Thursday, 30 April 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

A slice of fun, a dice of technicalities ...

Origins: Wolverine gives a glimpse into the history of one the most iconic characters in the comic book industry showing events before the first X-Men film. Brothers James Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) have, with their unique gift to rapidly heal their bodies, served together in countless wars throughout the 20th century until being recruited into a special ops programme by William Stryker (Danny Huston). Logan begins to tire of this group as he opposes the overly violent tendencies of the operations, and eventually he leaves the group. Years later, Logan is approached by Strkyer to help with a task of national security all while Logan's girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins) is murdered by Victor, which results in Logan seeking revenge.

The origin of Wolverine is a rather intriguing story, especially since Wolverine in modern times suffers from amnesia. Of course the adaptation is not entirely faithful. The introduction begins to quickly settling the arrival of Logan's abilities in a few minutes and then flashing to well conceived opening credits. The story continues this fast pace but once Logan leaves the special ops programme the films pacing begins to slow. This becomes symbolic in the change of lifestyle for Logan but after the first half the film begins to become somewhat fragmented, resulting in a story whereby Logan is forced to fighting another character just to move the story on for a few minutes: the dramatic elements begin to lose their importance as the film develops but thankfully the story's finale synthesizes the action and story in a similar manner to the film's beginning.

Many facets to Wolverines life are kept while others, especially in regards to characters are given certain changes. One such change revolves around Deadpool: it is a change which ardent fans may disapprove of but since this is an adaptation, the film works like a retelling of the overall Marvel universe, a concept synonymous with the comic book industry. In fact, Origins: Wolverine becomes indicative of how adaptations should be perceived as a imagining and not always as a as carbon copy of the original text.

The actors and their respective characters are, for the most part, well received. Jackman continues his excellent form as Wolverine, but is able to portray him as a character filled with an internal struggle to do what is right while having a capacity for evil. Schreiber, Jackman's counterpart, proves a useful adversary and an excellent binary opposite to Jackman; where Logan is conflicted, Creed is bloodthirsty. Huston performs a good job as a subtly menacing and smug official who wishes to wipe out mutants while Collins is delicate, if not underplayed in the film. The remainder of the cast all perform adequately and their respective characters are suitably added to the films plot. However, this does not stop a couple cameos being more fan service then actually being truly relevant to the overall plot.

Another person to be complimented is director Gavin Hood (Rendition) who does a delightful job with his cinematography. Granted, he tends to stay on the conservative side of film making, but this never stops him completing some beautifully shot scenes. Though some of the fight sequences are more muted then they should be and it becomes saddening to think that the film's action, while entertaining, could have been more ferocious. An uncut release could remedy that but hopefully the sequel, if there is one, will allow for the actions scenes to all be equally as enjoyable.

However, if Wolverine is to be faulted in area it would be its mixed bag of special effects and CGI. CGI tends to be worse off with the odd action scene looking either too blurry or unrealistic, and even Wolverine's trademark claws appearing far too cartoon-like. The special effects are not too bad with a characters energy beam being very impressive, but another characters defense mechanism being poorly textured. The end result is a mixed bag, and while none of the problems areas truly distract from the overall experience, it is evident that the film required a longer post-production phase.

There is no sex or nudity, with language at a low. Violence is abundant throughout the film but it is never bloody, even with one character being decapitated, though this is never graphic by any means.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a highly pleasurable film: the story is engaging; if lacking in depth; the acting is commendable; the directing is workable and the action scenes are fun to watch. It is a pity that the film is not as violent as it could have been and even more so that the technical aspects, something so well polished in other superhero films, appears incomplete. This plus a few slight niggles to the overall film still allows Wolverine to be among the better half of the superhero genre.


Screen date: 30 April 2009
Release date: 29 April 2009

Friday, 17 April 2009

Dragonball Evolution

Fun, but weak and short...

As an apprentice, Goku (Justin Chatwin) is under the guidance of his grandfather, Gohan (Randall Duk Kim), in martial arts but finds it difficult to adjust to a normative social life. While trying to balance his training with his inept attempts at flattering Chi-Chi (Jamie Chung), Goku becomes caught up in a search with Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) and Bulma (Emmy Rossum) for seven Dragonballs which are to help him save the world from Piccolo (James Marsters), a creature bent on destroying the world.

Based upon a manga and anime, Dragonabll Evolution is not going to win praise for faithful adaptation. Much has been altered, mainly due to the medium being used, but ardent fans will be disappointed. That said, the story is not anything wholly original: Goku is an apprentice who is given the almighty task of saving the world from an evil tyrant, nevertheless the adaptation is intriguing. This film has been given a more close-to-home feel with Goku attending a normal high school and everyday cars are driven, but many elements are amiss. Characters become caricatures of themselves: Bulma is too Lara Croft and Yamcha comes across as too much of a beach bum, and as such characters become less like their original versions. The adaptations work as far as giving an alternative universe to the Dragonball universe, though Goku's most powerful energy attack is given a rather strange twist.

Nevertheless the core problem with Dragonball Evolution is time: the film is simply too short to tell the tale it wishes to tell and a consequence of this is that story arcs develop way too quickly. For instance, the love story between Goku and Chi-Chi, as cute as it may be because two individuals were able to fall deeply in love in such a short time, in not conducive to the overall story as their quick fall into love serves no purpose whatsoever. Even the mystery around the Oozaru lacks any buildup and gets answered under two lines of prose. These are just two of countless elements which occur far too quickly and are never given time to mature, like character development and motivation, making the film far too aimless. Paradoxically enough, the editing department is far too loose and never strict enough to keep scene integration fluid and quick. This all adds up to a film which clearly did not have enough time in its post-production phase: Dragonball Evolution was released earlier than it ought to have.

The acting department is commendable with the actors seeming as if they enjoyed their roles somewhat, but this does not stop some noticeable bland acting. Chatwin begins off on a slow note and, like a few of his peers, appears to act in a rather scripted way. The acting becomes more natural as the film develops but it's disheartening that Fat and Kim overshadow the entire cast. Of course some strange dialogue choices and overemphasis on characters quirks makes it difficult for the actors to truly make their respective character work.

In many respects, director James Wong tries t to make the film feel like a cartoon when he should be focusing on making it a straight live-action. He is not a bad director by any means but his cinematography does not make the action scenes, in which little there are, feel explosive. They feel weak in order to seem non-violent and in here is another gave mistake in the film: it aimed at a younger market then it ought to be.

There is no sex or nudity, except from Roshi's appeal into swimsuit magazines, and language is rare with violence being far too tame to warrant the term 'violent'.

Dragonball Evolution is not a very good film, but it is neither a poor film. There is a clear desire to make the film as successful and enjoyable as possible but the planning and execution is heavily flawed. The story feels ripped from countless other martial arts film, albeit the grandeur of powers the main characters can wield, and the acting or direction never impresses on a high level. The adaptation is not faithful but it needn't be, for Dragonball Evolution ultimately fails because there is not enough time to tell the story it wishes too. With some clear direction and better planning the sequel can be a better received film, but for what it is worth Dragonball Evolution is enjoyable enough on its own terms.


Screen date: 17 April 2009
Release date:
09 April 2009

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Fast and Furious

Original parts need reworking...

When an oil truck hijacking goes wrong, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is forced to leave his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodirguez) and his current crew. However it is not long until he is brought to Los Angeles in order to infiltrate a high speed delivery service under the control of Ramon Campos. At the same time, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), an FBI agent, has been following a trail of drug deliveries and his investigation leads him to Campos.

A sequel to 2 Fast 2 Furious and a prequel to Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious brings back the cast of the original to give the series a reboot of such, as if Tokyo Drift did not attempt the same feat already. As such, Fast and Furious is very much on par with the first two films: it goes back to home territory in America, and ditches the drifting for pure speed racing. Though there is only a single race in the entire film with various chase sequences, so the main appeal of the film, street racing, is not entirely utilized to full effect. Nevertheless, Fast and Furious does attempt to tell a reasonably interesting story. Reasonably because it never really works by the film's end. The story does not take long to give an emotional pull for the audience, but it pans out rather uninterestedly. Toretto and O'Conner have their own agendas' in the main story arc but it becomes far too neatly wrapped. Any calamities brought about by the first two films, such as O'Connor's betrayal of Mia, are brushed aside and given far too conventional, and easy explanations. Make no mistake, Fast and Furious is all about style over substance.

The acting department is not entirely better, but credit must be given to a cast that does indeed try to get the film's feel right with their respective characters. But neither Rodrigruez, Brewster, or the main two, Walker and Diesel, feel anything more then caricatures. And this is a great pity as the script wants to give them more depth but it becomes overshadowed but moderate acting and a weak attempt at story telling; an average script with some weak dialogue doesn't help matters for the actors either.

Though while the film lacks depth it does make up for in its method. The entire film oozes sex appeal from the main cast, the many scantily clad women engaging in rather intimate situations, and the lineup of vehicles. The latter does not play as much of a visual importance as seen in Tokyo Drift which is an indication of the film's more character driven narrative. Car sequences mainly revolve around chases with only a single race event taking place. While races would have made for more exciting set pieces the chases do their job at entertaining. Credit must be given to director Justin lin, who provides some stunning cinematography. He is also quite knowledgeable to invoke symbolism into his filming style for a few scenes. One such has O'Connor, on foot, chasing after a man: the scene is shot in quite a jumpy and jagged manner. However the car sequences are far more smooth, as if the main characters are more in their element while riding a car, then they are as themselves.

There is no sex or nudity, beyond two focuses on two different sets of lesbians kissing and fondling and many provocative outfits and dancing. Violence is never intense but the car sequences show enough wrecked damage. Language is kept down to mostly scatological terms with no hard swearing.

It might be cliched, but Fast and Furious is both fast and furious though it becomes painstakingly obvious as the film develops that it lacks self-control. It is great to see the old cast return but it all feels like a rather forced effort to relive the glory days of the original. The story tries too much to make all characters comfortable with one another; the acting is never up to standard; and there is sadly only one race scene. The director is really the only person who kick starts the films engine: it is a decent film, but it requires a good load of tuning if it wants to score big.


Screen date: 11 April 2009
Release date:
09 April 2009