Movie Review: Lucy

Lucy is a science-fiction action film directed by Luc Besson. It stars Scarlett Johansson as the title character and Morgan Freeman as Prof. Norman.

Lucy (2014 film) poster.jpg

The film opens with starring credits of the movie mixed with images of cells dividing. It then switches to a narration of the development of intelligence with the image of a neanderthal (it eventually makes sense in context) and cuts to Thailand. Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) and her recently acquired boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbaek) meet in front of a hotel building. Richard desperately tries to convince Lucy to go inside the building and drop off a locked suitcase since he’s not allowed in the building. Lucy is eventually forced to drop off the suitcase when Richard handcuffs it to her wrist. Upon entering the building and announcing the drop-off, Richard gets shot outside the hotel and Lucy is picked up and taken to a suite in the hotel. A frightened Lucy goes through the motions of a hostile interrogation and eventually opens the suitcase to find plastic pouches filled with drugs in the form of a blue powder. Her captor, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) calmly offers her a job which she fearfully refuses. She is then knocked out.

“Note to self: no more partying in Taiwan.”

Interspersed through the next scene, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is holding a lecture at a college hall regarding the capacity of the brain. Organisms have had thought for hundreds of thousands of years, and that intelligence is either sustained through immortality or reproduction. He explains that the brain caps off at about 5% of thought capacity for non-human animals (more on this later) and humans working off of 10% capacity. He goes on to theorize that when the brain operates at 20% capacity, information can be learned and utilized almost instantaneously as well as enhanced perceptive abilities, such as advanced hearing or a natural sense of sonar. Further super-human abilities are theorized at 40% capacity, 50%, and so on. When asked what would happen at peak thought capacity, the professor admits he hasn’t any idea.

We’d expect you to know, guy-who’s-played-God.

Lucy wakes up a quarter-dressed with a bandage over her belly. She is taken back to Mr. Jang’s suite and a Limey (Julian Rhind-Tutt, and yes, that’s his movie credit) tells her she’s been employed to be a drug mule for a new drug to be sold to British teens. She and a few other mules are given passports and tickets to various locations. After a moment of resistance, Lucy gets kicked in the stomach and the drug leaks into her system. She gains superhuman abilities from her brain gets stimulated from the drug leaking into her bloodstream. She gets information from a hospital that the drug is a synthetic version of a hormone produced by pregnant women that kickstarts brain development. She learns to focus her abilities, establishing memories from her early development and further improvements to her perception.

The film’s entire premise is the idea that humans are only able to tap into 10% of their brain’s cognitive capacity. This has been proven false numerous times. That doesn’t stop movies and other forms of entertainment to perpetuate this myth. For everyone who already knows this, you have to separate yourself from the fact if you hope to enjoy the movie. Director Luc Besson acknowledges that the premise is flawed and continues with the film anyway, citing it as a “What If?” scenario.

Spoiler alert: Gets killed and eyeballs stolen.

The film clocks in at just under an hour and a half, and I can tell you that there are bits and pieces of scenes and entire characters that pad the film to get to that time stamp. The first act of the film will occasionally splice scenes of animals in various situations to reflect the current scene. For example, Richard trying to coerce Lucy to deliver the suitcase has a moment of a mouse examining a mouse trap with a piece of cheese on the trigger. In the context of animal brain capacity compared to a human, this could make sense. I saw it as being incredibly on the nose and a lousy attempt for a movie that already has a somewhat philosophical message. As for superfluous characters, at least Richard sets up a reason for Lucy to get kidnapped, although it was a shoddy attempt to do so. The Limey briefly appears after Lucy’s “surgery” and only serves as an exposition for the drug she’s carrying, then leaves without any rhyme or reason. He’s not the drug’s distributor (Jang is implied to put the drugs in the mules himself) nor collector when the mules are supposed to arrive at their destination. He just tells Lucy (and by extension, the audience) what the drug is. Finally, we have Lucy’s roommate (Analeigh Tipton) who provides no new information pertinent to the plot or to Lucy’s development. She only mentions a guy she met at a party (that never appears onscreen), the fact that they haven’t been in Taiwan for very long (which is implied, Lucy didn’t understand the native language at the start of the movie), and that Lucy has been dating Richard for a short time (which is implied from the exchange between Lucy and Richard).

This next part may contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Lucy’s point of no return becomes apparent when she’s on the plane to see Professor Norman. She making good use of her abilities, altering her appearance and operating two different laptops at incredible speed, presumably gathering information. Her body goes through a degradation during the plane’s descent. She locks herself in the plane lavatory and consumes a large amount of the drug that caused her transformation. I thought at this point she stops being the hero and becomes more of an anti-hero protagonist. This ends up not directly being the case. Her rapid acceleration of intellect leaves her devoid of emotion and pain, but her intention is still for the progression of human intellect.

End spoilers.

Plot: 6/10 (A woman develops superhuman abilities after an experimental drug is absorbed into her system)

Characters: 5/10 (Only a handful of characters are fully developed, while a few others could be left out entirely)

Language: 10/10 (Smart-sounding language pertinent to cognitive study, and a bilingual bonus for Taiwanese and French)

Theme: 7/10 (Advancement of the human, the philosophy of being, human-animal similarity)

Music: 7/10 (Mostly music to tense the audience for chases and dramatic moments, as well as a handful of licensed music)

Spectacle: 7/10 (Interesting visuals, though the final manifestation of Lucy’s intellect is poorly done)

Star Power: 6/10 (Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman at the forefront, Min-sik Choi as the antagonist and resident, “it’s that guy” in the film)

Who to watch with: 6/10 (Fans of an Action Scarlett will like this, minus a few points for those familiar with the 10% brain function as a myth)

Post-movie thought: 5/10 (Much of the first act’s animal-spliced scenes were unnecessary and on the nose to the point of being insulting)

Humans only use 10% of their brains: 5/10 (Untrue in real-life, but executed well enough in-universe to make the movie work)

Overall: 64/100

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Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow is a time-travel action movie starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film is directed by Doug Liman.

A man and a woman, wearing battle exosuits and looking battle-worn, stand against an urban background devastated by war.

The movie begins with an interface screw of the production logos, interspersed with footage of an alien attacks called “Mimics,” with an uncanny ability to predict and counter any military action. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) goes through the media circuit and tells the public of the first successful fight back with the Mimics, praising the efforts of an exo-skeleton clad Rita Vrataski, dubbed “The Angel of Verdun” for killing over 100 Mimics. The joined efforts of several countries’ military mass produce the armor exo-skeletons in an attempt to wipe out the Mimics once and for all. Major Cage was summoned to London to meet General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). Brigham wants to put Cage on the front line for media attention and to produce more military support. Cage insists that his expertise is in media relations, having almost no experience in combat. After other attempts to get out of combat, Cage is arrested and tased.

Cage wakes up at the Heathrow Airport, his rank effectively stripped from him. He is escorted by Master Sergeant Farrel Bartolome (Bill Paxton) to his new squad, where he is demoted to Private and promptly hazed for his lack of experience. The following day, everyone is shipped out to the beach for the intended surprise attack, including the Angel of Verdun (dubbed something less flattering by the other servicemen). Cage’s drop ship explodes and lots of people die in front of him, including the Angel. Using a bomb from a fallen comrade, Cage kills a large blue Mimic, its blood getting all over him. The Mimic’s blood is acidic and burns through his flesh.

Cage wakes up screaming, again at Heathrow Airport. Realizing he had been transported back to the previous day, he attempts to change things and warn others, but to no avail. What follows is a comedic montage of various kinds of death for Private Cage until he saves Vrataski from several Mimic attacks. She has a moment of clarity and recognizes what’s going on, telling him to find her when he wakes again. She’s been through a similar circumstance.

Movies involving time loops have always been interesting. Most people will know Bill Murray’s comedy Groundhog Day and Jake Gyllenhaal’s more recent Source Code. This movie has a bit of an advantage on both of those movies, effectively explaining how Tom Cruise’s character can travel through time (Groundhog Day didn’t express how this happened in the film, though it was present in the script), as well as not having a glaring plot hole of replacing the consciousness of an already dead person to change the past (an unaddressed issue in Source Code), as Cage has control of his own body throughout the movie.

I didn’t know this until the credits of the movie, but this film is an adaptation of a Japanese light novel called All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. I tend to pride myself to at least have a working knowledge of a movie that was adapted from a novel, comic book character, or video game. This usually means picking up the book, game, or comic book about a month before the movie comes out. It’s really hard to do that if the title is changed for the movie or if the work isn’t in English. But I digress. I can’t grade how close this works off the source material.

I’ve noticed was Tom Cruise’s character not literally running from a dangerous situation, something he’s done so often in his movies it’s almost cliche. Bill Paxton’s role is mostly comedic, delivering a lot of punch-lines while he’s on screen. In an interview, Paxton thought he was asked to be on the film because of his role in another sci-fi movie involving a robotic exoskeleton. Emily Blunt was a surprise in this film. In the previous films I’ve seen her in, she doesn’t take much of an active role, rather just being the main female character running in the direction of the male protagonist. Here, she has the bulk of the battle expertise that she has to pass on to Cruise’s character. She effectively serves as both the Mentor and the Love Interest, which is uncommon traits to have in a single character.

Comparisons to RPG heroes notwithstanding.

 

Plot: 8/10 (An inexperienced serviceman time travels to stop an alien invasion with the help of a war hero)

Characters: 9/10 (Main characters heavily developed, with the supporting cast having enough characterization to keep the movie going)

Language: 8/10 (Time travel jargon and explaining the alien Mimics)

Theme: 8/10 (Changing the past, Regret in hindsight, Mastering fate)

Music: 6/10 (Dramatic swells, but very little licensed music to make the soundtrack noticeable)

Spectacle: 8/10 (Stunning visuals and effects, but Big Bad is hardly developed)

Star Power: 8/10 (Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton)

Who to watch with: 7/10 (Time travel explanations may confuse some people, and also attracts big-budget movie fans)

Post-movie thought: 7/10 (A minor unaddressed issue regarding just how long Cage spent in the time loop)

Tom Cruise Summer Blockbuster: 8/10 (I was much more interested in watching this movie than Cruise’s previous film Oblivion)

Overall: 77/100

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Movie Review: Maleficent

Maleficent is a fantasy movie based off of Disney’s adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. The movie stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Sharlto Copley.

Maleficent poster.jpg

Normally, I would start with divulging the first act in my movie review, but so much is put up front that it sort of spoils so much up front with a Chekov’s Gun and a Start of Darkness (consult TV Tropes). With that said, I’ll mark those moments with be covered with a parenthetical and whited text, which can be read by highlighting the text. You’ve been warned.

The movie opens with a narration regarding two realms; a kingdom, composed of humans and the Moors, which is filled with fantastical woodland creatures. The most distinct creatures in the Moors are the fairies.

Young Maleficent is established as a fairy with powers to mend natural objects like tree branches and flowers. She’s considered a friend to all woodland creatures, who greet and cheer her when she flies by. A thief is found in the Moors and is surrounded by tree-like warriors. Maleficent convinces the thief to return the stolen item (a precious stone) and leave the forest. The thief reveals himself to be Stefan, an orphaned farmboy with big aspirations to live within the king’s castle. Maleficent and Stefan form a bond with a handshake. Maleficent recoils from Stefan’s iron ring, as iron burns the skin of fairies if exposed for too long. (Stephan and Maleficent eventually form a romantic relationship, sharing what Stefan calls “True Love’s Kiss” when they both turn sixteen. Stefan’s desire to live in the castle eventually overshadows their relationship, and seemingly leaves for good.)

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), now matured, has committed herself to protecting the creatures of the Moors. When King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) and his army attempt to conquer the forest realm, Maleficent summons a group of fighters and defeat the army, as well as mortally wounding the king. The King summons his closest guards, Stefan (Sharlto Copley) among them, and decrees that whoever brings him a trophy from the forest will inherit the throne. (Stefan takes advantage of his and Maleficent’s relationship to get close to her and sedate her. Unable to bring himself to kill her, he instead cuts off her wings. Maleficent wakes in pain and betrayed while Stefan returns to the kingdom.) Maleficent rescues a crow named Diaval (Sam Riley) by briefly turning him into a human. He returns the favor by swearing his loyalty to her whim. She sends Diaval to the kingdom to find out who has taken King Henry’s throne. Diaval returns to inform her that Stefan is crowned king.

Some time later, Stefan and his queen (who isn’t named) hold a christening for their newborn daughter, Aurora. Three pixies from the Moors come down in an attempt to make peace with the humans by offering gifts for the child. In the midst of things, Maleficent crashes the event in an almost perfect recreation of the original movie.

Maleficent bestows an enchantment on the newborn to fall into a “Sleep like death” (grammar is important here, more on that later) on the evening of her sixteenth birthday after she pricks her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel. Stefan begs Maleficent not to carry out the enchantment, to which Maleficent adds the clause of breaking the curse if she receives True Love’s Kiss. She abruptly leaves, causing the King to take drastic steps to keep Aurora safe. As Aurora (Elle Fanning) gets older, Maleficent keeps an eye on her.

The end of the first act is the christening and Maleficent bestowing the enchantment. Maleficent specifically mentions “sleep like death,” but depending on the punctuation could change the nature of the curse. In context of this movie, the curse acts as “sleep, like death” instead of “sleep-like death,” which would more closely reflect the curse from the original story. This moment is one of several that makes this film too different to be a perspective flip of the source movie (such as Maleficent providing a way to prevent the curse, instead of one of the three fairies).

Character development and performance is very important in the movie. Angelina Jolie obviously commands the film as the protagonist. Sharlto Copley also makes a good performance of a perspective-flipped King Stefan. Elle Fanning as Aurora is not very captivating for the importance of her role. The three fairies/pixies are presented as well-meaning but completely clueless when it comes to raising a baby.

Aurora was doomed when she is left in charge. Imelda Staunton plays one of the fairies. 
 

Music in the film hits the beats and matches the tone of each scene well, but the take away is the song in the credits. Lana Del Ray covers “Once Upon a Dream” when the film ends. True to her music, she makes it much more somber and dark.

Plot: 7/10 (Maleficent’s perspective on the Sleeping Beauty story)

Characters: 8/10 (Maleficent is the most developed, followed by Stefan, everyone else is not too compelling)

Language: 6/10 (Accents are all over the place and seem out of place at times)

Theme: 7/10 (Heel-Face turns, True Love, paranoia, and perspective flip)

Music: 9/10 (Hits appropriate beats, “Once Upon a Dream” at the end)

Spectacle: 10/10 (Amazing visuals and make up)

Star Power: 7/10 (mostly Angelina Jolie, also stars Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, and Sam Riley)

Who to watch with: 7/10 (Those who enjoyed the original movie will automatically be interested, fantasy film movie-goers)

Post-movie thoughts: 5/10 (The more I dwelled on it, the more it seemed to betray its own premise)

Source material: 6/10 (Too many things have been changed to be considered a different side to the original story, but could act as a standalone film)

Overall: 72/100

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Movie Review: Neighbors

Neighbors is a comedy film starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Dave Franco.

Neighbors (2013) Poster.jpg

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, respectively) try to maintain some spontaneity in their life by having sex in their house that isn’t their bedroom. They are interrupted by their infant daughter Stella looking at them, making the moment disconcerting for Mac. They give up on the venture and Mac goes to work. Mac’s coworker and friend  Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) fool around at work and cryptically announce when they take a pot break. Later that night, Jimmy’s ex-wife Paula (Carla Gallo) invites Mac and Kelly to a rave. Despite wanting to go, Mac and Kelly’s responsibility to Stella prevent them from doing so. A fraternity, Delta Psi Beta, moves into a house next door and noise concerns prompts Mac and Kelly to introduce themselves. President Teddy (Zac Efron) and Vice President Pete (Dave Franco) agree that they want to make their neighbors happy, so they concede to keep the noise down as long as they are informed personally instead of having the cops called.

The first night they spend in the house, Delta Psi relives their fraternity’s historical moments (inventing the toga party and beer pong, for example) and make a declaration that they will make history with their own party at the end of the year. The fraternity proceeds to party, making a lot of noise for Mac and Kelly. Worried that the baby will be woken up by the noise, they walk over and tell them to turn down the music. Teddy immediately acquiesces, and invite them in as a peace offering. After a crazy night, Mac and Kelly return home bonding with the fraternity brothers and other party goers. But the following evening Teddy couldn’t be reached by phone, so Mac calls the police with an “anonymous” noise complaint. The cop rats them out and Teddy feels betrayed. The rest of the movie is the fraternity pushing the limits of being neighbors, with Mac and Kelly fighting back.

Character development is pretty apparent and straightforward for Mac and Kelly. They’re new parents and want what’s best for their child. However they try to maintain their youth by attempting to go out with their child and pushing out the idea that that part of their life is no longer an option. On the flipside, the fraternity brothers have spotted moments of characterization. Initially, they’re the stereotypical frat boys that live to party. Some of the minor characters get some development. Teddy gets the most development, surprisingly, in the third act. I think it’s a little too late to add development at that point, considering most audience members are already wrapped around that character’s personality.

Star power is very powerful here. Seth Rogen is an accomplished comedic actor, with his most recent movie (that was also well-received) was This Is The End. Rose Byrne has a lot of acting range, performing in comedies, dramas, and horror movies.

She’s also flirted with a young Charles Xavier.

Zac Efron is most famous for his role in the High School Musical movies, and very much a Mr. Fanservice for the duration of the film.

Plot: 6/10 (A couple battles a fraternity following a noise complaint)

Characters: 7/10 (Well developed for many, but important character moments come after the audience typically makes up their mind)

Language: 8/10 (Fraternity and party vernacular for the most part, not as much swearing as I was expecting)

Theme: 5/10 (Escalation, Betrayal, Fear of change)

Music: 6/10 (Party music thoughout, though there are flashback moments with appropriate accompanying music in the first act)

Spectacle: 8/10 (Party hi-jinx, air-bag pranks, nothing unbelievable for the particular movie universe)

Star Power: 8/10 (Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Lisa Kudrow, and a cameo from the cast of Workaholics)

Who to watch with: 6/10 (More catered to a young-adult audience, comedy fans are also welcome)

Post-movie thought: 6/10 (The resolution came a little fast without much fallout)

Fraternity movie: 8/10 (An Animal House of its generation, fraternity pledges and parties aren’t too far out from reality)

Overall: 69/100

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Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a super hero film. The movie stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, and Sally Field.

Spider-Man upside down on the side of the OsCorp tower.

The film starts with a scene that precedes the first film regarding Richard Parker and his research with Oscorp. He’s making a video diary/confession when he’s interrupted by his young son, Peter. After leaving Peter with Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Richard and his wife Mary plan to flee the country with sensitive information. As he uploads the important file to an unknown server, the plane is hijacked and crashes.

The film cuts to modern day, Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) chasing after a stolen armored truck driven by Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti). The truck contains radioactive materials that can be weaponized. Spider-Man slings through streets and slowly gains control of the situation, but not before saving Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a lowly Oscorp employee prone to being mistreated despite having several great ideas. Spider-Man gathers up Max’s blueprints for him and makes a comment, triggering Max’s obsession for Spider-Man looking out for the little guy.

 Rest assured that every attempt was made to make Jamie Foxx look ridiculous.

Also during the chase, Spider-Man gets a call from Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), his girlfriend and graduating class valedictorian, that their commencement ceremony has already started and that her speech would start soon. Peter misses the speech but makes it in time to grab his diploma (cue Stan Lee as a ceremony attendant saying, “I know that guy!”). After congratulations and pictures, Peter catches glimpses of George Stacy, Gwen’s deceased father from the previous film. Peter promised that he would keep Gwen out of his life for the sake of her safety, and his guilt from not doing that eventually leads Gwen to break up with him after a fight.

Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns from boarding school to his dying father Norman (Chris Cooper). Harry is angry at his father for several things, among them shipping him off to boarding school and having an assistant give him someone else’s gift for his 16th birthday. Norman counters by saying that the disease he is dying from is genetic and the symptoms start to show at Harry’s age. Shortly before dying, Norman bequeaths a device that has all of Oscorp’s important information.

Max develops an intense obsession with Spider-Man, having imaginary conversations and believing he will appear to celebrate his birthday. After a bad day at work, it’s capped off with his supervisor sending him to fix an electrical problem by himself and snidely wishing him a Happy Birthday. An accident occurs leaving Max electrified by the component he was trying to fix and a tank filled with genetically modified electric eels that helps sustains the building’s electricity. The accident leaves him abandoned and disfigured, unaware of the power he has to harness electricity. He approaches Times Square and starts a panic, leading Spider-Man to investigate. While Spider-Man acknowledges that he remembers saving Max, he can’t recall his name. One misunderstanding leads to another and Max loses his trust in Spider-Man.

Character building is an important part of any film, even if it’s a sequel. While this movie adds depth to already established characters, it introduces too many new characters for an audience to properly follow. Granted, the movie fleshes out Electro at a nice pace, but Harry Osborn is almost thrown in without the consideration that he was nowhere to be mentioned in the first film and glossed over with him being in boarding school, then fleshes out the character for the present. Other characters that seem to be picked up and dropped are Harry’s assistant Felicia and a young boy that Spider-Man saves from a group of bullies.

The music in the film was a bit more enjoyable for this film than the previous one. Electro’s battle music is an appropriate Dubstep. Dramatic swells of music during big revelations and tender moments, “Pomp and Circumstance” for the graduation, and several other pieces of music make the movie pretty well-rounded.

While many are critical of Spider-Man for not improving too much since the last film, I challenge the idea that the movie follows the comic book source material a little bit more closely than they realize. Spider-Man has always been neurotic because of the environment around him. The screws are always being put to him, and he deals with it the only way he knows how. A constant anxiety is over him because he’s stuck protecting a city and working for a boss who hates Spider-Man (J.J. Jameson doesn’t appear in person in the film) while the rest of the world is changing around him. A well-done explanation was provided in a video found on Cracked.com:

<div><br><a href=”http://www.cracked.com/video_18505_4-reasons-spider-man-secretly-bad-at-his-job.html”>4 Reasons Spider-Man is Secretly Bad at His Job</a> — powered by Cracked.com</div>

Plot: 6/10 (Peter Parker tries to balance his life with his responsibilities as Spider-Man)

Characters: 8/10 (Many rooted characters, but a lot of undeveloped characters as well)

Language: 8/10 (Vernacular pertaining to relevant electric or genetic sciences)

Theme: 9/10 (Responsibility, Relationships, Betrayal, and Finding answers)

Music: 9/10 (Very engaging and distinct to the accompanying scene)

Spectacle: 9/10 (Very flashy and well done, but distracting if you’re watching in 3D)

Star Power: 8/10 (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone at the forefront, with Sally Field and Jamie Foxx as supporting characters)

Who to watch with: 8/10 (Fans of the comic book, kids, action-movie lovers)

Post-movie thought: 7/10 (In an ironic kind of way, lack of developing Peter Parker confirms his battle for himself)

Source material: 9/10 (Mixes the original origin stories with the Ultimate arcs for the villains, and other moments with main characters)

Overall: 82/100

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Movie Review: Transcendence

Transcendence is a science-fiction thriller starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman.

Transcendence2014Poster.jpg

In a rare opening, the film begins with the end. Max Waters (Paul Bettany) makes his way through a somewhat dilapidated town where they are left without usable technology. He eventually comes across a house with a small garden, though the only thriving plants seems to be a collection of sunflowers. Max takes great interest in the sunflowers as water drops from the petals.

The film then cuts to five years earlier in the same location. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) are putting on the finishing touches to their garden sanctuary. Will insists on a copper wire grid covering to avoid distraction from the outside world, pointing out that the copper interrupts waves like cell phone reception. Evelyn playfully reminds him that it would be much easier to turn off the cell phone. After finishing the sanctuary, they prepare themselves for a conference about technological advance, which Will despises due to its commercial interests.

Simultaneously, shots of several computer and sciences laboratories are shown, including a lab with test animals and an office where Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman) foregoes celebrating a birthday with continuing his studies.

When they are on stage, each of our computer scientists have a different approach to advancement through computer technology. Max insists that the advancements can be used as a medical marvel for early detection in cancer as well as preventing cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Evelyn argues that technological advances will pave the way for smarter forms of energy to reduce pollutants and save the environment. Will is introduced and spends his time talking about artificial intelligence surpassing human intelligence. Though the term “Technological singularity” is popular, he prefers to use “Transcendence.” His presentation is met with some skepticism, arguing that he’s trying to construct some sort of personal god, though he argues that’s what all humans have been trying to do.

Shortly after the convention and almost simultaneously, bombs in computer labs are detonated, scientists are strangled, and Tagger’s office members are found dead from a poisoned cake.

Courtesy of GLaDOS, no doubt.

Will is also shot, though he survives his assassination attempt. He meets with Tagger and FBI agent Donald Buchanan (Cillian Murphy) to collect information about the attacks and where they are likely to strike next. The organization that conducted the attacks is called R.I.F.T. – Revolutionary Independence From Technology. Buchanan is shown Will and Evelyn’s most significant advancement PINN, an artificial intelligence that is on the brink of transcendence. Sometime later, Will gets sick and discovers that the bullet from the assassination attempt was laced with a poison. In the month he’s been given to live, he resigns to spend the rest of his life with Evelyn. Evelyn, not ready to accept Will’s death, borrows research from a fellow colleague (one who died in the attack) and some key elements from PINN to collect Will’s consciousness so he can effectively continue his work without his deteriorating body. Max, though very reluctant that something could go wrong, helps with this endeavor and manage to collect his intelligence and likeness into a computer setup. Max abandons the project shortly after when Will requests for more power, fearing it’s not the same person. He is then captured by Bree (Kate Mara) and other members of R.I.F.T. Will is able to be uploaded to the internet and guides Evelyn to a very small town with near unlimited resources for big plans as R.I.F.T. tries to close in on them.

While the thematic elements of the movie were pretty solid, they weren’t as elaborate as I expected them to be. The idea that technological advances will surpass human intelligence is a scary one, to be honest. The other big theme is the idea of being capable of doing something vs. actually doing it and the consequences of doing so. Both ideas are very important to the story and are introduced fairly quickly, but they are not really expanded upon and left for the audience to keep in the back of their heads while everything else is going on.

Character development is also pretty lacking in the plot. While the three main characters are at the forefront and there’s enough rooting interest to care about them, most others don’t have any expansion. Bree, one of the main organizers of R.I.F.T., has exactly one moment of character backstory to make her interesting, but even that’s more than what could be said for Tagger, who has almost as much screen time and a voice that convince you to do anything.

This could just be me being pedantic, but there are two unaddressed issues in the movie that I couldn’t shake when the credits rolled (no after-credits scene, by the way). The human brain takes up a whole lot of memory, much more than a single computer can, anyway. PINN’s setup is an entire room filled with servers and processors, but when they upload Will’s brain, they are only using a very small portion of PINN’s setup to collect every memory and thought he has ever had. Also, shortly after being connected to the internet, Will is able to start a company and collect about $38 million dollars for Evelyn to start up his big plans. I can ignore the fact that the money will increase over time, but the fact that this money came up out of nowhere and didn’t raise any red flags with any authority figures surprises me. The FBI were even following this case and R.I.F.T. seemed to be the only one to care about it for a single scene. That’s it. One. It’s never brought up again.

Plot: 7/10 (Researcher becomes the singularity and makes advances while being hunted by an anti-technology terrorism group)

Characters: 5/10 (The three main characters barely have rooting interest, and almost no character development for anyone else)

Language: 7/10 (Technology-based jargon such as “Singularity” and “Nano-technology,” but basic enough for most movie-goers to understand)

Theme: 6/10 (Advancing technology/Singularity, Could vs. Should mentality, and ethics of advancement, though they are lacking toward the second half of the movie)

Music: 5/10 (Somber music for when the audience is supposed to be sad, chase music during exciting moments, but all predictable and doesn’t “beat” well with on screen-action)

Spectacle: 7/10 (Mostly found in the second half of the movie regarding nano-technology)

Star Power: 7/10 (Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman)

Who to watch with: 5/10 (Johnny Depp fans will be more inclined to see this than those curious about technological advancement)

Post-movie thought: 4/10 (Unaddressed issues were left lingering as well as trying to connect the dots where the movie had unintentionally left open)

Plausibility: 6/10 (The movie implies that this can be done in a few years, though the science behind it says that it’s something that can be done perhaps in 20 or 30 years)

Overall: 54/100

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Movie Review: Captain America The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the first sequel to the Captain America movie series and the third film in the Avengers Phase Two series.

Captain America The Winter Soldier.jpg

Two years following the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) lives in Washington, D.C. and continues to train regularly. He introduces himself to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a war veteran and PTSD counselor. Wilson makes a suggestion to Rogers in terms of familiarizing himself with the culture he missed out on in the past 70 years before Rogers is called for a S.H.I.E.L.D. rescue mission by Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson). A small task force rescues a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship from Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) and a gang from Algerian pirates.

Following the conclusion of the mission, Captain America discovers that Black Widow was tasked with a different task; retrieving information from the ship’s computer system. Furious, he confronts S.H.I.E.L.D. directory Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Fury insists that compartmentalization is necessary to prevent important information from being leaked into the wrong hands. Fury then shows Rogers an almost-completed development, Project Insight. It consists of three helicarriers (upgraded from the model used in The Avengers) armed to the teeth with the intention of preemptively eliminating threats. Rogers questions the morality of it, eliminating people before crimes have actually been committed and how the project infringes on personal liberties in the name of international security. Fury has a rendezvous with Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) about pushing Project Insight with other important figureheads. Afterward, while organizing a meetup with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Nick Fury is attacked by a large group of assailants disguised as police officers and The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a mysterious assassin responsible for a couple dozen high-profile assassinations. Fury barely manages to escape and informs Rogers that the amount of knowledge that the assailants had means that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised.

As with the other Marvel movies, a lot of the characterization has been established with previous movies. Several characters are reintroduced, including one Agent Sitwell (Maximilliano Hernandez), who first appeared in Thor and has made frequent appearances in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Other characters who were not expanded on were given further character moments, such as Black Widow. New characters, including Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and Alexander Pierce, allow for the expansion of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives and an idea of just how big the organization is.

The overlying themes of the movie include withholding information from trusted people, re-acclimating to surroundings, and the argument of liberty over security. There are a few moments where Rogers has to come to terms that a lot has changed since he first became Captain America, from meeting an aged love interest to catching up with popular trends of various time periods.

Other characters face a similar problem. Sam Wilson is shown counseling a PTSD session for returning veterans while coming to terms with his wingman being killed in action during his tour.

As you could have figured out, the movie takes its name from the story arc and character The Winter Soldier. The arc was created by Ed Brubaker (who makes a cameo in the movie if you look close enough), but takes several liberties with the story. Given that the movie has to be separate from the comics they were based off of due to contemporary standards and proper pacing, it’s an acceptable change. Though the characters are kept pretty close to the source material.

Plot: 8/10 (Captain America and other members of S.H.I.E.L.D. investigate The Winter Soldier and the compromise of the secret organization)

Characters: 9/10 (Several have already been introduced, new characters are interesting and well-rooted)

Language: 8/10 (Nothing that would confuse the regular movie-goer)

Theme: 10/10 (Withholding information, returning to “normalcy,” liberty vs. security)

Music: 7/10 (Other than the action score, there are pieces of music that reflect Rogers’s original time period and music he needs to familiarize himself with)

Spectacle: 9/10 (Lots of fast moving moments and fantastical structures)

Star Power: 9/10 (Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson)

Who to watch with: 8/10 (Comic book fans of course, continuing from the popularity of the Marvel movies)

Post-movie thought: 8/10 (While the movies are part of a large scale universe, this one makes active attempts to keep it self contained in its own title, as well)

Source Material: 7/10 (Several liberties from the original story taken due to the nature of the film universe)

Overall: 83/100

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