Been a little while since my last recap. So let’s make this a gooden! On the radar today is Star Trek sequel – ‘…Into Darkness’, M Night Shyamalan’s latest excuse, ‘After Earth’. And finally, the highly anticipated Superman film – ‘Man Of Steel’.
‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ – Dir. J.J Abrams
Much to speculate of course, and many will. But right off the bat I’ll say this is probably the one I’m holding out for next year. The standalone voiceover of the antagonist, whoever it may be, Benedict Cumberbatch, and escalating score really does build this one way way waaaay up. Great stuff. Draw your own conclusion at the trailer’s close.
‘After Earth’ – Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
Without question, this could easily be the biggest flop for next year. Haven’t we seen all this before??
‘Man Of Steel’ – Dir. Zack Snyder
Ok, Zack, I’m sold. Taking an enormous cue from producer Christopher Nolan, and a nuance that only could be attributed to the work of Terrence Malick – this retelling of the Superman origin could possibly surprise many. It’s not the most action packed of all trailers, but it goes more along the lines of building character and outlining what could be a very interesting and engaging screenplay. Cavill looks the part indeed, and we’re given brief glimpses of Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Michael Shannon as the incomparable Zod! Check the fuck out!
Remember at school, you was taught about all those wonderful Gods of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology? Well apparently they’ve the ability to cross worlds… It’s a sweet life for some, eh? Enter Thor, God of Thunder and heir to the kingdom of Asgard. This latest offering from Marvel Studios further develops Marvel’s ultimate goal of the ‘quintessential comic book movie’ – to be released next year, and actually fares a lot better than last year’s let-down, Iron Man 2. Slated for development over the last few years, a story such as this one is the kind you have to ask
– Would what works well in a comic book necessarily work on-screen?
Well the easy answer is no. Adaptation from book, even in novel form, to film has been a problem that beleaguered many screenplay writers and directors. Thor is an extremely challenging story to translate into live-action – having to switch from native Asgard, where there are a towering scape of sleek, shiny buildings with an abundance of metallic spray paint – to a modern-day New Mexico complete with holes in the ground and coffee shops seems like a film any director could easily let go by unnoticed. Least of all a British thesp with a resume filled with Shakespearean works. But, yes, of course – Acclaimed actor and director Kenneth Branagh took the reigns of this massive beast and puts to shame any doubters on whether he could direct a summer blockbuster popcorn film. His credible work on Shakespeare films is actually a positive marker on ‘Thor’.
The arc revolving around three of the main characters, Thor, his brother Loki, and father and ruler of Asgard, Odin, is very reminiscent of a Shakespearean tale of betrayal and tragedy. With one brother resenting and envying the other’s achievements, and a heinous plan to force themselves upon their kingdom as their King through means of malicious and hurtful intent. See? Sounds like a great and engaging story, huh? Aussie man-mountain, Chris Hemsworth, is surprisingly great as the titular hero. With a knack for the arrogance that is an apparently important trait of Thor – and convincingly realised by the former soap actor. To be honest I found that after Thor’s journey to Earth and subsequent involvement with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster was the point where I found myself a tad less impressed by Hemsworth. As a more charming and intimate God of Thunder, he just trails along the similar path that 9 out of 10 love stories in films leads. But due to the plot, we have to realise that this is part of the humility and selflessness Thor has to come to terms with.
It also avoids the fish out of water pothole. Where a character is constantly befuddled and unaware of new surroundings and its inhabitants. There’s only 2 or 3 scenes where we see that being used to comedic effect. Which was a very big relief for me personally. It could have potential turned this film into a complete car wreck. Along with a great casting of Anthony Hopkins in the role of Odin, and Branagh collaborator Tom Hiddlestone as the eventual villain, Loki, Hemsworth makes the cut convincingly enough to warrant a strong thumbs up.
A few nags that most viewers may express might be the over-exuberance of CGI and the sort-of dumb Asgardian costumes (metallic spray-painted synthetics). But it’s not really to the point of constant eye-rolling and sighing.
Conclusion. Thor is a great start to the summer. Cool action scenes, some super dialogue and a solid direction from Branagh. Let’s see when those sequel rumours begin to spread.
Superhero films have become a more common entity during the last ten years. From the jump-starting ‘X-Men’ to the genre re-invention of ‘Batman Begins’, the influx of comic book adaptations into cinema features has turned the genre into an overwhelmingly popular market for all demographics.
There’s not usually much inward depth to these films in all honesty.. with a few exceptions. You take a guy, give him a power, create a villain, guy becomes hero and defeats villain (with possible smoochies at the finishing post). Simple, but an executable way to tell a story of triumph over evil. And who doesn’t like a good popcorn flick over good guys versus bad guys? It’s the bread and butter of most things we see on tv and at theatres.
Writer Alan Moore, however, took the archetypal redundancy of the genre and it’s ‘stay-safe’ elements. And created one of the most well-received and popular superhero stories of our generation. ‘Watchmen’.
In development hell for the best part of 20 years, ‘300’ helmer Zack Znyder finally got the gig after a torrent of rumours plagued the internet on who would direct the so-called ‘un-filmmable comic book’.
Set in an alternate 1985, nearing the end of the Cold War. Watchmen is not your average superhero movie. Besieged with the surrounding sensationalism of a ‘Doomsday Clock’, Americans have turned their backs on the vigilantes that had protected them before – with impending nuclear war on the horizon, they have simply accepted that they cannot be saved. Well that’s the basic synopsis… Trying to keep this spoiler free!
The film’s first part is narrated (through diary entries) of a masked vigilante named ‘Rorshach’ (Haley), a tormented soul dedicated to seeking out and ridding the cities of criminals, murderers and rapists. As the sole member of Watchmen still operating at the start of the film, he is disappointed that the others (most notably Dreiberg) had given up their mantles long before.
Supporting characters, are fellow members Dan Dreiberg, a tired, bloated Batman-esque former hero. Lost, and at a crossroads over his retirement from vigilantism. Laurie, daughter of a past heroine. And Dr Jon Osterman, a former scientist, who after a freak accident becomes a powerful being capable of controlling matter at his will. The rest is rounded up by former enemies, love interests, and probably the worst portrayal of former US president Richard Nixon ever committed to film. Let alone the comically oversized schnozz.
To be frank, there are some really strong performances. The sore thumb is most certainly Jackie Earle Haley as Kovacs/Rorschach. Who is not your average, friendly crime fighter. An emotionally uncomfortable man with a knack for breaking digits, Haley delivers a genuine fluidity through some of Rorschach’s most nightmarish of scenes.
The screenplay fully encapsulates the graphic novel more or less frame by frame. There are some differences that will certainly alienate a great deal of fans of the book – but in terms of keeping true to source, Snyder hasn’t really done a bad job here. Minor spoiler – One abundant aspect I took notice of was that the group are frequently referred to as ‘Watchmen’. Although, they were never referred to that name in the book – ironically, at the first meeting of the group they are labelled as the Crimebusters.
The story is full of ambiguity, and this is one of those examples. I believe this was Snyder’s way of avoiding confusion with audiences not familiar with the book.
Of course there’s a lot of CG, but it’s not over-utilized where it becomes stale and boring. A rare find is a big summer film whose story isn’t farted on constantly by green screen and computer effects – so it earned Watchmen some points in my view. Cinematography by Larry Fong is also very cleverly in-sync and much akin to the book’s frame flow.
A decent popcorn flick for the film buff, but it’s complexity and more risqué tones than your standard Superhero movie may not make Watchmen everyone’s cup of tea.