Joe Carnahan’s adaptation of 1980’s The A-Team was met on release with a certain amount of derision from both critics and audiences unsure of what to make of the film. I’ll admit that on first viewing I found The A-Team to be silly and cartoony. But upon further reflection, the film has begun to grow in my eyes. My initial complaints of the film as silly and/or cartoony seem downright moot, if not just plain misguided. For the film is a silly live action cartoon. Scenes that initially bugged me in theaters – like the heavily promoted tank drop sequence or the climax wherein The A-Team perform three-card Monte with freights – become downright hilarious on repeat viewings. My initial skepticism has given way to a newfound respect and enjoyment towards the film.
So it was my great fortune to attend a press event for the upcoming release of The A-Team on DVD and Blu-ray. At the event, Carnahan spoke of his approach to The A-Team and how the film was meant to be viewed, as well as showed a couple of behind-the-scenes features on the disc and a deleted sequence that can be found included in The A-Team Extended Cut (also included within the DVD and Blu-ray). Afterwards I was able to interview Carnahan one on one – where he talked of other cut sequences now included in the extended cut, the thematic undercurrents of his filmography, the future of The A-Team, and his upcoming Liam Neeson vs. wolves film The Grey. Hit the jump for more.
Carnahan began the event by discussing his approach to The A-Team:
Joe Carnahan: I was not a gigantic fan of The A-Team as a kid. I was a huge Miami Vice fan. So for me, not necessarily to say that I put a Miami Vice”ish” spin on The A-Team, but for me what I was most intrigued by was this notion of these four guys, these four kind of special operators. I wanted to take from what [in] my youth was something that I always thought was a fun, campy television show and show that I loved the culture surrounding it… But I still thought trying to transplant something from the 1980’s to today’s audience and just do it straight across would have been a mistake. So what we tried to do is to keep the more absurdist elements of the show and yet still try to make it somewhat relatable to the present day.
From here Carnahan presented a couple of the special features included on the disc – a special effects segment on the digital craftsmanship behind the A-Team’s mission-gone-awry in Iraq, an effects segment on the A-Team’s assault to get back the U.S. treasury plates/capture the mysterious Arab backer, a behind-the-scene’s feature on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s (B.A Baracus in the film) first big movie set experience, and a deleted scene between Bradley Cooper’s Face and B.A Baracus wherein the two size each other up and discuss their, well, “manhood”.
Carnahan then explicated on the oft-disputed tank drop sequence and why the enjoyment of said sequence is indicative of one’s reaction to the film as a whole:
Joe Carnahan: I think that in one of the reviews that was not very fond of this film – they actually cited Newtonian law, which I thought was a pretty interesting slant to take… In one of the original scripts they had a black hawk helicopter in the belly of the C130 transporter and you didn’t need to be a military expert to know that a black hawk helicopter would never fit in a C130. And I thought but what they do have – they have tanks. And so if you got in trouble and the plane was going to blow up, the one thing to protect you would be obviously the tank. But if you’re falling and you lose the parachute, how do you physically maneuver that tank? So if you go into the sequence with that in mind, you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun. I would encourage that for the film writ large – that you are supposed to laugh at it. It’s not ever supposed to be taken seriously. No, I don’t think you could fly a tank with the level of success as the A-Team but we ain’t the A-Team.
After the presentation, I was able to conduct a one on one interview with Carnahan. The interview begins with Joe Carnahan discussing one of his favorite moments that was cut from the film but is now added into the extended edition of The A-Team:
Joe Carnahan: It has the Ranger Creed in there, which I love. That was the one thing that I was really bummed we cut out of the movie. When Hannibal and B.A. first meet and Hannibal’s car jacking B.A., there was a moment where he (Hannibal) says ‘Are you army ranger?’ and B.A immediately thinks he’s going to insult the rangers and says ‘Get ready to empty that gun if you say anything’. So Liam begins the Ranger Creed which is “Never shall I fail my comrade’ or a piece of the creed and it’s a beautiful little scene. It was one night like 12:30 in the editing room and I said, you know, we got to pull the Ranger Creed. I love it, but it’s got to go. If we’re trying to get this thing tight, we should pull that out. And I kind of regret doing it. But when I show it to my twelve year old son, he’s like Dad aren’t they supposed to be rescuing Face. And it’s like okay.
Were there any other things you cut out that you were particularly upset about?
Joe Carnahan: Boy — what did we take out? You know what – the extended version represents pretty much everything I loved that we removed from the movie. But there was a Dirk Benedict (the original Face from 1980’s The A-Team) scene in there. There’s a Dwight Schultz (1980’s ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock) scene in there. I remember watching when they rereleased Apocalypse Now Redux and I remember thinking to myself as I was watching it that there’s nothing in this movie that Walter Murch took out that needed to go back in. You know what I mean? And you really see what a great editor does for a movie because Kilgore’s departure in the first one – I think he says ‘This war’s gonna end one day’ and he walks off. And in [the Redux] he’s like flying around looking for a surfboard. Certainly not to draw any comparisons and corollaries between The A-Team and Apocalypse Now. But again I think you see you can overindulge and be, not even that Coppola’s overindulging – because it’s such a great visual feast that film – but I don’t… I think the theatrical version [of The A-Team] was the right one to release in theaters just like I think people will see the extended version and get a kick out of it because there’s more of it and it’s funnier and it’s just more. And sometimes more is more; it’s not less is more.
I like all the performances in the film. I think everybody’s great but in particular Patrick Wilson’s villain Lynch.
Joe Carnahan: I love Patrick Wilson.
He seems like such an atypical villain in that he’s sort of incompetent, completely out of his element. I was wondering what the genesis of creating such a villain for an action film was?
Joe Carnahan: I don’t know that he’s inept so much so as the guys around him are inept and that it would be funny to see a guy put this plan into place and really burn these guys. I think in the extended version there’s more of Patrick. There’s him in this Afghani dive bar and there’s this really cool thing where you really see him tracking everything that’s going on and him really burning the team. And that was the thing too that I liked – that you saw him, you saw cause and effect. But listen, I think Patrick is so naturally talented and I feel like there’s a guy who’s one movie away from being a gigantic superstar because he’s hands down, I think, one of the three most talented people I’ve ever worked with. He’s just freakishly gifted and a natural actor and a natural comedian in addition to being the biggest Van Halen fan I’ve ever run into. I thought I loved Van Halen, that guy loves Van Halen.
I’ve noticed that in your films there’s a theme of shifting identities. People are always masking themselves – Gerald McRaney in The A-Team, Tommy Flanagan in Smokin’ Aces and even in the pilot you did for Fox Faceless*– it’s all about people shifting and changing their appearances. What is about this that appeals to you?
Joe Carnahan: Probably because I’m a pathological liar. I come off as a nice guy. (Laughter) No – you know – it goes back to the first movie I did Blood, Guts – the nice guy who winds up being the mastermind and I always loved the idea, because I always think that we carry this duality, this necessary duality. You present one face to the crowd, the other face to the curtain. I’m always intrigued by that. But I think that as I get older now, I’m less inclined to that type of thinking and more with where a guy wears it out in the open, where he shares the fact [he doesn’t] necessarily know. This movie I’m about to do with Liam (in reference to his upcoming film “The Grey”) is very much about a guy who would be the atypical – this guy’s a hunter and he’s a killer therefore he’s a leader and you don’t ever want this guy to show that he’s scared or doesn’t necessarily have the best plan or doesn’t necessarily know because we are all fraught with that on a daily basis. I know I am. And I think we struggle with that. So I’m really digressing off the question you asked but I think that there’s… I am fascinated by that notion of people are never as they seem. And that doesn’t make them good or bad. It’s just we don’t ever really show ourselves, if we don’t have to. I think when we do often times it takes the greatest amount of courage because then you’re really laying out, you’re really saying okay this is me laid bare and you risk the ultimate judgment where someone can say “ Tommy you’re an asshole” or you know what I mean. I think it’s a part of that. But it’s such a good question and I could spend a half hour talking about it and just dig myself in a deeper hole.
You mention The Grey – how is preproduction going on that?
Joe Carnahan: It’s great, man. It’s like we’re just up against it because we got to use animatronic wolves, there’s real wolves, there’s cold, there’s a very short schedule. It’s like we’ve stacked the deck to make sure we fail. Listen, I’m a big fan of shorter schedules. I think it creates a necessary propulsion and in this instance the propulsion is just to keep everybody warm because it’s going to be so cold while we’re shooting. But I’m pretty excited. I know that after Sunday, I’m going to go into this gear that’s just for that next week and a half before we break for Christmas and I’m almost going to work up till Christmas. We have to make critical, critical decisions in that time. That’s fun and terrifying at the same time. So far so good.
Where are you shooting?
Joe Carnahan: In Vancouver and then we’re outside Vancouver and then in this place called Smithers, which is in Northern British Columbia. I was standing on a mountain the other day. It was thirty below. That I’m not looking forward to. Still despite the things that we’re up against, I think we’ve created a scenario and a production schedule that let’s us make this movie in forty days. It’s gonna be tough as hell but it’ll let us get there.
I’ve noticed that there is a general distrust towards figures of authority in your films. In The A-Team the villain is a CIA branch, in Smokin’ Aces it’s the FBI and Andy Garcia. What is it about figures of authority that gets you so riled up?
Joe Carnahan: I always feel like I’m Woody Allen in Annie Hall where he’s tearing up the traffic ticket yet he’s being very polite to the cop. I don’t know what it is that rankles me about the whole notion of anyone having you under thumb or anyone being in a position where they can impose themselves or their will or their agenda onto you. I don’t know what it is I find so aberrant about it. You could have a second career as a shrink, I’m telling you. But it is a theme and I even think of Narc – it’s the same thing – it’s the police department trying to bury something. I think it’s like absolute power corrupts absolutely. The cynic in me is always like ‘Really? Is that what happened? That’s what’s going on?’ [It’s] certainly not in a Horatio Alger kind of way like up from the underclass. But certainly it’s something I always think about. I always think that big government is full of shit and we’re being swindled and lied to and we’re paying too much for taxes. But yet I’m a complete card carrying democrat. I’m like a moderate and don’t espouse any hardcore anti government haikus. I’m not even a distrusting person. I don’t know a good answer to that question.
What are the future plans for The A-Team? Is there any possibility that this franchise could continue?
Joe Carnahan: I think where we stumbled is when we kind of misjudged what the audience for this film was. But I think what’s great about this – traditionally I’ve had a huge amount of success – certainly with Narc and Smokin’ Aces – in that there’s always a market after the fact. I particularly said it about Smokin’ Aces: just watch when this movie’s on USA, it’ll come on no matter where you are and you’ll sit and watch the movie and it happens every time. People say ‘I was in it, I just started watching it and I got sucked into it’ and I’m hoping the same thing happens to [The A-Team]. Because if it does, then we can go do it again. But at the same time, there’s great freedom in having done one and not being linked to do another. Now I’m able to go off and make The Grey and not worry about ‘oh wait I have to turn in the script for The A-Team sequel in two months or a month’. You know what I mean? But because of the time I had with those guys, because it was so wonderful, so much fun and hard – the studio presented it’s own set of challenges and problems – but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a blast, man. It’s the best job in the world. Hands down bar none.
The A-Team theatrical cut and extended cut hit shelves December 14th For the full press release of the DVD box set – see below.
WE LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Individually Cool, Collectively Explosive The A-TEAM Debuts on Blu-ray and DVD December 14th
Why relax at home this holiday season when you can surge on an adrenaline high with THE A-TEAM? Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is on a mission to kick up the excitement level this year with the launch of THE A-TEAM Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, December 14. The 2-Disc Blu-ray pack promises more than 90 minutes of bonus material, including exclusive action, adventure and attitude for all — whether they have been naughty or nice. There’s more action, more adventure — and more attitude — in THE A-TEAM Extended Edition, which includes a never-before-seen version of the film with spectacular added footage not shown in theaters!
Fans of the hit 1980’s TV series—which included 80 million viewers—will love this fast and furious action-adventure motion picture with awesome FX, stunts and memorable phrases. The Blu-ray and DVD SKUs go beyond the movie with an All-Adrenaline extended cut and the 2-Disc Blu-Ray edition contains 90 minutes of new action and stunt-packed footage, interactive features, and the movie in all formats.
Buckle up for an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride starring Liam Neeson (Taken), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (UFC Star), and Sharlto Copley (District 9). Convicted by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit, a daring team of former Special Forces soldiers must utilize their unique talents to break out of prison and tackle their toughest mission yet. It’s going to take guts, split-second timing and an arsenal of explosive weapons…this is a job for The A-Team!
THE A-TEAM will be available on a 2-Disc Blu-ray package for suggested retail price of $39.99 U.S / $49.99 Canada and a 1-Disc DVD for suggested retail price of $29.98 U.S. / $43.48 Canada. Prebook is November 17.
THE A-TEAM 2-Disc Blu-ray Special Features:
- Movie Theatrical Version
- Explosive Extended Cut
- The Devil is in the Details: Inside the Action with Joe Carnahan
- Never-before-seen Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- A-Team Theme Mash-Up Montage
- Plan of Attack
- Character Chronicles
o Liam Neeson
o Bradley Cooper
o Rampage Jackson
o Sharlto Copley
o Jessica Biel
- Visual Effects Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor James E. Price
- Digital Copy “How To”
- BD-Live Extras
o What’s New
o Live Lookup
• Digital Copy of THE A-TEAM Theatrical Release