The first batch of big summer blockbusters have arrived, alongside some more thoughtful films, making for five films in today’s Film Fight for May.
First up, Iron Man 3 is the prototypical big-budget, CG-heavy, plot-light blockbuster we’ve come to expect from much of Marvel’s output (Avengers aside). This movie, however, gets ideas above its station, trying to instill more human qualities in its protagonist by giving him a young boy as a sidekick for a reasonable portion of the movie. It fails badly, as the kid is thoroughly unlikeable, Stark’s interactions with him (and many other ordinary people) are creaking and awkward, and he all but gets dropped out of the last act, making his set-up pointless. There are decent set-up pieces about The Mandarin, but the mid-film reveal is silly and he is replaced by generic baddies fighting lifeless CG battles. You’ll stop caring about anyone by the half-way mark, if you cared at all. The worst entry in the Marvel Film universe since Hulk. (See my Iron Man 3 Twitter review).
A better big budget film wasn’t far away, in the form of Star Trek: Into Darkness. It’s light-hearted, enjoyable, nonsense; the plotholes are many and consistency is low, but it’s fast and it’s fun. By the time your brain catches up, you’ll be on your way home. It’s weakest point is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. It’s sold as a strong bond, but it’s difficult to buy that after they’ve had so little screen time together, much of which they’ve spent despising each other. Ignore that, and you’ve got a decent film, but certainly not a classic. (See my Star Trek: Into Darkness Twitter review).
Matthew McConaughey continues a recent run of excellent performances (Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, The Paperboy) in Mud, a movie about two young boys finding a man hiding in a swamp, and the few days that follow. While the pacing is as mired as the setting, you couldn’t ask for a better cast of character actors. They do their best to keep things moving forward, but it’s slow going. It’s worth sticking with it though. (See my Mud Twitter review).
Upstream Color is Shane Carruth’s first movie since his debut, the excellent Primer. Where that film was difficult because of the complexities of time travel being depicted as naturalistically as possible, Upstream Color is a challenge for many other reasons. It’s a beautiful mess of fast edits, dreamy music, half told moments, pieces that don’t quite fit and motivations that are far from apparent (Carruth himself has said he’s bothered by the motives of the voyeuristic sound recorder). I won’t begin to describe what this film is about. It’s involved, but worthy of the time it’ll take you to truly consider it. A classic. (See my Upstream Color Twitter review).
Finally, Dragon is a very interesting idea: it plays out as a Chinese period take on Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, swapping out the mafia for martial arts. It should’ve been good, but too much of the film is played for laughs; silly and slapstick, where it would have benefitted from being more sombre and serious. A wasted opportunity. (see my Dragon Twitter review).
The winner for May is Upstream Color, for its unique vision.
Note: Upstream Color won’t appear in UK cinemas until later this year. You can wait until then, or get a US copy imported (I got a region-free copy).