Snowpiercer: Movie Review

SNOWPIERCER_LE-TRANSPERCENEIGE-Affiche-defHad I not checked what was showing on the cinemas the other day, I might never have found out about Snowpiercer, a South Korean production starring Captain America himself, Chris Evans, along with other Hollywood A-listers Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell. Had I missed it, it would have been a great shame because it was one finely executed movie.

Snowpiercer is an action thriller inspired by the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige which director Boon Joon ho read in a comic book store in Korea. The film chronicles the events 17 years after a failed experiment called CW7 screwed up the Earth’s weather resulting in a new ice age that killed all life on the planet except for a precious few who managed to board the Snowpiercer, a train that is built to run non stop throughout the year. The train is self sustaining and equipped with all the facilities needed for its occupants to survive. However, it operates on a class system wherein the rich and privileged occupy the front of the locomotive in luxury while the poor are cramped in the tail living in inhumane conditions and subsisting only on disgusting protein bars that the train’s owner Mr. Wilford (Ed Harris) provides. When the abuse continues to worsen, Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), aided by cues from a mysterious ally from the front, forms a plan with tail end elder Gilliam (William Hurt) and his best friend Edgar (Jamie Bell) to take the engine. In order to get past the doors leading to the different compartments, they enlist the help of Namgoon Minsu (Song Kang Ho), a prisoner who designed the train’s mechanism and his clairvoyant daughter Yona (Go Ah Sung).

CAN'T CATCH A BREAK. Rebels realize that getting to the engine is not as easy as they imagined it to be.

CAN’T CATCH A BREAK. Rebels realize that getting to the engine is not as easy as they imagined it to be.

The performance of the cast is already a given. The strong Hollywood cast, coupled with top Korean actors made for an explosive combination that that made the story more compelling and effective. From the beginning, the film took its time to lay the foundation for an interesting plot. Each segment of the train held an unexpected challenge that surprised not only the characters but also the audience resulting in a lot of facepalm moments when the characters find it hard to catch a break. But the brilliance of the film really lies with its ability to use the segments as building blocks that gradually add to the story. Characters talk in riddles, leaving clues for audiences to follow. Towards the beginning, the filmmakers were leaving crumbs about him not being who people thought he was, but when his backstory is unraveled, it was just so gutwrenching that its really hard not to be torn between dismay or sympathy for the rebel leader.When Curtis finally reveals the events that led to the revolt and how his character is connected to other people in the tail, the audiences will feel like they have been through the journey with Curtis himself.  But just as Curtis unburdens himself and audiences think everything is over, yet another plot is revealed and this one is more mind boggling and shocking.

TOTAL TRANSFORMATION. Tilda Swinton's portrayal of Mr. Wilford's quirky lieutenant Mason is creepy but entertaining.

TOTAL TRANSFORMATION. Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of Mr. Wilford’s quirky lieutenant Mason is creepy but entertaining.

Koreans are known for their excellent cinematography and film style and Snowpiercer does not disappoint. The style in which the movie was executed  was magnificent and very consistent with the graphic novel itself. Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of the quirky Mason added to the sense of the overall unreality of the film as well as the over the top mind conditioning in the front of the train.

All in all, I would venture to say that Snowpiercer, despite its relative lack of promotion, is one movie that deserves to be seen. It is intelligent and methodical. It is visually arresting and stunning. It deals with characters that are multi-faceted and engaging. It affects audiences on an emotional and intellectual level. At the end of the film, audiences will continue to marvel at its execution and this is a mark of its pure awesomeness.

The Amazing Spider-man: A Review

I finally managed to see The Amazing Spider-man in the theater (a week after its release) and was excited to find out how it would fare against the three previous Spidey movies which starred Tobey Maguire. I admit that when I first learned that The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield was tapped for the role of the young Spider-man, I was a bit apprehensive, not because I’m such a big fan of ole Tobey but because I thought Andrew was too gangly.

When I saw him on a youtube clip however, crashing a Comic Con panel dressed as Spider-man and surprising the fans, I was given a glimpse of his wit and sense of humor, which I thought were just right for the role of Peter Parker/Spidey, who is a character known for his endless wisecracks and laid back  attitude. This, I thought was what was generally missing in Maguire’s portrayal in the earlier movies. He seemed to be too weighed down with Peter’s dilemmas that he doesn’t really truly let go and let himself embrace Spider-man’s personality.

Anyway, The Amazing Spider-man delves deeper into the origins of the web slinging superhero. This version of the story focuses on Peter Parker’s younger years — why he was living with Aunt May and Uncle Ben in the first place, what his parents’ connection to Oscorp was and his early romance with Gwen Stacy, who just happens to be the chief of police’s daughter — a chief of police who incidentally hates Peter’s guts. And of course, as audiences discover a couple of new things about Spider-man, they also learn about his first arch nemesis Lizard aka Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a well meaning scientist who wants to create a world without weakness but later finds himself corrupted by the serum originally intended to regenerate his amputated arm. This version chronicles Peter’s journey to discovery about his true mission which gradually unfolds as the story progresses.

I think this is the best version of Spider-man so far. I want to get that out this early. What I liked about the movie was that it carved a new niche for itself in the already established Spider-man franchise. Director Mark Webb knew that this movie was going to be compared to the earlier blockbuster releases so he made sure to create a new following with this new franchise, all the while ensuring that he also brings the journey to the old fans. Tapping a younger guy to play Peter, a rather ordinary high schooler with extraordinary intelligence and a genuine compulsion to do what is right, the film reintroduced the superhero with fresh new facets to his character. The teenage Peter was able to illustrate the wonder of new discovery and the freshness of youth with each scene, and the humor just feels right at home. And while Andrew Garfield may not be a classically good looking guy, he oozes charm and likeability and has a depth in his portrayal that enables him to shift from carefree to serious without missing a beat.

SURPRISE. Peter jumps in surprise (and sticks to the ceiling) in the subway after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

I liked that Spider-man learned about himself and his mission not instantly but slowly as he saw himself through the eyes of different people — his uncle, aunt, Gwen and even captain Stacey. His character showed flaws — stubbornness and impulsiveness which is not uncommon for teens and it showed him making mistakes and doing things to rectify them. I liked that all of the characters have the element of humanity — even the Lizard was not completely evil. The A-list cast did not hurt the movie either but unlike other blockbusters who rely on the big names to carry the movie, each star was utilized well and cast for the perfect parts. Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May were flawless and Emma Stone was picture perfect as Gwen Stacy. She was cute and spunky, all that Peter’s first love was supposed to be. I don’t know much about Captain Stacy but I couldn’t imagine Denis Leary doing any better. He was great. Stan Lee’s cameo was also priceless. Its one thing to see him in small roles for other Marvel movies but to see him in the movie of a character that he created (and is best known for) is epic.

Aside from the cast, the movie also felt seamless, as if each scene was lifted out of a page from the actual comic book. The detail in the costume, the scoring and the effects, the cinematography. And even the story itself — it wasn’t as heavy as the earlier Spidey movies but it had, in my opinion more of an impact in its subtlety.

All in all, The Amazing Spider-man was indeed amazing. I still can’t get over how good it was. Can’t wait for the next one (for sure there’s bound to be a sequel). One word.. Awesome! I loved it.

The Avengers: A Review

Before I begin this review, I would just like to express how much fun I had watching this movie. It was one of the most anticipated openings this year and it was every bit worth the wait. It opened to very high expectations and it did not disappoint.

The plot of The Avengers revolves around a mysterious cube known only as as the Tesseract, which is being researched at a secret facility in order to become a source of sustainable clean energy. When the facility is attacked by Thor’s exiled half brother Loki, SHIELD is called to respond to the scene. However, Loki succeeds in taking the Tesseract and hypnotizing Agent Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard from the Thor movie) to work for him and help him use the energy source to open a portal to space that will unleash the alien race called Chitauri so that Loki may reign supreme on the realm of Earth. As SHIELD leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) races to trace the location of the Tesseract, he enlists the help of Earth’s greatest heroes — super solider Captain America (Chris Evans), billionaire genius Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a.The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and reformed assassin Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) — and hopes against hope that they may unite under the Avengers Initiative to become the world’s greatest weapon against the forces beyond its control.

From the beginning, I was quite curious to see how director/screenwriter Joss Whedon (Buffy, Dollhouse) would approach the movie. While Whedon has proven his skills in the small screen with hits featuring strong women, I was a bit scared to see how he would fare with a roomful of testosterone loaded superstars. I am glad to report that consistent with the other Marvel features earlier released by the studio, Whedon made the movie not just action packed popcorn movie but also an entertaining watch.

The first thing I liked about the movie was that it did not veer too far away from the original comic book material. Fanboys would find it easy to relate to references about the tensions within the group — Thor vs Hulk, Iron Man vs Captain America — which was featured in some of the comic books. Newbies who know nothing about the franchise will also not get lost as the movie establishes the roles of the characters lengthily in the beginning.
Another thing that I loved was the intelligently written script that provided a very real balance between seriousness and fun, which is really what a movie based on the comic book should be about. It’s like they would go into an elaborate battle scene and then it gets punctuated in the end with a witty one liner or an unexpected gag. Watch out for the Thor/Hulk team up and you would understand what I mean. Third, the chemistry among the stars was great. I loved how the personalities clashed and how the actors stuck to their guns and presented excellent and consistent portrayals of their characters’ roles.

The main stars weren’t the only ones to watch out for because Tom Hiddleston was an excellent main villain although he wasn’t really the most A-list of the roster of villains that any of the Avengers had to face. I must say that I had a soft spot for Loki in the Thor movie but this was further strengthened in this film. Agent Coulson also makes an appearance and I just love this dude. The great thing about the movie was that that it seemed to take out the best of each of the Marvel movies and combine them in one neat package. Even if one watches the films in succession, there is a sense of consistency and continuity despite the fact that the movies were directed by different filmmakers who had different approaches to presenting their features. This perhaps, was owing to the fact that some of the directors and producers of the earlier movies also had an active role in this one, and that was pretty cool.

The graphics was excellent and very fluid and the integration of the old school action scenes with new technology was very refreshing. I was just wondering why the make up artists would want to slap on an uncomfortably huge amount of foundation on Chris Evans, who is hot even if he appears imperfect. Anyways, I loved the updated version of the costumes, especially Thor’s. The Cap’s I’m not so sure about, no matter how much Coulson raved about his suit but these are quite minor and negligible aspects of the movie that should not have been mentioned at all.

All in all, the movie was an awesome, adrenaline pumping, superhero movie that casts a shadow on all other recent releases. It will surely be enjoyed by fans and non fans of the Marvel franchise, I guarantee. A tip, there is an after credit scene at the end that hints at the next Avengers villain, and this one’s a doozy. Another tip, if you still haven’t seen it, go watch it NOW! If you miss it, you miss one the best movies of the year. Hurry! (Note: I am not being paid to write this but I just loved it so much I couldn’t help endorsing)

The Best of Archie Comics: 70th anniversary special

I’ve practically grown up with Archie and his gang. I’ve been reading Archie comics since I was nine and have not stopped since, but I mostly read my old comic books more than buy new ones because I think the older ones are funnier. Still, I occasionally shell out a couple of bucks to update my collection, especially when there are specials involved like The Archie Marries Veronica and Archie Marries Betty arc. When I saw the thick 50-story volume of The Best of Archie edition, I knew that I just had to have it.

The compilation is quite informative and packed with trivia about the origins of Archie and the gang. It features the first appearance in 1941 of Archibald “Chick” Andrews, a country boy trying to impress his new neighbor Betty Cooper in Pep Comics Volume #22. The first version of Archie, while bearing similar personality traits as the current redheaded troublemaker, was actually quite different in the manner he spoke (he had a blown up view of his own importance), and had a stubborn streak a mile wide. The drawings were very crude, unlike more polished comic book versions in the 70s onwards. The special also explains how Veronica Lodge, a sub debutante (whatever that means) from New York, decided to move to Riverdale to come between Archie and his “steady” Betty.

Aside from backgrounders on the featured stories, the special also provides a brief discussion about the conditions during the era when the comics were released to give readers an idea about the influences that affected the stories, and the artwork at the time. What’s cool about the volume is that it features insights from the people behind the Archie comic book franchise — Victor Gorelick, Dan de Carlo, artists, historians and even Spiderman creator Stan Lee and horror novelist Stephen King about how the comic books affected their lives. However, I wasn’t all that entertained about the choices of stories that they featured in the edition.

While there were really funny stories in the selection, I didn’t care much about some (especially those lifted from the specials) because they were incomplete — an example would be the story from the graphic novel Archie: The Married Life where the Lodge Corporation is set to put Pop Tate out of business and Archie is torn about what to do. The story ends with Moose declaring he was running for mayor and then lights out. The next story featured has nothing to do with the last and I suppose that is one of the reasons the volume felt a tad inconsistent and scattered.

What I appreciated about the compilation though, is that it managed to illustrate the evolution of America’s favorite teenager, as well as the franchise (the compilation included stories about Josie and the Pussycats, Super Duck, Katy Keene, That Wilkin Boy Bingo, and the original Wilkin character Wilbur that predated Archie, and the teenage version of Jinx). At times I thought that the selection of some of the newer titles owed to the fact they were using the compilation to promote the new lines, but that’s just me.

All in all, I think Archie’s greatest strength is its ability to draw in readers into the gang by having characters that are identifiable. This is the reason why even stories dating back to the 70′s still manage to strike a  connection with teens of today. Archie never goes out of style, the clothing may change, as well as the lingo, but Archie is universal. Knowing him for over two decades has been awesome but knowing him beyond those years through this special is even more spectacular. Reading this comic (book) made me feel like I’ve been inducted into a very special club.

Captain America: The First Avenger

I must admit that at first I had my doubts about Chris Evans playing Captain America. While I simply adore the guy, I thought that he was too young to play the part of the first Avenger. I didn’t think that he exemplified the characteristics of Captain America or looked like him. Besides, he was already perfect as the Human Torch so why not just get another guy? Well, consider those doubts erased because after seeing the movie, I declare that Captain America is not just among the best Marvel superhero movies released, but is actually among the best superhero movies released — period, and Chris Evans? He kicked ass.

The First Avenger starts off in the Arctic where a the military is called in by scientists who discover something buried underneath the ice. The “something” is actually a giant weapons carrier which has been deliberately sunk to prevent it from causing destruction in its target cities, mostly in the US. When the military explores the vessel, they find the shield of America’s greatest symbol of hope during the World War — Captain America. The opening scene is actually consistent with the cameo of the cap’s shield in Edward Norton’s Hulk movie in 2008.

Screen cap from the Hulk movie. (photo courtesy of http://www.firstshowing.net)

The film tells the story of a gangly, sickly weakling named Steve Rogers whose heart is set on serving his country but is rejected over and over by the US Marines due to his health conditions and weak conditioning. After faking his identity and getting rejected for the fifth time, he talks with his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has been given his marching orders by Uncle Sam, about attempting to enlist again. He is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a scientist who has developed a serum to create the perfect soldier, which should have been the Americans’ secret weapon against the Nazis who were slowly gaining strength. Erskine, still on the lookout for a likely candidate, found Steve bearing the qualities he wanted his hero to have — humility and a genuine desire to help people. After Rogers is drafted into the program, Erskine confides that the serum has previously been given to another person, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), head of the Hydra Unit of the Nazis. Schmidt, who blindly believes that his race is supreme among all others, wants to get out of Hitler’s shadow and take over the world. Erskine says that the serum, aside from making a person stronger, actually magnifies the qualities that a person already has and in effect makes Schmidt, (who becomes Red Skull), more sinister.

Captain America (Evans, left) returns from the rescue of 400 captured soldiers including his friend Bucky, played by Stan (right).

In the movie, the audience is also introduced to  the young Howard Stark, the genius who was Tony Stark’s father, Col. Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones), who made no secret his reservations about Erskine’s choice for the program, and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as Cap’s love interest. These people could not have been more perfect for their roles. But to tell the truth, Evans was really the star of the show. He was charming and self effacing throughout the movie, far from how he played the Torch — brave and resourceful too, which he portrayed consistently through the film. Stan was a great sidekick although I would have liked his role to be in more of the scenes. I liked his friendship with Steve and how he always had his friend’s back. Tucci is incomparable, that’s all I can say of each and every one of his portrayals. Hugo Weaving was not as menacing as I had hoped and the enmity that should have been present between Cap and his arch nemesis was not as played out as much as I had wanted.

What’s makes Captain America stand out from other superhero movies is actually the excellent filmmaking and the smart screenplay. It managed to achieve a certain balance of drama and fun that was very realistic and inspiring, especially during the earlier parts when Steve was still being pushed around and laughed at for his obvious physical shortcomings. The effects and the stunts team need to be applauded this early because of the seamless attachment of Evan’s head to that of a skinnier guy. Even his face was thinned down to make him seem more vulnerable. The action scenes were like frames lifted from the comic book so the fan girl in me is still in awe as I recall them.

Cap on his bike (though not a chopper)

The film also paid attention to detail since the movie was supposed to be in 1942 at the height of the war. Everything was decidedly bigger and less techie. Switches were either flicked on and off and knobs and levers were on every machine. Bombs were the size of tora tora planes and needed to be transported by giant aircraft to get to its destination. There were also nods to the earlier editions of Cap’s costume (the ones his wore on tour) and his motorcycle which was, as I recall his preferred mode of transport in his missions.

Ole Red in 1990

My only problem perhaps is the representation of Red Skull’s burned face. Instead of looking burned and resembling a skull, it kind of looked like a misshapen clay head with no nose as the surface was so fine. I actually liked the 1990 version of Red Skull better (Yes, there was a Captain America movie then. Cap was played by Matt Salinger). I think I saw that movie when I was 10 so I don’t remember most of it. Anyway, aside from the skull and a slight lull (no pun intended) about 2/3rds into the movie after the train scene, I think that the movie is great.

To sum it all up, Captain America was a great exclamation point ending to the pre-Avengers Marvel films series. It was awesome.

Fair warning: After the credits roll,  fans would receive a special reward for their patience in the form of the first teaser of the Avengers movie, which will be directed by Joss Whedon, who helmed TV hits Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and the Serenity movie. While it looks great, I am kind of nervous about how the film would turn out with so many big stars on board and so many supervillains to battle. Still excited though.

 

In fairness to Green Lantern

Call me crazy but I didn’t think that the Green Lantern movie was as bad as I thought it would be. I had less than 0 expectations after I heard bad reviews from friends who have watched it (who have excellent taste), and a low 20s rating on rottentomatoes, but the fangirl in me couldn’t dismiss the only DC superhero movie out there who had the nerve to go up against the very cool and awesome Marvel comic hero films lined up for the entire summer.

I was glad that I gave Hal Jordan a chance to shine the light of his Green Lantern, yes, despite the presence of Blake Lively, who has in my opinion a very ironic screen name for someone whose only claim to fame is drawing out her words as if she was just up from bed or intoxicated, and pushing up her breasts and looking stern to express her displeasure at her leading man a la Serena van der Woodsen. Some would think that I have this bias against Lively but even if I saw her for the first time on Green Lantern, I will probably come to the same conclusion. Anyways, enough of this ranting. Back to Green Lantern. I just had to get that out of my chest.

Ryan Reynolds was a good choice for Green Lantern because he exudes a devil may care attitude and the quick wit leftover from his Van Wilder days. He doesn’t miss a beat when he lets go if his zingers, my favorite being when a fellow pilot asks him to watch his back, he responds with “That’s impossible.” There were a couple more punchlines throughout the movie but I don’t want to ruin things for those who plan to watch the movie. Hal Jordan should be cocky, reckless, irresponsible, resourceful, smart and tormented at the same time, and Reynolds delivered. He looks similar to the Hal Jordan in the comic books too, so that was a plus as well.  Peter Skarsgard (Orphan) was a transformation in this movie, not just in looks but also in disposition as he played the nerdy professor Hector Hammond, son of Senator Robert Hammond, who gets exposed to fragments of meteor found on the body of Abin Sur, the purple alien who perishes and passes on the ring to Jordan. Hector, like Hal is in love with Lively’s character Carol Ferris in the movie, although I’m still not sure why, except that she’s hot. Mark Strong plays the Green Lantern Sinestro, the commander of the 3,600 strong Green Lantern Corps. very effectively but because he has played the villain for so long, seeing him on the side of heroes took some getting used to. I heard that the producers of the movie were gearing for a sequel so it will come as no surprise to Green Lantern fans that Sinestro actually turns out to be his arch nemesis.

The movie basically stayed true to the Green Lantern lore. The Green Lantern Corps — 3,600 in all are tasked by the ancient Guardians to harness the energy of willpower to protect the universe from threats like Parallax, who draws strength from fear and has the ability to wipe out civilizations to stay strong. Parallax, who is later revealed to be a former guardian who sees the potential of harnessing and taming the energy borne from fear but is devoured by the power which he wishes to master, is banished and contained by the strongest of all Green Lanterns — Abin Sur, who of course becomes his first target when he breaks out of confinement. Abin Sur, mortally wounded flees to the closest planet — Earth where the ring chooses test pilot Hal Jordan to be Abin Sur’s replacement. There were questions as to whether or not Hal should have been chosen at all since the first requirement to become a member of the Corps is fearlessness but as always, the hero finds out in the end that accepting his vulnerabilities is the key to harnessing his strength.

The strength of the movie lies with its attention to detail, which would please GL fans of the comic books. It also steered clear from major deviations to the story, which is already complicated enough as it is. The action scenes and the CGI was also good, better than Thor in my opinion, but mostly constricted to glowing green things. And it was not a complete dud, as the trailer suggests.

Its weakness, however lies in investing too much time and effort in developing the love story between Hal and Carol and trying to untangle Hal’s trauma from the death of his father. It was already obvious from the get go and going back to it scene after scene was kind of a drag. I felt that the time could have been used better by fleshing out the end of the world angle, or developing Hal’s abilities, which are far more consequential than analyzing what went wrong in the Hal/Carol hook up years ago that they already knew the answer to. While the movie was gaining momentum from the fight scenes whether on Earth or in outer space, the mood is dampened by all these pussyfooting between Hal and Carol and not only once did I yawn aloud as I waited for the next scene. I think that the time could have been used better had it been devoted to Sinestro, and developing his character to prepare audiences for a sequel (had it been their goal), or to Hector Hammond, who developed psionic powers after his exposure to the meteor and his life as a villain.

Generally, it was a passable superhero movie. It would have fared better in the critics opinion had it been the only superhero movie out there but since it is following the likes of Iron Man, X-Men First Class and the surprise hit Thor, it had a lot to live up to, and it could have upped its game a bit more to be at par with the competition. Should it have a sequel, I still have hopes that it can learn from its mistakes and move forward to produce a better movie.

First Class: Xavier and Magneto Bromance

There is no doubt that X-Men First Class is an awesome awesome movie, probably one of the best in the franchise in terms of storytelling and casting, if I were to be specific about it. The franchise did itself a great favor by signing on Matthew Vaughn (Kick ass) to helm this action adventure based on one of the most popular Marvel groups in this century because the director is obviously a fan of the franchise. His love for the characters reflected in every aspect of the movie.

X-Men First Class brings back the audiences to the origins of the group of heroes trained by Professor Charles Xavier to protect the humans and spawn the peaceful coexistence of mutants and humans. The story dates back to 1962 when the telepath Charles meets Erik Lensherr, a powerful mutant who can move metallic objects and manipulate them at will. They come together to help the government avert a nuclear war, but in the end, it is the same people they try to help that try to destroy them.

The two develop a strong friendship, but unfortunately do not share the same views in terms of coexisting with humans. Whereas Charles, who was raised in a well off environment and is educated on the ways of society, is an idealist who wants mutants to integrate into society with the humans and use their powers for good, Erik, who later takes on the name of Magneto is distrustful of people and wants to prove mutant supremacy and take revenge on the humans who have oppressed mutants for being different. At an early age, he is exposed to the cruelty of war and what extent some would go to achieve power. While the earlier X-men movies have established the friendship shared by the two, this story delves deeper into the factors that made the two protagonists view the world the way they do. Before they were archenemies, this movie is the testament to their friendship, and the deep and lasting relationship they have with each other.

There are a lot of backstories also explored by the film, that of the original members of the X-men — the young Hank McCoy (Beast) who is known as an affable genius covered in blue fur is portrayed as a young man craving acceptance and embarrassed by his mutation, Mystique, who is Xavier’s oldest and dearest friend who finds in Magneto the strength to stand proud as a mutant, Havoc, the reckless young teen (Cyclop’s brother but there was no mention of Scott Summer in the movie) who has trouble controlling his highly destructive plasma beams, Banshee, Angel, Azazael, Riptide, Emma Frost, and other mutants who I am not very familiar with. The story gives the viewers an insight into the evolution of the characters from what they were when they were young superheroes to what they have become when the X-men was formally formed under Xavier’s wing.

The best part of the film for me was the bromance between Charles and Erik. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of their characters was so intense that audiences could not help but develop an emotional connection with the two, and sympathize with either of the  duo. For one, after seeing the movie, one could not simply dismiss Magneto as an arch villain, but rather see him also as a victim of circumstance. He is what he is because of what he has suffered through. Their mutual respect for each other is reflected in every scene, and their differences are marked by their opposite philosophies.

Michael Fassbender did not have a lot of high profile roles before X-men but I am hoping that after this, he would get bucketloads of movie offers. His acting, the pain in his eyes when he chose to let go of the missiles to retrieve the bullet that hit Charles’ spine was so emotionally charged that audiences (myself included) could not help but melt in that scene. His fierce protectiveness of his friend when he tried to kill McTaggert for shooting Charles was so realistic that one develops a soft for the villain, and his gentleness with Mystique is truly a clincher. In more ways that one, Fassbender outshone McAvoy in this film because he was able to be sensitive to the feelings of his fellow mutants and not just spout idealisms and dreams like Charles has. In all the years that Mystique has stayed with Charles, he was not able to give her the same level of acceptance as Erik has in the space of a few days. Erik successfully showed the sensitive side to the leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, and Charles was pretty much remained consistent to the the Patrick Stewart portrayal of the role.

All in all, the film managed to deliver to the fans what they expected and even exceeded these expectations. It maintained consistency with the earlier versions of the movie, fed off its strengths and justified its weaknesses. While there may be some deviation from the comic books, they were minimal and negligible and managed only to strengthen the film. Now would also be a good time to credit the film’s costume team for staying true to original X-men costumes, and even Magneto’s earlier attire. A great prequel, and great movie. Good job!

Movie Review: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Brandon Routh, who played the man of steel in Superman Returns finds himself top billing another comic book adaptation in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, where he takes on the role of Dylan Dog, a retired supernatural detective who gets pulled into a case of a missing relic which could start a war in the world of the undead.

The plot is fairly simple. Dylan, whose fiance died in the hands of vampires, left his job as the human inspector appointed to keep the peace among the undead who roam the streets of New Orleans. He switches to a less taxing job as a regular private investigator, taking on cases of cheating husbands and wives and a myriad of trivial pursuits. However, out of the blue, he is contacted by Elizabeth, the daughter of a smuggler who was killed by a werewolf. Dylan initially refuses the case but changes his mind when his best friend and sidekick Marcus is savaged by another monster.

First, I should probably give credit to the filmmakers and the special effects team for their old school approach to werewolf and vampire transformations. Instead of resorting of CGI, which has been custom in most big budget movies, the team opted to use make up and specialized monster masks to create their creatures of the dark. The setting is also something to be admired as it retained a comic book feel that did not feel forced and overdone. The movie actually gave an 80′s 90′s horror feel to it — a promising start if not for some major areas that needed a lot of improvement.

Sam Huntington, the only bright spot in this humdrum movie

I was quite unsure as to what Dylan Dog’s target demographic was, in all truth. The trailer seemed to be targeting comic book afficionados with all the talk about bigger guns and a war that would result in bloodshed, but what the movie delivered couldn’t be farther from the promise.

Dylan Dog was an action comedy at best, relying mostly on cheesy dialogue that didn’t quite hit the mark. The only saving grace of the movie was Sam Huntington, whom audiences will probably recognize from buddy movies Not Another Teen Movie and Fanboys. Huntington was a revelation as Marcus, Dylan’s sidekick turned zombie, whose well timed  jokes broke the monotony of Routh’s acting and livened up the scenes with his earnestness, cowardice, misplaced bravery and overall geekiness, great qualities to have in a sidekick (remember Shia Le Bouf in Constantine?). While Routh is gorgeous, he isn’t quite up to snuff in his on screen talent, which was easily excusable in his portrayal of Clark Kent, a mild mannered newspaperman, or the world’s most loved superhero Superman, who only needed little dialogue, look good and fly majestically in his red cape — not as Dylan Dog, who was supposed to be a badass unorthodox troubleshooter for the supernatural. I did a bit of research about the comic book character because I really didn’t get what Routh was going for, and I found out that Dylan was supposed to be this eccentric and paranoid former alcoholic, who could charm the socks of any girl. None of these fit the bill for Dylan in the movie.

The action scenes were pretty blah. All the talk of bigger guns only resulted in a short sequence of breaking into a vampire club and a lot of scenes of Dylan getting beat up by an ancient monster that was resurrected by the relic everybody wanted to have. While the war was played up and the monster everybody was dreading successfully came to life, the mayhem that resulted mostly involved Dylan getting roughed up and the bad guy getting just desserts. Of course, there was a twist. It was a whodunit case after all. But sitting through this movie, one would be relieved to finally reach the climax (?) and get it over with.

As a whole, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Dylan Dog is a horrible movie. Its good for a few laughs, that’s for sure but that’s just about everything that you would get from this 107 minute flick, which tried too hard to be as cool as its contemporaries, but fell short big time. Kind of reminded me of a kid bragging about his discman when everybody else was already on iPods. If anybody was expecting anything else, then I should suggest to sit this one out and save your money for X-Men or Captain America.