By most measure, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity seems to have sucked in all the critical attention over the weekend, coming out as the top grossing movie and receiving oodles of praise for its low orbit odyssey and butt-clenching tension. Not that I would disagree, the movie rightly deserves its praise, but it’s unfortunate that the sweeping Sauronic eye of the internet media would pass over Paul Greenglass’s latest, Captain Philips (if these two top grossers hooked up, the lovechild would probably look something like Apollo 13). There were a few smattering of words written about the REAL taking of the Maersk Alabama, Barkhad Abdi’s premier performance, and the crew’s alternate set of facts about that fateful day, but in many respects it has already come and gone, another notch Tom Hanks’ lifetime achievement belt. Unfortunate, I say, because while Captain Philips so desperately wants to chart a straight course into feel good survival land, it can’t help but be boarded by the slants and distortions of its own contemporary vision.
get it b/c he s both man AND machine , a manmachine get itg eT IT
If science-fiction movies have been having a rough summer, then the new Robocop is looking like the caboose on the same doomed track. For whatever reason only deduced on the higher levels of corporate financing, the rehash radiation has seeped into the television graves of Paul Verhoeven reruns and lurched them zombie-like back onto the stage in some grotesque vaudeville display. The first such undead offering was Total Recall, a film so deadpan and generic it could host its own late night tv show, and soon we’ll have another Starship Troopers to mirror our modern times all over our face. I’d swear there’s some grand conspiracy, fueled by a distant and shadowy cinema oligarch, determined to wipe out the Verhoeven name from history and satellite programming. The new Robocop looks like it has the same techno-cgi gloss that befell its Colin Farell-led cousin, albeit copy and pasted inbetween more modern urban environments. It’s still early to say if scenes like “lets go with black” are played straight or part of the deeper lampoon (the militarized step-out shot gives high hopes), or whether the film can overcome a simple love-beats-all wrap up it looks like it’s gunning for. What is apparent is all the producer quotas they apparently had to fill. Modern Hot Topic Tech? Check. Dark Knight Enough? Check. Catchphrase? Definitely. Something For The Parents? You betcha (hahaha).
In the interest of actual content, this would be a good time to check out why the original Robocop was such a feat for its time. Although I’ve seen it many times, I can’t call myself an uber-fan like the guy who made a rap out of the whole thing. But two posts from a certain cinema message board by Robocop nerds Geekboy and Jay Dub highlight different noteworthy bits and make you appreciate some of the detail better than I could. These were originally posted about a year ago and recreated here in full. They’re a long read but definitely worth it.
It’s a shame that Elysium is a lousy movie. It has all decoration, grandeur, and weight of a much better film, yet can’t drag itself above the simplicity of its own plot and metaphors. It’s like a great big cathedral you can see for miles, all the details coming into focus as you approach, and when you get inside it’s empty save for some tables and chairs. Neil Blomkamp, whose short films and mainstream debut District 9 made him one to keep an eye on, has almost set himself up a trap with a film like Elysium. On one side he has to create a compelling journey action drama, trekking from the slums of LA to the low orbit space station of Elysium. On the other he sets the story’s backdrop as a hopeless situation beyond repair, a dire circumstance that he must then repair or offer closure for in some way that doesn’t have audiences and reviewers scoffing about how much of a bummer he is.
Pacific Rim is the cinema equivalent of two action figures being bashed together in mock combat, the kid at play here being director Guillermo Del Toro. There’s very little nuance or subtext, just simply the boy-ish craving to see big things hit each other in glorious modern day CGI. And in that respect the movie delivers, with an attention to detail and well planned framing and scenery that is a feast for the senses. It’s a love letter to entire genres of animation and film that have been cultural watermarks for Asian countries but which never saw as much love from their American counter-parts. However, like a prism focusing colors into a single stream of light, Pacific Rim ends up white-washing everything in service of the spectacle, making it fall short in other facets.