25 August 2012

Movies: Lockout

Lockout (2012) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592525/

Action

Set in 2070-something, the U.S. has built a massive Maximum Security prison (MS One) set in orbit around the Earth. The worst of the worst are warehoused there in 'stasis' (which is a fancy way of saying 'coma' I suppose). The President of the U.S.'s daughter travels to the station to see first-hand if the reports that the stasis the prisoners are placed in causes mental breakdowns. So of course the prisoner awakened for the interview is probably the least stable psycho they have on hand, and, of course, he escapes and releases all the other prisoners, who soon take over the station.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, an ex-military (non-specific secret agency) operative named Snow is accused of murder and selling state secrets and is going to be sent to MS One. When word comes down that the inmates on MS One have escaped and have taken President's daughter hostage they make a deal with Snow to locate her and help her safely escape the station,

Stars Guy Pierce as Snake Plisskin Snow, Maggie Grace (Shannon on Lost, other films) as the President's daughter Emilie. Also has the great Peter "Pancakes House" Stormare in the cast, and perhaps a couple few other recognizable folks.

There's actually a bit more to Snow's backstory than my mini-intro-summary contains, a backstory that is mostly a Macguffin to tie the film together from start to finish and provide motivation for Snow to agree to the rescue.

The Snow character is amusing. Maggie Grace does well in her role. Stormare brings life in to an otherwise shallow two-dimensional character. Actually almost all the characters in the film are shallow action film stereotype caricatures, the only thing breathing life in to any of them are the actors in the roles. 

As hinted at above, the premise of this film is nothing short of "Escape from New York" redressed in a space station. The story is based on an idea of Luc Besson. Luc Besson's name is promoted all over this film as 3rd credit on the screenplay and executive producer. Which basically means his idea written and directed by a whole other crew. Yeah, I knew that going in. I'm not fooled by the ol' bait-and-switch that Luc Besson's name has become. Ultimately, this film could easily have been inserted in to the "Escape from..." franchise by changing "Snow" to "Snake Plisskin". Heck it probably was conceived as such.

Overall - a fun film if you enjoyed "Escape from New York". Turn off expectations of any resemblance of reality, sit back and watch it happen.

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The negatives. I'm doing this wholly separate from the near-accolades above because, my gosh, there is so much that is wrong, or off, or just plain cheating in the film. The film can be enjoyed despite these negatives, and sometimes I really had to work to watch around them, but I can't ignore they exist either. Keep in mind this is just a small sample of some of the more glaring issues.
How the mentally unstable prisoner is able to escape in the first place - the series of events that lead to his escape are, well, dumb. Predictable and dumb and pulled straight out of "Con Air".
As mentioned before all the characters are stereotypical caricatures with little to no depth. And, again, the only thing that makes them watchable are the cast.
There's a chase sequence that is obviously all CG with Snow either pasted in blue-screen or rendered. It looks like a videogame chase sequence. The most obvious of the CG footage in the film and somewhat distracting, though thankfully brief and not repeated.
The film ignores physics practically every chance it gets. How 'gravity' is provided not only on the MS One station, but in the transport vessels and such, is of course ignored. But what really makes it obvious happens when Snow has to cross an expanse in the center of MS One, which actually might be the station's "gravity generator". If you watch the film and see the scene you'll understand. In a nutshell - nothing is too sacred to be sacrificed in the interest of getting from point A to point B.
There's another scene, near the end, that is even more over-the-top wrong. I won't say what happens, but you'll know it when you see it.
Some things happen for no reason at all. Specifically the International Space Station crashing in to the MS One prison. I suppose they explain it because they mention without the maintenance crew constantly controlling the station's free-fall MS One moves out of its orbit or something, but no, that doesn't just happen in the time frame the film takes place. It happens, then nobody mentions it again, which basically tells me if they never had that crash happen it wouldn't affect the story one bit.
The biggest head-smacking "duh" of the film? The concept of having a prison in space in the first place. I mean, come on. Was there not a more expensive prison solution imaginable? They could warehouse them all in abandoned salt mines or under the sea or something for incredibly less than it would cost to build a space prison. The payload costs of launching that much material and that many people in to space alone would pay for the salt mine solution many times over.  I realize that there is no story if it isn't a prison in space. How else could Luc Besson one-up Carpenter's walled up Manhattan or Los Angeles?

So how is this different than, say, "Shoot 'Em Up"? Well, out of the gate "Shoot 'Em Up" tells you exactly what sort of lampoon of over-the-top action films it is going to be. "Lockout", on the other hand, is more like "Live Free or Die Hard", where a seemingly acceptable "suspension of disbelief" universe is repeatedly shattered by improbability stacked upon improbability stacked upon implausibilities and impossibilities to the point where it collapses under its own weight.  Sure, "Shoot 'Em Up" does the same thing, but they tell you ahead of time it will be that way, so it's okay. "Lockout" doesn't, it just cheats whenever it needs to cheat to move the story to the next scene or 'go big' for a bit to wake the audience.
None of that means I didn't enjoy watching the film. I liked it, just as I liked "Live Free or Die Hard" for what it was. But liking them doesn't excuse their faults.

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