Wednesday 26 February 2020

Movie Review - Sonic the Hedgehog

Video games and movies don't often go hand in hand, history has taught us well. Indeed, some of the biggest embarrassments to blemish cinema have been influenced by even the best video game franchises, ranging from Super Mario Bros. to Street Fighter to Assassin's Creed. However, following a surprising amount of studio acknowledgement toward initial fan backlash, this year's Sonic the Hedgehog has thankfully evaded the same tragic fate; the end result is a film that can offer enjoyment to those even outside of the key demographic.

Our eponymous blue bur, voiced by Ben Schwartz, finds himself stranded on Earth after fleeing from those who seek to harness his supersonic powers back on his distant homeworld. Hiding away for many years, Sonic is eventually discovered by police officer Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who reluctantly aids him on a quest to escape the clutches of sinister roboticist Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and hopefully find a new homeworld along the way.

Sonic the Hedgehog is a film that follows a typical buddy comedy formula; two key characters go on a lengthy adventure, their own friendship evolving as they learn countless new lessons and provide an array of hit or miss humour along the way. The common clich├ęs and corny morals are visible from the get-go, but there's still a decent structure here to make for some consistent entertainment. Ben Schwartz delivers a charming and funny vocal performance as Sonic himself, whose personality is relatively faithful to the one we've come to know over the years. His colourful, cartoony appearance can inadvertently look awkward alongside the realistic world around him, but some impressive special effects still make it work in the long run. As almost everyone will say, the studio's revised design for our leading hero is miles superior to the hideous disgrace seen from early trailers.

The many human characters surrounding Sonic are likeable, but for the most part lack any real depth. James Marsden's performance as Tom is appealing, and while he's definitely the source of some great humour, his overall character arc is thin and predictable; of course, Jim Carrey as Robotnik is the character that will easily grab the attention of most audiences. Funny and suitably sinister, if still a bit bland, Robotnik is arguably one the film's most entertaining aspects, often surpassing Sonic himself. His integration into the story is somewhat forced and a tad bizarre, but the film's zany premise as a whole prevents this from becoming a major distraction. What we have here is a formulaic story that younger audiences and the most dedicated Sonic fans will embrace the most, but one that again has the potential to offer harmless and enjoyable family fun for those not amongst the franchises diehards.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Movie Review - The Lighthouse

Back in the late 19th century, two men find themselves stranded on a remote island, left forced to dwell within their lighthouse workplace when a vicious storm soon prevents them from returning home. Experienced elderly sailor Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) is accompanied by lightkeeper for hire Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson); dwelling in the lighthouse with naught but their own unwanted company slowly takes its toll, deteriorating them within as time progresses.

The first thing to notice in The Lighthouse is of course its unique cinematography. This film adopts a black and white colour palette with some high contrast ratios, coupled with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which all conveys a traditional feel that fits snuggly with the film's remote, claustrophobic setting and way back when time period. It may not win over the more casual cinemagoers, but it's still a unique and effective appearance that once again works with the film's premise, as well as its eerie atmosphere on numerous occasions. However, such eerie moments and visual charm don't always fight off the story's tonal inconsistencies, which even some of the more positive reviews seemed to have highlighted. Some consider it more of a dark comedy, despite its official branding as a psychological horror; it's not always sure what conventions to adopt and so perhaps its scarier moments aren't always as effective.

Of course another source of extensive praise are the leading performances from both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, and such praise is definitely warranted. When it comes to their actual characters, they don't always have the most interesting chemistry; it's quite repetitive with their non stop bickering and sporadic drunken antics, but this certainly doesn't change the fact that both actors gave it their all from start to finish. Dafoe's performance is both witty and amusing, though also the source of some intimidating behaviour that the audience can feel just as much as Pattinson's character can. Less is more when it comes to Pattinson himself, and while his largely reserved performance may not always be the most compelling, he still does a good job of portraying his character's vulnerability and bottled frustration, which takes a darker turn as things progress.

But The Lighthouse has one major flaw that overwhelms many of its best merits: it's just boring. Clearly most people don't agree considering the universal acclaim it has earned, but this near two hour tale has a sluggish pace and many repetitive scenarios that fail to add any serious drama. Perhaps things do admittedly liven up as we approach the more climactic moments, but you may just find yourself waiting impatiently for such scenarios rather than remaining compelled by all that occurs beforehand. Dafoe and Pattinson's refined performances help to bring more life to their characters, but their actual development within the script is relatively bland. They argue and drink many times, to the point where it can feel like you're watching the same scenes over and over, albeit with slightly different settings and dialogue. It's a sizeable downside that makes many scenes relatively dull, and while the film as a whole once again wins marks for its artistic appeal, it sadly doesn't offer a huge amount of genuine entertainment.