I’m about to do the unthinkable. “Five film reviews in one post?! Impossible!”, I hear you cry. O ye of little faith. You can do anything if you set your mind to it, which I am about to prove by reviewing five very un-similar films in one awesome post. You ready? I’m ready. (Caution: Possible spoilers ahead!)
So, what films am I gunna review? I can tell you’re waiting with baited breath to find out. Only five of the biggest films to hit our screens in 2016: Now You See Me 2, Finding Dory, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse and Me Before You.
Now You See Me 2
Ahhh, Now You See Me 2. The long-awaited sequel to 2013’s Now You See Me (imaginative naming with regards to the sequel, am I right?). Personally, I thought it was great. Strong story, strong characters, strong script. It may have even taken over its predecessor in my affections. In a nutshell, the film revolves around illusionists ‘The Four Horsemen’, now with new member Lula (Lizzie Caplan), getting recruited by a tech genius (Daniel Radcliffe) to pull off a job which is basically impossible. I loved the addition of Lula to the group – when I heard Isla Fisher wouldn’t be returning, I knew for certain they’d have to find an equally sassy actress to slip into the role of ‘token female illusionist’. Lizzie Caplan didn’t disappoint. Admittedly, I’d only ever seen her as Janice in Mean Girls, so I didn’t really know what to expect from her in such a different part, but my god, she delivered. The only thing I did object to was her pointless romance with Dave Franco’s Jack Wilder. No need. At all. It added nothing to the storyline or film as a whole. The first film lasted without a romance (okay, so something was alluded to between Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) and Henley and there was the non-romance between Dylan and that French woman?), so why didn’t the director think this one wouldn’t? It’s a mystery to me.
I’m just going to state this now; I love Mark Ruffalo. I think he’s amazing. An understated actor and an amazing man who uses his status to talk about real issues. He’s wonderful. And that’s why I was so glad that Dylan came into his own in this film. When it was revealed early on in the film that Dylan was in fact working with the Horsemen, I was relieved. I couldn’t deal with him double-crossing the FBI again. Yes, it was done for shock value in the first film and boy, did it shock, but we didn’t need it this time around. So thank you, Jon M. Chu, for that.
But of course, the highlight for me, and so many others, was not the big reveal at the end where the group very publicly outed Walter and Arthur (Michael Caine), blah blah blah, NO. No, my favourite part was the very end, when they were finally taken to THE EYE. Now, the whole way through this film I’d been convinced that Dylan’s father was alive. And I was convinced that this was going to be the moment I was proven right. Man, was I wrong. No, it was instead revealed that Morgan Freeman’s Thaddeus Bradley had actually been an ally all along. Mind blown. I live for films with shock twists and endings, and Now You See Me 2 definitely delivered on that front. A solid, easy-to-follow summer film. Go. And. See. (Although you should probably watch the original before you do).
Let’s not lie, my generation has been waiting for a Finding Nemo sequel since about, um, well, 2003. It’s been 13 years. But, thank god, Finding Dory did not disappoint. It was just the right split between being for kids and being for the generation who’d grown up with Nemo and just needed a bit of nostalgia. Also, I did have a terrible fear that Finding Dory would be a horrible rehash of the original, in that Dory, instead of Nemo, would go missing and Marlin would have to go on a heroic adventure to save her. Luckily, that wasn’t the story at all; it instead revolves around Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) going on a quest to find her long-lost parents, which brings her to the Marine Life Institute and a whole host of new characters.
Honestly, my biggest fear was of the new characters; it usually is with sequels. But, I ended up loving every single one of them. I mean, who can’t relate to Gerald? By far, my favourite newbie was Hank (Ed O’Neill). If it’s not already become abundantly obvious in my previous posts, I love a complex character with a hidden back-story, even if the character in question is a moody sort-of-octopus. Placing a character with his attitude in direct contrast with Dory was only going to end one way, and I kind of loved that about the film; even though you knew what was going to happen, it was still a fun watch. Plus, who doesn’t love a hidden moral message about family? Overall, although Finding Dory wasn’t as astounding as its predecessor, it’s still worth a watch. Gotta carry on that Disney Pixar legacy, right?
Suicide Squad was always going to be a tricky one. The hype has been building for so long that the film needed to be nothing less than mind-blowing to live up to all our expectations. Sadly, for me, it fell short of the mark. Granted, it wasn’t as bad as many critics are making it out to be, and by no means does it deserve these incredibly harsh reviews. However, it is hard to deny that it wasn’t quite up to scratch. The narrative itself centres around a group of super-villains recruited by a secret government agency to fight an even more dangerous antagonist. The film boasted big stars and a solid narrative, so why exactly didn’t it live up to the hype?
For me, characterisation plays a huge part in making any film successful, and this is where I feel Suicide Squad fell flat. In terms of Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), we were given an incredible amount of backstory, with the opening scenes of the film revolving around introducing them. It felt promising. For people (like me, for instance) who aren’t die-hard DC fans and don’t know a great deal about these villains, exposition was necessary. However, after Harley and Deadshot’s intros, characters were just thrown at us. Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) were introduced only through their numerous bad deeds, and we were given next to no information about Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and June Moone aka the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) were introduced ever so slightly better, and that’s when it became abundantly clear who DC had paid the most, and which characters they were favouring. Frankly, I became more attached to Boomerang and Diablo than I did Deadshot and Harley (although, I can’t deny that I did shed a tear whenever Deadshot’s daughter shared a scene with him), so just imagine if DC had spent less time on their higher-paid actors and actually considered that exposition for every character might have been nice.
Of course, I can’t review Suicide Squad without mentioning The Joker. He’s not even part of the squad, yet he’s arguably the most iconic character in the film. Now, I’m just going to put this out there now: I love Jared Leto. After seeing Requiem for a Dream and Dallas Buyers Club I was convinced that there was no part this man couldn’t take on and give his all to. I thought his take on The Joker was quirky and fresh, nothing like Heath Ledger’s portrayal (which is probably for the best; Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker is far too iconic) yet he still clearly took inspiration from previous Jokers, which I thought was a great touch. But here’s when I go on my rant. Lord knows I can’t write a blog post without ranting. People really need to leave Jared Leto alone. You’re allowed to say that you weren’t a fan of his portrayal, that’s okay, I can cope with that, what I can’t abide is people calling him a shit actor. Listen, why don’t you crawl out from whatever rock you’ve been living under and go and watch other films he’s been in? He’s one of the most powerful actors I’ve ever seen on screen. It’s okay not to like him as a person, but that shouldn’t shade your judgment of his acting. None of this “Margot made Jared look like an amateur” because that’s just not true, is it? They’re both well respected actors who took on iconic DC rolls and gave them their all, in their own way. Rant. Over.
Should you go and see Suicide Squad? Of course you should. Despite its harsh reviews, people are still talking about it and who wouldn’t want to be part of that hype? Despite the messy way in which the story played out and the questionable characterisation, there’s still top-class acting and, surprisingly, a fair amount of humour to enjoy. Just a heads up: there’s one particular death that will definitely leave you hating director David Ayer.
Time for another comic book movie, although this one is definitely more conventional than Suicide Squad. X-Men: Apocalypse was good. It was solid. But I can’t say anything more than that. Maybe it’s because there’s just so many X-Men films; you feel like if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Apocalypse followed a very conventional narrative, in that there was one big baddie who could only really be defeated by one of his own followers. In this case, it was Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Shocker, right?
I won’t spend too much time dwelling on this film, purely because there’s nothing to say. It was good. It was another formulaic X-Men movie. The only fresh, humorous part of this film was Evan Peters’ turn as Quicksilver (not to be confused with Pietro Maximoff from the Avengers universe, he’s very dead). He stole every scene he was in. Whether that was due to the scripting or Peters’ portrayal, I have no clue, but I can categorically state that he was my favourite part of this film.
I mean, I guess Oscar Isaac wasn’t too bad, either. Considering people probably know him now as “the pilot from Star Wars”, it was good to see him play a completely different role as Apocalypse. Let’s just hope the lovely Poe doesn’t turn evil, too.
Okay, I know this one was short. But what can I say? If you’re an X-Men fan, watch it. If you’re a fan of clichéd comic book films, watch it. If you’re a fan of five minute Hugh Jackman cameos, watch it. Other than that, I’d give this one a miss. It won’t change your life.
Me Before You
And finally, onto something completely different. Thea Sharrock’s adaption of Jojo Moyes’ novel, Me Before You. The story centres around Lou (Emilia Clarke) and the recently paralysed Will (Sam Claflin) and the relationship that develops between them when she lands a job as his carer. Of course, the story is as predictable as anything, and when someone told me that they couldn’t watch it because the book was far too sad, I instantly knew how it was going to end. I’ve seen The Notebook, I know how these things go.
Despite knowing exactly what was coming, it didn’t make it any less sad. What I loved was that Lou and Will’s relationship was a slow-burner. It wasn’t until the last half hour that any feelings were even confessed. And that, I think, made the ending all the more devastating. They’d only just come to terms with how they feel about each other, and then that happens. Talk about messing with my emotions.
Like with X-Men, I’ll keep this one short, because what is there to say? It’s a predictable love story with a devastating ending. Give it a watch if you’re into that.
P.s. Watch out Steve Peacocke as Nathan, Will’s other carer (Brax from Home and Away? I nearly fell off my bed).
Well that was fun. Five reviews in one. I wouldn’t call any of them my favourite film of 2016; I’ll make that choice abundantly clear in a later post… But for now, stay tuned for an album review coming next. Exciting, I know.