Our hero is recruited by CIA chief Saana Lathan , who has him trained by US Navy Seal Michael Keaton ( Birdman ). Keaton is basically the same working-class hard-ass he played in Spiderman: Homecoming ).
The main storyline consists of retrieving a stolen nuke that is in the hands of East European arms dealers. Yes, just like the plot of Bad Company (2002) . This time the arch-villain is Taylor Kitsch ( Battleships ), a young American with Navy Seal training and a grudge against the hero's mentor. Yes, the cliched personal grudge subplot has to be squeezed in.
The result is a more light-hearted version of the Jason Bourne series, without the brutal realism.
This movie is very slow-moving, and the story (straightforward as it is) gets spread over almost three hours. This allows the audience to appreciate the beautiful cinematography. Hopefully Roger Deakins will finally get the Oscar that he has earned over the last twenty years.
In all movies these days, the key phrase seems to be female empowerment. The original story was about powerful males, but this one might actually pass the Bechdel test. Both the Police Captain ( Robin Wright ) and the corporate assassin ( ) are females, in traditionally masculine roles. Honorary men, really, since they have no romantic role in the story. In one impressive confrontation between these two strong female characters they may refer in passing to the male protagonist, but in the context of the plot rather than to a romatic connection.
Are the Replicants wrongly enslaved? The whole point of the Replicants is that they are fundamentally different from humans. Philip K Dick was inspired to write about them after he read the words of a war-weary SS officer who lacked empathy towards starving children. The Replicants by definition are incapable of human emotion. This is why the Voight-Kampf test was capable of discovering who they are.
The first five minutes of the film is exposition, where we meet three of the main characters. Deon (Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire) is a roboticist who wants to create a true Artificial Intelligence.
The real star of the show is the title character, a Johnny Five for the new millennium. He is infantile and loveable, unlike the creepy child-like robot in Extant (itself inspired by Spielberg’s sickeningly twee A.I. ).
The supervillain is an albino with telekinetic powers. He is evidently the only one in the world with this or any other superpower. However, he also wants to have an army of killer cyborgs. He kidnaps Henry's wife, the scientist who can build his cyborgs for him. Henry must get his wife back and save the day.
Henry's only help comes from Uncle Frank (Sharlto Copely - District 9 ), who appears in a number of guises. Every time Frank apparently gets killed on-screen, he soon re-appears in a different guise.
If anything, the film that this is most reminiscent of is John Wick . The most startling difference is that John Wick would have given everyone a headshot. Henry is not a professional killer, he just blunders through with brute force and ignorance.
The story is told entirely from Henry's perspective, so it basically looks like a video-log of someone's First Person Shooter game. The only other first-person movie in recent years is slasher-movie Maniac , which is more like an extended Giallo killer-POV scene than a video game.
A Serbian warlord (Gary Oldman - Batman Begins ) is on trial at the Hague, and his put a contract out on all witnesses. Jackson has been persuaded to testify, since his wife ( Salma Hayek ) is also in Interpol custody.
The two bickering rivals team up against the main villain. The result is basically a buddy-cop movie, although the amazing cast makes it well above average.
Russian Oligarch Kenneth Branagh ( Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ) is planning to destroy the American economy somehow. Ryan is sent to Moscow to investigate. Unfortunately, his wife tags along to get in the way.
This is a run-of-the-mill thriller. Ryan's Cold War backstory from Hunt For Red October has been updated to the 21st Century.
None of the characters or situations ring true to the original show. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavil - Man of Steel ) is a CIA Agent who was formerly a looter and con-man. These are obviously references to Robert Vaughn’s roles in Brass Target and Hustle. He is reluctantly partnered with Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer - Lone Ranger ), who resembles the Robert Shaw character in From Russia With Love . The only thing he has in common with any David McCallum character is that he probably enjoys cutting up dead people, like Duckie in NCIS.
This is a stylish effort reminiscent of Stoker . It embraces the ethos of the horror genre, but without the supernatural trappings. The trailers make this out to be a low-budget yet mainstream thriller, but in fact it is more of an art-house movie. Other films that have suffered a backlash of poor word of mouth due to mainstream movie-goers feeling tricked into watching something intellectually challenging include The Grey and Spring Breakers. So if you hated those films, you probably will not like this one either.
Michael Keaton ( Batman ) and Gary Oldman ( Batman Begins ) create a black-clad superhero who acts as if he were above the law. Only Corporate goon Mattox (Jackie Earl Haley - Watchmen ) thinks this is a bad idea.
OCP builds killer robots for occupation duty in Third World countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). They are built to military specifications, and are not legally fit for Police Actions. Robocop is built as a prototype, combining the Central Nervous System of Detroit cop Alex Murphy with the body of a robot. However, he still has the conscience (and thus, the reflexes) of a mortal man. The OCP team remove this human element, so Robocop becomes more . well, robotic. Of course, this defies the whole purpose of using a human brain - the conscience! How will this go bad? Just watch!
On the bright side, Murphy's wife ( Abbie Cornish ) has a much bigger role in this version.
The film starts with an Islamic terrorist getting broken out of MI5 custody before he can get handed over to the CIA. The security is remarkably lax, but luckily the terrorists are remarkably non-murderous. However, Harry (Peter Firth - Chill Factor ) was in charge so he takes the blame. Then he apparently suicides himself …
Kit Harrington gets recalled from Moscow to investigate. He started as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones , then became the Spook’s Apprentice in Seventh Son … now he is Harry’s former protégé. Promotion indeed!
Harry claims that the team was sabotaged from the inside, that there is a Mole and that only an outsider like Harrington can be trusted. Real Cold War stuff, straight out of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (see the recent underwhelming remake for further reference). It looks more like Civil Service incompetence, but if it adds glamour to imply a conspiracy …
The problem is that this is an extended episode put up on the big screen. The cast are good, but they are a group of television actors. Firth was the bad guy in action flick Chill Factor back in 1999, and it was so much more action-packed than this. Recent effort Big Game featuring Samuel L. Jackson successfully blended opposing genres (Finnish Art-house and Hollywood blockbuster), with pleasing results, while his previous effort Kingsman was an entertaining big-budget parody of the Secret Agent genre. Spooks, however, is a modern-day (cheap) update on Tinker, Tailor … There are no car chases, the SWAT team pops up every now and again but there are no shoot-outs, and the most filming exotic location was the Isle of Man!
The universe has been well thought-out, and may have been created with a franchise in mind. There is a network of freelance assassins, including such familiar faces as Willem Dafoe ( Spiderman ) and Adrianne Palicki .
Once again, the world's greatest hit-man tries to quit. However, he is called out of retirement again. A Mafia godfather and his androgynous hench-person ( Ruby Rose ) coerce Wick into taking one last mission. This mission causes him to come up against an old rival who has a similar skill level - Cassian (Common, who had a similar role in Run All Night ).
Naturally, there are double-crosses. Wick goes on the run, hunted by every assassin in the network. Luckily he is a firm believer in gender equality, because he takes on women in brutal hand-to-hand combat. In the interests of diversity he also gets jumped by a sumo wrestler in a battle reminiscent of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
It turns out that the Mafia are not the only gang in town. Laurence Fishburne ( Event Horizon ) pops up as another organised crime leader who has a grudge against the Syndicate.
The story is left open for a third chapter. And in all fairness, this is a good idea because this film is actually better than the original.
The story concerns a group of aristocratic super-spies - Arthur (Michael Caine - Interstellar ), Merlin (Mark Strong - Starlight ), Lancelot (Jack Davenport - Ultraviolet ) and Galahad (Colin Firth - ). Galahad recruits a young chav named Eggsy (Taron Egerton - Sing ), son of the man who once saved his life. For a large part of we follow Egsy’s adventures as a trainee Kingsman surrounded by arrogant toffee-nosed twits.
Meanwhile, Galahad and the others trace a missing scientist (Mark Hamill - Star Wars: ANH ) to a crazy Billionaire, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson - The Hitman's Bodyguard ) and his hench-person Gazelle ( Sophia Boutella ).
This year the villain is Poppy ( Julianne Moore ), a cheerful businesswoman who has created a world monopoly on illegal drugs. She has poisoned the drugs with a deadly virus, and threatens to withold the cure unless her demands are met.
Poppy's first step is to take out the only ones who can challenge her - the Kingsmen. Eggsy and his sole remaining ally travel to the USA to meet their allies, the Statesmen. This means they get to team up with some bankable stars - Channing Tatum ( GI Joe: Rise of Cobra ) and Halle Berry .
Tatum disappears from the movie for a long period. Perhaps he was off making Logan Lucky, another movie that was released about the same time as this one. Coincidentally both those movies used the song Country Roads in moving scenes towards the end.
The crew of Magicians commit a high-profile robbery, and are investigated by FBI Agent Mark Ruffalo ( 13 Going on 30 ).
The Magicians are being manipulated by a criminal genius with a grudge. This somehow involves Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman (colleagues from The Dark Knight ). Eisenberg and Harrelson previously teamed up in Zombieland . This film is not as good as either of those two. Ironically, this got a sequel while Zombieland 2 has yet to appear after seven years.
The Horsemen are recruited by Daniel Radcliffe, who seems to have traded places with Eisenberg. Radcliffe was the Wizard Harry Potter , while Eisenberg was an Internet Billionaire in Social Network. Now their roles are reversed, with Radcliffe as an English Zuckerberg and Eisenberg as a New York Potter. Strangely, the new versions are more unlikable than the originals.
The film's second act takes place in Macau, presumably to make it more accessible to the Chinese audience. Yes, this is a blatant example of money-grubbing. The third act is set in London, which is left relatively unscathed compared to after the previous two films set there ( London Has Fallen and Independence Day: Resurgence ).
While following the format of the original, this new effort incorporates a few twists that re-write the existing backstory. That is the real problem with it - the complete lack of logic.
An International Arms Dealer, basically a middle-man for all-American manufacturers like Colt and Lockheed Martin, is targeted for assassination by the USA. They cannot take him in a fair fight, so they decide to blow up his daughter's wedding. The man behind this is President of USA Aaron Eckhart ( The Core ), best known as the supervillain Two-Face in The Dark Knight . He is protected by Banning (Gerald Butler - Lara Croft: Cradle of Life ).
This film could be taken as a damning indictment of American foreign policy. Two-Face tries to weasel his way out of taking responsibility for his actions. He claims the G8 authorised the slaughter. If this were true, why did the Russian and Chinese Presidents not get targeted at the funeral too? The other excuse is I did not know your family would be there. At his daughter's wedding? Where the hell else would they be?
Banning delivers a monologue to the other team, making references to We and us. Why? He is a Scotsman! The killers only want Two-Face - and if they kill him, the Veep will take over. Justice will be done, and everyone will be promoted a rank. Problem solved!
The US Congress has undue influence over the project, because they (and not the Chinese or the United Nations) paid for the project. Despite this massive leap forward in technology, there are only a couple of visible changes. Firstly, Cape Canaveral has a dozen next-generation space shuttles all lined up and ready to launch at any time. Secondly, driverless cars are now mainstream. This must free up a lot of taxi-drivers, who can be re-employed to make fuel and spare parts for the space industry.
Freak weather events indicate that the system might be faulty. The US President (Andy Garcia - Passengers ) and Pentagon insider (Ed Harris - The Abyss ) send Butler back to the space station to investigate. With the help of a computer nerd (Robert Sheehan - Season Of The Witch ) he uncovers sabotage.
Back on Earth, the hero's brother (Jim Sturgess - Cloud Atlas ) works with his own tech-support nerd ( Zasie Beets ) to uncover the conspiracy behind the sabotage. It turns out that someone wants to weaponise the system, and use it to conquer the world. Or rather, as in the plot of The Spy Who Loved Me , to destroy the bits they do not rule.
The only way to override the Space Station's self-destruct is to abduct the one person who has final control of it. The bad news is, that person is the President of the United States. The good news is that the head of his bodyguards is the brother's girlfriend ( Abbie Cornish ). What a lucky coincidence.
The whole movie is a bit of an anti-climax. Despite Butler being the established action-adventure star, most of the on-screen action is handled by Cornish's character. And if we must compare this to Salt , another female-led action movie where a woman must breach POTUS' security, this is very disappointing indeed.
Finally, the station is evacuated and Butler is the last one left aboard. Can Ground Control get him safely down? Unfortunately this is not exactly The Martian .
The main attack force is led by a former Delta Force operator (Jason Clarke - Terminator: Genisys ), who was left for dead by the President. The hostages are kept prisoner by a white supremacist named Killian, who blew up a Post Office because it employed some black people. The villains' tech support is ex-NSA nerd Skip Tyler (Jimi Simpson - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ), whose grudge is against Apple Corporation's music-sharing policy. Yes, they are all disgruntled white American males, which counterbalances the generic white American masculinity of the protagonist..
The hero ends up stuck in an elevator shaft, and then strips off his shirt so he can walk around in his vest. Yes, this movie has more than its fair share of homages to Die Hard . The biggest difference in this respect is that instead of trying to save his wife ( Rachel Lefevre ), it is his pre-teen daughter who is the damsel in distress.
The US President is Jamie Foxx ( Stealth ), mirroring the real-life African American President Barrack Obama. He is an action hero in his own right, like David Palmer in 24.
So why did this movie fail and Olympus Has Fallen succeed? Well, the main difference between the two is the subtext. In this film the villain's political motivation is to end the US President's policy of peace in the Middle East. The bad guys are bland white men, the enemy within. In contrast, the other movie has a more simplistic message about the USA being under siege by evil foreigners. Basically, the obvious assumption is that Americans would rather see foreigners as bad guys than their own kind.
Willis is attacked by trigger-happy goons who do not understand the concept of tactics. He himself does not believe in taking prisoners, so he has nobody to interrogate and thus no leads to investigate. Instead he gets together his old team from the Cold War days. This includes his old partner (John Malkovich - Warm Bodies ) and MI6 hit-person Helen Mirren . Even their arch-enemy, Ivan the KGB Agent (Brian Cox - Manhunter ) is on their side now!
They take on the entire US Military-Industrial Complex, from their former CIA handler (Richard Dreyfus - Close Encounters of the Third Kind ) to the Vice President of the USA (Julian McMahon - Fantastic Four ). Karl Urban ( Judge Dredd ) is the CIA assassin called in to clean up the mess. The result is a lot of shootouts that owe a lot more to the story's comic-book origins than to any real-world laws of physics!
CIA goon Neal McDonagh ( Arrow: Season 4 ) leads a hit-squad after the good guys. He even hires a world-class Korean assassin to hunt them down. Worse, MI6 send their best hit-person ( Helen Mirren ).
Luckily, our heroes have a few allies, even if they do have dubious loyalties. These include a femme fatale ( Catherine Zeta Jones ), Ivan the KGB Agent (Brian Cox - Manhunter ) and a mad scientist (Anthony Hopkins - Hannibal ). Yes, the two actors who played Hannibal Lector in the movies have a scene together.
The McGuffin is a red mercury nuke with a one-megaton yield. Strangely it does not obey the laws of physics - for example, an airburst would normally enhance the destructive power of an explosion, but here it seems to negate it. Also, a major atomic explosion near a major metropolitan area would normally result in a lot of nuclear fallout, but this does not appear to be a problem here.
The young women - in their late twenties but acting ten years younger - are abducted by some swarthy men. These kidnappers do not want a ransom. They are almost perfectly designed as acombination of groups that American audiences would find the most easy to hate. Right-wingers hate them for being Albanian muslims, while left-wingers hate them for being sex-traffickers.
The mild-mannered Brian Mills turns out to be as brutal as Jack Bauer in 24. He tears Paris apart, torturing and murdering anyone who gets in his way. There is not much technology used, because this genre of film relies on tropes from the 1970s.
This film made Neeson, a renowned dramatic actor, into an action movie star. Ironically he was in his mid-50s at the time, an age when most action stars have retired or joined The Expendables .
Brian Mills (Liam Neeson - SW: Phantom Menace ) gets framed for murder, even though he has an easily-verified alibi and there is no physical evidence against him beyond the circumstantial. Does he tell the detective (Forest Whittaker - Species )? Does he get a lawyer? No, he goes on the run and tries to solve the case himself!
Brian’s multiple escapes from the police include a car chase on a freeway, which creates several pile-ups. This is all dumbed down to look cartoonish. Nobody is shown to get hurt, while in reality there would have been several civilian fatalities. And worst of all, his superpowers now seem to include teleportation because he can move instantaneously from the site of a potential explosion to a safe distance away.
Instead of his wife or daughter getting taken, this time they BOTH get taken. And instead of some Albanian pimps, the villains are a Russian mafia gang composed of ex-Speznaz. Luckily the industrialist is around to explain what Speznaz is, in case Brian and his CIA buddy Leland Orser do not know.
This is a 21st-Century action thriller - okay, more of a Whodunit than a shoot-em-up. It is PG-13, so there is no swearing. Except on a text-phone, where the offending word is conveniently concealed under a vertical crack in the phone's screen.
This is a very 1970s thriller, like many of the current crop of action movies. With the exception of the TV show 24, none of them seem to have increased their pacing to take into account the speed of modern communications. The cellular phone, used almost as a gimmick in The X-Files ), is now standard across the English-speaking world and yet barely acknowledged in thriller movies.
Meanwhile, a US Military base in Quatar is attacked by a Decepticon. The disguise is not good enough to fool the super-paranoid hi-tech security, so he has to resort to brute force. This is sort of against the whole concept of the Transformers, because they are supposed to use stealth rather than brute force. Also, the transformation scenes are basically OTT CGI. They are unconvincing and distracting, which actually means that the bits with the human actors are the good bits.
The Decepticons try to hack the US Military's main server. POTUS (Jon Voight - Lara Croft ) orders his top computer analyst ( Rachael Taylor ) to investigate. She got security clearance despite being Australian, but may end up losing it for leaking info to hacker buddy Anthony Anderson ( Kangaroo Jack ).
It turns out that Witwickey is being targeted for a reason. His ancestor was a sea Captain who led a polar expedition in the Victorian era. Yes, the Transformers were on Earth for quite some time before this film. This is a major trope in the film series, and every new movie adds new layers of complications to this.
A group of MIBs, led by John Turturro ( You Don't Mess With The Zohan ), are tasked with guarding the alien relics that the US Government has recovered. This is the goal of the Decepticons. The Autobots, along with Sam Witwickey and a US Special Forces officer (Josh Duhamel - ), try to stop them. There is also time for some slapstick comedy. While the Transformers cannot keep their existence secret from the US Government, they still decide to keep Sam's parents ignorant. This is vaguely reminiscent of 1980s movies, which just makes the audience think of better movies that this fails to match.
Sam Witwickey (Shia LeBoeuf - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ) has been accepted into a prestigious Ivy League college. His parents, still a pair of comedy relief characters, help him move into halls of residence. Hilarity ensues.
Michaela ( Megan Fox ) stays at home to work in her father's chop shop. Despite being a wrench wench she wears lots of makeup and a pair of stilletto heeled shoes.
The USA has carried out a cover-up of events of the first movie. Sector 7, the Men in Black , have been closed down. Turturro ( You Don't Mess With The Zohan ) is reduced to working in his family's food store. The only people who believe in alien invaders are conspiracy nuts.
The US President's National Security advisor claims that POTUS speaks for all mankind. He threatens to make Optimus Prime and the Autobots leave Earth. They carry out a conversation that provides lots of exposition. However, they do so over a telephone line. The Decepticons, with advanced technology and space travel, literally hack the satellite and get all the info they need.
Sam still has a fragment of the All-Spark, which is so powerful it can turn his household appliances into tiny killer robots. He then gets infected by the All-Spark, which makes him deface a poster of Bad Boys 2. This is a film by the same director, which is a bit of a twist in itself. If there is a Michael Bay in their universe, what franchise is he directing if not this one?
It turns out that the Decepticons have developed the ability to transform into human beings. This particular transformation is undetectable, which makes you wonder why they do not do it more often. They could make a TV show where the aliens look like humans, which would keep the budget down. No need for any massive CGI battles any more, just good story-telling.
This movie is just a collection of massive overblown action sequences. They are not merely cartoonish, they are LITERALLY cartoons! The robots are all completely fake, and we do not have any empathy for any of them. We may have empathy for some of the humans, but they are unkillable and the violence has no consequences.
The Fallen is Megatron's mentor, the oldest and greatest Decepticon. He has interfered in human history for thousands of years, and his plan is to activate an ancient super-weapon. This plot is later-re-used in the fifth film.
It turns out that ever since the 1960s there has been a conspiracy of humans who knew about Transformers. The title is a reference to the Apollo 11 mission, because apparently the reason Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon was to salvage technology from a crashed alien starship.
The third act of the film is a bloated CGI-fest, an hours worth of cartoonish action scenes as the giant robots trash Chicago. Yes, yet another movie that makes 9/11 look like a minor inconvenience. Seriously, can you imagine the death toll if aliens/robots/whatever had a massive battle in a major American city?
The script is written by Ehren Kruger , better known for horror films like Scream 3, The Ring . He has stretched it out to twice the length it should be by adding layers of antagonists, like a Season of 24. The Autobots (especially Optimus Prime) are being hunted by a Robotic bounty-hunter (acting like Death’s Head but called Lockdown). He is working in tandem with a CIA goon squad led by Titus Welliver ( Agents of SHIELD ), who works for Kelsey Grammar (who was a victim of persecution in the X-Men franchise but has now switched sides to the Government). Grammar is on the payroll of Military-Industrialist Stanley Tucci ( The Core ), who has rebuilt Megatron as Galvatron but has not seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier ) because he does not anticipate his robot army being hijacked.
Tellingly, the fourth act (yes, they tacked on a huge extra segment after the natural ending of the story) involves the villains relocating to China. Yes, to get Chinese funding and distribution they set an extra climax in Hong Kong!
There are some good aspects to the film, notably the cast. The presence of human antagonists allows the viewer to hark back to the days when director Michael Bay created watchable action thrillers like Bad Boys and The Rock.
The wannabe inventor, Cade Jaeger (Mark Wahlberg - The Happening ), now lives in a scrapyard in Texas. His tweenage daughter is off in college, and he can only listen to her voice on the phone. Luckily he recruits another teenage girl to help out.
In the previous movie, the Transformers went to Red China so that the film-makers could make a lot of money selling the movie to Chinese audience. This time they go to England, so they could probably just stretch their budget further. For example, Laura Haddock is an English archaeologist. Think Lara Croft rather than Time Team.
Merlin (Stanley Tucci - The Core ) founded a secret society. Not the Wiccans, but the Witwickens. Yes, by some incredible coincidence Sam Witwickey (Shia LeBoeuf - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ) is descended from one of them. Not that he actually appears in the movie, but at least he gets a mention.
The Transformers have interfered in human history for thousands of years, and the villain's plan is to activate an ancient super-weapon. This plot was previously used in the second film.
Earth is about to be crushed by a Cybertronian supervillainess ( Gemma Chan ). Cade and Optimus Prime get to be knights, and do some sword-fighting. Haddock is apparently the last remaining direct descendent of Merlin's bloodline. This ignores the fact that Merlin was the spitting image of the industrialist in the previous transformers movie, who is thus also an obvious descendent. Despite his limited screen time, Tucci still gets a higher billing than Haddock. In fact, despite being the female lead she is quite far down the credits compared to the supporting males. And do not even bother mentioning the Bechdel test.
The result is quite a decent conspiracy thriller. Have the robots been hacked by terrorists, or is it a conspiracy within the Government? Worse still, have they started to think for themselves? After all, it would be a smarter and more low-key takeover than Skynet's approach in Terminator .