It was over a year ago that they started releasing production videos from the set of The Hobbit. I was highly excited by the prospect of a Hobbit film back then… but then a lot of things can change in a year.Read More
It’s taken 4 years and 5 films but you know what? They finally made a Twilight film that’s genuinely decent. Yes that’s right folks…Read More
After the drubbing Donald Clarke gave it on Cinerama the other week, I obviously ran straight out to the cinema to see The Expendables 2. I’d really enjoyed the first one and I had to know if they’d caused a car crash by trying the same joke twice.
See here for clips and trailers of The Hunger Games.Read More
Actually, I didn’t know she had gone, I checked out of this franchise after the first film. Not that I’d hated it or anything. As far as I recall. I think it was just that I saw it around the same time as that disaster of a film, Van Helsing, and so I ended up staying away from vampire films for a while.
All I remember of the first Underworld was that Kate Beckinsale looked damn fine in the outfit and I wished I looked that good in skin-tight pants. So, as far as I can tell, little has changed in the intervening 9 years. She’s pushing 40 and still looking well. But that’s not being fair to the film at all, it has a lot more to offer than Beckinsale… There’s Michael Ealy and Theo James for the ladies as well. Ah no, I jest, there is more than that, I swear.
This is the first of the series to be directed by Swedish duo, Måns Magnus Mårlind (what a name!) and Björn Stein. The only other English language film the pair have directed was Shelter, starring Julianne Moore. I haven’t seen it, but with a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m not exactly planning on picking it up.
With Shelter’s score in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder why Underworld: Awakening wasn’t screened for critics here. As we all know, this is rarely a good sign. Hence, I approached it with trepidation – and a 2 minute recap of the two films I’d missed from my cinema going partner. That trepidation was tempered by the fact that it’s an 18 cert film in Ireland and the UK. The Underworld franchise is hardly known for sex and nudity, so an 18 cert was bound to mean violence.
As it happened, I didn’t really need the recap. I remembered more of the first film than I thought and in any case there’s a short revisiting of the first three films at the start. With 3 years between films each time, I guess they’re used to having to bring the audience back up to speed quickly. The main thing you need to know is that in the last film, normal humans discovered the existence of the Lycans and Vampires. They were not happy about it.
So sets the stage for a “cleansing” of epic proportions.
I actually really enjoyed Underworld: Awakening. There’s always a lot to be said for having no expectations going into a film. I didn’t even know this film was out this week, that’s how in the dark I was. I wouldn’t go around saying it had the most amazing plot or performances… But, having already seen 4 out of the other 5 films out this week, I can say it’s probably the most entertaining of the week. Mind you, that’s still not saying much. I’ve only done the reviews of J. Edgar and Haywire so far, but you can take it from me that it’s a pretty poor week, Underworld 4 aside.
What’s most enjoyable about Underworld: Awakening is the action. With an 18 cert there’s no holding back. Selene kicks ass, and gets her ass kicked, from here to next Sunday with barely any let up. What let up there is is used to explain a perfectly serviceable plot. A rarity in a film like this these days. Recently action films seem to be struggling terribly hard with plots; unnecessary convolution is the order of the day. I can only assume they’re over-compensating out of a fear of being criticised for being too action oriented. I don’t know why they bother. People go to action films to see action. Right?
Anyway, with all the action on offer here, the target demographic should be satisfied. It’s worth mention as well that the 3D is pretty good. Ok, there are large parts of the film where you don’t need to wear your glasses, but it’s worth it for the parts where you do. Plus, it’s shot bright enough that you don’t have to worry about the type of murkiness that plagued The Darkest Hour. Of course… that’s not all that plagued The Darkest Hour, but that’s for a different review. You do still see that strange green hue you get with Real-D 3D glasses, but it actually suits the comic book stylings of the film so… it all works out really.
Some other reviews I’ve seen have criticised it as being a step away from the other 2 mythology-heavy sequels. Having never seen them, I have no idea if that’s true. Considering all 3 of the other Underworld films having come in for some fairly scathing reviews, I’m surprised they’ve decided to pick apart any changes.
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for a glossy, 88 minute distraction with some good looking people being beaten every which way but loose… you could do much, much worse than Underworld: Awakening. This film is a bruised and bloodied hoot ‘n a half.
I waffle about films here on this site but I’ve never actually thought about the structure of prose, never mind spared a thought for the rhythm of writing. Like most people I know, I had to read poetry in school but I don’t think I’ve ever read poetry for pleasure.
My knowledge of Shakespeare is… forgive the pun, shaky. I had to read a few of the plays in school. I liked King Lear, I have a vague memory of The Taming of the Shrew. I can’t remember any of the other ones. Oh, wait, I remember I liked the movie version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m aware of many of his works but I know little about the man himself. I certainly wasn’t entirely aware that there was any real controversy over who he was.
Now, I’m sure there’s already someone reading this thinking –
“But there isn’t any real controversy! Ronald Emmerich is just giving credence to a crazy fringe theory!“.
Well, maybe he is… but like it or not Anonymous is bringing that fringe theory to the masses and that’ll make the controversy real in some people’s minds. Personally, I don’t know enough about Shakespeare or 16th century political and social history to have any opinion about it at all, beyond this – Who knows what really happened back then, and does it really matter that much?
Course, that is the crux of the problem I always have when greeted with a film that paints itself in any historical colours. I never ever know what’s real and what’s not. It makes me feel stupid. I can either accept that it’s all fiction or spend ages later trying to pick apart the true history. Which will invaribly lead to opposing viewpoints, all of which will oddly come up sparse when answering the criticisms of the other.
I decided to view Anonymous as a kind of an alternate history film. Which I think is fair. And to be fair to the film. I don’t think it pushes the “Was Shakespeare a fraud?” thing as far as it could have. It is, after all, a Ronald Emmerich film and I think he’s tried to keep it quite accessible. I didn’t feel like I was being proselytised at. It’s just a film about a guy, and some other guys. I suppose it really depends on how you look at it. It is, technically, a biography of the person who they are presenting as Shakespeare, but that’s not the same as an argument in my book. It’s not evidence, it’s just a story.
In case you were wondering. I liked it. I wasn’t particularly expecting to. I’ve always enjoyed Emmerich’s films on a very basic level. I continue to be in awe of the fact that he brought to the big screen, the scene where a plane flies under a train that was falling through mid-air as the world collapsed around them. That was some kind of genius. But nothing in his other films that I’ve seen ever suggested that he could make a good drama using, you know, plot and dialogue.
I would even go so far as to say it was very good. I thought it was strong political drama, complete with back-stabbing, illicit romance and moral ambiguity. Sure, the intrigue was a little outlandish and unbelievable, but then again it always is. There are always the broadstroke heroes and villains in politics, even as every political film tries to make us see that even noble men have to get dirty sometimes. Of course, we can’t believe them. Whatever happens, you always have to choose one over the others… But I disgress.
In addition to, what I thought was a strong plot and good pacing and scripting, there was the overall production. I think that’s what I enjoyed most about this film. It is a gorgeous looking film. The costumes were fantastic, the stagecraft of the plays put on in the film was amazing. Now yes, this is a movie, but it didn’t look as though there was much, if any, trickery involved. Indeed, they did apparently build a full scale replica of The Rose theatre for the film so, perhaps it was real. It managed to bring the era to life, even if it did look a bit cleaner than things probably were back then.
I thought the performances were generally strong as well. Rhys Ifans was excellent. He’s never impressed me before, I always thought he was a bit one-note… but this kind of, slightly melodramatic role, suited him. There was a sadness in his eyes that suggested more skill than I had previously given him credit for. Fair play.
Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave also shone in their joint portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I. They and Ifans even managed to elicit a couple of tears from me…. I may have just been in the mood though.
Sebastian Armesto (playing Ben Jonson) on the other hand seemed to be suffering from a touch of the Batman voice at the start. He was more than a little out of his depth in those first scenes, but he managed to get it on track.
If I am to criticise at all, then I have to be honest – following all the different names was a bit confusing at the start. All the noblemen seemed to have three names. Which I suppose they did, their title, their family name and their first names, but it was more than a little annoying. The on-going mental cataloguing was distracting and jarred me out of the film. That’s small criticism though… if you want to really criticise there’s the biggie…
I had a quick look at the list of historical inaccuracies on Wikipedia article. There are plenty of things out of place. Surprise, surprise.
Honestly though, I really don’t think it matters. Believing exactly what you see in a film is the same as believing whatever some crackpot on the street tells you without question. I don’t think film-makers have any responsibility to make historically accurate films and, given that they are generally out to either, make the film they want to make and/or entertain the masses, you can’t expect them to feel any. If you want to know the truth then go and try to find some primary or secondary source material.
Your local multiplex is not, generally, a place of learning.
I am a fan of the Transformers films. I even liked the second one. Yes, it’s true, and I know I’ve lost some of you already… but you know what? I just like seeing giant robots beating each other up on a huge screen. So sue me.
Ok. Possibly, I may have given Revenge of the Fallen too high a score… but oh well, I can’t back away from it now. I have revised my rating expectations in the last while but I’d still give it like a 7.
Anyway, there’s a lot of people who’ll see “Michael Bay” on the poster and that’ll make up their minds about the film for them. The fact is, I couldn’t give a damn about Michael Bay. I’ve only seen 4 of his movies and 3 of those were the Transformers films. The other was Armageddon, which I love, quite simply because it’s the most cheesy film I’ve ever seen in my whole life. It’s amazing the level it takes it to. As far as I’m concerned, that’s something to be admired.
Oh wait, this isn’t meant to be a rambling conversation with myself about nothing in particular. This is meant to be a review. So I’d better do that. Ok. Right…
The fact is that, even though I love giant robots. And even though I enjoyed this movie. I found it much harder to forgive the blatant transgressions in this film than the other two. The flaws in this run deeper than in the other two… in my opinion.
I kinda don’t want to start off on a rant so I’m gonna go with some nice things first.
The things I liked about Dark of the Moon were the things I liked about the other two films. I think the effects and the action in these films fan-tastic. I’m not VFX artist. I don’t know jack about these things. All I know is that these films make me believe that they really had giant robots* skating down highways and destroying buildings. I can enjoy a film on that level alone. I don’t really need more than that.
I also think it has decent pacing. Decent, not great. It’d be better paced if they cut out half an hour, but I didn’t think it was boring at any point. They whizzed along from one thing to the next pretty quickly. I was relatively interested in what was going on but mainly I wanted to see giant robots fighting and they did plenty of that.
One could argue that the plot was overly convoluted. I wouldn’t. There were a lot of people and giant robots taking about “Cybertron” and “Pillars” and a “Space Bridge“… but you don’t have to listen. Basically the bad guys want to do some bad stuff and the good guys want to stop them. Beyond that, the plot is irrelevant. I mean it’s there and I’m sure someone spent a good lot of time thinking it through. The details are kinda complicated, in some way, I suppose, but… who cares?
And, I still liked the old characters. I think Shia LaBeouf is perfectly believable as Sam Witwicky, the brave, yet weedy, hero. I find his parents and John Tuturro’s Simmons good comic relief. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are still convincing soldier types. Some of the new folks were good as well – Ken Jeong, John Malkovich and Alan Tudyk all turn up and steal scenes all over the place. But… there is another new character… and this is where we come to the bad part of the film.
And now I’m not feeling like a rant, but anyway…
I place all the problems with this film squarely on the shoulders of the people who decided to get rid of Megan Fox and hire a model as the female lead. I’m sure she’s probably a nice person, and I’m not saying that Fox is the greatest actress around. But I always got the impression that Ms. Fox had a brain in her head. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley does not that give off that impression. Which is not to say that I assume she doesn’t. She could be a Rhodes scholar for all I know ^.
All I can say about her is that I hope she is well paid… She seems to have the acting ability of a broomstick and I doubt she will have a long career in the field. I mean she has one scene in the film where she has to do anything of note and it was awful – even I couldn’t pretend I didn’t hear that mindless babble…
… but also, I hope she was well paid because it looked to me like she was horribly exploited in the film. Megan Fox, I believe, knew what she was doing when she leaned over that car engine. I’m not sure that Huntington-Whiteley realised when they filmed that upskirt shot. Or at least, I’m not sure that she realised it would be used. Now I know they hired her because she’s an underwear model but part of me imagines that, per hour, she makes more money at that than being made to look a fool in a Hollywood blockbuster.
It really is my biggest problem with the film. I just don’t see why they decided to go down that route. It’s demeaning and it brings down the tone of the film. Plus, I’m sure there’s plenty of good-lookin’ actresses out there who could look just as hot as Huntington-Whiteley but also actually have the ability to act… Thus, the role wouldn’t have had to be relegated to… well, underwear model. Obviously whoever got rid of Megan Fox didn’t feel that necessary though.
While that mis-step was, to me, almost impossible to ignore, I don’t feel too bad for young Rosie. Not so much that I’m going to say it’s a bad film because of it. There were lots of things about it that I enjoyed and this particular transgression from decency, while shocking, was just about of the right side of forgiveable. And I’m sure there’s actresses who’ve had to do a lot more to get a whole lot less. It may not be a long career but I imagine Rosie will come out of it alright.
So I guess that’s all there is to say. If you like (allegedly) hot women, fast cars, loud explosions and giant robots. This is the film for you. I thought it was good fun. Get some popcorn and check your brain at the door.
Oh! I forgot to mention the 3D. I’d heard along the way that they had especially brightened the 3D versions of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It shows. I have long complained about how dark 3D films are. T:DotM does not suffer from this at all. Which is nice.
* let’s see how many times I can put in “giant robots”.
^ she’s not.
Hey, guess what! It turns out it not that hard to not call it Dark Side of the Moon.