I read Orson Scott Card’s scifi masterpiece when it was first published in 1985 and at the time, I was thinking that it was a superb cross of Starship Troopers and Lord of the Flies. It’s one of my favourite stories and you can imagine my emotional state as I was watching this film adaptation. Yes, I was crying like a baby. The adaptation is very faithful (I believe Card made that a condition of the option and license) and director Gavin Hood did a fairly reasonable job in getting the main plot points and themes of the book across. This achievement is aided by the strong cast with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and the young Asa Butterfield giving solid performances.
Funny how Thor (the mightiest Avenger) is probably the weakest and least interesting character amongst the stars of the Marvel Studio flicks. The first movie spent time introducing Thor and like most origin stories, the interest was kept at a respectfully high level most of the time with the key being the character development of Thor himself.
This is where the sequel falls flat. Once you understand that Thor is arrogant, brash and headstrong (and loves Jane Foster), there is nowhere else to go unless you spice things up and the writers of Thor: The Dark World fail to do that completely. Thor is utterly boring (despite Chris Hemsworth’s best efforts) and predictable – lacking any edge whatsoever. Thor’s flaws and weaknesses (evident in the first movie) are glossed over and somehow he becomes the least interesting character in his own movie.
Okay, wrong film but watching Gravity is probably the closest experience that most of us will have of being in space. And that unique experience is crucial to a complete appreciation of Gravity as director Cuaron draws on the concepts of the more familiar earthbound tales of survival (e.g. a person caught in a shipwreck or lost in the wilderness), the only difference being the setting.
To sum it all up, Riddick was rollicking good B-movie fun! What else do you need to know?
Well, after the critical and commercial mauling that the previous movie Chronicles of Riddick received, writer/director David Twohy and star/producer Vin Diesel had to re-think and brought the franchise back to basics. Meaning that this is more a sequel to Pitch Black (2000) than anything else.
The loosely defined Cornetto trilogy is concluded.
That’s about it actually. The premise in itself starts off quite intriguingly. Five friends reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier. Loads of potential – 90s nostalgia and drunken hi-jinks. Throw in Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman and things look promising.
BUT there’s actually more to their old hometown that meets the eye and the film morphs into an unlikely scifi thriller, except that it’s not very scifi and it’s definitely not very thrilling. And worse still, the humour runs dry halfway through the movie when even though they are faced literally by annihilation, Pegg’s character is determined to finish the pub crawl. Rather silly.
And don’t get me started on the ending of The World’s End.
Go and watch Shaun of the Dead again…
After the risible remake of Total Recall, you can understand my skepticism about this new version of yet another Paul Verhoeven classic, Robocop. Judging from the trailer, it’s clear that this film is trying to find its own space within the basic framework of the original story. Too early to tell but the jury’s still out on this one…
I ain’t gonna sugar coat it – there is no justification for this pointless sequel, except the studio’s blind greed. I loved the first Kick Ass, I found it inventive, invigorating and highly entertaining with Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl the icing on the proverbial cake.
Everything about this sequel is just wrong – not least the entire cliched sequence where Mindy MacCready (Hit Girl’s alter ego) attempts to lead a normal life and leaves her vigilante lifestyle behind. And when even scenes with Moretz are not able to satisfy, then it’s clear that the movie is in trouble!
There is nothing remotely interesting about the plot – predictable and unimaginative – it plods along at a didactic pace that threatened to induce sleep once or twice. Even Jim Carrey’s Captain Stars and Stripes is unable to inject any real humour into the proceedings.
By the time, the movie arrives at its inevitable denouement – the big battle between super-heroes and super-villains – one is simply past caring – there is hardly any depth of characterization that would encourage the audience to invest any concern regarding the ultimate fates of the characters.
Gravity (Opens on 3rd October)
Mexican Alfonso Cuaron earned his reputation as a leading cutting edge director with Children of Men, th etrailer for the upcoming Gravity (starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) certainly looks pretty enough but somehow Bullock’s cries for help is difficult to reconcile with a seriously cool flick. I am hoping that there’s more to the movie than the trailer suggests.
Ender’s Game (Opens on 7th November)
Orson Scott Card’s epic tale of gifted children recruited to fight an alien invasion of Earth finally hits the screen with controversy over Card’s anti-gay opinions threatening overshadow the merits of the movie itself. The trailer looks intriguing enough though…
Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is the latest in a recent line of original scifi blockbusters that more or less began with the phenomenal success of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And if like me, you thoroughly loved the creatures in Hellboy 2, then you would have a heightened sense of anticipation for del Toro’s take on the classic ‘giant robot vs monsters’ genre.
Set in the near future (2020s), the setup is typically apocalyptic: Earth is under attack by Kaiju: colossal monsters which have emerged from a portal on the ocean floor. To combat the monsters, humanity unites to create the Jaegers: gigantic humanoid mecha, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge. The war has reach a critical juncture and unless the people behind the Jaegars are able to execute one last gambit, it’s the end of the world!
Alright, so the plot’s nothing to shout about. Del Toro envisioned Pacific Rim as an earnest, colourful adventure story, with an “incredibly airy and light feel”, in contrast to the “super-brooding, super-dark, cynical summer movie”. And it shows. The characters are cyphers, the story resolution is cliched and there is no grand themes – what you see is what you get – in other words.
But that’s precisely the point – “what you see” is staggering! The action sequences make the film – like it or not – powerful scenes of all-out battle between Jaegars and Kaiju, that’s the main reason why Pacific Rim succeeds where other movies involving fighting robots failed big time (are you taking notes, Michael Bay?) 3D IMAX is the absolutely essential viewing option for Pacific Rim – it should be the default option – as the massive action will literally fill up your eyes with gorgeous eye candy.
For me personally, I felt like a little boy again thrilling to those old Ultraman/Godzilla/Rodan and Sinbad movies – no surprise here as Pacific Rim is obviously del Toro’s loving tribute to Ray Harryhausen, Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya – but this time the realism factor was pumped up to the max! It is difficult to describe without spoiling your fun – suffice to say that I was going – Wow! Wow! WOW! throughout each awesome battle scene.
For the true-blue geeks out there, you’re going to want to watch it again just for the action sequences!
In geek movie franchises (scifi, fantasy or superhero), going back to the beginning to re-introduce a iconic character is virtually unavoidable nowadays. In Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan (director/co-screenwriter) and David S Goyer (co-screenwriter) succeeded in re-vitalizing the Dark Knight after the critical failure of Batman & Robin (1997). This success was due to Nolan’s approach to portray Batman as realistically as possible (within the context of a superhero movie) and Nolan and Goyer would bring the franchise to greater heights with Dark Knight (2008) and Dark Knight Rises (2012).
It was therefore natural for Warner Bros and DC Comics to look to Nolan and Goyer to do the same for Superman. By all accounts, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) was a massive flop and Warner Bros was keen to turn it all around for Superman with Man of Steel. Adding director Zack Snyder (300 and Watchmen) to the mix, Nolan and Goyer applied the Dark Knight approach to Superman.
And it works.
With nods to numerous scifi movies of the recent past (Matrix, Independence Day) and a healthy referencing of the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Man of Steel is,without doubt, one of the best superhero movies ever made and provides a solid platform for Warner Bros to build up the DC Universe from its foundation.
So many high points – the brilliant cast, the thought-provoking themes, the appropriate flashback sequences, the astounding art direction, the sensational special effects and dynamic film score – but the best part of all was that Snyder, Nolan and Goyer chose not to pander to the comic book audience only but instilled a science-fictional tread that ran right through the well-written plot narrative.
Let me get this off my chest right from the get-go. The best way to enjoy J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness is to watch it in IMAX 3D, switch your brain off and simply enjoy the ride. The visual spectacle should be able to remove all your concerns about plot holes, character motivations and illogical actions.
Iron Man 2 was only half a movie, in my humble opinion. The first half was quick-paced and exhilarating but then the wheels came off and the movie came to a tired conclusion. The sequel did well at the box office but one sensed that director Jon Favreau had lost interested in the franchise that he had kickstarted. So when it came to talk about the third Iron Man movie, Favreau passed and Shane Black came onboard.
Originally entitled Jack the Giant Killer, this latest Hollywood foray into the classic fairy tale update (Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel) looks like it might actually be worth the trouble. Directed by Bryan Singer – whose last two movies Superman Returns and Valkyrie were decidedly less than stellar – the movie tells the familiar story of a young farmhand (Jack) who must rescue a princess from a race of giants after inadvertently opening a gateway to their world.
This first installment of director Peter Jackson’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, sub-titled “An Unexpected Journey”, clocks in at almost 3 hours long and has been deliberately crafted to (hopefully) re-create the awe and wonder that Jackson achieved with Fellowship of the Ring all those years ago.
As regular PoP readers will be aware, I was less than impressed with the disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine – it was simply a bad movie and totally wasted the opportunity to develop one of the most interesting Marvel characters. But of course, due to the movie’s immense success, a sequel was always going to be on the cards. According to reports, the James Mangold-helmed The Wolverine is based on the classic Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, which is set in Japan. Looking at the new poster (above), it’s clear that a strong Milleresque vibe has been assimilated to appease and excite comic book fans. To be honest, I have low expectations (I still believe that Hugh Jackman is totally wrong for Wolverine but that’s another story) but it’s wait and see for the time being…
2013 is on the horizon and the movie studios are letting us know that there is much to look forward to next year in terms of scifi and superhero movies. Here are a bunch of new trailers that have caught the eye and captured the imagination.
Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead is/was a genre-defining horror classic with some of the grossest scenes ever committed to celluloid (tree rape, anyone?). This remake updates the original with Fede Alvarez at the helm and has Raimi and Bruce Campbell on-board as producers. Does it have any chance of coming close to the beloved original? Watch the redband trailer and make up your own mind. Not for the faint of heart – you have been warned! Hitting cinemas in April 2013.
The Man with the Iron Fists promises to be a campy kung fu classic with a tag line to kill for – “You can’t spell Kung Fu without F and U”!!! To get us geeks in the mood, check out the character trailers below for Bronze Lion (Cung Le) and Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu).
Time travel has provided some of the most inventive scifi movie concepts in history. For me personally, two of my favourite movies involved time travel viz. 12 Monkeys and Back to the Future. Unfortunately, time travel as a concept can also be highly problematic and has ruined many a promising scifi movie – Star Trek: First Contact comes quickly to mind.
Well, it’s all over the interweb so it must be true. Disney will release Ant-Man on Nov 5th, 2015. Directed by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), the movie has been in development hell for the longest time and so this is exciting news indeed! However, considering that this release date is after that of Avengers 2 raises the important question of whether Ant-Man and Wasp will be in the Avengers sequel. I certainly hope so!
I was rather intrigued by the pilot of the Arrow TV series, based on DC Comic’s Green Arrow. It appears that the producers are intent on making the series as grim, gritty and realistic as possible whilst being true to the DC Universe in which Oliver Queen/Green Arrow inhabits. IGN revealed this exclusive first look at one of DC’s favorite villains- Deathstroke – and it’s encouraging to see the character’s mask accurately depicted as well. Very promising!
According to Indiewire.com, David Fincher has turned to crowdfunding to finance the adaptation of Eric Powell’s comic series, The Goon! You can find the campaign over at Kickstarter. Closer analysis will indicate that $400,000 is needed to put together a full-length story reel based on Powell’s script. But what’s in it for donors? Well, amongst other things, blog access, t-shirts, limited edition posters and original artwork AND a day at Blur Studio where’ll donors will get an all-access tour and meet the filmmakers… along with a special screening of the finished story reel! Of course, depending on how much you DO give…
The second trailer for Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s Hobbit has landed. By all accounts, An Unexpected Journey certainly appears to be lighter in tone than the Lord of the Rings trilogy – the original book was written for children, after all – and the stars of the film would definitely be the fun-loving DWARVES, represented by Gimli in LOTR but this time in full force! It’s all looking very promising but whether or not the decision to make three movies is justified or not, remains to be seen. In the meantime, look forward to December!
Batman Begins was – after the risible Batman Forever and Batman & Robin – a shot in the arm for the Batman movie franchise and the superhero film genre. Director Christopher Nolan together with writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer presented Batman in a more realistic and darker tone. Batman Begins was a critical and commercial success and paved the way for the even greater things to come.
A Wizard of Oz prequel directed by Sam Raimi. Sounds like a winner right?
Here’s the plot summary – When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.