Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Guest Review by Sean E. Ali

This is a landmark for THE FERGUSON THEATER as for the very first time I’m featuring a Guest Review written by none other than Sean E. Ali, the insanely talented graphic designer and illustrator who is currently the Director of Art & Design for Pro Se Productions. He’s also the talent responsible for the current look of Dillon on the covers of  the new editions of”Dillon and The Voice of Odin” and “Dillon and The Legend of The Golden Bell.” He’s also an avid movie fan and when I read his review of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE on Facebook I immediately asked if I could repost it here. That was simply a courtesy because the review was so good I’d have posted it anyway if he’d said no.

So read and enjoy and if you like it then let Sean know. Maybe if we encourage him enough, he’ll write more reviews I can showcase here. Mr. Ali, the podium is yours…

From the “Batbland V Superbland” File…

So…

Twelve things I learned tonight watching BATMAN v SUPERMAN…Oh and just assume spoiler alert was said somewhere, my feelings are such that I know blabbing details won’t stop it from being number one this weekend…

…but I do what I can to save folks money so I took this bullet for you…

Let’s begin if you’re still here.

1) It’s a great movie…

…if by great you mean the part where Wonder Woman shows up in costume and does something warrior like in a full on battle. In fact, just hang out in the lobby for roughly one hour and forty-nine minutes and then go right in and it’ll be the best damn superhero fight scene…

…nah, the fight scenes are okay, but Wonder Woman made it so more than any of the others.

Also, it’s the only part of the film where someone cracks a smile…

…even if it is because she’s fighting for her life at the time.gallery-1449140319-batman-v-superman-3

2) Zack Snyder secretly hates Superman’s guts.

I don’t exaggerate, that guy just doesn’t get the character even when he’s riffing off of every overdone comics event events ever…

We get “The Dark Knight Returns” and the first half of the Doomsday saga, some Superman Godhood stuff…

…but not in the same way you do in a Marvel flick where you’re excited to see echoes of great old comic stories done with the same sense of adventure and humor that made them work in print.

This was kind of the diet root beer version of that: it kinda tastes right, but then there’s that horrible aftertaste…

However Ben Affleck might be able to bring Batman up to scratch if he does another one.

Preferably a film with an actual plot and better editing.

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-bat-signal

3) The film cameos other characters with potential films from the DC movieverse…

…and I appreciate the advance warning on what to miss if BATMAN v SUPERMAN is the baseline for these films.

The Flash looks like a mess and he was on the screen for seconds…

However, I’m still onboard for Wonder Woman, DC may want to reset around her…

4) Ben Affleck Batman = Captain Ahab.

In fact just go read “Moby Dick”, you’ll thank me later.

5) I was in a near full theater, at the end of the film about ten folks clapped…

…and believe me, there was a pause like they had to think about it first.

6) When the credits roll? Leave.

This ain’t a Marvel flick, what you saw is all you get.

And folks who waited until the end were not thrilled about that after what they got.

7) Ben Carson has strong competition in the sleep inducement department.

8) The Batman Superman fights?

Much more exciting if you stick with the trailers.

Really, the Batman scene that got me in seat seen in context to the rest of the film?

I felt kind of gypped.

9) As a general rule, fans shouldn’t cheer Superman getting his ass kicked by Batman.

That just seems wrong when the actual villains still haven’t shown up.

Plus, the whole thing could’ve been solved if Batman had actually listened to Superman when he said “we need to talk”…

…But nooooo, he just goes all “old guy sucker punching at a Trump rally” because no reason.

10) The most basic origin story in comics, the death of Batman’s parent is finally made as confusing as any other superhero on the block.

No, you didn’t read that wrong.

…or maybe you did, whoever edited this film really muddied the waters.

11) There was no emotional connection at all.

Seriously, when what happened to Superman happened…

…folks were noticing that they just ran out of popcorn or shooting selfies and such.

I think some of us were glad Henry Cavill let that part go as is in case there is no longer a need for “Man of Steel 2”

12) Jenny, the most important intern in the history of the Daily Planet, is alive and well and still getting paid to maybe replace Jimmy Olsen but no one knows…

And to make it a Baker’s Dozen (that’s tossing in one extra over 12)…

13) I finally understood the film I saw when we got to the credits and saw that the two creative consultants and comic talents being thanked at the outset for their assistance were…

Frank Miller and…

…wait for it…

…Dan Jurgens.

See if they had run that first, I could’ve gone home early…

So to sum up…

…Marvel’s got nothing to worry about here.

batman-v-superman-dawn-justice.jpg

Man of Steel

man-of-steel-logo

2013

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures/DC Entertainment

Directed by Zack Snyder

Produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas & Deborah Snyder

Screenplay by David S. Goyer

Based on “Superman” created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Sooner or later it always comes down to real estate in a Superman movie, doesn’t it? I mean, in three of the previous Superman movies the plot revolved around extraordinary real estate schemes. And in MAN OF STEEL General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) plan for world conquest could be considered the ultimate form of gentrification. He intends to terraform Earth and make it uninhabitable for humans. But first he’s got to extract The Codex from the cells of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and resurrect the Kryptonian race. And it’s not that it’s a bad plan at all. I just wish it wasn’t such a slog to get to it.

MAN OF STEEL is yet another retelling of the origin of Superman, which we didn’t need. So I guess that’s why Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer threw in such unnecessary details such as: a Kryptonian civil war. Making Kal-El the literal savior of the Kryptonian race by having his cellular structure infused with The Codex which if I understand it correctly pretty much means that Kal-El’s cells contains billions of DNA sequences. Making General Zod and Kal-El’s dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe) best buds who have a falling out over this pesky civil war as Jor-El insists they don’t have time for this rubbish as Krypton is going to blow up any day now. The Krypton sequence is one of the best things about the movie. And not only because we see that Jor-El knows how to rumble, young man, rumble. The architecture, technology and costuming had me wishing that we could get a “World of Krypton” movie. This is the first Superman movie that actually made Krypton look like it would be a really cool place to live. If it wasn’t for the blowing up part that is.

movies-man-of-steel-russell-crowe-jor-el

Okay, so you know the drill after that: Krypton blows up, Kal-El gets rocketed to Earth, found by kindly Jonathan and Martha Kent  (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. But then that’s when the plot goes into a whole other realm as we get scenes of Clark going walkabout, roaming the world, taking odd jobs and using his powers in secret to help out where he can. In between we have Lois Lane (Amy Adams) Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) and Dr. Emil Hamilton (Richard Schiff) investigating an alien craft found in the Arctic that has a connection with Clark and ultimately leads her to Kansas.

movies-man-of-steel-amy-adams-lois-lane

But here comes General Zod and his posse again, having been freed from The Phantom Zone when Krypton blew up. They’ve been wandering around the universe all this time and thanks to Clark’s fooling around, they come to Earth. Zod looks around and likes the property. He’ll take it. Clark has to convince Lt. General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) that he’s here for Truth, Justice and The American Way and they have to work together if they’re going to stop Zod.

I realize I’m being a little more flippant in this review than I usually am but that’s only because I wish MAN OF STEEL had been a little more flippant itself. This is a movie that takes itself way too seriously and moves ponderously from one drama drenched scene to another groaning under the weight of its own solemnity. It’s not a fun movie and there’s not a single moment where I felt like standing up and cheering when Superman flies in to save the day. Which is what I want to see when I go to a Superman movie.

There’s going to be plenty of Superman fans who are going to like this movie because they want their superhero movies to be stonefaced serious. Me, I think you can be serious and have some fun. Maybe I want too much, I dunno. I know that Superman fans desperately wanted to see a Superman movie with some action and him hitting things. Well, with a bunch of Kryptonian villains all with superpowers, there’s plenty of that. And the final throwdown between Superman and Zod will satisfy in the amount of sheer destructiveness. I myself don’t believe there’s a building left standing in Metropolis after the day the Kryptonians came to town.

I have no complaint with the acting at all. Especially Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon. Bravo, Mr. Shannon. I believe he’s one the best and most underrated actors working today. The guy’s Brando level good, trust me. And if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to be.

man_of_steel_14

As to what I didn’t like: so much added to the Superman origin story that I thought wasn’t needed was put in there simply so that audiences wouldn’t feel they were watching the same old same old. The fate of Jonathan Kent. The wonky direction by Zack Snyder in the fight sequences which really surprised me. In his past movies Snyder’s fight scene were really crisp, clean and well-choreographed, leaving no doubt as to who was getting hit and by whom. Here in MAN OF STEEL most of the fight scenes are just blurs going from one side of the screen to the other.  The ghost of Jor-El showing up just when he’s needed in places he has no business being. Superman’s resolution to the General Zod problem. I mean, I realize full well Zod left Superman with no choice but the Superman I know would have found another way.

And at the end of the day I suppose that’s really all it is. This isn’t a Superman I felt was my Superman. That’s not to say that he’s a bad Superman. He’s pretty good, in fact. Henry Cavill is a new Superman for a new generation and he does the character proud. But I’ll still stick with the 1978 model if that’s okay with you.

movies-man-of-steel-henry-cavill

143 minutes

PG-13

Immortals

2011

Universal Pictures

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Produced by Mark Canton and Ryan Kavanaugh

Written by Vlas Parlapanides and Charley Parlapanides

When I first saw “The Cell” way back in 2000 I knew right there and then that Tarsem Singh was a director I’d be watching.  When so many directors are content to offer us product, Tarsem Singh goes way out there in order to give us movies that are visual treats.  “The Cell” is perhaps the most original serial killer movie I’ve ever seen in terms of story and visuals.  I wasn’t as excited with his second feature, “The Fall”.  Oh, it’s gorgeous to look at and at times even eye-popping but the story is muddled and while watching it I wished mightily that Tarsem had done it as a straight-up adventure fantasy and left the real world stuff for another movie.  It’s worth watching, believe me.  But it’s an effort to try and marry up two totally different movies into one and that trick rarely works.

So where does IMMORTALS stand when placed up against this director’s other two movies?  I still say that “The Cell” is his best movie and “The Fall” his poorest so I guess that leaves IMMORTALS in the middle.  It’s as outrageously visual as those other movies and indeed, I’d recommend the movie solely on that basis.  But I gotta be honest and tell you that the story could use work.  IMMORTALS is a very confused movie as it flip-flops back and forth because it can’t make up it’s mind if it wants to be “300” or 2010’s “Clash of The Titans”

In ancient Greece, the ruthless and powerful King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) runs amuck.  He’s looting, killing, pillaging, raping and generally carrying on cranky in his quest to find The Epirus Bow.  Once wielded by Ares himself, The Epirus Bow is the only thing that can release The Titans from their imprisonment deep in the bowels of Mount Tartarus.  Now if The Titans are released, that is going to mean very bad things not only for humanity but for The Gods of Olympus.  To put it mildly.

Zeus (Luke Evans) the King of The Gods of Olympus forbids his fellow gods to interfere, decreeing that the humans must be allowed to exercise free will and settle this matter themselves.  That’s all well and good and noble, Zeus’ daughter Athena (Isabel Lucas) says wisely.  And just as wisely she points out that it’s their immortal asses The Titans are gonna come for when they get free.

But Zeus has placed his faith in Theseus (Henry Cavill) a humble peasant who nonetheless demonstrates astounding fighting skills that would wring tears of envy from a Spartan.  Theseus has no belief or faith in the gods and would rather be left alone and not get involved.  But fate has other plans for him and soon, Theseus finds himself on a quest to find The Epirus Bow for himself, joined by the Oracle Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) and the wily master thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff).

I can’t stress enough how amazing the movie looks.  I’d love to see what Tarsem could do with a movie based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser.  And Tarsem does a great job of swiping Zack Snyder’s style of directing fight scenes.  There’s a scene where Theseus is trying to rescue his mother by cutting his way through a bunch of soldiers who apparently were tired of living and if I didn’t know I was watching IMMORTALS I’d have sworn it was a scene from “300” And there’s a kick-ass throwdown between The Olympians and The Titans that is simply astounding.  There just isn’t any other word for it.

That’s the good stuff.  The bad? We’ve got big long gaps between the awesome fight scenes and those are scenes that are way too serious for this material.  Let’s be honest here: IMMORTALS at its core is a 1950’s Italian sword-and-sandal epic on CGI steroids.  And only Stephen Dorff seems to realize that’s what it is and acts accordingly.  He’s nothing but fun every time he’s on screen.  Mickey Rourke is also fun but in a different way.  I’m convinced he was channeling Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” He’s got several scenes where he’s sitting in shadow, delivering these baffling speeches about destiny and legend and leaving his footprint on the world.  I’m convinced that his army wears masks all the time so that the confused looks on their faces won’t give them away and incur Hyperion’s wrath.  But still, he’s Mickey Rourke and I wouldn’t have missed seeing him in a fantasy adventure movie for all the sugar in Cuba.

What else?  Henry Cavill reminded me a lot of Sam Worthington in 2010’s “Clash of The Titans” in that he looks and acts appropriately heroic as he’s supposed to.  As his Oracle, Frieda Pinto is drop-dead gorgeous.  But can she act? you ask.  You can keep on asking.  I dunno.  She’s drop-dead gorgeous, I toldja.  I quite enjoyed Luke Evans as Zeus even though his wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired.  Say what you want about Liam Neeson’s sparkly armor, as least he knew how to dress like the King of The Gods.  Still, Luke Evans and Isabel Lucas provided me with some of the movie’s best scenes.

So should you see IMMORTALS?  It depends. I hesitate to recommend a movie simply on it’s visuals but that is the strongest aspect of IMMORTALS.  And those visuals are best enjoyed on a movie screen.  However, if you’ve got one of those wall sized flatscreens, it should look amazing on Blu-Ray. I recently watched it on Netflix as it’s currently available for streaming and it still looked gorgeous.   But however you see it, IMMORTALS is worth seeing because it’s the vision of a truly talented director with a remarkable style of his own.  One worth nurturing and supporting.

110 minutes

Rated R