Page 2 of 8

Alien Covenant

After the Covenant, a colony ship with a cargo of 2,000 people in cryosleep and a cache of frozen embryos bound for a distant planet, encounters a solar flare the crew are awoken by ship synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender) as part of an emergency protocol to deal with the damage. Shortly afterwards the ship stumbles upon a signal from a nearby habitable Earth like planet. Despite the protestations of Daniels (Katherine Waterson), this films Ripley character more on her later, Oram (Billy Crudup) ,acting ships captain and out of his depth after the ships captain was burned alive due to a cryopod failure, decides the Covenant should go investigate the newly discovered planet as a potential colony site.

Whilst Ridley Scott’s Alien was an atmospheric sci-fi horror venture, followed by James Cameron’s sci-fi action opus Aliens, this latest entry in the Alien franchise is a brooding gothic drama with some crudely bolted on Aliens action.

Alien Covenant is a profoundly frustrating affair. It might be called Alien Covenant but it’s undeniably a Prometheus sequel. Whilst Ridley Scott might be able to frame a good shot, things look pretty great throughout, the script from John Logan and Dante Harper is insultingly dumb in places. The crew of the Covenant actually make the crew of the Prometheus seem really intelligent. Which is saying something.

Prometheus was a distinctly flawed attempt to explain the origins of the ship (and the xenomorph) first encountered by the crew of the Nostromo on LV-426 in the original Alien film. One of the best parts of that film was the mystery of it and Prometheus (and Alien Covenant) demonstrate the danger of pulling back the curtain.

Prometheus introduced the Engineers, a race of giant humanoids that apparently created the human race, along with a deadly pathogen kept on the planet the crew of the Prometheus find. They are also the owners of that strangely shaped ship found by the crew of the Nostromo. Prometheus ended with the severely damaged synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) and last survivor of the Prometheus scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) heading out into the stars to find the Engineers homeworld looking for answers.

Anyone expecting any of those answers here will only be disappointed.

One of the most laughable aspects of Alien Covenant is that none of the events that happen would’ve happened if the crew of the Covenant actually remembered to wear space suits when going to explore a planet they have only just discovered. That a crew of people so spectacularly dumb are actually in charge of a colony ship, one with a cargo of 2,000 people in cryosleep, says something about how easy it must be to get a job as crew on a space ship with the responsibility of establishing a new colony for humanity.

This is just part of why Alien Covenant is so maddening and frustrating.

Another big part is these characters are utterly forgettable and also pretty unbelievable as actual people, that whole ‘truckers in space’ dialogue thing that worked so well in Ridley Scott’s Alien? There’s not really any of  that here.

There are three characters in this film that are in anyway interesting and two of them are played by the same actor. Michael Fassbender is, unsurprisingly, great playing the synthetic David (last seen in Prometheus) and Walter the synthetic who is part of the Covenant’s crew. The other character worth caring about is Danny McBride’s Tennessee, the stetson wearing, grizzled and rebellious member of the Covenant’s crew.

The landing squad from the Covenant soon find out to their horror that their new Eden is anything but as they discover David, stranded on the planet for a decade, has been busy playing god and wants to share his creations. David also reveals, after initially saying it was accident, that upon arrival at the planet, apparently the Engineers home world, he killed them all with the deadly pathogen last seen in Prometheus. The Engineers calcified bodies, frozen screaming out in anguish, now litter the area around where he lives.

Whilst this definitely sets a tone, it also means that the Engineers were only living in that one place on the planet that David now resides. Otherwise they would have undoubtedly retaliated in the years before the Covenant shows up. But in order for the first Alien film to happen there has to be an Engineer ship on LV-426 for the crew of the Nostromo to find, and it has to (in theory) have an Engineer on it in order for the ‘space jockey’ to be found along with the eggs.  Unless David is the ‘space jockey’ but that would mean he was somehow infected by a facehugger, which doesn’t really make sense since he’s synthetic not organic.  A parasite can’t survive without a host to feed off.

Fassbender basically carries this film, the interaction between David and Walter, an upgraded newer model of synthetic, is the best thing about this rather sorry mess.

Those questions you have about the Engineers, who are they, why did they create humanity, why did they create the deadly pathogen, why are their ships such a weird shape? Yeah, you’re not getting those answers here. The Engineers are it seems just a footnote in this story which establishes David as a Victor Frankenstein figure who created the xenomorph after years of experimenting with the pathogen on different organisms, and apparently just waiting for some humans to respond to his signal so he could have one of his facehuggers infect them and give birth to the first xenomorph. Which is exactly what happens.

That it happens in such a laughable way is just par for the course here, Oram, having just been given a guided tour of David’s creepy laboratory full of specimens he’s created with the Engineers pathogen, helpfully sticks his dumb face over an alien egg as it hatches.

The only thing resembling answers here are the indications that David decided to infect the crew of the Prometheus on his own, Walter makes a point of saying later models were changed because they were too human.  As David says at one point “Idle hands are the Devil’s play thing”.

If you’re thinking ‘What about the alien queen how does that fit in here?’ Good question. I have no idea.  Alien Covenant basically throws everything regarding the xenomorph as featured in Aliens into a woodchipper.

The worst thing about this venture is that Alien Covenant could’ve been considerably better with some competent writing. Having a team of people who fly through space for a living visiting a newly discovered planet who bring weapons in case they face a hostile threat, but don’t have intelligence to think there could be anything harmful in the atmosphere is appallingly sloppy writing. Profound stupidity is a major plot device here, the kind of thing you’d expect in a slasher horror film but without the sense of macabre fun. Unlike in Alien, where the crew are slowly killed by a vicious killing machine unlike anything they’ve ever seen whilst trapped in a claustrophobic environment, or Aliens, where the marines are killed because their superiors underestimate the threat they’re facing, here pretty much everyone dies due to their own stupidity because that’s what the plot demands.

The worst part is this happens in a film which is also trying to be intelligent whilst philosophising about the meaning of existence.  There’s a sense that this film really wants to be seen as intelligent science fiction like Arrival  but it really isn’t.

The third act is as predictable as it is underwhelming as it basically recycles beats from Aliens badly, but the worst part is you don’t care because the majority of these characters are ciphers, there’s no sense of stakes or dramatic tension   Another thing  the xenomorph only works when its utilised and shot properly, as seen in Alien and Aliens, which have entirely different approaches that both work brilliantly. Monster movie 101, less is more, a creepy thing hiding in the shadows is far more effective atmospherically than something in plain sight. This is especially true from a visual effects perspective. This film is seemingly entirely reliant on digital effects work for the xenomorphs and everything else and it really shows. The shift away from practical effects really, really stands out  and makes me realise that a man in a suit shot the right way still looks better than what’s on offer here.

Oh and one final point, Daniels is Alien Covenant’s Ripley, only without any of the qualities or characterisation that made Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley so memorable. Carrying a gun and shooting at a xenomorph does not make a character interesting,  if there’s no work done on building a character before that point then I have no interest in whether they live or die. There’s some weak attempt at portraying Daniels overcoming adversity after her partner the captain dies at the beginning and she ‘pulls herself together’ by the end but, like so much else here, it’s the bare minimum.   One of the things that really stands out though is how the default for the Ripley character seems to be casting a white actor. I find it really kind of mind boggling that Alien vs Predator, Paul Andersen’s somewhat unfairly maligned spin off (I think it works pretty well as a polished B movie) is thus far the only film to actually cast someone who isn’t white in the Ripley role – Sanaa Lathan is Alexa in Alien Vs Predator. Viewed through the prism of racial optics that’s pretty appalling really, especially when the usual bullshit excuse ‘POC aren’t marketable’ is irrelevant when a film’s cast is largely unknown and not really used in the marketing anyway.

Alien Covenant is basically just the latest in an unfathomable number of films that connect the dots as to why that Engineer ship was on LV-426 and why it had Alien eggs on it, there will inevitably be another Alien/Prometheus film to continue this saga but will anybody really care??

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Void

void_ver4

Whilst on a routine patrol officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) stumbles upon an injured man (Evan Stern) staggering down a empty road. Carter rushes the injured man to a nearby rural hospital overseen by Dr. Richard Powell (Kenneth Welsh) and a small staff. Then Carter finds himself caught up in a mind shattering nightmare.

The Void from writer/director duo Jeremy Gillespie and Steve Kostanski, who crowdfunded the film’s special effects (more on that in a moment) but not it’s actual funding, is clearly inspired by 80’s films. John Carpenter’s The Thing and Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond especially. Other touch points include Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness which appeared in the mid 90’s.

TheVoidWeb2

Like Carpenter’s ‘Mouth of Madness The Void conveys the mind rending cosmic horror of Lovecraft, despite not being a direct adaptation of his work. Carter is the everyman character who finds himself trapped in an escalating situation which makes him question everything he sees and knows.

There’s an old adage of ‘show don’t tell’ and that runs through proceedings here. There’s very little in the way of exposition establishing anything. A brutal prologue sets the tone for things to come. Imagery, atmosphere and a refreshingly old school approach to special effects is a major part of The Void. Digital special effects might be the norm now but practical effects have an enduring appeal (even decades later Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion effects work like cinematic magic).  The plot might be a little incoherent and the characters a little generic but Gillespie and Kostanski are in their element when it comes to visuals, which are a feast of blood and body horror that’s like David Cronenberg dialled up to 11.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Videosyncratic

Videosyncratic

Videosyncratic by Jon Spira is several things in one, an autobiography of sorts, a brief history of film and the historical impact of home video, an interesting look into the inner workings of, and the rise and fall of, the video rental industry and an ode to the importance of independent businesses.

Depending on how old you are the idea of video shops will either bring about confused indifference or nostalgic memories of looking at rows and rows of video cases and trying to decide what to watch on a Friday night. Whilst it might seem strange now in the age of Netflix and streaming on demand but for a considerable amount of years video shops were a staple fixture on many high streets and this would be something that most families would be doing.

There were several video shops in my home town, although curiously never a Blockbuster, the nearest one was the next town over. On the one occasion I ventured there with a friend I was really rather taken by how awful it was, the stench of corporate homogeneity was overpowering both literally and metaphorically.

Spira, now a film maker himself, is an engaging and witty story teller as he tells the tale of how a film obsessed kid spent years working in various video shops, including a considerable amount of time in a variety of Blockbuster branches, before realising his dream of opening his own independent video shop.

Anybody who has ever spent any time working for a retail behemoth will find the frustrations of dealing with managerial stupidity and illogical corporately mandated policy in Blockbuster familiar, along with the selection of miscreants and psychopaths that make up both the staff and the customer base.

There’s a distinctly admirable element of David and Goliath as Spira goes about setting up his own video shop, whilst still working for Blockbuster, and actually being quite gleeful at the prospect of stealing their customer base. Not only that but he even steals many of the people he meets whilst working there for his own shop, a mix of film geeks and slackers, reminiscent of Jeff Anderson’s Randal Graves in Kevin Smith’s classic indie film Clerks.

One of the more surprising aspects though is the emotional punch as Spira talks about the reality of realising the industry he has spent years working in, and has now established a business in, is collapsing due to a combination of the advancement of technology and the actions of film studios.

Videosyncratic is rather funny but also sad, most of all though it’s a great read.  Reading it brought back memories of fiddling with the tracking on videos, watching the trailers, and the conversations you would have in the video shop about what you’ve seen.  A good video shop was a gift.

To quote Spira,

“Independent businesses, set up and operated because of the passion of the people who establish them, are beautiful, precious, and increasingly rare things and should be cherished. Every single purchase makes a difference.”

Save

Save

Save

Save

Justice League Trailer

1665

The first trailer for the upcoming Justice League film is here and first impressions are that director Zack Snyder hasn’t learned anything from his previous divisive entries in the DC cinematic universe.

Whilst there’s definitely an initial thrill to be had when seeing the characters on screen for the first time, especially those that are gracing the big screen for the first time like Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, this is quickly replaced by the realisation that this is seemingly yet another venture into the murky, dark and shadowy world of the Snyderverse, a place where the sun rarely shines, colours are distinctly muted at best and it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

This shouldn’t be confused with the Fincherverse, which whilst somewhat similar doesn’t feature superheroes, unless you’re one of those people that worships Tyler Durden.

To say DC and Warner Bros have a lot riding on Justice League is a distinct understatement, their entire cinematic universe output to date has been leading to Justice League. This is further compounded by their desperate attempt to catch up with rivals Marvel who are so far ahead of them they can barely see them on the horizon.

landscape-1490458548-batfleck-justice-league

There’s definitely some good stuff here, I can see Jason Momoa’s Aquaman stealing the film, but the visual aesthetic seems really at odds with antics of the premier team of superheroes from one of the biggest publishers in American comics. The thing that really stands out is how the character moments seem really good, “What are your superpowers again?” asks Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen for Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne to respond “I’m Rich”. There’s a sense (and a hope) that the writing might actually be better and have more warmth and humour to it but the actual glimpses of characters using their powers to fight whatever they’re fighting seem like a dingy depressing cartoon of digital FX nonsense, much like the climax of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

This shouldn’t be in anyway surprising because why fix something when the box office tells you it isn’t broken, for all the arguments they caused and the mixed critical responses for both Man of Steel and Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice definitely brought in the big money.

One of the things that does stand out pretty badly is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who seems like he could be in a cutscene from a PS3 game.  There’s definitely a sense that Cyborg would’ve looked far better as a digitally enhanced prosthetic suit rather than what seems to be  a digital suit mapped onto Fisher’s body.

justice-leage-cyborg-tease

I should emphasise that Dawn of Justice really was pretty awful, the only good thing about it was introducing Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman from director Patty Jenkins, set for release in June, looks like the best cinematic offering based on a DC character in years. The difference in aesthetic between Wonder Woman’s latest trailer and this one is quite staggering really.

There’s still little in the way of exactly how the Justice League film will work because it has a lot of pieces to move around, with the Justice League themselves and several other characters in the mix like Amber Heard’s Mera, Connie Nielsen’s Queen Hippolyta, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and more besides.

One of the things which will really impact on whether Justice League lives up to its potential is how it utilises its numerous characters, if it ends up being just a case of Batman or Superman saving the day then that will be a massive disservice to the other characters.

Save

Save

Save

Save

2000AD is a potential treasure trove for gamers

News came out of the 40 Years Of Thrill Power Festival that Rebellion, 2000AD’s owner, is opening up some of their properties for development by games companies.  There have been a few licensed games featuring 2000AD’s characters ,mainly Judge Dredd, with the first appearing way back in the late 80’s. More recently Judge Dredd featured in Dredd vs Death and Rogue Trooper, one of 2000AD’s other popular characters, featured in his own game .

Saying the news of Rebellions intention to licence their properties has immense potential is a major understatement.

huIY7on

One of the most obvious would be a game set in the world of Judge Dredd in the vein of Rocksteady’s Arkham games featuring Batman. This could have endless potential, a vast interesting world even if it’s restricted to Mega City One, and a vast amount of interesting characters and decades of mythology to mine. Judge Dredd has featured in 2000AD since 1977, that’s decades of stories to work from and then there’s the Judge Dredd Megazine which has been in publication since 1990.

ABC-.RETURN-TO-EARTH-EP-2-cover(X)

Whilst there will inevitably will be scores of fans that want to play as Dredd himself there could be more potential in players taking the role of a rookie Judge just hitting the streets of the Big Meg. For a start this could open up the ability to choose whether you want to be a male or female Judge even if it has no real impact on the game itself being able to choose the gender of the character you play as is a big deal . This is something that is generally lacking in most games that default to a male character. This would also allow for unlocking skills, equipment and abilities as players progress through the game which would make more sense for a rookie Judge than for a character like Dredd who is a veteran Judge.

durham1_1024

The main story could feature numerous characters Dredd and Judge Anderson are just the most obvious. Optional side missions could feature characters like Chopper and PJ Maybe. Beyond that there could be DLC for the Cursed Earth, East Meg One, Hondo City. There’s immense potential just in a Judge Dredd game and that’s just one character and world out of many that 2000AD/Rebellion owns.

rogue-trooper-idw-001-topper

Other pretty obvious ideas for use of licenses would be Slaine as an RPG in the vein of Skyrim, Rogue Trooper as a third person shooter for the current generation and less likely but just as merit worthy would be using Durham Red as the basis for a Mass Effect style game set in the far future. These are just a handful of the characters Rebellion currently owns and the most obvious gaming adaptations using previous games as blueprints,  all that’s needed is a good developer that doesn’t churn them out as a half arsed cash in.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Hoshino – A Star Wars Story

2016-11-20_1628

I’ve never been a massive Star Wars fan. That’s the kind of statement that’s treated like the black speech of Mordor by many. Whilst I’ll happily watch it when it’s inevitably on TV over the Christmas period I wasn’t one of the people rushing out to see The Force Awakens. When I did see it I wasn’t overly impressed. Having said that Rogue One looks considerably better on every level.

Then I stumbled upon Hoshino, a short film from director/producer/editor Stephen Vitale and writer Eric Carrasco. Hoshino tells the story of blind Jedi Ko Hoshino ,played by Anna Akanna, and her tutor Master Jaan-Xu played by Tim McKernan.

What really caught my eye about Vitale’s film was not only its polished production values and impressive looking FX work but its story. Hoshino takes the idea of the blind samurai, something most notably found in Japan’s Zatoichi films and then later in Western culture like American Zatoichi remake Blind Fury, Dare Devil’s Stick and even in long running beat ’em up game series Mortal Kombat’s Kenshi, and applies it to Star Wars in a brilliant way.

Despite a running time of just several minutes Hoshino works on various levels but especially as a tale of strength in the face of adversity. Also we should be in an age where a Jedi being a woman, a woman who isn’t white at that, shouldn’t be a notable thing but we’re not there culturally so it matters.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Exploring the new frontier

465_1024x411

HBO’s latest big venture Westworld arrived recently. Based on the 70’s film written and directed by Michael Crichton (and featuring Yul Brynner in a memorable role as a robot cowboy gone haywire).

Westworld was in the media spotlight long before its first episode aired after a contract for extras was highlighted for being rather creepy now it’s in the spotlight again with stars defending things seen in the premiere episode.

Set at some point in the future Westworld is a vast theme park of sorts which represents an Old West town and the surrounding area. The park is populated by incredibly lifelike robots/synthetic beings called Hosts. Westworld is the creation of Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). The series introduces various characters, some are people that work for Westworld in some capacity like Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) one of the technicians that works on the Hosts that populate the park, some are Hosts like Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Teddy (James Marsden), whilst others are patrons of the park like The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and his polar opposite William (Jimmi Simpson). These are just some of the characters that feature.

la-et-st-hbo-westworld-high-maintenance-20160526-snap

Visitors ,called Guests, are free to live out any desire they have with no judgement or consequence. The Hosts exist to accommodate their desires, whether this is being a brutal sadistic murderer, a violent rapist or something else. The Hosts though have no memory of what they are subjected to due to being wiped, monitored and recalibrated as necessary by the the parks technicians. Also Hosts generally speaking can’t harm Guest ,though they might attempt to, because their guns don’t fire real bullets. This enables Guests to engage in the thrill of a gun fight with no risk of real injury.

The various Hosts in the park are all playing a part in numerous overlapping looping narratives which the Guests can take part in. Once the narrative loop comes to an end it restarts with the Hosts involved completely oblivious to having done the same thing numerous times.

The first episode, and indeed the series as a whole, has more than a little in common with Charlie Brooker’s acclaimed series Black Mirror given that it deals with the darker uses of technology and how they impact people and society, Dolores’ story is a prime example. Dolores is part of a narrative loop involving Teddy but The Man in Black it turns out has been taking part in this loop for years. Each time it culminates in Teddy being killed in some way by The Man in Black and Dolores being brutalised and raped by him, the screaming Dolores being dragged off by her hair into a barn before the door slams ominously shut behind her.

westworld

Only Dolores isn’t being brutally raped in the context of the world presented here because Dolores isn’t a person with rights or bodily autonomy. Dolores is a thing. A synthetic person subject to the whims of the parks Guests. The problem with this is the presentation to the viewers at home is exactly the same because Hosts by definition look exactly like real people. This is basically rape by proxy. More than that it suffers from familiar problems that usually arise when sexual assault or rape features in a TV show, deferred consequence for the transgressor to build dramatic tension and deliver catharsis at a later date and glossing over the aftermath for the victim.

The first episode ,which focusses primarily on Dolores’ loop, ends with her naked in the technicians lab (for some unexplained reason Hosts are always naked in the lab when taken for diagnostic maintenance) looking glassy eyed into the camera as engineers question her in a diagnostic mode. This visual is powerful because the viewer has the burden of knowledge of what Dolores has been subjected to repeatedly even if she doesn’t and the Westworld employees are completely indifferent to the suffering.

The long play for Westworld is the Hosts through something in their latest software update (possibly intentional on Ford’s part) is leading them to actually gain full awareness remembering all the horrific things they’ve been subjected to by the Guests over the years via flashbacks and dream like hallucinatory episodes. Dolores it’s revealed is the oldest of the Hosts in the park and is it seems being set up as the leader of the Hosts rebellion against their human oppressors, whilst Maeve, who in episode 2 “wakes up” whilst in the lab, is set to play a big part too.

westworld-delayed-feature-image-02242016

Whilst this undeniably fertile ground for an interesting multi-layered character drama it’s yet another example of relying on the well worn plot device of women’s sexual assault, rape and trauma being utilised as a catalyst for revenge and empowerment. This was the basis of I Spit on Your Grave back in 1978 and I’m sure it wasn’t the first example. You can’t help but think writers seem to not know how to write empowered women in TV drama without their empowerment being the by product of some man’s malevolent transgression.

The idea that Westworld employees are seperated into different departments, with animosity between the workers of different departments, is prime for exploration as one of the most looming questions about Westworld is how does the place function? Does it have opening hours like a normal theme park? How many departments are there? How do they repair the Hosts damaged by Guests? Are there any animals besides the synthetic horses? Why would anybody take their children to Westworld? Why are there no child Hosts? How do the visitors function outside of the park where they have to revert to behaving in a normal civilised manner? How do the people that work at Westworld function in the real world? Those are just a handful of questions Westworld prompts.

A big part of Westworld is the idea that the only difference between modern, or in this case future, society and the savage primordial past is the thin veneer of civilisation, something which can be stripped away easily given the right circumstance. Swedish series Akta Manniskor explored the same themes regarding technology, A.I and the impact it has on society in a much more grounded manner, the series was remade in English as Humans which changed the story and some characters.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Surgeon X

unnamed-24-600x389

Surgeon X from Image Comics is notable for several reasons, a big one being it marks the return of Karen Berger, founder and long time editor of DC’s Vertigo imprint, to comics after leaving DC several years ago. Another is that it’s probably the most meticulously researched comic to ever hit the shelves with a list of assorted medical professionals, scientists and learned types being thanked for their assistance in the credits.

Surgeon X is written by veteran TV producer/director Sara Kenney making her comics debut, a near future sci-fi horror about a Britain (and world) wracked by a medical crisis and in a state of political turmoil. Kenney’s comics debut came about after striking up a rapport with Berger via LinkedIn and in the process demonstrating that LinkedIn is responsible for at least one good thing in its existence.

London, 2036, and Antibiotics are largely ineffective due to humanity’s developed resistance and now rationed and reserved for the lucky few causing millions of deaths every year. Jim Powell of The Lionheart Party, a far right political party, is up for election as Mayor of London. Rosa Scott is a renegade surgeon and with the help of her brother Lewis, her sister Martha and Martha’s husband Jacob , sets out to help those in need utilising her medical skills and blackmarket medicine.

Surgeon X is something that suffers from trying to explain what it’s about in a few sentences, it’s a story that features myriad elements besides the unfolding and engrossing human drama featuring the Scott family. There’s social commentary, political commentary and a history of Antibiotics and why they’re so vital to humanity making up the landscape of Kenney’s impressive debut. A debut made all the more impressive by art team John Watkiss and James Devlin who conjure up a future Britain that’s recognisable and relatable but also nightmarishly different, that’s not forgetting letterer Jared K Fletcher.

More than that though the nightmarish scenario that’s depicted in Surgeon X isn’t some far fetched sci-fi concept it’s informed by very real science, which is why there’s so many learned types featuring in the credits. The most disturbing thing is when Kenney says when working on the story for Surgeon X medical professionals told her “You’re not being extreme enough in your vision at all”.

Surgeon X also has its own app which features  “animations, documentaries and other exclusive content” to quote writer Kenney.

For more on Surgeon X check out the official website.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

For the Emperor

d3e73d49e91563a392825d2c4328d61a

Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 ,or 40K to fans, has always been an interesting fictional world, the setting for a tabletop war game created in the late 80’s, it’s become far more than that in the years since with other tabletop games, numerous computer games and books also set in the dystopian dark future.

The “grim dark” setting has humanity scattered across the galaxy in the far future of the 41st millenium, the Imperium of Man, a brutal theocratic regime which worships the immortal God-Emperor of mankind. Space Marines ,genetically engineered soldiers, are the Imperium’s elite soldiers fighting in a perpetual war with various other races across the galaxy as the Imperium teeters on the brink of collapse due to its own internal schisms.

These schisms are the result of the Emperor being betrayed by his most trusted son Warmaster Horus in what is referred to as the Horus Heresy, a galaxy spanning bitter civil war in 31st millenium. This war which lasted for several years,  resulting in the deaths of countless millions across numerous planets, culminated in the death of Warmaster Horus but not before he mortally injured the Emperor, leading him to his internment in the Golden Throne for eternity.

Although it should be noted that in the grim far future of the 41st millenium there’s a notable and distinct gender disparity in the armies of the 40K game and setting, this is something that’s been the subject of debate in articles like this one over the years. The table top game itself is somewhat notorious for being perceived as a boys club, something almost impenetrable and even hostile in its gender disparity as one girl fan explains here.

2016-08-29_1948

Despite the aforementioned problems the setting of 40K would make for a great film. The reality of course being that it would never happen, any 40K film would require a budget in blockbuster territory which isn’t going to happen, until it did. Kind of.

Ultramarines appeared in 2010 an animated film set in the 40K world, this was everything fans had been waiting for. Only it wasn’t. Despite its impressive voice cast ,featuring Sean Pertwee and John Hurt amongst others, its animation was underwhelming and smacked of budget constraints. Fans hopefully, gleefully (and somewhat unrealistically) expecting a feature length 40K film in the vein of the Dawn of War II trailer which appeared in 2009 were rather disappointed with the results to say the least. Although it did have its moments where it rose above its failings like John Hurt’s Chaplin shouting “BURN HERETICS!” in a skirmish

Then an interesting thing happened, Erasmus Brosdau Senior 3D Artist, and later Art Director at Crytek started a blog featuring 3D models of ships and other things from the 40K universe. The project snowballed and Brosdau over time was joined by a small talented team all working away in their spare time. A trailer named “The Lord Inquisitor” appeared sometime later and promptly blew everyone away, selling the 40K universe and teasing a story in little over 2 minutes with better looking animation than seen in the Ultramarines film.

eisenhorn-and-ravenor

The Inquisition is probably one of the most interesting things in the whole 40K setting, in simple terms they are the secret police of the Imperium and work outside the hierarchy of the Imperium. The Eisenhorn trilogy by writer Dan Abnett is an acclaimed fan favourite story about Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn and remains a high point for 40K fiction over 10 years after its initial publication.

Flash forward a few years and another teaser trailer appeared named “Grey Knights” focussing on a different faction of the space marines to equal acclaim. One of the interesting and impressive things is Brosdau and his team have managed to produce such good offerings with nothing other than time invested in a labour of love.

Which leads to now, the 8 minute prologue to The Lord Inquisitor hit the internet on 28 August and has so far racked up over 900,000 views, gaining widespread acclaim from 40K fans who have been waiting decades for something of this calibre.

For more on The Lord Inquisitor go here.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Suicide Squad

1

After the turgid mess that was Dawn of Justice, the last offering from DC/Warner which was widely divisive, Suicide Squad couldn’t fail to be better but is seemingly no less divisive. This film has been subject to an unavoidable marketing campaign and the now standard endless amount of opinion articles pulling it apart and putting it back together again even before the film had even been released in cinemas. After being unsurprisingly torn to shreds by critics (which it should be said are proven time and time again to have pretty much zero influence on Box Office, Exhibit A the Transformers franchise) resulting in a 26% percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes   someone somewhere apparently outraged at such hubris (although it may have been a joke)  started a petition to get Rotten Tomatoes taken down, despite the fact it’s actually owned by Warner Bros, the studio bankrolling Suicide Squad, because internet.

Suicide Squad from David Ayer ,the man behind Training Day and Fury, could’ve been a hard edged tour de force, a take on Robert Aldritch’s The Dirty Dozen with super villains. Conceptually it’s a no brainer – in a world of metahumans Government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a deniable and expendable black ops team. A team made up of unhinged  deadly  villains to go on deadly missions no one else can deal with and coerced into service by the threat of immediate death by explosive implants and the promise of time off their sentences for services rendered.

2628

Only it doesn’t really live up to The Dirty Dozen idea. I expect this is likely due to Ayer being caught in the vice like grip of a studio still desperately playing catch up with their competitor rather than concentrating on actually making good films.  A studio that is still utterly clueless when it comes to tone having just delivered a dark dirge of a film featuring one of the most optimistic hopeful characters in the history comics superheroes. Paradoxically they’re now delivering a much lighter film, shot through with a variety of recognisable songs, centred on a cast made up of mentally unhinged villains, which really makes no sense at all but somehow it works.

According to various sources David Ayer’s film suffered from reshoots after test screenings, and numerous scenes were left on the cutting room floor. This combined with a scattershot editing approach that re-ordered scenes and the narrative. According to Ayer the original cut ran at around 3 hours, the theatrical cut is just over 2 hours. That’s a pretty big difference. Some have said that Suicide Squad seems like it’s been thrown into a woodchipper the resulting film being incoherently messy but, and it likely seems like false praise, this is the best of the recent cinematic offerings set in DC’s world, not amazing , but definitely not the absolute car crash many are calling it.

SUICIDE SQUAD

The internal logic of the films premise doesn’t really work in the context that Waller lays it out . The idea that the Suicide Squad , a team which is largely made up of characters which don’t actually have powers, would be a match for  General Zod for example , is a bit ridiculous but then the comic the film is based on suffers from much the same problem.

Interestingly Suicide Squad seems to subvert the action film norm, namely the women here are generally kicking ass and the men are mainly in the thrall of their emotions. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller utterly nails it and reveals herself to be one of the coldest most villainous characters in the whole film which is interesting. Meanwhile Cara Delevingne’s June Moone/Enchantress is the most powerful character to feature in a DC film yet, she’s integral to the film and gets some pretty cool visuals even if somewhat predictably things descend into CGI overload by the conclusion. Which is seemingly a standard for comic book superhero films by this point and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Suicide-Squad-Trailer-El-Diablo-Fire-xlarge-large_trans++Rp36Ti1MFCYr8PMuS2fHb17hoDUspm84EYl8tHPMRlk

The main problem Suicide Squad suffers from is having to introduce so many characters in one film, which is really a catch 22 situation, either spend half the running time on introductory scenes setting up characters with backstories and thereby leaving no room for any actual story or plot  or just omit half of the introductions to make way for the story even though half the characters haven’t been fleshed out and this film kind of does both .

So the likes of Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang is basically just there for a few comedic beats that don’t really work, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje seems a little wasted as Killer Croc, a character who barely gets any lines at all and is seemingly just there to look menacing (which he does so kudos for the prosthetic approach) and there’s Karen Fukuhara’s Katana who is basically there to balance out the cast a little more, appearing out of nowhere some way into the proceedings for no real reason but she definitely seems like a cool character.

Will Smith’s Deadshot is as charismatic as expected veering more into anti-hero rather than being an outright villainous sociopath and he takes centre stage (along with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn) whilst butting heads with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag who is playing scout leader to the squad.  One of the real surprises is Jay Hernandez as El Diablo who gets some of the best scenes in the film and goes from “who’s he?” obscurity to actually being a major part of the story.

picture-of-margot-robbie-suicide-squad-photo

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, a character widely derided for being there for no reason other than being a sexy lamp, actually impresses with her quirky unhinged mannerisms and one of the best comic to screen portrayals in a DC film yet. Her character has been singled out by many as being masturbatory fodder for horny teenagers because no woman would ever willingly wear such an outfit. Turns out Harley’s outfit was one of several potential looks and this one was actually decided by Robbie herself and costume designer Kate Hawley based on a photo of Blondie singer Debbie Harry in the 70’s and also inspired by the characters look in the more recent Suicide Squad comic. One of the key traits of Harley’s character is not really caring about what people think, which seems to have gone over a lot of people’s heads when it comes to her outfit, especially the scene where she picks it out.

Robbie’s dynamic with Jared Leto’s Joker, a wild eyed blinged out Mobster, actually works well largely omitting the inherently abusive element of their relationship rather than glorifying it and making them seem more like a real couple, albeit a twisted one. One of the things that seems to be confusing people is the Joker, and equally Batman, not being major characters in this film, despite it being pretty obvious that they aren’t supposed to be because this isn’t their story or their film. They feature mainly in flashbacks because this is a film set in a shared universe and this establishes that fact and it works brilliantly.

The-Joker-Suicide-Squad-Trailer-Jared-Leto

One of the best scenes in the whole film is in the third act when the weary group end up basically giving Flag the finger and going into a bar and just talking over drinks and it’s a glimpse into how this film could’ve been a lot better because it’s a moment that slows everything down and goes for real  characterisation which adds a lot to most of the characters and makes you wish it didn’t come so late.

There are a lot of darker themes that could’ve featured in Suicide Squad, Rick Flag and Deadshot essentially being the same despite Flag’s moral grandstanding, Killer Croc essentially becoming a monster because that’s what people expected him to be , etc, but they’re never really explored. This is reminiscent of Dawn of Justice which basically dodged all the darker themes. There’s a sense that this film could’ve had much harder edges in line with Ayer’s previous work but they’ve probaly been sanded off by the studio .

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2018 herebewords.co.uk

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑