Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Three Summer Movie Reviews: Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Transformers 3

I'm reviewing these movies in the order that I saw them. I enjoyed all three movies, but also found them easy to forget. Enjoy the movies, then move on.

The Green Lantern
A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe. (IMDb)
This movie was slammed for too much character development because the action confrontation doesn't come until the end of the movie. However, to be contrary, I liked the character development. The movie's main conflict is the inner conflict of the main character--that of understanding himself and accepting his new role in life.

I suppose the main weakness of this movie is that I experienced the same conflict as the main character--wrapping my head around the idea of a cosmic police force, headed by the Guardians, that doesn't seem to be too smart.

Ryan Reynolds did a good job as the Green Lantern. His performance was balanced and credible, using his talent for comedy without overshadowing the storyline or the integrity of his character.

The great performance of the movie was the tragic bad guy, Hector Hammond, played by Peter Sarsgaard. You pity the character Hector and want him to make a choice, turn a corner, face the light. Sarsgaard's characterization provides those poised moments when we ask, "How's he going to choose?"

Enjoy the character development. There are plenty of other summer flicks where many things blow up for an extended time.

X-Men: First Class (2011)
Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-MEN. Written by Twentieth Century Fox  
This movie I might buy just to fill out my X-Men movie archive. But I probably won't.

The movie is tight and moves along without a glitch. The acting is believable, especially that of James McAvoy as Xavier and Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw.

This was an enjoyable movie to watch. My main disappointment was that the movie was so predictable, and I'm not just talking about the fact that a lot of the storyline exists as backstory in the first three movies.

Nazis = bad; democracy = good. People under 30 = good; the establishment = deceitful. The movie did a good job with the conflicts but somehow never went beyond them.

The fact that my favorite part of the movie was the three-second moment with Hugh Jackson playing Wolverine tells me something. Those few seconds were unexpected, high profile creativity. The rest of the movie was predictable, technically proficient creativity.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets. (IMDb)
 Short evaluation: 20% dialogue; 80% let's blow something up.

The human/special effects interface was a strain for me. How could someone get through a particular experience and live, much less be uninjured? It reminds me of the movie 2012. The hero (John Cusack) races along in various scenes, the roadway falling away three feet behind the vehicle into a thousand foot chasm. Man, limousines and RVs must have better suspension and acceleration than I thought!

It's like that in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Let me give you an example (very slight spoiler). A skyscraper is cut in half, falling onto another skyscraper. Glass breaking, furniture falling, a half dozen heroes tumbling. Epps (Tyrese Gibson) says, "Everybody OK?" And by golly they are! The girlfriend's white blouse didn't even get dirty. Another example: Witwicky is whipped around on a cable--no dislocated arms, not smashed by contact with large metal transforming objects or walls. Ah, youth!

After watching the movie, I was surprised that the comments of actor Shia LaBeouf (that I'd heard in an interview that I'd seen prior to watching the movie) were so far off. He said that this movie really had the cast at their best and they really did their jobs well.

What does that mean? That LaBeouf ran faster than in the other movies?

Character development in this movie was almost non-existent. Continuing characters maintained a flat presence. Several weird characters were thrown in for apparent flash. The girlfriend is evidently just some hot rich girl that main character Sam Witwicky hooks up with after his other hot girlfriend dumps him. Disappointing.

High points:
  • actor John Turturro as Simmons, quasi-psycho g-man
  • actress Frances McDormand as Mearing, blue-suited, bureaucratic bitch
  • Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime's voice
These three actors--Turturro, McDormand, and Nimoy--provided unexpected depths to characters in a movie that allowed action to thin other characters to two-dimensional representations. 

One image that was a hoot: Mom and Dad Witwicky (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) in green satin jumpsuits standing outside their RV in downtown Chicago. (No promo photo available--rats!)

Final words:

Watch the movies and enjoy, but don't expect a life-transforming (if you'll forgive the pun) experience. The one unique twist to my watching these three movies is that I saw The Green Lantern in 3-D. An interesting experience, even though a few heads achieve gorilloid proportions.

Given the choice, though, I'd prefer to see Avatar for the second time in 3-D. I'd enjoy the new perspective.


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