18 June 2017

Four Movies

I'd been writing this review for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wherein I criticize the story for the changes it makes to Starlord's origin. While I still stand by that criticism, its weight was gradually diminished the more research I did into the GotG's lore. Turns out I knew even less than I did about just how malleable this series is and the myriad ways Marvel keeps pounding it into different shapes in a desperate bid for appeal. Some comics blog out there once referred to Guardians as something along the lines of, "A series comic fans desperately want to pretend to love." that's not to say it's bad, just that it never seems to have any lasting appeal. The way the original publication played out was it ran for a few issues, got cancelled, the characters made cameos in other books, the series was revived, cancelled again, and all the while keeping a swiftly revolving door on their roster worse than the X-Men ever got. Silver Sable had the same problem; she seemed stupidly popular with fans and demand for a standalone series would be through the roof, only for the sales figures to dig a well in the basement. Anyway, as for the Guardians and my attempt at reviewing their newest incarnation, I found that the version I knew was so different from any other that complaining about continuity was more than a little futile. As I said, though, I still stand by most of the criticisms I leveled at it. I get that changes get made in adaptations. I don't mind that at all. What I take issue with is when the change is made for the sake of broad appeal and marketability rather than for the sake of fitting the story into a new medium. It's like Watchmen; I get why fans of the book were upset about the ending being changed, but for my money, I think the ending works better in the case of the film. It keeps the story on track and doesn't feel like a mad dash add-on. So, as much as you didn't need me to tell you by now, this many weeks after box office records were shattered, Volume 2 was perfectly adequate as another entry in the Marvel cinematic universe. Also, water is wet. 

The week following Guardians, I went to see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I had no intention of seeing it thanks mostly to a painfully humdrum trailer. My roommate, however, a fan of all things Arthurian and fantastic, couldn't wait. For as much of a renaissance as the fantasy genre is getting in Hollywood, it's still fairly slim cinematic pickings compared to sci-fi and superheroes, especially if you venture outside of anything with Peter Jackson's name on it. Some say that's because fantasy has found a good enough home on television with the likes of Game of Thrones and Vikings. Anyway, my expectations were very low for the movie, to the point I genuinely expected to nap my way through the entire thing. I also thought, "hey, maybe it'll be good for a laugh." Two things happened in the first ten minutes, however, that threw the nap in the fire along with those low expectations. First was Eric Bana scaling and toppling a mountain-sized war elephant while sporting glowing armor and a flaming sword. Okay, I thought, you've got my attention. Second was seeing Guy Ritchie in the credits as director. All right, I thought, what have you got for me? Admittedly, the steam starts letting out immediately thereafter, but it's a slow enough burn that by the time the duel with NOT-Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer came around, I can safely say I was never truly bored. I was legitimately invested despite some horrific cliches and tropes. While I'm not pretending it's a perfect film or even a hidden gem, but it was a pleasant surprise, which is almost as good. It reminded me a lot of Solomon Kane, which had similar qualities. A few genuinely cool moments of visual artistry wrapped up in an overall mediocre package of safe, bland design and extremely poor marketing. Seriously, what is it with trailers underselling movies these days? The trailer for Logan made it look like the entire film would be set at that one location (the repurposed water tower in the desert) and padded with a lot of Sergio Leone-styled long stares over the landscape, instead of what we got. As for Arthur, which has unfortunately joined a list of box office flops, I genuinely recommend it. If you're a fan of Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films, this won't satisfy you like a proper third entry in that series (Hound of the Baskervilles, maybe?) but you'll be able to fill up your Guy Ritchie witty banter-riddled irreverent action movie bingo card well enough. 

Last week, I did something I hadn't done in years: a twofer movie day. The first time I did that was back in 2002, seeing the first Sam Raimi Spider-man film the same day as Attack of the Clones. The second time was in 2011, the films being Super 8 and Green Lantern

The first was Wonder Woman, for which all the world was waiting. It was good. I know that's not very in-depth, but that's the kind of movie it was. It did a lot of things right and while it didn't quite excel at most of them, it never failed in any regard. It delivered what it promised and the only true complaint I had besides some pacing issues in the beginning and the middle was the child playing young Diana. Of course, that's not being fair, they did the best they could with what they had and I'm sure she was the best pick, but if we never hear from that kid again (I'm not even sure we "heard" from her this time around; I'll be surprised if she's not dubbed), I won't be surprised and certainly wish her well in whatever she pursues. As for Gal Godot, I take back my doubts about her handling the role. I'd already been proven mostly wrong by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but this confirmed it. 

After that, and over a plate of some lovely battered chicken fingers at a sports bar, we got our tickets to The Mummy. My reaction to it is about the same as Wonder Woman, but I have to mention Iron Man 2 as part of my criticism. Iron Man 2 is a decent Marvel movie (water is still wet) except when it grinds its own story to a screeching halt and spends what feels like a full half-hour telling how awesome the Avengers movie is going to be. The Mummy isn't quite so clumsy, but if I didn't know that Universal was trying to have its own cinematic universe (which they kind of started back in the day with Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and even their own early Mummy movies) it would have caught me off guard. At around the halfway mark, Tom Cruise gets taken through a room with cryptid specimens in jars, including what appears to be a Lagoon creature's arm in a jar, and the skull of a vampire (also in a jar of alcohol, which doesn't make sense unless it stops it from dissolving in sunlig... you know what, it's fine, forget it). To top it off, Russell Crowe introduces himself as Dr. Jekyll, and the reference doesn't stop at the name. Luckily, this doesn't linger or feel like an intrusion on the story, so I forgive it. I do wonder, however, if they've planned this out that far ahead. I mean, Dracula: Untold is arguably the first inkling of Universal trying to snag a piece of the Marvel pie, but those hints have been snubbed in favor of this new appetizer. What's to say we won't get a third introduction with the added note, "No, this one's the start, this one for sure. This time we mean it!"? The Bride of Frankenstein isn't even slate for release until 2019. That's a ways off given how often new Marvel films get released. If you read anything by Sandy Collora about his involvement in a Black Lagoon movie, you'll find yourself even less eager to see how this Dark Universe plans to dazzle us. Should we even mention that Bencio Del Toro remake of  the Wolfman getting "rebooted"? 
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