Sunday, April 24, 2022

Man of Steel (2013) - Revisited

man of steel movie poster

Back when I saw this movie in 2013, I found it to be a disappointment. I enjoyed exactly two scenes in the entire movie: the Superman flight scene and his aerial rescue of Lois (preceding the Smallville fight sequence). I also liked Antje's performance as Faora. Other than that, the movie did not impress me.
I found Man of Steel (MoS) to be the polar opposite of the Richard Donner/Chris Reeve 1978 Superman: The Movie:
  • Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman is almost 100% humor/smile free (except for the last shot at the Daily Planet)
  • Like Clark, the movie itself has a grim tone, which would befit Batman or Punisher or Spawn better.
  • The cinematography choices is also dark and is probably one of the main reasons this movie did not strike a chord with me
  • Lois Lane already knows Superman's secret identity, even before they meet. Plus the chemistry between Henry Cavill and Amy Adams is non-existent.
  • Hans Zimmer's soundtrack does not have a single romance track. John Williams' love theme is still one of his best works.
  • The action sequences are way overdone. The movie starts with one (set on Krypton), the second is set in Smallville and the finale in Metropolis. Except the first one, the special effects in the the remaining ones appear unfinished multiple times. We can overlook the lack of humor and the characterizations, but the way these action sequences have been handled is puzzling.
 henry cavill superman poster
Revisited MoS after a long time and finally came to terms with it. This is a modern take on Superman in the same vein as BBC Sherlock is on the 20th Century Victorian detective. The obvious difference is that while the BBC show also takes deviations, it is a very well made show with great casting choices (among other things). MoS still remains a mixed bag. Yes there are some positives, but the movie still suffers from a number of weak spot. Let us get started.
The opening prologue on Krypton feels unnecessary and serves only to remind us that Warner Bros had provided only one mandate to Zack Snyder: make the movie as action packed as possible. If further proof is required, look no further than the casting and characterization of Jor-El. Clearly, Snyder is a fan of Gladiator - in addition to Russell Crowe, we have Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta and Hans Zimmer providing another bombastic soundtrack. One final link would Joaquin Phoenix who played Joker.

Back to the prologue - a good example of a prologue well done would be the one at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. That was such a good beginning to the movie and the trilogy. The Krypton sequence on the other hand looks generic and Jor-El is a martial artist/scientist who can go toe to toe with General Zod (Michael Shannon) and ride dragon like beasts (reminded me of Avatar though). 
This entire sequence could have been done away with and the money would have been better spent on making the Smallville and Metropolis action sequences better. The city wide destruction and Superman snapping Zod's neck has been widely criticized and commented upon. I can understand that these were justified from a story point perspective, but the low quality of graphics in the fight sequences is something that Zack could have improved on.
superman science fiction movie
To give Zack and the movie due credit, I liked the scene where Faora-Ul (Antje Trauje) gives special breathing gear to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the Kryptonian ship. Also Superman struggling to adjust to the Kryptonian atmosphere was another nice touch. I mention this point specifically for one main reason: When watching Avengers: Endgame, I was struck by how Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Dr Stephen Strange and other humans were able to adapt so quickly to the atmosphere on Titan and breath without the help of any special instrument/aid. So kudos to Zack and team.
The other aspects that the movie absolutely delivered are the flight scenes featuring Supes and the Kryptonian ships. The design of the alien ships is another strong point. 
The final and the best thing about the movie is Hans Zimmer's soundtrack. Following John Williams' iconic work is a daunting task. Hans delivers a great theme to both Supes and Zod. The movie would lose half its impact without the soundtrack. Superman's first flight scene and his aerial rescue of Lois are two examples. Some might complain that it is bit loud, but I nevertheless enjoy the soundtrack and think of it as a great companion piece to Williams.

martian manhunter man of steel snyderverse
I did find couple of loop holes in the plot:
  • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, it is revealed that General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) is actually Martian Manhunter in disguise. The question is: why did Martian Manhunter not help Supes against the Kryptonian invasion? He could have helped and still maintained his secret identity. Related query: how come Supes did not see through Manhunter's disguise, considering that he would have some anatomical differences from regular human beings?
  • Another thing to note is that probably half of Smallville know's Superman's secret identity. After being rescued by Supes, Lois arrives in a police car at Clark's home in Smallville and addresses Superman as “Clark right within hearing distance of the cops. So what was the point of General Swanwick's 12 million dollar worth satellite to keep tabs on Supes. Plus, cannot Swanwick (as Martian Manhunter) just read Supes mind and know his true identity. 

All in all, MoS is a better Science Fiction movie than a Superhero movie featuring Supes. I think of it as an alternate universe take (similar to JL: Gods and Monsters). 

Click here to read all my posts related to DC Comics.

Image Sources: Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, Syncopy

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Teaser - Review

chris hemsworth thor love and thunder movie poster

Last time we saw Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the end of Avengers: Endgame, he was engaging in playful banter with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and had taken up with the Guardians of Galaxy or Asgardians of the Galaxy” as he had rechristened them. The teaser makes it clear that Thor has checked out on his superhero duties and is looking to enjoy his life. Similarly, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is bored taking care of New Asgard. The teaser ends with our first look at female Thor (or Mighty Thor as per IMDB).

Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) continues the colorful and playful tone of the previous movie. Can't help but point out how different this movie is from DC's latest offering (The Batman). The latter is dark not only in terms of lighting and cinematography, but even content wise. I personally enjoy both flavors of superhero movies and would like both the studios to play to their strengths. DC does standalone movies well and Marvel has pretty much written the rulebook on creating a shared cinematic universe.

Check out the trailer below:

Back to the movie - Korg too returns. The biggest addition to the cast is arguably Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher. Very smart marketing decision by Marvel Studios to not feature Gorr in the teaser. Russell Crowe portrays Zeus and we get a fleeting glimpse of him. Both these actors have portrayed DC Characters before (Batman and Superman's dad respectively) and would be great additions. 

Chris Hemsworth's Thor is enjoying himself as the God with no plan and is living his life to the fullest. He is seen briefly as a pirate on a ship and this reminded me of Drax's description of Thor from Avengers: Infinity War as being the child of a pirate and an angel. Hemsworth has great comedic timing and has an excellent chemistry with Chris Pratt. I look forward to their interactions in this movie and beyond.
Kevin Feige is taking the MCU in a new direction in Phase 4. Dr Strange: Multiverse of Madness looks set to bring in the X-Men (and possibly Fantastic Four) into the fold and is rated R. Now we have a female Thor - Natalie Portman returns to the MCU and looks beefed-up for the role. This is an exciting time for MCU fans and I cannot wait to see how the MCU is shaped by the events that transpires in these two movies.
Trivia: The song Sweet Child O' Mine” by Guns N' Roses is played in the teaser. 
Click here to read all my posts related to Marvel Comics.

Image Sources: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) Trailer - Review/Reaction

benedict cumberbatch dr strange multiverse of madness poster

Got to hand it to Kevin Feige. Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was launched Iron Man in 2008, there has been no looking back. If Spider-Man: No Way Home (NWH) brought all three Spider Man actors together, now Feige has finally made every MCU/Marvel fan's dream come true: bring the X-Men (and possibly The Fantastic Four) into the MCU.
Check out the trailer:

The Multiverse is upon us and Dr Strange is brought to trial for his actions in NWH. And guess who is there on the panel - Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) himself. If that does not get you excited, it is highly possible that John Krasinski will debut as Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic. Plus, it looks like Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (or one of her variants) will be the bad gal this time.
There is so much to love about this trailer. Sam Raimi's trademark shots. Especially that shot of Shuma-Gorath looks fabulous. I also liked the shot of Dr Strange in a prehistoric looking place. It might be “Savage Land from the X-Men lore. Not to mention the multiple variants of Doctor Strange himself.

And it is always good to see Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). 
Click here to read all my posts about Marvel Comics.

Image Sources: Marvel Studios, Truenorth Productions, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) - Review

spiderman green gobin no way home poster

Spiderman/Peter Parker just cannot get a break. He finally came to terms with being a superhero and even disclosed his secret to MJ (Zendaya). That is when the multiverse warriorQuentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal)  revealed Parker's secret to the entire world.
Peter finds himself the target of intense media scrutiny. By extension, MJ and Ned's MIT applications get rejected. Desperate for a solution, he turns to Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who proposes to use his powers to make everyone forget about Spiderman's secret identity.
Peter interrupts the spell many times, resulting in people from other multiverses popping up in this reality. Multiple supervillains show up, including Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) from the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire trilogy. We also have Electro (Jamie Foxx) and The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) from the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield movies.

dr strange spiderman no way home movie poster
Dr Strange and Spidey manage to capture the supervillains one by one. It seems the villains were pulled in from their respective realities, just before they were about to die during their confrontation with the Friendly Neighborhood Webslinger. Dr Strange proposes to send them back to their respective universes, but Spiderman disagrees and traps the Sorcerer Supreme in the Mirror Dimension. 
Spiderman wants to cure the villains and succeeds with Doc Ock but his good intentions backfire when the Green Goblin persona takes over Norman Osborn and kills Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). A distraught Peter goes into self-exile. Ned uses Dr Strange's sling ring to find his friend. Guess who turns up instead  - Tobey Maguire (Peter 2) and Andrew Garfield (Peter 3) from their respective realities.

The rest of the movie is about how the three Spidermen work together to cure the remaining baddies with support from the now reformed Doc Ock. And yes, Dr Strange escapes from the Mirror Dimension and performs one final spells that makes every one forget the real identity of Tom Holland's Spiderman (Peter 1). He also sends back the other two Spidermen and others back.

Peter 1 continues to fight crime as Spiderman but decides not to reintroduce himself to Ned or MJ.

doc ock spiderman no way home poster wallpaper screensaver image picture

The movie works for the most part, mainly due to the return of actors from previous Spiderman movies and Benedict Cumberbatch's Dr Stephen Strange. Speaking of the former, like the movies themselves the actors also continue to leave similar impressions this time too. Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina continue to deliver stellar performances, even if it is almost two decades since the last time. Especially Willem Dafoe - he exudes innocence and menace as Norman Osborn and Green Goblin respectively. The transformation scene and the subsequent fight scene leading to Aunt May's death has to be seen to be believed. He is a gifted actor and has portrayed both heroic (Aquaman's mentor Nuidis Vulko) and villainous characters with ease. 

Same is true of Tobey and Alfred. They have a great reunion in the movie and the scene that is set to Danny Elfman's memorable soundtrack, should bring a smile to fans of the Sam Raimi movies. Additionally, all three of them get to repeat some of their memorable lines from the previous movies.
Tobey's Peter 1 is the mature one in the team and he imparts wisdom to Andrew's Peter 2, who suffers from inferiority complex. The conversation featuring the 3 Spideys is another great scene from the movie. Peter 2 and 3's responses to Peter 1's remark that he is part of The Avengers was gold.

Andrew's Spiderman finally gets some closure after rescuing Zendaya's MJ. Jamie Foxx is clearly channeling his Bats character from Baby Driver. Both Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church make their appearance in the climax, as they are in their transformed personas for the remaining of the movie.
benedict cumberbatch spiderman no way home poster wallpaper screensaver picture image

And now coming to my favorite part of the movie - Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange. I think this is his best performance in the MCU so far; yes even better than his own standalone origin movie or Avengers: Infinity War. He did have a brief cameo in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, but those were too brief. For the first time, Dr Strange shows his sense of humor and that made the big difference. Dr Strange is clearly the next big thing in the MCU after Iron Man's exit and Benedict is settling well into the role.
His battle with Spidey is the best sequence in the movie and Michael Giacchino's background score lifts the scene to a different level. Interestingly, Michael will not be scoring for the next MCU movie: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Since Sam Raimi replaced Scott Derrickson, his favorite Danny Elfman has been brought on board for the composing duties. Let us see if they can recreate the magic of the Spiderman trilogy.
PS: Michael Giacchino has scored the soundtrack for the next Batman movie. He joins both Elfman and Zimmer as the composers who have worked on both Batman and Spiderman movies.

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Image Sources: Pascal Pictures, Marvel Studios, Columbia Pictures

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Sherlock Special "The Abominable Bride" - Recap and Review

sherlock holmes john watson train carriage abominable bride wallpaper screensaver poster

As worldwide fans of the hit show know and love, the BBC show took the most famous fictional detective and his universe to the modern day and remains the best modern update of the classic Victorian stories and novels from the inimitable Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Abominable Bride is a tribute to the Sherlock Holmes Canon as much as it an attempt by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to finally take their show back to its original setting.
The episode begins with a quick recap of the first three seasons. Then we are presented with an alternate version that might have happened in the 19th century.

Similar to the opening scenes in S1E1 A Study in Pink, Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman) is injured and discharged from fighting in the Afghan War.

He makes his way to London and runs into one of his acquaintances, Mike Stamford (David Nellist). And then comes the meeting with one Mr Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) that proves to be an life altering event for Dr Watson.
They share an apartment at 221 B Baker Street with the landlady Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) and are solving crimes together. This lifestyle forces both the men to go on long trips - something that Mrs Hudson and especially Mrs Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington) do not like. Mary even has to take the extreme step of pretending to be a client just to meet her erratic husband. 
The latest case comes through the trusted and dependable source - Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves). Emilia Ricoletti (Natasha O'Keeffe) commits suicide by shooting herself through her mouth on the day of her marriage anniversary. A few hours later, Emilia's husband Thomas Ricoletti (Gerald Kyd) is shot dead by the ghost of his dead wife.
Holmes loses track of the case, but is pulled back in based on the recommendation from Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss). Mycroft has referred Lady Carmichael (Catherine McCormack) to his younger brother.
Her husband, Sir Eustace Carmichael (Tim McInnerny), has received orange pips in an envelope. Right away, he shows signs of extreme fear and further is haunted by the ghost of the aforementioned Amelia Ricoletti.
The rest of the episode weaves back and forth between 19th century and current day. Gatiss and Moffat have peppered the episode with their usual bag of Canonical References and in addition, provide a running commentary on the Canon.
We have Mrs Hudson complaining about her role in the stories (I am your landlady, not a plot device) and Sherlock tries his best to rectify that. Mary pulls Watson's feet by noting that all he does is run around taking notes. Not to be outdone, Moriarty (Andrew Scott) asks Holmes if he poses for the illustrator while solving crimes. 
Watson also takes a shot at the illustrators (Sidney Paget being the most popular of them) by commenting that he is not able to move around without the moustache. This is a reference to the fact that it was Sidney Paget who created the image of Deerstalker and Inverness Cape for Holmes and not Doyle himself.

My personal favorite is the running gag about features of interest” that Holmes tirelessly refutes to own up to. Speaking of which, the scenes at Diogenes Club are a hoot.

The episode successfully combines the gothic ghost story with women's rights movement which Arthur Conan Doyle strongly supported. Women crossdressing as men and men's anti-feminist attitudes (Watson saying Mary will be cooking, Watson ignoring his maid Jane and taunting Hooper, Sir Eustace Carmichael taunting his wife, Lestrade believing the killer to be a man). Men do get their comeuppances (including Dr Watson).

benedict cumberbatch sherlock holmes abominable bride wallpaper screensaver poster
Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed fictional character, but few actors can claim to have played both Canonical and Modern versions. To the best of my knowledge, only the late Basil Rathbone is the only actor other than Benedict Cumberbatch to accomplish this.
And Benedict is magnificent as Victorian Holmes. He clearly loves the character and his portrayal should delight any fan of the original stories and novels. I have seen very few actors who enjoy themselves in the role and yet not make it an extension of their real life personalities. Good examples would be RDJ and Rathbone himself. Both these actors clearly relish the role, but may be they are enjoying just a bit too much. Then there are the actors who appear distracted/miscast either due to production issues or personal issues. Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing fall in the former category while Jeremy Brett in the latter.
Cumberbatch and Livanov are two actors, whom I personally think have done a great job bringing the detective to life in a way that stays loyal to the Canon and at the same time remains enjoyable. I have written about Livanov here.

Right from his introduction in S1E1, Cumberbatch has maintained a consistent and professional approach to the role and it shows. This is one of the best casting choices not only in Sherlock Holmes universe, but in TV shows overall. Some of the other actors who have left such an impression include the late Peter Falk (as Columbo), Billy Bob Thornton (as Lorne Malvo in Fargo), Steve Carell (as Michael Scott in The Office), Michael C Hall (as Dexter), Viggo Mortensen  (as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings), Arnold Schwarzenegger (as The Terminator), the late Christopher Reeve (as Superman) and Christian Bale (as Batman).

All of these actors appear to be born to play their respective roles. While Livanov is my favorite Canonical Holmes, Cumberbatch remains the definitive modern version. This time, he gets to don the Inverness Cape and Deerstalker to play the detective as he was envisioned by Sidney Paget. And he looks right at home playing the Victorian version.

As readers of the Canon are aware, Sherlock Holmes possesses a dry sense of humor. And Cumberbatch gets to display this facet many times: unsavory companion of dubious morals, how breathtakingly prescient of her!”, enthusiasm for stating the obvious which borders on mania”, Pass me your revolver. I have a sudden need to use it .
Back in 2010, when the first episode debuted, many eyebrows were raised over the fact that a classic and beloved Victorian character is being modernized. As much as the show has been amazing (for the most part), this episode should lay any such doubts to rest.
The cast and crew have given us one of the best episodes in the show in terms of performances, Canonical Nods and for showcasing Benedict's take on Victorian Holmes.
There are a few more aspects about this episode that I will be going over in another post.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock

Image Sources: Hartswood Films,  BBC One, Masterpiece Theatre

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