Thanks to the magic of video, I was able last week to catch up on a few of the big movies I missed last summer. So a few words about them--and first, yes, there is a huge difference between seeing these kind of popcorn action movies in a theater with an audience and by yourself on a tiny screen. But taking that into account, here's what I thought.
Tropic Thunder Lots of clever ideas and funny moments here, but in the end the parts were less than the whole. At one point I paused it and when I saw I still had 45 minutes left I wondered what else they could possibly do in that time? When it got to the end and there was a scene that was meant to be a reference to a scene from the opening, I felt like I had watched the beginning of the movie years ago. Part of the problem, though, was the version Netflix sends out--I didn't listen to the commentary but my roommate did and she said that the one we had was an "extended version" and during it Ben Stiller was talking about why they cut various bits or shortened parts that were part of the extended version. I was like, so wait, a better version went into theaters and the one they put out on video is essentially the one the creative team rejected? How does that make sense? And, oh, Tom Cruise's cameo was one of the most overrated movie moments of the year. He's playing a jerk movie producer. Kids, people have been playing jerk movie producers since the 1930s. I didn't get the big deal.
The Dark Knight The most overrated movie moment this year was, well, this whole movie. Again, I acknowledge that this was really a movie meant to be seen on the big screen, but I don't think that would have changed my opinion that much. I had the same problem with this movie as with Batman Begins, that it's very beautiful looking but it just flatlines. It feels like there is no arc or real drive propelling it. The movie starts off with a big action set piece with lots of things blowing up and the same level just keeps happening at a steady rate throughout the movie. It doesn't feel like there's any difference in anything anywhere. And there's too many villains, this sort of vague mishmash of representational ethnic bad guy gangs of Gotham City with the Joker and with Harvey Dent as well. It's kind of like if Batman is fighting everyone he's fighting no one, just this anonymous mass (by the way, Heath Ledger's performance was the only thing about this movie that wasn't overrated--he was as good as advertised). It felt like there wasn't any personal conflict for Batman, just this generic "I am fighting evil." They could have done a lot more with his relationship with Dent. Plus the level of destruction gets kind of silly--I mean, what's Gotham like at the end of the movie? Berlin in 1945? And the score did nothing for me. It did, though, contain what has to be the year's best unintentionally funny line: "Gotham City deserves a hero with a face."
Iron Man I admit that part of the problem I had with The Dark Knight was that I saw it right after this movie, which I thought was fantastic. Now I understand that doing an origin story is much easier than following up because there's a roadmap to follow and the sense of purpose is very obvious. But it was well-paced and specific, with a story that built. The characters were doing things for a reason, the villains had a specific plan, personal moments showed conflict. I really enjoyed it. And the score rocked.
Next thing you know I'll actually get to a movie in a theater.