Saturday, 20 August 2011

Super 8, Cowboys, Apes and Aliens

This summer's slew of comic book capers has come thick and fast. Barely has Thor's Hammer cooled then it's on to Captain America then Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cowboys and Aliens. I suppose the Apes movie might count itself outside the comic book genre but I don't. All these films have had their moments, there was much about Captain America that I enjoyed, Apes too but mostly the moments I savour come early in the movies, during the set up. The 1930's setting for the first act of Captain America was hugely enjoyable, well thought out and benefited from a terrific turn by Stanley Tucci.

Similarly the Apes tried a dramatic route before getting to the Monkey madness finale. What neither managed to do was sustain the level of character through into the latter parts of the films.

Cowboys and Aliens on the other hand does manage to keep its tone pretty consistent throughout - a bunch of cowboys, aided by some Indians and 13 from House set about rescuing friends and family from a bunch of pesky 'demons' sent here to steal away our gold. What it doesn't do is entertain in quite the way I thought it would. I'm all for the mixing of genres - but it's a bitch to make work just look at the earlier Cowboys versus prehistoric monsters movie 'Valley of the Gwangi'. Okay, CGI kicks the ass of stop motion model animation but that's never enough. Any film where the characterisation is two dimensional to the point where you don't give a fig whether they live or die leaves me cold. And that, sadly is what Cowboys and Aliens left me - cold. It was all okay. Lots of what we've seen before. Surprisingly short of laughs and desperately under cooked on characters. Harrison Ford got to growl - a bit. Sam Rockwell got an amusing line. What a waste. The movie has five credited screenwriters plus credits for original story so this was a movie that's had more paws on it than 101 Dalmatians.

As I wrote just recently, I'm bored with all this comic book stuff because we're being suffocated by it. Where are the other genres? For years Hollywood has targeted teenage boys and the rest of us can go whistle.

But hang on, there is a movie, aimed at this age group, which reaches out to an older audience. Not because it's a new and powerful drama, or a comedy that holds a mirror to the lives of baby boomers but something that is soaked in so much love I couldn't help but like it.

Super 8 is a story of young teenagers making a movie on Super 8 film - thus instantly setting it before the age of video tape. Hell, we're back in the seventies. JJ Abrams grew up watching Spielberg, on screen and up close, and every frame of Super 8 is a love letter to his hero. It has the suburban setting, the warmth and humour, the coming of age touches and an Alien, though the message here is Go Home rather than Phone Home. Whilst it seems as if we're watching an old Spielberg they forgot to release, there is no denying there's a craft and understanding at work here that delivers three dimensional characters. It's been my favourite popcorn movie of the summer.

But what I'm really waiting for is the new working of John Le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

At last something grown up to look forward to.

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