So, last Saturday I got the house to myself – almost unheard of when you’re married with two small kids – and, at a loss for what to do with my indulgent day (I’m going somewhere with this, stick around), I decided to relive the glory days of summer 2013.
Now, for this day I wanted to do a few things. Firstly, I wanted to sit on my sofa and watch a few movies on my big tv. They had to be fun, exciting and worth a repeat view – there’s no point watching something for the first time as I’m blessed with a wife who’s not only good looking and smart, but loves a lot of the same stuff that I do, so if I watched something new I’d have to watch it again at some point and with so many naff movies around, why take that chance? It also had to be not too taxing on the old grey matter. Your basic sit back, relax and enjoy, really.
So, i fired up my Blinkbox account and started off with what I think was the most fun to be had in the cinema (so far) this year – Fast And Furious 6.
Now, first time around I found this movie to be a lot of fun, it kicked off at 100mph and never let up. I’m delighted to say that second time out… it’s just as good.
I could go into the plot here as Toretto (Diesel) and O’Connor (Paul Walker) find themselves and their team hired by Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnston) to help him track down a team of ex-military who are trying to build a weapon that cause serious problems to the whole world if in the wrong hands. These guys are led by Shaw (Luke Evans) and if they are stopped the good guys will get to meet up with someone they thought was long dead… da da daaaaaaaaaaaa!
Look, seriously, the plot isn’t that important; what IS important is that the FF movies have managed to build a universe where characters from all parts of the franchise easily come back, interwoven in each other’s stories and linked in ways that almost – almost –seem clever. Of course, the set pieces are the drive (ahem) of the movie and it’ll be tough for anyone to top the ‘tank on motorway’ scene, it’s breath-taking, stupid, violent, fast, furious (oooooh, I get it now) and pulse-raisingly exciting.
Sure, it’s dumb and unrealistic and the bit where Vin Diesel catches Michelle Rodriquez is so mad it’s just, well, mad, but it wears its heart of its sleeve. It’s loud, it’s bold, it’s fast and my god, in case I didn’t already say, it’s fun. Seriously Fun.
Whatever happens to the franchise from here on in, it’s hard to argue that it’s going to miss director Justin Lin, who has managed to take the reigns with the third movie, Tokyo Drift, and make what was a essentially a stupid idea and make it into a series that gets better with every instalment and even more unbelievablely, manages to create characters that we actually care about…
Next up, Iron Man 3.
This was a difficult one. When IM3 came out during the summer I was lucky enough to get to a preview of it and I loved it, I thought it was the best Marvel movie yet. Sir Ben Kingsley totally owned this movie. His performance as the Mandarin was a total movie stealer and will be – for better or worse – what this movie will be remembered for.
However, the second time I watched it in the cinema the taste was gone and I found that, once the secrets were revealed once, the story was bland and arguably not worth revisiting. And it was for these reasons I had an internal struggle about whether it belonged in my day of movie leisure.
But, the more I thought about the Mandarin, the relationship between Stark (Downey Jr) and his young sidekick (the brilliantly not annoying Ty Simpkins) the more I thought I wanted to give it a second (third?) chance. And so, still on a high from the craziness of Fast 6, I got stuck into the first movie of Avengers Phase 2. And man, was I glad I did.
I found it more akin to my first viewing, it’s a layered movie that focuses more on Tony Stark than Iron Man and it manages to do it much more successfully than The Dark Knight Rises did with Bruce Wayne/Batman. Stark is the heart and soul of this movie – you could argue of Avengers overall – and he goes through bouts of cockiness followed by vulnerability, he’s a man who believes he can conquer the world before lunch but at the same time knows that he could lose everything at any second in this movie.
The only bad part is, oddly for a movie like this, the action scenes – while fun and well handled – feel as if they are there because, hey, it’s a superhero movie, we need some spectacle. But they aren’t too jarring that they ruin the movie.
So far the day was going well.
So next up I went for arguably the most controversial movie of 2013 – Star Trek: Into Darkness.
I loved this when I watched it during the summer months – twice – it was a fun, tightly handled sci-fi thriller from the man who would be George Lucas; and I watched it as a Star Wars fan and I found that the beats in the movie followed the Wars mould more than Trek. And that pleased me just fine as I never could get into Star Trek pre-JJ.
So, how did it fit into my rest day? Oddly, it was the one I found hardest going.
JJ Abrams does many things very well in this movie. He handles it confidently having had the chance to set all the principal characters up in the first movie and it’s straight into the fun set piece of Kirk (Chris Pine) and co trying to save a race of primitive aliens on the planet Nibiru (snigger).
From there it heads into the almost real world drama of terrorism, as a man – Benedict Cumberbatch – who no-one seems to know anything about, strikes at the Federation, using pawns as bomb carrying killers who strike without warning, killing innocents, leaving people injured and screaming in the streets. It’s heavy stuff at the start…
However, it is JJ’s Star Trek and soon it becomes fun again – Scotty (Simon Pegg) has an argument with Kirk and hi-jinks ensue etc – and it all works pretty well but overall the tone is uneven, especially when Cumberbatch is revealed (He’s the reason for the controversy, well his character is, and I’m not getting into it here); his performance is great but he seems to playing King Lear while everyone else is playing in the school yard.
As for that ending? Well, as I said, I’m not Trek purist and I admire what Abrams tried to do here, but ultimately it doesn’t work and feels forced… and the eventual outcome in flagged so early in the movie that you see it coming a mile away.
That all said, it’s still a fun movie with much to enjoy, it just could have been much better. Sadly it didn’t boldly go where no-one has gone before but rather, ultimately, just rethreads themes and ideas we all saw over twenty years ago.
So there you have it. A wasted day or a slice of heaven? You decide, meanwhile, I’ll wait with baited breath for the next time I get a chance like that… 2019 sounds likely, but I’ll not pencil it in yet. Just in case…