Bad Guys, Bond, and Lincoln

So I had a movie double header a few weeks ago. First I went to see Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph, and then a few hours later (after a burrito and a crepe), I went back into the theatre to see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Then last week I went to Lincoln while I was in Utah for Thanksgiving. But that’s enough preamble. Let’s get into it in order.

Poster for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.

Wreck-It Ralph starts off with a cool idea. What if the bad guy no longer wants to be the bad guy? Ralph is the bad guy of the video game, Fix-It Felix Jr. After the tree stump Ralph lives…on?…or maybe in?…is moved to a junk yard to make way for a housing development, the nine foot tall bad guy decides to get his revenge on the citizens of Niceland. Ralph climbs the apartment building of the Nicelanders and wrecks it on his way to the top. Sadly, the Nicelanders have a hero, the eponymous Fix-It Felix Jr., who wields his magic hammer to fix the building, climb to the top, and with the help of the Nicelanders, throws Ralph off the building and into a puddle of mud. Such is the life of Ralph in the video game for thirty years at the arcade, and he’s tired of it. He doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore, but it isn’t easy to go against your programming. To get the medal he needs to get the Nicelanders to like him, Ralph “game-jumps” into other games at the arcade. It’s a dangerous endeavor. If a character from one game dies outside of their own game they will not regenerate; they’ll be gone for good. But even more frightening is the possibility of a game being unplugged, because if Ralph breaks his game, or any of the others he visits in the arcade, it’s lights out for all of the characters in those games.

As one might expect from a Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph has a good story, plenty of humor, cute characters, and a strong moral message. And the execution of the story is nearly flawless. It’s a pity that Disney’s in-house animated movies aren’t getting the attention they once received and are usually overshadowed by Pixar’s films. While they may not be as endearing as classics like Beauty and the Beast, or Lady and the Tramp, Disney has done a wonderful job with their own recent animated movies and Wreck-It Ralph is no exception. Ralph’s journey to acceptance is poignant and emotionally appealing, and the end of the journey comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Poster for the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

Poster for the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

There have been a lot of James Bond movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the longest running film series in history, but I’m not going to bother looking that up to see if that is actually the case. Regardless, the most recent installments starring Daniel Craig have been excellent, and Skyfall is no exception. The movie opens with an excellent chase scene that culminates in the death of James Bond. Well, okay, he doesn’t really die, but everyone thinks he’s dead and he doesn’t correct them while he takes a vacation and recovers from his injuries. He may have stayed “dead” permanently if it weren’t for a new villain threatening the security of Bond’s beloved England. He returns to put a stop to the madness, but the bad guys strike a little more close to home than usual this time when they bomb the headquarters of MI6 and Bond suspects that the person/people may have a connection the British intelligence agency. Where Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace explored Bond’s early years as 007, Skyfall explores his life as an aging operative who isn’t as spry, or even as relevant as he used to be with the continued advances of intelligence technology.

I have to mention this, there is (I think) a wonderful scene exploring this “aging” theme in London’s National Gallery where Bond and Q admire the painting titled The Fighting Temeraire by J.M.W. Turner. As it turns out, that is my favorite painting from the National Gallery. I even bought a print of it when I was studying abroad in London. Okay, enough nerding out.

As one might expect, Skyfall is a fun, action-filled movie. I do have a few nitpicks though. First, it is essentially The Dark Knight James Bond style. While it is thematically different (unless you also consider Skyfall alongside The Dark Knight Rises), the films’ plots are very similar. Second, Bond’s return to the Skyfall ranch where his childhood is explored seems a little tacked on, and honestly they don’t explore much about Bond’s childhood beyond a few mildly humorous stories. There was a little too much going on in the movie by that point to really delve into Bond’s past. However, these nitpicks don’t really matter. There was WAY more awesome than there are nitpicks, including a few fun nods to older films in the series. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another four years for the next Bond movie.

Poster for Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Poster for Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Lincoln is a great bio-flick that explores the life of Abraham Lincoln during the tail end of the Civil War when he championed the movement to end slavery. The movie chronicles Lincoln’s struggles with his fellow politicians in Washington, his desire to reunite the Union, and even marital/familial strife with his wife and son. But though this movie follows Lincoln, it is about far more than the life and works of the country’s sixteenth president. Also demanding your onscreen attention are Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stephens, and Sally Fields as Lincoln’s wife, Mary. The already tremendously powerful story is rendered even more amazing by the fantastic casting and the ability of the actor’s to play these roles. The fact that Lincoln was able to push through the Thirteenth Amendment in such a vocal, and even opposed Congress is unbelievable. And this film doesn’t even explore all the other things weighing on Lincoln’s mind, like, you know, that little conflict called the Civil War (that is me using understatement).

As one might expect from a modern bio-pic, Lincoln explores the humanity of its namesake, and it’s in these moments that the movie shines even brighter than it already does. From an argument with his wife, to joining his young son, Tad, for a nap on the floor after a long day of president stuff, Lincoln portrays ol’ Abe as a human being though he is also quite frequently larger than life. Lincoln is played brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis. With stooped shoulders, and sauntering gait, Day-Lewis as Lincoln leads the nation to peace after the most devastating war in American history, and frees the slaves in the process. I expect some Oscar nominations.

Well, I guess that’s all I have for now. Not sure what I’ll write about next, but there is Life of Pi and the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy (oi…) to consider.

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