It has happened. The summer blockbusters are here and this coming weekend is the first one where two of them, "Mission Impossible 3" and "Poseidon," will go head to head. Which movie will get you more bang for you blockbuster buck? Lets take a Cruise (works on two levels) through them both and see.
<lst>Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Mark Protosevich
Starring Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss
<bt>Poseidon is an intense movie. Intensely stupid. There is absolutely no logic in the tale of an upside-down ship and its rag-tag group of prisoners, desperately trying to escape a watery death. There is plenty of intensity in the scenes and credit has to be given to the creators for coming up with so many ways for people to nearly drown — or in some cases — totally drown.
What is missing from the movie is any character development. The film rushes through introductions of characters, perhaps wisely, to get to the most impressive part: when the boat flips. Here for a solid 10 minutes, as we watch the ensemble cast, including Josh Lucas as gambler Dylan Johns, Kurt Russell as ex-mayor of New York Robert Ramsey and Richard Dreyfuss as a gay business man, get thrown around the ship as it slowly rolls completely over after being hit by a giant wave. The boat flipping is one of the best CGI effects on film.
This is strange, though, since the rest of the CGI looked like it was done 10 years ago for an infomercial. The opening shot, a long and needless wide angle trip around the boat, looks like the digital recreation of a soon-to-be-built building that you see outside of construction sites. There was better CGI in "Tron," or at least it didn't look so out of place.
Once the boat flips, it's pretty much standard movie fair. A group of people who don't really get along join together to try to escape out of the propeller tubes at the end of the boat, which are out of the water since the boat is upside down. Normally, this is where character development takes place, but director Wolfgang Petersen has crammed so many action pieces together there is very little room for talking.
Of course, maybe that isn't a bad thing because when these characters talk it is almost unbearable and development between them is completely stunted by the dialogue. There is basically no remorse after anyone dies, as if once the survivors enter another room of the boat people who didn't make it past the last room are completely forgotten.
Russell and Lucas do their best to be the classic Caucasian, strong jawed, good looking heroes, and they succeed the best when they talk the least. The rest of the cast might as well just be there to get the two of them into trouble especially the obligatory child, Jimmy Bennett, who keeps on wandering off and eventually gets trapped in a cage about to drown with no explanation of how he got there.
There seems to be some attempt to show multi-culturalism or tolerance or something by the casting of a black captain, a gay lead, and a few Hispanic actors here and there; but without giving too much away, one of the main themes of the film is "white people live longer than minorities."
As I said, the plot is intensely stupid, and plot is something which the original movie, "The Poseidon Adventure," showed is not necessary. But if we avoid concerns about dialogue, characters and logic, what is left is some decently intense drama that doesn't let up until the crappy CGI effects at the end rear their ugly head. Maybe if the film makers hadn't spent all their money and time on flipping the boat, the entire thing would of been a bit more than just mindless action.
<ro>Mission Impossible 3
<lst>Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams
Starring Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Laurence Fishburne
<bt>Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise. I thought you had forsaken us, taken a path of outrageous behavior and outspoken antics that would override any role you would be seen in. But I was wrong: "M:I:3" proves that your boyish charm and intense furrowed brow you love so much are still intact and still enjoyable.
The litmus test for whether or not Cruise could still draw a crowd is here, and opening weekend grosses of $47.7 million give a resounding maybe. Sure, it's the top grossing film of the weekend, but that's a paltry sum compared to other summer opening blockbuster films (think "Spider-Man" 1 or 2).
The movie itself is better than the second, which might have been John Woo's lowest point if "Paycheck" hadn't come out, but gone is the overly complicated plot that makes "Mission: Impossible" an impossible mission. The greatest complaint against the first film was the convoluted plot line, something the classic TV show was known for; so the producers dumbed the second one down and now they've have dumbed the plot down even more for the third. Instead of a mission: impossible we get a mission: straight-forward, with plenty of large explosions and stunts.
Thanks, but if you're going to use the title, stay true to its roots.
However, those explosions and stunts are amazing and keep you on the edge of your seat like any good action movie should. Cruise, as Ethan Hunt, gets thrown around by many varied means on his quest to find "the rabbit's foot," an unknown weapon that he has been blackmailed into stealing by Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who has kidnapped his wife. So Cruise gets his team together (Ving Rames, Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and goes about climbing buildings, shooting cars and sprinting through China in a quest to rescue his wife. That's basically it plot wise; there is a twist at the end, but my blind grandfather could see it coming a mile away.
Cruise is in his usual intense style which works with the action sequences but falls flat whenever the movie tries to touch on any other subject, like love. The love story is so ill-developed that he didn't have much to work with. Better to scrap many of the romance scenes and replace them with more Hoffman.
Hoffman, who should of been tapped to play maniacal James Bond-esque villains long ago, is the best part of the movie. Giving Davian a sort of careless calm that is chilling to the bone. Plus he plays a great scene as Hunt dressed up as Davian. Something about watching Hoffman crawl through the Vatican's air conditioning system as if he was an action hero is both fun and creative.
Creativity is the movie's other strength. Never has one action hero been blown up, thrown around, driven into or hit in so many creative ways in one film. First-time movie director J.J. Abrams deftly handles a plethora of action sequences. An impressive first assault on the viewer's senses from the creator of "Lost" and "Alias." Though it would have been nice if he had infused some of the great plotting from those shows into "M:I:3."
The film is exactly what is expected from a summer movie: a plot that just gets you from action piece to action piece, and characters with as much depth as a kiddy pool.
I'm not complaining.
SO WHERE SHOULD you go this weekend when you're just dying to spend two hours watching mindless action (and you know the urge hits you, don't deny it)? If your feeling really mindless, "Poseidon" is for you; though the story is stupid, the action will keep you glued to the screen unlike "M:I:3" which is interrupted by pesky love scenes and dialogue. Both movies lack what a solid summer blockbuster really needs — strong action and plot — but neither is going to leave you feeling empty if all you have a yearning for is over-priced popcorn, a tub of soda and explosions all around.