Remakes are funny things, I support the idea because there is an interesting notion inherent to a remake, but often the actual product is un-inspired and insipid. Tied into this is the wave of movies based on old TV shows. These are more problematic because they must be changed in some fashion to appeal to audiences of the time but doing so will piss off the actual fans of the show. This leaves us with an indecisive movie that pleases no one. Until “Star Trek” came along I was pretty much down on all movie of this nature, but “Star Trek” managed to keep classic important elements in while still updating what needed a serious kick in the butt. We now come to “The A-Team,” a movie I was all primed to hate until I heard Liam Neeson was in it; the fact that the first trailer was basically scenes of the movie cut to the original show opening gave me hope.
Here is where I would like to make a ‘shocking’ statement that the movie sucks, or a glowing recommendation. I can do neither. What I can say is that this movie exists, and the good parts are good, and the bad parts are bad.
For the good, I love that they embraced the iconic theme. Musical ties are a strong embrace for a majority of people; I myself hum theme songs for beloved games and movies all the time. The theme, or at least the opening rift, is featured plenty here. In fact they really did seem to embrace a lot of aspects from the show: catchphrases, personalities, even Hannibal’s Mini14 rifle. Neeson played Hannibal perfectly, though his screen time felt a bit limited. Sharlto Copley did a very good job of playing Murdock, as a lesser known actor taking on a well loved character he managed to do a good job. Though I admit Murdock’s ‘craziness’ makes it fairly easy to play him well. Still Copley did a good job.
Talking about beloved characters I must admit that Rampage Jackson is no Mr. T. It’s not really his fault, he does a fine job with what is given to him but we love the character of B.A. because it was Mr. T.; Jackson just doesn’t have that. So he’s not really a bad, just a ‘there.’ Also in this category is actor Bradley Cooper who plays Faceman. He does a decent job of being a likable character, and seems to be the main focus of the movie. The problem is that while he has the freewheeling, ladies man nature of the original character down, he does it in a mostly flamboyant way, loudly and extravagantly. Faceman was always suave and smooth. Of course in a movie like this there is no time to smooth or calm.
On that note, the bad. First up is the camera work, it’s very frantic to the point of hiding more then it enhances. Many scenes are very dark and I lost track of several characters during the movie. They hammer us in this movie about Hannibal’s ‘plan,’ how there is always ‘a plan.’ But the logic of the plans in this movie seems very faulty and it’s more effort than it’s worth to try and follow them. I also disliked the ‘origin story’ at the beginning, I don’t need to see Hannibal recruiting random people and even more annoying is the fact that Murdock is apparently always been crazy. How was he legally cleared to work for special forces? To me it created a better sense of character in the show that he suffered from PTSD due to the imprisoning and betrayal of his crew; this led to a stronger bond when they would free him to help them out: brothers through and through, no matter if you’re a little crazy.
I honestly expected more from Joe Carnahan, I have enjoyed his work in the past and it was his visual style and sense of direction that drew me to him, but here he let terrible camera work, poor plotting, and questionable editing take control. This is why the movie is really sad: it could have been truly solid. Instead we get the idea that there is action and characters here we want to see, but a befuddling plot and poor filming makes this impossible.
Also, they destroy the van! It is shown in trailers but I assumed it would be a climatic final battle scene; instead ten minutes into the film the iconic van is destroyed and lost. You may think me petty, but it’s especially jarring after those ten minutes which have so strongly tried to ensure us that this is the show we loved…just with more violence. Instead we are drawn in and then quickly slapped in the face.
Ultimately this movie is a disappointment. If you can get past the camera work and don’t mind being lost during the plot, check it out. There is good there, you just have to dig a little. However, if you don’t want to do the work, skip it. It’s all the same.