Sunday, April 24, 2022

300 Movie 2006 with Spoilers



From the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, It's Retro Nerd Girl with a film review for you.

Today I'll be reviewing the movie 300 released in 2006 and sometimes listed as released in 2007.




Starring:
Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and Dominic West

Directed by:
Zack Snyder

Genre:
Action, Drama

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Rating:
R

Budget:
$65,000,000 (estimated)

Current IMDb Rating When Reviewed:
7.6

The Synopsis is:
“King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C”.


Story:
The film is based on The Battle of Thermopylae (thər-MOP-i-lee) fought between Ancient Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas I of Sparta, and the Achaemenid Empire of Xerxes I in 480 BC.

The extraordinary thing about this battle that really stands out in the record books is that King Leonidas’ men were only 300 strong, leading the battle with 7000 Greeks in total fighting.  They faced off with King Xerxes’ ranks of possibly 100,000 to 2 million fighters.  Either way, the fight should have lasted a few hours and it was pretty much well known that they were on a suicide mission.  However, King Leonidas and his men lasted 3 full days.  That is pretty incredible.

The battle was documented by Greek historian Herodotus who was born 4 years after this battle in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He wrote a detailed account of the Greco-Persian Wars and is referred to as "The Father of History" for his work.  

The story remained in the history books until it was turned into a film, The 300 Spartans was made in 1962 with the cooperation of the Greek government.

When American comic book writer, penciller and inker, novelist, screenwriter, film director, and producer, Frank Miller saw The 300 Spartans (1962) at 5 years old, he was fascinated by the “perception of heroes”
that  “didn't always win” and sometimes became heroes through self sacrifice.  

It inspired him to write and illustrate the comic book series 300 in 1998 with painted colors by Lynn Varley, retelling the Battle of Thermopylae.

A hardcover collection was released in 1999.

American film director, producer, screenwriter, and cinematographer, Zack Snyder read the graphic novel and was inspired to make a film out of it. 

Zack Snyder got a team together and scanned Frank Miller's graphic novel into an animated version of the comic strip, and hired Scott Glenn for a voice-over narration. Warner Bros., told him that they needed more convincing so he shot a live-action 90-second 360-degree continuous shot featuring a single Spartan killing several Persians. 

Unfortunately, it was not picked up by the studio right away, but he was hired to direct his first feature film, Dawn of the Dead, released in 2004.

Producer Gianni Nunnari was planning a film about the Battle of Thermopylae and director Michael Mann was also planning a film of the battle based on the book Gates of Fire.  When Gianni found out about Frank Miller's graphic novel he acquired the film rights rather quickly.

Gianni paired up with Mark Canton to produce the film and got Michael B. Gordon to write the initial script. As luck would have it Zack Snyder was hired in June of 2004 and got screenwriter Kurt Johnstad to rewrite the script for production. Frank Miller who bonded with Zack over samurai and low-budget gory movies was a consultant on the film and executive producer.

The core army of 300 Spartans and King Leoniadas fighting Xerxes was a frame of the story, but you won't find any historical accuracy in this film. In that respect The 300 Spartans (1962) was more true to the actual historic events as it was told by Herodotus and even he had embellished the story from the start.

Frank Miller was abundantly clear about making the comic book mini-series a flat out fantasy and not a docu-drama, exaggerating much of the story in favor of the Spartans even more.  This is key and foremost to understanding this film.  Not only is it a fantasy it was specifically written from the sensationalized perspective of Leonidas of Sparta.

Film stayed pretty close to the comic in theme and much of the dialogue.  


Pacing:
At 1 hour and 57 minutes, you would think that I would say that’s too long, but no.  I enjoyed every second of the film.


Challenge:
The challenge in this movie are the Persians led by Xerxes.  Ultimately the 300 Spartans held off the Persian army for three days, but all died.  The purpose was not to win the war, but hold off the war and buy the Greeks more time.

Before the last fatal battle, King Leonidas sends one of the surviving soldiers by the name of Dilios home and the story we are watching on screen is being told from his point of view to strum up more warriors to join in battle.  It’s pretty obvious because he tells the story of Leonidas’ last moments with great detail, but he wasn’t there to see it in the flesh.  His story is part truth, and mostly imagination.

I mention this because he takes a lot of liberties to make the enemy surreal and pure fantasy.  The detail of his imagination is skewed to make the 300 appear stoic and the Persians appear to be twisted and evil.

I’m sure if we had a tale written by Xerxes the Greeks would be depicted as the evil ones.  And in truth, they were much like the other.

Looking at depictions of Xerxes in various art works, he looks a lot like the greeks.  In fact it looks like King Leonidas stole his cool beard for the movie!

The sequel to this movie, 300: Rise of an Empire released in 2014 goes a little deeper into the fictional origin of  Xerxes’ life and how he transitioned from a normal looking prince into an adorned gold skinned giant God King when his father died through magic.  

This version of Xerxes has conquered so many countries that he and his entourage are inspired by a lot of different cultures.  I actually thought they looked really cool.

The immortals were a real part of his main 10,000 man infantry that were called immortals because when one fell another soldier would appear in his place.  They were pretty much super soldiers.  They are the fiercest warriors out there and there are groups of special ops.  I enjoyed the detail of all of the different kinds of soldiers in the ranks.

Xerxes himself is the representation of temptation.  Within the Greeks, Xerxes has already bought loyalists that are willing to commit treason against their own people.  He offers King Leonidas a bloodless way to surrender and he offers the spartan traitor Ephialtes the hunchback his every pleasure.

Another point to note about Xerxes is his pride, vanity, arrogance and lack of humanity.  Most of all things, he hates to fail.  He comes from two world conquerors, his father Darius the Great and his grandfather Cyrus the Great the founder of the first Persian empire, theAchaemenid Empire. There is a lot of pressure for him to be as great of a military conqueror as his predecessors. 

Another piece of the story that is not in the film is that this is Xerxes second battle.  The first battle was ten years earlier with Darius taking the lead then.  The Persians didn’t win as they thought they would and so Xerxes worked for ten years building up his massive army hoping that would ensure a victory.

He mentions how he would sacrifice hundreds of his own men to achieve his goal.  This is a great example of why he’s a different leader to King Leonidas, because Leo would rather give his own life than to sacrifice his men.  He is the perfect opposition.
  

Xerxes gets the upper hand over Leonidas through a character I mentioned before, Ephialtes.  Ephialtes dreamed of nothing but being a Spartan soldier and dying in battle.  It is the greatest glory of a Spartan.  

He showed real passion following the 300 in hopes that he can join them.  His deformity didn't pose a problem to Leonidas until sadly, he discovered that Ephialtes couldn’t raise his shield arm to fight in the battle in the Greeks’ impenetrable fighting formation.

The rejection breaks his heart to the point he tries to commit suicide, poor thing.  It didn’t work, so he goes to Xerxes as an act of revenge against King Leonidas, broken and vulnerable.  He tells Xerxes about a small goat pass that the Persians can attack the Greeks from behind in exchange for becoming a general in his army.

He’s so sad.  I just want to give him a hug.  His motivation was completely understandable and even when gets what he wants, Leonidas tells him "may you live forever," which is about the worst thing to say to any Spartan because they are taught that “death on the battlefield in service to Sparta was the greatest glory a Spartan could achieve in his life.” It was the worst insult.  I definitely felt sorry for him by the end.


Empathy:
I will start off with the character of Dilios who is telling the story to muster up the next wave of soldiers to fight Xerxes.  He was modeled after the actual, historical figure of Aristodemus who was the sole Spartan survivor of the battle of Thermopylae.

He was dismissed by Leonidas because he had an eye infection, but would be surprising is that he was considered a coward by Spartans until he redeemed himself fighting and dying in the battle of Plataea a year later, partially blind!   Poor guy.

Dilios tells the story of the way of the Spartans, who he calls “the greatest soldiers the world has ever known”.

All Spartan babies are inspected and any children born with visible defects are thrown into a pit of discarded decomposing infants that didn’t meet their standards.  As soon as young boys learn how to stand they are “baptized in the fire of combat.”   At the age of 7 they are taken from home and “trained” but it is more like they go through an abusive initiation until they show no feelings of pain and use PTSD trauma to survive no matter what.

They force them to fight each other, starve them, teach them to steal without getting caught, kill each other if necessary, beaten with rods and whips, and are constantly tested.

In reality, this training really did exist, but royal children didn’t have to go through this training.  Because Leonidas was third in line to the throne, he was one of the very few Spartan kings to train as a Spartan soldier.  His brothers both fled Sparta for separate reasons and he became king.
 
Leonidas is presented to us in the film as a man of high standards and a man willing to die for his people.  Honor is his motivation for everything.  It’s easy to just constantly show him as a confident character, but he is actually more contemplative about everything he does and he doesn’t always get it right.  To his fault, he fails in his handling of Ephialtes.

Whatever he decides, he must stand by it with a bold fierceness.  An example of that is that when the enemy demands that the Spartans surrender their weapons, he replies "Come and get them." 

By the way, Leonidas actually said that.

He could be mischaracterized as being a warmonger, ready to fight for the sake of fighting, but he is not.  I love the way he is in serious thought about his responsibility for his men who have chosen to join him in this suicide mission, which weighs heavily on him.  This is no joy ride.

The most important person to him is his wife Queen Gorgo.  The real Queen Gorgo was the daughter of Leonidas' older half-brother, Cleomenes, which made her his niece.  Yuk.  It puts a different spin on their relationship, but in this age, it was normal.  But their marriage was probably necessary to ensure the throne's legitimacy.  

Spartan women were different from other women at the time in the way that they had more rights and were equal to men, got the same education and went through the same physical fitness regimen growing up.  However, they were spared the intense Spartan soldier training.  They had to run things while their men were away at war.

Motherhood was their pride to the point that Spartan and the line where Queen Gorgo defends her right to speak among men, she says, "Because only Spartan women give birth to real men."  This was something the real Queen Gorgo said.

Another rumor about Spartan women is that they wear the pants in their households and although King Leonidas doesn’t play a lesser role, he trusts her opinion in all things.  Before finally making his decision to start the war, he glances at Gorgo who then gives him the nod to proceed.  I loved the closeness and silent communication between the two of them.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the film.

She is a really tough lady.  When he leaves for war she says, "Come back with your shield, or on it," which was a common phrase by Spartan women to their sons and husbands. Dead soldiers were carried home on their shields, cowards on the field would return without their shields.  So what she is actually saying is that she’d rather him come home dead than to come home a coward.  That’s a lot to live up to and Leonidas straightens up a little before he walks off.  Wow!  I can’t even explain how powerful that is.  In many ways, this war was so ingrained into their culture that King Leonidas had no choice to be who he is.

Many people did express that they didn’t enjoy the subplot with Queen Gorgo lobbying for more soldiers to fight in the war.  I am the opposite.  Of course I was uncomfortable seeing her deal with the treacherous senator Theron, but the pay off for her revenge was excellent.  I loved that she was not just idle, but actually doing her part to assist her husband.  They were true partners in this war.

Of the 300 Spartans there are a few that stand out.  Captain Artemis was one of my favorites.  He was King Leonidas’ right hand man and bestie at least in the context of the film.  He just brought so much energy to the scenes he’s in… everybody did.  His dedication to Sparta is incredible, willing to sacrifice his son, Astinos.  Coldly he says, he has other sons, but he is so lovingly looking after his son during this exposition.  

Astinos is younger than most of the Spartans but he is excited to fight and impress his father.  It breaks your heart when he dies because everyone knew it was a suicide mission.

Artemis loses his mind when Astinos dies, so even though he was so dismissive of his son possibly dying in the war at the beginning of the film, he loves him so deeply.

Astinos becomes buddies with Stelios, who is overzealous and loyal to the cause.  The two of them have a dynamic fighting scene that is shot in glorious slow motion.  Stelios has several memorable scenes and delivers a few famous lines in the film.  One is after hearing that the enemy’s arrows will blot out the sky, he says, "Then we will fight in the shade."   This is an actual line from a real Spartan warrior Dienekes.


Technical:
The technical aspects of the film is the real stand out, so much so that many people are in awe of it, and forget there’s an actual story being told.

The main fascination about the film is how it bears the same aesthetic of the source comic book series.  It was filmed on a sound-stage painted with a background of blue 90% of the time and green 10% in Montreal and the background was chroma keyed into the shot to create the look.  Blue was used most often because the red in the Spartan capes looked better in the finished product.  To look like the soundstage was shooting different locations utilizing various angles were employed. In total it took 60 days to film everything. 

Some of the scenes in the film were incredibly amazing. Not only do they look like the comic and each shot looks like beautiful paintings, they look like something from a dream.  This stylistic look is so awe inspiring and groundbreaking it transcends time.  It’s easily one of the main reasons this film is so unforgettably arresting.  It’s regarded as one of the most influential stylistic films of the early 2000’s.

The film is notorious for the use of slow motion.  Part of the reason the film feels so epic, so grand, giving every moment that is slowed down a powerful impact.  Every slow motion moment is a defining moment for the characters, then the film speeds up to join normal speed.  It’s an extraordinary style that adds another layer to the story telling.  When Leonidas screams at the end of the film in slow motion, he is screaming in defiance of his doomed fate and although dying in battle is the ultimate wish of a Spartan soldier, he wants to live or he will die fighting with his last breath.  It sucks you into his emotions.

Another aspect of the film that captures the imagination is the costumes and character design used in the film.  It took a crew of over 60 people who worked on about 600 costumes.

Gerard Butler, the actor who played King Leonidas  had 17 plumed helmets made for him, each representing a stage of degradation throughout the battle.  And although all Spartan soldiers wore helmets with plumes, it was decided to not give the plumes to the other Spartans in the film to visually set King Leonidas apart from the rest.

The film saved some money on the weapons for the film by recycling some of the weapons used in Alexander (2004) and Troy (2004). As well, most of the swords in this movie were plastic. They looked realistic which is not totally easy to do without skills to age them and handle them realistically.  Fake horses were built to simulate real ones that were cut down, speared and knocked over in the film.

The film is mostly bloodless which I actually thought was a plus as not to focus on gore.  Only 2 gallons of fake blood was used as well as some computer animated spatters filled out the effects. The rest was added in post production.

It’s important to note that the film only cost 65 million dollars so the visual result was astounding.  

Tyler Bates created the epic score he recorded at Abbey Road Studios featuring the vocals of Azam Ali. However, the score was acknowledged by Warner Brothers that some of the score was too similar to James Horner and Gabriel Yared's work for the film Troy and Elliot Goldenthal's 1999 score for Titus. They said, “… a number of the music cues for the score of 300 were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture Titus. Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter.”

This was generally considered accidental on the part of Tyler because he composed scores for movies like Slither 2006, Dawn of the Dead 2004, and Get Carter 2000 prior to this.  As well, he went on to compose, Halloween 2007, The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008, Watchmen 2009, Halloween II 2009, Sucker Punch 2011, Guardians of the Galaxy 2014, John Wick 2014, John Wick: Chapter 2 2017, Atomic Blonde 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 2017, Halloween II: The Return Of Michael Myers 2017, Deadpool 2, 2018, Hobbs & Shaw 2019, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum 2019,  

But specifically with this score, it fits the visuals like a glove but also enhances every moment into an unforgettable event.  If you weren’t sure that the film was epic, the music verifies it with an official stamp of epicness! 





Performances:
The Spartans and some of the other characters were all bare-chested and had to undergo a rigorous 8-week training by Marc Twight, a professional mountain climber in which actors never repeated the same exercise twice to stress the muscle.  In order to bond with his actors, Zack Snyder also underwent the same training. 

Gerard Butler who played King Leonidas was perfect casting and he had so much dedication to the project.  He spent 4 hours a day for over 4 months, to get in shape for the role and suffered many injuries that developed a painkiller addiction for a while.  I think it’s easy to say that he’s hamming it up, but there is so much nuance to his performance, acting with his heart and soul as a man who knows he’s going to die.  He puts his heart and soul into each speech and he was the heart of the film’s success.

Lena Headey was fantastic as Queen Gorgo, giving us a strong female protagonist. Her entire subplot was created for the film and not part of the comic.  I thought it was a wonderful addition that I fully enjoyed and I am so glad that they did not waste Lena’s talent in this film.

Rodrigo Santoro came to the project for the role of Astinos,  Zack Snyder saw something in his audition that he felt would be perfect for the part of Xerxes.  Although there really wasn’t much screen time and story depth for the character, Rodrigo played him with depth, showing off attributes like arrogance, narcissism, pride and cruelty.  It impressed me how much he did to portray the character with his physicality.  He said that he used Yul Brynner’s performance in The King and I (1956) as his inspiration and you can see it on screen.  

This film was Michael Fassbender's feature film debut and it is so it’s a little strange seeing him in a film where he’s not a main character or main supporting character.  Every Time he’s on screen he kills it, just giving his performance so much energy and at times inserting some levity to the film.

Everyone did a fantastic job bringing the world of 300 to epic life.


Enjoyment:
A small portion of the film was shown at the July 2006 Comic-Con Convention in San Diego in order to generate buzz for the film and it worked brilliantly. The attendees requested to view it three times and then the trailer was leaked on the Internet.

When looking up this movie, there is a discrepancy whether or not the movie was released in 2006 or 2007.  That was because an unfinished cut of 300 was shown at Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival on December 9, 2006.  It was not the official release, but it is often considered the release date.

The actual official release date was March 9, 2007.

At the time it was released, it was the highest-grossing R-rated comic book film ever made, until the release of Deadpool (2016) and it had the 24th biggest box office opening in history.

It was a huge success at the time with everyone repeatedly shouting King Leonidas’ quote, “This is Sparta!”  It was great. There were so many parody YouTube videos and movies that were hilariously poking a little fun at the flick and it became a phenomenon.  It is said that even directors like James Cameron were big fans of the film and its groundbreaking use of visuals and storytelling.

In 2014 300: Rise of an Empire was released with many of the returning surviving characters directed by Noam Murro.

In 2018, Frank Miller released Dark Horse, published Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander.

This film is not my type of film.  I am not exactly a fan of war time movies.  When this film was released, I avoided it like the plague.  I wasn’t having any of it.  I think it was about 2012 when I first saw it and I was blown away that it was nothing I expected, but instead, by the way the film was shot, I felt as if I was part of the Spartan army and Leoniadas was speaking directly to me, getting me ready for battle.

It also had so much fun with the story aspect.  It wasn’t just about the visual action and the bombastic speeches or the repeatable quotes.  The story of sacrifice and love is so powerful that I was completely teary eyed by the end.  Stilios says, “I am honored to die by your side” and Leonidas says, “I am honored to have lived by yours.” That’s when the tears flow!  

At that moment Leonidas appreciated life.  It reminds me of the last moments of Roy Batty in Blade Runner 1982 and it’s beautiful.  I just think this film is brilliant, from a storytelling standpoint… It made me feel.


My Rating:
9.7


That sums up my review.  I hope you liked it.

This is Retro Nerd Girl signing off!

Take care, movie lovers!  I'm off to the next review!




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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Queen of the Damned 2002 Movie Review with Spoilers




From the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, It's Retro Nerd Girl with a film review for you.

Today I'll be reviewing the movie Queen of the Damned released in 2002.




Starring:
Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau, and Aaliyah

Directed by:
Michael Rymer

Genre:
Horror, Fantasy, Drama

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Rating:
R

Budget:
$35,000,000 (estimated)

Current IMDb Rating When Reviewed:
5.3


The Synopsis is:
The vampire Lestat becomes a rock star whose music awakens the queen of all vampires who wants to reign the earth again with him by her side.


Story:
American author of gothic fiction, erotic literature, and Christian literature, Howard Allen Frances O'Brien otherwise known as Anne Rice wrote the book, Interview with the Vampire published May 1976.  The book was heavily influenced by Anne’s real life trauma of losing her young daughter Michele, nicknamed "Mouse" who died of acute granulocytic leukemia in 1972 shortly before she would have turned six. 

She connected Michele’s blood affliction with vampirism which birthed a series of books, The Vampire Chronicles.  It centered around the fictional character Lestat de Lioncourt, a French nobleman turned into a vampire in the 18th century.

The first book was poorly received.  That is something I never understood because it’s an excellent book, but it was a decade ahead of its time. 

Sure enough, nine years later she followed up the novel with The Vampire Lestat in 1985 which was a success and debuted at No. 9 on The New York Times Best Seller list and spent a total of six weeks on the list. The Vampire Lestat ended with a cliffhanger and demanded another book in the series.

In 1988 The Queen of the Damned was published and reached the #1 spot on The New York Times Best Seller list, staying on the list for more than four months.  It was also a main selection of the Literary Guild of America for that year.

I remember working at a bookstore in the early 1990’s and Anne Rice’s books were a top seller for years and years.  Many of the readers of the Queen of the Damned knew they had to read the first two books in order to understand the scope of the story, which each book wonderfully delivered.  I was among those readers.

Anne built a whole new world of vampire lore to excite a growing vampire loving community of the late 80’s and 90’s.

With such a following, it was soon that Hollywood came knocking on Anne’s door in the form of Warner Brothers, to adapt her books.

The first to be adapted was Interview with the Vampire (1994) starring Tom Cruise as Lestat.  At first, Anne and the fans of the series weren’t happy that Tom was casted, but with careful attention to makeup and Tom’s dedication to the role, he defined the role in a new way while honoring the written character.  It was a success being the tenth-highest-grossing movie of 1994, earning two Oscar nominations so naturally a sequel was in the works… or was it?

Anne Rice wanted to be involved in any way possible to help bridge the gap between what her fans expect and what she wrote.  This would have also excited the fans of her novels.  She even offered to write a script for free, however, Warner Brothers ignored her and the property for years. 

In a mad dash to use the property before the rights went back to Anne in the year 2000, in 1999 Scott Abbott and Michael Petroni were hired to write a screenplay. Australian filmmaker Michael Rymer was hired to direct.

Instead of tackling the direct sequel Scott Abbott had the idea to combine The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, taking the connective tissue between the two books and discarding most of the rest.  Seeing how problematic that would be, Rymer suggested that the project should be a miniseries, but it was shot down immediately.

As well, none of the actors returned from Interview with a Vampire and the overall look of the movie was drastically different.  

With that as it was, the story is not perfect.  The script in particular had some cringey moments that didn’t work.  But on the other hand, it does have a few good unforgettable moments where it leaned more heavily on the source material and riffed off of that. That’s when the film is the most fun, when it is playing with those themes.


Pacing:
At one hour and 41 minutes it feels a bit too long in some parts and in other parts, one desires more time with the characters.  Time management was a big issue for me when trying to figure out what didn’t quite work.  There was a lot of time given to dead or dull concepts, but there were wonderful splashes of  content that entertained me.




Challenge:
The challenge in this film starts out a bit ambiguous, being the ups and downs for Lestat being turned into a vampire and figuring out how to live as such.  The film has a character by the name of Marius Lestat’s vampire maker for the convenience of keeping the story tight.  In the book The Vampire Lestat, he was turned by a powerful 300 year old vampire by the name of Magnus.  We’ll get back to Magnus later on in the review, but in the film Marius is Lestat’s teacher from which he learns the ways of the vampire and discovers the statues of the ancient vampires Enkil and Akasha, “The ones who must be kept”.

Akasha is the main challenge of the film but she’s hardly in it.  The film spends a great deal of time setting us up for when she is finally awakened by Lestat’s music in the early 2000’s.

Sadly, it takes 51 minutes into the run time of the film to get there but once she appears the appeal of the character left an iconic imprint on audiences with only 26 minutes of screen time. 

Let’s go over her backstory which I would have loved to have seen in the movie.  Akasha was a queen 6,000 years before Egypt was established as a nation in a land called Kemet with her husband, King Enkil. The village of two powerful red haired twin witches (Maharet and Mekare) was destroyed. The twins were imprisoned by the royal couple and questioned about what they knew about the infinite.  They refused.  In anger they publicly violated and then abandoned in the desert. 

The king and queen were then harassed by the  bloodthirsty spirit, Amel.  The king and queen were forced to summon the twins from the desert to exercise the spirit.  During the exorcism assassins attacked Enkil and Akasha and as the queen was dying, Amel attaching himself to her soul and dragged it back into her body, wherein she became the first vampire.  She then saved Enkil who was dying from his wounds by turning him into a vampire.

Akasha and Enkil lost their thirst for blood and eventually became living statues. However, the other vampires soon realized that the statues had to be looked after because what happens to them, happens to all vampires. Once upon a time, the statues were exposed to sunlight and most of the younger vampires died, but the older ones were hurt but survived.

Marius is the keeper of the statues in both the book and the movie.  One day while Lestat was playing on his violin in Marius’ castle.  He found the queen and played his violin for her.  In return Akasha’s statue moves and offers him some of her ancient blood, thus increasing his strength.

What the book also included was that Enkil was not just a bystander.  All of this activity woke him as well and he would have killed Lestat, if it weren’t for Marius saving him in the nick of time.  I’m not sure why this wasn’t included in the movie, but that’s another exciting moment that would have been awesome to see on screen.

Out of fear and maybe even jealousy, Marius moved the statues to a new hidden location, abandoning Lestat.  Centuries later, Lestat’s music woke Akasha once more.  She turns into flesh after draining Enkil of blood, killing him and choosing Lestat to be her new companion.

Akasha’s appearance is the main event of the film, inserting it with excitement, mystery, danger and a boost of sensuality.  

She goes searching for him where she senses a large gathering of vampires at The Admiral's Arms vampire bar in London.  This is one my favorite locations in the film and I wish there were more scenes taken place there.  

After discovering that the vampires plan to destroy Lestat, she destroys them like flies.  The scene itself is so powerful as she wreaks havoc without much effort at all.  She simply flicks her wrists and sets her targets on fire to demonstrate her place as queen of them all.  It's an iconic scene that is framed with so much thrill!

The secondary challenge in the film are bands or covens of vampires that want to destroy Lestat for exposing the mortal world to the notion of vampires.  They want to remain in the shadows to keep their hierarchy and advantage over mortals.  Their threat is quite minimal in the film.  It is more theatrical and serves as a way to demonstrate how powerful Lestat is that he can easily defeat most of them.


Empathy:
The empathy in this film doesn't really exist.  It’s a weird thing to say, but it’s a movie about villains and maybe one or two innocent side characters, but even they don’t strum up much empathy.

Lestat is a character that is thoroughly adored by his portrayal in the books, which comes off a little differently in this movie.  Much of that comes from the fact that Lestat looks nothing like how he is described in the books and in the Interview with a Vampire movie.  Part of Lestat’s personality was wrapped up in his blonde locks.   In fact, there’s this gory scene in the book which is another scene I would have loved to have seen in the film, where he wakes up in a crypt with hundreds of decomposing bodies of blonde blue-eyed guys that look just like him. That’s totally freaky.  I wished that scene made it into the film.


This was also a big deal for Anne Rice too because  Lestat was largely inspired by her husband, Stan Rice.  They both have blond hair and they share the same birth date of November 7.  As well, it was well known that the character was a combination of Stan and Anne Rice’s alter egos as well, so it was very personal to get Lestat correctly.  This was where the film failed to really nail the character.  

Lestat was chosen to become a vampire because of the way he looked and in his day, he had certain privileges because of the way he looked.  One of the other motivations for being the man that he is in the books is because Magnus actually left Lestat to discover the ways of being a vampire on his own, which he is bitter about.  It makes him cold underneath a playfully naughty jovial demeanor.  

However, if you can imagine that this is a story not connected to the books, maybe this version of Lestat could work.  Lestat in the film is a lot like a black panther prowling around in emo goth fashion.  And you know what?  I’m actually into it. I always loved that aesthetic and it’s the only reason why this works for me. He’s cold and bitter without the joviality.  He’s depressed, but you don’t know why he’s moody with the off chance he’s flirty, or darting a smirk of superiority.

For this version of Lestat, the film sets up Lestat’s displeasure with living in the shadows when he becomes a vampire in the 1700’s.  He encounters a violinist on a beach and as he joins her in play, his supernatural nature alerts her and her friend who freak out.  Having to kill her, he becomes melancholy. 

He so desperately wants to be adored by others and enjoy the pleasures of being worshiped for being a god-like being.  Having to hide his identity to keep himself and other vampires safe from human discovery is what he hates the most and the reason why Akasha wants him.  He shares her desire to live among humans.

Lestat was slumbering for decades after the events of Interview with a Vampire, until he hears the modern music of the early 2000’s which wakes him up.  In the book it was 1984, so you get the idea that the music Anne Rice had in mind was different, of the big hair metal band variety, like Whitesnake, Vanhalen, Motley Crew, and Bon Jovi.  However I actually enjoyed the era appropriate music, using gothic metal to match the aesthetic of the movie.  It makes this film quite special.

Lestat embodies the mesmerizing flirtiness of a rock star into his stage performance, tapping into legendary rock gods like Jim Morrisson, lead singer for The Doors and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.  He’s the kind of guy everybody wants or wants to be like.

Lestat gets pushed to the supporting role when Akasha shows up at his concert in Death Valley and takes him to a resort where she has gone on a feeding frenzy.  There she attempts to convince him to go along with her intentions to commit genocide and reboot society in order to rule over humans and vampires as a god.  

I rather enjoyed the seduction of Lestat and technically, exerting his superiority over mortals would be totally up his alley.  However, it says a lot about Akasha when even this version of Lestat, a cold blooded killer with little respect for human life shys away from Akasha’s insatiable thirst for blood.  That just tickles me every time.  She’s just that savage.

Lestat has a very interesting relationship with Marius, who acts as his teacher but there is a romantic tension that the film doesn’t quite explore.

What it does explore is a female love interest for Lestat by the name of a human named Jesse Reeves, a researcher for the Paranormal Studies Group, The Talamasca. 

The character of Jesse is the audience’s avatar in the film.  She is an outsider trying to breach her way into the vampire world.  One cool story aspect concerning Jesse is that her mentor, David Talbot, gives her Lestat's journal to read and it allows the audience to glimpse into Lestat’s early days as a vampire.  It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the film and we get to see a glimmer of some of the Lestat that fans of the books are used to, as well as a brief interaction with Akasha as a statue.

Jesse is so obsessed with Lestat that she begs him to turn her into a vampire through most of their cringy interactions. It’s odd because it’s unusual for Lestat to spend time with humans, resisting the urge to kill them.  What makes her so special?  The film doesn’t answer that.

At one point in the film, she actually cuts herself to tempt him and  I thought it was unintentionally funny because it plays a little to the overdone Hollywood storyline that a beautiful woman can tame any beast.  It’s also strange because Lestat doesn’t actually have much interaction with Jesse in the books so all of this is contrived for the film.

This version of Lestat is also incredibly lonely.  Although he has mastered his dream of living in the open, he is massively lonely.  Among his wishes, he wants a companion, which is why he never forgets the violinist he met so long ago.  Jesse offers herself as a companion to Lestat.  Even Though I don’t quite buy the romance between Lestat and Jesse, I don’t mind it either in the context that Lestat can have a companion again.  

There are so many other vampires in the film that are striking visually, but unfortunately we aren't introduced to them.  They just stand around, but they look cool. 

Of the ancient vampire twin witches, we are only introduced to Maharet, who acts as Jesse’s aunt, who protects her human family generation after generation.  Maharet rounds up a band of vampires to stop Akasha’s plan. There is a cool but rather short confrontation; the vampires overpower Akasha by draining her blood. The person to drink her last drop of blood is Maharet who then turns to stone, replacing her as the new Queen of the Damned.

Again, the film changes the lore because the other twin, Mekare, is the twin that became the Queen of the damned by consuming Akasha's heart and brain.  The film went a little soft when it came to a lot of the horror imagery that was baked into the books, but it got the gist of things that occurred… kinda.  


Technical:
The production had its challenges to start out with, being nearly half of the budget of Interview With the Vampire at about $35 million.  In order to save money, Michael Rymer convinced the studio to shoot the film in his home city of Melbourne from October 2000 to March 2001. A few scenes were also filmed in Los Angeles. 

Originally the big concert was going to be in an old theater.  Because of the wire work and pyrotechnics, the decision was made to have the concert in an open desert, inspired by Burning Man.  Utilizing the thriving goth scene in Australia, over 3,000 to 5,000 extras were filmed at a quarry in Werribee to shoot the concert in Death Valley, California for 3 days.  They were recruited from several bars and taken by bus to the location.  It was a great idea to do this because it really gave the film a much more expensive look.  It was pretty epic.

From death valley to London, I loved the jet setting globe trotting in the film.  It may have been a distraction, but I also thought it brought something unique to the film.

The bar scenes were completely contrived for the film, which I enjoyed.  "The Admiral's Arms" vampire bar "in the meatpacking district" of London pays homage to the night club "Mother" which was a real vampire bar in the meatpacking district of New York City. 

The film excels when it comes to some of the costumes of the ancient vampires and the work that was done with Akasha’s costumes.  The make up was a bit of a hit or miss.  I didn’t mind it so much but many viewers complained that the makeup was not as good as it was in The Interview with a Vampire.  They are right because that film took great care to create a special kind of look for the vampires, including visible veins.

The makeup wasn’t bad in my opinion although it was minimal.  Again, the film had a smaller budget so something had to give.  There was a great deal of digital manipulation to give all of the vampires a very surreal smooth complexion.  Another place where you can see the budget were the many forms of Akasha as a statue, and her elaborate final death scene.  I appreciate all of that work.

You would think that a vampire movie would be more bloody, but it was all used minimally as well.  The “blood” that many of the vampires had in their mouths was cherry juice.  I love that kind of simple hack to get the results needed for a scene.

The actress who played Akasha was Aaliyah who unfortunately died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001. She shot all of her scenes, but died only two days before the Monday morning she was supposed to record her ADR.

Her brother Rashad Hasan Haughton, who was very close to his sister and had a deeper, but similar voice, was asked to come in and do some of her ADR.  They used her own voice from the set, double-tracked it and added some more special effects to make her voice sound supernatural.  I loved the effect, because it has a very eerie echo to it.  I thought it was well done, with what they had to work with.  Good job!

One unique quality of the film was the awesome music selected for the soundtrack and score.  Before the film had even had a cast, the studio  and the producers wanted a heavy musical influence to coincide with the film. As luck would have it, Jonathan Davis, singer from the band Korn, was interested in getting into film scoring.  He wrote 5 original songs for the film with composer Richard Gibbs and integrated them into the score.

Sony Records wouldn't allow Davis to sing on the soundtrack album release with Warner Bros.  However, they did agree to allow him to sing in the movie so all of the songs had to be re-recorded and performed by other artists for the album release.

Jonathan Davis also made a small cameo in the film. 


Performances:
Tom Cruise declined the chance to reprise his role as Lestat and I think with a lower budget and such different artistic choices from Interview with a Vampire, I can see why he didn’t do it. 

Wes Bentley was first hired for the role of Lestat, but dropped out.  Then Josh Hartnett, Ryan Reynolds and Heath Ledger were up for the role.   Heath Ledger got really close to getting the part, but can you believe that the studio thought he wasn’t big enough of a star?  He was just starting out at the time, but he of course would have been amazing.

At the time, Stuart Townsend was hired to be Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, however, he was let go the day before filming began because they wanted someone older to play the role.  When he went for Lestat, he tested well and was well liked because of his affect on the ladies.  

Townsend is actually pretty good in this, making the most of the script, which does have a few cringey lines.  He makes it work and I think he was well aware of how his performance would be compared to Tom Cruise.  He said that his version was “like the rock-and-roll, tongue-in-cheek version” of Lestat.  

Intentionally, or maybe unintentionally, he was trying to get as far away from comparison as possible, including not having the blonde hair that the character should have.  Granted, again, the budget for top notch make-up and wigs was not there as it was in the case of Tom Cruise who also has dark hair and eyes.  

Stuart is so underrated as an actor and I think he gave a special kind of life and mystery with this new version of Lestat.  He doesn’t get enough credit for this.

Cher was interested in the role and she was probably more in line with what Akasha  was supposed to physically look like from the book.  Cher is an academy award winning actress and has had hits in every decade since the 1960’s.  You just can’t get anybody more queen-like for the role, but let’s consider the reasons why she might not work for this production, because it seems insane that they would not hire her on the spot.  

First of all, there is the issue of cost, meeting her quality demands if she had any and the issue of quality of production and script, which had some issues in my opinion.

As well, with her natural authority in the business, they’d probably want an actress who was more of an ingenue they could experiment with and discover the character of Akasha together with.

The production decided to go with an African queen and so Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Williams, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Samantha Mumba, and Jenna Dewan were popular actresses at the time.  As chance would have it, Aaliyah was shooting Romeo Must Die for the studio and expressed a genuine interest in acting.  They also loved the fact that she had box office draw based on her successful music career.  She was also excited about the project because she was a fan of vampire fiction and Egyptian history.

Prior to shooting Michael Rymer had her learn a monolog from Oscar Wilde’s Salomé in an Egyptian accent. She won the part and she glowed on screen to the point that she stole the movie…  Well she does play the titular character and I wish the film included more scenes for her to appear in.  Besides the focus on Akasha’s seductive physical movements, her facial expressions had so much energy and intensity.  She did a fantastic job and I wish we could have experienced more of her talent.  She was definitely on her way up.  It was rumored that she was going to be in the Matrix sequel. What a loss.

Many people wondered why Aaliyah had no songs in the movie.  The filmmakers intended to have a duet between Aaliyah and Johnathan Davis around the last leg of the production, but she died before it could happen. 

Michelle Williams was considered briefly for one of the roles but she was turned down, citing she was not good-looking enough.  Wow!  Michelle  Williams is gorgeous.  This is the kind of toxic infrastructure that permeated the entertainment business.  This was not the first offense of its kind, nor the last.



Enjoyment:
When Aaliyah died, there was a lot of talk about not releasing the film due to the demands of fans.  However, her family gave their blessing to move forward with the release because they cited that it was very important to her when she was alive. 
 
So with permission, the film was released 6 months after her death and was dedicated to her memory.

The film made back its budget, but underperformed for what was expected.  Many critics were not pleased that Aaliyah was so heavily used in the marketing but was hardly in the film.  They tried to not market the film as a sequel to Interview with a Vampire, but Anne Rice was so well known, everyone expected more connection to the written work especially when using the title of one of her most profitable books.

I think those are all valid points that I actually agree with.  Mistakes were made and I think The Vampire Chronicles need it’s own TV series with creators dedicated to Anne Rice’s vision as accurately as possible.  I think that when artists see the opportunity to adapt something, there is a tendency to want to put one’s own mark on the thing and I think the challenge of ignoring ego and actually duplicating the story for the audience can be just as creative.  It’s very challenging.

However, as its own thing, if we considered it an alternative universe version of Queen of the Damned it’s actually fun to me with lots of enjoyable elements sprinkled throughout the film. It’s an appetizer to what could have been.  You look at this movie, knowing that everyone is giving their best and I had a lot of fun with it.

This is not Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned, but it’s my guilty pleasure!


My Rating:
7.8




That sums up my review.  I hope you liked it. 

This is Retro Nerd Girl signing off!

Take care, movie lovers!  I'm off to the next review!





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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Don't Look Up 2021 Movie Review with Spoilers! - Yep, I Love It!




From the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, It's Retro Nerd Girl with a film review for you.

Today I'll be reviewing the movie Don’t Look Up released in 2001.





Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep

Directed by:
Adam McKay

Genre:
Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Rating:
R

Budget:
75 million USD

Current IMDb Rating When Reviewed:
7.3



Don’t Look has been one of the most talked about and most watched films in December 2021 and January 2022.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to do so before watching more of this video because I am going to talk about spoilers.  If you don’t mind spoilers, keep on watching.

I will start out by saying that I heard scathing reviews for this film and on the other hand I heard high praises.  I had to see this for myself. 

Although I have some technical criticisms about the film, I really had a good time with this one.  I couldn’t stop laughing at a subject matter that I would typically be seriously disturbed about.  I didn’t think I would enjoy that, but I thought it was awkwardly delightful, hilariously poking fun at an exaggerated version of real life.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Kate Dibiasky, an astronomy PHD candidate who discovered a comet at Michigan State University. After alerting professor, Dr. Randall Mindy of the comet and celebrating it, the team discovers that this comet is headed directly toward earth in an extinction level event in six months.

As to the real threat of comets or asteroids of that size hitting the earth, scientists say we are in the clear for another 100 years or more.  NASA has a similar plan as the ones proposed in the film to hit the asteroid with a high impact object to change the trajectory.  This could potentially all happen with the public ever knowing about it.

Even if a large meteor of the size described in the movie would hit the planet, it would not be as simple as lights out, everybody’s gone.  The film got that wrong.  The impact and surrounding area would be leveled, but the rest of the world would be affected by the dust created from the impact in the air covering the sun and a drastic cooling of the planet within a few months and years ahead.  Surely, humans could be quite resourceful to figure out how to survive, but it would be devastating. Billions of lives would be lost. 

The filmmakers have blatantly said that this film is not about comets at all, but an allegory for climate change and the threat of global warming. 
  
When watching the film you don’t necessarily see climate change as the obvious message.  However, you know it’s trying to tell you something about the state of affairs in our world, particularly in America.   The film accidentally does represent an excellent allegory for the pandemic, which we are still going through.

The funny thing is that the film was actually conceived before the pandemic and filmed during it.  

The allegory is more fluid than climate change, and can be used to represent a number of issues.  Many movies have done this type of social commentary are films like Dr. Strangelove dealing with nuclear arms, Zero Theorem where it criticizes the gamification of our world, Mars Attacks dealing with the absurdity of how we would handle a hostile alien invasion and Idiocracy dealing with the fear of society’s dwindling intelligence in a proposed future world.  As I mentioned in my review of Idiocracy, the more and more we notice Idiocracy in our world, the less funny it is and as Idiocracy, it had mixed reviews when it was released.  

Perhaps in ten years we’ll identify with the film even more, but I hope we don’t.  I hope we do make stronger attempts to preserve our planet.  According to real world scientists we have about ten years to try to undo some of the damage of climate change before it becomes irreversible. 

Whether you believe there is a threat or not is your own choice, but it couldn’t hurt to preserve our planet so it remains beautiful and bountiful.  Planting more trees than we cut, going paperless, solar energy, electric cars, recycling, reducing carbon footprints and reducing emissions are a few things we are trying to do right now.  

It’s not enough because the solar ice caps are melting into the ocean and we are facing more hurricanes, tornados and extreme weather than we ever have.  There was a horrible snow storm in Texas last year.  So it is evident that something bigger is at play here and perhaps with the cooperation of scientists, engineers and funding we can use different methods to combat this issue.

The thing that I’m really happy about is that this film is getting us to have a conversation about this subject, even for those who hate Don’t Look Up.  We are talking about it, so bravo to the filmmakers for that.  I watch so many movies that say absolutely nothing, so I always enjoy movies that give us something to talk about even if it is controversial.

Along with the satirical jokes and obvious funny gags the film gives you a fist full of drama which is an odd mix. This is what sets it apart from other similar films.  It’s poking fun at our world, but is it? Some of this stuff is hitting close to home.  This is what puts a big smile on my face.  It’s a different kind of narrative.

Wait a minute, now that I think of it, Idiocracy had a small climate change message too.  Other movies with a climate change message are Wall-E 2008, Water World 1995, Soylent Green 1973, Snowpiercer 2013, The Lorax 2012, and Zero Population Growth 1972.  I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones I could think of right off the bat.

Another interesting factor of the film is that it has a stunning star studded cast of five Oscar winners, (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, and Mark Rylance), and two Oscar nominees, (Timothée Chalamet and Jonah Hill).

They all do an amazing job with the script that Adam McKay, the director, wrote from David Sirota’s story.

To me, there was something very charming about all of the dialogue and the way everything is put together.  I say “to me”, because there were a lot of people who hated it.  It’s not for everyone.  Some of the clunky dialogue and zoom-ins to responses were done simplistically and added to the awkwardness I find hilariously occurs in real life.  

There were quite a few shots that were not in focus and not in frame and I loved the chaotic feeling of those cinematic choices.  I really do.  Part of loving the art of filmmaking for me is the visual part, the visual choices storytellers decide to use.  It is the additional stimuli that makes it a full rounded experience for me.

Now I want to talk about the characters because there is so much conversation or even debate about the ham-fisted message in the movie and not a whole lot of talk about this squad of characters who are genuinely fascinating. 

The focus of the movie shares screen time between the smart and rebellious Kate Dibiasky and Dr. Randall Mindy, the family man who endures his moral downfall while trying to save the world. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the doctor in a way I had never seen him on screen before.  He’s a very meek, understated soft spoken character with an addiction to medical drugs for his chronic anxiety.  There was something so sweet and naïve about him that was relatable.

Kate on the other hand, has no time for BS and immediately loses her cool with the media and the public, but Randall tries to play the game until he finally realizes that everyone is on their own agenda and not interested in doing what he believes to be the right thing. 

Jennifer Lawrence came out of retirement for this film and she proves what a strong actress she is.  She dives into her character’s frustration with knowing what she knows about the impact and feeling so helpless against a world that doesn't appreciate what she's doing or even believe what she is telling them.

Many climate change scientists have said how much they appreciate this film because it accurately describes their efforts to get the media and politicians to acknowledge their data.  This film provides that sense of desperation in these two scientists who are just freaking out, literally screaming and yelling into the camera, looking directly at us, breaking the fourth wall, “We are going to die if we don’t do something now!”

A lot of critics and reviewers have said that the screaming feels as if the characters are screaming at the audience or maybe even over preaching to the choir.  I can see that, but I felt that it was more character building.  Randall and Kate are acting appropriately.  

These two people have reached their limit as to how much they are able to pretend everything is going to be ok. It makes me think of the movie, Network, with the line, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”.  And this makes sense because Leonardo said that this was his inspiration for Randall’s on air blow out.  Brilliant!

I remember there was a time in the 1980’s and 1990’s when there was a serious concern about nuclear doomsday and I had horrible, horrible nightmares like Sarrah Connor in T2.  Oh they were bad and that kind of thing was pretty much and still is in the hands of world leaders.  I think personally I have learned to live with that fact and not obsess about it anymore, but it doesn't mean the problem is not still there.

Another aspect of frustration for Randall and Kate is most importantly being understood because of all of the math and scientific jargon they need to explain their data.  Everything has to be broken down to its simplest form.  

I loved the tension that the characters continued to have throughout the film as a result.  It really worked for me.

There is also a brief note about how scientists don’t always agree and us normies have to determine on our own, who’s telling the truth or rather, who has got the science right.  You can’t just always believe everything you are told.  That doesn’t make sense, but then how do honest scientists get heard?  It’s a tough place to be.  It’s like the news too.  How can you tell the difference between fake news and real news?

Each person has to make their own decisions.  There are no correct answers until after the fact and it’s too late to be right or wrong.

Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett play two morning news casters Jack Bremmer and Brie Evantee.
They were so delightfully exaggerated and over the top, hilariously playing into the emphasis on looking perfect and keeping things happy for their audience.  At one point Jack asks if the comet can hit his ex-wife’s home as a joke, but there is a sense that he wasn’t joking.  It makes you wonder just how twisted these people are constantly presenting toxic fake positivity and misleading their viewers.

Cate stole the movie for me playing the role of Brie Evantee, the superficial lady morning show host that is smitten with the “handsome astronomer” as she calls him, who is married by the way. Her news anchor American accent cracks me up. It was brilliant. 

Brie has a happy go lucky image on TV, but in person she is actually unscrupulous, selfish, and an elitist.  Her character could have her own movie and I would totally watch the heck out of that.  Her grandfather invented the flash freezing process so she grew up ultra rich.  She has 3 masters degrees.  Twice divorced. One of her husbands was a sport fisherman and the other the secretary of state.  She slept with 2 former presidents.  She speaks four languages and owns 2 Monets.  What a fascinating creature.

She actively pursues Randall and he easily succumbs without any protest at all!  It takes two to tango, so both of them are culpable here.   There is a part in the film when Randall says that he thought that he was falling in love with her, but actually he was in love with all of the attention she was giving him.  And boy there was a lot of great chemistry between them.

Leonardo and Cate played lovers previously in The Aviator (2004), where she won an Oscar for playing Katharine Hepburn.  She’s truly mesmerizing in this.

Rob Morgan plays Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe, the head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA.  He acts as a support to Kate and Randall to connect them to the government and the media.  Rob plays Teddy pretty straight on.  When other characters lose their cool, Teddy stays stoic in the midst of chaos.  The film really needed him as an anchor and when he’s on screen I felt like I was watching a documentary or a biopic.  He’s that good in this.

Meryl Streep plays President Orlean who according to the director, is neither Republican or Democrat.  In fact she was like an exaggerated amalgamation of Former President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Meryl however, did want the character to look more like a Republican.  However, the filmmakers have no love for either party because both have done very little towards climate change.

President Orlean is a lot like Brie, if she had made a career in politics.  They are both focused on looking as hot as possible, driven by sex and sex appeal and seeking ways to keep their constituents happy under a very false sense of security. 

President Orlean mentions in the film that you can’t go around saying that there is a 100% chance everyone is going to die because it would cause panic and the President of the United States is supposed to make everyone feel safe.   What we should also consider, which is interesting for her character, is that she mentions that there are many earth threatening meetings that she has seen during her tenure such as economic collapse, loose nukes, car exhaust killing the atmosphere, and rogue AI.  We can see how she is completely jaded at yet another dire situation. It’s no big whoop for her to shrug this off.  They’ve survived the other near misses right?

Initially she ignores the comet.  When her approval rating is in jeopardy because of a scandal, she finally concedes to do the right thing only as a distraction.  Her motives are completely self motivated and she still doesn’t believe there is any danger.

Just as she is about to save the earth, she succumbs to greed presented by one of her campaign mega donors, the tech mogul, Peter Isherwell played brilliantly by Mark Rylance. 

He convinces the president to abort the mission mid-mission in order to mine the comet for minerals. It doesn’t go well.  It leads to the destruction of the planet.

Peter Isherwell is an exaggerated amalgamation of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos with a hint of Joe Biden.  It’s an interesting group, but he doesn't emulate them.  Peter is his own special complex character. 

He pays top dollar for the best teams and he trusts all of his analysts completely so he is unable to deal with anyone questioning him.  He got extremely upset when Randall called him a businessman.  He is after something noble, like being the savior of mankind to advance civilization to the next level of evolution.

So ultimately, in this film, politics is corrupted by greed and mega rich billionaires are ruled by leaving their mark for posterity which leaves the average person better for their success or a victim of their failures.  

Is that real life or just a conspiracy theory?

At one point in the story the comet becomes visible and there is a campaign for people to “just look up” and see that the comet is real.  Then Orlean puts together rallies to tell people to “don’t look up”, thus giving us the title of the film.

“Don’t look up” has been interpreted as a way to claim that the movie thinks that some people are so dumb that they will do as they are told.  On the other hand it can also be interpreted that people didn’t want to look up because they didn’t want to be afraid.  This is all a matter of opinion. 

Some people have even compared this to “mask up” or “don’t mask up” or “get vaccinated” or “don’t get vaccinated”.  Each side has their own point of view on the matter that makes perfect sense to them based on the life they’ve experienced.  

Jonah Hill plays Jason Orlean who is President Orlean’s son who she has given the position of Chief of Staff who carries nuclear codes in a Birkin bag.  Jonah, who’s lines were mostly improvised, said that he modeled the character around the question, "What if Fyre Festival was a person?"

Jason is a cringy and an exaggerated example of a horrible human being that has no business in public office.  Sadly I have met some people just like Jason.  Oh yes, he’s real.  Most reviewers and critics hate him and he is supposed to be hated.  Job well done.

I laughed a lot when he was on screen, not at his jokes, but at him.  He’s ridiculous and I enjoyed the spectacle of his absurdity.  Truthfully, I have found with a lot of people like this, being rude and absurd is a cry for attention that is a bottomless pit.  Jonah Hill played that part so well.

Timothée Chalamet plays a skater kid by the name of  Yule who becomes a love interest of Kate just in time for the end of the world.  He’s not in the film for very long but he does well with his moment delivering last words to soothe everyone in a scene that could be described as “the last supper”. 

There was a lot of pushback because some criticisms about the film are that the filmmakers are part of the privileged rich elite and they have no right to talk down to us about what we should be doing. The film is absolutely self aware of this because President Orlean mentions this in her speech against the “Look Up” campaign. 

Other stars in the film are Ron Perlman, Himesh Patel, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis to name a few.  These celebrities are also humans.  They are allowed to feel a certain way about something and speak out about it.  They also have the ability to put their money where their mouth is, whereas most people are trying to keep food on the table.  

The film does well to insert some celebrities in the film and satires them too.  Ariana Grande plays Riley Bina, a vapid popstar that the public is more interested in than news of the comet.  Even our straight laced character, Teddy, is a fan and follows her closely.  It’s a little reprieve from impending doom or the harsh realities of everyday life.  She makes several social media posts to stay relevant, talking about the comet.  

In order to get the attention of the other leaders of the world to perform their own comet deflecting missions, Randall and Kate get Riley Bina and her fiancé DJ Chello played by Kid Cudi to perform in a “Look Up” concert event.  This is much the same as the star studded cast appearing in this movie for the cause.  Celebrities have a way of capturing an audience that might possibly listen to their message.  It’s very meta. 

Adding more shenanigans to the situation, the song they perform in my opinion is completely bananas.  Arianna improvised a lot of the lyrics for the song.  I just roll in stitches every time I hear it. It’s so silly and the crazy dress she’s wearing, the whole over-the-top presentation, is so cringy and wrong that this is happening while a comet is headed towards earth to destroy it.   Maybe I have a weird sense of humor, but it’s so funny to me. The idea of holding a concert as a comet threatens all life on earth is unfathomable and it is there to make the audience feel like screaming at the characters on screen a lot like Kate and Randall had done earlier in the film.  

Kate has a running joke going in the film.  The general that takes them to see the president brings them snacks and charges them for it.   However, later on in the film, Kate discovers that the snacks were free.  So as with anyone this would happen to, even though she is dealing with the end of the world, her mind is perplexed as to why a decorated general would scam them out of $40.  I just loved that.  

The main character arc in the film is given to Randall.  Isherwell tells Randall that his algorithm has a prediction of 96.7% accuracy; he will die alone. The Algorithm was wrong and I do believe that Randall changed his fate by finally refuting fame and the passive role as “America’s Sexiest Astronomer”.  After being so frustrated and lost, he cracks up under pressure, knowing that the world is going to end.  His explosion  of emotion was so beautiful, chaotic and satisfying.  I loved it.

The culmination of all of this story leads up to the “last supper” where Randall reconnects with his wife June Mindy, played by Melanie Lynskey in Michigan.  They are joined by Kate, Yule, Teddy, and Randall’s two adult sons.  It’s a beautiful moment in the film and really pulls everything together where he realizes that through his adventures, being among his friends and family doing something so mundane as eating dinner is what life is all about. He says so poignantly, “We really did have it all.”

To be honest, this really hit home for me because I have pretty much been isolated between home and work for two years during this pandemic.  I would love nothing more than to even see my friends and family just once.  Sometimes in the search for fame, money, and adventure, when it all comes down to it, the connection to people that means the most, is what is most comforting… the most meaningful. 

The final cherry on top was the music.  I loved the music!  It blasts a lot of big jazzy horns that are dramatically upbeat and fun.  Think Las Vegas in the 1940’s. It's very ironic for a dark comedy that ends with the world's destruction. Loved it!

My final thoughts.  I adore this film.  I’ve watched it several times already to make sure, and although it’s not perfect by a long mile, I mean there are so many plot holes and vortexes, but I enjoyed this so much.  I guess I could classify it as a guilty pleasure.  I do feel a little guilty for liking it.  It’s the first time I have seen a disaster movie that left me in a good mood afterwards.  And hey, it gave me a lot of amazing laughs during a rough time.


My Rating:
8.5



That sums up my review.  I hope you liked it. 

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