… a holdover to distract us from what we’ve been craving all along… it’s still better than the last Wolverine sorta-solo outing, so there’s that.
-Kevin A. Ranson, MovieCrypt.com
The Wolverine is surprisingly dour and uneventful, at least by the carnage-n-claptrap standards of modern superhero movies
-Luke Buckmaster, Crikey
- Star Trek: Into Darkness left San Fransisco and London in ruins
- Humans fled planet Earth in both Oblivion and After Earth
- Superman and Zod completely destroyed metropolis in Man of Steel, with complete disregard for innocent human life
- Iron Man 3 featured major Los Angeles landmarks being blown to pieces by Extremis
- The world all but ended in Pacific Rim and World War Z
- This is the End…enough said
We’ve seen so much destruction that even Damon Lindelof is getting tired of it.
The Wolverine tries to be the opposite of the films mentioned above: A comic book adaptation with a small scale, very little carnage and a minimal body count.
It’s not quite a character piece but not quite a superhero movie. With much smaller set pieces and scaled down action sprinkled throughout, this film is essentially a look into the character’s psyche. Not quite what we’re used to in a big budget summer tentpole release, it’s almost a jarring change of pace and even slightly refreshing.
The year is 1945. Wolverine is imprisoned in an underground cell in a Japanese detainment camp in Nagasaki. As a pair of B-52 bombers appear in the horizon, his cell is opened by an officer named Yoshida, who begs him to escape and save himself. Instead, Wolverine pulls him inside and shields him from the blast as all other human life on the island is decimated by the bomb. Yoshida watches in horror as Wolverines body is burnt to a crisp then heals itself before his eyes.
Flash forward to 2013. Disheveled, lonely and living off the land in the Canadian wilderness, Wolverine is haunted by visions of Jean Grey, whom he killed in X-Men: The Last Stand. Eventually located by a mutant named Yukio, Wolverine travels with her to Tokyo per the request of Yoshida, who is now on his deathbed. The reason? Immortality.
“I can make you mortal.”
For the great majority of the The Wolverine, it plays as a straight old-school samurai action film with Wolverine fighting bigger and better enemies as he progresses, resulting in his confrontation with the “big bad” as his biggest challenge yet at the end of the film. And for the most part, this progression works well. At least enough to keep an audience entertained. The opening scene in Nagasaki is incredible, most of the characters are impressively written and compelling, and there is even a fascinating sequence on a train that puts a similar action beat in The Lone Ranger to shame. Not to mention the ending post-credit tag is easily the best we’ve seen in quite a while.
But there’s still something missing from The Wolverine. It’s not boring and it’s very well acted but it almost feels as if the events are taking place in slow motion. Some of the lesser action sequences seem dull and uninspired and the setting for much of the film takes place in drab and ugly environments that aren’t exactly fun to watch. One of the villains named “The Viper” makes no sense within the context of the movie and is shoehorned in, presumably to balance out the cast between mutants and human samurai.
“An honorable death, an end to your pain”
Despite the natural progression of enemies Wolverine faces throughout the film, the final battle goes off the deep end and is laughably ridiculous. It’s the kind of ending one would expect from a more traditional comic book movie that feels the need to escalate the stakes to the point of absurdity instead of trusting the audience to understand the character without blatant symbolism.
Better than all of the comic book adaptations we’ve had this summer and BY FAR superior to the atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine brings a slightly refreshing change of pace and a much lower body count. Despite it’s pacing issues and uninspired final battle scene, it’s very unique and worth checking out if you’re a fan of the X-Men.
As adventures in mechanised mayhem go, the picture does, of course, crush the Transformers franchise into iron filings.
-Donald Clarke, Irish Times
Is this going to give me enough of a story and enough characters to carry the amount of rocket-punching and monster-bashing that I want to see? The answer is yes.
-Widgett Walls, Needcoffee.com
“Something out there discovered us”
The year is 2013 when the first “Kaiju” attacks. (Literal Japanese translation of Kaiju: strange creature. Think Godzilla, Gamera or Mothra.) First just thought to be an earthquake in the middle of the ocean, a creature later emerged off the western United States coast, attacking and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, causing much destruction to city. Finally, it was killed by a nuclear bomb but the resulting carnage was devastating. This incident later became known as K-Day, the day the Earth went under attack.
The world prematurely took a collective sigh of relief, but the devastation had just begun. The next cities attacked were Manila and Kabo; the Kaiju started appearing in increasing frequency as traditional means of warfare had lesser and lesser affect. The top scientists on the planet began to brainstorm betters means of protection from the Kaiju. Inspired by robot and monster action figures, a prototype was created that would eventually become the Jaeger, Earth’s best hope for survival.
“There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.”
Essentially a massively scaled suit of armor, Jaegers are a mobile exoskeleton weapon and the Pacific Rim’s first, last and only line of defense against the Kaiju. They were designed as giant humanoid mechs that could stand up to the Kaiju without resorting to nuclear weapons.
“The Yaeger program was born. Two pilots, our minds, our memories connected. Man and machine become one.”
Jaegers are simultaneously controlled by multiple pilots from inside the cockpit, located in the “head”. The pilots are equipped with a special armor plating, allowing them to connect with the machine itself. The minds of the pilots are also connected to each other through a “neural bridge” that allows them to control the movement of the Jaeger as a team.
By 2024, there were forty six confirmed Kaiju attacks on Earth, resulting in astounding Jaeger losses. It was speculated that the Kaiju were beginning to adapt and learn how to defeat the Jaegers easier and quicker, in both land and water. The frequency of Kaiju had begun to increase so quickly that the world began to fear and prepare for multiple breaches at once, known as the Double Event and Triple Event.
This is where the events of the film begin.
Most action films depict little about the setting and surrounding environments outside of the immediate story taking place. In Pacific Rim, the world building around the story is impeccable. The global effect of the chaos is shown as various countries around the planet try and fail to come up with solutions to stop the invasion. Kaiju religions spring up, organ harvesters sell body parts on the black market, the political and social ramifications of the tragic events are on full display here. It’s very refreshing for a film to broaden it’s scope outside of the main story arc.
The characters of Pacific Rim are all fun and incredibly likable, although they hit every cliché in the book. Clichés are cliché for a reason: they’re entertaining and they work. Here we have the American badboy rebel who disobeys orders, the hard-nosed but noble British leader who motivates with an epic speech, a small-statured but deadly Asian woman with a tragic past, etc. All by the book action characters, but incredibly enjoyable and fun to root for.
This film is an absolute blast. It far surpasses the disappointing sequels and superhero films we’ve had this summer. Pushing the meaning of the word “Blockbuster” to a new level, Pacific Rim breaks new ground in the action/science fiction genre and hopefully is just the start of a very exciting new franchise helmed by Guillermo Del Toro.
Almost more action movie than zombie movie, World War Z is less about the zombies than it is about the effect the outbreak has on the world. And it works.
-Tim Martain, The Mercury
A supremely well designed film, WWZ re-animates the zombie genre as Brad Pitt outsmarts the voracious undead in a compelling, creepy take on how the world might face its end.
-Simon Weaving, Screenwize
Fortunately, it did just that. Already eclipsing 160 million after it’s third weekend, it’s apparent that audiences weren’t concerned with any of the behind the scenes drama and just wanted to watch Brad Pitt vs the zombie apocalypse. So much so that sequel talks have already taken place, with Pitt set to produce and star in future installments.
Someone could probably use a breath mint
For the first two acts, the film essentially implements video game logic to progress through the story. The characters find clues in various locations that lead them to the next piece of the puzzle. The action climax of the movie takes place at an enormous set piece of Jerusalem, and is definitely one of the better action sequences we’ve had in any film this year so far. The third act (Lindelof’s contribution) slows the pace down substantially and sets a different tone for the end of the film. It is slightly jarring but is really fun to watch and does a good job wrapping up the character arcs and plot points the audience has become invested in.
His family, on the other hand, is almost entirely expendable and only exist to try to humanize Pitt a bit more and tug at the heartstrings a little. It doesn’t work. Most of what happens to the family in this movie is completely unrealistic and directly contradict the motiviations of quite a few different characters.
That’s a big pile of zombies
Although it falls short of the best Pixar has brought to the screen over its long association with Disney, it’s nevertheless worth a trip to the theater, especially for kids.
-James Berardinelli, ReelViews
Very, very late in these 106 minutes, we get a startling blast of meaningful Pixar storytelling that reminds us of what this team can do when they bring their A game.
-Jeffery Overstreet, Looking Closer
What’s interesting is that their streak of below average work all comes after the Disney acquisition. Could an upstanding company like Disney be so bold to put financial gain ahead of artistic integrity? With yet another sequel to a franchise with unlimited merchandising potential a la Cars, does Pixar get back on track with their unique brand of emotionally driven story telling? Or do we see more evidence of their recent films being influenced by the money grubbing paws at Disney?
A monster road trip?
Technically, Monsters University looks absolutely fantastic. Despite the decline of their recent scripts, Pixar always put out a gorgeous looking movie and this is no exception. There are dozens of intricate and complex monster character designs on screen at the same time, it’s hard to imagine the hours it took to animate this. Down to the finest detail (you can see every last strand of hair on the furry characters), it is an incredible achievement and needs to be seen.
Monster College – obviously a rite of passage for all young monsters
There’s plenty to like in Snyder’s hectic, rowdy film. But by the time we reach the bludgeoning excesses of the last half-hour it’s hard to shake the sense that this was an opportunity at least partially missed.
-Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
DC still has much to learn from rival Marvel in the filmmaking realm, but Man of Steel at least offers hope. Hope, and a slight headache
-Tyler Hanley, Palo Alto Weekly
Unfortunately, this film is a bit of a mess. Most of the individual scenes are fine by themselves, but there is an extremely jarring pacing between them. The film opens with an overlong sequence on Krypton explaining how baby Superman found his way to Earth. Not only is it a very confusing and abrupt way to begin, the events of what happened don’t entirely get explained until much later on.
The film cuts to various flashback sequences that break up the main storyline in somewhat awkward ways. All these flashbacks are excellent and really help flesh out Superman’s character, but when it comes to the the main plotlines that are driving the movie forward, they are real momentum killers.
General Zod is getting angry.
Speaking of the fight sequences, they are almost insane to the point of being incomprehensible. The complete utter destruction and mayhem these characters cause is fun to watch, but quickly becomes mind numbing after the third or fourth time a ripple effect from a sonic boom destroys a skyscraper.
Nope, no religious imagery here
While it doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights of its 2009 predecessor, this new picture is terrific popcorn entertainment, the sort of bright, brawny blockbuster that used to define the summer movie season.
-Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing
A safe sequel which, while certainly engaging and entertaining enough to recommend, fails to live up to the franchise’s daring, appointed mission ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before.’
-Kam Williams, KamWilliams.com
Despite these failings, he is also the mind behind some of the most creative and memorable properties of recent memory. Fringe was mostly fantastic, Lost was great until the screenwriters ran the show into the ground in the final season. He has really put his own stamp on the last few entries in the Mission: Impossible series, directing the impressive 3rd installment and producing the instant action classic, Ghost Protocol. 2009’s Star Trek was a borderline genius way to revamp the stale property in a way to not alienate the fans of the original. Clearly, his work is hit or miss, which is how I could sum up his latest film and second go-around into the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Into Darkness…
JJ Abrams second turn at directing Star Trek on the big screen plays it safe. A much more self contained and inconsequential movie than his first, Into Darkness is a lot of fun but has much smaller stakes than you would think for a film set in the expansive universe that the Star Trek mythology provides.
The latest incarnation of the USS Enterprise
Captain Kirk runs for his life
Spock, setting his phaser to stun
Baz Luhrmann’s vision of the Roaring Twenties dazzles as a purely sensory piece of sight and sound. The hollow narrative doesn’t stop The Great Gatsby from entertaining as a gorgeous, glittering work of visual art.
-Diva Velez, TheDivaReview.com
It looks great, and it’s an impressive tale to bring to the big screen, but the lack of interest in telling the story keep “Gatsby” from being a great film.
-Kristian Harloff, Schmoes Know
There’s never been a movie quite like this. A 3D romantic drama is new ground for Hollywood and if Gatsby’s success is any indication, we will see a lot more of these in the future. I wasn’t too sure what to expect going into this film because I intentionally neglected to read the novel in high school. It turns out, going in without any context was a a good move. The film really surprised me in a way I don’t think would have been possible had I been more familiar with the material.
The cinematography and time period of this film is every bit a character as Leonardo DiCaprio or Toby Maguire themselves. New York City becomes a living, breathing creature as the characters travel from the mansions of West Egg through the grimy dust of the isolated coal mining town, the “Valley of Ashes”, connecting the wealthy to the sparkling skyscrapers of Manhattan.
The bright lights of 1920’s Manhattan
This movie’s biggest strength is it’s incredible visual style. It is by all accounts a Baz Luhrmann film. The Great Gatbsy looks absolutely fantastic; filmed with precise detail, Luhrmann brings his frenzied visual sense to every scene. The parties, street races, and even moments of dialogue are framed with his own unique stamp.
The decade of the Roaring 1920’s and all the excesses of wealth are on prominent display here: fancy costumes, fast cars, giant parties, extravagant furnishings, bootlegged alcohol. The divide between the rich and the poor is vast and it really takes a toll on the less fortunate. The film does a great job showcasing just how this particular lifestyle dynamic alters the fate of Gatsby and his acquaintances.
Gatsby is no stranger to extravagant house parties
This film has more to offer than just a unique visual style. A great, anochronistic soundtrack composed by Jay-Z pumps through all the party scenes and brings a cool modern twist to the otherwise period setting. All the acting is more or less first-rate, albeit deliberate. Often lines are recited or narrated like being read from the pages of the book. Although intentional, it can be kind of jarring.
Gatsby’s lavish mansion in West Egg – a bit excessive
The Great Gatsby is a ton of fun and deserves to be seen on the big screen. It is the first of its kind, a 3D drama that comes complete with director Baz Luhrmann’s unique and energetic visual style. Clocking in at well over 2 hours, it does seem to drag just a bit in parts of the second act, but not enough to deter the overall enjoyment of the film. Leonardo DiCaprio puts on an outstanding performance as Gatsby that will help this film become the definitive version of the literary classic for years to come.