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The A-Team

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m old enough to remember the show when it ran in the 80s, and I was a big fan then. Still, when I see reruns on the television I’ll stop changing the channel trying to remember what the episode was about or at least wait until I hear BA pity a fool, or Hannibal love it when a plan comes together. One of the reasons that I looked forward to the movie was to see who they would get to play whom.

The series was essentially character driven representing the cliches from almost every action movie prior to the eighties. You had the cool confident commander, the pretty boy ladies’ man, the tough guy, and the crazy person. The action, when viewing the show now, actually seems secondary to the characters since the characters are all former Special Forces the violence is part of their character. The actors need to portray a group of people that trust and love each other, but also can’t stand each other from time to time.

The movie did this extremely well especially with the casting of Liam Neeson as Col. John “Hannibal” Smith. Liam Neeson as an actor must have gotten tired of the heavy dramas a few years ago, I’m willing to bet that it started with The Phantom Menace that he realized I could actually have fun in an action movie. Even in deadly serious action movies like Taken, where his acting alone saved what was a pretty cliched movie, you can kind of see that he is being entertained as well. Bradley Cooper played Face very well and the dynamic between the two was well played, reminiscent of the relationship between George Peppard and Dirk Benedict. While it still worked well, the other two characters weren’t that memorable. The man who took over for Mr. T, Quinten Jackson, seemed to be laughing through his lines too much but he had the expressive anger that Mr. T brought to BA Baracus, the same can almost be said for Sharlto Copley as Howling Mad Murdock. The issue with Murdock is that you can take the character one of two ways: you can go the over the top comic relief crazy as the show did with Dwight Schultz or you can take a reserved subtle crazy. The movie ops for a middle ground instead treating the character as someone that is more of an adrenaline junky with a death wish and poor impulse control.

Reservations aside the characters work together and that is what is the most important thing about capturing the essence of the A-Team. The only thing really missing from the movie was a character named “Decker.” Jessica Biel is also in the movie playing “hot female” but largely is inconsequential to the plot. Normally this type of thing is annoying but if you remember the show correctly, the lead female was either a damsel in distress or fulfilled this role. Here, she’s an army intelligence officer seeking to arrest the A-Team for stealing a bunch of hundred dollar printing plates, which is the set up for the whole movie. This is the famous “crime they didn’t commit,” which is an actual improvement over the show because in the show they actually committed the crime they were arrested for.*

Basically the whole movie revolves around the team trying to retrieve the printing plates to clear their names. With a whole bunch of explosions fit in between. What do you expect? It’s an action movie based on an action television show, the plot is more of a vehicle for the gun fights. It’s a good thing too, because were this movie a serious investigation into the theft of missing printing plates I would have a problem with it. The plates themselves originated in Iran before the fall of the Shah in the 70s. For some reason the Iranians had the ability to print US $100 bills. I don’t feel like looking this up, but it’s certainly plausible. The plates were then captured at some point during the Iran-Iraq war and in the possession of the Iraqis when the US toppled Saddam. Again, plausible. What isn’t, is how these plates are in any way useful. In the mid 90s the design of the Franklin bill changed drastically. Aside from using the money to buy things in Somalia the money can’t be used.

“Hot Female” at one point describes the team as “specializing in the ridiculous,” and nothing better summarizes the movie than this one phrase. The movie is full of the cartoonish violence that accompanied the series but the movie never takes itself so seriously as to make itself absurd. It seems that everyone in the movie is having fun at the expense of what is going on. From Hot Female’s explanation that the team is trying to “fly a tank” to a mercenary’s plea to his CIA captor that he not get executed by a particularly inept agent, it’s a fun movie that perfectly interprets the series for the big screen.
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*In the eighties show the crime they were accused of was robbing the bank of Hanoi to defund the North Vietnamese and bring an end to the war. However the orders that sent them there were burned and the commanding officer killed by the VC, so it looked like they did it on their own accord. Still, they did actually rob that bank. It’s unclear to me how robbing the bank of an enemy during a war would cause you to get arrested by the army, but whatever.

Categories: movie review, movies, reviews

Clash of the Titans

August 6, 2011 Leave a comment

As a kid, I used to watch the original campy Clash of the Titans all of the time. It was a fun movie and although when I tried to watch it a couple of weeks ago on BBC America, I realized how ridiculous it was. The story is good, but it’s the acting and the over reliance on stop motion that really killed it. Perhaps it was the first real special effects gimmick movie that I ever saw. When I saw that they were remaking it, I was torn at the time. On the one hand I wanted to see it, on the other I thought that it was more gimmicky 3d, which I was completely skeptical about. So I decided to wait until it hit the cable movie channels. In short, I’m glad I waited.

The first movie roughly followed the story of Perseus, son of the God Zeus and his trials in combating the often ridiculous hoops that the gods throw the mortals through just for kicks. Ultimately Perseus has to save Princess Andromeda from Hera’s machinations because Zeus screwed with her son, deforming him into a beast…just because.

The new one roughly follows that same story, minus Hera. In fact minus most of the gods save Zeus, Hades, and briefly Poseidon. The major difference is the motivation that drives the story. While the first was more of a translation of the Greek myth in the vein of Jason and the Argonauts, this one tries to update it into a more modern Rocky like story which is utterly absurd.

The worst infraction against the viewer is in how the movie portrays the religion of the Greeks. While it stays within the confines of the Greek Gods being real deities, it portrays the people of the world as being hostile to them in fact hating them. At one point early in the story we see a statue of Zeus being ripped down by soldiers from the kingdom of Argos. Immidiately after the statue falls into the sea Hades appears with his harpies to massacre the soldiers and in the process kills Perseus’ adoptive family on their fishing boat. It would appear that the King of Argos has declared war on the gods. This is where I get off.

The Roman philosopher Cicero once said that if the gods took an interest in the lives of mortals (or were real as one of his opponents in the dialogue argue) the good would benefit and the evil would suffer, but this is not the way of things. It’s called the Deist argument, the belief that a God/Gods made the world and then left it alone. However in this movie the gods are very real, in fact transgressing their will involves immediate consequence. And not some lightening bolt that could be interpreted as the will of Zeus, but an actual appearance by a god who immediately murders those that sinned. Yet somehow we are to believe that the populace upon seeing this cause and effect relationship don’t cower in fear of the gods? The relationship between the gods and men in the movie offers an analogy between being in a fascist state, but it’s a false analogy because in the movie men cannot win.

They can’t beat them but they try and fight them. Most notably they try and fight Hades. The problem for them is that they are double screwed. Hades will kill them, and then they go to the realm of Hades after they die for eternity. I’m sure it’s all good fun down there when the guy who killed you for pissing him off gets you for all time.

Perseus, after an hour, learns to beat the Argive general in sword fighting. Literally, the guy is raised by fisherman then magically learns to fight with a sword. I suppose the fact that he’s half god may lend to this but it’s awfully sudden. What’s even more surprising is that Perseus isn’t surprised by it himself, which would have made the unbelievable more believable. They go on a journey because Hades has demanded the sacrifice of Andromeda in order to spare the kingdom of Argos from the Kraken. The king balks, but Perseus is confident he can find a way to defeat the Kraken thus they undertake the journey.

There’s some mythological mash up going on here. The kraken isn’t exactly a Greek monster, Scylla and Charybdis form the pantheon of the Ocean based super monsters, it’s a Norse creation. Also are the Arab like warrior zombies called Djinns that assist the Greeks in their journey to the Underworld. That however is quibbling, and in fact those two additions kind of make the movie a bit more interesting as we see that the mythological world is real here.

The goal of the journey is given to them by the three blind sisters, that in order to destroy the Kraken they must find the head of Medusa that will turn anything to stone. These I suppose are the two titans alluded to in the title of the movie, despite the fact that neither of them are titans.

Like all Greek mythology, the mortals are only the chess pieces for the gods. It’s stated that the gods run on devotion like a car runs on gas and while Poseidon and Zeus have found prayers, it is Hades that has found a new source: fear. The whole plot of the story is driven by the fact that Hades is jealous of his brothers’ domain despite the fact that all mortals eventually end up in his domain while they only spend a brief period on the sea or under the sky. The best acting definitely goes to Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson who are obviously hamming it up playing Hades and Zeus respectively. They do a good job, but their talents are clearly better than this trite plot about revenge, what saves them though is that they know it. Their portrayal of two brothers in rivalry breaks up the rather pointless action sequences and needless complications of the mortal story.

In all, the movie serves about the same purpose as the original. The only difference is that while the original Perseus looked like he was grinning the whole time, the new one looks like he is constipated. I can’t tell whether or not this is a boon or a bust for the film. The original painted us a better story, a little richer in the mythology of Ancient Greece but the effects are quite laughable–even for its day. It’s popcorn fodder but not worth reserving the time for.

Categories: movie review, movies

Tron: Legacy

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The original Tron movie, released about three decades ago, was a childhood favorite of mine. As a kid it had everything that a movie needed, fancy effects, some excellent action scenes, lots of battles, none of that love story crap to get in the way, it was about video games before that automatically meant the movie would suck, and something about a plot or whatever. When I first heard that there was going to be a sequel to Tron, I was intrigued but not overly excited. The movie may have come out almost 30 years ago but I haven’t seen it in at least half of that time. Other childhood favorites have held up: I can’t bear to watch the Transformers movie now, nor any of the Ninja Turtles (no one thinks to buy a gun in those movies) movies, and for some reason finding Tron is difficult. The only movie from back then that really resonates still is Big Trouble in Little China, but being one of the greatest movies of all time isn’t really fair to the others, or more accurately at least that movie knew not to take itself seriously.

The original Tron was something the boys could talk about on the bus, without having to endure conversations with those cootie riddled girls sitting in the front.  A few years back I bumped into one of those cootie riddled girls at a bar, her name was Kelly and she was extremely gorgeous, ten minutes into our conversation I realized that she was as dumb as a brick but I couldn’t pry my eyes away from her. I talked to Kelly until I had to leave but to this day I couldn’t tell you what she was talking about.

Tron Legacy is just like Kelly. It’s Tron all grown up as insanely beautiful as possible but with noting beneath it. It’s mildly entertaining, and like my conversation with Kelly I don’t consider it a waste of time, but I’m honest that I like the view more than the conversation. Tron: Legacy is about as gorgeous as a movie can get. Every thing in the movie is polished to the point of unreality, it looks almost too good to be real, and by that I mean the images. We know the movie is fake, we know the grid doesn’t actually exist, but looking at the light bike races the grace and elegance of the images made me doubt what I was watching.

There’s some plot here but it’s pretty thin. The grid has been taken over by a fake Jeff Bridges called “Clu,” who is supposed to be designing the perfect system. Clu is a digital copy of the Bridges from the first movie and he looks fake, because he is fake. He’s a program not a user, but in his desire for perfection he’s adopted an iron hand in his drive forward. Ultimately Clu’s goal is to take his army to the portal in order to leave the Grid and enter into our world.

There’s also a story about the actual Bridges, Kevin Flynn who is trapped in the Grid for decades (which translates to hundreds of years inside the machine) and his son who abandoned in this world has to seek him out. There is also a fermenting revolution against Clu’s despotic control that is introduced and then quickly dropped. Add in some metaphors about how much people don’t like change, about genocide and purges; and there is the movie.

The trouble for the movie is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a father/son reuion movie, is it a movie about revolution, or what? There is also a new life form that spontaneously generated in the Grid which apparently holds the key solving all of the world’s dilemmas about disease, religion, philosophy, etc. This life form represented in the person of Olivia Wilde (formerly of House M.D.) is never explained as to how she is supposed to solve these problems.

The movie would have been great if it has just been about rescuing old Flynn by young Flynn from the Grid and the clutches of Clu. However the writers of the movie used too much of a heavy hand by putting in the Quasi-Zen philosophy essentially making the same mistake the Wachowski brothers did in the final Matrix movie. Being deep or philosophical in a movie requires nuance and subtlety, not a giant sign that states “deep message here.”

These are all the reasons to not like the movie. It is however an excellent exercise in style and effect over substance. As I have said earlier that movie looks beautiful, and if you can stomach the 3d movie experience* I’d recommend it simply for the light cycle races alone.

At the end of that night at the bar, I said goodnight to Kelly and walked out instantly forgetting everything we had talked about. This movie isn’t supposed to be more than the best eye candy I’ve ever seen on the screen, which makes it a perfect sequel because the first movie wasn’t anything deep either. I can’t recommend it any more than I can recommend going out with a gorgeous but vacuous woman (an easy tip is to ask them what that word means), sure it looks nice but in the end we get used to appearances and find them lacking. The movie is a beautiful illusion but it’s exceedingly pleasant to look at.

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*Which I learned makes me motion sick as well as giving me a headache.  

Categories: movie review, reviews

The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day

August 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m going to start this review by making a bold statement, one that may–in fact–get my kicked off the internet for the bold assertion of the truth in the statement, but here it goes anyway: Boondock Saints 2 is the worst sequel I have ever seen and I saw Batman and Robin the theater (i.e. I paid money for that piece of shit). Remember Batman and Robin is the movie that George Clooney apologized for, the one where Arnold says brilliant things like, “Freeze,” and “Everbody Chill” as Mr. Freeze, that movie was better than this one. I should note that I am a fan of the first movie. 

The reason: at least Joel Schumacher didn’t pretend to be profound while making a piece of shit where obviously more money went into the sound track than it did the writers. Then again, Joel Schumacher is at least honest about the movies he makes. Here’s the problem that I will argue with by analogy.

If you make a movie that has an underground following, one might get the idea that everything that comes out of your pen is liquid gold. One might also think that one might be infallible, one would greatly be mistaken in that assumption, just ask M. Night Symalan, but then again he as at least two movies that are really excellent. Troy Duffy doesn’t even have one.

The first Boondock Saints movie was a movie that was entertaining and fun because it appealed to an idea in every guy’s head about what a movie should be. It was an action movie with a nonsensical plot, over the top characters who couldn’t exist in real life, and lots and lots of gunfights (like the movie Shoot ‘Em Up, and at least that movie knew it was ridiculous). That makes the movie worth watching but it’s not going to be on anyone’s serious top ten list.

A follow up movie was almost inevitable. The problem with cult movies is that almost all of them are objectively bad. The following does nothing to add to its intrinsic value, which is why the sequels to these movies are always terrible. Sam Raimi had to remake Evil Dead so that we could get a proper sequel out of it, and even then those movies didn’t pretend to be high art. Troy Duffy’s problem was that he thought he was saying something profound, when in fact he was just rehashing revenge/vigilante fantasies that we all have when we hear about rampant or particularly vicious crimes.

Saints 2, takes place 8 years after the original, which drops us into the first problem with the plot. The end of the first movie led us to believe that the brothers were going to continue on their crusade to violently rid the world of violent crimes, instead they apparently left Boston to go raise sheep in Ireland. Ireland, an extradition country, that would be one of the most obvious places the trio would have run. After publicly murdering one person in a court room, and having been the leading suspects in over 50 crimes to say that the federal government would have been unable to find them in a place that was an obvious haven for them is ridiculous.

The story is set off with the murder of a priest that was done as mock up of their crimes in order to call them out. Which it does, but to what motive? Revenge by the Yakavetta mob family? That’s what the entire movie points at, but even this is not so, as a shadowy figure known only as “the old man” seems to be behind it all. If the movie had stuck with the revenge as the plot’s prime mover we might have had something. If the movie had just left the brothers continuing on their quest we still might have had something, but this is not the case. The plot becomes more convoluted and twisted as it goes on. Then there are the needless scenes that should have been left on the editor’s floor.

For example: we see glimpses of Il Duce’s (Brian Connoly) past and what led him to begin his crusade, which could have made an interesting movie itself but it mishmashes in with this story, and completely contradicts the set up for his character in the first film. In the original his character is portrayed as some super killer that was locked up to keep him from killing mobsters, but he worked for the mob as a person that cleans house, it’s clearly stated by the blind bathroom attendant. Yet this movie retcons all of that making him simply an older version of his two sons who sought out and killed criminals after watching his dad killed by gangsters.

The movie opens with Rocco walking down the street narrating!? This character was nothing more than the comic relief in the first and he died. This was obviously the result of some crush that Duffy had either on the character or the actor himself. It adds nothing except to slow down the plot. Even Peter Jackson knew that he had to cut Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings for that very reason. The extended dream sequence where Rocco monologues about not showing feelings and his emulation of John Wayne is hackneyed and cliche. Tony Soprano did it much better talking about Gary Cooper because he lamented and his character wasn’t dead either.

“Real men hide their feelings, you know why?” asks Rocco, “Because it’s none of your fuckin’ business!” Lines like this aren’t deep or profound. Being portrayed as such just makes them worse. To say nothing of the abruptness of an entire scene that if cut, would have changed the story in no discernible way.

The character of Eunice, the special agent who takes over for Willen Dafoe’s character, doesn’t bring the same type of eccentricity to the film that he did. I feel bad for the actress because she obviously tried but ask most of the actors from the Star Wars prequels, there’s only so much you can do when the script is shit. For some reason, she’s Southern, it makes no sense that she should be as she could have been from Milwaukee and the character would only change in accent…an accent that comes and goes. Her character seems to only exist for one scene where she is reconstructing a crime scene and is dressed in a sexy cowboy outfit. That’s the same motivation that puts Eliza Dushku in bondage gear every chance Whedon gets. It can be considered nothing but puerile.

I really could go on…

And I will for one more bite of this shit apple. The character of Romeo, the Mexican, was to the point of being offensive. It comes from a mindset that thinks, ‘I’ll make fun of this race, but I’m not racist so it’s ok.’ Which is the exact wrong mindset to have when making this type of character. Originally he’s portrayed as a martial artist type who beats up a frenchman while in handcuffs, as soon as he links up with the MacManus brothers, he’s nothing more than a silly sidekick who portrays every flashy latin-american stereotype. It’s worse than a Martin Lawrence cross dressing movie. Duffy racial humor was funny when it portrayed Irish characters making fun of Irish stereotypes but even then you could tell that there was a line that wasn’t going to be crossed. I thought I was going to get the same thing for the first five minutes of Romeo, but then it just became uncomfortable stupid.

The reason that this movie is worse than Batman and Robin, is because at least that movie didn’t erase any fondness that I had for the Burton movies (the only Burton movies that I like). All Saint’s Day completely erases any fond memories I had of the original Boondock Saints now that they have completely eviscerated several of the characters.

A closing question: How did the final villain get his assassin through customs in October of 2001? It’s a point raised by the cops and Eunice but then is completely dropped.

I could seriously go on for pages about how bad this movie was, but I’ll stop there and recommend that if you were a fan of the first don’t see this one lest you feel the desire to shred the dvd and deny ever knowing of that movie to begin with.

Categories: movie review, movies, reviews

Iron Man 2

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The first Iron Man movie did a couple of things well. The first was raising a relatively obscure Marvel action hero into the public eye. Tony Stark/Iron Man prior to the first movie was pretty much known for a cool look suit and that was about it. The comic saavy amongst you could probably mention that he was the original leader of the Avengers or that Stark’s chief enemy was not the Mandarin or Communists (seriously) but alcoholism. Marvel comics always had a knack for tackling real issues waaaay before DC ever did. Primarily though, Iron Man was a B-Lister. Spiderman, X-Men, the Fantastic Four were the real stars of the Marvel Universe for a long time. Iron Man was always there, for sure, but he was more like the game Tetris, always there and somewhat reliable but not something you leave running on your computer.

The second was that it brought a reasonable ethical debate into the movie: the responsibility of weapon’s manufacturers and the deaths their products cause. What responsibility does Stark industries bear, or anyone for that matter that peddles a product that is dangerous? Is it always the fault of the user or can the provider be blamed as well?

What Iron Man did as well, was tell a coherent story and introduce the broader Marvel Universe without being cheesy about it. If you don’t care about S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers you can still enjoy it.

Iron Man 2 begins about two minutes before the first one ends and then it fast forwards a couple of years to a Congressional Hearing where the Congress demanding that Stark turn over the Iron Man suit to the U.S. government. This, in itself, prompts an interesting idea in these fictional universes occupied by super heroes. To what control must the superhero submit. Stark refuses to give up the technology saying that he has privatized world peace, he invented it, therefore the government has no right to it. The government’s claim is that the suit is too much power to be in the hands of one man. Both have compelling arguments, and in the hands of a drunken womanizer the suit may not be safe, but it is still his.

It brings the question that was asked when the superhero movie flood of a couple of years ago came out. What rights do citizens have against those that have already placed themselves above the law? Do I have a right of privacy or search and seizure against Superman’s X-Ray vision?

That aside the movie tip toes dangerously close to the pain threshold of villainy by giving us three antagonists but thankfully only one real villain. Ivan Vanko, whose father joined in the designing of the Arc Reactor with Stark’s father has a bone to pick. Like Nikolai Tesla’s complaint against Thomas Edison or Antonio Meucci’s against Alexander Graham Bell, Vanko claims that Howard Stark stole the design then exiled his father to Russia where he died in poverty. Vanko will be the slam bang bad guy in the movie, he develops whips fused with the power of the Arc Reactor and attacks Stark only to fail (why anyone didn’t just shoot the shirtless helmet-less Vanko is beyond me).

Then comes Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who rescues Vanko out of a French prison, and hires him to work on his own suit for a military contract. Rockwell hams it up good here as an inventor who is a rival with Stark but doesn’t possess the talent to stay in the game. Finally there is Senator Stern (Gary Shandling) who wants the suit resenting the power that Stark has privately.

The threshold for all Superhero movies is three, once three is established the franchise is dead. Spiderman 3, Batman and Robin, X-Men 3, etc. because the movies become too busy losing the normal character development time in order to cram in all of the fun stuff from comics (what exactly was Eddie Brock’s problem in the movie anyway…that he got fired?). Iron Man saves itself largely by preserving the first movie’s story line so that we don’t need a large introduction for Rhodes or the Arc Reactor. Other characters are side-lined for plot development and it isn’t missed because we can all anticipate a third movie so we can worry about them later. The editors of this movie made some phenomenal decisions and the movie is long without feeling long.

The moments with the Strategic Homeland Intelligence Espionage and Logistics Division (SHIELD) are done well but rather pointless. Fury (Sam Jackson) has implanted a spy, Natasha Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) to watch Stark for no apparent purpose other than to make sure that he is ok. The side story about Stark being poisoned by the Reactor seems only to serve the purpose of placing him in SHIELD’s debt.

I would like to have seen more of Johansson’s character (who in the comics is The Black Widow) but she seemed to exist only as a tease for much larger things to come (The Avenger movie in 2012). Rushman at first seems like a femme fatale being that she is from the legal department, then to be a bodyguard, but that isn’t it either. She’s a mystery.

In all the movie is a worthy sequel, being much more than the usual popcorn swill that is dumped on us like so many Transformers related media. If the thought provoking ideas aren’t your style the action sequences can keep anyone entertained.

Categories: movie review, reviews

Terminator: Salvation

May 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Terminator: Salvation begins by setting up a conflict. That some people view John Connor as the savior of mankind from the machines, while others view him as a false prophet. That conflict, though, is never realized or even portrayed aside from some trite arguments that Connor has with the commander of the human resistance, who for some reason isn’t him. The end of T3 kind of set up the point that he was going to be the leader, even ending with him claiming, rather reluctantly, that he was in charge. So that’s one plot point set up and then dropped.

A great deal of people have already dissected the numerous inconsistencies in the movie franchise with the latest one, I’m not going to do that here instead favoring a couple plot points that even independent of the last three movies make absolutely no sense. This review is also going to spoil the movie so if you have any interest in seeing it you may want to stop reading…NOW.

For the rest of you who have either seen this movie or have no interest in doing so, our review continues. Time travel is very difficult to write effectively. Especially if you are going to do numerous movies around the concept it is going to require a team of people called “continuity editors” just to make sure you don’t trip around time paradoxes and negate already set up plot points. This movie decided not to hire those people in favor of director McG, who is best known for the bubblegum Charlie’s Angels movies and a terrible show called “Fastlane,” which was like a serialized version of The Fast and the Furious if you removed the quality acting and believable plot.

The big “twist” (which was completely ruined in every trailer for the movie) in this movie is that our secondary hero, Marcus, is actually a terminator with living flesh designed to be an infiltrator. Ok, it’s a bit odd, but it still works since that is precisely what original Terminator was to begin with. Skynet obviously had to test out the prototype. Marcus blends in, protects a young kid and his child friend (more on that later), gets a hot A-10 pilot to fall in love with him and befriends the leader of the resistance, John Connor. Infiltration was a complete success, so now what? Apparently after locating the Machines’ deadliest enemy he then goes home.

Say again? Skynet knows, through the fact that the time traveling T-X implanted it into the world’s computer system just prior to Judgment Day, that Connor will eventually defeat it; but instead of making Connor a priority “Kill on sight” for all of its soldiers it just ignores him to go home. Only without the knowledge gleaned from time travel, Connor is still a resistance leader, and yet Marcus still goes home after the infiltration. I understand that they were testing the effectiveness of the new robot but why not just see if he could blend in with the prisoners at Skynet or with some small band of Road Warriors if he wasn’t going to ultimately kill anyone?

We know that the machines know who Connor is, since there is a priority command against both John Connor and Kyle Reese throughout the whole movie. Which makes the movie worse. Reese is going to grow up to be Michael Biehn and then John Connor’s father. Right now, he’s only a teenager hanging out with a deaf black girl. Killing Reese is the highest priority since his early death will prevent Connor from being conceived. The machines definitely can think ahead then, but if they can think that far ahead then why don’t they just kill Reese as soon as they find him? Which they do and then capture him half way through the movie, using him as bait to kill Connor.

The second half of the movie is completely based around John Connor trying to rescue his father, who is only a teenager, from the machines–who at any point end their problems for good. Instead they want to kill the leader of the resistance, because instead of emboldening the resistance around the image of a sacrificed martyr they would just give up. Preferring that potential to, and this is important, erasing the very fact that he ever existed.

Which then brings us to the ultimate conundrum that the movie puts into place, dropping a giant deuce on the previous three movies’ story. Throughout the whole movie the machines know that Kyle Reese needs to be killed so that Connor is never born. It is only through time travel that Connor is ever conceived, and the time travel is only created by the machines in order to kill the Connor family. Knowing these facts, why does the super intelligent Skynet even build the time travel to begin with? The previous movies seemed to operate under the idea that Skynet didn’t know who Connor’s father was (as scanning a database from the 1980s onward wouldn’t present this information), but this movie informs us that it did which means that creating the time machine means Skynet created its own destruction. I guess Arnold was lying in T2 when he said that the Terminator programming prevents him from “Self-terminating.”

Aside from these plot points the movie is a decent action movie, a cross between the non-Matrix scenes from the Matrix and Transformers (replacing the terrible Megan Fox with the decent Moon Bloodgood). It exploits various tropes at some points like the by-the-book commander versus the do-it-my-way-and-get-results-soldier then drops them completely. We can blame lots of things but this isn’t the movie we wanted to see.

The movie we wanted was the movie that dealt with the final days of the way, the one where Connor and company finally bring down the legions of T-800s, T-2000s, and T-Xs beating Skynet. The movie that looked like the opening from the first two movies not this crap where regular bullets can kill the terminators (although Laura did point to me that earlier designs may not be bullet proof) despite that is completely the opposite of what we were told in every other movie. It’s a piece of crap and the ending is so lame and corny I can’t even bring myself to type it. I say ditch it.

Categories: movie review, reviews

Revisiting the Classics: Robocop (1987)

March 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Robocop is one of those movies that gets shown to young boys despite the graphic violence and gore of the movie itself. It was one of those unique figures of the 80s where a movie’s central character is marketed to a demographic that is unable to actually see the movie. Along with Robocop action figures there were also Rambo and Commando figures and all three movies were rated R for extreme violence. Which is funny, if you think about it because Regan’s America wouldn’t allow a scene of nudity to be shot without a serious consideration of the dreaded X rating.

Robocop is a layered story with many different things going on at the same time. The focus, for me at the time, is on Officer Murphy of the Detroit Police Department, fighting the losing battle that every cop who dons the uniform does every day. At the same time a mega corporation called OCP (Omni Consumer Products) has bought out the Detroit Police and is seeking a way to save money by replacing the officers with machines. Dick Jones, an executive at OCP, has created the ED-209 a biped robot with large high powered weapons and a faulty computer system that accidentally kills a member of the board during a product display. His rival, Bob Morton, is working on a cyborg concept but he needs a body to integrate it with.

Luckily, for him, Detroit is largely a free fire warzone in which the line between order and the Hobbesian State of Nature has been erased almost entirely. A criminal named Boddicker (who in the 70s was known as “Red”) targets police officers and runs his own enterprise which is amounts to a private army. Murphy and partner Allen track him down but Murphy is brutally tortured and killed. Which gives Morton the body he needs for his project. Robocop is born. With a body made of an impervious metal, an automatic pistol coupled with computer targeting, he makes a large impact on the city of Detroit.

Not because he’s a great cop and impervious to bullets but because of the brutality of his methods. You would think that OCP would be so afraid of lawsuits that it would program restraint. Remember that this is part man but also part machine. A computer program is like a prison in which escape is logically impossible. Your Roomba can’t mop the floor, not because it doesn’t have the right tools but because it is literally impossible for it to conceive of doing so. Robocop’s police procedural guidelines should lock him down in the same way. The first criminal he encounters is a guy robbing a convenient store.

The robber shoots him, which doesn’t affect him in any way. Now police procedure states that once shot at a cop may shoot back, but Robocop instead cripples the man by clothes lining him into the cooler of the convenient store. He shoots an attempted rapist in the genital area, he racks up a decent body count arrests Boddicker, finds out that Boddicker has been taking orders from Jones and kills Jones after the boss of OCP fires him.

While the movie doesn’t approach the body count of some slasher movies (32 in all) a good deal of the deaths are extremely graphic. I remember not being able to watch Murphy’s death and the Boddicker’s final demise is extremely odd (he is melted under toxic waste) and this is a Paul Verhoven movie so it can’t just be a death it has to be gross. The movie is largely prescient in predicting the fall of Detroit into a criminal cess pool as well as the privatization of certain aspects of the justice department (private firms running prisons, Blackwater).

Does it Hold Up?: This is a tough one. The various social commentaries can be seen as still being relevant. What kind of power should private firms wield over the public trust is a question that has been tackled by political philosophers since the time of Plato (albeit in different language)? To what end is the state responsible to bring notorious criminals to justice? Who would win in a fight Boba Fett or a transformer?

The problem with this movie lasting is that it doesn’t make any sense. If the crime was really so bad in Detroit that a man like Boddicker can kill Police without retribution then the city can appeal to the FBI or if Boddicker gets the six star wanted level the military can intervene, pull an Abe Lincoln by declaring martial law and suspending the civil liberties in the entire city. The idea that the only solution is to create a robot cop is laughable.

The earlier questions stand well enough on their own, but the movie doesn’t exactly make it. It’s a fun ride especially since Detroit came the closest to the dystopian view that most Science fiction movies describe. Now, it’s hard to watch because the violence is unnecessarily cruel for someone like Boddicker who isn’t a serial killer but just a stooge for a CEO. Which makes the entire plot regarding the crime and the links to OCP ridiculous. There is no motivation for any of it. The ideas of the movie are interesting but the plot just doesn’t work, 1/5.

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