Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
So people always bang on about the manga and how it's so much better and more coherent than the movie, but I must say I rather enjoyed the movie better. To begin with, the first three volumes kinda suck. I mentioned in my Metropolis quickie last month that Otomo can't write humans that act human for squat, and I'm going to illustrate that with Kaneda. So, after Tetsuo has his accident and gets taken to the hospital, Kaneda sees the withered old man child who put him there and announces his intention to kick his ass. Little boy starts tearing up bridges with his mind, and all Kaneda can focus on is getting the pill the kid is so desperate for. Then his best friend starts exhibiting these same powers, and instead of being creeped out by it, all he can think of is kicking his ass. Incidentally, his friend was off wandering the streets demanding drugs from some biker thugs, who decided the best course of action would be to take him to their home base and give him all their meth. Then there's that scientist who exists only to casually tell Tetsuo about Akira despite the general telling him not to, and then get frozen so hard he explodes.
Things get better with the fourth book, but that might be because it's completely different from the movie and didn't make me feel I was treading old ground in an inferior way. Even then, it continues the problem of characters who come out of nowhere and exist only to advance the story with exposition, and then once they serve that purpose they get picked off like ticks in a monkey colony. Also, I'm pretty sure that guy with the Egon hair who serves at Tetsuo's adviser was never named.
I also never got a sense of time progression. Something will happen, and later on people will be talking about it happening "weeks ago", but it feels like the whole series took place over a few days.
Now, about that whole "the movie's ending only make sense if you've read the manga" thing. Actually, the manga's ending didn't make much more sense than the movie's did. There's certainly a lot more babbling about the creation of the universe and everyone's powers having something to do with the Big Bang and all, but it made me think back to my manga class and somebody else saying how he lent his copies to three people and each one of them had a different interpretation of the story and what it was about. Either Akira is trying to be so many different things it winds up being about nothing, or it really is about nothing and everyone's left to pull their own meaning from it.
And it left me with the same nagging question the movie did: what does Kaneda do? He does even less here, as at least in the movie he saved the general's life. As for the manga, well, he's completely absent from the fourth book save the last few pages and I hardly noticed. It's like all he exists to do is be comic relief and watch the visions in the alternate dimension at the end. But at least he's got a better reason to be furious with Tetsuo this time around, what with Tetsuo joining a rival gang, killing one of their friends, and then trying to crush Kaneda with a backhoe, whereas in the movie all it took to drive Kaneda to bloodlust was Tetsuo knocking him down.
On the flip side, Tetsuo is a lot less sympathetic in this version. He's given no relateable traits until the fourth book, when Kaori finally shows up to get him to show his warmer side and he has a dream about some bullies stealing a picture of his mother... and then he promptly goes back to blowing up the moon. In the movie you got a sense of what he was like before he got his powers, and having to watch helplessly as his girlfriend nearly gets raped by a rival gang member, and is only saved when his mates show up to save his ass. So when he's given his powers, it's that much more tragic when they warp his mind and ultimately destroy him. Here, he's just an asshole. Well yeah, he was a dick in the movie too, but he was human enough that I still felt bad for him when he exploded into a pulsating mass of organs, screaming out in horror for help. This time around, his end left me thinking "Haha! Fuck you!"
Oh yeah, and when Tetsuo asks the scientists to imagine how much energy it takes to move the Earth? I think somebody needs to tell Tetsuo and Otomo about things like "Inertia", and that it doesn't take any energy to move the Earth.
Kelly's Heroes (PG)
So, I understand this is the movie where Clint Eastwood and a bunch of other guys really became celebrities? Anyway, the beginning is a bit slow when Eastwood is going around rallying up the men and gear he needs for his gold raid, and actually I'm having a hard time remembering anything but the general outline of what happened in the first half of the film. Also, my military vocabulary is less than stellar and I needed my dad to constantly constantly fill me in on what people were talking about, like what a "Sherman" and "Tiger" were and which one was superior and why.
Things do get more interesting as it turns from a war drama into a comedy, even if it does make a couple guys getting shot up by Nazis a little out of place. But by the end it's gone into full-on insanity with the raid on the town, and a callback to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. And maybe the first sign of parody was when Eastwood gets to Oddball's camp and somebody there is roasting chickens way too high above his tiny fire.
The Incredible Hulk (PG-13)
I'd seen this before, but it's a decent enough action romp with everyone's favorite green behemoth going around punching things that I was willing to go through it again. And this time I picked up on some of the references to other Marvel properties that were leading up to the Avengers movie, like the reference to Captain America when Ross tells Blonsky about a bio-enhancement program in World War II, and Tony Stark at the end. I also noticed a running theme in these movies, where they get a big name actor to play a secondary character. With Thor it was Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Captain America was Tommy Lee Jones as... Rogers' commanding officer. Here we have William Hurt as General Ross.
If I had to express my problem with the cue cards in Captain America, then I'm going to have to complain about the end of the big Hulk versus Abomination fight. So we've seen Hulk throw backhoes like they were nothing and smash tanks and Abomination intentionally hit himself with a missile. The two are smashing cars over each other's heads, and punching each other so hard they leave imprints in the mortar. And yet Hulk finally drives Abomination into submission by strangling him with a chain. That's like somebody trying to strangle me with a cooked spaghetti noodle.