Film Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has the look and feel of an epic blockbuster, even if the reality does not quite match the expectation.

Following the devastation in Metropolis a year and a half ago, Bruce Wayne is angered that Superman’s power is going unchecked. As Clark Kent and Wayne clash, Lex Luthor puts his plans into motion…

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film many comic book fans would have been waiting for. And yet it isn’t; Man of Steel will never welcome the adoration of 1978’s Superman and there is yet another Batman following the success of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. With expectations readjusted, then, director Zack Snyder’s film is a different beast than the superhero movie to end all superhero movies.

Snyder builds momentum to big moments in the film at a leisurely pace. There are short sequences in Batman V Superman that could easily have been cut – the training sequence serves little purpose, for example. The building of tension is successful to a certain extent, although the film relies on an invested viewer who will wait for the pay off. At times it feels as if Snyder does not have a tight grip on the narrative. Part of the problem is that this film is not a stand-alone picture; it is used to set up the DC franchise of superhero films. This is evident in sequences throughout the film, as if the picture is laying the groundwork for something more.

When the action does arrive, it is well executed for the most part. The use of CGI, although well executed, is too prominent. Nevertheless, action sequences do generate excitement. With Bruce Wayne overwhelmed with anger and stress and Clark Kent given little to play with, the real highlight of the film is the introduction of Wonder Woman. If her spin-off movie has a decent script, no doubt it will be excellent. Visuals in Batman V Superman are highly stylised, and the score is one of the best elements of the film. The dialogue is not fantastic, and there is a lack of care given to the plotting. For all its bluster, the film suffers because the narrative does not match the production values.

Ben Affleck makes a decent Batman, ably assisted by Jeremy Irons’ Alfred. Amy Adams reprises her role as Lois Lane with gusto, but Henry Cavill is given little meat in the script. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor will not be to everyone’s tastes, but his depiction is more palatable than Kevin Spacey’s in Superman Returns. Gal Gadot is well cast as Wonder Woman.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a classic superhero movie, but it does have redeeming qualities. DC fans should enjoy the more serious tone of the film, even if it is not exactly what they were hoping for.

Film Review: Man of Steel

MAN OF STEEL

Man of Steel is a very entertaining blockbuster. Nevertheless, it does not quite reach the zenith of superhero movies set by The Dark Knight trilogy.

As a young boy, Clark realises that he is not like everyone else. As an adult, he drifts, helping people along the way. Clark is determined to find out where he came from and what his purpose is on Earth…

Man of Steel is an ambitious project, considering the success of the first series of Superman films and the lukewarm reception to Superman Returns. Zack Snyder’s film is a success, but not a masterpiece.

Man of Steel is very much a coming of age story, writ large and fantastic. The narrative concerns itself with the past of the title character, and the present of being on the cusp of discovery. The origins tale is told partly through flashbacks. The dialogue is occasionally cheesy, but this perhaps fits in with Superman as the ultra-American hero.

The two dominant themes in Man of Steel are morality and otherness. The emphasis on choosing the right path and so forth was a strain that ran through the earlier series of films. The focus on Clark as an alien however, seems specific to this film. This is dealt with in as natural way as possible, given the topic.

Hallmarks of director Zack Snyder are present throughout the film. His style is particularly noticeable in the frequent action sequences, which are mostly on a grand scale. The very last action scene is a little overlong, but for the most part these sequences are well executed. There is a heavy use of CGI in the film, but this should not come as a great shock to those familiar with the director’s earlier work. 3D works well in Man of Steel as it is not too overt.

Henry Cavill delivers a solid performance in the title role, and Michael Shannon is as strong as ever. Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner provide good support. Hans Zimmer’s score is a highlight.

Man of Steel is a big improvement on Superman Returns. Snyder’s film entertains for its 143-minute running time, although it is not exactly a peerless blockbuster.

Stuff To Look At

This week there is plenty of stuff to look at, including the latest from  Man of SteelThe Bling Ring trailer and more…

Man of Steel

Well doesn’t this latest Man of Steel trailer look exciting? To be honest, the first trailer for the new Superman film was a bit too fishing boat for me. This looks far more appealing, given that it is after all a superhero movie. Man of Steel is out in UK cinemas 14th June 2013.

The Bling Ring

Above is the international version of The Bling Ring trailer. I have seen The Bling Ring and can say with confidence that it is a great film. Sofia Coppola writes and directs the story of the young group of burglars who stole from the homes of Hollywood celebrities. It features the world’s greatest blog Dlisted, which is reason enough to go and see The Bling Ring when it hits UK cinemas on 5th July 2013.

The East

This is one good-looking group of anarchists. The East appears to tap into the proliferation of groups such as Anonymous with this story of an FBI officer who goes undercover to infiltrate a collective known as ‘The East’. The film opens in UK cinemas on 28th June 2013.

Rio 2

Following the success of the 2011 animated movie, sequel Rio 2 has a teaser trailer. Blu and Jewel have had three mini-birds. The teaser gives very little away about the plot, but I’m sure more will be revealed closer to Rio 2‘s release in 2014.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of movie stuffs this week, including the latest Man of Steel TV spot, Disney’s Big Hero 6, the Coen Brothers’ latest and a Herzog re-release…

Man of Steel

Here is the new Man of Steel TV spot. Although the film looks exciting, the TV spot fails to answer the question everyone is asking; is Gus Gorman in this latest Superman film? Really, that’s what we want to know. Man of Steel, with or without Gus Gorman, is released in UK cinemas on 14th June 2013.

Big Hero 6

Here is the first look at Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6. I want to live in San Fransokyo, it looks amazing! The film is about a robotics prodigy who finds himself in the grips of  criminal plot that threatens the city. Big Hero 6 is due for release in the US on 7th November 2014.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Ethan and Joel Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis is about a young folk singer in 1960s New York. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. But who knows, the breakout star may be the cat in the first seen in this trailer. Inside Llewyn Davis is due for release in UK cinemas on 24th January 2014.

The World’s End

Edgar Wright’s latest offering is The World’s End, starring past collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The film seems like exactly what one would expect from the trio; comedy and some very strange shenanigans. The World’s End hits UK screens on 19th July 2013.

The Internship

The Internship reunites Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. The comedy is about two advertising salesmen who start an internship at Google. The trailer reminds me of that episode of Friends where Chandler starts an internship at an ad agency and he’s so much older than the rest of the interns. The Internship is out in UK cinemas on 4th July 2013.

About Time

Here is the first trailer for Richard Curtis’ latest film, About Time. The comedy stars Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams and Domhall Gleeson. I’m getting Groundhog Day vibes from the trailer, although I think the film is going to weigh heavy on the whole consequences theme. About Time is released in UK cinemas on 6th September 2013.

Aguirre, Wrath of God

I wish Werner Herzog was narrating this trailer. Werner Herzog should narrate everything. Anyway, the director’s 1972 film Aguirre, Wrath of God gets a re-release as part of the BFI’s retrospective of Herzog in June. Aguirre, Wrath of God will be screened at the BFI and selected UK venues from 7th June 2013.

Stuff To Look At

A bumper edition this week, with plenty of releases for 2013…

Man of Steel

I have always been more of a Batman child than a Superman one, but I did love the Christopher Reeve movies (maybe not the last one). After 2006’s underwhelming Superman Returns, this new version looks more appealing. Henry Cavil stars as the title character in the first full trailer for Man of Steel, due for release in June 2013.

Oblivion

Ageless Tom Cruise has been getting action-heavy recently, with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher and now Oblivion. This futuristic thriller sees Cruise’s character Jack Harper battle to save mankind. Also starring Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion will be released in UK cinemas on 12 April 2013.

The Wolverine

The follow-up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine is due for release in July 2013. The film sees Hugh Jackman reprise his role from the X-Men franchise. This adventure is set in Japan, as the above poster suggests. I’m sure a trailer for The Wolverine will be released shortly.

The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter together again, but not in a Tim Burton film? The emphasis in the above trailer is on the fact that it is the same team behind Pirates of the Caribbean. If executed correctly, The Lone Ranger should be a lot of fun, like the first film of that earlier franchise. The Lone Ranger is due for release next year.

The Croods

The latest animation from DreamWorks is The Croods, a prehistoric adventure film. The Croods features the voices of Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone. From the above trailer, I am liking the monkey. The Croods will be released in UK cinemas on 22nd March 2013.

Broken City

Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in Broken City, a crime thriller set in New York. My first thought on viewing this was ‘Russell Crowe’s weave!’. That aside, this tale of corruption could be quite good. Broken City is out on 1st March 2013.

The Last Stand

What is The Last Stand, you ask? Well it is Arnold Schwarzengger’s return to lead roles on the big screen. Schwarzenegger plays the sheriff of a small town where a notorious drug baron is trying to make his escape. The Last Stand, which also stars Forest Whitaker and Rodrigo Santoro, is out on 24th January 2012.

Hitchcock

Everyone loves a bit of Alfred Hitchcock, don’t they? The eagerly anticipated Hitchcock tells the story behind the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins stars as Alfred Hitchcock in the film which also features Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson. Hitchcock is released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2013.

Film Review: Chronicle

Chronicle is a highly enjoyable science fiction film. Don’t be deterred by the age of the protagonists; the film should satisfy a wide demographic.

Teenager Andrew decides to start filming his day-to-day life; a clear indicator of his detachment from fellow students and the social order of the American high school. When his cousin Matt and popular classmate Steve find something unusual at a party, they ask Andrew to come along and film it. The trio soon discover some unusual side effects…

Chronicle is a very entertaining directorial debut from Josh Trank. The reason the film functions so well is because it fulfils the regular super hero movie tropes, but in a way that is fresh and interesting. The screenplay by Max Landis is great in its ability to combine teen concerns with a science-fiction narrative.

Characters in Chronicle appear multi-faceted. At first, the three main players seem like broad stereotypes. However, complexities arise as the film progresses. The interactions between these three in particular come across as authentic. There is some good humour that helps to balance the later seriousness of Chronicle. The film’s initial set up works well to absorb viewers; there is sufficient mystery which is retained for a significant part of the duration.

The handheld camera works well in Chronicle. There seems more of a point to the characters filming, compared with many ‘found fotage’ films. The special effects are decent, with some impressive sequences. The film exhibits elements of certain 1970s films, notably Superman and Carrie. Thankfully Chronicle does not attempt to rip them off; they appear as slight influences instead.

Dane DeHaan is fantastically cast as Andrew. He certainly looks the part of the isolated teen, with mannerisms to match. Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan share great chemistry as Matt and Steve. Chronicle should certainly raise the profile of these three actors.

Josh Trank and Max Landis have produced a great film. Chronicle functions superbly as a sci-fi/superhero/teen movie hybrid and is highly recommend for those with an interest in any of these film genres.

Film Review: Yogi Bear

An inoffensive live-action feature of the beloved Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Yogi Bear is sure to satisfy the young audience it is intended for. Older cinemagoers would be wise to view it as the harmless fluff it is.

Jellystone Park is due to celebrate its 100th anniversary, but Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo Boo are more interested in stealing picnic baskets, as usual. When Mayor Brown threatens to close Jellystone, Ranger Smith enlists the help of Yogi and Boo Boo, as well as zoologist Rachel…

The premise of Yogi Bear is fairly standard; most of what occurs is predictable family movie fare. Nevertheless, the pacing is good, and with a sprightly running time of eighty minutes, the film is just the ticket. Although there are some very apparent messages, the tone of the film never becomes heavy.

Much of the humour will appeal to younger audience members, although there are some jokes that have a wider appeal. Yogi Bear does not seem to have the emphasis on entertaining adults as well as children, unlike Toy Story 3 or Megamind, for example. Notwithstanding, the light entertainment the film offers is certainly watchable for an older audience, even though is more amusing than hilarious. Furthermore, Yogi Bear makes references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Superman, which are probably lost on younger viewers.

At its heart, Yogi Bear is unequivocal in the messages it sends. Characters are predominantly painted in contrasting colours. Mayor Brown is greedy and not enterprising, while Ranger Smith is honest and endearing. Yogi Bear promotes environmentalism over capitalism; unabashedly depicting those in power as corrupt, and elevating green issues above financial gain. However, Yogi Bear does not appear overly political in this endeavour; rather the film provides young viewers with a strong moral to the story.

The CGI effects used to create Yogi and Boo-Boo look decent in 3D. The characters are very detailed, particularly in the contours of their fur. Although the two appear natural in their surroundings, at some points it is clear that the actors are performing with green screen. The 3D is employed with gimmicky effect, functioning in much the same way as its use in The Final Destination or My Bloody Valentine.

Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake sound appropriate as Yogi and Boo Boo. Nonetheless, they are parts that could have been given to any unknown voice actors; it is unclear what they bring to a feature such as Yogi Bear. Anna Faris brings her usual quirkiness as Rachel, while Tom Cavanagh is uninspired as Ranger Smith.

Yogi Bear is an entertaining film, but one that clearly has young children in mind. Although it is unlikely to be classed as one of the year’s best films, it is nevertheless an enjoyable eighty-minute watch.

Film Review: Megamind

There has been an abundance of well-executed animated features in 2010; Megamind is just the latest of these. Although the film is enjoyable and has wide appeal, it may suffer from being released so soon after Despicable Me, as the two films share some striking similarities.

Super villain Megamind has a rivalry with his nemesis Metro Man which stretches all the way back to childhood. When Megamind finally defeats Metro Man, he finds that life is much emptier without a nemesis to fight…

Megamind appears to be a little ‘by the numbers’ in a way it would not have seemed only a few years ago. This is because there have been several animated features this year particularly that mix comedy with action and fantasy in a style that will appeal to adults as well as children. So in this sense it appears formulaic, but only as it comes after the year’s several successful animated features.

Like Despicable Me, the protagonist in Megamind is very much an anti-hero. Although he is evil, we inevitably root for the humorous Megamind to prosper, rather than the stereotypically ‘good’ characters. And just like Despicable Me‘s Gru, Megamind has a change in outlook through the course of the film.

Megamind is entertaining primarily due to its good use of comedy. Megamind’s conversations with his cohort Minion are amusing; these interactions reveal both affection and gentle ribbing. Megamind makes reference to a number of films, including The Karate Kid and Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Most notable, however, is Megamind‘s hilarious spoof of Marlon Brando in Superman. Megamind parodies superhero films, offering a rather skewered version of both heroes and villains of this genre. Nevertheless, Megamind appears to offer a more realistic interpretation of how superheroes would be treated in the real world, than that of Kick-Ass, for example. Metro Man is portrayed as part deity, part celebrity – a believable reflection of the contemporary world.

Will Ferrell appears perfecting cast voicing Megamind, he bring the humour necessary for this role. Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt similarly perform well, although it does feel a bit like stunt casting, particularly in the case of Pitt. Nowadays, it seems a prerequisite to have A list names voicing animated features.

The animation in Megamind is faultless, with the backdrops of the sky appearing strikingly realistic. The 3D element is incorporated seamlessly, although Megamind is a film that would certainly be enjoyed just as well in 2D. The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring classic tracks from Michael Jackson, AC/DC and Guns n’Roses.

If Megamind had been released a few years ago, it would definitely be one of best animated films in that year. Given the plethora of superb animated features this year, however, Megamind runs the risk of being forgotten. An enjoyable watch, nonetheless.