It’s been a while, I know. I’ve missed writing up a few movies, but I don’t recall which ones and, really, if I can’t recall that much, how am I going to remember enough to say anything about them? So instead, I’ll talk about a couple I’ve seen in the last week that you might get a chance to watch.
John Carter (2012)
John Carter takes place on another planet, but it’s more high-fantasy than science fiction. The universe of John Carter is manipulated by godlike beings whose unexplained powers might as well be magic, and Mars itself is peopled by fantastic creatures clearly intended as analogues to races and animals in our world. That’s not to say the movie isn’t successful. As a pulp fantasy story, it’s well-crafted, with only a few missteps in tone, none of which were fatal to my enjoyment of the movie. It’s nice to see a film like this mostly avoid the pitfalls of this genre—epic slow-motion battles were thankfully rare and short, and fight scenes didn’t suffer the disorienting editing that is miserably common in modern big-budget action films.
John Carter’s greatest achievement is knowing when to stop. It gives us some scope of the film’s world, but it keeps its eye on the story. I think the director has something to do with it—you might recognize Andrew Stanton’s name from Pixar favorites Finding Nemo and WALL-E. It’s a shame John Carter is being viewed as a huge bust, because it’s better-made and more entertaining than the sprawling CG messes that have dominated the fantasy genre since the Lord of the Rings movies.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
I like Tim and Eric, but their first foray into feature-length films feels like a misstep. The fundamental nature of the medium pulls them away from one of their strengths: brevity. A product of two guys best-known for rapid-fire absurdist sketch comedy, Billion Dollar Movie is saddled with the unfortunate need to be funny all the time, which turns it into an uncomfortable onslaught of things you want to laugh at but can’t. This isn’t a problem with the material per se, but just that if it’s all stuff you’re supposed to laugh at, your laugh circuit shorts out pretty fast. There are a few bits that are delightfully memorable (the first fifteen minutes or so are gold, and there’s a scene where Tim steals a man’s son that is perfect in its cruelty), but there’s a lot that seems like filler. Surreal filler, stylistically-interesting filler, but still filler, needed to pad out ninety minutes for guys who are used to working in 1-5 minute chunks.
Their TV show Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! transcends into a level of comedy I didn’t even know existed, and I suspect the movie will be a revelation for people who haven’t yet seen the show but have the right sense of humor to enjoy it. But to me it seems more like a novelty intended for existing Tim and Eric fans, and not really satisfying them either.
- 21 Jump Street (2012)
- The Hunger Games (2012)