• Tag Archives Zack Snyder
  • Canister X Movie Review #134: Batman v Superman (2016)

    batmanvsupermanBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
    Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
    Directed by Zack Snyder
    Runtime 151 min.
    4 out of 5

    After witnessing the battle between Superman and General Zod in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself to ensure the Man of Steel isn’t a rogue alien who might one day enslave the human race. In the meantime, Lex Luthor has sworn to ensure humanity’s survival by securing for himself Kryptonite, which is later discovered to be the one thing that can weaken Superman. Worse, Luthor has a secret project tracking metahuman activity across the globe, which prompts Diana Prince to obtain the confidential data he has on her. To complicate matters, Luthor has also acquired the body of General Zod and creates from it an unstoppable killing machine—Doomsday, a being more powerful than even Superman. It’s going to take Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to take down the beast lest the city—even the planet—is destroyed by this destructive force.

    Okay, this is a first impression review, with some processing time after.

    Batman v Superman is a comic book movie, and not in the campy sense. It has the feel of DC’s direct-to-video animated features and there’s an atmosphere to the movie that superheroes belong in the world created.

    The downside to the flick is it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film. There’s no strict A to B to C to the story. It’s more an introduction of story elements that will all play out in future DC movies instead. It’s like the first part of a giant graphic novel, and it is my hope that years down the road when all the other DC movies are released, what we will have is one massive story instead of what is usually given to us in today’s superhero flicks: each one a self-contained tale with subplots running through them that culminate in team-up adventures. If indeed DC’s plan is to make one giant movie, then that’s something never attempted before and never in the superhero genre. If this is the case, that’s brilliant and should be applauded. It’s jarring for moviegoers, but once they catch onto what’s going on, they’ll no doubt be amazed. After all, we do like our epics both on the big screen and TV.

    Superman/Clark Kent. Once again, Henry Cavill delivers as the Last Son of Krypton. In fact, I think his performance is a step up from his previous outing in Man of Steel. That first flick was about Superman finding his footing, and while there is still some of that here, it’s more about the world finding its footing now that Superman is on the scene. You can tell Superman has become a beacon of hope to the world despite how some might view him as a threat. He’s bigger, stronger, and carries with him that air of awe and wonder Superman should. We’re not supposed to relate to this god-like being, but instead look up to him as something and someone to aspire to, and Superman is very much coming into that form as the flick goes on. As for the Clark Kent side, reporter Clark in this flick was pretty much just Average Joe. There wasn’t all that much involved in creating a clear line between Superman and Clark Kent, that strong sense of two separate people. I wish there was, but I also see how Average Joe works better in the reality established in these movies than someone who’s an over-the-top nerd. At the same time, it would’ve been nice to see Clark trip over his own feet or bump into a desk or something to really give off that whole there’s-no-way-this-guy-can-be-Superman thing. There was also one scene I had so hoped for in this movie that never came and that was the classic Clark ripping his shirt open to reveal the S. Perhaps in another movie.

    Batman/Bruce Wayne. When Ben Affleck was cast, I got behind it right away. I’m an Affleck fan and knew he could deliver on what would be a worn-out Bruce Wayne, which would eventually give way to a worn-out Batman. What can I say? Affleck did a superb job. He did the playboy thing—though he could’ve played up the douche bag part a bit; yet at this point in his life, a cocky playboy might not be in the cards for him—and also did well when it was just him and Alfred. As Batman, this is the Batman we’ve been waiting for. Finally, oh finally, we got to see the comic book Batsuit and a Batman who’s fighting and action was the stuff that made the Arkham games so darn good. He also played the detective, which was never really in the other movies. And the bat-atmosphere? That part where he’s hanging in the corner in the dark and the light shines on him? Spooky and gorgeous. I also enjoyed the final fight and how Batman was portrayed. His limits as a human being with gadgets was shown, which is good, because I’m tired of stories where Batman somehow saves the day instead of the beings that are so much more powerful than him. I’m really excited for the forthcoming Bat-flicks with Ben Affleck in the lead.

    Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Small hero part in this movie, comparatively speaking to the two male leads. As Diana Prince, Gal Gadot was mysterious and intriguing. There was also a sense of detachment about her which, once you learn who she really is, makes perfect sense since she’s from Themyscyra. When the Wonder Woman reveal happened, she stole the show. Sorry Superman and Batman, you were outshone big time. She had a heroic entrance—which is so important in superhero movies—a killer score, and was completely badass when she got down to business and helped in the fight against Doomsday. What was also interesting is while the movie didn’t get too much into who she was, she stilled carried her own weight and felt fleshed-out anyway. Of course, this could all be in my head since I know who Wonder Woman is and enough of her backstory to fill in the gaps. With the Wonder Woman movie in production as of the writing of this review, I know I’ll be one of the first in line when it comes out. She was that good.

    Lex Luthor. If Jesse Eisenberg is good at one thing, it’s playing the prideful I’m-smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room guy. And, yeah, that’s who Lex Luthor is. He’s a genius, and despite what he tells the public, has a contempt for humanity because he thinks he’s above it. Of course, the paradox is that he himself is human. In that regard, Jesse Eisenberg did a fine job. However, I still feel he was too youthful for the role since Lex is older than Superman in other incarnations, and Lex—as crazy as he can be sometimes—is more of a reserved crazy than someone more animated. It was this animated part that brought Lex down, in my opinion. Crazy is fine. Smart crazy is even better, but this kind of Joker-esque displays that happened now and then were out of place. Maybe given the ending Lex’s personality will change and he’ll be more reserved. We’ll see.

    Lois Lane. Amy Adams works for me. She does the hard-nosed journalist thing quite well, and the standard Lois Lane thing of getting herself into hot spots so only Superman can come to the rescue. I don’t mind this trope so long as it isn’t all the time. Her role in this flick wasn’t a main one like in Man of Steel. She was more part of Superman’s support team despite her entanglement in some of the later conflicts in the movie.

    Alfred Pennyworth. What can I say? Jeremy Irons did a good job as Alfred, who is also Batman’s co-combatant. Sure, he didn’t don a costume and get out there and fight bad guys, but helped Batman from the Batcave as a sort of special ops overseer. More importantly, he acted as Bruce Wayne’s conscience and wasn’t afraid to go up against him when he disagreed with something. As much as Robin’s job is to keep Batman grounded, it’s Alfred’s job as well, and since he is older than Bruce, he can provide wisdom in areas Bruce isn’t familiar with. Good choice having Jeremy Irons in the role.

    There were a few moments in the film where I wished things had gone in a different direction, but that could just be my taste as opposed to my ideas being better.

    Unfortunately, WB and DC marketed this movie as one thing and what it was was something different. Once you get over that hurdle and see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for what it’s meant to be in the greater DC Universe, then a lot of pieces fall into place and it’s highly enjoyable.

    Go see it.


  • Canister X Movie Review #93: Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)

    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)
    Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse
    Directed by Zack Snyder
    Runtime 215 min.
    5 out of 5

    After the Comedian has been murdered, lone remaining vigilante Rorschach begins an investigation into his old acquaintance’s death. Since most superheroes were banned from existing after some legislation several years before, he looks up old allies and even old enemies in his quest for the truth. Slowly, he begins to unravel a plot that could bring about a disaster unlike anything the world has ever seen before.

     

    Based on what some would argue is the greatest graphic novel and superhero story of all time, Watchmen written by Alan More and Dave Gibbons, this movie adaptation was years in the making. Not this specific rendition, but from what I know, the book was optioned way back when it came out in the ’80s but never got off the ground. One of the reasons was very few filmmakers had the guts to touch it because Watchmen is such a revered work amongst comic fans and even in some literary and academic circles.

    Enter director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead (2004), Man of Steel, 300 and more), whose eye for detail and a knack for visual storytelling takes on the gargantuan project and does his best to faithfully adapt Watchmen to the big screen. Him and his creative team nail it, in my opinion, and adapt the book the only way something like Watchmen could be adapted: panel-by-panel. It was the safest route but also the smartest. Some changes were made—like the ending—but for the most part, the book is translated completely as is to the big screen. Even the director’s cut includes additional scenes and animated clips from Tales of the Black Freighter interspersed throughout just like the graphic novel has bits of the pirate comic peppered throughout the main narrative.

    Watchmen asks the question: what would superheroes be like if they existed in the real world? Whether they are of the superpowerless variety or something more Superman-like ala Dr. Manhattan, you get an honest portrayal of superheroes in real life, all centered around the mystery of the murder of one of their friends.

    This story is about as down-to-earth as you get regarding superheroes in real life, and depending on the angle you’re coming from, can be equal to or more so than Kick-Ass in that regard.

    Each character in the flick matched their character in the book, all the way from the crazy-yet-cynical Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), to black-and-white-justice-seeking Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), to idealistic-yet-obsessed Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), to insecure-but-strong Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), to misguided-but-you-can-see-how-he’s-right Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and a supporting cast that makes every moment believable.

    The Watchmen story is so dense that the fact they were able to take the twelve-part series and showcase nearly all of it in around three and a half hours—I’m talking about the ultimate cut of the movie, which includes Tales of the Black Freighter and a bunch of additional footage not seen in the theatrical release—is pretty impressive. What’s amazing about the Watchmen narrative and thus the movie is the incredible amount of history for the characters that needed to be shown without bogging down the main story, which was the Comedian’s murder. You get to know these characters intimately, their pasts, their present and in some cases, their future.

    Zack Snyder’s knack for visuals gave this flick its own flavor and tone thanks to the color filters on the film. The score is fantastic. The action scenes were well done and quickly-paced, using brutal fighting techniques and the right amount of blood.

    Watchmen is certainly not your traditional superhero flick. It’s a superhero drama and is meant for an audience who likes to have some thinking along with their superhero slugfests. As a comic book fan, I appreciated the movie’s faithfulness to the graphic novel, the overall story of Watchmen, and how each person involved really seemed to take this movie seriously. Nothing was tongue-in-cheek.

    Watchmen ranks right up there as one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. If you consider yourself a superhero fan, then you should check it out. It’s a serious look at the genre through the lens of a clever story with amazing characters, all of which you feel like you’ve known for ages instead of just for a few hours on the screen.

    Highly recommended. Not for kids.


  • Canister X Movie Review #92: Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood (2009)

    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood (2009)
    Written by Zack Snyder and Alex Tse
    Directed by Daniel DelPurgatorio and Mike Smith
    Runtime 26 min.
    4 out of 5

    The DVD contains two features: Tales of the Black Freighter, an animated adaptation of that oh-so-bloody pirate comic embedded in the overall Watchmen strip (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), and Under the Hood, a TV show interview with Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie) about his bestselling, tell-all autobiography regarding his time as the original Nite-Owl during the first superhero boom of the late ’30s/early ’40s.

     

    Tales of the Black Freighter was remarkable, grisly, and just plain cool. Even if you don’t like pirate stories, it’s guaranteed you’ll dig this. It’s a story about survival, the need to save others and the consequences of choosing that path, and what might happen to a man who becomes so obsessed with an ideal that he runs the risk of distorting reality completely.

     

    Under the Hood was equally well done. Done as a “look back” magazine television show—complete with commercial breaks using products from the Watchmen graphic novel—it explores the origin of the superhero fraternity through the very realistic eyes and humble spirit of Hollis Mason. You forget that it’s fiction quite easily and the segment also has that nostalgic feel of the Watchmen movie.

     

    Also included is the very cool motion comic of the first chapter of the Watchmen graphic novel. This was just plain cool and the animation was far more than I expected. Thought I was only going to get a few sliding frames ala some anime segments but instead got a lot of animation for each panel of the graphic novel. In fact, this segment alone sold me on getting the whole graphic novel animated DVD. Likewise, you also get a behind-the-scenes featurette on the back stories that are Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood and what they mean to the overall Watchmen experience.

    The reason I gave it four stars instead of five is solely because five stars means I’ve been blown away and, well, the Watchmen theatrical film already did that and this isn’t quite as good. It’s my hope, however, that on the Watchmen director’s cut they splice in Tales of the Black Freighter as shown above. Very cool. They shot all the newsstand scenes with the kid reading the comic book for it anyway so might as well use them.

    Recommended.


  • Canister X Movie Review #57: Man of Steel (2013)

    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Man of Steel (2013)
    Written by David S. Goyer
    Directed by Zack Snyder
    Runtime 143 min.
    5 out of 5

    A sole survivor of the doomed planet Krypton grows up on Earth and discovers he has abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Once grown, he sets off to find out who he is and where he comes from. The answer is discovered in a spaceship in the arctic and Krypton’s Last Son, Kal-El—Clark Kent—meets a hologram of his long-dead father, Jor-El, who reveals to him his destiny: to be a beacon of hope for humanity, and also someone who could one day restore the doomed Kryptonian race.

    Enter Zod, a harsh general and one who has fought his whole life to protect Krypton and its people. During an altercation with Jor-El prior to Krypton’s explosion, he finds out that Jor-El has sent his newborn son off-world and, along with the child, plans for Krypton’s future. A battle ensues and Zod is sent off-planet, too, him and his cohorts banished to the Phantom Zone for rehabilitation. When Krypton explodes, the containment units holding Zod and his followers release them and he spends the next thirty-three years combing the stars, searching for Jor-El’s son.

    Locating Kal-El on Earth, Zod sends an ultimatum to the planet, forcing Kal-El to reveal himself to the humans and to stop Zod from using Earth as ground zero for a new Krypton. Zod, like Kal-El, is now powered by the Earth’s yellow sun and is empowered with superabilities. An enormous battle ensues between Krypton’s general and Kal-El, the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance.

     

    What can I say? This movie is mind blowing! It’s epic, it’s incredible. So much was riding on this film to deliver a Superman movie that would captivate audiences and restore the Man of Steel to his rightful place as king of the superheroes. Man of Steel does just that and then some, bringing with it the awesome sci-fi factors of Star Wars to the dense storytelling of The Dark Knight Trilogy.

    There has never, ever been a superhero movie like this before. Henry Cavill as Superman nailed the part. He’s a nice guy, a caring guy, but he’s dead serious about doing the right thing and exudes the confidence that only one who has sold himself out for the good of all can portray. He did something that was never done before by any other Superman actor: showing Clark Kent before he was Superman or even the bumbling reporter of the Daily Planet. (I’m referring to the movies, not Smallville). In fact, he’s this version of Clark Kent for nearly the whole movie. You see him making the big decisions, weighing his upbringing against this new task of saving the world that was suddenly dropped on his lap. You journey along with him as he wrestles with his being different and how those differences apply not just to his life, but to the lives of others.

    As Superman, he’s the Superman. I never thought Christopher Reeve’s performance could be outdone, but Henry Cavill matches, if not exceeds, what Mr. Reeve brought to the character. Cavill’s Superman is one hundred percent devoted to staying true to who he is, his abilities, his upbringing, his quest for truth and justice, and for putting his foot down both with men and rebel Kryptonians when needed. I can’t really comment on his reporter Clark persona because that’s not a big role in this movie. I hope, however, it will be in the sequel and we’ll see plenty of Lois and Clark interaction in the next one, especially after the way the Lois and Clark relationship is portrayed in this movie. You’ll have to see for yourself for what I mean.

    Michael Shannon as Zod was crazy good. The guy can act and his Zod is much different than Terrence Stamp’s. Yes, both are ruthless, but whereas Stamp’s Zod was more about power grabbing and his desire to rule, Shannon’s is about giving his all to restore the former glory of Krypton at any cost, even if that means eradicating all of Earth’s population to do it. The best villain is always the villain you accidently find yourself rooting for, and that happened to me throughout this movie. Every so often I felt for Zod and understood what he was trying to accomplish. It made sense and made me consider that maybe if I was in his shoes I would’ve done the same thing or something similar.

    Amy Adams as Lois Lane was a good choice. I wasn’t sure at first, as I know Amy Adams as more of the happy-go-lucky girl from other movies far removed from the superhero genre—though she was in one episode of Smallville during its first season—but she sold me on the part and she reminded me of the Lois Lanes from the old cartoons: warm, but cut and dry; funny, but serious about what she does and her desire to go the distance to get a story.

    The action in this movie was crazy huge. The bar has been set so high in terms of superhero cinema in recent years and Man of Steel makes every superhero movie that’s come before it look like a puppet show by comparison. The wide-scale destruction wrought by Superman and Zod—never mind Zod’s right-hand-woman Faora and the other rebel Kryptonians—is what you’d expect if people with god-like powers let loose in an all-out brawl across a city. And the speed, man, the speed! Normally superspeed is shown as either a big blur or done in slo-mo, with the superspeedsters moving quickly while everyone else is frozen. In this one, you see Superman et al. zipping around, pausing, breaking sound barriers, and bringing the viewer along as if we’re in his boots the whole time and experiencing the thrill of superspeed ourselves.

    The way Superman flies in this is unlike any other portrayal before, and while I loved how he flies in the other movies and TV shows, in this one he seems to hurl himself through the air at times, while at others flies with precision and care. The heat vision effect in this was stellar, too. The glow beneath the skin around the eyes and to see the veins beneath its surface made it all the more menacing. The superhearing and X-ray vision were familiar territory to those who’ve watched Smallville, but there was no all-out X-ray vision where everything was dark blue and white.

    The fighting between Superman and Zod was serious business and was truly a portrayal of two warriors going toe-to-toe and not just wrestling or tapping each other out. It was one crazy hard blow after another, some slow, some rapid, even some in the sky! Insane! So many times I was blown away and just going “Wow, wow, wow!” Zod fought with the skill of a trained warrior, whereas Superman fought with brute force.

    Man of Steel is a crazy good movie with a strong story, an incredible cast, and superhero action that has now become the benchmark for anything to follow. To be honest, I don’t know if it can be followed. Hopefully in Man of Steel 2.

    Super recommended.