Thursday, 5 December 2013

My thoughts on Wonder Woman appearing in Batman Vs. Superman

As every regular internet user will now know, it has been confirmed that Wonder Woman will indeed be making an appearance in the Man of Steel sequel. After being a plethora of rumors over the last few months, it feels surreal to finally have a piece of concrete information regarding the film, although I have to say that I'm not too sure about the inclusion of Wonder Woman in the film.

First of all I want to say that I love Wonder Woman. She's one of my all time favourite comic book characters, but what we need to remember is that this is (or was) supposed to be a film about Batman and Superman and I think that adding too much extra stuff like this will just lead to a jumbled film with a lack of focus. Obviously, Warner Bros. are keen to quickly expand the DC cinematic universe, but if they want to replicate the box office domination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they really need to take their time with the films, not just to make sure the films are of a high quality, but also to make sure that these hugely loved characters are done justice (no pun intended).

I'm all for a cameo from Wonder Woman in the film, in order to set up her own film or a Justice League adaptation, but the fact that they have announced her appearance and an actress (Gal Gadot) so far ahed of the film's release suggests that her role will be more than that

The focus of this film should be on Batman and Superman's relationship and whichever villain they end up fighting. With this news, I get the impression more that Warner Bros. really are desperate to get the Justice League movie out within the next three years or so, and there's a chance that this will have a negative impact on the quality of the films.

However, I'm sure that Warner Bros. are aware of the points I've made (I know they won't have been revelations to any film fan) and that they probably wouldn't take risks like this without them being confident in the final product, if they do intend to go head-to-head with Marvel at the box office.

So, even though I'm skeptical about adding another big character to an already huge movie, I'm still drooling with anticipation over the film and I'll be reserving my complete opinion until I finally see the film. Expect a review in 2015! {edit: the film has now been delayed to 2016, so we must wait longer still!}

Click here to see my Man of Steel review.

Follow me on Twitter: @danj_101

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thor: the Dark World Review

Hammer Time!

Thor: the Dark World is the eighth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third film to feature the character. Despite this, Marvel Studios are currently showing no signs of stopping any time soon. Almost all the films in the series thus far have been of a very high quality, and Thor: the Dark World is certainly no exception.

The film is set in the present day, meaning that it takes place about a year and a half after The Avengers and two years after the first Thor film. The picture begins with an ancient battle between the armies of Asgard and our main villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) over a force called the Aether. With this Malekith planned to return the universe to a state of darkness, over which he can rule. However Malekith was defeated and the Aether was sealed away. Now, in the present day, Malekith has returned to claim the Aether once again which becomes stuck in the body of Thor's earthling love interest, Jane. Obviously this is a job for Thor!

The film takes itself seriously but there's also plenty of comic relief to balance the darkness. This is, of course, a good thing but at times I felt that it was a little bit overdone. For example, one particularly dark scene is followed by a joke on the subject just a few minutes later, robbing the scene of some of it's drama and impact. The majority of the jokes are still funny, but I think that the film would have benefited from fewer of these moments.

As is to be expected with these films, the cast all put in great performances, particularly Thor's brother/arch enemy Loki (Tom Hiddleston ) who is as menacing as ever despite turning over a new leaf to aid Thor. However, Malekith himself isn't very interesting and doesn't come across as a major threat to Thor. He's not a bad character but he's certainly not as memorable as Loki. I think the film would have benefited more from some more conflict between Thor and the villain. Chris Hemsworth is as fantastic as ever in the lead role and particularly inpresses when sharing the screen with Hiddleston as the two actors show a lot of chemistry together.

The film is absolutely phenomenal on the visual front, with the scenery, costumes and special effects all impressing me throughout. Asgard in particular is a fantastic work of computer animation and the wide angle shots of the city were something I stared in awe at whenever it was on screen. I didn't see the film in 3D but I couldn't help thinking that it would have looked even better when viewed in that format.

I would go as far as to say that this film was as good as the first Thor film and is a must watch for all Marvel fans, even if, like me you don't have much experience with the character.

Oh, and if you are a Marvel buff, there's something very special for the initial post credits sequence! Honestly; it's not an Iron Man 3 style cop out, this one actually leads somewhere!

Rating: ****

Agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @danj_101

Thursday, 10 October 2013

ARROW Season 2 Episode 1 'City of Heroes'

Hi blog readers! As you may or may not know, I am a huge DC Comics fan; I love their movies, TV series and comic books. I was extremely ecstatic and hyped when the second season of Arrow was going to air and to be honest, I was lost for words when 'City of Heroes' aired.

ARROW has evolved enormously from being a flawed but fresh series into a beautiful masterpiece that is exciting, adventurous and compelling. I have created a Season 2 Episode 1 review of the hit-series so beware....


ARROW starts off with Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell), in the present day, in Lian Yu, the Island that he was previously trapped on for 5 years. This is considered to be his fortress of solitude to grieve over the death of his best friend, Tommy Meryln. The first episode consist mainly of the aftermath of the Undertaking, the seismic explosions that destroyed the slums of Starling City, the death of a main cast member,Tommy Meryln, and how the main characters have been coping with the after effects.

The first scene starts off with Felicity Smoak and John Diggle, played by Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey respectively, parachuting on the Lian Yu, the island known as 'Purgatory', as an attempt to find Oliver Queen who has disappeared since the funeral of Tommy. The death of his best friend plays a huge part in this episode and series as Oliver decides to quite being the vigilante known as 'The Hood'.

The death of Tommy Meryln could have been seen as an 'attention grabbing' stunt but is in fact  the most crucial part in the season premier as it shows that Oliver Queen was a dark character and needed to become a much more likeable person in order for viewers to sympathise with him.

Oliver hangs up his hood with the belief that he caused Tommy to die and goes into exile for 5 months. Although this may seem to be a familiar superhero process where the death of a close friend results in the hero becoming depressed, Oliver Queen manages to give a dramatic view on why Starling City would be better without the vigilante who failed to stop a portion of the city from being destroyed.

The first half of Season 1 had its faults but when more secondary characters appeared on the show, there was chemistry between them that lit up the show. The Oliver / Felicity / Diggle combination is re-introduced in season 2 and it immediately becomes clear how important this trio of memorable characters are to the show.

ARROW, unfortunately, was guilty of not using Willa Holland to the best of her ability so in 'City of Heroes', she actually contributes more to the show than most of the other characters. Not only is she the manager of Verdant, the hugely successfully nightclub built by Oliver Queen, she gets kidnapped by copycat vigilantes and is forced to reassess her stance of forgiving her mother for her involvement in the Undertaking .

Stephen Amell as The Arrow in 'Arrow' S02E01: 'City of Heroes'
The main enemies in the season premier are the copycat vigilantes known as the Hoods. Angry at the Queens for the involvement of the deaths of their families, these criminals joined together to fight the evil in the city but in more albeit different way. Instead of using arrows like the 'Hood', they have no compassion and spray bullets at any rich politicians that they believe are not serving the people living and suffering in the Glades.

The one thing that I find most interesting about these criminals are that they are normal people, people who's families have been killed or injured by the Undertaking. They were innocent men changed by the destruction around them. their inspiration was Oliver Queen's alter ego, The Hood, who is considered by many to be a murderer and a vigilante.

The death of Tommy Merlyn changes the views of killing of Oliver Queen as he mentions that his friend died believing that Oliver was a murderer. Instead of killing the criminals as Oliver would normally do, he shows compassion and refuses to have unnecessary blood on his hands. He hangs them up on the wall so that the Starling City Police Department can bring them to lawful justice.

As Oliver Queen struggles to cope with the after effects of his mother, Moira Queen, being arrested for her involvement in the Undertaking, he also has to deal with a business rival Isabel Rochev, played by Summer Glau, who is planning to take over Queen Consolidated. Another huge impact on Oliver is the fact that he was unable to stop the Dark Archer/Malcolm Meryln's plan to destroy the Glades and the death of his close friend.

The Hoods interrupt the Queen Consolidated meeting and try assassinating Oliver claiming that he has failed this city. Fortunately, Diggle is on hand and a gun fight ensues. Oliver quickly gets Isabel to safety before jumping through the building window with Felicity and landing on a lower floor using a chain hanging outside the building. The action is immense and it's all every surreal but most
importantly, believable.

I have saved the Island flashbacks until the end of the blog. It's been 5 months since the death of Edward Fyers, and Oliver is training with Slade Wilson and Shado, played by Manu Benett and Celina Jade. These flashbacks help us to understand how the defenceless teenage billionaire became a killing machine and I believe that this is the most important part of Oliver Queens' transformation.

Problems quickly arise, however, as the trio find themselves being tracked by pirates searching for graves of some kind. Splitting up and searching for heat signatures, Shado is kidnapped and Oliver and Slade have to find her before it's too late. They come across a base with a few people torturing Shado. Oliver is disgusted and quickly attempts to rescue her, much to Slade's disapproval.

The band of unknown people are soon dispatched by Slade but not before the pair witness Oliver bludgeoning the torturer to death with a huge rock. This gives the first insight into how dangerous Oliver will become throughout the course of the 5 years that he is imprisoned there.

Another huge thing that I was impressed with was the cameo appearance of Black Canary. I think it's amazing how The 'Hood' has inspired some people to fight evil in Starling City and I really do hope that Oliver does meet the Black Canary. 'City of Heroes' may just be the best ARROW episode yet.

Starling City is a City of Heroes, after all.
Rating: 10 out of 10 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Batman: Year One movie review

Batman: Year One is a 2011 animated adaptation of the 1987 comic of the same name and is the 12th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. Year One is among my favorite Batman story lines, so I was interested to see what a movie based on it would be like, and thankfully I wasn't disappointed.
Fans of the story line will be pleased to know that the content of the book has not been toned down for this adaptation. Put simply, this isn't a kids movie and it's all the better for it (even if it does still manage to get a 12 rating). The book wasn't that adult to begin with anyway, but all the grittiness and violence has remained intact on the journey from page to screen.

The film is based on a four issue story arc which chronicles the early days of Batman's career from his arrival back in Gotham after training around the world to him donning the Bat suit, terrorizing the underworld and becoming the stuff of legend to the citizens of Gotham.
The film also has a major focus on Lt. Gordon who has just moved to Gotham along with his pregnant wife, Barbara. His story arc focuses on him trying to stick to his morals when surrounded by the city's corrupt cops and his first experiences with the Batman.
Catwoman makes a few appearances and although her presence doesn't amount to much in the grand scheme of things, she is still a fun and interesting character.

Visually, the film is traditionally animated with a few computer generated effects (snow etc.) and looks great. The film does not utilize the book's unique art style but this choice is likely for the best as I can't imagine that particular style looking too good on the screen.

The comic is followed very closely meaning that there wont be any surprises for Year One veterans but the fantastic story line means that the film manages to remain engaging throughout. One downside of this fact is that being closely based on a four issue series will result in a short run time and Batman Year One clocks in at a minuscule 64 minutes. However, this fact didn't bother me and is a minor gripe considering how good the film is overall.

This was my first time watching one of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies and I was very impressed overall. I purchased this film as part of a DVD set (left) which also included four other animated Batman movies, so look out for my reviews of those films in the near future.

If you're a fan of Batman I would say don't pass up any opportunity to watch this film unless you've read Year One so many times that you're sick of it, but then again, I can't see why that would happen to anyone!

Rating: ****

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Arrow Season 1 Review


Now that the second season of the hit series is rapidly approaching, I feel as though it is appropriate to review DC Comics latest series, Arrow.

I am also a huge fan of DC Comics and superhero movies/TV series. After the huge success of "Smallville", the ten year journey of Clark Kent becoming Superman, I was ecstatic to know that DC  Comics and CW were making a new television series about Green Arrow. I am always on the lookout for new DC comics TV series and movies and was sure glad that they decided to create one.

I was looking forward to this television series but what struck me the most is that they had mentioned that it would be a kind of a reboot to the character and that Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) would be a lot different to the comic book version. It has been a long time since I watched decent television as most programs became awful and boring somewhere within the first few episodes, but I was thrilled to hear an announcement for a program about Green Arrow.
Being a reboot of the DC Comics character, Oliver Queen is a dangerous, aggressive but passionate person who seems to have an agenda about his goals. The series begins in a usual manner of Oliver running across harsh terrain on a deserted island desperately trying to catch the attention of a fishing boat, but then it starts to move at a nice pace with a lot of revelations about Oliver's past. Oliver was stranded on a deserted island for 5 years after his father's ship capsized, changing the young brash teenager into a hardened man who comes back to haunt the corrupt in Starling City.

What I find interesting is that Oliver isn't considered to be a superhero but a dangerous vigilante stalking the streets of his city. Oliver Queen becomes an expert archer and isn't afraid of killing people to achieve his goals, even if it means having the Starling City Police Department after him. It is fantastic series for regular viewers looking for  "superheroes without superpowers" entertainment. Rather than all these superhero movies that have a main character with immense power, "Arrow" rests upon a troubled character who's body and mind has been subjected to torture for years. 

The humanization of the character is done extremely well as it shows that when he has been rescued, Oliver is still coping with what happened on the island. The origin story is  within the actual real-time story line and it allows viewers to understand what troubles and dangers were experienced by Oliver on the Island.

The flashbacks in Arrow are similar to those in the Superman reboot, Man of Steel. Arrow is mainly set in the present but there are flashbacks to show Oliver's time on the Island and the dangerous characters that he meets. There is a huge variety of characters in Arrow, some more recognizable than others. Slade Wilson, for example, is a mercenary trapped on the Island, who becomes Oliver's mentor and protector on the Island. In DC Comics, he is known as Deathstroke. The characters stories have been changed dramatically from the original DC Comics stories but fortunately, it fits in with the story.

Stephen Amell does a brilliant job portraying a troubled hero on a mission to eradicate evil. Stereotypical, maybe but isn't that a superhero's job?  He successfully switches from being the brutal and angry vigilante to the partying billionaire playboy brilliantly which reminds me of the Christian Bale's performance in Nolan's epic trilogy.

It's not all good news however as there are a few nitpicks that stop Arrow from becoming a masterpiece. The problems I have are mainly with the directing of a few episodes. The faults really lie with the writing and direction of a few episodes. A few of the villains could've been improved and the acting by them is sometimes emotionless and unreal.

As season 2 of Arrow approaches, I only hope that the series continues to grow from the huge success that it has achieved so far.  The Oliver Queen in season 2 is a different man to how he is in the first as events of the season finale has damaged him emotionally. The Flash, played by Grant Gustin, will be a recurring character and this should put an element of surprise and heroism into the series. I only hope that the directing improves and the villains in Season 2 are more memorable and enjoyable to watch.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Man of Steel Review

So while everyone and their dog has been giving conflicting opinions on the Superman re-boot, I have spent a while working on a review of the movie without actually knowing what to do with it. So since I had a lot to say after seeing the movie on it's UK opening weekend, I've decided to make this blog so I'll have a place for me to post this and other movie reviews so I can kind of just let it all out and hopefully entertain and inform some of you. Let us begin!

I’m a huge fan of DC comics and comic book movies in general and this was easily my most anticipated film of the year. But unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.
Like I said, I was really looking forward to this film, I was just hyped up that I was convinced that this was going to be easily one of the best films I had ever seen, so I think I had unreasonable expectations! The trailer made it look impossibly awesome, particularly the first full trailer that was released which hardly showed any action and featured a lot of fantastic looking drama scenes.
This brings me onto my first criticism. As far as these drama and exposition scenes go, what it shown in the trailers is almost all you get. This causes one of the film's main faults; a lack of character development.

Now, Henry Cavil makes a great Superman and Zod is an equally great villain, but the rest of the characters aren't particularly memorable. Take Lois Lane. Aside from the fact that she's a famous character and played by Amy Adams, she just isn't very interesting. I don't think I would have even remembered her name if she was another character!

My second point is how incoherently Superman’s origin is told. Remember how in Batman Begins, Bruce’s early life was told in flashbacks in the film’s first act? Well, here the same technique is applied, but it isn't nearly as effective as these flashbacks constantly switch between time periods, rather than being told in a chronological order like in Batman Begins. For example, the first of these scenes shows Superman as an adult, next he’s a child and then a teenager. These scenes are all well done, but they would have flowed much better if they were shown chronologically. Then we would have been able to better understand how Clark copes with his powers as he grows progressively older, making us more attached to the character and his arc.

I also felt that there was a bit too much action during the films finale. Don’t get me wrong, it’s spectacular stuff, but there’s so many action scenes close together that it makes it harder to appreciate these moments. For me, the best action scene was Superman’s final battle with General Zod which is amazing, but it comes right of the back of another long action scene and you’re barely allowed any time to catch your breath in between. Additionally, it goes on a little longer than I think was necessary.

After all this, you may think that I hate this movie, but I didn’t. I only sound so negative because my expectations were so high. Overall, I found it to be pretty enjoyable and I’m sure that most Superman fans should be happy with it so I’d say give it watch if you’re into comic book movies. 

Rating:  ***