Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Is No Fun Really The Problem With The DCEU Movies? And Are Warner Bros Learning The Right Lessons From The Batman v Superman Backlash?

This week saw the release of trailers for two high profile super-hero movies due for release later this year, namely Justice League and Spider-Man: Homecoming. However it really highlighted to me the difference in how Marvel and DC are approaching the tone of their films, and also how confident they are in marketing them.

Spider-Man: Homecoming looks incredible, the trailer balances humour, action and drama just right. If the final film follows suit, it could easily be the best Spider-Man movie since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Tone = perfect.

However Justice League looks like a film struggling to find its own identity (or a marketing department struggling how to sell it). Visually it looks very similar to Man of Steel and Batman v Superman; sombre and desaturated colours with a heavy emphasis on slate/grey CGI environments. Yet then there’s a few quirky one-liners and some upbeat rock music which seems out of place (or at least inconsistent with the existing DCEU tone set in the previous films).

My initial impression after watching the JL trailer was Warner Bros are begging audience to think this will be a fun film. But here lies the questions - has lack of fun really been the problem with the DCEU movies so far? And will blindly focusing on “increasing the fun” ultimately hurt the final version of Justice League overall?

It’s no secret that since the negative backlash against BvS, Warner Bros / DC has been pro-actively making changes to rectify it’s future movies specifically based on this feedback. The perception is that the main reason Batman V Superman didn’t succeed (critically and some-what commercially) was because it wasn’t fun, and Warner Bros seems to be squarely aiming all of their course correction on this one area. This is apparent in the marketing for JL so far, with emphasis on the aforementioned one-liners and upbeat rock music over the trailers.

However, I’ve never believed the lack of “fun” in BvS was the problem, and I’m concerned that purely addressing this one issue isn’t the right (or only) thing that needs to be fixed.

Suicide Squad is a prime example of how this knee-jerk reaction can seriously hurt a film, as soon as BvS started getting hit for not being fun. The marketing for SS changed (as did the post-production of the film), there was a heavy emphasis on fast-cuts, bright colours and including multiple pops songs. A lot of this didn’t fit together and we ended up with one of the worst comic book movies in recent year (imho). 

Yes, BvS was a dark, brooding, gritty movie that takes itself very seriously, but that wouldn’t really have been a problem if it got a lot of other things right. Audience have shown with the success of LOGAN that they’re willing and want to see more adult takes on superheroes, so to say the lack of fun was the issue isn’t really accurate. There are major issues with BvS that JL needs to be addressed, which I’ve summarised below…

1) The story structure and editing is poor 
There are multiple plot holes, leaps in logic and lack of character development/motivation that make it difficult for audiences to get invested in the movie. It has scenes that are just spliced into the narrative that throw off the momentum of the film (i.e the Knightmare sequence, cutting to Wonder Woman looking at computer files, etc) that damage more than contribute, and the opening act is genuinely hard to follow with it’s sporadic editing. This was somewhat rectified with the Ultimate (extended) Cut of the movie, but the majority of audiences saw the theatrical version and this was when the negativity began

2) It’s too long and uses it’s running time inefficiently 
No one should be coming out of a film almost 3 hours long, saying it needed more time to develop characters or story points. Yet this was the case with BvS, the over-arching story is relatively simple, yet it is told in such a convoluted and meaningless way it takes almost 3 hours to complete. Much of Lex’s masterplan (that the film spends almost 2 hours setting up), is under-mined when Lex eventually just kidnaps Superman’s mum and says he’ll kill her unless Superman fights Batman. The resolution of this fight also serves to undermine all the set-up with a simple “our mums have the same name” conclusion. To spend 2 hours getting to a point you simultaneous render mostly pointless is a complete waste of a movies (and the audiences) time.

3) The action is underwhelming
Say what you will about Zack Snyder, but the guy knows how to direct spectacle and visually exciting action sequences (see 300, Sucker Punch, Watchman and even Man of Steel), but you’d be hard pressed to see much of that in BvS (with the exception of the Batman warehouse fight). For me the most underwhelming aspect is the titular fight itself. More of a rough and ready bar fight, of which Superman is pretty much just thrown around whilst unconscious is pretty boring and not the ultimate battle between two iconic characters years in the making you'd expect.  

So in summary to learn from the mistake of BvS, Justice League needs to tell a concise story with interesting characters, efficiently and effectively whilst delivering some exhilarating action. Seems pretty obvious right? However so far it looks like Warner Bros are just tweaking the script to add some one-liners and adding some pop/rock music.

If that’s the case, then JL is in danger of also being just as poorly received as BvS, even if it is “more fun”.


Friday, 6 January 2017

Ross Bishop’s Most Anticipated Films of 2017

As with previous years I’ve pulled together a list of my most anticipated films for the upcoming year.

Last year I had a pretty small list in that I’d only had 3 films I really wanted to see, and two of those ended up being underwhelming to out-right terrible (Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad respectively).

Now 2017 promises a return to form with lots of big blockbusters that I can’t wait to see, just writing this list made me realise how many huge franchise films are out this year. It really puts 2016 to shame.

So here we go…

FYI - with the exception of the top 3, the rest aren't in any particular order.

1) Star Wars: Episode VIII
I was never a huge Star Wars fan, I’ve seen all of them several times and I like them (I’ve just never loved them like so many people do), however I ABSOLUTELY LOVED “The Force Awakens” and therefore I’m very excited to see where Episode VIII takes us.

2) Spider-Man: Homecoming
My (joint) favourite super-hero (Batman is the other one), back in the hands of a Marvel Studio’s led movie. Good times. I’m really hoping for great things here, however this will be the sixth Spider-Man film within 15 years, so hoping it brings something new to the table rather than just more of the same.

3) War For The Planet Of The Apes
Absolutely loved the first two films, they're easily some of the best blockbusters in recent memory. So a new entry that potentially closes off the trilogy(?) has me very excited!

4) Thor: Ragnorok
I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Thor, but really enjoyed the 2nd film and the dynamic between Thor and Loki. That topped with the confirmation that Hulk and Doctor Strange are both in the movie, and Marvel saying this is the equivalent of Phase 3’s “Winter Solider” – I can’t wait!

5) Guardians of the Galaxy 2
The original is undeniably one of the strongest Marvel movies in terms of quality story-telling, and the sequel seems to be in keeping with what made the first one great. Count me in on day one!

6) John Wick 2
More Keanu Reeves being bad-ass.
More Gun-Fu.
Take my money.

7) Logan
A gritty R-Rated take on the Old Man Logan story. Yes please.

8) The LEGO Batman Movie
Need I say anymore? It's Batman. It's LEGO.

9) Fast and Furious 8 (Fate of the Furious)
I’ve always enjoyed the Fast & Furious movies, but they really came into their own after Fast Five. They’re the biggest budget pure action blockbuster’s we get these days, so I’m all for it. However this film does have to overcome the lack of Paul Walker, so hoping it doesn’t just become the Vin Diesel show, and that the remaining team are all included equally.

10) Dunkirk
The masterful film-maker Christopher Nolan returns with his take on a WWII epic. This should be very special indeed. 

There’s a few more films I really want to watch, however these are more wait and see…

Justice League / Wonder Woman
Look... Justice League should be on my most anticipated list and if you asked me a few years ago, it would have been. However, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were so disappointing, I’m stopping myself getting excited for these 2 new DC films. I’d love for them both to be absolutely amazing, but I’m not overly confident at this stage.

Alien: Covenant
Again, not sure here. Ridely Scott films has been pretty touch and go in terms of quality in recent years, Prometheus was terrible and the recent teaser trailer makes it look like a remake of the original Alien film.

Blade Runner: 2049
Same reason as above really, Ridely Scott isn’t directing but heavily involved as producer and not sure if picking up on such a cult classic 40 years later will be good or bad. Saying that, the first teaser trailer looks promising…

Ghost in the Shell
It’s rare that a live-action version of anime ends up being any good, but again the first teaser trailer looks very good, so fingers crossed.

Finally we have two big franchise films that of course I’m going to see, but whether I’m really excited for them is debatable….

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales
I quite enjoyed the original trilogy of Pirates film (even if they got consecutively worse), but wasn’t a fan of the fourth outing. It seems like the fifth film is going to link more directly to the trilogy and continue from where they left off, so here’s hoping a good fun summer movie.

Transformers: The Last Knight
I’m sure the special FX and action will be incredible, but in terms of an overall quality film, well…

And that's it! I'm sure I've forgotten something, but here’s hoping the majority of the above films deliver.