Friday 6 May 2022

Movie Review - The Batman

This latest live action depiction of the renowned caped crusader follows his extraction from DC's failed attempt at crafting a shared universe of their own, and now paves the way for a new series focusing purely on Batman as well as the many allies and enemies unique to his comic book saga. This time round, Robert Pattinson takes on the titular role, delivering a fitting, powerful portrayal within a narrative much darker than we've ever seen before, even when compared to Nolan's acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.

Though The Batman is a reboot, it decides to branch away from merely being yet another origin story, instead dropping us into a world where Bruce Wayne has already spent two years battling crime and corruption within Gotham City, and interweaving necessary backstory into the main plot in a simple yet effective manner. The end result is a tale that readily establishes the origins of Batman and focuses on the development of his skills as a fighter and a detective lurking in the shadows, with his key opponent this time round being a menacing, sadistic serial killer simply calling himself the Riddler (Paul Dano).

Pattinson's casting was met with great hostility, and I myself certainly thought it was an odd choice for such a role; however, for the most part, his performance is one that nicely captures the core nature of the character. Pattinson's take on Batman is chilling and intimidating, thus nailing the persona that such a hero is known for, though his portrayal of Bruce Wayne doesn't do much to truly differentiate these two identities. The script itself inevitably burdens him with such limitations, so just don't expect to really see Bruce Wayne this time round. The darker Batman persona is what Pattinson adopts whether in costume or not, which can sometimes make his portrayal of Wayne himself a little bland and overly depressing. Zoƫ Kravitz also delivers a strong portrayal of Catwoman, while Paul Dano excels as the Riddler, making him an incredibly deranged, menacing villain who can be genuinely unsettling to watch.

The Batman is certainly a story aimed at an older target audience, thanks to a scary and eerie tone as well as some rather graphic fight scenes and intense set pieces; this is something that a large number of fans will appreciate given the similarly dark nature of many of the character's comic book depictions. The film's main flaw simply boils down to its near three hour runtime; there are multiple scenes that tend to drag on for a while which could've easily been condensed, and while it doesn't excessively jeopardise the story's overall strength and emotional weight, it will probably leave some viewers a little bored now and then. For the most part, however, this is an engaging watch and a strong superhero tale that breaks new ground with its overall vibe and intensity.

Friday 22 April 2022

Movie Review - Spider-Man: No Way Home

Now the highest grossing Spider-Man film and one of the most successful within the already truck sized moneymaking machine that is the MCU, No Way Home is undoubtedly among the franchise's most ambitious outings simply due to its acclaimed reunion of many famous faces known for appearing within previous cinematic outings involving the renowned hero. Such faces include former web heads Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, as well as the likes of Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church and several others as our central antagonists. The end result is a somewhat overcrowded yet largely entertaining and exhilarating superhero flick that has a unique novelty, albeit one it doesn't take full advantage of.

No Way Home uses snazzy sci-fi magic to bring all these characters together, with the safety of MCU's Peter Parker (Tom Holland) put at major risk following a revelation of his identity to the world. In the interests of both himself and those he loves, Peter consults Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to rewrite time and make his identity a secret once more, though a flawed execution of this spell leads to the inadvertent mixing together of multiple alternate realities with largely disastrous results. Woops.

A key initial issue I have with this latest MCU offering is one I've felt has been a notable flaw with many MCU films to this day: an excessive focus on silly humour. Yes, a dark and gritty vibe only truly works for the heroes that demand it like Batman, but the first hour of this film is far too reliant on daft humour to the point where it reduces the ability to take certain things seriously, and ultimately becomes incredibly annoying incredibly quickly. It's funny, yes, but just doesn't know where to draw the line. The first half of the film also suffers from a fairly slow pace which leaves it quite boring and sluggish in the long run; thankfully, the second act picks up the pace very quickly and offers a handful of thoroughly entertaining set pieces as well as some genuinely touching and surprisingly dramatic moments.

While it's certainly great to see Holland fight alongside Maguire and Garfield, all three of whom deliver largely solid performances, a central flaw of the film's primary concept stems from its obsession with cramming so many villains into the mix. I occasionally kept forgetting some were actually present, not only due to the unnecessarily large lineup but also because many are shunted aside for lengthy periods of time; iffy development can also reduce them to an occasional laughing stock before our climactic end battle arrives. The actors portraying these villains do their best, but their character arcs aren't entirely satisfying; Molina's Doc Ock is nowhere near as intimidating as he was in Spider-Man 2, and while the Green Goblin has a great new look and is brought to life with another impressive effort from Willem Dafoe, his screentime is insultingly low. As for the others, they just come and go without much of an impact, which illustrates how their inclusion was fuelled more by a desire to add wow factor instead of narrative strength.

That said, this is a good film with an enticing second act once again, as well as an admittedly beautiful ending, but the aforementioned excessive silliness and a flawed execution of the overall concept leave quite a few things to be desired. Fans of the MCU won't be disappointed, as is already evident by the film's exceptional critical and fan reception, but for me it had nowhere near as much of an impact and is far from one of the best superhero films I've seen, let alone one of the best within the MCU itself. Do forgive me, MCU diehards.