Sci-fi/fantasy is healthier than ever. Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, all huge names, all amazing directors and all of them working within the realms of the speculative, the spectacular and the downright special. This Spring, we’ve been treated (ish) to huge contributions from within the A-List ranks, with Brad Pitt, Will Smith and Tom Cruise all bringing a genre piece to the table and we’ll be here every fortnight to give you the definitive round up of what’s on right now for the nerd in your life.
Man of Steel
Not for the quick of migraine.
Director: Zack Snyder.
Run time: 143 minutes.
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon.
Michael Bay has a melancholy younger brother – and his name is Zack Snyder. Entrusting the helm of one of the best loved comic book franchises of all time to the man responsible for the critical and commercial bomb that was Sucker Punch was always going to be a ballsy move at best for producer Christopher Nolan’s. But in this case it worked. Sort of.
I attempted, with this mini-review in mind, to count the explosions/likely casualties of the final hour and a half of Man and Steel but lost count when I hit infinity. This movie is in your face. This movie is inside your face. This movie is your face. Henry Cavill’s hairy-chested man of steel takes on and defeats a horde of Kryptonian adversaries, various natural disasters and more than one great big tenticle robot straight out of hentai, all the while serving to reduce the climactic scene of the Avengers to something akin to an episode of the Antiques Roadshow. This is destruction on an epic scale, which loses some of its power as, unlike in the Marvel world, the DC settings are more often than not freshly invented, unique city scapes. New York, Metropolis is not.
But Man of Steel’s stand out moments lie within its human characterisation. Cavill’s tortured nearly-human hunk Clark Kent eclipses Kal-El’s jutting jawed Superman at every turn and the acting chops on display from Costner, Crowe and Michael Shannon’s Zod make for particularly compelling viewing. Whilst we were left scratching our heads at some fairly Krypton sized plot holes (‘We can’t survive in Earth’s atmosphere without going through pain and discomfort, so we’re going to turn it into Krypton. Hey wait, I’ve been down here ten minutes and I feel fine. Also, we have superpowers… But err…let’s just do the genocide anyway. Genocide’s a good idea, right? Do I feel bad about my ultimately pointless and detrimental to my own species genocide? Of course not, none of us have any feelings! Go Team Zod!’) ultimately Snyder’s first outing at the helm of the franchise was satisfying enough. Let’s hope he takes himself a little less seriously next time.
+ Henry Cavill. Sneaky Batman reference.
- Redundant plot points. Female characters fairly insulting to every feminist who’s ever lived.
* * *
World War Z
What makes our movie different? Err. Brad Pitt.
Director: Marc Forster.
Running time: 116 minutes.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella, Kertesz
Notable exception I am Legend aside, Zombie movies don’t often score the A-Listers, treating us instead to a list of C list hopefuls, bolstered by a familiar B list face. What director Marc Forster offers us in World War Z is a little of the same old (we get it, zombies are cool) with a little Brad Pitt flavoured spice. Him included, this is a notable entry to the fast-zombie oeuvre, but if it were to be rendered Pittless the mundanity of the feature would come to the fore faster than you can say ‘It’s no Walking Dead, is it?’
The power of the potential extinction of the human race has been sucked away by too many slap-dash action thrillers, and World War Z suffers from provoking too little empathy from an audience who, quite rightly, are demanding more from their big-screen outings. There may yet be hope for the human race, but we’re less sure about this distinctly average entry to the genre.
+ Brad Pitt. Even bad zombie movies are entertaining.
- Not everyone in the movie is Brad Pitt. Even entertaining zombie movies can still be fairly bad.
Sometimes, Talent skips a Generation.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo
I have just deleted three hundred words of erudition itself, culminating in the realisation that Jaden Smith, star of After Earth, has all the charisma of roof tiles. As I’m sure you’re aware, the regularity with which I produce anything particularly witty or cutting is not so high that I can go about deleting it on a whim, so it was with difficulty that I hit the delete button and began again, from the top.
I did so not for the fear that the Church of Scientology would hex me in some fashion, but because it’s not my place to fritter three hundred venomous words away on an actor who’s not yet old enough to drive. The point of my previous draft hinged upon the fact that one is not always cut out to follow in one’s father’s footsteps – my father, for the record, is a particularly excellent retail manager. I, during a previous and utterly misplaced jaunt into the world of retail, discovered that unlike my father, I am, sadly, incredibly bad at it.
But Jaden Smith happily displays far greater promise for treading the boards than I ever did for treading the fruit and veg. Is After Earth a terrible movie which displays frequent and unnerving leanings towards the Church of Scientology? Yes, it is. Is Jaden Smith capable of carrying a movie this awful on his shoulders at such a tender age? No, he’s not.
But this is a rare example of a feature which Will Smith, an actor who bears the unwavering right to describe himself as one of the most charismatic leading men of our time, absolutely cannot save and if Big Willy can’t make it shine, it’s unfair of us to expect an unseasoned teenager to do any better. So how about we give Jaden a little more time (and significantly better source material) to impress, before we dismiss him as a talentless hack. Save your disdain for Justin Bieber, like I do.
+ So bad that it gives reviewers the chance to be utter bastards about it.
- The movie itself.
We’re Looking Forward to: Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University.