Hey, Gang–I’m pretty shook up right now at the passing of my teacher, and one of my favorite artists/storytellers, Joe Kubert. I’ll post a proper tribute later when I can better collect and organize my thoughts. So I’m running the column I planned earlier.
Pausing in my Comic-Con International (aka, San Diego Comic-Con) panel wrap-ups for a couple topical movie reviews, Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy.
Wow…I thought I would hate this as I’m a huge fan of the original, Paul Verhoeven-directed, Arnold Schwarzenegger film. (I’ve seen it three times.) When I read that this one didn’t even have any scenes on Mars, I was even more bummed. But it was actually very good. Pros and Cons:
–The cities! Production Design was amazing, incredible and any other overused superlative you can think of. (The PD was FACE OFF judge Patrick Totopolous, who’s also directing the new Shi film from Billy Tucci!) Best cities since BLADE RUNNER. Just spectacular. I could watch it with the sound off and still enjoy these parts. Gorgeous matte paintings. CG integration in most parts was seamless.
–Similarly, the future technology used was right on. I’d like to the great Syd Mead (also responsible for BLADE RUNNER) would have done something similar. (Especially the cell phone imbedded in your hand: how many tweens wouldn’t love that now? Ugh.)
–Colin Farrell gives a solid, intense performance. And the ladies love him.
–Good plot, with twists. I hadn’t seen the original in years so while I knew a few things, it wasn’t enough to ruin the surprises at the end
–The callipygian Kate Beckinsale. (Bru-Hed went into more about that…http://wednesdaysheroes.com/beer-abby-50-golden-age-bru-hed-total-recall-olympic-medals-cake-and-baking-tips/)
–Lots of action, of course. The car chases in the skies were just a blast! While some may not like the inclusion of “normal” cars on the streets, I didn’t mind–especially the scene where a sky car almost hits one; very well done.
PICS: The Total Recal “sky cars” and how they were shot. One was at last year’s Comic-Con in San Diego (I took a photo but it was at night; this one is better.)
Colin Farrell. And the incredible production design of the city.
–As good as Farrell’s performance was, he’s no Arnold. Yes, he’s a much better actor, but come on, if you’ve seen Ah-nold in this first, it’s tough without him. (Jack Nicholson is a better actor than Ceasar Romero, but I’ll take the latter’s Joker any day and every day.)
–No Mars. Granted, I didn’t miss the ridiculous bug-eye-popping effects of the first film, but I was hoping for a “get your ass to Mahs” line somewhere. And it would have been more convenient/believable for the set-up than the two continent thing here. Same for the mutants.
–If you saw the first one, remember the red-headed lady in yellow who keeps repeating “two weeks”? They tried a clever twist on that here but it fell flat to me.
–While Bryan Cranston (BREAKING BAD, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE) is a popular and decent actor, seeing him trade big-time punches and kicks with a young, heavily-trained agent stretched plausibility.
–Couple of plot holes/flaws that were annoying, but for me, nothing too glaring. (You’ll have to pay attention to scenic logistics and character placement at the climax to get full effect of the “OMG” moments; my wife and I apparently didn’t.) Room for a sequel? Possibly, but thankfully not obvious.
–No button at the end…(Marvel films have ruined me that way! I expect every film to have something now.)
So, in my rating system of Own It, See It, Rent It, Catch It or Skip It, I’ll give it a solid Rent It. Worth a Netflix night. But, if you’re really into visuals (or a concept artist/aficionado), then you’ll want to see it on the big screen.
THE BOURNE LEGACY:
–Fellow Modesto resident Jeremy Renner is an actor’s actor. And a man’s man. I read that he did most of his stunts, and the stunt coordinator said he could make a living as a stuntman. High praise! The result is very believable action scenes. What he lacks in Matt Damon pretty-boy/model looks he definitely makes up for with machismo and intensity. In other words, he kicks major butt. (I always thought Damon’s looks stretched believability anyway.)
–The action scenes, especially the motorcycle chase, are brilliantly executed and breathtaking. (The end of the chase, more subtle than most, is one of the best I’ve seen in a while.)
–Similarly, the scene in Rachel Weisz’s house was intense and well done. (Minor quibble but
–Bonus appearances and performances by Ed Norton, Stacy Keach (in a rare mustache-less appearance, revealing an old cleft palette scar) and David Strathairn.
–Sinister plot twists become apparent slowly but with impact.
–Rather than ignore the Bourne character and try a stupid “reboot” or insult the audience with goofy explanations, this adds to the previous trilogy while opening up new possibilities and storylines. (Look for shot of Matt Damon’s photo in a scene or two.)
–Plausible-sounding tech and biotech stuff, including a conceptual link to Steve Rogers! (You’ll see what I mean.)
–Location footage is often spectacular. Kudos to cinematographer Robert Elswit.
PICS: Hawkeye is now a badass secret agent named Alex–err, Aaron Cross. Another “Avenger” appears, via former Bruce Banner Ed Norton.
Rachel Weisz (apparently the “w” is pronounced with a “v”) is okay as the ditsy/fragile biologist; however, no one can make a giant white motorcycle helmet look sexy.
–Character name: Aaron Cross? Really? Like there aren’t enough readers of James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels to notice a similarity? (I would have preferred Cliff Barton, but that was taken.)
–Plot was slow to develop and confusing at first. Finally the pieces slip into place and there are “ah-ha!” moments, but it all could’ve happened faster.
–I agree with reviewer Leonard Maltin that the government spy-speak was heavy, too self-aware and needlessly obtuse.
–Suspension of disbelief required for some of the chase scenes in traffic, but that applies to every Bourne film (if not every action film)!
–The Rachel Weisz (HELLBOY) character was believably vulnerable but a bit too ditsy/wimpy for my tastes. However, she is more realistic as someone in that scenario would be. I’ve just gotten used to tough chicks in THE AVENGERS, BRAVE, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, I guess.
–The ending wasn’t as definitive as I’d liked; just waiting for a sequel.
So overall, this is between “See It” and “Rent It.” The chases and explosions will obviously be more impressive on the big screen. The music is well done. I want to see Renner do well so I’m recommending Seeing It. But most would be happy Renting It.
We’ll resume the SDCC panel wrap-ups next week. Hope your week is a great one!