Following on from my post recently about Letterboxd and how it’s a handy motivator for writing quick reviews on films (shorter even than my Film in 500 posts), I found that it was the ideal method of productive procrastination during the last week!
Therefore, I’ve written reviews for the three films I’ve seen over that time: Uncharted, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, and Gemini Man! I though it’d be a fun idea to collate those here (and maybe even continue to do this in the future, but I won’t lock myself into that yet). The three reviews are below, I hope you enjoy them!
It’s finally happening; we’re getting a streak of solid video game movie adaptations! Uncharted reminded me a lot of Tomb Raider (2018), which is fitting, considering how much their source game series have also influenced each other over the years. Each of these films stuck close to the strengths of the games, whilst also bringing something new to the table, resulting in strong, fun-filled action adventures.
Here, we meet Nathan Drake and co. when they are younger than in the games, seeing how they get to know each other as they work both with – and against – each other in search of a long-lost fortune. Tom Holland is predictably fantastic as the charismatic and likeable lead, but it was Mark Wahlberg as mentor/friend/rogue Sully that surprised me; I was sceptical about that casting, but Holland and he bounce off of each other remarkably well, and that natural chemistry is one of the most enjoyable parts of the film.
The adventure itself is globe-trotting and filled with well-shot, energetic action sequences (though they did reveal basically all of them in the trailer, sadly – though that’s technically not the fault of the film itself). It strays a bit too far into suspension-of-disbelief-territory in the final act for my liking; I get that the tone here is pulpy action hero stuff, but it hurts the stakes when the main characters start to feel invulnerable.
There’s room for sequels here in terms of how the characters develop, and also ones that are noticeably absent – and going by the shiny PlayStation intro sequence, Sony are clearly planning to build up their film/tv output with the likes of this and their upcoming The Last of Us TV show. If this is to become a franchise, I won’t be complaining; this is a great base to work from, despite its issues.
Good video game movies, eh? We’re going into, ahem, uncharted territory here…
I am a huge fan of the Resident Evil games, for their thrilling gameplay, charismatic characters, and B-movie-esque charm, so it’s exciting to finally see a live-action film that attempts to focus on those aspects.
Welcome to Raccoon City mashes together the stories of the first two Resident Evil games, therefore spreading the action between the iconic Spencer Mansion in the Arklay Mountains, and the infamously overrun Raccoon City. Combining these stories allows the film to include a lot of the characters fans know and love, such as Claire and Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Leon Kennedy. I’d say the performances by the cast are mixed overall, but there’s clearly at least an effort into portraying their traits from the games. As the film went on, I felt like everyone was settling into their roles more and the ensemble was starting to strengthen.
In fact, overall, I’d say that’s the most endearing thing about this film – you can tell there’s effort being put in to make this a great time for fans of the series. There’s lots of little Easter Eggs and references, and whilst this is hardly a polished masterpiece in the narrative department, it contains some genuinely tense horror and action sequences (particularly in the Mansion), and the interactions between characters are both enjoyably natural and entertainingly corny.
However, if you’re not knowledgable on the series going in, I imagine a lot of these aspects of the film aren’t quite as effective, and instead just feel like lazy writing. Still, it’s a solid zombie film at the core, and the effects work is generally strong.
As a fan of the series myself, I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience with Welcome to Raccoon City, despite the noticeable rough edges. I’d be eager to see sequels with the same cast, letting them flesh out their takes on the characters more (there’s plenty of other games and settings to take inspiration from, after all!).
Will Smith goes up against… Will Smith! This film is a marketing dream, eh? Gemini Man doesn’t fully deliver on the potential of that premise, but this is still a gripping watch.
Smith plays Henry, an expert long-distance shooter who is retiring from field work – however, not everyone is happy to see him sail off into the sunset with the information he knows, and so he’s being targeted by the same government that hired him. They figure that the only way to defeat their best employee is with… Himself! So, they send a cloned younger version of Henry to take him out, and this chase continues throughout the film in various locales.
So, yes, other than the double-Will-Smith element, it’s a basic and unoriginal plot, but it allows the film to focus on why most people are turning up for this; to see Will Smith go up against himself. These action scenes vary between jaw-dropping and uneasy. See, the camerawork and choreography is often impressive and inventive, but in the close-quarters battles, the CGI used to portray this cloned character is often too noticeably fake. At these moments, the superhuman style of movement just took me right out of the action. I also felt that the editing was too fast-paced and uneven in these instances – as if they’re avoiding letting you search too deeply into any one shot. It’s telling that the main hand-to-hand fight between the two is staged in a dark cavern, which handily masks a lot of the effects work.
Don’t get me wrong – I admire that this level of CGI work is even possible, to have Will Smith talking to a visibly younger version of himself on screen. Just, perhaps, the tech isn’t quite there yet to keep you immersed during these extended sequences.
Also, I’m possibly the only person who was most eager to see this for a member of the cast who isn’t Will Smith! I’m drawn to anything with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in, and here she’s witty and capable as the main foil to the Will Smiths (is that the right plural?).
Overall, this is a decent action film that stands out due to the USP of Smith-against-Smith.
Hopefully you enjoyed these reviews – if you’ve seen any of these films, feel free to let me know your opinions on them in the comments! As I say, I might make these collections of reviews into a regular thing in the future. Have an amazing day!