Can They Be Heroes…? Justice League Trailer

JL

And so the latest (in a seemingly long, long line) of Justice League trailers hits.

Each trailer has shown a marked improvement and the greater reliance on character has been showing through more each time. What does this mean for the movie with Joss Whedon taking over after director Zack Snyder’s departure due to a terrible family loss? That remains to be seen, of course, but at least the trailers have been getting better.

Not much else to say at this point. Let’s hope Justice League can continue the rehabilitation of the DC Extended Universe after the promise shown by Wonder Woman.

Who Watches The Watchmen… Again?

drmanhattan

The news today that HBO have ordered a pilot for a new series of Watchmen, based on the comic book and graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, comes with a whole bunch of raised eyebrows.

The first question to be asked is whether or not the world needs another adaptation (if indeed that’s what this will be, rather than a continuation or expansion) of the material so soon after Zack Snyder’s somewhat underrated 2009 film (flawed but definitely with its heart in the right place and with a rather elegant solution to the climax)?

The second question concerns the creative in charge of this new iteration. Damon Lindelof arrives with a whole lot of baggage, not all of it boding well. While his show The Leftovers has garnered many fans and a great deal of acclaim, he was also partly responsible for the complete mess that was Lost and also for large chunks of the script for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which was chock full of irritating characters doing and saying stupid things. In other words, a complete mess. Again.

So the thought of Lindelof taking the comic book that Alan Moore describes as “inherently unfilmable” definitely comes with caveats. We can only hope to get a show from The Leftovers Lindelof, rather than the Prometheus Lindelof.

Allowing that this baby is going ahead regardless of (or in spite of) its creators’ blessings (Moore has been in dispute over creative ownership of Watchmen for decades), a TV show could certainly allow the concept some breathing room, possibly giving time to the Tales of The Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic that was exised from Snyder’s film. It could also, if we’re really lucky, look at the nature of storytelling in a fresh way from the approach taken in the comic and adapt that for the filmic medium.

I’ll certainly be watching this one as it progresses.

 

 

Valerian – The Flawed Jewel

Valerian-and-the-City-of-a-Thousand-Planets

I didn’t know exactly what Luc Besson would be giving us with his big budget adaptation of the Valerian and Laureline comic books, but a sci-fi film with a pro-EU message definitely came as a surprise.

Besson first seriously considered adapting Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin’s long-running comic book series while he was making The Fifth Element. The decision to hold off until special effects caught up with the imagination needed to fully realise the characters and the universe they inhabit was probably a wise one, and it has paid off handsomely.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets literally screams out to be experienced at the cinema, preferably on as big a screen as possible – and in 3D if your local theatre understands how to properly project that format. It is without a doubt one of the most visually luxuriant films you’ll see this year (and possibly many other years), and is a thing of pure, unadulterated beauty.

Besson’s film takes no prisoners, and with little pre-amble launches us into a fully-formed world (or rather, universe) and expects us to embrace the story in progress. It’s an exhilirating rush and one which might leave some viewers who expect to be spoon-fed information a little disoriented (don’t worry, there’ll be another Transformers film for them soon, I’m sure). Valerian is a Luc Besson joint, full of the off-centre tics expected from his work, and is draped in his wonderful Gallic sensibility like a well-cut designer outfit.

It’s decidely not a Hollywood cookie cutter film, instead it’s madly ambitious and joyfully exhuberant though I didn’t feel quite the same eccentric voice as The Fifth Element was being given full reign. Perhaps this film’s astonishing budget led to more pressure on Besson.

Even if this was the case, Besson has mangaged to present us with something wonderous and completely topical, because snuck in between all the talk of extra-dimensional shoppng centres, converters and space pearls is a message that seems to focus on the importance of unity between different races. And with much of the action taking place on Alpha, a space station where millions of creatures from different planets live peacefully and exchange their knowledge and cultures, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine the current situation between the UK and the EU seeping through into the fabric of this production. It’s quite a thing to see but with its core message of space unity, Besson has seemingly given us the first “we’re better together, despite the problems”, anti-Brexit, sci-fi fantasy.

Cara Delevingne makes for a fetching and spiky Laureline, the camera loves her and the character is pretty much elevated to the lead role (something which might irritate comic book purists, but fuck them because it works), another quality which sees the film stand out from the crowd. Indeed the film might better be titled Laureline and the City of a Thousand Planets, which does lead me to the one big issue I had with Besson’s choices.

Dane DeHaan is a fine actor, but he has a dark, somewhat surly quality which I didn’t feel was right for this role. While there was certainly no need to have Valerian as a wisecracking, Peter Quill/Starlord clone, the chemistry with Delevingne feels somewhat unbalanced at times, and a lighter touch was needed to stop Valerian coming across as something of a creep towards his partner. While this moves their interplay away from cliche, it also undercuts vital empathy and an actor with a little more screen charm would have worked wonders. It’s a shame because this central dynamic is vital to the film, and that spark could have made a big difference. I’m sure he’d disagree (hey, it’s his movie) but for me it’s a rare moment of casting weakness from Besson.

But this unusual misstep shouldn’t deter you from seeing Valerian, for despite this it’s a big, glorious attempt to give cinema something different and in an age of blue and teal colour-graded action movies that’s to be cherished and celebrated. Valerian is a jewel of a film, albeit one with an unfortunate flaw at its heart.

If nothing else, Valerian is a cult film in the making, and I can pretty much guarantee that in fifteen or twenty years time enthusiasts will be singing its praises as one of those films that everyone should have gone to see at the cinema.

Vive le Besson!

New Justice League Trailer Hits Comic-Con!

JL Alone

As expected, the brand new Justice League trailer dropped at Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con today and I’m happy to bring it to you in all its glory.

The film, the first to bring together DC Comics’ heavy-hitter characters (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) recently took a sad hit in production when director Zack Snyder had to step down from the director’s chair, following a tragic family loss earlier this year.

Joss Whedon, already hard at work on the Warner Bros. lot developing the new Batgirl movie, has stepped in to bring the League across the finishing line. Whedon, with The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron under his belt, has a little experience of delivering mildly successful superhero team movies, of course.

Ben Affleck took to the stage at SDCC, prior to the trailer’s screening, to debunk yesterday’s rumours which suggested Warner Bros. were looking to transition him out of The Batman role, ready for a re-cast. I’m happy to hear this, as his take on the Caped Crusader was one of the few genuine highlights of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of the Franchise.*

Justice League will unite in cinemas on November 16. And I have to say, I dug the heck out out of this trailer. Here’s hoping DC have finally learned how to handle their characters in the right way…

*I know, I know…

Netflix’s Super Friends – Marvel’s The Defenders

Defenders

After the hugely disappointing Iron Fist, my hopes for The Defenders, Netflix’s all-star Marvel mash-up, were seriously on the wane.

Thankfully, positive word of mouth and this latest trailer have done a great deal to restore confidence.

The pilot episode was screened at the San Diego Comic-Con yesterday and reports are largely positive, including this review from Birth.Movies.Death. Alongside the good news, a second trailer has been released which not only makes the show look like a whole lot of fun (a quality seriously lacking from Iron Fist) but also promises a terrific performance from the show’s Big Bad, the legend that is Sigourney Weaver.

The thought of Evil Ellen Ripley going toe-to-toe with Jessica Jones is worth the price of admission alone. Throw in Daredevil and Luke Cage too (…okay, and Iron Fist, if we must) and I’m certain I’ll be bingeing come release day. That this show is only eight episodes is also a huge plus point, as all of the Netflix/Marvel shows have suffered from over-extending their dramatic life.

All episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders drop on Netflix, August 18th.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Amazing, At Last!

Spider-Man Homecoming

Considering Spider-Man has been with us since 1962, it’s somewhat difficult to understand why he’s never come close to appearing on the cinema screen.

Oh sure, there have been five movies, some more successful in their approach than others, but regardless of how close each of them got to capturing that magic quality which has kept the character in print for fifty-five years something always felt… just slightly off.

Sam Raimi and co. certainly got close, especially with Spider-Man 2, which held the gold standard for superhero movies for some time. But I was never happy with the casting of that trilogy, as good as Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are as actors, I never felt they were right for Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.

Marc Webb swung closer with his stars, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy) but the approach taken to the two Amazing Spider-Man films was just completely wrong-headed. Making Peter Parker a disaffected skateboard kid who ends up swinging into his graduation ceremony to kiss the prettiest girl in school was so far removed from what makes these characters special it was absurd. Sadly these entries also felt like the worst kind of committee-led filmmaking.

And both sets of movies shared a very particular missing quality. In the comic books Spider-Man has always been a vital cornerstone of the Marvel Universe, but in the movies the character has always swung through a New York bereft of other superheroes.

Spider-Man: Homecoming corrects that from its opening moments, as we are dropped into a New York recovering from alien invasion with criminals using stolen alien technology, a world where Avengers tower looms large over the city and superheroes are commonplace in everyday life.

But here is where the new collaboration between Marvel and Sony has really paid dividends, in the understanding that our Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man is the contrast to the other characters who fly around seeing off aliens from space and demons from dark dimensions. Spider-Man works best as a street level character, interacting with New Yorkers who cheer or jeer as he goes about his daily web-slinging.

Finally we’re given the opportunity to see Peter explore his newfound powers without the tiresome retread of an origin story, instead following a hero learning from his (plentiful) mistakes. Stakes are kept personally high but distinctly low-key (in superhero terms), from Spider-Man realising just how long it takes to climb the Washington Monument (and suddenly seeing how high up he is at its top) through to the climactic battle between hero and villain.

Speaking of the villain, I’d happily watch Michael Keaton reciting the phone directory and while there are one or two moments I’d like to have seen him given more to chew on, he also manages to bring an interesting, almost political motivation to his character and in one sequence set inside a parked car, a palbable sense of threat and menace in a stand-off involving no costumes, with no powers used or punches thrown. It’s a stand out moment in a film full of them.

The casting is excellent overall, as Peter Parker’s high school friends feel natural and unstereotypical, and director Jon Watts gives the film a John Hughes vibe that’s hard to ignore and impossible to dislike, with a fresh feeling that’s quite distinct from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet completely at home in it. Jacob Batalon’s Ned and Zendaya’s Michelle are particular stand-outs.

As seen in Captain America: Civil War, we’re given a fresh take on Peter’s Aunt May, now played with delightful MILF-relish by Marisa Tomei. She’s not given huge amounts to do in this first outing, but she’s such a fine actress she supports here perfectly and hopefully we’ll see more from her in the already-announced sequel.

Finally, every filmed attempt at Spider-Man stands and falls with its Peter Parker, and here we are given a true representation of the character. Tom Holland simply nails the role, his boyish looks giving Peter an average Joe quality, an awkward, earnest, ordinary teenager blessed, or cursed, with extraordinary abilities, who ultimately uses his powers because he knows it’s the right thing to do.

While this iteration plays loosely with the source material it stays true to the good-natured heart that has seen these characters loved by millions for so long to produce a film that’s as full of charm as it is action set-pieces. It’s a feel-good film about a decent, 15 year old boy, his friends and family and the responsibility he feels to protect them and the world in which they live. It seems like such a simple trick, but it’s been frustratingly elusive.

With their flagship hero returning to the Marvel fold as a result of a studio deal between the company and Sony, we’ve finally been given a Spider-Man who deserves the Amazing adjective.

This is the homecoming Spider-Man fans have been waiting for!

“Coffee For Spider-Man…”

spiderman prank

Perhaps to make up for the recent slew of quite dreadful posters for Spider-Man: Homecoming (I won’t link to them, but they’re out there and easily found if you have a taste for really bad Photoshop), Sony have released this amazingly (sorry, not sorry) cute piece of viral marketing to trumpet the imminent release of their first co-production with Marvel Studios.

It weirdly captures the friendly, neighbourhood aspect of the character which seemed largely absent from the last two ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Sony productions, so let’s hope this approach is something Marvel have managed to filter through into the new movie, released in just a few short weeks, on July 7th.

In the meantime, watch out for stray webs in your cup the next time you order a coffee…

 

She’s A Wonder! – Jenkins’ Princess Rules!

Wonder-Woman-Tank-Poster

Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman had a lot of baggage to carry when it arrived in theatres. The previous DC Extended Universe movies (Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) had performed well (though not as well as hoped) at the box office, but were the subjects of vast swathes of critical scorn. Besides this was the more serious battle against Hollywood sexism, where the common perception among those with the power to greenlight productions has long been that women could neither helm nor feature as main stars of big, action franchise movies.

While I’m somewhat late to the game with this review (unusually, Wonder Woman has opened later here in Norway than in many other territories), it has given me the chance to see both of these issues blown out of the water by both the film’s success and critical reaction. The film set records for the biggest domestic opening for a female director ($103.3 million) and the biggest opening for a female-led comic book film, and has, to date, grossed over $500 million worldwide.

And I’m very happy to reiterate the good news. Taken on its own terms Wonder Woman is bright, funny, charming, exciting and a genuine feel-good movie. Taken against the issues weighted against it stepping into the ring you might also call it an outright triumph.

The origin story, well known to comic book fans since American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter brought her to the pages of All-Star Comics # 8 in 1941, is weaved into a World War I adventure which also brings in several of Princess Diana of Themyscira’s supporting characters (including Queen Hippolyta and the Amazons, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy) and in itself is a thoroughly entertaining romp.

Where the film really scores however is in several key ways that contrast sharply with the previous DC movies. Gone is the relentless grimdark misery of Batman vs Superman, the distancing ‘god above us’ approach to Superman and, praise the gods of film craft, the incoherent characterisation, storytelling and editing of Suicide Squad.

Jenkins’ film is generally full of clear storytelling and fun action sequences, even utilising Zack Snyder’s trademark speed ramping to actually help with both clarity and story (its use in an important moment where the Amazons face off against bullets for the first time not only looks cool but packs quite an emotional wallop). There are some genuinely exciting moments of action (Wonder Woman crossing No Man’s Land on the Belgian Front and her subsequent attack on a German stronghold are… sorry… wonders served more by character than empty cool visuals).

Wonder Woman moves at a breezy clip, from Paradise Island to London and finally to the battlefields of Belgium and, while it does ultimately succumb to the usual climax of two super-powered folk hurling big, heavy things at each other, it at least does so in an almost low-key way that provides a little emotional weight. However it doesn’t quite succeed in making the villainous character involved (I won’t name the actor either so as to avoid spoilers) seem massively threatening, which is a shame and sees some points knocked off.

Jenkins does have two extra special weapons: leads Gal Gadot and Chris Pine share terrific chemistry and carry more than their share of the film’s appeal. Pine has slowly become one of our more interesting screen presences, leading one particularly perceptive critic (and he/she will have to forgive my failing memory as to who exactly) to accurately describe him as “a character actor in a leading man’s body.” He’s a pretty face who’s pulled off a number of whip-smart performances and Wonder Woman is no exception, basting Steve Trevor in easy going, old time, movie star charm.

As for Gadot, the camera loves her and she’s well served by Jenkins and her writers (screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs) who together make Diana a warm, relatable character. There are plenty of small moments gifted to her which show why the world falls in love with Diana, and Gadot radiates atomic levels of charm while giving us a genuinely heroic hero, and make no doubt about it, one both men and women can root for!

At one point in the film, Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor tells Diana he’s taking her to London to meet with “the men who can” end the war. “I’m the man who can!” Diana replies, completely on point.

Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman? They’re the women who can.

Hail to the King – The Black Panther Trailer Kicks Ass!

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Black Panther is an important film for Marvel Studios, and in its way an important film, period. A huge franchise movie written and directed by black talent and featuring a fabulous and diverse cast with its black stars front and centre, it’s a movie which speaks for our times in an incredibly positive way.

We shouldn’t have to point up these things, but now the moment is here it seems churlish not to celebrate it, so it’s great to see that what’s being delivered looks astonishingly cool and majorly kick ass. Also, props to the great use of Legend Has It, by Run The Jewels.

Directed by Creed’s Ryan Coogler, co-written by Coogler with Joe Robert Cole and headed up by the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o,  Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis, Black Panther will expand on the hidden African nation of Wakanda, as glimpsed briefly in Captain America: Civil War.

For a whole bunch of reasons this is a film that feels very much overdue, so sit back and enjoy what looks like Marvel firing on all cylinders. Hail to the King!

Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer Swings In!

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Marvel have just dropped a brand new trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming and while there isn’t much left to say about how excited we are here at Out Of Dave’s Head towers for this film, the trailer really rocks.

Perfectly capturing the feel of the original Spider-Man comics, light, breezy and with a distinctly friendly neighbourhood feel (Spidey won’t be dealing with giant, planet-threatening villains), let’s hope this film is really a case of third time’s the charm for everyone’s favourite webhead!

Let us know your thoughts on this: are you excited by this latest reboot or are you all webbed out?

Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into cinemas on July 7th.