Tuesday, July 05, 2005

At the Movies

While on vacation, I've had the chance to see the following two movies. Here are my brief thoughts:

Warning: spoilers ahead

Batman Begins

-The latest entry in the comicbook superhero cinematic sweepstakes is actually quite good. The movie is mercifully free of the cheese that infected the last two Batman films. The story is reasonably logical, all things considered, the characters are believable (in a relative sense), and the dialogue is decent. Christian Bale is very good as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Liam Neeson is excellent as the mentor/villain. The movie does have a few flaws. The climactic showdown drags on a bit too long, and the super Hummer/Batmobile was a little over the top. Overall, though, Batman Begins is welcome proof that comicbook movies are not required to suck.

3 Stars (out of four)

War of the Worlds

-People either love this movie or hate it. I hated it. I never bought Tom Cruise as a down on his luck blue collar type, and the kids were incredibly annoying, especially Dakota Fanning. Much of the dialogue was really bad, the story was weak, and the main characters behaved like complete morons for much of the film. Basically, having been chased from north New Jersey by the alien onslaught, Cruise and his character's two children try to make their way to Boston to rejoin his ex-wife and her family. Why? Because a major city is exactly where you would want to be during an apocalypse. "What's happening" the kids would annoyingly keep asking as everything was blowing up around them, when any halfway intelligent person would simply get the hell out of there and ask questions later. Many of the scenes, such as the confrontation between Cruise and his son during the battle, were melodramatic in the worst sense of the term. Finally, Tim Robbins' character, modeled on the soldier from the original H.G. Wells novel, is completely over the top.

The film's other major flaw concerns the aliens, and their technology in particular. The idea that they had attack craft buried here for thousands of years, that just happened to be located near major cities, made little sense. For one thing, why did they wait so long to attack? As one of my friends pointed out, why not come far earlier in human history, when mankind couldn't even have attempted to put up a fight? Also, while it was a nice touch having the aliens use tripedal attack craft that traveled in groups of three, as in the Wells novel and 1953 movie, the mechanical octopi didn't strike me as the most logical form of weapon an advanced enemy would employ. I understand that the aliens were seeking to capture humans in order to drain their blood. Still, if they were going to destroy a ferry, for example, there had to be an easier way to do it than simply tipping it over. You would think that aliens advanced enough to travel halfway across the galaxy to attack us could come up with something more efficient and less labor intensive. Even H. G. Wells had his "Martians" using energy beams and poison gas. Frankly, as frightening as this is to say, Independence Day offered a much more "logical" view of alien invaders.

The movie wasn't completely bad. Most of the pure destruction/battle scenes were good, especially the one where Tom Cruise slipped the grenades into the alien craft. The special effects in particular worked well. Overall, though, War of the Worlds failed on numerous levels. The ending, where Cruise and his daughter find his ex-wife and her family happily at home in the one block in Boston that the aliens thoughtfully refrained from destroying, was indescribable in its cheesiness. At least Independence Day, with all its myriad flaws, was cheesy by design. War, on the other hand, was pretentiously cheesy, something that is far less forgivable.

1 1/2 stars


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