Summer cinema succeeds with "Spiderman," disappoints with "Dark Knight"
In a summer of sequels, prequels, reboots and talking teddies, I had plenty to see. Here is my blockbuster summer debrief on all the movies I made time to see.
Snow White and the Huntsman
★ ★ ★ ½ ★
This is a darker take on Snow White lore, much closer to the original Brothers Grimm folktale than previous versions. For that reason alone it was one of the best fairy tale movies I’ve seen in awhile. Its tone of progressive adventure made it as enjoyable as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, but its serious side made as compelling as “The Lord of the Rings.” The story was well-paced and the characters were engrossing. Even Kristen Stewart, who has the magnetism of a two-by-four in the Twilight Saga, is strong and beautiful in her role as Snow. This movie never pretended to be an epic, but succeeded in marking itself as arguably the best format for Snow White to date.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The original “Alien” was probably the best sci-fi movie of all time. It used space to terrify us by creating an atmosphere of silence and shadows. “Prometheus” is directed by “Alien’s” Ridley Scott, who hasn’t dabbled in science fiction since the inspired “Blade Runner.” He returns in 2012 packing a punch with “Prometheus,” which was one of the most anticipated films of the summer and rumored to be a loose prequel to “Alien.” While it was well-made, the lack of even narrative pacing distorted its potential. The plot insisted upon itself and the characters were disinteresting, save for the Android David (Michael Fassbender). It seems Scott chose to give up the patient, moody approach to sci-fi this time around, because “Prometheus” felt rushed and fantastical when it could’ve been slow and methodical.
★ ★ ½ ★ ★
“Ted” probably caused a lot of trouble for the average American family. So many kids must have seen its TV spots and begged to see that “new Teddy Bear movie!” Make no mistake, “Ted” is far from suitable for younger audiences. I think that was creator Seth McFarlane’s intent; the flat-out paradox of a stuffed animal smoking a bong and lusting after women is ... well, is it funny? I won’t deny its brilliantly consistent humor, but rarely would more than a few minutes pass between blatantly crossed lines. Comedies are usually meant to be offensive, but Ted goes for pure shock value which benefitted it little and alienated a large chunk of viewers. I mean, how many 9/11 jokes can you fit into one movie?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I’m not typically a fan of non-Pixar cartoons. While I acknowledge the creativity and wit of such gems as “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” so many others rely on formulaic pop-culture stimulus, overly bright color schemes and boisterous voice talent. However, I’ve always been a big fan of the “Madagascar” movies and this third installment might be my favorite of them all. It’s funny, touching, compelling, vividly animated and excessively charming. I wore a smile for all 93 minutes, and while I’m confident Dreamworks will never produce something as gorgeous as the best of Pixar, “Madagascar 3” had me jubilant from start to finish.
The Amazing Spiderman
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If the original Sam Raimi-directed Spidey movies were exciting, then it suffices to say that this re-imagining is more of the esoteric variety. The first trilogy left little for audiences to invest in, playing out like a comic book to be read. “The Amazing Spiderman” is a deeper character study and a much darker world to inhabit. In this version, Peter Parker isn’t some nerd who happened upon his powers. He’s a disturbed, anti-social youth determined to unravel the mystery of his parents’ absence and his father’s experiments. This reboot was a careful exposition of Parker’s dysfunction and inward conflict. The spider bite doesn’t suddenly adjust his morals and sense of obligation to fit a heroic stereotype. In reality, becoming a superhero is a process... or so I’d assume.
The Dark Knight Rises
★ ★ ½ ★ ★
I may be ostracized for this, but I was deeply disappointed with this trilogy capper. This wasn’t only an unsatisfactory ending to a brilliant chronicle, but a poor movie on its own. Disjointed, inconsistent and outrageously bereft of climactic sentiment, I detected only faint echoes of “The Dark Knight’s” prowess and Chris Nolan’s brooding genius. Its received mixed feedback from the critic pool. Its most positive reviews deem it a masterpiece. I firmly believe the dizzying anticipation of die-hard fans blinded them to the obvious problems with “Rises” and the rational potential it fell short of. My negativity isn’t even born from failed expectation set by its predecessors. Looking at this movie just as it is, outside of the trilogy’s tone, I still see so much more wrong with it than right. These weren’t just plot holes, it was one big black hole of contradiction amplified by Batman’s grunts and Bane’s muffling.