Friday, May 15, 2009

"Will faith protect them from an explosion?"

Faith will probably not protect you from an explosion. Especially not from an antimatter explosion, the biggest and baddest of all explosions.

Suppose you are at the faithiest place on Earth, and someone hid a very antimattery bomb somewhere. Who better to call in than professor Robert Langdon, symbology scholar? If you've answered: "Anyone else, cuz symbology ain't even a real thing", you have already won! Your prize? Enough sense not to watch this fucking movie.

I, on the other hand, enrolled in a movie quiz a few weeks ago, knowing full well this was the movie to be played while the scores were tallied. I still went. On a completely unrelated note, I like women who hurt me physically and emotionally. I'll give it this: while still mind-numbingly boring and stupid, it's marginally less dull than its predecessor. While nothing interesting happens, it all happens really fast, so there's that.

The movie starts with the death of the pope, and the kidnapping of the four candidates for papacy. A threatening puzzle (seriously) is then sent to Vatican HQ, which prompts them to send for Robert "Bigg Dogg" Langdon.

MEANWHILE AT THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER, SWITZERLAND 08:42 AM

An overzealous Demolition Man reenactor stabs a dude's eye out to gain access to the precious antimatter that is stored at that heathen institution. The disoculated corpse's friend and moderate hottie dr. Vittoria Vetro goes to the Vatican to... Fuck if I know. She does know her way around antimatter and that is very important to the plot.

Professor Langdon and dr. Vetro team up for some reason, mostly because the movie is a sausage fest if they don't and an averagely hot lady is better than Tom Hanks and some carabinieri. Ron Howard, you are P.T. Barnum come back to life!

Our intrepid scholar friends must stop the murders of the four cardinals at the hands of a secret society (omg ILLUMINATI), the idea of which is explained laboriously throughout the movie. Never mind that the Illuminati are perhaps the most well-known "secret" society of all time. They were the villains in a Tomb Raider movie, for fuck's sake! So Robert and Vittoria embark on a quest throughout Vatican City and a strange land of computer animations, solving puzzles along the way. None of this is very exciting, because Robert usually just knows what the hell is going on or what to do about five minutes after he arrives on the scene.

Robert Langdon as a character polarizes me. I am torn between dismissing him as a trivia-spouting cypher or the perfect characterization of a hilariously boring man. Every other sentence he says is about Pope Phallicus XI who in 1683 blah blah oh I wish I was watching Crank II. This is coming from a guy who loves history, mind you. He even has the ability to think outside the box. When Langdon and a Swiss Guard are trapped in the glass-sealed Vatican Vaults with the oxygen levels slowly dropping, Langdon escapes by dropping a huge metal bookshelf on his see-through prison, followed by... shooting it with the unconscious guard's gun as a last-ditch attempt. I'm guessing both Langdon and the guard thought the glass would be bulletproof, but I'm also guessing Langdon just solved the mystery of the Vatican Vaults' high heating bills.

Even Hans Zimmer isn't even trying, basically delivering the travel music from Van Helsing in a loop for three hours. Hilariously, this overwrought bombast accompanies such exciting and dramatic shots as three Audis driving to a church. Take notes, Michael Bay!

I must give special credit to our villain (oh come on, you couldn't tell from just the trailer?) Ewan McGregor for hamming it up as the villain with a plot much more defined, idiotic and all-around entertaining than Ian McKellen in The Da Vinci Code. I don't even feel the need to crack jokes about it, let me describe his plan:

Angry at the pope's decision of saying something good about the CERN project, Ewan McGregor's chamberlain character Patrick McKenna murders the fuck out of the old bastard. To ensure nobody says anything positive about science for as long as he lives, he hires a hit man to kidnap the next four guys in line and methodically and publically kill them, making it look like an Illuminati plot against the church. The antimatter comes into play to make McKenna look good. It is to be "discovered" at the last minute, flown into the air right above St. Peter's Square and detonated, while the man himself parachutes to safety. An international hero, the conclave would have no choice but to make him pope. Fuck science.

You gotta admit, the dude has some brass balls to expect THAT plan to go off without a hitch. Certainly if you take into account that he apparently hired the dumbest hit man alive. Txt message "Ur final payment is in dis car". Millions of dollars laying around in a Fiat in the centre of Rome? Why, of course! Nothing is suspicious about this deal whatsoe-- WHAT IS THIS EXPLODING CAR SHIT

The article's title is a McKenna quote, by the way, and along with "WHAT MAN DOES NOT COWER IN FRONT OF THE AWESOME POWER OF LIGHTNING?" is the highlight of verbosity of the film. But will faith protect you from this explosion?

Check mate, Mrs. Howard and Brown. Check mate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

omg kirksnspoxnbuns




I feel so dirty saying I enjoyed the new Star Trek. This coming from someone who's played Dungeons and Dragons for years, should tell you all you need to know. For years, Trek (like D&D, really) has been associated with the lowest of the low. A fanbase so rabid many, if not all nerd stereotypes derive almost directly from it.

There's an episode of The Simpsons where Comic Book Guy interrogates Lucy Lawless on the switching of horse breeds between shots that her mount undergoes in an episode of Xena. She is bombarded with trivial "criticisms" such as these until she exasperatedly replies "wizards did it". Knowing a few Trekkies personally, I can attest this behavior is not too exaggerated.

I never got into Trek as a child. Whereas Star Wars drew me in with its space monkeys and laser knights and gay robots, Trek never put in much of an effort. Whenever the channel would get switched onto an episode (although I must concede I am talking about The Next Generation here), people would be standing in a computer room talking with very big words. To a child, it was like watching the news, only they never went on location.

Well, J.J. Abrams' film certainly would have entertained my young self. This time there's space monsters, aliens consisting of more than just a few prostethics (though they are there), fistfights, gunfights, swordfights, time travel, planets imploding and by gum, it's funny. A lot of it is pretty damned funny. Intentionally so, even!

Chris Pine as Kirk deserves a lot of credit, but honestly, there's no one in the cast who does a bad job. Even Zachary Quinto as Spock, an actor known mostly from televised abortion Heroes, did an excellent job. His Spock is rigid, by the book and sometimes just a jerk but still strangely likeable.

It ain't all green babes and fisticuffs, though. If I may point out a pretty big weakness, it's that the film is a bit flighty. It's not really about anything. It does its job of getting that crew in their places for further adventures, but I'll be damned if I could tell you what the movie's main theme was.

**MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW**

A planet called Romulus is destroyed when a star goes supernova. Old man Spock is too late to help, although he promised he would. The crew of a mining ship led by Nero, portrayed in growls and grunts by Eric Bana, is pissed at him for being late so they chase him into the black hole he created to absorb the Romulus-destroying supernova. The Romulans and Spock so travel back in time. The Romulans immediately attack a ship going RARGH WHERE'S SPOCK (who wouldn't pop out until a good 28 years later). Among the casualties of that ship are Kirk's father, the death of whom normally occurred a lot later in time. The Romulans have thusly altered the space-time continuum and voila: audiences have a new Star Trek continuity without any baggage.

So Nero and his butt-fucking crew wait almost thirty years for Spock to pop out (hence the butt-fucking) once they realize they've traveled through time, giving our main characters the chance to grow up and become the HEROES THEY WERE DESTINED TO BE.

The villains have beef with Spock, but it's not this reality's Spock. The villains killed Kirk's father, but it was only in a fit of rage and nothing personal at all. I guess you might say that the Nero-posse is just a very transparent excuse to reboot the universe and get THOSE people in THOSE positions at THAT time -- and maybe start a lucrative franchise.

**MINOR SPOILERS END**

It deserves it, I'd say. I was reminded of the first X-Men film, in fact. Fun characters portrayed by good actors, plot kind of flimsy, mostly all set-up for ideas to be fleshed out later. Trek even has some good action scenes (devoid of shaky-cam, even! Strangely enough, a quiet conversation between Kirk and captain Pike shakes like Marty McFly) and there's really no one there as awful as Halle Berry in the mutant movie. Special props to composer Michael Giacchino for writing a score whose main theme I was actually humming on the way to the car.

And how can you not love a movie that introduces its protagonist to the dulcet tones of: