Just got back from seeing The A-Team. Wow.
I’m going to diverge from the usual story/presentation approach that Jeeg and I use when we review movies. For me, this movie is more than just that. A movie can have a strong story and presentation, yet completely betray what it is supposed to be. Especially when the source material isn’t something that is traditionally taken seriously by most. I’ve seen several TV shows translated to film and found them lacking the spirit or respect they deserve. Charlie’s Angels and Starsky and Hutch were jokes. Mission: Impossible turns the main character from the series into a villain. The Avengers and Wild Wild West were awful. Except The Fugitive, there aren’t that many creative successes, so imagine my trepidation about a property that I hold near and dear.
For as long as I’ve known about The A-Team, I’ve loved it. I had an A-Team lunch box and at one time owned the old action figures. There are a lot of things that I have looked back at from my childhood days with my grown up eyes and been disappointed to find they didn’t hold up. But The A-Team has been a delight to rewatch. While it has its faults, it’s good fun with great characters who have an awesome dynamic with each other. But there’s some subtle depth to it that I believe is intentional on the part of the creators of the show. That depth is found in classic tales of old that inspired The A-Team and it carries over to the show. These three men, plus Murdock and occasionally a reporter, were on the run from the law and were always hoping there would be a way to clear their name. What they didn’t realize (although I suspect that Hannibal did) was that they were more free on the run then they ever would have been had they been able to get on with their lives without looking over their shoulder.
The A-Team never got bound by the trappings of society. And because of that and their good nature and strong sense of justice, they were modern-day Robin Hoods that could accomplish what no one else could. There was no legal tape to cut through or hold them back. There was no family at home to worry about. There was no fear about not being able to get that promotion because of something they did. They were completely free to do whatever they wanted. Thankfully, they were on our side…the side of the common man.
They were only able to pull this off for two reasons. First, they were dedicated to sticking together no matter what. Face explained it best when he talked about how separately, they are social misfits, but together, they are something amazing. But it takes that second thing to make them amazing and that is the mind of Hannibal Smith. Hannibal always has a plan, never loses his cool, and walks that line between crazy and genius. He is absolutely in my top five fictional characters list. And ultimately, my opinion of the movie was 100% contingent on the director/writers/actor getting him right.
So, let me say that they got me. Five minutes into the movie and I was sold on Hannibal. There were still little things I would have preferred they did differently with him. For example, he gets angry more than he should. But most of the time, that was directed at Face and Hannibal sees in him a responsibility to take over this unit someday. That’s a theme that was played with during the series as well. Peppard’s Hannibal at times seemed to have a much more external appearance of apathy when in reality, he was completely in control and three or more steps ahead of everyone else. Even after working together for years in Vietnam and for several years since escaping into the Los Angeles underground, his insight into situations still impressed his teammates.
Bradley Cooper’s Faceman was dead on accurate. Again, there were subtle nods to the TV series with Face using his charm to acquire things that should be otherwise impossible to acquire. If I can be somewhat sacri-ateam-ligious, Rampage Jackson’s BA was an improvement over Mr. T’s by bringing more depth to the character and slightly more acting ability than T ever could. He doesn’t quite have the fire that T did, but he still brings it. And Sharlto Copley’s Murdock was likely the most surprising and most faithful casting choice of the four. His performance peppered in tons of fun bits that were very reminiscent of Dwight Schultz’s version on the series.
The spirit of the movie completely rang true throughout. This is best displayed when they break Murdock out of the VA hospital in the middle of the movie. Not only are there incredibly awesome Easter eggs during the build up of the breakout (watch the credits of the movie that’s playing), but driving a car through a building during a 3-D movie is just perfectly Hannibal.
If I had to make complaints, I’d say that some of the fight scenes were dark and in too close. That’s the style of fight scenes thse days. I look forward to movies making a shift back to editing that allows me to see what’s going on. I also found the score somewhat lacking. I would liked for the heavy guitar riffs to have stayed a part of the score just as it did in the original series. It was rather bland otherwise. I would have also liked to have seen the great Stephen J. Cannell at the end of the movie with his typewriter.
With this one done and the origin story told, a sequel or two or three would be very welcome. In the meantime, I’ll be coming up with adventures for them of my own.