Summer blockbusters

I’ve never understood the aversion to seeing a movie alone. Is there a more anti-social activity than sitting in a darkened theatre to watch a film, during which time talking and texting are verboten? Just ask Fred Willard.

But seriously, I love going to the movies. I’m easy to please, too: my tastes run the gamut of art-house to big-budget, drama to comedy, epic to epically stupid.

Moreover, with the humidity keeping Toronto’s average daily temperature hovering around +30C, simply sitting for a few hours in an air conditioned theatre is a treat unto itself.

And so I’ve found myself at the movies a fair bit this summer, often opting for the big-budget blockbusters. ‘Tis the season, after all.

Herewith, I humbly offer my take on…

The Amazing Spiderman
Like so many people, I was skeptical this reboot would hold up; so much so, I avoided the film in its first few weeks. Then, a random outing to the cinema and a sold-out first-choice meant I was stuck: see this film, or turn around and walk home. I saw the film, and was I ever pleasantly surprised. Tickled, actually.

The Amazing Spider-Man was a romp. Funny, full of action and even a little camp, it was a near-perfect summer blockbuster. But what made the film all the more entertaining, to me, was seeing, nay feeling the on-screen chemistry between the two leads, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Electrifying. I suppose it helped they’re real-life-lovers, whatever that means in Hollywood. No matter. Good fun. Money well spent.

Whoa. Ridley, buddy. Prometheus is at once an example of you at your best and, alas, your worst. Being a bit of a sci-fi fan (okay, nerd) I grew up on Blade Runner and Alien. Blade Runner‘s dark, dystopian future Los Angeles all but defined the look-and-feel of the future, and Alien remains the gold standard for sci-fi horror. Naturally, I was pumped for Prometheus. After your hiatus from the sci-fi genre, I, along with countless fans, was ready for your return to it.

I guess I should have done a better job of managing expectations. Your cast was solid; Fassbender was Oscar-awesome, for example. Your premise so terribly promising; a big, bold morality tale that seeks to answer one of humanity’s most enduring questions: where did we come from? Frankly, dude, you had the chance to make this generation’s 2001. And yet, you opted for something far more… pedestrian. You replaced brooding with bombs, drama with dynamite. Bummer. I fear, as with Blade Runner, we’ll have to wait for the zillionth “Director’s Cut” before we see your full vision realized. Sigh.

The Avengers
It’s all about Robert Downey Jr., er, Tony Stark. Seriously, buddy is hilarious. And this movie, The Avengers—another vehicle for him to zip around in that suit, in all its CGI glory—is classic “summer blockbuster” fun. Loud. Silly. Packed with action. Samuel L. Jackson.

I haven’t been a faithful follower of the films that culminate in this one, Marvel’s Magnum Opus. However, I’ve been told I didn’t miss much by skipping Thor, though I’m sorry I didn’t catch Iron Man 2. Nevertheless, for even a casual comics fan, Joss Wheddon managed to bring me up to speed pretty quickly on whatever it might have been I missed in what passes for a plot in Marvel’s universe. Not that I was expecting, or looking for a densely-packed, character-driven drama in this one; no, it was undoubtedly a hot day and I was merely looking for a bit of light-hearted escapism, which is precisely what I got.

Thank goodness.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight RisesI’d been waiting for this one. So, too, was just about everybody by the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s near perfect second Batman flick, The Dark Knight. Nolan did not disappoint.

Among other things, I respect Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker because he, like Roger Ebert, loathes 3D technology, preferring to use other means, like IMAX, to enhance and expand cinema-goers’ experiences. While I did not have the pleasure to see The Dark Knight Rises in all its IMAX glory (nearly a full hour of the movie was filmed with IMAX cameras), I don’t think I suffered much without it. I was still able to appreciate the scope and sweep of Nolan’s vision, this time situated in Pittsburgh.

As with his previous Bat flicks, the standout wasn’t the Bat himself, though Bale does an admirable job; nay, as before it was the supporting cast that really made the movie soar. Tom Hardy is brilliant. I could listen to Marion Cotillard speak for days. Anne Hathaway manages to do the impossible: make Catwoman interesting, deep and not the butt-end of a joke (a task mastered by Halle Berry). And of course, there’s Michael Caine, who is, as always, a pleasure as Michael-Caine-As-Alfred.

As I say, though, the film isn’t perfect: it lacks the… discipline of the second. It’s not as tightly-woven, or cleanly executed. It plods, if only a little. Still, as both a film unto itself and the final film in Nolan’s trilogy, it is solid—and my hands-down favourite of this summer’s blockbusters.

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