Monday, 24 September 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Sailing on ice...

A lot has happened since the release of the original Ice Age when Manny, Diego and Sid first met. This time around, their existence is threatened when their continent begins to break apart, forcing everyone to have to flee from their established homes. However, things go a little wrong resulting in Manny, Diego and Sid being caught up in a battle against a pirate ape, Captain Gutt.

For those who have not been keeping up with all the release of the Ice Age series, going to view the latest installment should not prove to be any hindrance into the overall world that has been created. Sure, the relationship between the protagonists may not be fully understandable but each's unique personality is unveiled very early. This ensures that you do not have to think too much and you can let yourself go for the adventures which ensues. This is not to say that Continental Drift is devoid of any tangible story, it is just not a unique or promising one. In short, the main characters are trying to get back to their families (well Manny at least) and this brings up the tried and tested theme of family bonding. There is a good lesson here to be taught to kids, though parents are most likely going to ignore the fluff. Thankfully, the film does have its fair share of good laughs. Most is aimed at kids which can provide the odd smile but then at times the writers do their best and it shows. Continental Drift is not a minute-by-minute comedy affair, but every aspect of the story and writing do adequately fall into place.

The voice acting is a lot of fun, mainly due to the performances by Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and John Leguizamo. The rest of the actors are by no means bad, for they all feel and sound comfortable in the roles assigned to them. This brings about a voice talent that fits well within the mould of the story itself allowing dialogue and comedy to be presented in a clear manner without ever sounding incompetent.

Technically, the film is pretty good. The animation is crisp and clear though lacking any noticeable advances in the medium. The 3D is not too bad itself: it is never distracting nor does it particularly standout or enhance the experience. But what was pretty fun was the full 4D effect. Moving chairs, water vapour being sprayed on you and air passing by your skin. While 4D is not something new to anyone who has experienced it, it did feel like it enhanced the film-watching experience. I cannot imagine it being suitable to all types of films, but in the case of a 3D animation like Ice Age, the film begins to feel more fun for it.

As an animation aimed at children, the worse the film receives is some name calling and some relatively non-violent action scenarios.

Ice Age: Continental Drift can be seen as a somewhat tired film. It's story is not particularly strong nor is the comedy always engaging. But it wades through these rough seas to make an impact that is adequate enough to keep your interest through to the film's conclusion. Add in some nice looking animation and the bonus 4D (if you are lucky) and the end result is something that can be enjoyable if you allow it to be.


Friday, 17 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Standing tall in the shadows...

It has been 7 years since the Joker caused havoc upon Gotham and Batman made the decision to become a fugitive for the greater good of the city. Since then, Gotham has undergone a massive overhaul in terms of battling crime, with the city experiencing a peace it had never before, and without the need for Batman, who has disappeared. Yet, all of this comes under threat when a man by the name Bane attempts to restructure Gotham into his own making.

Christopher Nolan has crafted something unique with his Batman trilogy. Instead of following in the footsteps of all those before him, Nolan attempted to take Batman out of the comics and into the real world, so to speak, in a way that made some sort of logical sense. It is a different kind of superhero movie and The Dark Knight Rises continues this trend. The time jump between the previous film and this one can be a little jarring at first. There is no real sign that things have changed in Gotham with the only information provided by various subtle conversations about the situation as it is. In some ways this can be problematic as it is difficult to truly gauge the context Nolan is attempting to create. But, it is this sort of understatement that encompasses the entire film. Things are not as they appear, and Nolan is not attempting to deceive the viewer of this: the fact that characters talk about Gotham but hint at problems ultimately serves as the perfect backdrop in which to force Bruce to take up the mantle of Batman once again. The rest of the story continues at a controlled pace but at times it can feel rushed. The motivations for some characters have to be understood and accepted almost on the spot and it can feel like such reasoning's are never given time to truly develop. Nevertheless, the story brings about what makes superhero movies so important: overcoming obstacles, and for Batman's 3rd attempt at character growth, it is a wonder to see the character become more then even he himself expected. As usual, some other characters are given some spotlight (and perhaps more so then the previous entries) such as the young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). The story can feel rushed towards the end. The final 30 to 45 minutes cover a really long time period within the story and the sequence of scenes  Lastly, even though the film is a direct sequel to The Dark Knight it is important to note that thematic elements from the first still exist in order to build character development.

Supporting the well crafted, albeit slightly rushed, narrative is a top line of acting performances. The usual suspects (Caine, Freeman, Oldman) get the nods they so deserve for their respective characters but the new cast are thankfully just as good. Anne Hathaway as the mysterious Selina Kyle portrays the character with zealous and appears to have a good grasp on facial cues to truly sink in the reality of her character and the world around her. Next is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who, in comparison, brings a more reserved performance to the inquisitive cop Blake. But a nod must be given to Tom Hardy as the formidable Bane. Bane feels  powerful whenever on the screen and his voice is enough parts dominant and sophisticated to emphasis Bane as more then just some brute (as evident in pre-Nolan Batman). There is a good cast here, and they make their characters work. Finally, credit must be given to Bale who embraces the role of Bruce and Wayne and Batman head on. There is a subtle vigour to his performance which really strikes home his characters' anguishes and attempts to overcome the obstacles in their lives.

The most evident of the camera work this time around is that Gotham is not as much of a centre piece as it was before. In previous films, it was possible to see Gotham as a character in its own, especially since villains emphasised a need to test the limits which the city itself possessed. In The Dark Knight Rises, the test that occurs is not as apparent at first but the theme of a united Gotham continues. The film is also very much about the human characters and the camera supports this. That said, there are some great scenes throughout the film but the truly unforgettable scenes are more sparse than previous scenes in the trilogy. On a stronger note, the musical score is expectantly mesmerising.

As expected of the series, the film has a slightly darker feel than other superhero films but never to the point of pushing the envelope in terms of appropriate content. Violence is a standard affair though the kill count is higher then before. Language is almost non-existent and the same can be said about sexual elements.

Nolan's trilogy has finally come to its end after 7 long years, and there is no doubt that the wait for the finale was worth it. Like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before, The Dark Knight Rises is virtually a top tier contender in every way. There is little to fault in a film that combines the fun of a superhero flick with the thoughtfulness of a human drama. If you believed in Christopher Nolan before, prepare to have your faith rewarded.