Note: This is an entry in The Friday Challenge, which can be found here. This week's challenge? Explain how Hollywood would screw up a perfectly good comic book--the independent Southern Knights.
Nickolas Geekzinski, NYT Movie Critic
Southern Knights Rocks.
Honestly, I can't say it any clearer than that. From the opening scene with the giant robots, to the final fight featuring magical lighting against superhero lightning, this movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but there are so many cool things to say about this cool movie that some things are just going to leak out.
Whenever you take a book or comic book to the screen, there's a lot of baggage that comes with. Superhero movies have to acknowledge the things that came before. One of the funniest quotes in movies comes from Scott Summers/Cyclops in the first X-Men movie: "Would you prefer yellow spandex?" For a new Superman or Batman movie, there are years upon years of baggage to take into account, and a thousand nitpicking little details that the rabid fans of those franchises want to see. That's why the first words Superman speaks to Lois in "Superman Returns" are the same as the first line he says to her in the original "Superman: The Movie."
However...if you build your movie from something that doesn't have all that baggage--say, a lesser-known comic book, with a much smaller legion of rabid fans--then you have the chance to create your own baggage, and define these characters anew. So, let's take a look at the characters.
David Shenk/Electrode: The leader of the team, played to brooding perfection by Chris Pine, fresh from Trek. The comical moment where he works out a battle plan, calls out instructions to his teammates--and then watches them totally ignore his plan and rush off to do their own thing--is absolutely priceless.
Connie Ronnin: Rumor has it Paris Hilton offered to finance the movie for a shot at this role, but fortunately, it fell to Summer Glau instead. The intensity she brings to the role is astounding. It must have taken weeks of fencing practice to make her look that good.
Dragon: The one piece missing from the film is some kind of backstory on a man who can change into a dragon. I mean, did Shia Lebouf just suddenly wake up one morning and realize he could change into a dragon? And what's with all the anachronistic speech--he sounds like he learned to talk by watching Masterpiece Theater, for crying out loud.
Kristin Austin: This is the role every comic book fan knows about--because of Jessica Simpson storming off the set halfway through production. Scrambling for a last-minute replacement, all of her scenes were re-shot with Hayden Panattiere in record time.
Brian Daniels: And the show-stealer of the year award goes to...Jeff Foxworthy, for his portrayal of the robot-suit wearing comedy sidekick of the team. Purists may complain about the amount of screen time granted to what was essentially a minor character in the comic book, but his sub-plot--featuring him losing everything to his ex-wife (played to shrewish perfection by Drew Barrymore), then the commiserating drinking party with Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy, and finally figuring out the answer to all his problems--all of these things made the movie. And the final fight, seeing his battle suit covered with more corporate sponsor stickers than the average Nascar vehicle, just brought everything together.
And finally, Morrigan, the villain. Other reviewers have already sung her praises, so I don't need to go into any more depth here. Suffice it to say it's terrific to see a true, villainous villainESS for a change.
The action was stupendous; not even Michael Bey could have done it better. The robot battle at the beginning which totally destroyed the freeway into Atlanta? For the first time, really, audiences get a glimpse into just how much collateral damage superhero combat entails.
And it's really rare to see a superhero movie with as much humor. Having Kristin join the rednecks at the bar was a stroke of genius, and the barroom brawl to follow--while predictable, "when there's a scene in a bar, there will be a fight"--was one of the coolest scenes in the movie, as Kristin spun at least a dozen drunken men through the nearest available window...or wall...without once spilling her drink. The sex scene that followed, when she rushed off drunk into Dragon's apartment, was more touching and warm than even the one in Watchmen.
There are nitpicks, of course; you can't film a superhero movie without them. Why Connie's psychic lightsaber could cut through some things and not others is one. And Morrigan's lightning bolts--why didn't they short out Brian's sticker-encrusted battlesuit at the end of the movie, the way it did at the beginning when the enemy robot dropped power cables on it? Did the stickers give it protection against magical lightning or something?
All I've got to say is this. The Southern Knights movie may not have been true to the word of the original comic, but with the massive injection of Southern humor, it was very true to the spirit of the original, and adds a whole new chapter to what will eventually become a dynasty of...
...hey, what are you doing in here? Aren't you the guy who invented the Southern Knights? What do you think you're doing with that butter knife...?