Tuesday 30 August 2011

Two Movies I Could Do No Justice - Summer Blockbuster Edition

Captain America: The First Avenger.

A friend suggested seeing this movie and since I intend to watch The Avengers and there is no better time to watch superhero-movies than summer, I agreed, but didn't really expect much. I knew nothing about Captain America, but his name suggested grand speeches about his titular country of origin and general random patriotism. Chris Evans had played the Human Torch in that one movie I never ever want to see again because it took a lot of effort to Topher it from my memory. 
How wrong I was! Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a sickly tiny man from Brooklyn desperately trying to get into the Army but failing since he doesn't meet the physical standards. He gets bullied, but never runs away. He doesn't want to kill people, but he hates bullies. When Howard Stark's technology turns him into a super hero, his weapon is a shield - he is a defender, not an aggressor. He protects. The female character in the movie isn't just a "we need a romantic subplot" afterthought, she is a tough and driven British agent (played by Hayley Atwell)! He cries after losing someone he loves instead of hiding his feelings! The story of the movie itself follows superhero conventions - Hugo Weaving plays the head of a Nazi science division who turns himself into a monster via ancient Norse artefact and intends to destroy the world (maybe?) - but Captain America himself is such an unusually likeable superhero that I even managed to sit through the obligatory endless action sequences without wincing, despite the 3D glasses (I have opinions on 3D, they are not positive). 
This is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and surprisingly, instead of assuming that it would just help set up The Avengers, I now really, really hope that The Avengers lives up to my heightened expectations. DO YOUR WORST, JOSS (and by that I mean, please don't make Captain America the obligatory surprise!death).

2011, directed by Joe Johnston, starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Richard Armitage, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones.

Super 8

I went into Super 8 knowing nothing except that some people had described it as the kind of film Steven Spielberg might have made in the 1980s, which didn't really help considering that I've never even thought about seeing E.T. What Super 8 is, however, is a movie that relies on the same basic premise that Stephen King's strongest novels (and, most of all, Stand by Me) have: that the world children left to their own devices during the forever-months of summer break doesn't really resemble the one their parents inhabit. I grew up like this, spending weeks and weeks at my grandparents' house outside the city, discovering the woods and the fields surrounding their little town, inventing adventures that grown-ups had no access to. This is how Super 8 starts: a group of boys has taken the next step after sharing an obsession with movies, they are starting to make their own, with borrowed equipment and a lot of enthusiasm. They need a female lead, which means reaching out to someone outside their own group, and they discover an incredible actress in the girl (Elle Fanning) with the infamous father. Or maybe it's important to start even earlier: Traumatized by his mother's death in a factory accident, Joe (Joel Courtney) clings to the group's ability to make a movie together. The central scene is a dramatic farewell which they decide to film at the local train station, but at the very moment when everybody is smitten with Alice's talent (a scene strangely reminiscent of Naomi Watt's fictional audition in Mulholland Drive), the world they created together is literally smashed. They accidentally manage to film a horrible accident, a train derailing after crashing into a car on the rails. They decide to keep it a secret since none of them, especially not Alice, were supposed to be there, but strange things start to happen and they eventually reveal a government conspiracy. 
Like in Stephen King's It, it's the children, and later the adults who have never quite grown up, who find a way to protect their community, rather than the establishment (whose power is forever suspect and potentially more harmful than the outside threat). Ultimately, what restores the safety of the community is a shared traumatic experience and the hope of overcoming it, not the guns and the tanks. 

2011, directed by J.J. Abrams, starring Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Kyle Chandler.

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