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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, Mar 29 2016 01:16PM

Batman V Superman (2016) Dir. Zack Snyder


Well I quite like Zack Snyder in the main. For me, Watchmen and 300 are two great graphic novel adaptations and with a nod to The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, the director was an obvious choice to start the ball-rolling on DC’s cinematic universe. Being a long (long) way behind Marvel’s behemoth, DC seemed to be changing tact – a risk well worth taking according to this reviewer – by focusing on darker superhero lore with the additional producing credits going to none other than Christopher Nolan.


So Batman V Superman is the team up DC’s marketing company has convinced the masses they have always wanted to see – I don’t buy that as the tone of each character is far too conflicting to really gel – and so we get a tent-pole release to show these legendary icons in battle.


And battle they do! The story continues from Man of Steel with Superman’s alien status being questioned by both the authorities and the public whilst a personal vendetta is sown as we again re-witness Metropolis’ destruction, but this time from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. A great car chase sequence opens the film before the mindless demolition focuses Wayne/Batman’s resolve into stopping this god-like being.


Never one for subtlety, Snyder plays up the god-imagery from the outset but a big improvement over Man of Steel is Superman's global saviour status being contrasted with Batman’s local night-time detecting – an important aspect sorely missing from Nolan’s universe. The problems for the story and the script come when Jesse Eisenberg enters as Lex Luthor. The comparisons to his Mark Zuckerberg persona in Fincher’s The Social Network have already been made but another OTT Batman villain I was reminded of was Jim Carrey’s Edward Nigma from Batman Forever. A performance of tics, fast talking and comedy elements, Eisenberg provides some light from the dark themes but is far too eccentric to pull off a convincing villain.


However, his involvement in the plot is significant as he pulls strings in Government to get his hands on Kryptonite as well as (spoiler) setting up the film’s big battle between the two icons. Combined with a new Alfred for Batman, Lois Lane (a better and more feisty version from Amy Adams here), Diana Prince/Wonderwoman AND hints to other “meta-humans” (i.e. DC’s back-catalogue of ridiculous superheroes) there is FAR too much for one film to handle. DC has leaped into the Avengers-style team up without fully establishing their world and you realise how problematic that is.


In addition, Luthor attempts to use the Kryptonian spaceship and body of General Zod to create a “Doomsday” monster to kill ol’ Supes as a backup if Batman doesn’t take him down, leaving us with the obligatory CGI city-destroying smash up that permeate all these movies.


And so what does this all add up to? Not a lot really. With some images of great beauty – unbelievably the killing of the Waynes was done well given it’s a scene seen many times before – Snyder has a great eye for the surface but all the amount of moping in the world cannot make up for its lack of depth. I would love to have seen a Batman solo film as Affleck is very good despite the awful dialogue given to him. However, Cavill is so dour as Superman he’s simply miserable to watch at times. Another note is that film’s violence was as extreme as I’ve ever seen in a movie of this rating (so young children beware) and it wasn’t a million miles away from Deadpool’s incessant killing with branding, executions, patricide, stabbing and suicide bombing amongst the bloody carnage on show.


In conclusion I feel that the film is an unnaturally gloomy feature and although I think it takes admirable risks against the safe-sanctuary of Marvel, it fails on producing a cohesive whole in its creation. Superman never cracks even so much as a smile in 2 hours 30 minutes and Cavill shows less facial emotion than Michael Shannon’s Zod corpse. The film’s absence of humour – I counted two jokes (one of which is in the trailer) – is a huge flaw for such a ridiculous premise and both of those come too late as they appear in the final 15 minutes of the film.


From Doomsday’s LOTR cave-troll appearance, which is further compounded with a LOTR-style ‘never-ending’ ending, the film misses crucial opportunities for reinvention and is a structural mess from the outset. I have to admit though, unlike others, I didn’t find it a narrative mess. I thought it was a straightforward story badly put together with middling dream sequences that served little purpose and far too many cooks spoiling the superhero broth.


Teens will no doubt lap up the action sequences (the central fight IS well done, especially in IMAX) and somewhere in here is a more streamlined 1 hour 45 minute film but DC still have a long way to go to catch up with Marvel. That said, this could be a necessary “let’s-get-this-out-of-the-way” stepping stone to greater things. I am staying positive and hope that the spin offs provide much needed levity in the run up to Snyder’s Justice League film. If it doesn’t then prepare yourselves to expect more of these messy “franchise-starters” dampening Snyder’s dynamic plans and replacing them with rundown and disappointing fan-service flicks.


6.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike


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