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What was the story again?
Granted, this is supposed to be an action film based on a range of toys. On that level I suppose it delivers the goods. However, for a budget of some $145 million, it shouldn't have been the be all and end all. There ought to have been at least some semblance of plot to go with it.
In the right place and well-executed, action sequences are no bad thing, but by the final act of this film I was yawning. The relentless onslaught of one battle after another is simply mind-numbing. The CG Transformers, while realised proficiently, are nothing new: there's a car ad by Citroen that's been running in the UK for ages now, which features a transforming/dancing/skating car. It was easily on a par with anything this film had to offer, so there was hardly a 'Wow!' factor.
Michael Bay seems content with his limitations as a maker of overblown, plot-lite action spectaculars. If he wishes to be taken seriously as a filmmaker, he needs to work out what elicits genuine emotion from an audience, and start substituting some story for his stunts.
Superman Returns (2006)
I was disappointed by this movie. Having vivid memories of seeing the 1978 original at the cinema, and knowing that it would be used as a back story, I had high hopes. However, despite the efforts of Bryan Singer and his team which did result in a few good moments this addition to the franchise did not ultimately add up to very much.
The seeds of doubt were sown upon seeing the title sequence. Anyone who remembers watching Richard Donner's 1978 film will recall the great sense of anticipation built up by a winning combination of (for the time) state of the art graphics, sound effects and John Williams' rousing score. However, the attempt to emulate it fell flat. The visuals were messy and rushed with a muted colour palette. Add to this a tame rendition of Williams' theme (conspicuously lacking in any sort of bass) that was so hopelessly mistimed to the picture that the Superman 'S' limped (rather than blazed) on to the screen late. The credits themselves also flew about in near silence, noticeably missing the 'soaring' sound that accompanied their predecessors and made it such a memorable opening.
As for the rest of the film, while it was watchable, I felt that the script missed at least two action beats. This meant that after necessary 'quiet' moments of exposition, one sat in expectation of the next big sequence to move the story along, and waited... and waited.
The action, when it eventually came, was well-executed but there wasn't nearly enough of it. Attention was paid to the depth of the principal characters (apart from Spacey's one-dimensional Lex Luthor) but there has to be a balance between this and the need to thrill an audience. A good film carries both in equal measure.
On the plus side, Brandon Routh did a fine job in his dual role, capturing well the subtleties of Christopher Reeve's portrayal. The use of the Marlon Brando footage and references to the original production design were also welcome.
However, if you find yourself looking at your watch during a film, it does not bode well. The fact that I did so four times when I viewed this one just about sums it up.
For those who don't get it...
Having read some of the comments regarding 'The Return of the King', there are one or two that I find quite startling.
Firstly, I couldn't believe that anybody would go to see this film without having seen the first two in the trilogy. 'The Two Towers' doesn't include a recap of the events in its predecessor, and neither does this one. How on earth could you expect to enjoy the film on the same level? These are not three separate stories: they are one tale told in three episodes. The multiple endings are not meant to wrap up a standard two-hour movie: by the time the extended version is available it will be the closing act of what is effectively one film that is eleven hours long. (One of the book's final chapters, 'The Scouring of the Shire', was omitted from this adaptation as it was not the main climax to the story.)
Mention of the book leads to my second point, regarding those who accuse Peter Jackson of plagiarising the works of George Lucas. These claims obviously hail from those who have never read a literary classic in their life, and believe that there was no such thing as fantasy before 'Star Wars'. 'The Lord of the Rings' (in case you didn't know) is a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien that is split into three volumes; they were published in 1954 and 1955. Furthermore, it was written as a kind of sequel to 'The Hobbit', by the same author, published in 1937. Peter Jackson, whilst taking some necessary liberties with his version, has stuck closely to the original.
So it could be argued, for example, that the respective 'demises' of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn while, in each case, witnessed by their younger companion are heavily influenced by the events in the Mines of Moria in 'The Fellowship of the Ring'- and not the other way around.
'The Lord of the Rings' can represent many things to many people, but there are two meanings of the title that are universally acknowledged: it is one of the best trilogies you will ever read; it is also probably the finest one you will ever see.
Congratulations to Peter Jackson, his co-writers, cast and crew for creating an amazing movie-going experience.
Overlong, but for the most part excellent.
Having now watched the film, all of my friends who haven't are asking me the inevitable question, 'How does it compare with 'Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone'?
My answer has to be 'It's six and two threes'. Whereas HP appeared slightly rushed (but nevertheless entertaining) and could have quite happily sustained an extra thirty minutes' running time, I found 'The Fellowship Of The Ring' to be equally captivating up until the climax of the splendid 'Mines of Moria' sequence, after which a sense of 'just get on with it' set in.
POSSIBLE SPOILER!! I found the latter segment incredibly gripping. On the screen, Frodo's intense reaction to events reached me on a far greater emotional level than similar situations in 'Star Wars' (Episodes I & IV) ever did.
However, from a cinematic point of view, I felt that the aftermath of this would be the ideal place for the ending. The feeling of 'something lost but everything to play for' that was so much of what made 'The Empire Strikes Back' work so well would have been just as apposite here.
I only read the book earlier this year, in preparation, and obviously I intend to read 'The Two Towers'. Unfortunately, it seems that Peter Jackson has already spoiled the first chapter for me by including major events from it at the end of the first film.
He didn't need to do this, as they would have made a great opening to the second instalment. I saw 'Fellowship' in a packed cinema, and after two and a half hours, I could sense some restlessness around me. I don't know exactly what they were thinking, but I know I was saying to myself 'Great film, guys. You've earned your money, but any chance of letting me go home now?'
Of course, up until that point I was completely enthralled.