Exhibit 1: I hired it with low expectations, which were pretty much confirmed, but watching Fast & Furious 7 on DVD made me wonder how this series manages to be internationally hugely successful. (The only other one I have seen much of, however, is Tokyo Drift. Maybe I saw a bit of the first one, too. They're not exactly memorable.)
The key seems to be that they are aimed squarely at the interests of males aged 14-18, which means there is considerable overlap with those up to the age of 30, too. But then there is also the obvious marketing to the girlfriends of said primary audience, what with the hunky, good hearted lead actor; the continual emphasis on family and relationships; and the physical toughness and competency of the female leads.
This does make for some oddly mixed messages - the soft porn objectification of the women incidental to the story sits uncomfortably alongside the kick ass "girls can do anything" feminism and interest in relationships of the female leads. I get the feeling that a large part of the international success might be simply from the producers knowing exactly how much female skin they can get away without ratings interfering with the male teenage audience in key markets. (The ethnic mix of the cast doesn't hurt, too.)
Anyhow, parts of FF7 reminded me a lot of Mission Impossible, except that their stunts really are, well, impossible.
I don't find the movies offensive, but they are very, very silly and really don't deserve to do as well as they do.
Exhibit 2: My son has read the Maze Runner books, and the first movie was OK in a young adult way, so it was off to see Scorch Trials, the second in the series, last night.
Turns out it's a mish mash of the post apocalyptic and zombie genres: a bit Mad Max, a bit World War Z, making it less interesting than the first movie, which I still don't really understand. (My son assures me that, although the books are increasingly different from the films, it all makes sense by the end. I have my doubts.)
Look, it's very well executed in a visual effects sort of way - green screens and computer graphics can create really convincing looking vistas of devastated cities these days; but even some of the physical sets looked great. (Although, again, perhaps I am being fooled as to how much of what I am seeing of the cavernous interior of a decrepit shopping mall is real.)
There is one particularly odd scene, though, where they seem to stumble upon a still functioning equivalent of Studio 54 (under gay management, for some reason) in the midst of the rubble of a metropolis. A roughly equivalent scene is apparently in the book - I think it was in the movie so as to let in a drug addled kiss from the lead actor - but it was a bit weird.*
Back to the positive - the action is competently handled.
But they need to wind this series up soon - I was surprised how much older the actors looked in this film compared to the first, especially the young female lead.
And this morning, while shaving, I suddenly realised - "hey, unless I'm mistaken, those dudes wandering the deserts and dilapidated cities for a week or two never seemed to grown a hint of stubble." Maybe they are truly mutants.
* Update: I have only seen a little of the Hunger Games movies (the basic premise has no appeal) - but did Scorch Trials throw in a touch of camp weirdness inspired by them? Certainly, though, it would seem to be a common thread of these young adult series that it's a case of "The oldies - they're just using us! We have to fight back!"
Update 2: Oh look, you can learn about the digital rendering of the post apocalypse in this video. It's pretty incredible how actors now just have to imagine what they are looking at in movies like this:
Update 3: my son complains that I sound too critical of Scorch Trials. Let me be clear: I officially declare it "o-kaaay", provided you say that with the correct inflection that indicates you have reservations...