Quick Hit: Game Over.
The history of failed video game movies has been discussed ad nauseum throughout the internet film community. I’m not going to add onto that discussion more than is necessary, besides to say that I think this movie adds to that heap. What I don’t understand is how this happened. There is a terrific story in these games – one that I’m a huge fan of. In fact, there are multiple awesome stories throughout the franchise. Couple that with the fact that there are two solid actors in Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and you should have had an amazing story that dove into the depth of the stories in the games.
Instead… well, we ended up with something that sort of resembled the games, but was actually really boring. And we’re talking about someone that has their mind transported into the body of their ancestor in order to live out their memories via science. HOW CAN THAT BE BORING?
I know how, because this movie did it. The movie focused on the most boring part of the games (at least the early ones) – the Animus and Abstergo industries and made them the main focus of the game. They also pulled a lot of the interesting parts of going back into your ancestor out, and the story seemed nonsensical and confusing once we actually were able to see the memories. Part of that had to do with the way the Animus was interpreted in this film – which isn’t to say I don’t understand why, because audiences aren’t really paying to watch Michael Fassbender lie on a bed. But the back and forth action, while at times cool, was rendered boring after seeing it enough.
The one thing I will give is that Fassbender does a great job in the memories. I could really take him or leave him as Callum, but when he is actively acting as Aguilar, he is terrific. He makes some of the action scenes worthwhile, and I was pleasantly surprised with Ariane Labed as well. It just shows that if you focused on the right portions of the movie, you could have completely changed the feel of it for the better. I especially liked the fact that here the music was toned differently than back at Abstergo. It added to the different feel of it, despite it often times seeming generic.
I hope that this doesn’t discourage from more attempts at this series. As I stated in the opening paragraph, there is a really great story there for the right writer/director team. But this version only can get a “D” from me.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Visually appealing and full of uniqueness, this adaptation of Ghost in the Shell falls flat in some areas while succeeding in others.
I can honestly say I’ve never watched a movie that felt quite like Ghost in the Shell. The closest is when I first saw the Matrix as a young kid – I was probably about nine or ten years old. The digitizing of the human figure within a constantly updating digital world is something that provides fascinating visual capabilities, and it’s something that director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Hunstman) exploits for all its worth.
The movie follows Major (Scarlett Johansson), an agent of the Japanese government and human brain implanted robot. It’s astounding how often she surprises you with what she can do – it seems as if in this world, everything is unlocked to her. While the main plot of a high powered conspiracy runs dry within a few minutes of the opening story, Johansson still mines workable material out of an otherwise forgettable script. She somehow manages to allow Major to be a character that is full of struggle, despite rarely varying her emotion outlook on her face.
The bad guys are really generic, but the world that they are placed in isn’t. With large, digital ads scattered throughout the city, the world is instantly immersive. That, coupled with the different action scenes of Major fighting, make the world truly seem like it’s animation. This is a live action film that mirrors directly what you experience when playing a video game or reading a manga comic. The really effective visuals are unfortunately the best part of this movie.
That’s mainly because the rest of Major’s interactions are limited to generic bad guys, a sidekick who looks cool but is extremely wooden, and leadership and “doctors”/scientists that are essentially people that say smart technobabble. Even the other robots in the world seem to be mainly geishas. That’s my biggest kick on the film, which is unfortunate because a lot of the film was enjoyable. Despite having a formulaic plot twist, with more character building, it wouldn't have been quite as bad.
Ghost in the Shell is forgettable, but fun to look at. Fans of the game and comics will enjoy it. I’m giving it a “C-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Racial message isn’t hidden at all, but it doesn’t come across too strongly, and manages to hold onto its horror tropes to be a very strong debut.
I originally remember the first time I read about Get Out. I think it was on Cracked.com, where they run a serious about WTF movies that are coming out. When you think about Jordan Peele, you don’t necessarily think an intelligent horror thriller, because he has been so successful at comedy. However, Peele’s writer/director debut turns out to be one of the greatest horror movies I’ve seen in recent years – a smart retelling of some classic horror stories, now with a racial twist.
The film follows Chris (played by David Kaluuya of the terrific Merits episode of Black Mirror) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) as they travel out of the big city to visit her parents, Dean and Missy Armitage (played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener respectively). Chris’s main concern is that he’s black and Rose hasn’t mentioned it to her parents. After some smoothing over, Chris goes along and is eventually welcomed into the Armitage home with open arms. Sure, Dean is a bit of a covert racist, what with his constant use of “brotha” and references to famous black people, but it’s written off as harmless.
The movie really picks up with the hypnosis of Chris, and the overall feeling of wrongness that has permeated everything. This includes the only other black people there, who happen to be housekeeper and groundskeeper. It looks bad, and their behavior makes it seem even worse. The casual racism seems to be escalating throughout, with some people being as bold as to grab Chris’s muscles and speak to his genetic makeup. Throughout, the sense of race is pervading and is genuinely uncomfortable throughout, particularly as the fabled privelged white male. It speaks true because we’ve all seen people do that exact thing.
While all this social commentary and horror tropes (because Peele never loses sight of the fact that this is indeed a horror film) is going on, there’s also one of the best supporting characters in the history of horror. His name is Rod Williams and he is played by LilRel Howery. Rod is Chris’s best friend, a TGA agent, and absolutely hilarious. He provides the tension break throughout the entire film, and also is the audience stand-in. At times, he is voicing exactly what the audience is thinking, and that’s why I personally love horror films – characters are even more encouraged to do that.
I spoke briefly to the horror tropes – Get Out follows the formula that several thrillers have before it. The opening scene, which instantly calls to mind some of the racial fueled shootings and killings, finds a man being kidnapped violently. There are frequently people appearing out of nowhere – including one scene at night with a man running full out and referring to it later as “his exercise”. By maintaining these and the comedy, Peele has created something that is extremely elusive – a film with a strong social commentary that isn’t just a sermon – it’s an entertaining message to all that watch.
That’s why I’m giving the film an “A”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"