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Still More Than Meets the Eye? Transformers 2 REVIEWED!!!

30

Jun

Posted by Steve

4755a.jpg There are a few things I need to say before plunging into this review.

1. I really enjoyed Michael Bay’s first outing with the Robots in Disguise. I hear what those who are critical of the movie say, but as an overall experience I really enjoy it and think it’s a great movie.

2. I did read a few non-spoilery reviews of the movie before going to see it. I was disheartened because a lot of what I read tended to be very negative. I had no idea about a plot, and I had not really read any spoilers for the movie going into it. My expectations were pretty even in spite of the negative reviews I had read.

3. I loved the G1 Transformers series from the eighties. Transformers weren’t action figures…they were Transformers, the show was, to my child eyes, the best thing on television, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. Subsequent series, with the exception of Beast Wars, really tended to fall flat to me. They just didn’t feel like The Transformers.

4. There may be spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want anything ruined, don’t read.

This movie is really two different reactions for me. I’ve seen it twice now, and had I written this review after only one viewing, I would have written, “HOLY MONKEY SPIT!!! I freakin’ love this movie!”

Having seen it twice now, I say, “Wow. What a good movie.”

Upon the first viewing I found myself thrilling to Optimus being airdropped in to China to take out a huge Decepticon. I felt tears well up as I had to watch Optimus do something I never thought I’d have to see a second time in my life.

I cheered with the mention of the Matrix of Leadership. I laughed at jokes that weren’t too funny. I felt the awe of the 7 year old in me as Jetfire showed up. The whole experience the first time around was exactly what I wanted out of a Summer movie. I left with my jaw on the floor and completely ticked that people had been spewing venom on this movie.

The second time I saw it was a more low key affair with a couple of people who aren’t quite the fans that I and my friend Josh from New Day Photography, are. It was in this viewing that I realized how slow the pacing of the movie is, how unnecessary some of the humor is, and how pointless at least one of the characters are.

Let’s deal with the negative first. Sam’s roommate? Pointless. Well, after leading Sam and company to John Turturro’s Agent Simmons he’s pointless. For one things, Turturro is the far superior actor and when he’s on screen, it’s like no one else is there. So there is no need for a character who doesn’t have half the knowledge of Agent Simmons portrayed by a gentleman who’s a fine actor…just not on Turturro’s level. In fact, Leo would have best been served in the role of taking Sam where he needed to get and then either stayed behind in some sort of support role or even turned Sam over to the authorities to try to collect some sort of reward…I think it would have made his character more useful and he would have had more of a reason to stick around once Agent Simmons came on the scene.

The humor is a double edged sword for me. You had to expect Sam’s parents to be funny. However, at points they were a bit too over the top. To me, though, it’s all paid off once they are taken hostage and used to try and stop Sam in the final battle. The scene between Sam and his father is really emotional. All jokes are over, this is life and death, and instead of letting their son go for college, this is a mother and father letting their son go to save the world and potentially not make it back. It’s a moving scene and it stands complimentary to and as a counter to what we had seen from the Witwicky parents earlier.

The Autobot twins Mudflap and Skids were…too much. Too much vulgarity. Too much humor. Too much screen time. When we are shown a totally awesome Autobot in the form of Sideswipe in the opening sequence, when we have someone like Ironhide or the Arcee triplets in the movie, to spend so much time on a vulgar Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum duo is a little disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, they had their moments and at times even made me laugh, and I appreciated that the two could fight, but kids are gonna be playing with these toys and quoting their lines from the movie, and there were so many cooler Autobots that could have been used.

Then there’s Wheelie…I didn’t mind Wheelie at all. Except for the leg humping. That was unnecessary. He was grovelling enough to be funny, and he was a cool little character.

Ultimately, there are a few little plot points that rubbed me the wrong way, but even with the problems I just mentioned, it wasn’t enough to ruin the experience, the movie, or the franchise for me.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had so much eye popping goodness about it, it did everything we wanted the first one to do, and it ramped the stakes up so high that even the slow scenes seemed intense.

The stakes for our characters were bigger than an unknown threat in the person of a frozen Megatron getting his hands on a source of power we don’t quite understand. This time around the Earth was at stake. The Decepticons, under the leader of an ancient Transformer known as The Fallen, are after the Energon they can harvest upon destroying our sun, and thus our planet. Sam has been thrown headfirst into this war, and has to step up in a way that goes far beyond anything he was called upon to do in the first movie.

The Decepticons seem to be coming in huge waves and all hope seems lost for a large portion of the movie. Then, the second things seem to turn around, the bad guys appear to win. Then…well, it’s just huge.

The action sequences in this movie (and there were a lot) were amazing. From the aforementioned Prime airdrop to appliances going all decepticonish in the Witwicky household, to a Decepticon psycho chick, on through to the end battle, The camera was, for the most part, pulled back to allow us to more easily follow the fights than the first movie.

Ultimately, we got what we asked for. More interactions between the Transformers, more focus on the giant robots fighting, and more robots.

As far as plot goes, this was a classic Transformers story. There was the search for an item on which everything hinged. Megatron will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. Soundwave is sending his little minions and gathering the information needed to effectively strike against the Autobots. The Autobots have no clue what’s going on til the end, and then lay their lives on the line to save humanity.

There was a lot weak about this movie, but to me and the seven year old Steve that came out to play in the movie theater there was too much good to complain.

I honestly had no expectations for this movie. I knew that what I had seen looked amazing, but I knew little to nothing about the plot. So when I walked out the first time, I was super pleased. The second time, I was able to look at things in a less seven year old like manner. Combining the two experiences, I give the movie a strong 3.5 out of 5. I will probably see it again. I do like it enough to watch it as much as I have the chance to. I will definitely buy it when it comes out on DVD/Blu Ray, and I highly recommend it. In my opinion, it’s the best of the Summer so far. Just on a fun level.

Scarlett Letters – Wonder Woman #31 REVIEWED

17

Jun

Posted by Steve

Scarlett Lynn is back with her review of the latest issue in the ongoing Rise of the Olympians title. I am seriously considering picking up this book on a regular basis now based on her positive reviews of it thus far. So read on as Scarlett meets a celeb, reviews a comic, and makes a prediction as to the amounts of rainbows and lollipops in the future…

WONDER WOMAN #31 – Rise of the Olympian Part Six

I got to meet Gail Simone on Free Comic Book Day. I don’t think there was another comic book writer that I would have been more excited to meet. Despite not having a clue what to say to her… I think I was able to convey how much I’ve enjoyed her comics. “Wonder Woman”, “Secret Six” and her work on “Birds of Prey” are absolutely awesome. She writes such sharp dialog and interesting characters. Plus, no one writes a twisted, messed up villain like Gail Simone. And damn if she didn’t wind up making Genocide even more twisted than I ever would have expected when this story arc began.

784477_ww31a_super.jpgFor the past five issues there have been all kinds of forces gathering against Wonder Woman. Diana still hasn’t learned about half of them by the time his issue starts up. She’s faced off against Genocide but she’s still got no clue about Zeus or his Olympians. So it’s almost overkill when we discover that there’s still more forces marshaling against Diana that she hasn’t even been clued into yet. Hippolyta’s nutjob of an ex-bodyguard is skulking on a shadowy hill, watching her former queen reunite with the other Amazons. It’s not just some general, standard villainous skulking though. The crazy lady has business to attend to. She’s there to meet with Ares and at least she has the good sense to be kind of revolted with herself as she makes a shadowy, ominous and vague deal with him. Though they don’t get into the details, it’s safe to say that there’ll be a severe shortage of rainbows and lollipops in whatever plan they’re plotting.

While everyone and their cousin are finding some way to conspire against Diana, she’s busy receiving an update on Etta’s condition at the hospital she’s brought her too. It’s not looking good; Etta is catatonic and non-responsive. With the nurse comforting her, Diana finally allows herself to break down for a moment and cries for her friend and all of the hell she’s been put through for the past couple of days. Doctor Morrow, who has accompanied Wonder Woman, tries awkwardly not to notice her crying while handing her a tissue. It’s not until another of the hospital’s patients, Tom, walks in that Diana brightens. She’s reunited with her boyfriend but there’s not much time for joy as Tom fills her in on the news of the day: The Olympians.

The Olympians are all over the place. They’ve been attacking military stockpiles and political gatherings around the world. Right now they’re storming the United Nations and declaring that they’re going to take over and impose peace on the world. Before she can deal with any of that, however, Diana first needs to take a moment at her friend’s bedside. While she sits alone with Etta, the nurse that she’d been speaking to earlier enters the room; she’s not herself though.

Athena (now with 10% less deadness) is possessing the nurse to communicate with Diana. She explains to her that she had a dream, a vision of the future, where Ares had won and defeated all the pantheons including the superheroes. We see Superman’s tattered cape and other dead heroes lying in the ruins of a destroyed Metropolis. Athena explains that Ares is behind everything that’s been happening and that everything he’s been doing has been to hurt his father, Zeus. Ares was responsible for prompting Cheetah, Morrow, etc. to create Genocide and intends for Zeus’ Olympians to wind up triggering the war that will destroy the world. Then she reveals exactly who’s body it was that was used to create Genocide… Wonder Woman’s own future corpse.

Diana doesn’t have time to reel from the news for too long (or to spend much time figuring out the temporal logistics) since Athena has told her she’s got about fifteen minutes to stop the Olympians from accidentally triggering a nuclear Armageddon. Wonder Woman races to Russia where she and Achilles finally face one another in a fight at a Russian nuclear weapons bunker. The two have a quick smackdown but before Diana can explain (while totally kicking his ass) how his people are being used, the Russians launch a nuclear missile. Diana takes care of that threat and is now off to find and kill Genocide… no matter who’s body she’s made of.

STORY: 4 1/2 out of 5

I wonder if it’ll count as suicide when Diana finally finds Genocide and rips that stolen lasso out of her stolen body? I might as well just get all the “Holy Crap! I did NOT see that coming!” stuff out of the way up front. Because, seriously, holy crap… I did NOT see that coming. Sure, it’s a little bit of a paradox-laden twist but if Steve has taught us anything, it’s that paradoxes were meant to be embraced. So I’m going to full on face-plant-huggle this twist because it’s not often a comic has made me just stare at one page in shock and confusion and then have to immediately go back and re-read the issue.

I had spent some time theorizing after the previous issue when they finally indicated that the body used to make Genocide was significant but I can honestly say that Diana’s own future-corpse wasn’t really at the top of my list of suspects. There was definitely a moment or two where I wasn’t quite certain if I liked the twist but for sheer shock-value and for all the timey-whimey implications it ended up bringing me around. Cause if that’s Diana’s corpse… that kind of equals a dead Diana. Now all those early how-is-Wonder-Woman-going-to-get-out-of-this-alive thoughts have suddenly come back with a vengeance. What I love even more about it… is her reaction. She’s just been confronted with this horrific knowledge of her own future death and after only a page’s worth of shock she is back on mission and her primary concern is to kick some ass.

Another thing I just loved about this issue was that all those loose plot threads that have been dangling around since the first part of this arc have been tied up into one big ole’ Ares-shaped bow. To find out that he was pulling every string and playing everyone to further his own agenda was awesome. When he first popped up in this issue it was like he was just another villain ready to blend into the mass of antagonists surrounding Wonder Woman right now. Discovering his actual role in all this was pretty darn cool. Diana has a full day of kicking butt ahead of her but Ares has definitely earned his place at the end of that list.

There was just a great balance throughout this issue of action, emotion and humor. Doctor Morrow desperately trying to not acknowledge the incredible awkwardness of seeing Wonder Woman crying was really funny at just the right moment when things had reached such a low point for Diana. One of my favorite moments had to have been them walking to go visit Etta but Diana and the nurse still took a moment to check out the open hospital gown of Tom as he led the way. It’s the humor that keeps things grounded in a reality that you need when you’re fighting god and monsters and your own corpse from the future. Somehow Gail Simone is always able to keep the dialog and the emotion and the characters feel natural in even the most heightened of circumstances.

ART: 4 out of 5

I’m kind of glad that I wound up taking a long time coming out with this review because it gave me a chance to reevaluate the art. Aaron Lopresti has been doing the art for “Wonder Woman” for a while now and I’ve been loving it. So, when I first opened this issue and found that everything was a bit different because Bernard Chang had been done the art this month it all just felt kind of off. Not bad, by any means, but not quite what I was used to. As I’ve gone over the book a few more times I have definitely come to appreciate the look of Chang’s art a lot more.

The characters all have a lot of sharp angles to them and an edge that I think really worked well with the strain and stress that so many of them are meant to be feeling at this stage of the game. He did a great job with the body language of the characters as well. In one scene you can read all of Diana’s emotions from the tension in her shoulders. The character that I think benefited the most from his style is Alkyone. There’s a hardness and edge in the way he draws the characters that really works for her. Her anger and strength really come through from his characterization.

COVERS:

Main Cover: 4 1/2 out of 5

I really liked the way this cover seemed to sum up exactly where Diana is at in this issue. Her armor is gone, the clip at her side where 812503_feb090199_01_super.jpgher lasso should be is empty, she has no weapons, Etta and Tom are there but in no position to help her. Yet her fists are both clenched and you can see her raw physical strength as she prepares to take on Achilles. Despite everything that has been stripped away from her she is still Wonder Woman and she’s still going to kick some Olympian butt.

The contrast of seeing Achilles in his gleaming armor and carrying his shiny spear works well. A couple of issues back it was Wonder Woman who was all decked out in her shiny, gold armor with her weapons in her hands and facing off against Genocide who was about to attack with just her bare hands. It’s an interesting reversal, especially now that we know the truth about Genocide’s origins.

Variant Cover: 3 out of 5

Not my favorite of the series of variants they’ve been doing. It’s strange seeing such a carefree, happy, smiling version of Diana on the cover of so gloomy a story. It’s a nice picture and definitely shows another side to Wonder Woman than what we’ve been seeing lately but it doesn’t blow me away.

MEMORABLE QUOTES/LINES:

Nurse Tamika: “No one’s looking. You don’t have to be a princess right now, if you don’t want to.”

Nurse Tamika (to Diana as Tom walks away): “Are you going to tell him that his gown is completely open in the back?”

Diana: “Well… perhaps not just yet.”