Monday, March 28, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) - Review/Reaction

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The long awaited movie has finally been released. There will be spoilers throughout and the readers who are yet to watch the episode are recommended to skip this post.

Directed by Zack Snyder (Man of SteelWatchmen), the movie stars Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.

Supporting cast includes Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White.

The movie starts off with a funeral procession of Thomas Wayne (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Martha Wayne (Lauren Cohan). A traumatized Bruce Wayne (Brandon Spink) is seen running wildly and falls into a cave full of .... bats (what else can one expect?).

Flash forward to the climactic battle of Man of Steel. Bruce is rushing through the Metropolis streets to save his employees/friends working in the Wayne building. He manages to save an injured employee, Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy) and an unnamed girl from the rubble.

But instead of spending a few minutes with Bruce, we again jump to an underwater excavation under progress in the Indian Ocean. The object being retrieved is a considerable chunk of Kryptonite.

Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) wants Superman to be held accountable for his actions. She is being cleverly manipulated by Lex Luthor, who wants to get his hands on all things Kyrptonian, including the corpse of Zod (Michael Shannon).

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But Finch is the not the only one, Lex is toying with. He is also setting up both the Man of Steel and Batman to a no-holds barred brawl.

In the midst of all these developments, Diana Prince is hanging around the same social gatherings as Clark Kent and specifically Bruce Wayne do. Bruce can sense that she is up to something.

The movie meanders around till it gets to the much-hyped battle of the superheroes. Like The Dark Knight Returns, the graphic novel on which the movie is partially based on, Batman ends up defeating Superman with the help of Kryptonite.

He is about to kill the Man of Steel, when Clark mentions a name: Martha. This triggers an emotional trip down the memory lane for Bruce. Lois stops by and informs Batman that Martha is the first name of Superman's mother.

Yes, that is how stupid Ben Affleck's Batman is. He does not even bother to check out these details of his enemy before he goes to fight him. For a character supposed to be the “World's Greatest Detective, he is mindbogglingly dumb. That is probably good, as only Sherlock Holmes can rightfully claim that title.

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The movie finally comes to a conclusion with the DC's Trinity facing off against Doomsday, the monster created by Lex from Zod's corpse. This confrontation is pure CGI and is boring as hell. Except for Wonder Woman, neither of the other three combatants make no impression.

Superman and Doomday kill each other, again echoing the story-line of the 1992 series: The Death of Superman. The movie ends with yet another funeral scene, this time for Clark/Superman. In the comic book universe, no one stays dead for long and neither will Superman.

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This was a major disappointment. The movie fails on almost all possible levels: acting, action, direction, music.... The saving grace is Gal Gadot's performance as Wonder Woman and her theme music. In the final fight, she is the only one who actually fights back against the villain. Batman is busy jumping around desperately trying to save himself. Superman gets pummeled around like a toy.

The only other enjoyable scene in the movie is at Luthor's party, which also features her. Diana and Bruce eye each other warily as they attempt to steal Lex's secrets.

This is a movie that is not about the DC Universe and characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. This is a movie about Warner Bros. and how the studio is desperate to create an inter-connected universe to rival the massively successful one owned by Walt Disney/Marvel Studios.

Superman is as bland as he was in Man of Steel. In this movie, he saves Lois Lane more than any other human being. It is as if he was sent from Krypton only to the guardian angel for Lois and not humanity itself.

As emotionless as Cavill is throughout the movie, the standout is his reaction after the explosion during the hearing that leaves everyone around him dead. Cavill just looks around as if nothing happened. At least that is the impression that I got from his acting. In the history of worst casting decisions in superhero movies, this has got to be near the top of the heap.

Ben Affleck is either angry or snobbish. Batman's action scenes are heavily inspired by The Arkham series of Batman games and it shows. The actions look quite cartoonish both in their content and the way they are executed. Both Kevin Tsujihara (current CEO of Warner Bros.) and Zack Snyder have a strong background in video games and this works against the movie's best interests.

Except for the Batman vs gang of thugs fight sequence, both the Batman v Superman and the climactic sequence are as generic as possible. There is no element of fun behind the way these scenes have been designed. A fight scene showcasing each character's unique skills/fighting styles would have been so much fun. But this is a studio mandated product that has no time for imagination or fun.

Hopefully Suicide Squad will be much more fun than this self-serious piece of nonsense that pretends to about some of the world's most iconic superheroes.

This movie solely exists for the reason of setting up the DC Extended Universe. The best proof of this would be the cameos for The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. These have to be the most shoehorned in scenes in the history of Hollywood or any other cinema for that fact.

I had hoped that at least with the critical drubbing this movie has received would make Warner Bros. reconsider their decision to retain Zack Snyder's directorial talents (?) for Justice League Part One and Two due in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Now that the movie has grossed 424 million USD worldwide, it looks increasingly possible that Snyder would continue to taint the DC Universe with his vision.

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Image Sources: DC Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Syncopy, Warner Bros.

Friday, March 18, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Trailer # 2 - Review and Reaction

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The second trailer for the X-Men: Apocalypse is here.

After helming X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer returns to the director's chair. In addition to the  regulars (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult), we have a few newcomers: Oscar Isaac as the titular antagonist En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse, Tye Sheridan as  Scott Summers/Cyclops, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Munroe/Storm, Ben Hardy as Warren Worthington III/Angel, Lana Condor as Jubilation Lee/Jubilee, Olivia Munn as Betsy Braddock/Psylocke, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler and Tómas Lemarquis as Caliban.

Check out the trailer below:

The trailer seems to take a leaf out of the recent trailers/TV spots for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and is very action packed. The special effects in this movie definitely look better than what we have been seeing in the Zack Snyder directed one.

Unfortunately, the comparisons do not end there. Just as the trailers have been mostly soulless and joyless, this trailer also gives off similar vibes. Plus, it does not help that Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique is given way too much screen-time.

This obviously comes at the expense of other more important characters like Prof X and Magneto. The only one to survive the Jennifer Lawrence onslaught and come out relatively unscathed is Oscar Isaac's Apocalypse.

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The trailer starts off with Erik and Charles repeating a famous exchange between Ian McKellen's Magneto and Patrick Stewart's Prof X in the chess scene in the climax of the 1999 X-Men movie.

The focus then shifts to Apocalypse. We briefly see his origins and cut to the present where he is recruiting his four horsemen: Storm, Magneto, Archangel and Psylocke. These scenes are adequate.

The trailer goes downhill from here as the YA theme kicks in with the song and Jennifer Lawrence in full Katniss Everdeen mode spouting motivational speeches like: Let's go to war”, “You are not students any more. You are X-Men!

The action scenes look adequate, but somehow the trailer failed to capture my imagination. The movie looks to have been made by a committee that has provided a checklist to be followed: A movie with YA credentials (to capitalize on the Twilight, Hunger Games, The Divergent series fans). This is obvious in the way presenting Jennifer Lawrence in full-on Katniss Everdeen avatar and a cast full of young faces.

All this has been achieved at the cost of delivering a proper X-Men movie. When stalwart characters like Charles Xavier and Magneto are given a couple of token lines (at the beginning) only to give way to a Mystique who leads the X-Men now, it is clear that the studio's priorities lie elsewhere: making profits at the expense of making an actual X-Men movie.

Bryan Singer has been a reliable director on his X-Men movies and other ones like The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie. His X-Men movies are my favorites in the comic book movie genre, right along with Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, Sam Raimi's Spiderman Trilogy and Richard Donner's Superman.

As a fan of most of the X-Men movies, I hope this one too will be good. But my instincts indicate otherwise. Looks like Bryan Singer has bent to the studio system and has delivered a mass product rather than one borne out of his passion and imagination.

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Hopefully, one of my favorite mutants shown above would at least get some money shots showcasing his awesome powers, if not proper character development. Cyclops is the best!

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Image Sources: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Donners' Company, Mel's Cite du Cinema