Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

Not That Bad: 

The A-Team


The Movie:

Sometimes, when trying to choose the next movie to see if it's really as bad as critics or the internet thinks it is, I can get hung up on a few. They keep crawling back into my mind as something that might be good to tackle, but there may not be enough material to really get into depth on it or is just too bad of a movie to even bother with (I wrote three pages for Van Helsing but the whole thing just fell flat because there's not a lot to that movie...and I really don't know if it's bad or good at this point).

The A-Team, though, is an interesting one to tackle because now we can talk about audience preconceptions when it comes to nostalgia.  Nostalgia is a fickle thing, kind of like that friend of yours that you aren't sure you want to go to the bar with because you aren't entirely sure how he's going to act and behave. A movie built on nostalgia is that way, sometimes it uses it in its favor, sometimes it doesn't, but sometimes the audience isn't quite sure what they want from it in the first place and only decide if it's good based on the emotional feeling they have towards it not from its action or thrills or directing, but from whether or not it "feels" like The A-Team.

Fun fact: The A-Team wasn't all that great of a television show. All those "feels" are based entirely on the memories of watching it at a certain point in time and being nostalgic about the feeling of watching it then. The A-Team was a cheesy, over-the-top action show and that's exactly how Joe Carnahan delivered the film version. It's very much what the show was so we're not going to spend time on that. The bigger question is, does that make it good?

When The A-Team was released back in 2010, it was pretty panned for the most part. A few high-point reviews noted how it handled the "cartoonish mayhem" well, while others just weren't on board with the cartoonish mayhem in the first place and found it

The Common Complaints:

What are the common things people bring up when they sit around and talk about the movie? From my experience and research, these are:


They Survive a Fall while in a Tank and…

The first thing that people bring up, and one of the few things it seems people consistently remember, is the scene where our A-Team is inside a falling tank that survives an exploding plane, tank falls and falls, they try parachutes to slow, doesn’t work, then repeatedly shoot down towards a lake with the canon to slow their fall and “soften” their landing into the lake. Oh, and they are being attacked by drones and have to fight them. Oh, and the tank survives this and they drive it out. Unharmed. Yeah..

It’s absurdist action at its finest. Or worst, depending on who you ask. The problem with this scene isn’t so much that it's over-the-top, though, it’s that it’s really the first major indication of this tone actually being a thing in the movie. Before, we had outlandish and silly action, but nothing to the degree of a Looney Toon short. The opening action “team getting together” stuff is played light but not too cartoony, the action scene in Iraq is grounded and practical and everything else was just character and drama stuff.


So this happens, and it’s the most memorable thing from the movie, for better or worse. It’s the centerpiece action sequence of the movie, which really only has three big action sequences if you break it down (Iraq, Tank and Docks, the extraction scene maybe but it’s pretty quick) and it is certainly the most outlandish by a considerable margin. Though the tone of the movie is fairly consistent, the concept here is a leap.

But is it not being the best thing in the movie a good thing? Yes, it’s absurd and silly, but it’s also tense and overall fun. The timing and the comedy is spot-on here, even with the old people next to lake to play off of that aren’t entirely sure where those large splashes are coming from. The bigger issue is really this: either you're in this movie and game for this type of stuff, or you're turned off by it. Fair enough, but the problems isn't so much this type of action, but more on how it's propped up against the rest of the movie and framed within it that makes it field off.

Look, we're going to talk a lot about the tone and style of this movie and its take on action throughout this thing, so be prepared...

Scenes like this, or the kidnapping or the finale, are fine on their own. Hell, they're kinda awesome when you break it down, but it's that they're in a movie that isn't really sure what to do with them because the movie itself isn't even sure how to present its own material. For example...


Chance Encounters and Coincidences

The opening twenty minutes or so of The A-Team is a fast-paced series of scenes showing how all the characters came together and met. The only characters that know each other beforehand are Face (Bradley Cooper) and Hannibal (Liam Neeson) and they have to hope to get back together before Face is burned alive in some tires. Chance encounters and quick wits are used in this opening to force more chance encounters allow those two to reunite, meet BA Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and Howling Mad Murdock (Sharlto Copley, more on him later) and escape just in time back to the US border.


The entire opening is a great example of what the movie relies on entirely and goes back to far too many times: coincidence and chance. Luck is great to play around with, but you can't ask an audience to be sold on it at every turn.


So what's the problem? Well, the movie keeps going back to that well. It does it so many times that it's like being at a poker table and the same guy keeps beating you with a royal flush. Sure, it's cool and you say "oh man, amazing! Good on you!" the first time, but all the other times you start to think something is up. You realize that's his only hand. It's a good hand at first, but it starts getting on your nerves by the third or fourth time as your interest-chips start to dwindle.

For example, right after this opening is more off-beat chances and coincidence as everyone and their mother convenes in Iraq to set up the next set piece. Every single character that we will meet and know throughout the rest of the film happens to all be in this one place at this one time.

We go to this well again with the right-place, right-time as, thanks to the events in Iraq, our A-Team all have to escape prison in rather interesting ways - Hannibal's "drug" just happens to wear off as soon as he's about to be burned alive befause they think he's dead, Murdock and everyone at the hospital just happen to be watching a movie at the right place and the right time so as not to happen to be crushed by a large van that runs through the wall to save them and Jessica Biel's character just happens to be there to witness it, then you have another escape with BA that is kinda cool but is also going to have you say "wait...exactly how...really the license plates told him and he knew exactly what to do from that?"

I would bring up Face, but the truth is face isn't really all that relevant. There's the whole implied backstory with Jessica Biel, who we'll get to in a minute actually, but really he doesn't do much in this movie except have one monologue about a plan...the final plan...a final plan that is entirely about chance and circumstance.

There's a lot of all that in this movie, and it just gets old and the movie plays itself out quickly. There's really no story. Well, there is but we'll explore that, but  in terms of how the movie progresses forward, it's all about chance and it just wears out its welcome way too early and by the finale, the point where you should be on the edge of your seat, you pretty much say "oh, they're doing this again..." and check your phone.


It’s Way Too Convoluted for What It Is

The A-Team wants to be a fun movie, but it also wants to be a clever, smart movie. The thing is, those two things rarely, if ever, work together. The movie plays absurdist humor and action but also wants to have a plot about conspiracies and being set-up and tricking bad guys while regaining honor and there’s this thing about a romance that may or may not happen with Face and hunting down CIA bad guys along with faking a guy’s death and something about plates…

…There’s a shitton that happens in this thing. Actually, no, none of that really "happens" in it, it just kinda tells you about it all as it rushes through it. It’s just under two hours (longer if you have the directors cut, actually) but it literally feels like two or three movies CRAMMED into that timeframe. It never lets up and constantly moves forward but it also has a ton of story stuff along the way that just becomes confusing and messy as it goes on. Let me try to list the plot threads going on here...ahem...

  •  The A-Team has to clear it's "name" and regain their honor. Fair enough. Fact is the movie should have been this and nothing else.
  • Lynch, a rogue CIA operative, is after some money plates in Iraq and gives the A-Team a black ops mission. They do so, but are caught and arrested because Morrison, the one guy that can say "yes, were ok'd this" is killed. Sometimes he acts on The A-Team's side, sometimes he doesn't.
  • Pike, a team leader for Black Forest, was actually working with Lynch to arrange the theft of the plates. 
  • Sosa, played by Jessica Biel, is after The A-Team when they escape prison, I believe, in hopes of getting her own named clear after the incident in Iraq.
  • There's a constant undercurrent between Sosa and Face and a romantic relationship.
  • Pssst, it wasn't just Pike working with Lynch, Morrison was working with them as well but teamed up with Pike to fake his own death so they could double-cross Lynch. They originally thoguht Morrison, in disguise, was just a baker but after kidnapping him realize the truth..even though none of it is entirely clear. Lynch, then decides to double-cross the A-Team after getting them out of prison and kill them. So at this point both Lynch and Pike are after them and working together even though they weren't entirely before know I don't want to watch the movie a fourth time to try and remember that, you're on your own.
  • All of this along with numerous in-jokes, action beats, plots about Murdock's flying and BA's fear of it and not willing to kill and Hannibal, I assume, orchestrating all this and figuring it out without conveniently telling anyone...


Yeah...good luck...


This is probably the movie’s biggest problem and the one we’re going to talk about the most before moving on to my additional thoughts. The A-Team is simply trying to do too much. It either goes all in with action moments or it’s just a ton of exposition trying to explain everything that’s going on. When you boil it down, the plot is rather simple, but the path getting through it takes forever to walk down.

Perhaps it’s just a stylistic choice by Carnahan for this movie, or at least this kind of movie. He has an energetic and frantic style which works when it comes to action, not so much when it comes to telling a story. There is so much going on in this movie that it is impossible to really outline what the hell it’s about, and so that alone tells you everything you kind of need to know, doesn’t it? What’s worse is the movie is desperately trying to go out of its way to not have a straightforward story and really wants to be smart and clever. But it can’t, and instead of just owning that and being a straightforward action movie with cartoon-like set pieces, it wants to be that plus Clear and Present Danger or In the Line of Fire - grounded action and thriller that takes time to develop plot and tell a story. They cancel each other out.

Let’s put this thing up against Carnahan’s follow up movie, The Grey. I love The Grey. I love its tone and look, I like that Carnahan took time to tell a more methodical and intimate story against action and man’s survival against nature. It had something interesting to say and do. More importantly is it’s the type of movie that doesn’t try to throw in everything and the kitchen sink. It can literally be summed up in a couple of sentences. Simple can be good, folks. Don’t let “simple” make you assume something is stupid and don’t let “straightforward” make you assume that something can’t be complex. You can tell complex without being convoluted, and you can tell a story without getting lost in the muck and mire of a dozen plot points. Carnahan understands that for something like The Grey, but The A-Team is what happens when you have all the money in the world and nobody to simply say “no” once in a while.


My Complaints:

It's one thing to just be snarky and hate on the movie, but let's dig a little deeper and take notice of some of the more egregious faults.

It Starts the Movie Twice

Let’s look at the first hour of The A-Team. It plays out like this:

OPENING - A series of small scenes showing how The A-Team all met. Chance encounters. Coincidences. Lucky Breaks and so on…

IRAQ - We jump ahead eight years. After many successful missions, The A-Team is assigned a mission by the CIA to steal some money and some plates. Turns out it was an illegal mission, nobody knew it was a black-ops except one or two othe rpeople, who have dissapeared or been killed.

PRISON - A series of small scenes showing how The A-Team gets back together and escape their prisons or hospitals. Chance encounters. Coincidences. Lucky Breaks and so on…

This is a good 45 minute to an hour of the movie. Almost half of the film. See anything strange?

The opening sequences and the prison breakout sequences are achieving and showing the exact same thing. The sense of the story moving forward is plateaued during this time. It’s stagnant because the opening is having the A-Team meet and get together and the Prison Breakout stuff is having the A-Team meet and get together a second time.

The more I sit and think of it, the more jarring it is to me that, structurally, this was ok to the people making it. The entire three opening sequences feel wasted in some way, or at least empty in their purpose. I know you want to hit an audience hard and fast in the opening as you try and hide it with the opening credits, but we've already established that the chance/coincidence stuff is bad and it starts the movie twice so why do we even need it? Do we really need to learn how they got together? Is it relevant? It's a fun sequence, sure, but it adds nothing to the story. Plus, this is half the movie we’re talking about, so the movie doubles down on the “get everyone together” thing and you can’t help but get that feeling you’re not going anywhere in the story or with these characters.



Coincidence Isn’t Story

I wanted to go back and bring up something that wasn’t touched upon in an earlier section. When people note that the whole “coincidence” stuff isn’t good in this movie, it’s more because the suspension of disbelief can only go so far. “Oh, this person just happens to get this at this time and this other person meets up with this person at this time and everyone is in the right place at the right time and so on…”

What I wanted to go into here is how the movie uses this as a story crutch - a movie that's already using a ton of crutches to lumber along just to get to the next action moment. See, there is no story, as we kind of already noted. Well, there is but it’s a total mess and nothing but exposition, so instead of a story flowing through this action movie, we get a lot of starts and stops and explaining the story rather than telling it. That’s because “telling” the story has been replaced with moments of coincidence in an attempt to maybe make up for it. It wants to paint a “big picture” with its whole “who is pulling the strings and how are we going to beat them” element, but it relies on coincidence to push it forward.


Even when the movie tries to show cleverness and planning, none of it feels clever or planned and the story certainly never feels like it's earned it. It still falls into "well...we'll just play it by ear and hope for the best" kind of scene with no weight.


We end up with a plot going through its story points of coincidence and nothing feels earned. The characters end up not being as uniquely clever or interesting as they should be, they’re just a bunch of tumbling boulders heading down the hill of coincidences and chance. It goes through Points A and B and C fine, but it’s not because anyone is figuring it out or, when they do have a plan, it’s thrown out the window immediately and everyone is just acting on instinct.

Hannibal’s line “I love it when a plan comes together,” something repeated often in the film, isn’t to indicate that there is a plan. If anything, it’s used ironically here because he’s essentially saying “well, we lucked the hell out there and didn’t die.” I actually like that use of the line in this way, but it also diminishes the characters as a result. The film's dependence on coincidence is fine for a bit but you can't build a story around it. It just doesn't work. We want to see these guys are more than just those tumbling boulders. It's great to use it as a way to "get out of a jam" but even then it all feels incredibly random, even when things are planned out (like the kidnapping or the Iraq heist) they devolve into just random shit happening. It’s the type of movie where you say “Oh, so they just happen to…” just way too many times.


Jessica Biel is in this Because…

 Why is Jessica Biel in this movie? No, I don't mean it's not great having a talented actress in your film - that's always great - but what does her character add to this story. This messy story. This convoluted story. Hell, I constantly forget she's even in this movie until I sit down and watch it. I remember the Jon Hamm cameo at the end more than her because the fact is, she has absolutely nothing to do. Here you have an awesome actress, fully ready to be game as a tough character hunting down fugitives, but giver her no material or real purpose to the story, so why is she here?

I wanted to bring this up because her being here just doesn't feel natural. Perhaps her character was only a minor character at one point and they pumped it up, gave her more scenes and lines, in an attempt to get a name actress is it, but really Biel's character is probably the worst character in a movie that's not even attempting to have deep characters in the first place. If she's not there just to spout exposition, she's there to just be a plot device. What's frustrating is that in the few scenes where she's given a little more to do, she's really good in them, it's just that their not "her" scenes. They're just there to service The A-Team, which, again, is why I feel that at one point it was just a small role in the same way the show would have some "girl of the week" in an episode for Face to crush on (which is EXACTLY what this movie does to her).

The movie isn't sure what to do with her because of all that. Is she just there to be a love interest? Why is she written to be awesome and bad-ass if that's all she's going to be used for? Is she only here to explain away the plot? Because it feels like she's only here to explain away the plot to an audience that can't get past all the convolution in the script.

Ah, don't answer that. I know why...


There’s Two Movies Here…One is Action, the Other Exposition

A very popular series of internet videos out there is called Cinema Sins. Basically it’s 20 minutes of a guy going through a film and pointing out supposed “sins.” Of course, what the criteria of such sin or the legitimacy of pointing them out in terms of constructive criticism is never really made clear, it’s just a series of videos making fun of a movie that passes itself off as criticism to an internet audience that doesn’t quite think about what they’re bringing up. They just go with it as validation of their own opinions to be able to say “see, these guys pointed out dumb thing that bugged me, so this movie sucks.”

When doing a lot of online research on what people think, I kept this video in mind. I re-watched it and one such “dumb thing” that it kept going back to is that The A-Team is full of cartoon violence. “This movie is 62% cartoon bullshit like this.” is the exact quote. Hyperbole, yes. Most of internet vitrioal is just that. But here’s the thing between nitpicking and actually discussing the quality of something on a critical level.

Nitpicking: This movie is full of cartoon bullshit and I don’t like it.

Actual criticism: This movie is full of cartoon bullshit, but what does that say about the movie? How is “cartoon bullshit” a bad thing? In other words, how can one say that just because something is full of “cartoon bullshit” that it is automatically disqualified as “good?” If the movie sets out to make “cartoon bullshit” and ends up making “cartoon bullshit” then poiting out it’s full of “cartoon bullshit” is just making an observation, not an actual critique.

The internet has made people not able to tell the difference between stating an opinion or making an observation with actually making a point.


If the movie took a serious tone, then the complaints would simply be "it's not faithful to the show." The problem isn't just "cartoon action," but how it's implemented and frames the story and characters against a story that takes itself way too seriously. The juxtaposition is jarring.


So let’s talk about that “cartoon bullshit” which I’ll refer to as just “cartoon action” from here on out. Yes, The A-Team is full of all that stuff and more. It’s as over-the-top as it’s 1980s TV counterpart which had its share of cartoon action in its own right. A bigger budget feature version of that is naturally going to go even bigger, and you know what? It does it the right way. It’s cartoony, yes, but it’s inventive and plays loose with logic and physics at every turn. It does cartoon action, but it does it well, at least when it’s not being too frantic with its edits and pacing (which it does do).

We’re not looking for insight into characters in this thing. We didn’t on the TV show either. We just want those broad personalities kicking butt and probably having a laugh or two with absurd situations along the way. That’s the show, that’s the movie. But what we don’t get as a result of all that is tension. If everything is a cartoon and played loose, and everyone is just grinning along the way with one-liners and silly expressions as they know nothing bad will happen to them…then we kind of lose something as a result. The A-Team’s own approach to its action and violence, even when its done well, is also the same thing that works against it in the long run. If we don’t feel the risk, then we don’t get invested. We don’t feel the tension because none of the characters really do either. 


The A-Team tries to make up for that with plot, but as we noted it’s incredibly convoluted as it’s desperately wanting to be clever so we feel some sense of mystery or apprehension or uncertainty as to what will happen. The action can’t do that. That’s the choice Caranhan made. The action is goofy all the way and there is no uncertainty to it: they’ll all get out alive and smile while doing it. The plot and story trying to make up for that to bring stakes to it all, though, is so messy that it just becomes frustrating. The cartoon action ends up as a reprieve rather than something that feels organic to the rest of the film because, god help us, the less we get of scenes of people talking on cell phones and explaining everything, the happier we are.

It’s that reason why the cartoon action in the movie doesn’t work, not the simple observation that there is cartoon action. The A-Team’s tone throughout reflects that, so when it tries to counter it with a mystery plot it doesn’t work. Either the action is too big or the plot just isn’t streamlined or interesting enough to work within the action set pieces themselves. So we end up with two different movies somehow fused together like a bad mashup music video on Youtube by someone who's never done it before. One wants to be smart and clever like it's Mission Impossible, the other just wants to be the 80s TV show.

The other movie? Oh yea, it's summed up in this manner...


 I have never seen...

 ...a movie tell the audience it's plot...

 ...through phone talking scenes...

 ...more than The A-Team... is literally telling, not showing...

 ...and the entire film is dragged down...

...because of it.



And it's almost always Jessica Biel on the other line (again, because she's a plot device and narrative tool more than an actual character).


And that's just the time they're all on phones, do you know how often it's just people standing around talking and explaining stuff? Or had boring those are because they're almost all one-shots of one actor and rarely have people moving or doing anything in the frame, a complete contrast to the action beats of the film?

Holy hell...let's move on to greener pastures...


The Awesome Stuff

It's not all bad, you's some things that people should consider or even re-consider.


The Casting

I want this to be a series of movies for one reason: I love this cast. The A-Team is a perfectly cast film. Hell, they’re the main reason I keep coming back to it. Liam Neeson is spot on as Hannibal - rugged and tough, but sly and always thinking three steps ahead even when those steps lack a lot of logic. He cares for this team and Neeson sells the authoritarian figure perfectly.

Bradley Cooper is so good as Peck that I think you could probably do a standalone movie with just him. He has a lot to do in this movie as well as “faceman” and Cooper delivers the snark perfectly. Quinton Jackson…well it goes without saying. BA Baracus really only needs one criteria: be a wrecking ball. There’s physically only one person that could do it, but what’s great here is that Jackson is also really good at comedy and timing and, on top of that, makes BA Baracus a big lovable lug, something you never really got with the TV Show and adds a lot more to the character.

Then you have my favorite. He was my favorite on the show and he’s my favorite in the movie: Howling Mad Murdock. Sharlto Copley is an actor that really dives into whatever character he’s asked to dive into. He’s all-in, even if the movie is bad he’s often the best thing in it. There’s nothing but sheer joy when Copley is here and it’s utterly disappointing he kind of disappears in the final act, but he owns this role to the point where I don’t see anyone else able to pull it off as well. Hannibal I could see a few actors (Russel Crowe could be good). Same with Faceman (Ryan Reynolds or Chris Pratt could be good) or even BA Baracus (The Rock) but Murdock is 100% fantastic here because of Copley.


Now everyone else we can take or leave. They get lost in the messy script, but these central four are key. They knew this going in. They had to get these guys right, and they really did. I don't know about all the convoluted story and crazy action, but I know with these four actors as these four characters, I'm more than happy to take the ride (numerous times) with them.


The Action is Varied and There’s Plenty

Yeah, if you want action, I'm pretty damn sure The A-Team has you covered.

Of course, the question is whether or not you like that action especially up against the story that's nearly a 180 in tone and style and, because it plays it loose, you don't quite feel as invested in it (by comparison, something like Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol found a pitch-perfect balance between being slightly cartoony and humorous with a thrilling espionage plot that also had a lot of mystery and backstabbings happening in it). But even then, it has a lot going for it. If all The A-Team had in it was action set-pieces..well you'd pretty much have the same movie because I think we all tuned out the plot, but the point is it would still be a pretty awesome movie.

You're given a lot here, from shootings to prison escapes, to the that whole tank thing to chase sequences and hijackings and kidnappings and BA Baracus punching fools.  On just the action level, The A-Team goes above and beyond to deliver it to you. There are a few hiccups in them, sometimes the editing cuts are too often and the sense of space not quite right, but they offer it all up for you just to settle in and await the next sequence to see what kind of action moment it will be.

In relation to that action, the whole movie is essentially like drinking a Monster Energy Drink. Oh, your stomach is going to hate you, and boy those calories, but you down it because...



It’s Pure Energy in Visual Form and Looks Gorgeous

The A-Team is exhausting. You come out of it relieved in a number of ways. One way is that you don’t have to sit through and try and figure out what the hell is going on, but the other is you come out relieved because it absolutely engages you visually and tonally. Action with style, dialogue that is playful and snappy (at least our main crew, of course) and it’s full of fast pacing that is relentless while is crashes through all that like a stunt-driver through fruit stands.


Even when it's not being crazy action, it has some fantastic shots. The movie just flat-out looks good even if a lot of it gets lost with exposition and dull plot-talking scenes.


It has to make up for it’s script in some way, and I think it’s easy to draw a conclusion here: Joe Carnahan had a visual approach and tone to take with it, he just didn’t quite have the script to carry it. The script does way too much, the action is also too much but it’s always pretty well done and on point so we kind of know where the focus ended up being. Again, there's two movies crammed here and it's obvious which one got the most focus. The fun one. The one where characters are having a good time even through crazy action and they want you to have a good time too.

The A-Team is an idea more than it is a movie. It’s an expression of raw, almost uncaring and unabashed action set pieces in an unfiltered way that for may might be “cartoony” but you can’t deny the boldness of that expression. I love that it does that. It puts its chips on the table, knows it’s going to be over the top and is unrelenting in doing so. It allows the characters to express this as well because they're a part of it and in on the joke. Exhausting, yes, but thrilling as it does so. If the movie was just this: a comedy-action hybrid that takes you on a ride, then I'd argue it would probably work better as a whole instead of getting bogged-down with the convoluted plot.


So…Is It Really That Bad?

Do you know that phrase “turn off your brain?” It's the thing that people say when they bring up a movie sometimes. “Sure, it’s pretty good if you turn off your brain for two hours” or “I turned off my brain and enjoyed it 'for what it is.'” If ever there was a movie that exemplified that, it’s The A-Team - a movie that is great if you just turn your brain off, right?

Well, that’s a fine thing to say in a casual conversation, it’s a go-to for a nice generalization about a movie without having to dive deep into it (as is calling something a "popcorn flick"), but the fact is “turn off your brain” is pretty dismissive. It’s a phrase that’s used to excuse something rather than actually describe it or mean anything. It’s especially pointless when trying to break down a movie like I’m trying to do, because the fact of the matter is, if you have to use that phrase towards something, then there’s something wrong with it. 

The A-Team is a well made (action wise), fun and just all-around entertaining movie that's a stylized throwback to the absurd era of 1980s spectacle action. The problem is, it just glosses over it as a pale imitation and tries too hard to make all its pieces work. It's like the movie knows it's a movie and doesn't bother to really make things register or be all that memorable. It's a movie that's great to watch, but is as quickly forgotten.

So is not having something standout and memorable for an action movie, especially one this large at over a 100 million budget, a bad thing? We kind of already established that the sense of uncertainty is entirely dependent on a super convoluted and contrived story because the over-the-top action is played too loose for there to be a sense of risk. It’s certainly style over substance. Characters are overall likable, but also disposable. That’s kind of what the film is as a whole: disposable. A well-intended movie, yes, but one that ends up meaningless because it can't even make its action all that memorable in the first place.

Man. I kinda hate to go on here. Let me just say: I love this movie. I love everything about this movie. Well, kind of. I love just popping it in and, as I said "turning off by brain." But if if I have to say that, then I can't call it a good movie going by own logic. It's just not good even if I enjoy it.

You keep using that phrase...I do not think it means what you think it means.

That's painful. I mean, I like movies that are bad all the time, hell I've seen Road House plenty, but despite my enjoyment of The A-Team, I can't honestly say it's a good movie simply because it fails to deliver the exact thing that it's going for: that earlier mentioned "absurd 1980s spectacle action.” Being “big” and “over the top” is kind of the point of the film and you’d assume that it would be memorable as a result. But it’s not. It can’t really deliver that either. As great as that tank scene is, I can't really recall the specifics of it. It pretty much just happens then its on to the awful plot that brings the film down even further.

I actually got angry the more I picked this movie apart. Because I enjoy it so much, I wish it was actually a better film. I don't know if that makes sense to you, but The A-Team is a movie that means little to me but at the same time means a lot to me when I'm actually watching it.

If it had managed to make the action in the movie mean something beyond some fast-paced digestible action romp, to have that weight and a sense of risk and tension rather than playing it light and loose, it would have done the film that much better in being a memorable experience. It’s what makes the difference between remembering Commando or Robocop and not quite remembering Cobra or Red Heat. All with decent to big budgets, all decent action movies in their own way, but we remember some over others simply because those memorable ones made a point to be memorable and you gave a shit about those moments where these characters you like may or may not make it out of it.

What makes the A-Team not all that memorable, despite it's fun moments and solid one-liners, is the one thing it hung it's hat on: lavish action set pieces. Fun, fast and energetic, yes, but they don't really have much to them. Here's the thing: if you're going to make a movie that's essentially a cartoon, you're going to lose that sense of risk and tension. When that's gone, and we feel our heroes are invincible we lose that human connection to them. It's fine if you don't want to bother with character development for a movie like this, and to this movie's credit I felt on board with the team even without it because the larger-than-life personalities worked. Yet, I never felt they were in any real danger.  So when that big action moment happens and those personalities are playing it for laughs every time, then it loses that connection that desperately needs to be made to make The A-Team a great, memorable action movie rather than "Oh yeah...I saw that....can't remember what happens in it, though.”

Seriously, whenever I bring the movie up in social settings (and I do, sometimes as research but usually just out of curiosity) that "can't remember" line seems to be the most common thing. Then go and look online: nobody really cares or talks about this movie. 2010 wasn't that great of a year for movies, but I see more people writing and discussing Repo Men or Scott Pilgrim, two flops in their own right, than a murmur of The A-Team.  Those movies had something worth remembering, The A-Team is only relevant in the time you’re actually watching it.

You might think “what is memorable is as subjective as it comes” and yeah, I’m sure there’s a few out there that are quite fond of The A-Team. Like I said, I love this thing personally and re-watch it quite a bit, but I know what I like about it is the exact same thing that makes others not like it and, more importantly, doesn’t make it a very good movie because it can't get all these pieces, this mass of plot exposition and cartoon action, to fit together. While it’s “not that bad” even to the people that dislike it, it’s better than it probably should have been actually for a cheesy 80s TV Show reboot, it’s bad enough to be considered pretty bad in my books.


But a Sidebar, Your Honor...

Keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bad movie. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve seen Tango and Cash? A lot. At least it’s not mediocre and is trying to be interesting and entertaining. Do you know how many times I’ve seen Nighthawks? Barely once. Do you even know that movie? Well there you go…

I wanted to end here with a discussion about "bad movies." We like to shit on bad movies, sure. Personally, I like to explore them, but the internet as a whole loves to jump on something that's awful and beat it to death. Then it goes down in the social-media/internet history books as something awful. It's what inspired this whole series of "Not That Bad" articles.

Yet, is liking something that's "bad" all that shameful? Why do we roll our eyes when someone says "I liked Hook" or "I liked Twilight" especially when, more often than not, they will fully admit that they're not good movies. We mock them. Make fun of them. I don't know about you, but trying to "shame" someone into liking or disliking something is a pretty shitty thing to do.Those movies were able to get a reaction out of them in some way, which is more than I can say for 75% of the movies that come out every year that people don't remember at all. I

f it's something that you like and makes you enjoy a couple hours out of your life, then what's to be shameful about? Why are we afraid to just say we like something that's not good? Nobody is trying to convince people it's good. If there's something you like that's bad, whether it's a bad book or a movie or a pizza, then own it. Enjoy it. It makes you happy and when someone says "that sucks" then respond with a serious, blue-steel-esque type of look and say "I know" and never lose eye contact. That'll shut them up.


 Note: I put comments here for people to discuss, but if you want to connect directly with me, twitter and facebook are the best and where I usually am (links on the left). This whole site is ran by one person and I can't monitor comments all the time so please keep it civil.



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