Summer is movie season, though for me that hasn't been true for the past few years. This year I'm making up for lost time. I've seen four movies in three different theaters in the past month! And at CGV this summer, movies starting before 1:00 are only 5,000 won, a great deal for people capable of getting out of bed early enough. I'm eating way too much popcorn and drinking way too much Coke, but I am having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying myself enough that today I'm just going to write about the movies I've seen recently. I'll be dropping spoilers on "Iron Man 3", "Star Trek: Into Darkness", "White House Down", and "Man of Steel", so if you are even slower than I am to get to the movies, you might want to skip this bit. If you are interested in more deep thoughts, this might not be the post to read.
Horyon and I saw Iron Man 3 on opening day. This was not a deliberate attempt to be a fan boy, but a confluence of circumstances: Horyon had the afternoon off, most of the movies available were Korean. I enjoyed the original Iron Man, but hadn't seen IM2 or The Avengers. It didn't hurt. I watched them on video later, and they filled in some gaps, but the movie was still enjoyable. I just had trouble with the ending: I don't care how rich Tony Stark is, breaking all those suits was just plain stupid. Once you realize that you are in a world with hostile aliens and Gods that stop in to visit and the Incredible Hulk, it just doesn't make sense to throw away your best defense in a fireworks display to propose to your girlfriend, who just sort of became a superhero. I've heard that Robert Downey Jr. has agreed to be Iron Man again, so I guess he'll make some more suits.
A couple of weeks ago I saw "Star Trek: Into Darkness" with my friend, Lewis. I had to go to two different theaters, but I caught it on the big screen! I saw it in regular old 2D, missing out on both 3D and 4D, but at least I managed to find one of them fancy theaters with the color projector. The movie itself was very good, better than the previous one. Of course, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan was better than Star Trek 1: The Motion Picture, then it went downhill. Hopefully the new franchise will not follow that trend. Ideally it will spawn a Star Trek tv series with the same cast. There were some good action scenes, great special effects, and not too much technobabble, but there was also some serious character development in this movie. Spock and Uhura's relationship was fleshed out more, Kirk's There were some scenes that were in homage to The Wrath of Khan; tastefully done, and not so hooked on those scenes that new viewers would be confused. I liked bringing Section 31 (the Federations secret service) into the big picture; this rebooted federation is a lot darker and more paranoid than the old version. I don't think Gene Roddenberry would be too happy with it, but a government that keeps secrets and prepares its own weapons of mass destruction feels not only possible, but somewhat inevitable. It is very interesting to see the Star Trek material being treated by people who grew up watching the originals, yet are not so attached to it that they can surprise the audience.
Yesterday Horyon and I saw "White House Down." My goal was to see the new Superman movie, but it had moved on. I might have picked "World War Z", but Horyon told me she didn't want to see a scary movie. I bought tickets to "Big Picture", a drama about a man who takes the place of his murder victim and learns some kind of lessons about himself, but turns out it is a French movie with Korean subtitles. We walked out after the opening credits, and the theater people were kind enough to exchange our tickets. Luckily, we were in time to sit through all the advertising again. The movie itself was entertaining enough. If you haven't seen it, you might consider just watching the first couple of Die Hard movies, because this could have been a sequel: The hero's name was John, he was divorced, he was the lone opponent of a big group of bad guys (until the President joins him, because couldn't you kick more ass if the president was helping out?), he stripped down to his undershirt, he took way more beating than he should have been able to, the bad guys were ridiculously well armed and planned, the hostages included someone John loved (his daughter), there was some classical music played, there were explosions. Lots of explosions, and shooting guns, and Black Hawk helicopters and a tank and... I wasn't too thrilled with their characterization of the President. Jamie Foxx played President Walker. He was a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but maybe that's realistic for a president who is not a combat veteran. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but maybe I'll go see the zombies get nuts next week.
I saw "Man of Steel" this morning all by myself today. It was produced by Christopher Nolan, who directed the latest Batman trilogy. Like Batman, Superman has become a character with more depth than we are used to seeing (with apologies to my comic-reading friends, who will no doubt lecture me on the advantages of their medium of choice). I liked that the movie started on Krypton and stayed there for a while. It very much emphasized that Superman is an alien. True, he's from a planet that just happens to have people who look just like us, a very Golden Age of Science Fiction approach, but let's face it: it is very generous to put Superman in the SF tent. Flying? Heat vision? Absorbing strength from the sun because it is very young compared to Krypton's? Fine, I'll take them all, because I like fantasy too. I was there for the story, and was not disappointed. It felt like the most realistic application of Superman's powers that I've ever seen: he is just casually aware of everything nearby, seeing through anything in front of him easily, but sometimes missing things coming from behind. The super-speed thing got annoying at times, hard to follow, but I suppose that real super speed would be that way. I thought that the reactions of normal people to the idea of a Superman were well done, as well. It took an alien invasion for him to go public, and now that he is, everyone is just going to have to deal with it. I did find one thing disturbing: I wish that they had more directly addressed the hundreds of people who must have been killed in the background while Superman fought with Zod. Seeing what Nolan did with Batman, it is likely that he is taking this into consideration for the sequel, which can't come soon enough for me.
I had the feeling today that I am living in a good time for movies. Special effects have become cheap enough that movie makers are no longer relying on them alone to make their movies work. However, there is one boundary that has been hard for Hollywood to cross: main characters who are good guys don't die. White House Down was a bit exceptional. There were a slew of characters with names and some backgrounds at the beginning, but once the action started most of the "old friends" didn't last long. Two made it more than half-way through the movie, long enough to make a bit of an impression. Not bad, Hollywood. We're starting to see the Game of Thrones effect, to a very minor extent.
As I mentioned, in Superman the body count must have been in the quadruple digits: multiple building collapses in Metropolis, gravity tricks (that only affected cars and stuff, but not people? Oh yeah, fantasy, almost forgot), super battles at street level, bad guys who are already working on a genocide project so don't mind squishing some humans on the way there. But the Superman origin story has the death of Pa Kent, it's expected. In Man of Steel, this death was brought to the screen in such a meaningful way that I cried a bit, even though he was played by Kevin Costner.
Iron Man 3? Nope. If anyone (other than black-hat dudes) died there, I'm afraid that I don't remember. I'm sure there were casualties, but at least the final battle was in a shipyard at night.
Star Trek is last for two reasons: first because it's Star Trek. You can't kill the regulars: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, they have to make it. Carol Marcus was thrown into the mix in this movie, and I think they will keep her around long enough to have Kirk's son because that's an emotional lever you can't afford to not pull at least once ("Klingon ba**ard killed my son!"). So I wasn't expecting to see anyone die, and it would have been a cheap shot to have Carol Marcus die, because the non-Trekkie audience wouldn't have seen it as a big deal. The second reason is who they didn't kill: Kahn. They put him back in cryogenic suspension, foreseeing the need for a plot device in the future. Because he was an awesome plot device. He crashed a starship into San Francisco because it was the easiest way for him to get from orbit to the ground. It bordered on unbelievable that Khan didn't escape, but it helped to emphasize that Kirk and his crew are working together well and becoming more awesomer. Khan is a worthy foe, and if we can see him again after Kirk has more experience under his belt, it could be quite a match. So the lack of death can be forgiven. Of course, by "lack of death" I mean other than all the Klingons (oh yeah, it had Klingons!), a room full of captains and admirals, and whomever was unfortunate enough to be in the path of the starship that Khan slammed into San Francisco.
So in conclusion, I love my new job. It gives me time to go to the movies!