Dr. Abby Arcane returns to Louisiana to investigate an epidemic. She meets Alec Holland. Things get scary.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. 2016. Directed by Zack Snyder. Screenplay by David S. Goyer & Chris Terrio.
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, Brandon Spink, Lauren Cohan, Michael Shannon, Ralph Lister, Kevin Costner, Joseph Cranford, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, & Joe Morton. Warner Bros./Atlas Entertainment/Cruel & Unusual Films.
Rated PG. 151 minutes.
Personally, I’ve mostly given up on comic book movies. I give some a chance but on the whole I’m not into them anymore. Nor am I someone who finds Christopher Nolan’s trilogy to be the perfect superhero films – though I am a fan. Recently, I absolutely loved Deadpool because of its willingness to be different, to be strange and defy the comic movie genre. Even enjoyed some of 2004’s The Punisher, for what it’s worth.
And let me get this straight: I love Batman. Okay? The 1989 Tim Burton adaptation is a classic, one I saw at an early age, which in hindsight might not have been the greatest decision my grandfather ever made. But regardless, I then came to love the Adam West, campy version of Batman in the 1966 television series, and the following movie, too. They are awesome pieces of nostalgic camp that should never be forgotten. Aside from all the films I was first and foremost a comic fan. As well as a huge fan of the graphic novels when I get a little older and first discovered those – my favourite still being Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, and of course Year One is up there. So don’t knock me and say I don’t like this movie because I’m not a Batman fan. I am. All the same, Superman is not a favourite of mine. Not into any of the movies, didn’t enjoy Man of Steel, and at his core Superman is just not interesting to me. However, I dig the relationships between Superman and Batman from some of the comics/graphic novels. They make for an interesting pair.
Sadly, my opinion on Zack Snyder is far less than Batman, even worse than Superman. I do dig Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen (for more thoughts on that see my review re: 300). But as far as his talents in the realm of storytelling, Snyder is not solid enough. On top of that, David S. Goyer is somebody whose career I find spotty. Increasingly over the past few years his talent in the realm of superheroes feels stale, and here he’s coupled with Argo screenwriter and first-time superhero writer Chris Terrio, which sort of boggles my mind but hey – when you write a good Affleck flick, maybe he’ll get you a job sometime.
Snyder alongside Goyer and Terrio’s writing amounts to a decent movie. Though one fraught with bad choices, too many threads jammed in solely so that the DC Cinematic Universe can start getting their pump on, and its length isn’t justified with strong enough storytelling.
One of the better parts about this movie? Holly Hunter. She’s great anyways, but her character is marvelous here. A worthy addition to a cast filled with some characters we never grow to care for or enjoy that much, outside of their action-worthiness. Of course there’s a bit of a timer on Hunter’s screenpresence, however, she leaves a nice mark.
While a lot of people like shitting on Jesse Eisenberg, I for one enjoy him. Sometimes. Here, I still can’t be sure if the problem with his Lex Luthor is his problem, or that of the writing. Goyer and Terrio make their Luthor into this manic, post-modern business kid verging on Asperger’s. Eisenberg absolutely brings an energy and charisma to the role, but something about the character and the performance is like a nagging, irritating glitch throughout so much of his screentime. It’s almost unbearable in a few scenes, honestly. Ultimately I enjoy Luthor’s purpose as a character here, I enjoy his despicable nature. Just not totally sure what’s wrong with the character and why I find him more grating than useful.
Cavill needs no praise. He’s one of the only reasons I enjoyed Man of Steel, and for someone like myself that never liked Superman as a character, even in comics, his charm and his old school Hollywood movie star affability make the character endearing. The one who impresses me most here is Affleck. I didn’t expect much, but he plays the slightly older, more grizzled veteran of superhero life. And he plays it well. The writing gives him a chance to be that cynical Batman from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Even if the writing is not as good as that novel, the character of Batman particularly is solid here for the most part.
The score is so impressive. That’s because my man Hans fucking Zimmer brought his talent to the table, also with help at times from Junkie XL, which is intriguing and fun. Zimmer is someone who always, even in movies that aren’t so great, makes me feel awestruck. His music feels so heavy, emotional. The use of Zimmer’s passacaglia technique is something I love, others say it’s too repetitive. The way Zimmer builds and builds, blasts, then goes back to building more, it draws us in, hooking on, and shaking us when the time is right.
One big problem I had with Snyder’s Man of Steel, which likely can be said about 300, is how the majority of its big action pieces were almost incomprehensibly CGI’d to death. Now I understand, we’re watching a movie about fictitious superheroes. But still, the essence of good film making is emotional resonance. Without enough character development I don’t care how many interesting CGI cities you can destroy, there’s just nothing more than mediocre about its excitement. But what Snyder, and the writers, do here is keep things a little smaller. Just slightly. Instead of Superman flying through buildings and the action going so fast barely even the colour in frame is definable, he and Batman have a pretty intense fight together, mainly just beating the hell out of one building. It’s the fact they keep things noticeable, the CGI isn’t as ugly and chaotic. There’s still a hell of a lot, but we can actually see things and pick out all the brutality of their clash.
And the whole Martha thing, I get, but really? REALLY? At that juncture of the film it is just an unbelievably sappy, sentimental writing decision. I get that they were fighting, Superman had no time to tell the Bat about anything, least of which his mother’s name. There’s a cheese-filled quality to letting this be the thing that stops Batman from doing Superman in/being Batman’s ultimate realization of the fact they need to unify.
Furthermore, to my mind it’s a bad choice to tell the story they did here. Major reason, for me, is that this is the first time Batman comes up against Supes, then all of a sudden he’s got him downed, almost beaten to death? Not in my books. I love Batman, as I’ve made clear. Not even big on Superman. But I refuse to believe Bruce is just going to be able to get the jump on him immediately. For a movie that runs an excruciating 151 minutes the screenplay doesn’t do service to the plots and stories it attempts telling. Also, it abandons most of its human drama after a certain point, which is understandable to a certain degree when we’re focusing on superheroes. Although, this feels unsatisfying because there’s a lot of wonderful sociopolitical elements to the drama where we begin the film, with Hunter’s character and the whole Senate hearing, so on. Shame there wasn’t more of that other than the military action later in the film.
Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mediocre piece of superhero cinema. The DC Cinematic Universe is off to a shaky leg start, as far as I’m concerned. Zack Snyder makes decent movies sometimes. This one is good enough. I can’t help wonder, though – how good could it have been? Could’ve been magical. Instead this first encounter between two major superheroes onscreen in a film is lukewarm. On the big screen it’s fun, sure. On the level of a proper film it’s only a midway effort. Boasting a couple good performances, some high-end action, you’ll enjoy yourself if a fan of comics or superhero movies. At the same time, like myself you may encounter aspects that don’t line up well enough with the stories you know and love. Either way, it’s a mixed bag. My opinion? They ought not bank on Snyder to carry these films past his next project. Bring in different blood, some different writers, see how things turn out. This was a disappointment in the end.
Chronicle. 2012. Directed by Josh Trank. Screenplay by Max Landis.
Starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, and Anna Wood. Twentieth Century Fox.
Rated 14A. 84 minutes.
I’m always a defender of found footage. There are plenty of instances of bad found footage films, but who cares? Why does it bother people SO MUCH? For every few bad ones, there’s a really good one waiting to be found. Honestly, if you dig through a lot of the indie found footage efforts you’ll find more than just a few good movies. Any genre or sub-genre can be used well if it’s done appropriately, in a way which helps the story a film is telling or a mood that’s trying to be attained.
I’m not a huge fan of Max Landis, solely because of some of his interviews and his incessant Twitter ranting/whining – who am I, though, to have an opinion on his personality really? That’s merely how he comes across on social media, and IN the media. Either way, I don’t particularly like how he bashes other films while some of his own don’t do so hot. It’s as if every movie that comes out he’s got his own version, his own ideas, a fan-fiction script built around his conception of how the plot and story should’ve went. Or, he simply has negative opinions instead of being constructive. This doesn’t get in the way of me enjoying any work he does that’s actually good. But honestly? To me, Chronicle is the only decent output of his. Only one man’s opinion.
The fun really begins once the guys are documenting themselves a little while after their encounter with the glowing meteor. First, they throw baseballs at one another and hit each other in the faces, until Andrew (Dane DeHaan) steps up and stops one of them right before it hits his face – the look in his eyes and the reaction they all have is excellent. One of the things I love most about this part is how natural they all feel together. Of course they each have their own separate personalities within the group, the three do feel like friends and the relationship seems natural on camera. Part of why some found footage does not work is because everything feels so forced and inorganic. Here in Chronicle I feel that how the actors make the relationships between their characters feel so organic is a huge part of the film’s overall charm. When you’ve got actors like Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan holding up this type of movie, the relationships and the characters themselves all feel tangible. As opposed to other movies where young actors don’t pull their weight, the main trio including Alex Russell have tons of charisma. Plus, their energy and their commitment to the respective roles is evident. I often say certain roles couldn’t be played by anyone other than who was cast; that’s not always true. Although, here it’s pretty damn true.
DeHaan is a solid actor. As of late, he’s been banging out good performances. From his work as Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings to The Place Beyond the Pines and his short part in The Devil’s Knot. Almost everything he touches, whether his role is big or small, has been very interesting; sometimes if only for his efforts.
The other person whom I love is Jordan. He’s a charismatic man who brings an immediate likability to the character. And it goes well with the others. They each have distinct and different personalities, but Jordan’s character has the personality which anchors them all. All three of the main characters are representative of people we all knew in high school, certainly, and Jordan is that funny, nice, inclusive sort of dude who bridges the gaps. At the same time, he’s almost a perfect parallel for the character DeHaan plays, so that’s another reason why I loved him in the film. Mostly, the actors are able to bring us into the human dramatics at the center of the action, the root of why the movie and its screenplay are so damn interesting in the first place.
A big aspect of the movie and why it succeeds in being so innovative as a found footage film is the incorporation of a good deal of special effects. And awesome ones, too. The best part of this is the fact the video camera has a plausible way of staying around, no matter how wild it may seem in its placement. Because with the powers, the camera can go anywhere, be anywhere, simply by DeHaan’s character levitating it and taking it wherever he goes. A reason why I hate reading reviews on found footage movies sometimes is because so many people are too concerned with the footage itself – and yes, I understand that’s part of it, but why nitpick SO HARD? Sometimes, it’s deserved. Others it doesn’t need to be a relevant factor, you can just enjoy the found footage premise. At least Landis wrote his screenplay in a way that takes this into account, and jumps that hurdle in a fairly excellent manner. So then when you add in all the special effects on top of that, there’s an impressive feeling to many of the film’s scenes.
One favourite part of mine is when they go flying, tossing a football, and the danger of the powers slowly starts to become more and more evident. The fact these high school kids are blessed with such intense superpowers, and they’re so immaturely interested in testing them out, makes the stakes of the film higher. We work up to that, too. First, the special effects start with the baseball throwing, then as above, the Lego building (which I love love loved). Then, it moves onto bigger things, taking us further and further with these high school guys until the scary aspects of their newly gained powers emerge, becoming dangerous for them personally and later violent for anyone and everyone around them.
Even more than that, the special effects and the powers are on display in a vastly different sense than any regular superhero film.
I’ve always been amazed by Chronicle, from the first time I saw it when it was released a few years ago now. 4.5 stars all the way. There were a few minor nitpicks I have, but they’re not worth discussing. Overall, this is a solid piece of cinema with plenty of drama and science fiction to go around. Furthermore, despite anything else Max Landis was able to flip the superhero genre on its head with this one, at least slightly. We’re so used to seeing superpowers used for good, other than the villains we see in the good guys’ movies – because let’s face it, the heroes are always the focus anyways. But here, we almost see the birth of a villain, and it gives us a sort of prequel to life of a supervillain; also with the same care and tact superheroes are given, showing us the inner life, the workings of his mind and how he comes to be who he is in the end.
If you’ve been dragging your feet on this one, give that shit up. Check this one out and hopefully it might prove to be a nice counter-balance to all the superhero movies now inundating our senses, of which I’m not a fan. This is a different twist on an old story, so there’s plenty of fresh, fun stuff to keep your mind aflutter.