Will Preston

Tag: Christopher Nolan

Is wearing red pants over your trousers finally back in?

by on Aug.26, 2013, under Films, Review

Ok. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this that you have some knowledge of comic books and superheroes. Even if you don’t, which probably makes you a liar in this age of the superhero reboots where a Spiderman film franchise can get re-painted and re-canon’d before it’s had a chance to hit the sticky hairy wall of puberty, you’re still likely to recognise some of the names if they’re shouted at you by me in the street. What can i say? Sunday’s leave me to my own devices.

Anyway, past your Batmans, your Iron Mans and even your Captain Cave Mans (No idea if Chris Nolan has plans for a gritty reboot of him, but I’m not going to miss a chance to coin an idea), is the one that kicked off this caped cacophony back in the first half of the 20th century – Superman. And he’s just been delivered a swift reboot to face.

ManOfSteel-3Yes, it’s been the go-to idea with many studio execs when people want to make the next ‘recognisable-hunky-man-punching-bad-men-in-the-face-with-his-justice-fists’ movie. Just about everyone has done it. Even James Bond was put back to a pre-00 agent and had to deal with his feelings. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but just imagine trying to do a film where Roger Moore spends half of his time staring moodily into the distance instead of smirking like a blazer-wearing fop. Maybe you could do it with Connery as he seems to be able to, you know, have some emotions.

But back on track. Keeping up with the trend, Watchmen director Zack Snyder and Dark Knight Trilogy creator Chris Nolan joined forces to tone down the red pants and cape on one of the most iconic figures of 20th century fiction. Man of Steel takes us back to the very beginning of Clark Kent’s story. On the distant planet of Krypton, there is a violent coup being pushed due to the fact that the planet is become more hollow than Kristen Stewart and almost as lifeless. Years and years of depleting resources have caused the planet to become unstable and will lead to it’s destruction (don’t ask me for the science). In the middle of this CGI-heavy chaos, Jor-El (played by a permanently frowning Russell Crowe) launches his newborn son onto a pod headed for another less blowy-uppy planet with a whopping great MacGuffin (Something about a codex with genetic material for blah blah blah oh look another building has exploded), because what loving father wouldn’t do that?

After the inevitable $40 million pop, Krypton is no more and we now have a baby flying through space in an unused prop from Independence Day. Crash landing on Earth, luckily in a country without any civil wars or a third world country, the child is fostered by the Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane lane) in Kansas, USA. What follows is the typical character arc of identity and learning responsibility of his powers (a la Peter Parker) with Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill – woof!) doing an Incredible Hulk and wondering from town to town as people are unable to understand his colossal strength and ability to do just about anything.

ManOfSteel-1It goes without saying that the film’s narrative is extremely similar to that of Batman Begins. We have the hero (technically) orphaned at a young age, travelling around as he learns about himself and learning about what he will eventually become. Ok, when I put it that way, it sounds like the most pretentious gap year ever conceived by an Oxford graduate, but even the narrative presentation shares a lot with Begins. We are constantly skipping back and forth to various parts of Clark’s childhood until he becomes Superman and starts joyriding himself about the place. At this point the film goes along in a fairly predictable manner with absolutely no surprises whatsoever.

It’s a very impressive spectacle of a film though. Zack Snyder has somehow toned himself down, yet still retained an air of over-the-top-ness. A lot of the flight scenes were shot in that fakey shakey camera to make it look like a supposedly real bit of documented footage. Those shots even do that slight zoom in/out motion every single time. But hey, it looked good and sooner than later the film starts exploding fight scenes in your face that feature huge buildings being pancaked, armies decimated and large vehicles used as weapons. It’s just a shame it was a film and not a videogame. Still, I don’t think any of the major developers could render Cavill perfectly enough…with those dreamy abs and gorgeous chin.

A few things stopped it from being as grand as the other comic book films we’ve seen recently, though. For a start, it doesn’t feel like a big film. Quite a lot happens, but you come away a little unfulfilled. It follows the template for an origin story so close that you start seeing Clark Kent as being Spiderman or another superhero and you feel that not enough new ground has been trodden to make it feel like a complete film. I also came away feeling that the film could have been more entertaining and less serious, but that’s just nitpicking. But a major one for me was Amy Adams playing Lois Lane.

ManOfSteel-2Far be it from me to let a single character almost ruin a film for you, but I’ve never encountered such an unlikable woman in a film. At the start she’s introduced as a go-getter journalist who can rough it like the lads, but she quickly becomes a weasel-faced harridan who serves little to the plot other than to provide a little bit of love interest. It was almost like someone got Lindsey Lohan to play Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight. maybe if she wasn’t playing the female lead and a lesser character instead. But in another way, she seemed a lot more ballsy and a lot less damsel-in-distress-y than most superhero movie love interests.

In all, it’s a fairly ridiculous film, but it’s not the film that’s to blame, it’s the source material. The man of steel was originally created by two high school students in the thirties, it’s not Dickens! The whole entertainment factor with Superman is watching him do amazing feats in the manner of brightly coloured circus sideshow. See how he bends a building in half! See how he freezes a vat of Tizer just by sighing! See how he lowers the interest rate on that loan I took out the other week just by winking at me and touching my bum a bit.

What can you do this day and age with a character that has no well-though out weaknesses (A fictional radioactive ore?! Why not just make his enemy his invisible friend or say he was created after someone farted against the force of a hurricane?!). And someone who seems to be less of a troubled soul and more of some kind of clean cut metaphor for American flavoured justice (It tastes like salty strawberries) is going to have a hard time fitting into today’s trend of fleshing out the man behind the mask/cape/bondage gear/stylish hat.

Man of SteelThe issue could be with Snyder’s lack of experience with building up a comic book character. The last superhero film he directed was The Watchmen which had it’s depth and rich characterization laid out beautifully in the original comic – a fantastic example of perfect source material. So in the end, Snyder wasn’t required to spend extra effort in planning when the final blueprints were available for decades. The film ended up becoming something slightly less compelling than the comic. So when it came to adapting a character that had been adapted to death, Snyder didn’t have much originality to work with. I guess he now knows how Michael Bay feels.

However, the film features hyperbolic explosions and lots of ridiculous effects, so maybe Snyder was the loud man for the job. Or maybe there is so much that has been done with Superman that it’s obvious it can’t keep up with the other DC and Marvel characters in the reboot game – the kind of, seemingly forced, gritty realism that will come define cinema in the first quarter of the 21st century

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Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na Sequel! – A First Look at The Dark Knight Rises

by on Aug.06, 2011, under First Look

Now we all know the big list of sequels that outdid the original film. Terminator 2. Aliens. You know the rest. It’s a hard thing to do, and when it happens, said film is given the accolade of superior sequel. Obviously. But who has ever heard of the next step happening? I’m talking about the superior second sequel; the third step in a trilogy that outdoes the other films. The only time we think about the third part of a film trilogy is when we’re giving an example of a shambling wreck that shat all over the image of the previous two films. Godfather Part III seems to be everyone’s favourite trilogy punching bag (in my opinion, it’s a good film in its own right, but that’s just me!).

Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction?

Christopher Nolan already proved in 2008 that a comic book movie can be an academy award winning epic. He could have also proved that a comic book movie sequel can outdo its former, but that was already proven by Bryan Singer with X-Men 2. Now he looks to take the caped crusader into flight a third, and possibly final, time with The Dark knight Rises. When I first heard about the announcement of the film, my first thought, and no doubt everyone else’s, was which villain would be suited for the gritty and real-ish turn the series had taken. If they got the Penguin, things would descend into camp bird puns. If they got Mr Freeze…well…we’ve already been there. There’s no point in The Riddler as Heath Ledger’s stellar Joker combined the anarchic humour with Edward Nigma’s love for elaborate puzzles o’ death.

So who’s left that could possibly fit into this new venture without camping everything up towards (shudder) Batman and Robin territory? Watch the trailer below and guess the villain.

So it’s Bane! Yes, that’s right: Nolan’s doing a brave move and not only moving the series into a more sci-fi area, but bringing a villain that was already used in Batman and Robin. I must admit, it looks like it could work, but in the early stages of planning this movie, he must have been awash with confused looks. It’s almost as bad as trying to work Robin into the new style of Batman. I never saw the point of Robin in the first place. I’m sorry, I just didn’t. OK?! If the caped crusader fight’s alone and focuses on keeping a secret identity, not only would bringing another person into the inner circle be a risk to his normal life, but he would also have another life at risk should he ever get captured. And Robin always got captured. He was like Princess Peach with a cape.

Of course, you're going to have to imagine the mask at this point...

There has also been confirmation that Catwoman is the other villain. Now this is a sensible choice, it’s just all a question on what they do. Will she be the wealthy animal activist Selina Kyle, or the mild mannered secretary who plunged several stories before being licked back to consciousness by a random swarm of cats? Not that I have any problem with that, I would just prefer the former. Either way, you cannot go wrong with her. She’s essentially batman, but with tits and a whip. She doesn’t have a strict code of conduct that Mr Wayne wears like a medal, which makes her an interesting element to add to complicate the narrative. Will she be a villain, or just a morally ambiguous bit of totty on the side? The Dark Knight Rises is set for release next year. Best of luck, Nolan!

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Inception: A poor man’s headfuck

by on Sep.07, 2010, under Films, Review

Inception - Corridor

It's a bugger to hoover...

Should anyone dare enter my dreams, making a film about them would be the last thing I expect them to, before seeking psychiatric help and obsessively learning what the meaning behind the term ‘Yangak’ is. Dreams are more than just visions, they can be sensations, colours several things melding into one that make absolutely no sense whatsoever when observed by an awake, and hopefully sane, mind. Plus, how many Freudian slips would you encounter? Enter one man’s mind and end up being chased by a rampaging penis monster with the voice of your mother. Make a compelling science fiction entitled ‘The MindLair of Mrs Dong-Bitch’ and it’ll jizz all over the Oscars. Literally, hopefully.

And no matter what you do with the film, please give a strong think about casting Leonardo Di Caprio as your leading man; I wouldn’t trust him to lead a lemming over a ledge! Obviously Chris Nolan didn’t read my last letter to him. Don’t blame him really. The last one was just a crumpled bit of paper with the words ‘Dark Knight mmmmmmmmmmm’ and a strong hormonal odour. But despite this I still didn’t hold strong feelings for his newest venture. Was it the absence of bat ears? No promising performance? The fact it was an ‘original’ plot? I can’t put my finger on it. The first visuals of Paris being folded in half did stir up something, but my heart stayed at a steady pace. It took me a while to finally go see it after barging through nothing but loyal positive feedback from just about everyone alive. It’s on the to do list for sure then!

After much warning of a complicated plot and the possibility of having to see the movie a second time before I got the jist of it, I decided to up my challenge by have two pints with a Welshman. It should be a pre cinema tradition. A sandy beach starts the film off and our Leo is waking up washed up to shore; the shadow of the Titanic sinking back behind him in the distance and in his career. Can we expect an amazing performance? Well so far he’s predictably groggy. Let’s see how this unfolds. Two children are on the beach and he is yanked off the sandcastle pitch by armed escort to an oriental castle. One owned by a rubber faced old man. They find a gun and a weird thimble thing. The pieces are sure to come together. After a bit of time/dream jumping, we are introduced to some of the main cast. Leonardo and his lacky are professional theirs who do their operating inside the minds of their victim, where their minds are fully furnished with obvious metaphors (His secrets are locked in a safe in his mind….well, duh?). It makes it look like there’s a video game to be played inside of everyone.

Immediately The Matrix comes to mind, which is a bit unfair. To be honest, this is what the Matrix should have been instead of disappearing up its own arse with haf baked philosophy concerning reality. Instead of falling down the bullet time pit, Nolan makes the whole reality thing subtle. No green filters to blind the viewer with the obvious, no gimmicky bullet time. But come to think of it, the whole over the top CGI starts off to look like a gimmick. It feels like a discarded fireworks box being put to use on a dull day than being something that augments the experience. It draws the average Joe punters in, me thinks. It does wow in some places, though; and surprisingly enough actually becomes woven into the storyline. But you have to get about an hour in for that.

Inception - Poster

One foot of rainfall?! What a boring dream!

The thing that made Dark Knight brilliant was the story in terms of quantity: a lot was happening and so very quickly. Inception offers the opposite. The film is just as long (Two and a half stonking hours!), but it all focuses around what is technically one major set piece. It’s a heist movei about planting an idea in someone’s mind. At one point Leo mentions their ‘dream within a dream’ plan stressing how time slows down when you go though the next ‘dream layer’ (It makes sense, trust me!). 1 hour in the first dream turns to weeks to months to years. So in theory they could be in the persons mind for a couple of hours and have an experience lasting around ten years. You have me sold Nolan. That is one of the greatest premises I’ve heard. Another letter shall be sent to you. But sadly, that was not the case.

The promised ten year dream heist last under and hour of their time and feels more like an old episode of Mission Impossible mixed with William Gibson’s Necromancer (a book that ‘heavily inspired’ the film). His dead wife pops up around the heist as it’s his own projection of guilt fucking up the mission, but this turns from character development to tacky love story. “You said we’d grow old together” Uncomfortably turns into “I’ll never let go, Jack”. Typical. As the film goes, it’s impressive in places as well as very well done, but I would have been happier with an extra hour for them to flesh out this concept even more. That and I couldn’t really care about the characters motivations.

Apart from Leo, the rest of the cast are fantastic. Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page have my salutes. I just feel a bit sore about Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite having a crap amount of screen time. You don’t rent an expensive tuxedo and try it on once for 5 seconds, do you? Unless it was the one in my dream. The one made of penises…

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