Summer reading update: Good Luck, Yukikaze was really a long slog to get through, its neat ideas hampered by characters without personality and prose that feels the need to say everything three times (rule for writers: if you're writing "something, something said a different way; in short, something!", choose one!). False Negative by Joseph Koenig is a pretty nice new entry from Hard Case Crime, a character-centered noir with clear affection for the pulps and detective magazines that are its forebears. And about a halfway through The Future is Japanese, I'm enjoying most of the stories, even if much more of it is Americans writing science fiction about Japan rather than Japanese sci-fi.
But, onto the movies!
This baseball team. Two games with Jon Lester pitching, two where the Sox seemed to be in it, two which were ultimately disappointing. I'd been really hoping that the first one would be the start of things in the AL East getting back to normal, but apparently the Orioles fans are going to continue to feel frisky.
I had hopes for Double Trouble, too, especially since it's not hard to see Jaycee Chan's father Jackie when looking at him, and he's got some share of his dad's charisma, but the movie winds up feeling terribly bland. It's got opportunities to be weird or kinky or exciting, but only occasionally really lets its characters run.
That's not an issue with Madagascar 3, which I actually liked quite a bit. Even for a movie about anthropomorphic zoo animals trying to get home to Central Park from Africa, it gets very goofy early and rolls with it. Honestly, Noah Baumbach should just stop writing movies about pompous, self-centered humans and keep going with the talking animals. Especially if he's the guy who has one of them sort-of-smile when it looks like Sacha Baron Cohen's character has fallen to his death (I'm with you there, Maurice).
Surprisingly, Madagascar 3 wound up taking the box-office crown, which isn't really vindicating but is kind of unexpected, as all the talk last weekend was about Prometheus, and, well...
* * * (out of four)
Seen 9 June 2012 in Jordan's Furniture Reading (first-run, IMAX 3D)
Sort of funny thing: I read a few tweets complaining that Noomi Rapace's character, though written to be religious, doesn't seem like any sort of religious person the writer had met. I don't know if I disagree, but I do find it kind of amusing, because as soon as she spouts something along the lines of "it's what I choose to believe", I'm thinking that she's probably a lousy scientist.
She's not the only one; this movie feels like it was made by people who learned archaeology from Indiana Jones and evolution from that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that explained why everyone in the galaxy looked like a human in make-up. There's also a sad lack of wonder and excitement in this movie - even if FTL travel and terraforming do become something approaching routine eighty years from now (I'm doubtful, myself), you'd think that mankind's first encounter with extraterrestrial life would have at least one scientist a little excited - and if it's not, you'd think someone would mention this.
But, no, not really; heck, Logan Marshall-Green's character goes on a bender because he doesn't get all the answers right away. Me, I'm just kind of upset that Ridley Scott and company took one of the most memorable designs from Alien and decided that what was underneath was basically just a bald guy. There's something both arrogant and disappointing about that; what Prometheus does is the ultimate "created in His image" riff, but they never really get into that, so why not give us something as imaginative and showstopping as Giger's Alien at some point?
There is an attempt toward the end - something so tentacly and filled with toothy maws that I idly wondered if Scott were going for a "your search for God has led you to Lovecraftian Old Ones" riff - but it's too little, too late. I must admit, I was also hoping that Charlize Theron's Meredith would pop up during this scene; it seems tremendously illogical - not to mention unfair - that both she and Shaw appear to get squashed like bugs by a falling spaceship, but somehow Shaw survives a little longer, apparently out of pure protagonist power.
That said, it's still a movie that falls into the "worth watching once on the big screen" button. Michael Fassbender has a great take on the robot/AI who is right on the cusp of being truly self-aware, and the cast of him, Rapace, Theron, Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, and Guy Pearce (even under a crazy amount of makeup), is more than convincing enough to make this often-ridiculous script convincing. Ridley Scott has a great eye (both for visuals and collaborators), taking to stereoscopic photography naturally and making the action scenes work better than what's around them. It's a fun time, especially on an eight-story screen with buttkickers under every seat so that a spaceship launch shakes the auditorium.
($12.75 at Jordan's Furniture, people - way cheaper than what AMC and Regal are charging and T-accessible if you don't mind spending some time on the bus.)
Expectations hurt it a little - Alien is a tough thing to be compared to, and the hype of being the smart summer sci-fi movie with Big Ideas is just a mite undeserved: When you get right down to it, Prometheus sort of falls into the same trap as all of the other Alien sequels and prequels, taking something strange and surprising and diluting it by making it something more familiar. That may be James Cameron making the aliens into large hive insects, this movie's disappointing revelation of the Space Jockey, or the weak origin it postulates for life on Earth. The scale is grand, but the imagination certainly isn't.