Sunday, April 23, 2017

'Fate of the Furious' REVIEW

I always say that, anything that a movie explains in the first twenty minutes or so, people will buy into, because that is when your brain is trying to figure out what you are watching.  So, with sci-fi movies, they explain the fantasy elements right away, so you believe that this guy was bitten by a radioactive spider or is from Krypton or whatever.  And with space movies, there is still the element of "this is another planet, so this is different from what I'm used to".  So, even if they take a little longer than twenty minutes to explain The Force, you buy into it because they established that you were in a galaxy far, far away...right away.

'Fate of the Furious', the 8th installment in the series, takes place on Earth, with cars, weapons and countries that we are all familiar with.  This makes the fantasy elements, the laws of physics that they ignore, both with the car chase scenes and with how strong Dwayne Johnson's character is, far less believable than Yoda fighting Count Dooku.  The saving grace, however, is how this movie knows what it is and does not try to be anything other than silly.  So, if you shut off your brain and laugh at how over-the-top it is, you will have a great time.

The main characters are very likable, despite being played by actors who would be terrible in anything except this series or a music video.  Again, the producers know what kind of movie this is and have given us two good actors to raise the credibility of the cast as a whole.  Charlize Theron is great as the villain in this and even makes human Groot Vin Diesel look like a better actor than he is in other scenes.  Kurt Russell is also great, playing a government agent.  My low opinion of Tyrese Gibson as an actor has improved, but I give credit to the writers and director of this movie for making him the butt of the jokes all the time.  It made me feel that I am not the only one who finds him irritating.

A lot of characters are the butts of jokes, as this movie was clearly made for a bunch of guys who like cars to sit around and bust each others chops while watching it.  Dwayne Johnson has some funny one liners (including one about a toothbrush) and there is a scene at the end with Jason Statham that was legitimately hilarious.  I'm not going to spoil it, but he's protecting something and it's funny.  I dare you not to laugh.  Or go "awwwwww!"

There is a decent story holding this all together, about Vin Diesel's character being blackmailed into going back to his old criminal life from the first movie.  There are a few surprises and the characters explain what you need to know from previous films in order to go along.  If you forgot that Paul Walker's character's name was Brian, you might be confused when he is referenced.  (The actor passed away shortly before the 7th film was released, but the character just went home to his family.)  But everything else leads up to a plot twist that I honestly did not see coming.  I gave them credit for surprising me, allowing me to enjoy the ridiculously fun climax with cars running away from a submarine (on ice) that was shown in the trailers.

All-in-all, if you shut off your brain and can enjoy the over-the-top madness, Fate of the Furious is a good time at the movies.  I give it 3 nuclear subs out of 5.

Check out Turtle Rocket Books for science fiction books from the mind of a mildly-autistic man-child.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Suicide Squad could have learned from Guardians of the Galaxy

Suicide Squad was a mess of a movie.  But there was enough cool stuff in it that, as I often do with movies I am disappointed by, I started rewriting it in my head.  I usually don't bother rewriting the flick in my head unless I like something about it and want to salvage the rest.  I thought Margot Robbie was great as Harley Quinn and Jared Leto was good as The Joker, his performance diminished by the poor writing.  Viola Davis made an amazing Amanda Waller, a character I loved from the Justice League cartoon, but didn't save the weaker elements of  the film.  Anyway, as I was mentally rewriting Suicide Squad, I realized that this movie could have benefited from being more like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Not that Suicide Squad should not have had the darker tone.  Of course it should have.  The people in Suicide Squad (or any Batman-related property) certainly should have had a tone that was darker than GOTG.  Darker humor would have worked to lighten up the movie where it needed to.  But the thing that Suicide Squad did poorly that GOTG did much better was apparent to me from the very beginning.  It had to do with the way that they introduced the characters.

GOTG and Suicide Squad are both about groups of people, a "squad" and "guardians" respectively.  But GOTG started out by introducing us to a main character (Peter Quill/Star Lord) and then, as we follow him on his journey, we meet the rest of the group (Rocket, Groot, Drax, Gamora etc.).  So, even though the movie is about a group of people, it still technically has ONE main character, which prevents the movie, the first act where you introduce everybody, from being confusing.

Confused is precisely what I was in the first act of Suicide Squad, which consisted of numerous flashbacks being hurled at the audience, introducing all the characters, most of which I forgot who they were, because they don't give you much of a reason to care.  Besides Harley and the Joker, I only remember Killer Croc because of Batman's 1992 animated series.  Oh, and Deadshot.  Would I have remembered Deadshot if Will Smith didn't play him?  Probably not.  Should DJ Jazzy Jeff have played Scarecrow?  YES!!!

But that was my biggest problem with Squad.  Movies should have ONE main character, even when said film is about a group.  I said to a friend after seeing the film that Mad Love, the Batman cartoon episode where they get into Harley Quinn's origin story, would have made a better basis for the movie.  People like seeing female main characters, so here you have a criminal psychologist who gets her first high-profile gig working at Arkham Asylum.  She's lonely and falls in love with the bad boy.  And in helping the Joker escape, she lets out the other members of the Suicide Squad, who we meet slowly through the first act of the film through therapy sessions that they have with Dr. Quinzell.  Then, you have your Batman cameo and Amanda Waller (DC's female Nick Fury) intro as they show up to handle the madness.  See how that would have been better because you're following Harley around, getting to know her, getting inside her head and THEN she meets other people?

Personally, I would have ditched the other members of the Squad and made it a Harley Quinn movie, where Harley and Joker escape and go on a Mickey and Mallory/Bonnie and Clyde style road trip crime spree.  But even if the other guys are there, focus on one journey and how that journey affects other characters.

There are a lot of things that I think mainstream sci-fi movies could learn from GOTG, but I will save that for when I review the second film, which is coming out in 2 weeks.  Are you looking forward to GOTG2?  What's your favorite comic book movie of all time?

Meanwhile, check out Turtle Rocket Books for science fiction books from the mind of a mildly autistic man-child.