Monthly Archives: March 2016

“Batman vs Superman” dull, bleak and forgettable

batmanvsuperman-xlargeTrying to remember everything about “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is like taking a math test. You know you studied it, but the answers are not coming to mind. Reminiscing about this movie is tougher considering the amount of material tossed in that doesn’t stick or pay off at the end. I saw this with a near full house and recall nine walk outs and plenty of quiet chit chat during some crucial scenes. Even a few cell phone lights were noticed in the crowd. If this is how this movie is being treated in other places, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is two and a half hours of talk, strange editing, bizarre acting and underwhelming fight scenes. Not to mention cinematography so bleak that it makes you wonder where did all the color go.

I should probably get the good stuff out of the way, seeing they are easier to talk about. Ben Affleck makes a good Batman. He’s suave and cunning when he’s Bruce Wayne, but brainy and crafty when donning the suit. They even give a small explanation for the hiding of the voice which covers up a plot hole looming over the franchise since day one. This comes in the form of an electronic voicebox which is a tad silly but forgivable. Least I hear that gruffling Bale voice, the better. And sadly, this is where most of the praise stops.

Bruce sets his sights on the man of steel,(Henry Cavill), as a financial building is destroyed during the fight with Zod, for questioning the strong man’s ethics. The motive is there but little of it feels driven. They set up a reason for it early on, but then it takes a backseat to Superman’s dilemma about how he is seen on Earth. There are times when they toss in this theme of Superman being depicted as a menace or a god, but it doesn’t come together in the end. Feeling like an oddball with superhuman abilities, Superman/Clark Kent seeks out to show he’s a figure of good while setting sights on debunking the vigilantism of the bat.

Its clear we have two different movies going on, but none of them come together until the final half. Most of the time, we get some scuffle as they see each other as pests. The only time their paths do cross is when Superman interrupts a chase scene and that’s really it. The big fight is saved for near the end and only exists because there is a “VS” in the title. There is no reason for this fight scene to occur considering the less amount of action that took place and how dialogue heavy everything is. The big confrontation has promise, but I feel borrows too much from Blade Runner as the two heroes duke it out within an abandoned building with rain drizzling in.

Looking back to the past, the crossover films had more going for them. King Kong Vs. Godzilla had the big ape being used to stop the lightening lizard and more fight scenes involved. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man was a clunky entry but the story line of Lawrence Talbot keeps it together with the monster battle saved as the end. Freddy Vs. Jason used itself to great potential, while Alien Vs. Predator was decent for the monster brawls. These crossovers hold more because they had one thing missing from this one, an actual story and excuse for these two to meet up.

This “excuse” comes in the form of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who has this plan to bring down these two “heroes” and that’s really it. In the previous incarnations, Luthor at least had an motive and reason; to make it rich and be the ultimate tycoon. While that is not interesting, what made the character unique was how he acted. Luthor to me was kind of like a car salesman with the brain of Albert Einstein. Despite his con man personality, he always appeared one step ahead and enjoyed every minute of his diabolical ingenuity. This Luthor I wanted to see get melted or pummeled to bits. Eisenberg appears to perform him like a bratty Richie Rich that is giddy and overly eccentric. Its not fun and comes off as so obnoxious that my eyes kept looking up at the ceiling of my cinema whenever he was on screen. I’d go further into why this plan doesn’t hold menace, but that would be spoiling a good part of the movie. All I can say is that they try to do this Frankenstein thing with his character but it doesn’t pay off and feels tagged on.

And that was the feeling I got from this movie. Everything felt tagged on and plastered to the wall just to see it stick. Its like “Hey, we need the people of Gotham and Metropolis to question how good the ethics of a hero are, because it was done in Watchman.” Or “Hey, we need Wonder Woman in this movie, just so we can have our Cinematic Universe.” Or “Hey, we need a last minute villain just so we can have this explosive finale and lead it into our Justice League movie.” And while I do admit seeing Gal Gadot as the lasso famed heroine was nice, it just felt there to please the fans clamoring for a Wonder Woman movie. Heck, you can even argue the whole movie is just a two and a half hour trailer seeing its edited that way. They do this thing where after a dramatic scene, it instantly cuts to black. At least give Roland Emmerich credit, he didn’t overuse them in his magnum opus Independence Day and used them to the right advantage. Here, they will have this big moment like Superman getting framed and then cuts to black and we see the LexCorp destroyed. It gets old very easy.

This movie is so bad that its own continuity doesn’t make sense. We see the origin of Batman inter-cutting the death of his parents with his discovery of the bat cave. But then later, we see Bruce drive past the Wayne Manor and its already destroyed and burnt down. I know the Manor was destroyed in Batman Begins, but wasn’t it rebuilt in The Dark Knight Rises? If this was meant to be a reboot  of the Batman franchise, I would be fine with it. But little details like that take me out of the movie too easily.

Its funny because the night before, I saw a documentary called “The Death of Superman Lives” which covers the story of a Superman movie in the late 1990s that never got made. After seeing so many ideas and even some unique footage of Nicolas Cage in a decent Superman outfit, I’m starting to wish we got that movie instead of this one. “Batman vs Superman” doesn’t live up to its promised grudge until the final third. Everything else is so dull and delivered in a shoddy manner that I’d rather brush it off as a bad movie and move on. I feel bad because at least it did one thing right by giving us a Batman that works but not for this kind of movie. Even Jeremey Irons as Alfred feels underused compared to Micheal Cane who went on about speech after speech. There is only one good reason to see this movie other than Batman and that is to use this flick as an excuse to eat candy in the dark. Then again, same goes for every other feature running at your local cinema which probably holds better fun and entertainment than this Bat-Bomb.

“Zootopia” tackles deep issues while funny and heartwarming

ZootopiaThe trailers and promotional material appeared to paint “Zootopia” as this fun, little adventure for kids. Much to my surprise, the themes got deeper and edgier as things went along. Elements of racism, stereotyping and even drugs were present for such a simple family film. However, it didn’t matter if these hot topics where in this because I felt everything was delivered and executed perfectly enough for a fun ride.

When watching this world of a metropolis city for animals, things like “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Futurama” and even “The Amazing Adventures of Gumball” came to mind for different reasons. “Rocko” showing how absurd and outlandish life can be in the simplest of things. “Futurama” for not being afraid to discuss social issues in a lampoon manner. And “Gumball” because a concept like this can be easily crafted by a kid. Seeing these things blended into a unique, rich and engaging feature was rather amusing to me.

“Zootopia” opens up with a small piece of exposition talking about how things came to be. Thankfully, its done in a manner that catches you off guard while still explaining what kind of word you are in for. Again, the idea of a place inhabited by anthropomorphic animals is nothing new. The way its done here, I feel keeps the originality fresh. Something simple as media manipulation and the whole place falls apart much like our world. And for a family feature to mirror today’s problems is very hard to find. In one scene, a character reflects her current situation as a cop stating “We were supposed to protect.” Perhaps I’m looking too deep in, but this scene sent chills reminding me of how today we are still questioning honesty of an authoritative figure like the police.

videothumbnail_zootopia_officialtrailer_disney_a4d0f4ceSocial issues aside, the main story doesn’t deviate as a rabbit named Judy Hops (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) wants to a police officer in this grand city. We root for her not because of the motive, but how we don’t want to see her give up. Set with an optimistic personality, Judy hopes to make a difference in a world that is cynical and prejudice behind the bright colors. Being the first bunny on a team of cops ranging from wolfs to rhinos, we can already tell the level of difficulty from how everyone around her sees this rabbit by animal kingdom status and not personality.

Opposite to that is a red fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who is aware of Zootopia’s discrimination to the point he’s against it. Instead of going against the labeling, he’s a victim to acting out as a small-time con man. Despite his negative viewpoint, there is a sense of sympathy sharing the same problem Judy has. Both want to make a difference, but everyone around them views their placement as a predator and prey to the point judgement is made from a simple classification.

When it doesn’t discuss social issues, we get a variety of comedy in many places. Ideal jokes like having sloths run a DMV makes for some great gags. The slow pace of a sloth reflects how irradiated we are with the plodding of an actual DMV. These jokes are not cobbled together randomly and you can feel there is effort behind them. The buddy relationship between Nick and Judy is entertaining as well. Both playing off their sly wits as Nick uses his con skills while Judy keeps firing back in brainy ways that could make Brer Rabbit envious.

Zootopia+godfatherIs “Zootopia” completely perfect? I wouldn’t go that far. There is one minor thing I would have to nitpick about and it involves a key twist. As it turns out, a good bulk of mammals turn up missing but found to be going back to a primal state. A supposed mastermind is behind this and once it gets revealed, the shock sort of wasn’t there. Dare I say this was a twist I did see coming after two key scenes much earlier in the movie. Does it break apart everything that has been crafted and tended to? Absolutely not.

Twist or not, I was highly engaged into Disney’s latest outing and rather surprised by how it never turned away from such hot topic issues. These were elements you would rarely find in any of today’s family features or even hard to talk about. I’m thankful there weren’t watered down or treated in such a juvenile manner. “Zootopia” is probably the first Disney movie in a long time that has me questioning how can one can slyly reference things in today’s society for all audiences. Well, “Planet of the Apes” did that well with having every chimp and gorilla used as a symbol of social class. And yet even as I write this, I’m still blown away by how anyone working on this movie was able to communicate what is wrong in our society for a family-friendly picture. Color me impressed.