So by now, I’m sure that most people have heard of Disney’s latest animated venture, Frozen, which has ended up smashing quite a few records, and has set some new challenges for Hollywood to follow. The movie has been both a critical and commercial success, whether we talk in its home North American territories or globally. All through the last three months, it has been the talk of much discussion pretty much everywhere. Myself, I wasn’t even aware of the movie until quite recently. I’m usually not all that big on animated movies these days, mostly because they’ve just fallen off my radar of late. But then I started hearing from social media friends about Idina Menzel’s track “Let It Go” from the movie and the portrayal of sibling relationships in the movie. And I was interested.
I saw the movie a little over two weeks ago, in 3D. Given how long the movie came out, I feel quite fortunate that I managed to get such a late viewing of it here in Dubai, but I suppose that speaks for the incredible success of the movie in the first place. I went in with some moderately high expectations, nothing particularly specific, but expecting a similar kind of wonder that I’ve felt on watching Disney’s classics from the 80s and 90s. And you know what? I came away amazed and ecstatic, brimming with energy verve to talk about it. For my money’s worth, it was one of the best movies of 2013, and I gave it place of honour as the best movie of the year, even above Pacific Rim (review), which I just loved.
I’ve been a fan of anime for a long time. Almost five years now, which is quite a bit of time for me really. I’ve seen various anime shows over the years, but haven’t seen any anime movies specifically. Recently, I helped my friend Nick Sharps put together a fiction anthology kickstarter, and when we were discussing the art that he was going to contract, he mentioned Akira, an anime movie from 1988 that is widely regarded as the best in the genre, even today, and certainly for its time. I’d never even heard of it before, but when Nick mentioned it, and later showed me an early version of the cover for the anthology, I was amazed. And I really wanted to watch Akira now.
Something about bikes just gets to me, I suppose. Whether its movies like Torque (yeah, yeah, I know its a terrible movie really), Tron and Tron: Legacy, Mad Max or Bollywood flicks like Dhoom and Dhoom 2, I love ’em all. All that adrenaline and action is something that I really enjoy. And for me, Akira proved to be no different, except for the fact that is so much more cerebral than either of those movies. It’d be like comparing The Lord of the Rings to Dungeons & Dragons, where Akira is, of course, The Lord of the Rings. Having seen the film now, I can definitley say that Akira is a fantastic film that truly survives the test of time and doesn’t feel dated at all.
I saw RED last year on DVD, on the recommendation of a friend, and it was 2 hours of fun. Yes, it was a pure action spectacle from the first minute to the last, and the characterisation was thin with a predictable plot, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. RED did what Expendables tried to do with an ensemble cast in an action flick, but much better. And a major reason for this was that despite the predictability of the story, it was still exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat, and had much better acting from its cast.
The sequel, RED 2, came out about a month back and I was right in line to watch it on the release weekend. I’d originally gone to watch Pacific Rim (review) a second time since I had a free ticket but ended up watching RED 2 because the free ticket didn’t apply to a 3D movie. All the same, I don’t regret watching RED 2 since it really was such a hell of a film, a really great sequel to an already great film.
In the wake of the international success of Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie, Pacific Rim, there has been a lot of chatter about the characterisation in the movie. Specifically, people have been talking about the characterisation of Mako Mori, the only female character of note in the movie. Many people have condemned her as a weak, ineffectual protagonist, while others have hailed her as a great example of strong representation of female characters in movies.
I myself fall in the latter camp because I loved the character and I was able to look beyond what false trap that the character generates and consider her within the context of her culture and her own dialogue. You can read my thoughts on Mako in my review of the movie here.
One of the fallouts of Pacific Rim has been that a Tumblr user came up with the “Mako Mori Test” to evaluate female characters in movies. You can read more about it here. The test is a response to the fact that Pacific Rim fails the much more popular and long-established “Bechdel Test” but, for that user, was indeed a good representation of a female character, as I’ve already said. Clearly, the older test has some limits and the newer proposed test seeks to address those deficiencies.
So the question becomes, how do the two tests fit in with each other? Are they in conflict or can they be used together? That’s what this editorial is about.
Last month saw the release of the much-hyped The Wolverine, the latest in 20th Century Fox’s ongoing attempts to create an X-Men movie franchise. There’ve been lots of ups and downs in the last, what, thirteen years (?) as far as that’s concerned. The first X-Men movie was a great movie that did a lot to help establish Marvel characters within Hollywood, but the subsequent productions, despite their varying success levels, haven’t exactly been on par. The X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie was a ridiculous attempt at a prequel to the trilogy and though I kind of do love the film because of all the action-goodness in it, it was low on plot and low on character development. The most recent movie, X-Men: First Class, a reboot of the entire franchise, went back into the Cold War era to kickstart the global mutant-hate and was an attempt to tell a prequel with a much different tone and one that would establish the divisions between Professor X and Magneto. Of course, it doesn’t help that First Class officially retconned the Origins movie and that together, all three movies are a continuity mess, when taken together.
And into this mix is The Wolverine, which is seemingly set after the events of X-Men 3 and will ultimately tie into next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which will continue on with the X-Men team established by Professor X in First Class and is also a sequel to X-Men 3 at the same time. Which just makes things really confusing.
Either way, this review isn’t really a review of the usual type. I’m taking a look at the new movie and comparing it against its direct source material, Wolverine Volume 1 by Chris Claremont, which is where the story for the movie has been adapted from. In a nutshell, I think the movie is a fairly good adaptation and it is not a straight lifting of plot points or character development, but is something different. All things considered, I think this is one of the best such adaptations I’ve seen.
Note: spoilers for the final act of the movie and the comic will be discussed towards the end of the review.
More than Iron Man 3 or Star Trek: Into Darkness, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was high on my list of summer movies to watch this year. As much as I was looking forward to the Superman reboot Man of Steel. The trailers promised something totally incredible that was also a lot of fun to watch because of the movies roots in the genre it was set in.
Large monsters à la kaiju? Check.
Large controlled robots à la mecha anime? Check.
Big bad-ass action scenes? Check.
Pseudo science with goofy scientists? Check.
End of the world? Check.
So in all of this, the promise is great. In a way, this isn’t something that we haven’t seen before. But still, it is something that that is completely different. Why, you ask. Well, hit the break to find out!