Tag Archives: Earth

“GODS OF EGYPT” Review (Half of a star)

But not our Egypt though, just to be clear.

The world is round, not flat. This is common knowledge to most people, but apparently not to the people behind Gods of Egypt, who portray our planet in the film as a floating, circular disc spinning around in outer space. Such is one mistake among many that I noticed in Gods of Egypt, a terrible, loud, obnoxious, illogical, mind-numbing, headache-inducing travesty that may as well rip out our eyes like Set rips out Horus’ in the Egyptian legend. If the Egyptian Gods really do exist, they’d be disappointed at their representation here.

In case you didn’t already guess, Gods of Egypt is an adaptation of the classic Egyptian tales that were filled with vision and wonder, which the movie promptly sucks up and vomits into the nile. In this timeline, Gods co-exist with humans, and are taller, stronger, and smarter than them. Oh, and they bleed gold, which could be a useful skill, if you’re at the market and you forgot your wallet. If I were an Egyptian God, could you imagine how much I would have to bleed in order to pay off my college loans? There’s a thought worth having.

Most of the story goes about as you would expect. The evil desert God Set (Gerard Butler) kills Horus’ (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) father, gouges out Horus’ eyes, takes his throne, his woman, and his land, then banishes him out to the far reaches of Egypt. That much of the story I already knew. What I didn’t know is that there were two humans named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton) who rediscovered Horus’ eyes, steals them back in Egyptian-caper style, then teams up with the Gods to dethrone Set and put Horus back on the king’s seat once and for all. Whoop-de-doo.

You can probably tell my enthusiasm wasn’t very high for this movie before its release. Can you blame me though? The trailers made it look like a stupid, CGI-heavy action fare, and that’s exactly what I was expecting up until when I took my seat. But I had a slight glimmer of hope right before I left for the theater. I looked up this movie’s credits on iMDB, and found that Alex Proyas was directing. Alex Proyas! Alex Proyas for Brandon Lee’s magnus opus The Crow. Alex Poryas for the fascinating and mesmerizing Dark City. Alex Proyas for the exciting and compelling sci-fi mystery I, Robot. At hearing that Proyas was directing, it excited me and gave me hope that this wasn’t going to be as bad an experience as I thought.

Oh, I was wrong. I was horribly, horribly wrong. This movie is bad on all fronts, from the acting to the story to the technical production. I don’t know how Proyas could make deftly smart and intelligent films for most of his career, then shrink down and make a movie as stupid and incomprehensible as this. It took him from a 9 director to maybe a 5.

What was so bad about this movie? For one thing, the story is completely ridiculous. Screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless make no attempt at making their story grounded or compelling, which would have helped them a lot considering how detached and uninteresting the movie feels. How many times have we had this tired escapade of a family drama mixed with fantasy and mythology? How many times have we seen tales of betrayal, defeat, rise, and redemption done and redone over and over again in Hamlet, Gladiator, Braveheart, Thor, The Odyssey, and so on and so forth? I am sick of not only seeing the same recycled plot, but of also seeing the same recycled plot redone poorly. This script is so run-of-the-mill that you wonder how the mill hasn’t broken down yet.

What’s most confusing is that just like its writers, Alex Proyas makes absolutely no effort to make this story realistic or even slightly convincing. In fact, he’s gone on record earlier in the year saying that this story doesn’t take place in ancient Egypt, and in fact, never really even took place at all. Then what was the freaking point of telling this story? Yeah, I kinda got that you weren’t going for a realistic Gods of Egypt the minute I saw the flat Earth. The question is why? Why did you feel this obstinate need to make a movie so obviously preposterous, silly, and over-the-top that it works better in promotions than it does in storytelling? I mean, would that really have hurt the entire premise of the movie if you did something so basic as making the Earth round?

The actors are all typecast and not even worth mentioning. At an exasperating two hours, this movie was way too long, and it’s hard to make a case that it was even edited. I wish I could say the movie was at least a cool visual spectacle, but even the visual effects were garbage. Everything is gold-plated and shiny, which means you’re squinting for two hours because the light is reflecting too brightly off of the golden surfaces. The Gods are obviously artificially manipulated to look bigger than the humans, resulting in a very photoshopped appearance where the Gods are proportionally bigger, but their weight and dimension makes them look flat and unconvincing next to their smaller human counterparts. Gods transform into golden robo-Gods in really bad CGI conversions. Gods fly and fight so fast at each other that you see their blurs more often than the smaller details of their robo-suits. I can go on and on. Normally, the visual effects are the best things in bad movies. It’s the worst thing here. In fact, the visual effects look so distant and bland that I think I would rather read the script and imagine the picture myself rather than have the movie give it to me. It’s that awful.

I liked only one thing about this movie, and that was the wondrous and exciting score provided by composer Marco Beltrami. The movie could have done with more of that wonder and excitement. Fantasy films come and go frequently in today’s age, but this movie didn’t even try to be unique or clever. Proyas should have done his audience a favor and gouged out his own eyes before starting filming. He may have even been able to provide better direction that way too.

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“ELYSIUM” Review (✫✫)

We call it Halo– oops, I meant Elysium.

Elysium is a very specific movie for a very specific audience, a science-fiction film that is too illogical to be taken seriously, yet too solemn to have any good fun. Whenever I attend the movies, I expect either a thought-provoking story trying to instill some idea in its viewers, or an engaging, fun picture intended for the enjoyment of its audience. Never have I seen two tones clash with each other so furiously in a motion picture.

Taking place in the future of 2033, Elysium tells the story of Max Dacosta (Matt Damon), a poor young orphan who is stranded on the destitute slums on Earth since pollution and overpopulation took whatever life it had left long ago. The poor live on Earth while the rich live on an off-world, ring-shaped preservation called “Elysium”, where the fortunate carry out their spoiled, lavish lifestyles and cure diseases in these “health pods” that more or less reboot their bodies. Feeling sick, drowsy or nauseous? Not on Elysium.

Since he lives on Earth, Max is stuck to his harsh day job as a construction worker, building the guard robots that patrol and abuse the citizens on Earth on a daily basis. One day, however, a full, fatal blast of radiation doses him at his work place. Having only five days left to live, Max joins the rebellion on Earth and hatches a scheme to get to Elysium and get himself cured.

A notice to the visual effects designer that handled the majority of the film’s designs: I’m suing you for plagiarism. Video game fans will notice this more than me, but every single piece of designs for Elysium, the machines and anything else in the movie bears a strikingly similar resemblance to a Microsoft video game called Halo. Look it up. The robots, the armor, the weapons, the vehicles,the landscape, even the ring design of Elysium all bear multiple similarities to their counterparts in that video game to the point where it is no longer inspiration and becomes an issue of copyright. Frankly, I’m surprised Microsoft hasn’t sued them already.

Back to the matter at hand. What is there to say about this movie? Well, it’s written and directed by Neil Blomkamp, the same filmmaker behind District 9, who ironically was also in the running for adapting the Halo movie to the big screen. Matt Damon is the lead, a role previously offered to white rappers Eminem and Ninja, and Sharlto Copley plays a vicious bounty hunter that’s chasing after Dacosta, a sharp contrast to the bureaucratic role he adopted in his first collaboration with Blomkamp in District 9.

I myself have not seen District 9, although I’ve really wanted to. The words I’ve heard to describe the movie have been praising nonetheless, with phrases I’ve heard including “greatly entertaining”, “raw and intensely-blooded”, “aggressively original”, and “an un-compromising geo-political/xenophobic commentary.”

I feel like everything I heard about District 9 is everything that Elysium isn’t, save for all of the pointless blood and gore. Don’t get me wrong, there are good parts in Elysium, but that’s all they are: complete, fully realized parts of one broken, misshapen whole. The first hour is absolutely mesmerizing, immersing us in this world full of spectacle, bigotry and the unfair treatment of social classes. I love the opening sequence of the film because it painted a picture in between Earth and Elysium similarly to how one paints a picture of the rich and the poor. It truly touched and gripped me,  preparing me for an exhilarating experience filled with deepness and social commentary.

So what happened? Matt Damon gets doused with radiation and he straps on a large freakin’ robot suit that is about as lumpy and inconvenient as the metal suit Tony builds at the beginning of Iron Man. All of the emotional relevance I talked about at the beginning of the movie is now gone. What’s in the place of the drama and the social commentary is an action movie, filled with all sorts of the gunshots, robots, big ships, and the machine “whilring” sounds all the same. The worst part?  None of the action is either original or exhilarating. It’s just an awkward boxing match of punches and grabs that looks about as visually appealing as a round of “Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots”.

Oh, Matt Damon does a good job being a puppet in the movie, but that’s all he is: a puppet, with no emotional gravity or relevance until the end of the picture. But even then, what do we have for the other 120 minutes? Just the typical bad boy character with big muscles dragging around a metal suit and shouting the F-word.

There are also multiple lapses in the film’s logic that can’t help but bother me. Why doesn’t Elysium have any defense systems? Why do they have to rely on a bounty hunter to shoot some spaceships down from the grounds on Earth? How can you aim at ships in space when you can’t even see them from the planet? Why does Max experience headaches randomly that are neither explained or elaborated? Why does it take one person multiple hours and a lot of painkillers to surgically install armor, whereas it takes another person mere minutes to put it on?

The worst, and most frustrating hole, however, comes from Elysium itself. Do the inhabitants there realize that Earth’s inhabitants are not after their home, but rather, their healing pods that they keep exclusively on Elysium? That’s why they invade the preservation, for crying out loud. Why, then, are they so selfish in keeping those pods and not at least building a few for the hospitals on Earth? The U.S. used to spend over $50,000 on foreign aid to other counties, and Elysium is obviously much better off than we are. Are Elysium’s inhabitants really so stupid to not realize that if they built a few of those pods down to earth, the tension would ease and they perhaps would be left alone? Their attitude is so selfish to the point that their actions are no longer sees as cruel and they begin to seem less realistic.

Yes, it paints imagery of the rich and the poor. Yes, it has its own philosophy of racism and social class. Yes, it has messages on healthcare and humanity. Laddy-freaking-da. What is the point of the messages if the film is no good? We were supposed to get a film that was smart, exciting, and dramatic. What we got instead from Elysium was an experience that is dull, confusing, and uninspired.

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“WALL-E” Review (✫✫✫✫)

A little robot proves that emotion isn’t a malfunction after all.

If there is any film that shows a greater maturity can be reached with something as simple as a children’s film, WALL-E proves that very point perfectly.  It’s everything you’d expect from a Pixar movie and more.  Yes, the animation is gleaming and beautiful.  Yes, the story is touching and poignant.  And yes, the main character is as funny and entertaining as he is sympathetic and lovable.  But oh, is this film much more than being just a simple kids movie.  Much more.

Taking place on planet Earth in a dystopian future, WALL-E (Ben Burns) is the last of a line of robots tasked with cleaning up the earth after the human race left it in a state of filth and desolation.  After they left centuries ago onboard a space ship called the AXIOM, WALL-E is the last active robot who continues to engage in his duties day in and day out on planet earth.  During all of his time on earth, however, he begins to develop something some technicians might call a “malfunction”.  He begins to develop a conscious: a heart.

Time passes as days turn into years, and on one day just like any other, WALL-E encounters EVE (Elissa Knight), a probing bot tasked with retrieving something on planet earth for the AXIOM to analyze.  WALL-E cannot help but feel infatuated by EVE, and their meeting launches into a space adventure of involving, epic, and emotional proportions.

You need to see this film just for the plain simple fact of seeing it.  WALL-E is a bright, beautiful, stylish, and visually stellar film that astonishes the audience through its rich amounts of animation, colors, computer graphics, and textures.  There’s quality in the environments in WALL-E, a vibrant and lively texture that makes the world of WALL-E not only great to look at, but also make it look real. Whether WALL-E is traveling on the chaotic and anxious AXIOM, working on the desperate, garbage-infested planet Earth, floating over the lonely, dusty surfaces of the moon, or flying peacefully through the stars in outer space, WALL-E is great to look at because of its authentic, detailed computer animation.  WALL-E is a great-looking film.

More than that though, I’m impressed by the story and the themes that are being expressed to us through those visuals.  Written and directed by Andrew Stanton, the same man who wrote and directed Finding Nemo, WALL-E is a space adventure filled to the brim with imagination and creativity.  You would typically expect this considering this is Pixar, but even by those standards Stanton outdoes himself.  Similar to Finding Nemo, Stanton once again manages to make a story that is not only funny and light-hearted, but also deep and significant to its audience.  In this story Stanton develops a nice theme of consumerism and environmentalism, though he does it in a subtle way to which it doesn’t overwhelm the story or annoy the audience.  He does this through simple scenes where we see an American flag sitting on a cherished historical landmark long ago, but a slow pan reveals an advertisement for an upcoming BUY N’ LARGE mall coming soon.  Stanton is effective here as a storyteller, as he deliberately uses pace, subtext, and soft, quiet moments to make the greatest impact upon his audience.

And finally, there are the characters, who are written and animated here with such life and uniqueness that it is hard to forget them once you leave the theater.  EVE is a determined, upbeat, and enthralling spherical robot who is just as intimidating and confrontational as she is enthusiastic and sincere.  A small robot named MO is such a clean freak that he will stalk you around an entire space station if your shoes aren’t clean.  And then there is WALL-E, the robot who is so curious, clumsy, funny, brave, heartfelt, and full of wonderment that his heart is as full as any flesh-and-blood human being’s can be.

Again, the majesty and craftsmanship of WALL-E is to be admired.  To the younger audience, it is a children’s film about a curious little robot exploring the universe and finding love.  You wouldn’t be wrong if you made that assessment, but that’s only the surface of the story.  To the older audiences, WALL-E is a fantasizing and amazing story encompassing the totality of human nature, the preservation of the environment, and what would become of planet Earth if humanity does not take care of their home.  Kids will like the movie because WALL-E is quirky, funny and lovable.  Adults will appreciate it for the deeper intentions.

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