Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

dawn1Film of the year? Well, if it isn’t, its awfully close, and off the top of my head I can’t recall another film from this year that has impressed me quite as much as this remarkable film. Ladies and gentlemen, here is that rarest of beasts- the thoughtful, intelligent summer blockbuster. Sure, some people may point negatively at elements of the plot or some minor superficial characterisation, but that’s surely nit-picking. On the whole this is a fantastic movie, an example of high production values and magical effects married to an intelligent and nuanced script, a combination that raises it high above most genre offerings. I’d heard it was good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good this is*.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins with a prologue that largely recaps the first films finale, with the Apes on the loose and the ALZ-113 virus wreaking havoc as it spreads across the world.  The film then shows us the state of the Ape colony ten years after that prologue, and its already clear that the effects technology has moved on from that of the first film. Its really utterly magical and breathtaking watching these ape characters come to vivid life, and its evident that this is a film impossible just a few years ago (some of the CGI here is so beautifully crafted and rendered that afterwards I had to pause some shots just to marvel at the detail). We stay with the apes for some time and even the apes begin to wonder what has happened to the humans. Soon after two apes wandering in the woods happen across a human who panics and shoots one of them, nearly triggering an all-out conflict when the apes rush in on the small party of humans that have ventured into the woods. Its a microcosm of the movie; the suspicion and fear between ape and human and the precipice of bloody conflict. The humans retreat back to the ruins of San Francisco and we witness how far they have fallen, we  learn how desperate humanity’s few survivors are.

dawn2Knowing the overall arc of the original Apes film series, its obvious that things won’t end well for humanity. The clever thing about Dawn is that it shows that there was a chance, albeit slim, that things might have gone differently here. While there is a dark undercurrent of inevitable doom it is nonetheless countered by hope of forgiveness and reconciliation: the moment, say, when Malcolm’s artistic son shares a book with the ape Maurice and we glimpse of a peaceful co-existence that might have been. The complexity (such as it is in a Hollywood blockbuster) in this film,  is that it is not just the (predictable?) evil of humanity (albeit born by desperation) at fault, but also that of the Apes. And even here things aren’t as one-dimensional as they might have been. What might have been a poorly written ‘bad’ human, the engineer Carver (Kirk Acevedo), is here rather more nuanced- here is a man mourning for his lost life using the apes as a scapegoat/figure of blame. Likewise the ape Korba, who rebels against Caesar and instigates the eventual bloodletting between ape and human, is clearly traumatised by years of captivity and experimentation at the hands of human scientists. Korba isn’t evil, he just can’t forgive the humans what they did or trust they won’t do it again in the future. There is no real black and white here, rather welcome shades of grey. Indeed, even the noble Caesar has to admit that the humans and apes are far more alike than he had expected, his only mistake being that he thought that apes were better than the humans. Events spiral towards the war between ape and human that will no doubt be depicted in the next film.

I loved how so much of this film, particularly when it moves to the forest-infested ruins of San Francisco, harkens back to some of the wonderful imagery of 1960s and 1970s science-fiction films- particularly the original Apes films and Logans Run‘s ruined world outside its futuristic domes. There is a clear lineage of past films here in this dystopian future, with a sophistication impossible back when those films were made. There is such a strange and yet familiar beauty to the desolation, but the real beauty of Dawn is that it doesn’t simply rely on advances in effects wizardry- it has a clever and nuanced script and wonderful acting, particularly (and remarkably so) in the motion-captured characters.

dawn3So much just ‘clicks’ and feels so right in this film, its almost a revelation. Its curious to consider that this is ‘just’ a Hollywood summer blockbuster that might well have been just a dumb action romp with humans battling CGI apes in elaborate idiotic set-pieces. Often I watch flawed films and wonder what might have been- its a pleasant change seeing a good film and wondering at how bad it might otherwise have turned out to be. I’m not suggesting for a moment that this film is perfect. If I had to point towards any fault at the film, well, I’d liked to have seen a little more of the human society. As it is, the sense of loss and grief has to be conveyed in short moments, such as the poignant scene when Gary Oldman’s character, Dreyfus, manages to access old photographs of his wife and children, his old life that he has lost and is over-ridden by grief. It is so easy for that grief to turn to hate. What do you do at the End Of The World? You can empathise with some of the hatred, understand the causes for some of the ill-judged actions of both human and ape. Its all part of the inevitability, the remorseless movement towards disaster as one civilization falls and another rises. Its a very good film and one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve seen.

And yes, so many subtitles in a summer blockbuster- so those snotty kids that blockbusters are usually aimed at can actually read, eh? Who’d have thought it….

*I just wonder if this will be The Empire Strikes Back of the eventual Apes trilogy? It develops the premise set up in Rise and largely sets up events for the as yet un-named third entry, but is such a leap forwards for the series, and suffused with such a sense of dark inevitability, that I often thought back to TESB. Its even manages that clever trick of TESB that so many ‘middle’ films fail at- its got a very satisfying cliffhanger ending; I am eager to see what happens next and yet completely satisfied with what I have just seen- yes, certainly more TESB than Desolation of Smaug territory here.

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Godzilla (2014)

godzilla1I have no problem with this version of Godzilla basically being a big tease, offering mostly glimpses of the titular character as opposed to in-your-face full blown action. Its a problem with modern movies and all their CGI that we generally see too much. Little is left to the imagination these days, and sometimes less is more. The power of the original Alien, for instance, is that we see so little of the monster. It was likely something enforced on the film-makers because of the limitations they were under, but it worked to improve the film and is one of the reasons it stands the test of time so well. A modern Alien film would just go nuts showing the creature in all sorts of grisly detail, but I don’t think it would make the film any better.

Godzilla is a huge epic movie with lots and lots of CGI destruction, but it often limits how much we see of Godzilla itself, preferring to show what he/it leaves in its wake (I always wonder if I should I refer to Godzilla as ‘it’ rather than ‘he’), focusing much of the time on the effects he has on the environment as if he is a force of nature. This approach has frustrated many viewers but I think its refreshing. The problem is that the film struggles to fill the gap left by not focusing purely on the title character: the human supporting cast suffers somewhat in a fairly mediocre plot that, by being oddly formulaic, is at odds with the challenging approach of not focusing wholly on the creature itself. Its certainly a part of the script that deserved a little more work and focus. Its frustrating to see some of the fine cast fairly wasted as if they were in your usual effects-driven blockbuster, because it really isn’t that kind of film- its trying to be more sophisticated than that but unfortunately the end result is pretty much the same: by the last hour the carnage is colossal and the human characters are left floundering in its CGI wake. It isn’t the dramatic work it wants to be or should be. But it does have an impressive sense of scale, and many of the shots are breathtakingly good in the way they demonstrate the sheer size and power of the film’s monsters*. There is a beauty in all the destruction, so much so its odd to consider all the thousands of human deaths it represents; there is an odd dichotomy there.

Its commendable that the studio and producers intend to wait for director Gareth Edwards to become available for the sequel (Edwards sidelined for a year or two by a Star Wars project) rather than rush into it with another director at the helm. It will be fascinating to see where Edwards goes with the next film. I would imagine that it will be a better picture, simply as it will not be so hamstrung as this first film was with having to set everything up, but perhaps also it will be able to better serve the human cast as well. In a way, this film is indeed a big tease, but not simply in how it shows the title character- its actually teasing a better film that this should have been but hopefully the next will be. I don’t always look forward to sequels, I’d sooner films be better standalone pieces, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Roll on Godzilla 2.

 

*This is one of those films that I regret not seeing at the cinema. It looks gorgeous on Blu-ray but there is no way a home tv screen can approximate what this film must have looked like projected on a big theatrical screen. Must have been quite an experience.

The 2014 Hitlist Revisited

Readers with a long memory may recall I started this year with a hitlist of movies to watch during 2014. A wishlist of films that either had been on the shelf for too long or new discs I had yet to see, I set up the hitlist thinking it might be enough to drive me into actually watching some of the films. Well, it had mixed results really, and if I decide to set up a 2015 Hitlist I’ll need to be more disciplined/determined about nailing it. Or more choosy about what I put on it.

So looking back at the 2014 Hitlist, what do we have, and how did I do?

betty1) Betty Blue– Well, we’re off to a bad start immediately, as this one somehow slipped through the cracks and didn’t get watched at all. Which is rather odd as I ‘ve always been curious about it, ever since a friend raved about his VHS copy many moons ago. Maybe one to add to the 2015 Hitlist then.

2) Cinema Paradiso– This one I watched, and really enjoyed. Finally I could understand all the fuss and attention around this film for all those years. Indeed, one of the better films that I would see all year.

3) Only God Forgives– Watched this one too. Found it rather odd and disappointing really, particularly after I had enjoyed Drive so much before. Smacked of over-indulgence on all levels really, to the detriment of ‘proper’ or effective storytelling. One to revisit sometime maybe.

4) Cleopatra– Another one slips through the cracks. I’m not expecting anything special, which is why I guess I’ve been putting it off still (well, that and the length of the darn thing). Maybe because I know its a film more famous for the stories behind it than for the film itself. Which is something true of the next film on my list-

hgate5) Heaven’s Gate– What a shocking disappointment this was. I really wanted to like it but good grief it was so poorly constructed with a really lacklustre script. I think it should be screened every year in Films Schools as an object lesson in How Not To Do It. Really, its one of those rare films that even though its bad, I’d actually recommend, particularly to film buffs as its quite an eye-opener. In an odd way, it almost forgives Hollywood for all the ‘safe’, over-marketed and simplistic/sanitized crap we get these days. Subject for discussion one day: Its because of Heavens Gate that we now suffer Transformers.

6) The Maltese Falcon– Didn’t get around to it. Shame on me.

7) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition– This I did see, and quite enjoyed. Frustrating thing is, watching it I have the constant thought that this should have been a live-action Batman or how Nolan’s trilogy ended.

8) Harry Potter 8-Film Collection– Hey, now this I did watch, a boxset binge of a massive film franchise that passed me by on its cinema releases. Unfortunately this is how movies are going these days; turning into boxsets. Its a strange thing really. The Potter films are fine but increasingly fail to function as individual movies, which is a bit of a problem. As a series boxset, there is also an issue that the best of the films is the third instalment, and that its frankly all downhill from there. But hey, its eight films so it was some kind of result actually getting through it. Of course this is how some people now ‘discover’ the Star Wars films or the Lord of the Rings films (one day it’ll be a LOTR saga of six films, which will give newbies a struggle getting through three bloated Hobbit movies before getting to the good stuff).

9) Lolita (possibly the last Kubrick film I have yet to see)- Ah, no. Didn’t get to it, so its a Kubrick I have still to see. It occurs to me that there is something very wrong with the world if I watch so many rubbish films and yet still have a film by Kubrick that I have yet to see.

10) Marnie (one of the few Hitchcock’s I have yet to see) ) No, not this either. Again, I watch stuff like Transformers 4 but I have a Hitchcock film on the shelf unseen? Okay, I hear its hardly vintage Hitchcock but all the same, its got to be seen, yes?

Beyond those ten, I had a further ten, which were films I had seen before but not yet in HD. These were Blu-rays I’d bought usually as upgrades from DVDs but hadn’t watched yet. Unfortunately I only watched two of them, so won’t go into any detail here. Other than to say I must try harder next year, and I cannot believe I haven’t watched my Blu-rays of Big Trouble in Little China or Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. What the hell have I been doing in 2014?

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

...and, er, where's Bilbo, exactly...?
…and, er, where’s Bilbo, exactly…?

The problem with these Hobbit films, it seems to me, is that they just aren’t The Hobbit. Purists had problems with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but those films were gospel compared to the liberties taken with The Hobbit in making it a trilogy. The book The Hobbit was about Bilbo Baggins and his adventure with a company of dwarves. That adventure seems almost incidental to the big wide story told in The Hobbit film trilogy.  There are whole new characters and plots and arcs that are just there to pad out the story and add ties to the LOTR trilogy; its all about making a six-film saga. Whether that’s about ticket sales or DVD/Blu-ray boxset sales, I don’t know, but I sincerely suspect its all about the financial gains rather than any artistic merit. The case of Smaug is a prime example- any dramatic weight and build-up to the dragons climactic attack on Laketown and how he is finally beaten is completely dissipated by shoving it over to the beginning of the third film rather than having it at the end of the second film. It leaves the second film with an awkward and infuriating cliffhanger, dumps the action into the awkward start of the third chapter and loses any dramatic power. No doubt it will seem okay when its all part of a boxset over consecutive nights but as far as separate movies are concerned, trilogy or not, its crazy decision-making and robs the sequence of the climactic power it should have. Smaug is such a highlight of the book, but he becomes, like Bilbo, almost incidental to the Bigger Picture that Jackson is so fascinated by.

Its such a pity, because having now seen these three Hobbit films, I have to say, there’s perhaps two great films here. Had it been a Hobbit Part One and a Hobbit Part Two, I think we may indeed have had something great- as it is the parts (and whole) are lessened considerably by going with a trilogy.

Sadly it just seems to be symptomatic of where films are going these days, drifting into a HBO-style miniseries format of episodic tales (albeit with huge budgets). That’s another problem I have with these particular Hobbit films; they didn’t need to be so huge, so spectacular. The films are at their best when they are at their most intimate. Its something that was true of the LOTR films too but Peter Jackson and company seem to have lost sight of that lesson. Instead we just go bigger, louder, as if that is inherently better, which is simply not true. The Hobbit is at its best when we have the marvellous Martin Freeman onscreen, whether he be in peril and working his way through his adventure, the films are at their worst when Martin Freeman is swamped by CGI or indeed offscreen and replaced by countless hundreds of cgi characters and creatures telling someone else’s story. Besides, I always thought of The Hobbit as a charming, simple, somewhat intimate adventure. It was never supposed to be as big or important as LOTR, surely?

These films are an opportunity lost, then. Maybe somebody will do a fan-edit one day, stripping them down somehow. There’s two good films in there, somewhere.

 

Fifty Great Films: Blade Runner -The Final Cut (1982/2007)

br1“Where were you in ’82?” Its a question I’ve asked so many times that I should have it on a tee-shirt. Its something of a badge of honour, having seen the original version of Blade Runner back when it first came out (reaching UK shores that September), and loving the film, and watching its fall into obscurity and eventual phoenix-like rebirth years later.

Last night I saw the Final Cut version of Blade Runner on the big screen again, taking the rare opportunity of a cinema screening of my favourite film. This close to Christmas made the whole thing seem something of an early Christmas present. I went with my old mate Andy, who was with me back on that September afternoon in far-distant 1982 when we first saw the film. “How long ago was that?” he asked me as the endless adverts screened infront of us (some things never change, although I miss the Pearl and Dean intros). I did the mental arithmetic; “Thirty-two years,” I told him. Andy looked around at some of the faces sitting amongst us in the cinema. A lot of them were not even born back then.  The very cinema we first saw the film in (the old ABC in town) doesn’t exist any more. Thirty-two years. Andy and I are each of us just shy of fifty years old now. I have a wife waiting for me back home. It seemed oddly poignant then, at that moment, the two of us dwelling on the passing of time, considering how so much of Blade Runner is about death and mortality. We wondered how many of those at this screening had never seen the film on the big screen at all before this night*.

If we are getting old, then so is the film, but you’d hardly think it. Even though I love the film, its still remarkable how well it holds up even today. The sets and the beautiful cinematography really shine projected on a big screen, the sound effects loud and overpowering, the music as astonishing as ever. All that amazing set-dressing. The film influenced the ‘look’ of pop videos, television shows and other movies for decades. Back on the big screen, the visual effects hold up as well as ever- indeed, better on the big screen than at home. Its not so much just the execution, its the design of each shot, and the impact of using effects so sparingly, something modern films could learn from. Even the matte paintings. Blade Runner dates back to paintings on glass, static wide shots quite removed from the all-singing/all-dancing 3D CG mattes we see these days with sweeping virtual cameras. But stillness can be far more powerful than motion, and Blade Runner‘s mattes are quite a revelation, precisely designed and crafted.

Its a beautiful movie. Such details! Rachael’s photograph momentarily coming to life as Deckard looks at it. Its extraordinary. Who thought of doing that? Who even does stuff like that now? The blood from Deckard’s cut lip slipping into his drink. Deckard waking up in his apartment, awkwardly spilling his glass that had been on his chest. The cuts and bruises on his face. Rutger Hauer’s incredible performance; his face up on the big screen is quite mesmerising. His howls of anguish as he stands over Pris’ body. Still gives me chills.

br3Its such a dark movie, but such a sad movie too. The sadness threatens to overpower everything. A character has her whole life undermined when she learns she isn’t real, not even her memories or experiences. Its all a lie, a fabrication, as she is herself. Rick Deckard may not even be real. He might be just the same as Rachael. Its not an idea I subscribe to, but its there, a possibility hanging over everything, underlined by the origami unicorn that he finds at the close of the film**. The Replicants are slaves who have fled for freedom and longer lifespans as they quickly near their termination/expiry dates. JF Sebastian has a genetic problem that leaves him in a mouldering, rotting building, so alone his only company are the ‘friends’, the toys he builds. The rain never ends, its like Gods tears endlessly falling onto the blighted world.

Even now, thirty-two years on, it feels so unlike any other so-called blockbuster. It almost doesn’t function like an ordinary movie. Without 1982’s voice-over, it really does drop people into the middle of a story (if only The Final Cut had finally dropped that awful text prologue at the end of the titles!), a future rich with darkness and complexities. I’m the first to admit though, the central premise is idiotic. There is no way anyone would create superior artificial humans without an easy way to identify them. A blood test or some microscopic stamp in their eye or under their skin. Be that as it may, the four runaway Reps are supposedly on the run/in hiding but don’t even change their names, Leon trying to infiltrate the Tyrell building giving his real address and not even changing his name, his appearance or anything. Holden’s only got to look at the ID file on Leon (that we see as Bryant shows it Deckard later) to see that its him. But none of that matters. In some ways its not even important. Its the whole thing. The look, the sound of it. Its a fantasy about death and mortality and what is human, what is God. Of course it flopped at the box-office back in 1982. It isn’t the film people were expecting back then. Its something else entirely. Every Harrison Ford fan back then could have told you why***.

At films end, we walked out of the cinema into the cold December night, and it was, fittingly, raining. The rain-drenched carpark and shopping mall reflecting all the bright neon of shop-fronts, advertising signs and car headlights. We were stepping out into Blade Runner. Its here now. Back in 1982 it was still the future, but we are in it now. We may not have the flying cars or Replicants or Off-World, but we have the rain and the neon and the multi-cultural society that the film visualised. And some of us have our own mortality breathing closer over us.

Back in 1982, it was still quite sunny as Andy and I walked across town to catch our bus home. I remember us raving about the film, reliving it as we eagerly discussed it, digested it. Would I have ever dreamed that I would be walking out of another cinema, another showing of the film, some thirty-two years later? Of course not. Funny thing though. We were still raving about that film, this time as we walked through the rain, just as we had when we were teenagers so long ago. Some things never change.

 

br2

 

*This would be the fifth time I have seen the film at the cinema, the first time seeing the Final Cut on a cinema screen. I saw the film twice in 1982, then again the following year in a double-bill with Outland (another Ladd Company venture), and then the Directors Cut version in 1994. I didn’t get chance to see the Final Cut in 2007, screenings were quite limited prior to its release on home formats.

**I still feel uncomfortable in the love-scene between Deckard and Rachael. It feels almost like rape, she isn’t even human, what’s Deckard doing with her, is it masturbatory abuse of a construct? (is he making love to a toaster? Is that even legal? Is he even human himself? Are they two Replicants fumbling at a human sex-act?). But goodness Sean Young is so beautiful in this film. Too beautiful. She isn’t real. She’s a construct. I’m surprised Sean Young even exists outside of this movie.

***What was Harrison even doing in the film anyway? He’s great in it and I think its his best film, but it seems an odd move for him. Likely he was trying to shake off Star Wars and become a ‘serious’ actor (its funny, considering some of the films he would end up in afterwards). Oddly, I was never ‘into’ that whole Harrison Ford thing anyway back then, had not even seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, so when I first saw Blade Runner I wasn’t expecting any popcorn adventure movie. It was from the director of Alien for goodness sake, I figured it would be dark and serious.

The Wire coming to HD

wire1Here’s a link to a very fascinating blog entry from The Wire creator David Simon concerning HBO releasing the show remastered for HD. Anyone who has seen the show will know just how special it is (myself, I’d rate it as the finest tv series I have ever seen). The complication is that the show  was originally mastered for SD in 4:3 ratio (largely due to when it was made and its budget), and in remastering the film elements for HD broadcast, HBO have also decided to reformat it to 16:9 ratio to better match consumers current displays.  Its a very open and in-depth account of the pros and cons, with an equally interesting comments section in which some purists air their own views and Simon responds. Its a great read and well worth anyone’s time, regardless of whether you are a fan of the show or not.

Anyway, here’s the link. Do check it out:

http://davidsimon.com/the-wire-hd-with-videos/

Alas, Blade Runner 2…

blade1Years ago, back in the mid/late ‘eighties, I would never have dared dream this were even possible. I have mentioned several times here in the past, how Blade Runner utterly disappeared from the spotlight following its dismal box-office failure in 1982, and its equally poor critical reception. The rise of home video, and its need for fresh product, gave Blade Runner a second life. Repeated viewings unveiled its nuances and the public (eventually) caught up with the film. If ever a film could be said to be ahead of its time, Blade Runner was it.

Sometimes I look back on those days when the film was the very definition of the word ‘cult’ with some fondness. I recall an outside examiner marking my art design folio during my degree days coming across some Blade Runner-inspired work of mine (I believe it was ideas for a boardgame tie-in); suddenly he paused, sat back and launched into a reverie about the film. “There was a philosophy about that film,” he remarked, and then my artwork was forgotten and we were sharing our thoughts/love for the film like kindred spirits sharing some arcane knowledge. I literally could count on the fingers of one hand back then the people I knew that had any awareness of the film at all.

The years have changed that of course, and the films later success seems to have reached a point that seemed quite impossible back then. They are now going to make a sequel.

If ever a film never needed  sequel, Blade Runner is it. Particularly after so many years. But one thing Hollywood loves is a sequel, and a marketable IP to work from. Over the years the film has gained such a following and critical acclaim that I guess it was inevitable, particularly following the success of The Final Cut version back in 2007 (has it been so long since then?). The only good thing about a sequel is that it isn’t a remake-  thankfully Hollywood has at least not gone down that route.

So on the one hand, I consider any Blade Runner 2 with some loathing. How can it possibly improve on the original? What can it add to it? How many are the ways it could completely fuck everything up and damage the credibility and status of the original (countless, surely)? Sometimes I think the magic of Blade Runner is its very age- it’s neon-drenched 1980s vibe and its photochemical effects. What the hell can CGI add to it?

And yet there is a nagging curiosity, particularly with Ridley Scott attached to the project (although that’s diluted somewhat following Prometheus), regards the possibilities. Its the same way I felt about Prometheus pre-release, and for the Star Wars prequels…  maybe none of those realised those possibilities, but you never know. You just never know.

Recently Ridley Scott commented about the film in an interview: “We talked at length about what it could be, and came up with a pretty strong three-act storyline, and it all makes sense in terms of how it relates to the first one,” Scott said, adding that Harrison Ford was involved too. “Harrison is very much part of this one, but really it’s about finding him; he comes in in the third act.”

That makes me rather nervous. Its one thing to have another movie spinning off from the original but quite something else to bring back characters from the original- particularly Rick Deckard. There has been some bone of contention regards Deckard being human (my own preference) or a Replicant (Ridley’s preference, wrong/nonsensical as it may be), but I like the idea that its open to interpretation and the film can be ‘read’ either way. I’d contend that having the character in a sequel would rather indicate a definitive statement either way. I prefer the vagueness, the subtlety, the mystery. Its like turning Space Jockeys into bald giants, we just don’t need it.

Anyway, Blade Runner 2 certainly seems to be happening, and next year we’ll see developments and I intend to run posts on this blog as they arise. Its a bumpy ride all the way to a likely (how could they ignore it) release in November of 2019. Well, maybe it will arrive before then, but its got to be tempting to go for that date, hasn’t it?

November 2019. I vividly remember walking to a RPG session with some of my nerdy mates way back in my teens, talking about Blade Runner, thinking about the year 2019, what the world would be like, working out how old we would be. It seemed a lifetime away, 2019, just as the year 2001 and its own filmic associations still seemed some time off. But 2019 is coming, and so is Blade Runner 2. Its a very strange world sometimes.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guard1Of all this summer’s releases, this is the one that seemed to tick all the boxes and really got my interest. I even very nearly saw it at the cinema until work etc got in the way. Marvel’s films have been getting better and better and here we were with Marvel doing a fresh new space opera. There was even a rumour a favourite duck of mine would have a cameo. What’s not to love?

Here’s the thing. On my first viewing of the Blu-ray last week, I didn’t like it. It didn’t ‘click’ somehow. To be fair it was a bad night and the stars didn’t seem to align at all. Thirty minutes into the film I was interrupted by a visitor and had to switch it off for nearly an hour, and then having resumed the film it was later further interrupted by a phone-call that necessitated another fifteen minutes of downtime.  Remember than Batman line, “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb”? Well, I guess some days you just cannot get to watch a movie. Just wasn’t meant to be I guess. Added to that it was just too weird and odd ball for my wife to enjoy and the night seemed to end on a downer, another film falling victim to too much hype.

Fast-forward 24 hours and my wife is out and I give the film another go. And this time I enjoy it much more. Its not a perfect film, and I think its weaker than John Carter, a film whose failure to spawn sequels still irritates. Indeed its weird how Guardians seems to have captured the public’s imagination whilst John Carter was left buried in the box-office dirt- my preference for the latter film may be a contentious issue but I just think it was more natural and fun. Guardians clearly has the bigger ‘wow’ factor with its set-pieces/effects but there is an awful lot of cgi work and very one-dimensional characters amongst its supporting cast. The villains in particular are very weak.

There was a warmth and spirit in John Carter, and a gorgeous sweeping score- in fact I think the music may be the problem. Guardians just feels a little forced, and I think it lacks a personality of its own, mainly because the score is so very poor (the film dominated instead by its clever use of source music). I think these kind of films benefit from having hummable, whistleable tunes. It tries so hard for the spirit of 1977’s Star Wars and 1980s Empire Strikes Back but it lacks their charm, mostly because of its music.  Its nothing unique to Guardians, its a fault common with so many films nowadays, its just the style of scoring so prevalent in Hollywood today. It sounds so bland and generic, no character seems to have an iconic theme or anything.

Its just that, well, Guardians seems to me to be a film easy to admire but not to love, whereas I just adore John Carter. Personal preference I guess. Its not a bad film and I really did enjoy it the second time, but… well, maybe the next one, eh? At least it will get a next one.