A-Team is the greatest movie ever made. Okay, sometimes I get emotional after seeing a truly kickass movie and I have no shame about proclaiming various things the best thing ever, only to have that change upon the next awesome thing I see. However, as of this writing, A-Team is the best thing ever, and I think it has something to do with being based on the greatest show that was ever on TV.
A TV adaptation? Didn’t we have one of those last year?
There’s a common bullshit, poorly conceived opinion that adapting a tv show is a lowbrow indication that Hollywood had run out of ideas. People are excited to appear important by decrying the idea as if they’ve somehow espoused a deep mediation on the state of entertainment by saying the same thing everyone else says. Unless you can really explain how Hollywood has ruined the purity of a cartoon created to sell a toy without laughing then sit down Comicon Q&A denizen. Your argument is predicated upon a fact that doesn’t exist: that all movies without a 2 in the title are super original, Avatar anyone? It’s not an adapation or a sequel, but would it really matter if it had been?
Movies based on a different medium are a GREAT idea! It presents a certain set of challenges to the creators. Does anyone really think because Family Ties was already a TV show that adapting it to a two hour movie with a satisfying three-act structure is easy? The GREAT thing about reboots, origin stories, and adaptations of pop cultural entities is that the audience comes into the movie with a pre-existing list of tropes that they’re excited to see. In Casino Royale, we wait in anticipation to hear “Bond, James Bond”, in Batman Begins, we wait for the cave, the gadgets, the Batmobile, and those two movies know where their audiences want their bread buttered.
When we think of the A-Team we think of pitied fools, crazy Murdock, and Hannibal’s love of plans coming together. It’s all there and more because the writers, Director Joe Carnahan (Narc), and Producers Ridley and Tony Scott (?!?!) have delivered a movie that hones in on an essence of the A-Team that a lot of us may have forgotten. They are an impossible missions team, and the “plans” so haphazardly thrown out in the show’s catchphrase are what the movie zeroes in on as it’s entire concept, the script constantly creates impossible situations that require a masterful plan to get out of, and a montage that includes a blowtorch being lit to put that plan into action. In this way The A-Team is an incredibly successful adaptation. It’s as if the creators saw the thrilling and elaborate Hong Kong kidnap sequence from Batman: Dark Knight and said: “let’s try and pull that off 7 or 8 times.”
On the story level, the film is actually an adaptation of the opening title monologue of the 80’s television show. The team is wrongfully accused of a crime they didn’t commit and they spend the movie trying to clear their name. The actual plot, divorced of these characters and this television property could actually play best on the Who Gives A Shit Channel. There’s a thingy and they have to get it, but somebody else wants to get the thingy, but if that person gets the thingy, then our heroes will lose, and who wants a hero to lose? Not this American, that’s for sure.
Sidenote: I always admired Ronin because it called out it’s Thingy plot by not even stating what it was. Because who cares? That’s not the point of Ronin, that’s not the point here either.
Aside from nailing the various physical action tropes of The A-Team, the movie also hits all the trademarks of the four 80’s tv icon characters. Hannibal and Face are much more alive than they were in the TV show as the basis of their characters (Mr. In Charge and Mr. Smooth) intersect more with the plot than B.A. and Murdock (Mr. Mean and Mr. Unpredictable) who play support and don’t get much quality interaction, but all four are a dream cast for the big big big childhood A-Team fan that’s writing this. Oh, and Bradley Cooper is probably a legitimate movie star, and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Hard Candy), who plays a slimeball intermediary, should be in everything.
The really impressive thing about The A-Team is the action sequences.
In Michael Bay’s The Island, there’s a climactic highway chase where Train Axles and Wheels are thrown off of a truck into oncoming traffic. I remember watching at the time and thinking “oh, okay, so we’ve run out of action sequences.” Because Train Axles are different than everything else that’s been thrown out of a van or off a car hauler into traffic, you see?
I say that because, like you, I thought I’d seen every possible iteration of action sequence since the invention of the genre, and yet, the plans, and impossible missions, and the constant success of the A-Team at nailing those missions happens in 7 or 8 action sequences that I’ve never seen, including a fantastic action setpiece ending that I won’t ever forget, and probably have to go back and see tomorrow.
If only any of the Mission Impossible movies had been half as entertaining with their impossible missions, or had half the inventiveness of A-Team then…then… well, then I guess I wouldn’t be writing this sentence. But what do you expect, Mission Impossible is an adaptation of a TV show. A TV show that I can only presume is about a lone Agent of an Impossible Missions Force that are all killed in the first episode.