Movie review: Red Sparrow

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to March – the new ‘it’ month for high-profile movie releases. And it opens with Red Sparrow!

IMDb summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Writing

Red Sparrow was written by Justin Haythe (who wrote two previous Gore Verbinski’s films The Lone Rangerand A Cure For Wellness), based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews. I found the writing to be quite uneven and I’m going to unpack my ideas more broadly by discussing the narrative and the themes. The film had two parts, each about an hour long. The first hour acted as an extensive set-up and developed the main character quite a lot. The viewers got to follow her life as an everyday citizen (though she was never just an everyday person – she was always special, first as a ballerina and later as a sparrow), then to witness the inciting incident and its consequences: the extensive training to be a tool of the state (more on that in the second part on themes). The set-up was quite long but it did work: the main character’s capacity for the horrific actions that she was going to commit as a sparrow was always present in the set-up.

In the second hour of the film (+20minutes), Red Sparrow’s actual plot unraveled, and sadly, it was quite uneven. The writers really tried crafting a complex and layered story, full of characters with constantly shifting allegiances. And while that sounds all good – actually it is quite fascinating – the mysterious and the secretive nature of the plot was not always realized compellingly. Also, looking back to the plot – not all the dots necessarily connect and make sense. Still, I have to applaud the ending of the story. For a while, it seemed like the movie was headings towards a typical romantic conclusion but then it broke away from all of that and delivered and strong finale with some great double-crosses and twists. Though, the reveal of the mole was a bit heavy-handed and surprising it a bad way a.k.a.it came out of nowhere.

Thematically, I’d like to touch upon two major things: the usage of sex in the film as well as the Russia vs. US standoff. Before going to see the film, I got the impression that the main weapon of the sparrow will be psychological manipulation but I feel like the ads and trailers lied to me. Red Sparrow, in my mind, was missing its promised psychological manipulation and was all about the pure physical manipulation a.k.a. manipulation through sex. And while physical and psychological manipulations are certainly connected, I really wish that the movie would have looked at that actual connection or the psychological side quite a lot more. Also, the usage of sex by a specifically female heroine of the film raised even more questions about the position of female sexuality on film. While it can certainly be seen/used as a strong creative choice, it has also been reduced to a cheap trick quite a few times. Also, there is but a fine line between female sexuality as a form of empowerment or a tool of exploitation. To my mind, Red Sparrow was leaning more towards the second option, as the female sparrows were taught and made to use sex as a weapon by a patriarchal system rather than having chosen it as a weapon out of their own agency.

On the US v Russia front, the picture was certainly successful at establishing the askew nationalistic ideas that were/are so prevalent in Russia and portraying the brainwashing politics accurately. Still, it had an overall message of American heroism as the better/ the winning option. The weird US/Russia antagonism also made the movie’s temporal setting feel rather vague: it could have been set during the Cold War, the early aftermath of it in the late 90s/early 2000s or even just last year.

Directing

Francis Lawrence (the director of the 3 last The Hunger Games films, including my two favorites – Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1) directed Red Sparrow and did an okay job. I highly appreciated the style of the picture: the raw and indie feeling of it as well as the cold and cool tone. However, the slowness of the pace and the length of the movie really minimized the enjoyment of the film. Moreover, the plot (the substance) wasn’t good enough to make up for the lacking pace. The graphic violence and graphic nudity were both present in Red Sparrow and I don’t really know whether they served the plot or were they just there for shock value. During the scenes of violence, Red Sparrow did feel like a more contemporary version of its predecessor Atomic Blonde, while the scenes of creepy nudity were more plentiful than in the whole Fifty Shades franchise.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence (reunited with F. Lawrence after THG) played the lead of the film and did a good job but she wasn’t great or irreplaceable. Her Russian accent was fine, though, at times, she did sound like she was speaking with a clogged noise (as if she had a cold). Her decision to play this role is probably more interesting than the performance itself. The actress has vocally expressed how uncomfortable she was with the skin tight costume of Mystique in the X-Men movies and yet she was somehow fine with complete nudity in this film? Was this an act of bravery and growth as a performer or a desperate attempt to reclaim some fame? Her fan circle has been decreasing: The Hunger Gamesfinished a with whimper rather than a bang, she annoyed a lot of Marvel/X-Men fans because of her lack of enthusiasm about that series, her various comments on talk shows have also been reacted to quite badly online, and even her last two more serious awards films failed to connect with the audiences or the critics (Joyat least got her another Oscar nomination, while mother! turned out to be a complete disaster).

Some big-name talent was also involved with this film on the supporting front. Joel Edgerton (Bright, Midnight Special, Loving, Black Mass) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) had two best-developed and most interesting male roles in the film. Jeremy Irons (BvS, High-Rise) and Game of Thrones’ Ciaran Hinds (Justice League) also both appeared but in much smaller, cameo-sized roles. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assasin’s Creed) played the matriarch of the school of the sparrows and it was quite unexpected seeing her in a film with a, supposedly, strong female lead after her sort of anti-women comments a few awards seasons ago (that ran along the lines of ‘women in the West don’t have anything to complain about’).

In short, Red Sparrow was a mediocre thriller that betrayed its message and overstayed its welcome.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Red Sparrow trailer

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Movie review: Justice League

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the most polarizing movie of the year. Is anyone even surprised that the said divisive film is just another entry into the DCEU? This is Justice League.

IMDb summary: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

Before moving on to the actual review, I wanted to give you my brief thoughts about the DCEU in general. When Man of Steel came out in 2013, I barely paid any attention to it because I wasn’t into comic book movies much (had watched some Marvel ones and enjoyed them but was still oblivious to the bigger universe). However, 3 years later (in 2016), I had already become a huge fan of MCU, had familiarized myself with the DC character on TV and had started to read comics regularly. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Both films left me sort of baffled. While I wasn’t a fan of the dark/grim atmosphere, I could understand it as a creative choice. What I couldn’t forgive was the messy and unfocused storytelling. Then Wonder Woman came along and was a breath of fresh air (with a meh third act). Now, Justice League is coming together for the first time on the big screen and I have mixed feelings even before I see it. I care about these characters, because I have been dazzled by them in the comics (I read way more of DC than I do Marvel), have caught up with them every week on TV (The Flash) or in animated films (DC animation used to be so good before it started going sideways with The Killing Joke debacle and Batman and Harley weirdness) and even though the movies themselves were flawed, I have enjoyed seeing these versions of Batman and Wonder Woman (somebody please fix Superman, though). I go into the screening hoping for the best while also worrying about the worst.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

Justice League’s screenplay was written by Chris Terrio (the writer of Argoand BvS, while Zack Snyder helped out with the story. Joss Whedon (Avengers 1 and 2) also received a screenplay credit but it’s not really clear whether he got the credit because he actually changed some of the narrative of the film or just because he couldn’t get a co-directing credit together with Snyder. Anyways, I thought that the movie’s writing was a mixed bag.

Let’s start with the set-up. I highly enjoyed a lot of its elements but didn’t necessarily think that they all jelled well. The film’s set-up had two main goals: to introduce the new characters and the establish the team and to develop a villain for the story. The introductions of the new characters – Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg – were brief but effective. Still, if these characters had solo movies prior to this film, I believe I’d have had a stronger connection to them. Since I already knew this universe’s version of Wonder Woman and Batman (BvS was basically his solo film), they were my favorites of the group.

The dynamics within the team were really neat. I liked the different pairings, the contrast between the rookies and the seniors, and the humor within the group. That last thing felt like an obvious influence of Joss Whedon. What I could have done without was all the sexual nods between Diana and all other members. I wouldn’t have minded a few of them, but the constant stream was not welcomed by me.

Speaking of the villain, Steppenwolf served his purpose but wasn’t amazing. What boggled me was the fact that the DCEU is or was supposed to be this realistic and sophisticated reimagining of the DC characters. And yet, all their villains have been super comic book-y and in no way fitting for the tonne of the franchise. The fact that the main villain had a disposable army, like in all the other comic book films, didn’t bode well for the picture either. Having said that, the army of parademons at least had a trait to make them more interesting – they were feeding on fear – and they also served a bigger purpose in the final act (a.k.a. took down Steppenwolf when he experienced fear).

Justice League also had a plethora of references to the future DCEU projects and I immensely enjoyed spotting them. The more into comics I get, the more Easter Eggs I recognize. I also love to research the references I didn’t spot. Honestly, a huge part of watching these films is reading/watching the coverage of them after the actual screening. Speaking about the future of the DCEU, Justice League had an ending that felt like an answer to the critique of the grimness of the franchise. The sense of hope for the future was established. Now, let’s just pray that the box office numbers allow the DCEU to deliver on their promise of course correction (the opening weekend’s numbers have not been great).

Directing

Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) helmed the movie during the principal photography, while Joss Whedon directed the reshoots and was responsible for the final edit. The film that premiered in cinemas around the world was an amalgamation of the talents of both these filmmakers. Snyder’s input was evident in the actions scenes, while Whedon’s influence shined in the aforementioned humor of the feature.

Speaking of the action, the team had 3 big action scenes (the individual characters had some smaller action scenes in addition to the 3 team ones). The action sequence underneath the Gotham harbor was neat and a great first showcasing of the team’s powers together (I loved how the seniors Wonder Woman and Batman were doing the majority of the fighting, while the rookies Flash and Cyborg were more about helping the civilians). The Superman v League fight wasn’t bad either. The final action scene was entertaining but I wish it was more epic and more massive in scope. Well, at least they have some space to grow in the following pictures. They also have a lot of space for the improvement of the CGI: it should have been way more photorealistic. Overall, my favorite action scene did not even involve the Justice League themselves. It was the sequence on Themyscira that I found the most inventive and the most enjoyable.

The movie’s runtime has been cut short. What was supposed to be a 2.5 hours film, ended up being less than 2 hours. The set-up felt like it was missing some scenes and that’s why it might have felt choppy. However, the fact that the picture was shorter than expected, made it feel really quick and more fast-paced than it actually was/might have been. Nobody can say that it dragged.

The credits scenes

Justice League had a mid-credits scene consisting of the race between The Flash and Superman – an iconic moment from the comics that was replicated only recently on DCTV with Supergirl and The Flash. The post-credits scene was a hint for the future alliance of the villains and also introduced the viewers to Deathstroke (who just appeared on DCTV/Arrow last/this week).

Acting

The DCEU casting choices have been their best choices concerning the series. Let’s go over the main players as well as their supporting characters.

  • Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl) was great as Bruce Wayne / Batman. I really enjoyed his speech about his lack of humanity. Jeremy Irons (High-Rise, Assasin’s Creed) was neat as Alfred Pennyworth, while J. K. Simmons (The Snowman, Renegades, Patriot’s Day, La La Land) had a couple of scenes as James Gordon. I really want that Batman solo film to materialize and see more of these actors in the iconic roles.
  • Henry Cavill (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sand Castle) appeared as Clark Kent / Superman, while Amy Adams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals) reprised her role of Lois Lane (the big guns). Cavill’s infamous mustache was very noticeable and his face looked really wonky in half of the shots. Subsequently, a lot of Superman’s scenes were distracting. However, he didn’t have much of them in the film. He is the character that has appeared in the biggest numbers of movies in the franchise, so we have already been exposed to him a lot. What I did like about Cavill’s performance in Justice League particularly was the fact that he was allowed to be positive and happy to be alive (in contrast to moping and feeling sorry for oneself).
  • Gal Gadot came back as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman and was as perfect as ever. I really want to see her in more movies, outside this or Fast&Furiousfranchises. Connie Nielsen briefly appeared as Hippolyta. I loved that moment with the signal fire for Diana.
  • Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts) as Barry Allen / Flash was the standout of the new characters and that was mostly due to Miller’s comedic talents. His enthusiasm was infectious and his reaction faces just hilarious. His love interest Iris West was set to be played by Kiersey Clemons (Flatliners) but was cut from the final film. We did get an intro to Barry’s father Henry Allen played by Billy Crudup (Alien: Covenant), though. That The Flash solo movie might actually be really good and could compete with the TV show.
  • Jason Momoa played Arthur Curry / Aquasman. I loved Momoa in the role but wish he was given something more to do with it. I’m hopeful about his solo movie, though. Amber Heard (Magic Mike XXL, The Danish Girl), who was introduced as Mera, will also re-appear in it.
  • Ray Fisher starred as Victor Stone / Cyborg and was probably the character most integral to the plot of the film. I didn’t know much about Fisher prior to this movie but was really impressed by his performance. He brought heart and soul to Cyborg – qualities which only a good dramatic actor can portray well.
  • Ciarán Hinds (GOT’s King Beyond the Wall) did the motion capture of and provided the voice for Steppenwolf. He was good enough in the role but I do wish that the design of the character would have been more interesting.

In short, Justice League was the second best film in the DCEU (and while it’s not much, it’s something). It had some great character moments (both action and humor ones) but was still plagued by the wider problems of the whole series. Nevertheless, the future is hopeful.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Justice League trailer

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Movie review: Assasin’s Creed

Movie reviews

Hello!

Notoriously, the video game movies have always been pretty bad. Everybody hoped that this cycle would be broken with this summer’s Warcraft but the majority of people and the critics hated it (I and the Chinese audiences actually liked it a lot). Now, all hopes have been directed towards Assasin’s Creed but it has also been getting some pretty nasty reviews. Similarly to Warcraft, I knew nothing of the mythology of the game before going to see the film. I vaguely remember reading Assasin’s Creed comic, which I got during the free comic book day, but that’s about it when it comes to my knowledge on the subject.

Nevertheless, I was still looking forward to the movie because of its cast and because its blend of the future and the past interested and intrigued me. I used to think that history and modernity were two incompatible concepts, however, I just binged Westworld over Christmas and absolutely loved it, so I thought that maybe Assasin’s Creed could further extend my love for this new concept of fusion. Sadly, while I did like the acting and the atmospheric setting of the film (two things that I was looking forward to), other components of the movie left me pretty disappointed.

IMDb summary: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.

Writing

The film’s script was written by Michael Lesslie (Macbeth), Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (Exodus, Allegiant, 2015’s Transporter). Their track record has not been great and their quality of work really showed in Assasin’s Creed. Let’s mention the things that I liked before going into the negatives. So, I quite liked the mythological ideas of the film – the fact that blood is our main relation to the past and to our ancestry. However, I didn’t think that these ideas were conveyed clearly or interestingly in the film: all the expositional dialogue felt clunky, hard to understand, and, frankly, quite boring. The movie’s commentary on the modern world was clearly wrong too: freedom and free-will are now more important than ever rather than being easily surrendered.

The writing for the characters wasn’t great either. They didn’t receive enough development and the choices that were made for and by the characters were super weird. Cotillard’s character had such an unclear story, her decisions opposed one other from scene to scene. In fact, her whole plotline seemed quite stupid. The cliche artifact didn’t help the story much either. The motivation for the actions of the other assassins was not clear too. Lastly, the ending was unsatisfying – they were hoping for a sequel, which they are not going to get. Why would they not worry about a sequel and make a good stand-alone film for once?

Directing

Macbeth’s director Justin Kurzel helmed Assasin’s Creed and left me kinda baffled. I expected more from a Palme d’Or nominated director. To begin with, the whole jumping around from the past to the present while in the Animus was unnecessary and uneven. In addition, I felt that the majority of the movie’s scenes were cut short. The confused, all-but-the-kitchen-sink camera work, which included everything from the long tracking shots to the first person’s POVs, wasn’t great either. The shaky cam was also not pleasant – the filmmakers should just stop with the shaky action – it has already stopped working for the Bourne series and it originated this technique. Nevertheless, let’s end on a positive note: even though they were unbelieavble, the parkours and the roof jumps did look cool and were entertaining.

Acting

The cast did a pretty good job with the awful material that they have been given. Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Steve Jobs) was great in the lead but his producing input on the movie did not help it. Marion Cotillard (Allied), Jeremy Irons (BvS), Brendan Gleeson (In The Heart of The Sea), and Charlotte Rampling  (45 years) were okay too, although I was quite surprised to see Rampling getting work in a big blockbuster after her last year’s comments on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Ariane Labed (The Lobster) played probably the most interesting character with a lot of potential that wasn’t tapped into. 

Briefly: Assasin’s Creed wasted a great premise on a cliche story. Throw in some faulty directing and good acting into the mix and you have another forgettable video game movie. I only recommend it to super fans of the game or Fassbender.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Assasin’s Creed trailer

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Movie PREVIEW: Captain America: Civil War a.k.a. Civil War comic book review

Movie previews

Hello!

I have done a few preview posts while waiting for the release of the big movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now, I would like to discuss my expectations and predictions for the new Marvel movie – Avengers 2.5 also known by its actual name Captain America: Civil War.

In preparation for the film, I have rewatched both of the Captain America’s films and enjoyed them even more than the first time. If you would like to read my review of the previous two films, you can click here – that post is one of my early ones and the reviewing style is completely different from the way I review films now, so don’t be too harsh.

In addition, not only did I rewatch the previous movies in the series, but I have also actually read the graphic novel by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (the main series of the 7 issues) that this movie is at least partially adapting. Civil War graphic novel is one of the first serious superhero graphic novels that I’ve ever read. As a child, I would read comic books about magic that were aimed at very young audiences. Nowadays, the majority of graphic works that I used pick up would be quite biographical, like Maus and Persepolis. However, Civil War really made me want to get into comics more. I have always felt kinda overwhelmed with the lore of the comic book universes and didn’t really know where to start. But, through Civil War, I discovered that there is a bunch of limited series style graphic novels that are easily accessible to new readers. You don’t have to hunt down different issues, but can enjoy the whole story all at one, in a book format! Because of this, I have recently purchased the Greatest Batman Stories compilation novel and I’m also actively looking for the Watchmen graphic novel in my town’s 2nd hand shops.  So, let’s talk what the film might and will change when transferring the Civil War story from the page to the civil screen. SPOILERS for the comic book and possible SPOILERS for the movie.

  • To begin with, from the trailers and previous MCU films, we know that the incident that will divide the superheroes won’t be an unsuccessful TV show and will have nothing to do with New Warriors. Instead, The Avengers will disagree over the Winter Soldier question, thus, making it a personal matter to Cap. In addition, the aftermath of Sokovia and other accidents, that The Avengers were involved in, like Battle of New York will only deepen and widen the rift .
  • In addition, the film will probably cut a lot of characters that were involved in the original story. For one, Marvel Studios does not have the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four characters – it is a miracle that they got Spider-Man. Moreover, MCU has a lot of characters already, without adding a bunch of new ones ( that’s why I called the film – Avengers 2.5  – it is more of a team up movie rather than a solo standalone feature). So, if Cap 3 introduced a big group of characters all at once, the majority of them would lack the necessary development and would overcrowd the film. In the comics, it is a different story – all of the characters, that were involved in the Civil War story, have about 50 years of history behind them – they are known to the avid comic book readers, while the movie has to cater the needs of the mainstream audiences, who do not know anything about these characters.
  • Having said that, while the film won’t add a bunch of new characters, we will be introduced to a few of them. Black Panther and the new Spider-Man (with the best suit ever – the CGI eyes are amazing) will make their debut. I do not really think that they will reveal Spider-Man’s identity like they did in a comic book Civil War, since Spidey is so new in the MCU. I feel like they will save this big reveal for a solo Spider-Man film, maybe even the last film of the new trilogy. On the other hand, Black Panther’s comic book storyline probably won’t be changed that much, but the movie might add something more to it.
  • In the comic book, X-Men characters were sorta neutral, so the lack of them in the film won’t be a huge loss. On the other hand, Fantastic Four’s characters played a big role in the events, so I wonder who will replace them in the movie’s version. Doctor Strange was also neutral in the comics and since he technically is still Stephen Strange – the surgeon in the MCU (he will get his powers in his own film), we will probably only get a post-credits scene with him. Other characters, like Thor’s Cyborg Clone will either be cut or substituted. There is only a small chance that any Thor lookalikes will appear in the film, as Chris Hemsworth is not listed on IMDb. Nevertheless, that plotline might be included in the film by replacing Thor’s Clone with Vision. The characters or team like Goliath, Mrs. Sharpe, The Thunderbolts (Marvel’s Suicide Squad), Young Avengers and Namor will probably also be cut. I also don’t think that TV characters, like Daredevil and The Punisher, will appear.
  • I wonder whether the film will keep the idea that Nick Fury is on Captain America’s side, while the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is supporting Iron Man. Either way, Civil War film will definitely mark the end of The Avengers as we know them now.
  • I am mostly sure that, in the movie the same way as in the comic book, both teams will have members, who will question their choice and will change sides. We will probably get ‘mole inside the team’ plotline as well.
  • The negative zone prison and the fifty state project will probably be too comic-book-y and too grand ideas for the film, so the actual Prison 42 will most likely be different – more realistic maybe? In general, the film’s Civil War will probably be a much smaller scale event.
  • I am also interested to see whether the film will keep the ending of the comic book. Will Tony become the S.H.I.E.L.D director? Will Cap surrender? What will be Winter Soldier’s role? I also heard the rumors that they might include the death of Captain America storyline at the end of Civil War – really don’t want that to happen. It would also make Civil War very similar to BvS, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. 

So, in conclusion, I have a lot of questions and possible speculations about the film and that’s all part of the fun with these comic book movies. I loved the graphic novel Civil War and can’t wait to read more – now I feel stupid for waiting so long to star reading the comic books.

Civil War film will be directed by the Russo brothers. Since half of their filmography consists of past and future Marvel movies (they will direct Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and 2), I don’t really have anything more to say about their previous work. I will briefly touch upon actors’ previous work in the actual review of the film, although I will probably be repeating myself a lot since I have said almost everything I wanted to say about them in my past Marvel movie reviews: Avengers Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Guardian of the Galaxy. If you want to read my either comic book movie posts, both Marvel and DC, you can find them here: Marvel Phase 3, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool and BvS.

I am planning to see the film on April 29th, in the morning, and I will definitely be rocking my Marvel Comics T-Shirt. Will you be cosplaying for the premiere and what are your predictions for the film? Let’s discuss this in the comments!

  

Movie review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 

Movie reviews

Hey Hey Hey!

The wait is finally over! We now have a movie that shows the two greatest superheroes fighting one another. Without further ado, let’s dig-in into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

IMDb summary: Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

Before we start: I have done a preview post for this film, in which I discussed my hopes for the movie and gave you my thoughts on the casting choices, Snyder’s previous work and DCCU in general. I won’t be repeating those things in here, so I highly suggest that you check out that other post first!

Since I’m posting my review on Saturday and the movie has been out for a couple of days, I will be talking about SPOILERS!

Audience

Before BvS was released, a lot of news sites reported that the majority of the presale tickets were bought by men. Saturday, 9am screening that I went to (definitely the earliest screening I’ve ever been to) was also predominately male. I think there was only around 30 people watching the film with me, and only 4 of them were female (me included). The audience was also very adult-centric – there were only 3 or 4 kids in the cinema.

I don’t really know what to make out of this. I refuse to believe that women don’t like comic book movies. Moreover, I cannot believe that children are not interested in a film like this one.

Also, before the movie, they showed The Lego Batman teaser – it was very appropriate and extremely funny (definitely a lot funnier than the film that followed).

Story: Writing, Tone, and Plotlines

BvS’s script was written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Terrio is best known for writing the screenplay for 2012’s Argo, while Goyer has written all the Blade movies, all of Nolan’s Batman films and Man of Steel. With such an accomplished duo, it’s quite strange to see that Batman v Superman did not turn out that great, when it comes to story. Let’s go over all the different story and plot points (the good, the average and the bad) one by one:

  • To begin with, BvS was a more Batman-centric movie and that’s perfectly understandable – they needed to establish him as a character. The opening of the film nicely dealt with Bruce’s backstory – the death of his parents and his obsession/fear of bats.
  • – The film had a lot of dream sequences and it was extremely hard to understand, which scenes were set in reality and which ones – only in the minds of the characters (I still don’t know who was the person in Bruce’s dream that told Batman that Lois Lane is the key – I read that it was probably the Flash, travelling back in time. The other dream sequence (Nightmare one) was also an Easter Egg for Darkside (maybe)). Anyway, the decision to blend the reality and the dreams together might have been a creative choice, however, it made the narrative unclear and hard to understand/follow.
  • – The film was more than 2 hours long but all the characters lacked development – I wanted to spend more time with all of them and wasn’t satisfied with a few scenes that I’ve got.
  • – However, there were characters that we spent way too much time with and the pay-off, concerning these characters, was not that great. Those senate hearings and Lex Luthor’s and Senator Finch’s scenes seemed to last forever and didn’t really accomplish much.
  • – Basically, the movie had way too many plotlines and was jumping around way too much. In short, there was at least 5 great movies inside this 1 (average) film. The first two parts of the picture also lacked action and the whole set-up for the final act was generally a bit boring, although it had a few exciting moments.
  • The mother-son relationship was really important in this film and it was actually nice to see this particular family relationship explored on screen. Movies usually tend to focus on father-son or father-daughter relationships. I also enjoyed the clever idea to use both Clark Kent’s mother’s and Bruce Wayne’s mother’s name – Martha – as a linguistic plot-device that not only united them but helped to show their humanity.
  • -/+ While I enjoyed seeing Batman and Superman united in battle, I think that they became ‘friends’ too quickly. It would have been more believable to see them calling each other ‘partners’ or something like that.
  • – Speaking about the believability – BvS (like all others DCCU films) really want to be grounded in reality, that’s why they are so dark and gritty. However, I do believe that real life also has lighter moments. Reality doesn’t automatically mean darkness and depression. Sophisticated and serious superhero films can be at least slightly funny as well (I’m not saying they all have to be comedies like Deadpool). I wish that we would have gotten at least a few more lively/amusing-ish moments to balance out the darkness – the only scenes that had a lighter tone were the romantic ones and I had a lot of problems with them separately.
  • Also, while the first two acts of the film were somewhat realistic and very dark, the final act of the film left the reality behind. And you know what? THAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE FILM. The more over-the-top and comic book-y it became, the better the film was. That last act improved my opinion on the whole film and definitely increased the rating.
  • +/- More on the final act: Doomsday’s birth and evolution were cool scenes to look at, but felt a bit rushed. Also, the portrayal of the government forces was very one-sided aka negative.
  • – The lighter aka romantic scenes involved Clark Kent and Lois Lane. While the scenes were cute to look at, they did feel out of place. Also, Lois Lane was such a damsel in distress – she was incapable of doing anything by herself and that annoyed me quite a lot.
  • +/- The ending of the film was quite a brave choice on the filmmakers part. However, since the audiences are quite familiar with the ideas of resurrection not only in comic book films but in movies in general, it was quite hard to feel really emotional about the death of Superman. As soon as he died on screen, my mind started racing on how he will be brought back to life. And even before we got that slight teaser (just before the film cut to black), we all knew that he is coming back. So, basically, it was really hard to think that Superman’s death will stick and that it will have any real consequences.
  • I enjoyed the fact that the characters’ alter-egos were as important as their superhero identities. This idea was nicely portrayed in the double funeral of Clark Kent.
  • + BvS also gave us more than a few very on-the-nose teasers for all the other Justice League members as well as the Justice League itself. We saw: the Flash, stopping the store from being robbed, Aquaman, attacking or threatening someone, and Cyborg, just in the process of creation.
  • Lastly, I might be nitpicking, but it seemed that this time they destroyed more stuff aka two cities – both Gotham and Metropolis. The damage that Man of Steel has done now seems minuscule.

Visuals: Directing, Action, and the Costumes

Zack Snyder did a very nice job directing the action scenes. I only wish that we would not have needed to wait for the said action scenes for more than 1.5h. The picture’s color scheme was also very Snydery – dark and shadowy (unnecessarily grim, like the story). The action scenes that we got in the 3rd act of the film were definitely enjoyable,so let’s discuss them a bit more:

  • The titular fight between Batman and Superman was really cool: the Batman’s protective costume was nice, while the usage of the Krypton – a clever solution. I also loved how Superman just slightly pushed Batman with one hand and Bruce went flying. The only thing that I didn’t like about that fight is the fact that Lois Lane just had to appear out of nowhere in the end.
  • The DC’s trio vs. Doomsday was also an exciting battle. This one was very comic-book-y, thus, very unbelievable, thus – the best part of the film. I loved Superman and Doomsday, flying in space, I loved Batman, trying to come up with a solution (because he knew that he can’t fist-fight the devil), and Wonder Woman, just charging into battle.

Costumes and Props

The characters’ costumes are of course very iconic and there is really no point in talking about them in detail, since, they have been revealed long before the movie was released. However, I do want to mention a few things about them:

  1. I loved Batman’s eyes in all of his costumes. I loved how bold his real eyes looked in his normal costume and how threatening were the light-up eyes in his armor.
  2. Superman’s cape game was strong. He looked amazing while flying or just floating in the air.
  3. Lastly, Wonder Woman’s light-up lasso was super cool – it looked amazing on screen.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was created by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Junkie XL has previously worked on music for Man of Steel and a bunch of other films (Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Mass, Point Break and Deadpool). Zimmer needs no introduction – he is the king of movie soundtracks in Hollywood (Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai, Nolan’s Batman films, Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Inception, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, Man of Steel and a plethora of other movies have been scored by him).

Acting

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Affleck was really good in both the action scenes and the dramatic ones. He probably is the most accomplished actor of this cast, so it is no surprise that his performance was the best one. 2003’s Daredevil should just be wiped out of his resume. We will see Affleck in a cameo role in Suicide Squad, but if you want to watch a non-comic book movie, starring Affleck, I highly suggest both Argo and Gone Girl.
  • Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman. I did enjoy Cavill’s performance but his facial expressions were a bit one-note. He was amazing in the action sequences, though. Last year, we saw Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Currently, he is working on a war drama Sand Castle.
  • Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Adams was good in the role and it’s not really her fault that the character of Lois was written in the way it was. Basically, I felt that her character was out of place during the majority of the film. I would have liked to see more of her actual journalist side, maybe in scenes opposite Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White – the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. As an actress, Adams has had quite a long and rewarding career. I especially liked her newer films – American Hustle and Big Eyes.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. My favorite lines of dialogue were spoken by Irons. I really liked his portrayal of Alfred as more of a partner, less like a servant. Also, I recently saw Irons in High-Rise and I also want to watch his other 2016 film – Race.
  • Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman was my favorite character in the film. Gadot was amazing in the role. She shined in the action sequences and I only wish that she would have had more lines because, for the majority of the film, she just reacted to the events that were happening around her. I can’t wait for her own stand-alone film, coming out next year!
  • Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (?) – I forgot to talk about Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor in the preview but that was because I deliberately wanted to forget this development. From what I saw in the trailer, Eisenberg  did not play the true Lex Luthor – at least not the one that I grew up watching in the cartoons. There was also this rumor floating online that Eisenberg was playing Luthor Jr. but that just seemed like a cheap explanation. Also, Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor Jr. haircut reminded me way too much of the look that his American Ultra character had and it’s safe to say – I did not enjoy that stupid stoner action comedy. Now, having watched the film, I still have mixed feelings about Eisenberg in this role. I enjoyed the fact that he played very modern, young and hip entrepreneur. However, at the same time, my mind was screaming: ‘This is not Lex Luthor, neither Jr. nor Sr.’. His voice was also a bit squeaky throughout the film, so that did not make him seem as a threatening and serious villain. Nevertheless, I liked both his look and the way he acted at the end of the film, in the cell (he has finally lost that stupid hairstyle). So, maybe BvS was just an origin story for the true Lex Luthor? We will probably find that out in the Justice League films.

Lastly, the movie didn’t have a post-credits or end-credits scene, so there is really no point in waiting through more than 5 minutes of credits.

In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a good film that could have been so much better. It unnecessarily wanted to be real and grim. The first two acts were messy and had too many plotlines, while the third act embraced the comic bookiness of the characters and made the ending of the movie – the best part of it. The acting was really good, Gal Gadot’s and Ben Affleck’s performances were the best. I went into this movie really wanting to like it and, to be truthful, was kinda let down. I am excited to see the standalone films of the characters, but I don’t think that they should rush with the Justice League movies, like they are doing right now. Maybe WB will prove me wrong next year.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

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Movie review: High-Rise

Movie reviews

Hi!

I really wasn’t sure whether I would go to the cinema this weekend. However, I decided that I need some fresh air – I have been binging on Daredevil Season 2 since it dropped on Friday – and went out to see the new British film High-Rise. It’s a dystopian movie (my favorite genre!) starring Tom Hiddleston (one of my favorite actors!). Let’s go!

IMDb summary: Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control.

This movie wasn’t on my radar. I would have missed it if they wouldn’t have showed its trailer before the screening of Allegiant last week. High-Rise actually premiered last year at various film festivals, including Toronto International Film Festival. It will be released in the US (in limited release) in May and on video-on-demand. Since it’s a British film, it was released in the UK a bit earlier – this weekend.

British cinema

I am a huge fan of contemporary British films and I have told you this many times before. If you want to read more of my reviews of UK films, I invite you to look through posts on Legend, Far From The Madding Crowd, Suffragette, and Testament of Youth.

When I saw this film’s trailer, I thought that its main idea resembled that of Snowpiercer. After having watched High-Rise, I still think that the core theme and the premise are both similar to those of Snowpiercer. However, that’s where all the similarities end: while Snowpiercer was a dystopian and sci-fi action movie, High-Rise is a dystopian art film – I would even classify it as belonging or at least partially resembling the genre of experimental/avant-garde films. To be frank, when watching these types of motion pictures, I question my mental abilities: do these films just not make any sense or am I just too stupid to understand them?.

Story

The film’s screenplay was written by Amy Jump based on a book by J.G. Ballard. I haven’t read the book and I am not familiar with Jump’s previous work. Speaking about the story of the film, I wouldn’t say that I liked it (in the normal sense of the word), but I definitely found it interesting and I do applaud the writing.

The film’s main story was told in a flashback, so this was definitely not your typical narrative movie. The movie’s plot was also very fragmented and this fragmentation was carried out into editing (more on the montage style later).

The film revolved around a community of people living in the 40-story building, with the richest and the most privileged ones living at the top, and the poorest families  at the bottom. The main character of the film, played by Tom Hiddleston, resided on the 24 or 25 floor – in the middle of the two groups.

This movie explored the themes such as human savagery (showed people ’embracing’ their animalistic nature) and social hierarchy. It also touched upon humanity’s dependence on technology and power – it basically critiqued our consumerism. I thought about the building’s community as a metaphor for our society, but I also read online that it might be a metaphor for not just any society, but for the digital age/Internet society and I can definitely see why some people, who saw this film, think that way.

Ballard wrote his book in the 1970s and also set the action of the book in the same decade. The Internet did not exist back then, so if Ballard predicted all of this, he is not far from genius.

The movie was brutal in its humor and also raised a lot of questions. For one, what was up with that kid? Was he just another metaphor of how the future generations are the ones responsible for the survival of our society? Human society?

 

Directing and Editing

The film was directed by Ben Wheatley. I do admire his work on High-Rise but I don’t think that I will be intentionally seeking more movies of his. He and the screenwriter of the film – Amy Jump – were also responsible for the editing of the film. High-Rise was edited in a very old-school kind of way, using montage to connect contrasting images into one synthesis, from which distinct meaning may arise. We spent a week (at least) on this topic in my film course, reading essays and watching films by Kuleshov and Eisenstein – the godfathers of montage editing.

Wheatley and Jump used a lot of intercuts of extreme close-ups in their montages and also paired up the visuals with the classical music. They also used ABBA’s S.O.S.’s in an interesting way at least twice. They also used the trick of the montage inside the montage with that kaleidoscopic sequence.  All of the film’s montages  were puzzling and even confusing but that was kinda their point (I think). Wheatley and Jump were trying to make the viewers think: ‘what the hell am I watching?’. And if we all question the things that we see, maybe we won’t end up like those people in the building.

A few last things on the visuals of the film: since the film was set in the 70s, the costumes, and the setting were at least partially of that period. The lift scenes with the mirrors and multiple copies of the actors were cool too. Also, the movie had a lot of sexual scenes and some disturbing imagery involving a human head right at the beginning of the film. Actually, there was plenty of disturbing scenes throughout the film as well.

These unsettling visuals and the critique of our society reminded me a bit of a different avant-garde film that I watched in the film class – Jean-Luc Godard’s Week-end from 1963. However, Godard used a lot of long takes in that film, while High-Rise was basically a feature-length music video (meaning that it was assembled from short clips into a coherent motion picture in the editing room). I also don’t think that Wheatley could ever be equal to Godard in not only his films’ quality but in how much he did for cinema in general.

Acting

The film had a huge cast of accomplished actors, who all played very unlikeable and even despicable characters – all of the inhabitant of the building were rotten people to some extent. I actually think that all sane people should feel disgusted by the characters of this film and, if they do, maybe it’s a positive sign. It shows that we still have hope as a society.

The film’s cast consisted of Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando, Reece Shearsmith, Sienna Guillory, Dan Renton Skinner, Augustus Prew and Stacy Martin. All of them did a magnificent job and acted over-the-top just enough to still seem like somewhat believable/real characters/people.

I am probably the most familiar with the previous work of Hiddleston, Evans and Irons. Hiddleston was, of course, the main reason that I was interested in the film in the first place. If you would like to watch Hiddleston in a different small scale, more artsy film (basically, the complete opposite of the Avengers), I highly suggest you check out Only Lovers Left Alive or if you want something more classic – Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is a great choice. Crimson Peak is also not bad visually (stunning, actually), even if the story is kinda mediocre. I’m really interested to see what will Hiddleston bring to Kong: Skull Island opposite Brie Larson, coming out next year.

I will talk about Jeremy Irons more in my next review of Batman v. Superman – he is playing Alfred in that film. Evans popped up on my radar with The Hobbit films and later on with Dracula Untold. He was also in the last few Fast and Furious films and will also be in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast.

All in all, High-Rise was full of confusing and disturbing images mixed with thought-provoking and question-raising ideas. It is not an easy film to watch, but worth the time and the money.

Rate: ?/5 (I am not sure how to rate this kind of film, so I will leave it for you to decide on your own)

Trailer: High-Rise trailer

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