After seeing Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Warm Bodies these past couple of weeks, I started thinking about movies that have taken me by surprise. Now, I saw Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Warm Bodies in theaters so I at least thought I would enjoy them, but there are other movies that I see the preview for and I think, meh. Down the line I will sometimes end up renting these movies just to see what they are about, and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised at what I find.
This does not mean that suddenly these movies are fabulous creations of cinema, but rather that they were good in ways I was not expecting. So here are 5 movies that took me by surprise. (No spoiler warning: I want you to maybe check these movies out, so I am avoiding spoilers).
Law Abiding Citizen
I do not know if I remember even hearing about this movie in 2009. Obviously the advertising did not stick in my mind at all. It was also just another crime movie about death and violence and revenge. David and I ended up renting it on Netflix after we had watched Gamer and enjoyed Gerard Butler in that movie; so we decided to give this one a try one night.
Now yes it is still a crime and revenge movie, but there was a twist about how everything was handled that was really intriguing. If you cannot stand gore then there will be certain scenes of this movie that are hard to watch, but those are mostly towards the beginning and if you can make it through the movie is well worth the time. The questions you begin to ask about what does justice really mean and how far should we go to catch a criminal really make you think about how justice functions in our society.
Book of Eli
Now Book of Eli, I remember seeing previews for the movie and thinking it looked interesting, but not quite wanting to spend the money to go see it in theaters. It was just another post-apocalyptic movie talking about the downfall of society and one man’s mission in this very broken world.
The ideas of conquering all odds and believing that you have a purpose even when everything seems to be fighting against you is empowering. One man who wants to preserve this book for the hope that it can bring and another man who wants to use the book for evil. If you do not know what book they are talking about it is the Bible, the previews do give that away, but it is more than just transporting a text. It is the journey that Denzel Washington’s character makes.
Just as we have seen in history, the Bible has been used to bring hope and light into the world and has been used to justify great evils. There is a reason that the Gutenberg Bible was one of the first major books printed using movable type. And a reason why it is the book in the Book of Eli.
How to Train Your Dragon
Let me start by saying the advertising for this movie did not do it justice AT ALL. It was exciting, funny, and emotional, but the preview comes off very bland. I think the only reason we ended up watching it was that it was on HBO one day and we happened to flip to it when it started. That is when we fell in love with this movie.
The better preview would have been just to do the opening lines of the movie because even that sounds more interesting then what the preview shows, which is really just a hodgepodge of stuff.
“This is Berk. It’s twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It’s located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. My village. In a word? Sturdy. It’s been here for seven generations, but every single building is new. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunsets. The only problems are the pests. You see, most places have mice or mosquitoes… We have… Dragons” -Hiccup, First lines of How to Train Your Dragon
Now if that doesn’t pique your interest I do not know what will. The preview for the movie shows a lot, but says nothing about the movie itself. This at least presents the every-day world they are living in, and Hiccup – as you soon find out – is kind of the black sheep of that world. He is a dreamer in a world of vikings.
I kept telling myself that I was not going to see this movie. The Sam Raimi Spider-man movies were not that old and they already told the origin story of Spider-man. Why on earth would we need another origin story? Yes, Spider-man 3 was a travesty and Venom was so horribly dealt with I do not want to talk about it, but why does that mean we have to start over? So I just could not bring myself to see the Amazing Spider-man, even with all the 3D goodness.
After reading some reviews of the movie discussing the bad plot, but amazing performances, I instead rented the movie from iTunes. I did not expect much because I knew this story, how were you going to make it better, or different? I was wrong. Yes, it is the origin story of Spider-man, but they brought back the nerdy level of Spider-man – with inventing the web slingers, and the transformation from kid-with-powers to hero was a different journey. Also, I will admit that Emma Stone will forever have a special place in my heart from Easy A, and as usual she does not disappoint.
If you have seen Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stalone you can understand my hesitation: what were they doing remaking that movie? It is an interesting idea of having cops be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, but I could not separate the new one from the 90’s version that often shows up on late night movie reruns. It was not until I read an article on io9 discussing how Dredd was under-appreciated that I decided to watch it.
By the time I read about the movie it was out of theater, but I could rent it on iTunes. The very beginning of the movie builds the world that they are living in so well, and the idea of just miles upon miles of cities and high rises because of overpopulation brings the reason the Judges are needed to light, because how can you police so many people over such a distance? Justice needs to be swift and efficient, thus Judges. The story is actually an interesting ride in a lawless town, and some of the potential for 3D made me kind of wish I had seen the movie in theaters.
The thing that made me appreciate this movie the most, though, was that Karl Urban never took off the helmet during the movie. That is such a refreshing thing to see in the days where every superhero reveals their identity or seems to take off their mask at the drop of a hat.