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 proteg√©, 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: Insurgent (2015)

Running time: 119 minutes

Director: Robert Schwentke

I_D024_10238_RBeing another young adult franchise taking place in a dystopian future, The Divergent Series seems to be always behind someone else. It hasn’t been able to step away from the big shadow The Hunger Games has cast and their next installment, Allegiant, is going to dangerously tackle the same idea as The Maze Runner sequel. The latter will take the lead though, as The Scorch Trials is coming out nearly half a year before. Allegiant also has against it that it will be another case of a last book being split into two films, even though there’s not much material to pull off two solid movies. With all these facts playing against it, will Insurgent be a step up or a step down for the franchise?

After the attack on Abnegation by Dauntless, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run from the leader of Erudite, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), who is using Divergents to open a box that has all the answers to understand the purpose of the factions. A secret that Tris’s parents sacrified themselves to protect and will make Tris embrace her Divergence and confront her inner demons if she wants to discover the truth.

Insurgent-HD-wallpapers-26The movie picks up shortly after Divergent ended, with Tris, Tobias and Caleb on the run from Erudite and joining Amity. There, Tris cuts her hair and even though it was shown in the ad campaign, it still threw me out of the movie. I know it shouldn’t bother me that much what her hair-style is, but it does, because it is not about the hair-style but what it represents. While in the book Tris cuts her hair carelessly below the ear without even looking in the mirror, in the movie is so perfectly cut and stylish. It was supposed to be awkward, not cool. I understand that they did it this way to fit Shailene Woodley’s current short hair after The Fault in Our Stars but I would have rather see her wearing a wig.

Ok, that was too much talk about hair so let’s move on. While the group is in Amity together you come to a funny realization. Every male actor there has already played Shailene’s love interest in some movie. It makes you wonder if there are no more young actors working in Hollywood these days. At least Miles Teller as Peter has some funny, snarky moments, but Ansel Elgort, playing her brother Caleb, simply doesn’t seem to want to be there. Then there is also, Theo James as Tobias, who is stuck in the boyfriend role and even though he has a lot of action scenes to do, he doesn’t have any development and we don’t learn anything about his personality at all.

tumblr_nhyu9agYRz1t1p3qwo5_1280It is after they have joined Candor that I had my second major problem with the changes in the character of Tris. When she is interrogated, Tris is forced to confess something she did in the first movie, that has been hunting her since then. In the book she is able to fight back the serum (because she is Divergent, maybe they forgot, despite being the title), she could have kept it to herself but chooses to tell the truth. In the movie they take that decision away from her and the merit it involves.

It is from the moment she gets to Erudite that the plot becomes completely different from the book. I don’t mind plot changes because I understand that some things that work on paper don’t necessarily work the same way on-screen, but one thing is making changes in the story and other is taking away things that define and build the characters. Like, a lot of Tris’s actions are supposed to be suicidal because she thinks after her parents sacrified themselves for her, it is her duty to do the same thing to honour them, which causes a lot of friction with Four and comes to play later in the books. The movie forgets about that as it forgets Tris’s apprehension about using guns after killing Will in the first movie.

I_D051_21792_RSome curious thing about Insurgent is how wasted are the Oscar caliber actresses in it. In the first ten minutes we are introduced to Johanna, played by Octavia Spencer, the leader of Amity, to never see her again in the movie. When the group is captured by the factionless we meet their leader, Evelyn, portrayed by a brunette Naomi Watts, who was ok but for what the character is, could have been much better. Another that is kind of phoning it in is Kate Winslet, who was actually my favourite part of the first movie as Jeanine, and in this one doesn’t seem to know what to do with the horrible part she has been given. Despite not minding plot changes, the box thing didn’t convinced me and the simulations Tris had to go through there didn’t work for me, precisely because they had taken away all those details from her that in the book, most of them, come to play in that situation.

insurgent_trailer_stillThe production design is beautiful and there are some cool action sequences, but one of the problems I had with Divergent was how episodic it was. I was hoping they would make the story flow better this time, but they didn’t. The characters go from one scene to another with no development at all. It kind of feels like playing a video-game and the technology they use is so futuristic that it comes across almost fake.

When I finished the second book I felt a need to read the next one and find out more about the big revelation. I was devastated because by that time the third book didn’t even have a released date yet. The movie has completely failed to captured that feeling. The revelation doesn’t play like a cliffhanger but as a resolution and very much like in The Maze Runner ends up setting the sequel in the most anti-climatic way and I’m not sure if people will come out of the cinema craving for the next one, not even those die-hard fans of the books.

5,5/10

Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

Title: Whiplash

Running time: 107 minutes

Director: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

Whiplash-5547.cr2

Whiplash was first made as a short that debuted at Sundance in 2013, winning the Grand Jury Prize in the category of Short FIlm. A year later, director Damian Chazelle premiered the full-length feature film in Sundance again, this time winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. Both versions featured J.K. Simmons as Fletcher and a story inspired by Chazelle’s own personal experience.

It’s quite disappointing that Miles Teller is not getting more recognition and, like Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher, he has been completely overlooked this award season. He stepped out from the typical roles we normally see him in and is simply fantastic. He did the majority of his drumming and gave the performance that most required emotionally of him to date.

But the true stand-out of the movie is J.K. Simmons as the teacher that brings such a psychological torture to this kid. We all have had that teacher that terrified us and still is fascinating the way he plays it. His dynamic with Teller is phenomenal and every time he is on-screen, he demands your attention. He brings a level of intensity that reaches the brutality and is definitely one of the best performances of the year.

The movie does a great job at portraying the high levels of stress someone who wants to pursue a career in the arts has to go through and the consequences that wanting to become the best at something has. Whiplash makes you consider if it is actually worthy earning that success if you have to lose everything else in the process.

Sharply written, full of extreme close-ups that add to the tension building throughout the whole movie to culminate in a powerful ending, Whiplash is, no doubt, my favourite film of 2014.

10/10