Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Star Trek Beyond

This is going to be difficult to pick apart, as it's a really solid and entertaining film. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Star Trek Beyond is the best live action Macross film I've ever seen.

Seriously, they are incredibly similar:

The protagonists are drawn into a fight with creatures that are somehow connected to humanity.
Said creatures are focused entirely on conflict.
Thus the film focuses about the question of whether peace or violence is better for the progress of the species.
Of course, it is optimistic, saying that while violence is inevitable, peace is better and should be striven towards.
Music is used as a weapon.
People die, and it is genuinely touching.

It is quite obvious that Simon Pegg wrote it, with a greater than usual emphasis on Scotty, and a joke which seems very reminiscent of Dr Who (when The Beatles were referred to as classical musicians)

The film is not perfect, but I find it very difficult to think of any particular criticisms. It's funny, thoughtful and entertaining, with very good special effects.

I'd recommend watching it.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

Before release

When the new Ghostbusters film was announced, I saw the announcement surrounded with rhetoric that the all-female cast was to counter the "imbalance" or the first films. In my opinion, pushing equally hard in the opposite direction is not a way to be progressive. "Two wrongs don't make a right" as the adage says.

Eventually the trailers came out, and they made the film look atrocious.
They mention that "30 years ago New York was saved by 4 friends", pitching this film as a sequel. They featured a few jokes, most of which seemed incredibly unfunny.

"How hilarious! She's implying that the ectoplasm went into her vagina! And she's a woman! A woman being crude is funny, right?!" You know, gross out humour that isn't funny in the first place, let alone when relying on the gender of the person for shock value (which would of course only actually shock people who haven't ever talked to a woman in their entire life)

Oh, she licked her gun, and the test of the main gun didn't have enough power, curving downwards. Both are going to be interpreted as phallic, aren't they?

Oh, the black actress is basically being a completely racist stereotype. Remember how Ernie Hudson's skin colour informed his entire character in the original? You don't? Good, because it was completely irrelevant.

Oh, the film is going to feature the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at some point... who crushes the actresses... Yet they don't die...


Overall, the trailers and marketing made the film look like an unfunny, racist, slightly sexist cartoon, claiming to be a sequel to the original. Something strongly attempting to convince me it's progressive, whilst actually being unfathomably regressive.
The marketing made the film look atrocious, is what I'm trying to say. This was extra frustrating because if one were to dare expressing such an opinion, it would seem that legions of internet denizens would descend to accuse you of being a misogynist. Ad honinem is far easier than debate, or appreciating that people have different opinions, and this easy route is unfortunately extremely popular.

After release

Wow! That was surprisingly good!
Whilst most of the stuff from the trailers is in the film, the trailers were incredibly misleading. There is some crude humour, but that is a very small proportion of the film.
They largely stay away from sex jokes - the aforementioned bit where they test the main gun was just left with a "that was disappointing", so kudos.

Patty, as played by Leslie Jones, does not actually portray a racist stereotype. She plays a very likeable character, and does it very well.

Holtzman, the engineer, is a genuine delight as well. I'm particularly fond of a section where she's dancing around in the lab to something in the vein of WHAM! or Lionel Ritchie, and when it's switched off she makes a comment about thinking it was Devo.

There is a lot of new technology in the film, which is really cool.

There is a very large variety of ghost designs, perhaps inspired by the cartoon. Once again, very cool.

All of that being said, there are some definite negatives.
Some of the jokes fall completely flat. For example, the characters are in a meeting and about to be kicked out of the University. While the person in charge is getting ready to say "two words", the main characters are predicting what he's going to say... while sitting about a metre away from him. Not only would he be able to hear exactly what they're saying (and should react accordingly) but it's simply not very funny.

Despite absolutely not being a sequel in any way, shape or form, the film does make many references to the first film, but then doesn't go as "big". When looking for a base of operations the team are offered the fire house, but because they can't afford it they settle for a room above a Chinese takeaway.
The climax of the film takes place in a hotel with a dark history, sort of like the first film (which was apartments)... but they don't leave the ground-floor.
It keeps comparing itself to the first film, and then intentionally not doing things as well.

Which makes the villain even more of a conundrum. He's a white nerd who has been bullied, and is a fan of a book that the main characters published. Some have interpreted this as a metaphor for fans of the original films, with the film directly attacking them. Whilst I didn't interpret it that way, it is completely understandable.
To me, the villain was a caricature of the people who posted the more toxic comments on the trailers on youtube. Whilst this may make it sound like I enjoy wearing headwear to block RFID signals, because the film references youtube and comments as well, it made me think that the blow-back was artificially inflated in order to make the people who watch the film dislike the villain (hey, it's easier than actual characterisation).

The cast from the original film have cameos, but Bill Murray's is utterly terrible. Allegedly he only appeared because Sony were going to get litgious if he didn't - and it shows!

Conclusion

Overall I thought that this film was surprisingly funny, though that might be because my expectations were extremely low. Your mileage may vary, depending on your interpretation. Mine was that this is funnier but not as scary as Ghostbusters 2, but inferior to Ghostbusters 1 in pretty much every way, including the special effects.
The marketing was beyond misleading, and was in fact outright lies. Sony should fire whomever made the trailers.