Wildly flawed, Mindlessly Enjoyable
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016): Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.
Holy crap that IMDB description is long. Kind of like this movie. But we'll get to that. I want to first talk about the superhero genre. Bring it in, man. Let's chat. Let's be honest with each other: with the exception of Deadpool, there has not been a legitimately great superhero movie since The Dark Knight. I know. That's a lot of films I just threw under the bus. Or so you think. While there have definitely been a few bad apples in the bunch, most superhero films are fine. Some are even good! But that's it. They're mindless entertainment. See, when I go into a superhero movie, I don't expect to walk out of there having learned something. I don't expect the film to help me formulate an opinion. I don't expect a superhero film to be anything more than popcorn fun. And that's FINE. That is absolutely fine. Heck I loved Guardians of the Galaxy! That was an incredibly fun film. But does that mean I hold it in the same regard as Spotlight? Or Mad Max? Or Whiplash? No. I've reviewed many a film here on my blog, and it has made me quite cynical to corporate-mandated film making, and that's exactly what every superhero film since The Dark Knight (excluding Deadpool) has been. Including the Marvel films. Some are just more fun than others. Ok? Ok. So let's talk about Batman V. Superman.
So that IMDB description at the top of the review signifies a major problem with this film: it is way too long and convoluted. The film comes in at a staggering 2 hours and 30 minutes, but it could've easily come in under 2. Now just a friendly reminder I have no problem with long films: my favorite film of all time is the extended edition of The Return of the King (all 4.5 hours of it) but if you're going to be long you have to fill your film with worthwhile content. Batman V. Superman did not do this. There was a ridiculous amount of fluff right from the beginning, as the opening shot of the entire film is ANOTHER retelling of the murder of Batman's parents. But what's sad is this is one of the best scenes of the entire film because it's a very Zack Snyder-esque scene. I honestly expected Rorschach to have a monologue during this scene. I was disappointed by the lack this. But overall, the film is very convoluted as it attempts to clumsily tell three different story lines at once. There were plenty of moments that had me rolling my eyes, but there were plenty moments of.....oh what's the word? fun. This film is still fun.
Anyway, let's talk about some good first. I thought Ben Affleck was fine as Batman. I could tell he tried, and there's a reason he's a superstar actor. Henry Cavill is charismatic as ever, and Amy Adams is pretty good. But the ones who stole the show were Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot. Yes, Eisenberg's motivations didn't make much sense, but remember the part where I said mindless entertainment? Eisenberg clearly had an absolute blast here in this role, and I couldn't help but smile whenever he was on screen. However there's no doubt Gal Gadot saves this film as Wonder Woman. She is amazing from start to finish delivering the female power character this world needs. DC officially has its Wolverine/Iron Man with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. That was an absolutely brilliant casting decision. On top of that, her fighting sequences were easily the most enjoyable part of this film, and her entrance into the fight was particularly awesome. Finally, the big action sequences were overall quite fun, embodying the mindless entertainment I was talking about earlier. Man I'm saying that phrase a lot huh?
But there are definitely plenty of problems here too. Pretty much any time things weren't blowing up and Eisenberg/Gadot weren't on screen this film had issues. I don't want to spoil anything, but let me just say motivations were muddy, some plot points were resolved in absolutely terrible ways that had me rolling my eyes on several occasions, and the film was way too long. Oh and Laurence Fishburne's character doesn't exist. Ever. That pretty much sums up the problems, but they were showing up at every turn throughout the film. But that's all I'll say here about them here. Ultimately, Batman V. Superman is..... fine. It is an average film. Nothing more, and nothing less. Is it worth seeing in theaters? I say yes, but to be fair I say that about lots of films. However at the end of the day I enjoyed myself watching this film. There were moments when I wanted things to just blow up on screen already, but I still had an overall good time while watching this one, as I do with most superhero films. Just....don't have high hopes. Because if you expect a good film you're not going to get it.
The Critique: While wildly flawed and overlong, Batman V. Superman is still a mindlessly fun popcorn flick featuring great performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot.
The Recommendation: Everyone is going to see this regardless, but if you've already seen 10 Cloverfield Lane then it is a fine film to see in the theater right now.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
A Pillar of the Sci-Fi Genre
Cloverfield (2008): A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
I'm not gonna lie: this film easily makes my top 5 favorite films of the 2000s. It is original-up to that point the only other high profile "found footage" films that had been released were Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project-and it is creative! I mean this film is essentially just a Godzilla film. But it is sooooooo much more than that. It comes in at an short 85 minutes, with 12 minutes of end credits in there as well. So, really, just 73 minutes. But so much happens in 73 minutes. I will never forget my feeling after watching this film for the first time when it was released. A couple friends and myself (we were still in high school) went and saw this on a Friday night after school. When the film was over, I remember thinking damn that that film must've been over 3 hours long. We all felt this way, so it came as a true shock when we realized that the film wasn't even half as long as it felt like it was. I had never experienced this feeling before nor have I felt it since. I can't even begin to describe how much happens in this film over the course of 75 minutes. And, scene after scene, this film delivers its claustrophobic and frantically paced survival tale flawlessly. Is it perfect? No. But it is damn near perfect that's for sure.
So let's talk about what this film does right. Which is pretty much everything. The thing that a lot of people didn't like was what this film did so well: the "found footage" aspect of it. With so many films, it's used purely as a gimmick. The perfect example I think of (even though it came out a few years later) is Chronicle. As good a film as Chronicle was, it could've been told a lot more effectively from a third person perspective, and on the second and third viewings you realize how utterly ridiculous the final action sequence is of that film as the filmmakers desperately tried to stay true to their gimmick. However, in Cloverfield? I honestly can't envision this film being shot any other way. At no point does use of the style feel like a gimmick, and it makes many scenes that much more intense as your field of vision is narrowed significantly by the first person perspective. It makes many scenes, particularly the subway scene, feel incredibly claustrophobic and constricting. Also, I really cannot praise this subway scene enough. All the elements of this film come together beautifully for this brief scene and it's honestly one of my favorite scenes from the 2000s because of it. I know you want to revisit, so I attached it for you here.
You're welcome. So, what else is there to talk about? Oh! The acting! This film launched the careers of T.J. Miller, Lizzy Caplan,Odette Annable, and Jessica Lucas, and it's easy to see why. All of them plus Michael Stahl-David are incredible in this film as they showcase a wiiiiide variety talent throughout the film. I'm so proud of these guys now! As soon as this film was over I said all these guys were future a-listers. While this hasn't really panned out for anyone other than maybe T.J. Miller, if you watch Gotham you are very familiar with Jessica Lucas, Caplan has found her niche among the Franco-Rogen comedies, and Annable has been all over the place on TV. There's really only one complaint I have about this film: the dialogue. Some of the dialogue is pretty cringe-worthy, like what's virtually the opening line of this entire freaking film. Gets me to cringe every time. However, Miller definitely saves it, as his witty (and likely improvised) remarks are some of the best moments of the film. "WHAT IS THAT?" "It's just.....just a terrible thing." His one-liners are much needed in an otherwise incredibly serious movie and they help to remind you that it is just a movie. Because after about 45 minutes you really start to forget that you're watching a film and think, "Did this actually happen somewhere? Why haven't I heard about this????"
As soon as it comes, though, it leaves. I guess the other complaint with this film is that I really really wanted more. Matt Reeves, Drew Goddard, and J.J. Abrams did a great job of not overstaying their welcome on this one and leaving you yearning for more. That's why I hope 10 Cloverfield Lane kills it at the box office because holy crap does Cloverfield 2 need to happen. Like NOW. But, as for now, what we have here is a ridiculously fun and engaging sci-fi film featuring the best American-made Godzilla-esque monster we've ever seen. While there are a few problems to be had, it doesn't detract from an overall awesome experience, and one that more than holds up over 8 years later. If you've somehow not seen Cloverfield, you have literally no reason not to watch it. After all, it's only gonna take up 75 minutes of your time, and every second of that 75 minutes you'll be glued to your television screen. While certainly not as iconic as Star Wars or Alien or anything, Cloverfield is still one of my favorite sci-fi films of all time, and it's definitely one of the reasons why I love cinema.
The Critique: Featuring a gripping narrative, fantastic acting, and amazing visual effects, Cloverfield has stood the test of time and still remains one of sci-fi's best films.
The Recommendation: If you haven't seen this film, please dear GOD change that immediately.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome.
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