes we've seen from spy footage and in the trailers suggests this) while Batman and Catwoman track down Bane. There are some awesome chase scenes featuring Batman's new flying vehicle (bluntly called "The Bat" in concept shots) until the final battle where it's an all out brawl in the streets of Gotham. Bane and Batman duke it out in the crowd and...

That's about as far as my speculation goes. Considering the fact that I simply can't know how this movie will end it would be silly of me to even speculate on how this will end. Needless to say, I'm pumped for this movie, and can't wait to see how it actually turns out because anything I've put down would never be as good as what the brothers Nolan and David S. Goyer have come up with.

Needless to day, June 20th can't get here soon enough!