Prometheus (2012) Mini-Review

Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi after a decades long hiatus with Prometheus, the story of a space expedition to a planet that was mysteriously mapped in 35,000 years old cave-paintings on Earth. In the vein of the classic Alien movie, what the expedition finds on this planet is not quite what they pictured.

If you follow this blogs Twitter stream, you’ll know I’ve been quite excited for Prometheus. Not only due to Ridley’s name being attached — after all, he made Blade Runner — but also because Damon Lindelof co-wrote the movie (who co-wrote Lost). Add to this the fact that Prometheus, while not an Alien prequel, is in fact set in the Alien universe. Making such a movie is a monumental task, and the expectations are huge. So as a mindgame, when I sat down in the cinema I put myself in the screenwriters place and asked myself what kind of movie would I have made, were I given this task. Prometheus hits nearly all the beats I found were necessary for being an Alien-universe movie (and a good one at that). The visuals are completely gorgeous, and there are oodles of Alien references for fans like myself. The movie is long but it doesn’t feel too long. The plot twists are not totally expected. The music is good, and I most definitely felt I had received my moneys worth. Go watch it, you have my blessing. It’s a worthy Alien successor.

That said, Prometheus is not perfect. Many characters feel under-utilized, and some subplots are either weirdly unsubstantial or just not brought to fruition. I would very much like to see an extended cut once Prometheus hits physical media, to see if something was left on the cutting room floor. I’m pretty sure, though, that most of the unanswered questions were ones that Ridley hopes to address in one or two sequels. Which I’d be fine with.

Captain America (2011) Mini-Review

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Steve Rogers is a scrawny kid from Brooklyn with his heart set on helping his country turn the tide of the war in Germany, but his physical condition keeps getting him rejected. For his good nature, however, Dr. Erskine is willing to give him a chance to come the super-soldier Captain America, so that he can defeat the evil Hydra led by the Red Skull.

As far as superheroes go, the Cap is one of the sillier ones. While the fashion in which Steve Rogers receives his costume is almost believable, Rogers sneaking into a Hydra camp — all flag-clad — is not. Impressively, the intrinsic silliness of being dressed in red white and blue is trumped by something even sillier: a soldier wearing a bowler hat into battle.

I found the music to be quite anonymous. There was an action montage in the middle of the movie that was out of place and annoying. Some of the climactic scenes were a confusingly put together. There was a post-credit scene, a concept which is starting to feel like a waste of everyones time.

Still, there’s a lot to like about Captain America. Hugo Weaving is an inspired choice — he does wonders with the material he’s given. Joe Johnston delivers on his promise to do a Rocketeer inspired period piece and you’ll see are mini u-boats, tricked out motorcycles and delta-wing planes. The good guys wield colorful weapons and the bad guys are all dressed in black. It’s almost Star-Warsian in its simplistic themes. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll very much enjoy this film.

Super 8 (2011) Mini-Review

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Six kids are making a zombie movie, as they inadvertently capture a train accident on camera. As they wait for the reel to be processed, they learn that the train accident might not have been a simple accident. The processed film doesn’t make things any less mysterious.

Super 8 is JJ Abrams love letter to Steven Spielberg. From the Drew Suzan-esque poster to the music, from the period to the plot, everything about this movie is an homage to the wonderful adventurous Spielberg era of movie making. And Super 8 works well in it’s places. There are moments when Spielbergs magic is captured.

But Super 8 also lacks some of the natural flow of Spielbergs masterpieces. There are a couple of confusing moments, a couple of messy shots, and at least one — significant — plot point that is somewhat unsettled. The music, while good (Michael Giacchino is my new favourite composer) doesn’t reach the monumental heights that John Williams did — though arguably that task was insurmountable. Finally, like all other movies, it’s too long. 90 minutes is the correct length of a movie. Ask anyone.

Still, Super 8 is a good movie. All the actors are extremely well cast and they act well. Abrams loves a good mystery and he delivers. I can definitely recommend this film.

Absolution Gap (2003) Mini-Review

As humanity struggles to fight the Inhibitors, a moving cathedral circumnavigates the remote world of Hela in an effort to always keep the gas giant Haldora at its zenith at all times. The celestial body and it’s mysterious behavior has caused entire religions to emerge on the planet below.

As a ragtag band of survivors on board the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity travels to Hela in a desperate search for a weapon against the Inhibitors, a special girl from the badlands of Hela, Rashmika, seeks out to find her long lost brother — a journey that takes her to the largest of the moving cathedrals — as it prepares to cross the Absolution Gap.

Absolution Gap oozes cool. It’s brilliant, hard sci-fi on every level that matters and Alastair Reynolds grasp of the subject is masterful. Absolution Gap is, perhaps, even more cool than my previous favourite in the Revelation Space series — Chasm City (Absolution Gap is the chronological last book in the series).

Alright, it was a bit slow in places — these books are long — but this level of cool deserves no less than five hearts.

Tron Legacy (2010) Mini-Review

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In 1982, Kevin Flynn succeeded in creating a virtual computer world which he could physically enter. In 1989, Flynn disappeared, leaving his 8 year old son, Sam Flynn, heir of his Encom computer empire. As adult Sam inadvertantently gets digitized into Flynn’s “digital frontier”, he finds things are no longer quite as rosy as the childhood stories he was told of The Grid.

Tron Legacy is a visual and musical get-together in your prefrontal lobe. Within the first five minutes, the remarkable Daft Punk soundtrack will be blasting at you as Sam rides his Ducati through the city. This is the soundtrack Daft Punk were born to make, and this is the perfect movie to go with it. Just a few days ago, I finished re-re-watching Interstella 5555, the Daft Punk anime musical that accompanied their fantastic Discovery record; I kept thinking I wanted another Daft Punk musical. As it turns out, you can consider Tron Legacy to be such a musical — a visual interpretation of the dark house tones of the tunes.

A nice point of note on the 3D — this is the best use of 3D I’ve seen; because most scenes aren’t in 3D — it even says so before the movie.

While the music propels this movie to greatness, the film itself is a delight. Jeff Bridges is great as usual, and the director understands his mannerisms. There’s even the occasional trademark Bridges “man” uttering thrown in for good measure, and it’s all such a perfect fit. Jeff Bridges, gorgeous techno-world designs, booming sound-design. Light-cycles. Olivia Wilde. A reference to “Sweet dreams” by Eurythmics.  Daft Punk in soundtrack and canonized in situ. This film has got it going. I was absolutely and exhileratingly entertained for two hours, more than I’ve been in years. I completely love this film.

Okay, so the story isn’t over the top great. There are moments — most of them — when Clu, a.k.a. digital Flynn, looks mostly rubber. At a couple of points, the pace of the film grinds just a little bit, and let’s face it the concept itself isn’t terribly deep. In fact, if you didn’t enjoy video games in the eighties or early nineties, you’re probably — most likely — going to find Tron Legacy to be confusing.

If you did enjoy videogames in the eighties or early nineties — even if you just like Daft Punk — Tron Legacy is absolutely something you should watch.