The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest – Extended Version (2009)

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2016.73: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest – Extended Version (Blu-ray)

So the Millennium Trilogy draws to a close with this the final film. This extended version features about an half-hour of extra footage, so the difference is more akin to that of the first film than the substantial additions to the second one. That said, watching the films in quick succession really benefits this final entry. References are made to characters and events from the two previous films and I must confess that when I first saw this film years ago, it left me rather non-plussed;  not really a fault of the film but as a non-reader of the original books, a lot of it was lost on me having had so much time between movies. Its clearly an advantage to serial-based films such as this when watched as part of a complete boxset.

Having watched the three extended films now, its been something of a surprise to me how prescient some of the themes and fears raised by these films have been. What began in the first film as a dark murder mystery with subversive sexual undertones has by the end become an almost existential crisis of conspiracies and abuse of power, finally undermined by investigative journalism and the efforts of a lone individual outside ‘ordinary’ society. Its also rather a critique of sexual politics, of the abuse of women by men and the rising power of women to fight that abuse. A far cry from that dead/missing girl in that first film (and I do wonder how on earth Hollywood would have approached these last two films).

Indeed I do think the trilogy, especially in its ‘complete’ extended form, is a major piece of work and it’s sad to think it’s probably more valid now than it was even seven years ago.

As with the previous two films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, this film is surprisingly non-conformist in structure and how it tells its story. Tellingly, the two protagonists are again pretty much separated throughout the film, and for what seems most of the film Lisbeth Salander is confined to a hospital bed. By this time of course the characters are pretty well established and this film benefits from the shorthand granted by having two previous films set things up. The film is tense and full of twists and turns, and unfolds the layers of mystery in the same fine fashion as the previous two films did. Its a great, very adult, thriller and a fine conclusion to the series (if it is a conclusion; I heard whispers years ago of further unpublished work by the deceased author Stieg Larsson, but as it never since arose I assume this is it unless some American studio gets away with making a spin-off tv series or some other calamity).

As usual for these films it is the characters that are triumphant, for all the horrors and scandals that the films depict. These are adult characters, life-worn and beaten, victims and villains, heroes and saviours. Integrity and goodness seems to triumph, but is this only because of where the film chooses to end? We have the impression of life moving on, the world rolling onward, and have to wonder how long it will be before there are fresh corporate and political monsters to be uncovered in the shadows.

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The Girl Who Played with Fire – Extended Version (2009)

fire12016.72: The Girl Who Played with Fire- Extended Version (Blu-ray)

Following on from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this film digs more deeply into the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander and her own mysterious past that unfolds here in a similar manner to the murder/incest mystery of the first film, but benefits by being more ‘personal’. Its another great performance from Noomi Rapace that clearly demonstrates how wasted she has been in Western movies since. Again, as with the first film, whatever the merits of the mysteries and crimes that are examined, the real reward here is in the characters and their fascinating arcs.

And with this extended version, there’s simply more of it, indeed a lot more, as I believe this version is close to an hour longer than the theatrical edit originally released over here. There was clearly a lot of material cut that frustrated fans of the book. Interestingly, the two leads, Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, are separated pretty much throughout the film, which is an interesting if non-traditional dynamic that is rather at odds with how film dramas are usually constructed. They approach the central mystery from opposite points of view, and both investigations unfold seperate from the other and nonetheless inform each other from the audience point of view.

General opinion ranks this film significantly lesser than the first film, but I rather liked it, particularly in this ‘fuller’ version that somehow made more sense and is richer for the additional details. I thought in the first film the central mystery was almost incidental to the more interesting character dynamics, and with this story more closely concerned with Salander and her mysterious past, this mystery feels more rewarding and intimate.

Watching the films over successive days also helps keep the various arcs and plot threads fresh in your head too, so I certainly got more from this film than did when I first saw it several years ago (and months after the first film). The reveals regards Salander’s tortured past informs events and actions in the first film too. So yes, it’s a very interesting central film in the trilogy, and greatly improved by the extended running time.

Searching for Paradise in No Mans Sky

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So I’m searching for Paradise, the Perfect World. I haven’t found it yet.

No Man’s Sky has received much criticism since its release. Certainly some of it seems deserved but I myself have thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. As someone who grew up in the early ‘eighties playing the original Elite, enthralled by its wire-frame graphics, No Mans Sky is the fantastic realisation of the impossible game I dreamed of one day playing. Young gamers today seem to expect more- more focused gameplay, more goals, more complexity; as if they need being told what to do, where to go. Just travelling around enjoying the view isn’t enough for them. They need a purpose.

 

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Sometimes the journey is the thing. Or the incredible alien skyline that just has me caught trance-like for minutes at a time, leaving me cautious of moving on. Its daft- it’s a computer fantasy, a videogame fabrication, but sometimes I just stop and take in the view. Sometimes I’ve been ‘walking’ on an alien world, just wandering around and enjoying the vistas and the sounds and I’ve been reluctant to leave. As if it were a real place.

Mostly this because you can never really ever go back to it. When you leave a world behind you, you can’t really go back (or at least, it would be incredibly hard to find it again). Impossible alien worlds, procedurally generated in such a way that, while some may seem similar, all are really quite unique. Maybe nobody else in the world playing NMS has seen the things I have,  and the sights once left behind are lost forever. So I save screen-captures like these here, like postcards of my fantastic journey.And then I move on. There’s always another world, another incredible sky.

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So yeah, these are some of my postcards from my journey. Postcards from The Future. From cosmic realms in reality forbidden me by where I am, and the epoch I am living in. Maybe one day humans will be able to explore the deepest reaches of space and see the sights that I can only dream of. This is the nearest I will ever get, other than watching some Hollywood space epic. Of course NMS is inspired by the sci-fi art of 1950s/1970s sci-fi paperback covers, its images full of impossibly saturated colours and fanciful alien creatures and spaceships and outposts. Things I dreamed of when I was a kid. The real thing won’t look like this stuff, but it’s no less valid for that.

 

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As for all those  frustrated gamers who have dropped this game like a stone.  Well, it’s clearly not the game they were hoping for (or hyped up to be). Whats wrong with just exploring, just enjoying the view? Imagine if someone did this kind of game set in the Star Wars universe, just so you could fly around and ‘look’ at Bespin, Yavin etc. Just explore around, not having to do anything (I did that with the Nostromo bonus pack in the Alien: Isolation game; I just walked around those rooms and corridors, swept up in the feeling of being ‘inside’ that virtual space so familiar from the film).

I guess many gamers would argue that wouldn’t be a ‘game’ at all, without having anything to do. I suppose they are right but to me just looking is the doing, just seeing something new. Of course some worlds are more interesting and visually rewarding than others. Its surprising how even the most strange vision could be mundane compared to others.

No Man's Sky_20160903105505.jpgSo I expect I’m one of the few who are playing the game just for the experience of it (if you are to believe the internet, I’m one of the few actually still playing it at all, if the stats are to be believed). I’m not racing to the galactic core or grinding for cash to buy a bigger spaceship. I’m just travelling around, looking for the Perfect World. I don’t know what it will look like, but I think I will know it when I’ve found it. It may not be the end of my journey, but it will be so visually arresting that I may well spend a few days or weeks just walking around it, or flying around it.

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So I’m searching for Paradise, the Perfect World. I haven’t found it yet.Maybe I never will. But it’s fun looking. And if I do find it, well, it’ll be posted here.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Extended Version (2009)

drag22016.71: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Extended Version  (Blu-Ray)

Packaged as part of the Millennium trilogy box, this is the first part of the trilogy and the only one of the books/films currently to have been (ill-advisedly) remade in the West. As I haven’t read the books, and having seen the theatrical cut some years ago now,  I couldn’t tell you what the real differences are between that edition and this extended one, other than note something like thirty minutes additional running time. Its just been too long since I saw that original edition. Some scenes certainly seemed new to me but I couldn’t be sure- at any rate the film doesn’t at all drag even with that extra half-hour so that should be some indication to how well implemented the extra scenes are and how integral they are to the plot. Of course, part of my confusion no doubt results from memories of David Fincher’s later remake; there are two previous versions floating dimly in my memory with different casts and locations, a uniquely confusing situation. Indeed, watching this extended original has me rather keen to revisit that Fincher version to compare the two.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on the bestselling novel by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, the first of three books (and now films) in the “Millennium Trilogy”. Larsson was a journalist who turned to novelizations late in his career,and who died from a heart attack at the relatively young age of 50, adding a certain mystique to the author and the books, which became something of a publishing phenomenon.  Screen versions were inevitable, but it was rather fitting that before Hollywood came calling the Swedes got to make their own version, pretty much filmed in the same locations as the book was set. With a native cast and language, the films were pretty much definitive and faithful, particularly in their full, extended versions as presented here.

rag1Some years having now passed since those heady days of publishing-world hysterics when everyone was reading the books or watching the theatrical editions of the film versions, its easier to evaluate the achievement here. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fine, taut thriller with a compelling mystery and great central characters, and surprisingly dark for a mainstream piece. Indeed, it’s the characters that are the most rewarding here, making for rather unusual protagonists- a middle-aged journalist and an introverted, antisocial 24-year old computer hacker.The investigation is almost incidental; the plot is clearly servicing the characters and their dynamics, setting things up for the later books/films, so in some ways it’s actually difficult to judge this film as a seperate entity.  Inevitably that lends this version an advantage over the Fincher remake that failed to get its own sequels. That one perhaps stands forever isolated, while this one leads to The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, two films filmed back to back soon after the first (all three made over a year-long period).

At any rate, this is an extended version that does seem to add to the original edit and it certainly doesn’t suffer from a slower pace or dragging scenes/superfluous nonsense that some extended cuts suffer from. It all works so well you rather wonder how they managed to edit things down for the theatrical cut, or indeed what was cut at all. So yes, this does seem to be the superior version, and is thoroughly enjoyable (albeit it remains a rather disturbing slice of humanity, so maybe ‘enjoyable’ isn’t really the right word).

The Bridge- Season One (2011)

bridge-season-one2016.70: The Bridge: Season One (Blu-ray)

The Bridge (or Broen/Bron in its original language/s) is a Scandinavian crime thriller set primarily in Malmo and Copenhagen, using the titular Oresund Bridge connecting those two cities and respective countries as a major setting/plot device and thematic core. When a dead body is discovered at the exact mid-point of the bridge, two officers from the two seperate departments either side of the bridge,  Saga Norén from Sweden, and Martin Rohde from Denmark, lead an investigation into an increasingly complicated and insidious series of related murders and stunts.

The Bridge was recommended to me a few years ago, as I had greatly enjoyed The Killing. As I’d unfortunately missed the first episodes that had been aired, I didn’t see the series on its original screening here in the UK in 2012-instead I later bought the Blu-ray set when I noticed it in a sale on Amazon and… well, it gathered dust on the shelf ever since. Like so many others.

Still, if nothing else, 2016 is the year I’ve consciously started wearing down the ‘to-watch’ pile whilst endeavouring to not be adding to that pile (regular readers will have noticed most of my reviews these days are via streaming rather than newly-bought discs). So anyway, the nights are starting to draw in, and it seemed the perfect time to see what all the fuss was about.

The Bridge is certainly a well-made and effective thriller. I watched the ten episodes comprising this first series in just a few days, caught in the drama and mystery and the -just-one-more-episode-before-bed trap that binge watching tends to force on us (the freedom of watching a show when we want being just another trap when the next episode is just a few seconds away).

The problem with The Bridge is the crime thriller equivalent of CGI in films: the theory that bigger/more= better. It’s the tendency to over-complicate things and sensationalise what would otherwise be a conventional procedural thriller. Maybe its a post-Seven thing (the shadow of that film hanging large over this show and so many like it). On the whole it’s a great, tense and effective series, but it suffers from just going too big and stretching credulity. These things never feature realistic villains/criminals; these guys are super-intelligent, devious perfectionists that befuddle our heroic cops with monstrously intricate and fiendish crimes. Towards the end of this first season, when the identity and modus operandi of the villain is finally revealed, it feels a bit of a cheat. Its just too neat. Even when the cops are on the right track, the face of the guy they are hunting is the wrong one because, well, he’s had an incredibly successful plastic surgery that has left him looking like someone else entirely, stretching the hunt for a few more episodes.

Most annoyingly, something goes wrong with the passage of time over the last episode or two, with the last victim hidden (and eventually perishing) in a manner wholly unconvincing. Buried alive in a coffin, the victim dies of dehydration/starvation as if over a space of weeks, but it appears only hours have gone by. When the cops reach the murder scene, they don’t notice a false wall in a garage that would have been built and painted only within the last day or so; there is no dirt, masonry dust or smell of wet paint which should have been dead giveaways (sic). The wall that the victim is hidden behind looks to have been there for years, not weeks (let alone hours or days).

bridge2What saves The Bridge though is its leading characters. Saga (played by Sofia Helin) is a fascinating, dysfunctional character who is a very effective detective (if single-minded to a fault). Slowly over the course of the series we start to see what makes her tick and whilst she’s never exactly warm and perfectly likeable, she is none the less a compelling character. Sort of a female Vulcan, I guess and inevitably as enchanting to male viewers as Spock was to female viewers in the ‘sixties, although she does turn to sex (if only for stress relief). Her partner, Martin, is played by Kim Bodnia, who is a perfect foil for Helin. Martin is warm and open and mischevious, quite the opposite of Saga, which makes for a great professional chemistry (there is never the hint of any romance, thank goodness) and genuine humour. They make a great team and lift the show above its few pitfalls- indeed the irony of this show is that it doesn’t need such a devious and horrific series of crimes; the two of them are enough and the crime mystery could have been quite mundane, the show wouldn’t have suffered for it.

So anyway, although I was abit disappointed by how the show concluded, I did rather enjoy it and look forward to (eventually) getting around to the show’s second series (three have been made with a fourth and final series mooted). What I’m looking forward to is more of the central characters, rather than another convoluted mystery thriller. It remains to be seen what series two shapes up to be though.

 

 

Vangelis- Rosetta

rose1A new Vangelis album. Wow. Over the last few decades this has become a very rare occurrence compared to the good old days of the 1970s/early 1980s, Vangelis almost semi-retired now, it seems.  So new releases are a big event to be savoured.

Rosetta is something of a curio in that it’s his first original album -as opposed to albums based on soundtrack work- to be released since Mythodea in 2001, and it is also a return to ‘proper’ old-style electronica soundscapes not heard since, oh, probably Oceanic in 1996 (Vangelis has veered towards classical-oriented or orchestral-sounding synth compositions for some time now).

Not that you can really ignore the feeling of soundtrack music here, as it is sort of the soundtrack to a film that exists in Vangelis’ head, being an album that tells the story of the ESA Rosetta mission to the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (three pieces were used a few years ago by the ESA to publicise the mission and accompany videos on Youtube). So while they are indeed original pieces, it all sounds rather like a soundtrack as opposed to the music Vangelis would have assembled for an album back in his Nemo years.

Its a lovely album with some genuine highlights- having heard it a few times now, I can say the first half of the album is excellent, some of it sounding genuinely fresh and exciting after so many years of Vangelis’ music sounding all of the same ‘soundscape’. Its nice to be surprised by a Vangelis release, and the fourth track ‘Exo Genesis’ is instantly recognisable as genuinely great Vangelis music. So while I miss the wild abandon and experimentation of his Nemo years, and the sophistication that was so incredible in every track of his Direct album, Rosetta seems a pretty solid release.

However, there is always that weight of expectation from there being so few releases these days, something Rosetta cannot really live up to. If Vangelis was releasing albums on an annual basis like in his early days, Rosetta would be a pretty good entry, but as it is it just feels a little ‘light’. I raised that comparison to Direct for a reason- Direct is a phenomenal piece of work, spanning all sorts of musical tastes and genres, richly dynamic and varied; Rosetta is something else entirely. It all sounds very ‘spacey’ and fairly ambient, and all the tracks link together well because they all seem cut from the same cloth, so to speak. So there isn’t as much variation as I would like, and the album seems over before it really seems to ‘ignite’.

So, isolated highlights aside, Rosetta is a ‘good’ Vangelis  album while not a ‘great’ one. And I really wish Vangelis would either release some of the piles of stuff in his infamous vault or perhaps bring out more new stuff on a regular basis, because there is something a little sad about isolated releases like Rosetta after the heady days of earlier years. I’m not expecting every release to be his veritable ‘masterpiece’, and in truth after all those great albums like China and Soil Festivities and Direct and El Greco, the Greek maestro owes us nothing. Rosetta feels like a fragile jewel, and is endearing if only for that, but I know Vangelis can do more. Either he doesn’t feel he has anything to prove or doesn’t feel he even has to release his music anymore, but I find it frustrating, have done for years. Which is distracting from the music in Rosetta.

Still, Rosetta is a good album, and I realise it’s not really fair commentary on that album that I’m pining for the good old Nemo days when Vangelis was banging on his drums and bells and all manner of percussion instruments like some madman. Nemo is done and gone. But I miss it. I miss that old Vangelis. But I guess Rosetta will do.

Killing Them Softly (2012)

k12016.69: Killing Them Softly (Film Four HD)

There’s a relentless melancholy running throughout Killing Them Softly that I can only assume comes from director Andrew Dominik, who previously directed the brilliant The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, one of my favourite films of the last twenty years, with which it shares a similar sense of doom and finality. Curiously Killing Them Softly also alludes to the financial crisis spotlighted in The Big Short which I watched a few weeks ago- everybody, it seems, is suffering hard times, even the  mobsters and organised crime. There is a running commentary in the background concerning the financial crisis, the fracturing code of conduct of crime bosses being compared to the fracturing code of conduct of financial bosses and the political elite. Juxtaposed with the urban decay of the streets of America (and in this film the locations are as much a character as any actor), there is a feel of the End Of Times, of things falling apart. Things just ain’t what they used to be and never will be.

After two small-time criminals hired by an aggrieved crime boss/crooked business man to hit the popular (albeit illegal) card game of mafia man Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), killer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is called in to track down the two criminals and the rogue boss who hired them, bringing stability and the crime-world’s particular sense of justice into play. Jackie discovers he knows one of the three targets and prefers a distant, businesslike approach compared to anything as personal as ‘offing’ someone you know, so hires in a fellow gun for hire, Mickey (James Gandolfini) to assist him. Unfortunately when Mickey turns up, Jackie realises Mickey is all washed-up and worn out by his own troubles, and gets distracted looking after him before Jackie is forced to finish the contract alone after all. Trattman, though a genuinely innocent victim this time, has previous form regards his card games getting ‘hit’, as he engineered one some years ago to get out of money trouble and later admitted to it when drunk. Lightning having struck twice, Trattman joins Jackies’ hitlist. You’ve got to have standards, after all.

Killing Them Softly is an indie film posing as a Tarantino flick- there’s nothing wrong with that, but the film may suffer from viewers expecting the Goodfellas-cum-Pulp Fiction that the trailer promises and finding out its something else. Maybe that’s a problem the marketing boys have to answer for? The casting of heavyweights like Pitt and Gandolfini probably doesn’t help regards that, but they are very, very good. Pitt brings his screen persona and shadow of past roles to inform the larger-than-life  rep that Jackie carries around with him as an infamous enforcer. Gandolfini has a roguish swagger to the troubled soul of end-of-the-line Mickey (Gandolfini is so good he almost steals the movie in this, one of his last roles, a poignant reminder of what we lost with his untimely passing).

k2Carefully, the film refuses to paint these bad guys as heroes, counter to what the casting would suggest. They are villains, bad people- Pitt has an air of calm authority, of almost respectability, and is rather disarmingly likeable until the film suddenly switches to brutal violence and he reminds us he really isn’t a nice guy at all. It rather makes the violence in the film quite shocking and very effective.

The film is really more a good character piece than mafia thriller, a story of people having very little real control of their lives and seeing what little control they did have slipping through their fingers. It’s a broken world, and the center cannot hold- yes it’s a dark modern film noir and eerily effective as such.I really quite liked it.

 

Portmeirion, Sept 2016

p1040635Took a few days break last week, and visited Portmeirion for the first time, something I’ve been intending to do for years. Portmeirion, of course, is where they shot the tv series The Prisoner, fifty years ago to this very month. It’s quite a surreal place anyway, but even more so when you recognise locations used in the tv show and get a sense of the ‘true’ geography compared to that engineered by the tv show and particularly its editors (the taxi tour given to Patrick McGoohan in the first episode has it going one way, then returning back along the very same pathway although it is inferred to be someplace else entirely). It was quite odd seeing places I’ve seen in the tv show in the flesh, so to speak- I’m sure it will be just as odd re-watching the show next time, too.

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It was so very strange walking those streets thinking it had a tv crew shooting the show there fifty years ago (there is some fantastic silent Super-8 footage filmed by tourists during the filming that can be found on the Blu-ray set). Fifty years though- I suppose most of the people on that set would never have imagined the impact and long life that The Prisoner would have. Many years have passed and most of the people on that set are naturally long gone, such as McGoohan himself, but that tv show and their work remains as vibrant and strange and infuriating as ever.

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The series wouldn’t actually air until the September of the following year, a reminder of the long gestation such ambitious shows had back then  For a sobering comparison,  over in the States, the first series of Star Trek was being shot and aired in the very same year as The Prisoner was being filmed, each episode mere months between shooting and broadcast, some feat considering the pre- and post-production complexities of that show. I’m currently reading Marc Cushman’s excellent These Are The Voyages books about the making of Star Trek, which are giving me a better appreciation of the achievements (and brutality) of making that iconic series fifty years ago. I don’t think we Brits were set-up for that ruthless kind of scale of production; I recall filming on Space: 1999 commenced in 1973 and it wasn’t aired until late 1975.

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The Prisoner remains one of the most important, and iconic, tv shows created here in the UK, and certainly is as timely and thought-provoking now as it ever was. Portmeirion of course has a life utterly seperate from that tv show, and a history stretching back decades before and after The Prisoner filmed many of its exteriors there. But post-The Prisoner, visitors familiar with the show will always have a curious sense of walking through a film set. Anyway, here’s a few shots I took of the place and some of the iconic landmarks from the show. Be seeing you.

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Max Goes To Hollywood

thunderdome1Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) (Amazon VOD)

Okay, the title may be a bit misleading, as Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was made in Australia and is an Australian production, but back in 1985 when I saw this at the pictures it felt like a blatant sellout. I mean, Tina Turner playing Max’s nemesis? Two of Tina Turner’s songs bookending the film? The violence curtailed to make Max more mainstream? All those bloody kids?

Rewatching the film after so many years, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s a better film than I gave it credit for, although it’s clearly inferior to the two films that precede it. It still feels a bit too calculatedly mainstream for my liking, but the relentless pace of the film and its quirky sense of humour are definite signs of it being a ‘proper’ Mad Max film. Its funny watching it post-Fury Road too;  you can see several similarities in the plot of both films, and both naturally of The Road Warrior too.

Its funny how the success of Thunderdome didn’t immediately lead to further Mad Max films, nowadays they would never let a film like Thunderdome go by without launching a trilogy of films after it. They waited 30 years for the next one? Thats mad.

Did Watchmen almost destroy the DC Superhero movie?

bvs22016.68: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Cut (Blu-Ray)

The shadow of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen looms large over BvS, right from the very beginning, with a portentous/pretentious (delete as applicable) flashback to the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. In slow motion it looks and feels like a continuation of Watchmen -it even features the Comedian playing Bruce Wayne’s father. Watchmen is one of my favourite films, particularly of the Superhero genre, mostly because, whatever its faults, it remains true to its source and consequently has the internal logic that Alan Moore laboured over. But the central problem of BvS is Snyder still thinks he’s making Watchmen, resulting in a film that isn’t true to its source material (whether it be Batman comics, Superman comics, or Frank Millers Dark Knight Returns which is, crucially, wholly seperate from any Batman continuity I’m aware of, something many fans forget). Sometimes BvS feels more like Watchmen 2 than the Man of Steel 2 it should have really been.

Perhaps it was a reaction to criticism of Man of Steel, and Snyder falling back to what he ‘knows’. He obviously felt that the solution was to adopt the Watchmen method of treating the Superhero genre. The whole point of Watchmen was to put superhero archetypes in a real-world situation and analysing their impact and ironic tropes. But that’s not really the ‘point’ of the Batman strip or the Superman strip. They are ‘just’ superheroes. There’s this weird dichotomy of a crazy billionaire dressed up as a bat beating up what he perceives to be people who deserve it, a centrally daft premise, and trying to validate that as a real-world response to real-world problems. Nowhere is this more infuriating than with the constant agonising that is the film’s treatment of Superman, something extended from the previous Man of Steel. It’s clear to me that Snyder is confusing Superman with Dr Manhattan, which is misguided in the extreme.

bvs3Note the similarity to the scene of the Vietnamese surrendering to Dr Manhattan in Watchmen (bowing to him as if acknowledging his Godlike status) to scenes of people reaching upwards to Superman as if again, surrendering to his Messianic, Godlike status. In just the same way as an untrusting public scared of his Godlike powers turned upon Dr Manhattan, so people turn against Superman in BvS. Its far removed from the treatment of the character in Superman: The Movie, in which he is simply accepted as a ‘good’ guy in whom everyone can believe in to do the ‘right thing’. Okay, that might be simplistic in our modern cynical world, but that’s Superman, and over-analysing and agonising over his place in our real-world is what Watchmen was about in creating Dr Manhattan. This is supposed to be a Superman movie, not a Watchmen movie, and psycho-analysing superheroes just backs you into the Dark Knight corner and ultimately gets you nowhere.

Instead of the Caped Detective, this film’s Batman is a rogue vigilante, a younger variant of the DKR version and more Watchmen‘s Comedian than is really necessary (is there indeed something deliberate about the Comedian playing Bruce Wayne’s father in the prologue?). The Comedian revelled in the chaos of the world and saw all the greed and depravity and crime as the natural way of things in a cold universe with humanity lacking any decency. Batman in BvS follows this direction, even branding villains and killing when necessary, in his almost perverse version of justice, traumatised by earlier events involving (it is inferred, at least) the death of Robin. The central difference is that the Comedian laughed and smiled about it, seeing the irony of costumed heroes only making things worse, while Batman just frowns harder at his inability to ‘cure’ Gotham of the blight of crime over the course of decades of effort and whose only response is to, well, just try harder.

In the end, the looming shadow of Watchmen just confuses BvS and paralyses it. It wants to be dark and serious and Watchmen-like, but also wants to be a Marvel movie and launch a DC-Universe version of the Marvel Studios output. It wants to be a Batman movie, adapting DKR, but it also wants to be a Man of Steel sequel. It wants to be a Batman/Superman hybrid movie, but it also wants to be a Justice league prequel. It wants to be everything for everyone, and pretty much fails to be anything at all.

bvs1The last hope of DC fans and in particular fans of BvS was its Ultimate Cut. Of course its impossible for thirty minutes additional footage to save such an already troubled picture. Surprisingly, the additional thirty minutes do actually improve on some of the internal logic failings of the theatrical cut, and fix some glaring inconsistencies and plot holes. But you know, I think you could put those thirty minutes in and take another sixty minutes out and you’d have a better picture. As it is, it’s way too long and slow and contains too much redundant stuff.

The Apocalyptic dream-sequence adds nothing to the film. It may look visually interesting and feature another action sequence (if only to spice-up the pace of a flagging film), but it adds absolutely nothing to the film at all. Neither do the shots of a future-Flash shouting an enigmatic message about saving Lois Lane. Its almost like an intermission; BvS stops to show a scene from some other movie and then we’re back to BvS.  Indeed, it’s not even as if Bruce Wayne/Batman considers the dream or comments on it- not even “I just had the damndest dream” to Alfred, or a “I think I somehow just saw a vision of the future.” It isn’t referenced in the film at all. It happens and then it’s gone. Its adds nothing at all, utterly redundant, only functioning to confuse the audience, as if a trailer for BvS Part Three was edited into the film by mistake or an angry editor with a score to settle against Snyder. It really didn’t need be there at all. Its bad storytelling, it’s bad movie -making. Its just some nod to the geeks who know the original comic storyline and tease the larger DC Universe, but as far as making a decent movie, it’s a glaring error.

If you’re making a film about Batman and Superman, and calling it Batman v Superman, then thats your story. Everything should serve that story and that story should be your focus. If there is some elaborate scheme to orchestrate that face-off then establish that and see it out, and have that face-off be your big pay-off, your big finale. Don’t drop in a late cameo of Zod’s corpse turning into Doomsday just to excuse the appearance of Wonder Woman as an advert/tease for her own movie. For one thing, the logic is total bullshit- if Lex Luthor created Doomsday to kill Superman, and that scheme succeeded, then who’s going to kill Doomsday if Superman is dead? Doomsday is hardly going to be an obedient lackey for a despotic Luthor. I can imagine Doomsday killing Superman then turning on everyone else and Luthor thinking “whoops”as Doomsday lives up to his name and nukes the planet. I thought Luthor was a genius?

BvS isn’t about making a decent movie. It isn’t even really trying to be a decent movie, because if it was, it’d be about an hour shorter with a more focused story, As it is, it is just one long confusing tease for Wonder Woman/Man of Steel 2/ Batman/Justice League and all the other films Warner/DC are intent on making. It is a cynical and calculated attempt to sell a raft of further movies instead of making one decent or even great movie. Thats a betrayal of the fans and the movie audience in general, but sadly symptomatic of how films are made these days.