Each year, as part of my review of the year, I list a number of the most prominent features of the year. In addition to the likes of films, actors and trailers I look to highlight one specific feature. Two years ago, it was redheads that dominated the cinematic landscape; last year, I felt that cinema had become stuck in a rut and it was the middling films – those that generated the most “meh” of responses from me – that drew my attention. This year, the overriding theme of the last twelve months in the cinema has been flat out, balls-to-the-wall stupidity.
Maybe it’s always been there, and I just haven’t noticed, or maybe someone’s been putting something in Hollywood’s water. But there does seem to me to be a trend towards plotting which doesn’t concern itself with joining A to B in a convincing manner. I’m not talking here about the kind of goofs that the likes of the Internet Movie Database catalogue, in astonishingly precise levels of detail. Take, for example, this excerpt from the goofs for Gravity:
Er, fascinating. But it’s not this level of astonishing pedantry that I’m concerned with here, but a far more fundamental lack of understanding of the basic rules of life, logic and physics. Read through this list, and let me know whether you think 2013 marks a new low in terms of movie braininess, or if actually this level of film-based nonsense is par for the course. I’d also be more than happy for you to point out any gaps in my own logic in the comments section, before I reply as politely as possible through barely gritted teeth.
Warning: major spoilers follow for some of the year’s biggest releases. Scroll down slowly, so you can skip on past the picture if you’ve not seen a film and want to remain spoiler free.
To get us started, consider the basic set-up for massively slated Ryan Reynolds flop R.I.P.D. If you’ve not seen it, the basic premise is that Reynolds and his former partner Kevin Bacon have acquired a mass of gold from a previous bust, and then split the proceeds. Reynolds then grows a conscience and decides to hand his in, so Bacon kills him. It transpires that Bacon requires the gold for some previously unmentioned purpose, which begs the question: why didn’t Bacon kill Reynolds before they split the gold? He spends the entire film attempting to recover Reynolds’ share, which could all have been avoided had Bacon thought about the plan at any stage.
19. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Bit of rollover stupidity here: we are, of course, talking about the eagles, which once again are summoned by Gandalf at the end of An Unexpected Journey. Gandalf, seemingly feeling the dwarves needed more of a challenge, gets them dropped off just in front of a forest infested with giant spiders, providing much of the challenge of The Desolation Of Smaug. If that’s not enough for you, don’t forget that Bilbo has a magic ring of invisibility which he keeps taking off at key moments. There is, at this stage, no suggestion of any consequence of using the ring for any length of time, so why ever take it off, or keep it secret from the dwarves? (Because the movie would be a lot shorter if he did keep it on.)
It’s refreshing to know that the future still holds the promise of advanced technology. Ignore the fact that the space shuttle programme has ended and that it’s going to take another thirteen years to build another railway between London and Birmingham, apparently in just four years we’ll be sending manned missions to space with technology to put people into suspended animation. The future’s bright indeed. Oblivion is one of those films that works a lot better if you don’t think about it to any great extent, otherwise you may find yourself asking questions such as how the Earth becomes so desolated that the 86th floor of the Empire State building is at ground level, why the aliens bothered cloning so many humans that looked identical, why those humans all retained the memories of their hosts or why the Scavs ever bother to hide from the clones as it serves no real purpose. It’s a great vision of the future, just not a hugely believable one.
17. White House Down
White House Down commits a sin that so many other big blockbusters have committed in recent years, namely that the plans of the bad guy are heavily reliant on specific actions committed almost incidentally by others and leaves far too much to chance. Again, the reliance on tropes from earlier action movies such as Die Hard seems to fundamentally misunderstand how Die Hard’s bad guys had planned their heist to rely on much more certain responses and by keeping people in an enclosed location. But there’s plenty of more specific craziness on show: the techie brought in by the bad guys, Tyler, sets up a booby trap bomb in a corridor to ensure no-one escapes through a particular tunnel. He later wanders into that exact same tunnel and is destroyed by his own bomb, when there are any number of other less or equally risky options available to him.
16. Thor: The Dark World
Thor sits in a unique place in the Marvel universe where magic is possible and we shouldn’t just rely on science. However, a relationship with geography would have been nice. Early on in the film, Jane and Darcy find a mysterious portal to who knows where in a warehouse in the London Docklands. Much later, Thor, Loki and Jane arrive on Svartalfheim for a confrontation with Dark Elf Malekith. They lose the confrontation and are stranded on the distant realm, only to subsequently discover that the other end of the London portal comes out in a cave about ten feet away. Svartalfheim must be really, really tiny.
15. Kick-Ass 2
Not going to dwell on this one, but the idea that a teenage girl who’s brutally murdered criminals and spent a good part of her adolescence as a vigilante would suddenly go weak at the knees and act like a complete idiot at the sight of Union J on the TV is somewhere in a suburb of Offensive City. There’s also the question of why, once his father has been murdered and Dave makes a promise never to wear the costume again, he’s so easily convinced to turn up for a confrontation in costume, given that his outfit has no special powers or properties and he breaks his promise totally needlessly.
Elysium’s problems are mostly focused on space travel. This runs throughout the film, from the idea of shooting down shuttles heading for the orbiting space platform using a rocket launcher from Earth – when the people of Elysium are so keep on keeping their world for themselves, surely they’d have some defences that Secretary Of Defence Delacourt could have tapped into? Or built some in secret on the platform? They’d have had a much better chance at shooting down the ships if they did – to the end of the film, where we see a small fleet of space ambulances head for Earth. There’s no reason anyone on Elysium would ever need them when every house has a magic healing bed, and they’ll take years to get round the number of people on Earth in need of their help. Still, at least Matt Damon didn’t die in vain.
13. The Purge
Basic plot failing here: apparently in the America of the future, everyone lives lovely happy lives as long as they can murder, rape and pillage to their hearts’ content once a year. But they don’t get to do it to anyone really important, and everyone’s fine with that. Riiiiight. Apparently, you also can’t stress the deadliness of this situation enough to your children, as despite everyone in the world being allowed to murder you without consequence, the moment someone turns up on your doorstep in trouble, your child is likely to open the doors and let them in. I suggest killing the children when the Purge starts to avoid any such future problem. Don’t also expend too much thought on why people intent on killing you without the possibility of justice or retribution would bother with wearing masks.
12. Fast And Furious 6
The sixth entry in the Fast Furious Franchise has been somewhat overshadowed by the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker. The general enjoyment of the last two entries are a fitting tribute to Walker, and it seems almost churlish now to raise the issues of illegal street racing in central London, where police officers routinely roam the streets firing machine guns from moving vehicles, or where apparently you can leap off a moving vehicle and catch someone in mid-air. But possibly one of the most famous pieces of movie non-thinking this year occurred with the climactic runway scene, which internet boffins estimate was somewhere between 25 and 30 miles long, or about two-thirds of the distance from Manchester to Liverpool. Genius.
11. This Is 40
Approaching the age at which life it supposed to begin? They you too, I’m sure, will appreciate this story of two attractive and successful people who are worried about entering their fortieth year despite having attractive children and no real problems, ho even when their businesses get into trouble spend money with abandon and whose plan to recover one of those businesses is to sign world famous recording artist Ryan Adams to that failing business. It’s also slightly mystifying as to why no-one, at any point, points out how utterly ungrateful these people are for everything they have to their faces and promptly disowns them. (If they’d like a volunteer, more than happy to oblige.)
10. Bullet To The Head
So, you’re a world class hitman (called Bobo, for unfathomable reasons) and you’re on your latest job. There’s a dodgy politician that you need to murder, except when you’ve killed him you discover a material witness in the form of a prostitute in the apartment. So you decide to leave her alive so that she can identify you to the authorities, but thankfully you recognise that despite being required to sell her body for sex she’s also a woman of honour who will tell the authorities it was a hit, but thankfully won’t identify you in person. This will later provide a valuable lesson for Bobo’s crushingly naive police office partner, who will effectively offer the same service of non-naming when several people are killed in a violent shoot-out / antique axe fight. Good work, Bobo.
9. Promised Land
Promised Land is a worthy film on the subject of fracking, and it would have brought it to light in an admirable way had it not been for the condescending attitude to the audience, where the reasons why fracking might be bad are explained to the audience using a class of schoolchildren as a proxy. Maybe they’d assumed the intelligence level of the audience would be around that of the fracking company, who employ an “environmentalist” (John Kraskinski) to dupe their other employee, Matt Damon, into discrediting the environmental movement. When Matt Damon finds out he’s been duped, he then tells the town not to sign up. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have Matt Damon in on the plan, so that he doesn’t blow the whole plan when he finds out? Or, if he’s not that trustworthy, to send one of the thousands of other employees of the company to take that role?
8. Escape Plan
If you’ve ever seen Face / Off, you’ll know that Nicolas Cage is incarcerated in a dangerous futuristic prison that turns out to be set on an oil rig. In a cunning twist on that particular set piece, Escape Plan is set on a dangerous futuristic prison that turns out to be set… wait for it… on a giant container ship! Incroyable. The only thing is, this comes as a surprise to the residents of the ship when they attempt to escape. Guess the designers of the prison must have worked out to get a ship not to move about at all in water. They also managed to design a prison where all of the cells are transparent to prevent prisoners getting up to no good, but where solitary confinement is darkened cells with only tiny security cameras to enable prisoners to make easier escape attempts once there. And, for people that seemingly go out of their way to attract attention, both Arnie and Sly have managed to conceal their identities, despite Stallone spending a career working in the same industry and despite Arnie actually being his own boss for reasons that don’t make a lick of sense.
7. Pacific Rim
Putting the four year futuristic spurt of Oblivion to shame, Pacific Rim begins in 2013, where humanity comes under attack from giant monsters from under the sea. Our almost-in-the-past-already-future-selves face attack from these giant beasties who can destroy buildings with a single swipe, so respond by building massive robots which require two neurally linked pilots to operate. (I look forward to that technological innovation in the next year or so.) After ten years of failing to defeat the sea-dwelling monsters with their giant robots, humanity gives up and their plan is to build a 300 foot high wall along the entire length of the Pacific Ocean coast. Presumably while the monsters sit and wait the several hundred years it will take to finish.
But fear not; humanity is evolving to deal with the Kaiju threat – at least, if Ron Perlman’s Chau is any indication, having been eaten by a baby Kaiju before hacking his way out of its belly in the film’s closing moment. If we can survive being eaten and not having oxygen, maybe there’s hope for humanity after all! Maybe these new found abilities will help them build the wall faster if the aliens come back.
Space. The final frontier. A frontier as crowded as the only town on “Get Your Free Gold” day, judging by Gravity, which manages to position a telescope and two space stations in the same orbit and within barely a mile of each other. Maybe it’s just the best spot to be in orbit, safe from all that debris which also manages to be in exactly the same horizontal and vertical plane as the telescope and the two space stations. Maybe the intention is that those space stations are available for everyone, because it seems really easy to fly them; unlike when you get a hire car and it takes you half an hour to work out how to work the windscreen wipers, thankfully the Russians and the Chinese build their space stations in such a similar manner that any passing astronaut can work out how to get them going with just a quick flick through the manual. All of a sudden, space travel doesn’t seem that complex, does it?
5. Jack The Giant Slayer
This retelling of the Jack And The Beanstalk manages to walk straight into all of the narrative problems of its source material – only one set of magic beans, giant that manages to get painfully outwitted by a small person or two – but tops them off with a collection of further, brand new issues, such as why the giants choose this particular moment after so long to attack the world below, why they haven’t come up with a better attack plan if they’re so keen to overthrow the world below. We should all hope they never come up with that plan, as apparently the giant’s kingdom is in the sky right above us, as indicated by the crown of the film now residing in the modern day Town Of London. Yes, apparently giants are still living in the sky above us, and that’s why it’s always cloudy in this country. Whatever.
4. About Time
Don’t get me wrong, time travel is notoriously difficult to keep straight in films; my all-time favourite (Back To The Future) isn’t exactly perfect on that front, but it does have a relative amount of internal consistency. The same can’t be said for Richard Curtis’ time travel shenanigans, which involve men in a family who can travel in time going into a cupboard and clenching their fists, before sometime arriving back in time in that cupboard and sometimes not, and then sometimes going back to the future in the same method and sometimes reliving life from the point of emerging from the cupboard originally, and somehow never managing to create two people in the past. Remarkably, if you weren’t in the cupboard in the past, you (sometimes) end up in the nearest available cupboard when you travel back. Only the men can travel in time, unless a woman is holding hands with a man, which seemingly the men know instinctively will work without ever being told, and you can only travel within your own lifetime and backwards, unless you travel backwards in your life, at which point you can then travel forwards to the point you travelled back from. With me so far?
If you travel back before your children were born, you will completely and irrevocably change the nature of those children, but you can then travel back again and undo this and put your child back as it was, because in some fashion time travel affects which sperm and egg gets fertilised and with enough time travel you can eventually find a way to revert this process if you get it wrong. You can also avoid this if you travel in time with your father, which will have no effect on the nature of that process. Apparently all of the men in the family can time travel, but no man’s temporal interference ever has any appreciable effect on the life of any other member of the family and none of them ever make any attempt to use their powers for good, such as preventing accidents or natural disasters or catching people from trees or learning the piano or punching Ned Ryerson.
3. After Earth
Apparently if you want to train yourself to fight monsters who smell fear, the best thing to do is to take one of them on a spaceship with you so you can release it and fight it in an unpredictable environment. It’s a good job those monsters can only very specifically smell fear and not any other pheromones, or smells, or see anything, or hear anything, because then you can train people not to be afraid to the extent where they don’t give off these pheromones, rather than using the advanced technology to invent some form of clothing or spray that contains or suppresses pheromones. Don’t forget to transport these beasts on a ship that, when it crashes, will selectively keep all members of a family alive while killing everyone else.
Should you arrive on Earth, then be careful, because evolution will have accelerated (for some reason) to cause creatures to mutate in unexpected and unpredictable ways. The only upside of this will be giant condors who’ve become sentient enough to sacrifice themselves on your behalf should you run into trouble. Most of the other animals will have evolved specifically to become deadly to humans, despite the fact that all of the humans left because it got too dangerous. Should you have to fight the phereomone-smelling beast, then don’t worry: if you suddenly do work out how to stop feeling fear, any pheromones you have previously expelled will instantly disappear and the monster will suddenly be unable to find you, even if you’re fighting in a small, confined space. Anyway, good luck. You’re probably not going to need it, as the crew of the ship you crashed on almost certainly sent a mayday signal before you crashed, so don’t feel the need to send any additional distress calls.
2. Man Of Steel
If you’re a space-faring race and your world is in trouble, don’t worry about attempting to evacuate any significant number of the residents. Instead, hold trials and attempt to apportion blame and point fingers for what’s happening. Instead, send one child to a planet where he will have superhuman powers, but with any luck his adoptive parents will force him to keep his powers secret, even at the expense of their own lives if it comes to it. (They will most likely have no evidence that this secret getting out will cause any problems, even though everyone in their home town already knows about his powers and anyone of them could blab the secret at any time.) Also, don’t worry if an award-winning journalist tracks your son down and finds out his secret, no-one will believe her despite the fact she’s an award-winning journalist.
She might also arrive at your house and yell out your secret identity name while you’re in costume in the presence of the police, and the army might find your spaceship on your parents’ farm, but again no one concerned will ever put two and two together, or be bothered to reveal your identity if they do. Your son’s secret identity can also be concealed by wearing a pair of glasses, despite most of the staff of a major news organisation seeing him both with and without the glasses. You might want to be careful that the superpowers aren’t catching; the journalist will be able to wander around in sub-zero temperatures in a thin coat and be struck with superweapons that cause your son to bleed and will survive quite happily, not to mention avoiding being sucked into a black hole, suggesting that she has caught superpowers. You might also find that editors of newspapers suddenly develop the ability to outrun falling skyscrapers.
Your son will then be able to take the confidence in his abilities and the fact that no-one can see through the world’s most basic disguise, and use his powers for good. Well, mostly good. (This is despite the fact that his powers evolved slowly and painfully over the course of his adolescence, and the powers of other adult Kryptonians will work immediately as soon as they arrive on the planet.) Should your son be required to kill one of these, make sure he knows that they will be unable to move their eyeballs as soon as he has them in a stranglehold, that could come in useful if he’s attempting to kill innocent bystanders with laser vision and almost succeeds.
Contrary to the views of Richard Lester, it’s not necessary to lure those Kryptonians to a secluded location before removing their powers and then casually and brutally killing them, as in Superman II; you can just break their necks in plain sight and people will still love you and not fear you for being a homicidal superbeing who kills your fellow Kryptonians rather than seeing them face justice. Also him fighting with those Kryptonians in a battle on Earth that causes massive destruction and loss of life also won’t have any bearing on his position in society, and nor will him casually shooting down expensive military equipment.
If you want your son to wear an outfit to draw attention to his superpowers, it may be best to put one on a spaceship that crashes on the same planet anything up to 18,000 years earlier, just in case. Also, the people of that world shouldn’t worry too much, as despite suffering few ill effects of their superpowers, the master plan of the Kryptonians will be to terraform the new planet to a replica of their own so that they don’t have superpowers any more. Outstanding.
1. Star Trek Into Darkness
Here follows the synopsis from Wikipedia for Star Trek Into Darkness, edited to highlight stupidity. Deep breath…
In 2259, the starship USS Enterprise is on a survey mission to the planet Nibiru, studying a primitive culture by hiding their spaceship in the sea where it shouldn’t be able to go, somehow getting the ship into the sea without the planet seeing yet not then being able to fly it out again without the planet seeing. Captain James T. Kirk and First Officer Spock attempt to save the planet’s inhabitants from a volcanic eruption, in the process breaking the Prime Directive of non-interference. When Spock’s life is endangered, Kirk violates the Prime Directive a second time in order to save him, even though he thinks it’s the first time, exposing the Enterprise to the native inhabitants, a decision with which Spock disagrees, although Spock hasn’t noticed that by now the Prime Directive has already been broken several times.
Returning to Earth, Kirk loses command of the Enterprise and Admiral Christopher Pike is reinstated as its commanding officer, because Starfleet ranks are given out like chocolates and last about as long. Pike manages to convince Admiral Alexander Marcus, who has models on his desk of a collection of starships, including a secret warship he’s building near Jupiter (yes, really), to allow Kirk to continue as his first officer on the Enterprise, rather than being sent back to the Academy, instead of being demoted to second officer or something, because apparently the only two choices of rank for Kirk are trainee or captain. Meanwhile, a secret Section 31 installation in London is bombed by a renegade Starfleet officer pointlessly calling himself Commander John Harrison. During a meeting of Starfleet commanders to discuss the situation convened in a building with poor security and ideally positioned for a full frontal assault, Harrison attacks in a jumpship, killing Pike. Kirk pointless risks his life and disables the jumpship, but Harrison uses a prototype portable transwarp transporter device to escape to Kronos, the Klingon homeworld, knowing Starfleet would be unable to follow, and in the process rendering starships unnecessary by being able to transport himself effortlessly between planets. Meanwhile Spock does a mindmeld on the dying Pike to learn a cheap lesson about death he could have learned without invading the mind of a dying man.
Marcus orders the Enterprise to kill Harrison, arming them with 72 prototype photon torpedoes, shielded and untraceable to sensors, which should be suspicious as why would normal photon torpedoes not be enough to kill one man without a starship, but it’s apparently not. Chief engineer Montgomery Scott slightly overreacts and resigns his duties in protest when Kirk denies Scott’s entirely sensible request to examine the weapons for safety reasons. Pavel Chekov, who has never worked in engineering but occasionally operates the transporters, is promoted in his stead ahead of numerous better qualified engineers, and Dr. Carol Wallace, a weapons specialist, joins the crew, despite everyone knowing she’s really Carol Marcus because it was in the promotional material. Spock, Dr. Leonard McCoy and Uhura convince Kirk it would be better to capture Harrison and return him to Earth for trial, rather than killing him, because for some reason Kirk needs to be convinced of this as mild revenge has turned him into a homicidal maniac.
En route, the Enterprise suffers an unexpected coolant leak in the warp core, disabling the ship’s warp capabilities. Kirk leads a deniable operation to Kronos in a confiscated civilian vessel which doesn’t have a cloaking device, because this universe is no smarter than the last one in handing out cloaking technology, something apparently Starfleet doesn’t believe in apart from the time they gave the starship on Deep Space Nine a cloaking device. Approaching Harrison’s location, they are ambushed by Klingon patrols that don’t look like either the original or Next Generation Trek Klingons, and despite an episode of Enterprise – which exists in the same universe as this reboot – turning Klingons into the ones that look like the original Trek without the ridges. Harrison easily dispatches the Klingons, then unexpectedly surrenders after learning the exact number of torpedoes locked on his location. On the Enterprise, Wallace is revealed as Dr. Carol Marcus, the Admiral’s daughter, who inexplicably has an English accent when her dad sounds American, who along with McCoy, the chief medical officer and apparently the only other person spare to disarm a dangerous bomb despite having less than no experience, opens a torpedo at the behest of Harrison, revealing a man in cryogenic stasis. At some point around this time, Carol Marcus also takes almost all of her clothes off because the writers thought if they gave the teenage boys a hard-on they wouldn’t notice how stupid the film was. They also filmed a scene with Benedict Cumberbatch taking his clothes off, but then cut it out, inadvertently making them look like chauvinist arseholes.
Harrison reveals his true identity as Khan, because that wasn’t explained in the promotional material yet still didn’t come as a surprise, in a scene where he acts everyone else off screen and makes you wish Martin Freeman was playing Spock. Khan explains for the benefit of no-one except the crew that he’s a genetically engineered superhuman awoken by Admiral Marcus from a 300-year suspended animation, which apparently started in 1959 based on the current stardate, even though the original Star Trek put it at 1996 and this has to be the same Khan as it all happened before this universe branched off in the reboot. Khan reveals his crew was held hostage by Marcus to force him to develop weapons and warships for Starfleet in preparation for a war between the Federation and the Klingons, but doesn’t mention the cosmetic surgery that’s stopped him looking like Ricardo Montalban. Khan attempted to smuggle his crew out in the torpedoes he had designed, but was discovered. Thinking that Marcus had killed his crew, he instigated his attacks to avenge his family, rather than looking into it carefully before going on a mad revenge binge. Khan reveals Marcus had sabotaged the Enterprise‘s warp drive, intending for the Klingons to destroy the ship after firing the torpedoes at Kronos, giving him a casus belli for war. Acting on information from Khan, Kirk asks Scott to investigate a set of coordinates within the Solar System, because if you were building a top secret superweapon starship you’d do it in our own solar system, wouldn’t you?
The Enterprise travels from the Klingon homeworld to Earth in about three minutes, which should be around warp 9.99999999, but is intercepted by a larger Federation warship, the USS Vengeance under the command of Marcus. Marcus demands that Kirk deliver Khan, but Kirk refuses. The Enterprise, with a
hastily conveniently repaired warp drive, flees the rest of the way to Earth to expose Marcus, however the Vengeance intercepts and disables it. Kirk offers to exchange Khan and the cryogenic pods in exchange for sparing the lives of his crew, because apparently the needs of the many Starfleet officers outweigh the needs of the many supersoldiers from 1959 who might all be nice and nothing like Khan. Marcus refuses, transporting Carol to the Vengeance and ordering the Enterprise’s destruction.
The Vengeance suddenly loses power, having been sabotaged by Scott, who discovered and infiltrated the ship during his investigation, thanks to it being built just down the road from Earth where he was sulking like a spoiled child rather than attempting to continue to reason with his captain.. With the transporters down, Kirk and Khan, with the latter’s knowledge of the warship’s design, space-jump to the Vengeance, in a manner that looks exactly like the space jump from the last film and is consequently less exciting. Meanwhile, Spock contacts his older self on New Vulcan because the script writers are idiots and have no better way of making Khan seem dangerous, who informs him that Khan cannot be trusted. After capturing the bridge, Khan overpowers Kirk, Scott, and Carol, killing Marcus and seizing control of the Vengeance, but not killing the other officers yet. Apparently.
Khan demands from Spock the return of his crew in exchange for the three Enterprise officers. Spock complies, but surreptitiously removes Khan’s frozen crew and arms the warheads, despite the fact that torpedoes are matter and anti-matter explosives and you shouldn’t be able to transport anti-matter because established rules of the universe say you can’t, but apparently we don’t give a shit about them any more, and I forgot to mention that the whole film has developed a bit of a potty mouth in places. Khan betrays their agreement, critically damaging the Enterprise, however the Vengeance is in turn disabled following the detonation of the torpedoes, so it’s a good job they could be transported after all. With both starships powerless and caught in Earth’s gravity, despite being much higher up than anything in Gravity that was successfully in orbit, they begin to fall toward the surface, because gravity works in space, duh. Kirk enters the radioactive reactor chamber to realign the warp core, managing to kick it several times in the wrong direction until it inexplicably slots into place, saving the ship at the cost of his life. Kirk’s death sends Spock into a rage, in a manner identical to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, except with the two main characters switched round. For f***’s sake.
Khan defiantly crashes the Vengeance into San Francisco to destroy Starfleet headquarters, brutally killing thousands of people in a manner subsequently glossed over entirely. Khan survives the crash and flees the scene, and Spock transports down in pursuit, because you can apparently transport things down but not up at this point. While experimenting on a dead tribble, because there are no bombs to be diffusing by sheer luck at this point, McCoy discovers that Khan’s blood has regenerative properties that may save Kirk, including restarting circulation in dead creatures so that the blood works, because the writers stopped caring about an hour ago. Spock, with Uhura’s help, is able to subdue and capture Khan (and Kirk is revived in an entirely unsurprising fashion because it was signposted so dramatically expect the writers expected us to feel something about Kirk’s death which is the biggest insult yet to our intelligence) at which point we now have a magic cure for death and the crew should be immortal. About one year later, Kirk addresses a gathering memorializing the events, where he recites the “where no man has gone before” monologue. Khan is resealed in his cryogenic pod and stored with his crew, in a way that’s not at all likely to see him quickly revived and reunited with them in a future film, probably the next one as we’ve had to revive Khan only two movies in because we’re that short of new ideas, unless they do the one with the whales next, while Carol joins the crew of a recommissioned Enterprise, and will probably be made to wear Counselor Troi’s cast-offs from the Next Generation as she’s a hot girl and look at her and gawp, as it departs on a five-year exploratory mission, which is what we thought they were doing last time.
In two years time, the man who helped ruin this simply because he liked Star Wars and this was the nearest equivalent in production will release an actual Star Wars film based on a story treatment from the man who ruined the last three Star Wars films. Beam me up, Scotty.
The Review: I think I was born at just the wrong age. I was two when Rocky came out, and still at primary school when Arnie was first flexing his biceps for the camera. I did grow up on a diet of action, but it was Die Hard and Robocop that helped shape my formative years. But as action movies, driven by those late Eighties classics, have evolved and grown more complex over the last thirty years, I’ve come to appreciate the dumber things in life. While I like to be intellectually challenged by some of my viewing, once in a while you just need to see stuff get blown up real good.
So thank goodness for Sylvester Stallone. He’s managed to find ways to extend his Rambo and Rocky series well past their natural lifespans, but especially in Rocky’s case he’s tried to find a different perspective with age. There is a part of the audience for these movies though, in which I shamelessly include myself, that longs for the succession of cheesy one liners and men shooting things until they explode. Forget character development and intricate plot developments – and by and large Stallone has, in a return to old school action movie making.
The concept felt fairly high to start with – cram as many action movie stars, old and new, onto the screen and let them have fun. Sensibly, the central team isn’t too numerous, with the big names evenly divided across the good, the bad and the morally ambivalent, but only a few get any real screen time. The highlights are Jason Statham for the good guys, who Stallone seems to have recognised uses his charisma to cover up his acting deficiencies, but who uses his particular Transporter-style fighting to the best effect in the many, many, many fights and brawls. For the bad guys, Eric Roberts chews the scenery and spits it in every direction, probably about the only one to find just the right tone. Mercifully, Stallone avoids the ageist navel-gazing that ultimately crippled the likes of the Lethal Weapon series, but there is still slightly too much contemplation at times. Come on, blow something up, will ya?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means perfect. The action scenes vary from the pretty good to the I-don’t-understand-what-just-happened-because-you-can’t-shoot-or-edit-properly, Stallone’s attempts to add emotional resonance, mainly in scenes with Mickey Rourke, have all the depth of the shallow end of a paddling pool and are about as enjoyable, a joke about Jet Li’s height wears so thin you can see through it and there isn’t a truly iconic action sequence that will stand the test of time. But it does deliver just enough big muscles, big explosions and giant pulsating stupidity to be a guilty pleasure.
Why see it at the cinema: Actually, if you want an action movie to watch this summer, try The A Team. You can watch that any time. The Expendables should only be seen on a Friday or Saturday night, with a willing crowd who are as drunk as possible. That is a recommendation, in case you were wondering.
The Score: 7/10