Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Into Darkness Review

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...  Wait, that's not right.  Sorry, things get a bit confusing when universes collide thanks to people like J.J. Abrams.  Do I still sound bitter?  Just to refresh your memory, read all about it here.  Hey, it's been a while since I've complained about him, and if he can become ruler of the two most powerful franchises in the known universe, then I feel it is my rightful destiny to complain about it!

But I digress...

The reason I brought you all here today, is to discuss the sequel to Abrams 2009 Star Trek 'reboot' *coughs*.  This one is called, Into Darkness.

Okay, I admit, I was kind of excited about seeing this.  Oh stop gasping, even I sometimes get excited about seeing a movie.  I mildly enjoyed the 2009 Star Trek, but I wasn't overly thrilled.  I felt it had a lot of potential, but missed the mark.  In other words, phasers were set slightly above 'meh', (check out the review here).  I really hoped that Abrams read my review, and learned some valuable lessons about how horrible lens flare really is, and how annoying a shaky camera and quick edits really are for people watching your movie. So I was eager to see if I could personally be responsible for improving the overall quality of his production!  Then when I saw the Into Darkness previews, I really thought it looked cool!

If you recall, in our last trek to the stars, some disgruntled random Romulan altered our time line, just enough so nothing is the same, but many things are similar.  I think the official rule is, Abrams picks what he wants to keep, and for everything else, you can blame it on the new timeline, and not Abrams.

This time, Kirk (Chris Pine) and crew go after terrorist John Harrison, (yes, we all know it, so say it with me here... actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who is equally awesome as a modern Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series, Sherlock).

For the most part, this was a fun movie.  Abrams gave us a great solid bad guy this time, and Cumberbatch was interesting to watch.  Although, I do wish they had given him a pure evil speech moment to solidify his official bad guyness, he was still consistently charismatic.  There were also plenty of beautiful images of some ships, and it was an exciting movie to watch.  Most of the characters and acting was good, and the running time of two hours and twelve minutes really flew by.

However... it was heavily flawed!

I know, I can hear everyone screaming, "But Deeesher, the timeline changed, and you are just annoyed cause it's not exactly like the Star Trek you know, so you need to get over yourself!".  Well, first, I am over myself, thank you very much.  And secondly, I'm not expecting it to be like the Star Trek I know.  I'm referring to simple common sense.  I don't care if it's Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or Doctor Who.  I'm looking for good solid writing and directing styles, (and for the record, the current Doctor Who wins that hands down).

So allow me a few moments to nitpick.  Let's begin with:

Directing.  Oh J.J., will you ever learn???  A lens flare is an effect, not a lifestyle choice!  Lens flare isn't quite as overwhelming as 2009's Star Trek, but it is still heavily overdone.  Can I just watch two people having a conversation without a lens flare blinding me please?  And can we have a choreographed fight scene where I can see the action please?!?  For the record, the chase scene towards the end, and ensuing fight weren't too painful to watch.  However, every other fight was just poorly directed.

Set Design.  From the thrown together garbage dump that is engineering, to the disorganization of the bridge on the Enterprise, (as well as the dreadnaught ship), it would be nice if someone had a sense of symmetry or the simple concept of a layout that you can understand.  The dreadnaught ship interiors were too dark to get any clear idea of how it looked, and the Enterprise bridge was painfully and unnecessarily bright (obviously lending itself to more and more lens flare opportunities). 

Costumes.  Who seriously approved any of these outfits?!?  Does the color Lifeless Grey exist?  Because that's what they used for the boring dress uniforms, (including the painfully unnecessary caps).  The enemy uniforms looked like a couple of grey and blue cloths of basketball mesh recklessly sewn together.  Even Cumberbatch wears nothing but a simple black shirt and pants.  I really think Abrams was doing everything he could to stay away from anything that people might want to cosplay at a convention!  He only used the traditional red, blue and yellow uniforms out of some obligation.  And even then, he looked for any opportunity to take them off, to wear more black or browns.  With these dark boring styles, mixed with the bland dark convoluted backgrounds, it was even more difficult to see any type of action sequence, when everything just blended together.

Writing.  Remember when I said the story was decent and moved along very nicely?  Don't question it.  Don't study it.  Don't examine it.  Don't you dare think for one second.  Because the moment you start to think, you will find flaws.  Endless flaws.  Flaws in common sense, and flaws in simple logic.  I could give you the list, but we would be here for a while.  There are some bad ideas that nobody in their right mind would do.  There are some homages that feel extremely forced and painfully predictable.  For some reason, Abrams continues to use writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.  When will someone in Hollywood realize, these guys aren't that good!  Between Prometheus, Lost, Cowboys and Aliens, and Transformers, none of these were known for their great storylines!  Okay, maybe Lost had a few decent moments, but gather a room full of nerds together during a panel discussion at any random sci-fi convention, and they could accidentally write a better story that makes more sense than anything these guys have ever written.  Stick to television and stop ruining our movies guys!

I have said (often), one of the reasons I respect the original Star Trek, is because most episodes were written by actual science fiction authors (such as Norman Spinrad, Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold etc), just like the original Twilight Zone, and the original Outer LimitsWhat happened to those days?  Why can't we hire real writers to write our movies and television shows again?  They are the ones with talent.  Give them a job please!  

Anyway, putting things back into perspective, Into Darkness is still not a bad movie.  Abrams did give us a few beautiful images of the Enterprise that were perfect for any computer desktop.  I even started to accept Chris Pine a bit more as Kirk (although he still has some growing up to do).  Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban and Simon Pegg (Uhura, McCoy, and Scotty) all did fantastic jobs again.  But biggest kudos to Zachary Quinto for Spock.  This felt like his movie from beginning to end.

So if you've never seen any incarnation of Star Trek in your entire life, and if you don't like thinking cause it hurts your brain too much, you will really like Star Trek Into Darkness.  Oh and by the way... stupidest title for a movie ever!

And by the way again... I am eagerly anticipating cosplay versions of Wetsuit Uhura!

Boldly being Deeesher

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

Remember when I used to have regular prescriptions to comic books?  Yes, I meant prescriptions, not subscriptions,  cause they cured what ailed you.  I regularly followed The Incredible Hulk, and Spider-man, and occasionally Batman and/or Superman.  But for me, I was only mildly aware of Iron Man.  He showed up at times in crossovers, but for the most part, I was bored with him.

Then in 2009, director Jon Favreau released the first Iron Man movie.  And God bless his little heart, it was awesome!  Soon after, Favreau  gave us a sequel, aptly named Iron Man 2 (review here), which was also very freakin' cool!  And last year, director Joss Whedon released Avengers, which was chock full of superhero goodness, and it completely melted our brains with how nerd-tastic it was (review here).

Now it's 2013, can director Shane Black continue to make Iron Man someone I could still lust after, (in a very heterosexual way) with Iron Man 3?

Here we have Tony Stark, losing sleep and in recovery from the events in Avengers.  Then suddenly (and perhaps too casually?), we have a terrorist names Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), randomly terrorizing people by blowing stuff up.  Tony gets annoyed, threatens him, then we have the rest of the movie.

And quite honestly, the rest feels sort of thrown together.  It's like someone was eager to finish the trilogy.  Which is a bad concept overall, when you realize there will be an Avengers 2, and most likely Avengers 3, staring... Iron Man!  Awkward...

Robert Downey Jr. is still Iron Man.  Or more to the point, he's still Tony Stark, who, for the most part, is still a fun characterBut it seems a bit unbalanced, like this movie should have been called Tony Stark, because there seems to be a serious lack of him being Iron Man.  Sure there is plenty of mech, but generally his suit is either falling apart, or it's automated.

I also have a real problem with Tony suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome from his Avengers adventure.  Isn't the whole concept of Tony Stark someone that kicks ass for the fun of it???  Exhausted yes, but mentally debilitating to him?  I think not.

Now let's talk about Mandarin.  *sigh*  Ben Kingsley did a great job but, after all the hype from the previews, this character is a very big disappointment.

Director Shane Black made a movie.  It fulfilled the requirements as a comic book movie, but this will always be my least favorite of the franchise, partly for story, and partly for directing.  Unfortunately, we have to suffer through some annoying shaky camera moments this time, which made me miss Favreau and Joss more and more.

I really feel like this Iron Man could have been a straight to video release, and it would be great.  But after Favreau and my BFF Joss Whedon raised the bar so high, it's difficult for anyone else to know what to do with the character.  Go see it anyway, and just shut off your brain for a while, and you'll be fine.

If all else fails, you can still enjoy some Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow)?