Thursday, May 29, 2014
When I often talk about cinema with others, the term "snob" comes up often. This often makes me question what that phrase means and in what context it is being used. Do people believe that all film critics are snobs? Do the two go hand-in-hand? Or is there a difference between the two?
"Snob" means "a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field."
So when this phrase is used for a film snob, it is essentially saying this person believes they are an expert on cinema but only sees their side of the craft. That anyone else who thinks differently is wrong and should be disregarded.
Does this apply to film criticism and immediately make all film critics snobs? No.
While there are many film critics out there who are so passionate about their opinions and feelings on a given film that they can't see anyone elses side of the argument, there are plenty more critics out there who are open and willing to see many different tales to one story.
Let's say that a critic saw "American Hustle" and did not care for it. What would make him a snob would be if he heard about others saying good things about the film, only to ignore them and not care about anything he heard. But others out there would take the time to listen to others thoughts and feelings on the film and help to put their own opinion in perspective.
Does this mean they should change their opinion to match the majority? Not at all. A critic can hear a good perspective that is contrary to their own without changing sides. I felt this way about "Man Of Steel" when hearing about the people who did enjoy the film. I can understand why people enjoy the film and the struggle that Superman must endure as the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. It is just that I disagree with those who enjoy it.
I think it all boils down to that: being able to understand, but still disagree. To be comfortable with your own opinion and to stand up for it, yet not being so blinded by that you can only see your side of the argument.
There are always going to be people who hate something that others like, and vice versa. What makes the job of a critic so much fun is being able to see both the love and the hate and understanding where both are coming from. Because in the end, neither side is the right side. Watching a movie is a subjective experience and you become a snob by treating it like a objective experience.
If all film critics were snobs, then there would be no disagreement on what are the best films ever made. There would be no negative opinions on "Citizen Kane" or "The Godfather." Yet, I've seen plenty of agruments against both films, with people saying that Orson Welles' fingerprints are all over the place on "Citizen Kane" and "The Godfather"'s pacing is all over the place, making Michael Corlone's transition feel clunky and awkward.
Do I agree with these assesments? I don't know, but I do understand where they are coming from and why they came to these conclusions.
So, in the end, there is a big difference between a snob and a critic. It just all depends on how you react to opinons that are different than your own. Do you pretend they don't exist and talk down to them? Or do you treat them with respect and try to see where they are coming from?
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
With new summer blockbusters being released every week now, I feel it is fitting to discuss "Godzilla" one last time before other films begin to overshadow it.
The first is how much of a success this new Godzilla has been. Worldwide, "Godzilla" has already made over $1 Billion within just the first week and a half. This speaks volumes to me and says that the world is certainly ready for more Godzilla films.
There is a viable market out there for the King of the Monsters, and this new film proves that. Many contributing factors have gone into the success of "Godzilla" but I think the main reason was being so sneaky with the reveal of Godzilla and the plot of the film. The marketing and trailers made this film out to be a disaster movie, like "The Day After Tomorrow," where we can't hope to fight this threat and can only try to survive it. While that was not the route the film took, it did keep audiences uncertain of where the movie would go while still making Godzilla seem imposing and threatening.
The reason we went so long without a new Godzilla film was because the newer movies, specifically the 1998 film and "Godzilla: Final Wars," did not bring anything new to the table, nor did they make the audience care about its main character. Both films were not about Godzilla, but the bland characters that no one cares about as they try to save the world. With the 2014 film though, we see a return of Godzilla being the focal point of the film while still trying to give us something new with Godzilla being the alpha predator.
I still believe the biggest problem with this movie though was the lack of interesting characters outside of Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe. Aaron-Taylor Johnson's character is far too desensitized to emote during many of his action sequences and we learn nothing about Elizabeth Olson's character other than being a mother and a nurse. If there were just one more character on par with Cranston's level of sympathy and emotion, then I think this would have been a great movie.
Some people have complained that there is either too much human drama in the film, while others have said there isn't enough Godzilla in the film. Personally, I think there was just enough of both.
We see enough of Godzilla so that his scenes do not get stale or repetitive. That when he does something cool like chokeslam a monster, it actually was some weight to it. There is also just enough scenes with human characters that we give a damn about their survival and want to see Ford make it back to his family.
It's just that the acting does not necessarily support this level drama. Bryan Cranston pulled it off because he was able to make yelling every other line effective without going over the top. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does not have the same level. He gets the job done by not doing anything crazy and out of place, but does not grab my attention either.
So yeah, the monster scenes are the highlight of the film, but only because the acting was average. Many scenes, like the one on the bridge fighting the MUTO or jumping down from the airplane into the middle of San Francisco, had potential to be great scenes, but lack that big impact.
I have now watched "Godzilla" in theaters three different times, and each time it got better. The first time, I was probably more nitpicky and criticized it for very minor details and how it reminded me of other films. The second time, I noticed all the little nods and subtleties to the Godzilla franchise, in particular many references to Mothra.
The final time, I was wrapped up in the atmosphere of the film and just how suspenseful it was. With how much Godzilla is built up, leading to his ultimate reveal, this film is on par with other great works of suspense like "Jaws" and "Alien." This is a perfectly paced film, with each action building up just how massive Godzilla is and how screwed we are against him. The more I watch this film, the more I realize how good it is and the more I enjoy it.
I'd gladly go see "Godzilla" rather than watch "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" again.
This proves that there is a worldwide audience for Godzilla and there always will be. Which is why Legendary Pictures has already announced that there is going to be, not just one, but two sequels to this film. They intend to make a trilogy of Godzilla movies.
Not much is known other than that, though Gareth Edwards has said that he'll return to direct both films, even though he recently said that he'd be working on a spin-off Star Wars movie.
I can't help but recall somethings that Edwards had said in previous interviews though. When he was asked if the monsters in "Godzilla" would be returning kaiju from previous Toho films, he said that these would be entirely new creatures but that if there were ever a sequel, they'd try their best to bring back some classic Godzilla foes.
Of course, fans have now begun to spectulate what Toho monsters would be returning for a new Godzilla film. Personally, I'd love to see the return of King Ghidorah.
Ghidorah has always been portrayed as being much bigger than Godzilla, often towering over him with his three long necks bending down just to get at his level. Keep in mind, the 2014 version is the biggest Godzilla to date. Now imagine a King Ghidorah that is even more massive than this new Godzilla.
Throw in one more monster for good measure, like Mothra, and you have a movie that is sure to be another hit with both fans of the series and the general audience.
I'm already excited for the sequels, but only time will tell how they will fair. I hope that they learn from the mistakes of the first film and give us some more interesting and developed human characters, but keep in touch with what made this film a success.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
The "X-Men" film franchise as has a bumpy road. It initially started out lukewarm with the release of the first two films, which were received with mixed reviews and decent box office success. "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" though was considered a disappointment on all fronts and some thought it would signal the end of the franchise. Things got even worse with the next entry, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which signaled that they needed to take these films in a different direction.
However, it seems that these problems are being fixed with the most recent entires, "X-Men: First Class" and "The Wolverine." The former brought a new spin on the classic tale of Professor Xavier and Magneto, while staying true to their roots, along with spectacular acting from everyone to make for one of the better super hero movies. "The Wolverine" was a fun romp that had stunning cinematography and acting on Hugh Jackmon's part.
Which brings us to the newest film in the series, "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," as it attempts to combine the timeline of "First Class" with that of the first trilogy. Yet this movie manages to take the strengths and weaknesses of both series and find an odd middle ground, where it is both entertaining and boring at the same time.
In the far off future, a breed of super adaptive killing machines, known as Sentinels, have taken over the world and have enslaved both humanity and mutants alike. The planet has become hell on earth, as the remaining survivors are hunted down. Some of these survivors include the remaining X-Men, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackmon) and their once bitter rival Magneto (Ian McKellen).
The group travels to the vast mountains of China to discover a way to rid the world of Sentinels before they were created, by traveling back in time. Wolverine is sent back into his younger body during the 1970s and now must find a way to bring a young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) together to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the man that would launch the reign of the Sentinels.
If you can't tell by the plot description, this is intended to be an epic film. With a wide range of actors from all across the board, two interwoven plots of a post-Vietnam War past and a post-apocalyptic future where we are one the verge of extinction. Several people are playing the same characters at varying ages of their lives and everything in the "X-Men" franchise has been building to this one moment.
So, why is it that this feels a bit underwhelming?
To be honest, some of the moments that stuck out to me where the ones that drifted so far from the dire situation of the future and how imparative it is that we stop the Sentinels. The scenes where Wolverine is cracking jokes at being back in the 1970s, yucking it up with a young Professor Xavier and Beast.
But in particular, the scenes with Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who is a cocky speedster as he ruffles through people's wallets before they even realize what happened, plays Ping-Pong and Pong by himself and gets a massive score going in moments.
It's too bad his involvement stops after they get Magneto out of prison for supposedly killing JFK. His scenes are there solely to set him up for "The Avengers 2" and now I am anxious to see what they do with him.
The reasons these scenes stuck out to me so much was not just because the comedy felt genuine, but because it showed that the film was not afraid to show its lighter side. To kick back and relax every once in a while, even though the scenes set in the future do not carry much weight.
We only catch a glimpse of how bad the world is because of the Sentinels. We see a little bit of New York, with a concentration camp in Central Park, but that's about it. I don't get the feeling that these robots have what it takes to make the planet like this. We see just a few mutants take down several Sentinels with ease or merely rewrite time so that the mutants weren't there in the first place.
It undermines the strength of your villain by making the heroes so powerful and equipped with so many weapons, including time travel. As a result, any time they cut back to the scenes of the future, I found myself uncaring about anything that happens and wanting more scenes with Quicksliver.
That being said, when the film cuts back to the 1970s, it was much better. Continuing off of the events of "X-Men: First Class" both Professor Xavier and Magneto are at their lowest points in life, where they are either crippled with guilty, fear and regret or being hunted down after having your comrades experimented on.
This leads to some touching performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as they lay their emotions on the table for everyone to see. They do not pull their punches and hate each other more than ever. Yet there is still that glimpse of respect for one another that drives their relationship. No matter what the other does, they will still be there for each other.
In fact, the highlight of the film was the acting. Aside from a wasted Ian McKellen and a withering Patrick Stewart, everyone turns a solid performance that gives each of their actions weight and significance. Hugh Jackmon is allowed to give Wolverine a bit more charm and wit to his character as he messed around with his young friends. Jennifer Lawrence has her usual charimsa that people have come to love her for, plus looking naked most of the film is nice plus. Peter Dinklage plays the scientist who created the Sentinels and he makes for a sympathetic character who respects mutants but understands that they could be a serious threat if left unchecked, as he works his way into every meeting with congress and the president to promote his latest project.
If the film were just scenes from the 1970s and kept Wolverine being from the future as ambiguous as possible, it would have been a smart, suspenseful and edgy sequel to "X-Men: First Class" with some great performances and good comedy. But because of the constant need for time travel and going back to the future, the film feels cluttered and poorly edited. With no sense of drama or weight in the future, these scenes are forgettable.
Overall, "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" had its fun moments but is brought down by how messy it could be at times. It worked better when it strayed away from the action and focused more on the comedy and realtionships between characters. Of all the "X-Men" films, this one was good but not up to par with "X-Men: First Class."
Final Grade: C+
Thursday, May 22, 2014
If you were to ask me what my biggest complaint with Hollywood is, it would be its constant hunt for fast cash instead of making a worthwhile movie.
This has slowly but surely creeped in since the invention of the summer blockbuster, such as with "Jaws" and the "Star Wars" movies. Movies were being marketed more and more towards getting a huge payoff for one film, especially when multiplexes were introduced and audiences did not have to go far to watch multiple movies in the same theater.
But back in the 1970s and 1980s, this wasn't that big of a problem. Most of the huge summer blockbusters were still solid and well-put together movies. For example, in 1982 the highest grossing film was "E.T. The Extra Terrastrial", with the next highest being "Tootsie," only grossing roughly half of "E.T." In fact, that isn't even Steven Spielberg's highest grossing film, with "Jurassic Park" gaining the edge.
This doesn't even count all of the tie-ins, toys, product placement, games and so on that probably made more money than the movie.
But this wasn't so much a problem back in 1982, because "E.T. the Extra Terrastrial" was loved by everyone and is still accepted today as one of Spielberg's best films and a wonderful achievement in filmmaking.
Now let's look at some of the highest grossing films of the last twenty years: "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End," Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland," "Spider-Man 3," "Independence Day," "The Dark Knight Rises," The Twilight Saga and, everyone's favorite, Michael Bay's "Transformers" series.
I'm just going to put this out there: None of these movies were made to add something to cinema or even to be watched years later and looked upon fondly. These movies were made with the intention of making money and nothing else. They were designed to put the most butts in theater seats as possible and to get their money. The filmmakers could not care less about whether the audience actually enjoyed the movie, because they just the big bucks.
There is an old saying I heard and have lived by for a while now: If you make a great movie, you don't have to worry about advertising or anything. Audiences will pay to see a great movie. That is why there was not much advertising for films like "12 Years A Slave," this years' winner of the Best Picture Academy Award.
But the more I look at the highest grossing films of the year against the reviews those same films are getting, the more I realize that saying isn't true any more. Some of the biggest blockbuster hits of the last few years are terrible movies, yet audiences go to see them in droves.
There is something wrong with this picture when more people are watching the rage-inducing, unfunny and insulting "The Hangover: Part II" over the clever, well-written and engaging "Kung Fu Panda 2." Both of these films were released on the same weekend, yet more people saw the carbon-copy than they did the great animated feature.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend my money on a movie that I know will be entertaining and thought-provoking than one that is sure to be brain-dead and boring. I'd gladly take one "Pacific Rim" over ten "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" anyday.
The problem with cinema is that, when you're going to watch a film for the first time, you're not sure if you're going to like it or not. You are literally spending money to find out whether this film is going to be good or not. You don't know if its going to be entertaining or boring and you are gambling ten dollars to find out.
But nowadays, that risk is far less effective. With the abundance of sequels, reboots and focus on computer-generated images, you can often tell when a movie is destined to fail. Just look at the "Transformers" films. Each film is doing the exact same thing as the previous entry: Shaky-cam fight sequences between two giant robots that look exactly the same, with a brief cutaway to Shia LaBeouf being confused and screaming at the top of his lungs.
The movie is going to make plenty at the box office, but that does not mean it is good or that it was a success.
Now don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of good movies over the last decade or so that were huge hits at the box office and were still well-made films. For example, the previously mentioned "Jurassic Park," "The Avengers," "Skyfall," "Toy Story 3" and "The Dark Knight." So just because it makes a lot of money does not suddenly mean it sucks.
What I am saying though is that I am disappointed in seeing all of these terrible movies and continued remakes and reboots get money simply because of nostalgia or clever marketing.
While I think this could say something about the kind of audience that watches these films, I think it says more about Hollywood and their continued need to make these bad movies. Their motto now seems to be quantity over quality, and that is what really pisses me off.
Filmmakers should make movies that they want to see. Movies that they can come back to, again and again, and never get tired of, like "E.T. The Extra Terrastrial." That movie has survived for over thirty years now and still entertains audiences as much today as it did back in 1982. Not because of flashy effects or appealing to the lowest common denominator, but because it treats its audience like adults and tells a compelling story with timeless and relatable characters.
My one comfort is knowing that movies like the Twilight series are just passing fads. The thing about all fads is that they will fade away after a while. They might have some momentary success, but over time people will realize that these stories do not hold up and go back to the good ones.
The good news is that Hollywood has gotten better over the past few years, with some of the bigger hits being good movies, like "Iron Man 3" and "Frozen," but there are still some stinkers that sneak in there, like "Grown Ups 2" and "The Lorax."
In the end, this is my biggest film pet peeve. When a movie makes a lot of money at the box office, it does not tell you anything about the film anymore. Only that a lot of people went to see it. Nowadays, a terrible film like "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" can make just as much money as a great film like "Finding Nemo." Something just is not right about that.
Monday, May 19, 2014
If you've followed me long enough, then you probably know that I had a lot of expectations for "Godzilla" before its release. At one point, I said it was my most anticipated film of 2014 and I still believe that.
"While I was initially hesitant to say anything good about the new Godzilla film, due to the director who has only ever worked on one independent film, the newest trailer has convinced me otherwise," I wrote. "Portraying Godzilla with more power and size than he has most other incarnations is a good way to go. Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Tyler-Johnson, Ken Watanabe and Elizabeth Olson has me convinced that I’ll at least be excited to see the film. Will it turn to be an excellent rebirth to the classic king of the monsters? Or will it turn out just like the terrible 1998 film? We’ll just have to wait and see."
Looking back on everything I wrote about this film before it was released, I have now realized that it is important to see if my previous expectations were met. After all, the reason I do not go into a film with many expectations is because I know the movie will never live up to them and thus ruin the experience for me. This happened recently with "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty," as the trailer made me want to see the film so badly, only for it to be mediocre and predictable.
But because it had been so long since we have had a new Godzilla film, and considering all the talent behind the movie, I felt it was safe enough to have at least some expectations that would get me excited for this attempt at reviving Godzilla.
One of the many expectations I had going into the film was its need to stay loyal to the source material, yet still do something different with Godzilla.
"Don’t just pay homage to the films that came before you," I wrote. "Try something that has never been done before with Godzilla. Give your film its own unique flavor. Above all else, treat the King of the Monsters with respect and grace. If you do that, I will love this film."
I said this because two of the previous Godzilla films, the 1998 American film and "Godzilla: Final Wars," felt like insults to the franchise and the character of Godzilla. While the 1998 film treated the beloved monster more like something out of "Jurassic Park" instead of a force of nature, "Godzilla: Final Wars" was supposed to be a celebration of fifty years of Godzilla, and proceeded to have the character in less than 15 minutes of the two-hour film.
I can gladly say that the 2014 film did not go down this route at all. Gareth Edwards understood where Godzilla came from, what he has meant to the world and how powerful he can be. When Doctor Serizawa speaks of Godzilla, he does so in a tone of dread and uncertainty, like he knows exactly what the monster is capable of and what he could do to humanity.
Godzilla is still the unstoppable force he has always been. Even though I'm dubious about making him the alpha predator, this is just another form of making Godzilla the ultimate symbol of strength that I've come to love. He is at the top of the food chain and only finds sport in hunting down other giant monsters, like the parasites.
To me, this is the ultimate form of respect and grace for the character.
As for giving the film its own unique flavor, we got that too. Once again, by making Godzilla the alpha predator, this is entirely new territory for him. While a monster film from the human perspective isn't new to the franchise, making Godzilla good and evil in the same movie is entirely new.
Godzilla has always been one or the other, but never both. He is either protecting mankind, or destroying it. My guess is that Gareth Edwards knew fans of the series enjoyed both sides to Godzilla, and didn't want to exclude part of the fanbase. So we get a monster who will block a falling building from landing on a group of innocent civilians, and someone who will fight the military and destroy the Golden Gate Bridge in the process.
This makes Godzilla more of a protector with an attitude. He will help us in our time of need, but don't mess with him or he'll fight back. Let him do it his way or else you might get hit by an atomic ray.
While I'm not sure if this is a good thing for the King of the Monsters, I can certainly say it is unique and something never done in a Godzilla movie before. Which is exactly what I asked for.
My other major expectation about this film was its need to recognize that Godzilla is a massive pop culture icon and that his legacy and staying power should make him the head attraction of this movie.
"My hope is that the movie does not forget this," I wrote. "That they don't rely solely on the star power of actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, and remember all the joy that Godzilla has given people over the years."
While there are many human scenes throughout the film, they are hardly the focus of the movie. Everything the characters do is to stop the monster or learn more about what his causing this tragedy to mankind.
They do not rely on the star power of Bryan Cranston, as his character surprisingly dies halfway through the movie. At this point in the film, we have not even seen Godzilla yet. The parasites have broken free and are now heading towards America, where Godzilla will eventually cut one off in Hawaii.
So neither Cranston nor Watanabe is the reason to go see this film. It may be for some, but storywise they are just pawns in the story of Godzilla and the militaries attempt to destroy the monsters.
Thankfully, Godzilla is the main star in his own movie. For that, I am grateful.
So, in the end, my expectations were met. I got exactly what I wanted about of "Godzilla" and I am happy about that. While I wish there were more monster action sequences and a more impactful story between Ford and his wife, this movie still managed to get me excited to watch more monster movies and prove that they can still a viable form of cinema.
So thank you, Gareth Edwards. Thank you for making a respectful movie that is both exillerating and fun to watch, while still doing something new with the character of Godzilla. You understood where he came from and why we watch him and made that the focal point. You have made Godzilla fans all around the world happy to be loyal of the King of the Monsters.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS INCLUDED
Yesterday, I wrote a review on the newest Godzilla film and tried to remain as unbiased as possible. To not let my inner Godzilla nerd out, and simply review the film as any other piece of cinema.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can get down to nitty-gritty.
For those who are completely unaware, the Japanese Godzilla film franchise is my favorite movie series. It has consistently entertained me for as long as I can remember, from the first time I watched "King Kong vs. Godzilla" when I was three years old to my adult years as I enjoy the story and characters of "Mothra vs. Godzilla" and "Terror Of MechaGodzilla." While there are certainly some stinkers in the twenty-eight film series, there are also more than enough good ones to go around.
So for me, the newest film had some pretty big shoes to fill. I had been waiting ten years to see a new Godzilla film, and holding my breath that it would be a good film, since both the 1998 "Godzilla" and "Godzilla: Final Wars," the last film in the series, were both huge disappointments and even came off as insults to the franchise.
Luckily, the newest film did not fall into that category of disrespect and anger, but at the same time was not necessarily a tribute to Godzilla's past.
Starting with what I enjoyed about this new Godzilla would be his reworked origin. As I mentioned in my review, the newest film does a great job at making a creature like Godzilla seem plausible. Instead of a dinosaur that survived millions of years underwater and was mutated by atomic bombs, he is now an ancient creature who has always fed off of radiation. This doesn't just mean nuclear radiation, but any kind of radiation, which is also emitted from the Earth's core.
Interestingly enough, the film tries to keep in with some continuity with the previous films, but only the original 1954 movie. Though it is never mentioned if Godzilla ever attacked Tokyo or if the Oxygen Destroyer was created, Godzilla does appear in 1954 in the South Pacific. It seems to be implied that atomic bombs woke him up and he proceeded to roam around the oceans, causing the governments of the world to create the ultimate hydrogen bomb to kill Godzilla. This was then covered up by saying we were merely testing the strength of the bombs.
Whether this actually killed Godzilla is unknown, since he does not appear again until 2014. It is possible that this might be a new Godzilla, as we see the bones of a Godzilla early on in the film, implying that Godzilla is not a one-of-a-kind creature, but just one in an entire species of giant fire-breathing dinosaurs.
Yes, I said fire-breathing. I am so happy to say that. One of the highlights of the film was the first time Godzilla used his trademark atomic breath. We see his spines light up slowly with a blue tint, as Godzilla stands up proudly and arches his back. There is a slight pause, only for Godzilla to open his maw and blue flames come spewing out.
Much like the first Godzilla film, Godzilla's atomic breath is kept a mystery until he actually feels the need to use it. In the 1954 film, Godzilla busts out the beam more than halfway through the film and an electical barricade is blocking his progress. He uses his breath and it easily melts through the steel and obliterates all opposition. While the power of his breath in this film is very qustionable, as the parasites he is fighting hardly seem effected by it, this was a nice touch to the film.
However, one thing I keep bringing myself back to is the biggest change to Godzilla's character in this film; the decision to make him an "Alpha Predator."
According to this film, Godzilla is the highest possible creature on the food chain and kills, not because of hatred or pain, but for sport and to prove that he is the strongest. He chases the parasites and kills them because he is a predator, and they are his prey.
It also explains why he has no interest in attacking humanity. There is no sport in killing us. The damage we do to him is superficial and our strongest weapons would only make him more powerful. In fact, Godzilla seems to take pity on us at times. After he knocks over a massive building that is about to crush hundreds of people, Godzilla blocks the building with his body, letting it fall on him so the humans could live.
Godzilla even gives a sympathetic look towards Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as the debris from the building consumes him.
This film takes an interesting route, where Godzilla can be both a good guy and a bad guy. He wants to kill the parasites and has sympathy for humanity, but he is also destructive and unpredictable, which makes him a target of the military.
In theory, this is a good way to portray a monster. Wants to stop other monsters, but is unsure how to feel about people, even as they try to kill the monster. My problem with this though is that it does not fit Godzilla.
While Godzilla has been known to protect humanity, it often comes across like he does it mostly for himself. When MechaGodzila attacks Japan, he isn't going to stop MechaGodzilla for us, but so that MechaGodzilla won't kill him first.
Once Godzilla stopped being portrayed as the villain, he entered a period where it was unclear where his alliance stood. He fought other monsters, like King Ghidorah in "Invasion Of Astro-Monster," but only because if he didn't team up with Rodan, Ghidorah would surely kill Godzilla.
It wasn't until "Godzilla vs. Hedorah" came out that Godzilla was clearly being portrayed as a hero. But again, humanity was just an after thought to Godzilla. It's not like he said, "The people of Japan are in danger! They need my help." He was more so a reluctant hero.
But here, it is clear that he cares about people, yet is still an "Alpha Predator."
You know what this behavior reminds me of? Gamera from his 1990s trilogy. Gamera's title in those series of films was "The Guardian Of The Universe" even though he never left Earth. He cared about the lives of every living thing, and would fight any monster that threatened to create chaos. But there was collateral damage, so the military saw him as a threat.
The thing about monsters is that you can never be too sure about their mental stability. One second they could be fighting another monster, and the next they could turn on us and destory a major city. So the military always takes procaution, even with the guardian monsters.
Gamera once got stabbed in both of his legs, had part of his shell blown off and set ablaze by a dozen tankers, just so that he could save one helicopter full of civilians. That is how dedicated he is to protecting others.
I get the same vibe from this new Godzilla as he looks at Ford and seems to know that this collapsing building could kill him. And something just doesn't feel right about that.
If the role of Godzilla were replaced by Gamera in this film, his actions would fit perfectly. But when it is an alpha predator with giant spines and breathes radioactive fire, it feels off that he would care this much about civilians.
Is he the ultimate killer or a watchful protector? I'm not sure.
Lastly, I'd like to talk about Godzilla's design. Many people have pointed this out and director Gareth Edwards has tried to defend this, but we all know its true: This Godzilla is fat.
Okay, maybe not fat, but just a big body with a small head. His head is about a tenth of his being, so the camera has to really zoom in to make his face look menacing. If his head were a big bigger, I'd have no problem with his design. The spines are classic to Godzilla's design and are not over done like in recent Godzilla films. The tail seems a big longer but is used to great effect. His scales are more reptilian than in previous movies, which gives this one a more unique appearance.
Overall, solid design that keeps the traditional look of the character while still updating it. Kudos.
What I don't like about Godzilla in this film though is his roar. To give you a good idea of what I mean, here is my idea of the classic Godzilla roar.
Simple, effective, threatening yet inviting. It also does not get old, even though many of the roars sound similar.
Now here is his new roar.
To me, that sounds more like a cat than it does a monster. The way that it starts out by going to that high pitch whine just doesn't sit right with me. I like how it ends with the low growl, as if it is the aftermath of the roar, but I think it starts out terribly. Also, it does not hold up after hearing it multiple times and gets annoying after a while.
So in the end, how do I feel about Godzilla's portrayal in this film? I enjoyed it.
While it did not nail down all the aspects that I love about Godzilla, this creature did bring some new things to table and made Godzilla cool to watch again. He is still just as powerful as ever, he looks like the King of the Monsters, and his origin updates the radioactive feel without overdoing it. It was odd going with the alpha predator angle while still making him a good guy to humanity, but the film does a nice job of balancing both sides and making Godzilla his own creature.
I got exactly what I wanted. I did not want this Godzilla film to retread the same ground that other movies had, and it gave us something new with Godzilla. This gives "Godzilla" its own unique flavor and sets it apart from any thing else in the franchise.
And I could not have asked for more than that.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS INCLUDED
Godzilla has transcended the limitations of other giant monsters. When people think of giant monsters, Godzilla is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Not because of his design or his actions, but because of the ferocity and strength behind him. Whether he is destroying Tokyo with his bare hands, or protecting the planet from three-headed space dragons, Godzilla has remained strong and almost terrifying.
There is a reason he is called the King of the Monsters, after all.
After a ten year hiatus, he has returned to the screen, with Gareth Edwards' 2014 "Godzilla." With an American studio, Legendary Pictures, at the helm on this one, it promised to wipe the stench of the previous American film and make Godzilla interesting to watch again.
This new film nails making Godzilla an exciting and worthwhile character, but misses the mark on other aspects that makes the movie irritating at some points.
A group of researchers have found a large spike in radiation in the Philippines, and send in the covert group Monarch to investigate. Inside they find the bones of a gigantic dinosaur and a tower of glowing eggs. They find out that something had grown from these eggs and escaped into the ocean. Meanwhile, in Japan, a nuclear plant suddenly collapses and the wife of Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is killed in the accident.
Joe then spends the next fifteen years researching why the plant just disappeared and realizes that it may not have been an accident after all. He gets his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) involved when Joe is arrested for trespassing on the quarantined zone, leading them to a discovery that calls in Monarch once again.
What they find quickly becomes too much for them as it destroys everything around it and quickly heads for the United States. The head scientist of Monarch, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), believes that there is only one way to stop this monster before it reaches a major city, an ancient creature that he calls "Gojira."
So let's start with what I enjoyed about this film. In particular, the size and scope of Godzilla. Whenever Godzilla is on screen, you feel just how massive he is and kind of power he possesses. When merely coming onto land, he creates a tsunami that already destroys part of the city before he even gets there. As demonstrated in the trailer, just by passing battleships he can push them aside as if they were toys in a bath tub.
Even when Godzilla is just traveling through the ocean he looks intimidating. His spines stick out of the water and with an aerial view you can make out most of his body, which is twice the size of the aircraft carrier right next to it.
On top of that, this film reworks the origin of Godzilla, but makes it far more believable and interesting. In the past, Godzilla was just a dinosaur living at the bottom of the ocean for millions of years until atomic bombs mutated him and set him free. But here, Godzilla is a creature who has always thrived off of radiation and could live forever with a big enough supply. So he burrowed as close as he could to the Earth's core and absorbed radiation from that. Whether this mutated him further is anyone's guess, but this was a good way of keeping Godzilla to his atomic roots while making the whole 'million-year old dinosaur' part a bit more believable.
The monsters which Godzilla fights, on the other hand, are hit-and-miss. They are parasites who also feed off of radiation, which explains why they were inside the bones of a dead Godzilla and why Monarch is so afraid to kill them in the nuclear plant. Their designs are bland, as they look more like the Cloverfield monster but with red eyes that only seem to see radiation. Once they start moving though, their progression becomes the basic plan of tracking down their mate and making babies. These monsters have an origin that ties directly to Godzilla, but their story beyond that isn't anything interesting.
Which leads us into the trademark of any Godzilla film, and my least favorite part of the film, the fight sequences. These monsters have several chances to battle one another, including one at an airport in Hawaii, but we don't actually get to see these fights until the climatic battle in San Francisco. Until that point, we get to see the beginning of a brawl as the monsters charge at one another, but then it quickly cuts away with no resolution to the scene.
It is one thing to build up the ultimate confrontation between these monsters, but another to tease the audience with an action sequence and then rip it out of their hands. It would be nice to know how the parasites got away from Godzilla's grasp and how Godzilla knew where they were going, but we don't get any of that.
We see Godzilla roar at the other monster, the two lunge at one another, and the scene is over. We might get some media playback of some of the fight, but that is hardly the same thing.
While the climax to the film is enjoyable in its own right, you have to sit through a lot of teasing and sighs in order to get to it.
The acting in the film is so-so. Most of it left no impression on me, especially Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Brody's wife, who both just looked happy to be there. Brody is along for the ride during most of the film, yet he always carries the same dull expression on his face, unmoved by anything he witnesses.
Ken Watanabe as Doctor Serizawa has some good moments though, especially a scene where he tries to convince the army director to not endanger millions of innocent lives and relates it to the bombing of Hiroshima. He serves as a nice middle ground, someone who understands the destructive potential of both Godzilla and the parasites, but believes they can serve a better purpose in society by being studied. Much like the original Doctor Serizawa, he is someone who wants to create a better world, but dances the line between right and wrong.
Then you have Bryan Cranston, who is always the center of attention when he is on screen. Not because of his popularity but because of his over-the-top acting and tendency to yell every other line. After the nuclear plant is destroyed, his character is made out to be crazy, when all he wants is to understand what went wrong. He does it not just for his work, but for his lost wife. So his anger is justified, but still a bit weird for going off the handle at times.
Acting wise, Cranston and Watanabe steal the show. They're just a few of the people who show genuine surprise and fear when the monsters begin to attack and their actions make sense throughout the film.
Lastly, it should be noted that this is a great example of a monster movie done entirely from the perspective of human characters. Almost every shot in the film beings with people in the frame and eventually pan up to show the monsters. Very few shots exist solely just to show the monsters. This adds a pleasant human element to the film, which makes the collapsed buildings and floods that ravage major cities all the more shocking and disturbing. These scenes stick out because they're not just their to look cool, but to show the scope and impact of a monster attack.
Overall, "Godzilla" is an enjoyable piece of monster fun, even if it misses the mark a few times. It takes itself very seriously and this gives us some wonderful human moments. The effects are beautiful and capture just how big and imposing Godzilla can be, though it is lame that we have to wait until the end to get a full fight sequence. The story has a few rough patches when it comes to Brody and the parasites, but it does smooth out near the end. Whether you are a fan of the classic Godzilla series or just want a good monster movie, "Godzilla" is satisfying to watch.
Final Grade: B
With the impending release of the new Godzilla film, it should be fitting to look at the one other film that director Gareth Edwards has created, "Monsters."
This film garnered success with critics for its attempt to tell a somber modern day monster film and how a monster attack might effect the world. Edwards not only directed, but also wrote the screenplay, handled cinematography and did the visual effects as well, and on a budget of $500,000 no less, which is miniscule for any film budget.
Sadly though, there is little reason to watch this film as it tries to tell a human story of survival in a inhospitable land, but loses its way incredibly fast and becomes boring and repetitive. This one was difficult to watch without reaching for the remote.
After NASA discovers that life may exist on another planet in our solar system, they send a probe to collect samples, only for it to burn up on re-entry and sending the samples all across the border between the United States and Mexico, causing these creatures to spawn forth and wreck havoc on the unsuspecting populace.
Six years later, this area has now been called the "Infected Zone" and the U.S. government has been building giant walls to keep the aliens out. A young photographer, Andrew (Scoot McNairy) has been given the task of tracking down the daughter of his boss, Samantha (Whitney Able), who is deep in the heart of Mexico and return her to America at whatever the cost.
There are many problems within this film, but lets start with the first problem I noticed. This film, like many great monster movies, focuses on the human element of a monster attack. That's fine, as we see the wreckage of these attacks and the toll it has on the environment. However, this film seems to take specific care to show that humans have not changed their lives at all.
We see families in Mexico who just brush off the husk of a tank in their front yard and don't care one little bit that these aliens could kill them at any moment. We hear from a taxi driver that he lives in this area because of his family and that they'll survive. That is literally the best answer we get as to how they feel about all this and why they don't give a damn about aliens killing their loved ones.
It is the end of the world as we know it, and they literally feel fine.
Let's look at another monster film, "Pacific Rim," as it attempts to show us how monster attacks have changed their world. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, we see just how devastating these attacks have effected the public, as well as the rise of the Jaegers and the excitement that this brings. They start mocking kaiju, building merchandise and using kaiju body parts as a way to solve illnesses.
That is how you show what a monster attack can do the world. Within no time at all, "Pacific Rim" is able to build a whole new world that isn't too far from our own yet still fascinating. "Monsters" on the other hand, can't be bothered to do anything more than show the aftermath of attacks and not build its world.
But that can be forgiven if the journey of our protagonists is a memorable one. After all, the story is the backbone of any good movie, so an unnatural world can be overlooked. It's just too bad the story is just as terrible as the world itself.
This boils down to our two main leads, Andrew and Samantha, who are so generic and tasteless that I'd rather eat cardboard than listen to their dull conversations.
Andrew is one of the biggest idiots I have ever seen, and not in a good way. In the heat of an alien attack, he has to keep asking stupid questions as to what is attacking and why their escorts are carrying guns. Then there's the little issue that gets them into this mess at all, by losing both of their passports after paying for ferry tickets to back to America. It's not like he misplaced them or anything, he literally slept with some girl and she stole everything while he ran to the docks in his underwear. I have no sympathy for this guy, because everything that comes out of his mouth is moronic.
Samantha, on the other hand, has no character. She walks around with Andrew, stares blankly at everything and has no emotional reaction to all the death and aliens around her. There is so much of her character that goes unexplained. For example, she has a broken arm during the entirety of the movie and we never find out how it happened. We also never learn why she is in Mexico and why she wanted to get away from her fiancée.
Being shrouded in mystery is one thing. Not even addressing the questions and leaving a huge gap in your character arch is something else entirely.
These two have zero chemistry together. When Andrew is doing something, Samantha is not reacting to anything and just bits her nails. When Samantha tries to help out, Andrew is confused and looks lost. They attempt to have conversations, like when Andrew tells her about his crazy neighbor, but she has nothing to say about it afterwards, so it has no impact on the story.
These two are supposed to be the driving force behind the film, as we watch them try to make it back to America while aliens attempt to destroy everything they hold near and dear. Yet Andrew keeps asking stupid questions and makes unbelievably dumb mistakes, and Samantha can't be bothered to show any sort of emotion.
Overall, "Monsters" is painful to watch. Scenes drag on for what feels like hours, relying either on showing the aftermath of the alien attacks or these terribly written characters who you want to slap by the end. It isn't until the very end that we finally get a clear shot of the aliens and even that was not worth much. Stay away from this one.
Final Grade: D-
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Sometimes you don't need elaborate effects or an excellent cast to make a great movie. There are times where you merely need a well-rounded story.
At its most basic level, cinema is a form of storytelling done through a visual medium. Most of the best movies are the ones that tell the best stories. Ones that are timeless, nuanced and, for lack of a better term, human. While there are many other ways a film can be impressive, such as acting, cinematography, score, editing, etc., those elements don't add much to much if the story is not there to back it up.
One such example is Steven Spielberg's 2002 "Catch Me If You Can," which is a basic, bare-bones depiction of the life of Frank Abagnale, a world famous con-artist. But what lifts this film up and breaths life into it is the story and its portrayal of quick-witted and fun-loving Frank against the cold and calculating FBI agent hunting him down.
Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) is just a kid who is tired of seeing his father (Christopher Walken) being tormented by the government and his own wife. So he sets out to find a way to give his father the life that he deserves, even if it means cheating the system and creating fake checks. Frank takes on many professions, including a Pan-Am co-pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and it able to get away with over $4 million due to bank fraud.
This catches the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who makes it his personal mission to seek out Frank Abagnale. But what Frank finds out is that he isn't running because of the money, but because he loves being hunted down and getting away. He won't stop because he knows that he is better than Carl Hanratty and he wants to prove it.
This is what I mean by the story being so effective. The premise is simple and captivating, yet layered to the point that makes it that much more intriguing. Both Frank and Carl have many reasons for what they do, from pride to greed, to simple cockiness and even revenge. These are Shakespearian-esque characters set during the 1960s.
Frank takes from his father, who is a charmer and quick thinker, but is often punished for his actions. Mostly by the government. But unlike his father, Frank isn't willing to take that without a fight. He does not want the same life as his father, but a better one, free of loss, fear and a constant need to look out for the government.
Yet once he begins to run, he finds out that the newspapers are eating him up, calling him the "James Bond of the skies." This leads him to buy three suits which are identical to Sean Connery's suit from "Goldfinger" and buy the same car that he drives. His ego becomes so big that he wants the whole world to see it.
Carl, on the other hand, has been working a desk job most of his life. He has no sense of humor, with his one joke actually being an insult. At first, he does this because it is his job. Yet once Frank outsmarts him and gets away, he begins to take this way more personal and seriously, even going as far hunt him all the way to France.
In a way though, Carl is living a better life than Frank. Carl has a place to call home and has a family. He has people who he can depend on, while Frank's life is full of lies and hopping around the world. Carl takes this opportunity to rub it in Frank's face a couple times as he calls Carl on Christmas, because he has no one else to talk to.
The chemistry and relationship between Carl and Frank becomes an odd one, where you can tell that they respect and care for one another, yet despise their guts. Carl grows sympathetic to Frank, due to him being just a kid and far away from home, but hates that a child outsmarted him so many times. Frank sees Carl as his only real connection to the world, one that is always there and true, instead of another lie.
This is made even better by the actors playing these roles. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks work perfectly off of one another and offer up some great scenes as the young DiCaprio tries to outsmart the experienced Hanks.
Overall, "Catch Me If You Can" is an excellent example of how great writing and storytelling can still be the driving force behind a movie. Not once does the film get bogged down in any unnecessasry scenes and every line of dialogue exists for a reason. Topped off by the dueling performances of Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio and you get a wonderful flick about a man living a world full of lies being chased the cold and unforgiving arm of the government.
Final Grade: B+
Friday, May 9, 2014
At the time of this post, we are one week away from the release of the newest Godzilla film. Much to my surprise, the anticipation for this film is not only building for fans of the long-running franchise, but the general audience as well.
Godzilla has not been on the big screen since 2004 in his 50th-anniversary film, "Godzilla: Final Wars." The reason we haven't seen him since then is due to that film being a complete disaster, both with audiences and critics. At this time, "Godzilla: Final Wars" is the third highest budgeted film that Toho Co. has ever made, and it failed to make back even half of its budget at the box office. Not to mention the giant marketing campagin the film had.
Needless to say, it proved to both Toho and the world that we did not want to see Godzilla anymore. Thus, the ten-year hiatus.
I've previously mentioned this, but I was initially skeptical when news came out about this new Godzilla film. Part of the reason is because Hollywood does not exactly have a good track record with turning Japanese products into an American film, as demonstrated by the 1998 "Godzilla."
The way in which Godzilla moved and acted was more akin to a Velociraptor from "Jurassic Park" than the King of the Monsters. The problem was not that they changed Godzilla, but that they changed him so much that the inspiration was completely unrecognizable. This particular monster did not breath radioactive fire, and was taken down fairly easily by a couple of missles. That's not Godzilla but a weak immitator.
So you can imagine why I would hold my breath when a new American Godzilla gets announced. Yet, this new film does seem to be heading more in the direction of the older films and still keeping Godzilla true to his roots, though we will see in a week.
So why do I think this new film is getting so many people excited? Why is it that non-fans, who are the ones that call Godzilla cheesy, want to see his return so badly?
I believe this is for a few reasons. One is that the old image of Godzilla being cheesy and campy mostly comes from his old films, like "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "Godzilla vs. Hedorah." Scenes of Godzilla flying by using his atomic breath and drop kicking a monster from a mile away stick with most audiences, and not much else.
But those films are old news now. Most people haven't watched those movies in years. To some people, this is the first time they'll be seeing Godzilla since he was in theaters last time, with "Godzilla 2000." Their minds are fresh and ready to be impressed.
Another reason is because this new film seems to be diverting very much from the old campy Godzilla films and returning to the roots of the original 1954 film. This Godzilla has returned to being a city destroying behemoth that can't be stopped and is more massive than anything we could possibly imagine. Whether he remains as an allegory for the atomic bomb or if they'll be updating that image has yet to be seen, but it makes for a grittier and harsher tone than what people have come to expect from Godzilla.
So really, people are excited for this film because it is bringing them something they haven't seen before from Godzilla while still keeping the excitment and scale of his previous films.
Oh, and Bryan Cranston. Because everybody loves Bryan Cranston right now.
You know, that's something that is getting on my nerves about this film. It seems like people are talking more about Bryan Cranston than they are anything else in the movie. I remember hearing the reactions to the trailer on talk shows and the only thing discussed was how intense Bryan looked.
I have no problem with Bryan Cranston. He is a wonderful actor and I'm glad they're bringing in some great talent into this film. But he is not the reason people should go see this film. This movie is not called "Walter White vs. Godzilla" or "Bryan Cranston's adventures, co-starring Godzilla."
Bryan Cranston is not the biggest star in this movie. Nor is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen or Ken Watanabe. It is Godzilla. Not just because the movie is named after him, but because of his legacy and staying power. He has been in over twenty-eight movies since 1954 and helped create an entire subgenre of monster movies. He is a pop culture icon and a name and face that everyone in the world can recognize.
My hope is that the movie does not forget this. That they don't rely solely on the star power of actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, and remember all the joy that Godzilla has given people over the years.
Initial reviews have stated that the biggest complaint about the film is that there isn't much of Godzilla in the film. That the on-screen time for the King is minimal and this has some fans upset already.
But, I'm not one of them.
In the first Godzilla film, 1954's "Godzilla," we didn't actually get to see a full shot of him until the movie was already over a third of the way in. Godzilla was kept in the shadows, lurking but still having an impact on the world around him. We see the destruction he caused and little clues about what he might be, but that's it. It is why I say "Jaws" took a queue from "Godzilla" since they did the same thing with the shark, only they did it in Japan 21 years earlier.
For all we know, the 2014 movie will do something similar to that. You can have a character play a huge part in the film without actually showing that character. Especially with a creature like Godzilla, who can destroy a major city without even hesitating, could kill millions of people in an instant, and could be hiding anywhere in the ocean, ready to strike again.
Just his presence alone changes the entire course of the movie.
Which is exactly why I am extremely excited to see where "Godzilla" goes. There is so much potential for great story telling with giant monsters, especially when there are so many good actors in the film. Top it off with a Hollywood-sized budget and you got something that has the potential to be the blockbuster hit of the summer.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
In my recent review of "Stand By Me," I failed to mention one thing that did get on my nerves, but only looking back on it: The bullies which pick on the group of kids.
This gang of teenagers, led by Keifer Sutherland, is the typical case of rebels and punks that you come to expect in any movie about kids. There always has to be some kind of bully to antagonize our little main characters, or else there would be little to no conflict in the film.
But the film always fails to address the most basic question: Why are these people bullying them?
What did these kids do that deserves so much aggression, physical violence and verbal beatdown? Do they have nothing else going on in their lives and bullying is the only item on their schedule? Why do they act this way?
The simple answer people like to give is, they bully because they are children and children are cruel. Except that children are a lot smarter and more complex than people like to give them credit for. They are certainly emotional, stubborn and only often think about themselves, but they have reasons for everything they do. Like all of us, they have needs, wants, desires and want to live just like everyone else.
Bullying is not a matter to be taken lightly, especially if you're a kid. When you are being bullied, it may seem like it is happening for no reason, but there always is something going on. Perhaps the bully is having a bad time at home and wants to take out his aggression at school, or they want to fit it with the popular crowd and picking on you will get them in.
I'm not trying to justify their actions, just merely see it from their perspective and try to understand why they do it. This makes bullies seem like more than just aggressive jerks, and more like people.
Which is why portrayals of bullies in film is so annoying to see and why films like "Easy A" and "Godzilla's Revenge" don't work for me: A big part of the movie relys on the antagonists being bullies, and they have no real motivation to do what they do other than being called a bully.
I don't necessarily want to get into the head of the bully, but I do want to understand where they are coming from. Why they've chosen this lifestyle and how they feel about it. Do they feel bad for picking on a defenseless kid, or do they do it as a way of getting revenge? Or is it something else? There is certainly room for bullies to be interesting characters, but that route is hardly ever taken.
Thus it makes the writing of these characters seem incredibly weak and lazy. It doesn't make the bullies feel like characters, but just stereotypes or, even worse, cardboard cutouts. I want to see the writing of bullies in cinema improve. I wish to understand why they do what they do. Even if they are picking on other kids, they are still apart of the film and are often the villians. A villain is just as important to a film as the hero is, so their motivation and incentive to attack others should be more than just early signs of going to the dark side.