The Power Man Your Man Could Smell Like?

Luke Cage and Isaiah Mustafa.

The movie roles are now diamonds!

There’s another one of those amazingly-shot Old Spice commercials with the Man Your Man Could Smell Like out now, which led me to discover the Twitter account of pitchman Isaiah Mustafa

…which is when I also discovered that his fanbase is currently agitating for him to portray Luke Cage in the upcoming Avengers movie. There are a lot more tweets where those two came from, too. The idea of Mustafa as Power Man picked up a lot of memetic traction since Mustafa’s recent appearance on G4’s Attack of the Show.

Mustafa’s got the physicality, for sure– he’s a former NFL wide receiver. He’s got the charisma… but could he carry a role as large as that of Luke Cage? Luke’s got a lot of emotional turf to cover in an Avengers film, especially if the screenwriters decide to go anywhere near his complex relationship with Jessica Jones. Mustafa’s handful of bit roles might not be enough to sell a casting director…

…but I’d give him a chance. I mean, c’mon, he’s got two tickets to that thing I like. I’d love to see him hold his own against Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

And, below, just because I am a sucker for an excellent practical shoot, the new commercial. Swan dive!

Review: Terminator 2029 #1

Cover for Terminator 2029 #1, by Massimo Carnevale.

Cover artist Massimo Carnevale knows his heavy metal.

Writer: Zack Whedon
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Nate Piekos

Dark Horse has finally launched its long-awaited Terminator comic, featuring the work of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog screenwriter Zack Whedon and artist Andy MacDonald. Dark Horse has a long history with Jim Cameron movie franchises, and this book continues that tradition pretty solidly. The setting is Southern California in 2029, 32 years after Skynet triggered Judgment Day, and the plot follows Kyle Reese and his lieutenants as they struggle to preserve their human colony from the Machines.

All things considered, this is a good setup; after Terminator Salvation, I know I’m pretty sick of John “I’M JOHN CONNOR!” Connor and his apparent lack of anything resembling a redeeming quality. (Yes, I’m back on Christian Bale Ruins Everything again.) On the other hand, Kyle’s a strong character, in both the original film and in Salvation; he’s heroic without being an iron-jawed caricature, and his arc across both films is genuinely tragic. Focusing the story on Kyle avoids having to reconcile the fundamental “is he a tactical genius, or a raving egomaniac” problem with the various cinematic depictions of John over the years, and lets us explore what’s left of the world without having to deal with the legend.

There’s not much left of Pasadena in 2029, either. Andy MacDonald gives us an appropriately desolate landscape, from the page-one callback to Terminator 2 to the final scene of Reese’s warrior band marching off into the nuclear-winter-blasted wilderness. Traumatized survivors pack up their lives and flee in Road Warrior-esque convoys. The Machines are omnipresent, menacing in both presence and absence throughout the book. The only brightness in the book comes from the snow-blasted hills in the final pages; colorist Dan Jackson sticks closely to the films’ blaze orange and rusted brown palette, conveying his strong grasp of the Terminator universe’s noirish feel with deft use of highlight and shadow.

Amidst the desolation and pervasive terror, Whedon provides readers with two native guides to the universe– Kyle’s closest comrades and sort-of-a-couple-maybe Ben and Paige. Paige hasn’t had too much to do so far other than demonstrate that she’s a Strong Female Character, whooping ass in greater measure than any of the men and proving her combat superiority over her teammates. Ben, on the other hand, is Kyle’s main strategist and confidant… and that’s where things get a little in-jokey. Ben makes some comments about Kyle’s as-yet-unrealized romantic connection with Sarah Connor that are pretty solidly in the realm of authorial commentary, and it’s obvious that Whedon’s putting words in his mouth. Jokes about Cameron’s occasional forays into creepy subtext are funny, yes– I laughed myself sick over the “if I were a horse or a bird, I would be pretty afraid around Jim Cameron” Na’vi-USB-port joke on The Big Bang Theory recently– but, if you’re writing in-universe, you need to exercise some discretion about tone to avoid editorializing.

That caveat being noted, Terminator 2029 is fairly enjoyable; there’s obvious routes for character development, although I understand this is a three-issue arc that will then lead into a new arc set in 1984. That doesn’t seem to bode well for Ben and Paige… and that’s always been the great limitation of Terminator canon. “The future is not set,” Sarah Connor says, but when you’re dealing with story bibles that have been established over nearly three decades, you’ve only got so much continuity wiggle room. Matt Wagner’s excellent Batman: Dark Moon Rising minis from a few years back encountered the same problem; Wagner could only set his stories in the years leading up to the introduction of the Joker, after which Batman’s history is pretty well set in stone. However, Whedon’s a smart writer; hopefully he’ll be able to find some clever routes around the universe’s determinism and give us some untold stories that occur in the tiny cracks between the films.

I expect to have more to say about Whedon’s Terminator run early next week, by the way; keep an eye out.

Smell Like An Iron Man, Man

Maybe it’s just a side-effect of lack of sleep from the cold I’m getting over, but this little tidbit from Robot 6 this morning is really hitting my funny bone just so. Partially because, yes, it is a rather silly promotional movie tie-in. Long gone, I suppose, are the days when collectible glasses from  a fast food chain are quid pro quo for summer blockbuster swag.

But the other thing that makes me find it funny… well, just close your eyes and imagine…

“Hello ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man, now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Iron Man 2 fragrance, he could smell like me. Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a boat with the Iron Man your man could smell like. What’s in your hand? Back at me, I have it! An oyster with two tickets to that thing you love. Look at it again, the tickets are now diamonds! Anything is possible when your man smells like Iron Man and not a lady. I’m on a horse.”

Bonus points if the horse is also clad in Iron Man armor. (Hey, not knocking Tony, but his rig’s heavy, man.) What an amazing viral ad for the movie that would be. You know Downey would be down for it. Now if only I had Jon Favreau’s number in the rolodex…

Tron Legacy: Trailer 2

It’s apparently event film trailer week. Hot on the heels of Iron Man 2 we now have a new trailer for Tron Legacy that finally shows more than the light cycle stuff we’ve been seeing since SDCC last year. Let’s have a look…

I saw the original Tronin the theater at the ripe old age of 10. I certainly thought it was cool, but it didn’t have a giant effect on me. A few years later, however, I would get my first VCR as either a Christmas or birthday present. A day or two after we set it up, my mother took me up to the shopping center near our house, to the tiny, independently owned video store. She went through the laborious process one went through in those days to set up an account- I seem to recall that replacing a lost or damaged tape was quite a lot of money back then, and I think the DMV had simpler forms. I was then let loose on the store. I don’t remember if I rented anything else that day, but the one thing I do remember picking out is Tron.

I went home, put it in, and hit play. When it finished, I hit rewind, then play again. I did this at least a third and possibly a fourth time, that day. Obviously, the difference between 10 and 13 was significant. (I guess no one had a great need for the living room that day, either.)

Unlike Star Wars, however, there wasn’t really any mystique of possible prequels or sequels for Tron. It was a product of that strange experimental stage of Disney’s life that begat weirdly philosophical movies that were nominally candy-coated for the kids, like The Black Hole. A poor box office showing should have doomed Tron entire, but the technological achievements it contained would go on to fuel an entire generation of filmmakers and eventually alter the very fabric of filmmaking itself.

The buildup to a sequel has gone hand-in-hand with Disney itself becoming intensely aware of its brand and branding in general; the purchase of Marvel is evidence of that. As such, there’s a certain amount of polish to this new trailer that feels… off. Detached. If that’s actually thematically attached to the story, I have to give them credit, because it comes off the trailer in waves.  Enough of that, though.

Pros: Story! Finally, something other that fleeting images of Old Flynn. I don’t know how much I’ll like Flynn’s son, but the shot revealing the laser turret behind him warming up made me slightly giddy. The return of Bruce Boxleitner is a treat; I could wish for Cindy Morgan, but as of this writing it would appear she’s not involved. The new Recognizer, hell, everything about the new digital landscape looks great. Flynn must have zapped in Jonathan Ive at some point.

Cons: Errr, ok, cyber guitarist? This is tempered somewhat by my long-repressed memories of the goofy cyberfolk in the first film and their outlandish transistor clothes. There might be room for it, but there’s nothing here yet that will prove to me, in a post-Matrix world, that Tron Legacy isn’t just, well, more Matrix. Also, and this is a minor beef, did we really need the hushed, “…whoa.” at the end of the stinger after the credits? As if the Matrix comparison isn’t easy enough? Let your images ride, because they can. We don’t need a cue.

I’m excited, but with reservations. It’s certainly a world I’ve always wanted to see again. I wonder how badly, and for what reasons, the people making it wanted the same thing.

Iron Man 2: Trailer 2

So, this went up last night after the (mostly atrocious, technically-speaking) Oscar telecast. We thought we’d give it a watch and tell you guys what we thought. You should tell us what you think, too!

Chad: This is one of the few areas where not being a decades-deep Marvel nerd pays off: I have just about zero preconceptions about who any of these people are or how they’re supposed to react. I know enough about Tony Stark and Pepper Potts to know that Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow did a great job bringing those characters to life. Past that? Everyone’s more or less new to me.

I still have a minor fear of character bloat; there’s a lot going on here, and too many characters on screen has been the death kiss for more than a few franchises. Other than that, I’m having a hard time finding anything to really get upset about here. I never had that much of an issue with Don Cheadle taking over as Rhodey, and the little bit more we see of him interacting with Tony here just cements the deal for me. I think I can reasonably expect to be as entertained as I was in the first one, regardless of whether or not Favreau hits the same high mark. I certainly hope he does, though.

And, apropos of nothing, the suitcase armor is hot, not that half of Twitter hasn’t said that already.

Janice: I might be one of the only people who really liked Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes in the original film. To me, Howard’s performance spoke world-weary volumes about Rhodey’s relationship to Tony– he was the straight man, the long-suffering college roomie who comes home to the sock on the doorknob every single night during finals week. (Worse yet, his buddy still aces the exams, too.) The whole mess about casting Howard in IM2 made me worry, and the first trailer didn’t really convince me that Cheadle was the right guy.

This trailer makes me happier about that, and it’s entirely due to how well Cheadle plays the “lone gunslinger” speech. That one line makes me more convinced that he’s an excellent choice than anything he did in the entire first trailer. It’s a brilliant encapsulation of the same Rhodey/ Tony dynamic– Rhodey tries to put Tony on the straight and narrow, and Tony subverts his plans by playing on Rhodey’s id and offering him a big, shiny metal toy. Rhodey fails his save, as always, and the fans get to see War Machine.

(Nerd quibble: I can’t say I dig the enviroments and lighting on the fight with Hammer’s VX-02s, but I’ll cut the VFX vendor some slack. Not every VFX shot in a trailer is finaled– ready to go into the finished film– and not every VFX shot in IM2 is by ILM, it’d be too much work for them to handle alone. We might be seeing work by another house who picked up some shots, we might be seeing something that’s still very much a work in progress.)

I’m not sold on Whiplash yet. Mickey Rourke is very good at looking like someone who needs a shower, and I’m certain he can more than hold his own against RDJ in any given scene… but I’m not sure this movie needs Whiplash. At the same time, though, it’s complicated– making this movie about, say, Justin Hammer and the Crimson Dynamo proper turns the climactic battle into a rehash of the fight with Obadiah at the end of the first film. Now, on some level you want commonalities– the first film had the Ten Rings in an uneasy alliance with Stane, this one has Vanko and Hammer working together– but you can’t just go back to the well and pull out an exact copy of the first movie.

As a longtime Marvel Zombie, though, my first reaction to Whiplash is always somewhere around “…really? Whiplash? Really now?”, and Favreau and Rourke will need to work to overcome that.

Now, Pep and Tony? Still spot-on, chemistry-wise. I was not a big Gwyneth Paltrow fan before, but she could play Pepper pretty much forever and I wouldn’t mind. “I want one.” “NO.” Just perfect; they’re so much fun to watch. RDJ is a fine actor who seems to have found a real home in genre films, especially in this series, where the candy-coated whiz-bang conceals a larger statement on technology and its abuses. Paltrow really gets into the heart of Pepper’s complicated enabler/ mother/ crush relationship with Tony, and I find her performance honest and compelling.

Natasha? I’m… I think this is where I really start to worry about character overload. I can certainly see a situation where this movie should’ve had Hammer and Whiplash or Hammer and Natasha as its chief antagonists… and not both. However, I’m not sure Natasha is an antagonist here, or that she will stay one if she is, given her 616-universe ties to SHIELD. I just don’t know enough; we’ve seen so little of Johansson in the role so far. Definitely worrying, but who knows.

True Geek Confessions: Chad

Many thanks to Alert Nerd for this crossover event!

Oh, where to start. The period of time when I got back into comics at the start of 1991 contained a lot of things that would go on to define the modern medium. You never knew when the next new book would turn into the Next Big Thing, so the urge was just to buy anything that looked hot. In hindsight, the eventual bursting of that particular bubble should have been obvious, but at the time, it didn’t keep me from buying several winners. Turok #1, anyone? Foil cover! When X-Force #1 came out, my shop back in South Florida had all eight variants, carefully sorted by collector cards contained within, just sitting out on the new comics table. I could have had one of each. I could have just swiped 8 of the Cable cards, too, since that would’ve been the one destined to be worth anything between then and when the market broke. But I knew jack about Marvel or any of the X-books or their characters, so which one did I pick? Gambit. I think that book devalued before I even got to the register. And it still sits in my oldest longbox, its original poly-bag never opened, possibly the only thing I ever did right with that book.

You have no idea.

Being a film student, my geek shame isn’t merely contained to comics. I maintained that Armageddon was a great movie for years until I came to the realization that I hated it a little more each time I watched it. As a professional in the industry, I’ve worked on a couple of mid and high grade flops. It comes with the territory. I worked on one movie that, in theory, should have been a geek dream, but in reality turned out to be so bad that I won’t even acknowledge it on my IMDb page. Not even this cross-blogging event can make me divulge what is perhaps my deepest shame.

I’ll admit that I own a copy of Cocktail on dvd, and will probably buy it on blu-ray when it comes out, before I’ll admit what that… other... movie is.  It’s that bad.

Where comics and movies meet, however, is where we’ll find today’s confession. It’s a little outdated, and events of the last few years have worked to make it fade from the minds of many. It hasn’t for me, because unlike most other people I wasn’t charmed or excited by the new Batman films. As far as I’m concerned, the last good live-action Batman movie made was, in fact, Batman Forever.

I will, right up front, give the hater camp two caveats. The first is that, yes, even I can admit that the style and success of Batman Forever led directly to Batman & Robin, and lets not mince words here: Batman & Robin is a complete and utter travesty. The second is, yes, Jim Carrey adds a little too much of his trademark schtick to The Riddler. I will address arguments about these points in a moment.

First, some background.

I got to comics relatively late in life, and when I did it wasn’t via either of the Big Two’s superhero characters. That would come, but not until much later. That being said, I was a fan of Batman from a very young age. How was this possible, you ask?

Ok, so, not the best Batmobile.

I grew up religiously watching reruns of the 60’s Batman tv show. For almost two-thirds of my life, Adam West was the only Batman I knew. My Bat-Cave was always brightly colored. It sported ample bakelite knobs. My super-villains were always themed and had lairs that were five-to-ten degrees off kilter from the rest of the world. The secret entrance to the Bat-poles was always triggered by that red button hidden in that bust of Shakespeare. My Batmobile was always a tricked out Thunderbird.

I loved that shit.

Batman Forever perfectly captures the campy, pulp spirit of the show. From the cry of “Boiling acid!!” right in the opening scene, I knew I was finally going to get a cinematic slab of my Batman. It does this honestly, too, with only a few obvious joking prods to the source material. It could’ve taken the easy path and mocked itself throughout, but instead it’s just fun. I watched it for the first time in a packed theater with a bunch of fellow film students and it was the first movie in a long time, at that point, where it felt OK to cheer at the screen. The credits rolled and everyone was happy and entertained- and not just in our theater, either, as proven by the $53 million first weekend box office (a pretty hefty sum in 1995).

Of course this success, as I mentioned above, led to Batman & Robin. But that’s the studio’s fault for just wanting more of the same- only more!- and pushing an awful script. Batman & Robin was so bad, I think hate for it bled backwards to Forever. And that’s just not fair treatment of an otherwise fun film.

Nipples need kevlar too.

As far as Forever’s cast goes, Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne isn’t the best (ironically, I think the true tragedy of Batman & Robin is that it burnt George Clooney in the role, who I thought was the best Bruce Wayne ever put on film), but it still holds up. I think Kilmer’s Batman is great and manages to fit in with the camp homage while fitting into the Burton Batman universe. It’s fun to watch Chris O’Donnell build Robin from scratch. Tommy Lee Jones is just plain fun. And then there’s Carrey. Had I been sitting in the editing room, there are two or three lines I would have cut, mainly the moments where he’s obviously being Carrey and not Edward Nygma. Yeah, I’d cut “Joygasm!”

If you look past those few moments, though, to when he’s actually in character, he’s downright channeling Frank Gorshin. It’s scary, and it’s great fun to watch.

So, there you have it. I love campy Val Kilmer Batman. It’s probably also why I love Batman: The Brave and the Bold on Cartoon Network so much too, and, more to the point, why I’m a fan of Give Aquaman An Animated Movie on Facebook. But that’s another show, as the man says.

True Geek Confessions: Janice

Batman Begins To Suck movie poster Photoshop.

Yeah, I said it.

I don’t even know where to start here, gang. This isn’t just a true confession of, say, having hung onto my copy of Thundercats #1 long past when it was worth something. Yeah, I had the huge Alan Davis Excalibur poster on my wall from the day it came out until I moved out of my parents’ house in 1997. I own the ugliest action figure of James Hudson as Guardian ever produced:

The Marvel Guardian action figure.

Oh, dear. Oh, oh, no.

Yes, his man-cleavage is both molded in and painted on, and I still think it’s great.

I own a god damned Alpha Flight action figure, and that’s not even the full depth of my personal fan depravity.

No, this is True Geek Heresy. Steel yourselves, because I’m about to go to the place most all of you will find utterly indefensible.

I don’t like the rebooted Batman film franchise. Specifically, I hated Batman Begins so violently that I’ve never even bothered with The Dark Knight, and I’ll be glad when the entire thing is over and Christopher Nolan’s retired to roll around in a Joker-shaped swimming pool filled with sweet, sweet cocaine.

I know. This is not even remotely acceptable in greater Batman fandom. This is on the level of not liking the early Miller years, of wholeheartedly enjoying Batman Forever. It’s just not done. And yet…

I really, really hate Batman Begins. I saw it in the theater on the strong—nay, effusive—recommendation of normally-apathetic Department associate Chris “Slarti” Pinard. Chad and I went in expecting… well, Chad was apparently expecting something like Iron Man, only three years too soon. I just wanted something that was a solid Batman movie.

Something that wasn’t that stupid, to be sure. Something that didn’t substitute “assaultively loud moments with Cillian Murphy in a fright mask” for plot development.

The Scarecrow, not being very scary.

You know, for being a fear-based supervillain and all.

Something where Katie Holmes had more to do with that meager acting talent of hers.

Something where Christian Bale didn’t ruin everything with his Cheese-from-Foster’s-Home delivery. “Duhhhh, I’m the goddamn Batman. I have scurvy. I have dandruff. Here’s my Batmobile. I’m gonna be John Connor.”

(Speaking of Mr. Connor, “Christian Bale Really Does Ruin Everything” is a corollary to this confession that will have to wait for another day. Suffice to say that he’s the realization of all that horror fans have whenever Nic Cage announces that he’d like to be Superman– except, unlike Cage, Bale really does get those roles. And ruins them. Utterly.)

I came out of that movie theater feeling like I’d just been bashed over the head with a truckload of Batman continuity, then had the remains of my face scrubbed over it while Christopher Nolan held my legs so I couldn’t escape. I’ve had worse theatrical experiences– Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Matrix Revolutions come to mind– but none that actively set me on a path of direct opposition to all extant $TOPIC fandom like that. I knew that, somehow, whatever reboot spell Nolan had woven over most of my friends, I was immune.

My reaction to Batman Begins was so bad that I checked with my friends to make sure we’d seen the same cut of the film– it’s not impossible for a projectionist to screw up, a print to get built wrong, for something to happen that would mess up the experience. Alas, that wasn’t the case; my hatred was honestly forged against the final cut. There were exceptions, of course; Gary Oldman is great as Jim Gordon, and Morgan Freeman is at least entertaining as Lucius Fox. Overall, though, I wanted something… less frenetically noisy, less Christian Bale-tacular… in my Batman movie.

Also, no one strangled a camel or got hit with a car battery, and, really, isn’t that all any of us want from Batman?

Many thanks to Alert Nerd for this crossover event!

“The Losers:” The Trailer’s Finally Here

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&#038;from=customplayer_en-us_movies_movietrailershub&#038;fg=MsnEntertainment_MoviesTrailersGP2_a&#038;vid=1b9d070f-aff2-47f6-8a86-9b2b44ec4fc6" target="_new" title="'The Losers' Exclusive Look">Video: &#8216;The Losers&#8217; Exclusive Look</a>

…Hm. I bought the TPB Wednesday night and intend to crack it open today (I’m laid up at home), so I can’t really say how faithful this is to Andy Diggle and Jock’s original work. (I’m sure more than one of you can in the comments, though!) What I can say is that I dig the Ocean’s Eleven-gone-paramilitary vibe, I like the production design, and the VFX house behind it appears to be Vancouver-based Image Engine, who blew everyone away with District 9 last summer. Plus, Peter Berg wrote the screenplay, and he’s well-known for his work as both actor and director in action films likeThe Kingdom.

I’ll be curious to see how this fares– I want it to do well, but it’s the early contender in a summer of paramilitary-hijinks and comics-adaptation films like Joe Carnahan’s A-Team remake (starring Liam Neeson and slated for June 11th), July’s action-comedy Knight and Day (I’m dubious, it’s Tom Cruise), the Jonah Hex movie (soundtrack by Mastodon!), and the 800-pound gorilla that is Iron Man 2. Hopefully, The Losers will be buoyed by Zoe Saldana’s post-Avatar and Trek star power– she has a lead role as the cunning and dangerous Aisha, and she’s always a pleasure to watch.

The Losers debuts April 9th.

The Best Characters of 2009: Part Six

Charlie Frost


I was a big Irwin Allen fan growing up. The Towering Inferno playing on the local UHF station was just about the best way I could imagine spending a Sunday afternoon. Or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Or The Poseidon Adventure. You would think this would make me an automatic Roland Emmerich fan for all that he’s made the genre his own, but I’d have to go all the way back to Stargate for an example of a movie of his that I enjoy on repeated viewings. I didn’t even bother to go see The Day After Tomorrow (for reasons obvious and non), and I could probably write a lengthy essay on why Godzilla makes my head hurt.

Now that I have this blog, I might just do that, though it would mean actually watching it again. I’m not sure I can hack that. But I digress.

Charlie Frost

Don't look! Quick! Think of a yellow rubber duck!

Anyway! I had some hope for 2012. It had all the appearances of not having any of the baggage of some of his previous films while really capturing something over-the-top epic. For the most part, it paid off. I could’ve done with about 45 minutes trimmed off- here’s where Cameron’s often risky ‘lets cut subplot’ technique would’ve come in handy- and maybe not quite so much strict adherence to genre trope, but it certainly delivers on scale and grandeur.

Part of me is glad he didn’t go cutting subplots, though, as it probably would’ve cost me time with the best character in the film, whackjob Charlie Frost. This is a case where I can honestly say neither writer nor director had anything to do with why I think the character’s great. It falls squarely on the shoulders of Woody Harrelson, and I don’t think the performance would’ve come together as well being played by anyone else.

Frost is all the best parts of Art Bell and some of Bell’s best callers wrapped into a single person. He’s also partially The Truth from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (who was voiced by none other than Peter Fonda). Harrelson’s performance is certainly a stereotype- the movie essentially demands it!- but he’s obviously not treating it as such. He also roams the country in a sweet RV that has, among other things, a self-contained radio station. It’s the kind of setup even Mother from Sneakers would love.

Woody Harrelson plays the paranoid conspiracy theorist with a crazed lust for the surreal out of all proportion with what’s around him. The results are some of the most entertaining moments of the movie, and I was genuinely sad when his time on screen was done.

The Best Characters of 2009: Part Five

Back to the movies. I wanted to get this one in before the week ended, and before we get too far from the implausible ending of this year’s Golden Globes.

Sgt. Matt Thompson


This is a tough one. Not because it’s going to be difficult to express my opinion on the matter, but because Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is an embarrassment of riches. I could populate half of this list with characters from this movie and walk away feeling justified. That wouldn’t be any fun, though, and Janice would probably kill me if I don’t leave her a space to eventually write down her own thoughts about Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of SSgt. William James.

"C'mon, it's my dick."

Luckily, there was one aspect of the film that, after several viewings and some time to let it all sink in, really stood out to me. Guy Pearce plays Sgt. Matt Thompson, the nominal leader of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team stationed in Iraq in 2004. These are the guys defusing roadside bombs, a job that’s equal parts mundane and high tension. It’s the polar opposite of the love affair the American Action Film has with the Navy SEALs, a role perfected by Michael Biehn (and I say this out of love, Navy SEALs being one of my cherished guilty pleasures).

What does Guy Pearce do here that’s so amazing? It’s not like any of the press about the movie has focused on him. It’s a sensation I can relate to, working in VFX. When you do your job well, no one notices. His character quietly and expertly establishes the groundwork for the entire movie. He shows what he does, what his team does, and how they interact with each other. He establishes the mindset of the job, then sets a solid granite bedrock of expectations for the audience that SSgt. James later comes in and dances on.

Emphasis on ‘shows,’ too; much to Mark Boal’s credit, there’s barely a lick of exposition in the scene Pearce is in. He’s got maybe 15 lines of dialog, one of which is making a snarky reply about the one line of obvious exposition that is in the scene. By the time he’s done, not only is he a fully-fleshed character, he’s also shown us everything we need to know to understand the rest of the film.

And he does all of this in 8 minutes. You barely hear about him again for the rest of the film, but his actions define the rest of the tale. The sureness of execution only becomes more astonishing in subsequent viewings. That scene can just about stand on its own as a short film- indeed, in the promotional push before the limited release, they did just that, releasing almost all of it as a preview.

Keeping all that in mind, I am perplexed at The Hurt Locker‘s loss at the Golden Globes. Avatar is a lot of things, but it’s not the best film of the year when compared to work like this. I fear a similar fate at the Oscars, but I can at least hold out hope that all the attention will bolster Kathryn Bigelow’s career and allow her to continue making great films about great characters.

And maybe I’ll finally get a copy of Strange Days on blu-ray in the process. One can dream.