It was hard to miss the ads for this movie, at least for me. They used a thumping Led Zepplin tune. It was another great piece of music from my youth that had fallen--become cheap enough--to use to advertise a movie. Ironically, no Zepplin is used in the movie, only in the ad. I had no illusions about this being a great oeuvre, but it had Michelle Rodriguez and Chris Pine in it, so I figured why not. It couldn't be any worse than John Wick 4 which I saw last weekend.
It starts with our two heroes (Chris and Michelle) in jail. Despite the horrendous conditions, they are chipper, healthy, and up for parole. They have the requisite we're-so-tough moment when they beat on a menacing prisoner.
A few minutes in, the movie goes off the rails for me. They are at their parole hearing and lay out their backstory to the panel deciding their fate. So, it's a string of exposition bomb flashbacks that try to set up what narratologists call the 'inciting event' as well as any other backstory it might be convenient to toss into this structural garbage pail. It's boring. It's unevocative. Pine's character has a daughter played by the least charismatic child actress I've seen on screen in a long time. He's going to resurrect her mother with a magical artifact. But since the mother died when the child was too young to remember her, it's a non-event, an abstraction, a check box on some producer's clipboard more than proper motivation.
The tone is firmly established when the rambling random exposition ends and the two heroes break out of jail literally as their parole is granted. I don't mind that. If they can be witty about it, I'm happy to ride along. The thing is, they aren't that witty about it.
At the opening of the movie, that's the plot: resurrect mom for the unlikable kid who can't even remember her. That becomes: raid the vault of their former friend turned enemy (played by Hugh Grant). That in turn becomes: obtain the Helm of Destruction to defeat the vault security. All the while…why should I care?
The biggest crime of the movie makers is that there turn out to be much higher plot stakes in the background. Hugh Grant's character is propped up by an uber-sorceress who plans to use a festival to create an army of undead slaves to take over the country. Seriously, in the background the entire time was this truly horrific, evocative, interesting plot that was ignored until the last ten minutes of the movie.
Perhaps worst of all is that, piece-wise, they film some decent scenes. They simply fail to use the script and editing to pace us along on an escalating ride to an exciting climax. The pieces were all there, but they were really clumsy about how they knit it all together.
All that is a long-winded way of saying this was a mediocre movie. The casting of the child and the bad guy dragged the movie down. The clumsy plot structure made the viewing experience choppy. The late revelation of high stakes wasted the setup. The result was a poorly-paced movie with little suspense and no emotional payoff at the end.
I suspect that intoxicants would significantly enhance the viewing experience.
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