Movie Review – Transformers: The Last Knight

TL;DR – There is a good movie in here somewhere, it’s just not the one we ended up with

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

Transformers The Last Knight

Review

Well here we go again another Transformers film and another disappointment, though a slightly different disappointment this time round. What is interesting with Transformers is more so than say the Star Wars Prequels or other bad films, I can actually pinpoint where it was that this series fell apart for me. I was really enjoying the first two-thirds of the first film and then outside the Hoover Dam wanting to hide the AllSpark from the Decpticons the one person who had shown any military understanding up to that point goes ‘Let’s take it to Mission City to evacuate it’ and that was it in one moment my entire suspension of disbelief crashed down around me. It made no sense, sure it led to a visually spectacular action sequence, but given you were surrounded by desert the best option was to take it as far away from civilisation to protect people, and of course, a lot of people died because of that stupid decision. Since then I gave the second film a go because the first film was affected by the writer’s strike, so maybe they would learn from where they went wrong, well no, not at all. From there we had Dark of the Moon which was as bad as its title and Extinction was well more or less a bit meh. I tell you this because I came into this advanced screening with very low expectations but against my better judgement about half way through I found myself actually going along for the ride only to be let down once again.

So to set the scene, it has been a couple of years since the Age of Extinction, and since then the world has fallen apart a bit, maybe, it’s actually not clear because things seem normal but then Chicago is still a ruin and the Midwest is a badland for some reason, they don’t explain it all that well. But with Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) gone and more Autobots and Decpticons falling from the sky with no warning a new T.R.F. (Transformers Reaction Force) is set up to destroy any Transformer they find on the planet bar in Cuba for stupid reasons. So all the Transformers are trying to lay low, if they are not partying on a Cuban beach and some people like Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) are trying to rescue the fallen before they are found by the TRF. It is during one of these missions in the ruins of Chicago that Cade stumbles across Izabella (Isabela Moner) who is protecting a bunch of kids and some fallen Transformers from TRF drones. While Cade was not able to save the Transformers he and Bumblebee do stumble upon a talisman from a time long ago. Because that’s right ladies and gentlemen and however else you identify, the Transformers have been here since the time of King Arthur and oh King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Merlin (Stanley Tucci) are all real. As well as this, we have Optimus Prime who after floating in space for a long time crash lands on a rapidly approaching Cybertron to discover that his maker Quintessa (Gemma Chan) is not happy and she is coming for Earth. So right from the start, you have a lot of competing threads of the story going on, and this leads to many of Last Knight’s major issues.

Bumblebee is Last Knight's MVP

Bumblebee is Last Knight’s MVP

Before we take a deep dive into Last Knight’s issues I do want to take a moment to point out the many places where the movie shined. First I do have to give a shout out to the actors because there are some really great performances here. Stanley Tucci is and always will be a delight no matter where he is cast and here even though it was a short moment I loved every second of him as Merlin. Also, Anthony Hopkins who plays Sir Edmund Burton brings a wonderful class to the film, his scenes with Cogman (Jim Carter) were one of the highlights for me. Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock play off each other really well, and that makes the London section of the film really work. As well as the acting, of course, I have to give a shout out to Industrial Light and Magic as there was a lot of work they and their partner VFX studios had to do to get this film looking as nice as it was. Now a lot of people complain about Michael Bay’s directing style, and it has its problems but the man knows his explosions and there are many spectacular explosion for you to partake in.

Ok so let’s unpack where Last Knight went wrong, we are going to start with some of the smaller plot points that frustrated me then we will unpack the big problem that that was the story structure. Now to do this, and also because I am aware that it is not in full release at the cinemas yet, a big preventive [SPOILER WARNING] will now in effect. Ok while we will get to the big story beats let’s look at the smaller things that frustrated me. The first is the world-building, the movie can’t decide if the United States is falling apart or the biggest most advanced power in the world and given how much product placement the US Army, Navy & Air Force is getting, they probably should have cleared that up. Also, why is it that Bumblebee can do the put-yourself-together trick while everyone else is just dead. Another thing at a point in the film ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons are fired at a large structure above all our heroes. Which is problematic because I don’t think the movie understood what nuclear weapons do and how they work, and why everyone should have died at that point, also why the hell would you not try to nuke it before it got to this point. Another issue I had was that the film does not seem to understand how astronomy or physics work, which fine whatever, it’s not a deal-breaker, but if you are going to ignore those things, don’t have one of your side characters be from NASA and go on a rant as to how they don’t believe in mystical rubbish and that they are putting their faith in hard science. Look I could go on, but all throughout my notes I have ‘oh that’s some “rubbish” right there’ but I didn’t say rubbish, and it is not a good sign when that happens.

There are a lot of missed opportunities, and unnecessary plot lines

There are a lot of missed opportunities, and unnecessary plot lines

So there are a lot of smaller problems, but none of these dwarf the biggest problem and that is the story, the structure and how it was all edited together. To give these problems context I have to say I have no real stake in how good an adaptation it is of the source material because I didn’t grow up with the cartoons, my introduction was actually through Beast Wars. So I’m not looking back to some mythical untouchable show that could never be superseded no matter what they did, I’m looking at how the movie works today. Structurally where the film is the weakest is in the opening and closing acts which is really odd. Films can have a bad opening but recover like Rogue One, or start strong and fall apart like The Hateful Eight, or simply be a mess from start to end like Gods of Egypt but I have never seen a film start a mess, get its act together only to fall apart again. So we start in the dark ages, with some big retcon that the Transformers have been here a lot longer than we thought, not the last retcon for the film as well. This section is actually ok, saved by some delightful Stanley Tucci, though the whole King Arthur myth felt like a really unnecessary addition. However, from here we are split between Cade and Izabella meeting, Optimus meeting his maker, Viviane (Laura Haddock) playing polo, and William (Josh Duhamel) going back and forth between being a mole in TRF, to being a US Army colonel, to back again to, look the film does not really know what role he is playing, and then finally we get some Decepticons introductions in a style reminisce of Suicide Squad. The film starts to come together when we get back to the hideout in a scrap yard, we get to know some of the Autobots, then we get a reasonably good action sequence before whisking off to London.

Once we get to London the film finally feels like it is working, there are some wonderfully funny scenes, the plot moves along, we get a race through the streets of the capital, and it sucked me in. For a moment in there I was along for the ride, the whole audience was laughing at Cogman’s musical interlude, and then Cybertron appears and like magic, it all falls apart again. I’m not going to talk about the third act all that much because that is major spoilers but I spent the whole time thinking how nonsensical it all was, though I will say one thing The English Channel is actually quite shallow especially around the cliffs of Dover.

Michael Bay does love his explosions, and there are a lot of them

Michael Bay does love his explosions, and there are a lot of them

Now at the start, I mentioned that there is a good movie in here somewhere, and the second act shows it, but the big issue here is story bloat. There are so many plot lines that could have been streamlined or removed entirely, and the film would have been stronger for it. The whole Cuba subplot with Seymour (John Turturro) added nothing to the film, there was no need for there to be two bad groups to fight, nearly all of the TRF stuff could have been easily replaced with Decepticons, and you would have avoided a lot of the messiness with how the TRF and the US Army interact. A good 45 minutes could have been cut from this movie and you would have had a much tighter and frankly stronger story to place around your many slow motion explosions. Also in a scenario that possibly millions of people died, oddly there was no sense of any stakes, which is an odd scenario to find yourself in. This is not helped by Michael Bay’s style of filmmaking which there is an attempt to be always visually stimulating, which is fine at the start but over two hours in you can’t help but be fatigued and it starts turning into visual noise. It was probably not helped by there being six different editors, so there is no consistency in style throughout the film and it probably contributed to the long runtime. Finally and more problematically, most of the film feels like we have seen it all before in other Transformer films. [End of SPOILERS]

So, in the end, can I recommend Transformers: The Last Knight? Well look it has its moments, the action is at least interesting in places, and there are reasons that it did not score lower than what it did, but then 2.5/5 is not really a great score as well. So if you are going to see a film this week and someone goes ‘let’s see The Last Knight’ there are worse options out there, and there are some fun moments for you to enjoy, but for me, I think I would have much preferred to see The Mummy than this.

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Michael Bay
Screenplay by – Art Marcum, Matt Holloway & Ken Nolan
Story By – Akiva Goldsman, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway & Ken Nolan
Based onTransformers by Hasbro
Music by – Steve Jablonsky
Cinematography by – Jonathan Sela
Edited by – Roger Barton, Adam Gerstel, Debra Neil-Fisher, John Refoua, Mark Sanger & Calvin Wimmer
Starring
– Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner, John Turturro, Santiago Cabrera, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, John DiMaggio, Omar Sy, Gemma Chan & Jim Carter
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13

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Movie Review – The Mummy (2017)

TL;DR – This is a good start for the Dark Universe and I really enjoyed it, but there were just a couple of things that needed to be worked on that held it back a bit

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

P.S. – There is NO end credit scene

The Mummy banner

Review

Now from the start, I have to say I do have a lot of love for the 1999 Brendan Fraser Mummy film, I mean I even like its only follow up The Mummy Returns because they were wonderful camp fun with a horror veneer. Indeed I will always remember the first time I saw The Mummy as a kid, it was at a friend’s place and there was a whole lot of people crowded around the TV and VCR and someone was passing around cups of tea when the mummy awoke and it scared them so much tea went everywhere. So whether I like it or not, I’m going to bring those memories and that nostalgic feeling with me when I go see The Mummy because it has to hold up to the ones that came before and for the most part I think that it does. So today we will breaking down how well The Mummy does as a standalone film, how well it does as the starting point for the Dark Universe, and also look at some areas where the film needed improvement.

So let’s begin by setting the scene, well setting the scene twice actually. To begin it is the New Kingdom of Egypt, well they say it was, but then they also say the sarcophagus is 5000 years old which would put it more in the Old Kingdom but I digress. Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was the only child of the King Menehptre (Selva Rasalingam), and all her life she knew she would be Queen and ruler over all the land. She trained every day and night to be a good ruler but then her father had another child, a boy, and in one moment everything she worked for was ripped out from underneath her. So what do you do when your world has fallen apart, well you form a secret deal with the god Set and go about killing your family as a sacrifice. But before Ahmanet could bring Set into the real world she was stopped, mummified alive, and buried in a tomb far, far away from Egypt, which of course is a plan that never goes wrong. Flash forward to today and two very important things have happened, first a crew digging a new railway tunnel find a hidden Knights Templar crypt, and in Iraq two US Army scouts Nick (Tom Cruise) and Chris (Jake Johnson) have stumbled across Haram where something once buried and forgotten now lays in wait and an archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) might dig too far. Now, this set-up has a lot of working pieces that have to get into place, but when all three of these plot lines come crashing together it propels everything forward.

Sofia Boutella shows the power of acting with your eyes

Sofia Boutella shows the power of acting with your eyes

One area that I think they did very well was in casting because you have to build a franchise off this and you only have one chance to have your Robert Downey Jr. moment. Now I’m going to start with the big bad because if you have read my Kingman or Star Trek reviews you would know that I am a big fan of Sofia Boutella and her work. Her dancing experience gives her a remarkable physicality but more than that, she has one of the most expressive eyes in the business. Here even under the CGI and prosthetics, she had an amazing performance and honestly, I would have liked to see more of her in the film. As well as this, I did like Jake Johnson, he was perfectly cast as the witty sidekick to Tom Cruise’s Nick, and their banter together was one of the highlights of the film. This might be the perfect character for Russel Crowe because it lets him show his range, from that prim and proper gentleman we’ve seen in movies like Master and Commander, a side note, we need another Master and Commander film, and then also the brawler. Annabelle Wallis is an interesting addition and she holds her own in scenes with Tom which is not easy to do. One possible exception to this is Tom Cruise who it does fell at times that they had him playing a stock standard Tom Cruise action character, which does limit his character arc a bit. However, what you do get with Tom is an actor that throws himself into the action like very few people working in Hollywood do, and you see that here.

Now one of the highlights of the film has to be its action sequences that are peppered throughout. You have car chases, you have escaped from insurgents in the desert, you have monsters in the dark, and of course, you have one of the most spectacular sequences I have seen in quite a while. Now with this, I am talking about the sequence on the plane which I assume they filmed it on a reduced-gravity aircraft, I’m not sure you could film it on a rig but if they did wow that must have been some rig set-up. It is a great scene because first, it has a slow build as we see Chris get sicker and Nick starts to hallucinate, we know something bad is about to happen, but what. This is followed by something to distract you, then bang the first bird hits, and everything goes to hell. Now not every action sequence is as good as this, but it shows you how you can engage the audience and not resort to hundreds of cuts when trying to convey what is happening. Now I’m not generally a big fan of the horror genre because I tend not to find these movies scary, so this time I brought along my mother, and if her reactions were anything to go by there was some scary stuff. Ok even I jumped at that ambulance scene, are you happy, you wrought it out of me.

One of the highlights are the well constructed action sequences

One of the highlights are the well constructed action sequences

One area where The Mummy excelled is in the technical side of the film, the editing, music and effects. It might be a small thing but I am really fascinated in how you cut within a sequence and also how you transition between sequences, and so often no thought or more likely no money is put into making them visually interesting. However, here we have some really interesting transitions, especially between the hallucinations and the real world. I do want to give a special mention to Brian Tyler and his musical score, I’ve been enjoying his work ever since the score of the Dune miniseries and here he is so on point. The music is just as creepy as the movie, he uses discordant strings at infrequent intervals to really put you in the state of unease. Music is such a powerful medium to convey the story and it is really great to see when people use it creatively to effect the mood of the viewer. Of course, I have to mention the fascinating effects from Industrial Light and Magic. From sandstorms, to a murder of crows, to ghouls of all kinds, it is an impressive array of effects. I think the standout, which was a mix of practical and visual effects, was the first steps of the mummy which had almost stop-motion feel to it, a wonderful call back to the films of the past. But more than visual effects I have to give a shout out to the set designers, some of those sets felt expansive, and real and there is just something tangible about them that you don’t often see in this day and age. This was all helped by some great framing and good use of light and dark to create interest as well as contrast on the screen.

When it comes to the issues I had with the film they are not big but smaller little things which persist after you have left the film. The end of the second act and the start of the third did seem to drag a bit because it did kind of feel the movie was put on pause while they start introducing the universe. This meant that the slow build the movie was going for did not quite work as well as it could have. Also what was actually happening in that third act, a bit of explanation was needed. Finally, I just kind of feel that the last scene in the film was missing something, I can’t go into any more details or else I hit spoilers, but it felt like it could have ended on a stronger note.

It will be interesting to see where they go with this Dark Universe

It will be interesting to see where they go with this Dark Universe

So one thing we need to do is talk about how well The Mummy was as a launch platform for Universal’s Dark Universe. Now because this means we have to look at the story more in depth there will be [SPOILERS] in this paragraph. So this is a risky move for Universal, even though the Monsters might have been the first shared universe in cinema back in the day. This is because a lot of their classic monsters are actually in the public domain so there is a chance of them being undercut, also with the dominance of Marvel, and DC only just getting their act together with Wonder Woman, there is a possibility that we may be seeing a saturation in the market. Indeed with Wonder Woman outperforming expectations, there is a very real chance that The Mummy might get overshadowed, which is not where you want to be with your opening salvo. So with The Mummy they take less of an Iron Man ‘spoiler in an end credit scene’ approach to franchise building, and a bit more of a hands-on approach. Now as I said in the last paragraph this does lead to the movie taking a pause but it does give us an insight into the structures behind this universe. Monsters exist, and there have been people hunting them for a while to keep evil at bay, and at some point there is a distinction between monsters that are good and those who are bad, setting up the dichotomy for the future. I’m sure as they swept through Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory you would have picked up more than a few references to those classical monsters of cinema’s past, indeed it will be interesting to see just how many Easter eggs there are. I will say the one interesting thing I noticed is that one of the Books  in the library was the Book of the Dead from the 1999 Mummy film, which raises some interesting questions was this just a reference like the head appearing out of the sandstorm, or is it implying that they are part of these movies canonically. Look more so than in say Batman v Superman I am actually interested to see where they go in this universe from here. Though next time, don’t give away things like Russel Crow’s character before hand, if would have worked so much better if the Dr. Jekyll was a big reveal, instead you leaked it as part of a promotional trailer. [End of SPOILERS]

In the end, I have to say I did enjoy this first entry into the Dark Universe, sure my heart will always be with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz gallivanting around 1920s Egypt. Well we can’t go back in the past, we can only look to the future and I’m interested to see where we go from here.

 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay by – David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie & Dylan Kussman
Story By – Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet
Music by – Brian Tyler
Cinematography by – Ben Seresin
Edited by – Paul Hirsch, Gina Hirsch & Andrew Mondshein
Starring
– Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Selva Rasalingam & Russell Crowe
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13

Movie Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

TL;DR – While not revolutionary per se, DC finally found a formula that works, and realised that there is no point moving a universe ahead if the individual movies don’t work.

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

P.S. – There is NO mid/post credit sequence

Wonder Woman (2017)

Review

So if you have read my reviews for Suicide Squad or Batman v Superman you would probably know that unfortunately, I have not had the best time with the DC Expanded Universe so far. Now when it comes to DC v Marvel I have no skin in the game, I want both to succeed, and I only care about if the movie is good or not, and so far DC just has not made a compelling entry into this expanded universe of theirs. Well, that is until now. Is Wonder Woman a perfect film, no of course not, but it is logically structured, emotionally resonant, and filled with fascinating characters, which is a huge step in the right direction. Now as we go one we will keep this as spoiler free as possible, however, we do need to discuss the ending, but we will clearly mark them so that you can avoid them it if you want.

So let’s set the scene, all her life Diana (Gal Gadot) knew the story of her birth, that her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) moulded her out of clay and prayed to Zeus (the last of the Greek Gods after Aires went on a rampage) and he gave her life. Diana was the only child in Themyscira the home of the Amazons a race of immortal protectors who were hidden on Themyscira by Zeus. As Diana grew she was trained in the martial arts by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) for the day she would have to save her people and the world from the vengeful Aries. All of this seclusion is changed when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes through the barrier separating Themyscira from the rest of the world unwittingly leading the Imperial German Navy right to them, and what was hidden cannot remain hidden anymore. Now putting aside that at the start of the film we get a flashback inside a flashback, flash-ception if you will, you have everything you need to tell a great story from this opening. You have young Diana knowing that she is destined to protect the world but incredibly naïve as to what it is like, you have family trying to protect her, but in different ways, and you have Steve who both shatters her world, but also justifies it.

Wonder Woman (2017) 1

The whole cast is giving their all here

Now Wonder Woman is set during the ending days of World War One when it was clear that Germany and its Allies were going to lose the war and were desperately trying to find something to stave off defeat. General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) in that moment of desperation turned to Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya) a chemical expert to find a gas that would kill even if you were wearing a gas mask. This is an interesting setting, one that we don’t actually see all that often in movies, unless it was a historical piece, most people usually set their work during World War Two, as it has a much clearer motivation. However here WW1 does work quite well because, for one, it creates the kind of moral ambiguity, or at least tries to, which helps with the story, and because a lot of work has gone into getting the setting to look right. Indeed one of the absolute standouts in Wonder Woman is the locations and the sets. Themyscira blends an ancient world with lush surrounds, London has that dark industrial grittiness to it that makes it feel lived in, and the fields of Belgium give the full look at the war in all its awfulness, or at least in all its PG-13 awfulness. Today’s set can have that slight oddness to them that show when you are just walking around a green screen, and while yes there is some of that here, it is also good to see sets that feel tangible, lived in, and it is a credit to the locations manager, and the set/props/costume people that made them real.

Now one of the big issues with the past films is that all the exposition and emotional development of the characters felt either forced, or was not in keeping with the character, or sometimes both … “Martha”. Thankfully this is one area where they have learned from their mistakes because every character has a clear motivation, and every emotional beat in the film is earned. Now part of this is the script of course, but also it is also in part due to the many strong performances throughout the film. Gal Gadot as the titular Wonder Woman has to do a lot of the heavy emotional lifting and she shows that she is more than up to the task. Part of why the character works as well as it does is that we have a clear arc that is understandable and this range is shown in Gal’s performance. I was really glad to see Chris Pine really having fun with the role, I’ve not really been a fan of his acting, it has always felt a bit stiff, but he really came into his own in Star Trek Beyond and he continues it here. Chris plays a really conflicted character really well, once again we understand his motivations, because he behaves as a rational person would in the situation. While the core of this film is the relationship between Diana and Steve, and there are some amazing exchanges here, the world is also made up of some fascinating supporting characters. We didn’t get to see a lot of her but I loved Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), when it comes to the Amazons I would have liked to have seen a bit more of them but I loved the interplay between Antiope and Hippolyta on what it means to be a good parent. Also the little group they form all have clear back stories that set up their characters with very little dialogue which was great to see. Though I would have liked to see a bit more from the villains who hinted a bit more depth to their characters but never quite got there.

The action sequences are wonderfully constructed

The action sequences are wonderfully constructed

Now while the story and characters were good, another area where the film excelled was in the action sequences. Now I’m not saying they were revolutionary, but they were competently put together and flowed in a clear and concise manner. There is such a range of action in this film from bows and arrows through to the peak of military technology in WW1, this means you get some really interesting matchups that you would not normally see. From a technical side, I did like the use of slow-mo added in to highlight key moments of the action. It helps give those key moment impact, especial when paired with Diana’s faster than normal speed, so you get these moments of high frenetic activity followed by the moment to take it all in before the person gets smacked on the head by a shield. The action is supported by an amazing musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams, now you might be a bit sick of that guitar riff they have been using in all the trailers but when you hear it in the film it just hits right at the best moment. Look the combination of the action and the music leads to a number of ‘oh damn that’s cool’ moments throughout the film. However, while I did enjoy the action there were two small issues that did draw me out of the film a little bit. There were a couple of times when it was clear that it was not Gal Gadot or a stunt double but rather a CGI model fighting on screen. Now, this is not really a big deal on the wide shots, but the CGI model was also used on more medium shots and it was quite clear that it was not real, suspension of disbelief will only get you so far. As well as this, the movie did feel more than a little sanitised, especially given its war setting. Now I know that this was a PG-13 film and as such there are certain restrictions at play and what you can show that the film was obliged to follow because there is no way they would want to risk a higher rating, which is understandable, but don’t draw attention to it. [Spoilers] For example, at one point Diana impales someone with a sword and the sword goes right through their chest and through the floor and is left protruding out of the roof of the room below.I the next scene we see Diana walk underneath and look up at this sword lodged in the roof and it is spotless, not a drop of blood [End of Spoilers]. Look I know not every film can or should be Logan, but in a post-Logan world don’t draw attention to the fact that you can’t show blood when we know it should be there.

Now while I did really like the film there were some issues that I did find held it back a little bit and since part of that is the ending there will be [Spoilers] for the rest of the paragraph. The first issue I had was with the WW1 setting, not because I don’t think that is a good time to set your film, but that it kind of feels like the film was originally meant to be set in WW2 and someone decided to change it to WW1 to stop any comparisons with the first Captain America film which follow a similar trajectory. This lead to Imperial Germans standing in for the Nazi’s, which is fine, but there are issues with the story that would have been fixed or elevated if they kept the original setting. For example, the way General Erich Ludendorff/ Doctor Poison is presented fits much better with the Nazi army than it does with the Imperial German Army used in this film. Also, General Erich Ludendorff is a real person that lived, and while a very complicated and problematic man, his depiction here does not seem to line up. Now while this is just a small factor it is felt much more clearly in the final moments of the film which give a very kumbaya feeling, however it is all immediately undercut by the fact that the much, much, much worse WW2 is only a couple of years away, and if that was set at the end of WW2 it would have felt a bit more appropriate. As well as this, a number of the key plot points were a bit predictable, though I will take predictable over nonsensical any day.[End of Spoilers]

The locations are beautiful

The locations are beautiful

In the end, I really did like Wonder Woman, to the point that I am almost a little cautiously optimistic that the Justice League film might actually work. Going forward I hope DC takes the lessons learned here about what makes a good film, you need good casting (which DC has always done), you need passionate people both in and behind the camera (which is already there), but you need to realise that films need to hold up on their own merits before you force them to push the franchise along, and most importantly it is all about the story. So do I recommend Wonder Women, you bet I do, it is the best non-Lego film DC has done since The Dark Knight and I really hope this is the start of better films for DC/WB going forward.

 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Patty Jenkins
Screenplay by – Allan Heinberg
Story By – Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg & Jason Fuchs
Based onWonder Woman by William Moulton Marston, & Characters by DC
Music by – Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography by – Matthew Jensen
Edited by – Martin Walsh
Starring
– Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock & Ewen Bremner
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13

Movie Review – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

TL;DR – King Arthur is a fascinating film as long as you don’t care that much about the source material, though it does have more than a few lulls and awkward story moments

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

King Arthur Legend of the Sword

Review

So this was a surprise, from all accounts, and my own expectations going in I was expecting a dumpster fire in movie form. Instead what I got was sure a flawed film in many respects but also a really interesting one as well. So today we are going to look out how this film approaches the legend, how the cast works, then the parts of the film that excel and the parts that really fall short. So let’s begin with how they approach the myth of King Arthur, and well it’s interesting.

Because it is in the public domain, the King Arthur story is one of those narratives that gets remade over and over again. We’ve had miniseries do a classical remake, we’ve had it reinterpreted into a teen angst drama, a side event on a fairy tale TV show, we found out that Camelot was a bit silly, and we even got it reimagined as a real world event as the Roman’s retreated. So you needed to do something new, make an interesting idea, approach it from a different angle, or else you risk the question of why should I watch this when there are already versions of this out there. So King Arthur: Legend of the Sword approaches this conundrum by just having the Arthurian legend as a window dressing for the story. So we have Arthur witnessing his parent’s death before being raised in a brothel and becoming a black market leader in an occupied town. You have some nods to people in the legend but some core members get barely a cameo, and some are missing altogether. On the one hand, this gives the filmmakers a lot of latitudes to tell a story that is not confined to a certain progression, on the other hand, if you are a fan of the original legend you are going to find the inconsistencies jarring. As well as this, they take bits of reference from everywhere and smash it together, we have the very magical Camelot existing at the same time as the real world Londinium after the Roman exodus, with a little Old Testament thrown in there for good reference. So this leads to a movie with giant elephants existing at the same time as negotiations with Norse traders, a martial arts master teaching students in an abandoned Roman bathhouse, and people of legend working within the social structures that existed at the time.

Charlie Hunnam is a really good Arthur

Charlie Hunnam is a really good Arthur

Part of what worked for me is that it’s clear that the cast was on board for whatever Guy Ritchie threw at them. We have Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, who I’ve not see much of before but he really brings a command performance here, a sort of suave cockiness but also being a bit down to Earth, I wouldn’t be surprised if his name is on a Bond shortlist somewhere.   Jude Law as Vortigern, is just eating up the stage stealing almost every scene he is in. The rest of the cast is given good performances, hell even the David Beckham cameo was incredibly watchable. Also, it’s just great to see Eric Bana back on the big screen, Hollywood needs to cast him in more movies.

Something that I really found interesting with King Arthur is how Guy Richie took a film set in the Middle Ages, or a weird alternate reality where after the Romans left mages traipsed around England in giant elephants, but also embodied it in what is a very modern style. The outfits, the hairstyles, all feel a bit out of time, but it is more than that. In many ways, there is also this undercurrent of a modern gangster film beating just under the surface. I mean at one point Uther (Eric Bana) literally goes ‘hold my crown’ before jumping straight off a collapsed bridge into the previously mention giant elephants. This is also reinforced with editing style of the film, uses a combination to frantic montage scenes, this might have some of the best montage scenes I have seen in a very long time. As well as this, King Arthur has some really interesting sequence editing, which for the audience has a way of keeping you always on your toes. A good example of this is where Arthur plays out what would happen if he is introduced to the great families of England.

Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey plays 'The Mage' or 'I am an important character from the myth whose identity won't be revealed until the sequel'

Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey plays ‘The Mage’ or ‘I am an important character from the myth whose identity won’t be revealed until the sequel’

One big standout for me was the musical score by Daniel Pemberton. I’m a big fan of bending musical styles, or taking something familiar and putting a new spin on it, or using music as a juxtaposition and it is here where King Arthur shines. Most high fantasy films or medieval period pieces use a classic orchestral score, which I’m not knocking at all, I mean just listen to the power of Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings or Ramin Djawadi’s score for the latest episode of Game of Thrones. But it is nice to see someone put a spin on the familiar, which is what we get here. The standout has to be what I think was an electric violin or a real violin that has been modified in post-production. Using an instrument that couldn’t exist at the time creates this interesting dichotomy and helps create that modern veneer that the movie sits in. As well as this, King Arthur also has a fantastic driving drum beat during some of the action and montage scenes, which really jells with the slight frenetic pace of the editing. All of this is combined to create a really interesting soundscape in the film.

Now while there are some interesting parts in King Arthur there are a couple of things that do really hold it back, though how big of a problem these are might change for you. While I did like the story overall there were some issues, for example, it did start to feel that this was a film with some great action scenes and other sequences, but in-between them there was a lot of treading water waiting for the next moment of action. [Spoilers] As well as this, it does feel like a lot of character motivations ended up on the cutting room floor so we are left with some weird scenarios. You can see this with Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen) who is shown throughout the film to be incredibly smart and knowledgeable, who forgets all of that when he risks everyone’s lives to kill Earl of Mercia for no reason. Also, at one point Arthur is betrayed by one of his own, but we see no reason for why this person turned it’s just like they’re good, oh wait, nope not anymore. Another big issue was that some of the fight scenes it became very clear that it was a CGI model fighting and not an actor. This is disappointing because other than this, the rest of the CGI and visual effects are really good. [End of Spoilers]

Jude Law revels at being the big bad

Jude Law revels at being the big bad

In the end, even with its problems, I did really enjoy this weird ride called King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword. When you have actor throwing themselves into the roles, a story that is bonkers but people care how portrayed, beautiful sets, and a rocking score, well you have the components of an interesting film. Of course, that being said, if you really like the Arthur legend and you are not a fan of big diversions well this might not be the film for you.

 

 Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Guy Ritchie
Screenplay by – Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram & Joby Harold
Story By – David Dobkin & Joby Harold
‘Based on’King Arthur Legend
Music by – Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by – John Mathieson
Edited by – James Herbert
Starring
– Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Craig McGinlay, Tom Wu, Neil Maskell, Freddie Fox, Annabelle Wallis, Bleu Landau, Mikael Persbrandt, David Beckham, Michael McElhatton, Peter Ferdinando, Poppy Delevingne & Eric Bana
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13

Movie Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

TL;DR – This is a paint by numbers film with no direction or heart, a real disappointment, and the better title is probably Pirates of The Caribbean: Coincidence on the High Seas

Score – 2 out of 5 stars

P.S. – There is a post-credit scene

Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales banner

Review

So here we are looking at the fifth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and I’m sitting here wondering where it all went wrong. The first Pirates of the Caribbean was one of those breaths of fresh air that pop up every now and again, a brilliant standalone film, reinvigorating a genre of film that had disappeared, and it had one of the greatest character entrances in film history. Its two follow-up films which completed a trilogy of sorts were not as good as the first but fine films in their own right. However, the last film felt more like a continuation out of necessity rather than a new story that they felt needed to be told, and this continues in Dead Men Tell No Tales. So at this point, it should be no surprise that I didn’t like the fifth Pirates of The Caribbean film so we’re going to break down what worked and what didn’t and one of those lists is going to be bigger than the other.

This is more symbolic than they were going for

This is more symbolic than they were going for

Before we get into the heart of the review let’s take a moment to set the scene. It has been about fifteen years since ‘At World’s End’ and about four since ‘On Stranger Tides’ and Henry (Brenton Thwaites) the son of Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) is on a quest to free his father from the curse that bound him to The Flying Dutchman. Henry is convinced that the only thing that can help is the fabled Trident of Poseidon and also that the only one who can help him find it is Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his magical compass. To try and find Jack Sparrow who had gone into hiding Henry signs onto the British Navy so he can explore the Caribbean, where after a confrontation with Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) he arrives at Saint Martin runs into Carine (Kaya Scodelario) who has been arrested for being a witch, she’s not, she’s actually an accomplished astronomer, and has to hunt down the Trident before everyone else can get it. As far as a set up goes, it’s not bad, but as we’ll find out it is not without its many issues.

So let’s start the review with the casting and performances because this is one of the film’s few strong points. Look we’ll get onto the story in a moment and that does impact on the performances, but despite that, I do think most of the cast is doing a great job with what they are given. Javier Bardem is amazing he has such a presence about him that even behind the CGI overlay his performance shines through. I did quite like Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario performances, which yes has more than a little feeling of Will and Elizabeth 2.0, but they make it work through a sheer stubborn will. Geoffrey Rush, well Geoffrey Rush is just a delight on screen, I mean he shined in Gods of Egypt and that was a dumpster fire of a film and here, while he doesn’t have any of those classic moments from the first film his presence is felt in every scene he is in. Now, of course, the big question is Johnny Depp and eh, it’s not bad but at this point, he has been playing the same character in all five films and there has been no real character development so you may or may not like it depending on how over you are with Captain Jack Sparrow. One thing I will say is that the film woefully underutilised David Wenham.

Watching Javier Bardem & Geoffrey Rush play off each other was fun

Watching Javier Bardem & Geoffrey Rush play off each other was fun

When it comes to the technical side of things it is more of a mixed bag, with some parts like the visual effects being fantastic in places and oddly poor in others, and the music being all over the place. A lot of the visual effects in Dead Men Tell No Tales are really quite good, with standouts being Salazar’s ship and crew. I really did like the semi-corporeal feel of the crew, and the ship opening up to eat its prey was a fascinating design choice, as well as this, there were some really good water effects which are not the easiest thing to pull off. However, while it was good to see some decent visual effects, there were also some quite poor CGI which I was not expecting. There were some overhead shots of Redshirts running which looks really poor (I assume they were CGI, if they weren’t then something was off with the framing), also there was a scene where a small boat was being towed at speed and it could not have looked more green screened, and the de-aging tech is still not quite there. The physical sets and costumes were all really good, I really liked the town they created it had a lot of interesting details, and allowed for one of the better action sequences in the film. However, one area that was a real let down for me was the music. When you have had one person (Hans Zimmer) be the creative force behind the music from a franchise it is difficult for another person to jump in, as there is that tension between adding your new voice and respecting what came before, we saw this play out with Rogue One. Now I should say that Hans Zimmer’s score for Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my favourites from the 2000s so maybe this is clouding my view, but this score was lacking heart and didn’t add anything new that stood out for me.

Now while the things I have mentioned are snags, at the heart of Dead Men Tell No Tales’ problems is a story with no direction, it is more of a combination of stock story points slapped together with a thin veneer of plot, and it is frustrating to sit and watch two hours of lazy story writing. At every point the story took the opportunity to take the most boring direction, whether through rehashing plot lines from the past, or having characters acting stupidly, or by going ‘surprise’ when the rest of the audience saw it coming a mile away. When a character announces that they are on a quest to find their father that they never knew, well I’ll let you guess how that turns out and you’re probably right on the money. You have the captain of a large (deep hulled) British warship knowingly chase pirates into uncharted water, ok, near a rocky island with sharp rocks gouging out from the water, um wait, then into a cave with no knowledge if the masts can even fit or it there is an exit, wait what no, you are bad at your job. There is no tension throughout the film, everyone who we have seen in the past might as well been wearing a force field. The whole film is filled with both literal and metaphorical Redshirts that exist only to be killed so none of the good cast has to die. [Spoilers]There is one point where a bunch of secondary characters escape a ship, yep that ship was dead moments later, and no one that we could possibly care about was put in any real danger. When we have an extended fight sequence with Jack Sparrow’s head in a guillotine, well you know they won’t be that serious in putting anyone’s life in any real danger or peril. This leads to a dull and emotionally flat film, indeed there was only one moment in the entire film where I felt any kind of emotional attachment to the characters or the narrative and that was a scene almost at the very end of the film. [End of Spoilers] Now this was probably not the writer’s fault, they might have been working from a brief with a lot of things being forced onto them that they had to add whether it worked or not, but it ends up being a flat nonsensical mess.

It is getting better but we are still not quite there with CGI de-aging

It is getting better but we are still not quite there with CGI de-aging

Structurally the film is also a mishmash of long setups, overwhelming coincidence, and long stretches of dull padding. Look I don’t mind a slow build, indeed I championed Arrival for that very quality, but there is a difference between a slow build and a film taking forever to get started. We know from almost the start that the film will be a hunt for the Trident of Poseidon, but it is not until we are well into act two before that actually starts. Before this we are stuck sitting through one coincidence after another, oh Henry needs to get to the Trident, well he runs into Salazar which means he can get to St. Martin (which if you think I am going to gloss over the fact that St. Martin was never a British colony you are mistaken) when he finds Jack, but also Carina the only person in the world with a map to the Trident, also if Henry was not there Jack and Carina would be dead, and it goes on and on. Yes you might be saying ‘but Star Wars has a lot of coincidence too’ and you would be right but A New Hope’s story is strong enough that you don’t see the coincidences until you go looking for them, here you can’t help but trip over them on the way to the next action set piece.

There are also some really cringy scenes, which really doesn’t help the film in any way because it reinforces the lazy storytelling. The worst offender of this is probably the wedding sequence about half way through the film. Here Jack is woken up in the middle of a wedding ceremony to discover that he is the groom and is being forced to marry an unpleasant looking woman. Besides this scene feeling like it has been ripped out of multiple films of the past, it serves no purpose in the film. It doesn’t tell us anything about Jack we don’t already know, it doesn’t show us something of Henry or Carina’s character, it does not forward the plot or reveal anything, it serves no purpose. Now in better films like Mad Max Fury Road use this kind of scene as a way of letting the audience breathe, or to release the tension, however here it just feels like they needed a bit of filler, which would have been fine it was in any way funny, but it’s not.

Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales 2

This is a cool moment but the film needed more work on its story to support moments like this

In the end, I really wanted to like this film, I was a fan of the original trilogy, and this was even filmed around where I live so you kind of want to see your local film industry excel, but it just didn’t do it for me. If there is to be one more, which let’s face it there will be, please can I implore you to take some time and think about the direction of the movie, the motivation of the characters, and give the story some substance which it desperately needs.

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg
Screenplay by – Jeff Nathanson
Story By – Jeff Nathanson & Terry Rossio
Based onPirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney & Characters Created by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie & Jay Wolpert
Music by
– Geoff Zanelli
Cinematography by – Paul Cameron
Edited by – Roger Barton & Leigh Folsom Boyd
Starring
– Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, Stephen Graham & Martin Klebba, with Paul McCartney, Orlando Bloom & Keira Knightley
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13

Movie Review – John Wick: Chapter 2

TL;DR – John Wick was the gold standard for action films and John Wick Chapter 2 continues this with brutal action, and a deeper insight into this fascinating world.

Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars

John Wick Chapter 2 Banner

Review

Now it should come as no surprise that I love the first John Wick film, from the action, to the world building, to the sheer commitment of Keanu Reeves put into preparing for the role. Indeed I wrote a whole article on how it sets the gold standard for Worldbuilding and Visual Storytelling. The issue is that when you love the first film it is always a bit difficult to look at a sequel with an objective lens, on the one hand, you may be blinded by rose tinted glasses, or you may judge it harshly because nothing can live up to the expectations the first film made. With this in mind, I approached John Wick 2 cautiously but I am still happy to say while it did not quite live up to the first film it is still an amazing film in its own right. Its action is still as good as the first, we delve deeper into this world they are creating, and we get to see what happens when a movie is perfectly cast.

Poor John can't catch a break

Poor John can’t catch a break

If you missed John Wick 1, well first you should go watch it, but to give you a summary. John (Keanu Reeves) was once assassin/professional ‘Baba Yaga’ working mostly for the Russian mafia in New York but part of a greater underground world. After finding love in a hopeless place he wanted out of his life, and was offered an out if he did one impossible task, a task he did and for a brief moment he was happy. However, his wife died due to an illness, but knowing John she gave him a new puppy to care for, as a way to help him grieve. But that was all ruined but professional asshat Iosef came into his house, attacked John, stole his car, killed his dog, and awoke the ‘Baba Yaga’. Now it is important to look at this set up because in the first film Winston gave this piece of advice “You dip so much as a pinky back into this pond, you may well find something reaches out, and drags you back into its depths”. Well, John should have taken that advice.

To set the scene John Wick Chapter Two is set within days of the first film, John and his new dog are starting a new life … once John gets his car back from the Tarasov’s. However, John’s hope that he could bury what he had just dug up is dashed when Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) the one man left with some hold over John, a Marker, signed with his own blood, rocks up to his front door. Ok, to cut a long story short John is forced to do something he does not want to do to keep his obligations to the world he lives in, and everything that he had worked on starts to fall apart.

He does not like it but John is dragged back into this world

He does not like it but John is dragged back into this world

So when you are talking about a John Wick film the first thing we have to talk about is the actions, and it is just as good as the first film. Now you don’t have to watch the video of Keanu training (though you should) to know that he goes above and beyond in this role. Filming actors in action sequences can be a difficult job because you don’t just have to work on the choreography, in most cases, you also have to work on framing it so you don’t see the stunt double. Now stunt coordinators and stunt teams have a lot of great tricks that they can use to hide performers from the practical to the CGI, and usually this is done in such a way that the audience suspends their feeling of disbelief and goes with it. However, sometimes it just doesn’t work, you see the performer can’t fight, or they have to cut so many times between shots to hide it, so you lose the flow of the fight, it’s the difference between Daredevil and Iron Fist. While it is not uncommon to see actors train and perform stunts themselves, it’s rare to see an actor go to such lengths to be in as many shots as possible, and for a studio to finance it. This clearly has an impact on the screen, because you can film longer shots if you don’t need to cut all the time, so you can build each moment naturally. It also helps because John employs a form of Gun Fu that each movement is not about looking good it is about dispatching the enemy as quickly and efficiently as possible and to make sure they don’t get up to be a threat. There are numerous action set pieces throughout the film and each could be an article in its own right, but we get car chases, gun battles, hand to hand combat, and battles with assorted objects he finds lying around. Look you probably know what to expect here, but everything needs to work to make scenes of this quality, the cinematography, the acting, the stunt performers, the directing, the editing, the score, everything.

The action is brilliantly realised

The action is brilliantly realised

While we are talking about acting, let’s chat about the cast. Like the first film John Wick 2 could be accused of employing stunt casting, and while I can see where you are coming from with that complaint, when the stunt casting is as good as it is here I welcome it with open arms. Why it works as well as it does is that everyone is giving the best, going that extra mile, so it’s hard to say who is stealing the scene from who because everyone is game with whatever the film throws at them. For example, we have our returning characters Winston (Ian McShane), Charon (Lance Reddick), and Aurelio (John Leguizamo) who continue to give this look into the deeper mythology of the world of John Wick. I mean every line of dialogue Lance Riddick has is pure gold, with the perfect intonation for his character. But this is only the start we have Peter Stormare who is in the film for all of five minutes and is amazing for every single moment of screen time, Franco Nero who has a resume that few can outmatch and who establishes his character with a single line of dialogue, now you can’t go wrong with adding Laurence Fishburne to your film and of course he is a delight, even Peter Serafinowicz who has a small role as the Sommelier is amazing. When it comes to the new antagonists I liked that all of the three big bads all had different motivations, fighting styles, and relationships with John. We have Cassian (Common) who set on a collision course with John by forces outside either of their controls, you have Ares (Ruby Rose) a straight up no nonsense unremorseful killer, and Santino the winner of this chapters Iosef’s award for overconfidence through being an ass. They are all amazing but I want to give a special shout out to Ruby Rose and the writer Derek Kolstad here, Aries is a fantastic character but it is also fantastic to see a character that has an impairment, something that leads to her communicating through sign language, but it does not stop her in any way from being central player in this brutal world.

What a fascinating charioteer Ares is

What a fascinating charioteer Ares is

Now as I said the first John Wick film was a masterclass in world building and John Wick 2 does not just sit on its laurels, instead it delves deeper into this world. In the first film there was only one unbreakable rule, no business on Continental grounds, but in the second film we get an extra rule, all Markers have to be upheld. A Marker is an agreement that for services rendered the bearer will at some point call in the debt and you have to do anything they request under pain of death. As well as this, we see where all the contracts are processed and without giving anything away I was fascinated by every moment in this place. We also find that this world that they live in goes deeper and higher than we saw before. Now one of the more interesting analyses of the first John Wick film I’ve watched was Movies with Mikey, who in part of his analysis looked at the film in the guise of it being a classical Greek God narrative. While I can sort of see that in the first film, it is much clearer in the second film and no that’s not just because one of the characters is named Ares. We see this world existing in counter to our own, but more than that, human almost seem to be oblivious to the other world, it’s not until they are brawling in front of you that the scales are removed from your eyes and you see what is going on.

This works because technically speaking the film is firing on all cylinders, now I have mentioned the action side but more than that, it’s the little touches. For example, we have people speaking Russian, Italian, and ASL, so there needs to be subtitles, but instead of just plopping them on screen, they are integrated into the narrative and the cinematography. The score is also used to highlight the action sometimes by having a driving beat when you needed and sometimes playing back so you can hear the foley in all its gory glory. The story also works well, because unlike other comparable films like Taken, the second film is not just a rehash of the first in a new location, sure it has similar themes, but it is about dealing with the consequences of the first film and how they start to tear his life apart. It is also good with leaving narration breadcrumbs throughout the film to add to the impact. For example, a character at the start references something from the first film, it’s kind of played for laughs, but instead of being a throwaway gag, it’s actually there to remind you of it so when it happens later in the film you already have that connection. Now while I did like the story, one area they need to work on is that some of the sections just felt a little too much like treading water till the next action set piece. [Spoilers] Also the ending I think will work better once we get to see John Wick Chapter 3, it’s sort of that same feeling I had when I walked out of The Two Towers for the first time, which is not really the film’s fault but more just the fact of where this film lies. [End of Spoilers]

John Wick Chapter 2 5

You should never make this man get angry with you

In the end, did I like John Wick Chapter 2 as much as the first film, to be honest no, but to be fair I doubt anything could have because I came into that knowing nothing about the film and that is an experience you just cannot have with a sequel. But is the action great, yes, are the characters intriguing, yes, was the story engaging, yes, do I want to see more of this world, you bet ya I do, and I do look forward to the next film which gen how well this did in the cinema’s I hope we get to see.

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Chad Stahelski
Written by – Derek Kolstad
Based onCharacters created by Derek Kolstad
Music by – Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard
Cinematography by – Dan Laustsen
Edited by – Evan Schiff
Starring
– Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Franco Nero, Tobias Segal, Claudia Gerini, Peter Serafinowicz & Peter Stormare
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; NZ: R; UK: 15; USA: R

Movie Review –The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One

TL;DR – The Osiris Child is like they smashed Alien & Resident Evil together, added a dash of Farscape, and sprinkled on some Australia for extra measure.

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Osiris Child Science Fiction Volume One

Review

So when I first heard about The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One about a month ago when I was at Supanova the local geek convention here in Australia. I had not heard about it before then, but it was getting a lot of good buzz and I can’t remember the last good Australian sci-fi film I saw. So now that I’ve final had the chance to see it, honestly, I’m more than a little surprised at the level of quality of this small Indy film that packs a big punch.

So let’s set the scene, it’s some point in the future and humans have started to colonise the universe and out on the fringe there is a planet with a new colony, a flotilla floating above and a prison below with a deep secret ready to bust loose. It’s here that we meet Lt. Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson) an officer for Exor the military contractor who is in charge of supporting new settlements. Sommerville has a conflicted past that drives him to be as far away from Earth as he can get, which is complicated because he has a daughter Indi (Teagan Croft) who has travelled across the Galaxy to see him. Since Sommerville lives on the Flotilla, a large orbiting space station, he leaves Indi on the planet in capital Osiris in the care of a babysitter as he works in orbit. The next day he wakes up to discover that there was a prison riot overnight and now all communications are lost with the surface, General Lynex (Rachel Griffiths) tells everyone it is because the prisoners are holding the planet hostage, but in reality it is because something buried deep in the heart of the prison has escaped and killing everything in its wake. So Sommerville has to rescue his daughter with the help of some of the people he runs into on the planet like Sy (Kellan Lutz), Gyp (Isabel Lucas), and Bill (Luke Ford) before everything is lost. So as far as setups go this is a really good start, you have a ticking clock, literally, a start for a redemption arc, and good illusions to something bigger at play.

A father fighting for his daughter is a good setup for the film

A father fighting for his daughter is a good setup for the film

One of the things I do have to give Osiris Child credit for is the really high levels of production that you just don’t expect to see in an Indy film with this kind of budget. A lot of care and attention has been put into getting the details looking right, the sets feel real, with those little touches to make them feel lived in. The bus they spend a lot of time in has been kitted out really well, the costumes all fit the style they are going for, and the Flotilla really nails that futuristic military feel. Osiris Child also has some really good special effects because they are very careful in only using them when needed, so this means when they do use them they can spend the money on making them look good. Sure, they do cut corners in places using blur or some creative camera angles to hide things but that does not take away for the work that they have done here. Another standout is the soundscape, the sound is one of those things that you don’t really notice until something is wrong, but here you notice it because at all times it is on point, with some really good foley work, and the score really hits all the right notes.

Now one of the reasons why the film looks as well as it does for its budget is they make great use of the built landscape that already exists. If you are an Australian you can already probably guess where they film parts of Osiris Child and you probably be right on the money. However, even from someone who lives in Australia some of those landscapes were majestic, and of course, there were space flies, there was no way you could edit them out. Now one area that didn’t quite work was the creature creation, now Osiris went for a puppet style for their creature, the sort of style of puppet you would see in Farscape but I’m not sure it quite worked. Part of that is that no matter the film the monster never looks as scary as you mind makes it out to be when you only see little bits of it, but also the style they used worked well for Farscape because there were a lot of different alien puppets, but here in isolation it stands out much more than it should have.

The Flotilla is beautifully realised

The Flotilla is beautifully realised

The action sequences are one of Osiris Child’s standout accomplishments, with a number of the scenes really hitting above their weight. The standout for me had to be the space fighter dogfight in the upper atmosphere of the planet, it was well structured and implemented, and was cut together to increase the intensity. Another thing I liked with the action was that in the brawls they filmed it in a way that made the punches feel like they had weight behind them, fists make a connection, and gave you the feeling that this punch hurt, it was also edited in a way where the action slowed well and you could tell what was going on at any one time. While I did like the action, they did overuse slow-mo a little too much and some of the inserts were a bit weird and unnecessary.

[Spoilers]So as I said Osiris Child has a great set up for a story and overall I think it was well executed and well-acted but not everything worked. There are a lot of framing devices used in Osiris Child, like the counting clock, chapters, jumping through time, and narration to help tell the story, and while good, some of these work better than others. The ticking clock was great because it gave us this constant reminder that time is of the essence. However, while the chapters help frame the time jumps and give Osiris Child the feeling of something grander in scope, the constant jumping did start to impact on the pacing of the film. Also while some of the reveals hit you right in the feels, some of the others leave you scratching your head, take for example why Sy was imprisoned, in today’s world it would be highly unlikely he would have seen much if any jail time and the movie doesn’t really give a good rational as to why he was treated the way he was. As well as this, the movie is narrated by Indi at some point it the future, which is a really good framing device, but as the movie progresses that she wouldn’t actually know some of the things she mentioned and that pulls you out of it a bit [End of Spoilers]. All the acting is solid, for me the standouts were Teagan Croft who nailed a very difficult role which would be impressive even before you realise that it is her first major acting role. Of course, there is also Temuera Morrison who has this air of authority in his mannerisms and speech that just fit this role to a tee. The two main leads Daniel MacPherson and Kellan Lutz play off each other really well, which you see in scenes like in the bar.

Rachel Griffiths always gives a command performance

Rachel Griffiths always gives a command performance

In the end, it’s clear from the movie, I mean look at the title, that this is meant to be the first of a series of films and given this first outing I’m really interested to see where they go next with this, I just hope people give it a chance.

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Shane Abbess
Story By – Shane Abbess & Brian Cachia
Music by – Brian Cachia
Cinematography by – Carl Robertson
Edited by – Adrian Rostirolla
Starring
– Daniel MacPherson, Teagan Croft, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, Luke Ford, Firass Dirani, Bren Foster, Temuera Morrison & Rachel Griffiths
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: na; NZ: na; UK: na; USA: na