Wednesday, June 15, 2011

X Men First Class and Super 8 Reviews

Ok so after endless pestering, I have decided to post my review of X-Men First Class three weeks after I wrote it. I don't even know how people (and by people I mean James) find out about this review that I've written! Well here it is. My review, word for word, that I wrote after seeing the latest mutant turtle human movie.

Both reviews contain spoilers


Alright! First review of a movie! That’s not the only first tonight either. Tonight was the first time I’ve seen a movie by myself, and the first time I’ve taken notes of what I liked and didn’t like throughout. Yes, I saw a movie by myself. I was bored, alone, and didn’t want to make the effort to invite people. So, I went by myself, something I’ve actually planned on doing many times but just never got around to it. My initial review of seeing a movie all by myself: pretty much the same as with other people. After all, asking other people to join you sitting silently in a dark room would be awkward in any other circumstance.

Now for my review of the film, overall I was impressed. I got there around 9:30 and stumbled out around midnight wishing there was more. So let’s talk about the things in this movie that I liked. First up is the murder of Magneto’s mother. That’s not the part I like… The scene begins innocent enough but becomes slowly more twisted. The revealing of the lab next to the office offers a villainous aura that helps the audience, who are well aware of Magneto’s (or at the time Erik’s) destiny as the antagonist throughout most of the series, to connect with the character. The film’s ability to portray Magneto as a protagonist is effective as I, myself, began hoping for revenge for Erik’s losses. I’ll touch on Magneto more a little later.

Another outstanding aspect to this addition to the franchise is the use of each mutants powers. An issue with all the X-Men films has been that with so many “superheroes” parading about the audience becomes more excited for more new colorful powers than developed familiar ones. X-Men 3 The Last Stand delivered this special effects mess, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine attempted to develop Wolverine’s powers, but looked so unprofessional (aka crappy) that I remember hoping for the movie to be swapped out for like The Importance of Being Earnest… This film, however, keeps the numbers rather low, shows training and growth in most of their powers, and left me wanting more, especially from the big 2 (Charles Xavier and Magneto).

The film’s pacing is well done. Mixing the action throughout the drama and staying true to the expectations of a super hero film. The Special effects look great (Come on Wolverine!). The characters are, in general, likable and well cast. Especially Charles Xavier, who seems to be a push over personality but continues to be unshakable when it comes to doing the right thing. Quick note: I love the Wolverine camio! Anyways, the story is entertaining without making major changes in history, despite best efforts and a whole lot of close calls, allowing the sense of reality the film attempted to capture to be realized (Ooo… word play).

Now it is time to point out why this film was not absolutely perfect. Remember, I did like this film in general but there were a few issues that came up. For starters, although Magneto is a protagonist, and slightly good, I would have liked to see him fall further from grace. Of course the audience isn’t fooled by his eventual outcome, but he is portrayed as a murderous, violent, loose cannon from scene 1 (well… really early anyways). Sure he was alongside the incorruptible Professor Xavier, but there’s no real suspense as to how he will turn out. One good thing that the Star Wars prequels are able to do is to portray Anakin as a good person, about to become a great person, who loses everything he had the potential to become. Magneto doesn’t ever become a convincing hero, and even without knowing his role in the rest of the series, it is painfully obvious how he will turn out.

Finally, I quickly became frustrated with the abundance of villains. Let’s see who I can remember: The Russians (America’s enemy), the human race (The mutants enemy), A bunch of random indistinguishable Nazi people (Magneto’s enemy), The Bad Mutants (the good Mutants enemy), and then of course the soon to be enemy Magneto. It was too much for a single story; especially a story where you hope that Magneto will retake his rightful spot as the super main bad-guy guy.

In conclusion, X-Men First Class offers excellent special effects, fun characters, and an engaging story that sets a strong foundation for the rest of the franchise. I give it 9 little glass mutant figurines out of 10.

Questions I need some answers to:

Will the day ever come that College professors won’t be the ones saving the world? Please? I mean Indiana Jones, X-Men, Angels and Demons, National Treasure (well, his mom anyways), etc.

Why does Xavier (who was raised in New York) have a British accent? <- Seriously, why?

Was one of the bad guys Satan?

Why did Russia decide to hit Denver with 2 nukes during the animation? Or was that Denver and Salt Lake? If so, how did Salt Lake earn one of those like 8 missiles?

One week of Training and they all have their powers in check and are ready to save the world in Spandex? What, is this Eragon’s training all over again?

Did Xavier look exactly like JD from Scrubs to anyone else?


What’s the worst way to destroy an otherwise effective cliffhanger? Show the resolution in the sneak preview for the movie… So Alice goes missing in the train wreck, but the previews and scenes released show Alice running amuck all over the place kind of kills the suspense. J.J. Abrams himself said he wanted the previews to not reveal what the movie was about to give it a feel like them olden days when folks would wander into their local cinema and have no idea what the film was going to display. For the most part the previews did keep the film very mysterious up until the MTV movie awards which showed all these scenes I wish hadn’t been shown and kind of ruining what made me intrigued with the upcoming thriller. Anyways, who am I to complain about that, let’s just look at the film itself without dragging the previews into it. If you want it to remain a mystery, which you do, then know that there are a heck of a lot of spoilers from here on out!

Let’s start off with the director J.J. Abrams, who has cemented himself as a skilled sci-fi director. When in my film class at BYU, my final paper was to watch a movie at least 5 times and then write an intelligent paper on it. I choose J.J.’s breakout movie Star Trek (2009) and watched, and watched, and watched it. Unfortunately, I only could afford one $10 movie ticket to Super 8 so that’ll have to do. Here we go:

Let’s talk about the editing. Awesome… Really, I wish I could have watched the movie just to focus on the edits. The juxtaposition of scenes was so cool. I wish I could say more about them but I only made a few notes. One that was really cool was the change of scenes from the mysterious cube, straight to the main character kid who has some sort of name in the movie pouring food for his dog. This is so subtle but it works. The dog needs the food to sustain life just as the Alien needs the cubes to survive. At the time I assumed that the cubes were food, but the idea is still there. Even the edits that don’t have as much meaning, for example the cut scenes during the first couple alien encounters, in particular the Sheriff at the gas station, are quick but descriptive. I usually dislike so many scene changes but during an attack, I prefer it to the shaky camera technique.

Music and sound is often overlooked in film, which is unfortunate because the audience expects quality audio even though they don’t pay to hear it, unless we’re talking about Twilight where the only redeemable aspect of the film was the quality of the soundtrack. Anyways, I could copy and paste my notes from Star Trek about the film’s audio to this review. Super 8 is just as impressive. The sound adds so much, and as always in suspense, the lack of music can make the audience feel uneasy while watching the scene. During the first few Alien attacks the music would cut out and the man would be left alone, and without the music, would suddenly feel that much more vulnerable. Just like the power the silence added to Will Smith looking for his dog in the dark building in I Am Legend, the cut music in Super 8 leaves the audience anxious. Less is more. Of course, the music becoming much more melodic and the theme waiting until the end to be unveiled is an attempt to feel enlightened about "ET on steroids." And you know what, it works, I was glad the theme wasn’t played until the characters, and myself, knew what exactly was going on.

How did the movie look? Great. Want to know how to recognize when Abrams is directing a film? Look for excessive light exposure. As HISHE would say, “Who designs a space ship where lights shine in your eyes from virtually every direction” (Look up HISHE Star Trek on Youtube). The special effects were used pretty sparingly so we know Michael Bay wasn’t involved on this project. On this note I wanted to talk about two scenes in particular: The death of the mother, and the climax.

How cool was the scene of the Accident Free sign? You knew right when you saw the sign being reset someone important had died, then the edit straight to the kid means you know it was a parent. That’s an exposition! The audience knows these characters so well without anyone saying a word and are immediately drawn to them. Quality film J.J., quality film… As for the climax of the film, when the main character boy who has a name in the film approaches the Alien and makes his speech about healing from his mother’s death… I mean… his speech to calm the Alien and make an emotional connection to him is the first time the Alien is really seen, and the first time the Alien really sees. Meaningful of course because you finally understand him, or see him for who he really is as he begins to understand someone else. Cool.

J.J. took on a lot with this movie. He took on a film focusing on middle school main character and the emotional joy ride they present, healing from the death of a parent, forgiveness, and broken homes. The film is overall a well made movie. It was carefully put together, and engaging; however, I just can’t say that I loved it. I’m conflicted with scoring this one because my overall enjoyment of the film, and the quality of the film receive very different scores. I could rave about the film making, but I’m not going to go out and buy it, or watch it again unless it is with a freakishly (or even slightly I guess) attractive female. I’ll settle upon 6 little glass alien figurines out of 10. (As the days go by my rating has jumped up to more like 8 out of 10... My immediate rating was lower than that after I have let it sit for a little while.)

Other notes made during the movie that didn’t make the review:

A truck doing that to train? Bull crap, was Hancock in the car? And then the driver of the truck surviving as an old man? Bull freaking crap!

Until proven innocent, always blame the Soviets!

Understanding through touch, I should watch ET again.

Look what overabundant hormones and infatuation can make people do!

Fear shown by soldier sent to track alien was powerful.

Reflection of Spaceship on stoner’s windshield, a marijuana leaf?