A-Team, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking.
Length: 117 minutes
Grade: ACCB=B+
Budget: $110 million
Box Office: $199 million (77 U.S., 100 Intl., 22 DVD)

Written by: Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces 1+2, Pride and Glory), Brian Bloom (The actor who played Pike, no other writing credits) and Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hitman, and Swordfish), based on the series created by Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell
Directed by: Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson, and Sharlto Copley
With: Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, and Brian Bloom.

The most elite team of commandos is sent on a covert mission in Bagdad at the end of the Iraq war, but then framed for the murder of their commander and the theft when it goes wrong. Desperately wanting to clear their names, they must escape from prison, find those responsible, and bring the truth to light, mostly by being clever and shooting people.

Entertainment Value: A
Oh, man, oh man! For a kid who grew up watching the A-Team, this was a real treat. Some recent remakes have been atrocious, and some have been acceptable. But a few of them (like Star Trek or Predators) have kept so well to the tradition and honored it that real fans can’t be anything but satisfied. This keeps the personalities of the original team so well-preserved that they even kept the same haircuts. The van, the same guns (in the initial scenes), the kitschy lines. Even the completely absurd action plot and crazy plans working. It’s all there, man. I enjoyed this from beginning to end. The only thing more I could hope for is a re-launch of the series with this mix or, failing that, a solid sequel.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C-, Language C
Hannibal smokes cigars, and there’s some alcohol. Several scenes imply sexuality, but it’s much tamer than anything even on TV these days. Language, however, wouldn’t pass on TV, and easily earns the PG-13. Violence is likely the big concern, with lots and lots of battle scenes and people being killed on or off-screen, but all usually in a bloodless PG-13 sort of way.

Significant Content: C
The craftier you are, the more powerful you are. Violence and force are good when used by the good guys and bad in the hands of bad guys. Having a name and keeping it clear is very important.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
The credit here isn’t primarily because of great philosophical insights or lengthy post-viewing discussions. It’s just for the fidelity of this remake to all the bits of the original, as I mentioned before. Liam Neeson had been my biggest concern going in, but he passed with flying colors for George Peppard’s Hannibal. Maybe just a tad on the serious side, but that’s true for all of them compared to the original.

Discussion Questions:
~BA struggles with the role and legitimacy of violence in his life. Would it be fair to say that he was addicted to violence before and that his Gandhi-inspired pacifism was an overreaction to that excess? What do you make of his conversation with Hannibal about this? Is he guilty of cowardice by rejecting violence? It’s far more difficult to do a thing properly than it is to simply abstain from the thing altogether. Is BA being a coward in not trying to use force responsibly?
~The original show was mostly about the team helping victims right wrongs in their life while (sort of, long term) working to clear their own name. This movie seems to be more about revenge or, at least, just personal vindication. Which seems more noble to you?
~In the original series, much effort was taken to avoid killing, but in this movie the characters seem willing, even eager, to kill the bad guys. What do you make of that shift?
~What is the Christian perspective on the use of violence? Would the Bible condone the semi-vigilante violence of the A-Team? If you allow someone else to be harmed by your refusal to use force in order to maintain your vision of personal purity, is that virtuous? Is it Christian?
~The main evolution from the 80s until now with action heroes has been a loss of cavalier wit and more of a seriousness. Which country is healthier in your opinion, the one that likes joviality about violence or the one that likes dark brooding about it?
~Do you think movies that remake things people grew up watching should be made to satisfy the now-adult tastes of those fans, or should they be made so that those adults can now enjoy sharing them with their own children?

Overall Grade: B+
Fans of the original series will love this. Roger Ebert, who hated the original, hated this. Go figure! The only real dings would be for language and actual killing, both of which the original series avoided because it was on TV.

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