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By midlandsmovies, Nov 20 2017 02:00PM

Justice League (2017) Dir. Zack Snyder

With 4 films now under their belt, DC is still a studio confused as to what it wants to achieve from its flagship franchise characters as we get to a film that sees their previously covered legends Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman join the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg to take on a planet destroying threat. After director Zack Snyder dropped out owing to a family tragedy, in stepped comic fan-boy Joss Whedon who has clearly added his own lightweight banter to a series steeped in muted colours and moody awfulness.


The plot is simple as Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne attempts to persuade other meta-humans to join his team in order to stop evil monster Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons. And that’s it. Batman vs. Superman’s awkward complexity is jettisoned for a simple story and a sub-2 hour runtime but even so, many scenes and characters make little sense – even the ones that have already had an entire film devoted to them.


As a huge fan of Snyder, Whedon and DC characters (see my 2013 favourite superhero films of all time blog), where a reported $300 million was spent is anyone’s guess? The bland CGI Steppenwolf is a boring Scorpion-King nothing and although it’s slightly more coherent than say Suicide Squad, I’ve never had the inclination to see Batman in Lord of the Rings as he battles hordes of fantasy-like winged orcs in Playstation-quality video game visuals.


The League (read Avengers) are formed to stop the coming together of 3 ‘power boxes’ (read Infinity Stones) as other-worldly civilisations like the Atlantians and Amazonians (read Asgardians) fight a CGI fantasy bad-guy (read Thanos) and his parademon army (read Chitauri). Unoriginal and desperate, the film uses Danny Elfman and John Williams’ classic scores in a poor attempt to add class to a very unclassy product.


It not only reminds you of other films, Flash’s slow-motion escapades echo Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it also reminds you of how good those other films are in comparison. The added Whedon reshoots don’t stand out because nothing relates to any other scene at all anyway, so who would notice. And the obligatory orange and teal colour palette one hour in (a horrid design aesthetic seen in BvS and Wonder Woman already) appears with orange flames and cold blue characters, but one improvement is that they’ve avoided Snyder’s dull colour grading to let some bright images jump from the screen.


The actors are actually quite likeable but they’re not just fighting Steppenwolf, they’re fighting an uphill battle against an awful plot and dialogue. New characters like Cyborg have underdeveloped relationships and back-stories that are brushed over in single sentences of exposition like reading a summary on Wikipedia.


*SPOILER* As the gang attempt to harness the powers of Superman to help their cause, the film delves into one of its best aspects as a particular scene (still heavily drenched in CGI) shows the team battling with the Man of Steel who is confused as to his resurrection. It’s a fun, exciting and totally understandable scene with a clear goal and antagonist. It’s also one that could (should?) have been used as the basis of an entirely different film in an alternative DC timeline full of interesting themes and well established motivations.


Sadly, the film fails to build upon that single scene and the worst thing is that this is DC’s 5th film and in my opinion still worse than their first attempt. Snyder ultimately ends by replacing Joel Schumacher’s legendary bad Batman and Robin’s fake sets and outfits with legendary bad fake CGI and design. As the film fumbles its way into the end-zone final battle, it genuinely looks like everyone has given up. The actors, the computer generated visuals, the recycled scores and the dull boring action sequences simply summarise where their universe is at. If there was any justice in this world, DC would wipe the slate clean and chalk these films up as an admirable failure and resurrect their own franchise with the “hope” this film attempts to leave us with.


5.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 14 2017 07:46AM



Wonder Woman (2017) Dir. Patty Jenkins

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Dir. Jon Watts


Huge superhero franchises are just a thing now. They can be as exciting as a rollercoaster. Or like bad breath, an immediate turn-off. However, in many cases, they sit comfortably like a nice warm cuppa in the summer blockbuster season. Neither a die-hard Marvel or DC fan – like most I just simply enjoy a good film – the two behemoths of the comic (now film) world have released key movies in their complicated production schedule.


After the solid Man of Steel, the abysmal Batman Vs Superman and the misstep of Suicide Squad, DC really needed a hit in order to regain some of the credibility lost from those less-than-satisfying tent-poles. So they’ve taken a chance (which should be hugely applauded) and given Gal Godot the long overdue central role of the infamous female superhero. After 14 films, Marvel STILL haven’t given any woman in their universe a film. Although Brie Larson as Captain Marvel is due soon, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is notably absent from Marvel’s solo film roster.


In short, the narrative shows Wonder Woman (Diana Price) jumping from Themyscira, the island home of an Amazon race of warrior women, to 1918 Europe during the height of the Great War. On her way she saves Chris Pine’s soldier Steve Trevor on her journey to destroy Ares, the god of war, who she believes is the cause of the conflict.


A fresh fish-out-of-water story, the film contains so much of what was missing from DC films so far – humanity, sensitivity, comedy and some characters with motivations you can get behind. Going for simplicity hugely helps the story and director Jenkins (her first film since Monster 14 years ago!) should be massively applauded for ditching the dourness and injecting some overdue fun. At the half way point, as ludicrous as Wonder Woman wearing her full costume in No Man’s Land is, the film already has its tone clearly defined and the audience swept along in its entertainment.


If there was a fault it would be two – albeit small. Firstly, the film suffers from the fact Marvel’s Captain America did the ‘hero in war’ film already so similarities are sadly inevitable. The second is the final battle which has flames (orange) and energy beams (teale) in the obligatory let’s smash everything up mess. Scarily reminiscent of BvS, my eyes rolled at the familiar imagery, which is confusingly edited, and contains the usual over-use of CGI where nothing has much weight. However, more on this later.


Moving on, yet still speaking of the familiar, Marvel has released its new version of the infamous web-slinger. One of the hottest properties out there – maybe only second to Batman and Superman as the most famous superhero (?) – they have done a deal with franchise-owning Sony to finally add Peter Parker to the ever-expanding MCU. His brief appearance in Civil War was a great introduction but with 3 cinematic iterations of the character in just 10 years, can something fresh be brought to the screen?


Well, in the majority, it’s a massive yes! Tom Holland is a hugely likeable Peter Parker and Marvel wisely ditches an origin story (the fact he was bitten by a spider is briefly mentioned once) and focuses on the teenager’s school problems alongside his goals to become an Avenger. Under the tutelage of Tony Stark he’s given the responsibility of a super suit which he struggles to contain in his eagerness to progress. Peter’s ambition jumps from defending the neighbourhood to attempting to stop Michael Keaton’s ‘Vulture’, who is selling alien weaponary he has stolen from previous Avengers’ encounters.


Tying nicely into the MCU but setting out its own individual story, Homecoming (surprisingly) brings enough to the plate to set it aside from the Garfield and Maguire versions. The teen angst is superbly handled, an action sequence atop the Washington Monument was phenomenal (go see this in 3-D and really feel the vertigo) and its jokes come so thick and fast the film veers from superhero action flick to outright pure comedy.


Keaton, who I’ve loved since Batman ’89 (my personal favourite superhero film) is so watchable here he’s already jumped to a close second, behind just Loki, as one of the best MCU villains to date – an area Marvel has been under-achieving at best.


Strangely, its biggest flaw is almost the same as Wonder Woman’s. A final battle sees the Vulture – with flames in the background (orange) – take on Spidey using his damaged mechanical wings (both teale) and here we are again. In a film taking lots of chances, it was a sequence that could have done with a shot of more unique web-slinging action and originality.


That aside, Spider-Man’s first full film in the Marvel world was certainly a surprising success. Was it better than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2? Personally, I think not. Raimi’s unique directorial style and more interesting villain still holds firm but Marvel went VERY close to reassessing its pole position.


Both films then prove to be hugely satisfying and have course-corrected their respective franchises as needed. Both are surprising in all the best ways – Wonder Woman’s feminine focus and more subtle story shows DC can get audiences emotionally involved and Spider-Man proves that Marvel can bring something new and fresh to an over-exposed character. Super!


7.5/10 Wonder Woman


8/10 Spider-Man: Homecoming


Midlands Movies Mike

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