Justice League Review: DC getting it right bit by bit

DISCLAIMER – This is a long review.

For a 90’s kid growing up among several heroic cartoons, Justice League was the Holy Grail. Brilliant characters with diverse backstories leading to intriguing personalities for both the heroes and villains made for compelling television. Most importantly, it elevated the core concept of superheroes -it is the heart and not the powers that maketh the hero. Now, throw in the values of teamwork, sacrifice and friendship, that Justice League could move a mountain.

However, barring a Batman trilogy, courtesy Christopher Nolan, DC Comics failed to capture the silver screen. The situation was further compounded by Marvel kick-starting a juggernaut in 2008 which is showing no signs of slowing down. Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers, in 2012 showed how to portray a superhero team on screen.

Bat

This led to DC rushing in to develop an extended universe of their own and to say there were hiccups in the past few years would be an understatement. Either way, the much-awaited Justice League is finally here and to put it in a single statement – they are getting there.

Yes, the movie does not have the elaborate build of Avengers with individual films for most of the characters, that were well-received and this could hurt the casual moviegoers a bit. Yet, the Justice League characters are hands-down more popular than any other. Thus, with a tweak in the film’s tone and improved writing, the movie comfortably escapes the problems of yore (except for critics, of course) and delivers a satisfying team-up.

Aquaman

The prime antagonist, Steppenwolf, suffers from not having an actual human face and a backstory. However, given the heroes’ situation in terms of previous films (barring Wonder Woman, which was well-received), DC can be forgiven for not fleshing out Steppenwolf and he ends up doing nothing more than being the bad guy. This expectantly leads to a low-key climax.

The film’s crispier timing of just about two hours is a big plus and the banter between the heroes (including Batman) lifts the spirits to great success. Further, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are shown just enough to have an idea about their origins and powers while saving the rest for the upcoming individual films. Danny Elfman provides the right background score for every character and composes a fine theme song to cap it off.

Cyborg

All doubts on whether Ezra Miller will be accepted, given Grant Gustin’s excellent portrayal on the CW Network are put to bed, as Barry Allen (The Flash) is a dork, geek and witty as one would expect. Cyborg’s ‘half-man, half-machine’ trope gets his moments but will take another film to get the audience to understand his character (and powers). To that extent, the writers Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder do well to weave him into the film’s main plot, which is a pretty straightforward one.

Jason Momoa looks and feels the part of Aquaman as he brings in more muscle, mysterious aquatic powers and a swagger of his own to the team. Ben Affleck’s Batman is now at a different place after Superman’s death and he takes the initiative to get the team together apart from getting a few cool new toys. The real show-stealer is undoubtedly Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who carries right where she left off in Wonder Woman. No wonder, she looks the most-developed character among the lot, with Gadot depicting the pain and strength within at every step.

SPOILER AHEAD!

WW

Unless you were living under a stone since Batman vs Superman, this is not much of a spoiler as Superman comes back from the dead. The movie can be considered a success in itself for FINALLY getting the Son of Krypton right. The seriousness is now intertwined with a dash of humour, which is how he is in the comics. Further, the film does a good amount of work (Bruce Wayne in particular) to re-establish the character before his rebirth, bringing in what he stands for and why he is the leader of the team (despite being a Batman fan, I got sold).

Finally, there are a couple of scenes in the midst of action in the film that show how these DC heroes can connect and impress without even uttering a word and both of them involve the Flash. For once or twice, in this case, Zack Snyder’s love for slow-motion shots enhances the scenes tenfold.

Flash

Justice League is finally a step in the right direction for DC as it rectifies the plaguing issues while showcasing the immense potential. The second end-credit scene is the perfect proof of the same (wait for it!) while the first end-credit scene is for comic geeks and looks like a Joss Whedon touch.

THE LEAGUE HAS UNITED!

All content rights are reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Advertisements

Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi Review: An Ode to Friendship!

Telugu Film Industry (TFI) has been nothing short of spectacular this year. The entire year has seen a wide variety of films thrilling the audience with different content, irrespective of the budget. Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi adds itself to the list with the focus being firmly on friendship.

Every once in a while, a film based on friendships is made that tugs viewers’ hearts. Be it Happy Days or Arya 2  or several other films in this genre, the friendships between the lead characters act as a base for the story. Now, Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi is a slightly different film in the sense that the story IS about friendship.

Every other character, including the female leads, are present to either enhance or test the bond between Abhi (Ram) and Vasu (Sree Vishnu), thereby demonstrating the ethos of friendship. Director Kishore Tirumala who doubled up as a writer for the film pens a satisfying drama without a single shade of negativity. While it can seem implausible to meet such characters in real life, it is definitely not impossible.

hero-ram-15-movie-unnadi-okkate-zindagee-official-posters-with-heroines-anupama-and-meghaa

Thus, the movie does not feature any antagonists and given the nature of the film, it is a wise decision. The first half flows like a breeze and the conflict points are interesting to watch. However, Kishore is a writer first and his need to weave the narrative slows down the film before the climax recovers with a proper closure for the story.

Ram looks smashing in the entirety of the film and his new look will definitely draw attention. However, it does not take away his performance credits as he begins to show maturity as an actor. Sree Vishnu gets ample screen time to deliver and he does a commendable job as the introvert in the friendship. The remaining friends are fleshed out just enough to justify their presence apart from providing entertainment, which is bound to evoke loud laughs from the audience.

Out of the female leads, Anupama Parameswaran of Premam fame gets a good role as a regular girl with dreams and she looks the part. Lavanya Tripathi’s character does not have the same depth but like the rest of the actors, she has a meaningful role.

As one would expect, Devi Sri Prasad delivers a peppy soundtrack for the film with the theme music certain to stay with the audience even after the film. The production values are top notch with a classy touch to every frame. Editing by A.Sreekar Prasad is good for most parts, except for the second-half which could have used some trimming.

Nevertheless, Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi is a must-watch for every individual who either has those childhood friends to cherish or wants to understand the essence of friendship, a relation that is taken for granted more than any other.

Trend-u maarina Friend-u maaradey,
End kaani Bond peru FRIENDSHIP ey!
Trend-u maarina Friend-u maaradey,
Gundeloni Sound peru FRIENDSHIP ey!

The song may not be AR Rehman’s “Mustafa Mustafa”, but it has the necessary impact.

Finally, a special mention to all my friends for the wonderful ride since more than a decade. You are genuine strength – miss you all!

All content rights are reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

 

Spiderman: Homecoming Review – The Spider Kid earns his Marvel stripes

First of all, I would like to clear right away that I am not a Spiderman fan. Neither the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire trilogy nor the Marc Webb-Andrew Garfield made me connect for whatever reasons with the friendly neighbourhood superhero. The only media I enjoyed him was cartoons and comics. With Marvel acquiring him, there was the golden opportunity and Captain America: Civil War gave a brilliant teaser of what was to come. On a personal level, I finally fell in love with the web slinger after this film.

Spiderman always needed a colourful, charming tone and Marvel exactly fits the bill. The music for Marvel Studios along with the animation right at the beginning shows what is to follow. Homecoming maintains a long-distance relationship with the larger MCU. Even the much-hyped partnership with Iron Man is surprisingly maintained at a very minimal level. Robert Downey Jr. never steals anything significant from his son-like protege and the story allows for the most famous Marvel superhero to blossom.

Tom Holland as Spiderman

Tom Holland does a tremendous job in the role as he deals with his alter-ego’s responsibilities of a teenager. Another key aspect of Spiderman is the fun aspect and in typical Marvel fashion, the movie delivers in spades. There are scenes that would even make Joss Whedon proud when it comes to witty humour, be it about his powers, problems and in action sequences.

Michael Keaton does a commendable job as a villain and is one of the better Marvel villains till date. In recent films, there has been a visible effort to make the MCU global and Homecoming has a strong Asian presence including Peter’s best friend. There are a couple of surprising cameos and Jon Favreau gets good screen time as the likeable Happy Hogan.

Michael Keaton

The action sequences are fun and the stakes at all times are smaller than saving the world. However, they involve human risk and suits well with Peter Parker’s arc in the film. While all emotional moments do not resonate to the extent one would expect, Spiderman as a do-gooder with grit, righteousness and bravado stand out amidst the fun.

Jon Watts does a great job in bringing the character into the MCU and the screenplay is one of the biggest assets of the film. The movie races ahead at all times as both Peter Parker and Spiderman deal with their respective issues. This dual focus is well-written and there is never more of extra focus on either of the alter-egos, which is a good thing. One can understand the stakes for both the kid and the superhero at every point and the brisk pace helps the film massively.

Spiderman Ferry scene

Finally, almost every movie in any franchise that does not have a need to set-up something next always tend to do well. Doctor Strange and Ant-Man are the best recent examples in the MCU. Spiderman:Homecoming is the perfect homecoming for Spiderman into the MCU with a vulnerable Peter Parker who is not bogged down by his responsibilties for a change. Instead, he is just a young teen trying to make a change.

Overall, it is not a perfect film by any means but offers a whole lot of entertainment while bringing Marvel’s most beloved character into the MCU. After all, Marvel’s focus and success has always been entertainment. Then, who better to deliver it than your friendly neighbourhood hero with a befitting background score.

Note – Wait out for the end-credits scene. It is totally worth it and shows why Marvel still has the audience eating out of their hands!

All images are reproduced from Google.

All content rights reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Kong: Skull Island Review – All hail the King of Apes!

When Godzilla was rebooted in 2014 as an ancient force of nature, it was a well-written film as to the very existence of Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism (MUTO) and how they still exist to maintain nature’s balance. The movie did extremely well to intertwine the human element to the grander action and it worked perfectly.
So, the excitement was natural when King Kong was also going to be rebooted in a similar fashion and it got better with the announcement of a shared MonsterVerse. Kong directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts maintains the good parts of Godzilla i.e. powerful showcasing of the monster, as much logical explanations as one can expect and the human element constantly being a strong driving factor in the film.
K72A3385.dng
The movie occurs in 1973 when the existence of an unknown island comes to the fore and a team is assembled to study the island. Mayhem breaks loose and the story takes a familiar route from then of a misunderstood monster finally saving the day. Samuel.L.Jackson as Colonel Packard provides a neat wrinkle to the plot and leads to some tense moments towards the end. Tom Hiddleston’s presence is a definite lift while soon-to-be Captain Marvel Brie Larson does her best with the limited character material.  John C. Reilly plays Hank Marlow, who has been stuck on the island for a long while and friends with the Iwi natives.
The first huge plus point of the film is cinematography by Larry Fong, who has previously worked for Zack Snyder films, including Batman vs Superman:Dawn of Justice. Fong captures the landscape of the island, filled with rivers, mountains and flora with an extra layer of beauty and the gigantic magnificence with which Kong is presented in every frame stands out.
The movie starts at a brisk pace building the story and then the entire story revolves in Skull Island. Kong is given more screen-time than Godzilla was, but that could be very well due to the availability of a better characterization and greater depth for an ape when compared to the God of Monsters. However, the screenplay loosens a bit towards the middle as the back-story is explained and the movie inches towards the climax and here, John C.Reilly’s humour is the only positive that keeps the viewers engaged.
kong 2
Coming to the King of Apes himself, I have not watched the 30s film and my only reference here is the one from Peter Jackson’s King Kong. I personally prefer the current version of the Kong, young, strong, temperamental but with a heart. Every scene Kong is in, he burns the screen, be it the action sequences including a very cool Roman Reigns’ Superman Punch,  or the scenes we see him show his benevolent side or the scenes he interacts with the humans.
With Kong, the two main protagonists in the MonsterVerse have made their way onto the silver screens and now the wait begins for the Godzilla vs Kong movie in 2020. While it does look for a Superman vs Batman clash, what sells it as well as differentiates it from the superhero genre is that the existence of these monsters lies on borderline reality, but believable one nonetheless. This is because we still do not completely understand every mystery of our planet and given that giant creatures roamed our lands before we arrived, the notion of a predator rising up when a prey turns up as a balance of nature is not all that implausible.
Before the clash of titans, Godzilla: God of Monsters is going to hit the theatres in 2019 and that would be a good measure of whether the standalone movies can continue after the traits and powers of the monsters are revealed in their respective first parts and the novelty element is no longer present. Till, then everyone can bow down to the King of Apes and my one piece of advice would be – please watch it in theatres for the monstrous experience as it is completely worth it, including the 3D.
 Note – All the above images are from Google.
©Saketh Ayyagari i.e. me.
YNWA

Befikre and Muskhil Dils

The last couple of months have seen two famous filmmakers trying to reinvent and adapt the romance genre defined by them two decades ago. Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil saw the director come full circle from his blockbuster debut film “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, where the protagonist played by Ranbir Kapoor finally accepts that his love will not be reciprocated and understands the value of her friendship. Aditya Chopra’s “Befikre” is a modern take on the notions of love and commitment he has built since his legendary debut film,“Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”.

adhm.jpg

Both the films felt fresh and had a sense of maturity showing the mental growth of directors. Further, they showcased the fast and confused lives of the present generation that the protagonists live in where chastity is no longer as important and in spite of the cool, surface-deep emotions they seem to portray, the leads go through an emotional roller-coaster before coming to terms with what they really want.

On the surface, the unabashed conversations, the “act first and think later” mentality and the various partners tried out before finding the right one can feel from being morally wrong to absolutely right depending on which age group one belongs to. the depiction of present culture has also got to do with the society’s acceptance levels. A case can be made that having multiple partners has been prevalent since the time of kings and emperors. However, it was considered a right only of the rich alone. The increase in society’s acceptance levels over the centuries has thrown much-needed light on it and the current movies reflect that.

However, on looking deeper, in terms of emotions, the present two films are not much different from those 90s classics. Yes, the present movies do not have classic starts and the leads are at various mental stages when they meet. We travel with them as they embrace their turbulent emotions and finally settle at a common mental wavelength. The reality is that this is the only main difference between the old and the new. If we look deeper, the feelings of love, friendship, heart-break and separation are experienced the same way as in the past.

ddlj.jpg

The joy in finding love, the sense of realization and the angst of a heart-break are felt in exactly the same way no matter how much the cultures have changed and how much cooler people seem to be. This is because love is truly universal. Times change, cultures change, but be it Shah Jahan, or Raj/Rahul or Ayan/Dharam or us, true love always works the same. The same applies for the female protagonists as well. There is a scene in “Befikre” where Ranveer asks Vaani Kapoor whether she is waiting for her date to palat as he walks off in an obvious nod to Adi’s DDLJ. Vaani replies such things happened in the 90s and that she was just checking him out. However, towards the end of the film, she does palat, which proves the point. In being able to portray that while showing the superficial changes of time, both Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra have reinvented themselves.

kkhh.jpg

Another interesting tidbit is the casting of Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor for the roles. The energy and enthusiasm of Raj is seen in Dharam and the more subtle and romantic Rahul is seen in Ayan. In essence, they are playing Raj and Rahul, the only difference being the present ones are more evolved.

To conclude, love finds new forms and helps build new stories but love in its truest form never changes. It only becomes “old wine in new bottle” with time and the films depict exactly that.

 

The images are taken from Google and the content above is subject to copyright©