I try to go into movies cold, knowing as little as possible about them. I might watch a trailer and read the blurb, but there is something really nice about letting a film unfold before you without expectation. That’s really hard to do in this age of anticipation. We are pummeled with so much information about a movie long before it opens I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it before I walk into the theater. This is especially true with big summer blockbusters and comic-book movies.
This week I caught a couple of movies I’d been avoiding because the culture at large had already made up my mind that they weren’t worth seeing. They were both better than expected. I took in another film that I’d seen previously and really rather disliked, and had my mind pleasantly changed. This was after I’d watched its sequel and liked it and wanted to see if my memory of the original was faulty.
I love it when that happens. When your mind changes upon a second viewing or when a film rises above expectations.
So let's get to it.
When Ridley Scott announced that he was making Prometheus, a sort-of prequel to his classic horror film Alien, I was all sorts of excited. The original Alien is one of my all-time favorite films but the sequels (all directed by people who are not Ridley Scott) were a sequence of diminishing returns. To hear Scott was coming back to the franchise was hopeful.
The end results were…less so. Honestly, I hardly remembered anything about that movie other than I didn’t really care for it, and I was mostly confused. Despite that, I was once again super excited about the sequel to the prequel, Alien: Covenant. Scott promised it would be a more return to the roots and that was all I needed to buy my tickets opening weekend.
It mostly worked for me. It is an absolutely gorgeous film to look at. As per always, Ridley Scott has meticulously created the world in which his characters live in. The acting is great and he really brought the horror this time. There were some really tense moment leaving me breathless.
Where it faltered for me is when he tried to tie this story into the greater mythology. One of the things I love about the original film is how it didn’t bother to explain some of the larger questions like where the aliens came from and what the Space Jockey was all about. It left those questions open, allowing it to give the film a larger world in which to exist. Alien: Covenant spends a lot of time answering those questions and the film (and film series) is lesser for it.
Mostly though, I really liked it and it made me want to revisit Prometheus.
Which is exactly what I did the following evening. As mentioned, my memories of Prometheus were extremely vague. But the taste in my mouth about it was sour. My biggest memory of it was that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I was hoping that after watching Alien: Covenant and having seen both Alien and Aliens recently that I might be able to connect some more dots.
That’s exactly what happened. Prometheus is by no means a great movie, but having the mythology more fresh in my mind helped make a lot of what Ridley Scott was trying to say more comprehensible. There are still any number of character actions that defy logic and there are still large chunks of the overall arc of the series that doesn’t connect, but on the most basic levels it makes sense.
Like Alien: Covenant, this film excels in its world building. The ships, the planet, and the things that inhabit them are all really interestingly made. It is a breathtakingly beautiful film. The characters are all performed by really great actors so even when there actions don’t make much sense you still believe what they are doing. I’m really glad I watched it again and I’ve gone from kind of hating it to really rather liking it quite a lot, with only a few caveats.
Man of Steel
I’ve never been a huge fan of Superman. I just don’t find him that interesting of a character. If there is a war between Superman and Batman (and I’m talking culturally not about the recent movie), then I am squarely for Team Batman. I just find him to be a much more interesting character. Superman is much too boy scout for my tastes (and I must now make an immediate confession that I only know Superman via the Christopher Reeve films).
Because of this, I skipped Man of Steel when it first came out. When fandom seemed to decide that it wasn’t very good, that it was too dark and brooding for a Superman movie, I congratulated myself on having such good decision-making skills. When Batman v Superman got pummeled by critics and fanboys alike ,I felt just a little bit superior having decided to completely ignore the DC Extended Universe.
Then came Wonder Woman. As a parent of worth, I’ve been raising my daughter on nerd culture including a steady diet of comic-book heroes. She, being a six-year-old girl loves all the women superheroes. Wonder Woman is her favorite. Truth is, she’s not really seen a lot of Wonder Woman stuff. We’ve not watched the old Linda Carter show; she doesn’t yet read comic books. I think we’ve watched a couple episodes of Justice League, but that's about it. But there are so few women superheroes that my daughter's latched onto Wonder Woman.
Which is awesome. She’s been hyped over the film for months and we plan to go see it this weekend. But first I felt like I needed to catch up with the DC movies, hence me finally watching Man of Steel. Turns out, I kind of liked it. It is dark, but not so intensely dark that no light can come in. There are moments of lightness and levity. It is overlong and it does get a bit too smashy-smash by its ending (and good lord, why did Superman not lead General Zod into a less-populated area before getting all smash-happy?)
But it looks amazing and I liked Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman. I also really liked how they teased out his origin story in flashbacks instead of making us spend the first third of the film watching something we’ve already seen before. It's very much not your father’s Superman movie, but would we want it to be? Would the Christopher Reeve version work in today’s cultural landscape? I think not. Zach Snyder’s film is a long ways from great, but it has some really good moments. Enough to get me pretty excited about the sequel.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The way everyone seemingly crapped on this film you’d think it was the worst movie ever made. It's definitely not that. It's not even the worst comic book movie ever made. It is at least half an hour too long. It is much more brooding than a Superman movie ever ought to be. Jesse Eisenberg’s ADD-addled, Mark Zuckerberg-on-Cocaine-esque performance makes Gene Hackman’s take on Lex Luthor look measured by comparison. Everything everybody complained about this movie is true, just less so. It's not nearly as bad as they say it is.
High praise, indeed.
I liked it more than I thought I would. I liked Ben Affleck’s version of Batman. As promised, we got to see Superman and Batman fight and the action was good for what it was (even if the whole thing could have been stopped if they’d just talked to each other for more than 30 seconds). My daughter will tell you (and I’ll absolutely agree) that the best moments were when Wonder Woman showed up. They teased her throughout the movie with her wandering about the sidelines in her secret identity. But when she finally comes out in full costume and kicks ass, it is awesome. I can’t wait to see more of that.
Orphan Black - Alison and Donnie Dance
I’m somewhere towards the end of Season 3 of Orphan Black. Honestly, this season has been a little bit of a letdown from the previous two. There are to many plot strings to keep up with and far too many characters to follow.
Alison and Donnie’s story has completely left the main arc of the series, and while I’d normally be super annoyed at this, I just find the characters (plus Tatiana Maslany and Kristian Bruun’s performances) to be delightful.
I don’t want to get bogged down into the specifics of what’s going on in this scene, so I’ll just note that Alison is a super straight-laced soccer mom turned up to 11 and Donnie is her schlubby husband. But the two have been going off on their own adventures and they’ve just landed a deal quite successfully which has gained them a nice chunk of change. They celebrate by dancing about in their underwear music video style.
The whole thing is just glorious to watch.
Foo Fighters - “Run”
Foo Fighters dropped a new song with a video directed by Dave Grohl. It's pretty good.