Tuesday, 18 June 2013

World War Z Review: Will you survive the zombie apocalypse?

Zombies are, quite ironically actually, everywhere these days. Whether it’s on TV with The Walking Dead, the British series In the Flesh or the cast of any reality TV show, they have taken over the airwaves in a lot of people’s lives. They have also made decent work of the movie theaters as well. With films like 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later, the Resident Evil series that just doesn’t seem to want to die, or spoofs like Shawn of the Dead and Zombie Strippers (yes, that movie actually exists, look it up). It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is slow zombies or fast zombies or zombies who dance on a stripper pole, people seem to like them despite ongoing talk of the coming zombie apocalypse.

Just as with vampires and werewolves and other supernatural creators of myth, zombies have their own mythology attached to them. Generally with zombies it’s that things in society have gotten out of hand and we need to rebuild what we are currently living in. So in that way, World War Z is just like any other zombie apocalypse story, things fall apart rather suddenly on a monumental scale and we get to watch it happen. What is different about World War Z is that it takes a really interesting approach to how things fall apart.

In following Brad Pitt’s character of Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. investigator, we get to see how a security conscious world deals with the tragic circumstances they find themselves in. The presumption of most zombie apocalypse movies is that everything goes under, every country in the world loses their governments and the entire system we have set up is destroyed. World War Z asks if that would actually happen. If a government is on constant alert for terrorist attacks and threats from foreign governments, would they actually be left unprepared for the zombie apocalypse?

As a result, World War Z is very different from traditional zombie movies. Just as I said in my review of Man of Steel however, that may not be something that people enjoy. It means that a lot of the things that long time zombie fans like about watching the zombie apocalypse don’t necessarily happen. If you are such a person, you may be left wanting by World War Z. You get some of what you want but not everything. Still, for a movie that so many people were nervous about given how much bad press it got for reshooting half of the movie and other problems, it works really well.

I enjoyed the movie and I am not traditionally a fan of zombie movies. It worked well and while some elements weren’t explored as much as I would have wanted them to like the relationship of Gerry Lane to his family, I still think it’s a movie worth seeing. They also made good use of 3D which many recent movies haven’t because they have been conversions. This is a movie that you might actually want to see in 3D.

Will you survive the zombie apocalypse? Maybe, but you will definitely survive a screening of World War Z and come away thinking it is a great experience.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Man of Steel Review: Is Superman still relevant?

Superman is a difficult character to crack, story wise. There isn't a person on the planet over a certain age who hasn't heard or seen some version of it at some point in their lives. Even if they aren't superhero fans, you can say the word Superman and most people know exactly who he is. Making him new and interesting then is nearly impossible. People have done it with vary degrees of success over the years, but the character always manages to gain new fans of some kind with each new incarnation.

More recently, his relevance has been called into question as many of his main stay stories and motives become less and less embraced by the general public. Finding a way to deal with them has become a benchmark of his writers in recent years. He is an indestructible, God-like figure that stands above us. Why is Lois Lane such an idiot, I mean, a pair of glasses, really? There is no real sense of danger because he never has a villain powerful enough to hurt him.

Thankfully, all of these issues are addressed in Man of Steel. He doesn't stand above humanity, he stands with it. People don't stand around waiting for him to save them. Lois Lane is intelligent and compassionate. Superman gets to let loose against an enemy that can give him a run for his money. All this and more is in a movie that portrays a truly modern take on the Man of Steel.

This is not to say that it is a perfect film. A lot of what gets "fixed" in Man of Steel are things that long time fans of the character will miss and complain about. Some of the elements that are great about the telling of his origin story get glossed over rather than explored in depth. There is very little exposition in the movie and what there is often gets woven into the main story, which can either hurt or help depending on how you approach it.

Ultimately though, I think that the character has truly been brought into the 21st century and it is about damn time. Man of Steel is an honest portrayal of the Superman mythose that proves his relevance to a new generation. Those that are concerned about Christopher Nolan's influence making Man of Steel a dark and gritty version have nothing to fear. As he said in some interviews early on, Superman is not Batman, dark and gritty doesn't work for a character who is supposed to be a symbol of hope.

It absolutely shows that Nolan took a hands off approach to Superman and let Zack Snyder, a man known for his visual effects mastery, take the lead the way a good director should. It is a bright, colorul film which is exactly what it needed to be. That being said, maybe it was seeing it in 3D but the color tones seemed a little to gray for my tastes. Contrast is a good thing people.

Also, be on the look out for what might be an easter egg for the sequel that is already rumored to be in the works. I won't spoil it for you, but if anything were a sign that might be it. It's extremely subtle and it is not in the end credits so you don't have to sit through them like you do during a Marvel film.

Henry Cavill is fantastic as Superman/Clark Kent. Amy Adams gives Lois Lane a sense of depth and honesty to her that makes her more than just Superman's love interest. Laurence Fishburne plays the role of a real editor of a newspaper today which in the story, much like modern day, is not an overpowering force in driving the plot forward. Michael Shannon has finally put Terence Stamp's portrayal of Zod to rest, much like Russell Crowe has with Marlon Brando's Jor-El. I think the cast has finally given us a reason to stop looking back to the 1970s to find a Superman story worth admiring, and a very good reason to start looking forward to the sequel or anything else DC Comics might have up their sleeve.

Is the Man of Steel still relevant? Absolutely, and he has finally joined the rest of the superhero genre in the sun.