Brave

November 28, 2012

Double-ovember: License To Kill

LACKLUSTER

What is it about James Bond films that set them apart from other action/adventure films?  That question could be debated for years.  Personally, I think they transcend the norm by adding an air of mythos & magic.  Creating a universe where a governmental operative can exist alongside a metal toothed giant, a homicidal imp and a woman named Pussy.  There are bigger stakes to deal with usually, or at least bigger antagonists.  License To Kill forgets that formula and subjects us to a 007 film that just feels false. 
In License To Kill, James Bond goes rogue due to his quest for vengeance.  And though this is a similar set up to films like Quantum Of Solace and…(GROAN)…Die Another Day, Craig was at least battling a mysterious organization while Brosnan was tracking a Diamond Faced baddy bent on global destruction.  Dalton is fighting a drug dealer named Franz Sanchez.  That’s it.  A LACKLUSTER adversary for the world’s greatest secret agent to put it lightly.  Even Kananga in Live And Let Die was more interesting than Sanchez.  With as many megalomaniac, eccentric, psychopaths Bond has defeated before, a drug dealer who harmed his friend seems like a lame reason to quit MI6.  And seeing that the friend is fellow government agent Felix Leiter, I don’t see how things could logically escalate to that.  The CIA and MI6 could eradicate this poor Scarface rip-off from the face of the planet in less than two seconds.  Now, I don’t want to reenact my Brave review and rewrite the entire story.  But, if they had a more scary, untouchable threat and had Bond and Leiter teaming up to get him while both on the run from their respective governments, that would be a film I’d want to see.  We don’t really get that here.  Leiter has been a walking talking missed opportunity of a character for the entire franchise’s run.  You finally set him up with some semblance of a story, but then sideline him for a majority of the film.  Even head henchman Dario’s most interesting quality is that he’s played by Benicio Del Toro.  He sits out a majority of the film as well.  These aren’t big stakes or big antagonists.

The only character that positively stands out is Pam Bouvier, played by Carey Lowell.  She is strong willed, able to handle herself, and serves a purpose to the story.  She has very good chemistry with Dalton, and even though her character’s affinity for Bond feels rushed, the payoff for their romance isn’t.  I can’t say any of those things for her Bond girl co-star Talisa Soto.  Lupa Lamora is easily my least favorite Bond girl of all time.  She is just a put upon, abused, weakling of a character.  Does Bond try and rescue her from Sanchez’s clutches?  No, not really.  Does Bond try and rescue at all?  No, not really.  So, why does she love Bond?  Um…because.  Does she have a defining moment in the film?  Lying to cover Bond’s ass.  Well, does she ever stand up to Sanchez and get revenge for his earlier beatings of her?  If you don’t count the lying then…um..HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!

License To Kill is one of the most LACKLUSTER Bond films ever made.  It is a shame that this would be Dalton’s final Bond.  To go out on this note sullies all the great work he put in with the character.  Sing along with Gladysor even Patti…and if you watch it…and disagree…please tell me where the hell I’m wrong.

August 5, 2012

Brave

UNWORTHY

Now, Pixar has never made a bad movie. (Ahem.)  Like I said, Pixar has rarely made a bad movie. (AHEM!)  Damn you written inner monologue!  Fine!  Pixar more times than not makes good movies.  Monster’s Inc, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, Toy Story Trilogy, Up, Wall-E and my personal favorite The Incredibles.  They are animated films that bring something for the kids aching to see them and also the parents forced to bring them.  They’re smart.  They’re funny.  They’re poignant.  They’re worthy entertainment.  The lastest Pixar film Brave, however, falls short of this.

Brave got a lot of attention as being the first Pixar film with a strong female lead.  This got my attention even though I didn’t see the big deal.  It isn’t like females in previous Pixar films were worthless background noise.  ElastiGirl from The Incredibles might be one of the strongest animated female characters in film history.  After seeing Brave, a very misleading title by the way, I would not place Princess Merida anywhere in Helen Parr’s league.

What if I told you a tomboyish princess, who trained to be an archer/warrior her entire life, was opposed to her prissy mother’s demands to marry her off to the suitors of rival kingdoms?  Still with me right?  Now, what if I told you her refusal to marry plunged her kingdom into war?  Awesome!   Then what if the princess and her mother are sent away by the king for their own safety?  Uh oh!  Then what if they were ambushed and attacked by men from a rival kingdom?  Oh Sh*t!  But what if the princess, escapes with her mother?  Wow!  What if the princess used every bit of the skills she’d learned from her warrior father to travel across the dangerous countryside back home?  Nice!  What if, while avoiding capture and surviving the elements, the princess proves to her mother that there are things a woman can aspire to be other than a stuffy aristocrat.  A woman can actually aspire to be “Brave”.  You’d want to see that right?  So would I.  Too bad that isn’t what this film is about.

Sure Princess Merida is being forced into marriage.  But instead of the story going the way you want it to, it changes into a silly body transformation comedy no better than that Tim Allen Shaggy Dog remake.  Don’t look forward to seeing Princess Merida using that bow in the above picture in any meaningful way.  It doesn’t make a bit of difference in this film’s story.  She could have been awesome with a boomerang or slingshot and it would not make a bit of difference in this film.  Merida is also NOT A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER.  She is a whiny, petulant, prideful child that makes a decision that could only be described as DUMB.  At no point did I see her as brave.  The brave thing to do would be to confront the issues she had with her mother head on.  Instead, she avoids doing the brave thing pretty much for this entire movie.

Think my version of what I hoped Brave to be is too adult?  Then let me remind you that the beginning of Up centers around infertility and a subsequent psychological breakdown.  The Incredibles deals with the issues of a midlife crisis, infidelity and McCarthyism.  A Bug’s Life is literally a remake of the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai.  Wall-E is set during a post apocalyptic future.  And Toy Story 3….oh boy…Toy Story 3 was a few frames away from being the ballsiest allegory for mortality ever.  A Scottish female version of Rescue Dawn is not too much to ask for.

Brave also has an OVERLY PREACHY message about fate that would be lost on a child and insult the intelligence of an adult.   A message narrated to us just so they could tie it back to the, again, misleading title.  The film should be called Pride if anything.  It is the only thing I see at work in the main character.   This could have been a film that might have set an example as to how to make a movie with a strong female lead.  However, it comes across more like a medieval episode of That’s So Raven.  (Yes, I’ve seen it.  Don’t judge me.)  A film UNWORTHY to be under the Pixar banner.  I expect this from Disney Studios but not these guys.  Brave it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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