Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movies of 2013, Action, pt1

GI Joe Retaliation, or "Why is the destruction of London and the murder of millions taken so in stride?"
Overall: 5/10
Also, all of the posters are awful.  They look like the covers to a generic shooter video game, this is the best one and it looks like it is advertising a discotheque.
            This movie is about as good a film as we could have possibly expected considering how shit the first one was.  And since it ties up all but one loose thread it will serve as a decent end to this current era of GI Joe on the big screen... Probably.  They might make another one.  I don't really want them to.
            The first one suffered(?) from throwing in a lot of goofy stuff that I guess would have been cool if the movie had not been about GI Joe and instead had just been about super soldiers fighting some massive corporate-terrorism scam... Even though the plot was stupid, the universe needlessly small, and the bad guys were badly executed... Come to think of it this series shares a lot of issues with the new "Star Trek" franchise but consistently has poorer direction (though better than the first one).
            Actually there are plenty of fun things in the movie, there is a massive cliff side ninja battle that is a lot of fun, if the Ninja Turtles had shown up to lend a hand and this had all been a giant set up for a shared universe between GI Joe and their future movies it would have all but redeemed the thing.  The Rock is fun, though the movie somewhat contradicts itself with his skill level and unloads (rather than fires) Chekhov's gun, the movie shows his ability with a massive firearm at the start of the film and during the climax his skill fails to hit a much larger target, I actually watched a review online that said they should have just had the Rock play himself in the tradition of real life pro-wrestlers and fictional athletes being GI Joe's (like Sgt. Slaughter and Rocky).
            But there is so much needless crap in this movie, they have Cobra Commander in it and he does nothing, they kill Destro without having ever had him standing outside of a cage.  They have Storm Shadow, who was run through in the last movie back alive without any explanation.  The climax of the film has the entire city of London totally annihilated by a space based weapon... Millions are dead... Beautiful to look at... Totally unnecessary, and actually really pissed me off because it marks the second time a major city outside the United States has suffered either near or total obliteration and it is not treated with the gravity it should.
            The film cheapens itself, cheapens its characters, and makes less and less sense in its own universe, mostly because it is just starting from a really bad place, the first movie which knee capped any chance this thing of really functioning.  Let's just let this series quietly expire in the corner, and do something else with it later, cause it isn't working.

The Lone Ranger, or "This is a really uneven movie... Which averages out in my opinion."
Overall: 6/10
There is maybe too much going on.
            Wasn't all that bad.  This movie is making a lot of, "WORST MOVIE EVAR!" lists because it has a white man playing an Indian, the titular character won't stop sucking, it is overly cynical, and the tone is all over the map.  Yeah... Can't really argue with any of that, but I am reminded of something from Shakespeare (yes I am mentioning the bard in a review of "The Lone Ranger").

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream, -Puck

 If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts,
Just repeat to yourself "It's just a show,
I should really just relax
For Mystery Science Theater 3000. -MST3K

             This entire movie is told from the perspective of an aging, doddering, traumatized old man... Tonto.  The framing device of the movie is Tonto telling the story of his first adventure with his friend the Lone Ranger to a young kid in a Wild West show attraction.  And you know what happens in stories told by old or silly people?  They have a hard time keeping things on track.
            Tonto throughout the story talks about things that are clearly too dark to be talking to children about, (in one scene his entire race is slaughtered in a suicide charge against the villain, and Tonto gets away, only to watch as bits of feathers and native regalia wash down a river, his society is being washed away.  Then they make a joke about how the Lone Ranger's horse acts funny... He does this because the old man Tonto is telling this story and if he dwells too long on the sad parts either he or the kid he is telling the story to is going to cry, so he breaks the tension with a joke).
            There is also the issue of the "main character".  The Lone Ranger is a naive overly optimistic fool.  At numerous opportunities he is confronted with the man who killed his brother (a man also responsible for killing a lot of Tonto's people), and rather than letting Tonto kill the guy, he fights Tonto and takes the guy in to face trial... While knowing that the system is corrupt and there is someone helping the outlaw from the inside.  Of course the Ranger gets betrayed and nearly killed.  Actually, it could be said that this movie's message is teaching one young attorney to chose the path of violence and revenge because justice is a lie constructed by the rich so as to more easily exploit those who are different from us... I can kind of get behind that message... but then they frame it as, "I used to think that you were the Wendigo (cannibal) but now I see you are just a white man."  Really, Tonto?  I know the movie could be saying that you no longer believe that some supernatural evil is to blame that regular old greed is to blame, but it makes it sound like white people are the problem rather than say... That guy who did the crime...  That kind of pissed me off, we are supposed to be past that level of liberal guilt.
I also liked the bird hat and the mystic weirdness.  It was certainly memorable.
Rather than ANOTHER iteration of these characters, they had their own iteration of these characters.
            There is also another scene in which a military commander who was tricked into killing a lot of innocent people refuses to believe that he was tricked, and just up and decides to be a bad guy (metaphor for American military?)  I guess they could be saying that rather than admit that killing Indians is wrong we all just bought into the idea that they had it coming?  This movie throws a lot of stuff out there with themes and ideas, but it does so in the context of some old guy talking about how shit people were/are.
            Could have cut some stuff to make it work better, it was too long, really the whole framing device of old Tanto was stupid and overly cynical, and the bad guys make lots of bad decisions. But, there were a lot of fun gags, a lot of good action, the costuming was good, and the dialogue never felt forced or unrealistic. The movie was okay. Solidly okay... So long as you take it on its own terms.  It certainly was not one of the worst films of the year. Nor was it nearly as bad as people led me to believe.
            Basically, whenever the theme kicks in, I felt myself getting caught up in the action and excitement.

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