April 26, 2017

The Colony

Jeff Renfroe, 2013
We are now reaching an age where the dystopian film genre is saturated - and there are a handful of just plain shitty ones. The special effects are no longer an issue. They can be created on the cheap. It's the execution of a dystopian narrative. It has to be fresh. The Colony is in no way refreshing. The Colony feels like a film very envious of it's better neighboring films. It even struggles with identity. It's almost as if Renfroe struggled throughout the film on whether or not the villainous forces were cannibals or zombies. Mortal vs. immortal confusion. But both concepts are a lost cause. If he were to somehow make it a zombie film where a virus was released in an apocalyptic Ice Age - we would be sitting here talking about how far fetched and campy the film is. If they are clear cut cannibals, we would probably be talking about how it's a weak premise that never succeeds in its attempt to sustain quality storytelling. But the struggle with what the villains actually are not the only problem with this film. There are many problems. The Colony is misguided, not really using good actors like Fishburne and the late Paxton well. Not so great script here, not such great direction. If you really want to watch a better ominous forces in the snow film, just watch 30 Days of Night. At least there you know you are dealing with vampires and there is no confusion as to WHAT they are.

Rogue One

Gareth Edwards, 2016

I take quite a bit of pride as being someone that has been able to completely dodge the George Lucas Star Wars Prequels. I have no plans to see them. I don't care one bit that I will have that blind spot through the rest of my life. I am going to push my daughter into seeing the original 3 as soon as she is old enough. But I will warn her about those prequels just like I will warn her to stay away from the troublemakers at school. Lucas basically went Adam Sandler on the precious Star Wars franchise, where it was evident that he lost his fastball. It changed the way the fans viewed Lucas. Maybe it was because he never seemed apologetic. Instead he was the opposite, he actually seemed quite smug about them. He made the concious decision with those films to not take cinematic risks and shoot for something edgy that pleased the veteran adult audience. He made characters like Jar Jar Binks for his kids. The closest you will get me to seeing those three would be to watch one of the unofficial fan edits, such as Topher Grace's version.

So let's rank the original three. For me (and most people I think) - it goes Empire, New Hope, Jedi. With a pretty big drop off from Empire to Jedi. I watched Jedi a few months back now and all I can really recall (and this is probably the 3rd or 4th time I had seen it) is the Ewoks' dancing at the end. 
So where does Rogue One land? Well, in all fairness - I still have not seen the Force Awakens. But I would place this film directly behind A New Hope. This is better, and far better than Return of the Jedi.

You kind of have to go into this with neutral expectations, sit and just kind of take it all in. I didn't know much about it and went into it not expecting to see any familiar characters, other than the digital recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing - who died in 1994). I will admit at first glance when he appeared on screen that he didn't quite look 100% authentic and some of the digital elements bled through. But in the following scenes he sort of blended in. The idea of a standalone film is interesting because it completely abandons the familiarity of the characters that are buried in the zeitgeist. The Force Awakens was able to deliver a dose of nostalgia. But Rogue One isn't set on providing a dosage of nostalgia. But there are certain elements for sure that bring you back to the Star Wars universe and make you feel at home. Walks through trade districts, where you see all walks of (alien) life - as Jyn (Felicity Jones) bumps into a strange figure who immediately snarls "watch where you're going". Reminiscent of the Mos Eisley Cantina in New Hope. One of the features of the Star Wars movies is how absorbing the world can be. Rogue One created this same feeling.

Rogue One for the most part fits into the Hero's Journey structure with some deviation. But it's visually stunning, sounds great, compelling, and completely engaging. If I were to criticize anything, its that once the plot is set up, you can kind of predict the direction things are heading and the pace it takes to get there starts to slow down in the second act. But ultimately it's another Star Wars installment that goes down easy and feels ripe for a rewatch.