Category Archives: The Bad

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Man of Steel (2013) 1.9/5 (3)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 25
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Duration: 143 mins
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner

Zach Snyder’s groaningly familiar Superman reboot in which the kid from Krypton finds himself all grown up on Earth and battling his space daddy’s enemy, General Zod. Along the way he….argghhhhhhhh, seriously, why bother? One could simply label this “thing” as nauseating drivel but so obvious is such a comment that there’s a frustrating feeling of redundancy to such critique. Instead, maybe it’s time we realised that these movies are not well…movies. They are a peculiar product in the guise of a movie but not meant to be critiqued on those terms. Not at all! Artistically speaking, superhero movies have been a fatuous affair for a while now but since their recent explosion in popularity it has become ever clearer that they are no longer even aiming to tell stories. Rudimentary plots, water thin characterisation, stiff dialogue all point towards a concerted lack of interest and investment in the writing of these films. In the mind of the studio execs, they appear to be nothing more than modules for delivering cost effective CGI action to young boys. Kind of like a very long CGI cartoon with big name actors prancing around in front of a green screen. Man of Steel is perhaps the most comprehensive illustration of this. A hectic rush to get a cliched backstory out of the way and then a breathless lunge into a series of mindless CGI battles unfettered by plot and linked together by their mere contiguity. And on the other side of the battle, not one of the main characters comes out any different than they went in. The main players simply dust themselves off and wait for the next adventure which instead of being an “episode”, will be packaged as a “sequel”. There’s no attempt to tell a story here. Lip service is paid to its signature premise in a manner that amounts to the central character’s brief and oh so tiresome consideration of his responsibility as a hero. But once that’s out of the way, it’s time for a long winded antiseptic showdown to unfold – one that will no doubt involve a lot of throwing of one’s enemy across streets, into buildings, on top of cars, across streets, on top of cars, into buildings, across streets……….

Any marks this one gets, is for spelling “Man of Steel” correctly in the opening credits.

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Only God Forgives (2013) 1.43/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 20
Genre: Crime
Duration: 90 mins
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas

A Thai based drug smuggler (Ryan Gosling) is co-opted by his disturbingly affectionate mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) into a bizarre revenge scenario when his brother is killed. Oh dear! It’s impossible to properly describe how embarrassing this entire affair is for writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn. After pulling the wool over many fans’ and indeed critics’ eyes and convincing them that Drive’s directorial pretensions were in fact art, the emboldened Refn threw off whatever shackles his modicum of common sense placed upon him and went full tilt into a project of pure self delusion. The result is pretentiousness of genuinely hysterically proportions. How a director can be so clueless as to mistake adolescent-like ramblings as profound cinematic statement is just plain mystifying but to go one step further and not realise that even moderately discerning cinema lovers are laughing at him boggles the mind. From his main character’s metaphorical fiddling within the stomach wound of his enemy to the hack reinterpretation of Freud’s Oedipus Complex, this one just ploughs blindly forward with a smug smile and oblivious arrogance. However, the most unfortunate aspect to all this is that the truly talented Ryan Gosling seems to have bought the knock off Kool-Aid lock, stock, and rancid barrel. One was tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt in Drive because everything good about that movie’s intentions seemed exclusively a product of his contributions. But to not stop at any point during the shooting of this mess and echo the words of Harrison Ford to George Lucas “You can write this shit George but you sure as hell cant say it!”, is truly mystifying. Gosling is an intelligent actor but he has been worryingly slipstreamed into the perversely stupid world of Refn on this one. Any marks this movie gets is for Larry Smith’s rather nice cinematography but as far as the rest is concerned, Only God could forgive it!

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Controversial Criticism

The Imitation Game (2014) 2.71/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 54
Genre: Drama, War
Duration: 114 mins
Director: Morten Tyldum
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

Morten Tyldum’s moody WWII drama is based on the true life endeavours of Alan Turing as he attempted to crack the Nazi’s Enigma code by building a top secret machine that would become the platform for the modern computer. Outside of the broader premise which is executed rather well using montages of actual WWII footage, a lot has gone wrong here. The “extraordinary guy in an extraordinary situation” has become a staple of Benedict Cumberbatch’s career so much so that one struggles to think of him as anything but the socially inept, arrogant, patronising, superior mind so far removed from the rest of us that he’s destined to be misunderstood forever. What’s worse is that, over the last decade, this personality has crept insidiously into the television and Hollywood mediums like few others. Everyone from Hugh Laurie’s House MD to Claire Danes’ Carrie Matheson has had a crack at it and while a small few like Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network have done it with a level of complexity that humanises the conceit, most have bored the socks off us. If Cumberbatch’s Sherlock placed him among Eisenberg’s precious minority, his version of Alan Turing is very much the other kind – though his screenwriter Graham Moore (adapting Andrew Hodges’ biography) should shoulder some of the blame. Inaccessible but interesting isn’t easy to pull off but a lack of effort in achieving such balance is what is most concerning here. Everyone seems happy enough to portray the tortured mathematician as an oddball and nothing more. To celebrate it, in fact. As such we get a one-dimensional (not to mention cliched) central performance that scuppers the film from the outset.

Unfortunately, the screenwriting problems don’t end with its protagonist for The Imitation Game is the latest film to culminate every sequence of dialogue with an awfully clever sounding bit of folkish wisdom framing the entire scene around it as if to iterate that we’ve just heard something very special. You know, kind of like grabbing the audience by the back of the head and forcing them to appreciate the “genius” of the line up close. Sadly, more often than not, lines such as “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine” are borne of anything but genius and so the less attention they attract the better for everyone. But of course increasing the pace of the dialogue helps substantially in disguising inanity as wisdom and The Imitation Game isn’t about to buck the trend here either. Nor is it likely to pass up an opportunity to intertwine three different timelines from Turing’s life so as to tease out the ostensible profundity of the movie’s title (and that of his most famous book). After all, the dual relevance of mimicry to his personal and professional life is so subtle that it needs to be the central thread of any modern movie that has designs on being “smart”. What better way to achieve this than employing a similar backstory device as that used by The Social Network. And didn’t they talk really fast there too? Wait a minute! Is this a WWII version of Fincher’s classic? Well not quite because Fincher, Sorkin, and their cast gave their characters depth to begin with. The devices simply allowed for an artful way to unfold those layers.

With such bland characterisation, The Imitation Game instead gives one the distinct impression of being conned. Conned into thinking Turing is being humanised without him actually being humanised. That he and his fellow code breakers are intelligent in the absence of any really intelligent dialogue. That the film is profound even though it’s not. In fact, one could argue that it stands as testament to how far mainstream movie-making has strayed from the basics of storytelling so as to indulge gimmicks and the formula of those few thematically similar films that have proved successful. That it toils in a genre that has been addressed over and over again by previous generations of filmmakers perhaps underlines this more but it’s about time producers reinvested some trust in the writing process.

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The Equalizer (2014) 2.47/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 57.9
Genre: Crime, Action
Duration: 132 mins
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz

A numbingly formulaic action thriller the likes of which Denzel Washington can make watchable in his sleep. Which he kind of does. The movie adaptation of the Edward Woodward led television show focuses on yet another ex-spy/secret agent/assassin who gets caught up with the Russian mob while living under an assumed identity. Cue boo-hissable bad guys with scars, tattoos, and intimidating scowls, painfully earnest action sequences anchored in slow motion (so that we can see just how skilled out hero is), and straw characters reflecting just enough cheese-ball sentiment to justify our hero’s return to the dark side.

Who knows if this might’ve worked in a Jason Bourne free world but, as it stands (alongside Taken and a dozen other fallow pretenders), it’s just so much noise. So bad ass was Bourne that he has managed to kill every other action hero before they’re even written. And while the Equaliser is a pre-existing character and, originally, a much more interesting one, his 21st Century incarnation was never going to be anything but another guy with a “very specific [and very, very boring] skill set”. Comparisons with Bourne just serve to accentuate their inescapable blandness. And by the way, that skill set here includes a very lethal but unintentionally amusing use of DIY tools. That would be neither here nor there but Chloë Grace Moretz’ under-utilised presence as the hooker with the heart of gold might just confuse some into thinking that Denzel’s “DIY-Man” is part of some unauthorised Kick Ass sequel.

Of course, Denzel is nonetheless Denzel and his natural burning charisma makes this movie just about bearable. In fact, if The Equaliser does anything, it stands as testimony to the strength of that charisma because Washington isn’t even trying here. Granted there’s not much of a script to try with but this movie is a continuation of the type of cruise control/paycheck mode that has defined his career since Training Day. Fuqua was the director behind that one too but he had David Ayer’s boiling screenplay to work off. All he’s armed with here is that slow motion button and the predictability of a climactic showdown in the rain. Well under a sprinkler system – just so long as we get a close up of the hero’s face wet with victory and with the water very, very slowly dripping off it. You know, so as to emphasise the magnitude of the moment.

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Saving Private Ryan (1998) 3.79/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 55.3
Genre: War
Duration: 169 mins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore

After successfully landing in Normandy on D-Day, a platoon of US Marines are sent on a unique mission of mercy to locate and bring to safety a soldier whose brothers have all been killed in action. Naturally, the orders put the men’s perspective on duty and morality at odds with one another as the needs of the few are seen to outweigh the needs of the many. Outside of the opening sequence which is undeniably terrific, Saving Private Ryan is a largely ham-fisted affair when placed side-by-side with the great WWII movies. Steven Spielberg shows little patience or subtlety and rather than giving us a real picture of humanity and war in the manner of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (released the same year), he instead falls back on a cartoon depiction of good guys versus bad guys. The greater success of this film comparative to Malick’s film, would seem to be therefore attributable entirely to the first 15 mins  – a battle sequence so spectacular and visceral that it seems to act as a cloak for the rest of the film – as if the audience will be so desperate for the remainder of the film to be worthy of its opening that they will willfully ignore the most blatant of shortcomings. The simple truth is that the remainder of the film is driven by childish and cliched moral quandaries the likes of which were addressed just as superficially and ad nauseum throughout years of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-offs. But it wouldn’t be nearly as frustrating if Spielberg wasn’t (as usual) trying to ram the sickly sweet sentimentality (so primitively intertwined with cardboard notions of patriotism) down the audience’s throats. This is something he has done for far too long now and with too few exceptional interludes to excuse it. This is not to say Spielberg is a poor director. He’s a truly brilliant director who just lives up to his talent far too seldom due to an over-reliance on visual effects and/or reluctance to move out of his comfort zone.

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Before Sunset (1995) 4.57/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The  Bad – 53.9
Genre: Romance, Drama
Duration: 80 mins
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

See review on “Before Sunrise”. Another tedious treatment of one slightly annoying woman putting up with one incredibly annoying man. Linklater and Hawke are still tops but just not here.

 

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Before Sunrise (1995) 4.29/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 59
Genre: Romance, Drama
Duration: 105 mins
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Andrea Eckert

Richard Linklater could legitimately be described as a master of talk cinema but irrespective of how many people hail this as a perfect film there’s no way around the fact that this is an awkwardly acted, superficially written, and adolescent exercise in tedium. Fans of the Linklater that gave us the gentle wit of Slacker, the thunderous resonance of Dazed and Confused, and even the insightful analysis of Tape have repeatedly tried to like this but Before Sunrise fails to even roughly emulated those aforementioned pieces. On top of that, the two leads are entirely out of sync with each other for much of the film, which alone destroys its entire premise. Ethan Hawke comes across as annoying and vacuous and Julie Deply seems continually disengaged and overall an unlikely match for him. Linklater’s directorial craft is all over this however, and his ability to seemingly blend the camera into the reality of the characters’ worlds is as evident here as it was in Slacker. Alas, that is not enough to save this un-engaging and excruciating romantic drama.

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A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) 1.86/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 52.4
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Duration: 146 mins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor

Steven Spielberg was never an obvious choice in style or sensibility to complete the screenplay for and then direct Stanley Kubrick’s last major project because, firstly, he doesn’t tend to write films in the first place and, secondly, he has an inescapable tendency to infuse the majority of films he directs with a cheesy cliched child-like wonder. However, despite those differences, it’s still genuinely confounding at how much Spielberg misjudged the essence of this particular film.

A.I. begins with a profound look at the subject of life and sentience in what is clearly the Kubrick half of the story. To be fair to Spielberg, he very much replicates Kubrick’s stark and symmetrical visual style during this segment (no doubt thoroughly story-boarded as it probably was) and gives the film a feel that one could imagine Kubrick would’ve set. In this opening act, we follow a robot in the form of a human child called David (Haley Joel Osment) who is purchased by a couple who believed their own child was lost to them. We see David and his new mother beginning to form a bond and for all intents and purposes, David becomes part of the family. However, when the couple’s child returns to them, he quickly becomes surplus to requirements as the mother begins to see him for what he is.

This is the point at which Kubrick’s contribution seems to end and Spielberg’s is stepped up and it practically descends into farce as we are given an unashamed story of Pinocchio in the future. Even the visual aspects to the film begin to suffer as the downscaling of the story seems to remove any inspiration to get the look right. The film loses the subtle features which the previous tight production design and lighting ensured as the need for ‘big’ special effects seems to send Spielberg fully into default mode where style replaces substance to such a point that the latter must be artificially generated and crammed in anywhere it’ll fit. The last 20 minutes in particular are a complete car crash as the audience sees the worst of Spielberg and possibly the most inappropriate conclusion to a Kubrick film imaginable.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) 3.15/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 57.8
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Comic Book
Duration: 165 mins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Morgan FreemanMichael Cain

Stunning but only in its capacity to underwhelm, The Dark Knight Rises may have had an army of fanboys defending its name on (and even before!!) its release but this supposed movie extravaganza is nothing but a damp squib. Christopher Nolan’s final contribution to the Batman franchise sees Gotham being held for ransom by a formidable foe named Bane (Tom Hardy) who hijacks the city under the threat of nuclear destruction. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, a physically weakened Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) who has hung up his cape these last few years poses little threat to the savage Bane and must rediscover his zest for life in order to defend the city once again. Along for the ride are the usual assortment of characters from Michael Caine’s Alfred to Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon as well as a few newcomers, namely, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a boy wonder type, and Mathew Modine as a bigwig in the police department.

After struggling with the coordination and overall pacing of the multiple subplots in Batman Begins yet seemingly mastering them in the The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises is a return to the hectic, rushed, and just plain muddled film-making of Nolan’s first installment. Side stories are merely introduced and with no time to let them nor the characters they’re built around develop, they’re accelerated, truncated, and fleetingly revisited all with the intention of bringing them together at the end. Unfortunately, given their slipshod construction we could care less about any of those characters by the time they get there. Even Batman elicits little in the way of the audience’s concern as the interminable final act plays itself out.

The character who suffers the most in this is Hathaway’s Catwoman as her early sequences showed some promise as the potentially treacherous nemesis of the Caped Crusader. But like every other character in this movie, the tension she offers peters out and the treachery becomes jarringly ordinary. Yes, it doesn’t help that Hathaway is operating in the shadow of Michelle Pfeiffer’s seminal turn in Batman Returns wherein she came to embody the very essence of feline treachery but in truth she was never even given a chance to compete. Tom Hardy puts in an interesting shift as the bad guy and Nolan sets up his character and introduces him effectively. However, because his brooding menace culminates in nothing more than a bunch of physical beatings he dishes out, the character ends up stagnating and even diminishing in threat.

On the technical front, Wally Phister’s cinematography, Lee Smith’s editing, and the visual effects are undoubtedly spectacular but with such an insubstantial story underlying them, the movie begins to feel like nothing more than a slideshow of striking images. This becomes rather jading and the film feels more and more like a visual marathon. The set pieces are elaborately set up but such is Nolan’s tendency to truncate every aspect of this film that, with the exception of the reasonably impressive opening sequence, they’re never allowed materialise into anything like what we saw in either of the first two installments. In fact, if it wasn’t for Hans Zimmer’s thrilling score we would barely notice the tepid action that this movie repeatedly serves up.

In the end, the abiding memories of The Dark Knight Rises are of the endless yet entirely nondescript hand-to-hand battles (somebody finally teach Nolan how to direct a fight scene, please!) and of Batman flying very slowly away from those fights in his nebulously shaped flying machine (don’t ask!). In fact, one desperately struggles to comprehend why so many have raved about the movie. It’s true that Nolan hires the cream of the industry’s technical talent and so his films have a very shiny gloss indeed but with such confused and unfocused writing and direction it’s all just a bottle of smoke.

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Contact (1997) 2.79/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 54.5
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction
Duration: 150 mins
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt

Robert Zemeckis’ big budget adaptation of Carl Sagan’s story stars Jodie Foster as the prodigious astronomer whose obsession with discovering evidence of extra terrestrial life pays off when she receives a deep space signal. Things get even more astonishing when she discovers that the signal contains a cyphered message with instructions on building an interstellar craft that promises to unite the two communicating civilisations. As the world scrambles to catch up with the implications of this message, she and a team of meddlesome government officials led by a nasty Tom Skerritt prepare to build and launch the machine.

As you’d expect from a Robert Zemeckis science fiction epic, Contact is punctuated by some fantastic visual effects and thrilling drama. In particular, he comes into his own during the central contact sequence serving up a feast of pin point editing, sound mixing and dialogue, a feat which reminds us all of exactly what his strengths are. Alas, Contact is flush with his other trademarks too such as the impulse to inflate the basic idea with lofty aspirations. The result is a reckless twisting and deformation of the plot until all sense is wrung out of it.

The major problems with Contact are in the writing. Unforgivable contrivances or outright plot holes litter the script to justify speeding our heroine through a maze of painfully earnest emotional crucibles. But worse still is the Fisher-Price philosophy that runs through them in order to paint the story with the illusion of profundity. Mathew McConaughey is shoehorned into the proceedings as a nondescript religious leader and with him some frustratingly superficial religious considerations. These would have amounted to nothing more than gestures if they didn’t arise so persistently throughout the film and then culminate in an ostensibly mind blowing (but in reality mind numbing) coalescence with the story’s more scientific themes. Clearly there was an underdeveloped desire to draw bigger ideas into the central story of alien contact but not nearly enough intelligence or delicacy to give them shape. Ultimately, the story bounces awkwardly along in much the same manner of Alan Silvestri’s big boring score. Constantly trying to build towards big emotions but delivering nothing but hot air.

Jodie Foster has been given an awful lot of slack over the years and while she’s more than competent with a tight script to work with, she flounders within this sloppy nonsense signing off with a denouement (wherein she explains the wonders of the universe to a bunch of school kids) that comes off a little manic and uncomfortably ludicrous. Skerritt does the best with what he’s given but his character couldn’t be have been made more poisonous if he wore horns and a tail. McConaughey suffers similarly under the weight of his character’s smarmy silliness.

Contact was a bold undertaking and was much anticipated due to the calibre of talent behind and in front of the camera. Unfortunately, rather than playing to its strengths, it flounders in those ambitions and becomes another example of Hollywood missing the mark.

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Conviction (2010) 2.43/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 59.8
Genre: Drama
Duration: 101 mins
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Stars: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo

Conviction tells the true life tale of a woman’s (Hilary Swank) 18 year long quest to prove her brother’s (Sam Rockwell) innocence of a brutal murder, a quest that alienated her from her family as she put everything on hold to go back to school to train as a lawyer. There’s a powerful story to be told here not to mention two actors who can do it justice but unfortunately it falls short thanks to a combination of weak directing and writing. At the expense of an honest and substantial probing of the cast iron motivations of its two very interesting protagonists, we are given what seems like a summary of the key events in this tale because, once it establishes the backstory, the film whisks through the 18 years in the space of about 50 minutes. A plethora of high emotion scenes and lots of melancholic piano scoring end up defining this film while a series of chronologically muddled flashbacks throughout the first act confound it. Why didn’t we see more of Melissa Leo’s sinister cop? How did Rockwell’s character learn to cope with the tedium of an unjust prison sentence? Why wasn’t the wearing effect of Swank’s crusade explored in more methodical fashion? What was at the heart of both their decisions to keep going? In fact, if it wasn’t for the albeit constrained performances of Swank and particularly Rockwell, not to mention the gripping events at its centre the story, this movie would be nearly unwatchable. But thankfully the two actors’ natural presence and skill are just about enough to draw the audience in and while Rockwell has far less screen time than Swank, the glimpses of him that we are given are emphatic testament to what he can do when he chooses to take on a straight-up dramatic role. The film comes to life when he’s on the screen and if his character’s 18 year stint was more in the movie’s focus, it would’ve been considerably more enjoyable. However, Hollywood is often guilty of overcooking its tear-jerking true life stories and despite Rockwell and Swank, Conviction still falls very much into that bracket. As such, it must go down as an opportunity missed.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) 1.79/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Bad – 41.4
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 105 mins
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Stars: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto

There was a time when remakes, reboots, prequels, and to a lesser extent sequels were about reinterpretation (e.g., Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and re-imagining (e.g., Burton’s Batman) of classic films for a different age. Nowadays, there can be little doubt that the motive for such films is the lazy exploitation of an existing fan base and/or brand name and with absolutely no regard for the legacy of the classic they’re piggybacking. More often than not, these re-makes are so bad that they are widely acknowledged as such and so there’s no need to kick up a fuss. However, sometimes, even the bad remakes are lauded as worthy successors to the original classic. Rise of Planet of the Apes seems to be an example of the latter.

Set up as an origins movie, Rupert Wyatt’s movie attempts to shed light on how the apes became smart. James Franco plays a young scientist trying to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s by genetically enhancing some chimps. Cue a heavily contrived ape slaughtering sequence that forces him to raise the sole surviving ape in secret. An ape called Caesar (sigh!). From that point on, the film deteriorates into one of the dumbest movies in years. For instance, Franco’s character hooks up with a primatologist towards the end of the first act, right before the film accelerates five years into the future during which time we see vignettes of Caesar playing chess, solving puzzles, and perfectly holding conversations with Franco through sign language. The film stops accelerating and we find Franco, Caesar, and the primatologist in the woods where they are bringing Caesar for a walk, all the while Franco and Caesar are signing back and forth in full blown symbolic conversation. An incident occurs and Caeser and Franco agree (in front of her) to tell this trained primatologist that he’s not an ordinary ape! One wonders where she went to primatology school, given that she was in close proximity to this freak of nature for the previous five years and still needed to be told that! As if that wasn’t idiotic enough, Caesar is later sent to a primate enclosure where he strikes up a friendship with an orangutan who learned to sign in the circus and who proceeds to engage in full blown symbolic conversations with Caeser. Hang on a minute! Isn’t the whole point of the movie to explain how the apes took over the world and isn’t that explanation genetic engineering? If so, does the inclusion of an ape intelligent enough to sign full conversations simply because he was trained in a circus not invalidate the whole premise to your movie? Of course, the other (perhaps more pedantic) issue with that aspect to the story is that apes are completely incapable of holding conversations through sign language because 1) they rarely learn more than a 100 signs 2) they seem flat out incapable of generating three-word pairings the types of which, children master by the age of two and 3) there is no conclusive evidence they can spontaneously generate signs which would preclude the strong possibility their signs are simple stimulus response reactions to unconscious cues given off by their trainers.

Once you poke holes in the flimsy attempt to make this a “smart” science-based thriller, the movie simply becomes a vehicle for apes fighting humans and even in that baser attempt, it comes off as decidedly pedestrian. The tension is manipulated in the most crass and cliched ways – cue nasty zookeeper who likes to be mean to animals (yes, we get the symmetry with the original but that was to make a point by turning the norm on its head. Reversing it is only pointing back to the norm and what’s so special about that?). The emotions are manipulated with token references to Alzheimer’s in a superficial attempt to give Franco’s character a personal stake in his research – cue nauseating Hollywood earnestness. The action sequences are so uninspired and manically conceived that they resort to the old trick of building the largest of them around a landmark (in this case the Golden Gate Bridge….again) to make it in anyway memorable. Then on top of all that, there is the most cloy, predictable, and frankly ridiculous ending in years.

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