A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 84 – Push

Push – May 23rd, 2010

Neither of us had seen this before tonight, so yay new movies. It’s a bit of an X-Men-type knockoff, but then it’s not the first, and while I’m going to avoid making a lot of comparisons with Heroes, since Heroes lost my interest about halfway through season 2 and it’s not quite fair to compare a two hour movie with a network television show, there is a similar vibe going on. We’re told by a short bit of intro narration that Nazi experimentation on creating super human soldiers with psychic abilities sparked the beginning of worldwide research into weaponizing human beings. In the world of the movie there are a limited number of specific power types, including your basic kinetics, clairvoyants, and healers, but also people who alter the look of an object, people who can create high frequency sounds that can kill, and people who can make you believe things and control your thoughts. Unlike in many other humans-developing-super-powers universes, this one has a very limited skill set. Which I kind of like. But I didn’t really need one of the main characters to tell me all about them. They show them quite nicely through the course of the movie. Eh. It only takes what, five minutes? Maybe? I can forgive that.

So the world of the movie is a dangerous one. Whenever you’re set up with Shadowy Government Organizations ™ who kill folks in front of their kids in the movie’s first scene, you know you’re not going to be rooting for the guys with the badges. The Division, as the Shadowy Government Organization in the movie is called, tracks down powered people and carts them off to their facilities to experiment on them. They’ve been trying to create a drug that will enhance psychic abilities. Unfortunately it kills everyone who takes it and that’s kind of a drag. So instead of, you know, trying to make a miracle drug that doesn’t have the nasty side effect of 100% death, they just keep injecting it into people and killing them. Seems like a bit of a waste to me, but eh, I’m not part of a Shadowy Government Organization, so what do I know? Except one subject, Kira, survives, grabs a syringe full of the drug and takes off, her escape aided by a mysterious glass marble dropped by another inmate at the Division facility she was in. But I’ll get to that later.

Kira escapes and the scene cuts and we’re dropped back into the movie two days later where Kira, who now remembers nothing about her escape, is in Hong Kong. Who else is in Hong Kong? The guy whose father the Division wasted in front of him in the first scene. He’s Chris Evans now, but he can’t set himself on fire without a lighter and some alcohol so I guess I’ll stay away from the Flame On! jokes for now. Nick’s a “mover” (the movie’s name for kinetics) but he kind of sucks at it and he’s kind of a loser and he owes people money and blah blah blah. Let’s move on. Little precog (“watcher”) Cassie shows up at his door telling him he’s going to help her find this girl who has something important or everyone going to die. Seems Cassie’s mother was a watcher too and made all sorts of predictions until the Division grabbed her. So Cassie’s got a thing against the Division and dying and thus begins the quest to save Kira.

What makes the movie more than just an extended chase movie with intermittent shootouts is the powers involved. As is appropriate. After all, if the powers were just there and the movie didn’t incorporate them into the plot, what would be the point? Might as well just leave them out and make a non-scifi action/thriller. So the fights are full of kinetic blows and people flying around and the fantastically over-the-top screams of the “bleeders” (those would be the ones with the high frequency sounds, and they get creepy lizard-slit eyes when they do it). And the thriller/suspense aspect of the movie comes from the “pushers” constantly making people do things or think things and leave you questioning for at least a few seconds, as well as the “watchers”, of whom there are two, constantly at odds and trying to stay one step ahead of each other. Because it’s not just the Division who wants Kira. It’s also a family from Hong Kong who seems to be rather powerful in the underground there.

Kira, accompanied by Nick and Cassie and a couple of other powered folks who’ve been hiding out in Hong Kong, gets chased through the city and the pacing of the movie is done well enough that I never really felt like it dragged. There are some decent plot twists and well-executed turns and loops. The gimmick they use at the climax to disguise their movements from anyone trying to predict what they’re doing is a nice touch, and there was only one secondary character who I really felt could have been explored more. Really, my only true complaint about the movie is that it all seems set up to lead into a sequel, or at least a series of comic book tie-in follow-ups. But I don’t know if there was ever the real expectation that this movie could realistically lead to a sequel. I did read that there’s talk about a television series, but leaving things the way the movie leaves them, hoping that a new property that’s really obviously derivative of existing properties will pan out into future works? That’s annoying.

So let’s talk about how the movie leaves things. I mentioned Cassie’s mother early on. She’s supposedly this amazing “watcher” with incredible abilities who’s being held by the Division. But through the course of the movie we meet several characters who mention having met Cassie’s mother in the past and that she told them to be in a certain place at a certain time. It’s heavily implied that she’s the one who dropped the marble at the beginning of the movie, allowing Kira’s escape. She did a favor for the one secondary character I felt cheated by (a healer who seems to just go with the highest bidder but also has a hint of a dark religious overtone and something against Nick for reasons that are never really explained) and told her how to repay it in the future. Cassie talks about how she gets visions of the Division killing her mother if they fail, but it’s never said by anyone else that her mother is at stake. And I can’t help but feeling like it’s not so much that Cassie’s mother predicted all of this so much as that she set it up somehow. I wish the movie had carried through on that. I wish it felt finished at the end instead of like it should have had a “To be continued…” placard.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s not bad overall. I enjoyed it. I’d probably watch it again. I’m actually rather curious about the prequel comic books that are supposedly out there somewhere. If the show gets made, I’d put it on my DVR. I just wish the movie had been itself instead of a setup for more marketing. Then again, I still liked it a lot better than the last few episodes of Heroes that I watched, so that’s a definite plus.

Advertisement

May 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Push

May 23, 2010

Push

“Save the cheerleader save the world.” I do enjoy the modern obsession with real world super heroes. Today’s tale of mutant x-powers takes the form of a gritty story of international political intrigue about Division – a government secret project to study and develop super-powerful mutants. It’s also my first time watching this movie, so I’m dealing with first impressions here.

To start off let me ask, for whom was the entirely unnecessary expositional monologue over the opening credits intended? The movie is very specifically targeted for fans of superheroes and such things – so this opening just doesn’t work. Anybody watching this movie already knows what they’re getting into. And, frankly, I’d rather have spent some time figuring out what was going on. (It’s not like it’s too hard.) I suspect that like the Bladerunner narration it was inserted by some studio exec who couldn’t follow the movie.

And that would be my biggest quibble with the move. It’s a slick piece of world building that presents you with this premise and then just sort of plays in the playground it has created. In the world of this movie there are “movers” who are telekinetics who can movie things, “bleeders” who can break thinks or kill people by screaming, “stitches” who can kill or heal with a touch, “sniffers” who can tell the history of any object they touch and trace the location of people who have had contact with the object… all kinds of super powers like that. But the two super powers that really trump everything else are the “watchers” who can see the ever-changing future and the “pushers” who can put any thought or memory into your head. The whole movie is pretty much about confrontations between very powerful watchers and pushers.

There’s the good guys – an inexperienced mover named Nick and the precocious Cassie – a young watcher who’s mother was captured by Division many years ago. A woman named Kira has escaped from Division and taken a super-drug they’ve developed to amplify super powers, and somehow Nick and Cassie get mixed up with her. There isn’t a government on the planet who wouldn’t kill anybody in their way for that super drug (to paraphrase Sneakers) and so not only do Nick, Cassie, Kira and all the motley crew of underground super folks they interact with have to deal with the evil pusher Henry Carver from Division and all his cronies, but they also have to deal with a local band of super-powered thugs that want the power as well.

So once the stakes have been set and the characters introduced the movie suddenly becomes a heist film. Nick figures the only way to cloud the vision of all these watchers out looking for him is to plan an elaborate scheme, write it all down on letters that his crew won’t read until they need to, and then have his own memory of the scheme wiped. From then on it’s kind of Ocean’s Eleven with super powers as the scheme unfolds – and nobody (audience or anybody in the movie) really seems to know what’s going on. It’s a fun ride, but I suspect that on repeat viewings it won’t really hold up. It’s all so very implausible that Nick’s scheme would work out well… he’s only a mover and not a watcher after all.

The acting and effects are all within the realm of “pretty good for a low-budget action flick.” Djimon Hountsou in particular, as the nefarious Henry Carver, is plenty sinister, though you get the feeling he doesn’t have much to work with. The movie is stolen, however, by Dakota Fanning as the prescient Cassie. She has all the best bits, and absolutely brings the movie to life whenever she’s on screen. Quite a contrast to the only other Dakota Fanning movie in our collection (War of the Worlds) where pretty much all she does is scream.

But like I said before – it’s the world the movie creates that’s the real star of the movie. They very nicely demonstrate the power of the pushers, and from that moment on there’s a certain sense of paranoia in the film. If anybody’s memories and motivations could have been implanted by a pusher then what are the true motives? How much of what’s going on throughout the film has already been foretold? (Characters keep showing up who were told to help in this confrontation by Cassie’s mother before she was captured by Division.)

Sadly the real potential for a compete mindfuck is slightly missed. There’s room for a few more twists here and I was kind of expecting more by the end of the movie. It also ends with a lot of things unresolved, perhaps in the hopes that it would do well enough to warrant a sequel. So in the end I was left feeling a little empty. It was like – “Cool, I’m really enjoying this slick funky movie… wait… that’s it?” Maybe they will make a sequel. I’d certainly like to see more.

May 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment