Will Man of Steel have a structure of steel?

If you keep a close eye on the television screens or the big screen at your local cinema you’ll undoubtedly be aware of the upcoming superman film which is soon to grace our screens; Man of Steel. After recent super hero reboots in the past few years such as Batman and Spider-man, the new Superman film is a well welcomed addition to the collection. However after seeing various trailers for the film now and seeing the two different names that are splashed throughout the majority of them, I still have some concerns.

The two names that are shown in big bold letters are Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan. Quite an interesting mix when you think about it because you’ve got the cinematic genius of Chris Nolan as part of the writing team for the film, and then the risky figure of Zack Snyder at the helm of the film as director. Now for me that paints quite a balanced picture between good and bad because you’ve got the traits of each of them present in the film. Looking at both of their track records it paints a good picture as to how good the film is actually going to be.

Firstly on the writer’s side we have Christopher Nolan, the genius responsible for the latest Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, among other titles. He is a man that I admire greatly, not just for his directing and his general approach towards films, but because of his writing. Not only has he proved himself to be a brilliant screenplay writer for great films such as Memento and The Prestige, but he has also proven himself to be very good at writing the actual story for a film, such as The Dark Knight and Inception. Seeing his name as one of the writers for the story has filled me with a bit of confidence because the other films he has written the story for have been excellent.

He amazed audiences with the Dark Knight, displaying the collide between a man with too many rules and a chaotic man who doesn’t have any. He then went on to make one of the best films of all time in writing Inception so his history speaks for itself. Having written the story for the Batman trilogy it is clear that he is capable of successfully writing super hero based films so it will be interesting to see what he has come up with Man of Steel. I have no doubt that he’ll be treating the audience as intelligent beings as he does so for all of his films. I salute you sir.

Then on the other hand we have Zack Snyder behind the camera, pointing finger at the ready, primed to take the position of director. Now based on his history it does somewhat make me feel uneasy as to how the execution of the film will be with him as director. In the past he’s given us such works as the long winded Watchmen, the unbelievably shaky 300, and then the likes of the really ill disciplined Sucker Punch. All of those films could have been improved if considered more carefully. I won’t lie, visually I think they are very well done, Snyder has quite a nice comic book feel to his films so there is a really gritty touch to them. From the trailers it seems as though he has applied this visual approach to Superman and it appears to have worked quite well. However it just leaves me wondering how well disciplined this film will be.

With Watchmen he proved how he could take a classic graphic novel and make a fairly good adaptation of it, with a lot of room for improvement. With 300 he just showed what happens when you substitute substance of visuals, with quite a bad result, leaving the actors such as Gerard Butler to act (and furthermore shout) in a way that they want to. And then with Sucker Punch he made the point of showing us what happens when we leave him to his own devices, allowing him to make a film that was just terrible. All of these films suggest that he needs some guidance and assistance when directing a film, clearly for the good of the audience.

Combining the two together should be quite a sight because you’ve got Christopher Nolan who has a lot of attention to detail and takes great care in how his films are constructed, and then Zack Snyder who has quite a touch a go approach to films, where visuals are usually placed as a higher priority than characterisation. It just reminds me of the line that incidentally Nolan wrote for the character of The Joker in The Dark Knight: “this is what happens when an unstoppable force, meets an immovable objects”. In this case Zack Snyder is the unstoppable force because he rushes around a lot and has a scattered method of approaching a film. And then Nolan would be the immovable object because he has a clear and precise understanding of how to approach each film and crafts his films very well. As the quote suggests the meeting of the two could have disastrous effects , but then on the other hand there is always the chance of it going the opposite way.

Both of them have a different way of connecting with the audience. In Nolan’s case he treats them as intelligent beings and offers them clever films that entertain them and make them think at the same time. Snyder on the other hand seems to try and connect with the audience by offering the shared value of entertainment through a route that he understands clearly; violence. The film is 143 minutes long which is the usual amount of time a film by either of them runs for, with Nolan’s films being complex and Snyder’s being quite stretched out to the point of being ill disciplined. With the two styles of intelligence and action combined, in theory it sounds like quite a good base line for a film. Let’s just hope that in practice it is executed to our expectations.

So will the film be as structured as we would hope it to be, or will be a Sucker Punch style shamble? I would hope that with Nolan’s writing he makes it very clear as to how the film should be shown, and that Snyder pays very close attention to what he has to say and takes it on board. I’m hoping that Nolan’s writing gives the film a very strong base line, almost like scaffolding so that it can keep it well supported.

I will be going to see the films when it comes out and will probably be writing a review for it so keeps your ears to the ground for that one. Please feel free to leave any comments you have about the situation and also I would like to hear what you think of the two big names involved.

Until the next time: au revoir.

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The ‘could be better’ Gatsby [no spoilers]

At a recent trip to the cinema I found myself rather stuck for choice. With the main films being listed as ‘The Hangover Part III’ and ‘Fast & Furious 6’ it was going to be a tough decision as to which mind numbingly stupid film to tolerate. However after scrolling to the bottom of the list there was an escape rope from the stupidity i wasn’t going to turn down; The Great Gatbsy.

I went in to the screening knowing very little about Gatsby (much like many of the characters coincidentally) so I was watching the film with a completely open mind. I knew that it was directed by Baz Lurhmann, a director whom I’ve never really appreciated based on his track record. It was unfortunately in 3D as there were unforeseen problems with timing that could not be avoided. Gritting my teeth as I entered the screen room and being handed a pair of ridiculous glasses the first hurdle was completed. Now for the film.

In terms of plot it stays quite nicely along the lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel with some branches of added scenes and taken scenes. It tells the story of a man called Nick Carraway who lives next to a large house owned by a mysterious man called Jay Gatsby.  As the story progresses Carraway becomes more and more intrigued by the mysterious past of his neighbour and his eccentric lifestyle. After being invited to one of his many parties, Carraway enters in to Gatsby’s circle, learning more about his past and his love that he hungers to reclaim; Daisy Buchanan. Unfortunately Daisy is married to another man so with the help of Carraway, Gatsby hopes to reunite with his love, with consequences leaving a lasting impact on the central characters.

Now I will say this about the film, it is probably my favourite film by Baz Luhrmann. It may be similar to some of his previous works such as Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet however this seems to be more disciplined than his previous films so it was definitely a step in the right direction. What I mean by this is that his films seem to be too based around being different and artistic they sometimes lack depth and substance, but in the case of Gatsby the quirky nature is accompanied well by strong characters and focus on the events of the story. But the question stands, it may be Luhrmann’s best film, but was it the best adaptation of Gatsby? After watching the 1974 film I would have to say the answer is a resounding no. There were elements that needed tweaking.

Firstly there is the usual Luhrmann issue of the film being too quirky or different. So the scenes where we see Gatsby’s parties there is a lot of dancing and loud music that doesn’t seem to suit the nature of the film. After watching the original there is a clear differentiation between a soundtrack that suits the nature of the story and a soundtrack that doesn’t. The music from the 1974 film was very much suited to the time period and fell under the right genre, so during the party scenes of drinking and dancing it gave the audience a very good view of what such parties would have felt like. In the case of Luhrmann’s film we have a soundtrack with a lot of modern music by artists such as The XX and Florence + The Machine, who usually I don’t have an issue with, but in the case of Gatsby their music really didn’t suit it. With these large parties filled with guests drinking and dancing, and then modern music is just made the sequences feel like a fancy dress party of the modern age. Which is essentially what Luhrmann’s films usually feel like. If the soundtrack was for a film set in contemporary times I wouldn’t have an issue with it, but when it’s pinned to a film set in the 1920s it does feel somewhat out of place.

In terms of acting I’m quite torn. There is the unbelievably talented portrayal of Gatsby himself by Leonardo DiCaprio who is more than a match for Robert Redford. His portrayal gave you everything you would expect from Gatsby; charming, sophisticated, clever but with a darker feel to it. Toby McGuire stars as Nick Carraway who if I’m honest with you didn’t have a lot of appeal to it. The character of Carraway is one that is more delicate than Gatsby so there has to be a clear contrast, which there was but for me it was too much. McGuire felt too much like a wet blanket and didn’t nail the character as best as he could have done. Also notably his voice being used for the narrative was quite annoying as we hear his soft voice throughout the events. And then we have the character of Daisy Buchanan played by Carey Mulligan who performance was suited to the film. For me it was not as good as Mia Farrow’s portrayal of Buchanan but it was not without merit. There were additional acting roles throughout the film that did feel like they would slot into other Luhrmann films which in some case suited and in others felt as if they missed the ball park completely.

Finally the special effects were quite a bother for me. I saw the film in 3D which I won’t dwell on too much but just suffice to say it added nothing to the film apart from reduce the colour saturation. I did take my glasses off for about one third of the film and it looked better fuzzy and colourful than it did jumping out of the screen. There are some scenes of city landscapes and fast cars throughout the film that I admit do look very good, however I do not feel they suit the nature of the subject matter. The 1974 Gatsby was very simplistic and focused very much on the characters and it did work very well. This adaptation has more focus on how the scenery looks and how certain sequences are executed which does suggest Luhramann’s priorities may not be in the right place. The scenes that feature Gatsby’s famous yellow Rolls Royce are very fast and are executed well, providing a side to Gatsby we don’t necessarily see in the 1974 version. There is a lot of concentration on the special effects but there seems to be less on the screenplay which was written by Luhrman himself with the help of Craig Pearce. I’m not saying they did a bad job with the screenplay, however it was never going to match the extreme talents of Francis Ford Coppola who wrote the screenplay for the 1974 version. Coppola has proved on many occasions that his writing is just superb so his writing for Gatsby is the best I have seen by far.

So overall I would give the film two and half stars out of five. It was an enjoyable experience for me, but it did not match the 1974 version. I’m glad I saw the film as it showed me that Baz Luhrmann is capable of making a film that is better than Australia. I could be better as there is clearly room for improvement but the film is not totally without merit. The 3D obviously did nothing for me so I do want to see it again in 2D to see if it’s as enjoyable for me. The last I heard Gatsby was in and around fifth and the box office, being beaten by ‘Hangover Part III’ and ‘Fast & Furious 6’ which does not come as a surprise really, that’s the nature of modern cinema. Hopefully it will gain more money at the box office than it has already, it is a film that deserves credit. Certainly more credit than any Hangover or Fast & Furious films. Now there are some films with problems.

This is the first film review I have written so hopefully it was useful to some people. Please feel free to leave any comments about the films or how useful this review was, in particular I’d like to hear any thoughts you have about Gatsby or Luhrmann.

Until the next time I shall leave you by repeating the words of Gatsby himself: Cheerio Old Sport.

What has happened to the films we loved?

Now, I have blogged previously about how difficult it is to make a sequel or indeed prequel that is good. It’s a situation that can tip one way or another very easily and has masses of potential to be brilliant or awful. But once again I find myself in a situation where sequels are annoying me.

Picture this scene: you’re a film lover, you’re flicking through the television channels in the hope of finding some entertainment after a long day. After a large amount of time spent skipping past ‘Made in Chelsea’ and other such nonsense you come to realise that there are only bad, trashy sequels being run by the different stations. What’s the resulting effect of this? Me shouting inappropriate words at an inanimate box with lights and sounds coming out of it, followed by a swift angry walk to the nearest computer. If you can’t picture it then trust me when I say, neither ends of that tale are pretty. 

This is the situation I’m finding myself in tonight. I want to relax and watch a film that is an enjoyable experience and yet I find myself being angered by seeing what has happened to films that were brilliant. It is horrible to see the idea a film that was a work of art being handed to a different film maker to be re worked and added to, thus turning the idea into something quite ugly. And then it’s even worse when the idea of a good film is made ugly by the person who made it well in the first place. Want examples?

One of the best examples I can use for this the 1979 film Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. I absolutely love that film, I think it is such a work of art. The screenplay was perfectly written to suit the complex yet human like characters, the actors were very well suited to their roles, for it’s time the special effects are incredible, and there’s still that haunting feel to the quiet soundtrack that puts me on edge when I hear it. That’s what the 70s had in store for us, and it was a masterpiece. Now after a bloody good sequel (Aliens), a quite bad sequel (Alien 3) and a sequel that no one knows what to think of (Alien Resurrection) we find ourselves in the new millennium, and what’s happened to the Alien films? We see it expanding out to Alien vs Predator.

Now if you want to put the movement from Alien to Alien vs Predator into a different scenario then just imagine having your favourite book read to you. But whilst this person was reading the book to you they shouted every single word, left out details so you didn’t know the characters, made all the action scenes very quick with a lot of blood, and then just took away any real interest or intelligence from it. That’s what it is. Alien vs Predator is doing what Alien didn’t. The story is beyond pointless to anyone above the age of 14 who has a brain, the characters are so stupid that you don’t even care about them, whereas in Alien you obviously did (getting teary over John Hurt), the special effects are just so unbelievably obvious that the realistic feel that Alien had has been completely eradicated. It is a mess and a half of a film. It took was what essentially intelligent sci fi and turned it into pointless trashy horror for teenagers. There’s a scene in the Tim Burton film ‘Batman’ where the Joker and his henchman parade around various art pieces and deface and vandalise them; that is ultimately what has happened here. 

The next on my hit list of films being ruined would have to be James Bond. After the success of Casino Royale in 2006 it really looked as though the Bond franchise was rising back to glory. That was of course until 2008 when Quantum of Solace was born and decided to puncture Bond’s life jacket. A film that was basically a prolonged sequence of violence with very little story and a blatant lack of character, it made all of our hopes for the future of bond seem wasted. It was the sort of film that did feel like it was being lead by the second unit, with car chases and violence being the prominent factor and therefore sacrificing substance for action. For those who don’t understand the reference to the second unit it’s very simple; the main unit directs the actors and therefore handles their characters, the second unit is basically in charge of actions sequences and other such aspects of a similar nature. So in Quantum of Solace is does feel as though the second unit have a lot of control over what’s happening because of how much action there is. Also notably the title of the picture itself was ridiculous, taken from a book that it had no connection to and then incidentally the title had no connection to the film (other than the rather bleak reference to Quantum). It was a disappointment of a film that and did put the Bond franchise in a position of near disrepair, obviously until Sam Mendes came along last year and rose Bond up to higher than before. I’ll refrain from praising Mendes on this occasion, I have done so many times before.

Finally I do have to mention the Star Wars franchise when talking about ruining films we love. The original Star Wars films, which we have to refer to as four five and six now just to avoid confusion, were stunning pieces of work. They are timeless films that can be enjoyed by every member of the family and Lucas deserves any credit he gets for them. But then his bank balance started to dry up. Indiana Jones hadn’t done anything in a while. Willow didn’t really rocket at the box office. It wasn’t exactly looking great for him. So he decided to make three prequels, which were just terrible. They enlightened us to some details of the story that were a bit vague and basically displayed more clearly some of the tales we hear in the original three films, but other than that there are no uses for them. The special effects are no match to that of the original films, the screenplay is so basic is just seems like George was trying to spell out every single word so any five year olds watching could keep up, and worst of all even the actors don’t seem interested. By the third prequel we see some truly talented actors such as Samuel L Jackson and Ewan McGregor engaged in dialogue that they clearly don’t want to be involved in. The delivery of lines just had an underlying feel of “we really don’t want to be here, please can we just get this scene done”. Another aspect of the prequels that was beyond pointless was this sudden introduction of political troubles. So instead of seeing the characters engaged in exciting battles that meant something, we see numerous scenes of debates and discussions about things the audience do not care about. It was a wasted element to prequels that George Lucas just seemed to put in there because he could, in a rather Tarantino styled manner. But hey ho the films took money so George is happy. Hopefully J.J Abrams can work his magic on the franchise and show that not all modern Star Wars films have to be a disaster. 

There are other examples I could have used but I feel as though I would just be covering old ground and exhausting it, I feel as though I made my feelings towards Tron Legacy very clear in the last post. I haven’t even begun to talk about Die Hard 4 Pointless. That shall be saved for another time. Until then it is safe to say that I am annoyed to see old films that were pieces of art being added to like a cheesy sitcom in order to make money. If this does continue to happen I will have to take some form of action against film makes, starting with a strongly worded letter to each of the culprits. 

As always feel free to leave any comments you have on the subject or about my writing in general. Oh and if there’s any comments left that are defending Tron Legacy then I’m not reading them. 

Until the next time i shall say as always au revoir.