crap i have watched recently #14

wall-e with plantIt was the sort of weekend where I saw two movies actually at the theater.  That might be some kind of record for me..

SPOILERS, yes!  THERE WILL BE EXPLOSIONS!!1!!1!!11  (but you knew that)

Iron Man 3 (2013):  So, up front, I really want to like Iron Man.  I do, in fact, like Iron Man.  (I don’t like Tony Stark much, but I think that’s the point of the character.)  I enjoyed the first Iron Man movie immensely but the last two have been…well, disappointing is a charitable word, so we’ll go with that.  This movie goes balls out right off the bat in its attempt to one up the previous films, the Avengers movie, and possibly even the upcoming Thor movie.  It is loud and incoherent and by the end of it I felt like someone had hit me in the head.  My ears rang, my vision, was blurry, my body was sore.  Now, less than 24 hours later, I have to struggle to remember what I actually saw.  If there was anything of grace, anything clever, anything profound, anything smart, I missed it.  The only impression remaining is 130 minutes of painfully loud fire.

Summarizing the plot to this hot mess is actually easy.  Tony treats a couple of people cavalierly (as he is wont to do) in the not too distant past and they grow up bitter and not at all nice.   (Life lesson alert!) There are some explosions, then there are some more explosions, and then some bad guys explode, and a shipyard explodes, and then about 400 (possibly a slight exaggeration) Iron Mans explode.  Somewhere in the mix are a terrorist plot and a political assassination plot and a runaway technology plot and a romance plot and…I don’t even know what all.   I imagine the script development meetings were a lot like watching six year old boys play with their action figures.  “Pew, pew, PEW!!  BOOM!!  Here comes Iron Man!!  I know, let’s have ALL THE IRON MANS fight!  Yay!  BOOM!!!”  I don’t read the comics but a short bit of research indicates that this is an amalgamation of the Iron Man Extremis arc with some bits of archenemy Mandarin thrown in for good measure.  Also Pepper (who in the comics eventually has a cybernetic body herself) levels up a bit.  Along the way, Tony shows some symptoms of PTSD from his experiences in New York and befriends a fatherless boy who helps him fix one of his suits, both of which I gather are supposed to humanize him and give him depth.  But much like his suits, which he no longer has to wear to control, there really isn’t anything inside either the character or the movie.  Anything that doesn’t lead to another exploding thing is an afterthought and nearly all of Tony’s dialogue falls flat, especially his speech to Pepper at the end.

Of course six year old boys don’t know anything about girls and neither apparently do filmmakers.   The writers of the Iron Man franchise have never known what to do with Pepper Potts and they usually just portray her as very smart eye candy.  This time however, she gets to wear the suit, play with fire, and generally be a bad ass.  During the course of this movie, Pepper sees her home destroyed due to Tony’s hubris.  She watches the man she  loves die.  She is kidnapped and tortured as bait for Iron Man.  She is injected with an unstable compound that makes her a living bomb.  She falls to her death when Tony fails to catch her.  She wears the weaponized bits of the Iron Man suit and kills someone to save Tony.  She does all of this while wearing little but a black sports bra.   So maybe the boys in the script room are twelve and not six.   Here’s a clue, kids.   I don’t care how much she loves him, this is not “empowerment”.   It is pandering to your demographic.

It’s OK though.  At the end, the bastard lies to her again and we are assured that, his promises to the lovely and patient Ms. Potts aside, Iron Man will return.

(Also, no Nick Fury in this one.  What, Samuel Jackson was busy?  Boo.)

Score:  Meh.

Oblivion (2013):  Next to the premeditated aural assault of Iron Man 3, this movie is quiet and almost reflective.  It is based off an unpublished graphic novel by the man who brought us Tron: Legacy as well as a bunch of video game commercials so perhaps it is not too surprising that it hits the shallow end of the pool early on.    There has been a war.  Earth won but only barely and most of the planet is shattered and uninhabitable.   Most humans evacuated to Titan and 60 years later they are busy extracting the last of Earth’s resources to support the colony.  Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria are repair technicians, living on a small platform over the ruins of New York City, and tracking and repairing the small drones that guard the enormous resource extraction ships.  Remaining aliens, called Scavs, repeatedly attack and try to disable both the drones and the ships.  Although he has his memory wiped for unstated security concerns Jack is plagued by recurring dreams of a woman on the observation deck of the Empire State Building before the war.  Jack is fascinated by Earth and keeps a small shack in a secluded glen where he collects detritus that he’s picked up on missions: books, records, artifacts.   He and Victoria are nearing the end of their tour on the planet and he is quite conflicted about leaving it.  One day a Scav transmission beacon is activated and a ship lands on earth.  The drones attack it and kill everyone on board but one woman, who turns out to look exactly like the woman in Jack’s dreams.   And, as they say, after that nothing is ever the same.

There were some things about this movie that I enjoyed.  It is visually appealing.  Although the human presence on Earth has mostly ended and there are irradiated no-fly zones the planet does not obviously suffer from our absence.   The hills are green, the sand dunes are white, the seas are a heavenly blue.  Jack and Victoria’s pristine home base has pleasing modern lines, a white on white palette, and expansive views.  There is also a fair bit of dystopia thrown in.  Earth as we know it essentially stopped in 2017 and we are treated to a drive-by of New York’s iconic ruins.  The site of the last Superbowl ever played is now a cratered depression.    During a desperate chase through the ruins Jack flies through a narrow passage, at one point passing a familiar golden torch, and emerges out the other side between what turns out to be two skyscrapers.  He falls into a cavern that is actually a library.  Sometimes these scenes are cleverly disorienting.  For instance, Jack is able to walk to the Empire State Building’s observation deck because most of the building is buried under rubble.  (Literally.  Ponder on that for a moment.)  Yet there are many disappointments and most of them are due to a lack of credibility.  We are to believe that somehow a war shattered world (one only four years away, remember) has somehow created a viable off-world colony on one of Saturn’s moons and developed the technology to extract and transport Earth’s resources.   Given this amazing technology Jack and Victoria seem rather superfluous.  There is a horrible lapse in continuity involving the flight recorder from the downed space ship.  And finally, the entire plot turns on a ludicrous misunderstanding of genetics and cloning.   Perhaps the ending was meant to be cynical but…

To its credit, this movie is not a remake, a prequel, a sequel, or one component of a vast merchandise-friendly franchise.  It is, however, primarily a pastiche of  other, better movies.  The viewer will see bits of the Matrix, Planet of the Apes (indeed every sci fi movie set in New York), Wall-E, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, among others.  Tom Cruise is fine but his performance is nowhere near as compelling as the one he turned in for Rock of Ages.  Morgan Freeman’s role is little more than a cameo.  No one else in the cast is remarkable.  When the director runs out of things to do, he starts blowing things up.  In the end, a movie that started out as a meditation on identity and memory and perhaps even on humanity’s impact on the Earth, turns into another action flick, complete with explosions.  Yay for explosions!

(A side note…the movie takes place in the year 2077, the same year the bombs fall in the Fallout universe.  Coincidence?)

Score:  Meh.

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~ by gun street girl on May 6, 2013.

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