Category Archives: tv

Iron Man Three

That’s the official title. I like it.

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So, after the disappointing second act Iron Man 2 and the glorious team up feature The Avengers, Iron Man Three was always going to be a challenge but it seems to be one that writer/director Shane Black attacks with aplomb. In much the same way that Toy Story 2 is just a meaningless retread of the first part but the third, even though it reuses some familiar themes and concepts, is a vastly superior film, so too is this picture, which sees Tony Stark face personal demons nastier than he could ever find in a whiskey bottle. While I was tentative to warm to yet another Tony-Off-The-Rails story, Black’s deft narrative and feckless, exciting style makes it all feel fresh and, most importantly, makes Tony feel vulnerable.

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Fans’ fears that this film may try to circumvent the tricky issue of integrating the story of the Avengers into Tony’s life were quite unfounded – in fact, the Iron Man’s entire dilemma is forged by his inescapable feeling of fragility and mortality when faced with the mind-boggling events he’s witnessed; other worlds, aliens, gods and monsters. RDJ shines here as man who has seen things, subject to dangerous bouts of anxiety when reminded of “New York” ,secluding himself in his Bat-Cave to tinker away at his armour. Armour as cocoon metaphor only begs for it to be torn away  to strip him to his fundamentals and that’s where are nefarious villains come in.

He literally tells women in Pakistan that they are "Free to go". Thanks, Obama!

He literally tells women in Pakistan that they are “Free to go”. Thanks, Obama!

Sir Benjy Kingsley is actually damned good as the arch-terrorist and Osama stand-in, the Mandarin. The character’s history as a “Yellow Peril” racist caricature actually opens up some interesting avenues for the film’s writers and, in the face of recent events, the film takes some turns that are genuinely cleverer and not as black-and-white as they initially may seem. No spoilers, but the plot’s progression had me grinning. Even so, imaged of Don Cheadle as a Star-Spangled death robot, literally called War Machine, pointing guns at women in burqas in Pakistan are problematic…very problematic. You get the feeling there are smarts at work but they can’t escape the corporate machine, for all their notions.

But I’m getting too political, and this film asks that you don’t as it is A LOT funnier and less dour than both the trailers and I have made out. Even the opening credits will have you in bits. You’ll regularly be grinning from ear-to-ear as RDJ and co seem to recapture some of the off-the-handle wit and charm the original possessed in such abundance. This is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but with repulsors and jet-boots and it makes the technologically wondrous world of Tony Stark get its mojo back, which after three outings was beginning to flag. Even the much reviled cliche of the special kid the hero befriends is turned on its head in delightful, inventive ways and with straight-faced black humour, pun intended.

Unfortunately, the biggest caveats with this film are leftovers from the last one: robot fatigue and Gwenyth Paltrow. Now it’s true that the entire supporting cast is underwhelming, especially an underused Guy Pierce as new baddie Aldritch Killian, Paltrow has been a consistent source of discord within the entire franchise. She never seems to click with Tony and she often carries of as if she’s in a completely different film. It doesn’t help that Pepper is so two-note and under-written. So, there’s that.

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And the suits. For five minutes it’s a kid’s wet-dream (weird image) to have all these suits and armours and robots but if we’ve learned anything from Transformers it’s that less is more and more is mess. There are some fucking great set-pieces, which unlike the Avengers, have a real, palpable sense of peril to them including the Malibu home destruction and a heart-stopping rescue a thousand miles in the air. But after a few hours, the more CGI and lack of physical danger it all starts to lose its punch and we’re back to watching cartoons fight. The film soars in its Shane Black quips and punchlines, as well as in its emotional journey for Tony, but it has issues with its tired action and weak villains.

The point of the last film was that unmanned robot suits might be a bad idea. This film neatly forgets that because toys.

The point of the last film was that unmanned robot suits might be a bad idea. This film neatly forgets that because toys.

Without spoiling nattin’ I’ll say that this film really brings some closure to the Iron Man franchise and is a fitting send off for the series, though not the character. Unlike 2, Three actually feels like its own animal and not just a glorified trailer for the Avengers. You won’t even notice that Sam Jackson doesn’t even pop his head in to sit around and eat chips with Black Widow like they did in 2. Iron Man Three actually has things for its heroes to do, fortunately. You’ll cringe, you’ll gasp, you’ll titter alot. You won’t really care all that much but that’s always been the appeal. It’s good popcorn and Shane Black should just write the Avengers III or something. That’d be fun lots.

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Oh boy! You stayed for the post-credit sequence! Well, in true Iron Man from if you wait til the end you’ll get a cross-film teaser but this one is more of a Shwarma moment than a Thanos one. One clue:

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Science Bros!

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I Just saw Prometheus

Just out of the 00.01 showing of Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi offering in the BFI IMAX. And may I just say wow. That is a huge screen. It lurches one’s stomach rather like the feeling you get when you stare up a large tower or grounded sailing ship from the very bottom and feel as though it may just slowly fall on you. Its sheer height actually makes you a little emotional for some reason – I found myself strangely moved by the trailer for the Dark Knight Rises which I’d already seen and been pretty indifferent to.

Anyway, onto the matter at hand; Prometheus. Caution, fellow travellers, thar be *SPOILERS* ahead.

 But I must confess to something first: The first Alien film I ever saw was 2004’s Alien VS. Predator. This didn’t stop me from becoming the avid Alien fan that I am or appreciating the subtleties and horror of first two films or from developing that special place in my heart for the much maligned Alien Cubed. It acted as a doorway into a wider, more satisfying universe and thusly, I have to say I’m glad I saw it. Every Alien fan should.

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I wish Ridley Scott had. Because then he might not have accidentally remade it.

Ok that might be a bit harsh but seriously Prometheus is full of “haven’t we already done this?” moments and leaves the audience with so many unanswered questions that one wonders why there was any merit at all in making this film only tangentially refer to its progenitor. Why Lindelof and Scott thought there was anything so new and original in this story that it required its own spin-off is beyond the reasonable mind.

Let’s get the AVP similarities out of the way. The plot similarities, both based on nut-case Eric Von Daniken’s “God is an Astronaut” theory, are excusable (AVP isn’t exactly the apex of its genre here) but the way in which it’s introduced –  a lecture delivered to a group of hard-case experts, in a hanger of their vessel which is heading toward the point of interest – is identical. In both cases it’s absurd that these professionals would hop on a ship heading toward uninhabitable landscapes with no foreknowledge of what they were there for but in Prometheus we’re told they’ve been in Cryo for 2 years and they only get briefed when they reach their destination?

Oh and the reason they’ve spent a trillion dollars and  relinquished two years of their lives? Some paintings…you prolly saw it in the trailer. There is literally no better reason given for their expedition . At least in AVP there was a fricking pyramid heating up in the Arctic to justify their adventure. Also, in AVP they had a heat-signature to locate their future tomb –  in Prometheus the crew flies their star-bug down to the planet and just happens upon some Nazca lines and Alien-God jackpot about a minute after arriving. Pretty lucky. Other comparisons are slim but no less irritating including the “No guns; this is a sciencey trip?” “Whatever you say, lady” exchange between strong female expert and gruff worker character and having two of our underdeveloped fodder characters getting lost in the maze-like alien tomb. Oh and dying member of the Weyland family who bankrolls the venture, inadvisably tagging along only to be killed off by a gargantuan extraterrestrial.

But let’s get onto the real meat. Music sets the tone. Alien is famous for its restrained use of any orchestral score only appearing intermittently during transitions or as the creature attacks. The infamous tagline “In Space no one can hear you scream” accurately evokes the bed-shitting silence at the end of the film when Ripley is left alone with the Phallic nightmare. Conversely, Prometheus is underscored with a grandiose and uplifting motif akin to the Aaron Copland American sound which is more at home in the Star Trek series than a grotesque space-horror. The score tends to displace the mood, and moments which in the trailer seemed ungodlily creepy and horrifying can blip past without evoking a simple jolt or shudder.

But perhaps you’re normal and don’t even notice the music unless it’s terrible. The dialogue is pretty worn. None of the characters seem to ask any reasonable questions and consequently, the audience isn’t given any satisfying answers. Moments which should be great literally fade before you as there is never much fuss made out of anything that happens. **SPOILERS** They discover the first sign of alien life, they discover it looks just like us, they discover that it shares our DNA, they discover that they made us, Naoomi Rapace gets impregnated and removes a giant horrific squid from her guts and NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE. Not even the director. And then, how are we to?
There’s far too much cod theology and many many empty exchanges which tend to drag the story around its ankles.

The whole story, thematically, is about parentage, and it’s about as subtle as a chestburster. Dr. Lizzy can’t have babies, Holloway, Vickers and David clearly all have daddy issues and they occasionally “reveal” these insights in choice moments that I presume were intended to be plot twists. **SPOILERS** Theron’s dramatic turn around to Wayland toward the end with the immortal “Father!” was particularly loll-ful. **END**

What was good? Well, what was good was great! I loved the Engineers. Ever since I laid eyes on that dead Space Jockey in Alien they had transfixed me so getting to see them fleshed out and move in all their lumbering glory was a treat. There was something very LOST about their introduction. The Black goo, the loin-cloth…probably the loin-cloth.  But they were gorgeous; their statuesque form, marble skin, Roman noses and their loin-cloths evoked classic gods but somehow managed to gel seamlessly with the Alien universe. Their motives, however, do not sit so well.

We are told they have been to Earth previously and instructed primitive people to find them, “inviting” them to this nearby stellar constellation. We learn that they create biological weapons. Devastating, resilient, biological weapons of mass-destruction. We learnt that these weapons turned on them, hence there being no Engineers left. We learn that they created us. We learn (through just about the weirdest last minute piece of exposition I’ve yet seen) from the Cap’n that the planet isn’t their home but a place to store their super-dangerous weapons. We learn that their ship was bound for Earth, full of weapons, presumably to destroy it.

So, to recap…They make weapons, they make man; the most dangerous weapon. They decide to destroy man. They teach primitive species the directions not to their home planet but their weapon stash? A weapon stash they were going to fly to and dump on Earth eventually anyway? I…whut?

Then there’s Wayland who finances the whole trip based on cave maps and secrets himself on-board, with a vague plan of achieving eternal life granted to him by creatures he doesn’t yet know to exist? And he makes David infect Holloway…because…? and tries to sedate Dr.Lizzy why? and they all seem to forget about it immediately because…the…plot…and…The pace is simply to choppy and fast to accommodate any answers to these questions.

David, however, is a joy to watch. Fassbender once again steals the show with his curious, captivating, open face and dubious, self-righteous malice. With the leads being so dissmissable/dislikeable you almost cheer when he tries to do them in. Rapace fails to ignite any sympathy – hackneyed faith in the face of insurmountable evidence plot drew a yawn or two. Vickers was far more interesting a character and the moment she stepped up and refused to let the infected Holloway on-board I saw flickers of Ripley there and thought Scott had out-clevered us again; making us think Rapace was the strong woman who survives when in-fact it’s the by-the-book Vickers. But no-dice. She gets squashed. I really though Shaw deserved to bite it, like all mad scientists should, when their follies cause the deaths of everyone they know and love. It’s uptight “bitches” like Ripley who should get to survive.  But no, Shaw has her faith rewarded. Humbug.

The HORROR!

So, all in all, I enjoyed it, of course I did. The first half is fantastic, raising question after question and genuinely creates an interesting mood. But it just kinda falls apart. I think the disappointment you’ll feel with this film will be measured by how high your expectations are. And mine were unfortunately pretty high. And I don’t think Ridley Scott’s promotional campaign helped that much. The ads promised creepy, shock, grotesque alien body-horror, eerie atmosphere, the unknown and deliberately harked back to the original Alien trailers so it is completely fair to compare them and to say that yes, it did disappoint – yes it failed to satisfy not just my expectations but also the expectations it itself raised.

For me the final insult is it’s having nothing to do at all with the ship found in Alien which would have given the whole affair a kind of reason for existing.

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