Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

Running time: 142 minutes

Director: Ridley Scott

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After being hit by a projectile in the middle of a fierce storm, astronaut Mark Watney is left behind in Mars by his crew mates who think he has died. Stranded in Mars all by himself, Mark will have to try to survive while finding a way to tell NASA he is still alive. In a hostile planet where food is unavailable, his only resources will be his intelligence and his optimism.

The character of Mark Watney in the book is simply fascinating. He is incredibly charming, he has a great and unexpected sense of humour, considering the situation he is in, but you also get his frustration when things don’t work as he planned. He is a relatable character and comes across as a real human being and it is all of those traits that make you so invested in his journey and Matt Damon captures every single one of those.

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However, this is not a one-man show and with such a huge cast there is not a weak link in the movie. Every single character serves its purpose and every actor is absolutely amazing. It’s a long list of actors to mention but from the people at NASA (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover) to the Hermes crew (Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie) everyone is fantastic.There is not exactly character arcs but they are all well realized. You even get the relation between Watney and his crew mates even though you hardly see them together.

Even though there are some changes, as it is expected, I felt the same as I did when I read the book and that is what I want from an adaptation. I don’t mind the changes as long as they keep the essence of the book. The emotion and the tension was all there and especially the comedy. It’s amazing how such a serious situation can actually be so funny without being cartoonish. They succeeded at pulling it off just like the book did.

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Everyone is describing it as Castaway meets Apollo 13 and it really is. And it is just as great if not more. There is a lot of science going on but, unlike Interstellar, the science is easy to follow. You believe that everything going on in Mars could have actually happened as it doesn’t play so much as fiction but as a true story, with real humanity in it. It’s visually beautiful and the special effects, as it is typical from Ridley Scott, are outstanding.

The masterful editing, cutting between Mars, Earth and Hermes makes the 2 hours and 20 minutes just fly by. Ridley Scott’s filmmaking has proven to be a bit inconsistent in the last years (even decade) but The Martian shows that he still has it in him. This is one of those rare occasions where everything comes together perfectly, the direction, the writing, the performances, the visuals, to make a breathtaking film. The Martian is a movie not to be missed.

9,75/10

Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

Running time: 106 minutes

Director: Josh Trank

F42015They say, once you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. It was difficult to make a film worse than Fantastic Four (2005) and they managed to do it with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. So one would think that in the middle of the Golden Age of comic book movies and with the extraordinary cast Fox had assembled for the reboot, things would be at least a bit better this time around. Given one of his tweets (that he later deleted) it seems not even director Josh Trank believes that.

Young prodigy, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) joins Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B Jordan) to complete a Quantum Gate at Baxter Laboratory. The experiment succeeds and they teleport to an alternate universe called Planet Zero where their physical form is altered giving them shocking abilities. Reed can stretch like rubber, Sue can become invisible, Johnny can set himself on fire and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) is made of rock. Back in earth they will have to learn how to use their new powers and work as a team to defeat a former colleague, Doom.

fftvspot-142157-640x320.pngThe movie starts on a solid note with 11-year-old Reed Richards breaking into the house of Ben Grimm to steal some materials he needs to make his teleporter work. After this, they develop a close friendship and they keep working together in the project. In present day, at the science fair, their prototype attracts the attention of doctor Storm, who recruits Richards into working for him at Baxter Laboratory with his two children, Sue and Johnny, and Storm’s protegé, Victor von Doom to complete a Quantum Gate that will allow teleportation.

Amongst its many flaws, the one that stands out the most is the flatness of the characters. The first part of the movie tries to flesh them out a bit but does quite a poor job. We already know they are going to become a team, so the key part to keep the audience’s interest would be how they will achieve that and building up the relationships. Just as Joss Whedon masterfully did in the first Avengers. Here, despite the great actors involved, there’s nothing they can do with what they are given. Their performances are bland, there’s no chemistry between them and therefore, no interest in what happens to them. They even waste the opportunity to explore Sue and Johnny’s relationship, which could have added a great dynamic with her being adopted.

human-torch-and-invisible-woman-flying-in-fantastic-four-internationalActually, this movie wastes opportunity after opportunity. The scene where they discover their powers after coming back from Planet Zero worked really well and was quite horrific, which is the tone they were going for, but then they skip a whole year without an apparent reason. When we meet them again, they are already training and working for the government. We miss all the conflict and how the characters react and get used to having powers, making Fantastic Four an origin story without the origin part. We don’t even know what it was for Ben to wake up and have become a rock monster. It’s from this point going on that the movie becomes an absolute mess.

The editing is horrendous. Doom, one of the most iconic villains in comic books doesn’t appear until the last twenty minutes and is easily defeated. A great way to, not just waste a great villain, but ruin it. Also, usually in this kind of movies you can always say that even though the story had flaws, the special effects and the action were cool enough to make it entertaining to watch, but the fight sequence is just bad and boring and you can tell from a mile away that it was shot in front of a green screen.

F4Doom2And the problem is not that they were going for a darker tone. That actually quite worked. The problem is that it wasn’t fun. They lost the direction, the characters and in the end, nothing really happens. As hard as it may be to imagine, it only gets worse and worse as the movie progresses. That whole final scene in the new facility was so reminiscent of the ending of Age of Ultron where Cap was cut in mid sentence saying Avengers… assemble, but badly done. The way they come up with the name of the team is simply painful to watch. The dialogue is so cheesy, you actually feel bad for the actors.

It is hard to know who is to blame for this, given that months previous to the release of the film a lot of re-shoots were done (which you can tell because they didn’t even try to match Sue’s wig with Kate Mara’s previous hair color) and Josh Trank wasn’t involved in them. Some would say that it is good that the movie was short but there are a lot of moments missing from the movie that could have been there to be two hours long and might have benefited the film. A lot of cool sequences from the trailers weren’t even in the final product which makes obvious that a big portion of this movie was left in the cutting room floor.

4/10

Movie Review: Transcendence (2014)

Title: Transcendence

Running time: 119 minutes

Director: Wally Pfister

Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser

Summary: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him

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Transcendence is the directional debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, who is best-known for his work with Christopher Nolan. Their film Inception even earned him an Academy Award. This time he has decided to take the reins and direct his first movie starting with a great cast and an ambitious idea. Sadly, that’s where it ends.

This movie had all the potential to be awesome and I was bored out of my mind from the first minute. There was nothing interesting or engaging, not the characters nor the story, and all suffered from a flat delivery. There’s no drama, no emotion and no logic. You just don’t care about what is happening and at one point everything stops making sense.

Johnny Depp isn’t bad in it but his character, Will Caster, doesn’t catch your attention when he’s alive and when he gets uploaded doesn’t either. I don’t understand where is he going with his career right now. Rebecca Hall as his wife, is really good but the character of Evelyn Caster isn’t much interesting. The only one that I liked was Paul Bettany as their friend Max Waters who was the one who came closer to having some character development.

Then the movie has great actors in unnecessary roles such as Morgan Freeman as a scientist and Cillian Murphy as a FBI agent, that are just a waste of talent and only serve the movie to throw the exposition.

The pacing is off. It’s two hours long and you feel every second of it. As a good sci-fi piece, Transcendence sets up questions and theories but then neglects all of them at the end, making the viewing experience simply a waste of time. I would go as far as to say this is the worst film I have seen this year.

2’5/10