Friday, November 28, 2014

The Force Awkens the Age of Teasers

So the teaser trailer got released today for that new Star Wars movie, The Farce Awakens, to much hoopla. But more on that in a moment. First let me catch up on two other recent teasers that were highly anticipated.
First, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
This does everything a teaser trailer should: it opens with a funny scene reintroducing our heroes before introducing the new threat (psychotic AI, Ultron) and then an action-packed series of shots showing new faces and old (who is Andy Serkis playing?) and ending with some of the money shots (Iron Man in his Hulkbuster suit facing an out of control Banner). It reveals enough of the plot to entice the audience without giving away spoilers (though I'm guessing things don't end well for at least one Avenger). I can't wait to see the darker, more emotional adventure Whedon has waiting for us next May.
Now, to Jurassic World.
This trailer is definitely a mixed bag. I like the idea of the Park finally being open and we get some great shots (such as the giant Mosasaurus devouring a great white shark) but I'm not sure about Chris Pratt in the lead (or the bland kids). Pratt worked in Guardians of the Galaxy because the tone fit his comedic performance. But here he seems to be playing it serious and some actors just aren't good at that (Jack Black in King Kong springs to mind). "Depends what kind of dinosaur they cooked up in that lab" is a bad line delivered even worse than it reads. Other elements, such as the genetically-modified D-Rex and trained Raptors, could be awesome or just silly depending on the execution. Nice use of John Williams' theme, though.
Finally, the main event, Star Wars Episode VII.
One of the dangers of a teaser trailer a year out is that there usually isn't a whole lot to show, and this is no exception. Opening with John Boyega, clad in a stormtrooper outfit, looking all panicked in the desert is an eye catching opening, even if it seems a little absurd without any context. Then we get a cute little wheel droid and stormtroopers waiting to disembark from a craft. The next shot introduces another major new character, played by Daisy Ridley, riding a bulky speeder. After a cool shot of X-Wings skimming over water, we see (presumably) the new Sith villain with an impractical lightsaber design that has horizontal blades coming out of the hilt to form a guard. Finally we get to see the Millennium Falcon in an over elaborate looping CGI shot.
So, an exciting trailer that tells us virtually nothing about the movie. Some of it feels very much Star Wars, and some of it doesn't. The lack of any Luke, Han or Leia seems like JJ Abrams being up to his bullshit mystery box tricks again, but time will tell. Either way, this teaser will no doubt be endlessly debated until we get our next footage. May the Force be with us . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Big Hero 6

Took the kids to see Big Hero 6 Sunday. Disney's first animated Marvel movie is good clean fun that takes the basic premise and characters from the comic book it's based on and constructs an action-packed tale about loss and letting go of hate.
Set in San Fransokyo (the setting is visually pleasing even if the cultural appropriation of anime by a major Hollywood studio may be troubling to some) the film opens with young Hiro (gee, I wonder if he'll grow up to be a villain?) becoming a champion robot fighter thanks to his genius for designing tech. He creates some microbots that can form any structure based on the telepathic commands of whoever's wearing a magic headband (nifty) in the hopes of getting into Robot Genius Academy (or whatever it's called). But tragedy strikes when a fire breaks out after his demonstration, claiming the life of his brother and his mentor.
Hiro finds solace with Baymax, his brother's marshmallow of a robot that has been programmed as medical assistant. The scenes with the two of them bonding are the funniest and most touching in the film, with a real E.T./Iron Giant vibe. When Hiro discovers that the person who started the fire stole his microbots the film switches into full-on action mode. He gives Baymax a combat upgrade and recruits four friends (the cute and sassy GoGo Tomago, Godzilla wannabe Fred, laser cutter Wasabi and impossibly skinny Honey Lemon who has a purse full of tricks. This band of six heroes (hey, that explains the title!) invent themselves some superpowers and take on the Kabuki masked villain that is using the microbots in an overly elaborate revenge scheme.
The climax (which include a portal in the sky and one of those fake deaths we've seen in every single damn Disney Marvel movie) may be overly familiar but the characters and voice actors are likeable enough that it gets by. The superb visuals and effective score round out the package. Roll on Big Hero 7!