First of all I want to frame this with saying that I grew up watching the A-Team on TV. I remember watching episode after episode enjoying the team saving people from their predicaments. No one got killed, B.A. got mad, Murdock did something crazy, and Hannibal always had a plan. It was a formula that worked and I ate alive as a kid. So when I say that I’m biased I really do mean it.
This film very much plays like a superhero story opening with a fifteen minute origin sequence where the audience learns about how the team is formed. From there the film jumps eight years, where our heroes are one of the most successful teams in Iraq. Naturally they are framed for a crime they didn’t commit and strive to bring the bad guys to justice and clear their names. But that is just a very basic run through of the over arching story. The film is filled with twists and turns while being packed with action.
Being packed with action is great and all but you have to make the audiences care. One way of doing this is good character arcs the other is with comedy. And not just toilet humor or very scripted jokes but with these four men acting like brothers. Throughout the film there is a brotherhood between these characters that is very strong. This allows the humor to shine through. There is the smaller brother that gets in everyone’s hair, the ladies man brother that glue of the team, the big brother using his size to get his way and the older brother watching over the others. Having a male sibling myself this sense of humor really resented with me and made me instantly understand every once place within the group.
But this leaves the film with one major flaw, there is no real character development. Though the film does try to give B.A. an arch of sorts it never really factors into anything else. If Mr. T had reprised his classic role it may have worked since audiences have an attachment to the character when Mr. T is playing the part. Jackson had big shoes to fill and he did the best he could even if he did play it a little one note. Really it was the writings fault here, which includes Face’s forced romantic relationship in the film. As with B.A., Face is given an even smaller arc to deal with which is strange since the film at times feels like it’s trying to make him the main character. Hannibal and Murdock have no development at all but that’s where you begin to realize that the actors in the film know what their doing and what kind of film their making. The actors inject personality into the characters and asks the audience to have as much fun as they are.
One great addition to the dynamic of the team was the Face/Hannibal relationship. In the show Face was the pretty boy that could talk quick to the bad guys and swoon the ladies. But beyond that he would have to team up with Murdock to take any baddies down in a fist fight. In the film however Face is very much the con man we all know and love but has an apprentice type role to Hannibal. Most of the film Hannibal is teaching Face how to plan even making him recite rules. As far as I can remember this was completely absent in the show and is very much welcome here.
But what is this film is at the end of the day? It’s not a character piece or action drama this is an action comedy to it’s very core. At no point in time did I think this film would be so funny but this film is filled with jokes. Even within some of the big action pieces I found myself laughing at quips by the characters or ridiculous situations that they create for themselves. I laughed more in this film than I do in most comedies which is a huge feat. And that’s the balancing act this film handles so well because not only is it funny but the action is intense and fun to watch.
The A-Team in it’s original incarnation was always about planning ahead. In many ways the new film is the same way in it’s more realistic portrayal of this universe. Early on we see how the team jells together, and then we get to see how they plan things out. By the end of the film we are no longer told what’s going on but are shown how it unfolds. Thankfully at no time do you feel the team is under complete control of the situation because with out the chance to see them adapt there is no real danger of anyone dying. Which is true in many action films of this nature. We know that John McClane will not die and the same goes for the A-Team.
In comparison this film is a tribute and update to the classic TV series. Sure this new team do kill people but the film tries to talk about that concept through it’s most violent character. B.A.’s arc acts almost as a way of telling the audience that this isn’t the old A-Team and that they are going to do things a little differently. Which is needed because this is a very different world that we live in. What I really did enjoy was the, at times, very sneaky preparation scenes. In the show the bad guys would always lock the A-Team in a barn with a mower, a blow torch, and metal siding. An hour later they rolled out with a tank. The film takes that concept and applies it in a way that doesn’t having you say “Come on that’s ridiculous” but saying “That was pretty cool.”
But what are heroes without villains. The film does suffer from multiple villain syndrome but the way the film unfolds I always felt I knew who the bad guys were, who the team shouldn’t trust, and who was misinformed about the heroes situation. Then when these elements started to scramble around I never felt lost. The big stakes in the film where there and felt reasonability but felt like a back seat to these men of honor trying to regain their lives, which are stakes in of themselves.
The A-Team may not be the most clever of films but it never treats it’s audience like a child. It asks us to like these characters and gives us proof why. The action is solid and the all the jokes hit their mark with surprising accuracy. So where’s my sequel?