Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sci-Fi Movie Reviews

I am so far behind on movie reviews. Not behind on watching new movies, mind you ... just on reviewing them. I've been going to movies like a mad man. Anyway, I'm going to try and break it up into genres. First up are all the sci-fi or comic book adaptation movies that I've seen lately, oldest first:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - As you would expect, this movie establishes the origins of the Wolverine character, from his birth in Canada in the 1800's, through his involvement in all the major wars and finally as part of a government group of mutants. The background is more interesting than the meandering story of the group of mutants. I'd explain it to you if I understood it. It's not that it's deep or complicated ... it's that it's contradictory and not well-paced.

I thought the special effects were not that great. Specifically, Wolverine's blades's effects were not seemless. I could clearly see it shifting on his hands. With the state of the art computer effects that movies have now, there is no excuse for that.

Ryan Reynolds was good, sarcastically funny as usual, but not enough lines. Liev Shreiber is a good actor, but I don't think his role as Sabretooth really required any talent. It seems like the movie was more concerned with establishing characters that could have their own spinoff movies, like Gambit. But they were just thrown in haphazard and didn't really have anything to do with the plot. Wait ... there was no plot.

The movie is full of good actors like Jackman and Danny Huston, but they're stuck doing stupid things and saying stupid stuff. The dialogue was iffy, even for a comic book movie.

I'm not saying it's a terrible movie, but in this age of comic book adaptations standing on their own as good movies (Iron Man, Dark Knight), you have to bring it better than this. This movie is not as good as any of the X-Men movies, which weren't exactly high art themselves. Grade: C-

Star Trek -- You could probably call this Star Trek Origins. The movie's goal of establishing a backstory like X-Men, however, would be the only similarity with that movie. In every aspect where X-Men falls short, Star Trek hits it out of the park.

Star Trek establishes how all of the Enterprise characters we know from the original series (and several bad movies) get to be on the Enterprise. It's a story point that has never been explored in depth, just hinted at. By doing this, we're released from having to use crusty old actors. All of the young(er) actors that they brought in to fill the roles are outstanding. Especially in the roles of Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), they had to make sure that they got good performances. And they did. The characteristic bravado and charm of Shatner is there in Pine, but he's not mimicking him at all. He makes the role his own. Quinto takes the best traits of Nimoy but, again, inhabits the role. The other two performances I want to make note of are Karl Urban (LOTR, Bourne Supremacy) as Bones and Simon Pegg (Shawn of the Dead) as Scotty. They are both hilarious. But not in a campy way.

The movie as a whole is not camp at all. It makes a nod to some catchphrases that we all know, but this is not an inside-joke "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" type movie at all. It stands on it's own. If you had never seen a Star Trek movie or series, this would still be an entertaining movie. The special effects are nice, but at no point are they the point of the story, like in a George Lucas movie. Star Trek is much more about character development. As I mentioned before, several moments are funny, but just as many are touching, particularly the opening scene with Kirk's father. I'm not ashamed to admit that I might have welled up a bit on that one. Plus, there are some definite sexy moments.

I could get into the details of the movie, but that's not what I really do with my reviews. I don't want to ruin it, I just want to give my impressions. Suffice to say, there is some time travel, some Romulans and maybe a visit by someone we know. The familiar directing/writing/producing team of J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindenof, Bryan Burk (all of Fringe and Lost fame) does a great job with the film and I'm excited to see what the next film holds. Grade: A

Terminator Salvation -- This is a fairly dark, thematically and literally, account of John Connor in the future as an adult. Whereas Star Trek didn't rely on any previous knowledge, Terminator Salvation wouldn't really make a lot of sense if you hadn't at least seen Terminator and T2 (I don't think anyone saw T3).

Christian Bale, an actor I like a lot, plays John Connor. He brings to it his normal intensity and I think he does a good job. Bryce Dallas Howard (Spiderman) plays his wife but is underused. There are some other bit actors but the two I would highlight would be Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) as the young Kyle Reese (the Michael Biehn character in Terminator) and Sam Worthington as a terminator that is not aware that he is a terminator. Both actors are very good.

The movie is loud, but that's to be expected since it's really about them fighting huge robots in a post-apocalyptic world. But, in between explosions, the movie does a decent job of exploring the philosophical concept of what really makes us human? Is it flesh and blood? Is it a soul? Can machines have a soul? Etc. It's the combination of effects and philosophy that have made the previous movies interesting. And Terminator Salvation does a serviceable job of continuing it. Nothing great. Not as good as the first two movies, but much better than the third. Grade: B-


The Zombieslayer said...

Liked your review of Wolverine. I've heard some of the same criticisms from reviewers so I'm in no hurry to see this one. I'll wait until it comes out on DVD.

Loved Star Trek. I'm glad they reset the whole thing instead of doing a rehash.

You didn't mention Uhura. I found her incredibly sexy, and won't say more because there was a twist to her that wasn't in the original series.

I saw T3 and it was so bad that I have no desire to see the Salvation movie. I wish someone warned me just how bad T3 was.

CyberKitten said...

Wolverine was OK. I'm not a comic fan so don't know any of the details but I did find the whole experience rather.... thin.

I went to see Star Trek with some trepidation - especially after seeing the questionanble trailers. I actually boarderline hated it. I was practically speechless afterwards and ranted about it for several days until my frinds told me to shut-up. Needless to say they liked it - as has everyone I've spoken to. But then again I'm used to being an opinion of one.

Oh, the best thing - by far - in the whole movie was Captain Pike. Now *he* had gravitas!

Seeing Salvation on Sunday when a friend comes up to visit. I've been waiting 25 years for this movie and am attempting to keep my expectations in check. I'll let you know what I think when I see it.

Oh, and I didn't think that T3 was *that* bad. It certainly had annoying bits and playing things a bit too much for laughs but it wasn't appalling or anything.

dbackdad said...

ZS -- I couldn't agree more about Uhuru. Her green roommate (Rachel Nichols of Alias fame) wasn't too shabby either.

CK -- I'd be curious on your Salvation take. By no means was it bad.

If you get the chance, I'd love to read a more in-depth review of Star Trek by you. It can be definitely annoying when everyone tells you something is good, then you go and don't like it. I went through that with Tropic Thunder, but in reverse order. I was one of the first in the country to see it at a test screening, hated it. Then when it finally comes out, all of my friends and reviewers all love it.

Laura said...

I think those are all renters for me. I have heard really good things about the Star Trek movie, and maybe I'll see that as a cheapo matinee or something. As for Terminator... I'm SO over that franchise. The last one was HORRIBLE and that TV series they launched was bad too.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Sam Raimi horror flick "Drag me to Hell"

dbackdad said...

I'm going to see Drag Me to Hell this weekend.

CyberKitten said...

Saw 'Salvation' this morning. Not exactly worth waiting 25 years for [grin] but not half bad. The ending was a bit... twee, but overall a creditable addition to the Terminator franchise.

Sadie Lou said...

I haven't seen any of these! Dan and I don't get out on dates much and the last movie we saw in the theater was "Up" because the kids could come--ahahaha.

So many of my friends hated this movie. I'm sure Dan and I will rent it but I won't expect much at all, which is a shame because it could have been great. I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. I was a huge X-Men comic reader as well as a fan of the cartoon when I was young and if we're going to hate how the movies don't follow the comics, we wouldn't start with this movie--they all suck at following the comics.

Star Trek--I'm really excited to see this one because of the swelling reviews but I didn't watch the TV series at all. I think I saw one when I was like 12--it has some furry creatures that multiply.

I *love* the terminator movies!!
You're right, T3 was a crime against humanity--kind of like the last Matrix movie.
I'm excited to see this one because my man Christian Bale is in it. The guy could read the phone book and win an Oscar in my book.

dbackdad said...

Sadie -- Actually the last 2 Matrix movies were crimes against humanity. :-)

Christian Bale is awesome in anything. I keep meaning to see Rescue Dawn, which I've heard great things about. It came out a year or so ago.

I actually go to most movies alone, late at night. I'm just a movie fiend and we have a theater a half mile away. The wife will go see the major ones with me (she saw Star Trek, Terminator and Up), but her movie-going appetite is just not as much as mine. I have no problem going solo.