Archives for category: Movies

A key rule of the theater is what I like to call the “staircase” rule. First the play begins with a small example of drama, then proceeds with a larger and larger act of drama, culminating in a final, penultimate expression at the end. It is a building process, and a mode of storytelling that has been utilized for centuries. Adherence to this formula can either help or hinder a film’s potential. Such is the risk of all movies. 2011’s Conan The Barbarian is no different.

The movie’s introduction is an example of the film’s bloody, over-the-top violence. Five minutes into the film and a 10-year old Conan brings back the severed heads of foreign invaders. Then the film jumps forward an unknown number of years, where a chance encounter with a noseless raider takes Conan on a quest to avenge the death of his father and his village.

The time jump could be seen as both good and ill. Back stories, while important, can overwhelm the movie’s pace with too much information, or leave a movie struggling to top expectations that are simply too high to reach. In jumping ahead in years the film seeks to keep the rhythm flowing from event to event, but it also serves as an abrupt halt, leaving Morgan Freeman’s narration to describe a vital chunk of Conan’s life.

The film has the usual fantasy elements: bloodthirsty sand-mummies, an unseen homage to the 1982 film’s giant serpent, among others. However, the devotion the film pays to it’s creatures leaves the human cast somewhat wanting. The film’s antognists (father-and-daughter duo of Khalar Zym and Marique) leave a lot to be desired. There is a moment between these characters that illustrate their toxic relationship. It is clear that Marique is desperate to prove her importance to her father’s bloody quest of godhood but is only seen as a vessel for his ideals. “You are not your mother,” he says after Marique’s begging. It implies that, were his daughter’s sacrifice necessary for the resurrection of his wife, Zym would not hesitate to abandon her to such a fate. But the moment is only an implication, never explored in the film.

Jason Momoa provides an intense but slimmer Conan. His over-the-top voice is a reminder of Christian Bale’s “Batman growl.” Momoa does carry a natural intensity to the character, portraying a Conan that is constantly keeping his temper in check, that might explode into bloody vengeance at any time. Schwarzengger’s Conan brought more physical presence to the role but ruined the performance with his accent. Momoa’s character, by contrast, is more believable while keeping an over-the-top exaggeration.

Is Conan the Barbarian better or worse than it’s 1982 predecessor? That is kind of up in the air. The audience will have to decide whatever or not to become one of the Conan faithful, but it is a good two-hour adventure. Go ahead. You might just enjoy it.

I have just seen a trailer for next year’s Amazing Spider-Man movie, and while I’m unsure if I like the dark direction the movie is going, I will say it’s an inventive plot twist. A few spoilers are necessary, I’m afraid. This is not a sequel of the movies starring Tobey Maguire. This is a reboot of the series, with new actors and a new director Marc Webb. The three previous movies do not exist in this movie’s timeline.
The biggest change is Peter Parker himself. He’s always been a social outcast, but the movie takes it to a new extreme. Peter is haunted by the loss of his parents. His clothes and attitude gives him a damaged kid going through the motions. This Parker shuns other people to avoid the emotional risk of getting too close. Experience has taught him to fiercely guard his past so as to not let anyone in. This is a moody, isolated loner that actor Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin in the Social Network) portrays well in the trailer. I especially like the hoodie look, like he’s ducking underneath the hood to hide himself from others.
Mary-Jane Watson is not in the Amazing Spider-Man. The script takes a page from the earlier comics by pairing Peter will his first love Gwen Stacy. There is less variety for Gwen (Emma Stone from Easy A) in the clips, and there was barely any heft in the Raimi/Maguire films to provide a complete comparison. Gwen seems to be the kind-hearted girl who sees past Peter’s loner persona to the nice guy underneath. She tries to get him to open up, which is difficult at first. She has to volunteer information to her family because Peter is way outside his comfort zone. It’s like he’s hiding behind her skirts. It will be interesting to see how Gwen changes Peter, and the role she will play in Spider-Man’s debut.
Yes, the suit is different this time. I don’t know why there’s more blue in the gloves or why there is significantly less red on the back or the thinner spider emblem. I suppose it’s a “kitchen sink” scenario; the movie reboots everything else, so why not the suit? Another possibility is that the suit was made different to emphasize the separation between the film and the three Maguire films before it, and make it stand out. It could be a hundred other things, too. I just don’t know.

The site IGN.com just announced WB’s interest in a Green Lantern sequel, which makes me cringe. There are always difficulties in translating a medium inspired by imagination to caters to all fan factions. Going in bold new directions in a franchise — live-action, who has the strangest dialogue or choosing the exact point in the comic’s lifetime to begin the movies — is always risky. That being said, I think that the decision to cast Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan is a mistake.

Ryan Reynolds is a comedian. A very good comedian, but still a comedian. His Hal Jordan portrayed a history of fear that kept him running away from the opportunties in his life. The Comic Hal Jordan saw his father die and came out of the siutation stronger. If he got through the worst moment in his life, then nothing else could make him afraid.

I understand that portraying heroes as ordinary people connects to fans on a personal level. However, with everything about comic book movies it’s a balancing of the scales kind of thing. Just enough of fanservice, just enough creativity to keep the spark going. Reynolds’ Jordan was a boy. Hal Jordan is a man and should be portrayed as such. Hopefully WB producers will see that and cast a more mature actor to the role (Cough-Nathan Fillion-Cough)