Monday, August 11, 2014

What I Really Think: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Spoilers Ahead)

I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles most of my life.  I liked the original cartoon as a kid, and have kept one eye on the property since then.  Trying to watch the new versions that have come out along the way.  The property has had low and hight points it’s entire life.  There most recent outing is…okay.  

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  It was fun to watch in the moment but it’s certainly not a good movie.  There were some missed opportunities, and some interesting innovations.  This movie’s base is with the original cartoon.  This is unfortunate, because there have been a lot of interesting story innovations since then that I would’ve liked to have seen used.  

I liked that they connected to the turtle’s history to April’s own.  It’s an innovation that I’m surprised hadn’t been used before.  I’m still disappointed they didn’t find a proper redhead to paly April, but her yellow jacket was a nice node to the original yellow jumpsuit.  April’s O’Neil is one of the aspects that changes the most between TMNT incarnations.  And while I liked the new backstory, April herself wasn’t very interesting.  

The villains are a weak point as well.  The plan doesn’t make much sense, but I could excuse that.  What really pains me is seeing Shredder sidelined to boring side villain status.  His mecha armor wasn’t quite terrible, but it was really over the top.  One of the strengths of the TMNT story, especially over recent years, has been the dynamic and history between Splinter and Shredder.  There was none of that here, they were essentially strangers.  And that just left both of the characters feeling flat.  I really wished they would’ve played up that emotional connection between the two, it could’ve added a lot to the movie.  They didn’t need this whole plot to infect people and then cure them to make even more money. Money is not an interesting motivation for villains.  

The turtles themselves, I liked.  They all had the expected personalities and bounced off each other nicely.  I do feel like Donatello was underutilized though.  I liked the humor Michelangelo brought (as expected).  A little more character motivations and growth would’ve been nice, but as it was okay as-is.  

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.   I would be willing to see it again sometime.  But definitely not a high point for the franchise. 

What I Really Think: Guardians of the Galaxy

(Spoiler’s Ahead)

I went into Guardians of the Galaxy hoping for a humorous and exciting romp and fortunately that’s exactly what Marvel delivered.  This movie is a lot of fun almost from beginning to end (the opening scene is a bit heavy).  The characters were fun and interesting, with Groot and Rocket stealing the show.  Quill was a lot of fun the whole time.  I liked Gamora more than expected.  She was more than just the grim assassin I was afraid we’d get and I like how she’s tied into the larger mythology.  Drax was a bit flat, but overall he worked fine too.  Everyone had their own motivations and for the first half of the movie it’s basically them forced together by circumstance and bouncing off each other.  All of which is a lot of fun.  And that’s pretty much the best way to sum up this movie.  A lot of fun. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What I Really Think: Lucy

I went into Lucy with low expectations.  The meme that people only use some small fractional amount of their brainpower long ago wore thin on me.  The trailers and ads were clear Lucy was embracing this trope wholeheartedly.  So I braced for that fact going in.  I had hoped the action and the exploration of someone becoming super smart and powerful would make up for the weak premise.  Unfortunately it failed to rise above its own weak premise.   

The movie still had its strong points.  The first act is quite good and her getting caught up in this drug deal is very interesting.   The only problem was you already knew from the trailers where all that was going, so there wasn’t really any suspense.  I also liked that her mission became passing on her knowledge.  That’s a good message, but I’m not sure if that’s the message of the movie overall.  The film definitely had a message it was trying to convey, but I’m not sure what it was.  

Unfortunately, I felt like I saw most of the interesting bits of action and her abilities in the trailer.  And I constantly had to choke down my reflex of seeing the science errors in the movie.  Ultimately the movie was predictable and didn’t really have enough interesting things happen along the way.   And the character of Lucy once she becomes smart really doesn’t engender much sympathy.  The concept of someone getting smarter is really interesting, and I think there’s a lot of really interesting concepts to explore there.  But this movie doesn’t explore them.  

I would rate Lucy fairly low on the scale of movies I’ve seen this year.  If you think you’re interested because it looks like some fun superpower action I’d encourage you to think twice before going.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Really Think: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

(spoilers ahead)

Overall, I really enjoyed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.   I liked that the political situation between apes and humans and within each group was complex.   Each had their own factions and individuals working within them.  Nobody was a mustache twirling bad guy. The intentions of the villain were understandable and occasionally sympathetic.  It’s a storyline that could’ve been told without talking apes.  Indeed, much of the point of the movie is that the apes and humans really aren’t so different.  But I appreciate that they took what could’ve been a straight up action movie and made it smart.

I liked the previous movie in this series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a lot more than I expected.  This movie feels like a worthy successor.   Not retaining any of the original human case feels like a bold move, but also makes sense.  It’s unlikely any of them would’ve survived, and they weren’t really the main characters of the last movie.  It’s really all about Caesar. 

I would recommend seeing this movie even if you haven’t seen the previous one.  Is stands alone well enough that jumping in with it won’t diminish your enjoyment.  There are no critical references to the earlier film.  So, if you’re looking for something to watch, give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a try.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Extradiagetic: Peter Pan

Peter Pan is Disney’s fourteenth animated feature and a big success after the under-performing Alice in Wonderland.  While the film carries the name of Peter Pan, the movie is really more about Wendy.   The story begins and ends with her, and her arc is the most prominent one.  The other children never want to grow up, and she doesn’t either, at least at the beginning.  By the end she’s come around and realized it’s time to move on.  The movie doesn’t dwell on this story arc, instead preferring to focus attention on the exploits of Peter Pan himself.  But it remains the primary arc for the story, and makes Wendy more of a protagonist than Peter Pan.

Wendy’s story arc begins as the narrator introduces the Darling family.  She is devout believer in Peter Pan and tells stories to her brother’s about his exploits.  When her father declares that it’s time she grow up and move out of the nursery Wendy wants to have nothing to do with it.  

That evening Peter Pan shows up looking for his shadow and meet Wendy in person for the first time.  She excitedly agrees to join Peter Pan in Never Land when the opportunity arises, though she does hesitate to consider what her mother would say.  This prompts Peter Pan to ask what a mother is.  She begins to explain it as someone who loves and cares for you and tells stories.  As soon as she mentions telling stories Peter Pan declares that Wendy can be his Mother.  This suggestion begins a repeated theme of Wendy taking on the role of the adult with Peter Pan and the other boys.  In attempting to escape adulthood she finds herself naturally falling into the role. 

The rest of the children are awoken by the commotion and they all travel to Never Land together.  After a few small adventures they all return to Peter Pan’s hideout where Wendy falls into the adult role she had hoped to avoid, telling John and Michael to clean up and get ready for bed.  She begins to sing a song to the boys about what a mother is, prompting them to attempt to return immediately. As they leave they are waylaid by pirates and take to their ship while Captain Hook leaves a bomb for Peter Pan

On the pirate ship Captain Hook offers them all the dubious choice of joining his crew or walking the plank.  When all the boys rush to join up Wendy again takes the role of adult, halting them with a word and the clap of her hands.  She chides them much like an adult and refused to join Captain Hook’s crew.  She stoically walks the plank and is rescued by Peter Pan.  After quick battle they return to London.  The parents return home, her father with his attitudes switched.  George now decides his earlier edict that she leaves the nursery was too rash, but is taken by surprise when Wendy announces to them that she’s ready to grow up.  

In her attempt to escape her future, Wendy ended up walking the same path naturally.  She realized from her experience that she was already more grown up than she realized.  This isn’t to say there isn’t some character development elsewhere.  Notably, after the explosion and near death of Tinker Bell, Peter Pan goes from sulking that Wendy is leaving, to escorting her back to London himself on a flying pirate ship.  But the main story of Peter Pan really is Wendy coming to terms with growing up.