Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Justice League (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Justice League – Film Review

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of Superman’s death, with the planet feeling vulnerable and sensing that an attack is not too far away, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of some heroes to help save the world from the threat of the villainous Steppenwolf…

Review: When reviewing the extended universe that DC is constructing, it is extremely difficult to not compare their efforts to that of their major rivals, Marvel. Similarly, it has been hard to ignore the difficult time DC has had in getting its Extended Universe off the ground. A strong start but a few blips followed that threatened to derail the universe before it even got off the ground good and proper. Thankfully, Wonder Woman came along and put everything back on track and now the pieces have been put together for DC’s answer to the Avengers to finally get their first cinematic superhero outing.

The decision to not go the Marvel route and give each character their own film before going into the superhero team up flick, was certainly a bold one. The debate as to whether that was the route DC should have gone, could be debated for an eternity. Nevertheless, in the wake of the events of Batman v Supermanand the heroic sacrifice of Kal-El, Bruce decides to form a team as he (correctly) believes that someone is about to attack the planet, and so the Justice League is formed, with Batman, Wonder Woman, and new recruits Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The aforementioned attack comes from Steppenwolf, whose origins are not really explained to any significant detail, all you know is he’s the bad guy and he is seeking some items that he wants to bring about an end to humanity. Usual comic book movie shenanigans.

Though he did direct the movie, due to personal tragedy, Snyder stepped down from the project in post production. Thus Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the project in Snyder’s absence. Though the movie does certainly feel like a Snyder film, in terms of its visuals, Whedon’s influence is certainly noticeable. Snyder is certainly a very visual director, but Whedon’s influence, given that he has a screenwriter credit, helps really flesh out the characters giving each team member an opportunity to shine, and it’s an opportunity they all take.

The standout though by far is Ezra Miller’s Flash, almost every line out of his mouth is quip after quip after quip, and it’s hilarious. Gal Gadot continues where she left off from her solo movie, and really continues to excel in her role as Wonder Woman. Jason Momoa as Aquaman is almost as if Khal Drogo cut off some of his hair and developed a deep love for the ocean, he certainly has charisma, with his Trident of Neptune in hand. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is functional, though there is certainly scope to explore his origin story a lot more somewhere down the line. As for Affleck, though he does look as though the role of the Caped Crusader is taking its toll on him, he continues to deliver the goods, though it remains to be seen if this is his last hurrah as Batman.

Even with Whedon’s input on the screenplay, it isn’t perfect. There’s some problems in terms of its storytelling, it feels a little bit rushed in the opening act. However once we arrive at the second act and the team are together, there’s enjoyment to be had without a doubt. The banter between the team is vintage Whedon and the action scenes are enjoyable to watch. There is a lot of CGI (to be expected) and while some of it is great, there are one or two instances where it could have maybe been cleaned up. As for the villain, unfortunately even with such a talent as Ciarán Hinds playing him, he falls into the category of rather bland villains, a problem that has been plaguing Marvel’s Universe since its inception.

For DC, their Extended Universe is still in its infancy, and although Justice League isn’t quite the home run that the studio would have undoubtedly liked it to be, it should give the fans more than enough to be hopeful for the future. Given the backlash and problems that have troubled DC, and only being a mere five films into their universe, you wouldn’t blame them if they opted to hit the reset button. However, there seem to be no plans to do that, and given that there’s lots in the pipeline they’re going full steam ahead, much to the dismay/delight of comic book fans everywhere (delete where appropriate).

There’s plenty of entertainment to be had seeing DC’s superhero team getting their first big screen outing, and despite an imperfect story, it’s a noticeable improvement on both BVS and Suicide Squad.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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Image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment and Atlas Entertainment

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Film Review

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fisburne

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of the devastation caused by Superman’s battle with Zod in Man of Steel,  Bruce Wayne seeks to take down Superman, fearing his powers could wipe out humanity.  All the while, Lex Luthor is scheming in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world.

Review: 2016 is certainly shaping up to be the year of the superhero movie, the Merc with a Mouth has come along, with apocalyptic doom for the X-Men, Marvel’s flagship heroes turning on each other, a group of anti heroes on suicide missions, and one sorcerer supreme still to come. Now, it’s the turn of arguably the two most recognisable comic book characters to take to the screen, in what is their very first time they are in the same movie. A movie that is finally propelling DC’s extended universe forward after watching Marvel dominate the market for many years. So much was riding on this film, and it was once again up to Zack Snyder to show DC’s universe can rival that of their great rivals.

Two years after the carnage that was unleashed on Metropolis, a certain Bruce Wayne saw the full extent of the devastation and now sees this as the time to put on his cape and cowl once again and take out this alien threat. We see through his perspective and you feel his rage. All the while, while some of humanity view Superman as their saviour, others like Bruce Wayne, see him as a threat. One of these individuals being Lex Luthor who is developing a few schemes in order to bring down the Man of Steel.

With a near two and a half hour run time, understandable given that this film is laying the foundations for the Justice League movies that are on the horizon, there is a lot to take in and a lot is going on. So much so in fact, that the first hour or so is a little choppy, you want to see the clash of the titans, but the road getting there is a little bit bumpy. As such a few of the side storylines could have been cut out, as there are some that don’t really add much of any value to the central story. Once we do finally get to the titular showdown, however, it is glorious, watching these two icons of comic books clash.

This is of course until they have to unite to take on something (if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know what this something is.) Snyder clearly likes destroying things as there’s a fair bit of destruction here, although it’s not quite on the same level that Metropolis suffered. Yet while it is enjoyable to watch, like Man of Steel, there is something of an over reliance on CGI and there are some scenes (and characters) that just look painfully artificial, which is remarkable given the budget of the film at 250 million dollars. Although the accompanying score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, is once again excellent.

Taking up the mantle after Christian Bale’s terrific turn in the role, Ben Affleck certainly makes the role his own and gives a very strong performance both as Bruce Wayne and the Bat vigilante. Similarly, Jeremy Irons is also excellent as Alfred Pennyworth, which again was not exactly easy given Michael Caine’s tremendous work with the character. There is understandably a lot more screen time for Affleck as we have to get acquainted with him more than Kal-El. Furthermore, there is the matter of Wonder Woman. Although she is not in the limelight as much as her Justice League colleagues, Gal Gadot does a tremendous job in what is the character’s first big screen appearance, and more than holds her own, giving excitement for her solo movie out next year. However, while he does try his best, and does have his moments, Jesse Eisenberg does feel somewhat miscast as Luthor.

Despite the bumpy ride getting here, it is exciting to see the DC universe finally achieve proper lift off, and with solo movies for Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash all in the pipeline, it is looking encouraging for DC fans. Yet this had potential for real greatness, that is ultimately really squandered on a weak script. Nevertheless, the Justice is coming, but first, it appears that there’s potential trouble at Arkham Asylum…

Affleck and Gadot deliver terrific performances, and you have to praise the scope and ambition of the story, but it is a bit scrappy and could have been a little bit more focused. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures
Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

The Dark Knight Rises – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: The third and final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has been declared public enemy number 1 by Gotham City. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne has become a social recluse. However, he is forced to return as the Batman and protect Gotham City as a new threat emerges in the form of the ruthless mercenary Bane who seeks to render Gotham City to ashes.

Review: The thrilling conclusion to the trilogy that firmly put the Batman franchise back on the map of superhero films. At the end of the preceding chapter, we saw how the peace that was established in Gotham was based on a lie, the lie of Harvey Dent. In the introduction of the film, after an enthralling plane heist scene, it shows in great depth that the actions of the Joker have had a deep and lasting impact on the people of Gotham as the people are still dealing with the aftermath of the destruction that was unleashed on the people of Gotham. While they are still on the recovery path, the fearless Bane, played by Tom Hardy, arrives in the city to carry out what the Joker did not, destroy Gotham. One of the main people that the Joker really left his mark on is Batman himself as we see how much he has just completely withdrawn into his shell in the years since. He lost a lot of physical strength in the eight years in between the two films and it sets the scene perfectly for the arrival of Bane as he is in his prime physical condition.

As with previous two chapters of this trilogy, the story of this film is really engrossing. Initially the citizens of Gotham are living on this false sense that peace had been achieved and that all the crime and corruption in Gotham had been eradicated with the Joker’s capture. Yet, Bane takes his chance with both hands to blow this façade apart and he does this ruthlessly and takes out anyone who dares to stand in his way. Hardy is magnificent in this role and in my opinion is the best villain of the trilogy. He has the intellect of the Joker, but a considerable physical advantage that made him a formidable opponent to Batman. His voice, although hard to understand at times, is another factor that makes him a frightening force to be reckoned with. As the majority of his face is covered by his mask, he has to use his eyes to convey his emotion and he does this brilliantly. The film’s action goes up another gear from the previous film as Bane threatens to torture the citizens of Gotham and completely tear the city apart, and it is up to a weakened Batman to come to Gotham’s rescue once more. This film boasts the best action scenes of the entire trilogy.

All of the returning cast again shine in their roles. Special mention must go to Michael Caine who arguably delivers his best performance of the trilogy. The new members of the cast also deliver great performances. Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard both deliver wonderful female performances as Selina Kyle (AKA Catwoman) and Miranda Tate respectively. Hathaway was seductive and brilliantly cunning at the same time, and she excelled as Catwoman. Similarly, Cotillard was equally strong in her leading role as the very intelligent businesswoman Miranda Tate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also gives a strong performance as the smart and determined policeman John Blake.

The Dark Knight Rises was the film we deserved and the one that we needed to wrap up this magnificent trilogy. Every member of the cast, as with the first two films, played their roles out to absolute perfection. The action scenes are again pulsating to watch and with superb acting by everyone involved, along with the perfect villain, The Dark Knight Rises was one of the best films of 2012 and is the best film of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy in my opinion. In a year that produced some extraordinary films and performances, The Dark Knight Rises was a little unlucky not to pick up at least one Oscar nomination. However it remains one of 2012’s best films. I take my hat off to Christopher Nolan for giving us three individual masterpieces that combine to form one of the best film trilogies of the 21st century.

The third chapter in a trilogy, and one that this time closes the trilogy in just about a perfect way with an emotional story, more great action and an absolutely brilliant villain in Bane.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Dark Knight (2008)

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Image is property of Warner Bros Pictures, DC Comics and Syncopy

The Dark Knight Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis:  With new District Attorney Harvey Dent on a mission to eradicate the crime underworld of Gotham City, a new threat emerges in the form of the villainous and diabolical Joker who is determined to create chaos and devastation on the streets of Gotham once more.

Review: While the first film of Nolan’s trilogy focused on the character of Bruce Wayne and what drives him to become the Batman. This film focuses a lot more on the crime and corruption that is lurking in the shadows of Gotham City and how one man can take control of the city’s mob and also wreak havoc and total destruction on a city. The beginning of this film, where the Joker’s men are carrying out a raid on a mob bank immediately grabs your attention and keeps you hooked to your screen as you watch this raid pan out. The Joker cleverly ensures he is the last one standing and takes all the mob’s money for himself.

The opening scene sets up the rest of the film as the Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon and the new District Attorney Harvey Dent are on their mission to get every criminal in Gotham behind bars and to halt the supply of the Mob’s money. However, the mob is always one step ahead of the good guys and causing the good guys to chase their tails. The mob appears to be in control but along comes a villainous man wearing clown make up, namely the Joker portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. In his opening scene, which I believe is one of the best character introductions ever in the entire history of cinema. The use of a “magic trick” on one mobster, a mini monologue and the threat of force displays his domination over the entire mob. As the film progresses, the Joker carries out a number of atrocities, from high profile murders to the complete destruction of buildings, the Joker is almost single-handedly tearing Gotham apart. At a point in the film, it seems like the Joker’s reign of terror is over, he demonstrates that his reign is certainly far from over. This is demonstrated by the fact that even though he has been captured, he is still able to inflict enormous devastation and loss on the Gotham Police Force and the Batman, while increasing his control over the Mob.

The climax of this film is among the tensest scenes of cinema I have ever watched. The Joker threats two groups of the citizens of Gotham on two different ferries and tries to make one blow up the other. The tension is nail-biting as the citizens contemplated committing horrific acts of terrorism in order to save themselves. Furthermore, when the final showdown takes place in the scene of devastation that has been created by the Joker, it is just as intense. The action in Batman Begins although on the limited side was intense, this film takes it up another gear as you can almost feel your heart beat in anticipation as to what is going to happen next.

The acting in this film is again almost perfect. Christian Bale gave another super performance both as the playboy Bruce Wayne, and as the titular character, with Michael Caine again delivering in his role as Alfred, Bruce’s butler. Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are two others who carry on their great work from the first film. Among the new cast members, special mention has to go to Heath Ledger in his penultimate role as the Joker. He was simply phenomenal due to the fact that he was the force of chaos that we all hoped he would be as the Joker. His posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was well deserved. Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role of Rachel Dawes and shone in that role. Last but not least, Aaron Eckhart also delivered a sterling performance as Harvey Dent and even more so when we see other side of his character in the second half of the film.

The Dark Knight was one of the best films of 2008, and remains to this day one of the best superhero films that has ever been made. The film was packed with intense action scenes, the acting was superb throughout with Ledger giving a standout performance. The film could be criticised for being a little long with a running time of two hours and a half hours, but the film keeps you interested throughout. It is a fantastic film with some memorable lines and some of the aspects that you see on screen will stay with you for a long time once the film is over.

Just incredible film making, a superbly written story, brilliant action and a stand out performance from Ledger as the Crown Prince of Crime, one of the best superhero films of all time.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Batman Begins (2005)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures
Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

Batman Begins – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: After his parents are gunned down when he was a child, Bruce Wayne undergoes intense training and becomes a superhero known as Batman and begins to wage war on the criminals of Gotham.

Review: If one was given the task of describing this film in one sentence, it would be: the film that is the rebirth of a franchise that died in 1997. As it is an origin story, it really excels in giving Batman a great deal of character development and depth that we have almost never seen on the big screen before. We understand what ultimately drives Bruce Wayne to bring about an end to the evil and corruption in Gotham. After his parents were murdered by a mugger, he becomes an angry individual and he becomes determined to eradicate the crime underworld that Gotham has been entrenched in for many years.

In the early stages of the film, Bruce endures training under the eyes of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and his master Ra’s Al Ghul who recruit him into the League of Shadows. Under their tutelage he becomes a very skilled warrior. However, he ultimately becomes their enemy and returns to Gotham to become a symbol of hope. To do this he fights crime in order to bring Gotham back from the mire of damnation. With the help of his trusted butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and the brilliant Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce gets the equipment he needs in order to eliminate the crime and evil that lurks within Gotham.

However, Ducard returns as the League of Shadows, together with the work of the evil physicist Dr Jonathan Crane, also known as the Scarecrow return with a plan to destroy Gotham and Bruce under his new alias must stop them. The film is packed with some intense action sequences including a sword fight on a frozen lake and a high speed car chase over Gotham’s rooftops that will keep the viewer glued to the screen with excitement and anticipation. But the action although entertaining is a secondary element of this film, the focus on the titular character is the centrepiece of the film and this is what drives it onwards.

Many of the actors in this film give some great performances. Christian Bale was outstanding in both his roles as Bruce Wayne and as Batman. We see his pain and his drive to become a great force for good in a city that is crawling with the evil and the corrupt. Similarly we see his anger and ferocity when he puts on the cape and mask. Liam Neeson also delivers as Ducard as he comes across as a good guy in the beginning but is quite the opposite at the end of the film. Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman really deliver in their roles as the scientist Lucius Fox and the cop Jim Gordon, both of whom are two of Batman’s closest allies in his fight against evil in Gotham.

Katie Holmes plays Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s love interest. While their on screen chemistry is a little lacking at times, she also delivers in her role as Gotham City’s assistant District Attorney. Michael Caine who plays the Wayne family butler Alfred also gives a strong performance. He provides support to Bruce when he needed it most and also gives some comic relief moments that add a little bit of humour to an otherwise very dark and gritty superhero film.

All in all, Batman Begins does what it set out to do very well. It explores the character many of us know and love in great and almost unprecedented detail. On top of that, it boasts some excellent action sequences and some humorous moments, along with an excellent villain. It was the film that rescued the Batman franchise from the doldrums of the film industry and restored it to one of the best superhero franchises in existence. For that, Christopher Nolan deserves a huge amount of credit.

Well acted by all with a tremendous lead performance from Bale, the Dark Knight returned triumphantly back onto the big screen and the superhero radar.

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