Action without narrative – Man of Steel

Man of Steel - Official Poster - from

Man of Steel – Official Poster – from

Man of Steel (2013)

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay and story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon.

A good action film should have some great action sequences but there also should be a good story controlling the action. To have action just to show off a character’s abilities and special effects is not justification for action in a film, especially not a blockbuster. There have been lots of films that have done just that. They’ve also probably made a lot of money. But it doesn’t make them great films. It makes them bad films. With so many action films being pumped out each year it must be hard to compete and come up with new and exciting ideas for how to construct a good action film. With Marvel and DC Comics competing on the big screen there is a lot of speculation and comparison. After The Avengers making box office history last year and the Batman trilogy being a big success, Man of Steel was always going to be under scrutiny and highly produced. So why did it end up being so pathetically average?

The moment the film lost me was when Superman was trying to fly and smashed through a mountain. He could’ve missed it, hit the top of it, skidded along the side, but the movie makers decided that sending Clark Kent through the thing was the better option. And coming out the other side unscathed, yep that’s a way to win a human audience over. This was basically what the majority of the film was, unnecessary action sequences to show that Superman was indestructible and so was his enemy, so how do you defeat an indestructible enemy? Oh yes, you try to smash him into every building you’ve ever seen, because that’s really going to make a difference. It wasn’t that the film was bad, it was just that the action was so unnecessary that it detracted from the film.

Man of Steel takes a different kind of look at Superman’s story, his origins, and how he became the hero. It covers different ground than previous Superman films and gives Clark Kent a broader scope of character. Henry Cavill cannot be faulted for his performance as Kal-El (Clark Kent’s Kryptonian name) and Amy Adams brilliantly portrays the strong and determined investigative reporter Lois Lane. But their characters, the narrative development, and the character development are overlooked and the action takes first priority in the film. I expected more from the guys that brought us the Batman trilogy.

Man of Steel lacks substance. It lacks reality. It lacks faithfulness. If you looked simply at the narrative scenes and were able to re-cut the film so that the action was removed you’d have a far better film. This film is the perfect example of how big budgets can wreck beautiful films.

I feel a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy this film because deep down I really wanted to love it. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were perfect on screen, and I’m usually a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, but Man of Steel is just one big indestructible disappointment.



See it in 3D – The Hobbit

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey - Official Poster - from

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey – Official Poster – from

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh (screenplay), Phillipa Boyens (screenplay), Peter Jackson (screenplay), Guillermo del Toro (screenplay), JRR Tolkien (story)
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis.

When the Lord of The Rings films first came out ten years ago they really blew me away as the first epic adventure film that I had seen on the big screen. I still remember sitting through them, watching Legolas swing around that horse and climb up the oliphaunt and shot an arrow through its head. It was an adventure story and wondrous to behold on the big screen. However, in the opening scenes of The Hobbit my jaw dropped as the landscape and action came alive on the screen. Seeing this film in 3D is essential. Mainly because the story is padded out so much that there are moments when you can sit back and enjoy the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, sure the story of the Hobbit is great, but three films is a little excessive.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey gives the back story to Bilbo Baggins. It is Bilbo’s story, but Jackson and his co-creators decided that they needed to give it context within the Lord of The Rings films, this is so very unnecessary even though I love seeing Elijah Wood as Frodo again. The story of Bilbo is exciting and adventurous in the book, and Jackson has brought it to life visually, but instead of making it fast paced and exciting like we are now used to, he has slowed the pace in between the big action scenes. I’m really not sure whether them stretching the short novel out into three movies is a good thing or it will just be laborious when it comes to the end of the third film but I have very mixed feelings about this first installment. I both enjoyed the ride and the visuals but also felt the length of the film and knowing there are another two to come over the next few years gave me a sense of tedium as I sat through the last half hour. The Hobbit as a story is meant to be a tale of adventure and discovery of what it means to belong for children but it hasn’t been treated this way and it loses it’s childish charm in a lot of ways because of the slowness of the telling of the film. Martin Freeman is brilliant, as is the rest of the cast, but all in all Jackson should have gone back to Tolkien’s original ideal in The Hobbit rather than trying to make it The Lord Of The Rings again. Jackson has overlooked the difference in Tolkien’s writing and purpose from The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.


When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die – The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises - Official Poster - from

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay) and Christopher Nolan (screenplay & story), David S. Goyer (story), and Bob Kane (Batman characters)
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman

There are so many feature length films nowadays that should really have an hour of them removed because they try and do too much in the one film. Story telling has been lengthened and not always for the benefit of the film or for the audience. Christopher Nolan has perfected the art of creating a story that ebbs and flows in such a way that enthralls the audience for the entire time. The Dark Knight Rises is a long film but it didn’t feel like the 2hr 44min that it claims to be. It may be that I was just overly excited by the perfection of Nolan’s writing once again, or that the adrenaline and excitement got to me, but the film just picked me up and carried my imagination through it without a hiccup of lost concentration.

I have to admit I wasn’t that excited about going to see The Dark Knight Rises. Especially after being disappointed with The Amazing Spider-Man (see review here), I really didn’t want to get my hopes up too high to be crushed again. But to the contrary I was blown away and riveted the entire time. The narrative of this film is as brilliant as the previous two with its own little twists and turns along the way. I think I got so involved in the film that when one of the big reveals happened and my friend beside me whispered “I knew it!”, I was still rolling in the amazement of it. I now can see how one could have predicted the twists but I was enjoying the ride too much to take that step back and think about what was coming.

The amazing thing about this film was the audience’s response. I saw the film the second night it was out, with a packed theatre. There are particular moments in the film when the sound becomes basically silent and it was in these moments when I realised how involved the audience was in this story. There was barely a rustle of lolly papers or crunch of popcorn to be heard in the entire theatre. The power of this film was astonishing. It hooks you in and doesn’t let you go until those lights are lifted and you are jump started back into the real world. I know that this will not be the experience for everyone but it certainly was mine and I truly hope that you’re experience of watching The Dark Knight Rises is as thrilling as mine.

The only aspect of the film which I wasn’t completely satisfied with was that of the villain, Bane. The Dark Knight Rises is the end of a trilogy that has been acclaimed for more reasons than it’s brilliant story lines and production values but it has been shrouded in some sadness and drama of its own. The loss of the brilliant Heath Ledger before The Dark Knight came out in 2008 was tragic and the film will always hold that external loss to it. However the beauty of his performance in The Dark Knight was the thing that really gripped the audience. He played the Joker so incredibly well that I still have nightmares when I see pictures of him, let alone watch the film again. And thus, it was always going to be hard to create another villain as tremendously terrifying as The Joker. This is the only fault I find with the new film. The villain doesn’t give me nightmares. And this I attribute purely and simply to the voice of Tom Hardy (Inception, This Means War). Hardy’s British accent didn’t suit his villainous look. It wasn’t monstrous or maniacal, it was simply plain and had barely a hint of evil apart from the words which formed the dialogue. Maybe that was what was meant to be so terrifying about him, that he was just one of the normal people, that it wasn’t because he was a raving lunatic but that he was simply a causer of havoc and discord. But after Heath Ledger’s performance there was a certain level of expectation and it wasn’t fulfilled for me.

However, in saying that, it was still thrilling to see Bane unfold as a character and how Catwoman (Anne Hathway) was worked into the storyline as well. I really loved Hathway’s portrayal of the woman behind the spandex and how Nolan created her character outside the seductress. The other outstanding performance was that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose character was surprising and beautifully portrayed. Nolan tends to use the same actors throughout his work with good reason, they suit his dramatic style of writing and make what could’ve been a really cheesy line quite beautiful and genuine. The passion and depth to each character was explored throughout the drama and provided the reality that a comic film needs to be truly identifiable with our real world. It is the characters challenges, triumphs, and losses that make this trilogy the wonder that it is.