Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 12 – “Bewildered Warriors” – Wufei’s Purpose

Bewildered Warriors

        “Bewildered Warriors” is a good world building episode and a great chance for us to glimpse into the mind of Wufei, as well as getting some time with Sally too! It’s a fun episode and good as a stand alone. I’ll go into more of the details of this in the assessment.

      The episode was directed by Tetsuya Watanabe,  Kunihiro Abe and Tsukasa Dokite and written by Katsuhiko Chiba.

       The episode begins with Heero hanging with Trowa at the traveling circus healing from his wounds. It is here he learns that they haven’t received any missions and OZ has been quiet…We then pick up in a country in Asia that had a peaceful leader ruling until the Alliance replaced them with Colonel Bunte who is dealing with guerrillas being lead by Sally. Wufei is pulled into one of their fights to defend them and begins facing the shame and healing he feels from losing to Treize. From here the stories unfold.

The Pros: Sally – Sally leads the guerrillas and reminds Wufei that you don’t have to be strong to be just and to fight. I really like her character as she doesn’t even let death stand in her way of doing the right thing. It is this nobility that inspired Wufei to fight again and reminds him of who he is…even if he doesn’t feel worthy to fly the Gundam.

Trowa and Heero – These two are very similar as Heero’s near suicide has Trowa considering if that is what he should do as well…which we see him follow through on doing when he hears they are going to a military base of OZ’s and we learn that his Colony voted against sending the Gundams so he can’t attack as it would put his home at risk. It makes me curious how Heero’s self destruction will inspire his next move against OZ. These two are similar in that they seem to seek death.

Wufei – Wufei sees those who are weak as unworthy and sees himself as unworthy because he lost to Treize, thankfully Sally turns this around and he helps liberate the country they are fighting in against OZ and Bunte when they are nearly wiped out and he decides standing is the only thing he can do, even if he feels unworthy. It’s a good moment and shows that his character is beginning to heal and to grow.

Okay: The Guerrillas – They are led by Sally but don’t have any motivation beyond overthrowing the corrupt ruler Colonel Bunte. This isn’t bad but we don’t know anything about them really. What is their name? What country are they in? All these details are lost.

The Cons: Colonel Bunte – He’s a baddie who has no dimension at all. He’s hated for the sake of being hated and is nothing but cruel to the people with his soldiers and to his own men when he betrays them. Makes me wish the baddies of “Mobile Suit Gundam” who usually had a lot of complexity.

    This is a solid episode, even though Colonel Bunte is a pretty one dimensional baddie, and we don’t even know the name of the country he rules. It still doe a good job of establishing OZ’s control and how they aren’t to be trusted by anyone given how quickly they turn on Bunte’s troops after he betrays them for OZ’s help against Wufei’s Gundam. It also is a great Wufei episode and gives him complexity that he badly needed, and anytime Sally pops up is usually a good sign.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

Snowpiercer (2013): The Cost of Revolution

     http://consequenceofsound.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/snowpiercer-poster.jpg

     “Snowpiercer” is one of the better films I’ve seen in the post-apocalyptic genre. It has consequences, high stakes and human characters who are relatable, as well as covering the many ways revolution can be viewed and the cost that comes with it, regardless. I’ll get into more details in the assessment.

    The film was directed by Joon Ho-Bong who was also one of the screenwriters, along with Kelly Masterson. “Snowpiercer” was produced by: Park Chan-wook, Lee Tae-hun, Jeong Tae-sung and Steven Nam.

    The story was based on the graphic Novel Le Transperceniege by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean Marc-Rochett.

     The premise is the near future has brought about an attempt to counter global warming that leads to the world freezing over. The survivors board the Snowpiercer and the story unfolds years later in a world where unequal power dynamic lead to the rich preying off of the poor and using them for labor to sustain the train. From here the story unfolds as the main character Curtis (Chris Evans) plots rebellion with his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) and second in command Edgar (Jamie Bell). From here the story unfolds as they rebellion ignites.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack does a great job of capturing the tension and the stakes throughout the film. From the first attack to get out of the back of the train…to the moments with the rich in the night club or high society…Marco Beltrami did a great job composing this score.

The Action – Bong Joon-ho knows how to film action and there are a lot of great sequences…from the first fight to get out of the back car, to being stalked in the sauna and the surprise attack the wealthy do on the poor where we learn guns weren’t destroyed and the bullets still exist. The action has purpose too as it drives the characters forward and kills many of them.

The Cinematography – This is a very beautiful movie. A lot of the scenes are cast in shadow which sticks with how dark the theme is. We learn of the evil the wealthy do to the poor and what the poor did to themselves when they first boarded the train. There are no heroes in this world and how the film is filmed captures this stark reality. Hong Kyung-pyo did a good job.

The Characters – There were many good characters in this. I’ll go into depth on who and why.

Mason – Mason is the Minister and primary antagonist until we meet Wilford the religious leader of the train (and the one manipulating everything). Mason is crafty and cowardly and makes a great antagonist. Tilda Swinton makes her weasily and viscous as well as a true believer in Wilford and the Holy Engine. She’s a character I would not have minded sticking around till the end, but she is killed by Curtis in revenge when she facilitates an ambush done by the rich’s thugs.

Tanya – Tanya is the closest we get to a good person as we see her caring for others as well her young son before Wilford’s second takes him away. She fights hard and is there to remind Curtis to keep going on and to lead when he loses his second in command. Her death is powerful for this reason as she never finds her son before she is killed by one of the more powerful thugs in the sauna. Octavia Spencer is wonderful.

Namgoong Minsu – Is one of the addicts who they first rescue who helps them open up the doors to the different cars as long as they provide him with Kronole for his addiction and rescue his daughter as well. He is a compelling character as he notices how the world is changing outside and that the ice melting. He knows they don’t need the train, but because his addiction makes him so selfish he is never listened to. He does make possible his daughters escape as a group attacks and they use the Kronole to make a bomb that destroys the train leaving her and Tanya’s son to find or create a new world. He is compelling character and Kang-ho Song does a good job.

Yona – Yona can see what’s coming which gives her the best bet for surviving at the end. She does manage to survive and rescues Tanya’s son with Curtis as well as getting the chance to hold her father one last time before the bomb goes off. She is an interesting character and I wish we’d gotten more time with her. She’s as smart as her father at hacking the doors. Ah-sung Ko did a great job.

Wilford – The man who accepts the status quo even though it’s unjust and upholds it through terror. Ed Harris makes him personable which makes him all the more frightening. He sees himself as being alone and that all people are expendable. He tries to get Curtis to take his place but fails as Curtis sees through the illusion when Yona arrives and he realizes what he’d become and endorse by being the leader. When the train is destroyed Wilford accepts it and respects those who beat him.

Gilliam – Is the one who worked with Wilford we learn and was using people and rebellions to keep the population balanced. He changes in the end though as he helps Curtis get beyond the halfway mark which leads to him getting killed. John Hurt does an amazing job as the heroic manipulator as we learn he gave his body to the poor to eat so they wouldn’t eat the children anymore. You really get why he’s respected so, which makes the betrayal felt.

Curtis – Chris Evans must be one of the best male actors in Hollywood now…I was impressed. This was “Winter Soldier” level acting and he played the anti-hero role so well. From the reason he trusted Gilliam (his guilt at having eaten people and known the young taste better) and his constant struggle to get his humanity back. He finds it in the end by destroying the unjust system and helping Yona and Tanya’s son escape. His complexity is part of what drives the story as he captures Mason but lets Edgar die in the process.

The Ending – The ending has a point and is all the stronger for it. It takes the corrupt system being destroyed for the children to have a life and it takes leaving the system to create a new one where freedom is found. Bong Joon-ho is truly a great storyteller. You felt the cost of revolution as so many innocents on both sides died even though the victimized poor were in the right.

Okay: Edgar – He’s just an angry rebellious guy. His character doesn’t have much depth but at least adds more dimension to Curtis.

The Thugs – There are a few powerful thugs but none of them really have personality. This I think takes away as we don’t know they serve the system. They are good action moments but they have no personality beyond cruelty.

     This is a movie I’d highly recommend. I want to check out this director’s other work now as the story was unique and powerful and had a point. From the reasons the poor rebelled, from how desperation can ruin the best of people but a single person living by example can change things…as well as the cost of change. It takes so many deaths for the train to finally stop and for people to notice that the train wasn’t needed anymore. Even Curtis misses the fact that the world is melting outside and life is coming back…because for so long the train is all he’s known. It is for this reason Wilford is able to manipulate him so well. Not only does it have a point but the music, characters and story are rich and rewarding. I highly recommend this film.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972): A Good Idea Poorly Executed

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” has a great premise. It is the rise of Caesar the revolutionary who creates the City of the Apes we saw in the first two films. We get to see the basis of why he and the apes rebelled, which gives a great chance to explore the reasons behind revolution. Sadly, the execution is not nearly as good as it could have been.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Caesar – Caesar or Milo son of Cornelius and Zira (and played by Roddy McDowall who played Cornelius, does a great job! The problem is we don’t see a gradual change. We see him witness the enslavement of the apes after the disease Milo, Cornelius or Zira brought back kills them all. He is great as a character though and his interaction with Ricardo Montalban’s Armando is fantastic. Armando is his hope for humanity so when the Police State that has arisen kills him he snaps. Sadly he is the only ape who is any sort of character…the rest are just masses without any unique characterization or individuals among them. He eventually goes power mad though and shows no mercy. He becomes the antagonist by the end (which makes me think he forgot about his friends at the Circus). It is tragic how he forgets about the good humans and becomes as they are by the end. He lays down the rules of the Ape World we see at the beginning (treat humanity with compassion as servants).

Armando – Ricardo Montalban is once again great. I see why he was killed (to motivate Caesar to action), but he was one of the only interesting human characters besides MacDonald.

MacDonald – Played by Hari Rhodes, he is Governer Breck’s (the antagonists) assistant and sympathizes with the apes because of the history of race in America and all it took for African Americans to gain rights and freedom. He is an interesting character who I wish had got more screen time with Caesar. His confrontation at the end is powerful too as he tries to reason with Caesar to seek compromise.

Okay: The Music – Is nothing special and doesn’t elevate the production.

The Revolution – It isn’t bad…but I really wouldn’t call it exciting either. Seeing the apes get weapons is cool…but when they join Caesar all he has to do is look at them…this was poorly done. If people join you they have to connect with you, which usually involves language (“Rise of the Planet of Apes,” did this a lot better).

The Ending – “Tonight we have seen the birth of the Planet of the Apes.” Caesar’s final line after he is reminded to show kindness…ironically he creates the world they were fighting against though with Apes as the new masters and God as the justification. The strongest scene is the “No,” one of the apes says while holding Governor Breck’s dead body which leads to Caesar laying down the premise of Planet of the apes and the new Master and Servant relationship.

Cons: Governor Breck – Is the hammiest of antagonists. He is bad for the sake of being bad. He justified slavery and after was surprised when the slaves rebelled. He was needlessly cruel to everyone around him and was a bigger one note baddie than any villain prior.

The Apes – They aren’t characters just representations of the working class and the powerless. I would have liked to see someone speak for their experiences besides Caesar who was an outsider to their experiences. One does speak at the end after Caesar’s call for humanity’s annihilation with the words, “No.” Which is great. More of this would have been nice.

The length – It is one of the shorter of the films but if feels longer. Especially on scenes where there is Governor Breck or just ape to ape interaction. This is a shame since the Ape characters were always the best thing about this series up to this point.

This film was better than “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” but not as good as “Escape From…” and “Planet of the Apes,” the Original. It had a lot of good ideas but doesn’t really get them until the end and after it is too late. The ideas should have been captured and expressed earlier. Governor Breck as an antagonist doesn’t help…MacDonald would have been a much better antagonist and keeping Armando alive longer could have helped the story…as well as making the police state more subtle.

I’d check it out if you are curious to see the first Caesar that appeared on screen. Just know you’ll probably watching simply an okay film.

Final score is 7 / 10.