Thursday 18 July 2013

RETROSPECT - Most Anticipated Films of 2013


When 2013 began, I posted my top five most anticipated films of the year. These films were, in order: Django Unchained, Monsters University, Wreck-It Ralph, Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel. This was before I had seen any of them - my opinions were, of course, purely speculative.

I saw Django in January, Ralph in February, Iron Man 3 in April, Man of Steel in June and Monsters University just last week. So, having seen all the films, it's time to go back to my most anticipated list - and see how each one fared against my initial excitement. Here are these five films in a revised list, from worst to best, based on my final opinions of them!

#5 - Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was one of the biggest and most anticipated films of the year. Though Iron Man 2 was met with mixed reception, this third installment sparked a huge wave of hype due to being a follow up to last years Avengers. I couldn't wait to see it myself - the trailers really enforced that a lot is at stake in the narrative and I was beyond impressed with the threatening appeal of the villain. A badass villain was an essential ingredient after Iron Man 2 had one of the worst ones to ever hit a superhero film; but, through some bizarre twist of fate, they made the villain even worse this time around. The Mandarin appears intimidating and rather sinister through his creepy television broadcasts, but is revealed to be a fictional character played by a drunk actor whom Aldrich Killian, the central antagonist, hired to steer attention away from his sinister plot.

The concept is clever but simply ridiculous. It was a bold move, but one that wasn't necessary; making The Mandarin a badass and genuine terrorist would've been a less ambitious move but one that would've resulted in much less polarization amongst the fan feedback. Ben Kingsley becomes a complete laughing stock when protraying the drunken actor who plays Mandarin and Killian is one of the dumbest villains ever put on a screenplay. He wants to conquer the world because he was a skanky nerd and got rejected by Stark at a convention? Seriously? And then there's the Extremis virus, which is seldom elaborated on and just appears to give you generic superpowers to create boring superhuman foes. Iron Man 3 is decent, but boy did they screw up.

#4 - Django Unchained

I love Tarantino but he has earned a ridiculously pretentious image amongst many - everyone thinks whatever he touches turns to gold and that his creative filmmaking styles are always to the benefit of the final product. I can't deny he's a very good director, but sometimes I find him absurdly overrated. Pulp Fiction is fantastic but too long and sluggish, and his Kill Bill films are some of the most boring to ever hit cinema screens. Inglorious Basterds was superb from start to finish, and so I had high hopes for his next project. 

Django Unchained is a good film, but it is also too long, too boring and has no understanding of what editing is. We are forced to watch every single event in the film and Tarantino does his best to shove significance from it in your face and it does not work. It takes over an hour for the main search for Django's wife to begin, and then we must wait ages while we see them all travel to the Candyland plantation in a long and dragged out scene. And then, when an epic climactic gunfight occurs, the film still has 30 minutes of run time left. It has some intense, stylistic violence and great performances, but it is most certainly not one of Tarantino's best.

#3 - Man of Steel

People always shiver in annoyance when they hear the term reboot in film, but after the awfully boring Superman Returns in 2006, the most iconic superhero to ever appear in a comic book really needed one. Christopher Nolan who directed the exceptional Dark Knight trilogy was on board, and the talented Zack Snyder was also hired to direct, with David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) hired to pen the screenplay. As someone not interested in Superman, it was difficult for me to get excited; I find his character to lack complexity and appeal outside of his heroic antics and his invincible nature makes conflict with villains very dull. My excitement grew slightly when the excellent new costume was unveiled in 2011 (it could've done without Cavill's huge crotch bulge, though) and when other marketing stuff began to rise in July 2012, and by the end of the year, I wanted to see it more than anything. Literally, as it was number one on my list!

Man of Steel did not disappoint - it was action packed, somewhat complex and visually stunning. The performances were exceptional, and they were only really dragged down by some of Goyer's iffy lines in the script. This wasn't a huge concern but when you try and fixate Superman into a realistic context, having cheesy and cliché action lines in your script is a big no no. This and the few annoying plot holes aside, Man of Steel was a thrilling and suitably epic summer movie and one that I'm glad to see do well at the worldwide box office.

#2 - Monsters University

There seems to be a lot of debate going on at the moment about Pixar and the level of quality that's slipped away from their films. Toy Story 3 is generally regarded as their last critically successful blockbuster, earning over $1 billion worldwide and a fantastic 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 3 of the 257 reviews being rotten. Their next project, Cars 2, was met with lukewarm reception upon announcement and even less positivity when released, and last year's Brave had split reactions. Monsters, Inc. is one of their best and most beloved films, so to see them have a go at returning to its world in their current state has worried many people.

But while Cars 2 wasn't great, Brave was a funny and heartwarming tale and Monsters University is no different. It's not even close to overthrowing the emotional weight of the original, which had a touching relationship between protagonist Sulley and Boo, a human child who disastrously slipped into the monster world. Monsters University is very much a comedy at heart, but it still delivers a more sophisticated moral than most animated films these days; Mike never accomplishes his ambitions as a scarer due to a lack of natural talent, but he and Sulley work together to improve both their faults (in Sulley's case, being scary but not knowledgeable). This brings a touch of complexity to a hilarious film, and to say it's not Pixar standards is absolute shit.

#1  - Wreck-It Ralph

When Wreck-It Ralph was first announced, I thought the idea was stupid. It just didn't sound very appealing or clever, but little did I know I was in for one of the biggest surprises of the year. Well, that's a bit of an overstatement. By the time the first trailer arrived in June 2012, my opinion was far less narrow minded and I was extremely fascinated by the concept and the video game cameos - it seemed a lot like a video game version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which is indeed a compliment.

Though a 2012 film to Americans and several others, Wreck-It Ralph did not arrive in UK cinemas until February 2013 because Disney apparently hate us. Out of my five most anticipated films of the year, Ralph was by far the best; stunning visuals, superb voice work and a polished storyline make it one of Disney's strongest efforts in recent years. The story has a lot of room for plot holes and conflicts in logic, but this is all avoided through useful exposition and solid writing - the narrative keeps moving at a brisk pace, constructing itself logically and never rendering anything overly complicated. The characters, especially Ralph himself, are consistently loveable, and the humour is solid gold from start to finish. A real winner - Disney should be proud.

Thanks for reading!