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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) review



Overall verdict: 5.5/10

Paul WS Anderson's fan fiction family film borrowing a video game title comes to its overdue end. 

The Good: Returns to dark gritty action, genuinely scary scenes, top notch special effects, tense fight scenes, closes the franchise neatly

The Bad: Flat characters, disappointing acting, lack of cast chemistry, overuse of closeups in fights, retcons essential plot points form previous movies, detracts too much from the video game, shallow themes
***********Review***********
 The previous movie RESIDENT EVIL RETRIBUTION ended just as a massive battle against Monster our hordes of undead and mutants was about to begin right at The White House. Epic right? Well we never get to see that as our Mary Sue protagonist Alice awakens in rubble after the battle. Mimicking the video game experience, she gets a Mission to return to Raccoon City, the place where it all began, to try and find a new cure for the global zombie virus outbreak. With her special powers (supposedly returned to her in the last movie) now gone, Alice must rally the last survivors on earth, which conveniently include a few familiar faces, to storm the Hive, umbrella corporation's secret underground lair from the first movie.


Make no mistake, Resident Evil as a movie franchise has Long since severed ties with the video games it is based on. It is now essentially multi million dollar fan fiction which uses some of the creatures from the games, some homages and supporting characters that do happen to share their names with the main characters from the games. The movies craft their own lore apart from the games and it was fairly intriguing with the twists and revelations, the cloning sub plot, the mystery of who Alice really is, the virus granting special powers, all of it. That is until they went and retconned stuff on a whim. The revelation that there was a cure to the virus? There was already a cure in the first movie. Funny how everyone forgot that. The revelation of the virus' true creator? Contradicts RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE. The retelling of the origins of the outbreak? contradicts the first movie. It is almost as if this second trilogy (Afterlife, Retribution, Final chapter) is a reboot of the franchise or a wholly separate franchise from the first trilogy (RE, Apocalypse and Extinction).


The story wraps itself up nicely bringing multiple sub plots to a satisfactory end but the execution is disappointing and the journey is almost laughable. Alice as a character is as devoid of personality as a raw chicken wing. Her delivery of dialogue alters between bored angry, bored upset and bored surprise as if actress Milla Jovovich is tired of all the narrative loopholes that the franchise has dug for itself. Every line from her can be punctuated with a sarcastic "seriously?" and it would not feel out of place. Despite having no special powers, she still kicks a lot of Monster butt while maintaining her ageless good looks.


The look of RE: THE FINAL CHAPTER lacks the visual polish of the previous native 3D movie. This one is shot in traditional 2D replacing the surreal slow motion with close up frantic camerawork and flat, dingy cinematography that reminds me of a direct to video movie. Surprisingly this actually works in the movie's favour, bringing it back to the grittier aesthetic which attracted me to the first 3 movies. It is grim, it is claustrophobic, it is perfect for a horror action movie. My only gripe is that the director falls back on way too many cuts during action scenes giving that choppy jittery feel that too many modern blockbusters are known for.


I am torn when it comes to this franchise. It is cheap guilty pleasure of a shallow 80s action movie which this film makes no excuses for. But on the other hand it has so much potential to be a little smarter and tackle themes a little deeper. The cloning subplot could give rise to a plot thread exploring individuality and the nature vs nurture debate. The Umbrella Corporation had potential to be a compelling protagonist with the amount of resources and influence we had seen in past films, but alas they are no better than something out of a 1990s anime, all "wipe out the world and recreate in our image" and stuff. Any compelling motive? No, just because they are the villain and must be evil.

As a movie franchise, RESIDENT EVIL had overstayed its welcome by 3 movies. Its needlessly convoluted story which literally hits the reset button at the start of every movie does little justice to its simplistic narrative, cheap thrills and shallow themes. If it is any consolation, the franchise is consistent in that regard so we only have the action, special effects and camerawork to fall back on.  It is immensely entertaining, and an improvement over past installments. But sadly even those aspects  are still mediocre compared to many other horror science fiction movies, leaving this final RESIDENT EVIL movie as neither the best Nor the worst of the bunch.

***********Review***********


Entertainment: B+
Story: C-
Acting: B
Characters: B
Music: C
Replay value: B+
"Brains": C-

Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 10 Movies Of 2016

As 2017 starts, I look back at my top 10 movies of 2016. I admit that i did not watch all the movies released in Singapore and there are some honourable mentions that i decided to miss such as TRAIN TO BUSAN. Even for those i watched, not all of them were given reviews.

Anyway here are my top 10 movies of 2016 and why i hold them in such high regard.





1. DEADPOOL 
9/10
It defies genre, it defies convention, it throws us right into the thick of the action. The perfect comic book movie. Very faithful to the source, witty, funny. We aren't talking the cartoony quips or snide banter of disney's Marvel movies. This is smart, actually humorous, befitting of the film and filled to popping point with pop culture references of all sorts. Yet DEADPOOL is not some laugh-a-minute comedy. Ryan Reynolds completely sells even the more sombre scenes with such earnestness.



2. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
9/10
The magic carries on in this amazing spinoff of the HARRY POTTER franchise. It had a lot to live up to and delivered the same wondrous sense of fantasy and adventure while weaving a brand new story quite literally from scratch. With compelling new characters juxtaposed against a familiar world of wizardry, a near perfect script and a touch of nostalgia, the world of HARRY POTTER has now broken free of the restraints of the books and opened up a whole new direction of possibilities.



8.5/10
Filled with subtle but powerful emotional moments, equally powerful fight scenes, and strong underlying themes, BATMAN V SUPERMAN is loud, grand and an easily misunderstood creature.
This is a complex movie delving into complex themes that few current day superhero comics, let alone movies, touch on. It deconstructs and explore the nature of trust, power, and question the inherent good or evil in human hearts. These philosophical questions are brought up, lending much needed depth to a genre reduced in recent years to superficial childlike thrills.



8.5/10
As a whole this is a tremendous improvement in every aspect over previous marvel team up movie AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON. Comic book movies will be hard pressed to match up to this standard set by CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR. Yes there is ill placed humour, yes they kill a certain amount of the drama with cheap comedy and yes the relatively generic musical score by Henry Jackman seems wasted on such an epic. But the few flaws aside, this is finally the kind of movie that marvel should be making. One that takes its superheroes more seriously, tones down the jokes, and delves into deeper themes both social and political



5. WARCRAFT: THE BEGINNING
8.5/10
Video game movies have never gotten a fair chance to shine. Plagued by either a low budget or too many deviations from the source, they have been constantly ridiculed at the box office. WARCRAFT changed that. In fact it may hew a little too faithful to the source. As an adaptation of the very first Warcraft game, it succeeds in creating a high fantasy world where orcs, gryphons and other magical creatures exist. The characters are earnestly fleshed out, decently developed and extremely likeable. The production designs come right out of game, preserving even the more extreme ones all produced with special effects that would rival James Cameron’s Avatar. The fact that WARCRAFT has gone to become the highest grossing video game movie in the world by 2016 speaks volumes about its quality.



6. SHIN GOJIRA (GODZILLA RESURGENCE) 
8/10
Japan is back in the game with their very own new Godzilla movie SHIN GOJIRA. Where Hollywood revived Godzilla as a tribute to his more heroic role in the showa era “versus” movies, Toho Japan has gone back to the roots of the 1954 original Gojira and crafted a modern thriller about the horrors of mankind’s misdeeds, the inaction of a government and the impotence of a military in the face of this fiercer, meaner, force of nature Gojira. More than just a monster movie with amazing special effects, SHIN GOJIRA is a political thriller that satirises the japanese government, it is also a very human drama, unafraid to show that horrible consequences of a monster’s rampage.



7. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
8/10
Monsters come in many forms and on the flip side from the giant monster in GOJIRA comes the most unexpected but most obvious monster of all, us. 10 Cloverfield lane is a thrilling mystery fleshed out perfectly thanks to the performance of its cast led by veteran John Goodman. Every moment is a nail biting tension, every bit of dialogue is a clue to something that would come later, all cleverly woven into tense film about how far desperation would drive someone. With a hinted connection to an overarching shared universe which started with the Cloverfield giant monster movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane shows that you do not need big special effects or big action to tell a compelling story.


8. LEGEND OF TARZAN
8/10
The Lord of the Jungle has reclaims the big screen with this modern day interpretation of the classic character written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Not surprising that this magnificent period piece comes from the same director as FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. I personally loved that it was not an action blockbuster. There were enough slower scenes that fleshed out the characters and the setting. The performances of the cast is amazing, with the more mythical elements of the Tarzan mythos realised through cutting edge special effects and featuring beautifully stylised cinematography throughout. The themes of the movie, both personal and political, are a constant presence throughout Tarzan’s tale and journey of self-discovery.


9. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
8/10
STAR WARS without lightsabers or jedi? Unheard of yet perfectly executed in this movie. ROGUE ONE shows the grittier side of the star wars universe being a war story first and a star wars story second. In a departure from the classic black and white morality of the star wars franchise, ROGUE ONE presents morally grey good guys and bad guys. A cruel empire or the only hope for order amidst galactic chaos? A courageous group of rebels or scheming underground movement that would backstab and betray to achieve their ends? This complexity adds a fresh layer to the stale good vs evil duality and crafts a compelling science fiction movie which relies too heavily on nostalgia.


10. HARDCORE HENRY
7.5/10
A first person shooter movie that is not based on a first person shooter game. The story, the characters, the entire setting is right out of a video game that never was. Filmed entirely from a first person perspective using go-pro cameras, the frantic action may be a little too much for some but for me it is a perfect action movie revealing in violence and intense carnage. Its unique visual style and masterful cinematography makes this look like a big budget film. You’d never know that it was made cheap using off the shelf visual effects software.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review



Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: Amazing chemistry among cast, perfect portrayal of comic book characters, well written dark humour, intense action.

The Bad: Mediocre music, uninspired directing style, garish cinematography, erratic pacing, shallow narrative, never delves into deeper themes.

3D Readiness: Post production 3D conversion. Murky cinematography and frantic camera work do not translate well to 3D

*************Review*************
Villains get the spotlight in SUICIDE SQUAD, a movie which is in as much of a dismal situation as its protagonists with an almost bipolar personality caused by an indecision on a proper tone or themes. What could have been a gripping ensemble piece about camaraderie among unlikely companions forged in the fires of conflict becomes yet another loud, messy, superficial blockbuster affair. A movie about second chances and an exploration of the minds behind the monsters that are these supervillains dials back on all this potential depth in the name of making itself more “fun”.
From the get go, SUICIDE SQUAD had a tall order to tackle. It had to introduce not one, not two, but a whopping 9 characters into this cinematic universe called the DC Extended Universe or DCEU. Not only that, they had to go from bad guy to good guy and settle their individual character arcs within the span of 2 hours. This is a team movie but we had barely known the team members. In a flurry of disjointed flashbacks and flash forwards, we are brought up to speed on the history of our characters leading up to their current situation as patsies recruited by the ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to be a black ops task force in the service of the government. Marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), mutated strongman Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), self-blaming pyrokinetic gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), master of ropes Slipknot (Adam Beach), crazy Aussie with a pony obsession (it makes sense in context) Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), crazier little psychopath Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), all led by the stern no-nonsense Captain Rick Flagg and his sword wielding assistant Katana.
Immediately apparent is the tremendous chemistry among the cast. Each role is masterfully played and feel exactly like the comic book brought to life. Of particular note are Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and veteran Will Smith’s Deadshot. The respective actors nail the various facets of these complex characters perfectly, portraying them as layered individuals hiding their inner brokenness behind a façade of bravado and false smiles. That being said, only Deadshot and Harley get any decent development. The others are relegated to being a supporting cast with barely an arc much less any character depth. A pity though, seeing as how colourful a cast it was, and how intriguing their backstories from the comics were.

For their first mission, the squad is sent into Midway City to investigate an apparent terrorist attack. Instead what they find is a supernatural invasion like something out of Ghostbusters. Faceless humanoid zombie things roam the streets while special effects mumbo jumbo continually pours out of a peculiar train station. Slowly it is revealed that there is more to this attack than meets the eye which seems to have a personal connection to one of the squad. But first, they would have to fight their way across the city in some of the messiest, uninspired fight sequences filmed in recent years all set to a bland generic score and shot in a haphazard manner with each frame saturated in garish purple, oily blacks and acid green.

Oh and the Joker (Jared Leto) is in this movie somewhere, appearing occasionally throughout the movie like a wheezing Wiley Coyote intent on saving his lost love Harley. We really do not get much about him other than he is a mob boss, kills people, and has a disturbing as heck chuckle.
SUICIDE SQUAD is muddled by erratic pacing for the most part, brought about by the sloppy editing that looks more like a music video and less like a movie. Perhaps that was the point when they packed the film full of pop songs from likes of Eminem, Rick James and Skrillex; it is a feature length compilation of music videos in which the characters actually stop for an intermission to get a drink right in the middle of a war.

Here is a movie that is unable to decide on its identity, no doubt brought about by the executive meddling that plagued its production. It feels like it was originally a much darker, sombre, character centred movie. Such a film would have been more in line with Director David Ayers’ style, having done the brutal war movie Fury. Instead, it is pumped full of dark humour which, though well executed, takes away any complexity or meaningful themes that the movie could have incorporated. It is so superficial that even the camaraderie comes out of nowhere. One moment they are complete strangers, and all of a sudden they are best friends. A character claims that the squad is his new family but nowhere do we see them truly bond.

SUICIDE SQUAD is saved mainly by the amazing actors and actresses, bringing our favourite comic book villains to life in a way that makes us want to know more about them, their histories, and their stories. They bring a tremendous energy to the screen and snippets of the characters’ development and how the varying personalities play off each other are sprinkled throughout the film. Perhaps if it was not mercilessly butchered by editors, SUICIDE SQUAD had potential to be a great ensemble piece digging deep into an exploration of the criminal psyche and a tragic tale of loss and redemption. Instead it was re-cut into a shallow comedy filled mess with bland directing, murky production design, and ended up with the trailers being better than the movie itself.

*************Review End*************

Entertainment: B-
Story: C-
Acting: A
Characters: B-
Music: C-
Replay value: B-
"Brains": C-

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007) Direct to Video Animated Movie


Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: Focused story, ample character development, beautiful art, mature tone, relatable protagonist, does not pander to children, seamless incorporation of Asian martial arts influences

The Bad: Mediocre music, inconsistent animation, strays from the magical roots of the source material,

3D Readiness: None



**********Review**********

As we look forward to the live action Doctor Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, we take a look back at an alternate retelling of the marvellous magician's origin story: Marvel animation's DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME (2007). Where the marvel cinematic universe's live action entry seems to bank on star power, trippy special effects and comedy, this 2007 animated movie presents a more sombre tale of a proud man brought low by unfortunate circumstances yet clawed his way from the depths to master skills beyond his wildest imagination. All this wrapped in a beautiful package that boasts unmistakable Asian influences.

DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME tells of our titular Stephan Strange, an arrogant self-serving world-class doctor who left empathy in a tragic past. If it were not for well placed emotional flashbacks to his past, one would almost feel Strange deserved to get into that accident and deserved to have his hands crippled. 

Having exhausted all resources to cure his disability, Stephan Strange stumbles upon a  monastery in the mysterious Himalayas. There he is given a chance to heal physically, mentally and spiritually. Little did he suspect that the monastery is home to a secret cadre of sorcerers who hunt demons that venture into our world in an effort to prevent a powerful entity from invading earth. Finding a renewed purpose, Stephan trains alongside them and soon masters their magical arts in record time, much to the annoyance of their leader, Baron Mordo. Strange and Mordo soon become rivals but the jealousy boiling within Mordo would lead him to drastic measures in order to best Strange.

The whole premise of a group of magicians training in seclusion and secretly defending earth from demonic invasion hearkens back to many Chinese fairy tales and Japanese folk myths. Both the doctor's personal story of his fall and renewal and the epic extra dimensional invasion arc blend seamlessly into one another, creating a very well balanced show with strong action, interesting characters and a very emotional story.

The script fully fleshes out the good doctor's character, focusing on his development and painting both Strange and Mordo as "ying and yang" opposites: both were great men, humbled by circumstances, but while one overcame his negative emotions, another slid deeper into mad obsession. The rest of the characters are just stock characters there for the sake of being there and to showcase some very creative character designs and magical powers. Thankfully, the talented cast manage to make each voice unique and very professionally acted, even down to the Asian accents which could have turned out corny in less talented hands. 

DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME boasts a distinct asian touch in not just the story, but also the art and animation. Character designs look like they had leaped from the pages of hong kong kung fu comics, characters adopt oriental martial arts movies while casting their spells. There is also an emphasis placed on the weapon duels which storyboarded like something out of Japanese anime.  

The backgrounds are lush and very intricately designed with attention paid to every single detail, be it reflection in puddles or light shining off metals in the background. Character designs retain their slightly stylized Asian look that was prevalent in the Iron Man animated movie but the level of detail has been taken up a notch. More heavy blacks and a greater contrast of colors are used for an overall more dynamic look and feel. 

Sadly this attention to detail does make it fall into the same trap most Japanese anime do: the animation suffers. Some fight scenes devolve into a low frame rate, making for some choppy movements which should have otherwise been fluid in order to best convey the grace and agility of the martial arts. The 3D animation used for vehicles and otherworldly creatures also stood out at a times, looking very out of place and not blended as well with the 2D art. 

Overall Dr Strange is a very enjoyable movie. Complex and emotionally charged enough for the discerning adult who would appreciate a superhero origin story heavier on drama than comedy. Kids may not appreciate this though as the violent and often dark content, plus lack of levity, may turn them away. For the discerning adult and animation fan, DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME is a likeable balance of believable characters, emotional drama and epic fantasy action with an Asian twist coupled with detailed art and impressive acting. 
**********Review End*********



Entertainment: A-
Art: A-
Animation: C+
Story: A-
Voice Acting (English): B+
Characters: B+
Music: D+
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B-

Saturday, June 4, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) movie review


Overall verdict: 7/10

A disappointing villain and lack of thematic depth overshadows the fun, action packed conclusion to the second X-men trilogy.

The Good: fantastic acting, top notch special effects, rousing soundtrack, paves the way for, easy-to-follow straightforward narrative, well written script with witty humour 

The Bad: lack of excitement in battle sequences, dated stunt work, shallow superficial characters, plot points seem repeated from previous movies

3D Readiness: None

*******Review******


The word "apocalypse" brings to mind an end-of-the world event of biblical proportions. X-MEN APOCALYPSE brings to mind some Japanese anime and a yearning for the better X-men movies of the past. The third in this "new trilogy" that began with X-MEN FIRST CLASS, the franchise reached its high point in the epic X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST but now tips back down to a rather typical tale of good vs evil intertwined with the usual hero's journey. Thankfully the masterful execution of dialogue and acting chops saves this film from sinking into mediocrity.

Our story begins Ten years after the mutant Magneto aka Eric Lensherr nearly murdered the president on national television only to be foiled at the last instant by fellow mutant shapeshifter Mystique and his former Friend and psychic Charles Xavier. Now Eric has settled in a life of isolation with his new Wife and child, Mystique has become a legend among the mistreated mutant populace Travelling the globe to free mutants from abuse, while Charles has his school for young mutants up and running. His newest pupils are the aloof Jean Grey, a powerful telekinetic who can barely control her abilities, and the lonely Scott Summers who has been cursed with equally uncontrollable powers that fire laser beams from his eyes. Mystique breaks up an illegal mutant fight club in Germany and rescues a young teleporter, cursed with a blue devilish appearance, named Kurt Wagner. So........do you follow me so far? Great, because into all of these plot threads comes Apocalypse, an ancient Egyptian mutant able to manipulate inanimate objects on a molecular level. He awakens after a Long sleep and seeks to re-establish his godlike status in the world.


That is a lot of plot threads. Fortunately or unfortunately it does not require much inferring or complex thinking to follow the story. It is very simple and it is in its simplicity that it loses out on the richness of character than past xmen movies had. Our characters are all reduced to two dimensional archetypes each with familiar story arcs. So familiar in fact that the whole movie is a pastiche of plot points taken from past xmen movies. Eric is the grief stricken blood knight who goes evil with vengeance when tragedy strikes, again. Scott jean and Kurt are the inexperienced loners who have to work together to overcome their challenges, a little like pyro, Bobby drake (ice man) and kitty pryde (shadow cat) in X-men 2. Mystique replaces wolverine as the badass wanderer who is thrown into a leadership position to guide our young loners. Xavier is once again captured and the X-men's home base is compromised, again like X-MEN 2. Powerful mutant with delusions of godhood and a gang of loyal followers is Apocalypse this time replacing magneto's role in the first 3 xmen movies. Call it homage or call it cliche, I feel that this story manages to toe the line between familiar and fresh. The familiar elements gives us a sense of the revolving nature of conflict, that history repeats despite the best intentions. The fresh elements of course add new facets to a film which could have otherwise been a complete bore, thanks to the slow burn nature of the plot which mostly sees both good guys and bad guys gathering their key players for the final showdown. Those who can appreciate a slow build up would love this while those who need their immediate action fix would be left disappointed.


Divisive might be the best word to describe this movie. When the action does come, it is a special effects spectacle of mutant powers on display where everyone.......pretty much stands around shooting things at each other. Oh look, the villain is getting the upper hand! Let's shoot more! Where physical stunts and fights come, they are a thrill to behold except the dated wire work which feels artificial. Interspersed between these divisive battles are particular scenes of movie magic. Quicksilver (last see in DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) returns and we get to see the full extent of his powers once again only on a larger scale. And at least this time he has a purpose in the story other than being a just a miraculous attempt. But as mentioned earlier his motivations are touched on but not explored. His character is simplified into yet another archetype.


Beneath the visual spectacle, the movie under utilises its cast of characters. Ty Sheridan's Scott Summers could have been great as the new audience surrogate, going from meek bullied loser to taking his first steps as confident leader of the X-Men. Instead he is also shoved into the background after his introduction. Kodi-smith mcfee's more feline looking Nightcrawler is also another intriguing character sidelined. Instead we get more Charles xavier and more Eric playing out their character drama like star crossed lovers. Don't get me wrong, they are fantastic actors, especially Michael Fassbender completely nailing the tragedy of Eric's character arc. But their story came to a decent close in the last movie and this one just feels like more of the same.

Apocalypse himself is a villain that is as equally divisive as the movie itself. On one hand, it seemed that the creators were going for the "all powerful but frail" type of villain ala emperor Palpatine of Star Wars. The snake-like menace that Oscar Isaac exudes through his sinister delivery is betrayed by a design that borders on corny. Oversized platform boots, plastic looking Armour and an ill defined set of powers all downplay the threatening presence of the villain. His motivations could have been much deeper. A commentary on modern commercialism replacing the religions of old perhaps as the new "cult following"? Or a criticism of humanity's arrogance and self glorifying nature? Maybe even a critique on how common folk are quick to idolise mortal "false gods" of the influential and powerful? No, no and no. None of that thematic depth here. Apocalypse is merely your Saturday morning cartoon variety villain who wants to destroy the world to rebuild in his image.

It is not a bad movie per se. Visually stunning, an easy-to-follow plot and well cast characters set to a script filled with witty dialogue that does not overdo the comedy. The acting is professional and the music by John Ottman is a grand thematic continuation of But for a grand finale it pales in comparison to films like X-MEN 2 by glossing over its deeper themes of social commentary especially, in the treatment of mutants as an allegory to prejudice against social minorities. It lacks the urgency, high stakes tension and emotional depth of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and the chemistry among the cast is no where near XMEN FIRST CLASS. I would place it as a middling entry into the X-men franchise that succeeds in opening the doors to a whole new generation of X-men movies.
*******Review End*******

Entertainment: A-
Story: C
Acting: B+
Characters: C-
Music: B+
Replay value: B+
"Brains": C+

Monday, May 30, 2016

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008) direct to video animated movie



Overall verdict: 6.5/10

Focusing on the avengers' kids has turned a potentially relevant and deep story into juvenile Saturday morning cartoon fare.

The Good: simple story, some night time scenes of intricate artwork, conveys relevant themes of growing up, excellent voice work

The Bad: Sub-standard animation, generally simplistic art, cliche ridden plot, juvenile writing, 

3D Readiness: None

********Review********* 

The Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, have been defeated by the machine menace known as Ultron. Presumably the last survivor of that final terrible battle, Iron Man/Tony Stark takes it upon himself to hide the baby children of the Avengers in secret so that Ultron would never find them. He raises them hidden in a underground artificial paradise, constantly spinning them tales about the parents they never knew. Fast forward 13 years later and the children have grown up into fine youngsters, training their individual gifts but longing to find their place in the world. Following a surprise visitation by the Vision and an unfortunate accident, Ultron discovers the location of the Avenger's children and launches an all out attack. Separated from their mentor Iron Man, and on the run, these "Next Avengers" must live up to their family heritage while dealing with their individual inner turmoil and teenage angst.

First off, the story is very intriguing and engaging. It is a whole new world and whole new rules as our Next Avengers step out of their artificial perfect world and into the dystopia that our earth has become. There is a good amount of mystery and tension in the first act as the tragic past is slowly unveiled through stories and flashbacks. But the second part taking place in Ultron City falls a little bit into futuristic cartoon clichés. Machines have dominated the future, an underground resistance movement is made up of a rag tag team of misfits who look culled from every single dystopian genre anime there ever was. The story isn't as intense as the previous marvel animated movies, nor as character focused, and the writing does tend to tip a bit into the juvenile side of things. Although the stakes are high with Ultron having taken over the world, we never get a sense of danger from this adversary. The story feels safe; safe in the fact that it is predictable that good would eventually triumph, safe in the fact that any character "killed" would be back by the end of the movie. 
The Characters are a little less easy to get into than the story. The children are typical kid hero character stereotypes. The irritating youngest brat(Pym), the hot headed slacker turned leader(James), the feisty girl with daddy issues(Toruun), the token African American for political correctness(Azari) and the cold aloof flirty one(Barton). Aside from the clichés their individual story arcs play out very believably. The inner turmoil faced by the heroes alludes to many common problems face by average teenagers nowadays, such as living up to one's parents' expectations and finding a sense of self-identity. These are very heart warming themes that can appeal to young and old alike. Some of the dialogue may be a little too "saturday morning cartoon" for the older teenagers like myself but these superficial shortcomings can be forgiven thanks to good voice acting. It is difficult to believe that they got actual kids to voice the Avengers' children but there you have it: child actors conveying nuance and subtlety like any professional voice actor. These kids may go far in life.

It is in the animation department where this film truly suffers. The animation is very inconsistent here. The art varies from an intricate level of detail  to flat and cheap looking crap with no other detail other than the basic outlines and features. The daytime shots are the worst offender with quality coming across very poorly, not even an ounce of effort in the shading. But some of the night time shots are breathtaking with amazing lighting effects and full use of shadows.

A number of animation short cuts are jarringly visible and the fluidity of the animation usually varies indirectly to the art detail. This leads to a lot of the action lacking the dynamic energy that one would expect from such animated superhero showdowns. Add in the rather generic sounding soundtrack and you get some very underwhelming action. There is one sequence near the end of the movie where quality takes a bit of a jump but it ends up being too little too late. The overall animation of the movie has a low budget look; more fitting for a TV series than a movie. The character designs had a strong American anime feel to them. Not as exaggerated as Teen Titans but more on par with Ben 10.


On a whole, Next Avengers was an enjoyable movie with themes that are easy to relate to and can be watched by an audience of any age above 7. It has themes relevant to those growing up in the shadow of their parents and peers but all this is buried under writing that is more juvenile that i had hoped for. The cliches, simplistic artwork and occasional corny humour do not do NEXT AVENGERS any justice. If it were not for all that and the sub standard animation, I would have given this a higher rating.

********Review End*******

Entertainment: B+
Art: C-
Animation: C
Story: B
Voice Acting (English): B+ 
Characters: C+
Music: C
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B