REVIEW: The A-Team

Remember the A-Team? The action TV show that embodied the 80s in our minds… and Mr. T in our hearts? Well, it’s back, and like just about everything else from childhoods past it’s getting its own movie marketed towards the adolescent hyperactive in all of us… as well as actual adolescent hyperactives. And in that appeal, it very much succeeds.

Make no mistake, when you walk into the theater to watch The A-Team, then you will do well you leave your brain at the door. Don’t worry, with the stuff Hollywood has been putting out in recent years they have special bins for that kind of thing now; your brain will be safe. So while your cerebral cortex is enjoying some down time, you can be free to bask in the all-out absurdity that is this movie. And oh what a plethora of absurdity there is to bask in. If you’ve seen one of the trailers for this movie, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s in store for you: guns, explosions, Mohawks, more explosions, and a freaking flying tank. This stuff is crazy, and we all know it. The next step is to relish in it.

The only problem with these sequences is that we saw a pretty good amount of them in the trailers already. This isn’t a dig at the movie, this is just a problem that sometimes presents itself through advertising. Look, I know that the scene where you drop an armored vehicle out of an exploding C-130 and start using the guns in mid-fall is a major selling point; heck, it was one of the biggest factors that got me in the theater to see it. But the novelty of it is tarnished when you see it on the big screen, simply because you’ve already seen it on TV dozens of times. Luckily, there’s enough stuff we haven’t witnessed ad tedium before to keep you entertained, if not completely surprised. One of the earlier segments in Iraq involving a high-speed chase, a V-22 Osprey, and B.A. Baracus punching fools in the face stands out as a very passable action sequence, which even manages to throw in a few laughs for good measure… actually, the whole movie does a pretty good job of throwing in some laughs for good measure.

Admit it, you’re humming the theme song right now.

However, beyond those points the rest of the movie isn’t nearly as satisfying. While the actors on the actual A-Team do a pretty decent job, you get the impression that they weren’t necessarily implemented right. While Hannibal, B.A., Face, and Murdock (especially Murdock) are all characterized appropriately, it feels as if the writers didn’t know what to do with them. B.A. becomes a pacifist halfway through the movie, which basically screams “we’re only doing this so we can reverse it for a dramatic kill shot in the finale”, Hannibal completely fails to come up with a plan to finish out the movie, and Face takes over all the planning for the last 45 minutes of the film.

Just… what?

I understand completely that they have about four years worth of episodes to try and address in the space of 2 hours, and I also understand that there were certainly moments where Hannibal couldn’t always come up with the plan and others had to have their moment of glory on our living room television. But in something as short as a Hollywood movie, we don’t have quite as much time to cement the norms of these characters in our minds. And so by the end of this film, the audience is left with the distinct impression that Hannibal is washed up; that he can no longer be the planner, and that Face has now taken over as a new leader of the team. Keep in mind now, that this is supposed to be an origin story, and that Hannibal still very much has years of being the competent boss ahead of him. Combine this ending with the fact that Face was much more thoroughly explored than the other members of the team, and you get the idea that the whole thing was just a way for the producers to capitalize on the fact that Bradley Cooper has been in the spotlight recently thanks to The Hangover. Though why on earth they would play that up when you’ve got Liam Freaking Neeson on the cast is beyond me. Though I suppose movies about booze do go over better with this kind of audience than Schindler’s List. Regardless, Cooper still does a decent job as Face, so it’s not all bad, just a bit odd.

Don’t be too intimidated by the guns: they never hit anything

The rest of the cast, however, did not have nearly the same charm. Jessica Biel plays a prominent role, but really only feels like she’s there to provide incredibly boring sexual tension for Face. One of the main villains is characterized only by his trigger finger and who exists for the sole purpose of making what might be the least subtle stab towards Blackwater I’ve ever seen. The real villain (who’s motivations never seem to be very clearly outlined) is better characterized… but only as an incredibly obnoxious tool. Look, I understand the necessity of presenting an antagonist who we may not necessarily like, but you’ve crossed a line when I actually start becoming personally annoyed with his portrayal. It gets to the point that you’re not just happy the good guys succeed when he gets his at the end, but you’re just relieved that he won’t be getting more screen time.

There are various other issues with horribly convoluted plot, sub-par CGI, and the ever-annoying shaky cam, but I think I’m actually just going to cut this review short. Let’s face it: I already told you everything you need to know about the movie in the opening paragraph. However distorted the story may be, there is enough A-Team here to keep most people happy. Hannibal is still a genius, Face is still funny, B.A. is still pitying fools, and Murdock is still delightfully insane. The elaborate plans and improbable builds make an appearance, and yes, the iconic van makes at least one jump. Regardless of how little I enjoyed some of the elements of this movie, that is ultimately my problem. I fear that I’m beginning to lose some of the enjoyment I once had in these summer action flicks, and that’s depressing to me. But as I discussed with a good friend of mine on the way to the theater, there is a divide between “good film” and “simple, enjoyable film”. My problem is that I have difficulty telling my mind to sit down and shut up during movies, but I can still recognize the value of a movie that goes “boom”. If you like explosions and balls-to-the-wall action, go see this movie. It’s as simple as that.

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