God versus man. Day versus night. All powerful versus all good. That’s the conundrum Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) has asked of its audience ever since its first trailer debuted last year. And as a superhero fanatic, I’ll readily admit it sucked me in straight away. Then, a few days ago, came the early wave of negative reviews, the memes of Marvel’s mighty CEO’s laughing at Warner Bros. over the dismal 30% ‘Fresh Rating’ the film received on Rotten Tomatoes, and the tragic but beautiful gifs of ‘Sad Affleck’, a video of the Oscar-winning actor staring into the abyss of what many are calling one of the most horrible iterations of DC’s beloved bat character to date. Undeterred, I ignored the critics reviews, cast my biases aside, and sat down to see for myself whether Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is worthy of a cinematic viewing. The red capes are a-coming…
Picking up eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel (2013), Zack Snyder’s sombre sequel follows the emotional, physical, and psychological trail of death and destruction left in the wake of Superman’s intergalactic fight with General Zod. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is hard at work at the Daily Planet but losing faith in what Superman stands for, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is seeking out stories in Africa and living up to the damsel in distress trope, and the people of Metropolis are so caught up in what their False God can do that they are failing to ask what he should do. Then in swoops the Bat-fleck, an older, grizzlier manifestation of Bruce Wayne’s legendary hero, well into his crime-fighting years. A boy who let his family die and a man who seems doomed to repeat the sins of his past. After witnessing the uncontrollable power and formidable strength Superman wields, the Dark Knight sets about devising a plan for the Son of Krypton’s down-fall, and finally, just over two-thirds of the way into the film, we finally reach the crux of the climatic fight-scene. Sadly, it’s a short-lived moment; as a bigger villain crashes onto the scene and DC’s Holy Trinity unite to fight for what’s left of truth, justice, and the American way.
Introducing the Justice League is no mean feat, especially considering it’s a tenacious task never before achieved in a live-action film, and for that Batman v Superman deserves credit. It’s overshadowed though by the sheer weight of the movies dark and despairing tone. People die, others go crazy, and there’s a huge price to be paid by the best among us. There’s also a jumbled mess of unnecessary dream sequences and strange musical choices lurking about (don’t believe me – just wait until you here Lex Luthor’s theme). But it’s the film’s two-and-a-half-hour run-time that delivers the final blow. By the time you reach the finale, you’re too exhausted to comprehend the gravitas of the situation, and the speed at which the lacklustre lot finally become a League.
Affleck’s Batman has been a big criticism, and it’s hard to argue that there aren’t at least a few moments where he serves as a let-down. Like, pretty much the whole first half of the film. But after you warm up to him, and suspend disbelief at how fast he can change costumes between his busted up bat armour and his black (or really, really, dark grey) suit, he proves to be a solid addition to the cast. He’s the first swearing, killing, and jaded incarnation, and it makes for a frighteningly refreshing change. Sure he’s no Christian Bale, but he was also never trying to be. People are quick to forget how much he invested in the film and how hard it is to revive a character that last graced the screen just four years ago. He’s good, if not great, and given time his standalone features and ensemble team-ups could prove a real winner for Warner Bros. After all, superheroes are made not just born.
The smaller roles bring the biggest and best surprises though, with Gal Gadot knocking her Wonder Woman out of the park. Smooth, seductive, and strong, DC can finally lay claim to beating Marvel in at least one realm, with a female lead that stands equal to the boys, showcases real powers, and is a revelation as an unapologetic role-model. Black Widow and Scarlet Witch stand no chance. Similarly, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is one for the books; as a miss-match of maniacal madness who proves that psychotic really is just a three syllable word for any thought too big for little minds. Even Jeremy Irons cynical, old-man Alfred is great, as a gentleman resigned to simply ‘trying’ to convince Batman not to kill himself in his endeavours. But if you came for the ‘Dawn of Justice’ part of the title you won’t be disappointed, with a number of well-timed and wonderfully utilised cameos, that would be done no justice at all, should I spoil them. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy as they spill onto the screen.
Expecting a superhero movie that can rival the Marvel megalith at this stage is a hard ask, and more importantly a downright cruel one. They’ve had twelve films to set up their cinematic universe. DC have had two. And it’s a problem that has left a major hole for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the studio promised a second Superman outing and the introduction of DC’s A-League, but instead delivered a film that feels more like a Batman origin flick. The whole first act is practically devoted to setting the character up, with the Son of Krypton left to take centre stage only in the final, gut-wrenching moments. It’s not bad, but given time and space to breathe, it could have been so much more. If only they’d taken heed of their scriptwriters, when they wrote; ‘Be their hero, be their angel, be their monument. Be anything they need you to be… or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.’
Rating: 3.5 Annoyed Alfred's out of 5
How To Be Single Review - The art of being alone even when you're trying really, really hard not to be
For a feature film entitled How to be Single (2016), Warner Brother’s newest rom-com certainly spends a lot of time showing us what it means to be in a relationship rather than alone. There’s a serial hook-up harlequin, a woman who decides to settle down and have a baby, and another young female looking for her Mr Right. None of these however, are our lead protagonist, the one who teaches us the real moral of not how to be single, but the age old question of why.
The story follows Alice, a recent college graduate played by the doe-eyed Dakota Johnson, who decides to take a break from dating her college sweetheart Josh to move to the Big Apple, pursue a job as a paralegal, and find out who she is when she’s alone. Her first day in the office is no walk in the park however, as she is befriended by Robin, played by the boisterous Rebel Wilson, a hilarious desk-mate who acts as the proverbial devil on her shoulder, steering her in the direction of fun, frivolity, and the art of being frisky. After just one racy rendezvous with local man Tom the Bartender, our plucky protagonist sees the error of her ways, squandering the rest of the 2-hour run-time pining after her lost (and long moved on) love, playing family with a widow, and notching up a number of other marks on her bedpost. Rounding out the main quartet is Meg, Alice’s neurotic (not crazy, never crazy…) obstetrician sister, who is seeking neither a baby nor a man at the start of the film, and somehow manages to find both by the time the credits role, and Lucy a woman who has narrowed down the dating pool to a percentage of eligible men equal to that of half a crushed peanut.
Basically, How to Be Single is a film about three women learning how not to be single, playing remarkably like this decade’s version of He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), flaunting a stellar cast, a flimsy script, and a lot of gags to keep you going. In saying that, like the aforementioned film though, it’s not a bad journey. We learn the art of self-discovery, are given a lesson in growing-up, and feel ourselves rise to that sense of maturity we all found thrust upon ourselves at the tender age of twenty-one, when we left home / university / our first job, and had to ask what the hell were we doing? Most importantly, it reminds us that happy endings are not always found in a guy and a girl falling madly in love. Sometimes they are found in madly loving yourself.
Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox’s screenplay is at times startlingly refreshingly, proving a winner in its unprecedented gender equality. Not only does it imply that girls can party hard, decide to ‘take a break’ in a relationship, or choose to sleep around without consequence, but they reinforce these ideas without making a fuss or calling attention to them. This is the twenty-first century, and for once women are just as entitled as men. Christian Ditter rightly deserves some praise here too for the direction of his second English language book adaptation; however he must also cop some flak for his driftless and formulaic choices. It’s a good film, just not a great one.
Bumping the film up though are the performances of leads Wilson and Johnson, the former bringing the laughs big-time, firing off her now iconic brand of humour with startling precision. Not only does she nail a beautiful sequence in which her character tries to prove she can cure a hangover, get her hair and make-up done, and get to work in less than twenty minutes, but her riffing prowess in describing Alice’s down-town area by referencing Gandalf is legendary. Johnson too is a wonder, proving herself one of the best young actresses around at the moment. No matter how hard you want to hate her for signing on to the Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) trilogy, she is charming and compelling here, if only a little bit bland.
This isn’t a film of blockbuster proportion. Or a smart and sexy indie soiree. It’s a rom-com, pitched as a rom-com, which finds itself… you guessed it… focusing on romance and comedy. Like the proverbial dilemma of who came first the chicken or the egg, How to Be Single teaches you that knowing yourself helps you appreciate who you become in a relationship, and that loving someone helps you learn how to handle yourself when you’re alone. And it’s okay to be alone. To be single. To relish the moment when you are finally not tied by invisible heartstrings to another human being.
Rating: 3 Lonely Hearts out of 5
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