Justice League… what went so wrong?

So it’s official, after DC fanboys months of debating, conspiracies, sadness, anger and a plethora of other emotions over 2017s Justice League, we can conclude one thing, it is definitively the lowest grossing film of the DCEU, a somewhat head scratching and disappointing crescendo to DC films so far and a result that DC fans and probably Warner Bros thinking, what next?

I mean Aquaman is still coming out later this year, as is Flashpoint and a Wonder Woman 2 most likely but as far continuing the DCs continued universe, there are multiple questions going forward, some questioning the viability of the whole thing in fact but we need to look at how we got here, how did Justice League end up doing so badly? I say ‘badly’ with a caveat of course, JL has grossed about $663 million worldwide, no mean feat of course and a big worldwide tally but far short of what WB and DC fans would have expected for it, just shy of Man Of Steels total at $668 million and it didn’t come close to Wonder Womans‘ $821 million or Batman V Supermans‘ $873 million.

But how can this be? Not only are Batman and Superman teaming up but so did Wonder Woman played by the beloved Gal Gadot, Aquman, Cyborg and The Flash, a reduced roster but a roster of some of the most recognizable and well liked characters not only in DC but in all of comic books…. how could the film do so poorly in comparison to expectations? The answer is manifold but I think you can attribute the result to 3 main reasons that I’ll go into – hype, disjointed production and word of mouth.

Hype

Up there with The Avengers, Iron Man and Batman V SupermanJustice League was naturally one of the most anticipated films of the last decade, comic book fans, not only DC fans were clearly excited for the film and hoped it would be a good step forward after Wonder Woman knocked it out of the park, this may have been a problem in retrospect as too many people may have gone in expecting well, another Wonder Woman esque DCEU film – in quality at least. The film was probably never going to live up to that standard with all the hype laid upon it and I think this is absolutely one of the reasons why it is seen as a failure in many fans eyes.

We’ve got Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, surely the film wont flop

I feel like there’s this overall feeling that comic book fans are almost impossible to please (not true, look at all of the MCU pretty much) and with the DCEU you could argue this is the case, fans were turned off by BvS jumbled, overly bleak tone and supposed rush plot and clearly voiced their distaste, Justice League was decidedly lighter with a lot of jokes but again fans weren’t too pleased as it seems, ‘Batman was too jokey’, ‘flash was a cartoon character’ etc. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to put all of the blame on the final production and the fans have a part to blame in all of this, with a bunch of expectations so broad that the film could never possibly have pleased the majority of them.

 

Disjointed production

This isn’t WBs fault in the slightest… or maybe it is but either way, they went with Zack Snyder, he was championing the DCEU and was their leading man, due to unfortunate family circumstances and also because they didn’t like his work on the film apparently, Snyder left and or was fired which is a shame, Whedon took over and we know how the story goes. The result is pretty apparent though with a film clearly watermarked by two directors with prominent styles, Whedons quippy, bantery dialogue and lighter overall tone coupled with Snyders penchant for stylish visuals, sincerity with his characters and use of fantastic characters for real world metaphors and it just… didn’t really work. Justice League isn’t a terrible film in my eyes don’t get me wrong but I left it feeling like it could have been better myself, with more consistent characterisation following on from BvS for Batman, Superman was done decently enough but missed out on a cool black suit, any facial hair and specifically a mustache (which I don’t really care about people do!)

The film tried to be DCs The Avengers and it just didn’t translate well enough, if you’ve watched the Justice league cartoons or read the comics, they’re far from a super serious, boring group and they’re traditionally a fun going group of heroes… and Batman with great interaction and humour, especially from Flash and Green Lantern and that’s what makes watching them do their thing so cool. But with a reduced roster and just two films previously for Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to be established – and just cameos in BvS for Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, you do get the feeling things were rushed just a tad, people may know the characters from elsewhere but film going audiences may not and seeing them trust together so quickly may have been a bit jarring and felt derivative of y’know, Marvel.

Word of mouth

Last but not least, the curse of the bad word of mouth strikes again for the DCEU… Rotten Tomatoes absolutely played a part and you couldn’t get away from the furore and anger of DC fans for the rating be slow and the news about the rating in general… and the conversation around the film, in the digital age, word of mouth goes a long way and Rotten Tomatoes has all but killed a few prominent films box offices in recent years, which is an entire interesting topic on its own. But with more positive ratings across the board and especially on RT, would Justice League have done better commercially? Absolutely. And would the conversation looking back on the film now be completely different? Quite likely.

Positive sentiment and word of mouth goes a long way, a series or franchise associated with negative ratings and bad reviews will be seen as exactly that – bad and even if it’s slightly improving, people still go into each new film expecting the worst, while the opposite is also true for franchises with glowing, spotless reputation like the MCU for the most part. It’s an expected truth of the film industry and the fact of the matter is that the DCEU has always been on an uphill battle since Man of Steel and trying to ‘win over’ fans and critics alike ever since.

And well those are my thoughts, there may be more intricate reasons as to why the film ‘bombed’ and you may have your own thoughts and I’m sure people will discuss Justice League for years to come in relation to the DCEU and the dangers of trying to rush a cinematic universe into existence. I don’t know what WB will do going forward and how things will turn out but I just hope we get more diverse, interesting comic book films that come from places outside of a company that rhymes with ‘Garvel’, no hate but I just like my variety!

Ready Player One – review

Spielberg is back and directs Ready Player One, an adaptation of the popular novel from Ernest Cline, set in Michigan in 2045 in a technologically advanced future, entrepreneur James Halliday has invented the most popular VR program of all time which most of the population essentially live inside of. Halliday hid special easter eggs inside of his game that players are eager to find in order to win ownership of the Oasis, especially the enthusiastic teenager Wade Watts. Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, TJ Miller, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t go into the film that enthusiastic despite the cool references littered through its marketing and trailers, I didn’t really get that much feeling for a plot and I thought it would be a bit too nostalgic for nostalgias sake but the story handles its nods quite well, yes there are a tonne of obvious in your face ones – King Kong, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, a DeLorean but there are lots of cool smaller ones that you’ll probably miss, so it’s fun to look back on the film and see what was included. The easter eggs aren’t just in there for the sake of it either, with James Halliday including references to films, TV and games that he loved from the 80s and all the more modern things – they’re just avatars in the Oasis that gamers choose to look like, everything from Halo, to Overwatch to The Iron Giant, though I’m sure the more modern references were added with younger audiences in mind.

The core of the film is The Oasis, a very interestingly virtual world that you can do anything in to escape from the mundanity of the real world, it’s essentially all encompassing and an intriguing imagining of VR that may not be too far ahead in the future and in the Oasis is where the plot really gets going, let by Wade Watts (Percival in the Oasis, played by Tye Sheridan), an enthusiastic 18 year old who loves the virtual world and seems to only have friends inside there. His best friend and technical mastermind H (Lena Waithe) as well as pro gamers Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Phillip Zao), none of whom he has ever met in real life mind you, this may feel somewhat sad but again entirely believable, with online exclusive friends absolutely a thing that exists in the real world. The performances are actually quite good on the whole, Sheridan brings an enthusiastic, driven performance and carries a lot of the story, somewhat naive in places, especially when he comes across Artemis/Samantha (Olivia Cooke) who he convinces himself he falls in love with, although their relationship does feel fairly organic, Cooke especially brings a lot of gusto to her role, bringing some grounded realism to Wade and the situation they’re in. She’s more concerned about the real world and stopping corporations ruining peoples lives via the Oasis while Wade just wants to find the easter eggs, this makes for an interesting dynamic between the two, despite their feelings for each other.

The drama compliments the action in the Oasis quite well, a world laden with fantastical elements, weapons and great action, with some interesting nods to online culture with players like I-ROK (TJ Miller), a high level and skilled player who’s quite a naive nerd who loves and hordes all the things he’s collected in game, it’s also great to actually meet Wades friends in real life who are all a bit different to what you expect. Aside from this and because the story is so important, it’s not really a deep dive into gaming as much as it is an adventure and exploration of James Hallidays life and mind with the vehicle of the Oasis and a touch of Spielberg, this isn’t really a criticism but looking at the film critically, some may feel The Oasis gaming rules are nebulous at best and non-sensical at worst/

Ultimately Ready Player One, is a fun ride, not too deep of a drama and very sentimental with convenient plot events that in a way feel very Spielberg, the world of the Oasis is fascinating and the visuals are great, with a truckload of fun references to boot for lovers of the 80s and 90s, it’s definitely not for everyone but I can enjoyed my viewing and I’d be keen to go back into the Oasis and the futuristic vision of the world present.

7/10

. Good performances all around, especially Sheridan, Cooke and Mendelsohn

. Interesting plethora of references, great visuals

. Some convenient plot points

April film preview

Spring has sprung, Easter is here and the leaves are turning green, pink and… other colours and as we inch closer to summer film season, some major releases are on the way, here are a few to watch out for. (US release dates by default)

A Quiet Place – released on the 6th of April

Directed by John Krasinski

Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt

Modern mystery thriller set in a world beset by mysterious creatures that attack and kill anyone that makes a sound, a family centres their lives around living silently and as quietly as they can, though everyday life may just make this to be an impossibility.

 

 

Blockers – released on the 6th of April

Directed by

Starring: John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Graham Phillips and Hannibal Buress.

Comedy set around 3 parents who uncover their daughters plan to lose their virginity on the same prom night and plan to stop them dead in their tracks.

4

 

Rampage – released on the 13th of April

Directed by Brad Peyton

Starring: Dwayne Johnson

Primatologist Davis has a close relationship with a gorilla named George but genetic experimentation leads to the unhinged growth of a wolf, an albino gorilla and an alligator, who grow to a giant size and cause mayhem in the city as Davis tries the maybe impossible task of saving George while the military tries to put him down.

 

 

Avengers: Infinity War – released on the 27th of April

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Josh Brolin.

After the fractious events of Civil War, The Avengers once again come together, including the Guardians of the galaxy to combat the invading threat of Thanos in the hunt of the infinity stones which he has intends to use for nefarious purposes.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – Two years on

So I’ve been thinking about Batman V Superman a little bit recently, with the film coming out 2 years ago almost to the day (March 27th 2016), and not to lie, I’ve re-watched the film maybe 5 or 6 times (I have it on DVD as well) and it’s actually gone up in my estimation. Okay so I initially gave it a 6.5/10 in my review for it from last year but it’s definitely grown on me, the score with Junkie XL and the legend that is Hans Zimmer is fantastic and I love the visual aesthetic to it. And in general, while I acknowledge it’s a film that’s still very much polarising to DC and comic book film fans in general, I have the feeling that it’s possibly being seen a bit more favourably to people now and I’ve seen some people who seem to see the film in a better light now after Justice League funnily enough.

Anyway I wanted to go over 3 major points/gripes people seemed to have with it and address them with my views on them, looking back on the film in retrospect with some more recent DCEU entries.

The plot’s confusing and incoherent

This is an easy criticism to throw at any film and saying a film is incoherent has to be one over the most overused descriptors in recent years, very few films are incoherent and the ones that genuinely are, literally do not make sense, I’d cite films like Holy Motors, Only God Forgives as being incoherent but that’s because of their esoteric and deliberately strange style. But to say a film like BvS doesn’t make sense completely takes away from the storytelling and ignores the pretty logical plot points there, we get and understand Batmans origins, having seen it multiple times, we see the fallout from Man of Steel and understand Metropolis got majorly destroyed, including Bruces businesses, hence he’s pissed off and wants to take down the weird alien. Superman is conflicted and unsure of himself, Lex gets them to fight each other because he’s a sociopath but is also planning to use a monster to take out Superman (who he hates), the monster is eventually thwarted but Superman dies in the process, what doesn’t make sense about that?

I mean you could argue that Lex making Doomsday seems a bit stupid, what was his long term plan with it? How could he control it? But this aside, the main story arc of the plot is completely coherent and while there is a lot in there, it’s far from confusing and OK, Bruces’ dream sequence and the Flash scene may be a bit confusing but these 3 points aside, I think the film’s good. Honestly everything else is pretty straightforward, comic book films can’t really afford to be that ‘deep’ as they need to have simple to understand plots that people of all ages can and will go and see and you see this with Marvels formula and to the point plots, same going for DC, so I think Zack Snyder did a decent job.

 

The motivation for Batman and Superman fighting isn’t strong enough

I touched a bit on this exact thing in the previous point but you completely understand why Bruce Wayne wants to stop Superman and in his current savage state, (the man is branding people… and killing them), I can absolutely see him going all out to try and end Superman once and for all in his rage, despite how short sighted and bad of an idea it is, hell even Alfred tells him its wrong but Bruce is set. Meanwhile Clark is fighting for his mothers life and there aren’t any people more dear to him than Martha and Lois, so of course he’ll do whatever he can to save either of them, if Batman wasn’t going to listen to him and keep fighting, well what else can Superman do? Bruce in his experience with seeing evil and wrongdoing in Gotham and seeing good people / things turn bad can understandably see this God like alien force as something potentially bad which is perfectly logical for him in this universe. Although as fans we couldn’t quite empathise with him because we didn’t want to see two of our most beloved comic book heroes fight – especially fans who viewed this version of Bruce as being vindictive and cruel but for the sake of the plot I think it works.

Lexs’ plan was almost full proof, though he didn’t count on the caped crusaders allying with each other. And actually I think the better criticism of their clash is that it’s not quite long enough and it would have been awesome to see them go at it for a bit longer, though you’d then have fans complaining there’s too much fighting so…. as I’m sure Zack Snyder is well aware of now, you can’t win them all.

 

There’s too much going on in the story 

Ok now this point is a lot more succinct and in some ways, fairly true, breaking things down, I don’t think there’s too much going on in Batman V Superman but there is fair amount plot point wise, with the anti-alien sentiment rising in America against Superman, leading to Batman taking action against him and people trying to frame him for murder, Superman being worshipped in other parts of the world, Lex building Doomsday, Wonder Woman being introduced. Batman being warned about the future by Flash and Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman taking on Doomsday, reading it all in a few sentences, it sounds like a lot but going through it sequentially, it’s really not that busy compared to say The Avengers, a quite fantastic film I might add but also a dense, packed story with a lot of elements to it.

And seriously if you break down the story to its core elements, what you have is growing anti-alien sentiment post the events of Man of Steel driving Batman to fight Superman, with Lex pulling the strings in the background and devising evil things, other things also happen, namely Wonder Woman coming into the fray but the main plot isn’t all that convoluted to be frank, it’s easy to follow but unfortunately gets mired by a few plot threads here and there. This isn’t anything story breaking but I can understand that criticism.

Anyway those are just my thoughts and I’m sure a lot of people haven’t changed their minds on the film but that’s fine, I’d like to encourage critical thinking and to avoid sheep mentalities, think what you want about a film and don’t go with popular opinions, re-watch and re-think films you may have thought you made your mind up on in the past and you may just find your opinion’s changed!

Ranking the Star Wars franchise (updated)

So this is an update that I’ve needed to do for a little while now actually, I somehow manage to forget Rogue One existed and subsequently didn’t rank it but with both that and The Last Jedi out, it’s high time for an overall update to my previous list (from May 2016 mind you). Anyway here goes.

 

Star Wars: A New Hope – 10/10

A timeless classic and the film started it all, A New Hope is just about as close you can really get to a perfect sci-fi film and a perfect film in my opinion, from the fantastic, iconic and meaningful visuals and use of aesthetics in scenes to tell rather than show the audience, great pacing and a brilliant mix of humour, drama and emotion, we go on a great adventure with Luke and see him grow and develop as our hero and it’s wonderful to watch. And with some great, classic villains and a set of vibrant and fun main characters, it’s a fun ride that you don’t really want to get off of, setting up the universe that we all know and mostly love.

 

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back – 9/10

Probably one of if not the best sequels of all time, The Empire Strikes Back really resonates with a lot of Star Wars fans and understandably so, being the more darker, grittier follow up and bringing that emotional punch with the Vader – Luke twist, as well as some awesome set pieces and scenes including the Vader – Luke duel on Bespin, Landos betrayal and the battle of Hoth. Empire Strikes Back manages to keep things thoroughly exciting, never dragging for a minute as it goes from strength to strength, pitting Vader in more of a focal point as the moral opposite to Luke, a fascinating dichotomy between the father and son which epitomised the themes of good vs evil.An excellent outing in the Star Wars universe that expanded on the ideas of A New Hope and brought some darker, heavy elements to the plate.

 

Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi – 9/10

Return, I feel, strangely gets a bit of a bad wrap despite it not being anywhere near bad, a lot of people seem to view it as the weakest prequel maybe due to the Ewoks (though that’s not enough of a reason for the film to be bad imo), make no mistake the film is great with having a lot to fulfill and live up to in concluding the original trilogy. The stakes are high as ever as there’s a new Death Star and Vader, Palpatine and the Empire have to be confronted for a last time. The humour and great action from the previous two OT films returns along with some well done emotional moments – Luke and Vader in the Death Star with Palpatine is a fantastic sequence and the set pieces are also great with a familiar feeling but satisfying conclusion (another Death Star!) that wraps things up nicely.

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – 8/10

Thought provoking, controversial, intriguing, The Last Jedi is a number of things but dull it is not, it’s a play on expectations and a thoroughly rigid, gritty look at this was in the Stars that we’ve been watching for decades, a deconstruction of Luke, the force and of the way we expect things to go in a Star Wars film, it’s something that the franchise has needed for years in my view. With great performances to boot, genuine surprises and some of the best shot scenes in the entire series, some of the set pieces are also just fantastic, Star Wars is never something you should over-theorise and read into because at the end of the day it’s a space fantasy with telekinesis and blowing up planets with giant laser beams so I feel you need to just try and enjoy it, don’t go in expecting everything to go the way you want it to and go with the flow.

 

Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens – 8/10

It’s only the highest grossing Star Wars film of all time and one of the highest grossing films of all time. The Force Awakens is a massive box office and critical hit and deservedly so, having to live up to quite frankly, ridiculous amounts of hype, it sort of did and while it does narratively borrow from A New Hope, it’s still very well structured, entertaining and it does a great job of blending the old and the new, not getting bogged down in the 30 year gap between the film and the end of the original trilogy. And a lot of why the films works is down to the films fantastic visuals, great characterization with nuanced, complex villains and heroes that straddle the lines between light and the dark, not all stormtroopers are evil, huh fancy that. And that great cast, newbies John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have great chemistry and flourish in their roles, as does Oscar Isaac, bringing an equally energetic and memorable performance, the new kids on the block meshing and flowing well with old favourites Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. TFA brings new ideas and makes for some interesting additions to the Star Wars lore and it left a lot of room for fans to speculate, theorise and bring renewed interest to the franchise.

 

Rogue One: A story Wars Story – 7.5/10

Thought provoking, dark and lived in, Rogue One has a very modern war feel to it and out of any of the films in the series so far, feels the most like a boots on the ground war film, removed from Jedi and Sith (though Vader has his cameo), we follow human soldiers who set out on an impossible mission and their near hopeless plight against the odds, which makes things all the more thrilling. I love that the films plot just feels so tight as well, with great pacing and barely any wasted scenes, everything contributes to the overall story that pulls no punches, from the drama to the action, with brilliant writing as well and nicely placed comedic beats. We also get an interesting look at the rebellion and the notion of its imperfection, they are fighting an ‘evil’ empire but there are flawed humans on both sides, something not really touched on in any of the major films until Rogue One.

 

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of The Sith – 7/10

Easily the best prequel, Revenge of The Sith brings on a decidedly darker tone to the prequels as we follow Anakins’ tragic and inevitable march to the dark side and his famous ‘evil’ alter ego, though he’s been getting there over the course of 3 films, his change in the film could be said to be a bit sudden.That aside, the visuals are great as are the action scenes on the whole, coupled with a few pretty great set pieces and as far as the prequels go, the acting is a fair bit better than in Episodes I and II.

 

Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace – 7/10

Contrary to many Star Wars fans, I really don’t think The Phantom Menace is anywhere near that bad even with Jar Jar, it has its lows of course but it’s probably the prequel I enjoy watching the most, Darth Maul was a great villain, although underused and some of the action sequences were well done, the acting was noticeably wooden in parts of course and the Gungans brought a distinctly childish tone to proceedings but it had its enjoyable moments as a whole. It is shy of being a great film due to some clear racial stereotypes for characters, trade negotiations and very flat acting but a terrible film it is not.

 

Star Wars: Episode II Attack of The Clones – 6/10

Easily the worst prequel, Attack of The Clones did have some fun fight scenes to be fair but it was just a bit too much style over substance and with some terrible lines of dialogue and even worse delivery, parts of the film have become a bit of a punchline to underline how bad the prequels got. Yes this was a misstep but how cool are the clones….right? Ah who am I kidding, it’s a bad film but that being said, I do love seeing the Jedi at the height of their powers doing their thing and making terrible military decisions.

Avengers: Infinity War – official trailer

So this is it guys… the final trailer for Marvels upcoming Infinity War and possibly the most important film in the MCU to date, as the Avengers, Guardians and other heroes all come together to fight Thanos for the fate of humanity and oh you know, the universe… as Gamora clearly puts it in the start of the trailer. We do get some interesting looking new footage from this trailer as well, laying out Thanos’ plan – in his words to bring balance… wiping out half of the universe and humanity along with it.

It’s great to see the Avengers + The Guardians finally interacting after much teasing and the chemistry looks pretty natural, Star Lord and Tony in particular make for a fun pairing. Thanos is after the rest of the infinity stones as we all know, one in Visions’ head and one with Dr Strange in the eye of Agammoto, which leads him to Earth to find them, it’s also interesting to note that Thanos still hasn’t met any of the Avengers or Guardians bar Nebula and Gamora (his daughters).

It seems that the Avengers come up with some sort of plan to protect some or both of the stones? In Wakanda, bringing Steve, Bucky, Hulk, Falcon and Black Widow there, where they’re set on by Thanos’ army, Thor seems to be somewhere not good as he’s tortured by Thanos as his black order and Loki (what, another betrayal? Or maybe he’s captured) watch on.

Meanwhile, Tony, Star Lord, Drax and Spiderman are all together as well somewhere…. this is curious as I guess the Avengers are not all together for one reason or another following Civil War and we still don’t see Vision or Scarlett Witch fighting, nor do we see Star Lord or Tony in Wakanda… unless they’re come up with some sort of plan to take on Thanos. Anyway we see fighting as is to be expected, as well as Captain America taking on Thanos 1 on 1, which is the bravest and possibly also the worst idea ever but he does seem to be putting up a fight which makes for a great shot. With the trailer ending on Spiderman and Dr Strange meeting and having a funny exchange, showing Marvels consistent humorous nature despite this being a decidedly dark and serious MCU film from the looks of it.

All in all it’s a great trailer, I don’t know if it’ll break records like the last Inifnity War trailer but the hype is already here, mark it down – April 27th people, this is going to be a thrill ride.

Just some additional thoughts

. Where are Vision and Scarlett Witch in all of this?

. Assuming Thanos gets the mind stone, is Vision dead?

. Is Loki playing each side for his own or is he just in Thanos pocket?

. Will the Avengers plan for taking on Thanos include his daughters?

The Last Jedi – a fantastic deconstruction of the hero archetype

Here’s a hot take for you 3 months after The Last Jedi and with no one talking about the film anymore (I know!), The Last Jedi is brilliant but not necessarily because it has one particularly cool fight scene…. or great visuals or a diverse cast. It’s brilliant because of its writing and in how it breaks down the role of the hero in the story (Luke Skywalker, though to a degree Rey is as well), subverting expectations and pulling the rug from under the audience in typical Rian Johnson style.

A true credit to the films direction and it’s great writing.

This will not…. go the way you think

Much has been said about The Last Jedis subversion of audience expectations for Luke and the plot in general, “Did you expect me to face on the empire with a laser sword?” Luke even says flat out to Rey at one point, highlighting the reality of the situation he’s in and slyly winking at some Star Wars fans who wanted him to do exactly that. The reality of the situation was very different though, Like, now an older, wiser but disillusioned Jedi master was wary of the force and critical of the Jedi, a hero to the republic and living legend and that no one had even seen for years, he was not the hero, you, me, Rey or any other film goer was expecting.

And that’s great! I’ve seen a trend in some notable films in recent years with the breakdown of the hero or father figure type in stories, with them not being as great in truth or as heroic as they’re imagined to be, the truth often hurts but is eye opening to characters who find it out one way or another, just like in Coco and even as recently as Black Panther with T’chala and another prominent character who I won’t name for sake of spoilers. I find this type of storytelling fascinating because it highlights the reality of the world itself that we live in, which is imperfect, even with fantastic, magical sci-fi settings that allow travelling faster than the speed of light and moving things with an invisible force, people are still imperfect and heroes can and do fail.

Don’t meet your heroes 

The Jedi, for all their strong efforts and good intentions, completely failed and like Luke said, allowed themselves to be infiltrated by Emperor Palpatine and subsequently wiped out by him which was a great point by Mr Skywalker, the Jedi, like him were also imperfect. So why should he go and help the rebellion wielding a lightsaber, fighting for a belief system he doesn’t even believe in any more? It seems completely illogical and flat out stupid from Lukes’ perspective so in my view, his actions are completely realistic and justified – but even then, he still does what he can to help The Resistance, solidfying his legendary status, the hallmarks of a true hero in my eyes. But for all intents and purposes, before Luke makes his ultimate sacrifice, he has failed, failed to continue the Jedi legacy, failed to reach out to Ben and failed to live up to his own potential, it’s a tragic arc for a beloved hero and is one of the hottest points of contention for the film and surely pissed off a lot of fans but again, it’s so impactful, maddening even because it feels so real.

Rian Jonson brought elements of the real world kicking and screaming into Star Wars and for better or for worse, shook things up, with more well, human like characterisation, far removed from the purely evil emperor who just wants to destroy everything – though Supreme Lord Snoke is arguably just that redux but moving on… Luke’s deconstruction is a good thing and very in line as he’s always been an imperfect protagonist, wanting to go into flight school and never even wanting to get involved in the galactic war, almost giving up his training at Dagobah with Yoda and maybe not so wisely attacking Vader on Bespin in a blind rage, he’s made mistakes but he always prevailed through his positivity, being a lovely, caring individual the whole way.

The point of this isn’t to combat the plethora of criticisms against The Last Jedi, far from it in fact. But to highlight the films’ interesting character arcs and deconstruction of some of the series most beloved characters, from Luke, to Kylo and to Rey, Lukes arc didn’t go the way people thought it would but that’s not a bad thing at all, surprises can be a good thing and are often a feature of life – things don’t always go the way we expect or want them to and that’s another way Rian Jonson brings aspects of ‘the real’ into Star wars.And hey criticising a films plot for not going the way you wanted it to devalues the entire concept of a story you have no control over I’d say but hey that’s just like… my opinion, don’t destroy me The Last Jedi haters!

But yes those are just some of my thoughts, in the end we all love Star Wars at the end of the day (still, I hope) and let’s hope Solo is as good as the last two films in the franchise.

Murder On The Orient Express – review

So I’ve finally got around to watching Murder On The Orient Express, the latest cinematic portrayal of the novel of the same name, written by legendary author Agatha Cristie, this film is directed by Kenneth Branagh and follows famed detective Hercule Poirot, who has a knack for solving seemingly unsolvable crimes – finding himself aboard a train which a murder takes place on. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisey Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr.

I won’t lie, I’m not too familiar with Agatha Christies body of work or with MOTE in particular either but I was drawn to the film due to my own interest in turn of the 20th century/early 1900s in general, the talented Kenneth Branagh both directs and starts in this adaptation which is quite a feat, producing a final product that actually isn’t that bad I feel. Despite all the signs possibly signally otherwise, with such a large ensemble cast and Branagh directing himself, one could assume the film is a bit self indulgent because of the star power on show but it’s not quite that. That being said, the writing does lend itself to the theatrical in a sense, with over the top characters, dialogue and specific scenes that almost feel like you’re watching a play, especially with the lavish sets and fancy old-timey costumes (Oh I do love a period drama).

The cast is actually really sold on the whole, from the lesser known actors right up to Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, with Josh gad in particular bringing a memorable performance, the problem with films with such large casts like this is that you often don’t have enough time to really explore them all which may be a weak point for the story, especially when you have more interesting characters hanging around. And to be fair, MOTE isn’t exempt from this, with a handful of quite weird, intriguing characters that are on the fringes of the story, maybe understandably taking a back seat to the central murder mystery which is fair enough. The good writing of the novels story itself does drive the film forward though, with the murder keeping you mostly engaged as you watch, though the solution does get a tad convoluted into the final third of the film but it does wrap itself up quite nicely I feel.

And speaking of performances, you simply can’t avoid Branagh as the larger than life Poirot, eccentric but a brilliant mind, he is the star of the show and one of the best features of the film as a whole, bringing enthusiasm to every scene he’s in, coupled with serious determination as well, making for a dynamic, interesting character. People unfamiliar with Christies novels may find Poirot a bit cartoonish and strange without any back story to him but it’s a credit to the film to let people sort of fill in the blanks for now, without throwing a tonne of exposition to describe Poirot, we may not know much about him now in the context of the films world but we may find out.

Ultimately Murder On The Orient Express is a decent enough film, not exactly ground breaking but I don’t think it was intended to be, with a large cast that on the whole does a great job, great costume design and production and a memorable performance from Brannagh, I’d like to see more of him as Poirot going forward.

7/10

. Has some strong perfromances

. Engaging plot, keeps audience interest

. Final third may lose some viewers interest, plot gets a bit convoluted

Solo: A Star Wars Story could be setting itself up for failure

As you probably know, Solo: A Star Wars Story is out soon, I mean like 2 and a half months from now – May 25th to be precise and that’s cool, May was a release month for a Star Wars film (Revenge Of The Sith) and none since but it’s a good enough month, school’s ending for kids and summer film season officially kicks off in this month according to most people but there’s one big problem and I have no idea how Disney/Kathleen Kennedy/whoever makes the final decision with the films production is ok with it.

The release date, oh god the release date…. or release window more specifically, it’s terrible and not on the face of it but because Solo is sandwiched between some sure to be mega-hits which will all but ensure a reduced box office run and maybe even failure, the first genuine box office flop for a A Star Wars film that people are already so-so about? Quite possibly. You see, it’s out about a month after Avengers: Infinity War (April 27th) which is fair enough you say, Avengers will have cleaned house and grossed its $1 billion way before then in all likelihood so it won’t be the main competition and that’s likely… but you’d be forgetting another major May release – Deadpool 2.

The Merc with a mouths anticipated sequel is out on May 18th, just a week before Solo, the film going audience for the two films is for sure going to inter-sect quite a bit but with the runaway success Deadpool, it’s not a film anyone really wants to go up against, especially with the hype and avid fanbase it already has, who will probably go for repeat viewings. Oh and don’t forget a little film called Incredibles 2, sequel to one of the most beloved Pixar and animated films of all time, out on June 15th, just about 3 weeks after Solos debut, again pretty bad news for a film that will pretty much 100% have a sizeable weekend opening… oh and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom‘s out the week after that on June 22nd just for good effect. So all in all, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

So what does this spell for Solo? Well a bit of uncertainty really, we’re not sure how the film will do critically, how people will receive Alden Ehenreich as Solo though I think he will definitely be divisive, we’re not sure how this will shape ‘Star Wars story’ films in fans eyes going forward, there’s just a lot of uncertainty here but this release window specifically might just have killed Solo before it’s even out, the film has also been embroiled in a recent poster plagiarism controversy just to add to the troubles surrounding the project. Anyway I don’t want to be a bad news bear and write off the film before even seeing it and to be honest always want a Star Wars film to do well – but it’s got an uphill battle for sure, it may be very hampered in potential returns because of the films releasing around it but this will be an interesting test for Disney and Star Wars. Disney will be effectively competing with itself with Infinity War and Solo but we’ll see how a non-mainline Star Wars film does against potential big competition, Rogue One did very well for itself during its run but two things – that was in December, now a big month for potential commercial success for tent pole films and again, it was pretty closely tied to the mainline Star Wars story, which Solo is even further removed from.

I can’t pretend to know the answer for a perfect release date for Solo and I’m not a film industry professional but May and June are both pretty packed with big franchise films coming out, so maybe a later release could have done the trick? But hey if the film sticks with its date, we may never know.

Will Star Wars fans still flock to the film despite it being an origin story, having no Jedi (most likely) and despite a few fans not really wanting it at all? It remains to be seen but I have to say, the film has my curiosity piqued and I’m really interested in seeing how it ends up doing, for Disney and for Star Wars as a whole.

The 2018 Oscars- thoughts, reactions

So a little old award show happened last night as you may know and a bunch of good looking, rich people who pretend to be other people for a living gave each other awards – it was the Oscars!  The 90th edition, hosted by none other than Jimmy Kimmel and full disclosure I didn’t watch the show as I can’t really be bothered to with award shows these day but importantly, I know the results.

And this isn’t about me so I don’t really care about what predictions I got wrong or right – though I see I called a fair few results right on what was ultimately a pretty predictable night, albeit a good overall show form what I’ve heard that passed off mostly without controversy or people being stupid so that’s good

An ecstatic Guillermo Del Toro

The Shape Of the Oscars 

So Del Toro and The Shape Of Water did quite well with 4 award wins – best score, best director, best picture and best production design, all reasonable wins (maybe apart from best picture?) but no film really swept the show and dominated with 5,6 or more wins in what was a pretty moderate night for the big front runners Shape Of Water, 3 Billboards, Darkest Hour, all getting decent award wins in big categories. I’m happy for Del Toro with his best director win though and the momentum was clearly with him and TSOW, in any other year it would have been Nolan or Paul Thomas Anderson in my view but a nicer director on the night couldn’t have won but we have to get to a somewhat controversial choice in TSOW for best picture. I’ve seen a few dissenting voices on this and I somewhat agree, the film was good, memorable and definitely a love letter to classic hollywood films of old and fantasy but the best film of 2017? Not quite, not for me anyway.

I thought 3 Billboards or The Darkest Hour had that nailed on but it is what it is, no sour grapes and I’m happy TSOW got some recognition. Phantom Thread won best costume design which is fair enough, though I expected it to go to Beauty and The Beast but the only real major snubs of the night were for Baby Driver I feel, completely left out for sound editing and sound mixing which went to Dunkirk. And don’t get me wrong Dunkirk is a great film but I thought BD deserved something in the technical categories.

Well deserved mr Deakins.

A night of ‘Finallys’!

In pretty tame, predictable Oscar night fashion, the people and films most people thought would win did but with some nice ‘finally!’ moments to boot, Jordan Peele, the first African American man to win an Oscar for best original screenplay is one fantastic moment, in a win that clearly meant a lot to him. As did the win for iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins finally winning an Oscar for best cinematography for Bladerunner 2049, wasn’t the dude nominated like 14 times previously without winning…. yeah how did that happen again? Plus Gary Oldman finally won an Oscar for best actor in The Darkest Hour, being criminally under-nominated in his career in my view, a well worthy win. Sam Rockwell picking up the best supporting actor win after years of grinding it out in indies is also pretty great, he’s a fantastic actor and this was well deserved, while wins for Frances McDormand for best actress and Allison Janney for best supporting actress are deserved and not surprising.

The Oscars in recent years have had a few of these ‘finally’ moments actually, from Leo DiCaprio finally winning that Oscar for best actor a few years back to Deakins and Oldman this year, let’s hope we see some more obvious wins for obvious great talent in the next couple Oscars, Amy Adams…. Henry Cavill anyone? Also let’s get a few more sci-fi films up in the mix, more sci-fi films for best picture, more sci-fi films for best adapted/original screenplay, the genre always gets noms for visual effects, production design and editing but as an avid fan, I’d love to see more noms.

And that’s about really, an overall good, solid night of awards that went on without a hitch, with some deserved wins and yeah, more of that Oscars, big improvement on the borefest of 2017 and recent years. Recognizing diverse talent is the key here and I think Hollywood and the academy is getting there, nominating and acknowledging ethnic minorities for good work and women for good work, not just for the sake of it but because they actually put in good work, Hollywood and other film industries (even here in the UK) still have a ways to go to improve balance and representation of people working in the industry but we will get there. Anyway here’s hoping 2018 gives us some fantastic films to look back on in a years time for the 2019 Oscars!