10 July 2005

Okay, the verdict is in: either movie would be a decent video rental, but I would advise you not to waste your money at the cinema. In other words, CRAP! and CRAP!. Warning: if you intend, despite my advice, to watch these movies on the big screen, read no further: movie spoilers ahead.—–Let us begin with The Fantastic Four. This is Marvel’s second attempt an a FF movie. The first was so horrible that it went straight to video and disappeared from shelves nation-wide after about a month. This particular movie is much higher-budget, but still poorly written and easily predictable. I might have forgiven them had Jessica Alba finally gotten naked on film, but alas, she continues her pretense of morality by only stripping to her underwear (Again. And again.). Also, while I am fully prepared to suspend my disbelief for a comic book movie, I can’t suspend it quite so far as the director would like. I am prepared for cosmic rays to grant superhuman powers; that’s part of the fantasy. However, I am not prepared for a machine which not only generates and contains cosmic rays (which pass through the entire planet without slowing down), but funnels them through a hose. Also, since my suspension of disbelief is based on the comic book characters, major changes to said characters ruins the movie. Doctor Doom (a FF staple villain) as metallic mutant rather than a powered-armored antagonist is not something I’m prepared to forgive. And finally, if your grasp of science is so weak that you don’t know the difference between chemistry and physics, don’t put it in your dialogue. Especially from the characters who are supposed to be super-smart. As for The War of the Worlds… How on Earth can a director of Spielberg’s caliber take an intelligent classic, remake it with a huge special effects budget, and still manage to destroy it? The tripods, in this version, are not sent to Earth in the invasion. Rather, they were buried here millenia ago (the estimate given in the movie is a milllion years, but this is apparently based solely on the fact that they were in a lower geological stratum than the sewers of New York city) and the aliens simply decide that now is the time to return to Earth and conquer. Of course, they are still destroyed by bacteria… which raises two questions: why did they allow human civilization to advance at all, rather than simply maintaining a presence on Earth, and how could such “vast intellects” not have detected bacteria over millenia of observation? The “heat rays” were well accomplished as effects, but the “black smoke” failed to appear at all, which I found dissappointing. The imperviousness of the tripods in Spielberg’s version is not based on the simple toughness of the material, but on an invisible force field which they generate (shades of Independance Day). Of course, while the entire U. S. military fails to generate a single enemy casualty with any weapon available to it, Mr. Cruise’s character handily lops a piece off of one with a hatchet. Mr. Cruise is also obliged to point out to the U. S. Army infantry platoon he’s conveniently passing by when the enemy’s “shields” go down (he can tell because birds are perching on them), because apparently these trained combatants, who have done nothing but observe and engage the enemy for days, fail to notice. My favorite line is piece of unintentional humor delivered by Tim Robbins. Now, I have neither read the book nor watched the previous movie edition lately, so this line may be a reference to previous material. I am inclined to believe, however, that it is simply Hollywood directing its usual moral support to the Palestinian movement to murder their own greatest benefactor and the strongest democratic presence in the Middle East: Israel. Be that as it may, the line is: ” Occupations always fail. History has taught us that a thousand times.” This delivered by a white man in New England. There is more, but that’s enough for this e-mail. My best to everyone!

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