Not enough wonder in ‘Wonderland’

Johnny Depp's yellow contacts are the high end of the Mad Hatter's madness. Here’s how it breaks down: Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland” is fraught with insanity. Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” contains almost none.

Without all that illogic and craziness, Wonderland has no soul. The characters lose their intrigue, their menace, their magic – and their entertainment value. Burton’s “Wonderland” contains only overbearing plot and Johnny Depp, in his wholly sane and diminished portrayal of the Mad Hatter, otherwise known here as The Character Burton Wishes The Story Was About.

First, the plot. Carroll’s story subsists, as we’ve mentioned, on insanity – and therefore Alice is tossed from situation to situation as she tools around Wonderland, basically getting into trouble before being led or chased to somewhere new.

Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton instead thrust upon Wonderland an extremely recycled story of good ruler/bad ruler, in which Alice (Mia Wasikowski) is, for reasons never even mentioned, Wonderland’s prophesied warrior/champion/Aragorn/Luke Skywalker.

All the standard inhabitants of Wonderland have been searching for Alice since she first arrived in Wonderland when she was young – no one else, the film suggests, actually lives there. Now 19 and poised to be married off to an irritating British lord, Alice’s need for escape takes her down the hole in pursuit of the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) and back to Wonderland, where she’s immediately recruited to fulfill said prophecy. It seems the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has taken power, and she’s mean. The Wonderlandians would much rather the White Queen (Ann Hathaway) was their ruler. Alice gets to fight a dragon to enact this political change.

None of the ins and outs of this prophecy, Alice’s previous visit, her assumed specialness, or the antecedents of this apparent rebellion are ever discussed. Okay, fine, it’s a children’s movie – whatever. But the end result is not a whimsical albeit dark reimagining of an insane and vibrant world; it’s instead just a far-too-long stop-by-stop tour of an extremely boring Wonderland, in which Alice meets flat character after flat character, who each direct her to her next destination.

Each scene and character is lifted from the original work, and with its weirdo storyline it’s somewhat apparent that Burton’s “Wonderland” is meant to function as a sequel to Carroll and Disney’s 1951 cartoon adaptation. But it’s a sequel that the film itself concedes is a nearly exact replica of Alice’s earlier trip and story (except, you know, the dragon-slaying sword-finding bits). Where Carroll has Alice dealing with crazy, unique and interesting characters, all of Burton and Woolington’s characters are stripped clean of distinguishing traits outside of those rendered in CGI. They are plot devices and nothing else, pushing us toward the supposedly thrilling foregone conclusion.

As overbearing as the plot is Johnny Depp as the orange-haired, white-faced Mad Hatter. Most notably, and most disappointingly, he’s about as far from mad as Depp has gotten in years – especially under Burton’s control. And he has almost as much screen time as Alice, though there seems to be no discernable story reason for this Depp-glut.

The Hatter serves mostly as Alice’s biggest guide. He’s also, for some reason, an understated Alice love interest, freedom fighter and backstory relayer.

All the characters are painfully tame (the Cheshire Cat [voiced by Stephen Fry] has the sole function of appearing in scenes to fill them out), but none moreso than Depp. He appears in much of the plot but never adds anything to the story whatsoever. Lift him from the movie and it would truck along just fine without him, with his plot-device roles fulfilled by any number of other supporting characters. He’s an empty suit, hat and wig in every conceivable way.

There’s no aspect of Burton’s “Wonderland” that gives us the impression the story needed retelling here. We get nothing new from the Burton perspective, or his cast. The script is a pitiful clone of other, much better quest movies. Even the CGI look of Wonderland itself isn’t as lush or interesting or weird as, say, “Avatar,” or even many video games, despite the fact that Wonderland should offer no end of ideas for demented, fantastic things at which to look.

At every turn, with every expectation, “Wonderland” falls well short. The movie is unnecessary, disappointing, and underwhelming – another new adaptation Burton just didn’t need to do.

‘Avatar’ neglects a few interesting ethical questions

NOTE: This post contains a few slight SPOILERS about “Avatar.” I’m sure you can guess the plot of the movie based on the trailers, but if you’re scared at all, you may want to refrain.

Is it OK to take over another thing's body if it's comatose whenever you don't? The huge IMAX-projected blue hand twitched as the alien drifted in a giant, fluid-filled incubation tube, and my very first thought was, “So – is it alive?”

Such a question is never addressed in the whole of James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which I finally got around to seeing this week. A quick rundown for those of you who are living in Afghani caves or have been in hypersleep for the last few months:

“Avatar” takes place on a distant planet called Pandora, which has lots of multi-legged animals; huge deposits of some kind of awesome, possibly floating mineral (which will remain nameless due to its incredibly stupid name); and an indigenous population of 10- or 12-foot-tall aliens called the Na’vi.

In order to study, deal with, educate or subvert the Na’vi (the motivation changes with the wind) as well as to easily breathe in the Pandoran atmosphere, human nerds have cooked up half-human, half-alien hybrids called avatars. These avatars function generally as living robots. A human lays down in a machine and, through magical technology, has her consciousness or neural connections or something transmitted to the avatar, effectively becoming it. The connection is not unlike what’s seen in “The Matrix.”

The avatars are genetically aligned with their human “drivers.” The DNA used to make them is specific to the person who uses the avatar. Once linked in to an avatar, it seems the only way to pull a person back out is to hit a special, shiny red button (this is apparently dangerous) or to go to sleep. When an avatar sleeps, the person is automatically kicked back out, and the avatar essentially looks like it is sleeping. It’s completely unresponsive and is more or less dead or comatose until the driver links back in with it.

But it twitches, right? The avatar twitches when you’re not in it, and when you’re in it, it breathes, and it seems to sleep, and it lives, and it can die – we see it happen at one point. It’s not a robot. It’s biological.

So is it alive? And if it’s alive, does that make it okay to just jack into a computer and take it over and use it, and use it up?

My biggest problem with “Avatar” was that while science fiction as a genre routinely seeks out and takes on such ethical quandaries, this film dodges the vast majority of them. Primarily, the movie’s message is environmental – the main character finds himself drawn to the natives’ life of living without technology in harmony with the planet around them, and the bad-guy humans are trying to strip and destroy the Pandoran forests, out of, what else, greed.

Robin Williams' stunning CGI alter-ego in "Avatar." Fine, fair enough. Given the societal climate right now, the stage was set for a “Fern Gully” remake and Cameron’s the right guy to make this movie, as the box office figures are bearing out.

But what about all the other interesting questions “Avatar” could answer?

For instance, the eventual heartless-military-guys-attacking-poor-aliens plot turn leads to several human characters standing with the aliens, but when it all goes to war, there’s a great deal of random soldiers getting just as massacred as the aliens had been.

So it’s war, and I get that, but the question of being a “human race traitor” – and in many ways, that’s what main character Jake Sully becomes – is never really addressed. It’s more thrown around as an epithet. Obviously Jake’s taking the right position in the film (mass murder always being the wrong position). But for the common human on Pandora, it’s the decisions (and propaganda) of a few honchos that leads a lot of people to their deaths.

Greed and murder are apparently the only things 99% of humanity is capable of in Cameron's film. Cameron’s movie never has Jake wrestling with the idea of killing his former comrades. His lot is cast with the Na’vi and everyone else is cannon fodder. But isn’t it as big an issue that to save one people, you’re killing another, most of whom are just misinformed?

Meantime, those unabridged jackasses behind the slash-and-burn blow-up-the-savages game plan have only the faintest glimmer of conscience (Giovanni Ribisi gives us one frown. Thanks, guy.) before they go on a tech-fueled killing spree. Yeah, I know what we’re getting at here thematically, but we couldn’t see a couple corporate/military lackies who might actually be, you know, human? Not everyone is a corrupt jerk who thinks only about money and golf – can we maybe ask the question of ourselves of what values we have as a people? Could the characters of this movie ask that question before they start indiscriminately killing one another?

Where “Avatar” pushes the envelope visually, it plays it safe in story and commentary. For a movie that harps on the value of life, there’s a lot of life that gets almost no value. A scenario such as that of “Pandorahontus” gives us an opportunity to think about these questions and our values. Is it really okay to use virtual reality to ride around in a living robot, even if that robot has no mind of its own?

In defense of ‘New Moon’

twilight It grossed more on its Thursday opening than both “Harry Potter” and “The Dark Knight,” and everyone has been ragging on the movie, but let me make an apparently earth-shattering statement:

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is really not that bad.

It’s no worse than the various dude-bro films that make tons of money and have huge budgets and people who know film acknowledge are bad but many laypeople like just fine. “Transformers” comes to mind.

Yes, “New Moon” sucks. Trust me, we all know. You can stop saying it.

What bothers me is that the people who are pummeling “New Moon” about its terrible-itude (which is fairly substantial) are not, at all, the people for whom the movie is made. I’m reminded of a review I once read for a Winnie the Pooh movie. The critic’s various reasons for not liking the movie included that it was “childish.”

Really? A children’s movie included simple, easy-to-understand concepts that were too low to engage an adult viewer? You don’t say.

Meanwhile, everyone is lining up to take a jab at “New Moon.” And what’s really irritating is that they’re all sitting around, giggling at how clever they are as they pan the film.

Roger Ebert, being a leader in his field, had this to say about the movie:

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” takes the tepid achievement of “Twilight” (2008), guts it, and leaves it for undead.

Most of the rest of the reviews I’ve read, from local and national outlets alike, have pretty much the same things to say about it: bad acting, bad dialogue, boring movie. Yes, all are true.

As hilarious as it is for critics to make fun of “Twilight,” why not just go around punting wounded puppies? Puppies flying through uprights are just as funny and they’re wounded, so they’re just as vulnerable.

But Ebert also says this:

Long opening stretches of this film make utterly no sense unless you walk in knowing the first film, and hopefully both Stephanie Meyer novels, by heart.

Exactly.

If a movie makes no sense to you, maybe you’re not the target audience. The people who are showing up for this movie in droves do, in large part, know it and the novels by heart. Trust me, I feel for these guys who had to sit through this movie because it’s their job – except stop whining, it’s your job to watch movies. I used to do it too. It’s a sweet gig.

We’re not talking about a movie that ludicrously sucks, such as“Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” which I myself ravaged in a review. I feel there’s a key difference. I’m a fan of the “Resident Evil” franchise, and the movie is god awful. Not just from a technical standpoint, or an acting standpoint, but from a standpoint that the movie fails even its built-in audience of people who like horror, like action, like zombies, like monsters, and like “Resident Evil.”

That movie is hard to watch for all involved. No one leaves “Resident Evil” happy.

“Twilight” might suck for critics, parents, boyfriends and the male gender as a whole, but it does one thing: It makes those 10- to 17-year-old girls who do know it by heart and who do like it extremely happy.

The movie is true to its source. It’s true to its fans. It doesn’t break any ground and it doesn’t work extra hard to appease critics, or even males.

It is “Twilight.” It is exactly what it is supposed to be, for exactly the people who want it to be that.

And the people who want it are happy. So happy that they outspent “Batman” and “Harry Potter” fans. They also blew away nerds of all sorts on releases reaching back years that include “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Because there is no “Episode I” debacle when it comes to “Twilight.” “Twilight” is perfectly “Twilight.”

Sorry that you’re not in the “it” group. Neither am I. But do we really need to pick on the Special Olympics of film here? It’s not for us. We don’t belong. Let’s just let those who like the thing like it, and all be on our way. It’s not that clever or funny anymore.

‘Whip It’ excels through phenomenal casting, and a ‘Paranormal Activity’ review too

11874295_gal Two words elevate “Whip It” from predictable teen angst-underdog sports movie to a fun and funny roller-derby hit: Ellen Page.

Actually, that’s simplifying things a bit. It’s the entire cast, led by the capable Page who hits her tried-and-true off-beat irritated teen mark. But among the ranks are Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, Alia Shawkat, and even Juliette Lewis (who I normally kind of hate), all of whom do well to take this movie up a notch and bring the audience into the roller derby scene much more than if the roles had been filled by less-memorable players.

Bliss (Page) floats through her tiny Texas town life being mostly miserable. At 17, she bounces from being dragged to beauty pageants by her mother, being outcast in her high school, and being stiffed for tips at her waitress gig.

Then she happens to witness a few roller derby players dropping off fliers in a head shop/shoe store in nearby Austin. Bliss grabs a flier, sneaks off to the event, decides to try out – joins the losingest team in the league, becomes a breakout success, and so on.

All these things are the standard fare in movies such as this, and director Barrymore doesn’t do much that’s exactly out-of-the-box. What she does, however, is give her ensemble room to breathe and to have a ton of fun with the film.

First, “Whip It” is populated with some funny people. Shawkat did a hysterical turn on the now-defunct “Arrested Development,” and Wiig is a “Saturday Night Live” alumna who has been doing small and varied character parts in most of the big comedy movies of late, including “Extract,” “Knocked Up,” “Adventureland,” and “Walk Hard.”

Lewis is a more-than-capable superbitch and even Jimmy Fallon, the league’s game announcer, manages to maintain his funny (even though he comes dangerously close to losing it because Barrymore gives him much more screen time than he deserves, or maybe can handle). Smaller roles are played just as well, and all the roller derby teams are populated by actresses that look mean, run with the roles and pass their good times onto the audience.

Then there’s Page. As in “Juno,” she nails it, bringing her usual power and pain to moments of teenage hardship and triumph. You’re right there with her as she struggles to make her parents happy and balance her own needs and wants. Her emotions bleed through at all points, whether she’s crying with her mother, angrily confronting her parents, or wailing around the roller rink, equal parts excited and terrified.

The rest of the movie may be fairly standard, but it’s a testament to its direction and its cast that “Whip It” still works exceedingly well. It’s not the deepest film ever made, but it’s plenty fun.

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Scares and atmosphere plentiful in hyper-hyped “Paranormal Activity”

12269069_gal The theater experience is pretty essential to enjoying “Paranormal Activity.”

It’s an extremely simple movie. One camera. Two actors, three tops in any given scene. One set – the interior of a house, including living room, kitchen, bedroom and attic. That’s all.

But what could be relatively low-key and unimpressive in “Paranormal” is extremely elevated by experiencing it in a packed theater full of screaming, gasping patrons. Everyone else jumping right along with you brings up the scare factor by quite a few degrees.

Which is why the marketing for the film is almost as good as the film itself. Limiting the release, gathering attention via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and giving potential audiences the option to “demand” the film in their town serve to keep most showings sold out. The one I attended in Ann Arbor had people lined up down the block – on a Thursday. In its second week.

The premise of the movie is simple, and not all that new. Borrowing from “The Blair Witch Project,” the movie’s principal actors, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, hang around their house and hear creepy things. Katie’s been more or less “haunted” all her life, and after moving in with Micah, things have gotten a little creepier than usual.

So the couple decides to keep a camera running to capture the handiwork of the apparent ghost. At first it’s minor things: Keys jump off a counter in the middle of the night and unexplained footsteps sound through the house. Nothing too strange.

But things escalate, mostly due, it’s assumed, to Micah’s cavalier attitude about the ghost (he’s all like, “This is so cool,” much to Katie’s chagrin). The creepiness increases, mostly while the couple sleeps.

The methodology of the movie lends it a lot of support. Shot on that one hand-held, we get the impression of reality even though we’re likely dealing with many standard camera tricks. That said, the leads know how to sell what we’re seeing. They do a phenomenal job of interacting with each other, freaking out steadily and increasingly, and bringing back levity to the situation during the daylight hours. Tension is released slightly, but only as a contrast to an ever-growing plight that takes place when darkness falls.

“Paranormal” expertly builds this tension. The slow-burn of weirder and weirder things happening is just enough to keep audiences worried, and as I mentioned above, the shared excitement of a packed house only heightens the experience.

The movie also chooses its moments well. It speeds through hours of footage of the couple sleeping to reach the juicy parts, but even this speed-up tactic brings its own sense of anxiety. We know when the film slows down to normal speed at 3:14 a.m., not only is something about to happen, but the characters still have another three or four hours to sit in the dark and deal with it. And occasionally, the time-lapse shows us just how frightening and how extensive the paranormal activities can be.

Meantime, daylight scenes are filled with just enough exposition about the ghost, its origins, and what to do about it that the story is pushed forward without the audience being overburdened. Movies like this have a tendency to lay things out like a blueprint: It’s a poltergeist, a specter or a demon; here’s what it’s after, here are its powers, here’s how to get rid of it. Call this number, bless this room, sprinkle this dust, say these prayers.

“Paranormal” gives the characters enough to do so that they’re working against the … activity, so to speak, without handing them a surefire method of exorcising the evil. All these choices lend to the dread that builds steadily over the course of the film to its understated, well-designed climax.

If you have the opportunity to see “Paranormal” in a theater, even with the high degree of annoyance that accompanies large crowds of freaking moviegoers, I highly recommend checking it out. For all the hype this film has received, it deserves most of it and it will scare you. Especially in a room of 100 other scared people.

‘Pandorum’ muddled with too many bad ideas

pandorum I went into Pandorum, a sci-fi movie set on a huge dark ship potentially filled with horrifying creatures, expecting, well, that. I was hoping for a movie akin to the original Alien. I also was excited to see the likes of Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, 30 Days of Night) and Dennis Quaid (Frequency) manning the film’s bridge, so to speak. Here were two guys, with Foster in particular, who had impressed me with recent projects.

But Pandorum is not Alien. It’s like Alien, but it’s also like Predator. And a little like Resident Evil. But also like Event Horizon. Possibly a little like Sunshine. Oh, and Doom. AND Aliens. And Lost in Space.

You can probably see where this is going.

Since it takes influence (or downright steals) from so many other recent-era sci-fi movies, Pandorum quickly goes from sci-fi horror on a big dark ship (which looked interesting) to character wandering around big dark ship doing unlikely things (which is decidedly not). Many of the movies mentioned above are bad, and a couple are downright awful. The good ones did what Pandorum does, but way better. What’s worse is that as Pandorum is taking these movies’ ideas, it isn’t changing them. At all.

Even the bad ones.

Foster and Quaid wake up on the Elysium, a huge ship we’re told was sent by Earth to the only Earth-like planet ever discovered: Tanis. The big ship, packed with 60,000 people, is essentially an Earth ark, sent out to colonize the planet to save humanity from its own natural-resource-gobbling ways. In other words, if you’ve seen a space movie in the last 30 years, you’ve heard this.

But Foster and Quaid don’t remember anything. We come to realize they’re part of the flight crew, which means they run the ship. The crew is divided into three-man teams that run shifts of two years (the Elysium trip, we’re eventually told, is expected to take 128 years, or some such huge number, to complete), and since they’re team five, the pair figures they’ve been asleep eight years in cryogenic suspension. One aftereffect of cryogenics, it seems, that you wake up and can’t remember your own name. Sounds like an effective means of space travel.

So Foster and Quaid stumble around the ship, trying to figure out what’s going on. No one’s around, the doors are all locked, there are periodic power surges, and they can’t get to the bridge. So Quaid, the commanding officer, sends Foster through some air ducts to go open the door in a huge creepy ship with no one awake, where something is apparently wrong, and where the only assistance the young man’s got is through a radio attached to his collar.

That’s the movie I signed up for.

That’s not what Pandorum becomes. As quickly as Foster gets out of that first room, he comes across other people – first bodies, then a dirty tribal-looking woman who tries to steal his shoes, and then a real tribe of spiky (literally), noseless pale guys who carry blow torches and spears and seem to eat humans. Foster runs.

And runs for the rest of the movie, as more and more impractical things start to happen.

I’m as down with sci-fi as anybody, but Pandorum just asks for too many leaps. Huge empty ship. Years in the future. Trip to a whole new planet. Ship filled with hungry, possibly alien monsters. Oh, and don’t forget: the movie’s namesake, a version of space-madness called Pandorum that suggests early on that large portions of the movie might be a hallucination.

Even this tired device, the man-goes-crazy-in-space-it-was-all-a-dream-maybe-he-murdered-everyone space movie gimmick, is rendered completely unsatisfying by being jumbled together with too many other disparate, crazy elements. There are more, but I won’t mention them to avoid spoilers.

Pandorum even gets confused itself, it seems, abandoning the slow-burn narrative in which NOBODY REMEMBERS WHAT’S GOING ON at the two-thirds point, instead choosing to reveal all the twists in a neat little cave-painting story given by a random character stumbled upon for just such a purpose.

Oh, and the monsters.

They’re fast, twitchy, and apparently insatiable as far as hunger. They’ll just as soon eat a wounded or dead member of their own tribe as a hapless human (of which there seem to be far fewer than monsters), but they never stop coming.

They’re also apparently intelligent and interested in fairness and sport, given that one even chooses to toss a weapon to a human for the sake of a fair fight.

The rest of the time they just go careening around the ship, apparently too fast to allow for steady camera work, leaping impossibly high or descending from overhead compartments to snatch up, lasso, or otherwise stab anyone who is in the area. They aren’t scary. They aren’t menacing. They’re just loud and colorless.

I can’t really fault Foster or Quaid, who do all right with what they’ve got, though why the pair would sign onto a script like this is beyond me. Despite the movie’s trailers, it’s not creepy or intense, but Pandorum definitely wishes it was both those things.

What it ends up being is a convolution of common sci-fi themes and much more common sci-fi ideas, smashed together as inelegantly as possible – much like the massive metal sets this “story” populates. Nothing about either the script or the ship is practical. And little about either makes sense.

‘Basterds’ portrays torture of Nazis and little else

Nobody likes Nazis.

In fact, everybody hates Nazis. Especially Quentin Tarantino. There’s really no other explanation for “Inglorious Basterds.”

And for a Tarantino film, a motivation so thin as “let’s make a movie about killing Nazis because we hate Nazis” just isn’t good enough. The result is an underdeveloped, self-indulgent piece of film that’s slow, boring, inconsequential, and should leave viewers uncomfortable.

For some reason, though, it seems everybody but me, at least who I know, has found “Basterds” to be spectacular.

Which I don’t get. While the movie carries the usual Tarantino flair and the dialogue clips along in that tense, long-winded way that made the man famous with “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” it also drags. Substantially.

For every tense scene of powerful dialogue, there are 10 more where it’s long-winded to no gain. The dialogue is so slow because most of the characters who have lots and lots (and lots) to say are often totally inconsequential. Mike Myers as a British general giving a rundown to a special ops soldier. The SS commander hanging out in a bar. The turncoat German movie actress. The Nazi war hero turned propaganda film star. The German soldier whose wife just had a baby. Hitler and his advisers. Brad Pitt pumping up his soldiers. They all just blab at one another, shooting the shit about things that should have been edited out of the script in favor of lines that matter.

Not one of these moments is concise. They drag, plodding along through lines and lines of dialogue, which alone are interesting but when taken together represent a huge amount of wasted script space. It may sound natural and it may color the scene, but it doesn’t push the story forward. At all. It actually works against moving the plot onward by creating a convoluted mess of people that need to be kept straight, regardless of whether they’re important for more than the next five minutes. Usually, they’re not.

I say inconsequential because very little time is spent with any single character, and certainly not enough to develop them. We’re constantly bounced from place to place to see bits of a story developing, and we get the impression that eventually all these lines will weave together, but the final payoff isn’t worth all the work.

Because we can’t get behind any of the characters, the eventualities of their various plotlines aren’t really that interesting. Spend five minutes meeting the British spec-ops guy, see him in one scene, lose him again. Meet particularly brutal members of the Basterds, watch them in one scene, lose them again. It’s a badly written, badly edited hodgepodge of various bits in which no one was around to say to Tarantino, “hey, this is a little boring. And who’s that guy?”

But what bothered me most about “Inglorious Basterds” is the only thing it’s consistent about – repeatedly torturing and murdering Nazi soldiers.

Now, c’mon, I hate Nazis and other various mass murders as much as anyone. But Tarantino isn’t just violent in “Basterds,” he’s sadistic. At every turn. And not for the purposes of the film – more likely, for the purposes of self-indulgence.

The Basterds themselves, a small group of all-Jewish soldiers led by Pitt, have a singular goal: demoralize the enemy. They’re meant to do this by stealthily stalking around France starting just before D-Day, brutally murdering Nazis and taking their scalps, among other things.

This I get. Send a message, freak out the troops. Good idea.

But we spend next to no time with the Basterds as a group, or their mission of messing with the Nazis. What we do get to see, lots and lots and lots of times, is the Basterds with unarmed, defenseless German soldiers. The Basterds then go about killing or maiming or killing then maiming these soldiers.

One scene has two soldiers firing indiscriminately into the backs of Nazi and German party members and a great number of civilians as they flee.

It’s a massacre.

And what’s more, it’s murder. We’re not seeing fighting in war, or even the brutality of war. What we’re seeing is the glorification of murder and pain. Yes, these people are Nazis, but plenty of Nazi soldiers were conscripts from conquered nations. Other Nazi soldiers were just German soldiers who became “Nazi” when the German government became “Nazi.” The point is, not everyone in the Nazi party was pulling switches to gas Holocaust victims.

So does being a Nazi mean these guys need to be executed or carved up? I’m still a believer in some kind of honor among soldiers, at least in film. But Tarantino’s Nazi movie feels like a video game. His goal: Kill as many Nazis as brutally as possible.

To me, it comes off as masturbation.

Lacking a stronger plot or characters whose stories I care about, I’m just not into killin’ Nazis for the sake of killin’ Nazis.

Watch the final scene involving Hitler and I think you’ll see my point.