“I love it when a plan comes together.”
I love it when a movie comes together that offers you some value for your entertainment dollar and manages to touch a bit on the old nostalgia strings along the way. I’m not going to try to convince you that the new A-Team film is a great movie. It’s not even close. But neither was the series a great series. What I am going to try to convince you to do is go out and at least rent a copy of the A-Team movie and allow it to do exactly what it was intended to do … take you for a little ride while jogging those old memories just enough to bring the occasional smile to your face. Think about it. Could you really ask a movie to do anything more?
Judging by its box-office numbers, it appears that most of you were, indeed, looking for something more. The film only pulled in a $77 million domestic gross on a $110 million budget. You don’t need me to tell you that that’s not really very good, do you? It’s not a good sign for the franchise to continue, and I doubt that you’ll see anything more from this particular vision. That doesn’t mean the name won’t resurface in some other form later down the road.
“Still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The A-Team.”
Let’s start with the 1983 television series. The show was the brainchild of the mind of Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo. Together they had brought us some of the most memorable shows since the 1970’s. The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, Magnum PI and Wiseguy. Cannell who passed just last September brought us even more on his own or with others. These classics include The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, Hardcastle And McCormick, and Baretta. The series was a mixture of serious action and some rather silly antics. The team was led by George Peppard as Hannibal Smith. From Battlestar Galactica came the original Starbuck himself, Dirk Benedict as the con artist Face. Dwight Shultz, who would later play the unconfident holodeck addict Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation played pilot Murdock. The team was rounded out by flamboyant actor Mr. T as the team muscleman B.A. Baracus. The four made up a covert military team known as Alpha, or A-Team. They had once been framed for treason but had gotten out of prison to ply their particular brand of tactics against some of the more unconventional enemies. If you were in a serious jam, you could hire the team … if you could find them, that is. They were on the run from the feds. They all had specialties that allowed them to put together elaborate plans to stop the bad guys. They could be called a cross between MacGyver and Mission Impossible. They would use scavenge whatever they could lay their hands on and put together their traps. There were a lot of explosions and gunfire, but no one on the show ever really got killed or seriously hurt. The show ran for 5 seasons from 1983-1988.
“They are the best, and they specialize in the ridiculous.”
Enter 2010 and The A-Team motion picture. Credit the filmmakers for including Cannell on the production team. I’m sure his guidance went a long way toward keeping the heart of the original show intact. In this film we go back to how the team first met. That segment serves as a good introduction to each character. This way anyone can get into the film. You really do not need to have seen any of the episodes. After they meet, the film flash forwards through their career in the military and the story picks up on how it was they were framed and sent to prison. They get broken out by a CIA operative who believes they were framed and sees them as the only way to catch the real bad guys. You could call it a prequel to the series.
“Hey boss, did you ever play that game at the fun fair where you try to pick up a stuffed animal with the claw? This is a lot like that.”
It all starts with the cast just as it did back in 1983. Liam Neeson takes over the role of cigar-chompin’ Hannibal Smith. He’s as cocky and self-confident as ever. Neeson really does allow the performance of the late Peppard to inform his portrayal while still adding some new 21st-century attitude and charm to the character. Bradley Cooper, who you’ve seen on shows like Alias and Nip/Tuck plays Face. He doesn’t really have that natural charm and ladies-man appeal that Benedict has, but he creates a comfortable part that works. Sharlto Copley plays the now British-sounding Murdock. He might not really remind us of Shultz at all, but he is probably the best character on the film anyway. He’s a lot crazier than the series version was and of course, he has better toys to play with. Rampage Jackson is probably as close to Mr. T as we will find today. Of course, no one else is Mr. T, and Jackson doesn’t try to force it except for the occasional “fool” remarks. He wisely made the character his own and stayed away from the cheap imitations. Added to the film’s cast is Jessica Biel as the fed who must try and track down and catch the team. She’s also one of Face’s ex-girls, so she has a bit of a personal stake in the capture. Biel fits in rather nicely and fills the role of sometimes-bad-guy and sometimes-good-guy. Brian Bloom and Terry Chen play two of the chief bad guys with a lot of the personality you might have found in the television series. Patrick Wilson rounds out the cast as Lynch, a CIA agent who ends up believing in the guys. It’s all a little over the top, but it’s all in good fun.
“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”
The film does manage to retain many of the elements fans loved about the television show. The complicated plots and trap constructions are all here. The big difference is that people do die in this film. There is a far more heightened sense of realism here that is likely necessary if you’re going to have any kind of a chance at the box office. Everything is obviously modernized, so the team has access to gadgets and technology that were science fiction in 1983. There are some amusing 1970’s and 80’s cameos including two members of the original cast. I won’t tell you who they all are or where you’ll find them. It’s a lot of fun to try to locate them yourself. Pay close attention, because some of these gags come and go in the blink of an eye. Too bad, really. There’s plenty of humor to be found here. There’s an in-film movie opening credit that pays tribute to both Shultz and Benedict. The actors listed are Reginald Barclay and GA Starbuck. Both are their well-known characters from the shows I mentioned earlier. It’s this kind of Easter egg hunt that I think makes the film just that much more a notch above the rest. Yeah, the wisecracks come on a little too strong at times, but it really is faithful to the way the series was.
“If you look out the right hand side of the aircraft, you will notice that the right wing is on fire.”
The production values are quite high. This doesn’t look like a silly movie at all when you see the action stunts and special effects. The climax includes a gag that’s obviously a little too ambitious and ends up looking too much like CGI at times. The stunts are all first-rate, and you’ll get that adrenaline hit you look for in these kinds of movies. The pace never lets up. It doesn’t need to slow down for the jokes; rather it carries everything along at warp speed. Give director Joe Carnahan a ton of credit for walking a very fine tightrope here and doing it with tremendous style. He manages to deliver a high-powered action film with a PG-13 rating. He delivers non-stop action while still weaving into the tapestry the camp and zany elements that set the television show apart from anything else that was on at the time, or since. He’s no stranger to the action film. Anyone who has seen Smokin Aces knows exactly how much Carnahan knows how to push the envelope. What makes this so much more impressive was how he was able to continue that tradition but within the limitations of the rating and spirit of the original show. I can’t see fans being disappointed, and even if you’re not a fan, let these guys take you on a little ride.
The A-Team is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25-30 mbps. This is a pretty solid image presentation. Much of the picture is dark, so it’s not the detail so much as the black levels and shadow definition that make this work so well. That doesn’t mean that detail isn’t strong here. I have to tell you that the makeup people worked wonders with Neeson. The close-ups of Hannibal show him to look quite haggard and weather-beaten. It’s an impressive display that is only enhanced by the high-definition image presentation. Colors are solid. Some of the locations show off brilliantly here which only serves to pull you into the experience that much more.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is just as impressive. Surrounds can be quite aggressive during the many explosive fight scenes. The score is rousing at times. There’s a hint of the original theme and just enough power in the whole thing to drive your adrenaline without overpowering the dialog or more subtle sounds. Your sub is really going to come alive during these splendid moments when sound just completely envelops you into a rather exhilarating immersive experience.
You get both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film here. I watched the extended cut. But I had not seen the original film. Therefore I can’t really comment on what might have been added. There is a Devil’s In The Details interactive viewing mode which can only be accessed if you watch the theatrical cut.
All of the extras are in high definition.
Deleted Scenes: (4:05) There are 6 with a play-all option.
Gag Reel: (7:19)
A-Team Theme Mash-up Montage: (1:36) This is made to look like those episode previews you saw when the original show ran.
Plan Of Attack: (28:39) Director Carnahan drives this behind-the-scenes feature. He points out many of the homage moments. This is less like a promo and more informative than most of these pieces. There’s plenty of laughing and messing around on the set. There are a few clips with Stephen J. Cannell, likely some of his last appearances.
Character Chronicles: (23:11) A collection of actor/character profiles with a play-all option. There is some repeated footage from the previous feature.
Visual Effects Before And After: (6:11) James Price, the f/x supervisor, narrates some footage on the compositions from the film.
DVD and Digital Copies
BD Live Content
If you remember the original show at all, it takes a bit of time to get used to the new faces. These actors did make these parts their own. Still, there’s a lot of respect for the original material. The same camp mix that you might have loved in the show just would not have worked for a movie in 2010. While the box office has made a continuation of this incarnation nearly impossible, I do think we’ll see these characters again someday in one form or another. “I told you the mission wasn’t over.”