Here are some actual issues to be concerned with in the new trailer of Ghost in the Shell:
* The Major doesn’t need a traditional origin story along the line of “the government stole my identity and made me a super soldier cyborg.” This is a way overdone trope and it misses the essential nature of the Major’s identity issues in the manga, movies and the series. What holds the Major back in her evolution is is not, not knowing who she was, it is clinging to material items like her watch which serve as tangible confirmation of our identity and that our memories are real, not a dream or illusion or a memory edit or hostile program.
* Bateau seems miscast. He is supposed to be a laid back, beer drinking, basset hound loving, weight lifting ex-US special forces operator. Seems like here the character has been “Danewashed.”
* An important point in the representation of the world of Ghost in the Shell is that cyberization is becoming common and the Net is becoming universal and starting to evolve in it new forms of consciousness and life. Having Motoko as “the first of your kind” is again, recycling a tired old trope which isn’t needed here.
* “Major” is an orphan appellation in this movie. It is used as though it is a first name, which in the manga, movies and TV series is not the case. There, she is called “Major” because she was a special forces operative, a Major in the JSDF and UN forces in Central America before she was recruited for Section 9. But because they have latched on to the “they stole your life” formula, they have lost the more interesting origin story of Motoko losing her parents, her body, her memories, everything in a plane crash when she was six. And they have lost the very touching backstory of her relationship with Kuze and the one hand folding paper cranes by which they recognize each other again.
Part of the confusion in the “whitewashing” issue is that Little Englanders and USians who are not familiar with the franchise assuming “Motoko Kusanagi” is her given name, whereas in English it would be like naming a character something like “Jane Doe Excalibur” and should be seen as an obvious code name, callsign, handle or pseudonym and not as a given name. So they shouldn’t shy away from using it.
Simply “looking awesome” and “looking like the source material” does not necessarily a good movie make. Witness “Warcraft.”
So count me encouraged but dubious about this trailer and film. On the plus side it looks gorgeous and we can at least enjoy the world building and watching a smirky naked badass Scarlett Johannson kicking ass. Which can’t be all bad.
Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy
My thoughts on Captain America: Civil War
I finally saw Captain America: Civil War last night. What an enjoyable movie! It is a mashup of filmatic styles and tropes ranging from noir to 70’s spy thriller to good old comic book splash page goodness. Shaky cam, long tracking shots, cgi and practical effects are used with virtuosity in a way which surprisingly does not clash or become a distraction.
Of course none of this would work without fine writing, a journeyman cast, and the directors’ broad vision of how the emotional dynamic works for each of these characters.
Props to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross and Tom Holland as your friendly neighborhood kid from Queens. They stand out among the capable and surprisingly nuanced performances by the ensemble cast.
The film avoids one of the overused arcs of films these days particularly of the cape versus cape variety. Rather than building up to a ponderous, cgi-laden Class 3 extinction event, the big fight occurs in the middle of the third act. This leaves room for a smaller scale coda which focuses back on the essential conflicts personified by the characters of Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America: rule of law and personal conscience, friendship and honor, and regret and hope.
Bittersweet, funny and trenchant, not by turns but all at once, this is a rare and laudable piece of film-making. And also great, great fun. It is the film we would have made if we could when we were thirteen years old, but with the wisdom and insight which is only bought through lifetimes of failure, transitory successes, and bitter mistakes which cannot be undone.
Civil War covers thematically much of the same territory as the ponderous and lamentable Batman v Superman. But where BvS is clumsy, depressing, and makes the protagonists look like sociopathic jerks, Civil War manages to leven its gravitas with humor and witty repartee.
If you used to love Marvel comics or still do, you will love love this film. If you are so-so on comic book films but enjoy action thrillers like the Bourne films, I think this film will still work for you.
Bottom line, a two and a half hour film seemed to me to be half an hour and left me wanting more.
Five of five stars.
Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy
Some thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.
I’m going to assume you have either seen the movie, know the general plot, or don’t want spoilers.
I enjoyed Fury Road but I don’t think it is as good as the reviewers claim. It is a B movie and destined to forever be one of the classics of that genre. It isn’t a feminist epic, though there are some nods in that direction. It does pass the Bechdel test and with flying colors despite there being almost no dialog in it. But most every movie should do, that doesn’t make it a feminist movie. The old ladies, the Vuvalini, are just the only non-evil gang/tribe.
The dialog is weak, almost non-existent, and isn’t so interesting. I’m also not fond of the early voiceover, that’s a lazy device probably demanded by the studio who were maybe uncomfortable with the no doubt WTF reaction of some older focus groups.
Of the core group of characters, in many ways Hardy’s Max is the least interesting. I didn’t think Hardy’s performance was that great, he lacked the screen presence and manic intensity of the younger Mel Gibson. Of course here his character is supposed to start so beat down and deindividuated as to say when asked his name, “Does it matter?
Where I give the movie very high marks is for physical effects, cinematography, editing, stunt coordination, logistics, and the creation of a very strange world which approaches Alice in Wonderland in weirdness and Saving Private Ryan in nihilistic brutality. The names are nothing if not inventive, such as The Splendid Angharad, Capable, and Toast the Knowing.
The film owes something to Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in the physical comedy and timing, and exquisite complex rube goldberg-like crashes. In a horrible way it is quite funny, like a live action Road Runner. At the same time it is as horrifying as Apocalypse Now. The lady next to me spent most of the movie with both hands palms pressed to her cheeks in the classic look of horror. Her mouth was in a little “o” as in OMG what am I seeing? But, she didn’t look unhappy.
The long shots of broad desert landscapes are awe-inspiring and make Fury Road a modern “Lawrence of Arabia.”
It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is like a stagecoach western on acid, where the stagecoach tuns into a dieselpunk battlewagon with two small cars welded on the top for turrets, the pursuing outlaws turn into radioactive mutants in monster trucks, the hostile tribes turn into jawas in porcupine like cars and a explosive-spear-chucking 100 mile-per-hour cirque du soleil respectively, and the cavalry turns into rifle-toting old ladies on motorcycles.
If you go expecting another Mad Max movie you won’t be disappointed and you might be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise if you go in cold, hold onto your hat, or in the case of my seat neighbor, your face.
Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy
Avengers: I enjoyed this movie even more than I expected.
My criticisms are mild: it is a superhero movie and so you know how it ends, pretty much. World saved. More bad guys incoming.
Robot monsters attack Manhattan. They proceed to devastate earth’s critical strategic assets, namely its Manhattan yellow cabs and NYPD police cars. Cue running civilians ala 9/11 or Godzilla. Like Transformers: Dark of the Moon, only with a plot and writing and acting. Hilarity ensues as HULK SMASH.
What I thought was splendid, though, was the script. It is LOL funny and has a certain tenderness to it. Like Firefly with super powers. Even the bit players get their moments to shine. And how nice to see really good actors enjoying their roles and having fun working together. Hiddleston is the cement which holds the moral compass together as Loki, the smarmy, fucked-up jealous kid brother evildoer with a God complex. Well, ok he is a God, but, notwithstanding, is trash-talking the enraged Hulk a good tactic? Not so much.
A few preliminary intra-team skirmishes establish the heroes, their motivations and assets. Iron Man vrs Thor. Thor vrs Capt. America. Hulk vrs Thor. Hulk vrs. Black Widow. Run Scarlett run!
Two huge set-piece fights, first one, they do not fight as a team and it is a somewhat mitigated disaster. Second time, a charm. Did I mention HULK SMASH?
Well worth seeing in the theatre, in 3D, with friends.
The Avengers – Official Trailer #2 (HD):
Copyright © 2012 Henry Edward Hardy