6. Man of Steel
Likes: One thing all audiences for the 2013 reboot of Superman could agree on was that it was most definitely a severe departure from the past instalments, but that was about the only thing they could agree on. Some admire its darker approach to Superman, portraying him in a more human and more relatable sense. Fans of the movie will also point to the obvious vulnerability of Superman both emotionally and physically (is anyone else noticing a pattern?) as he is shown at the start of a long journey that will transform him into the hero we know and love.
The film is also backed up by a fantastic supporting cast such as Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon who are all very competent with their roles and by breaking the story up into a non-linear narrative it manages to avoid falling into the standard three act structure and becomes more thoroughly engaging as a result. Hans Zimmers soaring musical score is another welcome addition, being separate from the original John Williams soundtrack but retaining a sense of triumph, excitement grandeur.
Dislikes: For virtually every reason that some praise Man of Steel, there are others that will criticise it for the same reason. As opposed to finding the darker tone more stimulating, others argue that the film is almost afraid to inject any sense of fun into proceedings, feeling overly dismal and depressed. Many will point to the cinematography as a key example of this as the film’s colour palette was toned down to create what some defined as a unnecessarily bleak look to the film. Critics will also site the final showdown as one that verges on the ridiculous for its levels of destruction.
Some also criticise the movie for its pacing, even after the main villains have revealed themselves we are still delving into flashbacks of Clark Kent’s upbringing when tension should be building up instead. There is also a distinct lack of character development as numerous supporting characters spend the movie virtually in the background and are rarely seen as necessary to the story.
The battle sequences also generated a divide amongst audiences, some felt that the amount of destruction in the film was uncalled for as well as the extensive use of shaky-cam that detracted from the potential spectacle. The ludicrous amount of product placement does not help either.
Likes: This 2013 science fiction film based on Joseph Konsinski’s graphic novel of the same name proved highly divisive among both audiences and critics. Some praised the film for its heavy symbolism and visually stunning aesthetic as well as the special effects that brought the apocalyptic future to life with brilliant bleakness. The various levels of technology and detailed concepts that permeated the film were praised as being sleek and stylised that was undeniably ambitious.
Tom Cruise’s performance also garnered praise as he was forced to convey various levels of depth rather than just a one note action hero. The moments of action were engaging and well-directed, blending special effects with the actors excellently rather than simply seeing them as two separate entities. The pacing is also nicely laid out as the film slowly reveals its developments, step by step instead of allowing it to surge forward incoherently.
Dislikes: Though it’s a visually impressive display, there’s little to no humanity or development to support it, or anything that is attractive beyond just the surface level of the movie. The plot derives many elements from other science fiction films and rarely treads new ground, opting instead to just recycle old material to form a thinly scripted story that (though some have praised this element), others argue that the slower pacing is an effort to draw out the plot rather than any artistic or narrative merit.
While Cruise is impressive in the lead role, none of the supporting characters make much of an impression, being virtually irrelevant to the plot. Instead of using the runtime to develop its characters or find any humanity within the story, the film focusses more on its exploration of the animated landscape and emphasises its special effects far more than the story or characters. As well as this, some found the finale a step too far and were insulted rather than surprised, which is not quite the effect one would want.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man
Likes: Having rebooted the franchise just five years after the final instalment of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, it was important for Mark Webb’s version to stand apart from its predecessor. Tonally it aimed to be a darker and more grounded version. But unlike other reboots there was an undeniable sense of comedic value largely due to Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of the web-slinger who conveyed more wit and humour in his depiction of Spider-Man. The chemistry that Garfield had with Emma Stone was also highly praised, forming a believable and enjoyable relationship between the two characters.
Some described this incarnation as an emotionally driven one, focussing more on character depth and development not just within its titular character, but all of the supporting roles as well. The special effects were also far superior to its predecessors and were used to greater effect when integrating the action with the real actors (barring that train fight from Spider-Man 2) and using its environments to greater effect (again, not including that train fight).
Dislikes: The main issue many took with the film was how it spent too much time retelling a story we already knew. The classic Spider-Man origin story was told with little variation or innovation and therefore failed to have as much impact as it tried to create. This criticism is epitomised by the new attempt to convey the same message without using the phrase ‘with great power comes great responsibility’’, and such a task is surprisingly difficult.
The heavily clichéd and rather lacklustre villain is also a key example of how the film fails to stretch into new ground, still opting for the mad scientist’s experiment gone wrong approach. Furthermore, while many admired Garfield’s portrayal of Spider-Man, his role as Peter Parker drew more criticism. Many did not believe him as an outsider and felt that he failed to come across as the empowered nerd as opposed to an empowered hipster. At least we can all agree to hate The Amazing Spider-Man 2 though, right? (I bet someone will still disagree).
9. Thor: The Dark World
Likes: Although not the most stirring effort from Marvel, Thor: The Dark World offers plenty of entertaining thrills to excite the viewer and keep them engaged for its 112 minute runtime. It includes all of the humour and characters that audiences have come to expect from the powerhouse studio and is able to draw from the excellent chemistry between its various characters, particularly Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki and Chris Hemsworth as the titular Thor who both turn in very different yet equally audacious performances. The rest of the supporting cast also put the necessary effort into conveying both the comedic and super powered moments of brilliance.
The film spares no expense in delving into the mythology of the universe established in the previous Thor instalment as it showcases several new worlds and dimensions (or realms if you want the technical term) but rarely comes across as pretentious or self-indulgent within its own world-building techniques. It contains several robust and vigorous action scenes that are all held up by world class special effects that combine both he practical and CG elements of the production excellently and is able to raise the stakes enough so that the audience remain enthralled within the action.
Dislikes: While it may be harsh to brand the film as terrible, many fans will agree that it is perhaps the definition of a mediocre franchise film. Sometimes Thor: The Dark World resembles something assembled by a committee to address a number of references purely to set up the next instalment. The story feels rather contrived and unoriginal with substandard villains, plot devices and resolutions as well as main characters that are only shown when the narrative demands it as a way to further the story rather than an actual need to develop a character.
While the action scenes are engaging enough they once again eel rather substandard, with no distinct style or flair to them. The moments in between that action can also seem rather dull and contrived, with only a weak narrative to support them. Ultimately it became a painfully obvious way of tiding fans over until the next movie of the franchise, it busies itself with various sub-plots that remain unresolved and only serve to draw in audiences for whatever’s next, concerned mainly with what is five steps at the risk of losing the moment.
Likes: Zac Snyder’s Watchmen was a long awaited adaptation for many fans of the original graphic novel that is widely considered to be the greatest comic book of all time. The movie was decidedly darker and more adult oriented than any other superhero film before or since. For starters it is an immensely stylised film that creates a visually stunning world from which to stage its plot that is certainly more multifaceted and complex than one would expect from a superhero film. Though some have sited the rigid way it sticks to its source material, given that its source material is widely acknowledged as the greatest comic book of all time that has to be seen as a positive.
Its plot is highly politically relevant with themes of warfare, paranoia, corruption and compromise running strongly throughout as well as being an extremely visceral experience of a movie. Its characters tread the moral line carefully and the film seems to revel in their failings and shortcomings to emphasise their humanity and delved into the subject of what it means to be a superhero and how the concept permeates society as a whole.
Dislikes: However, some fans felt that while Snyder grappled with Watchmen on a visual level, he failed to understand the story on a thematic level. To compress the story into a movie-length runtime Snyder neglected many of the finer details of the story and ultimately robbed Moore’s alternate timeline of its depth and as a result the world never felt fleshed out and therefore lacks an emotional connection as certain events transpire later in the movie and that whole political subtext goes relatively unexplored. This lends itself to some fans speculating that the Watchmen story would be better as a mini-series, whereas some have branded it as un-filmable.
The film also seems to take the wrong tone with certain plot details, lacking the depth and clarity to make them convincing and the hyper stylised nature can sometimes be overwhelming rather than artistic, not to mention the mismatched pacing that permeates the movie Furthermore, Snyder’s version seems to simplify its characters, turning them into cheap imitators of their more complex comic counterparts.
There was also the rather odd inclusion to give every vigilante superhuman abilities which seems misplaced as one of the main themes of Moore’s novel was to emphasise their faults and weaknesses, making them pitifully human characters that just happened to make the step of donning a mask and cape because it’s easy to make unstoppable heroes who easily tear through bad guys, the hard part is making them painfully empathetic.
Author Bio: Joshua Price considers himself more of a fan that happens to write near insane ramblings on movies and directors like Scorsese, Spielberg, Fellini, Kubrick and Lumet rather than an actual critic and other insane ramblings can be found at criticalfilmsuk.blogspot.co.uk.