Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer Movie Review: Part I

I’ve only been able to see a couple of summer movies so far, so for now I’ll only be covering 28 Weeks Later and Spiderman 3. If you’re looking for another glowing review of Knocked Up, I’d suggest checking somewhere else.

First up is 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle’s excellent 28 Days Later. All of the infected have, at this point, starved to death following the outbreak of the RAGE virus. American-lead NATO forces have moved into London and are beginning to secure and repopulate the city with the survivors of the outbreak and shipping in Brits who have been out of the country. Naturally, the virus remerges and everything goes to shit.

I was pretty worried about this one. I definitely loved 28 Days Later, and had heard that Boyle was only involved in this one as an executive producer (which basically means nothing). Ultimately I ended up seeing it simply because the Spiderman 3 screening we were trying to make was sold-out. Ended up being OK, though, since 28 Weeks Later was much better than I expected, and I got to see Spiderman 3 later on anyways.

The film was surprisingly good. The return of the RAGE virus was handled very well. The film was well above average, with a few moments of total brilliance. We get to see the virus spread through crazed crowds, bringing to mind in the first film, when a character describes what it was like when the virus spread through a crowded train station. This time we get to see it, and it is terrifying. There is also an absolutely amazing scene that is watched entirely through the night-vision scope of rifle.

The movie was a pretty heavy handed at times in its critique of America military operations, but it doesn’t make it any less affecting. I won’t give away too much, but if you liked the first one, I would definitely say that the second is worth seeing. None of the characters from the first return for the second, but this time you get Robert Carlyle. And, really, who doesn’t love Begby?

On to Spiderman 3. Echoing most reviews, it’s not nearly as good as the first two, but if you’re a fan, it is worth seeing. The biggest problem is that Raimi seemed to try to shove too much into one movie. The story floating about is that Raimi refused to do a Venom storyline, but then was either forced by the studio or changed his mind depending on your source. The movie ends up continuing the Harry Osborne story, introduces the black suit, Venom, includes a Sandman story, and introduces the character of Gwen Stacy. A lot to chew on.

The end result is that Venom, the much more compelling character in the comics, is a very boring and one-dimensional character in movie, while Sandman, basically a thug without a backstory in the comics, becomes much more interesting and complex. The Gwen Stacy character is horribly represented and mishandled. Of course, that really only matters to those of us who are hardcore Spiderman fans.

It’s not all bad, though. The action is definitely rad and non-stop exciting. The Harry Osborne storyline is a little clumsy at times, but ultimately handled very well. Thomas Hayden Church’s performance as Sandman is fantastic. Really, if you want to get a good idea of the movie, imagine the first two with better action and special effects, but with a clumsier and shallower story.

My biggest problem with the film, ultimately, ended up being the Eddie Brock/Venom character. Topher Grace is completely wrong in his portrayal of Eddie Brock, but it seems to be less his fault and more the fault of the writing. The casting was bad from the beginning. (I mean, Eric Foreman as the intense, muscle-bound thug hell-bent on murderous revenge?) The character is written totally different from the comics. Instead of the usual intense and serious Eddie Brock, we get a wisecracking smart aleck. Ultimately, the Venom storyline is really inconsistent and handled pretty poorly.

The movie is worth checking out if you like Spiderman or either of the other Spiderman movies. Expect more flash and less substance.

Movie yet to be seen: Hot Fuzz, Knocked Up, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.

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