Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Marvel's feeble attempt at a political thriller
Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe sometime after the events of The Avengers. At the onset of the film Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, is still in the process of reintegrating into modern society. He is being helped along in the process by the government agency SHIELD who uses the super solder for what he was made to do: go on impossibly difficult missions. But, this is SHIELD and it seems like every character in the Avengers at one point or another has called their methods into question. And in Captain America: The Winter Soldier the situation is no different. From the first assignment of the film, Rogers calls SHIELD’s tactics into question and this leads into the political story-line of who is really in charge of SHIELD and it’s not SHIELD director Nick Fury. While this is going on there are a series of attacks orchestrated to remove or incapacitate certain members of SHIELD carried out by a mercenary called ‘Winter Soldier’.
The film is successful early on in its unique action sequences showing why Cap is a super soldier. But, soon enough the action scenes regressed into fast-paced, over-edited, incomprehensible sequences. Between the action scenes Directors Anthony and Joe Russo attempt to build suspense via the mystery investigated by Cap and Black Widow of who is controlling SHIELD and why. In this attempt the film falls flat. Every twist and turn is so obvious that every blundered reveal has no impact. This is especially obvious in the final action sequence where the heroes are set on a task with a literal timer and the audience is supposed to believe that there might be a chance that they don’t succeed.
The film introduces a handful of new characters including Winter Soldier, Alexander Pierce, Agent 13, and Falcon. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely underutilized the film’s central villain Winter Soldier. He only has about 3 lines of dialog throughout the film, but is outstanding in action sequences. The character could have been much more developed and interesting than the boring puppet he ended up being. Pierce is a fairly effective character, but Robert Redford would probably be effective in any role at this stage of his career. What the point of Agent 13? She was a completely useless character which is unfortunate. Falcon was also interesting, but underdeveloped. Throughout the film his single purpose is to go along with whatever Captain America wants to do. Aside from Redford the cast, not surprisingly, delivers fairly mediocre performances.
With Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel delivers another uninspired, average film. The only memorable moments of the film are a pair of action sequences early on and a couple of references to other superheroes (Iron Man, The Hulk and Doctor Strange) and a brilliant, but easily overlooked nod to Pulp Fiction. This film puts Marvel Studios at 2 successful films (Iron Man and The Avengers) out of 9 releases. Hopefully the studio’s next two releases, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers 2, will help out that average, but it doesn’t seem likely.
This film would look interesting if the entire premise wasn’t based on a misconception. Most people believe that we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity, this is incorrect. This misconception is based on a century old quote stating that, at that time, they only knew what 10% of the brain was used for and somehow that was reinterpreted as we only use 10% of our brain. Please stop perpetuating this myth.
For 9 years I watched Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney and I will admit it, the only ending that I could imagine for ‘How I met your mother’ was Ted sitting in front of his kids saying the lines, “And that kids is the true story of how I met your mother.” And for a moment I had the ending that I wanted. Just cut to black.
But the show wasn’t over.
And you know the ending.
I was torn. The ending that I always wanted was taken away from me and those last two minutes undermined the entire ninth season. Cut them off and I would have been just fine with how the show ended.
I couldn’t get it out of my head. Ted ends up with Robin? It just didn’t feel right. Why would they do this? As a fan of the show I was disappointed, the show didn’t give me the ending that I had always wanted.
But, then I thought about the show as a writer and it hit me. I realized why the show ended in the way that it did.
As a longtime fan of the show you know what Ted’s favorite book is, right? The book that he’s reading on the train platform the night he met the mother, the book he’s reading when she’s in the hospital.
Love in the Time of Cholera.
(spoilers from the book to follow)
Haven’t read it, well here’s the synopsis from wikipedia:
(But honestly, you should read it, it’s an excellent book.)
The main characters of the novel are Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Both Florentino and Fermina fell in love with each other in their youth. A secret relationship blossomed between the two with the help of Fermina’s Aunt Escolástica. They exchanged several love letters. However, once her father, Lorenzo Daza, finds out about the two, he forced his daughter to stop seeing him immediately. When she refuses, he and his daughter move in with his deceased wife’s family in another city. Regardless of the distance, the two continue to communicate via telegraph. However, upon her return, she suddenly loses interest in Florentino. Dr. Juvenal Urbino meets Fermina and begins to court her. With her father’s persuasion and the security and wealth marrying Urbino offered, they wed. Urbino is a medical doctor devoted to science, modernity, and “order and progress”. He is committed to the eradication of cholera and to the promotion of public works. He is a rational man whose life is organized precisely and who greatly values his importance and reputation in society. He is a herald of progress and modernization. Even after their engagement and marriage, Florentino swore to stay faithful and wait for Fermina. However, his promiscuity got the better of him. Even with all the women he was with, he made sure that Fermina would never find out. In their elderly age, Urbino attempts to get his pet parrot out of his mango tree, only to fall off the ladder he was standing on and die. After the funeral, Florentino re-proclaims his love for Fermina and how he has stayed faithful to her. Hesitant at first because of the advancements he made to a newly-made widow, Fermina eventually remembers her love for him.
The two main characters fall in love at an early age, but then she falls out of love with him. She ends up marrying a wealthy man. He ends up sleeping around. In the end, against all odds they end up with one another later in life. Sound familiar? Like how Ted and Robin were together when they were young before Robin broke up with Ted. Robin goes on to marry Barney, who is wealthy. Ted sleeps around (I know, he meets the perfect woman and has two kids, just, ok? Damn, be cool.) Then, against all odds Ted and Robin end up together later in life.
Do you remember the title of the last episode?
Here’s a fun fact: the last lines of Love in the Time of Cholera is, ” ‘And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?’ he asked. Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights. ‘Forever,’ he said.”
But what does this all mean?
I choose to interpret the end of ‘How I met your mother’ as creators/show runners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ contemporary retelling of Love in the Time of Cholera. And if it is? If they were able to construct the entire show around the book and have the answer hidden in plain sight the entire time, that would be legen - wait for it - dary.
12 Years a Slave follows the harrowing journey of Solomon Northup, a free man living in New York who is captured and sold into slavery. The screenplay by John Ridley is based on the first hand account written by Northup, retelling his time living in captivity. Ultimately, it is the skillful work by Director Steve McQueen that elevates 12 Years to a become a masterpiece. Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt captures McQueen’s vision of the agonizing story of Northup’s enslavement. Every scene of the film is planned and executed with unmatched precision. The cast of the film is astonishing as well in their portrayal of the best and worst in human nature, notably Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, and Sarah Paulson. The film is escalated by the striking score by Hans Zimmer.
Man of Steel 9 out of 10
Faced with the challenge of making the oldest superhero new again, Director Zack Snyder made many unconventional decisions in the making of Man of Steel. Some fans of the traditional Superman comic book canon were upset by the changes implemented in the story from Christopher Nolan and David Goyer. But, these changes helped to make this telling of Superman’s origins unique. It would have been a very boring film if it was a direct retelling of Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie. While the story isn’t perfect and some of the dialog is heavy-handed, the story brings up some interesting ideas regarding the origins of Superman and Clark Kent. The cast of the film is excellent, from established actors Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon and Diane Lane to the breakout stars Henry Cavill and Antje Traue. The score by Hans Zimmer is extraordinary and fits the scale of the film. The Cinematography by Amir Mokri is unique and apt. The pacing set by Editor David Brenner is impeccable. The digital and practical effects are seamlessly integrated into the film. Snyder’s followup to Man of Steel is set for release in 2016.
Gravity 8 out of 10
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is a technical marvel. From the first extended shot, Cuarón engages the audience and ceases to relent for the duration of the film. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is extraordinary, especially in the multiple extend shots throughout the film including the impeccable lighting and reflections. Sandra Bullock gives an impressive performance as Ryan Stone, an astronaut in a fight for survival in one of the harshest environments known to humans. The screenplay by Cuarón and his son Jonás is the weakest link in an otherwise stunning film. The musical score by Steven Price complements the visuals of the film by excluding percussions which gives the film a unique feel.
The Wolf of Wall Street 7 out of 10
Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has been called many things, but the most fitting description may be that the film is a thematic sequel to Goodfellas. Wolf and Goodfellas share many similarities including the corruption and attempted redemption of their central characters. Also, Wolf depicts multiple acts of debauchery, much like Goodfellas multiple depictions of violence, both films show the inevitable consequences of those acts. In The Wolf of Wall Street the cast delivers great performances particularly Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey. Surprisingly, the film has one of the funniest scenes of the year containing a bit of physical comedy by DiCaprio as he portrays his character trying to overcome the paralysing effects of his choice prescription drug. The story does wonder and get lost at times, however it is one of Scorsese’s best films.
Inside Llewyn Davis 7 out of 10
Inside Llewyn Davis, written and directed by the Coen Brothers, follows the titular character as he navigates the folk music scene based in New York City in the early 1960’s. Early in the film Davis remarks, “If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song.” after finishing a performance. This line of dialog embodies the anti-quest nature of the film. Davis constantly and consistently makes choices that lead him away from progressing his life and the story forward. Perhaps that is what Inside Llewyn Davis is: a folk song played out on screen. Oscar Isaac is brilliant as Llewyn Davis including the multiple musical performances throughout the film. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel casts the film an stark, often dream-like state.
Only God Forgives 7 out of 10
Only God forgives is the latest collaboration between Writer/Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Actor ryan Gosling, following 2011’s Drive. Set in Bangkok, Only God Forgives is set around Julian, played by Gosling, who after the death of his brother searches for his killer only to be faced with a force he can barely understand. Gosling is fantastic as the central character as he is confronted with his past and must face his future. Refn is a master of visual storytelling and large portions of the story are told solely through the images rather than dialog. The cinematography by Larry Smith is stunning and precise in the use of color and position.
To the Wonder 7 out of 10
Terrence Malick is a genuine auteur and the most polarizing director working today. His unique storytelling method focus more on the internal and emotions of his characters, rather than lengthy dialog and overwhelming action that saturate many current films. Malick, along with Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, capture the beauty of historic Paris and idyllic Texas. Even scenes consisting of two characters in a nearly empty house are stunning and powerful. Olga Kurylenko, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem give subtle and emotional performances supported by little or no dialog.
Labor Day 7 out of 10
Labor day is the latest release from Writer/Director Jason Reitman, based on the book of the same name by Joyce Maynard. The story follows a mother, Adele, and her son, Henry, as they navigate a Labor day weekend with a wounded stranger, Frank, who is later revealed to be an escaped convict. The reason that Labor Day works is that the film focuses on the relationships and tensions between the characters and conveys the nuanced emotions that arise. The chemistry between Adele and Frank exists largely outside of dialog, it is conveyed by a look or a touch between them. Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Gattlin Griffith all deliver strong performances as the central characters.
The Place Beyond the Pines 7 out of 10
Director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines is centered around the parallel lives of Luke and his son Jason. Luke is a stunt motorcycle performer who travels with a circus. When the group returns to Schenectady, New York Luke discovers that he has a son with an old flame, Romina. With the help of Robin, Luke decides to use his motorcycle skills to rob banks in order to provide for his new family. Later, the film revolves around a teenaged Jason as he searches for clues about his father and ends up in similar situations in the process. The film shifts focus from one character to the next and includes more storylines than are necessary. The idea of the story is more interesting than the actual execution of the story. The visuals of the film by Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt are outstanding and convey visual cues of the parallels between Luke and Jason. Ryan Gosling delivers another terrific performance as the tattoo-covered Luke.
Ain’t them Bodies Saints 7 out of 10
Written and directed by David Lowery, Ain’t them Bodies Saints follows young couple Ruth and Bob. Ruth is pregnant and Bob robs banks. One of Bob’s robberies goes wrong, he and Ruth are hold up in an abandoned house surrounded by cops. Ruth shoots one of the cops, but to protect her and his unborn child Bob takes the fall and is sent to prison. Ruth gives birth to a daughter and years pass before Bob escapes and tries to stay ahead of the cops and others as he searches for his lost family. Throughout the film Lowery is able to establish a unique and intimate tone. At points, however, the film fails to deliver necessary portions of story that could have improved the overall quality of the film. As Ruth and Bob, Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck are impressive. They convey nuanced performances set against the desperate backdrop of rural Texas captured by Cinematographer Bradford Young.
At the end of every year I like to look back over the films that I was looking forward to and see what lived up to the hype and what fell short. What follows is my list of my most anticipated films of 2013 along with my rating.
Man of Steel (Zack Snyder) - 9/10
Labor Day (Jason Reitman) - 7/10
Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn) - 7/10
Knight of Cups, Voyage of Time, To the Wonder (Terrence Malick) - Pushed to 2014, Pushed to 2014, 7/10
Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro) - 5/10
The World’s End (Edgar Wright) - 7/10
Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen) - 7/10
Elysium (Neill Blomkamp) - 5/10
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez) - Pushed to 2014
Kick Ass 2 (Jeff Wadlow) - 5/10
Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams) - 5/10
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese) - 7/10
This is the End (Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen) - 4/10
The Prestige is One of the Greatest Films of All Time
Many cinephiles have claimed that great films reward repeat viewings and The Prestige does.
**SPOILERS FOR THE PRESTIGE**
Are you watching closely?
This line appears twice in the film. As the opening line of the film and right before Borden is led to his execution. Both times the line proceeds a magic trick (see below), the first is Cutter making a bird disappear/ reappear and the second reveals the truth about Borden.
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called The Pledge. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t.
The film has 4 central tricks. (from top-left, clockwise) The first is Angier’s Disappearing Man. Second is Borden’s version of the trick. The third is Borden’s execution and reappearance. The last is Cutter making a bird disappear and then reappear.
The second act is called The Turn. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.
Angier clones himself, drowning the original. Borden steps into a wardrobe. Borden is hung. Cutter makes the bird disappear.
That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call The Prestige.
Angier’s clone appears in the balcony. Borden’s brother stops out of the wardrobe. Borden’s brother finds Angier with his prestige materials. Cutter makes the bird reappear.
Are you watching closely?
Do you remember Sarah’s nephew? The boy who cried when the bird was killed for a trick?
Boy: He killed it.
Borden: Look. See? He’s all right. He’s fine. Look at him.
Boy: But where’s his brother?
In other films this would be a throwaway line and the boy would be a plot device to bring Borden and Sarah together. But, in Nolan’s film the boy foreshadows the biggest mystery of the film: How does Borden do his trick? By the end of the film the mystery is revealed.
Angier: A brother? A twin?
Borden: We were both Fallon. We were both Borden.
So, when one brother is killed those who are watching closely would ask, “But where’s his brother?”
Gravity is the latest film from director Alfonso Cuarón, it comes seven years after his previous film Children of Men. Gravity is the new standard for films based in space. From a technical standpoint the film is remarkable. Although largely computer-generated, the first shot of the film lasts for nearly twenty minutes, a feat vacant in other action films. The film is paced almost flawlessly, constantly progressing the story and the action. Half-way though the first shot Cuarón grabs the audience and never lets go.
The weakness of the Gravity is the story. The screenplay was written by Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonás Cuarón. Gravity centers around Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer in her first journey to space. While working on a satellite docked to the shuttle a debris storm creates a catastrophic chain reaction that sends Stone and fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) adrift in space. Stone and Kowalski devise and attempt to execute a plan to survive the incident. During the journey Stone reveals that she had a daughter who passed away at a young age. Through Stone overcoming her adversity from the space debris, the film becomes an allegory for the process of overcoming loss. The story lacks any subtlety or depth, diminishing the rewatchability of the film.
Sandra Bullock is outstanding in the lead role. She is able to bring life to a character navigating her way through this catastrophe in space as well as her own personal tragedy. George Clooney is sufficient as the veteran astronaut Kowalski, although the character is mostly a plot device to help Stone progress through the film.
The star of the film is the technical team behind the film. Director of Photography, Emmanuel Lubezki along with Cuarón capture amazing and unique shots that give the film a singular look. One of the most impressive elements of the filming process of Gravity is the lighting. An example of the flawless lighting is in the opening scene when Stone is sent spinning through space and the only source of light is the sun reflecting from Earth. The light in the reflection of her visor as well as on her face is in perfect sync. Throughout the film the lighting continues to be perfect. It is evident that the entire production team paid attention to countless details that added to the films overall integrity.
Despite a mediocre story, Gravity relies on superior technical achievements to produce a suspenseful film that will set the bar for years to come.
The East Explores Eco-terrorism and its Consequences
In 2011 Director and Co-Writer Zal Batmanglij premiered Sound of My Voice at the Sundance Film Festival. Two years later he returned to premiere his follow up,The East. With The East, Batmanglij reprises his collaboration with Sound of My Voice Co-Writer and Actress Brit Marling.
The story of The East centers around Sarah (Brit Marling) a former FBI agent turned operative, working for a private security company, Hiller-Brood. Sarah is selected by her boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) to infiltrate an underground anarchist group focused on eco-terrorism called The East. Once in the group, Sarah meets several key members of the collective, including: Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), Izzy (Ellen Page), Doc (Toby Kebbell), Thumbs (Aldis Hodge) and Luca (Shiloh Fernandez). Over the course of the film The East take part in ‘jams’ or targeted missions to force the heads of companies to face the truth about what their companies produce. While embedded, Sarah discovers more about each member of the group and what has led to their involvement which leads her to sympathize with the group. Sarah also discovers the true motives of the assignment from Sharon. This leads to a choice for Sarah of which life is real and in which organization she belongs.
Brit Marling is outstanding in the lead. Her character is forced to endure a series of horrific events without breaking her cover, but when she finally faces everything that she has encountered she must decide what path to follow. Alexander Skarsgård gives an understated performance, which fits the character of Benji. Ellen Page is great as Izzy, one of the more eager and relentless members of The East. Patricia Clarkson, Toby Kebbell, Aldis Hodge and Shiloh Fernandez all deliver solid supporting performances.
Through Sarah, The East conveys the idea of morality being a perspective. At the onset of the film Sarah is a diligent and eager employee. Over the course of the film via the actions of The East, Sarah is shown the truth behind several corporations actions, even Hiller-Brood. During a briefing with Sharon she is warned, "If they find out who you really are, they won’t give a second thought to your destruction." In the context of the scene Sharon is referring to The East, however it soon becomes apparent that this statement could also be applied to Hiller-Brood itself. If they find out that Sarah has turned against them, they will destroy her. This leads to the question: Are the East and Hiller-Brood really that different?
The East is a worthwhile thriller that explores a subject scarcely seen on film. The story keeps a steady pace, continually moving and examining new ideas. The performances are strong throughout, most notably Brit Marling. Writer/Director Zal Batmanglij, along with Marling have delivered another exceptional film, hopefully with many more to come.
Following 2009’s District 9, Writer/Director Neill Blomkamp returns to the dystopian, sci-fi genre with Elysium. Set in the year 2154, Elysium centers around ex-con turned factory worker Max (Matt Damon). At the start, the film clumsily attempts to set up the segregation of the rich and poor and convey the back story for Max via a couple of weak flashback sequences. The crux of the setup is that Max was raised in an orphanage, befriended Frey, and told that he was special. Once that is out of the way, the film picks up a bit.
While on his way to work, Max has a run in with the robotic police force who break his arm, forcing him to the hospital where (surprise) Frey (Alice Braga) now works. The following day at work, Max ends up (by his own incredibly stupid decision) getting locked in a chamber and receives a lethal dose of radiation. Max is told by the medbot that he will die in 5 days.
Max turns to his former partner in crime Spider (Wagner Moura) to help him get to Elysium, a space station inhabited by the rich and their machines that can cure any ailment. Spider agrees to help Max on the condition that Max help Spider steal the information from Elysium citizen Carlyle’s (William Fichtner) brain. Little do Max and Spider know Carlyle’s brain holds a key that can allow anyone to overwrite Elysium’s system and that key was set to go to Delacourt (Jodie Foster) who upon hearing of the information being stolen sets Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to retrieve it. This leads to a confrontation between Max and Kruger to determine the fate of Elysium and Earth and their citizens.
The screenplay for Elysium fails on a couple of levels. First is the lack of depth in any of the characters. Delacourt is an extremely superficial character that comes across as evil because the story needed a villain, not because the character has any real motivation. This lack of depth and motivation are apparent in all of the characters. Another issue with the story are the healing machines that appear on Elysium. The rules by which the machines operate are not made clear up until the point when they become relevant. So, at the climax of the film when a character tells another that something cannot be healed by the machines, it comes across as implausible because something contrary to that rule was just shown.
On paper the cast sounds pretty amazing, unfortunately they end up hindering the film more than helping it. Damon doesn’t add anything to the fairly flat character of Max. Jodi Foster speaks with a bizarre accent that really distracts from her performance. Copley looks intimidating, but once he speaks that disappears because of how jumbled his delivery is. Fichtner has one really interesting moment where, on earth, he gets flustered when a worker at his plant forgets to cover his mouth as he talks. The story could have been a lot stronger if it would have added in more moments like this that showed the complete separation between the wealthy and the poor whenever they come into contact with one another.
Elysium is host to a couple of interesting and unique action sequences. The two most notable examples of this are the slow-motion sequences and the body-mount camera sequences, which are used to great effect Blomkamp along with cinematographer Trent Opaloch deliver strong visuals with the exception of a few moments that get a bit cluttered. The visual effects of the film are great and help in the world-building. The music by Ryan Amon is often fast paced, helping to accelerate the movie.
While Elysium brings up some unique ideas, the story and the performances of the cast prevent the film from distinguishing itself from more generic sci-fi films. Blomkamp has a great visual sense, however some of his storytelling techniques impede the films potential.
Two years after the release of Drive, Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Actor Ryan Gosling return with Only God Forgives. Gosling, who stars in both films said, “Drive is a dream, Only God Forgives is a nightmare.” And Only God Forgives is just that: a nightmare. The film is dark and brutal with a current of uneasiness throughout. Refn, along with cinematographer Larry Smith, capture the vibrancy and uniqueness of Bangkok. From start to finish, the film is beautiful. The temperamental music by Cliff Martinez adds an additional layer to the films that helps to distinguish it.
The story, written by Refn, is based around brothers Julian (Ryan Gosling) and Billy (Tom Burke) who live in Bangkok and run a Thai boxing club as a front for dealing drugs. Billy kills an underaged prostitute, then meets Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) who shows the girls father what Billy has done. Change locks them in a room together where the father beats billy to death. Upon hearing of his brother’s death, Julian looks for his brother’s killer, but when he discovers that Chang was behind it he leaves it alone. Until Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), Julian and Billy’s mother, arrives from America and will stop at nothing to avenge her son’s death.
The story may sound straightforward, but like anything from Refn it’s not. The film is filled with trance-like scenes cut into the story, brutal violence, and beautiful scenery. The cast is phenomenal. Gosling is memorable as the disturbed, bruting Julian, delivering another brilliant, nuanced performance. Kristin Scott Thomas as Crystal is diabolical and irredeemable. Vithaya Pansringarm is great as the unemotional, yet thoughtful Chang.
Due to the way its presented, the film is very open to interpretation. Many have pondered who each of the characters represents. Is Chang God? Is Crystal the Devil? As well as pondering the themes of the film, including forgiveness, consequences and revenge.
Only God Forgives is not for everyone. The story is open and that scares a lot of audiences that feel a need to be told everything. But, the film is beautiful and unique and that will help it to find an audience.
The plot of Pacific Rim is fairly pedestrian, in the near future monsters emerge through a portal from another dimension and threaten the entire human race, in turn humanity builds giant robots to combat the threat. Pacific Rim accelerates the world-building process necessary for films set in the future by opening with a montage of news clips with a voice over before the audience is quickly thrown into a battle between a Kaiju (monster) and Jager (robot). From there the story acts a way to get the audience from one fight scene of giant robots and monsters to the next. But, for Pacific Rim that may not be a bad thing. The story is an amalgamation of every alien invasion movie and most generic summer blockbusters, without bringing much of anything new to the genre.
Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Becket), Idris Elba (Stacker Pentecost), and Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori) show up, but don’t add much with the brief character moments that they each have. All of the characters of the film are there to support the pockets of story between action sequences. However they are never able to establish any emotional stakes for any of the characters. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play a pair of scientists that are bombastic and never amount to anything more than poor comic relief.
The success of the film is based on the fights between the Kaiju and Jagers. The scale of the fights is impeccable. Director and Co-Writer Guillermo del Toro along with Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro is able to convey just how enormous the creatures in this world are. The fights each feel unique because of the variations of both Jagers and Kaiju, as well as the physical location of each battle ranging from Alaska to Japan to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The special effects and visual effects, which the film heavily relies on, are solid. The set design by Peter Nicolakakos is unique and helps to convey the world that the film is set in. The music by Ramin Djawadi doesn’t add much to the film more than adding more noise to the over-the-top action sequences.
The vision of Pacific Rim was compromised by poor story telling which prevented the film from becoming more than a mindless spectacle.
If you take away anything from what I am about to say I hope it’s this: Man of Steel is Christopher Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the characters from the Superman mythology. Superman and all of the characters from his stories over the years have evolved and Man of Steel keeps in line with that. It takes characters that we all know and places them in a different situation.
"There’s way too much destruction in Man of Steel, Superman would never let all of those people die. Why did he take the fight outside of populated areas?" The destruction portrayed in Man of Steel is much more authentic based on the power of the combatants involved. The Superman in Man of Steel is not the same character from the comic books. In Man of Steel Clark is still discovering his powers and responsibilities while facing what it means to bear that burden. When Zod, Faora, and the other Kryptonians arrive Clark had just made the decision to embrace his heritage and become Superman. Superman is not infallible, he is not a god, he cannot save everyone. If David Goyer (writer) and Zack Snyder (director) are smart they will address the destruction and how it has impacted Superman’s state of mind in the sequel. But, I’m sure that if Superman stopped Zod or Faora and said, “Hey could we take this fight out into the cornfields away from all of the people that you are trying to kill,” the Kryptonians would oblige. (shakes head). In Man of Steel Superman is not stronger than Zod or Faora and he cannot dictate the terms of the fight. A lot people also took issue with the final scene of Clark at the Daily Planet, like everything was back to normal. It is possible that the final scene took place months after the Superman/Zod fight, allowing Metropolis to return to some normalcy. Not to mention that Superman could have easily helped with much of the rebuilding.
"Superman would never kill." There are multiple instances in the 75 year history of the character where Superman has killed his foe. In Man of Steel Snyder and Goyer leave no other option. The portal to the phantom zone had closed, there is no kryptonite, and no earth prison could hold Zod (the guy trying to commit genocide on the human race).
"There are too many Superman/Jesus references." There are 2. While there are some connections that can be made between Superman and Jesus, they are fairly weak in this incarnation. If Superman was real wouldn’t that be axiomatically atheist? Jonathan Kent hints at this, “The world finds out what you can do its gonna change everything, our beliefs, what it means to be human, everything… People are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
"Jonathan Kent’s death was stupid." There is no question that the character of Jonathan Kent is very different in Man of Steel than in previous incarnations. He is very protective of Clark and has a unique view of his powers. Jonathan believed that, up until the moment of his death, his son wasn’t ready to reveal himself to the world. Why? Pa Kent tells his son, ”one day you’re going to have to make a choice… whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.” Jonathan Kent knew that once Clark showed the world what he could do he would have to face that choice. So, when the tornado appeared, Jonathan knew that his son wasn’t ready yet, but before he was gone, he left his son with a mission, ”I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason. And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.” Not to mention that Jonathan could have also been forcing Clark to protect his wife and all of the other people under the overpass as the tornado approached.
"Man of Steel strays too far from canon." Making a Superman film is much different from making other adaptations. Superman has 75 years of history to choose a story from and the character is always evolving. Snyder and Goyer via Man of Steel are giving the world their interpretation of that character and they have done what every person who has ever been involved with the creation process of Superman over the years has done: interpret the character.
I know that a lot of people will disregard or disagree with my view of Man of Steel. I just hope people aren’t so closed minded that they will hate the entire film because it doesn’t fall in line with their view of Superman.