Ryan Reynolds will go down in the film history book for “playing the most comic book characters on screen.” This achievement will be listed first only so that he’s second achievement of “ruining the most comic book characters on screen” will have context. The strange thing is that Reynolds basically spends the entire movie not being… well Reynolds. He mostly succeeds in this, but the character that comes from it is something worse… average and worse, not very believable.
Sure he’s sarcastic in the film, but he’s also angry which cancels out the humor of the sarcasm. In fact he plays the movie angry the entire time or at least when he’s allowed to talk. Jeff Bridges actually takes on the bulk of the exposition and seemingly never shuts up. This isn’t that bad considering Bridges performance is the most tolerable in the film. The problem with his character is that like my friends dad once said, “He’s just playing Rooster Cogburn.” That is the most spot on description of his performance and while it’s enjoyable it definitely adds to the movies “haven’t I already seen this before” vibe.
That’s what the entire movie suffers from, unoriginality. At first glance of the trailers it screams Men in Black, which is accurate considering the comic book that the film is based on released when the first film was buzzing. Instead of men in black suits from different government branches, we have dead cops that have a different look to those of us that are alive. Instead of aliens, it’s Deado’s or essentially dead people that didn’t move on to the afterlife and not rot into monsters.
The story isn’t terrible and they actually fix some problems that I had with the comic book, but it suffers from what all comic book movies suffer from as it has a terrible case of end-of-the-world-itis. While the ending of the comic book wasn’t amaze-balls, it also wasn’t so over the top that you didn’t care or believe that anything would actually change. The gist is that the “Deado’s” are putting together the Staff of Jericho. If put together is reverses the flow of the giant fan that sucks up dead souls for judgement. Go ahead and soak that in for a moment… giant fan… convenient item that for some reason reverses the fan… living dead inherit the earth… giant fan?
Another big difference from the comic book is Nick’s (played by Reynolds) relationship with his wife. In the comic he was always working so really there wasn’t much attachment and he seemed more concerned with finding out why he was dead then say checking in on his family. Also in the comic he doesn’t show up the day after he’s died if I remember correctly, but two years after. His wife has already moved on and really you don’t give a shit about either of them. In the film version Nick is up and running by the time of his funeral and so neither he nor the wife have moved on. In his new form of an old Asian man (played by the legendary James Hong) he continues to try and contact her. Though this was 100% by the book it still strangely works because actress Stephanie Szostak is a very convincing widow. Aside from Bridges, Szostak is the best part of the film. Reynolds is no slouch to the romantic lead either so they share a good chemistry though you’ll be left wondering why the movie is spending so much time on it when it’s all convenient to the plot and nothing more. In that way it’s like two genres fighting for screen time and neither one wins.
The once great Kevin Bacon is also in the film. If you haven’t figured it out just from me telling you he’s in the movie and not the lead then I will spell out the fact that he’s the bad guy for you. Literally the minute he talks and interacts with Reynolds it’s painfully obvious that he’s a dirty cop… and then they spend the rest of the movie hitting you over the head with the fact. Bacon is Bacon. He’s reached that point in his career where he’s basically playing himself (or at least the film version of himself) and while he gives a good performance it’s really nothing to get excited for.
Actually those last seven words sum up the entire movie, “it’s really nothing to get excited for.” It didn’t bore me and overall it wasn’t that terrible, but it wasn’t exciting either. In terms of the story its average, the acting maybe even above average and the graphics are definitely average for the age we live in. I didn’t stop watching it like I thought I would, but I could have also screwed around on my phone while watching it and not feel as if I was missing out on anything important. Sadly the next chapter of this universe will never reach the big screen due to how terribly this film performed at the box office and it’s a shame because it would have limited Reynolds to a cameo and prevented Bridges from being Cogburn the entire movie. Oh well, that’s why I like comic books because even an average comic can get a sequel.
Director: Robert Schwentke Writers: Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi Based on the Comic by: Peter M. Lenkov Studio: Universal