Batman V Superman : Dawn of Justice – A Review

Zack Snyder directs Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice the DC-Warner tent pole which sets up the Justice League. I haven’t been shy of my dislike of Zack Snyder as a director and with the multitude of bad reviews I didn’t have great expectations going in.

 

We are given a quick flashback into Bruce Wayne’s past. And a quick second into the funeral of Bruce’s parents Snyder commits hara-kiri that will have fanboys frothing at the mouth. Bruce is swarmed by the bats as he falls into a hole in the ground and the bats seemingly lift him up and that is how he assumes the identity of Batman. Ben Afflect is the middle aged Batman based on Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and he is a weary, tired middle-aged Bat very different from the Batman played by Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Affleck is quickly thrust into the destruction of Metropolis as General Zod and Superman engage in a death match. All through the movie that is something off about the scale of things, Metropolis and Gotham towers over everything and dwarfs both Superman and Batman. Even the car Ben Affleck is driving through metropolis seems to be mis-proportioned – it seems too small compared to the surroundings. I don’t know if other viewers experienced this but it just made the “Heroes” look puny.

Superman is deified as a god after he saved Earth from General Zod and his alien army. When he is not saving children from burning building or stranded women from tops of flooded towns Superman spends his time rescuing his girlfriend Lois Lane, either while she is being held hostage in the African Desert or while she is pushed from atop LexCorp. The film’s villainous mastermind is played by Jesse Eisenberg. Reprising his Mark Zuckerberg performance Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor, an evil genius with enormous wealth at his disposal. His sociopathic behaviour verges on psychotic. He pits Batman against Superman but like General Zod in Man of Steel here too his motivation is unresolved and his hatred of both the superheroes seems misplaced. He also tries to convince the senate to give him permission to bring the Kryptonite found in the indian ocean into the US so that he can weaponize it. Snyder, Chris Terrio and David S Goyer seem to be juggling too many balls with the story telling and each of them more unresolved than the other. In anticipation of the forthcoming Justice League movie we are introduced to The Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. The latter plays a bigger part in the movie than Lois Lane does.

There are many flaws in this movie and they primarily concern Snyder’s lack of ability as a director. He makes poor choices both story wise and visually. Story wise there is no coherent reason for Batman to so pissed with Superman. The Superman’s misplaced sense of justice when he accuses Batman of abuse of power is akin to a pot calling a kettle black. The DC warner universe setup the batman character nicely at the end of Nolan’s trilogy. There were a few canons set which seem to not matter to Snyder. The Nolan Batman specifically said “No Guns” but Snyder’s batman is more violent than the criminals he seems to be rounding up. Basing this on Miller’s dark knight where batman comes out of retirement more brutal and more unstable there seems to be no explanation given to the retirement part. Also Jeremy Irons as Alfred is a hard sell. He seems to be Alfred and Lucius Fox both rolled into one and I prefer the grandfatherly Michael Caine over Irons.  Visually Snyder focuses on the wrong points of interest. He is more keen on product placement than a coherent story telling. How else would you explain the Olay Shampoo bottle that gets a zoom in when Lois is taking a bath after being rescued from the African ambush? Eisenberg’s whiney lunatic approach to playing Lex Luthor is a poor decision from both the actor and the director. All his manipulations of events that bring Batman and Superman face to face seem a bit too farfetched. Also the final face off between Batman and Superman and Batman’s bulky suit seem to be a pretty odd choice. It makes an already bulky Affleck look even chunkier also we are never really in the clear if his suit is actually kryptonite infused or not. Also the conclusion of the Batman Vs Superman fight to finish had me snorting – like seriously that is why they stop fighting? Because both their moms are called Martha!

But then there are some bright spots in the movie too. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince is smoking hot. In the hands of a good director the Wonder Woman origin story should be interesting. Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman is perfection. The man maketh the suit look good. The knightmare scene while confusing and ultimately insignificant in the course of this movie shows promise of what the Justice League multiverse holds. Hans Zimmer’s music is great in spots and jarring and overbearing in others. He seems to not be able to find the fine balance that he did with Nolan.

Overall it is not as bad as people are making it out to be. Yes it is overlong and entirely unresolved in terms of its main villain’s motivation. Ben Affleck needs to work on his Batman persona but isn’t entirely horrible. Gal Gadot is exciting as Wonder Woman and I cannot wait to see Jason Momoa as Aquaman but I would have preferred TV’s Grant Gustin as Flash than Ezra Miller because as much as I like Miller as an actor I don’t want a moody broody millennial Barry Allen. But in my humble opinion Snyder is the wrong horse to bet on to take on Disney and Marvel’s Avenger Multiverse. Give Nolan all the money he wants and the creative freedom he needs and green light his Howard Hughes biopic and let him take on the Justice League. Snyder will keep getting in the way of the story and the franchise will suffer unless you want to place Olay Shampoo in the Aquaman origins story.

Interstellar – A Spoiler free Review

A Christopher Nolan movie is an event movie – it deserves tonnes of press and an even greater amount of hype and excitement as Nolan rarely disappoints. The man who single handedly revived the super-hero genre, the one who dabbled in magic and memory loss and dared peer inside our dreams is revered among cinephiles and for good reason. And when this man sets off on an inter-galactic voyage you simply strap in and join him for the ride on the biggest screen possible. To say I am a Nolan devotee would be a gross understatement. I have devoured every tidbit of information that came out while Nolan worked away on his space sojourn and Interstellar was the number 1 most anticipated movie for me for this year. I was back in 2010 when I was waiting with bated breath for Inception to unfold and for it to silence all Nolan critics and it did in spectacular fashion. Would Interstellar be able to continue Nolan’s winning streak or will the law of averages finally catch up with this auteur. Read on to find out more – there are no spoilers in this review

The story starts in the near future where science is all but forgotten, the school teach students that the Moon landing was a hoax perpetrated to bankrupt the Soviet Union and trained astronauts are left to plough the field for crop. This is the caretaker generation, struggling through dust clouds and crop blights to survive while staring extinction in the face. Through curiously encoded messages Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey and Murph played by Mackenzie Foy end up at NORAD a clandestine NASA mission run by the Nolan-regular Michael Caine playing Professor Brand. He asks Cooper – the best pilot they ever had- to join the mission along with his daughter Amelia played by Anne Hathaway, Romily played by David Gyassi and Doyle played by Wes Bentley. The mission is to follow 3 of the 12 previous astronauts who left our galaxy to travel through a mysterious wormhole to look for other planets which could be used to sustain human life.  No more story-wise, lest I risk the spoiling of the surprises that are in-store.

Nolan is a master of visuals. His association with Wally Pfisher was what elevated his movies to the next level. With Hoyte Van Hoytema donning the cinematographer’s hat I had a feeling we won’t be let down because he filmed the wonderful Her last year and made the future very accessible and believable. The visuals Van Hoytema creates of the inter-galactic voyage are stunning in their grandeur but as one wired article evidences they are also based on a very real scientific equations which Kip Thorne the theoretical physicist from Caltech collaborated on with the team behind interstellar. The wormhole, the blackhole, and the Endurance spacecraft passing alongside Saturn are all stunning in their detail and scale. Where the visuals however are let down are with the background score. Hans Zimmer who has provided very complementary scores for previous Nolan movies plays it too heavy handedly this time around. The loud klaxon based soundtrack takes away from the scene and makes it almost unbearable. A Clint Mansel or Alexandre Desplat score would have served Nolan better giving it the Kubrickian feel of using the classical compositions. With the thunderous riffs and booming drums of Zimmer the crescendos come quick and fast but there is no payoff visually or story wise .

Nolan had me scratching my head when he announced that Matthew McConaughey would be the lead actor in Interstellar and my worst fears have come to fruition. Every time Cooper opens his mouth to speak out comes the stoner cowboy drawl that will dull anyone to sleep. Half the time his words are illegible and the other half just unbearable. He is unbelievable as someone who understands and can hold a conversation about quantum physics and he puts in no efforts to the contrary either.  Anne Hathaway is still stuck being Fantine from Les Miserables and cannot seem to turn the tears out. If we had a whiny bio-physicist and a stoned out southerner to rely on to save the fate of humanity our chances look grim. Thats where the grown up Murph, Jessica Chastain comes in – she is the only one that manages to come across as someone with a sane mind but her interaction with her brother played by Casey Affleck make little sense. But my biggest grief is with David Gyassi who plays fellow astronaut Romily who waits on board Endurance when Coop, Amelia and Doyle go to the planet of the Tsunami waves. He ages 22 years when they get back on the spacecraft and I for one instance thought he was just hamming it to tease Coop and Amelia on the passage of time but he wasn’t and he had really aged and he acts really weird too, walks with a slouch and sounds defeated. The whole effect is jarring and not entirely believable.

For a movie that is nearly 3 hours long there are key scenes which feel rushed and unresolved. The initiation of Cooper into the Save-the-humanity program, the travel to the different planets to find the data, the climax which holds the key to the human survival seem hurried and rough. If more time was spent on these, more technical aspects of what is essentially a sci-fi adventure it would have felt like the Nolan movie I have come to expect. Instead we spend an inordinately long time setting up the doomsday scenario in the first half with the dustbowl and the father daughter bond that will be Cooper’s driving force. Also once onboard the time spent whining about personal issues is almost juvenile and for Nolan standards unpardonable. Instead of Cooper and Amelia talking I would much prefer a lively chat between TRAS and CASE the two robots who are nods to HAL9000 from 2001 : A Space Odyssey.

There is little doubt that this movie is not all that it could have been. A majority of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Matthew McConaughey who I hope Nolan never collaborates with ever again. But this is still a Nolan movie it is big on Ideas and huge on visual impact. For a director who dares to take such huge risks and break away from the formulaic big-budget franchise movies it deserves a watch. It won’t redefine the sci-fi genre in the way that 2001 did. But like Inception it is an idea that needs to be explored and discussed and it makes the most complicated science easily accessible and it makes you think. And I want Nolan to break the bank on this one so he can get back to the long-gestating Howard Hughes biopic.

The Amazing Spider-man 2 – A Review

Marc Webb directs Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in their second outing as the masked crusader Spider-man in the Amazing Spider-man 2.  The problems which plagued an otherwise fun first movie are addressed here with the introduction of Electro as the main antagonist to Garfield’s Spidey. However Webb now has a problem of plenty with the introduction of Harry Osborne AKA The Green Goblin and also the much rumored Rhino.

I have been a champion for Webb’s work after falling head over heels in love with his directorial debut 500 hundred days of summer. I even loved his first outing directing The Amazing Spiderman which a lot of critics outright panned. But here my feelings for both Webb and the Web-crawler aren’t as strongly positive and that has a lot to do with the story telling. Ever since Nolan directed the Dark Knight trilogy he reshaped the superhero genre with a greater emphasis on story telling than on the razzle dazzle and that is squarely where the movie fails – that and the editing.

The movie feels like 2-3 different movies which Webb was juggling with and the end result is a half-baked effort which sees neither to conclusion. There is the usual tongue-in-cheek Spiderman dry wit, then there is the electro-funk music and explosions extravaganza that is more befitting a Bay or a Snyder and then there is the mopey-weepy rom-com Spiderman more suited to Raimi’s third outing.

Andrew Garfield is still strong as both Peter Parker and Spider-man and gives very little to complain about. My problems lie with Webb’s injudicious use of Garfield on the screen – sometimes there isn’t enough of him on the screen and at times there is perhaps a little too much. Emma Stone makes me go Jim Carrey once more – I mean can she do no wrong? As Gwen Stacey she is funny, witty, charming, and disarming with those big blue eyes and that laugh and those bangs and that cute little nose of hers… wait what were we talking of again? Oh yes the movie – she is brilliant.

Jamie Foxx as electro is ineffective if you ask me – he brings nothing special to the screen in either his Max Dillon or Electro avatar and is mostly over the top. even the writers attempt at giving electro a backstory is merely an unnecessary distraction.  Sally Fields who had reigned in the histrionics she is so known for lets them loose here and is mostly cloyingly annoying. The revelation for me however is Dane DeHann who as Harry Osborne channels the young Leonardo DiCaprio from Romeo+Juliet and The Beach and is talent to watch out for in coming years. I had mentioned about his striking resemblance in the Place beyond the Pines.

Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six (that sounds like a superhero tag team to me) including Pharrell Williams provide the background and music. Zimmer’s work is always fantastic for me and here too he does quite well but the whole electro vibe does tend to go overboard at times. The songs are lovely too but this somehow doesn’t feel like the movie for it. Perhaps Webb goes back to doing something similar to 500 days of summer again and treats us to some magnificent music.

To be honest the superhero fatigue is starting to show and it is about time someone reinvents the genre again. I have my hopes in Singer and his X-men but only time will tell. As for The Amazing Spiderman 2 watch it for Emma Stone. And also for Andrew Garfield who still is a better Spiderman than Tobey Maguire ever was. And if you are a fan of the comic books I am pretty sure there were some massive easter eggs left in there towards the end to figure out what is to happen in 2015.

Rush – A Review

Ron Howard directs Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl in the Formula 1 Drama Rush based on the true story of the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

Sports themed movies are fertile ground for telling a compelling story and captivating the audience attention by getting them to cheer for the underdog against insurmountable odds and then letting them bask in the shared glory. Rush does not stick to this formula of the underdog versus the rest of the world. Rush is about two protagonists who have a very different take on the sport and in their own way are great at what they do. While acknowledging each other as their nemesis and arch rivals they do take turn to acknowledge the rival as being their driving force in wanting to do better.

Armed with a story steeps in the annals of the Formula one legends Peter Morgan pens a taut screenplay and scenes come alive and the back and forth between the two leads seems believable and engrossing at the same time as there are no grand dialogues just awkward sentences between a cocky Brit and a methodical Austrian as they try to one up the other both on the track and off it. Anthony Dod Mantle’s work behind the camera is exceptional in every single way possible. The side track shots of the cars zooming past are adrenalines pumping as well as the scenes at the Japanese grand prix are heart stopping with the use of slow-mo.  Hans Zimmer provides another excellent score for a Ron Howard movie and in my opinion tops his Angels and Demons’ score which till date remains a personal favorite of mine.

Of the lead it is very hard to pick who does a better job as both the leads shoulder the entire responsibility of the movie on their very able shoulders.  While Chris Hemsworth is good looking charismatic and cocky, Daniel Bruhl is awkward, methodical and measured in his approach. Hemsworth shines in the scenes he has a humorous line or two to deliver but he does equally as well with the scenes which require in him display his vulnerable side.  Bruhl is enigmatic in his action speaks louder than words approach and shows he has as funny side as well. Olivia Wilde is mostly wasted by the other female lead Alexandra Maira Lara as Marlene Lauda is understatedly brilliant in her stoic and poignant portrayal of the woman who stood by Lauda’s side when he was recovering in the hospital.

The movie is not only for the formula one enthusiast as I am the farthest thing possible from a F1 enthusiast. It is an entertaining and moving feature on two of the sports biggest legends and a rivalry that is mutually symbiotic in that it almost kills Lauda while it still manages to give him enough drive to want to come back and reclaim what is rightfully his.

Ron Howard has created a gripping drama which happens to be based on a great rivalry in one of the worlds most popular sports. The acting is top notch the visuals are rich and textured and the music is amazing – I cannot recommend this movie enough – go watch it in the biggest screen possible as this is some heart racing  and pulse quickening drama that is entertaining to the boot! Don’t miss this movie.