Thursday, June 4, 2009

What Happened While I've Been Away...

It takes a while to recuperate after being buried alive under a crushing pile of papers and final exams. During my absence, the first few summer sf flicks have come and gone. I haven't the time for a full review, but I'll offer a few random and impressionistic observations:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. It’s fun to watch him work, and there were some nice moments here. But this film helped me to realize that I don’t want to know Wolverine’s origin. Plenty of superheroes have clear and obvious origin stories. The risk of cliché is very high. Think Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Punisher, Hulk, and so on. For me, one of the things that set Wolverine apart from the rest is that he doesn’t have a sense of purpose that depends on his origin. He’s a hero whose past is a mystery. And that’s where this film leaves him at the end, right? But it doesn’t leave us there with him, and that’s my major complaint.

I gotta add that I’m really unhappy about what they did to the Merc’ with the Mouth. Deadpool is a delightful character, so why mess so badly with him?

Star Trek. Clearly the best of the three. A great film to watch, a point deliciously made by The Onion! But J. J. Abrams hasn't forgotten where this film comes from. I enjoyed the reboot of a classic set of characters: Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, Uhuru, all recognizable yet fresh at the same time. The expected lines were delivered and enjoyed, at least by me:
"Dammit man, I'm a doctor, not a physicist."
"I'm giving her all she's got, Captain!"
Now, I'm of the opinion that the Star Trek writers use the time travel trope far too often, but at least this one didn't turn out to be a desperate race to restore the original future. No, we're in an alternate timeline, and thankfully that opens up the possibilities for the sequel.

The weak point of the film was the stereotypical villain. A Romulan lunatic out to destroy the earth? Didn't we see that in Star Trek: Nemesis? I'm hoping next time around we get a more interesting and frightening foe for the Enterprise crew to combat, and a better story, too. This film got quite a lot of mileage out of its nostalgic elements and its sheer watchability. I suspect the bar will be higher next time.

Oh, and what's the story with J. J. Abrams's obsession with red matter? Sydney ran into some of that on Alias, too, right?

Terminator Salvation. Better than Terminator 3, but not up to the standard set by the first two films. The Terminator films are all animated by killer machines and extravagant chase scenes, but only the first two manage to make us care very much about what's going on--and even to think a little bit!

I liked the way this movie channeled The Road Warrior and tricked it out in high tech, but mainly it struck me as a missed opportunity. The new guy in this film is a blend of human and machine. He doesn't know what he is, and neither does John Conner. That's some really interesting territory to explore, as Battlestar Galactica has shown, but this film goes nowhere with it. Too bad.

What did you think?


Ryan said...

Hated Wolverine. I thought an origins story should go deeper into a character...

Star Trek, however, was wonderful. Seen it twice and would see it again. And would see a sequel. (Though I read somewhere someone talking about how much like Star Wars it is--which was very funny second time around. Oh no! A starship that can destroy planets!)

randy jensen said...

A video over at College Humor does a rather nice job of pointing out the parallels between Star Trek and Star Wars: