Sunday, 17 June 2012

Superman Vs The Elite

As you look back on the archives of the blog you'll see a pantheon of movies from the DC Universe straight-to-DVD catalogue. Some good, some watchable, some just painfully average. The problem with the latest addition, Superman Vs The Elite, is that it roughly drops into all three of these categories. One thing's for sure whoever adapted the screenplay from the now classic turn-of-the-century Superman tale, What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way wasn't British (but more on that in a bit).

The story is more or less an examination of how relevant Superman's boy scout ideals and beliefs relate in the 21st Century. His public standing is tested when a new batch of anti-heroes known as The Elite rise up and take the world by storm with their no nonsense approach to dealing with the evils of earth with kill now, ask questions later approach. The film sparks up all kinds of questions about Superman that have been asked time and time again by the comic book fanboys of the world while also giving a reasonably compelling story and some terrific voice acting from George Newbern (he's to Superman what Kevin Conroy is to Batman in the animated world).

Where the film falls in comparison to most of its counterparts was in the sub-standard animation. Looking back on the films past such as Batman: Under the Red Hood, Superman/Batman, Justice League The New Frontier, Wonder Woman, All-Star Superman etc is that the animation is absolutely stunning in places. With Superman Vs The Elite it's surprisingly shoddy. Even in comparison to the stunning Bruce Timm cartoons of the 90s - Batman: TAS and Justice League Unlimited - it looks very mediocre in places. Perhaps all the money was being shifted toward the much anticipated adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, out later this year.

My biggest criticism in DC/Warner Bros' exercise in adapting these classic comic book stories is whether it is entirely necessary. Cynically they've always felt like cashing in on the original stories standing amongst its target audience but due to this the film seems to lack accessibility to new fans. Superman Vs The Elite just about gets away with it as a contained story but the majority of them are pure fanboy indulgences.

The biggest fail of the film, in a purely comical way, was some of the dialogue was a tiny bit inappropriate. I'm not sure about American audiences but I can't imagine some parents in Britain being okay letting their child watch this film knowing the word 'Wa*ker' gets dropped on a regular basis by the film's antagonists. Even once by The Man of Steel himself. Someone is going to have fun editing that to bits before we see it in stores over here.

Final Thoughts
A solid, entertaining story (with some questionable dialogue and British accents) with a deeper theme dissecting the relevance of the classic superheroes from a by-gone era. Full of explosions, peril and the usual set pieces seen in Superman stories again and again, however the whole experience is ultimately let down by some painfully average animation. Cool opening credits mind...


Superman Vs The Elite is out on DVD/Blu-ray (R1) now. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012


Prometheus was always doomed to underwhelm to some degree. There was no possible way after a couple of stunning trailers, some cleverly constructed viral videos, the fact it was Ridley Scott's first sci-fi film since Blade Runner and it being tied to his genre classic Alien it was ever really going live up to all that hype in the eyes of fanboys, geeks and cinephiles around the globe. But I'd disagree.

If you go into this film looking for essentially a remake of Alien you will be disappointed. My argument is, why on earth would you want to sit down to an inferior prequel of Alien in the same manner Episodes I-III of the Star Wars trilogy are - does anybody really want that? Didn't think so. Thankfully Scott realised this also and offered the audience something vastly different with the help of an extremely provocative script by Lost's Damon Lindelof and Joe Spaihts. He often stated in the process of making this it wasn't strictly a prequel to Alien and upon seeing the film I can finally see what he meant.

Yes the film ties with Alien in some manners which will make you smile or despair in horror at reliving those moments again for the first time - as well as addressing one fleeting scene from the original film. However unlike Alien where the crew of the Nostromo are simply trying to survive, the crew of the beautifully constructed ship Prometheus are attempting to answer some of the biggest questions about life itself and by the film's end asking new ones in the process. It cleverly takes the story in a brand new direction for a sequel I'd very much like to see, without disrupting or shoehorning into Ripley's saga in the Alien films.

The performances were terrific all round. Noomi Rapace was a compelling lead as archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw, attempting to sacrifice everything to achieve the answers she seeks. Comparisons will undoubtedly arise between her and Sigourney Weaver, especially in the latter stages of the story but she's a more whimsy and ponderous soul - on a more spiritual quest - and this lends itself to the film much better. Michael Fassbender as always stole the show being the token android known as David, who is never quite as it seems as his intentions are covered in ambiguity which reveal a brilliant plot twist I won't spoil here.

Charlize Theron is quickly developing a knack for playing cold hearted b*tch characters as demonstrated in my previous review of Snow White and the Huntsman and February's Young Adult. With Prometheus it was much of the same as she was the representative of the Weyland Corporation to oversee the whole project and make sure it was done right. I quite enjoyed Idris Elba's nobel, laid back captain. Wasn't much to him, he was just there, like the audience, along for the ride. Logan Marshall-Green played Shaw's husband (?) and fellow archaeologist and good folly to Shaw's own beliefs, despite looking for the same thing. Another notable contribution was Guy Pearce's two minute appearance as an elderly Peter Weyland, I'd go into more detail but that would spoil the surprise.

Where the film perhaps lost a couple of marks was in its pacing. For much of the first and second act it was this slow, drawn out, ponderous journey - which to its credit looked pretty stunning in 3D - without much true sense of dread. Then when the horror and monsters descended suddenly it reverted to the survival horror format we've experienced many times before, and in my mind it cheapened the experience slightly, as if Scott felt he had done his different thing for two thirds of the film and decided to remind people at the end; oh yeah there's aliens in this too. I can't deny though the film's final scene left me smiling and put a new perspective on the next time you watch Alien and Aliens...and Alien 3 and Resurrection if you feel you must.

The visual effects were unsurprisingly stunning and the set designs inspired by H.R. Giger's vision on the original Alien films lent itself well to the aesthetics of the mysterious world Prometheus found itself in. Marc Streitenfeld's score was a curious creation though and in many ways refreshing for a film like this. It would've been easy to drown the film in Zimmer-like drones ala Inception, but instead he opted for something more hopeful his main theme. Don't sigh when I say it wouldn't sound totally out of place placed in a Star Trek film, this feeling of 'boldy going where no man has gone before.' If you haven't seen the film yet YouTube the main theme of the score and you'll see what I mean.

Final Thoughts
After all is said and done Prometheus' hype probably transcended the film itself. Strip the hype away and in the long term I feel Scott accomplished what he originally set out to do. He wanted to create a new mythology set in the same universe he created, not rehash the same thing all over again. Prometheus is a sci-fi film drenched in philosophical ambiguity (rather than caustic survival horror) that the Alien films would never have dared to tackle, and will leave you trying to dissect everything about it for long after. For better or worse that isn't for me to decide.


Prometheus is in cinemas across the UK now.