Last week, since I was on holiday the whole time and totally spent 100% of it working on Project Y4 and not playing Lego or working on LoneWiki or generally doing any other stuff at all, I decided to eat some hours by sweeping my rusty old bones to the cinema, to see John Carter in the morning of the Monday and Wrath of the Titans in the afternoon of the Friday…
John Carter has been surreptitiously dubbed a flop, by all accounts. I certainly went to see it at the dying end of its print run — screen 18, the penthouse suite of Cineworld Glasgow and the Last Stop Before Oblivion itself (but also the finest screen in the house, with 50% more comfortable chairs and at least 50% more legroom), with eight other people (two other loners and a family of six). I got the absolute perfect dead-centre seat, naturally.
Granted, the entire rest of the world was at work, and it was 11am (hardly a convenient time, I had to have a very late lunch), not to mention it was the 2D version (and who sees things in 2D these days, maaan). But still.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a classic space-fantasy swashbuckler of a film, equal parts aliens and humans. The Orcish Horde of the Thark (or rather, since the film is based on a book of a good hundred years ago, the Orcish Horde are more like them) make up the non-human half of the cast, being like a cross-breed of Unreal‘s Nali and Skaarj (uh, same again, Unreal probably got inspired from here) and delightfully… Well, non-human, but with plenty of physical variation to avoid all-aliens-are-clones syndrome.
Then there’s all kinds of swashbuckling and journeying across the desert and mystery conspiracy and, naturally, a lovely bit of romance sub-plot (and plenty of unceremonious slayings of characters nobody likes). Tra la la.
Weighing in at a very respectable two hours, I never felt bored or lost or that the film wandered — indeed, a couple of little plot points felt like they came in too suddenly and could have done with more build-up. Nothing fatal, at any rate.
Though I do think they might have made a bit too much of John Carter’s earthly physique allowing him to be a mad bad-ass in Mars’ reduced gravity. He jumps hundreds of feet and swings rocks around quite the thing; I know Mars has less gravity, but does it really have that much less gravity? (And while the Thark are tall and slender to suit the low gravity, the same cannot be said of the human cast).
Dominic West of The Wire (and numerous other things) was a strangely unconvincing bad-ass as villain Sab Than, while gritty crime drama TV series Above Suspicion‘s bellowy detective super-intendent (or whatever police title he has while not getting promoted) Ciarán Hinds played the bellowy king of the good guys (he’s not actually in it that much but I always fixate on people I recognise). Everyone else seemed to be reasonably unremarkable (to me at least; presumably none of them have been in any British crime drama or Baldur’s Gate II).
And yes, yes, they show Mars as having two spherical moons when we all know Phobos and Deimos are small and distinctly aspherical. But really, he just teleported to Mars — I think we can afford a little bit of physical squidgery for the sake of a dramatic skybox.
Wrath of the Titans
For a mid-afternoon on a Friday afternoon of release day, Wrath of the Titans didn’t get off to much of a start. Yes, it was a 2D showing, but the schools finished up that day and it was still relegated to screen 9 — half-way up the tower and not one of the giant belters either.
Wrath of the Titans is what I’d call a “Saturday Night” film. Not taxing on the brain in the slightest, a very basic plot but… Actually, somehow it didn’t feel like there was even that much action; certainly felt like a lot less than the first film Clash of the Titans (which involved even less Titans than the one Titan that appears in Wrath).
Perseus is a father now, and his immortal stalker wife who only became his love interest in the last five minutes of the last film has somehow died anyway. Then betrayal and momentuous quest and boss fights and heroic sacrifices and (SPOILER) oh-shit-we-forgot-romance-here-have-a-last-minute-ending-kiss (and there wasn’t even any early foreshadowing sexual tension this time).
Creature design could be good or bad, but as with all contemporary films the camera spends so much time whizzing around that you don’t often get a good clear look at things (at least until they’re dead). I know this was probably a way to hide questionable 3D graphics in the past, but haven’t we moved on since then? Can’t we afford to give us a chance to appreciate the whacked-out monsters your concept artists have been cooking up?
I think the highlight of the film is probably Rosamund Pike (Rosamund is a horrible name) carving about in a very fetching moulded breastplate as Queen Andromeda, but I’m not sure that the blonde hair really suits her.
Since I so thoroughly enjoyed the predecessor Clash of the Titans, I suppose I was expecting a little more from this one. I won’t say I had a bad time watching it; I paid my money and made my choice and it did tick all the low-level boxes that make a competent action film… Just didn’t do much else. The difficult second album?