Andy Serkis

REVIEW: The Batman (2022)

When the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman (Robert Pattinson) investigates and finds a web of corruption that his own family may be entangled in.

The Batman is a great standalone film while also being a film that offers enough of its key cast that makes me want to see more. There are no origin stories for any of these characters, any backstory can be inferred by their actions or, if it’s needed to move the plot along, via dialogue. Gotham as a place feels real and lived in. It’s rundown and lawless and a mask vigilante would certainly not be out of place here. The vast majority of the film takes place at night – or at sunrise or sunset – but it’s a film where you can see exactly what’s happening even when it’s dark and raining. The Batman is a well shot and often very good-looking film; cinematographer Greig Fraser does great work here.

The Batman sees a Batman who has been doing this “job” for two years and has become a figure of fear to the criminals in the city. The interesting thing is you see Batman for the vast majority of the film, rarely seeing Bruce Wayne. This Bruce is so focused on being Batman and saving the city that Bruce is seen as a recluse, shut up at home and only seeing Alfred (Andy Serkis) and a housekeeper. He has yet to become the playboy public figure we’ve seen in other Batman films as this Bruce is so caught up in his anger and grief over his parents’ death that he almost doesn’t know how to be normal and make human connections when he’s not wearing the cape.

This leads to one of the most interesting dynamics in The Batman, which is the one between Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). It’s a take on the relationship that I haven’t seen in previous Batman iterations. They work together well and while they may argue they also trust one another. For a film that’s “dark and gritty” there’s almost always a wry sense of humour whenever these two interact. Potentially this is because Gordon is a bit worn down by everything and while Batman is a weird vigilante, at least he’s doing something. While Gordon doesn’t know who Batman is, it’s like he doesn’t care that he’s the imposing figure of Batman and can see he’s still a regular guy under that mask. Gordon puts his reputation on the line for Batman while Batman explicitly states that Gordon is one of the only people he trusts and believes in multiple times.

There are a lot of key characters here and as the murders mount up and Batman and Gordon look into the corruption and all the threads tying these people together, it can get a bit convoluted. Though it has its costumes and explosions, The Batman is a crime/mystery story at its heart. Batman, and the police department, are trying to solve Riddler’s clues before someone else winds up dead, it’s just that all these people are tied to one another and with its almost three-hour runtime it can be a bit hard to remember how people are connected.

That being said, I was never bored watching The Batman. The character moments were often as interesting as the action sequences and watching Batman be a detective (though he’s perhaps not the best detective ever yet) felt new and exciting. Seeing him lurk around crime scenes surrounded by dubious police officers while Gordon vouched for him was simultaneously weird, funny, and great.

The whole cast is great but a shout out has to go to Paul Dano’s Riddler who is incredibly unsettling and intriguing with a limited amount of screentime. Colin Farrell as the Penguin is near unrecognisable thanks to the make up and prosthetic work and a fat suit. So, while he plays a fun character, one has to wonder why you needed Farrell in the role and in all that getup. Couldn’t a fat actor have been cast? Especially as in this film Penguin is more or less a standard mob boss. Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman rounds out the main “villains” in this film and her dynamic with Batman is something I’d like to see more of.

Overall, The Batman is a pretty great film. The whole vibe of it is dirty and often almost hopeless but with Gordon – who almost acts like a co-lead at times – as the good centre there is some hope. This Batman is pretty interesting as he tries to find how to be both a figure of fear and a figure of hope, depending who needs it. I would love to see more of these characters and of this Gotham. And I can’t finish this without mentioning Michael Giacchino’s score – it’s excellent, suits the tone of the film perfectly and just heightens how threatening and imposing Batman can be. 4/5.

My Film Year in Review and my Film-Related Goals of 2020

In 2019 I watched a lot of films but not too many that I got overwhelmed with meeting a self-enforced target. In total I watched 242 different films, 251 films including rewatches. I saw 76 films at the cinema as well. I have a full list of all the films I watched here and I also put together a list of my Top Ten Favourite Films of 2019 last week for your reading pleasure – I’d recommend all of my favourites to anyone, no matter their taste in films.

With the film-related goals I set myself it was a bit of a mixed bag. One of the reasons I wanted to not put pressure on myself to watch films every day and hit a ridiculously high target, was so I could watch the many TV shows I’ve missed or got half way though and not feel guilty about it. In the end I didn’t watch many TV shows at all. In fact, I watched one and a half. I watched all of Stranger Things season three which I loved and binge-watched over a weekend. You can see what I thought on Twitter as I did some spoiler-free live-tweeting. I also started to rewatch Shadowhunters as the last series came out so thought it would be nice to rewatch it from the beginning and by the time I did that the new episodes would be out. It didn’t quite work like that because I’m someone who just stops watching TV shows even when I’m enjoying them. I got near to the end of series 2 so I only really have a season left to watch and half of it will be new to me. Maybe in 2020 I will finish my rewatch and live tweeting of one of my favourite shows.

I did complete the 52 Films by Women challenge once again. I watched 56 films directed by women (all of which happened to be first time watches) and I watched 71 films that were written by women. However, I didn’t watch very many of my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays, and in fact I bought more and now have over 80 unwatched films.

Now it’s time for the fun stats stuff. I have a Pro membership on Letterboxd which allows you to see all your film-viewing stats and I love it.

My most watched actors of 2019 were:

I rewatched and reviewed the Fast & Furious franchise (which I adore) so that’s why almost half the actors here are from at least one of those films. I made the effort to watch a lot of Brie Larson and Keira Knightley films so that’s why they’ve gotten a spot. I rewatched the sequel Star Wars trilogy, the Lord of the Rings, the Transformer trilogy and the John Wick trilogy so that explains people like Keanu Reeves, Andy Serkis and Hugo Weaving a couple of the other actors, but some people like Jim Broadbent and Joan Cusack were a surprise.

My most watched directors also show off the fact I watched a lot of Fast and Furious (Justin Lin), Star Wars (J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson) and Transformers films (Michael Bay). I like how Antoine Fuqua makes an appearance once again (he’s one of my favourite directors) and I tend to rewatch his films fairly often. It’s a shame there’s only one woman on this list. I watched four of Mira Nair’s films that I hadn’t seen before but while I watched over 50 films directed by women, I think she was the only female director I watched multiple films from.

So what are my film-related goals of 2020? I’m going to continue to watch what I want, when I want, and not feel like I have to watch a film every day when I’d rather be reading or discover a new TV show (that I’ll only watch half of before stopping even when I’m enjoying it). I definitely want to finish watching Shadowhunters and if I manage to get through a couple of other TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch for ages in 2020 that’d be great. I think The Alienist returns this year and as that’s like the one show besides Stranger Things that I’ve watched in its entirety recently, I’m definitely looking forward to that.

I want to complete the 52 Films by Women challenge for both directors and screenwriters again. I have been doing (and completing) this challenge since 2016 so it’d be cool to make it a fifth year in a row.

I will once again say I want to get my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays down. As I said, I have over 80 of them to get through but I do have a plan to tackle this! It is going to be related to the A-Z in April Challenge but more will be revealed in the Spring. I not only have a Clint Eastwood boxset to get through, but an Alfred Hitchcock one as well now so maybe I’ll make some headway with those this year.

Do you have any film-related goals for 2020? How easy/difficult do you find it is to make time to sit down and watch a film?

REVIEW: Black Panther (2018)

Still reeling after his father’s death, T’Challa (Chadwicke Boseman) returns to the secretive country of Wakanda to take up the mantle of King. Soon his judgement and resolve are tested when old enemy Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) resurfaces and brings with him a perhaps even deadly foe – Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).

Black Panther is a lot of firsts – first film in the MCU with a black superhero as the titular character, first film in the MCU not directed by a white guy, and first big budget superhero film in general that brings this many talented black actors into a place in our world that’s never been colonised nor had any outside influence throughout its history.

Wakanda is a vivid and fleshed-out country – so much so it’s like it’s its own character. The buildings, the vehicles, the technology and the clothes are all a mixture of the future and the traditional. Merging the real and the imaginary helps make Wakanda feel like a real, lived-in place and overall special effects in Black Panther are incredibly well-done. Subsequently when there are those moments where the CGI isn’t to the same level as the rest of the film, it’s more jarring which is unfortunate. Wakanda is a place that has been left to thrive by the rest of the world and thanks to its many scientists and inventors, including T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). Shuri is a character who steals just about every scene she’s in with her humour and relatability. She and T’Challa feel like proper siblings, and with their mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) are a strong family unit.

In some ways Black Panther feels like more of an ensemble film because there are so many great, fleshed-out characters surrounding T’Challa. There’s Okoye (Danai Guria) the head of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all female security force, who is such a badass, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) a spy for Wakanda, and M’Baku (Winston Duke) leader of the Jabari Tribe who is a surprisingly layered character. Every single one of them have their moments to shine but T’Challa is rarely upstaged thanks to Boseman’s stoic yet compelling performance as a man trying to be both a king and a superhero. Killmonger is a great villain and a worthy adversary for T’Challa. He’s a fascinating villain because while it’s clear he’s the bad guy, the way he states his reasoning makes you get where he’s coming from. His actions are in no way condonable but the reasons for his actions are understandable.

The pacing in Black Panther is a little uneven at times. There is a lot to set up in showing Wakanda and introducing this society and its people which is great and very enjoyable, but there’s something’s that could either have had more detail or have been briefer and have still gotten across the same information.

Black Panther is a great film. It’s exciting and surprisingly funny – it perfectly balances the humour, which is mostly character-driven, and its serious moments. Black Panther covers a lot of genres, it’s political, it’s like an espionage thriller in some ways, it’s about family and legacy, as well as being an action-packed superhero movie. 4/5.

REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

After the human military comes to kill Caesar (Andy Serkis), he must wrestle with the fact that the ever-looming war between apes and humans is finally here.

If you are expecting an out-and-out war film here, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there are soldiers and there’s conflict between the apes and humans but the film is more than that. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful look at humanity and at a group of creatures who just want to be left alone. The conversations between Caesar and The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) are really interesting because they are two smart, capable leaders who have their own kind to protect.

It kind of goes without saying but the motion capture and computer work in War for the Planet of the Apes is phenomenal. The actors performing as the apes do incredible work as do the digital artists – you really feel and understand the emotions that play out on these creatures faces. It’s easy to forget that they aren’t really “there”.

War for the Planet of the Apes is an incredible film. It builds on the previous two films and adds more depth to the characters we already know and interesting dynamics with new ones. Caesar feels so much older and battle-worn compared to when we last saw him but then there’s a new character like Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who’s weird quirks brings some much needed humour to the film. Because War for the Planet of the Apes is often a bleak and tough film. The characters, and the audience, go through so much that those moments of humour are needed to break the tension.

The relationship between Caesar, fellow chimp Rocket (Terry Notary) and orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) is delved into even more in this film. It’s fascinating to see not just Caesar’s growth across the trilogy but theirs, along with the community they’ve built in the woods.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a solid, poignant story of hope, conflict and loss. There’s a sense of tension and foreboding throughout the film and it puts your emotions through the wringer. It is an amazing end to a trilogy that just got better and better with each instalment. This trilogy is up there with the best of them. 5/5.