Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Force Awakens and The Martian: Eh....

So I finally saw these two gigantic sci-fi blockbusters, and, folks, I got to tell you, I just wasn't impressed.

Had I seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a theater on opening weekend, I might have had a great time. On DVD, it felt flat, with uninvolving characters seemingly going through the motions and recreating moments from the original films. It didn't help that the one scene that really "got" me emotionally had long since been spoiled for me, and while I kind of expected it to happen, hearing it spelled out surely blunted the impact.

I didn't get the Daisy Ridley character, who is apparently all-powerful and the most awesomest person ever in the universe. As Kylo Ren, Adam Driver injects a bit of charisma and mystique...until he takes off the helmet, and then it all disappears.

I just don't have a lot to say about it. It's competently made and reasonably entertaining, but there's nothing about it that makes me want to see it again nor see most of these characters return.

I understand The Martian's success more as a standalone entity (I understand why TFA is so huge--it's freakin' Star Wars). It's a total, unabashed crowd pleaser. Can you blame Ridley Scott for wanting to make a pile of money and do a broad, all-quadrant-reaching hit with awards potential? I don't. And that's what he did?

Again, The Martian is well made and entertaining. It feels like by-the-numbers filmmaking to me. It's the kind of movie in which characters say they're fine unless something catastrophic happens, and then we get a cut to something catastrophic happening. The screenplay is loaded with "Ooh!" moments that feel designed to elicit audience cheers, like strategically placed profanities that are naughty enough to draw knowing titters but not truly shocking or impactful.

A good way to see where a movie's head is at is to examine the soundtrack, and here The Martian delivers with an array of safe, recognizable hits. You'd better believe Starman by David Bowie is on the set list, to pick an example.

I don't blame people for enjoying it. There is a great premise here, and some of it is compelling on screen, but the movie eventually becomes more like a 1990s Jerry Bruckheimer film than an intelligent examination of survival and humanity. I was totally uninterested once the story shifted gears to rescue rather than Robinson Crusoe.

I'm sure there's a recent blockbuster out there I will enjoy, but it might take me a while to find it!

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