Lucy (2014): Marvel, Make that “Black Widow” Movie

Lucy_(2014_film)_poster

“Lucy” is a movie that has garnered controversy for a lot of reasons. One which I think is justified (all the Taiwanese Characters in this film are gangsters or passive characters) and some which is not (the 100% use of brain premise is crap).

Here is the science on why using 100% of your brain and won’t give you god-like powers and why it is a myth that that we only use 10%: http://www.wired.com/2014/07/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-10-brain-myth-explained-in-60-seconds/

Now that the junk science of the premise is out of the way we can get into the real problems, with the story and I’ll get more into the Taiwan issue later, and also where it stands tall.

“Lucy” was written and directed by the French director Luc Besson, and produced by Europacorp.

The story of “Lucy” is around Lucy (Scarlett Johansson, a college student who is forced into becoming a drug mule when her boyfriend blackmails her into delivering a mysterious package to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik of “Oldboy” fame). He is than shot and the drugs that she was given are surgically put into her body. After they break she is given superpowers as the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: Lucy – Marvel…Disney, please be paying attention. A “Black Widow” movie would be amazing. Scarlett Johansson has the talent for this as demonstrated in “Winter Soldier” and demonstrated as soul lead in this film. She plays vulnerability (calling her mom when she is feeling connected to everyone and everything) to hardcore (taking out the gangsters) and all the other feelings. She owns this role and is a hero worthy of Ridley from the “Alien Franchise” and Sarah Connor of the “Terminator Series.” We need more heroines like her, and definitely more who are women of color. At this point I’m up for any action star though that breaks out of the white male with stubble hero trope.

Mr. Jang – He should have been in charge of an international gang. Having all the gang members we see Lucy fight or who threaten Lucy just promotes horribleness of the other, which is a shame for what it promotes, and the fact that Choi Min-sik is fantastic! He is a worthy foe and manages to destroy most of the people who stand against him. I want to see more of his work now beyond just this and “Oldboy.” The man is a master of his craft. In this he is so cruel and frightening that you see why Lucy is afraid and you get why he is such a threat. He should have been  given an international crime syndicate given he was selling global.

Professor Norman – Morgan Freeman is here once again as the great mentor. Lucy reaches out to him when she realizes what has happened to her, given it is her theory she is living. He is the one who tells her to give and create with what time she has, which she embraces, even when he begins questioning it. He is great in this role and is there to explain a lot of what is going on.

Pierre Del Rio – He is the awesome French detective who helps Lucy stop the other mules and defends her when she is giving all her knowledge in creating a super computer. He is a great character and is the love interest that reminds her of her humanity. As he says to her at one point when she’s defeated some of Mr. Jang’s minions with her mind. “Why do you need me?” She kisses him. “As a reminder…” It is a sweet moment and he is great in the guy in over his head who does the right thing. Also, he is a French actor of arabic descent, the actors name is Amr Waked. Can’t wait to see him in other things!

Lucy’s Goal – Lucy’s goal and mission is good and admirable. She takes all the knowledge she gets from the Universe in the process of becoming one with it and gives it to Mr. Norman and the science team. She believes harm comes from ignorance and that full knowledge can stop that. It’s actually a pretty big endorsement of philosophy and science and one thing that I really loved in the film.

Cons: How Taiwan is Handled and Racism – The biggest Con is what I brought up at the beginning. Most of the gangsters are Taiwanese except for the first surgeon who puts the drugs in the mules. This is bad and could have easily been countered by a single nice person in Taiwan standing up for Lucy. We get none of that and the characters are all evil or passive. That isn’t fair to Taiwan or the Taiwanese people and was horrible writing on Luc Besson’s part. Mr. Jang should have been the head of an International Crime Syndicate, he was cruel and smart enough to do so. That also, could have easily solved this issue.

Editing – There are some strange editing moments, like going between the African savannah and and Lucy’s situation at the beginning. As well as seeing the missing link Lucy too. It was jarring, same with the going between Lucy’s predicament and Professor Norman’s explanations.

The problem in how Taiwan was handled and the editing really keep this film from being great. It is a good action film that has a good point about science and an awesome heroine but doesn’t realize it’s full potential because of how it handles Taiwan. Would I recommend it? If you are looking for a heroine of the likes of Ridley and Sarah Connor, Hell yes I recommend it. But know these problems. This was written and directed by one guy and whatever issues he had with Taiwan really come out, which is a shame cause it does bring the film down beyond just the editing issues.

My Final Score for this film is 8 / 10. Good but not great and giving a much needed heroine to cinema. Also, Marvel…Scarlett Johannson is amazing. Get on that “Black Widow” film!

Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure

MCU2

Who would have thought that Disney buying the rights to Marvel would turn out to be such a great thing? Who knew they would create such wonderful and masterful stories that are overall pretty coherent?

As I continue the “Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect,” I will be starting the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure in the lead up to “Guardians of the Galaxy. This is something I have been looking forward to doing since, “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Iron Man,” and “The Avengers,” are some of the best films ever made.

How I’m going to go about it is every week I’ll review a movie or more starting with the first films. Today I’m doing “Captain America: The First Avenger,” in honor of Independence Day, and later on “Thor,” “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” After I will do their sequels and finally end with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Afterwords I shall do a retrospect and rating them from worst to best.

This series will be called, “The Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” let’s assemble the Avengers!

Maleficent (2014): A Tale of War, Revenge and Recovery from Trauma

Maleficent_Movie_Wallpaper

“Maleficent,” is the retold story (done “Wicked” Style) for the character of Maleficent from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” The story is a revenge tale as Maleficent is betrayed and is out for vengeance on the individual who betrayed her and the Kingdom that has been seeking to conquer her lands of the Moors. She curses Stefan’s daughter (the man who betrayed her) and from there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: Angelina Jolie – She is fantastic! She experiences so many different emotions and does so much action in this role and owns it all. She is what elevated this movie beyond the character and story.

The Premise – Is that there are two realms…the faery realm of the Moors and the human Kingdom. They are at war since the humans are trying to take the faeries resources and treasure. Maleficent is the guardian faery and has great eagle wings and horns upon her head. The Premise is great and explains the magic that Maleficent has in “Sleeping Beauty.”

Maleficent – Is great, there are some things in regards to her character I wish they would have done…but I’ll get into those in the cons. For pros though, her relationship to Stefan and her experience of the rape (she gets her wings cut off, it is just that…her power is taken from her by a man she loved)…is powerful. She is a great believable antagonist and you can see her and her people as justified against the humans.

Stefan – Is a great baddy. You see how greed and power overtook whatever feelings he had and how class corrupted him. He is willing to betray and rape the woman he claimed to love to become king. There are few Disney villains as despicable as this guy…and Sharlto Copley does it well. He’s is great at playing complicated bad men.

The Crow – Is fantastic. He gets turned into a man at one point and is Maleficent’s outward morality to some degree. He was the first to care for her after her wings were cut off and he is there to the end.

The Special Effects – Are fantastic. Sometimes it feels a bit too green screen but it is done in such a way that it is supposed to look that way. It exaggerates the colors like a fairy tale.

The Payoff – She heals from her trauma and becomes the mother figure Aurora never had. I actually liked this…I just wish getting here had come at a higher cost for the humans.

Okay/Good: The ending – It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than “Edge of Tomorrow’s” ending, though it wasn’t as good as “Winter Soldier” or “Days of Future Past,” in regards to the end either.

Okay: The Three Good Faeries – They are harmless and comedic relief as usual…none really stand out except for the Pink Fairy played by Imelda Staunton (Doloris Umbridge).

The Faeries – They may look diverse, but they are either stupid good (the three good faeries and others) or Maleficent. I wish they had attacked humans and been more chaotic, faeries usually represent nature and here they represented the ideal of perfect nature rather than how nature actually is (storms, animals, etc.). They weren’t bad, but they were not deep in any way…outside of Maleficent.

Aurora – She’s alright, but the actress who plays her isn’t all that memorable. She could have been replaced by anyone else and it would have had the same emotional effect. She is a plot device with some amount of agency. She seeks out Maleficent and the Moors and she does action…the thing is this is Maleficent’s story though and she functions more at helping Maleficent release her hate and write the wrongs of the curse cast against her. She is there to remind Maleficent of who she was before her wings were taken.

Cons: The Cost – In “Wicked” the book (and implied in the musical), there are consequences to Elphaba’s rebellion. She takes action against the wizard and loses her love…she later loses her kingdom when Dorothy is set on her too. There is none of that in this, it is willing to explore the emotional cost of rape but not the political fallout of having someone as powerful as Maleficent taking action against those who harmed her. She curses Aurora…and that is it. Everything else she does is in self defense. I didn’t find this believable given what happened to her was worse than what happened to Elphaba and Elphaba killed to free the sentient animals and lost her love in the process. Maleficent gets everything back in the end and never goes all bad…her as a villain against the realm was never believable beyond the curse (in which she adds the “True Love’s Kiss” out). This I think hurt to the tone…if you are going to go dark and the revenge along the lines of “Kill Bill,” go “Kill Bill,” “Pirates of the Caribbean series” got violent for much less. Maleficent had so much reason to become the monster, but she never did. It was for this reason I miss the one of old. She did evil for no reason, but at least she actually did evil. Maleficent helps her enemy more than anything else (raising his daughter, uniting his kingdom as he has them attack her after the curse). I wanted her to give payback, but it never comes…She is always the defender except for that single moment of the curse.

There was so much here for a great movie. They actually were willing to use a metaphor for rape and introduce it to kids…the conversations out of that need to happen to help stop it in the future. Storywise it misses so much though. Maleficent should have been more destructive against Stefan, he deserved that. Frollo and Scar faced major consequences beyond their own self destructive paranoia…Stefan deserved the same and worse. I would still recommend this movie and it was really good, worth it largely for the premise Jolie and Sharlto. It is hard to do retellings like this, there is a reason “Wicked” is the only memorable story of that type, and this is no “Wicked,” but is great for what it manages to achieve.

My score is 8.2 / 10.

 

 

Sleeping Beauty (1959): A Fairy Tale Elevated by the Villain

Sleeping-Beauty-classic-disney-24456736-1024-768

My reason for choosing to review “Sleeping Beauty,” is for preparation in regards to reviewing “Maleficent,” later and I wanted to see Disney’s take once more on the Fairy Tale since “Maleficent” was also created by them (and I haven’t watched it for years). The film was originally created in 1959 and is most famous for the fact that each scene is painted and that it was Disney’s first Fairy Tale adapted to animation until “The Little Mermaid,” years later.

The premise of “Sleeping Beauty,” is King Stefan hosts a party for the birth of his daughter….the whole kingdom shows up except for Maleficent (the evil fairy who wasn’t invited) and out of spite arrives and curses the child that on her sixteenth birthday she will get pricked by the spindle of spinning wheel and die (a bit of an overcomplicated curse). The Blue Fairy Merryweather who comes up with an equally overly complicated counter-curse that she won’t die…she’ll just be asleep until she’s kissed by her true love. From there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

Pros: The animation – Is beautiful. Each scene is hand painted and it shows…I kind of miss movies being done like this…later ones where beautiful too, but this type of art form is nearly lost. I would love to find more stories done this way.

Merryweather the Blue Fairy – She has sas and is the only smart one of the three faeries. Flora and Fauna are not very smart at all. They don’t know simple thing like tsp means teaspoon or how to use their magic in an undercover competent fashion. She was the only of the three I cared about…the other two felt like unaware comedic relief verses Merryweather who could sass against Maleficent even (and was the only active one – voice and beauty (Flora and Fauna’s gift are passive traits except voice), Merryweather’s gift actually makes the story possible…even if it isn’t a very good plan (true love, really?) She also isn’t good looking but is a major minor character who actively fights against Maleficent.

The Rescue – Seeing the Three Good Faeries be active is awesome when they infiltrate Maleficent’s Forbidden Mountain.

The Battle – The fight with Maleficent between the 3 Good Faeries and Phillip is fantastic. That dragon scene! The fact that Maleficent is so awesome is that her power is active and powerful, the last battle shows this too from her green bolts of fire and turning into a dragon.

Maleficent’s Crow – The crow is awesome! It is the only one of her minions to actually find Aurora and besides being her eyes and ears and alarm system actively takes part in the final battle and causes Merryweather to use dark magic (turning it to stone). Seriously, this minion rocks.

Maleficent – She’s evil and she knows it. Every scene she is in is gold. She doesn’t sing and everything she does actually has a higher purpose. By killing Aurora she leaves the Kingdom in ruin making her the top dog. By releasing Phillip as an old man unable to have heirs he pretty much ends the relationship in regards to the Kingdom’s line. Also, she can change into a dragon, cast powerful spells and has a fortress called “The Forbidden Mountain.” She is brilliant, powerful and haunting. I can see why Disney uses her as one of the biggest bads for most of their games and stories where all their villains meet. Can’t wait to see what the new movie does with her, considering she is the best thing about this film.

Okay: The music – When there isn’t any singing it is quite beautiful. The soundtrack is epic but the singing brings it down, most of the songs are so incredibly simple and shallow that I’m not all surprised this film failed at the box office.

Prince Phillip – He isn’t fleshed all that much even though he is active. He falls in love with the princess who he thinks is a peasant girl and is ready to risk his kingdom for her. He is active but only in the most superficial version of love ways. Besides Aurora’s voice and looks he has no reason to care about her…and likewise. His voice and looks…oh the cons of early Disney Fairy Tales…

The story – There is the recipe here for a great story. Aurora fighting against destiny as Phillip is and them united in rebellion against fate and maybe even choosing something different. There is the seed of a good story here, so I won’t make it a con, but the story is in no way good. Not enough active characters…the heroes are either stupid or passive if they aren’t evil (with the exception of Merryweather).

Cons: Aurora – She is completely passive and has no control over her destiny. She isn’t trusted with her destiny (would she have pricked her finger if she knew?), she is there to fall in love with Phillip…weak. She isn’t allowed to fight the villain who harmed her when she was a child and she never goes against the 3 Good Faeries, she just accepts their idiocy. Phillip wasn’t the smartest of heroes but he at least acted.

Flora an Fauna – The Pink and Green fairy are only good in that they are funny and not aware of it. They set up so many of the problems and propose some pretty horrible solutions (so Aurora doesn’t have the curse happen…turn her into a flower). Not to mention the fight that Flora starts with Merryweather that causes Maleficent to find Aurora in the first place. Seriously…who trusted these people? Merryweather should have left them and worked more closely with the kingdom to actually fight Maleficent like the fairies end up doing when Phillip finally fights Maleficent.

The Romance – “Do I know you?” -Aurora

“Of course, we’ve met before?” -Phillip

“Where?” -Aurora

“Once upon a dream.” -Phillip

Haha, No. Seriously Phillip, you come off as a creeper. Don’t, just don’t do that crap. The Romance is fairy tale romance in the worst way possible. Love at first sight is a difficult trope to pull off and it is not pulled off in this film. They are teenagers and it comes off as more of hormones than anything else. So glad Disney gets romance right later in films further into the future.

This film has a lot of problems and would be an average Disney film (with Disney’s common misogyny and passivity problems they had early on in regards to their heroes who were women), thankfully they had a good baddie in this or else I’d be giving it a 4 or 5. Maleficent makes this film. Everyone anything does is a direct reaction to the things she sets in motion. She is larger than life and far more interesting than any of the heroes (even Merryweather). She has an agenda that she never says but can seen…she shows you, she doesn’t tell you it. She is destruction, the Mistress of all Evil…she is awesome and besides the animation and Merryweather and her crow…the only reason to see this film.

I’m giving this film a 6.5 / 10. An addition of 1.5 entirely because of Maleficent, without her this film is forgettable.

 

Malificent Sleeping Beauty