The Crazies, Skyline and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

While Vanna has been out taking pictures of mushrooms, I’ve been watching movies. Saturday I watched The Crazies, Sunday it was the turn of Skyline, and last night I watched the final part of the Millennium Trilogy, otherwise known as the (Swedish) The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Here are my thoughts on all three films. I’ll do my best to keep it short, but uh, no promises.

The Crazies

I’ve never quite worked out how I feel about The Crazies. I’ve watched it twice prior to Saturday night, (the first time at the cinema, then again with Vanna last year) and both times I couldn’t help but think that it hasn’t quite lived up to potential. And though I enjoyed it a lot more this weekend (third time is the charm?), I still feel the same.

Now, it isn’t a bad film. It has all the right ingredients, with a good cast, a good plot, a great ending and lots of suspense and gore, which is perfect for me. BUT something just doesn’t click. I don’t know what it is, but it lacks a special spice (I seem to be using a food metaphor, so I may as well go all the way with it) that takes it from a decent film (Ahem. Or not) with potential, to a film that is truly amazing.

I tried this time to figure out where The Crazies went wrong. Ultimately, I was unable to come up with anything substantial, but there were a few points I did half pick up on:

  1. Skipping scenes. Especially near the beginning, there were several things you had to take for granted. I know it can’t show everything, but I don’t like having to make assumptions that might be wrong. I can’t remember them now (sorry) otherwise this would probably make more sense. I’m not being fussy…honest.
  2. The military came in too soon. Perhaps it would have worked better building up to that moment as it comes by rather fast. I won’t say anything more than that.
  3. Using clichés to build suspense. This was probably the thing that annoyed me most. Several times they opted for the clichéd horror moment, and every time you just knew what was going to happen before it happened (I know I’ve seen this film already, but even so I knew it). Like there will be a crazy guy about to strike the woman, but just when he is about to bring down his weapon, he’s shot in the back by the hero. Yes it is good suspense, but we’ve seen it so many times you lose the effect. Especially when you do it three or four times in the same film.

And that’s all I had, and I had to put my cynical hat on to notice them. Really, they are minor points that don’t affect the film that much.

How about a solution?

Well, The Crazies is only an hour and half long, which feels rather short nowadays (at least it does to me). Maybe they could have added in an extra thirty minutes, and used it to fill in some of the gaps. They could have prolonged the intro so that the severity of the situation hits you deeper, and, well, generally just gave more of a build up to the events.

There were also some really good, poignant moments in The Crazies, that I felt were underused for those stupid cliched suspender shots I referred to earlier. I won’t spoil it for you, but the scene in the house prior to the obvious finale was good (knife, hand…that’s all), the section at the truck stop (with the rig) and the bit with the deputy (with the empty gun) were really good events that made the ‘yeah he’s going to shoot him a second before…yup there we go’ just look cheap. Had they been more original with the horror aspects of the film, it would have had more edge. You wouldn’t have known what was happening, and it was far more enjoyable as a result. The long scene near the end was my favourite part for that exact reason.

…But maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe a slower pace would have ruined it. I really don’t know. It was a good film, and was probably the one I enjoyed most this weekend. It was gory, a frighteningly believable plot, good acting, and a gripping finale. For all that, I’m going to give The Crazies an 8/10. I still reckon it is missing something special (it goes in a category with films like A Place Beyond The Pines; super potential, but doesn’t quite hit the top), but it has grown on me. Probably one of the best horror films I’ve seen for a long time, anyway.

Skyline

Oh dear. Where to begin? You know what, I’m not even going to bother going into detail. Skyline was bloody awful. I watched it for free, and still felt like I’d been ripped off. The only consolation was that I knew it was going to be poor, so I wasn’t really that disappointed when I saw its poorness first hand.

What was wrong with it? Um, where to begin?

  1. Not enough scope. It was a B movie with a budget. And that’s not a good thing.
  2. Poor casting. I like Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs) but he wasn’t right for this. But the rest didn’t cover themselves in glory either, so at least he offered some ‘star quality’.
  3. The characters. To be fair to the actors, the characters they had to play were awful. They were rich guys…why? It made no difference to the plot, so why make the people we are supposed to care about smarmy rich people with fancy cars and a wonderful penthouse apartment? What was the thinking process behind that? Do you know what the two biggest suspense moments were in the film? The electronic blinds covering the huge panoramic windows wouldn’t shut quick enough, and the electronic gate in the car park was really slow to open. Oh dear! What a load of [REDACTED] (nonsense, kids, what a load of…nonsense).
  4. Some of the worst dialogue/writing I’ve seen in a movie. They weren’t even good at cheesy one liners. It was wooden sentences performed by wooden actors. The conversations were just banal. The guys who did Twilight know how to dialogue better than the Skyline geniuses. Stallone and Arnie are more convincing when they’re mowing down a thousand bad guys. The foreign fella (in Skyline, not Arnie) was probably the best actor, and I don’t even think he was given a name.
  5. Stupid plot devices. Logically it made sense for the gang to stay where they were. But instead of using clever methods to force them out (aliens attacking the building), they just made the characters stupid. ‘Uh, let’s leave this protected place and go out into the open!’ Um, no. Obviously it wouldn’t be much fun to see them camp up for an hour, but you need to think of something better than that.

I could go on, but I really can’t be bothered. In fact I’m annoyed, because Skyline has made my review of The Crazies look incredibly harsh. I’ve just criticized a film for being an 8/10, a score that Skyline couldn’t even dream about. At least The Crazies tried, and got close, to living up to its potential.

You see, that’s the worst thing about Skyline. It actually had a good premise. There was a good concept and they ruined it. The effects were really good, the weird thing that happened to the main character was interested, and the alien invasion thing is naturally very cool. Even the way they showed how time passing was pretty neat. But for every good idea Skyline had, there was about twenty bad ones hiding it from view.

Score? 4/10, which given the critical reception, is probably kind. They’re making a sequel, so maybe they’ll learn from their mistakes. I’m not holding my breath.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

I’ve now finished the Swedish version of the Millennium trilogy, and the only disappointment I have is that it is all over. I’ve enjoyed watching them, and I feel like the Stieg Larsson books are even better now. Next time I read them, I will be able to draw upon what I’ve seen in the films to enhance my enjoyment. The characters in particular will be less fuzzy (I’m going to blog about my imagination at some point, and explain what I mean), but also the locations.

Sometimes a film can ruin your perceptions of the novel, but here I think it’ll help me. Now when I see Lisbeth Salander I will see Noomi Rapace (who was excellent throughout), and though I love Daniel Craig, my vision of Blomkvist is more likely to be Michael Nyqvist, as his performances in the second and third film were very impressive (in some ways, I feel like I can critique the actors better in foreign films, as I have to focus on their expressions and movements to compensate for the lack of dialogue, and that is really where they earn their salt; well, if I was any good at critiquing in the first place…).

So, what did I think of the final film? As I predicted after the second film, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest wasn’t able to better the book, but it did a very good job so I’m not going to be overly critical. It captured it well, and I enjoyed it more than the second, if perhaps not the first. Though cut out certain details, the gist of the story was still powerful, and I couldn’t help but feel emotionally charged during the court case. Perhaps they could have expanded that a little more, but all in all, no real complaints. A very good finale to a very good trilogy that only suffers because of my love for the novels. I would encourage anyone to watch it, especially if you are fans of Scandinavian Noir (though Larsson is nothing like Jo Nesbo et all, the basic style is similar).

Score? Like the first film, a 7.5/10. Had I not read the books, you could probably add another point onto all of them. Not wanting to repeat myself…but yeah, a very good trilogy. And through it, I’ve learned I can watch subtitled films. So that’s good to know.

 

Alex

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