October 19, 2015 by phicks2012
I generally rent new movies on DVD from services like Redbox, or stream them via my Blu-ray using services like Netflix or Hulu rather than buying copies sight unseen, and in recent years this has proven to be a wise choice more often than not. Even when I really like a movie genre, or starring actors, or specific source, there’s really no way of knowing whether or not I’m going to enjoy the film itself, and lately I’ve all too frequently found myself disappointed by the DVDs I’ve rented or streamed.
I’ve always enjoyed Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romantic Comedy, and Satire, and I also enjoy certain types of Action Adventure and Drama, but what all of the films I like tend to have in common is 1)being Character-Driven and well-written, and 2)having a good mixture of light and dark, and 3)having characters I can identify with and care about.
Lately, with CGI making extreme action sequences more and more easily produced, these sequences seem to be taking up more and more of the sci-fi and action films in which they appear — and character and plot development are taking up less and less. Watching some of them is like watching someone else play a video game. After a while, I start zoning out, and come to the realization that I can easily leave the room for up to 5 minutes without missing a single salient plot element — or, in fact, anything at all of interest. What? I missed explosion #234? Bummer!
Also, the tone of these movies seems to be getting darker and darker, with very few characters that anyone other than a sociopath or outright psychopath can identify with. I find myself suspecting that this probably appeals to the same people who love watching reality shows where dishonesty, back-stabbing, and treachery are unapologetically rewarded, and probably appeals to imprisioned serial killers, but obviously I am NOT a member of their target audience. I want a levening of humor, and damnit I want HEROES! There are too few of those in real life, trust me, and if I can’t find many there I want to see more on the screen.
A few weeks ago, while in the mood for Sci-Fi, I rented “Jupiter Ascending” and “Insurgent”. The first film was comprised nearly entirely of violent action sequences with very little attention paid to the characters, and very, VERY few of the characters were even remotely admirable. Violence, negativity, moral turpitude and extreme CGI 90%. Character, humor and heroism MAYBE 10%. The villains were really stereotypical, and the plot tortuous without being all that interesting. I wouldn’t buy it, and probably wouldn’t watch it again even if really bored.
“Insurgent” was better. The CGI was more limited, and related mostly to simulations inflicted upon the characters rather than appearing under the pretense of being real. There was more attention paid to character, and far less to extreme violence, and while the villains were still pretty much total sociopaths without any positive traits or mitigating background issues, at least the roles weren’t as over-acted and extreme as with “Jupiter Ascending”. There was action, but it didn’t totally dominate the film to the exclusion of all else, and there were a lot more sympathetic characters — such that I didn’t walk away wondering if the human race really deserved to avoid extinction. I might even get a copy of that one.
So those are my unsolicited reviews of “Jupiter Ascending” and “Insurgent”. I’d be shocked if my reactions made the slightest difference to the producers and directors of Science Fiction movies, but who knows!!!