Posts Tagged ‘The Last Starfighter’

“Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons” – Transformers Theme

Those words, familiar to many a Transformer fan for nearly three decades, have never rung as true as they do in the case of the new Transformers movie, Transformer: Dark of the Moon. Of the three films, this is by far the darkest and most intense and the war between the Autobots and the tyranny of the Decepticons comes home in a big way. The last installment in the franchise was a disappointment and there was no doubt it had fallen from the great heights of the first film (even if I liked it more than most folks did). This movie redeems the franchise on many levels.

The film opens with vivid and fantastic scenes from the final days of the war on the Transformers’s home planet of Cybertron, detailing a failed mission that, if successful, would have allowed the Autobots to prevail against the Decepticons. The mission focuses on a secret ship that crash lands on Earth’s moon and NASA detects it. This sets off the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s in an attempt to discover what happened. History goes forth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin arrive on the moon on Apollo 11, but really to embark on a secret mission, wherein they discover the crashed Autobot vessel and special pods. Fast forward to present day and Sam Whitwicky is a recent college graduate living in DC with his girlfriend Carly (long gone is Megan Fox and her character) who previously worked at the British Embassy and now manages a car collection for a character played by Patrick Dempsey who functions as a foil for Sam on multiple levels. Sam is struggling to find both a job and himself, not understanding why after helping to discover the Transformers and save the world (twice) he can’t make something of himself; as Sam says “I just want to matter”

The Autobots are now working with the United States Spec. Ops. to quell conflicts around the world. During a secret mission to Chernobyl in Russia, the Autobots come across two nasty Decepticon baddies known as Shockwave (to whom Megatron entrusts Cybertron in the original cartoon from the 80’s) and Laserbeak, both on missions in Russia related to the moon crash. Meanwhile, Decepticon leader Megatron is in exile in Africa with his minions Starscream and Soundwave (now in vehicle form instead of the satellite from Transformers 2 and also the keeper of Laserbeak, much like Ravage – the panther – was his minion in Transformers 2). Once the Autobots learn of the existence of the crashed ship on the moon, from the real-life Buzz Aldrin, (Optimus berates the Obama Administration for their silence) and the survival of it’s captain – Sentinel Prime, the leader of the Autobots before Optimus – they travel to the moon to retrieve and revive him. With Sentinel revived, the movie really kicks into high gear and the remainder is a intense experience filled with heroes, villains, dark moments, and massive destruction that does not let up.

I really enjoyed the film and the places it take the audience (and the special effects were fantastic throughout). Bay really did work hard to redeem the franchise from the last outing, and there were a number of moments in which I honestly didn’t know if key characters would live or die (and not all of them make it through this film). Having grown up with the Transformers mythos and now gone through three movies, I love these heroes and to a degree the villains; in these characters there are no shades, it is good vs. evil – period. In a culture filled with anti-heroes and vampires-as-heroes I prefer this any day of the week. In a film like this the robots are the real stars and they shine through the massive action sequences. Megatron, Shockwave, Starscream, and Soundwave are true to their classic iterations and are as evil as ever, wanting nothing but power and subjugation through tyranny and fear. The Autobots seeks to preserve freedom and protect humanity from the Decepticons. In the same vein, the US Military (and America in general) is shown in a great light (which has some critics writhing) by way of Spec Ops and SEALS working with the Autobots to defeat the Decepticons and their human toadies.

One aspect that stuck out to me was the development of Sam’s character. His desire to matter, to stake his place in the world around him is something that come through loud and clear in this film and resonates; we all want to be worthy, we all want to be more than we are. It a classic theme seen in many stories and movies, seen in Star Wars, The Last Starfighter, Harry Potter, Green Lantern, Spiderman, and even Batman Begins to a degree. Everyone of us grapples with this in life at one time or another, and some more than others (certainly so if you try and live within and around the world of epic superheroes). It echo’s Bruce Wayne’s words, from Batman Begins: “It’s what I do that defines me”. The danger exists when “what can I do (for others)?” transforms into “what can I become (for my own sake)?” In this film, Sam makes the choice to put himself in harms way (for the sake of another) instead of unintentionally being a part of what happens, and danger ensues.

If you’re wavering as to seeing Transformers 3, don’t listen to the critics, go see it and make your own assessment.

On a personal note, when the production team was filming in DC last year, I took the FENX on a hunt for the Autobots one day and found them not too far from Chinatown. There before me was Optimus Prime in all his Autobot awesomeness and I am having to answer questions from others who wonder who/what I am and if I am part of the film. As it turns out one of the production managers in charge of the vehicles did admit that if the FENX had been in Transformers 3, Michael Bay would have wanted to blow it up.

Aaron

“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight; those who worship Evil’s might, beware my power, GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!” – The Oath of the Green Lantern Corps.

Those words were first penned many decades ago and for many decades since then, fans of the Green Lantern comics have waited for silver screen treatment; on June, 17, 2011, it came (kicking off a big weekend for me which included a birthday and the return of The FENX to Washington once again for my use). The story of Green Lantern is very much a cross between Top Gun, the original Star Wars and The Last Starfighter (all movies I love). The main character, Hal “Highball” Jordan, is a former United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who works as a test pilot for Ferris Aerospace a company started by former USAF pilot Carl Ferris (a friend of Hal’s aerospace daring father who died in a crash Hal witnessed as a young boy). Hal works alongside Mr. Ferris’s daughter (and fellow pilot) Carol “Sapphire” Ferris with whom he has an on again/off again romantic relationship. Both characters are asked to fly a sortie against a pair of UAV fighters that Ferris Air is development for the Department of Defense, an exercise which results in another plane crash.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy far from the Milky Way, an ancient threat that feeds on the fear of others known as Parallax has escaped imprisonment by the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic law enforcers who wield green rings which channel the will power of the wielder into anything they can think of. Having escaped, Parallax hunts down Abin Sur, the greatest of the Green Lanterns and the one responsible for imprisoning him. Wounded in their encounter and fading fast, Abin crash lands on earth and instructs his ring to choose his replacement; the ring chooses Jordan. In short order Jordan is transported light-years from earth to the planet Oa, the home-world of the Green Lantern Corps; here he begins his training at the hands of Kilowog (a brutish alien version of R. Lee Ermey) and Sinestro (an emotional magenta skinned Vulcan looking character). As the story progresses Jordan’s two lives collide and new villains and heroes are born.

In all honesty, I loved this movie. Not everyone will but I did. In full disclosure though I’ve been a fan of Green Lantern since the Justice League show on Cartoon Network so I’ve been waiting for it for about a decade. When DC Comics unleashed the Blackest Night crossover a few years ago it only solidified my position as a fan of the Corps. When it comes to a film like this my greatest concern is how close the movie stays to the source material and I never apologize for that fact. Green Lantern did a marvelous job here (no pun intended). Most of the characters were spot on as were costumes and locations like Oa. (Ryan Reynolds was what I expected Jordan to be, but even if Blake Lively had a good moment or two I hope she steps up the game going forward; she has to for the story arc of Carol).

One of the most important elements in the film was properly dealing with the relation between the Power of Will and the Power of Fear, illustrated by the colors green and yellow, and how they are often antithesis to one another. It brought to mind the mantra from the Dune universe “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total inhalation; I will face my fear, I will let my fear pass through me and when it is gone only I will remain”. Critics complained that there was too much Computer Generated Images (CGI), and while A LOT of the movie was that, to not do it in such as way would have made the cost of the film astronomical and harder to execute. Additionally, critics expect all superhero movies such as this to be on par with The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man; without his powers, Hal Jordan is “Pete Mitchell” from Top Gun and with the power of his Lantern Ring he can’t be Batman. This is a film about finding courage (and the will to act) in the midst of overwhelming fear, and the places that courage comes from. It illustrates the power and influence of fathers (and how much younger men are affected by it) and mentors (in much the same way the Star Wars film did). It also hints at the cost of fighting as one’s enemy does (I expect the sequel to deal with this more), as well as the dangers of great power and the arrogance that can come with thinking oneself unassailable.

This film is a big step for DC and Warner Brothers, as it is really the first mainstay DC character to get his (or her) own movie (not TV show) and your name isn’t Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Seeing as how Marvel Studios is creating their own Marvel “movie-verse”, DC is finally taking a stab at the same (as illustrated by the inclusion of Dr. Amanda Waller; a character I expect to see much more of going forward who crisscrosses DC story-lines often and nods to the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO)). In short, I look forward to future adventures and returning to Oa.

Finally, I couldn’t help but see a Christian parallel when it was the Sun that was ultimately the undoing of the interstellar baddie. On that note I will simply end with something I wrote years ago, inspired by Christian belief and the Oath of the Lantern Corps – “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, We Cannot Escape His Sight, He who loves us with all His might, He Casts Out All Fear, Jesus Christ, the Light”

*UPDATE* I just returned from an unexpected special Green Lantern in 3D screening in DC. One of the points in the film I didn’t cover but should have is Hal Jordan’s struggle with being chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps. Tomar-Re, one of Hal’s mentors (and his wisest), makes it very clear that Hal was chosen by the Ring even if he doesn’t understand why; that the Ring doesn’t make mistakes. Hal really struggles with this because in most areas of his life he is a failure who cannot overcome his fear. Ultimately, the Ring’s choosing Hal gives the character a sense of destiny that is both freeing and a burden; a burden because it is a difficult undertaking, but freeing because the die is cast and any sense of confusion and doubt about the path is past once he realizes why he was chosen. This is probably my favorite subplot in the film because ever since Star Wars and Terminator destiny has fascinated me.

In something totally unrelated, I am convinced that post-production conversion to “3D” is just a Hollywood gimmick, but when it’s actually filmed in 3D that is something else entirely.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron