Zack Snyder (director of 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and the upcoming Man of Steel) has begun talking about his next project. Searching for another success like the historical epic 300, he’s landed on an unusual choice: the Bible story of Samson. Zack Snyder is certainly a talented director, (see our Sucker Punch review here) but he seems to get caught up in style over substance. I know that Samson certainly has potential as a great action film, but how will Snyder handle the spiritual aspect of the story? – Zack’s not the most articulate director around but he gives us a pretty good idea of what this’ll look like. – So, fingers crossed, and hope for the best!
Interview copy and pasted below:
I: Why Samson?
Snyder: Well, I’ve been wanting to do another historical film, like I did with 300. But not something that’d been done before.
I: Not done before?
Snyder: Oh, you know, like Alexander the Great, King Arthur, gladiators… Everybody has done that stuff. With 300 and Watchmen, I was taking something familiar but had never been made into a film. So towards the end of Man of Steel, I was asking around about something that hadn’t been, well, something that was well known but at the same time hadn’t really been done before.
I: You wanted something fresh.
Snyder: Exactly. Like, 300 was a story that was powerful, historically, but wasn’t something like Robin Hood that’d been done so many times in so many sh*tty ways that there aren’t any surprises left. Not to be mean to Russell Crowe, or anything. I mean, they tried.
I: What excites you about the project?
Snyder: There was work to do on Samson, but I was struck by the story. It was surprisingly dark and dynamic. I mean, here’s a guy that little kids learn about in like, Church and stuff, right? And he’s totally not a hero! Samson’s life is all about violence, sex, betrayal… I mean, there’s a reason Disney hasn’t done it. (laughs)
I: What did you like about it?
Snyder: I saw a lot of tension in the character. He spends his whole life struggling with his destiny. There’s this struggle between who people expect Samson to be and what he actually does. I mean, Samson is supposed to be Israel’s hero, someone to really look up to, y’know? But Samson refuses to fight on anyone else’s terms. Then after the Philistines kill his wife, the dude just snaps and kills a bunch of people.
I: How will you handle Delilah?
Snyder: Delilah is a great character. She’s cunning and intelligent, and he keeps falling for her tricks. I mean, Delilah loves Samson, she sees him as invincible, but she’s totally taking advantage of him at the same time. The irony around them is great.
I: Do you have casting ideas?
Snyder: Y’know, casting has been tough on this one. A lot of people have come up and said “this would be perfect for Gerard Butler.” And, Gerry is a great actor, but he’s too refined for the role. I needed someone rougher, and physically massive. I mean, this guy has to kill a thousand philistines in one afternoon. (laughs)
I: Have you officially cast anyone?
Snyder: Officially, no. But we’re in final talks with Dwayne Johnson about the role.
I: You mean, “The Rock?”
Snyder: (laughs) Y’know, Dwayne has done a lot of sh*tty movies in the past. But he’s really matured as an actor and I think he’s ready for more serious stuff. I needed someone who could really be believable as this conflicted, tortured antihero whose supernatural strength has made him an outcast. I mean, the guy rips a lion in half. You’ve gotta cast someone believable in that role or the audience will just die laughing. So, yeah, I think Dwayne will be great.
I: What about Delilah?
Snyder: I loved working with Abbie Cornish on Sucker Punch. She works very hard, very dedicated… and will wear any costume you ask her to. (laughs) No, seriously, I see Delilah being this sweet and sensual character, but having a darker side to her too. I know Abbie can handle the role.
I: So, you’re doing this big, rated-R epic of a Bible story.
Snyder: (laughs) Yeah.
I: I’m thinking… well, why Samson now? Does it have any relevance for modern audiences?
Snyder: Oh, I think its totally relevant. Everyone’s… well, Christian or not, everyone is always talking about “what God wants them to do.” Politicians are talking about it, the Middle East is talking about it, and I just keep asking myself… “how do they know?” Y’know, seriously? How can God be telling one guy this thing, and another guy this totally different thing? And why does it usually involve killing the other person? How does anyone know what God wants them to do? And, y’know… I think that’s really similar to Samson’s story. Here’s this guy who is on a mission from God, right? To fight the bad guys, the… the Philistines. And he’s even given this super-strength to do it. But Samson doesn’t want to fight the Philistines, he wants peace. I mean, he marries a Philistine girl, right? And then its not until they trick him and kill his wife that Samson starts beating up on the Philistines. And even then, Samson’s not killing Philistines because God told him to, he is killing Philistines out of revenge. So, he’s a very interesting character.
I: So how do you see that playing out in the film?
Snyder: Well, I see a lot of conflict in Samson. He has a lot of human emotion. In the end, he’s fighting the Philistines like just God told him to, but its not… well, its not necessarily because God told him to, its because of this very real and deep need for vengeance. For revenge. That’s very human. In a sense he’s sort of obeying and defying his God at the same time. And that’s very interesting to me… That kind of conflict between a divine order and a human emotion.
I: Last question. What’re you most looking forward to?
Snyder: Ah, easy. Samson killing a thousand dudes with the jawbone of an ass.
What do you think? Can Zack Snyder bring an interesting (and faithful) adaptation of Samson to the big screen? Let us know in the comments!
May 23, 2012
Are the Oscars a little too high-brow for you? Do you find yourself scratching your head when the People’s Choice Awards gives “Best Superhero of the Year” to Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern? And what about the bad movies? Y’know, the stomach-churningly awful films you’d really like to avoid?
We heard you calling, and we’re answering with the 2011 Shut Up and Watch The Movie Awards. (AKA: “The Zippies”.) We’ve picked the best, the worst, the delightful, the disappointing, and displayed them in all their glory for you. So please, enjoy!
Best Picture of 2011:
J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg make an incredible team. Super 8 hits the ball out of the park in cinematography, special effects, musical score, nostalgia, and impressive performances by its young cast. If you haven’t seen Super 8 yet, definitely check it out.
Runners up for Best Picture:
Nate: The Help
Chris: Captain America
Luke: The Artist
Isaac: The Help
Worst Picture of 2011:
Winner: Bad Teacher
Nate is actually the only one who saw this, but we took his word for it.
Nate: Jack & Jill, Just Go With It
Chris: Season of the Witch
Isaac: No Strings Attached
Biggest Pleasant Surprise:
Rango’s trailer didn’t look like much, but a creative storyline and impressive cast made it something truly unique.
Nate: X-Men: First Class
Chris: Unknown (2011)
Luke: The Artist
Winner: Sucker Punch
How the director of 300 could screw up this badly is mind-boggling. Almost as mind-boggling as the plot he tried to sell us with robots and miniskirts. (Review here)
Chris: Green Lantern
Luke: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best Movie No One Saw:
Winner: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
This Canadian-American Horror/Comedy film takes the “college kids in the woods” genre and turns it upside down. The result is a side-splittingly funny tale about the perils of judging a book by its cover.
Nate: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Chris: Trigun Badlands Rumble
Luke: The Beaver
Isaac: The Beaver
Its ironic that a film about a mind-boosting drug has one of the dumbest endings I’ve ever seen.
Nate: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Twilight: Breaking Dawn
Chris: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
Luke: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Winner: Super 8
For boasting superior directing, cinematography, special effects, and acting (especially with a child-dominated cast!) Super 8 didn’t get much media attention, nor did it stand out in the Box-Office. We’re kinda confused about that.
Nate: Cowboys & Aliens
Luke: The Adventures of Tintin
Isaac: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Family Film:
Courageous really was a splendid film and deserves a place here. Its incredibly enjoyable, funny, and emotionally resonant. (I know we’re pulling a “Jesus-Juke” here, get over it.)
Chris: Kung Fu Panda 2
Luke: The Muppets
Isaac: We Bought a Zoo
Best Original Score:
Winner: X-Men: First Class
Fun, gripping, and dynamic, the new X-Men theme doesn’t just support the film, it hops in the drivers seat and hits the gas. (Listen here.)
Nate: Super 8
Luke: Sherlock Holmes2
Isaac: Sherlock Holmes2
Looking for straight up enjoyability? – We’ve each picked our favorite movies of the year:
Nate: Super 8
Luke: Super 8
Chris: Captain America
Isaac: Captain America
There you have it folks! What do you think? Was there something we missed? – Let us know in the comments!
Don’t forget to check out last year’s SUAWTM Awards, the 2010 Zippies.
And as always, please, Shut up and Enjoy the Movie!
May 4, 2012
Iron Man 2 (2010) - New Review
“If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in him… All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you.”
Synopsis: Tony Stark has been busy. In the past six months, he has used his unique Iron Man technology to maintain an unprecedented level of world peace. After discovering that the miniature Arc-reactor in his chest is fatally poisoning his blood, Stark grapples with his mortality and legacy.
Its no secret that we at Shut Up & Watch The Movie were not fans of Iron Man 2. It seemed like everything that made the original so loveable got lost in the shuffle of multiple villains and Stark’s alcoholism. (See my original, albeit perplexed, take on it here.) This busy sequel meanders somewhat through the middle, gets bogged down with Tony’s self-destructive spiral, and doesn’t recover until the final act. But despite its issues, a second look at both Iron Man films revealed a strong undercurrent that I hadn’t noticed before: legacy.
Why Iron Man 2 felt flat:
On the surface, Iron Man 2 spends a lot of time on the Iron Man technology and whether or not Tony Stark’s invention is the new face of modern warfare. Stark insists it is not, the government insists that it is, and then one day Ivan Vanko opens pandora’s box by tearing up a racetrack with an arc-powered suit of his own. This attack throws Stark into a self-destructive spiral, leading to a wild party, and an Iron Man vs. War Machine slug-fest in Tony’s living room.
While this sounds like a good story line, its not particularly gripping because as audience members we know that there’s only one Iron Man hero. Sure, Stark’s buddy Rhodey gets a suit (and becomes the psuedo-sidekick War Machine) and there are a handful of armored villains, but the hero always wins, right? Tony Stark won’t let some ruffian Russian robots start World War III. With this knowledge rattling around in our self-conscious, Tony’s alcoholism and Iron Man “drunken bar-fight” with his best friend Rhodey feels unnecessarily tedious and juvenile.
Why Iron Man 2 deserves a second look
This isn’t a story about Tony Stark struggling with vanity and alcoholism, its a mortal man’s struggle with his own purpose and legacy. When you understand legacy as the central thrust of the Iron Man saga, all of these odd-shaped puzzle pieces begin to fit into place.
The first film highlights the heritage of Stark Industries. Tony tells us that his father’s legacy was weapons developed to win WWII, “that’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well for me so far.” – The twist comes when Tony realizes the true legacy of Stark Industries: mass murder at the hands of terrorists. “Those are YOUR weapons in the hands of those murderers! Is this what you want? Is this what you wish the legacy of the great Tony Stark to be?”
Determined to alter his legacy, Stark uses Arc-Reactor technology to power the Iron Man suit and right the wrongs of his company. Tony redeems his family legacy. …Or so he thinks.
Enter Iron Man 2.
The Arc-Reactor that keeps Tony alive is poisoning his blood and he doesn’t have much time left. He reopens the Stark Expo, announcing: “It’s not about me. It’s not about you, either. It’s about legacy, the legacy left behind for future generations. It’s not about us!” Determined to leave a great legacy before he dies, Stark names his assistant Pepper Potts as CEO of Stark Ind., and he reprograms the War Machine suit so that Rhodey can use it. (In case you didn’t catch that, Tony wanted Rhodey to steal the suit.) Ivan Vanko’s appearance doesn’t reignite Tony’s narcissism and alcoholism, it causes Tony to doubt his own change of heart, his redemption, and the integrity of the Stark legacy. Tony, directionless and dying, simply throws himself one final going-away party (the only way he knows how.)
Finally, Tony sees a video of his father, Howard Stark, speaking of the Stark legacy. Howard admits that he wanted to contribute more to the world than weapons but he was limited by the technology of his time. In a very touching scene, he asks Tony to fulfill the Stark legacy, “I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is, and always will be my greatest creation… is *you*.”
Cue the single manly tear.
This statement spurs Tony on to create a new element for his suit (blood poison free this time), and defeat Ivan Vanko. Alive and not dying, Stark sets everything back to rights.
Themes: Legacy, Partnership, Responsibility with Technology
I’ve proven how central ‘legacy’ is to the Iron Man films, and Iron Man 2 specifically emphasizes passing on something of value to the next generation. Responsibility is a sub-theme, stressing the importance of using technology with integrity. There’s some discussion about whether or not handing over your technology to the government is the best way to keep everyone safe (the film answers that with a resounding “no”.)
Partnership takes a surprising spotlight spotlight here, revealing once again that villains can never get along. – Seriously, what is it with those guys? Its like they signed a contract “will betray each other in the 3rd Act.” As for the heroes, Tony Stark thinks he has to carry the weight of being Iron Man alone. His partnership with Petter and Rhodey may be tenuous, but pays off. In the end, the hero is stronger with allies than he is alone.
Now that we’ve got that messy “what is this movie about” business out of the way, Iron Man 2 is a fantastic movie. The characters, the cast, the directing, everything is great. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) are great antagonists, mixing humor with sheer brutality. Each villain has their own spin on the “legacy” concept (rivalry and revenge) but both unite in their desire to dethrone Stark Industries. SHIELD agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) are a tad underwhelming, but they’re really just making cameo appearances until The Avengers film anyway.
Here’s looking forward to The Avengers and Iron Man 3!
Rating: 4/5 Zipped Lips.
I’m glad that I gave Iron Man 2 a second chance. What seemed to be a frazzled grouping of storylines proved to be one cohesive story that began way back in the opening lines of the original Iron Man film.
May 1, 2012
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) - Review reposted.
“Why did I choose someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength.”
Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.
Marvel Studios has spent the last three years bringing superheroes to the silver screen with unparalleled charm, wit, and integrity. Packed with a star studded cast, plenty of action, and a dash of comic book camp, Captain America is no exception. Director Joe Johnston expertly balances the feel of 1940′s America (as he did in his 1991 classic, The Rocketeer) with the campy science fiction of a comic book. The period sets have a nostalgic charm and the characters are larger than life in their heroics. Cap’s wit is simple, straightforward, and thoroughly American. And when it comes to big budget action movies, there’s no better villains than the Nazis.
(I hate those guys.)
Chris Evans shines as Steve Rogers, whose initial wimpy appearance is a startling achievement in special effects. He looks nothing like a soldier, let alone the iconic Captain America. But, as the story reveals, its Rogers integrity that sets him apart from the rest. Despite his small size, Rogers is desperate to help defend his country. He admits “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” Its this courage that causes Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) to choose Steve Rogers for the Super Soldier Serum, a chemical mixture which gives an ordinary man superhuman strength.
Themes: Integrity, Responsibility, Heroism
Steve Rogers is chosen because he is an underdog with integrity. Dr. Erskine tells Steve “why did I choose someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power. And he also knows compassion.” Erskine also explains that the Super Soldier Serum enhances everything that is within a man. Because of his integrity and heroism, Steve Rogers becomes the iconic Captain America. But this same serum also transformed power-hungry Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) into the villainous Red Skull. It is this reason that Dr. Erskine makes Steve promise that no matter what, “you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
Marvel characters often learn that it takes more than superpowers to make a superhero. This has been a consistent theme for Peter Parker, Tony Stark, the X-Men, and even Thor. But no character seems to embody honesty, courage, and heroism like the iconic Captain America. When he dons his stars and stripes shield, you know what he stands for.
Conclusion: My favorite of the Marvel movies
Your enjoyment of Captain America will greatly depend on your expectations and your willing suspension of disbelief (for more on this and Superhero movies, check out my review of Thor.) If you go in expecting the best movie of the summer, you’ll be disappointed. But if you enter with an open mind and try what Marvel’s cooked up, you’ll have a blast. Some aspects of the film (like the Cosmic Cube and Red Skull) are hard to swallow if you’re assuming a typical WWII film. Captain America goes far beyond the fantasy adventure in movies like Indiana Jones (there’s a line about “Hitler digging around in the desert”) and several plot choices may have newbies saying “… what?” But in the end, the Cap succeeds because America loves our underdogs. Especially ones who punch Nazis in the face. With a shield. A stars and stripes shield.
A word on The Avengers:
Ever since Marvel Studios began with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, we’ve been building up to The Avengers film which is finally glimpsed at after the credits of Captain America. I’ve been very impressed at how well each film has built off its predecessors; integrating S.H.I.E.L.D., giving cameos to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), introducing the Cosmic Cube, and finally bringing Captain America into the mix. While Cap can’t fly like Iron Man or wield the power of Thor, he’s the natural choice to lead the team. I’m very excited to see what Marvel Studios and director Joss Whedon whip up for The Avengers (2012).
4.5 out of 5 Zipped Lips
Captain America is a throwback to a simpler time when the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. There’s something here for everyone: wit, charm, explosions, romance… but what lingers is a heroic little guy whose virtue made all the difference.
April 29, 2012
Thor (2011) - Review reworked and reposted.
“There’s always a purpose to everything your father does.”
Synopsis: The powerful but arrogant Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live as a mortal on Earth.
Let’s be honest here: Thor is kind of a lame superhero. In Marvel comics, Thor is the mythological Norse God of Thunder, Son of Odin, and wields an awkwardly giant hammer like a yo-yo. Put this shiny armored dude in a lineup next to Iron Man and Thor looks dorkier than Tobias Fünke. So naturally, I was very skeptical as to how Marvel was going to pull off of Thor film. After finally seeing the film, my hat is off to Marvel Studios and director Kenneth Branagh, because Thor is one solid movie.
Thor is an excellent example of “willing suspension of disbelief.” You can skeptically complain “those helmets look dorky, Thor’s costume is too shiny, and frost giants? …this movie is crap!” Or you can choose to enjoy the fantastical setting and see if Thor delivers on its premise. So much of our enjoyment is based on choices: we can choose to be overly critical or choose to enjoy something new and different. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, Thor packs a wallop.
The film explains that Thor and his fellow Asgardians are an extra-terrestrial race whom the ancients mistook for gods. Thor describes Asgard as “a place where science and magic are one in the same.” Asgardians have immense physical power but also wield incredibly technology like the “Rainbow Bridge” that teleports adventurers between planets/dimensions. Science Fiction has a long-held tradition of explaining ancient deities as powerful alien beings (see Star Trek: The Original Series), so Thor’s extra-terrestrial explanation felt natural and familiar.
Marvel Studios once again proves that they can line up a terrific cast. Chris Hemsworth is likeable, heroic, and stunningly perfect as the brash and arrogant Thor. Tom Hiddleson is subtle, creepy, and ‘Wormtongue-esk’ in his portrayal of Loki, who will make a key reappearance in The Avengers film. Anthony Hopkins is iconic as Odin, a father trying to raise two sons while keeping peace between realms. Natalie Portman‘s nerdy scientist pleasantly surprised me, and her small stature makes Chris Hemsworth look all the more godlike in proportion.
Thor’s honorable relationship with Jane Foster (Portman) was a ‘stark’ contrast to Iron Man’s hedonism. There’s a brilliant moment where you think Thor and Jane will break for a self-indulgent kiss or a lusty romp in the bed, but Thor gently kisses Jane’s hand instead. This concept of honoring women and sex has practically disappeared from our culture; allowing Thor’s respect to not only surprise us, but to critique our lustful expectations as audience members.
Themes: Character, Humility, Stewardship
All of the Marvel Studios films have a strong emphasis on character and integrity, but Thor takes this to a new level. His entire banishment to Earth is the result of his prideful and reckless actions. Before Thor can be a steward of Asgard, he must learn humility. Odin exiles Thor for his own good, and the Queen reminds Loki to trust Odin’s wisdom: “there’s always a purpose to everything your father does.”
If you haven’t seen Thor yet, definitely check it out before seeing The Avengers this summer. From what the trailers have previewed, several things from Asgard return to play an important role in the upcoming film.
Thor is truly a unique superhero movie. Kenneth Branagh is far more interested in themes of honor, pride, and family than pandering to a superficial desire for explosions and lusty sidekicks. The action is present and Mjolnir pack’s a wallop, but hammer swinging isn’t what Thor’s here to do. Its a journey about father’s and son’s, responsibility, and integrity. And ultimately, Thor is a hero who must be humbled before he can become a champion.
4.5 / 5 Zipped Lips
Thor is a unique superhero movie: it is far more interested in themes of honor, humility, and family than dishing out gratuitous violence and explosions. Thor is likeable, engaging, and fun whether you’re a lifelong fan or new to the Marvel Universe.
April 20, 2012
Iron Man (2008) - Review reworked and reposted.
“You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out? - I shouldn’t be alive, unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it’s right.”
I know what you’re thinking, Audience, “everyone has seen Iron Man! What can Isaac possibly say that I haven’t heard already?” – Trust me, I’ve got this.
Tony Stark saves the Cat
Until last night, I had never seen the first two minutes of Iron Man, and it totally changed my perspective on the entire film. “So what”, you ask, “nothing happens, they just crack some jokes on a Humvee ride.” – But oh, its incredibly important. You see, this is Tony Stark’s initial “Save the Cat” moment. (“Save the Cat” is a phrase for when the main character does something endearing/heroic in the first 20 minutes so that the audience will like him.) The opening scene: the legendary Tony Stark is riding in a Humvee with three US soldiers; its quiet, awkward, and boring. Tony breaks the silence with a few jokes, and after a minute everyone is laughing, snapping pictures, and enjoying his company. Its a simple scene but it establishes Tony Stark as inherently fun and likable. Without this introduction, Tony’s character is merely an arrogant billionaire playboy with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Raising the Bar
Iron Man showed the world that superhero movies can be fun, witty, action packed, engaging, adventurous, well-written, expertly directed, fantastically acted, and most of all, pretty darn good. Superhero movies don’t have to be half-baked, poorly written, 2-hour cheese fests. Long gone are the days of “let’s cast somebody big! like, uh… Ben Affleck!” (facepalm.) Iron Man has it all, especially in the acting department. Robert Downey Jr owns Tony Stark and has great chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.
The Origin of a Icon
Jon Favreau did a fantastic job of directing Marvel’s first big movie. I wish all superhero films were executed with such exquisite attention to detail. He captured the essence of Iron Man: Tony Stark discovers a reason to live for something other than himself. He begins as a spoiled and naive playboy, the ‘quintessential capitalist’, but its not long before the billionaire is thrown into a cave (‘with scraps!’) and given an ultimatum. This is where Iron Man finds its heart; Tony Stark becomes a man of character. In a stirring montage (gotta love those montages), our hero builds the MK1 armor, pounding away with a purpose. This is more than a thrilling tale of how Tony Stark made the superpowered armor, this is the mythic essence that drives our hero onward. This is the powerful ‘origin story’, the ‘heart of the hero’ that will call audiences back to film after film of Iron Man’s legacy. Executing the ‘Origin of the Superhero’ is the most important part of the mythos, and every sequel must uncover a subsequent heart and passion to drive the Superhero on. (More on that in Iron Man 2).
Themes: Redemption, Technology, the Global Arms Race
While its spotlighted more intensely in Iron Man 2, Iron Man talks quite a bit about the nuclear arms race. While this was a hotter topic during the Cold War (the era of Iron Man’s comic debut), the global arms race is far from irrelevant today. The United States is involved in a number of foreign crisis’, and Tony Stark’s situation begs the question: “what’s America’s responsibility in foreign affairs?” While Jon Favreau wisely avoids the archetypal wise-old-man repeating “with great power comes great responsibility,” he asserts that Iron Man has a duty to use his technology to not only right his own wrongs, but to protect the innocent. The ending crowns Stark with the fame of the Iron Man identity, but the technology will inevitability open a proverbial ‘Pandora’s Box” of evil potential.
At at its core, Iron Man is a story of redemption. “I shouldn’t be alive… unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it’s right.” Tony experiences a profound change of heart as his eyes are opened to his true legacy: death and destruction at the hands of Stark Industries. Everyone around Tony challenges his redemptive experience, insisting that its PTSD. They encourage him to “get back to his old self.” But this idea is abhorrent to Tony; his old life represents selfishness and death, his new life must embody selflessness and justice.
Conclusion: Shut Up, and Watch the Movie.
I could go on about the Superhero Formula (trading punches), the humour, the gorgeous visuals, the thrill of the Iron Man suit… but who am I kidding, you’ve all seen this. Here’s one time where I’ll just Shut Up and Watch The Movie.
4.5/5 Zipped Lips
One of the best superhero movies ever, setting a high standard for a new generation of comic-book films.
April 19, 2012
Marvel Studios has been building up to The Avengers film for five years. Summer of 2008 introduced us to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, followed by Iron Man 2 in 2010, and finally Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011. Each film has built upon the other, introducing SHIELD, Nick Fury, and building up to a confrontation so big that all the big heroes will be called into the spotlight. Never before have so many famous actors, directors, distributors, etc. collaborated under one roof in order to put on something this big. Robert Downey Jr. said it well: “this is the most ambitious movie ever made.”
As we countdown to May 4th, we’ll be posting reviews coinciding with the buildup to The Avengers film. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see one of them, we highly recommend you do! – Enjoy!
April 10, 2012
The Hunger Games (2012) - Full Review with Spoilers
“I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol that they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”
Synopsis: ”In a post-apocalyptic future, the nation of Panem is controlled by a highly advanced metropolis called ‘The Capitol.’ As a symbol of their absolute power, two teenage ‘Tributes’ (one boy and one girl) are chosen from each of the twelve Districts to fight in the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers to save her younger sister from the Games, her chances of survival seem slim. But Katniss has a secret – she knows how to survive.”
This review has spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie (or are planning on reading the book), please see my ‘spoiler-free review’.
The Hunger Games has our attention. Despite numerous attempts to apply a ‘teen-pop-movie’ stamp and shove it into a box next to Harry Potter or Twilight, The Hunger Games refuses to be branded. This is greatly due to the success of Suzanne Collins’ book series, which has a surprisingly mature message despite its simple prose. I thoroughly enjoyed Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy and was quite pleased with the film adaptation.
Overall, the movie is quite good. The casting was great, especially Jennifer Lawrence. I was extremely impressed with Gary Ross’ directing and sound-editing. Several of the biggest moments in the film are practically silent, with little to no dialog and no music to support what’s going on. This is an incredibly bold move. As an audience member, I’m used to a soundtrack guiding my emotion through a scene and magnifying its impact. But here, the absence of sound is jarring, especially during the fight scenes. There is no narrative voice telling us what to think, no orchestral mediator helping us process the carnage, we’re simply thrust into the chaos with Katniss and allowed to experience the same terror.
As I mentioned in my previous review, The Hunger Games film takes on the role of “show” over “tell.” Instead of featuring long conversations about the poverty and oppression in the Districts in comparison to the vast wealth and privilege in The Capitol, the film simply lets us observe the difference. There’s no monologue comparing the Games to the Roman Colosseum, or comments on the animalistic viciousness the teens resort to, it simply unfolds before us and asks us to make intelligent conclusions. Those who haven’t read the books will probably find its lack of comments bizarre and perhaps even a ‘missed opportunity at saying something profound.’ But as a fan of the book, I was moved by its silence; the jarring chaos and striking images carry their own weight.
What didn’t work?
‘It was too short.’ This is the typical response of every book-to-movie fan, but another 10-20 minutes would’ve helped the film immensely. After talking with people who hadn’t read the book first, it seems that The Hunger Games film is tailored for fans of the book instead of the average movie-goer. A number of points go virtually unexplained, leaving questions like “what happened to the USA? Why is it Panem now?” Or “where is Katniss going when she cuts through the fence? To another District?” Or even “if The Capitol is bad, why don’t they all just revolt?” – While these don’t seem terribly important to enjoying the movie, failing to nail down the finer points of The Capitol’s oppression erodes the incredible importance of Katniss and Peeta’s act of defiance with the berries. Especially when some of these gaps could have been filled with a single line of dialog.
1. Katniss’ survival skills are so unique because she’s been hunting illegally.
Self-reliance is one of the major themes throughout The Hunger Games. When The Capitol forces the Districts to depend on food shipments, Katniss saves her family from starvation by hunting. Missing the fact that A: hunting of any kind is illegal, and B: Katniss is highly skilled at it, fails to establish what makes Katniss so unique: her equipped defiance. Katniss isn’t just uniquely equipped to survive in the Games, she’s a symbol of independence, self-reliance, and hope. “The Girl on Fire.” – While the film hinted at this, failing to clearly establish hunting as illegal and Katniss’ resolve to do it anyway detracts from the power of her defiance.
2. “Let’s blow up the supplies for the fun of it!”
(…actually, its so the Careers will starve to death.)
As I just established, Katniss was (essentially) the only Tribute who knew how to live off the land in the arena. The Career’s knew how to fight, but not how to survive. Destroying their pile of supplies meant starvation. This was never acknowledged in the film, leaving the audience to wonder why Katniss would risk her life (and Rue’s) by trying to blow up their pile of food. A simple line over a meal of roasted squirrel would do it: “we could survive for months out here, but the Career’s wouldn’t last a week without their supplies.” Omitting this detail when it could’ve been solved so easily strikes me as obtuse.
3. Katniss and Peeta bond in the cave.
This is the big one. I didn’t notice it at first, but my wife pointed out that this is one of the key moments in the entire series. Katniss and Peeta’s experience in the cave is not just important for the ending of book one, but begins a very distinct and mature shift in Katniss’ character development. Up until this point, Katniss is uninterested in teaming up with Peeta or anyone else who cannot assist her in winning. Her only goal is winning the Games so she can return home and take care of her sister, Prim. But when Katniss sees Peeta bleeding to death in the cave, she decides to care for him, even though this is extremely difficult for her. In short: She accepts Peeta as one of her own, even though protecting him jeopardizes her own survival.
This is an incredibly important point of development because Katniss is the quintessential ‘self-sufficient-American-Hero”. She is intelligent, dangerous, and completely independent. Yet in the arena of death, she learns to care for someone other than herself. Its an important step in her coming of age story and matures her character in a very interesting way.
The film failed to do this on multiple levels. A: It didn’t establish any foreshadowing that Peeta was seriously injured. B: Peeta’s wound didn’t look so bad and they made no mention of infection or ‘blood poisoning’ (we’re used to seeing our movie heroes take unrealistically gruesome wounds and keep going without a problem.) C: They didn’t have enough time in the cave and Katniss’ desperate banging on the hovercraft door was cut. – Most of these could have been resolved with one or two lines of dialog, though it could’ve greatly benefited from an additional 5-10 minutes.
4. The Cost of War.
The Hunger Games trilogy is not easy on its characters. They suffer wounds, scars, severe emotional trauma, and in Peeta’s case, amputation. After the Games, Peeta is given an artificial leg and never walks normally again. This was a shocking and completely unexpected twist. Hunger Games reminds us that there is a high cost to violence and warfare, even when its done for noble reasons. Leaving Peeta intact and virtually unscathed lessened the impact of this idea, weakening the bond that Katniss and Peeta share because of their traumatic experience.
Themes: Violence, Dystopian Oppression, Independence, etc.
The Hunger Games covers a lot of territory: violence, severe poverty, oppression, dystopian societies, government, justice, revolution, freedom, reality-television, coming of age, grief, PTSD, and the cost of war. I can’t possibly tackle all of that in one film review. (I am open to writing a book review if you want one.) If you’d like to read more on themes in Hunger Games: check wikipedia. If you’d like more on Katniss as the archetypal “American Adam,” here’s a great article at the NY Times.
A lot of people comment on the violence: “kids killing each other? That sounds sick.” I respond “that’s exactly the point.” – Similar to Lord of the Flies or Rollerball, Suzanne Collins is making a statement about humanity’s potential for bloodlust and evil. The Romans once oppressed the masses but appeased their appetites by entertaining them with “bread and circuses,” leading crowds to cheer on gladiatorial matches and voting on whether a combatant should live or die. While our reality-tv generation isn’t there (yet), we jeer as real people argue, fight, and destroy each others lives and reputations on national television. All in the name of entertainment. – On a related note, Suzanne Collins named her fictional nation ‘Panem,’ after the Roman phrase panem et circenses (bread and circuses). She is making a very deliberate comparison to ancient Rome and sounding the warning bell that this could happen again.
The Hunger Games made the transition from page to screen incredibly well. The cast, visuals, editing, and sound (or the intentional lack thereof) is top notch. There’s been some bizarre media-buzz about miscasting but don’t pay any attention to that. Normally, I’d overlook a film’s edits and omissions, but its mind-boggling that so many holes could’ve been addressed with a single line of dialog. I am hopeful for a Hunger Games: Directors Cut that includes an extra 15-20 minutes and fills in some of the bumps.
4.5 out of 5 Zipped Lips.
The Hunger Games is a great film. While it has a few oversights in exposition, a Director’s Cut armed with an additional 15-20 minutes will make this a perfect 5 Zipped Lips.
Stephenie Meyer announces a new Teen-Paranormal-Romance series about a secret romance between Eve and Satan.
April 1, 2012
Stephenie Meyer (writer of the Twilight series) announced that she’s writing a new Teen-Paranormal-Romance series called “Apple.” – The disturbing bit? Its apparently about a love-triangle between Adam, Eve, and Satan. Remember that Stephenie Meyer is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, which is known for having some wacko theology… Check out an excerpt from this interview:
Lang: So, Stephenie, you wanted to go deeper with this idea of good and evil, what got you to the Garden of Eden?
Meyer: I realized that everything I’d been writing about… romance, good and evil, choices, monsters… humanity, if you will… all of it began with this Garden of Eden story. Which I actually quoted in Twilight, because I liked the idea so much.
Lang: Right. That was the forward to your first book.
Meyer: Exactly. So here’s Adam and Eve in the Garden, and God made them to be perfect, yet here we have Eve running off to the tree to meet with Lucifer. That’s very interesting to me. I imagine a lot of tension there, like the conversation at the forbidden tree was the climax of a long relationship.
Meyer: Oh, yeah. That’s one of the Bible’s names for Satan. It means “Angel of Light” or “Morning Star.”
Lang: Wait, Satan was an angel?
Meyer: Yes! (laughs) That’s what is so fascinating about his character! Lucifer isn’t really the red, horned, fiery demon thing we picture carrying around a pitchfork. He was once a beautiful Angel in heaven, and the brother of Jesus. I think Lucifer spent time in the Garden of Eden, walking around with Adam and Eve. He’s this incredible, beautiful figure of a winged man. A warrior, sparkling with light, yet cold and immortal.
Lang: Sounds like Edward. But with wings, of course.
Meyer: That’s what’s so fascinating! I didn’t write Lucifer to be like Edward, I really tried to make them different. But I realized that my vampires were, in a way, based off this iconic “fallen angel” that is embodied by Lucifer.
Lang: Interesting. So do you think you can re-invent Satan like you reinvented Vampires?
Meyer: I’m not trying to make him interesting, I just see the story from his perspective, you know? I write what is interesting to me. And I think once people hear Lucifer’s side of the story, they’ll find him as fascinating as I do.
Lang: So then what happens?
Meyer: Lucifer falls in love with Eve.
Lang: … I’m sorry, what?
Meyer: Its an incredible love triangle. Who does Eve choose? Adam, the perfect man… and I mean perfect man, who was literally created to be with her… or Lucifer? The Angel of Light, and the eventual Prince of Darkness?
Lang: um… are you okay? Can I get you a glass of water?
Meyer: No. (laughs) I’m fine, really…
Lang: So you were saying… Adam, Eve, Satan, love triangle?
Meyer: Oh, right… So this is the real reason why God banished Lucifer from heaven, because Lucifer wanted Eve to learn about evil and leave the Garden with him.
Lang: Um, I think I’m getting confused… wasn’t eating the apple a bad thing?
Meyer: Well, God wouldn’t let them leave, right? He wouldn’t let Adam and Eve learn about evil, and Lucifer disagreed with this. Lucifer knew it was wrong to force this naive life on humans. …I mean, wouldn’t that be boring to you? All that perfection?
Lang: Hmm, I don’t know about that. No sin? Perfect man, perfect woman, walking around with God, right?
Meyer: Well, Lucifer didn’t see it that way. He wanted Eve to see through the deceptions, to choose for herself. So he lures Eve out to the tree and puts everything on the line. Adam runs up at the end of the conversation just as his love is holding the apple. Eve can choose to stay with Adam, or she can go with Lucifer and forfeit her soul.
Lang: So, she eats the apple, right?…
Meyer: Yes. But then in a twist, Adam takes the apple too, sealing himself to the same fate as Eve. Actually, that’s the end of my first book. And my second book, “Apple” will be about the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit.
Lang: How many are you planning to do?
Meyer: Well I’m almost done with “Angel”, and then I’ll get to work on “Apple”. I’m thinking about some ideas for a third, but I don’t want to give anything away until we’ve made at least one movie. (laughs)