A Small Caveat
Spoilers ahead! There’s no point me telling you what I thought of a film (if indeed you care at all) if I don’t talk about the film and what happens in it. Besides – make up your own damn mind. This is what I think, I assume you won’t necessarily agree. I’d also like to state that I like comics, superheroes, zombies, cartoons and action films. That should set you up. And… go.
Man of Steel (2013)
Superman… It starts in a way I love – a view of Krypton just before its destruction. They’ve given it a cool future fantasy vibe (any technology sufficiently advanced will always look like magic stuff) which dark, gothic and spacey all at the same time. Loved it. Michael Shannon as General Zod is extremely satisfying – the guy always looks nuts and this role is a good boot for him. Kal-El gets sent off to Earth with a dissolved skull in his tummy (sounds weird – is weird) and I really feared that it would slow down to the usual tedious Supes growing up story. Mostly however, they skip it. We get more of his past in flashback, much of which doesn’t add a great deal to either his character or the story. I am developing a deep loathing for the superhero origin story – we all know the stories – there is no more to tell… skip to the action.
I quite like Henry Cavill‘s mercifully quiet Superman. He looks the part; he’s got some impressive bitch tits on him. The film really kicks off when Zod and co. turn up to bring Clark’s genetic diversity back. Or something – they’ve wrapped a confusing racial purity thing in, but I don’t think it really matters for the story. Some marvellous fights follow, interrupted briefly by the Doctor from Star Trek Voyager – sorry – his Dad in holographic form via his key fob. It’s all good fun, plus they toss in a gravity bonking terraforming machine for good measure. Tens of thousands die, no one cares, Clark and Lois have a cuddle. I hoped, really hoped they would do something different and not do the crappy journalist story line but it’s set up at the end. Oh well, they did get the first decent Superman film in so far.
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
I don’t really remember the first one, only that I didn’t like it as much as Megamind. I did however love the Minions, the silly yellow fellows who speak a daft blend of European languages and nonsense. Thankfully this film is mostly about them. Oh sure, there’s a plot where Grue gets picked up to help finger a super-villain and find a girlfriend who can be mother to his three adopted daughters (because god forbid a lone male should care for children – that’s what women are for), but almost all the gags and the maguffins are the Minions.
In places I found the film extremely funny – the slapstick and silliness are infectious (at least one viewer slipped on the stairs) and I was kept happily entertained. The final songs from the Minions are wonders. Looks good, moves snappily and bodes well for a Minion solo movie too.
I’ll always watch Dwayne Johnson – he’s a big good looking guy with beautiful delicate eyebrows. He uses them for most of his acting and generally it pays off, along with his entirely credible stage fighting. This is a bit of role shift for him – he’s playing the father of a kid rather meanly imprisoned in some (entirely likely US) legal entrapment/cahoots shenanigans. He carries it pretty well and I enjoyed his solution to the legal wrangle – going undercover into drug trafficking to snare some baddies and get his son released. I suspect it’s a measure of how much I like him as a comic/action actor that I felt let down that he doesn’t get to go all out and go on a proper revenge spree. He does smash a bunch of cars quite nastily off the road and fires a shotgun one-handed, so it’s not all bad.
The rest of the cast support well and add credibility to the overall scenario (“based on true events” so it’s presumably miles away from the source story), but really it’s about him and the ex-con he harangues into returning to his violent life. It was a bit long, and I found the end a bit of a let down, but only because I still felt the need for more violence. Oh – I also kind of wanted his son to die in prison, but only just before he’s supposed to be released. It sounds mean but it would have been a better ending and made far more of a statement about America’s cruel and inflexible punishments.
World War Z (2013)
So they’ve ruined Max Brooks’ excellent book collating survivor stories. It really is very good and would have been fantastic if adapted into a TV series where each 3 hour episode was one of the stories. Oh well – let’s move on.
So they’ve ruined Max Brooks’ excellent book collating survivor stories… instead replacing it with a generic zombie apocalypse with a few nods and locations to the source material (e.g. Israel is in it and there are scenes on boats). What it does have is suspense – lots of it. Surprisingly they manage to maintain that despite the 15 rating (aiming for 12A?) with no deaths on screen and precious little blood. Nonetheless, through some remarkably contrived scenes (if you don’t laugh at the last bit in Wales you either haven’t seen enough films or have become overly invested in Brad Pitt’s survival) they get genuine tension, mixed up with the laughs that you need and some great massive crowd scenes (pity about the rubbery Count Dooku people).
I’d have preferred slow zombies and for the filmmakers to resist that urge to explain everything – it doesn’t matter where the rabies variant came from – the film should be about survival, not winning. For pity’s sake. It’s very obvious they had a nightmare shoot and re-shot a tonne of it later. The Israeli soldier lady is a great character but naturally neglected – they do at least have her lose a hand so she can’t be a very effective female soldier and has a man to do stuff for her. That all sounds a bit mean, but it’s okay – I enjoyed it. I just won’t remember it.