Posts Tagged ‘Movie Review’

A promo poster for The Avengers made by frmjewduhh and available at http://frmjewduhh.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2r1jjm

Promo fan art by frmjewduhh. Click the image to link to his page.

The short version:

Astounding.  The movie is exciting, hilarious, clever, and has some of the most exciting and interesting action sequences ever filmed.  If you’re an Avengers fan, a comic book fan, an action movie fan, a comedy fan, or there’s any chance you’d enjoy anything on that list, then you will almost certainly love the Avengers.  If you’re none of the above, your odds of loving it are still better than 50/50.

The long version:

The greatest danger (in my mind) in bringing together so many super-powered good guys is that it can be hard to find a villain or team of villains powerful or clever enough to pose a realistic threat.

Loki from the new Avengers movie.

Enter: Loki

I already enjoyed Loki in Thor, so to see him displaying both physical and mental prowess was exciting.  He was charismatic and clever, looking both twisted and majestic at the same time.

Didn’t just one of the Avengers already beat him?

I’m actually retroactively impressed by the Thor plot after seeing this movie.  (Thor Spoiler: Loki never bent himself on defeating Thor and as a result, Thor and friends merely defeated Loki’s guardian while Loki succeeded in orchestrating the end of an entire world–an effort which was only prevented by Loki’s own loss of confidence and a particularly powerful and pissed-off Odin.) In other words, we know Loki is capable of bringing down the planet and he makes it very clear very early on that he has no intention of doing otherwise.  Brilliant and scarily clever.

The Plot (without spoilers):

There are definitely some question marks for the team at How It Should Have Ended to parody, but as far as viewers are concerned, the plot holds together, remains consistent (with enough twists and revelations to stay gripping), and doesn’t contain any glaring “why didn’t they just…” moments.

The Avengers and their Screen Time

The movie did a wonderful job of balancing screen time, giving each character at least two “WTF!?!? THEY ARE SO AWESOME!!!!!” moments, and most importantly, making each of the characters enjoyable and interesting.  There was never a time in which I found myself thinking–as I have in other movies–“I’m really tired of this character.  Let’s see someone else.”

Acting:

I’m not an actor so I gauge good acting by this single criteria:

If I don’t notice a line or action being delivered poorly, then I’d consider the actor to have done good work. – Bastion

By that standard, all of the actors (most of whom we already knew rocked) were great.  It’s a comic book movie about gods beaming in from the Odenheim to join up with super-powered humans to battle aliens, so there are obviously some sentences that must have felt really strange in the actors’ mouths, but the delivery was always appropriate, contextual, and believable. The cast of The Avengers posing at Comicon.

The Credible HULK

I was worried about the Hulk for two reasons:

1.  He’s my least favorite Avenger. 2.  He wasn’t played by Edward Norton.

Fortunately, I was not only pleasantly surprised, but both Bruce Banner and his big green alter-ego became my second favorite character(s) in the movie (Loki stole it, as far as I’m concerned).

A blended image of the Hulk and Loki from the new Avengers movie.

The Hulk, Loki, and if you click the picture, an article about the characters and actors who played them.

A note on the Avengers in general:

I’ve always been an X-Men fan but I had never been that big on the Avengers.  I’ve read a few of their comics (mainly the ones in which they interact with the X-Men) and I’m familiar with most of the characters, but aside from enjoying each of the prequel movies (Thor, Ironman 1 and 2, The Hulk, and Captain America), I’ve never immersed myself in them. Something I noticed in this movie is how spectacularly branded each of the Avengers are.  I enjoyed the characters in X-Men first class because I knew them–not because any one or two of them were cultural icons.  I was awestruck the first time I saw Ironman and Captain America standing beside each other because that’s IRONMAN AND CAPTAIN AMERICA.  When you finally see the whole team, together, ready to rock, well…  I hope you managed to get to the bathroom BEFORE that scene.

Special Effects

What special effects?  I never once felt like I was watching anything that wasn’t actually filmed in real life. In other words, the effects were absolutely seamless.  I think we’ve finally gotten to the point where (at least in high budget movies) movie producers can show us anything they want.  In the Avengers, they evidently wanted to blow our minds. A wide-shot of the Avengers doing battle, featuring Ironman, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Hawkeye.

Action and Interaction

When I saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I was sure of two things:

1.  The final battle was the most moving I’d ever seen. 2.  It would be a few years before a movie topped it.

The action sequences through the Avengers were all exciting (and furthered the plot–not just unnecessary fighting), but the final battle(s) changed my world.  I’ve always had a lot of faith in technology so even when watching incredible things that I’d never seen before (like the Matrix movies as they came out or Transformers 3’s war in the Chicago streets), I’ve never been terribly surprised that it was done. By the end of the last action sequence of the Avengers, I was amazed.  I had winced more than three times.  I had leapt from my seat in laughter more than three times.  I had felt senses of excitement, fear, and vengeance multiple times each.  The few times my mind was able to catch up with itself, I found myself marveling at the fact that I was seeing what I was seeing. This was a roller-coaster.  Hilarious, moving, exciting, and awe-inspiring.  Definitely worth the wait, the hype, and a second viewing. Movie poster for The Avengers.

If you’re unfamiliar with GRACE@ARMS, you can find us on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, and at our homepage, graceatarms.com. You can also keep up to date with my blog, my art projects, my music, and my madness at my Facebook, Twitter, and my Pinterest.

Thanks and thanks again. Keep rocking with all that you’ve got. – Bastion, of Grace at Arms

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The short version: the movie tells (or rather, includes) the complete and unadulterated story of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax in a fun, funny, beautiful, and generally unoffensive way.

A screen capture from the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax cropped by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).

The long version:

First of all, it’s obvious that the minds behind this movie loved The Lorax the way I did growing up.  From the first line of the movie (“I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees.”) to the quote printed on the screen before the credits scroll over beautifully Seussy artwork (“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”), Dr. Seuss’ work is not only preserved, but respected and praised.

A Movie Within A Movie

Dr. Seuss book is too short and too simple to be made into a movie without adding a lot of material.  Fortunately, The Lorax, in it’s paper form, is about the Once-ler telling the story of the Lorax to a child.  Instead of trying to chop that story up, the movie-makers simply told a larger story around the original one.

The movie takes place in Thneedville, where everything is plastic and everyone is, generally, happy.  One boy, Ted Wiggins, through a series of events short enough not to be boring, finds his way to the Once-ler’s to hear the tale of the Lorax–which is punctuated by a few of Ted’s short adventures (also short enough not to be distracting)–before returning to Thneedville with the knowledge he’s gained in what almost felt like a “thank you” to Dr. Seuss for the impact his book clearly had on the writers.

Highlights (Essentially, the most Seussy parts!)

The movie is packed with Dr. Suess’ original language (Betty White’s description of the The Street of the Lifted Lorax is almost word for word with the book), as well as homages to other Seuss tales like Yertle the Turtle and his various books about Whoville.

The mix of “original Lorax” and “the movie around it” allowed the writers to do a very cool thing by making the little boy who hears the Once-ler’s story (they named him Ted Wiggins) take an active role in the movie.  As a person who’s felt the impact of my childhood love for The Lorax echo in my actions throughout the years, it was exciting to see the characters and the in-movie world change as a result of the lessons taught by the story–it also saves the movie from being forced into an “all hope is lost” style ending.

One last thing I loved about the movie, which I’ll discuss more in the next section, is that both the Lorax and the Once-ler were made far more compassionate and human without sacrificing their original characters.

The Lorax and the Once-ler, arm in arm in a screen capture from the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, cropped by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).

Industry/Environmentalist Controversy

Obviously, a review of The Lorax would be incomplete without addressing the light in which each side of this debate is portrayed.  This movie, like a fair and even divorce, should leave both sides satisfactorily unhappy and begrudgingly satisfied.

Both sides are depicted as hard-lined, but with the capacity (though not always the desire) to see each other’s sides.  They each use both noble and questionable tactics to get their way and, appropriately, a large portion of their disagreements are the result of misunderstanding each other’s tactics rather than hatred for each other.  Here’s a breakdown of the sides as they are portrayed:

ENVIRONMENT: 

The Lorax is just as shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy as in the original story and still speaks in a voice that is sharpish and bossy.  Pleasantly, though, he’s warmer to the Once-ler, urging “you’re better than this” rather than simply attacking him.  The Lorax’s real warning to the Once-ler, after the Once-ler has promised not to cut down any more trees but is suddenly faced with the opportunity to see everything he’s worked for become real, is that “a tree falls the way it leans.”  Worded for those who haven’t seen the movie yet; the danger isn’t in a single action (which often can’t be avoided), but rather in allowing yourself to ignore the impact of that action (and as a result, to perform that action again and again without thinking about it).
The trees, Swomee-Swans, Humming-Fish and Bar-ba-loots behave pretty much as nature does in real life–they interact with the Once-ler, at times fearful and at times appreciative, until they are destroyed.  They don’t fight.  They don’t shout their warnings over and over.  They don’t provide that “one last warning” before they’re gone.

INDUSTRY: 

The Once-ler, whose movie character stole my heart, is effectively trapped between own compassion and the demands of society and success.  As an aspiring artist with a dream I’m trying to sell, I really felt the Once-ler’s frustration as his thneed (for which he had worked so hard even though nobody believed was worthwhile) became popular and he was faced with the disgusting choice of “sacrifice your integrity to see your dream made real or throw away your life’s work for because you used to tell yourself you wouldn’t go that far to succeed.”
The Once-ler’s family, as well as the Once-ler (post-promise-breaking and rich-getting) are colder towards the environment, but are depicted as ignorant rather than evil.  Further, the consumers (the people of Thneedville) are kept ignorant to the amount of pollution that their consumerism is causing.  Pleasantly, their minds are changeable, though they require more than a simple, “change your ways!”

The Lorax and the Once-ler in the movie adaptation of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, cropped by bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).

Other nice things:

The voice actors were great.  The movie was visually stunning and payed homage to Dr. Seuss original artwork.  The movie-in-a-movie aspect also gave kind of a past (original story) – present (Thneedville and it’s hard-to-break consumerism) – future (the opening of the consumer’s eyes to the lesson of the Lorax and the effort not to stop either side, but rather to compromise) aspect to the movie that provided a strong feeling of hope to the film.

Downsides:

I really have very little to say about the movie that’s negative.  The animation style caused me to feel at first like the character’s mouth-movements didn’t line up with their words as well as I’d like, but that either became less noticeable as the movie continued or I just got used to it.  Also, the songs at the beginning and end felt borderline preachy–an obvious danger in any message movie but one which the rest of the movie did a good job of avoiding.

Conclusion and recommendation:

I loved this movie.  As a from-the-time-I-could-read fan of the Lorax who can recite pages of the book from memory, I can say that I’m not only impressed by the movie-maker’s preservation of Dr. Seuss’ work, but I enjoyed the vast majority of their additions.  I would recommend this movie to anyone who has or has not read the book.

My only warning would be that the movie is fair and definitely paints a thorough picture of each side.  If you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to be offended by something (because you’ve got a chip on your shoulder–not because the movie was obtuse).  If you don’t, though, then get ready for an exciting, moving, funny, and fun movie!

A Facebook page picture for Grace at Arms designed by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).  All art, design, logos, and "I CAME HERE TO ROCK" are copyright Bastion Crider, Greg Crider LLC, and Grace at Arms.
If you’re unfamiliar with GRACE@ARMS, you can find us on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, and at our homepage, graceatarms.com (you can also find us just about everywhere else–just search for Grace@Arms or BastionAtArms). You can also keep up to date with my blog, my art projects, my music, and my madness at my Facebook, Twitter, and my original blog at graceatarms.com/bastion.

Thanks and thanks again. Keep rocking with all that you’ve got.
– Bastion, of Grace at Arms