Tag Archives: reboot

Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

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So I ignored the warnings and went to see the new Fantastic Four reboot. I knew the odds weren’t good — critics were shut out of preview screenings and there were rumblings of a mess behind the scenes with director Josh Trank, the promising filmmaker who brought us Chronicle, one of the few watchable found footage films in history. Early reviews have been borderline terrifying.

Still, I wanted to decide for myself. I think Trank is a good director with a distinct visual flair and approach to characters, and I loved the casting of fresh, up-and-coming names such as Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B Jordan and Jamie Bell. The trailers looked fantastic too, so I figured things couldn’t be that horrible.

And honestly, it’s not THAT bad. Certainly not 9% Rotten Tomatoes bad. For starters, it’s very different to the 2005 film, the only things from which I remember were the campiness and Jessica Alba’s abysmal blonde dye job. So that’s a good thing. Secondly, the young performers are all terrific dramatic actors who provide solid efforts across the board. Thirdly, Trank maintains much of his unique visual style. It’s a little dark, a little gritty, and the effects have an impressive realism to them when they probably would be cartoonish in lesser hands.

That said, I can’t deny that Fantastic Four is a savage mess. The tone, the pacing and the script are all over the place. Something must have gone very wrong during the filming and editing process because there was so much potential. If only the pieces could have been put together in the right way the film could have been a smash.

The story starts off with plenty of intrigue. A fifth grade genius, Reed Richards (who grows up to be Miles Teller), designs a teleportation device which he powers up with the aide of a classmate, Ben Grimm (who grows up to be Jamie Bell). Seven years later, their work is discovered by Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey), who hires Richards to work alongside his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and the pioneer of the project, Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). Franklin’s troubled biological son Johnny (Michael B Jordan) also gets involved.

As you probably already know, the experiment leads them to develop an assortment of superpowers. The problem is that at least half the film is about getting to this point, and by the time they get there there’s not much time for much else. Consequently, the film feels like the extended pilot of a TV series where everything is about setting the stage for the future. It’s an origins film that spends all its time on the origin part and doesn’t give our new heroes enough time to bond and form a real team. Certain arcs and character development sequences take far too long, while areas you would have thought are important end up being rushed or skipped over entirely. In a typical film, characters are supposed to grow from point A to point B; this film spends most of its time stuck at A and teleports to B at the very end.

It felt like they had to fit a 3-hour movie in 2 hours but couldn’t decide or agree on which bits to emphasise and which bits to cut. It’s as though everyone involved in the project expected there to be more sequels and thought it was therefore okay to deliver an incomplete first film.

The signals of messiness are sprinkled throughout the movie. It starts off with a cutesy, innocent vibe infused with some light humour, but the lengthy middle section is dead serious and flat — and worst of all, boring. The best and most compelling part of the film is when they travel via the machine and seeing their transformations for the first time. It’s basically a horror film at this point — and a very good one too — but it fits uncomfortably into the overall picture. The final climax reverts to more typical action hero cliches, which it inevitably had to do, though it’s clunkily thrown together and basically discards the tensions between the characters built up throughout the film. The “hero” speeches and dialogue as the film nears the finish line also comes across as forced and arbitrary.

The script struggles as well. There are aspects that fail the logic test, and the characters’ motivations don’t always make sense. The result is a story that tries to be more grounded than the film it is rebooting but ends up lacking credibility.

It’s unfortunate that Fantastic Four turned out the way it did because there was so much potential. While it will ultimately be remembered as a failure, the film still had a few solid moments and some flashes of brilliance that sadly remind us of what it could have been.

Some day we might hear what really happened behind the scenes. At the moment a sequel is scheduled for a June 2017 release, but it remains to be seen whether they will really go ahead with it given the poor reviews and lower-than-projected earnings. I will no doubt be in the minority, but I still want to see it made. Fantastic Four was not so bad that it can’t be redeemed by a great sequel.

2.75 stars out of 5

PS: Trank, who was painted as a tyrant by some reports, is either shifting the blame or genuinely had his hands tied by his bosses. In response to the negative feedback, Trank posted and hen quickly deleted this message on Twitter: “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”

Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

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Alec Baldwin. Harrison Ford. Ben Affleck. And now Chris Pine. With the exception of Baldwin (who’s a bit of an outlier anyway), Jack Ryan is the Benjamin Button of spy characters in that he just keeps getting younger and younger. And less dopey-looking.

All jokes aside, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recuit is yet another rendition of Tom Clancy’s most famous character, and while there are some positives to take out of it I’m still fairly convinced this is again a one-and-done reboot. I enjoyed the concept and some of the action sequences, but it’s one of those films where the more you think about it the more ridiculous and silly it seems. It’s not bad as a standalone espionage flick but not strong enough to lay the foundations of a new series.

This time, we go right back to the beginning, when a young Captain Kirk (Pine) witnesses the horrors of 9/11 while studying in London and decides to become a US marine. It doesn’t go too well for him, but through the disaster he is discovered by a CIA operative, codename Dances With Wolves (just kidding, it’s Mr Kevin Costner). And so begins a new career for our protagonist, whose adventures take him to Russia and a tycoon played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film. There’s a conspiracy and there’s a terror plot brewing, one that could destroy the world as we known it, and Jack Ryan must find a way to stop it in time without pissing off his girlfriend, Kiera Knightley.

From that brief synopsis, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (horrible title, by the way) seems like your typical spy action flick. And while there are elements about it that intrigued me — the terrorist plot, the fact that Ryan was just starting off as an analyst as opposed to a field agent, and the always-welcome presence of Branagh in front of and behind the camera — in the end it really was just your typical spy action flick. That’s a shame, because I think there was potential for more layers and depth, in particular as they had brought in 9/11 and the whole economic terrorism angle, but instead they went traditional and opted for car chases and explosions.

Branagh, who surprised me when he did an excellent job with Thoralso comes out with a commendable effort here in terms of generating tension and at least a semi-realistic feel to the action sequences. His own performance was charismatic, and Chris Pine was rather believable as a brilliant analyst who starts out way out of his depth but eventually embraces his destiny. Kevin Costner is, well, very Kevin Costner, and Kiera Knightley puts on a decent American accent as the damsel in distress masquerading as a strong, independent woman.

So the execution is not bad, but it’s a shame that the script becomes more and more outrageous as it progresses. We are supposed to see what a brilliant mind Jack Ryan is, but if you really think about it he actually does a lot of stupid stuff that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I can’t discuss these without divulging spoilers, but let’s just say Ryan’s so-called “brilliance” relies upon giving up the easy route for the hard one (maybe so the task seems more difficult) and plenty of dumb luck. It’s not just Ryan either, as plenty of others, including the villain(s), are guilty of head-scratching behaviour. And don’t even get me started on the final climax, which goes from implausible to ridiculous to just plain silly.

At the end of the day, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is what it is: sleek albeit familiar B-grade entertainment featuring a popular character and a stellar cast. It’s serviceable as a DVD rental but it would be unfair to expect too much. There clearly is something about Jack Ryan that makes Hollywood keep wanting to make movies about him, but this one doesn’t exactly show us why.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2D) (2012)

 

I have mixed feelings about The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot of the Sam Raimi franchise which began in 2002 and ended just five years ago. On the one hand, it is a spectacular action film with cool special effects that is arguably more faithful to the comics (Spider-Man’s web, for instance, was invented by Peter Parker rather than biological), but on the other it felt too similar to the 2002 film.

I had high expectations for The Amazing Spider-Man, and it’s not just because I am a much bigger fan of the two new lead stars, Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin from The Social Network) and Emma Stone, than the original duo of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. And it’s not because the film is directed by Marc Webb, who was at the helm of one of my favourite movies, 500 Days of Summer. It’s simply because I think Spider-Man is a cool superhero and an interesting character. And because the reboot of the Batman franchise with Christian Bale has been so ridiculously awesome and different to the Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney one that I expected a completely new spin on the character and story.

Unfortunately, The Amazing Spider-Man is not all that different to the film made 10 years ago. Yes, there are some major differences in the story, such as a new love interest (Stone plays Gwen Stacy — who was played by Bryce Dallas Howard in Spider-Man 3) and a new villain, The Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. Both are actually upgrades on Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Yes, this one also has a slightly more in-depth origin story that is linked back to Peter Parker’s parents (though more will probably be revealed in the inevitable sequel). But a lot of the plot points were virtually identical (without giving anything away), begging the question of why they needed to reboot the franchise in the first place.

If you haven’t seen the 2002 version or it’s not fresh in your mind, then you will probably have a great time. For some reason, I still remember a lot of it vividly, and as a result I kept getting a sense of deja vu. I know a lot of it was inevitable because they are core plot points in the Spider-Man origins story, but it certainly sucked the freshness out of it. I never got that feeling watching Batman Begins, which was a genuine “reboot” in every sense of the word.

On the bright side, The Amazing Spider-Man is exciting. The action sequences are clearer and more fluid than they were 10 years ago, and also very creative in the way they play out. I didn’t watch the 3D version but I suppose 3D effects could have enhanced certain scenes.

Rhys Ifans makes a wonderful, tormented semi-villain, and Dennis Leary has great presence as the city’s police chief. And how awesome is it to have Martin Sheen and Sally Field playing the uncle and aunt?

The new Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield, is more likable than Tobey Maguire. Interestingly, I thought Garfield looked pretty good for a high school student, but he’s actually 28, and a year older than Maguire when the latter played Spider-Man in 2002. I did have a slight problem with the character in that he wasn’t exactly geeky or nerdy enough. He’s thin, but taller and lankier than Maguire and also rides a skateboard. And it didn’t take much for Gwen Stacy to fall for him. It didn’t really make a whole lot of sense for him to be bullied or ignored by girls at the start of the film.

Emma Stone is also quite good as Gwen. Strong personality with just the right amount of feistiness and teenage angst. Funnily enough, I thought she looked too old to be a high school student, even though she’s five years younger than Garfield at 23.

The weakest link, though, had to be Irrfan Khan as an employee of Oscorp. He was plain bad and unintentionally hilarious at times.

I had a couple of other issues with the film’s editing and tonal imbalance, but these are relatively minor. Even though the film was more detailed than the 2002 version overall, at times I felt they rushed a few key scenes, while others might have been dragged out longer than necessary. And at 136 minutes it was, as usual, about 15 minutes too long. And am I being anal when I say the music score of the ordinarily dependable James Horner was occasionally distracting?

So at the end of the day, if Tobey Maguire’s 2002 version of Spider-Man is still fresh in your mind, chances are you won’t be wowed by this film. For me personally, The Amazing Spider-Man, while spectacular at times and very enjoyable in its own right, was not quite “amazing.”

3.25 stars out of 5