REVIEW: Power Rangers (2017)

The Power Rangers from Saban are back in a new movie. Specifically a film adaptation of the origin story for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series which became a global hit in the 1990’s. The series has since undergone multiple revisions including Samurai and Jungle Fury. Now given a big budget and the limitless scale of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) available does this modern reboot do the source material justice?

Firstly, some context. As a youth I was very much into the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I had action figures. I vividly remember buying the Megazord and playing with the constituent Zords constantly. Similar memories are also held of the White Ranger’s sword, a toy which came complete with sound effects. When the original television series made its big screen debut I entered a drawing competition at the local supermarket, putting the White Ranger onto paper and actually won tickets to see the movie. These memories have resurfaced because of this film and that strikes upon the appeal of this new movie; nostalgia.

For those of us of a certain age Power Rangers strikes a chord with what we remember of the series that we became swept up with as youngsters. Additionally, actors Bryan Cranston, from Malcolm in the Middle and of course Breaking Bad, and Elizabeth Banks, who we’ve seen in Role Models, The Forty Year Old Virgin, The Hunger Games and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, draw us in even further. Banks in particular savours the freedom to go wild with the villainess Rita Repulsa. Cranston largely appears as the talking face on the wall called Zordon. However neither appears to have just shown up for the pay cheque and indeed take the process reasonably seriously. Perhaps they too were savouring the nostalgia of the project?

Power Rangers 3

This search to deliver nostalgia is indicative of the tone of the film. It is not a film for children with some particularly dark moments, the implication that Rita was pulling gold teeth out of a homeless man’s skull for instance. Unfortunately the screening I attended had two families with young children who were clearly scared in these moments. Although the 12A certificate is entirely appropriate for this film, it does not mean that it is suitable for 6 year olds even if they are accompanied by an adult. It is clearly intended for that older audience, now in adulthood, that darker tones appeal to but without straying too far away from the original. Those kids in my showing also failed to have their attention kept by the extended character development.

As with any origin story time is spent explaining the premise. However the majority of the running time is dedicated to exploring the five lead characters. My heart sank with the prospect of a Breakfast Club style setup. Happily however that was dispensed with quickly. With the change of environment, from weekend detention to a quarry, the unlikely friendship then begins to develop between the teenagers. Although a slightly generic motley crew of characters they do cover all bases. The star quarterback has dented his future with some youthful hi-jinx. A former cheerleader who didn’t quite fit the Mean Girls mould. Someone struggling with how her ‘perfect’ family would react to her sexuality. Similarly a young carer struggling to look after his sick mother. Plus the smart one on the autistic spectrum. All of these characters however are handled well. Sensitively in fact, with a subtlety often missing from most movie blockbusters.

Each of them have a point to prove. Seeking acceptance from the other outsiders they form a strong bond as a group. Those themes of friendship and acceptance add an additional layer to the generic superhero and sci-fi material that will hopefully speak to others at that impressionable age. On reflection, this process of teasing out the character back stories is too long, not that I was in a hurry to see the inevitable battle between the Zords and Goldar. However I was caught up enough in the characters that I was eager for them to get their suits which were particularly impressive given the movie level budget. Admittedly this movie is not likely to receive widespread critical acclaim. The plot and script are not likely to win any awards for instance. But some films deliver based upon what the viewer brings to it.

As a nostalgic 30-year-old I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting a story from my youth. A modern retelling with a good budget and featuring two actors who I have enjoyed in other things before. Excitingly an extra scene in the credits alludes to a further story involving the Green Ranger. Perhaps history will repeat itself and he will trigger a peak in popularity for the Power Rangers?

REVIEW: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

One of my biggest gripes about Batman Vs Superman was the movie’s very existence. I questioned what the point of it was. Rogue One however is the complete reverse. The fact that it has been created is extraordinary. It is a film that explains an important plot point in a different movie that was premiered forty years ago now. It didn’t need to be made. The Star Wars saga existed comfortably before and after Rogue One was released. But yet it provides an engaging, thoroughly enjoyable and visually impressive Star Wars film that comfortably sits alongside those which have come before and those still to follow.

Spoiler Warning! Details will be discussed that will hamper viewer enjoyment for those yet not to see it.

Unlike other simplistic ‘cash-in’ movies within franchises, incredible thought and effort has gone into delivering Rogue One. For instance, I was astonished that Peter Cushing was in it. And in it a lot! So much so that I doubted he was actually dead. Post cinema visit I had to check and yes the legendary actor, who also played Doctor Who on the big screen, passed away in 1994. There are also a number of other cameos. One is delightfully amusing and brief. Another is chilling and full of grandeur. In fact all of the sequences featuring Darth Vader are very impressive, from the horrific realities of his injuries to an astonishing ass kicking rampage which will make a whole new generation fear him. The final surprise appearance however is utterly heartbreaking given recent news but did distract me from the slightly dodgy rendering to achieve the effect of youthfulness. None of these cameos overshadow the piece and just added to the ‘this is for you fans’ joyousness.


Overall, Rogue One is a bit bland compared to other entires in the Star Wars mythos. This is largely because the audience is obviously less invested in newer characters that are introduced for this movie. However all of these individuals are delivered well. They are unique and have suitable personalities that carry the viewer along with the story. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna were both excellent and actually the fact that they were new characters allowed for the unexpected moment when they were actually killed off. This twist added a refreshing change for Star Wars and particularly for a Disney movie!

Rogue One also finally brought the ‘war’ element to Star Wars. In addition to the spectacularly well delivered battle sequences and the fighting on the beaches, the film also creates the scale of a universal conflict. This made the planet hopping of the first act less tedious and more necessary. Another interesting direction saw the rebels presented as not simple moral crusaders. Instead it is alluded to some of the more horrific acts of being at war that these fighters have had to do. The reality of lead characters not making it out alive against the impossible odds also made for a welcome change. Sacrifices being made in this movie also made you appreciate the small battles that need to be traversed for later, more memorable victories. Time to dig out ‘A New Hope’ I think!

REVIEW: Suicide Squad

imageThe critics have been pretty scathing about this latest offering from the DC comic universe whilst fans have been very vocal with their enjoyment and aggressive towards those who have not shared their opinions. As is always my policy, only by viewing the piece can comment be made. So I have watched it and have thus formulated my own opinions. However I have found myself falling off the fence towards the opinions shared by critics.

The following will include a number of spoilers so do not hamper your own enjoyment by reading on if you intend on watching the film yourself.

Following on so quickly from the dud that was ‘Batman vs Superman’, released mere months ago, comes ‘Suicide Squad’ a tale about a group of villains from the DC Universe coming together for a special mission for the good guys, who are of course the US Government. The formulation of this squad is based on the possibility that now Superman is dead another Superman might exist and could potentially not be on the side of the authorities and therefore a terrorist. This Taskforce of unruly and uncontrollable maniacs is supposedly going to be a line of defence against the forces of darkness. It makes as much sense as two good guys (Batman and Superman) going up against each other. That being said the concept has vast potential. Antiheroes receiving the focus for an entire film fits the DC Universe much better than Marvel given the darker tones explored through the comic books and also previous film adaptations such as Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’. Sadly, the final result is nothing but a crushing disappointment.

imageThis is probably an old-fashioned idea but this film needed someone to write the plot and a scene breakdown on a piece of paper. Such a basic act would’ve revealed the well documented glaring structural problems that exist throughout. As expected, the film required a number of scenes introducing the vast cast of characters who would form Taskforce X. These introductions are not balanced in the slightest with numerous flashback sequences and a central focus on Deadshot and Harley Quinn but more of them later. Making the introductions is Amanda Waller, a Government official who has struck upon the nonsensical idea of using the most dangerous criminals to execute dangerous missions. She is deliberately unlikeable to encourage the audience to root for the squad, revisiting conspiracy-fuelled themes of distrust for authority figures.

To be clear however there is no immediate threat that requires the formation of the Suicide Squad. Such is the abysmal plotting, the squad’s formation creates the threat that they end up battling. Amanda Waller manufactures the peril herself as before the team is even formed one of the members goes rogue, the Enchantress.

imageCara Delevingne is a model trying to act and frankly it comes across that way. She is the most bland villainess to hang an entire movie on. The key to any good drama is to create peril with an imposing and believable villain. It is no wonder that when it really matters her dialogue is heavily manipulated by voice effects in an attempt to add gravitas and threat which Delevingne is simply incapable of delivering. As the movie reaches is climax the Enchantress has created a Stargate in the sky because magic is the perfect excuse for yet another CGI monstrosity that looks visually impressive but lacks meaning or intelligent thought. Similarly, her faceless soldiers are meaningless fodder to add jeopardy and her brother, another CGI creation which is particularly unconvincing.

imagePart of the Enchantress’ backstory is that this mythical being, worshipped as a God by an unidentified Central American civilisation, has taken over the body of archaeologist June Moon. She in turn is the love interest of Rick Flag, the military man charged with controlling the unruly Suicide Squad. His character is quite strong, admittedly with questionable motivation but he is a solid presence in the film and shares the lead with the only major actor Will Smith as Deadshot with the two characters providing an engaging double act throughout.

imageDeadshot is the real lead of the piece, sharing entertains exchanges with Rick Flag. This is unsurprising given the casting of consistent leading man and box office draw, Will Smith. The appearance of such a familiar star does mean that Deadshot’s mask is only worn briefly so as not to conceal the film’s top star. Deadshot does however receive the most attention regarding his backstory. In fact Deadshot receives three introductions all of which are focused on his daughter. Whilst it is of course difficult to be separated from your child the point is excessively laboured and frankly he may be a talented shot but he could always get a job at Wallmart to provide for his daughter instead of choosing the life of the hitman. Fortunately Smith’s ability as the wise-cracking lead, mirroring Robert Downey Jr’s Ironman for Marvel, showcase those skills honed in other summer blockbusters such as ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Men in Black’. This influence is crucial in making the chaos presented remotely passable for viewers.

Other members of the Suicide Squad receive much less attention. Diablo is particularly interesting, seemingly underestimating his power and ending up incinerating his wife and children, but even this could’ve been presented clearer. Killer Croc is also very well realised but is presented as a simple monster. Similarly, Katana and Boomerang are given very little introduction but the latter is at least particularly entertaining outside of the fight sequences. Shamefully the character of Slipknot is not even introduced properly but appears only to get killed, such is the amateurish plotting to prove a point as to why the squad are participating in this madness. With so many characters it was always a tall order to give them equal coverage but that possibility is extinguished as the limelight is instead hogged by Harley Quinn.

imageThe character of Harley Quinn is intriguing, corrupted by the Joker and choosing to follow in his crazed footsteps. Margot Robbie is tasked with bringing her to the screen and is very entertaining as the pigtailed lunatic. However, Harley is completely over sexualised, bordering on the grotesque mysogynistic. Sexually licking the bars of her cell is one thing but deliberate shots of her hotpants and rear end are simply unnecessary. Her impractical outfit is then maximised by a predictable rain shower which allows for Harley’s entry into a wet t-shirt contest. Whilst I am sure none of the suits involved in constructing this film are even remotely aware of the popularity of Harley Quinn with cosplayers but the sexualised image presented in this film is going to be replicated by teenage girls. As a result all those involved, from the film makers to the distributor, have a responsibility to consider how these images are going to impact on their audience. Another individual hampered by the decisions made regarding their onscreen appearance is the Joker.

imageJared Leto’s Joker is an irrelevance in the film. Whereas Ben Affleck’s Batman makes a few cameos over the two hour duration, the Joker can only be described as having an extended cameo. I’m not sure if I was expecting more of him during the film but watching Leto’s portrayal I am grateful that his appearances were limited. He has to provide the worst onscreen version of the Joker ever. It is a modern interpretation but that results in an image conscious gangster, hanging out in nightclubs, covered in bling and tattoos. He is unpredictable and manic, capable of spinning on a razor blade but the Joker’s unpredictability should also extend to his image. The sinister false smile is sadly now only a tattoo on the back of his left hand. Making the Joker look like a typical gangster, save for the green hair, reduces him instead of elevating him above stereotypes. This gangster image therefore smothers what interesting aspects Leto was attempting to bring to the role. The one successful line is when the Joker declares that he is “just going to hurt you, really, really badly”. Leto is stripped back and delivers the line in a truly sinister manner, it is just a shame that there is so little else that matches this high point.


imageI cannot understand how the final product can possibly be the vision which the director David Ayer had set out with when embarking on the project. It is a textbook example of a studio corrupting their own output based on the reactions of the public to other movies. For example jokes are inserted, not skilfully but in a manner akin to dropping an anvil onto an orchestra and expecting a symphony, because Deadpool’s wit entertained audiences. Similarly, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ featured a brilliant soundtrack, presented as a mix-tape which entertains both Star Lord during the story as well as the watching audience but the retro tracks also juxtapose so well with the futuristic alien visuals. Suicide Squad however just drops recognisable tunes into the edit with no connection whatsoever to the visuals. The most appropriate word to describe it is ‘cynical’.

DC have been playing catchup with Marvel’s movie offerings but instead of embracing the differences they have simply attempted to replicate their successful formula. Suicide Squad is a missed opportunity that is so poorly executed but because it has drawn massive business at the Box Office it will be declared a success. The standalone Wonder Woman movie looks promising and hopefully will not be clouded by the influence or appearance of another superhero to distract from the plot. DC’s inevitable response to Marvel’s Avengers will of course follow with the Justice League movie. Given the deeply flawed offerings of ‘Batman vs Superman’ and now ‘Suicide Squad’ the Justice League movie has to be approached with a significant amount of trepidation.

REVIEW: Batman V Superman


Batman v Superman has received much critical analysis and I thought I would offer my opinions having viewed the film. Plot spoilers will follow so do not read on if you wish to retain your own enjoyment of the movie.

Firstly, let’s start with ‘Man of Steel’, Zack Synder’s first foray into the film world with Superman upon which sets the scene for this second movie. Whilst it proved divisive I didn’t mind it too much but questioned why there was a need for yet another retelling of Superman’s origins beside legal reasoning. That feeling resurfaced in the early stages of Batman v Superman as yet again we see another retelling of the demise of Bruce Wayne’s parents and the imagery of a young Master Wayne engulfed by bats. This is an early indicator of how grim the tone of the tale is going to be with no lighter moments whatsoever in the entire two and a half hour experience. However, the purpose of this movie is clear, to set up a ‘Justice League’ release to rival Marvel’s Avengers series. The subtitle ‘Dawn of Justice’ obviously alludes to the Justice League and curiously much of the publicity included the fact that Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, also featured in the movie. Perhaps this was a deliberate method used by the studios of avoiding spoilers by broadcasting spoilers themselves. It’s title also broadcasts the plot as it can be easily concluded that there would be at least one epic battle between Batman and Superman. However, that creates many of the flaws that hamper the film.

Batman-vs-Superman 2

Superman is one of the most difficult characters in fiction because he is so powerful, the impervious ‘man of steel’ means that any effective drama necessitates that he loses his power and therefore Kryptonite is needed to make his battle with the merely human Batman competitive. Similarly, Ben Affleck’s Batman requires an armoured suit so as to withstand the blows delivered by the son of Krypton and his descent into paranoia regarding the supposed danger presented by Superman muddies the water even further. Viewers are subjected to confusing hallucinations or dream sequences that emphasize his paranoia with no real indicator as to why it has been triggered other than one of the more intriguing areas that the film does explore, the human toll taken by citywide destruction caused by battling superheroes. Similarly, Superman’s reasoning for disliking Batman, triggering the inevitable conflict, is wafer thin in construction and is easily dismissed by the simple coincidence of both heroes mother’s sharing a first name.

Batman-v-Superman-poster-previewThe alien Kryptonite element centres around Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, a frankly hideous portrayal, spouting nonsensical verbal diarrhoea in an attempt to convey the character’s lunacy. Similarly suffering from the story is Lois Lane, often pointed to as a beacon to other media of how to portray female characters as strong-willed and empowering. Instead, Lois is reduced to the role of ‘damsel in distress’ not once but thrice, Superman’s ‘spidey-sense’ tingling whenever his beloved is in danger no matter where on the planet she is. In contrast Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman is strong, an aging caped crusader no longer at his peak and given more room to strike up an entertaining relationship with Jeremy Irons as Alfred and it seems only a matter of time before a stand alone Batfleck-flick is released. Hopefully, it will be a lot tighter in construction than this film’s effort.

Batman-v-Superman-battle-posters-featured-imageIt is a shame that the film disappoints because underneath the effects-heavy bravado is a fascinating story which questions how the elevation of Superman to that of a God has the potential to divide humanity. This is based on the fear that if this all powerful alien chose to he could wipe out the residents of planet Earth. Similarly, as he is defined as an American icon where does his jurisdiction end and what of the costs of his actions, particularly to the human lives affected and even those ended? Sadly, that line of questioning is swiftly disposed of as more destructive battles drag out the run-time even further with an invented Kryptonian monster used to unite the warring caped heroes with the randomly introduced Wonder Woman so as to set up the Justice League movies to follow.

There is one line in the film where Perry White states categorically that “Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman”, which if true would not bode well for the box office takings. With the extraordinary number of superhero movies being released over the forthcoming years, from Marvel and DC, it is a concern that suddenly the bubble might burst and viewer apathy might take hold as they tire of the endless genre with little that is new and fresh to draw the attention. Unfortunately, films which miss the mark like this one might bring forward this apathy sooner than should be the case.

REVIEW: Jurassic World

Jurassic World

Contains PLOT SPOILERS – Go and watch the film before reading this!

Jurassic Park is one of the greatest movies of all time, fact. It’s incredible that the original film was released 22 years ago but still holds up to modern standards and expectations. Many point to it as the moment Steven Speilberg went from being a great filmmaker to a legendary one. As a result this movie has a lot to live up to but it more than delivers. Two previous sequels were made and should still be watched and enjoyed. However, Jurassic World is a proper sequel to the original movie and completely ignores their existence. Therefore Jurassic World has to be seen as Jurassic Park 2.

Despite the events of the first film, Isla Nublar has become a fully functioning visitor attraction showcasing living dinosaurs resurrected through advanced scientific technologies. However, after over 20 years the simple existence of these once extinct creatures is no longer a drawing card for the crowds. With the pressure of investors to appease the need to maintain revenue is vitally important for the continued operation of the park. The solution, as is true of any major attraction, is to continue developing their attractions, in this case the dinosaurs. The result of this is a genetically modified hybrid, created to deliver the most fearsome dinosaur ever, the Indominus Rex. Predictably the results of this meddling with nature are catastrophic, once again. Admittedly, this is not an original concept. It’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein but with a prehistoric twist. As you can imagine, all does not go according to plan.

Some have been quick to criticise the character of Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Personally, I thought she was excellent. As the General Manager her responsibility to deliver attendances has led to the boundary pushing in the laboratory. Claire sees her dinosaur attractions merely as assets. Speilberg used Jurassic Park to show dinosaurs as animals and this film takes it further. Claire’s perspective distinguishes the creatures in a different way than has been presented previously, something which Vincent D’Onofrio’s character Hoskins has also done, seeing the Velociraptors for their potential as weapons. This then differs strongly from Chris Pratt’s character Owen, who sees them as animals and builds a relationship with them. Another perspective is then provided by Claire’s nephews, particularly the young Gray, who sees the dinosaur attractions as a mind blowing experience of great excitement. Even the hormonal teenager Zach gets caught up in the excitement of the enormous Mosasaurus. Overall, Speilberg’s initial idea of allowing the viewers to see dinosaurs in a different way from simple big screen monsters has been taken to new and advanced lengths.

Any fans of the original film will see plenty of parallels and recreated moments. Where Park was ground breaking, World takes it to the next level. For example, there are more Gallimimus flocking across the landscape and they look even better with 20 years of CGI advancement. There is also an emotional scene of an Apatosaurus dying after being attacked by Indominus. In Jurassic Park there is a nice scene of a Brachiosaurus eating from a tree as Dr Grant, Lex and Tim take shelter. This is amplified in Jurassic World with another animatronic creation, an Apatosaurus that can now act convincingly, so much so as to draw real tears from this viewer with its demise. We also get to revisit locations and vehicles synonymous with the original film, which is respectfully done with a genuine fondness for what came before. But Jurassic World then lifts the bar spectacularly. The scene of the Mossasaurus eating a shark has been well trailed. The allegory is clear. Jurassic World sets out to eat ‘Jaws’ for breakfast. And so it does. ‘Jaws’ is a masterclass in tension and suspense but Jurassic World matches it step for step. The carefully crafted and artfully delivered revelations of Indominus as he stalks his prey are superb, notably with its encounter with the gyrosphere.

Seeing the film as just a typical summer blockbuster is unfair because it also has incredible depths to it. It is a disaster movie with flawless CGI. It challenges the way we treat our natural world and the creatures that live in it. It provides a warning against the dangers of scientific advancement. It even passes comment on consumerism. The film suggests that the park acts to deliver attractions that the public demand, the next big thing, more exciting, scarier, more teeth. Admittedly, there is plenty of product-placement which one has come to expect from modern summer blockbusters, Hilton hotels, Coca Cola, Starbucks and a very unsubtle shot of a Mercedes – Benz SUV coupe. So although it makes a comment on consumerism it still has to submit to it. But when the action does get serious all these distractions disappear.

The conclusion of the story is suitably grandiose and spectacular. I watched the film in IMAX 3D and was completely worth it. It is only right that ultimately the Tyrannosaurus Rex is the hero of the film, the star of Jurassic Park in 1993 returns to triumph once more, with the final shots of the film having the potential to become as iconic as the T-Rex in the visitor centre originally.

I am surprised by criticisms of the film, comments concerning sexism, the preposterousness of Claire running around in heels and being impractically dressed. I didn’t see that myself. Her character was the General Manager of the most complicated amusement attraction in the world and there is no indication that she got that position based on reasons other than her merit. After a conversation with her sister Claire realises how important her nephews are to her, hence her determination to find them and get them home safe. I wasn’t overly invested emotionally in the two lads, caring not if they made it out alive or not. They are clumsy characterisations, a typical teenager more interested in ogling girls than his younger brother and so in order to bring them closer together for the moments it matters a transparent conversation about their parents potentially divorcing is shoehorned in. However, the standard of the action sequences means you do not need to be carried along by concern for the characters; you enjoy the ride of the unfolding chaos instead.

Ultimately Jurassic World is flawless in its execution of a big summer blockbuster, recapturing the magic of the original and blowing viewers away with astonishing spectacle. It is more than a simple relaunch platform for the Jurassic Park brand but is also a multi-layered piece of film-making which is thought provoking and challenging on a variety of topics that few films would even attempt to approach. Jurassic World is therefore a superb film which comfortably matches the achievements of the original Jurassic Park, and dare I say it, even exceeds them.