Ghost in the Shell (2017)

I have seen very few Japanese animated movies in my time on this small blue planet, in fact I can count on one hand how little I’ve seen. ‘Akira’ and ‘Monster City’ aka ‘Demon City Shinjuku’ are two of the only films I’ve seen. I have seen the original 1995 ‘Ghost in the Shell’ movie (based on an original manga by Masamune Shirow) once, but it was so long ago I cannot remember anything about it other than some iconic imagery. So I entered into this new 2017 US adaptation pretty much as a fresh faced newbie. Could this new vision wow me?

The plot: In the future humans are enhanced by augmentation with cybernetic body parts. Hanka Robotics headed by Cutter develops this augmentative technology. A female survivor of an apparent terrorist attack (Mira Killian) has her brain placed within a robotic body and is used as a special counter-terrorism operative under Section 9; where She eventually gains the rank of Major. Section 9’s main target is cyber-terrorist Kuze who wants to take down Hanka. Kuze has personal reasons for his actions, Cutter has secrets the Major is unaware of.

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Lets talk visuals, with today’s standards in special effects there is no way this could go wrong, right? Correct! the visuals in the movie are fabulous. The Japanese semi-dystopian cyberpunk world set in a not too distant future, is pretty much ‘Blade Runner’ tenfold, but brighter. I love the attention to detail we see in and around the faceless city as we follow the protagonists. The citizens and their individual styles, their attire, the technology they are using in their everyday lives etc…Every street or alley is bustling with life from neon advertisements to small food vendors or quirky robotics buzzing around. I liked how things just happened in the background, just routine stuff…but clearly had a lot of thought put into it. Although I think they went a tad over the top with the holograms, did they really need holographic arrows in the road?

Whilst its not dark and gritty overall, once you get away from the large colourful holographic images within the gleaming skyscrapers, we find a more typical Japanese/Asian city with huge Lego-esque blocks of concrete living quarters. These areas are grey, cold and somewhat depressing to look at, but definitely not as bleak as the animated movie from what I can remember. The shift in tone from the city to the suburban areas was well handled and showcased an elaborately designed Asian metropolis. I only wish they had toned down the westernisation of the city.

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But that’s not all, I found myself loving much more with the visuals. The car that is used by the Major (Scarlett Johansson) and Batou (Pilou Asæk) is friggin’ awesome! It looked like a classic Lotus Esprit with futuristic mods including some natty alloys and an incredible neon turquoise interior. I loved the weaponry we see being used, it all looked über cool. I loved the costume designs throughout, the various robots we see such as the eerie geishas, and of course the various shots that homage the source material.

Unfortunately I have to address the controversy that surrounded the movie with its casting. fuck it! The casting was brilliant all round which I admit I found surprising. I too am slightly fed up with seeing the same actors in big movies, but gosh darn it if Johnasson didn’t look perfect as the Major. Did she act the part well? Well I guess that could be argued either way, she wasn’t bad put it that way. But Johansson certainly looked the part that’s for sure…even up against both the 95 movie and the original manga, she was perfect. I thought Asæk looked great and did a good job with the battle-hardened Batou. Juliette Binoche added some gravitas as Dr. Quelet. And Takeshi Kitano also added much Japanese gravitas as Chief Daisuke Aramaki (although it was weird that only he spoke Japanese).

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What I found completely ludicrous about the controversy was the fact this story essentially focuses on artificial robotic bodies. How humans modify themselves to such an extent that they are able to insert a human brain into a completely artificial robotic body. Surely this practically erases any notion of political correctness surrounding race and gender. An artificial body can be made to look like anyone of any race or gender, with any brain inserted, a complete hodgepodge. So complaints about ‘whitewashing’ are completely unwarranted. The fact they had to tack on an actual explanation to appease this so called controversy was ridiculous; all because a minority of people didn’t like a white female in the lead role?? A perfect example of when to simply ignore the hyperbolic outrage machine and just create your art.

As a movie that I’m essentially treating as a new entry (because I can’t recall too much of the original) I did find myself enjoying what I saw. Sure there were still a few quibbles that I questioned, even though some of it did feature in the original 95 movie . But at the start of the movie we see the Major leaping off the top of a skyscraper to infiltrate a section of the building in order to stop a terrorist attack. Next scene she’s leaping in through the window. How did that happen exactly?? How do you go from free falling off a skyscraper to leaping through the side of the building? The sequence where Kuze (the apparent villain) programs some garbage truck drivers to kill Dr. Quelet, but where did the garbage truck drivers get their guns from? Garbage truck drivers always carry guns? A cliched double cross scenario over the eventual death of Dr. Quelet. Shooting at a gigantic steel tank with a regular gun? This clearly becomes pointless very quickly. In fact the entire plot surrounding Kuze’s background and eventual team up with the Major is pretty darn cliched bog standard stuff (although I liked the irony of anti-augmentation protesters being used as the first test subjects for cybernetic augmentation).

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The plot itself seems to have been somewhat dumbed-down from what I can recall (and swatted up on). Yes I enjoyed the sequences that are directly lifted from the original source material, but at the same time I know they are mere window dressing and lack real depth. The 95 movie questioned the uneasy relationship between humanity and an ever advancing man-made technology. It was cold, bleak and included body horror. Dare I say identity politics (self-identity) also featured strongly, gender, sexuality and feminism.

This Major is still feminine and at the same time clearly not female, we can see that, but that seems to be as far as it goes. Heck this movie doesn’t even really touch on the problems with cybernetic augmentation. We are basically shown that it works wonders and can give humans a new lease of life (Batou and his eyes for instance). But at the same time there has been great cost to reach that point in technological advancement. Bottom line, sure shitty things happened in the past, but the technology is still sweet so no biggie. You don’t really get the impression that there is a negative side to cybernetic augmentation here, there’s no real clash of ethics.

This new movie does away with much of that, presumably out of fear that the general cinema going audience either won’t understand or simply won’t like the heavy themes. This new vision barely touches on some of these elements and unfortunately seems more concerned with simply looking pretty. I can’t deny that the movie really lacks emotional punch, I really felt that the ending should have been much more dramatic and emotional. Didn’t get that, instead it just felt like any other jacked-up superhero-esque finale we see these days. So yes this adaptation has been somewhat neutered, there’s no hiding from that sad fact. But superb cinematography, production design and solid performances do help in easing the pain. I still found myself enjoying the movie. If you enjoy science fiction I heartily recommend giving it a chance.

6.5/10

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The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

What am I gonna do, get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That’s a stupid idea

So in the Lego universe, an unknown distance (at this point) away from what we witnessed in the first Lego movie, the city of Gotham exists. Within this city Batman and his allies battle the forces of evil on a regular basis, except on Sundays maybe. The forces of good have gotta have a day off right?

Well as usual it looks like the Joker is at it again with his criminal cohorts and their naughty antics. Whilst trying to detonate a bomb under Gotham City, Batman and Joker face-off. Unwittingly Batman appears to destroy the Joker’s delicate feelings when he starkly informs the Joker he isn’t his arch nemesis. In fact he doesn’t even need the Joker, the criminal isn’t as important in Batman’s life as he thinks. This hurts the Joker more than anything that has come before and causes him to review his strategies. The Joker plans to show how important he is to Batman, how vital he is in Batman’s life, and this will require a cunning plan of deception.

What I really loved about this movie was the raw exposure of Batman’s life, his true existence. And by that I mean the fact he’s essentially a bit of a loser, a loner, clearly narcissistic, a manic depressive, has maybe a touch of OCD and is quite possibly a bit unhinged. Bottom line we see right away that Batman does indeed need his enemies to survive, he does indeed need the Joker to give his life purpose. This is highlighted fantastically with the sequences in the Batcave where we see vast open spaces filled with technology and gadgets that could be used by a team of superheroes. Then again in Wayne Manor where we see Batman rattling around in large echo filled rooms all by his lonesome, except for the aging Alfred.

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I loved the small bits where we see Batman preparing his lobster dinner, then eating it on his own. He then proceeds to his own personal cinema to watch his favourite Tom Cruise movie (‘Jerry Maguire’) on his own. His laughter again echoes around the empty room exposing his self-imposed solitary confinement. Its also during these sequences we start to see some of the sweet references to all the previous Batman movies. Admittedly they did kinda look the same (unavoidable) but I simply couldn’t help but smile as I saw the brief visual flashbacks from every Batman movie in Lego form (except the 1966 movie which was live action).

Its these references to other movies, TV shows, modern pop culture and the humour that, for me, made this movie so enjoyable. Essentially the plot wasn’t important, it didn’t really need to be, and besides, it was always gonna be the same spiel anyway. This movie was basically a chance to look for easter eggs and have a laugh, and with that I wasn’t disappointed. This movie is loaded with obvious and not so obvious nods to so many things. I liked how in between some scenes we saw the classic spinning Batman logo from the 1966-68 Batman TV series.

The legendary shark repellent makes an appearance (again from the 66 Batman movie). There are naturally many recognisable Batman suits to be seen in the background at various stages. At one point we see the Burton Batmobile and Nolan Tumbler. The classic John Williams 1978 ‘Superman’ score is used very very briefly and we also get visual nods to Jor-El (in Brando form) and Zod (in Terence Stamp form). There are many lines of dialog from previous Batman movies used here such as ‘where does he get all those wonderful toys?’. There are also many many tiny nods with names being used, visual appearances, links to comics and the animated series etc…I could go on.

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Another thing that I really loved was the inclusion of so many supervillain characters. Something that could normally be seen as a bad sign and set off alarm bells, works just fine here. Why? because the plot is daft and meaningless and its all about the comedy and visual recognition. Yes we see a shit load of villains who have literally nothing to do but be seen in the background or say one line or complete one task. Who cares! in this movie it just doesn’t matter because its literally like watching a child play with his toys (ala the first Lego movie). The fun part is firstly just seeing all these wacky characters in Lego form, secondly then Googling their Wiki to find out more about them. Zebra-Man? Kite Man? Clock King? Condiment King? Calendar Man?? Seriously??? I love it!!

One little niggle though, something I didn’t really get or like. All the villains in the Phantom Zone were villains/baddies (dinosaurs?) from other movies such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Harry Potter’ and the old Universal monster movies of the 20’s – 50’s. Why? I don’t get why they used these characters because it kinda took me out of the whole superhero vibe of it all. Of course I know its because Lego covers virtually everything and if they can use the license they will, but I just didn’t like that idea. Why couldn’t they just use more from the huge catalog of DC characters? And why wasn’t Zod, Ursa or Non used as main villains? They show Zod but don’t utilise him which was an odd choice frankly. I’d much rather see him used than Dracula for heavens sake. Also, why does the Joker look more like a demon? He has pointed teeth and again an odd choice in hairstyle.

This did all lead me to ask myself one thing though, seeing as the first Lego movie established this Lego universe as merely a young boys imagination (I believe that’s how it went if I remember correctly). Does this mean that everything in this movie is also merely a young child’s imagination? Would it be the same child? Seeing as this is a spin-off and linked to said original movie, I must assume its all a child’s imagination at playtime.

Anyway that aside, I did enjoy this movie, more so than the first Lego movie methinks. The voice work from the multitude of actors was again spot on (just like the first movie). Obviously Will Arnett as Batman wins hands down because its just so damn amusing to hear Batman talk about regular everyday stuff in that gravelly macho voice. It all looks sharp, colourful and gorgeous. That Lego stop motion animation is so endearing although a tad frenetic at times, and the comedy overall is pretty much pitch perfect. There’s stuff for the kids, stuff for the adults and plenty of stuff for the fanboys and nerds. Normally I’m not the greatest fan of modern pop culture references and trendy in-film songs, especially on overload. But this movie shows how it can be done well without being annoying.

8/10

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Doctor Strange (2016)

he folds matter outside the mirror dimension, in the real world
I’m sorry what?

Welcome to the cinematic kaleidoscope that is the world of Marvels Doctor Strange. A world of sanctums and sorcerers that protect the Earth from other dimensional beings and powers, or something like that. Doctor Stephen Strange is world-renowned neurosurgeon who, in a rather contrived manner, loses the use of his skilled hands in a car accident (how did he survive that crash??!!). He doesn’t lose a leg or suffer brain damage or whatever, oh no, he just fucks up his hands. Anyway Strange is unable to fix his hands through traditional methods, so eventually he goes off to Nepal in search of a mysterious place called Kamar-Taj. There he discovers the Ancient One who starts Strange off on his quest to learn the secret powers of sorcery.

The challenge? Strange, the Ancient One and fellow sorcerer Mordo must stop another rogue sorcerer called Kaecilius. What is Kaecilius’s goal? he wants to summon Dormammu from the dark dimension in order to gain eternal life. At the same time Dormammu wants the Earth dimension for himself.

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Much like his comicbook counterpart, Strange is an arrogant asshole in this movie. The man clearly has skills but he thinks he’s God-like, he treats people like garbage, he ignores advice, he’s reckless and lacks tact. So it is in fact very hard to like our main protagonist because he’s such a blowhard. Strange is also very very rich due to his profession which makes it hard to relate to Strange (much like Stark), his arrogance only makes matters worse. The sequence where he chooses a watch from a draw of rotating highly expensive looking timepieces, then leaves his highly expensive city pad in his highly expensive Lamborghini, is this really any different from reality for Cumberbatch? Just another day for a Hollywood movie star.

The fact that Strange is an asshole doesn’t really go away either. He continues his snarky comments (along with lame pop culture gags) for much of the run time which only left a bad taste in my mouth truth be told. Yes I know this is the character and it would be wrong to change it, but it just felt shitty to me, I just didn’t like the guy. The other fact that Cumberbatch was cast made it worse for me, did he do a good job in the role? I guess, nothing special, I wasn’t blown away lets just say that. I had reservations when he was cast and I still don’t really agree with it, personally I would have gone with Ewan McGregor after Joaquin Phoenix turned it down. I don’t think Cumberbatch looks the part, he’s too skinny, his hair is wrong and his face has the wrong structure, he isn’t good or suave looking enough. Was it too hard to get his famous white hair streaks right?

So lets look at the Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton, was this good casting? Again I’m somewhat split on this, should they have race swapped the character? No I think they should have gone by the source material, so no gender swap either. It would have upset China you say, tough! Stand by your work, show a little backbone. As for Swinton I really didn’t see anything uniquely special in her performance, in fact I think it was weak, anyone could have taken the role and done a better job. Mordo, again, why the race swap? People complained about the Ancient One yet didn’t mention this? Equality? hypocrisy? political agendas? You moan about one, you moan about the other, or don’t moan. Anyway both looked completely out of place in this movie, especially in the Nepal locations. The white bald Ancient One looked like an extra from ‘The Matrix’. Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius? totally forgettable much like his faceless henchmen. So yeah overall I wasn’t wowed by any casting in this movie, very bland, usual box ticked diversity, generally all very safe and boring.

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So did the movie offer anything that differs from what we have seen before in the Marvel cinematic universe? Well yes, of course it did, this movie is based on the magical side of the Marvel comicbook universe. You want lots of mind-bending visuals that cast doubt on what your actually looking at? Say no more, its all here. I mentioned at the start the word kaleidoscope, well that’s pretty much the key word here, its literally the word of the day, the word of the movie because there is no other way in describing what you see. There are numerous sequences of astral planes, other dimensions, mirror dimensions and reality being twisted and contorted. Of course its all CGI but its bursting with colour, shapes and dream-like imagery that certainly keeps you engaged…if your eyes can stand it. The broken/shattered/cracked-esque glass visual effect for the mirror dimension was particularly impressive, very striking, very imaginative.

On the other hand we of course have lots of kung fu and hocus pocus nonsense. The hocus pocus nonsense is obviously to be expected and it generally looks pretty good. I did like all the colourful magical shields. weapons and visual spells that the protagonists use. They all look like colour coded HUD’s from a jet fighter (or inside Tony Stark’s Iron Man helmet) that are projected around a persons limbs. The obligatory martial arts jiggery-pokery I felt was..um…obligatory. Its like you can’t have a comicbook flick (or any flick) without needless martial arts. When Strange takes on his astral form in the astral plane, yep you guessed it, he ends up getting involved in an astral plane martial arts fight (with Scott Adkins). In general I liked the fighting because it involved lots of magical trickery but they still can’t get away from martial bloody arts, so tiresome.

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I find myself in the middle ground with this Marvel entry, in limbo if you will. Whilst I did enjoy the effects to a degree, I found myself straining to look at some of it, or it just seemed to go a bit too far with the bizarre, although the colour palette was nice. What we see of the dark dimension was nicely done, it kinda looked like what you might see under a microscope, but in vivid colours. The magic and sorcery was definitely intriguing and I found myself wanting to see more ancient mystical things instead of the more present day set events. A period set Doctor Strange flick could be pretty sweet methinks. Period though, not alien fantasy because period would offer some grounded limitations. But it says a lot when one of the best parts of the movie involved a simple cloak, the cloak of levitation. I really wanted to see more of that and its backstory. On the flip side I found the characters weak and casting all wrong, not even Strange himself was overly engaging (Tony Stark with magic). The appearance of Dormammu in the finale was also a big let down as yet again we get a big purple-ish looking face…and that’s it, CGI wasn’t much either.

The main issue I have with all these movies now is they don’t really feel like stand alone movies. They merely feel like filler movies, padding, basically set-ups for another even bigger movie that usually involves a team up or an entire cinematic universe. The stories don’t really have any meaning or risk involved, they feel minor and throwaway because at the end of the day all they’re doing is setting up something else. The real killer is then when you get the next bigger movie, that too is just another set-up for something else, and on we go. The plot for ‘Doctor Strange’ was mediocre, it barely did the job. I was relatively engaged merely down to the fact that we were seeing something a bit new in sorcery, but beyond that it was bland business as usual. So overall I would give this a pass in the same vein as ‘Ant-Man’, but the initial intrigue is now gone, any sequels (for me) will just feel meh (although a period setting could be cool).

6/10

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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Well here we are with the ninth movie in this franchise, if you include 2016’s ‘Deadpool’, and with a tenth on the way! So many plots, sequels, prequels, different actors playing the same characters, alternate timelines which may or may not count anymore…Jesus Christ! I’m not a fanboy of this franchise (or the comics) and I’m probably in the minority here but…what the hell is going on in this franchises timeline?? I have no clue anymore. I can’t remember the older films and I can’t be bothered to rewatch them all in order to keep up with this one (because they’re mostly boring and repetitive). And that’s the main problem with this movie series, you kinda gotta know stuff from the previous movies.

Anyway so we’re still following the timeline that started in ‘X-Men: First Class’ which was a prequel/reboot to the entire franchise (ugh!). This time we are first whisked back to ancient Egypt where the first mutant ever rules supreme. His name is En Sabar Nur, more commonly known as Apocalypse. So old Apocalypto is betrayed by his followers and gets buried alive beneath a pyramid (I think). Back in the present of 1983 dusty old Apocalypto gets discovered by locals and is awakened, or re-energised or brought back to life, whatever. Surveying the new world before him, the big purple one decides that he does not like the modern age of 1983 and all those damn Cabbage Patch Kids. So off he goes to recruit some other mutants (his four horsemen, or whatever) and destroy the world so he can build a better one. The X-Men have to stop him…and that’s it.

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OK right off the bat, what the literal fuck was that makeup job on Oscar Isaac for Apocalypse?? I heard and read the rumours all about his visual appearance being somewhat kooky and rather reminiscent of some kids flick villain, but I didn’t really think much into it. What I saw was shocking, absolutely shocking…and hilarious. Now up to this point these movies have been relatively solid visually, not great but they have tried to give these comicbook characters a realistic look which has worked OK, apart from one or two. Considering this is a new movie in 2016 I simply could not believe how poor Isaac looked in his baddie outfit. For a start it looks nothing like Apocalypse, not even close. His entire bodysuit looks terribly rubbery and squishy, no weight to it at all. Isaac isn’t a particularly large person and you can also tell here, Apocalypse is way too short and has nowhere near enough bulk to him. And finally we have the makeup job on his face, Jesus Christ! Please explain to me what went wrong! what were they thinking?! Its awful, plain and simple, you can almost see the joins, the lines, it looks fake and rubbery, and again it looks nothing like Apocalypse. In short he looks like a big purple dildo from a kids flick or TV show.

But wait there’s more terrible outfits, the cartoonish garbage keeps going. The four horsemen that Apocalypse recruits look almost as dumb as he does, well three of them. First up we have Psylocke, a sexy brunette with a skimpy costume that actually looks like something straight outta ‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’, or a tacky Halloween costume. Next its Angel and his big CGI wings that Apoc transforms into metal which somehow fires metal shards? He never wears a shirt it seems, he’s kinda chunky, bit too much timber, and just looks plain idiotic. In this flick Storm is a villainess and looks more like yet another Mortal Kombat character, no the mohawk doesn’t look ‘cool’. Magneto is the final errr…horseman I guess. Of course its Michael Fassbender again but we all know he is one of the better factors in these films, and he looks good in his suit too.

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On the goodie side of things its the usual story, same actors, same characters, same look. Nicholas Hoult is Beast and again just looks like a bad makeup job. They haven’t yet managed to equal or better the look used on Kelsey Grammer in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ in my opinion. Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff might be a popular character right now but Quicksilver also looks ridiculous with his silver outfit if you ask me, and he just does the same shit as before (obviously). Nightcrawler literally just looks like a regular skinny teen with blue face paint on, possibly for Halloween again. I mean I know that’s kinda the idea but it just looks so bland and cheap. And lastly the Godawful Jennifer Lawrence is back as Mystique, although you wouldn’t think it because she’s hardly seen in her famous blue visage. Obviously she didn’t like the process or thinks she’s too big to be hidden away behind so much makeup or whatever. All the rest are fine, nothing special, usual stuff, they don’t look like clowns in other words.

Lets take a look at what we see. Apocalypse is supposedly a super powerful mutant of the ages….right? Yet he really doesn’t come across like that, hell he doesn’t even look intimidating. At one point he decapitates some local Egyptians with…sand? Yes the deadly terror that is sand, its coarse, it gets everywhere and it can apparently cut human heads off. He then merges some other local into a wall or something, eh? He does this again later with another X-Men character (can’t recall). Tries to like…meld them with a wall, because that’s a thing apparently, that’s one of his mutant powers, wall melding. He can also turn people into dust or sand, I dunno. But he only does this here and there, like why doesn’t he just turn all the X-Men into dust? (or sand).

At one point the big purple one wants to send a message to every human, so he requires Professor X. But surely he’s powerful enough to do that himself no? I don’t know all the facts about these characters but I just got the impression a mutant like Apocalypse would be able to do things like that himself. In fact I must question why he even needs any assistance from the mutants he recruited, they’re all pretty useless anyway. I’m sure the shirtless dude with metal wings will be a big help to you.

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We see Magneto lose yet another family, ugh! Yep we gotta sit through a whole load of schmaltz with the metal powered one and another faceless family that is obviously just there to be killed off and make him angry. So when these communist Polish militia accidentally kill Erik’s wife and child, he kills them with…a necklace? Oh, his wife and child get killed accidentally by a fatal arrow shot. But this arrow must be damn big because it manages to penetrate his wife, and into the child (they were holding each other).

The entire Wolverine/Weapon X cameo sequence was another laughable waste of time. Apart from being completely pointless and of no use to the plot, its obviously just crowbarred in there to appease the fanboys who probably all spaffed in their pants over it. Wolverine, in his kegs, with a load of wires and crap all over him, killing faceless soldiers in a rage. Twas in the comics and thusly recreated here to appease and possibly gauge the reaction for a violent R rated flick. I mean lets be honest here, that’s all we’ve damn well heard about for so long now, ‘I wanna see Wolverine kill people in an R rated movie‘ whine whine whine. And that’s why we have the new tenth instalment ‘Logan’, because people just wanna see Wolverine kill people with graphic violence.

In the end everything is tied up with a nice little predictable bow that we’ve all seen before now. One big cliched battle at the end where various bad guys are defeated but not killed off so they can become good guys later on. Professor X has mind battles with Apocalypse because that’s all Professor X can do in these films. Magneto was a villain here, but switches back to the good guys…again. Jean Grey unleashes her full Phoenix Force powers (I’m guessing it was) to defeat Apocalypse, she did very little else up till that point. Various X-Men use their various specific mutant powers for this and that, its all very convenient with shittonnes of deus ex machina moments. And finally the X-mansion gets obliterated…but is completely rebuilt perfectly in the end by Magneto and Jean Grey. How very safe and convenient.

This movie in general is so so poor in almost every way, its literally as if Singer and co took a large step backwards. I feel like this movie might have done way better had it come out prior to the very first X-Men movie, way back in 2000. Its virtually on par with ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’, ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ in terms of an overall substandard product or offering. This movie feels totally jokey, a absolute sin in terms of modern comicbook flicks, its incredible how this got by without any warning lights (or were there?). At this point I really can’t see where you can go with this franchise and these characters, this all felt so cliched, mundane and repetitious. Its been done, the moment has past.

4.5/10

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Extended Cut (2016)

Ah the trump card in the DC universe, the main player, the saviour, the movie to bring everything together and utterly destroy Marvel once and for all (well that was the idea anyway). First we got ‘Man of Steel’, the reboot Superman flick that was supposed to herald a new dawn (no pun intended) for Supes. Alas it was a polarising movie and divided audiences everywhere. OK no worries DC thought, lets press forward with a sequel and make it better. That’s where this movie comes in, the supposed original sequel to ‘Man of Steel’. But as we all know that soon changed, the Superman sequel quickly became a slightly different beast with the inclusion of Batman, so now we had a vs flick. Even though it was still a Superman sequel, Superman himself had suddenly taken the backseat to Batman. But just when you thought Superman couldn’t get screwed over any further, the studio (and DC) then threw in other characters like Wonder Woman and other cameos. So the once Superman sequel was now a full blown franchise kick starter/prequel for the proposed Justice League movie. Just a glance at the movies title hints at how overblown this film could be.

So at first this movie goes to some lengths to try and show the devastation we saw in MoS (Supes fighting Zod) from the human perspective. Snyder clearly took on board all the negativity he got from MoS and tried to rectify it somewhat. Does he achieve this?? well to some degree I guess. OK he clearly shows us the collateral damage caused and how people suffered, so I guess that helps. It also showed us Bruce Wayne amongst the people and how his building gets destroyed killing one of his work colleagues. Didn’t quite get why that guy died really, Bruce clearly tells him to get out of the building at one point. Cut back a little later and the guy is still in the building, for some reason, as it starts to come down. The guy is literally in the same office that Bruce had told him to leave, what an idiot. Did those people actually need Wayne to tell them to leave the friggin’ building?!

So basically Superman destroyed tonnes of property, inadvertently killed innocents and racked up massive bills for…everything! Because of this Superman has become a controversial figure, people are not sure if he’s a force for good or a force to put humans at deadly risk. Bruce Wayne doesn’t like Supes, he destroyed his building, killed his work mate and he’s stealing his thunder essentially. Bruce thinks Supes needs to be controlled, killed or exiled, and he’s the man to do just that. In the mean time Lex Luthor is after Kryptonite and is basically using the whole situation to try and rid the world of both Supes and Batman whilst gaining total power. Wonder Woman merely floats around turning up at places to simply show she’s in the movie. Important characters like Lois Lane, Alfred, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Martha Kent etc…are now secondary (or defunct) because there are simply too many characters here and compared to the likes of Superman, Batman, Lex, Wonder Woman etc…they’re pretty much boring and no longer of importance.

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So lets look at some of the big hitters here, the main protagonists and antagonists (except for Supes played by Henry Cavill because we know him from MoS. He’s still boring, can’t act and always uses the same facial expression). Lex Luthor played by Jess Eisenberg, easily the most annoyingly stupid portrayal in the movie because of everything he does. His voice is annoying, he has hair, his facial expressions and body movements are annoying, he is annoying. Not only that but its clear to see he’s merely phoning in a Jim Carrey-esque Riddler impersonation, or just another take on the Joker (or to some degree, a Max Landis impression). Oh and he also has an Asian female sidekick because of course he does. All supervillains have a female sidekick it seems. Suffice to say Eisenberg’s Lex is horrible and doesn’t fit the character or movie, the hell was all that ‘ding ding ding ding’ about?

Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot…badly, because she can’t act (yes I said it). Bottom line, the fuck is this character doing here?! She wants a file, spends the entire run time looking for this file because she wants a picture or something (the pic showing her and the characters from the, as yet unreleased, Wonder Woman movie). She gets the file and the picture, discovers the other Justice League members and decides to help Batman and Superman fight whatever, for some reason…wut?? She literally pops up in this movie for no reason whatsoever, she fights alongside Batman and Supes for no reason whatsoever. Who is she? what does she do? why is she here? where did she come from? why does she have super powers? why does she drive a super car? Like literally what the literal fuck is this all about? This movie is meaningless to someone not in the know and this characters vapid inclusion sums that up perfectly. Anyway we all know she’s only in this movie to help set up the Justice League flick and make the BvS trailers look more attractive to the juveniles and female audience.

We do get some laughably bad snippets showing other future DC characters which are all planned for the upcoming Justice League movie. When I say laughably bad, I mean it; the small cameo for Aquaman shows us said underwater hero in his full tattooed glory. Was that wise? I know we all know what he looks like but surely a bit of mystery for his first time on the big screen (plus he looks stupid). And what happens in that snippet anyway? An underwater probe just happens to find Aquaman who totally reveals himself straight away, not too clever methinks. The Cyborg snippet was a horrific, obvious looking CGI mess whilst The Flash snippet didn’t really show anything, literally. And why do all these characters have their own logos in the movie? Duh??!

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Lois Lane played by Amy Adams, again, why is she here? Her role? to merely try and prove that Superman didn’t kill all those people in the opening desert scene where she and Olsen are sent to interview ISIS or whatever. Why was she even sent there? she’s a reporter. Why would everyone think Superman killed those people who were killed with bullets, Supes doesn’t use guns. Notice Supes doesn’t save poor old Olsen or those blokes that were shot, but manages to save Lane…again, ugh! Lane is only used in this pointless sub plot just so she can point out that Superman didn’t kill those blokes in the desert, and prove that they were killed by Luthor’s men. By which point, it doesn’t even matter anyway, the main plot had moved well past all that crap and no one cared. Just stick Lane in a tub, naked and have her kiss a topless Superman because cheap sex appeal.

Doomsday, a big invincible CGI turd with spikes coming out of it…great. Created by Luthor using his own blood and the dead General Zod’s DNA (still not really sure how Kryptonian technology does that but whatever). Yeah this thing is so flippin’ powerful it should have killed everyone and wiped out America with ease, the end. But no, instead it just throws everyone around a bit, you know, into buildings, debris whatever just happens to be there…blah blah blah. Good job Wonder Woman turns up with her glowing whip and powerful gauntlets…meh who cares.

Lets look at the dream sequence in the movie, the main one, you know, Batman Fury Road. This entire sequence made no sense, no sense! Why is it in here? what’s going on exactly? who are the human fly type characters? I understand what the gist is don’t get me wrong, Batman is basically afraid of Superman taking control, he’s afraid at the fact he’s essentially powerless against him, OK fine. Did we need a big long dream sequence on the set of Fury Road? Why do I get the impression this is yet another set up for another possible movie, a stupid movie where Batman looks stupid in the daytime and in the desert. Then you have the Flash moment. The Flash seems to enter Wayne’s dream and warn him of something, a future premonition if you will. But how could The Flash enter Wayne’s dream? was this visual image a dream itself? had Wayne woken up prior to The Flash coming through? Does The Flash have the power to do this??

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Then you have one of the cheapest, lowest moments in this movie, if not the entire DC universe so far. The death of Superman, yes they actually managed to squeeze the death of Superman into this movie, on top of everything else. Here’s my problem with this (and surely its bloody obvious), this is the kick starter movie for the entire Justice League franchise, the acorn that will presumably grow into the massive oak. There is obviously going to be quite a few movies after this that will obviously include Superman because he’s one of the main team members. There is no way in hell they are obviously gonna kill off Superman right now, in this movie, before the Justice League comes out. Like seriously! how fucking stupid do these studios think we are?? So what you have here is a ridiculously pointless and inane mini plot where Superman gets killed, gets buried, and we’re all supposed to take this as a high emotional moment, a tear-jerker. As if we’re supposed to be worried about Superman. No DC, no Warner, we’re not worried about Superman, we’re not crying because we all know he’s gonna come back. Quite literally, fuck you Snyder, fuck you for allowing this tacky shit.

Honesty, as I watched this I was actually kinda OK with it, to a degree. But after completion, some thinking, some research and obviously going back over the movie, it basically kinda sucks. Despite the huge budget, numerous people involved and the fact that both DC and Warner have had previous chances to get this stuff right, they still haven’t! The film is all over the place, its messy as hell, this cut is about three hours long (or whatever) and there’s only actually about ten minutes of Batman vs Superman in it! Bruce Wayne doesn’t live in Wayne Manor anymore but instead lives in some underground modern art pad. The batmobile seems to be utterly invincible and can smash through anything whilst the bad guys never seem to learn that shooting it doesn’t do anything (the obligatory car chase sequence with a gazillion explosions, car wrecks, mini guns, expendable goons galore etc…).

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Product placement is through the roof as is the use of present-day media presenters and various media outlets. This is supposed to be a comicbook world, not our real present-day world. Why are you trying to make out that these characters exist in our reality? that’s not the idea. There are too many characters, too many mini plots, choppy editing and pacing and nothing really seems to add up. But at the end of the day, no matter how much they try, Batman had no real motivation to kill (or even fight) Superman and Superman had no real motivation to kill Batman (outside of his kidnapped mother whom he could and should of saved himself easily at any point). Although, we do learn that Batman can be stopped dead in his tracks simply by uttering the name Martha. Lets hope future villains don’t pick up on that huh.

I guess my main question is…how did they manage to fuck this up so badly? How, yet again, did DC, Warner and Snyder manage to get this wrong? It just defies believe frankly. I still stand by my opinion that if you were to show this to someone who had little to no knowledge of these characters, this comicbook world as a whole, they would be completely lost watching this movie, totally lost. Is that how a movie should play out? is that the aim? To only cater to the (hardcore) fanboys and fanbase who just wanna see snippets from their favourite comics recreated on the big screen. Of course not! every movie should be able to stand alone and not rely on future instalments to help it out or back it up. A studio should focus on one movie at a time and try to assure that movie is the best it can be. Put simply, this just isn’t happening anymore and it certainly didn’t happen here. This movie is an outright failure on all counts as a stand alone movie.

4.5/10

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Suicide Squad: Extended Cut (2016)

So with a disappointing start to their cinematic universe, DC and co looked onward to this major project to turn their fortunes around. The first Superman venture divided audiences around the world with its dark and gloomy atmosphere, so what could be done? Well DC and co announced a ‘Dirty Dozen with supervillains’ movie concept with David Ayer at the helm, a director known for dark, gritty, gloomy movies, ah. So that’s what we thought we would be getting, following on from ‘Man of Steel’ with its dark world. But then ‘Batman v Superman’ happened and things changed, things got lighter, brighter, sillier, more generic. The dark brooding world of Zack Snyder had taken a bit of a beating from fans, thusly the powers that be decided to change their outlook. It was time for DC to submit and embrace the Marvel universe, it was time for a Marvelisation of their product.

Enter Task Force X, a band of dangerous misfit villains that must work together to complete their undercover black ops mission in order to reduce their prison sentences. At the helm of this…suicide squad? is the hard-nosed, unscrupulous (dare I say…bitch?), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Task Force X is her baby and she’s not gonna let it fail, the world needs a team to stand up against the possible threat of an evil Superman type villain, and this is it. How will Waller keep control you ask? Well much like Bob Hauk in ‘Escape from New York’, Waller has implanted tiny explosive devices in each team members neck. Should any of them think of running off or insubordination, the device will be triggered and their heads will pop. Because originality was late for work the day they came up with that.

So lets meet this team of naughty spawns, role call! OK up first is the team leader Rick Flag played by Joel Kinnaman. This guy is an army special forces Colonel and brought in by Waller to keep control. He’s the only team member that isn’t a criminal. He’s also played in a very bland, boring, generic way by Kinnaman who apparently seems to think of himself as the bee’s knees with his annoying southern drawl. It doesn’t matter how southern you play him Kinnaman, its not cool.

Next up is the token stereotypically sexualised female character, that just happens to be Harley Quinn in this movie, played by Margot Robbie. So Harley is a girl, a sexy girl with blonde hair and she wears very tight booty shorts over fishnet stockings. Now there’s nothing wrong with this of course but…well I’m not a teenage so I’m not gonna fawn over how great Robbie is purely because of this. Anyway Quinn has a comically large mallet, and a baseball bat and…errr…she can do acrobatics and stuff…OK there is literally no real reason for Quinn to be in this movie, there I said it. She’s only here because she’s basically a very popular character and that’s it. When you are going up against a supernatural force, or a super powered alien force, what fucking use is a flirty blonde dressed like a stripper wielding a comically large mallet??

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Quinn’s love interest the Joker (Jared Leto) is of course in this movie, mainly because you need him as they included Quinn, can’t have one without the other. So much you could say about this incarnation, did I like the look? No not really, its too gangster, too bling, too punk. This Joker looks like a goth teenage who’s runaway from home after being scolded by his parents. I didn’t really like his blinged up world, such as the gold dripping from his person in some scenes, his pimped up purple super car, ugh! just too much.

I quite liked the fact that he’s a basically a lowlife mobster, I liked his henchmen in their quirky masks, I liked some of his outfits such as the tuxedo, I liked some of his dialog and deliveries. On the other hand, I didn’t like the tattoo’s, I didn’t like some of his other over the top Jim Carrey-esque deliveries, I didn’t like his laugh, and I didn’t like how his SWAT body armour had ‘JOKER‘ printed on it towards the end. Overall Leto’s version of the Joker was very mixed for me (what little there was of it), not terrible but not exactly what I would have gone with.

Next, Deadshot played by Will Smith…oh Jesus! So its Will Smith which basically means its not Deadshot and don’t be expecting to see that classic mask either cos it ain’t happening. There was never any chance of the smug Smith covering up his face for the whole film so what we get is essentially Will Smith being Will Smith as he’s done in various other action flicks over the years. Honesty, Smith’s performance is no different, he may as well be anyone, its just the same spiel with this guy.

Step forward Captain Boomerang played by Jai Courtney. Now this is yet another example of what the flying fuck is this character doing in this film? The guy is basically a crook and that’s it! Sure he might be a good crook, a tough crook, an Aussie crook, but he does nothing, he has no powers! He throws some kind of electronic boomerangs that are almost completely ineffectual unless you want some aerial CCTV surveillance. Yes I can fully admit that Courtney is in fact one of the best performances in the film, its great to have an rough Aussie accent in the film and he’s indeed funny. But alas his character is utterly useless, he’s a bloke with a bad haircut and facial hair.

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Straight outta da hood is El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a Latino ex-gang member who is probably the most powerful member on the team…but doesn’t wanna use them. Naturally being an ex-gang member from LA you expect lots of inane urban dialog such as ‘hommie’ and ‘homes’ etc…Deadshot uses this urban dialect when he interacts with him, which is just plain stupid sounding.

His outfit seems to consist of a white vest (simple urban street wear) and facial tattoo’s which are presumably gang related. This guy does little more than mope around refusing to unleash his powers. When he does its impressive, so much so it renders his human form completely pointless and boring frankly as his fire demon-like form is way more interesting. Should of cast Rick ‘Zombie Boy’ Genest for this character.

Killer Croc up next played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Easily the coolest and most intriguing looking character, everything about this guy just makes you wanna know more. He eats people, he actually lives in the sewers, he actually moves like a crocodile in and out of the water, he has super strength and he looks damn evil. In fact this guy is so out there and seemingly deadly its kinda makes you wonder how he could ever be tamed for the team. This guy is like a mutated splicing of Hannibal Lector and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The makeup is excellent for Croc, he genuinely looks scary, you’re never really sure what he’s gonna do, he sounds badass, his backstory is badass, he is badass. Unfortunately much like some other characters, he pretty much does feck all except for grunting here and there and wearing a really stupid outfit.

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Slipknot, played by some bloke called Adam Beach. Kinda cool character name, don’t know anything about him but it doesn’t matter anyway because he’s killed off very quickly with the old exploding neck device. We all knew someone would have to be used for that plot point, and it was Slipknot. Hell this guy doesn’t even get any backstory setup unlike everyone else. Yet again, crap addition to the team, what does he do? He can scale walls really well, really quickly…oh and he can grapple really well too. K, thanks for that, next!

June Moore, an archaeologist possessed by an evil spirit that transforms Moore into Enchantress, a powerful supernatural sorceress (played by Cara Delevingne). Finally a character that could actually stand up to an alien super force or other supernatural baddies. One problem, she’s a bitch and a turncoat and becomes the films villainess, bummer for Waller. Enchantress seeks revenge against mankind for imprisoning her within some relic in a cave that Moore discovered blah blah blah. She also has a brother called Succubus in the same situation, together they want to destroy the human race.

Such a weak villain geez, she looks cliched, uninteresting, yet more tattoo’s, a poor storyline and just uses lots of flashy CGI projectiles and whatnot. Succubus is just another large CGI demon type entity that stomps around firing out these weird tentacle-like projectiles. Not really sure what these tentacle things do to people, not really sure what Succubus is supposed to be doing or why Enchantress even needs him. Together they are somehow building this machine weapon thing to wipe out mankind which just happens to be another CGI beam into the sky with lots of floating debris everywhere, ugh!

Lastly we have Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and a prime example of too many characters in one movie. This Japanese swordswoman is here for no real reason at all. She is supposed to protect Flag but we don’t really see much of that. I’m genuinely unsure why they included this character, guessing more footage of her was cut. This character looks lame with her childish Halloween mask, she isn’t really intimidating, she looks too young, and she merely stands around being mouthy to people whenever she is addressed. Her sword has supernatural powers…but we don’t see any of that so who cares.

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This movie was very very choppy, clearly edited to hell and clearly torn between about four different plots! Task Force X, the Joker’s crime syndicate, the Joker and Quinn’s relationship in flashbacks and lastly the supernatural Enchantress plot; all of which is packed together awkwardly. There is also so much crapola that either doesn’t make sense or is just plain dumb. Waller kills her own staff at one point, why? because they are apparently not cleared for the information they were working on at that point. But, but…why did you use them? Isn’t there some kind of protocol for using the right people for the right cases? Couldn’t you just transfer them to another case or something when you no longer needed them?? Does this mean Waller is now a wanted criminal??? Like what the hell lady! Lastly, Ayer makes the bad guys out to be good guys, he turns them into goodies essentially by making Waller (supposedly a goodie at first) ruthless. But does this spoil these characters for the future?? They aren’t suppose to be good guys, but now they are, hmmm.

On top of that you have nonsense like the Joker supposedly going down in a helicopter crash and somehow surviving. All the special forces bullets never seem to do anything but when Task Force X come along their bullets are lethal. Apparently Harley Quinn can kill the supernatural beings quite easily with a bat when everyone else requires guns. All the special forces guys are killed willy nilly because they are apparently useless, even in body armour, whilst Quinn and co strut around in casual clothes. A simple bomb kills the supernatural superpower? GQ Edwards (Scott Eastwood) allows himself to get blown up, but surely it didn’t have to go down that way? And at the start when the team are suited up, they are all given their regular clothes and weapons.

I get why, because fans wanna see these characters in their original outfits. But plot wise it makes no sense, why would they allow Quinn, Croc, Diablo, Boomerang etc…to dress as they do? Wouldn’t they actually be better protected in the same kind of outfits as the special forces guys? And why the flip would they allow Quinn to use her baseball bat or mallet? Again, how are those objects effective exactly? The only one actually kitted out sensibly is Deadshot.

This movie tries to hard. All too obvious with the soundtrack; I swear you’ve only been watching about 5 minutes and the movies already gone through about half a dozen tracks! I didn’t count but Ayer used a lot of tunes in this movie, Jesus! Literally every scene has a different track slapped over it, some are fine, some are completely out of place (much like the movies overall humour). Half of the characters didn’t need to be there or are simply useless, painfully obvious for some.

Everything simply revolves around Flag, Quinn and Deadshot, mainly Quinn and Deadshot. And that’s only because Quinn is massively popular (possibly because of horny teenage males), and Deadshot is played by Will Smith, so he has to be front and centre, without the mask, which is utterly lame. Yes I realise this is the extended cut I’m reviewing but it matters not. I never saw the theatrical cut but if its apparently worse than this then…shit! Put simply, the movie starts out quite well despite the thick thick narration and onscreen text, but quickly disintegrates into a generic slapped together mess of monolithic proportions.

5/10

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Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1996)

One year later and another straight to video sequel came along once again directed by Bradford May. So bottom line we knew what to expect with this and bottom line I don’t think we were too disappointed. What was kinda disappointing was the opening of this movie which, once again, started with the same recap of the original that we saw in the second movie. To top that, they even appear to actually use some of the same footage from the second movie to kick off this third movies plot, the same footage!

So this time Westlake (Arnold Vosloo again) is still looking to create synthetic skin that won’t disintegrate over time. He is approached by Dr. Bridget Thorne (Darlanne Fluegel) who was apparently one of the original doctors who helped save Westlake’s life in the original plot (supposedly in the original movie, but obviously she wasn’t in that movie). She claims that she wants to help Westlake, but low and behold she’s actually working for corrupt businessman Peter Rooker (Jeff Fahey) who simply wants to unlock Westlake’s gift of super strength for his own devious deeds.

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The start of this movie looks much like a straight to video affair which was to be expected to be truthful. If the second flick was a slightly trashy looking feature then obviously this would be no different. With both sequels directed by May you could be forgiven for thinking he made both one after the other, seeing as they start off in exactly the same way, same credits, same recaps, same Batman-esque soundtrack by Danny Elfman, same overall style etc…So in one sense, both movies are, continuity wise, very neat and tidy. All together the whole trilogy fits together nicely with the same overall visuals and atmosphere.

The actual movie is of course a golden cornucopia of stereotypical action flick cliches, positively brewing over with them. The bad guys are a small bunch of very slick, smartly dressed men with sharp haircuts. Their leader (Jeff Fahey) is a smooth talking son of a gun with a large house, loads of dosh, a hot wife, a kid and an even slicker haircut than his henchmen. His second in command seems to be homosexual but I’m not too sure how that is supposed to figure into the plot, it just seems to be there. What I did find amusing, something that you saw often in dated action flicks, was how the main bad guy lived in a large house, apparently with all his henchmen. Its like…do all these guys live together? Do these henchmen actually have their own places or do they sleep in the spare rooms? In certain scenes you would see these guys just standing around with their boss as he past the time playing his piano or watching TV or whatever. The whole thing just looks so stupid, like is that all they do all day?? Its such a weird trope of dated action flicks.

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As for Fahey’s villain, he’s a slimeball, he treats his kid badly, cheats on his wife (his wife is naive and dumb it seems), and he talks like a gentleman even though he clearly isn’t one. So yeah he’s a good villain, a real grease stain with slick back hair. Darlanne Fluegel also does well as the sexy blonde villainess purely because she’s a sexy blonde villainess, not much more to say there (stereotypical characters). The plot is fine but rather dull, silly in places and repetitive frankly. Naturally Westlake is still looking to create the perfect synthetic skin and naturally he’s gotta fight these bad guys to succeed in getting around to that. Nothing special really, obviously he wins, obviously he doesn’t manage with his ultimate goal leaving the franchise open for more. The action is fine but bland, effects are fine but uneventful except for one large explosion towards the end where I’m sure the stunt guys caught on fire by accident. It looks like the size and timing of the explosion caught them by surprise, but who knows.

This final film does really feel more like a made for TV movie than the other two. That’s not to say its bad, it still carries the Darkman name well and carries on with the seedy, tacky, grim, trashy atmosphere which was started by Raimi originally. The main problem is it doesn’t really offer anything new, nothing fresh is brought to the table here, it feels a bit stale and lacks real bite. Nonetheless it still feels like a solid throwaway comicbook flick, an easy going Saturday night in with a takeaway type flick. As a trilogy the three films altogether are very capable, solid entertainment, with this final film being the weakest, but its still engaging and enjoyable.

5.5/10

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