Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The joys of diminished expectations

I'm in a rare confluence at the cinemas where there are actually movies I want to see. I saw Pirates 3 and Fantastic Four 2 so far this week, and I still have Knocked Up and Surf's Up to cross off my list. And Transformers is opening here on Friday. So there are plenty of movies to keep me busy while Cathy is away. It would be nice if Ratatouille was opening this weekend, but that doesn't appear to be happening.

The thing about Pirates 3 and FF2 was that I had very little hope for them. With Pirates, I really didn't care much for the second movie. It was just as rambling and all over the place as the first one, but with fewer of its charms. And while I liked the first FF, it was one of those "I like this movie although it's clearly terrible." It was to the point I was wondering if I might have suffered a blow to the head either right before or after the movie that clouded my judgment.

Plus the reviews for Pirates 3 and FF 2 were vicious. Kind of hard to get enthused about seeing movies like that.

And yet, lo and behold, I enjoy both. They're both flawed, but still amusing.

Pirates 3 suffers the same problems as the first two - the plot is overly long and needlessly complicated. And yet, this one has its joys. Yes, Johnny Depp tends to steal things when he gets on screen, but not as much as previous movies. The real joys are Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa and, this floored me, Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann. Rush isn't a surprise. He was a blast in the first movie and it was a good decision to bring him back for this.

But Knightley? She was entertaining eye candy for the first two movies. But she's tremendous fun here. Taking charge and taking crap from no one. And I have to say, the Oriental Pirate Queen look works for her.

Also helping is that while the first hour or so drags, the last hour is about as exciting a time as you're going to have at the movies this year. Stuff happens. And this is the best part, the movie ends well. Stories are resolved, but left in a way that they can be continued if chosen. I like where the characters all end up.

It's damn hard to land a movie at the best of times. It's very hard to land an ending for a trilogy. Yet, they planted the sucker. Nice job.

I think I also have FF 2 figured out. It's not really a good movie, and yet I like it, just like the first one. It's quite odd. But it fills a niche. For all the super hero movies over the past few years, most of them have been very serious affairs.

That's fine for me. I like that a genre I grew up with and loved is being treated seriously. I like that when they're making these movies, they're taking into account what the fans of these characters expect. They want something serious with Batman and Superman. They're expecting something a bit lighter with Spider-Man, but they still want the character treated with respect.

But these aren't "fun" movies. I honestly can't see young kids liking the most recent Batman and Superman films. They're more for adults. So the Fantastic Four fills that niche. It's a family movie. There were kids at the showing I saw and they went "Cool!" several times.

I know some hardened FF fans hate this. But hell, the first super hero comic I bought back in the 70s was an issue of the FF (with them taking on the Salem Seven, #187 I belives, just to display a terrifying level of geekiness) and I've loved the characters ever since.

The heart of the movie is in the right place, even if the brains are lost in Oz somewhere. It's a movie about four people who are essentially family, who love each other, but don't necessarily always like each other. And that's the comic books in a nutshell.

Yeah, it would be nice if the movie were smarter, if the Thing looked better, if there was more of the wow factor around Reed's gadgets. And I know many are ticked off with how Galactus looked in the movie. However, I think Peter David had it right - Ghostbusters pretty much ruined the idea of giant men stomping around New York.

Besides, the original story was never going to work on screen. Galactus, a 100-foot tall man in purple armor - arrives and threatens to eat the planet. The FF defeat him when Reed sends Johnny into Galactus's spaceship and steals the "Ultimate Nullifier", a device that would not only destroy Galactus, but the Earth and the rest of the Universe.

So yeah, the heroes threatening to destroy the universe is going to go over big with audiences. The writers were stuck with a hard way to end the movie. It wasn't great, but it was ok.

The biggest problem with the FF movies is that The Incredibles came out first. That movies owed a lot to the original FF comics and director Brad Bird admitted as much. That was a great family movie featuring super heroes. They don't come along all that often. FF 2 pales in comparison to The Incredibles, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's light, frothy and fun. Kids will like it.

And unlike Pirates 3, at least it isn't almost three bloody hours long. Ninety minutes, short and sweet.

And I don't even think I suffered any head trauma before or after the movie. So I guess it's ok after all.

1 comment:

Kara and Matt said...

Knocked up is a hoot! I don't know if it was more entertaining since I was pregnant and watching it or what! And man, I almost wanted to have the wee-spawn late so I could go and see transformers!! I guess I will have to wait for it to come out on dvd now. It sure looks good!