Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Amazing Reboot: Hollywood and their definition of superhero movies

Those darn superhero moves!

So, there I was in the theater watching previews before Captain American comes on. What doth my little eye sees, but a trailer for next year’s “Spider Man” movie. My thoughts were mixed. I wanted another installment on the great web crawler, but a reboot that is following in the footsteps of today’s demand for a serious and realistic portayle has me a bit muddled.

It all first began with the major backlash over “Spider-Man 3” made by Sam Raimi. For what it was in my opinion, it was a good film aside from some flaws that could have been tweaked. In fact, I felt the previous two had a charm that couldn’t be out matched. They stuck to the original source while knowing when to be funny and serious at times. True, they do have some campy moments, but the Spider Man series was made for pure entertainment and to see how the old web crawler would translate to the big screen. To me, the trilogy was like my “Batman,” as I felt they had the same level of execution while “Spider-Man” was lighter with its material.

Then suddenly, Hollywood gets a change of direction with the superhero genre as Christopher Nolan arrives with his take on Batman. Instead of having the caped crusader mull over his dead parents and go against a strange array of villains, we were treated to an analyzation of character and a darker path with the style and story. They had less of a comic book quality to them as they treated Bruce and his vigilante alter ego as real people and ignoring the original source. As you might have guessed, this was the route movie goers were interested in seeing. At least most of them.

By the time “The Dark Knight” came about, loyal viewers of the superhero genre started to think this was the direction comic book adaptations should go in. An ego trip into the superhero and the people who are around him, but only taken more seriously and basically character driven. This caused a basic alternate view on the past superhero movies which I still have a problem with today. Those of the new generation want a straight-up serious story of the man being the mask and not a good movie to have with your popcorn. It’s not like they are meant to have the meaning of life or being a symbolic take on society, but that’s what viewers want and that’s what they got with stuff like Watchmen and Kick Ass that showed how superhero movies can take a serious edge and remain enjoyable.

So, your probably asking at this point where does my argument of the upcoming Spider-Man reboot comes in? Well, for starters there was going to be a fourth Spidy from director Sam Raimi, but dropped out because the script treatments just didn’t seem to work. That I can understand, but the decision to make another set of films unrelated to the previous series seems a little too soon for me. Even I when I first heard about Columbia’s decision I was baffled. The idea of rebooting the franchise felt unfair and too early in my own mind and the question of making another sequel without Raimi’s consent felt mind-boggling.

But this wasn’t like Warner Bros. where they needed someone to make a third Batman. This was a time of depression where the economy was low on its debt and the new generation was unfamiliar with classic films or just didn’t appreciate them for being out of their generation. As one would have guessed, the words “remake” and “reboot” are the biggest Hollywood taboos since the question of censorship. To some viewers, it just seems like a way to connect to the new viewers who never grew up on such nostalgia. Other fans disagree as they feel it’s better to introduce the old than revamp it with new tricks that make it inferior to the original. Notable examples of this negative argument include 1998’s Godzilla and The Pink Panther.

Still, it wasn’t long till a photo of Andrew Garfield in the suit started to appear. While it was just a frontal shot of him without the mask, things began to seem ok on my part. I felt they were taking things in a different direction and it seemed harmless at first and at least they were sticking true to the suit, aside from its rugged appearance which I guess was the point. However, my thoughts would later be questioned when Entertainment Weekley devoted a huge section of its issue to a sneak peek of the upcoming film and this where I felt thing were going wrong. I felt they were promoting this one year too early from the release date and some of the ideas seemed plausible and yet questionable. One example was the suit, where this magazine issue gave a more clear look at. In all honestly, I just laughed at it. It didn’t feel like a Spider-Man suit but a cheesy spandex gear some jogger would wear. And the badly hidden sneakers made me laugh more dead inside than ever. Another was the idea of having him use web blasters as in the comics rather than organically grown, but that was one topic I felt wasn’t too big to ponder over.

So it was just a magazine issue and was teasing about. Pictures were pictures and words was just words. Basic hype to get viewers prompted to see it. But the biggest deciding point for me was the trailer. I was casually looking up film news and stumbled on a trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man reboot. I nearly exploded, but not in a good way. Consider the next section nitpicky if you will, but I see them as basic topics for arguments some should consider before standing in line.

Most films would do teasers and keep the viewer guessing what the movie would be. This was my first problem with the reboot. I felt with how much they were revealing, it was spoiling too much and not leaving much mystery with itself. In my opinion, the less said about the flick, the more hype there is till the final moment where your drooling for a trailer. Thinking back to when Superman was being advertised, little was said about it in the first time it was advertised a year before hand and it drew a lot of hype. Here, I felt they took the Christmas present you were supposed to get and unwrapped it too soon and too early.

And based on what I saw in the trailer, I wasn’t impressed. Even with my mind shut off and trying to accept what was there didn’t help any. It just felt un-Spider Man. Not to sound biased, but there were some ideas I felt that were unsettling to me and just didn’t feel right for a movie like this. One was Peter Parker having parents; a thought I felt was unnecessary as it makes the character more weaker to his life and not his uncle. While I do respect that Gwen Stacy is supposed to be the true love interest of this film, as in the comics, the way he gets bitten seems weird to me. Judging from what I saw, he walks into a room of genetically tested spiders without any cages protecting them. How dumb do you have to be to do that? And on that note, the set of the spider room reminded me of the dino embryo lab from Jurassic Park for some reason. Don’t know why.

But the biggest head turner in my opinion was a shot of Peter pulling a web out of the back of his neck. That I felt was the final nail in the coffin for me as it goes against the purpose of having mechanical web shooters if a strand of web comes you. So, as I sat through the preview a second time in the theater, it did little to revive my interest in this project. While I do respect those that feel I’m viewing it negatively too soon, may I also add the fact I feel this trailer came out too early in my opinion. Something I can’t even stress enough.

If this trailer was released in the off-season like December, maybe it would have been wiser. But to have some hype be generated one whole year before release really put me off. It just makes the anticipation die down as the release date approaches as everyone knows what is to take place. But what grinds my gears the most is the style and direction this new web is going in. I also heard that “The Amazing Spider Man” is really getting its source from “Ultimate Spider Man,” a modern retelling of the classic comic that was made in the early 2000s and proved to be very popular. My question is why have your Spider Man reboot be titled after the original series when your source material is provide from the new series?

As I said before, people are trying to stray away from the campy comic book tone and want something more realistic. In opinion, you can’t make something like this realistic. That’s like saying Pee Wee Herman should be seen as a 10-year-old kid that everyone hates but has to please. Comics book flicks stick to the source they are meant to be told and seen in. I think what puts me off even more about Hollywood and the superhero genre today is how they think there is a certain path they have to take to get an audience. With the “Dark Knight” proving that costumed vigilantes fighting crime can be taken seriously, it’s a sign to studios that this how comic book adaptations should be seen.

Or perhaps the blame should be placed on the audience and of our own greed of seeing original stories and things by how we want to see them? Everyone has a different taste bud to a certain type of definition of entertainment in films. At this point, viewers care less and just want something to spend 5 bucks on as a time killer. In a world that is soon to be dominated by sequels, adaptations, reboots, remakes, and franchises by the score, all I have to ask is there at least someone out that can help me stop this planet so I can get off this mad, mad, mad, mad world?

“Captain America” is the next heroic flick

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The Next Box-Office Hit

Joe Johnson has worked in the field of popcorn entertainment before with notable titles like The Rocketeer, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, and more recently the remake of The Wolfman. He works well with the crowd-pleasers and action/adventure films that are neither disapointing and worth of a look. When news was spread that he was directing the next “Captain America” feature, I cetainly had high hopes this nearly forgotten Marvel superhero would have a successful leap to the big screen.

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a wannabe solider that wishes to fight for his country in World War II and has a habit of getting knocked around while still managing to stand on his two feet. With the help of an eager scientist (Stanley Tucci), Steve finds himself being the chosen test subject for a serum that gives super strength. As you might as expect, it becomes an interesting trip for Steven after he gains his new powers as he goes from show man to war hero. At one point after Col. Tommy Lee Jones declares the experiement dead after an assasin destroyes the equipment, we are treated to seeing the usage of propaganda in the 1940s as Steve wastes his new founded ability by advertsing war bonds with a gaudy stage show led by a slimey talent agent.

Its at this point we see the character of Steve evolve from an everyday man that wants to help out aside from his physique being the only flaw to him venturing the true meaning of the word hero, as he runs off to help a group of captured soliders from the cultches of HYDRA, a Nazi-esque terrorist organization that is led by Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Weaving’s potrayle of the Red Skull is menacing and memorable as how fascinating the make-up work is. Johann proves to be the “Darth Vader” of his time as he seeks an ultimate power that can disntergrate people in PG-13 fashion.

What makes Captain America work and stand out from the other Marvel adaptaions is how it retains to the original source and doesn’t go too silly or over-the-top with it. It compliments what made the original comic book so astounding and great. I wouldn’t go as far as saying its this year’s “Superman The Movie,” but its more like this year’s “Dick Tracy (1990).” It’s a visual treat for the eyes and feels like an old fashion serial from the past while the dialouge is on par with a Howard Hughes movie with plenty of subtley and good delievery.

My only problem is the timing with this feature as we’ve seen meat-headed Norse gods, pirates on the verge of being forever young, aliens scavenging in a small town, and many more to the point where we question why this crowd pleaser was placed at the tail end of July. I feel that August is the dead slot of summer blockbusters; the ultimate point of “no return” where there a little to no surprise hits. Perhaps if “Captain America” was placed in a Fourth of July release or sometime in May it would have drawn a bigger fanfare and perhaps a bigger audience. Either way, I feel this one stands as a testiment to other Marvel flicks to stick to your source and have fun with it.

The last “Potter” is truly epic

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2

The Final One

I recall seeing the first “Harry Potter” movie back in the cinemas and was quite a treat seeing the world of J.K. Rowling come to life as wizards battle and magic is kept under wraps from the world of those who are ordinary people. And now we come to the final chapter in this seven…err, eight part saga that has amazed many and inspired younger fans alike to read. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” was wisely split into two parts seeing how much material has to be set up and to squish it down to a 2 1/2 hour flick just wouldn’t work.

I feel that “Part 1” and “Part 2” are adjacent to the way “Kill Bill” was executed, but in the opposite sense. The first part, which is available to own and rent, had a lot of material to establish like the characters and where they stand, the growing forces of darkness, and the personal problems that are set before them. In the second part, we get plenty of action, closure and even a few moments that feel like a nostalgic throwback to the past Potter films. This time, Harry returns to Hogwarts to finish the mission of defeating the evil lord Voldermort and take part in the ultimate battle viewers have been waiting to see.

“Deathy Hollows Part 2” was certaintly worth the wait as everything that was set up and story arcs of certatin characters come to  a satisfying close. One gets to find out the truth of Professor Snape, the romantic connection between Ron and Harmonie, and the one thing that can defeat Harry’s enemy. Watching this final installment was like a trip down memory lane as each scene and frame offered a connection ot the previous films, like a view of Gringotts or the Chamber of Secrets. To put it short, they truly save the best for last.

 

Why the Hate: Independence Day

From time to time, there are movies we love and some we despise or have a disliking towards. And then, there are those which can be felt to be mistreated and deserve a second watch. They are not masterpieces by any mean and seem to be beaten around the bush too much. But does it really deserve this type of treatment or should it be given a break from all the critical backlash? That is the purpose of this new blog segment which is give a basic overlook on some movies that have been really beaten to a pulp by its viewers, an honest opinion of it, and the final verdict on does it need to be lifted from the fire it was placed in or just left to rot.

ID4

Seriously, how bad was this silly invasion?

To begin things off, I decided to take another look at “Independence Day last night, seeing it was very close to the national American holiday. That and I was doing my own little marathon of blockbusters that were dumb but I found entertaining. The basic concept was basically there; a bunch of alien invaders come out of nowhere to blow stuff up and a ragtag group of people try to fight back. It’s a basic cliché that has been done before and is not all that new. But with Ronald Emmerich at the directing chair, best known for many disaster movies and “Stargate,” does it really hold up to today’s movies?

Well, its best to start off with the characters, which unfortunate due to their generic and bland features which range from working class tactics to ethics. Jeff Goldblum is the brainy guy that is not a wise man, but knows what is going on because of how tech savvy he is. To put it simple, there is a hint of him reprising his Dr. Malcolm character from Jurassic Park but with a higher IQ. The good news, he’s a likable character that doesn’t hog up the story. The bad news is how odd and over dramatic he can get with explanations of what the aliens are planning to do.

Jeff is not the only one as we have to deal with Bill Pullman as a president that is looking for a landmark event to his claim to boost his polls, but not in a generic slimy way at least. Then, there is Randy Quad as a crop duster that has to deal with the mockery of his “supposed” alien encounter while trying to raise a family, which I feel is better explored in the extended cut on certain DVD releases. To put it simple, while this cast of characters are generic at least each one is given a personality and problem they must overcome. It’s the basic American dream to achieve the impossible and some of them try to.

A better example of a character like this is Captain Steven Hiller, played by non other than Will Smith, who has to deal with the down state of his family (mother is a stripper, go figure) and how the military limits him. Will’s charm and energy is probably the only thing that keep this feature going. Without him, it would have been a basic Marine Corps pilot that wants to have a better position in life and nothing more. His character is more than just comic relief as you cheer on and don’t expect what to come from him.

The first half is basic build up to the alien’s takeover as you are aware of their invasion but don’t know how it will be done. What makes this unique is how it doesn’t reveal the creatures off-hand and instead treated to their massive ships scouting over the world. Your just amazed at the scope and size and don’t know what will come from it. The sequence where the invaders blow up New York and the White House are by far iconic and breathtaking. It’s a grand mix of practicle and CGI effects that is amazing to watch and a breath of fresh air from all the heavy computer effects we have today. I think that is one element that makes ID4 special. The special effects are organic, but yet realistic at the same time. It’s a visual wonder in its own right and keeps you wondering how it was done.

However, its not long till the second half kicks in and mainly focuses on the cast of survivors that try to defeat these advanced creatures. There is where I feel “Independence Day” begins to lag a bit. Its an odd transition from a powerful and explosive first act and dips into a basic point where the human characters either try to find a weakness to the aliens or just go about their flawed ways. In short, all talk and less wonder, but its a tough act to follow. We do get to see the aliens in an Area 51 type of setting, along with some impressive ship designs. But even the space monsters themselves don’t seem that impressive. While original in its own right, there is a feeling of “Alien” or “Predator” being influenced to them. Menacing as they are, they are very fragile on the inside as their development and position as invaders. But as said, they are just basic space invaders that are looking to take over the world. Here, it establishes them are more than invaders, but parasites that wish to suck the resources of the planet dry and move on to the next. Its a concept and thought that is glanced over, but I wish there was more expansion on it. If these are great and powerful beings, then show more of that and less of the exposition talk on it.

On the brighter side, it all builds to a finale that is grand in its own right, but yet somewhat strange. A way to defeat the creatures is found and the President gives a big and patriotic speech about how this battle fell on the 4th of July and the new meaning it has. This is an element that I feel weakens the flow as it applies an American overtone that makes things go from a basic alien movie to a silly alien flick with basic drama tossed in to make is serious. Even the President takes a shot at flying in a jet and fighting off these war hungry fiends. That is a new level of ridiculous material that makes the movie thought up by junkies.

Aside from the good and the bad, most viewers have negativley bopped it for its stupidity and generic tone as well as some unbelievability in the action scenes. To be honest, I don’t see anything wrong with it aside from the old being molded into a new that is familair but original. At times, “Independence Day” does feel unoriginal, but what keeps the entertinament value is the energy and effort that was put into it. While replay value is debatable, the least of what I can say is that is a typical but silly invader movie that goes great with popcorn and pizza. Bottom line, Emmrich did worst but at least this one still stands out from today’s features that rarley tend to have great model effects and Will Smith.