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The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Reduced to the lowest common denominator
<i>The Count of Monte Cristo</i> is my favorite book. I just read the most recent full-translation of the original text. I understand that it would be impossible to reduce a 1400 page novel to only 100 minutes and keep it identical or even close to the book's detail and intricacies. That is not what is necessary in order to have a successful adaptation. However, the theme must remain constant. The main character and his motivation must be unyielding. The result must be the same for the audience. I was left unsatisfied by Dantes revenge in the movie since the motivations of the antagonists were removed from the story. Sure Fernand Count de Morcref had his motivation, but his entire story changed. Villefort's motivation was similar to the book but why protect his father in order to do what he does?
Even as I doubt the serious treatment of this novel by Hollywood by breaking into at least two distinct portions, each with satisfying endings, I prepare for the third installment of <i>Lord of the Rings.</i> Obviously serious fantasy novels can be brought to the screen without too much deviation and with a true commitment to the fandom.
A trilogy would be terrific. The Plot through the Escape. This would lead to a happy ending in and of itself. The second could be the Count's finding his fortune and meeting of the two young men at Carnival along with the backstory necessary like finding out about his father's death, meeting Luigi Vampa, Haydee's story, and end with him repaying Morrel by saving his life. Another happy ending. It's not purely a story of revenge, but repaying those who both helped and hurt you in life. Part two would end with his introduction into Parisian society. Finally, part three would be his revenge- cold and detached, but intricately planned. An embarassment leading to suicide, an attempted infantacide leading to an arrest, a bankruptcy, and a death at the hands of a would be accomplice. There are more than two who deserve revenge and several who deserve benefit. All received it in the book, which left this movie to be less than satisfying.
They needed more flesh for the hyperalloy combat chassis
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a storyboard, not much more. They sketched out the basic plot and brought in the artist for concepts. The characters were drawn with colored pencils with explosions in the background with great detail. That all translated directly to the screen. Each character had the right look. All of the action sequences were shot from the right angles. But, they forgot to add the dialog that was necessary to take this from a long action sequence to a good movie.
What's important about the first two Terminator movies is the development of the killing machine sent back in time, the panic and fear of the one or several characters who know what the Terminator can do and the denial of those who won't believe them, and the apparent indestructability of the Terminator, until a novel strategy is employed. This movie neglects the first two and makes it just a chase to the grand finale. But, since you don't know the characters, except what you already know about John Connor there's more than one thing missing.
The movie starts and the T-X begins assassinating young people throughout Los Angeles. How much extra time would it have taken to add some police investigation of the serial murders. What do these teenagers have in common? Maybe something that reveals all of the teenagers will be outside the Los Angeles area within the next 48 hours. That's integral to the long-term storyline, but it's neglected.
Then the T-X just shows up at the Animal Clinic where Brewster is at 5:30am. Why wouldn't she go to Brewster's home rather than the Clinic. Unexplained. Obviously Brewster told T-101 that she would be there that night with Connor, so that makes sense.
There isn't the build up, like in Terminator or T-2, where the main characters are hunted by their would be mechanical assassin, and it's really necessary, not just to build tension, but also to build the character of the Terminator. In this case, there is no personality nor inevitability of the T-X.
The secondary characters are also neglected. General Brewster is hardly explained. He doesn't want to give up control to Skynet, but why not. Give us a little more about him, his program, his staff. Let us connect to him a bit. Why does he do what he does at the end?
Introducing Dr. Peter Silberman back into the story was a fun idea, but they really gave him nothing to work with. That could have been much more useful.
In T-2 the Terminator is used well to advance the future plot and to give background to the audience through narrative about Judgment Day. Since Brewster is a totally unknowledgeable character, such narrative would help here too, but it's only done in scant detail. Stretching things out over several days, instead of packing everything into one could have given this freedom to advance the plot. Adding another important character could have done this as well. In T-2, the T-101 explains Judgment Day to Sarah Connor and Myles Bennett Dyson. It adds weight when he tells the story twice, but differently. The longer time period could have given more chance to advance the story that way, and it would have allowed the background police investigation I proposed above.
The definition of Skynet at the end doesn't make much sense at all. Perhaps the supercomputer becomes aware and takes control of all networked systems, but for all computers to be part of it, because of software, is foolish.
Finally, "I can't help you with what you must soon face, except to tell you that the future is not set... there is no such thing as Fate, but what we make for ourselves by our own will." I guess the free will idea Cameron created in the first two Terminator films was thrown out with the bath water.
Since the film was only about 90 minutes, these things could have added flesh to the hyperalloy combat chassis without over burdening the microprocessor.
SPOILERS: Lucas returns to what a Star Wars movie should be
I was at the NYC pre-release screening of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones last night.
After sleeping out for tickets to Phantom Menace three years ago and being terribly dissapointed by the small scale plot, overdirection, and foolishly unnecessary characters, I was cautiously pessimistic about Episode II. Purposefully, I chose not to read anything about it, including AICN. Knowing nothing going it can be a blessing when you are hoping for diety status, but expecting pedestrian fare. But, with such low expectations I really couldn't be disappointed again. I was not dissapointed. I loved it. Maybe low expectations cloud my thinking right now, but it falls easily in line with the Classic Trilogy, not up there with ESB, but close to ANH and definitely better to ROTJ.
Before I get into SPOILER information, let me explain that Lucas does a great job of making this movie have multiple plot lines, woven together seemlessly, with all of the major characters involved to a high degree, along with a good bit of cool supporting characters who are both surprises and delights. Instead of a small scale plot with no real integration into the overall storyline, such as the Pod Race, there is nothing superflous here. Everything has meaning, and some has more than the casual moviegoer might notice. There is a decent amount of witty dialog that forshadows future events that we all know about. Further, there is a decent amount of cinematic doubling, something Hitchcock was a master of, but Lucas usually does with a hammer on your head, rather than a hint. This time, he uses subtlety much better.
So, on to the SPOILER info:
The opening crawl doesn't give away too much. Count Dooku and the Trade Federation are forming an alliance of break away group of systems that is growing quickly. The Senate is voting on whether or not to create an Army of the Republic to protect itself from the dangerous Federation.
The movie begins as the last ended, with a lot of overacting and over direction. The characters talk at each other instead of interacting with each other. I was not surprised and was expecting another Menace.
Padme/Amidala lands on Coruscant and her ship explodes on the landing platform. Her double (bodyguard) is killed and she, along with her chief of security, who flew in support fighters survive.
Padme is now a Senator and she is no longer Queen- an elected position, but she still talks down to people and it's quite annoying. Luckily this ceases as the movie continues. Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin are given the duty of protecting Padme by the Jedi Council. She is very much against the War Powers Act and doesn't want an army to be raised. When Anakin and Padme meet again, he is enamored by her and can't understand why she is not taken with him. He admits to having dreamed about her. Obi-Wan explains that Jedi are not allowed any attachments.
Jango Fett, in more silver version of Boba Fett's armor, hires another bounty hunter to assassinate Padme using giant millipedes, that are very deadly. As they are arguing about various things, including Anakin's pride and desires, Obi-Wan and Anakin sense the danger, enter the bed chamber wth the sleeping Padme and dispatch the millipedes. Obi-Wan then jumps through the window to catch on to the flying droid that delived the millepedes. What commences is a questionable chase scene throughout the highs and lows of Coruscant with Obi-Wan and Anakin alternatively dropping/jumping off of their transportation, for the other to save, all the while chasing the bounty hunter who Jango Fett had hired. At some point or other Obi-Wan warns Anakin about losing his light saber. Something that proves interesting since Obi-Wan eventually has Anakin's saber to give to Luke in ANH. Also, Obi-Wan jokes "you will be the death of me," leading to laughter from the crowd.
They track the bounty hunter to a bar, where Obi-Wan gets a drink and is offered death sticks. To which he uses an old-Jedi mind trick to convince the seller to change his lifestyle. Whether cigarettes or drugs, Lucas' message is clear without being preachy. Thank goodness. The bounty hunter, about to strike Obi-Wan from behind, is struck down by his quick swordsmanship. As they take her outside to question about who hired her. She is finished off by a poisonous dart shot by Jango Fett, who flies off on his jetpack.
At this point the movie really starts moving. Padme and Anakin are told to make passage back to Naboo for safety as refugees. Anakin will be her lone protector. Obi-Wan is told to find out the source of the dart and figure out who is behind this plot to kill Padme. Yoda senses a disturbance in the Force and Mace Windu agrees. And Palpatine asks some key Senators, including Jar Jar Binks, who is Padme's proxy, for War Powers. Bail Organa is present, but says very little.
Anakin explains to Padme how he has always loved her and she rejects him. He also says that Obi-Wan is holding him back. Hayden Christensen is a questionable actor. Worse than Mark Hamill for sure. Before they leave, Anakin is told by Palpatine how he will eventually be the most powerful Jedi of all, and is already rivaling Yoda in his abilities. Very nice scene, building the pride of this young, arrogant manchild.
Obi-Wan seeks out an old friend, informer, who explains that the dart fired is used on a certain planet by cloners. But, the Jedi librarian can't find such a planet. Yoda makes it easy, when he, in training several 5 year olds, has one of them explain to Obi-Wan that the planet has been erased from the computer's memory. Off he goes.
Meanwhile, Jar Jar gives Palpatine the power to raise an army. Yoda is displeased. Windu is Yoda's yes man and seems tourtured acting with a CGI creature.
Padme and Anakin begin falling in love, but Padme says that they can't for political reasons. What a shame, because she is looking awefully good in that bodice. Anakin also explains that the Senate should make decisions and protect the people and that if a group can't handle it because of disagreement, then one person should control it all for the good of everyone. The kid just doesn't have any chemistry with Natalie Portman and it's a shame.
When Obi-Wan finds the cloning planet they are waiting for him. No, not with ambush, but with favorable treatment. We have been working on this clone army that Jedi Seafelious (sic) (something that sounds a lot like Sidous) ordered for ten years, but we haven't heard from you since. Obi-Wan explains that such a Jedi died over ten years ago. It was actually another who made the order for him, Lord Tyrannus.
Jango Fett is the clone father to this army, and, as it turns out the clones all look like Padme's chief of security. Very nice touch. So, Obi-Wan goes to meet this Jango Fett, who is living comfortably with his son Boba. This ain't no little Anakin Skywalker either. He's a tough kid, with a gruff voice. Very good casting. And, they didn't give him too many lines. The questions lead to more intrigue as Jango is hiding something and abrubtly attempts to leave town. A battle ensues in the rain. Jango and Obi-Wan go at it, with Boba piloting Slave I and firing at Obi-Wan. Great scene. Jango and Boba take off, but are marked with a homing beacon by Obi-Wan. When they come out of hyperspace Obi-Wan is right on their trail, flying to a planet that looks like Saturn. As they pass through the asteroid belt, Boba acts as the main gunner and trys to take out Obi-Wan, who's ship is wounded. But, he dumps his spare parts, which are hit by the torpedo, instead of his ship, and he lands on the back of a larger asteroid. The explosion throws Jango off his trail, and thinking he's dead, they land on the planet surface. Perfect doubling, as it's Boba who floats out with the garbage from the Executor and tracks the Millenium Falcon. The kid learns.
There's more, I love you, but we can't from the lovely couple of Anakin and Padme. But, Anakin is having nightmares about his mother. They're really like Luke's visions of Han and Leia in trouble in Cloud City, but much worse acted. This got a few groans from the audience. Anakin wants to go to his mother but has orders to protect Padme. Oh, what to do? Foolish boy, Padme explains, if I go to Tatooine, you have to come with me. When then get there they learn from Watoo that Shmi has been sold to her new husband Cliegg Lars several years ago. So, off goes the pair to the Lars moisture farm, where Anakin meets his step brother Owen and Owen's girlfriend Beru. This of course doesn't jibe with the novelizations that make Owen Obi-Wan's brother, but whatever. They also own C-3PO. I guess both Owen's and 3PO's memories must be wiped at some point, because they sure don't know each other in ANH. Shmi was taken by Tusken Raiders a few days ago. They killed a lot of people, those animals, and Cliegg lost his leg trying to save her. Anakin leaves to track his mother down. When he finds her, she's tied to an Anarchy symbol and beaten badly. She tells him how proud she is of him, and dies saying she loves him. Bad death scene. The audience laughs. Anakin's anger builds and he slaughters all of the Sandpeople. Anakin breaks down as he tells Padme about all of the killing. He says how he will be powerful enough to prevent killing in the future. He will have absolute power.
Yoda explains to Windu that young Skywalker is in pain. Yoda has a bad feeling.
Obi-Wan is now on the planet surface too and he discovers Count Dooku with the Trade Federation planning a larger, more powerful droid army to take over the Republic. Obi-Wan can't report back, because it's too far to Coruscant, but he can relay the message to Anakin on Tatooine, so he does and is captured while sending the message. Anakin forwards the message to Yoda and Palpatine with the help of R2, who is reunited with 3PEO. Thank The Maker. The Maker, of course, Anakin.
Yoda dispatches the Jedi to this planet with the droid army, and himself goes to the clone planet to take advantage of that army. There's no way that 50 odd Jedi could fight a droid army in the millions, but millions of clones could. What a twist!!!The clones were on the side of the Jedi. On the side of the Republic, although in a twisted, Machiavellian sort of way.
Anakin, Padme, R2, and 3PO all go off to save Obi-Wan as well. The climax. And Padme has finally changed from something frilly, into something thrilling; a tight white body suit. There's gonna be a battle, and everyone's gonna be there!!!
Obi-Wan is suspended by a force field and spoken to by Count Dooku, who is a former Jedi. Dooku sounds like he's on the side of right. He was Qui-Gon's Master. He explains that the Senate has fallen into the hands of the Dark Side and nearly 100 Senator's support the Dark leader. The Republic must be overhauled, and Dooku is the man to do it, along with the Trade Federation. If Obi-Wan would join him they could bring order back to the galaxy. I think I have chills up and down my spine at this point. I know he's right. The Senate has fallen into Dark hands. Dooku is right. But, why isn't he with the Jedi trying to reform from within?
Anakin and his party arrive and search the planet. There's scene with nice doubling of Anakin and Padme on a platform that doesn't extend, just like Luke and Leia in ANH, but it breaks down into foolishness with R2 flying around on jetpacks and 3PO losing his head to a battle droid. Silly. They are all captured.
Dooku and the Federation are about to have a glatiator style execution of our three heroes but Padme has a hair clip just and undoes her binders. Obi-Wan and Anakin fight off their animal attackers, while Padme's shirt is ripped, exposing her taught abs. Then out of nowhere the Jedi show up, saving the day, or so it would seem. Windu has Jango pinned by his lightsaber and is negotiating with Dooku as the other Jedi scare off the spectators and protect our intrepid heros. But, Dooku's trump card has yet to be played. He's got a droid army and they surround the Jedi. A massive battle ensues in the collisium. Some Jedi die. Jango Fett takes on Windu in a serious battle, but Sam Jackson appears very stiff. Eventually Fett's head is severed. Those Fett's have bad luck. Boba saw his own father die at the hands of the Jedi. Just as the Jedi are surrounded and appear to be defeated by the battle droids, Yoda arrives, swooping in on helicopter like carriers with an army of clones. Yoda calls out the battle plans and saves the day. If Palpatine was controlling the Imperial Fleet in ROTJ, then Yoda is controlling the clone army with his mind here. Stunning.
Dooku escapes but is pursued valliantly. The Jedi lead the clones into battle against an endless army of droids. Yoda is at the forward command center and is leading the charge. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme follow Dooku. Well behind the droid lines of the battle Padme is thrown from the vessel. Anakin want's to save her, but Obi-Wan demands that they complete their mission and go after Dooku.
When they reach him, he is more powerful then they could possibly imagine. Obi-Wan cautions, that they must attack together, but prideful Anakin attacks first and is struck back with Dark Lightening. Zap!!! Obi-Wan goes after Dooku and they engage in a lightsaber battle where Obi-Wan is bested with a stab to the arm and leg. He's down and Anakin tries again, only to have his arm severed. Although this differs from Zahn's novel that says that Vader's arm was severed as punishment for the loss of the first Death Star, Dooku cutting it off works much better. As Yoda said in TPM, there are always two, a Master and an Apprentice. Is Dooku the Master? Or is it Palpitane? Well, we know, but Dooku sure is powerful. Our heros are down, but not out. Yoda arrives. He's ready for battle. After exhanging a few pleasantries Dooku attempts his lightening. Yoda sends it back. He pulls things from the walls and throws them at Yoda. He pulls down the cave, but Yoda sends everything back Dooku's way. Only a lightsaber battle will show who is more strong in the Force. And Yoda delivers. They battle and the crowd goes wild. Dooku then sends a columnn toward Obi-Wan and Anakin and Yoda has to prevent their deaths, so Dooku is allowed to escape.
Padme looks hurt, but she is fine when someone comes to help her, and the crowd moans. She tells them they must get to the hanger to help Obi-Wan, but how does she know of the hanger. Anyway, she's okay.
The Trade Federation goes into retreat, but is building the Death Star, commisioned by Dooku and have to protect their plans, so they go into hiding.
It's Palpatine who's working both sides against the middle, as he meets with Dooku afterward to discuss their plans. Everything is going according to plans. He commssioned the Trade Federation droid army in order to provoke the Republic. He commissioned the clone army so that it would be ready when he was given War Powers. He is in control of everything.
As Palpatine and Organa watch the clones boarding Star Destroyers and a Super Star Destroyer at the end and war is occuring, only Yoda understands what is going on. He sees the Dark Side controlling everything.
Just before the credits crawl, Anakin and Padme are married.
Perfect. This is an adult movie that has enough plot and action to keep the adult fan entertained and enough subtle plot points to keep the serious fan feeling like this is truly a part of the Star Wars universe.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Cameron never answered the question...
For fans of the Terminator (1984) we know that the war was won by the humans. They had smashed the grid, whatever that means. In a last ditch effort the Artificially Intelligent computer system Skynet, built originally by Cyberdine Industries, sent the terminator back to kill Sarah Connor before her son John could even be conceived. However, that Terminator failed in its mission. But, somehow Skynet must have stayed in power, because the T-1000 series obviously was created much later in time than the Arnold model series. It was a vast technological improvement that could only have been created much after Reese went back in time, as he had no knowledge of such a machine. In fact, the humans apparently were to have blown up the time machine as soon as Reese went through. It's a shame that Cameron never explained this. Surely he could have tied up this huge loose end that makes the entirety of T2 impossible, based of course, on its own mythology, not a failure to willfully suspend disbelief.