Movie Roundup: The Watchmen, Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, and Transformers

Before I started to write this I checked out Roger Ebert’s web site. The only one of the five movies he liked was Watchmen and likely because it was the only movie with exposed boobies. I thought I would write about these five movies from the perspective of someone who though Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino was a manipulative tearjerker.

I had never heard of The Watchmen graphic novel until I came across word of this movie. I had already felt burned by The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was an imaginative graphic novel turned in to a lousy film. Shame on you Sean Connery. I bought The Watchmen novel and read it. It was a powerful story of group of somewhat retired vigilantes trying to figure out who might be out to kill them. It expressed a theme whereby the difference between the hero and the villain is, is, hell, there is no difference. When Tim Burton made his Batman, itself derived from the Dark Knight graphic novel, I came away from the picture feeling that other than Batman’s cooler toys, he and the Joker were both sociopaths with enhanced psychopathic tendency.

So back to the movie The Watchmen. I read all the hype and watched all the trailers and went to see it in IMAX on opening day. What I saw was unlike any other graphic novel adaption that I was familiar with. Here was a film that was faithful to a fault to the key elements of the novel. It was not the director’s re-imagining but rather a faithful recreation. Alas that was also probably its only serious fault for me as such a faithful reproduction ignored the fact that movies are different art form from the graphic novel. I found it somewhat distracting to want to whip out the book and start putting checkmarks next to every panel reproduced in the movie.

That said, it remained a powerful and emotional take on a world where when criminals put on masks to make their identity difficult for police to determine another group of citizens donned masks to apprehend these criminals by ignoring the constitution. I saw it twice and I can’t wait for the Blu-Ray version that I hear will be 20 minutes longer. And don’t forget the boobies.

The next movie I saw was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As a kid I was into DC comics. Every issue was a complete story about a perfect being. Marvel comics were full of heroes with more hang-ups than a pimply-faced 13-year old (me). I wanted my heroes perfect and Marvel’s definitely were not. Then there was the fact that Marvel comics were like the soap operas my grandmother watch. Not all that much actually happened in an issue and it took 5 to 10 issues for a story to play out. I was never sure if I could get the money for the next issue.

Of course today all comic book heroes are riddled with angst, except Superman who remains the moron he always has been. Wolverine purports to reveal the origin of this character. Here it is, he is a Canadian Highlander (Sean Connery reference implying crap) with sociopathic and enhanced psychopathic tendencies. He is also not too bright and easily manipulated. Wolverine is the loser superhero and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a loser movie. No amount of special effects or decapitations can make this movie anything other than a bore. It won’t be added to my Blu-Ray collection.

In the seventies I lived with three other guys in a house in downtown Montreal. Every weekday evening we all sat together to watch reruns of Star Trek on our colour TV, which was a big deal because for all of us we had only watched the original series in black and white. We watched the three seasons of the show over and over again. We could figure out what episode we were going to watch in the first 10 seconds. Unbelievably, we also all had girlfriends. Since then I have seen every episode of every spin off. I believe that the best spin off was Deep Space 9, followed by The Next Generation, Voyager, and pulling up the rear was Enterprise. The only great Star Trek movie for me was the Wrath of Kahn though the Voyage Home had its moments (I still giggle at the scene of Scotty talking to a Mac mouse and then proceeding to write the formula for transparent aluminum on the same machine).

I should also say that I really liked Cloverfield from the JJ Abrams factory. So like most other 55 year old Trekkies (or Trekkers or Treksters or get a life-ers) I had high expectations. I wanted a Kirk who could speak an entire sentence without dramatic pauses. As for Spock, well I downright enjoyed Zachary Quinto’s bitchy Spock. There is no question that like all Trek movies this one was hampered by the formula. Trek movies play a little like romantic comedies. Kirk gets Spock, Kirk loses Spock, Kirk’s smartass friend McCoy speaks in quips, and then Kirk gets Spock back. You can easily replace Kirk and Spock with Picard and Riker or Archer and T’Pau. That said, the JJ Abrams take on this formula was for the most part fresh and invigorating. But who the hell throws an able bodied crewman off a ship before regrouping for battle? Seemed like Mr. Spock’s little Spock was doing the thinking on that one. I saw it twice, regular and IMAX, and can’t wait for the Blu-Ray.

There was no salvation in Terminator Salvation. I could not help but compare it to the far superior but sadly cancelled The Sarah Connor Chronicles. John Connor as played by Christian Bale was flat and did not come across as someone who could inspire the resistance. If anything I would have recast the movie with Sam Worthington as Connor and Bale as Marcus. I anticipated a movie about a great leader facing insurmountable foes. What I got was just a lucky bloke. The only tiny saving grace was Arnie’s cameo. If I were a young actor then the scene with Arnie would make me afraid, very afraid (and possible out of work in 25 years). And what about SkyNet’s motivation? I would have dearly wanted to gain some insight into this A.I. I already own the first Terminator on DVD, I think I’ll buy T2 on Blu-Ray and skip this one.

Finally, there is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Much has been written of its $200 million budget and the 145 terabytes of data, of Megan Fox’s non-acting and Shia LeBeouf’s screaming and crying. Reviewers have been trying to outdo themselves trashing the movie. Helloooooo! Ever watch the cartoon? It sucks. Transformers is not Shakespeare or Greek Tragedy. It’s about machines pounding the snot out of each other. In updating it to 2009 the machines also kill each other and kill lots of people. The presence of humans is nothing more than the flimsy framework upon which the machine on machine violence hangs. I played with toy soldiers and built forts in the snow. When I played war as a kid there were no good guys or bad guys, just action. That is what Transformers is about and nothing more. Michael Bay will be passed over for an Oscar (shame). But for every kid who remembers being a kid I say “Thank you Michael”. I just saw it today and will go and see it in IMAX on the weekend. It will be added to my Blu-Ray collection, too.

In summary, see the Watchmen, ignore Wolverine, enjoy a guilty pleasure with Star Trek, no redemption for Salvation, and Autobots, transform! And two thumbs up for the boobies.

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