Tag Archives: film 2012

Silent Hill: Revelation – A Review

31 Oct

The first Silent Hill is an underrated gem. Lumped in with the rest of the video game adaptations, it is instead an incredibly effective horror film. Visually stunning, with some good performances, Silent Hill had two big strengths: it created a terrifying atmosphere, and it refused to treat its target demographic like idiots.

Silent Hill: Revelation cannot quite live up to the promise of its predecessor. It continues the story several years down the line, with Heather (played by Adelaide Clemens) near eighteen years of age and living with her father, Harry (Sean Bean). She is being plagued by horrible dreams of a town called Silent Hill. She knows nothing of her real past, and the events of the first film. Unfortunately for her, the town itself is coming to take her back.

From the off, it seems as though the filmmakers were concerned with how ‘hard’ to decipher the original film was. The entire movie, in particular the first half hour, is full of expositional dialogue. The back story from the first film is clumsily explained through a series of clunky scenes, and even Heather’s immediate situation (being near-18 and going for her first day at school) is awkwardly explained in an early bit of dialogue with Harry.

There is, quite frankly, too much speech and not enough done with it. It is used to make the plot that much easier to understand – from discussing the history of the town of Silent Hill, to Heather’s origins, and even the mysteries of Silent Hill’s sect, the Order of Valtiel. Characters spend so much time explaining what is going on that there is no real chemistry between them. You do not feel Harry’s yearning for his lost wife, or the growing relationship between Heather and Vincent (played by Kit Harington, better known as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones).

An even worse problem is created, though: the characters do not appear all that phased by what they see. Whether it’s a sword-armed demon, the walls rotting around them, or a fairground made out of human remains, the characters barely react. Then, with each further moment of expositional dialogue, tension and fear are eradicated. It has to be said, though, that this is not a bad movie.

Silent Hill: Revelation does saunter along, disappointing, for about half of its run time. But, the moment Heather actually enters the town of Silent Hill, that all changes. Instead of the fleeting and relatively safe settings of the first half – a high school, a shopping mall, a motel – the atmosphere of Silent Hill is immediately oppressive.

The film, at that point, hits strong with a succession of fantastic horror set pieces. A twisted version of a mannequin warehouse gives us the most terrifying part of the film, and the fear continues well into Silent Hill’s mental asylum and dark carnival. The original visuals, such a triumph of the first film, come back to the fore to great success. A dangerous world of rust and decay, constantly shifting, is created. Not only that, but the monster designs are fantastic as well. Falling somewhere between David Lynch and Hellraiser, they are the kind of body-horror monstrosities that will slowly seep into your nightmares.

Given all of these stylistic positives – the art style, the monster design, and the sets –it seems a little strange that a decision was made to make it in 3D. Although there are moments where the 3D works quite well (during the snow storms and fairground scenes, for instance), there are large portions of Silent Hill: Revelation where it feels out of place. It takes away from the unique feel that the film has, and makes it feel a hell of a lot cheaper than the first Silent Hill. It also suffers from the usual problem with dark 3D movies – it is sometimes very hard to work out exactly what is going on.

Silent Hill: Revelation, unfortunately, doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Although the film is sometimes stunning – and terrifying – to look at, and although it contains some genuinely scary moments, it feels a little like a wasted opportunity. It falls down in the same places that the first one was strong: an unnecessary desire to explain every detail. It is good for a video game adaptation, but really that’s just a case of damning with faint praise.

In Defence of Disney’s Lucasfilm Buyout

31 Oct

By now I am sure you’ve heard the news about Disney’s spectacular Lucasfilm acquisition. Immediately after it broke, the internet was exploding with rage. One of the phrases banded about online was “this is the death of Star Wars”.

Is it really, though? This post is an attempt to give a rational, reasoned and positive argument about the takeover. I am cautiously optimistic about Star Wars: Episode VII. I am not saying that it will be a fantastic movie. It may well still end up being terrible. There are, however, reasons to be positive.

First, let’s look at Disney’s recent films. We all know their long-term history of consistently making absolutely fantastic movies. But in the last decade, there have been a number of more action-focused live-action features. We’ve had the Pirates of the Caribbean series, National Treasure, Tron: Legacy, and of course The Avengers.

“What’s that?” “Oh, it looks like another Disney buyout. Brace yourself.”

Marvel’s flagship is the main reason to be optimistic. Disney knows how to treat a franchise with a rabid fanbase. With The Avengers, they were careful not to deviate too far from the canon. They made not only one of the biggest films of this summer, but a film that achieved general acceptance from the original fanbase.

It’s more than just The Avengers, though. Disney has, over the years, shown that they are not afraid to broach adult subject matter in their films. Of course you have the subtleties of the Pixar animations – Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Brave for instance – but even the more ‘meat-headed’ films in their catalogue sometimes move into darker territory. Tron: Legacy appears at first to be nothing more than a neon-coloured thrill-fest, until you realise that the story of the film revolves around the genocide of an entire race.

Merciless slaughter goes well with a techno beat and day-glo onesies.

Speaking briefly of Pixar, they’ve managed to create some brilliant films over the years. One in particular to point out is The Incredibles. Personally, I feel it’s one of the best superhero movies of all time, quite amazing considering that it is an animated children’s film. What is interesting is the way that Disney treats Pixar – and Marvel, for that matter. Pixar have been able to keep their own unique feel, in spite of being taken over. Disney knows that the best way to make money is to create excellent movies. Even John Carter, a huge box-office bomb, was not a bad film – it just happened to do poorly, be it because of a failure to reach a target demographic or simply hitting the market at the wrong time.

Having a consistently good end product is not something that can be said about Lucasfilm, however. Let’s face it: the Star Wars prequels are bad movies. There were strange changes made to the overall feel of the franchise, there was bizarre cinematography in every film, and awkward character tie-ins to the previous trilogy throughout. That’s without even getting into the awful acting and terrible scripts.

The rest of the original Star Wars content is not much better. The Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series was passable, but the following CGI series and feature film were sub-par. The upcoming series Star Wars Detours looks absolutely abysmal. There hasn’t been a decent Star Wars videogame since the end of the Jedi Outcast trilogy.

After being forced to do a dance routine, Han was happy to be encased in carbonite.

At least all of the above was original content. Star Wars fans have, alongside new releases, also been subject to constant re-releases of the original trilogy. Each and every time, these ‘remastered editions’ shift more and more from the first three Star Wars films, chopping and changing one of the most loved film series of all time.

So, I’ll be blunt. What exactly can Disney do to make the Star Wars franchise plunge to new depths? Will they add annoying, furry creatures? They’ve been with Star Wars since Return of the Jedi. How about unnecessary CGI that adds nothing to the films? Say hello to Jar Jar Binks and the remastered editions of the original trilogy. Wooden acting and bad scripts? Rewatch any of the prequels. Terrible musical numbers? Have another look at Jabba’s palace in the remasted Return of the Jedi. Ridiculous cash-ins in other media? Try a couple of the Star Wars video games, like Masters of Teras Kasi, Super Bombad Racing or Star Wars: Demolition.

Lucasarts have already made Han Solo take part in a dance number. I don’t think there is much Disney can do to make the Star Wars name seem any shallower.

Skyfall: A Review – Plus News!

27 Oct

2012 has been a year of much-anticipated movies. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit – all of them would have been the most hyped-about film in any other year. Then, of course, there’s Skyfall. The trailers have had people salivating for months. Early reviews called it the best Bond film ever made. And it ever-so-nearly lives up to the hype.

Sam Mendes has done an absolutely tremendous job in bringing Bond back to the fore after the disappointing Quantum of Solace. It’s full of great performances, has a water-tight script, and best of all is absolutely stunning to look at. The direction is vibrant, varied, powerful, and even a little emotional at times. Even if it’s not the best 007 venture ever, it’s certainly the best-looking one.

Skyfall takes a lot of risks, too. It’s a serious film with a surprising level of depth for a franchise built on the foundation of “man kills man, man sleeps with woman, man makes pun”. Without going into spoiler territory, it touches a little on the aftermath of a service agent’s life after missions, and what happens to an agent left behind by his agency. Not only that, but (whisper it) Skyfall briefly delves into James Bond’s personal history, and even M’s back story.

It’s also very interesting in terms of scale. The finale is not a villain’s volcano lair; in fact, the film drops in size steadily. In the first half of the film, Bond is in his natural habitat: jet-setting across the world, killing people and getting frequent flyer miles at the same time. But slowly, the scale shortens. We go to London, and then to a plot of land in Scotland. The end, in contrast to most Bond films, is incredibly small-scale and introspective. In spite of this – or perhaps because of it – it packs an incredibly powerful punch.

It’s rounded off with some great performances too. Judy Dench gives us another look at the stoic, witty M she so successfully portrays, and Daniel Craig simmers with pent up aggression throughout. Newcomers to the series Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris and Ben Whishaw deserve plenty of credit as well: particularly Whishaw, who brings Q bang up to date.

Javier Bardem steals the show, though. His performance as Raoul Silva is absolutely terrifying. A Bond villain to be proud of, he is dangerous, charming, seductive, funny, and completely and utterly insane. His plot doesn’t revolve around world domination, or wealth – he is not the greedy Bond villain archetype in the style of Goldfinger. Instead, Silva is entirely focused on the destruction of M and the MI6. He’s not a Blofeld. In fact, if he’s to be compared to anyone, it’s quite possibly The Joker from The Dark Knight.

It’s not the only comparison this film bears to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, either. There are certain directorial similarities – in particular an abundance of breathtaking location shots, and a grounded sense of realism. The most important similarity, though, is the desire to build a film around themes instead of set-pieces. Skyfall has a message beyond “watch things get blown up”, and as a result, it is a much stronger movie than your regular popcorn-munching blockbuster.

There are a few quibbles to be had, of course. There are a few more light-hearted moments that jar a little with the overall tone, and there’s a particularly silly scene with Komodo dragons that doesn’t quite work. Thankfully, the film only has these few, minor problems.

In short, Skyfall is fantastic. It sits happily in the top tier of Bond movies alongside the likes of Goldeneye, Diamonds Are Forever and You Only Live Twice, continues 2012’s magnificent run of excellent major releases, and most importantly does something new – and positive – with one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time.

Apologies for the lack of new posts in the last couple of weeks. There have been a few exciting developments recently, one of which I can talk about. A number of my film fanatic friends, along with yours truly, have formed a brand new site called Geek Clique. We’re going to bring fantastic reviews and opinion pieces on film, including both new releases and retrospectives. If you head over to the site now you’ll see a wealth of other James Bond content.

So, if you fancy having a gander it would be much appreciated!

You can also see my awkward attempts at 8-bit sprites.

More new content here, and at Geek Clique, soon.

Prometheus: A Fan’s View

9 Jun

So you may have read my review of Prometheus. Here is a runthrough of some of the interesting issues that can be discussed about the film.


Fire From The Gods

Let’s start with the title. Prometheus, the Titan in Greek mythology who not only stole fire from the gods, but also created man from clay. A figure that historically has represented scientific endeavour. The Modern Prometheus was the subtitle for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

So what does that have to do with nasty space monsters?

The title of the film is also the name of the exploratory vessel that takes the Scientists to LV-223. In a way, Prometheus is the collective name for the crew of the ship, and the mission that they have embarked upon. To go and speak with the creators of mankind; to go and speak with God. It soon becomes clear to the crew that the gods are pissed. They are intent, or were intent, on wiping out all life on Earth, by sending a number of ships filled with bioweapons to the Solar System.

This can be seen as a lovely, Ridley Scott version of Prometheus being chained to a rock and having his liver eaten eternally.

If we are to believe that the Engineers/Space Jockeys are indeed the ‘gods’ of this story, then they are pissed off with mankind for some reason. Some way in which we have advanced technologically enough to be considered a threat? Is it the knowledge of space travel? The creation of artificial life?

In my opinion, no. When carbon dating the dead body of the Engineer outside the ‘worship room’ of their ship, they say that it’s been there 2000 years. Now, what happened approximately 2000 years ago in the history of mankind…

Jesus is yo’ homeboy.

Now, I’m not saying that the birth of Christianity and the life of Jesus Christ was what caused the Engineers to want to bring xenomorphy death down on us all, but there seems to be a hint in the film, namely this:

“It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!”

Yes, that’s a xenomorph, seemingly in a Christ-like pose.

Which brings the question, are these Engineers actually our gods? It seems they created us, but do they see themselves as the creators? Do they have any gods of our own? Was the birth – or the sacrifice – of Christ the reason for them to try to wipe us out? Why Christianity over any other religion?

But the question of the Engineers brings us to a further question…

Engineers or Engineered?

Now this is by no means foolproof. But isn’t it a bit strange that the Engineers/Space Jockeys appear in the same monochrome colour scheme as the xenomorphs, and the other nameless creations in their facilities on LV-223? The total lack of pigment in their skin and eyes, and the lack of hair. Apparently they have identical (or I assume near-identical) DNA to us. This is why the bioweapons that they have engineered to react to DNA (such as they did when the crew of the Prometheus went into the vase room) also react to the Engineers, leading to their eventual demise.

I have a wild theory that the Engineers themselves were created by something else. The way that the final living Engineer reacts to the proto-facehugger at the end of the film is very strange. There seems to be a lack of emotion, an almost automatic response to having to deal with the Lovecraftian nightmare trying to eat its face. They are all the same sex as well; they appear to be identical, in fact.

“I dare you to say we all look alike again, you SPACE RACIST!”

The only time you see real emotion, or any kind of reaction in fact, is when David speaks to them. It attacks violently afterwards, decapitating David first before turning on the humans. Why this reaction? Is it, perhaps, that it saw David as something similar to itself; a construct by another being. Had humanity finally stepped into the realm of the engineers by creating something themselves?

Finally, I have one more thought about the Engineers, and it perhaps ties into my previous, Christianity-based hypothesis. We are mankind – we were created in the image of a higher being, but given autonomy to live our lives the way we wanted. The Engineers are the angels in this allegory. Also created by the same being, treated as guardians until an eventual revolt. Are all the Engineers out to kill us, like those found on LV-223? Not necessarily. But given that the Engineers visited Earth at some point in the past, beyond the shown life-creation scene at the beginning of Prometheus, it seems as though they have had some kind of protector role for our species and our planet before.


Paranoid Android

David, played by Michael Fassbender, was by far the most interesting character for me. Despite being an android, he seemed to have by far the most depth as a character. What were his intentions?

It isn’t quite as simple as a robot being programmed to do things by the corporation, as it was in Alien. Ian Holm was terrifying as Ash, but David takes it to a whole other level. Instead of the cold aggression that Ash shows, David has a calculating edge. He chooses his words wisely; he is duplicitous, dangerous, and more than a little clever. The way he tricks Holloway into ingesting some of the primordial goop is ingenious. He almost always has the upper hand in his relationship with Shaw, and it is one of the few relationships that actually develop in the film – particularly the way she begins to trust him until his betrayal. You get the sense that, even at the end of the film, David is hiding something. He has, perhaps, developed a sentience of his own. He tells Shaw how he wants to see his ‘father’ dead, which makes you wonder exactly what he said to the Engineer.

Look at his lovely, robot face.

The only time David is not in full control of the situation is after he has been decapitated and is left on the ship. Even then you see another development in his character – he clearly does not want to ‘die’. Sensing that Shaw is the only chance for him to survive, he helps her to escape the lifeboat and then come to his assistance, so they can both get off LV-223.

The other relationship that threatens to be interesting in the film is that between David and Meredith Vickers. With Vickers as Weyland’s daughter and David as his ‘son’, there is a clear tension between the two. But, is Vickers all that she seems? Remember, we never see her come out of her stasis pod. Her only two modes are self-preservation and supporting the decisions of Weyland himself. The only time she ever diverts from this is when the ship’s captain asks if she is an android herself. I’m not saying she is…but think about it.


Anyway, I think that will do for now. I’ll leave you with this: I may well have been massively overthinking this film, and it could be nothing more than a big dumb sci-fi actioner. But, I’d like to think that instead of the plot-holes being plot-holes and the problems being problems, instead it is all part of a larger plan, that we may – or may not – see in a sequel.

In Defence of Remakes, Reboots, Prequels and Adaptations

6 Apr

Probably not the best way to start this, but I just saw The Thing. The 2011 one. And it…erm…wasn’t very good. Supposedly a prequel, it followed the story of the original to the letter, had renamed versions of the same characters in it, and had nearly shot-to-shot scenes from the original (want a tense scene where they check who and who isn’t the Thing? And then it goes wrong? You got it!). It was worse in every single way. It was tame, the characters were stupid, the special effects were generic, and it wasn’t scary.

However, all is not lost when it comes to prequels, sequels, and reboots. They’re often seen as a lost cause from the off, and I’m just as guilty as everyone else in this.

But, in themselves, these films aren’t evil. Look at how many brilliant films are adaptations: The Godfather trilogy, Schindler’s List, Blade Runner, The Shining, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Dr Strangelove, and every goddamn Disney animation that was made for decades. Lots of cult and classic movies are too: The Running Man, Rambo, Death Wish and Total Recall for instance.

Quaid's reaction to the news he is being played by Colin Farrell

Some of the best films ever made have also been remakes of previous movies, such as The Magnificent Seven or Cape Fear. The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Fly – what I like to call the ‘Triforce of Body Horror’ – are all remakes of 1950s films based on even older fiction. Going briefly over to television, The American Office is vastly superior to the British original.

What I am trying to say is this: remakes and adaptations are not a new thing and sometimes they can be absolutely brilliant.

The Descendants and Drive were two of my favourite films of 2011. The Dark Knight is one of my favourite films of all time and it’s a sequel to an adaptation of a comic book and also a reboot of two previous versions of the franchise. The Departed, in 2006, was a remake of the Hong Kong movie Internal Affairs. The Social Network was based on real-life events and on a non-fiction book. Never Let Me Go was adapted from an equally-brilliant novel in 2010. Children of Men. The Girl with the Dragon tattoo. 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit were both remakes. 21 Jump Street, loosely based on a 1980s TV show, is the funniest thing I’ve seen in years.

Seriously, see this movie.

This summer, the most-hyped films are The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Prometheus, and Amazing Spider-Man. I think at least two of them are going to be genuinely fantastic movies, I’m sure they will all be entertaining, and not one of them is a new intellectual property.

That’s not to say, though, that is isn’t worrying that there are few original ideas. When I saw the trailer to Total Recall 2012 I groaned. When I heard about the remake of Robocop I wanted to cry. When Michael Bay told us about Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles I wanted to gouge out my eyes.

Speaking of franchises that are totally original: a comic, then toy and cartoon line, then live-action movie series

But this isn’t because they are remakes. It’s because there is something wrong with film at the moment. With the way they are produced and directed. The Nightmare on Elm Street, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, and Alfie weren’t bad films because they were remakes and adaptations: they were bad because they were awful films. House of Wax, Rollerball (oh dear god Rollerball), Planet of the Apes, and The Day the Earth Stood Still weren’t bad films because they were remakes: they were bad because the scripts were bad, the direction was bad, or the performances were bad.

The Wicker Man would not have been better if it was called Snuggleberries

There is something wrong with films at the moment. And that thing is safety. Remakes aren’t a new thing, and remakes weren’t always good (go and watch the 70s King Kong, I dare you). But at the moment films are made with safety and security in mind. So many films look like they have been directed by the same person. It’s the same in independent film – how many versions of Garden State have you seen under different names? People are choosing ideas that are likely to make them money. And who can blame them? If they make a box office bomb, their career is on the line. In the recession, there is less money for new intellectual properties. There is so much more of a risk involved, and these people need to eat.

So you want to know how to stop this rot? How to stop studios making the same film over and over again? Go and see films that look interesting, that look innovative, or that look just plain damn awesome. Scott Pilgrim was a bomb at the box office because people didn’t go to see it. It was also rather darn good. It was also also an adaptation.

It doesn’t matter if a film is a remake, an adaptation, a reboot of a series, a prequel, a sequel, or a spin-off. If it looks good, if it looks like it does something that interests you, or that it does something new, go and see it. That way, directors will be more likely to make risks. To make films that matter. To make remakes that surpass the original versions based on the sheer quality of the final product.