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.

5 Reasons Why The Dark Knight Rises Deserves Another Viewing

The Dark Knight Rises is out on home video from next week. I like the term home video, I hope it is used long after the last person to remember the magnificent video tape is dead. Anyway, Christopher Nolan’s film received its fair share of praise and criticism on its theatrical release. Having seen it a number of times, here are five great things about The Dark Knight Rises

1. A Fitting Conclusion To The Dark Knight Trilogy

The Dark Knight Rises provides an apt ending to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Referring back to events in the previous two films, The Dark Knight Rises wraps up events for all the continuing characters. Moreover the ending of the film is satisfying and in step with what has previous occurred in this Batman universe.

2. The Film Is Well Paced

Despite a common criticism that the film is overlong, I believe The Dark Knight Rises is perfectly paced. Without the substantial build up, the final third of the film would never have the impact it does. The initial slow build allows the characters and plot to develop, and generates tension for a remarkable final third.

3. The Soundtrack Is Excellent

Hans Zimmer’s score for The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic accompaniment to the on-screen action.  At times bombastic, the score is memorable and an indispensable element of the film. It is also hugely effective, particularly in he scenes where Bruce Wayne attempts the climb.

4. The Film Delves Into The Batman Archive

Like the previous two chapters, The Dark Knight Rises references and borrows imagery from the comics, previous films and televisual outings of the caped crusader. Batman and Bane’s first meeting recalls imagery from the comics, while the reaction to the Bat Wing is not dissimilar to that in Tim Burton’s Batman. Even Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle appears to sometimes have an intonation to her voice reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer’s version of the character.

5. The Film Is Very Positive

Some critics have described The Dark Knight Rises as being gloomy, grim and depressive. I disagree with this contention; The Dark Knight Rises is one of the year’s most positive films. It is predominantly concerned with hope, played out most overtly through the Blake character. Rather than gloomy, the film is uplifting in its message, and at times exhilarating.

The Dark Knight Rises is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download from 3rd December 2012.

Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is a triumph of contemporary Hollywood. It has set a bar that few superhero films will ever hope to reach.

Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham city is a safer place thanks to the law enacted in the former district attorney’s name. The Batman has not been seen, and Bruce Wayne is living a recluse life holed up in Wayne Manor. A storm is coming however, one that looks to shake Batman from his retirement…

The Dark Knight Rises had big shoes to fill, given the commercial and critical success of its predecessor The Dark Knight. Thankfully Christopher Nolan’s film does not disappoint. From the very first scene, TDKR enthralls viewers. This is unrelenting, with the film absorbing viewers fully for its 164-minute duration.

Nolan’s direction is superb. Action sequences are thrilling, and the film moves along at a good pace. The third act in particular generates immense tension, with the climax a fantastic ending to both the film and the trilogy. There are moments in TDKR when it is difficult not to get swept away in the sheer exhilaration of it all.

Written by David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises perfectly balances bravura action with a meaty storyline. Characters get sufficient screen time, despite the abundance of them. New characters given depth, and appear authentic. The film features characters that have appeared in previous Batman films. TDKR offers different depictions of them that completely fit in Nolan’s universe. TDKR, like the previous two films, attempts the most realistic sphere for superhero movies. In keeping with this verisimilitude, themes that feature are very contemporary and resonant concerns.

Once again, Wally Pfister’s cinematography is wonderful. The film is really worth seeing in Imax; the footage filmed in this format is incredibly impressive. Hans Zimmer’s score is memorable, and the perfect accompaniment to the sublime on screen action.

Christian Bale offers a solid and completely believable performance, reprising his role as the caped crusader. Tom Hardy is barely recogniseable as Bane, while Anne Hathaway is excellently cast as Selina Kyle. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also a highlight as police officer John Blake.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting end to a fantastic series of films. The film is impossible to fault. It is the perfect antithesis to the action-comedy romp of the Marvel films. Though this is most entertaining, The Dark Knight Rises is in a league of its own. At times dark, at times mesmerising, the film is wholly compelling.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a decent summer blockbuster. Despite being entertaining, Marc Webb’s film may nevertheless suffer from the audience’s superhero fatigue.

Growing up with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter Parker is having difficulties understanding why his parents appeared to abandon him. When he finds a clue about his father’s work, Peter tracks down Dr Curt Connors, former colleague of his father. Visiting Connors at his work, something strange happens to Peter in the lab…

The Amazing Spider-Man features everything that viewers would expect from a superhero movie; a personal transformation, big action set pieces and a love story. The narrative offers nothing particularly original; it is the same journey that has featured in other films of this type. Nonetheless, Peter Parker is a likeable and well-developed protagonist. Moreover, The Amazing Spider-Man is well paced, and entertains throughout.

Marc Webb’s film really does not do anything wrong. The problem with it is the feeling of déjà vu it provokes. After all, it has only been ten years since the last Spider-Man franchise began. More telling are the allusions to various Batman films. References, seemingly indeliberate, appear to recall Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The effects in The Amazing Spider-Man are good overall. It certainly does not seem as if the CGI in this film will age quite as quickly as its 2002 predecessor. The extra dimension also works well, with Spider-Man swinging through the New York landscape being a particular highlight of the 3D. James Horner’s score is fitting, although it can make emotional moments seem excessively saccharine.

Andrew Garfield makes a good Peter Parker. His chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey makes their scenes together a joy to watch. Rhys Ifans makes a suitable antagonist for this origins tale, though the character may have struggled to be a  worthy opponent in an epic battle.

The Amazing Spider-Man is an enjoyable film. The problem is that it does not elevate itself to the level of Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight. In these days of abundant superhero movies, it is this echelon that needs to be reached in order for a film of this kind to be box office-breaking and truly memorable.

Films on Television

Today sees the launch of the Sony Movie Channel in the UK. It got me thinking about the possibility of every major distributor having their own film channel. It would call into question the dominance of packages like Sky Movies. Currently, there are only a few film channels available without the Sky Movies package, most notably Film4 and TCM. Disney offer a host of channels, although their Disney CineMagic requires a subscription. If other major distributors follow Sony’s lead, it would change how people view films on television. There would still be a need for ‘premier’ channels, as it would be unlikely that a distributor channel would show its own films on television that soon after theatrical release.

Futhermore, the main television channels would also still show films and feature terrestrial television premiers of new movies. Nevertheless, more non-subscription film channels would offer the television viewer more choice. And given the proliferation of streaming and online viewing services, new film channels would surely increase the viewership of films on television.

If every major distributor follows Sony’s example, what can we expect these new channels to show? I pondered what delights may be on offer…

Sony Pictures

Sony Movie Channel launches on 3rd May 2012. The very first film screened will be Woody Allen’s fantastic Manhattan Murder Mystery. The channel will be screening films from the last three decades, so not quite the full back catalogue of Sony Pictures. If they choose to extend this remit, the channel could screen some fantastic films. At their best Sony have distributed classics such as It Happened One Night and Ghostbusters. They are also responsible for Jack and Jill.

20th Century Fox

The television side of the Fox corporation is alive and kicking, particularly in America. If Twentieth Century Fox had their own movie channel, audiences could expect such delights as Star Wars and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Also on offer would be Big Momma’s House and its sequels.

Paramount Pictures

One of the major film companies of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Paramount have a rich back catalogue. A Paramount movie channel could offer some of the finest films ever made, including Double Indemnity and Rear Window. The channel could also screen No Strings Attached.

Universal Pictures

Celebrating their 100th anniversary this week, Universal also have a tremendous array of films to populate a hypothetical movie channel with. Viewers could look forward to tuning in to Bride of Frankenstein and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. 2004’s Wimbledon may not attract quite the same viewing figures.

Warner Bros

Famed for their crime films in the 1930s and 1940s, and their box office-dominating recent franchises, a Warner Bros move channel could feature a cornucopia of classic films. Films as diverse as The Maltese Falcon and The Dark Knight could be aired,  but so could 2011’s New Year’s Eve.

Sony Movie Channel launches on Thursday 3rd May 2012 in the UK, on Sky channel 323.

5 Criticisms That Won’t Be Made of The Dark Knight Rises

The third trailer for The Dark Knight Rises was released earlier today. It made me think of the criticisms levelled at predecessor The Dark Knight, and Christopher Nolan’s last film Inception. Undoubtedly there will be one or two people who will level these barbs at TDKR just to go against the grain. Nevertheless, looking into my crystal ball, I predict that none of these will be valid criticisms of The Dark Knight Rises

1. There Are Too Few Main Characters

A common criticism of The Dark Knight was that there were too many important characters vying for the spotlight. Bane and Selina Kyle are Batman’s adversaries in The Dark Knight Rises, plus there are new characters played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. So it is doubtful that TDKR will be accused of having too few main characters.

2. The Plot Is Too Straightforward And Simple

An extension of the first point; given the number of characters that feature, it is unlikely that viewers will complain that the plot is too elementary. Inception and The Dark Knight were considered as being complex or convoluted by some, so it is probable that The Dark Knight Rises will follow suit.

3. The Production Values Are Poor

From the three trailers that have been released, as well as the first scene screening, it is difficult to accuse The Dark Knight Rises of  being a poorly produced affair. The effects in the football stadium sequence look amazing from the trailer. Other criticisms may be well-founded, but it will be difficult to argue that TDKR does not look like a superlative blockbuster.

 4. The Score Lacks Grandeur

After his bombastic Inception score, composer Hans Zimmer returns for The Dark Knight Rises. Given the grandiose nature of his previous scores, it would be surprising if TDKR does not follow suit. The trailers at least indicates the score will rival that of its predecessor.

5. Gotham City Looks Like Croydon

The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in Croydon, as well as a number of over locations across the globe. So whilst some of the footage will actually have been filmed in Croydon, it is highly unlikely that Gotham will look like London’s, ahem, finest borough. New York with hints of Chicago, it is doubtful that Gotham will bear any relation to Croydon.

The Dark Knight Rises is released on 20th July 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises Full Trailer

So here it is: the first full trailer for next year’s The Dark Knight Rises. I watched the prologue at the Imax last week and was a little disappointed as it didn’t blow me away like the intro to The Dark Knight, and I found it difficult to understand Bane. This however looks incredibly exciting. First thoughts are that the scene with Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne dancing is highly reminiscent of Batman Returns, and that Bane looks like a monster. We’ll have to wait to July 2012 to see the finished film, but I cannot wait.