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.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Witch and more!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, a featurette on The Witch, and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a remake of the 1977 live action-animation adventure. Starring Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard, the film is an interesting next feature from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints helmer David Lowery. Pete’s Dragon hits UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Witch Featurette

The Witch looks like a genuinely unsettling film. In this featurette, writer-director Robert Eggers speaks about creating a New England horror story. Viewers will be familiar with the setting from films such as The Crucible; it will be interesting to see what Eggers does with this. The Witch is released on UK screens on 11th March 2016.

The Hunstman: Winter’s War Poster

The Huntsman Winter's War Poster

It appears that Snow White and the Huntsman prequel The Hunstman: Winter’s War will have the same visual flair. The film sees the return of Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, who are joined by Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is out in UK cinemas on 4th April 2016.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

This is the final trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated film sees the return of the Man of Steel cast, plus a host of other DC characters. Ben Affleck is this incarnation’s Batman; it will be interesting to see how he fairs against previous portrayals of the iconic character. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits UK screens on 25th March 2016.

Zootropolis Trailer

Well this looks enchanting. Zootropolis is the latest animated feature from Disney. The film is about a police officer bunny who teams up with a scam artist fox to solve a case. If this isn’t enough to convince you (which, frankly, it should be), the film features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba. Zootropolis releases in UK cinemas on 25th March 2016.

Previews: The Legend of Tarzan trailer, TMNT2 and more!

An abundance of film trailers this week, including The Legend of Tarzan trailer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and more…

The Legend of Tarzan Trailer

The Legend of Tarzan trailer is here. Boasting a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, the film focuses on Tarzan later in life when he asked to be a trade emissary and travel to the Congo. The Legend of Tarzan bombards its way to cinema screens on 18th July 2016.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Trailer

For where is Krang? That’s what everyone wants to know. The trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is here, and features more of the characters from the much-loved cartoon series of the 1980s-1990s. The follow-up to 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is released on 3rd June 2016.

Jane Got A Gun Trailer

Here is the trailer for Western Jane Got a Gun. The film stars Natalie Portman as a mother living on a ranch in New Mexico when her family is threatened by a gang of outlaws. Also starring Joel Edgerton and Ewan McGregor, Jane Got A Gun is set for release in Spring 2016.

The BFG Trailer

The BFG was never my favourite Roald Dahl book (after all, it didn’t revolve round a chocolate factory), but this new film adaptation looks to be a spectacle. Steven Spielberg directs the live-action film, with a cast that includes Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall and Bill Hader. The BFG stomps its way onto screens on 22nd July 2016.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

The full-length trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reveals quite a bit about the upcoming superhero movie. We get to see Clark Kent meeting Bruce Wayne, even if it may take some time getting used to seeing Ben Affleck in this role. There is also more of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and an appearance from another of the Justice League. Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is released in cinemas in March 2016.

The Nice Guys Trailer

The Nice Guys sees the unlikely pairing of muscle for hire Russell Crowe and private eye Ryan Gosling team up to track down a missing girl. The film’s 1970s setting is instantly recognisable, from the costumes to the soundtrack. Also starring Kim Basinger and Matt Bomer, The Nice Guys will hit the big screen on 3rd June 2016.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of stuff on upcoming movies this week, including the brand new Anchorman: The Legend Continues trailer, Disney’s Frozen, and more…

Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Here is the latest Anchorman: The Legend Continues trailer. Almost ten years later, one of the funniest comedies of the 2000s gets a sequel. The original cast are joined by a host of other stars, including Harrison Ford, Tina Fey and Sacha Baron Cohen. Anchorman: The Legend Continues hits the big screen on 20th December 2013.

Frozen

Here is the first trailer for Frozen, the latest animated comedy from Walt Disney Animation Studios. The trailer reveals little about the plot, which revolves around a girl trying to find her sister in a kingdom besieged by an eternal winter. Frozen is due for release on 6th December 2013.

The LEGO Movie

The first trailer for The LEGO Movie was released today. Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Elizabeth Banks, The LEGO Movie will be released in UK cinemas on 14th February 2014.

The Wolf of Wall Street

There was a palpable excitement (at least virtually) when this trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street was released on Monday. There is little not to like in this trailer of Martin Scorsese’s latest film. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill (and a monkey!), The Wolf of Wall Street is out 17th January 2014. I can’t wait.

The Wolverine

Here is the latest trailer for The Wolverine. I wonder if one day Hugh Jackman will become too old to play Wolverine. But for this upcoming film he still looks the part. The Wolverine will be released in 3D on 25th July 2013.

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire is a prequel to the 2006 hit 300. The film has the same look as its predecessor, even though Zack Snyder is not at the helm for this adventure. 300: Rise of an Empire is due for release in March 2014.

Frances Ha

Here is the trailer for Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, co-written and starring Greta Gerwig. Worthy of the praise it has hitherto received, the film explores the friendships of a dance company apprentice in New York. Frances Ha is released in UK cinemas on 26th July 2013.

Despicable Me 2

Above is a short featurette with Steve Carell exploring the upcoming animated sequel Despicable Me 2. I am kind of relieved that there is a unicorn in this film as well. Despicable Me 2 hits UK screens on 28th June 2013.

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

Well-known characters dominate this week’s round-up…

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World

Just before Iron Man 3 hits cinema screens, the first poster for Thor: The Dark World has been revealed. The film reunites Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman. Thor: The Dark World is due for release on 30th October 2013.

Man of Steel

Here is the latest trailer for Man of Steel, one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. Can writers David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan once again weave their magic in a re-telling of DC Comics legend? We will see when the Zack Snyder-directed Man of Steel is released on 14th June 2013.

The Great Gatsby

The soundtrack has been one of the most talked about aspects of The Great Gatsby. Above is a sampler of some of the tracks used in the film. A mixture of covers of well-known songs and samples music from the era the film is set. What else would to expect from Baz Luhrmann? The Great Gatsby is released on 16th May 2013.

The Lone Ranger

Here is the latest trailer for The Lone Ranger. Despite being the sidekick to the title character, it looks as if Johnny Depp’s Tonto may steal the show. The Lone Ranger hits UK screens on 9th August 2013.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second instalment in The Hunger Games trilogy has a first trailer. Catching Fire has a lot to live up to after the huge success of last year’s The Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is due for release on 22nd November 2013.

R.I.P.D.

A new action fantasy, R.I.P.D. looks like it could be a lot of fun. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as two undead cops tasked with protecting the world from those who refuse to move to the other side. R.I.P.D. hits UK cinemas on 30th August 2013.

Film Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a passably enjoyable action fantasy romp. Not quite an fun as viewers may hope, the film is entertaining nevertheless.

 As a young boy in the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln watches his mother die. Vowing to avenge her death as an adult, Lincoln is unaware of what he is up against. As Abraham Lincoln rises in the political sphere, by night he hunts vampires…

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter features an enticing premise. Painting one of the most famous American presidents as a Van Helsing-type sounds amusing and an interesting idea for a film. It is a shame that Timur Bekmambetov’s movie does not quite capitalise on the ridiculousness of the premise. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter should have been all out outlandish.

Instead, the film maintains a more serious tone. Abraham Lincoln moonlighting as a vampire hunter is played straight, rather than for laughs. Viewers are required to suspend their disbelief; unsurprising for a film with a strong fantasy vein. Nevertheless, some of the plotting is a bit problematic, including the motivations of some of the characters. The ambiguity over the intentions of one of Lincoln’s sidekicks, however, is a nice touch.

Bekmambetov has given Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a highly stylised look. This is only partially successful. The CGI-heavy appearance gives the film a synthetic air. The action sequences owe a lot to the films of Zack Snyder, with the speeding up and slowing down of action.

Benjamin Walker is well cast as the young Abraham Lincoln. Anthony Mackie plays Lincoln’s companion Will with well-suited selflessness. Dominic Cooper is good as Henry Sturgess, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a believable Mary Todd.

Although there are some issues around motivations and the action sequences do not quite engross the way they should, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is entertaining throughout. Those seeking something totally outlandish may be better off looking elsewhere.

Film Review: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is a typical Zack Snyder film in that style is heavily favoured over substance. For all its veneer, the film is severely lacking in the narrative department.

Following the death of her mother, a young girl is institutionalised by her cruel and abusive stepfather. To cope with the traumatic situation, she creates an imaginary world. Baby Doll and four other young girls plot to escape their surroundings by collecting the five items necessary for them to complete their mission…

The plot of Sucker Punch is as flimsy as some of the girls’ outfits. The film is really not much more than an excuse for beautiful women to kick ass in revealing costumes. This may have been passable if there had been a decent storyline, however the narrative is lamentable, with very little plot or character development. The plot is very simple, with all the clichés of a platform game rather than a feature film.

In creating a multi-platform vehicle, it is easy to see what Zack Snyder was aiming for. However, the allegory is astoundingly obvious, leaving little room for alternative interpretation. Those hoping for more depth from Sucker Punch are likely to be disappointed. The epilogue at the end sums up everything that is wrong with the film. There are pretensions of something grander and more profound. Yet there is little more to the film than surface polish.

There will inevitably be some debate as to whether the main characters are positive feminist role models or exploited females who serve the sole purpose of providing titillation. On the one hand, the girls are empowered enough to fight for themselves without having to rely on anyone else. Nevertheless, the young women all wear ridiculously skimpy outfits, totally inappropriate for the combat scenes. Furthermore, Baby Doll and her cohorts are not above using their feminine wiles in order to distract men, who are depicted almost entirely in a negative light.

The action scenes in Sucker Punch are a lot of fun. The high-energy set pieces are bravura, and by far the most entertaining moments in the film. The effects are good, with the highly stylised visuals having become a Snyder trademark. Similarly, the soundtrack is great, totally in keeping with the attitude of the film.

Emily Browning is beautifully striking as Baby Doll, but the actress is given little opportunity to show any range. The other young girls in the film are just as limited. Oscar Isaac is suitably one-dimensional as Blue, and the same can be said for Carla Gugino’s Dr Gorski.

Sucker Punch is an aural and visual feast. It is just a shame that Snyder did not put as much effort into making the script compelling.