Category Archives: I is for…
Score another win for Amazon Prime–Interceptor was the original “I” movie I’d found when I had started this site, but was unable to find a copy anywhere. Thus I had no “I” movie, and my alphabet was incomplete. (Technically it still is because I don’t have a “Q” movie, but point one out to me and I”ll watch it!) However, I discovered Interceptor on Prime, and could not wait all week to watch it. Well, of course I had to, but I was excited to get home from work Saturday night!
I really had wanted to watch it in the first place because it stars Andrew Divoff, whom I’d admired immensely after seeing him in Wishmaster. He’s had a lot of small parts in a lot of things, and it’s puzzling he’s not a bigger star because he’s handsome enough and has a good screen presence. He’s typecast as a villain, so it was really great seeing him as the hero here in Interceptor, directed by Michael Cohn.
Divoff plays Air Force pilot Captain Chris Winfield, who gets court martialed for bailing out of a test aircraft that was deemed flyable by everyone but him. He’s sent back to the States on Mac 327, a C-5 Galaxy piloted by Major Morgan (Elizabeth Morehead). The C-5 is a transport vehicle for two top secret futuristic stealth jet F-117s of the kind Winfield was testing, and the flight from Turkey to the US is so long it must refuel over southeast Asia. However, at this fuel stop Mac 327 is intercepted–get it?–by Australian terrorists led by Phillips (Jurgen Prochnow). Phillips and his team infiltrate Mac 327 in order to steal the F-117s. However, they are unaware of Winfield’s presence, and he is able to help Morgan kill all of Phillips’s men except for Phillips and his scientist, Elliot (Jon Cedar).
After Mac 327 is torn apart by gunfire, an explosion, a grenade, and eventually a missile, Phillips and Winfield engage in a dogfight using the F-117s. The VR guidance system that Winfield had pointed out as faulty in the beginning of the film is Phillips’s downfall, and ultimately Morgan and Winfield kiss and walk off into the sunset together. Or maybe it’s sunrise. The passage of time is a little spotty.
The beauty of the film is its simplicity, which is also unfortunately its downfall.
Onto the criteria!!
A is for… Accents
Phillips is, for some reason, Australian. When I think about Hollywood villains, not too many are Australian, versus British, German, Russian, unspecified Eastern European, or more commonly now, Middle Eastern.
Phillips’s scientist, Elliot, sounds German (or that unspecified Eastern European).
B is for… Bad Guys
Phillips is horrendously under developed, and the viewer isn’t really told anything about him other than he wants the F-117s. He does the opening monologue, which explains the power of the F-117s, and his evident passion sets a stage the execution of the film never quite reaches. Phillips is one of those villains who has his henchmen do his dirty work rather than getting his own hands dirty. He says he’s self-employed.
Mac 327 has a traitor aboard, Sergeant Rand (Michael Buice). His double-agentness is foreshadowed by him not wanting Winfield on the flight when they first meet, and he tries every avenue he can to get the Major to not allow him to fly with them.
C is for… Chases
The film takes place almost entirely on the C-5, so the only possible chase is the dogfight at the end, if that can be considered one.
D is for… Damsels
Major Morgan is the Aircraft Commander, is on her second assignment, and frankly is awesome. Her crew clearly respects her, and she runs a tight ship, so to speak. She kills almost as many terrorists as Winfield while trying to fly the plane, and doesn’t show fear.
Frankly, she’s the least damsel-like of any of her crew, really, because she isn’t killed early and isn’t even wounded badly. Even if the viewer knows she isn’t going to die because she’s the only female in the movie, there’s always the risk because she’s so strong. Of all the men Phillips has killed, clearly he should have targeted her.
E is for… Explosions
Winfield and terrorist Derrick engage in a shootout, and Winfield hits some oxygen tanks on the wall of the plane, igniting them.
A grenade from inside one of the F-117s is dropped into the underbelly of Mac 327, where it explodes.
Phillips shoots Mac 327 with a missile from his F-117, and the C-5 basically disintegrates in a huge fireball, even though it was out of fuel.
Winfield directs Phillips’s own missile at him during their dogfight, exploding Phillips’s plane.
F is for… Flashbacks
No Flashbacks, but perhaps that would have helped with character development.
G is for…Guns
Phillips doesn’t seem to like guns to kill people unless necessary–perhaps they are are too loud or messy. Instead, he kills with a venomous coral snake–except the snake was not a venomous snake. The victim actually kills himself with the fake antivenom, which is actually French sparkling water. Either way, snake or carbonation, the guy’s death isn’t messy, and technically wasn’t at the hands of Phillips.
Briggs (Thom Adcox-Hernandez), one of Morgan’s men, has his throat cut.
Rand gets strangled with wire.
The navigator, Collins (John Prosky) is stabbed.
Of course, eventually the terrorists use their handguns and machine guns, and engage in shootouts with Winfield in the troop passenger area, the cargo bay, and the cockpit. None of these shootouts are good for Mac 327.
H is for… Helicopters
No helicopters, sadly.
I is for… Improvisation
When surprised by Rand with his gun in her face, Morgan uses his moment of inattention to beat him with the equipment she’s carrying.
While fighting with the terrorist in the bathroom, Winfield drowns him in the toilet.
In order to make Phillips think he’s dead, Winfield nearly throws himself out of the plane, but ducks into a space next to the hole instead.
Morgan banks the plane hard to the right in order to unbalance terrorist Bryce so that copilot Martinez (Rick Marzan) can strangle him. Morgan follows up by stabbing Bryce with his own knife.
Morgan uses a fire extinguisher on another terrorist, first to spray into his face to distract him, and then to bash his skull with it.
J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects
It’s a plane, so the opportunity to jump/fall through a wall or pane of glass is minimal.
K is for… Kill Count
Winfield drowns a terrorist in the lavatory toilet.
Winfield shoots terrorist Derrick, sets him on fire in an explosion, and he then gets sucked out of the hole the explosion made in the fuselage.
Winfield engages in a fist fight with another terrorist, who he also stabs in the chest and bashes his head into the staircase.
Another terrorist falls through the hole in the floor of the fuselage created by the grenade.
Morgan stabs Bryce with his own knife.
Morgan smashes the last terrorist with the fire extinguisher.
Elliot slides out of the cargo hold when Morgan lets autopilot take over while she gets herself and Martinez ready to parachute out, and Mac 327 tilts backwards.
L is for… Limitations
Morgan and Winfield are outnumbered, completely taken by surprise, and have limited tools at their disposal because the flight was supposed to be an easy “milk run.”
M is for… Motivation
Phillips seems to want the power having the stealth F-117s will afford him.
Clearly Winfield wants to keep himself and Mac 327’s crew alive, and ensure Phillips and his men don’t get their hands on the top-secret F-117s.
N is for… Negotiation
Phillips tells his victim he won’t kill him if he gets the recall codes. First the threat is Angelina the snake, and the second is the antivenom for the codes.
After that Phillips doesn’t really talk to anyone, and the plan was to steal the jets and get out, so other than telling Morgan to fly the plane or her crew dies there isn’t much discussion. Phillips doesn’t seem to hold any leverage over Winfield except his own life, and he thinks he’s dead part way through the movie.
The dogfight has some exchanges, but it’s clear Phillips isn’t going to give up anything.
O is for… One-Liners
Phillips: Bryce, what’s going on up there?
Morgan: He’s dead, you asshole.
Morgan: I thought you were dead.
Winfield: Not yet.
Morgan: What happened to you?
Winfield: You look like you haven’t had such a great day yourself.
Winfield to Elliot: Get out!
Winfield: Guess who?
Phillips, as if Winfield were a bothersome underling: What exactly can I do for you?
Winfield: You can land the plane and give yourself up.
Phillips: I admire your sense of humor, but your grasp on reality is sorely lacking.
Winfield: This is my reality right here.
After telling Winfield he and Elliot seem to have “neglected to arm [his] plane,” Phillips lets out a perfect villainy laugh that is a one-liner all on its own.
Winfield: Come and get me, asshole.
Phillips: Which I had time to play but I’m in a bit of a hurry.
Winfield to Morgan: That’s the second time you almost shot me.
Winfield: You just don’t know whether to shoot me or kiss me.
P is for… Profession
Winfield is a test pilot for the Air Force, and he is testing out a new stealth F-117 with Virtual Reality technology as a copilot. He loses control of the jet after the VR shorts out on him, and he ejects from the jet. He is forced to leave the base in Turkey to go back to the US to face the flight evaluation board, because he left the aircraft in flight and it kept going for another twenty miles. He explains it was going down with him or without him, but he’s told he should have stayed with it.
Morgan is a Major and the AC of Mac 327.
Q is for… Quagmire
Winfield and Morgan face a C-5 in flight with no fuel, terrorists attacking them, and they have no hope of rescue and backup. The only things they have going for them are Phillips needs Morgan to fly the plane, and he also thinks Winfield is dead at one point.
R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Belief
I don’t know anything about military aircraft and their fueling procedures or transport procedures or anything like that, but I will say it seems awfully easy for Phillips and his men to hijack Mac 327. And the fireball when it’s shot down is ridiculous.
It’s also unbelievable that, after losing her entire crew in such a violent and needless way, Morgan would be kissing and joking and looking to a future with Winfield. She should be sad at the end of the movie, not smiling, no matter how compelling Winfield may be. Perhaps she will be once the adrenaline rush wears off and reality sets in, but a line about her fallen comrades would go a long way at the end.
S is for… Sidekicks
Winfield and Morgan seem to have the same amount of screen time, and are both badass in their own rights, so they are more sidekicks of each other than Morgan being Winfield’s sidekick.
T is for… Technology
The F-117 stealth jets, according to Phillips’s opening monologue of worship for them, are invisible, untraceable, and fly at twice the speed of sound.
The F-117s use Virtual Reality as their copilot, which I’m sure was cutting edge when the film was made, but looks cartoonish now.
The original fueling plane has the recall codes written down in a paper notebook, and Collins checks a notebook to see if the fueling plane possibly has radio silence that night. It just looks so old-fashioned in our digital age.
U is for… Unexpected Romance
There’s the typical weird sexual tension developed in the first scene Winfield and Morgan have together, so it’s no surprise whatsoever that Winfield and Morgan kiss at the end of the movie and discuss going on a date. Of course, I could be reading too much into their scenes together and the way they smile and gaze at each other because I expect them to be together by the end of the movie.
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
The F-117s have missiles of course.
Morgan banks Mac 327 to throw the terrorist off-balance, so it’s an indirect way to use the vehicle as a weapon, but it’s clever and it works.
W is for… Winning
Mac 327 is lost in a fireball when Phillips shoots it down, but fortunately both Morgan and Winfield escape it before then (by parachuting and snagging the other F-117, respectively). Winfield engages Phillips in a dogfight, though it’s a little one-sided considering Winfield’s jet doesn’t have missiles. Instead, when Phillips fires at him, Winfield is able to maneuver the missile into place to hit Phillips’s jet. He’s counting on Phillips using the VR copilot, and the VR copilot then shorting out. Phillips doesn’t see the missile until it’s too late to get out of the way, and is killed.
Winfield winds up with the damsel, even though she’s just as strong and in charge as he is.
X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor
Both Winfield and Morgan are pretty beaten up by the end, but neither seem to sustain wounds that would be too difficult to fight through if necessary.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
There was no way for Morgan or Winfield to know they would be attacked, unless Morgan had a better read on Rand. Perhaps Rand really was that good of a double agent.
Z is for… Zone, in the
Winfield is in his element flying the F-117 during the dogfight, and takes advantage of the faulty VR and knowing Phillips will use it.
Interceptor is a by-the-book action hero and terrorist film, clearly able to be called Die Hard on a C-5, and it works because of it. The plot is simple and easy to follow, and the characters are compelling enough to root for. The problem with the film is that the characters aren’t compelling enough to be memorable, which is likely one reason the film didn’t get good distribution or press. Or perhaps there’s another reason no one has ever heard of the film and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia article about it.
While fun and full of gunfights and explosions, the film lacks what similar, more successful movies have: heart. There’s no emotional tie to the characters because they aren’t developed beyond “Air Force test pilot” and “Major commander.” Winfield’s only character development is related to the plot, and the fact that he has an ex-wife and kids. Morgan is utterly undeveloped; I don’t even recall if she has a first name. However, she’s such a strong female character within the events in the film that I have to root for her. Phillips also lacks a first name and even an understanding of why he wants the jets and what he’s planning on doing with them. Who is he mad at and why?
Die Hard is so incredibly enduring because John McClane and Hans Gruber are developed characters–more can be used to describe them than their race and hair color. The same can be said for Holly and Al. I can describe Winfield and Morgan as strong and brave and good soldiers, but that’s about it. Phillips is Australian and has blue eyes, and while intelligent we just don’t know enough about him to find him interesting. Also, once he gets the jets, how is he going to fuel them and keep them armed, and how is even using them going to help him? How can he gain–and what does he want to gain–just by using them?
Overall the film does not have enough Winfield, which is why I sort of grouped Winfield and Morgan together as the main character, even though it’s clearly supposed to be Winfield based on him being the first character we see and learn about. Divoff has such a good screen presence and deep masculine voice that he could easily have stolen the film if the script allowed him to. He could be a Steven Seagal or Van Damme and it’s really unfortunate he hasn’t gotten the roles and attention that he can carry to greater success.
There’s a strange lack of music throughout the film; it does have some, but more would go a long way.
In addition to Rand being a bad guy, Martinez’s death is foreshadowed when Morgan explains he’s going to retire from the military after this mission. That person never makes it through!
As Winfield’s jumpsuit gets more and more torn throughout the film, I just wanted him to rip it off. It looked horribly uncomfortable, and having him in an undershirt would have gone a long way as far as the aesthetics of the film. John McClane and his undershirt are the stars of Die Hard.
Is the film an allegory about the dangers of new technology? That VR helmet that is so cutting edge certainly isn’t trustworthy.
It’s bizarre that the terrorists almost all have actual names Phillips calls them, but in the credits they are all listed as “Mercenary.”
Overall, Interceptor is a lot of fun when taken at its core level of action movie where terrorists take over a C-5 in order to steal its cargo, and only the wiley hero can stop them. Beyond that, character development would have gone a long way to making it so much better of a movie. It had all the other pieces in place. And bonus points for a bad-ass female lead who held her own, didn’t break down, and didn’t rely on the hero to save her. She could have taken down Phillips without Winfield, if given a chance. Awesome to see a character worthy of her own starring role against terrorists, and it was a welcome surprise after all these testosterone-laden movies. If Winfield weren’t played by Divoff, I probably wouldn’t have cared about him at all.
It’s not a question of whether or not 2008’s Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Obviously, it did.
What’s amazing is that it did it so spectacularly.
And this is coming from someone who had absolutely zero interest in anything Marvel-related at all.
Being a DC fangirl, I paid zero attention to Iron Man when it came out. I scoffed at it. I could not care less. Then Iron Man 2 was just as big a hit. But I still couldn’t care about Iron Man or Marvel or anything of the sort. I was sticking with Batman and Superman, despite various cinematic disasters and “realistic” settings for a guy who dresses in a bat costume, not to mention a bunch of comics in which my favorite characters were getting killed (and let’s not talk about the New 52).
Then, I was on vacation, the weather was drippy and cold, and there was nothing to do all day. Bored of staying inside, I suggested we go to the drive-in, because A) I love the drive-in, and B) the night’s double feature was Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. No, I didn’t care about Marvel, but at least the films would have some good action and would also go together, unlike some drive-ins showing a kiddie movie and something R-rated, or two movies that don’t go together at all (District 9 and The Ugly Truth for example; that was a long night). I didn’t even know anything about the Avengers at the time, or maybe vaguely was aware that there was some sort of Marvel movie thing that was happening, related to those two movies at the drive-in.
Anyway, through the misting drizzle and thin veil of fog, we watched Captain America and then Thor best their adversaries. Sort of. If you’ve seen them you know what I mean.
I still wasn’t that interested in Marvel’s The Avengers but eventually did see it. And loved every second of it. It has pretty much everything a movie-goer could want, and nothing that he wouldn’t (Unexpected Romance, I’m looking at you).
So then I had to backtrack through the other MCU films, starting of course with Iron Man, which Redbox had so conveniently put back into its system. I was, shall we say, impressed. The film was tight with no extra nonsense scenes, not boring or drawn out, shiny without looking fake, fun without trying too hard, and again didn’t slow itself down with romance (which would be out of character for Tony anyway, except of course where Pepper is concerned).
Tony’s childhood is hinted at but not embellished, unlike many superhero origin stories (Batman and Superman, I’m looking at you), so all the audience has to go on is the portrayal of the character before the inciting incident. Clearly Tony is selfish, a womanizer, doesn’t care about money because he has so very much of it, and pretty much is all about the flashy toys his money can buy and his company can build. He even comments about peace being a bad thing because it will put him out of a job. Of course, Tony changes his entire purpose for existing after Afghanistan, throwing himself into becoming a hero and changing the focus of his company, and working to ensure his weapons don’t end up in the hands of the enemy.
It’s amazing that nothing seems forced; the film is entirely about Tony’s growth from within, even if the change is initiated by external factors. There’re no agonizing-to-watch personal demon battles; Tony’s actual personal demon, Obadiah, is fought and ended in a very clean-looking fight.
I’ve described the effects and fighting as “shiny” and “clean” because they truly are. If someone didn’t know better, the computer effects are easy to confuse for practical effects. Too many films do not properly integrate CGI, leading to the effects either popping off the screen unpleasantly or looking flat rather than appearing within a three dimensional space inside the actual film (and yes, motion capture is different than creating a monster or something, but still). Iron Man doesn’t have that problem, which really does put it a step ahead of so many films, be they superhero (Green Lantern), science fiction (Transformers), action-adventure (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), disaster (2012), fantasy (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), or pure action (The Expendables 2). That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy these films (give you a couple guesses as to which ones I truly did not enjoy), but my point is that there is clearly CGI at use in them. Things look fake or cartoony, and certainly if Iron Man is any indication, they don’t have to. I’m not even going to mention the seamless blending of effects in Jurassic Park, a 20-year-old film that runs circles around so many movies today. …okay, I mentioned it. But come on, dinosaurs!
All of this being said, my point is that Iron Man was designed to launch the MCU, as the after-credits scene with Nick Fury illustrates. If the film had flopped, Captain America, Thor, and perhaps even the Hulk wouldn’t have gotten their chances in the spotlight. Chris Evans would have had to stay Johnny Storm his entire Marvel career, and no one wants that. Robert Downey, Jr and Jon Favreau had a lot riding on their shoulders, and with their efforts and their teams’ efforts, the film was a huge success and deservedly so.
Remember, this is coming from a DC Comics person, who did not care less about anything related to Marvel Comics until after that soggy day on vacation coupled with Marvel’s The Avengers eight months later. Now I know more about the characters than people who’ve followed the movies for years. Clint grew up in a circus? Check. Thor uses Allspeak? Check. Loki has three kids? Check. I tell fans this stuff.
Anyway, Downey and Favreau really helped turn a DC fan into a MCU fan, though if we’re comparing DC movies to Marvel movies, there’s not much of a comparison (where is our Flash or Wonder Woman movie, hmm? Why do the Nolanverse films make less and less sense as the trilogy is explored? Are DC and Warner Brothers going to embarrass themselves by copying the MCU concept and then doing a terrible job of it?). I’m sure I’m not the only person who didn’t care a bit for Iron Man or anything Marvel but then was blown away by the movie. The film had to do so to save Marvel, and launch the other heroes and give the Avengers their chance.
Iron Man 2 kept the momentum going, ensuring an excited audience for Thor and Captain America. Iron Man 2 is darker at times and more serious with respect to Tony’s childhood and current/future health, and it ends with Tony not being accepted into the Avengers Initiative. However, Justin Hammer is a villain fans love to hate because he’s just so horrible, Agent Romanoff has her excellent side role, and Happy has some good lines. The relationships of Tony and his friends—Rhodey and Pepper—are explored in more detail, helping the viewing understand why they stay with such a narcissistic person, and why they keep coming back even after they leave. The film certainly rounds out Tony’s character in ways likely intentionally left out of the first film.
With Nick Fury, Natasha, and Coulson, the audience is further immersed into what will be the Avengers, providing characterization and backstory to get it out of the way and keep Marvel’s The Avengers as lean as possible by not having to go through too many backstories. The means of creating the MCU—individual back story films to clear the way for a truly epic team story—was ingenious. It really is the only way to get it to all work and not have a four hour movie full of explication, or a two hour movie with a bunch of random people. Everyone knows who Batman and Superman are, but Black Widow or Hawkeye are far more vague. Though Hawkeye certainly doesn’t get his fair share in the MCU, or at least hasn’t yet (can there be a SHIELD-focused Hawkeye/Black Widow film please?). The Avengers movie has character introductions to set the tone in case people haven’t seen the other movies, but it knows it doesn’t have to spend too much time on it, thanks to the foundation laid by Iron Man.
As someone who did not care about Iron Man until a year ago, I have to credit the success of the MCU and its future projects to Iron Man setting the example as a superhero movie that isn’t cheesy, isn’t overly complicated, isn’t poorly written, isn’t bogged down with a needless love story, and doesn’t have cartoony special effects.
Good job, Favreau and Downey. Let’s hope the other teams can keep it going through the second Avengers movie and beyond. And maybe it’ll inspire DC to get their act together on a Justice League film and do it properly.
I tried to have an “I” movie. I really did.
But then Interceptor was pulled from Hulu and unavailable from the library, and Ice Station Zebra had some interesting moments but didn’t have near enough action. It was also difficult to tell if the main character was the captain of the submarine, or the submarine itself. It did support my theory that a contemporary “action” movie is very different from an older action movie (which in my head is pre-1980). Modern movies have a lot more violence and guns, and generally move at a much faster pace. The first five minutes of Ice Station Zebra were music. There were “Overture” and “Intermission” titlecards, which would certainly never be in a contemporary action film!
So, I shall be moving on to The Jackal, which I’ll have posted in a day or two.
If there are “I” action movies out there that I’d be able to get my hands on, please let me know!