I don’t often get to watch movies, especially English-language ones. Between trying to keep up with 20+ anime a season and the 15,532 other things I do, I rarely get two connected hours to sit down and watch a flick.
On my plane ride back from Europe this past weekend, I got to watch four in a row, plus one on the trip over. I thought I’d branch out into movie reviews a bit, because I found watching so many all in a row to be revealing.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
What an utter waste of time. They stretched thirty minutes of content into over two hours, and I was bored to tears throughout. The Hobbit was a good book, and it should have been done in one movie, rather than being stretched out into three. The first movie was all right, but this one was utter tripe. Pointless Legolas cameos cannot save it.
2. Godzilla (2014)
The new Godzilla was nearly great. I was impressed with its admirable fidelity to Japanese culture, and the fact that it didn’t try to copy Jurassic Park. It also stayed true to the ethos of Godzilla by simultaneously making the titular beast a good guy and a rampaging monster. If only the main human character wasn’t a boring, emotionally-inert pile of acting failure poured into a cut military body, something which was made all the more clear by Bryan Cranston’s reliably stunning performance. I was legitimately confused when I realized Cranston’s character wasn’t the main character, but the monster fights were cool.
3. Thor (and also 0. X-Men: Days of Future Past)
Thor was a good little Marvel flick. It suffered somewhat from my having seen The Avengers before it—though even a cursory knowledge of Norse mythology plus an awareness of the role of most trickster characters in fiction would have made Loki’s turn obvious—but it was still a fun watch. A standard Marvel movie, it was well executed and enjoyable, if not terribly memorable on its own, and there’s no shame in that.
As for X-men: Days of Future Past, which I actually watched on the plane ride to Europe, it tried some interesting things, and they mostly worked. I can’t help but wonder whether combining the two timelines was smart or not, but it worked more than it didn’t, and that’s impressive. It was also no The Last Stand, so consider me ecstatic.
4. Now You See Me
All the other movies were ones I wanted to see previously (except for Godzilla, which I watched because of Cranston). Now You See Me was the last movie I watched, and the only one I watched for the hell of it. And I really enjoyed it! The cast was great, which was why I picked it at all—Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Cain? Fzck yeah!—but the plot, while occasionally insubstantial or a bit wonky, was engaging enough to keep me thinking about it the next day. And that’s something none of the other movies were able to do.
I’ve been wondering why Now You See Me is the one I enjoyed, and kept thinking about, the most. Partially it probably because it was the only one I just wanted to watch, as opposed to feeling like I should watch eventually. The Hobbit especially suffered from this, since I went in expecting it to suck, though the others were only slightly tinged with obligation.
A lack of preconceived notions probably contributed as well. I knew what Thor was about, but I had no idea if a story about a ragtag gang of magician robbers was going to work. That it did made it all the better.
If I had to pick a lesson, it’s that the unexpected gems are the ones that stick with you, and minimizing expectations is the key to enjoying fiction. Which runs counter to the basic goals of marketing, which is to get people in the door and buying whatever it is you have to sell.
I’ll have to think about it more. For now, I’ll just say that Now You See Me was a pretty good flick, and that you should check it out if the premise sounds fun. It was better than I expected, though maybe it won’t be for you now that I told you it. Son of a bitch!