Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Review

If only Zack Snyder films could make you forget all their flaws through their sheer ambition and visual effects whirlwinds…forever. Unfortunately, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s magical moments such as its intense opening scene set against the backdrop of Superman and General Zod’s climactic showdown in Man of Steel and Bruce Wayne’s post-apocalyptic dream sequence only serve their purpose for as long as they can. The cracks at the very foundations of one of 2016’s most anticipated films start to show right from the start.

We’ve seen this story before of Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered and the poor child running and falling into his future batcave, yet the film treats it as if the audience still doesn’t know the reason for Batman’s angst after the numerous films of yesteryear. The entire extended opening credits sequence is dedicated to this cause, and for some reason the sight of him floating up along with the bats back into the light feels so off it serves as a warning to the coming bombardment of out of place acting by Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander Luthor, clearly forcing memories of the Joker upon the audience. It’s a pain seeing acting talent wasted even as Luthor’s machinations leading to the titular epic throwdown are revealed piece by piece like a detective story—not to say it’s engaging by any means.

But there is hope just like Superman is a symbol of it. For every wasted actor such as the sparely used Tao Okamoto, the movie is propped up by the presences of the two main protagonists in Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, with particular praise given to the latter. Affleck does a good job of being Batman and the man behind it, but he is lacking a little refinement in his closeups. Gal Gadot is an exciting prospect as the scene-stealing Wonder Woman, and I’d like to see more of the wise and old Alfred just because he complements Bruce nicely and is his tech guy to boot.

The world is arguably one of the characters in BvS; celebrity reporters and even scientists fill channels with moral debates on Superman. Should he exist, and what implications does he have in our world? Who does he answer to and should he be held accountable for collateral damage (a la this May’s Captain America: Civil War)? A very interesting premise is never explored fully or resolved in a satisfying manner. It is, along with the promise of inheriting some of what made Christopher Nolan’s trilogy more than superhero films, devoured in a frenzy of action scenes.

And that action is what makes a Zack Snyder film tick. The visuals too, and the music make their way in the translation into a wider Cinematic Universe (poor Cyborg, he got the least interesting tease out of the three Justice League cameos). The pace is fast enough for audiences to forgive half the mistakes at a blazing fast clip because they’re constantly engaged with beautiful sights, sounds and those aforementioned magical moments sprinkled throughout. I worry though that in subsequent viewings the cracks will appear to widen.

I was a fan of Zack Snyder’s once, and Man of Steel restored some of that until the aforementioned subsequent viewings when I saw past the ambition and newness, and sadly I expect the same to happen this time around. We were all cautious in anticipating this epic showdown of two of the most iconic superheroes of all time, and we were right. With Snyder still at the helm for both parts of the Justice League film, the symbol of hope for the DC cinematic universe; its Superman, just found its kryptonite.


Allegiant Movie Review

How ironic it is that surviving the mediocre first two installments in The Divergent Series actually helped me in enjoying the new one. Knowing what to expect is a must for this type of movie. A checklist mentality in story, a cast of underdeveloped characters played by excruciatingly underused actors and awful special effects are just some of Allegiant’s flaws. But knowing what I am getting into as Tris’ opening monologue plays turned out to be a blessing. These films are better off viewed as stylish B-movie-like action romps a la Resident Evil rather than Hunger Games clones, and in that perspective it serves as passable entertainment. Not exactly the best compliment, but potentially redeeming nonetheless.

It’s when you adapt this mentality that you forgive the film’s many flaws. The sins of Divergent and Insurgent still haunt Allegiant, such as the aforementioned poor job in characterization and production issues. The world still feels fake, as if the makers bit off more than they can chew. Shailene Woodley and Theo James still can’t muster up even a tiny sliver of chemistry between both lead characters. Giving priority to casting good, charismatic actors despite only small amounts of screen time does contribute a fleeting positive note, but only fleeting. They’re all nice to look at, but they fade to the background just as quickly as the forgettable story. Composer Joseph Trapanese rises above his work in the previous film this time though, providing the biggest improvement.

The film’s studio must have been worried about diminishing returns going forward given the negative reception of Insurgent and its barely passing Divergent’s gross even with a 3D premium strapped in. They tried really hard to differentiate the new one, increasing the scale and trusting that the sights and sounds of the new locations will provide at least some amazement for viewers. But really, how can you outdo two straight installments that were given middling if not negative reviews without fixing their flaws? Too much emphasis has been given on the business side of thinking rather than the creative. If Ascendant arrives a year from now with an even bigger budget and scale without looking inward first, The Divergent Series will forever be remembered as a missed opportunity.

The concept of this world has long been ripe for a worthy adaptation, but that chance has whizzed past by in just a few years’ time. We can only hope those in charge will see through the smoke and finally change the direction this series has gone on. Tris and Four will never be held in high regard as Bella and Edward or all the other popular young adult adaptation couples without a clear path in which their relationship develops along with the proper breathing room. The same goes for the bigger web of characters. Get the basics done, and maybe The Divergent Series will go out with a bang.


Deadpool Movie Review

Deadpool is a rare case of a major studio taking a bold risk on a superhero property; rarely do you see such many self-deprecating jokes on a comic book movie, as no previous flop goes untouched, nor have we seen an R-rated Marvel adaptation with this big of a marketing push. 20th Century Fox has managed to faithfully translate the spirit of “Marvel Comics’ most unconventional superhero” into film form. Zany, fun and energetic, Deadpool delivers on every level it is expected to with aplomb.

The energy here just never stops, even with the pacing. Deadpool switches between all-action present day to the customary origin story part quite quickly, but even then the latter never quite achieves the dizzying heights of the consistent laughs and well-written fourth wall breaking of the former. Basically, if you’ve watched the trailer, then you’ve already known much of what makes the man behind the suit tick, and even if you didn’t, much of what is presented is predictable fare. Chief among these is the well-acted but cookie-cutter antagonists played by Ed Skrein and Gina Carano.

In fact, it’s not just parts of the cast and story that give a sense of déjà vu; the always-pivotal climax is also a tad predictable but thankfully still enjoyable. Deadpool also has a few slightly uneasy scenes involving children, but they too are saved by the tone and pure enegy. Does he have questionable morals? Yes, but it is over-the-top enough for the audience not to take it too seriously.

Short and sweet, but filled to the brim with exciting action and laughs, you could go much, much worse than a somewhat crazy, murderous antihero if it’s this much fun to watch. Yes, it has its flaws, but it’s so easy to overlook them as they whiz by so quickly, overshadowed by the engaging scenes in between.


The Revenant Movie Review

Picture Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass after a climactic battle, his body rotten and wounded mostly through battles with animals and the wilderness to the point he can no longer run or stand erect, seeing a vision of his dead wife. The scene cuts back to his snow-covered face for a few seconds, and the screen goes black, with only his breathing remaining…until it stops. The Revenant is filled with scenes like this as if nature is taking control of the strings behind the camera. The elements act on their own will, and lest man tries to upend the pyramid, bad things will be in store for him.

It seems as though the actors were dragging their way through the story encased in a shell of snow and wood. Through over two and a half hours of long shots and barely surviving the wilderness, the stunning effectiveness of the cast and cinematography carry the thick atmosphere all the way to the end. It doesn’t need a bombastic score, director Alejandro G. Iñarritu leaves it all on the screen, bear attacks and horses falling off of cliffs included, for us to savor.

Because of this every punishing blow and every drop of blood is felt by the audience, bringing them ever closer to full immersion. There are times when the punishment borders on hyperbole, just because of the length of each cut, which happens enough times for it to feel repetitive. But thanks to the acting and production values nothing goes over the line for long. For the most part, they feel the suffering of Hugh, and also every actor and crew that worked on the set.

No man can survive an environment this harsh without some company, and here Tom Hardy makes for such a devious but believable antagonist that you really love to hate. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, who seems to be in every prestige flick these days, put in surprisingly solid performances too. But who am I kidding, The Revenant is a film about Hugh Glass running towards the unstoppable forces of nature in a quest for vengeance and redemption. All these people are just kites flying in a stormy sky, and that’s what makes The Revenant so gripping.