sci-fi

REVIEW: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is just trying to get her taxes sorted while running her laundrette business with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) when she’s informed of a threat to her world and the multiverse and is told that she might be the only one who can stop it.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of those films that’s completely barmy but brilliant. It’s a film I knew little about before watching it (I hadn’t even watched the trailer) and had just heard positive things via social media though had seen no spoilers or had any real idea of the plot. I think that might be the best way to see this film as it’s such a surprise at times as it veers off into different themes or genres that I never expected.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a lot of movie. So much so, it can be almost overwhelming at times but by no means is that a bad thing. It suits the tone and the story perfectly but how the plot moves with the sounds and visuals can feel chaotic. However, you never feel lost in what’s happening. What Evelyn is going through is overwhelming to her, so to make the audience feels like that too. It helps make Everything Everywhere All at Once feel different and as it bounces between ideas, time, and universes, there’s a beauty to it too.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is impressive for many reasons but something that surprised me was how in one scene I could be laughing and in the next I’m tearing up. How the writers and directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (known as the Daniels) handled the different tones of this film, balancing the emotional payoff with inventive and fun action sequences is impressive. Though the story feels chaotic and weird at times, I never felt that the film was getting away from its directors. All the weirdness and chaos was just what was needed as a story about the multiverse and an older woman having to learn how to save the day is a bit unusual and unexpected.

Michelle Yeoh is just fantastic as Evelyn. She is funny and relatable and she’s both strict and caring. Evelyn has a lot on her mind with the responsibilities of running a business and looking after her ailing father (James Hong) that she neglects both her husband and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), however unintentionally. The action sequences with Yeoh showcase her talents but equally, the big emotive moments do as well.

Honestly, the whole cast is outstanding and the trio of the family; Evelyn, Waymond and Joy is wonderful. All three actors bring their A game and elevate each other with their performances. Each character is allowed to be well-rounded and a real person. They can be scared, strong, kind, mean, funny, stressed, or apathetic and it’s all fine – especially as some characters learn from others about how to be better people or how to go through life with a better attitude.

There are so many layers to Everything Everywhere All at Once and it’s one of those films where I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s thoughts on it – especially Asian Americans. Because Everything Everywhere All at Once is an immigrant story, it’s a story about family, love, and kindness, it’s a story about second chances and togetherness. It’s one of those stories that’s so specific that it becomes universal.

I don’t even really know if I have the words to properly describe Everything Everywhere All at Once but it’s funny, action-packed, heartfelt, and beautiful. It’s weird and wonderful and it’s a film that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. 5/5.

Z is for Zoe (2018)

Cole (Ewan McGregor) and Zoe (Léa Seydoux) are colleagues at a research lab that designs drugs and technology to improve and perfect romantic relationships. As they become close, their relationship is threatened when Zoe discovers the truth about their relationship, sending them into a spiral of confusion, betrayal and the most intense of human emotions, love.

Zoe is such a sweet, thoughtful take on relationships, romance and what it means to be human. It’s that kind of near-future sci-fi that I love where everything is as we’d expect bar one aspect. In this instance, that thing is how evolved AI is and that androids, or “synthetics” as they’re called here, can be so lifelike that they can fool humans. They can be programmed to feel and connect with people so humans never have to be lonely.

Ash (Theo James) is one such synthetic and seeing him learn and adapt and feel does make you question the differences between humans and machines. While his code is his foundation, he’s been given memories and personality and is able to decide things for himself. Theo James does a good job at adding little hesitations to Ash’s movements and showing that as he learns, he mostly appears “human” but there’s still the odd moment with him that’s a little unsettling.

The romance between Cole and Zoe is interesting as they both seem so isolated but for different reasons. There’s a hesitancy about both of them and as more of their pasts are revealed, you begin to understand why they act that way.

As a sidenote, I really liked the relationship between Cole and his ex-wife Emma (Rashida Jones). So often you see an antagonistic relationship between ex’s, even when they’re coparenting like these two are. While there still is the odd moment of awkwardness between the two of them, it’s clear that they both still care about each other and want the other to be happy, even if it’s not with themselves.

Zoe is an interesting sci-fi/romance film. The central performances are all great and the romance between Cole and Zoe is believable. Similarities can be made between Zoe and Her, and both films have a similar melancholy vibe to them. So if you like one of those films, there’s a good chance you’d like the other. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Palestine: Palestine+100 edited by Basma Ghalayini

A collection of twelve short science-fiction stories from twelve different Palestinian writers answering the question, what might their country look like in the year 2048? A century afterwards the tragedies and trauma of what has come to be called the Nakba, which saw the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes.

Naturally there were some stories I liked more than others but I was always intrigued by what kind of sci-fi spin each story would have. Stories feature pretty much any sci-fi trope you could think of; virtual reality, drone swarms, aliens, AI. How they use these elements is often interesting. There are not only the sci-fi story elements but different genres of sci-fi in this collection too. There is almost a noir story with a sci-fi edge, (a journalist tries to find out the truth when an academic is murdered) as well as farce and dystopia.

While a few of the stories imagine a time where peace has been reached and Palestinians are content and thriving in this new peace, a lot of the stories aren’t happy. There’s a few out and out dystopian stories, ones where different parts of the country are walled off or there’s too much pollution so everyone has to wear gasmasks in order to survive. There’s a technical aspect to the dystopia too, whether it’s the AI going out of control or the realisation that what characters are experiencing isn’t real and they’re living inside a simulation where everything is fine and good.

While some stories seem to have more hope to them, others are more pessimistic (or maybe realistic) and show that in the future Palestinians will continue to suffer and the evolving technology will amplify that.

Some of the stories drop you right in with the characters and what they’re going through with little context of the kind of world they live in, so those can be a bit hard to follow – especially if you’re reading a few of the stories in a row. Others drop in things like a treaty of 2025 and how that’s changed their lives. I thought how some of these stories set 26 years in the future referenced both real historical events and fictional historical events was a lot of fun and made the time the story was set feel more concrete.

Palestine+100 is a great collection of sci-fi stories that often made me think. It was just interesting how these stories combined the real and imaginary to make stories that were sometimes weird but also believable. With the way the world is some of these scenarios aren’t too far out of the realm of possibility. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is loving being Spider-Man though he does feel guilty about continuing his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as he feels he’ll only put her in danger. That danger soon arrives in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and as Peter tries to deal with this new threat while still coming to terms with the secrets of his parent’s past, his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York.

Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now, knowing this was Andrew Garfield’s last outing at the titular character and the filmmakers/studio never brought to screen the Sinister Six they spent a chunk of this film setting up, is a very funny and kind of a sad experience.

Because by the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 you can’t help but feel it’s an extended set up for what never came. There are so many plots in this film and if a few were cut out or even shortened it might have made a more cohesive film and the plots left might’ve been more effective. In the end, there’s a lot of things that felt pointless and repetitive.

Speaking of repetitive, the on and off again romance between Peter and Gwen got old very quickly. While yes, they’re supposed to be awkward teens in love they just kept going over the same arguments about why they should or shouldn’t be together. Garfield and Stone still have great chemistry but there’s only so many times you can watch two people have the same argument or talk at cross-purposes.

Another aspect that felt pointless and dull was all the stuff about Peter’s parents – or rather his father, his poor mum certainly got shafted. There was one minor detail revealed once Peter learns more about his dad but it’s more of a “Oh that’s cool” thing rather than having any major narrative impact. Otherwise, anything to do with his dad seems to say Oscorp is bad – something which was already pretty clear from the first film. In The Amazing Spider-Man you learnt that Peter’s dad didn’t want his research getting into the wrong hands and in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it just rams that point home again.

Electro is a pretty decent villain. His looks and powers are interesting though (like another character) his decent into villainy felt far too quick, especially because of where he started. Before he got his powers, he was a nerdy guy who was a pushover and idolised Spider-Man so seeing him first of all be scared and overwhelmed by what was happening to him felt true to character. How he changed from loving Spider-Man to hating him so quickly felt more out of place.

Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is still one of the best we’ve seen on screen. He’s confident, cracking jokes and poking fun at the bad guys, but the problem is that the attitude bleeds into his Peter Parker. While his Peter Parker is clearly more intelligent than the Maguire version (always like the scenes where Peter is doing experiments to improve his web shooters) he doesn’t seem as awkward, quiet and nerdy.

Surprisingly considering how little screentime and decent character development he had, I once again both really liked and felt sorry for Harry Osborn. Though, I probably would’ve liked his arc a lot more if it was given more time and his decent into villainy wasn’t shoehorned into the end of the film. Also, having Peter and Harry be childhood friends reconnecting is a neat way of getting him back into Peter’s life but there’s only really one scene where you see them bonding and acting like friends before Harry starts to want something from Peter. Cutting out some of the will they/won’t they stuff with Peter and Gwen to give us more scenes of Harry and Peter could’ve helped all three of those characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just has too much going on and now there was never a third film in this series the flaws seem even more obvious. It’s messy when trying to juggle all these plot threads and while many of the Spidey scenes are great fun and action-packed, there’s a bit of a videogame quality to them due to the CGI.

I’ll end this on a positive, I did like the score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger, Junkie XL, Johnny Marr, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. Electro’s theme especially was eerie with the whispers underscoring the techno and it really suited the character. 2/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

After getting bitten by a genetically-engineered spider, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds himself with amazing new abilities. As Peter begins to look into the secrets of his father’s (Campbell Scott) past, he meets Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) whose own life-altering research turns him into something dangerous.

The Amazing Spider-Man sure had a lot to live up to in comparison to the (first two) Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. It’s hard to not compare the two but I’ll try my best. The Amazing Spider-Man does have some of the same narrative beats but it’s impossible not to when you’re adapting the origin story of a character who has been around for decades.

Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a different kind of nerdy kid compared to Tobey Maguire’s Peter. Because, as 21 Jump Street showed, what’s nerdy and cool changes over time. Things Peter may get picked on now is not what he’d get picked on ten years ago. Side note: the Tom Holland films continue this trend of what makes Peter nerdy/unpopular.

Peter is quiet and smart and a little awkward and when he suddenly gets superpowers, he is definitely not responsible with them to begin with. He has some power now and uses that to make him feel better and even embarrass those who used to bully him. You get to see Peter change and grow and he’s definitely more of an angsty teen and it’s totally un but is just as understandable why. The fact he feels abandoned by his parents (though naturally the focus is on his father) is a big part of this Peter’s personality. He is desperate for answers does some reckless things to get them.

Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is Peter’s love interest and the two of them are actually quite sweet and work well together. She’s smart and a bit awkward too but it just as smart as Peter, if not more so. Stone and Garfield have great chemistry and it’s nice for the romantic lead to know of Peter’s secret identity from the outset. Having that dynamic means that she can help him when he’s Spider-Man as well as when he’s Peter Parker.

It does feel like The Amazing Spider-Man has a wasted opportunity with the villain. Dr Connors/the Lizard is sort of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario but Dr Connors never gets enough character development for you to really care about him. He’s a guy in a lab coat and as the focus is more on Peter and his dad’s connection to Dr Connors’ research, you never really get to see more of him than the scientist part of his life.

Overall, the action sequences are pretty great and the moment in finale with building cranes is a nice touch of the support Spidey has from New Yorkers – because this Spider-Man has been on the job for a far shorter time when he has his big final battle than Maguire’s Spider-Man had in his first film.

Personally, I find The Amazing Spider-Man good but not outstanding or thrilling like most of the Raimi films were upon rewatch. I think my main problem with this film (and from the little I remember of it; I have a feeling it’ll be a bigger problem in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is the focus on Peter’s dad and the secrets he had. While I admire them putting a different spin on the story (and maybe in the comics Peter’s dad was a man of mystery, I don’t know) it kinda makes Peter Parker/Spider-Man not so much of the focus of his own story anymore. Also, while I understood why Peter was acting as he was when avoiding his grief, I didn’t particularly like him then, and I never got as attached to him (or any of the other characters) as quickly as I did with the Raimi version – but then again, maybe that is nostalgia talking. 3/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

I remembered very little of Spider-Man 3 going into it and what I did know/remember was more the general consensus of it rather than how I felt about it myself. Watching it now, about 15 years since I last saw it in its entirety, I can certainly say that Spider-Man 3 is a bit of a mess. There are some great action sequences and character moments but it’s all bogged down by trying to juggle too many characters.

Was Spider-Man 3 the origins of the “too many villains” flaw? Because I definitely feel like removing one of the villains and tweaking the script here and there would have solved a lot of the film’s problems. By having three villains as well as a lot of relationship drama between Peter (Tobey Maguire) and MJ (Kirsten Dunst) not enough time is really spent on any of them to flesh them out. Well Harry Osborn’s (James Franco) arc mostly works but that’s down to two prior films worth of character work.

Peter and MJ were having issues long before “Venom” became involved in Peter’s life so if that plot/villain was scrapped then there’d still be a lot of the conflict between the two of them and then more time could have been spent on the other villains – Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Harry Osborn’s descent into becoming the New Goblin as he’s called in this film. Peter and MJ are having issues because for the first time their fortunes are reversed.

In previous films Peter has been the loser, struggling to hold a job and be Spider-Man at the same time while MJ has been the popular, successful Broadway star with confidence in who she is and her dreams. In Spider-Man 3 you have a Peter Parker who is totally comfortable with his dual life and enjoys being Spider-Man and in some ways because of that becomes oblivious to MJ’s struggles. MJ on the other hand is now the one with a struggling career and is having knocks to her confidence at every turn, even by Peter though it’s not intentional on his part.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read over the years that it was studio interference that meant “Venom” had to be included in Spider-Man 3 but so much of the conflict that the symbiote exacerbated was already there, it just made Peter an asshole rather than a clueless idiot when it came to people in his life he’s supposed to care about.

The CGI in Spider-Man 3 is noticeably worse than in the previous two films. Scenes where Spider-Man is swinging through the city look weird and Spider-Man looks like a computer-generated character, all plasticky and not real. Also, maybe sand monsters never look great on camera as some of those sequences reminded me of The Mummy and not necessarily in a good way – a film with almost ten years-worth of special effects advancement shouldn’t look as good as and sometimes worse than a film from the 1990s.

The sequence where Harry first attacks Peter is pretty good though and is a personal highlight of the film. The way there’s longer shots and the camera swoops around following the two of them as they fly/swing through the city is genuinely engaging.

Like I said in my Spider-Man 2 review, I did not expect this revisit to the Raimi trilogy to have me loving Harry Osborn so much but that love is even more prevalent in Spider-Man 3. The ending of Spider-Man 3 is one of the few things I could really remember about this film going into it so when Harry with memory loss called MJ and Peter his best friends and he’d die for them it was just such sad foreshadowing. The three of them love each other so much that even the final scene where MJ and Peter are reunited, it’s not really a grand romantic moment! They don’t kiss, they just hold each other with tears in their eyes as they are the only person who understands the grief they are going through.

While obviously there was never a Spider-Man 4, it would have been interesting to see what this Peter and MJ would’ve been like without Harry. Because the three of them seemed to help each other in different ways and both Peter and MJ got something from their relationship with Harry that they didn’t necessarily get from each other.

Overall Spider-Man 3 is not great but it’s my love of the central trio and their relationship that makes me not hate it as much as some seem to. I guess Spider-Man 3 follows the pattern for me that if there’s characters that I like in a form of media, if I enjoy spending time with those characters the film/TV show around them could be terrible but I wont care too much if what’s happening in the plot doesn’t destroy the characters I love. Though Peter Parker certainly came close to falling down in my estimations a number of times in this film. 3/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 is truly a fantastic film, never mind a fantastic superhero film. Upon rewatch after seeing so many other MCU and DCEU films (some of which I do generally love) it’s easy to see why Spider-Man 2 is still considered to be one of the best examples of a superhero film. It’s fun, the character work great, the “low stakes” relationship drama is just as compelling as the high stakes battles with the villains.

Spider-Man 2 builds on what was laid out in the first film with great success. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to juggle life as Spider-Man while also going to college and holding a job. Meanwhile Harry Osborn (James Franco) is now the head of his father’s company and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has made it as an actor and has a starring role on stage and is dating an astronaut who happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) son.

The idea of Peter losing his Spider-Man-abilities because he’s torn between two lives is a really interesting one. This is where this Peter Parker having organic webs shooting from his wrists rather than being something he built really works. He has no control as he’s becoming indecisive over what he wants, if he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man, he can’t be Spider-Man. Likewise, you get to see how good a person Peter Parker is even without the suit and the powers. He runs into a burning building to save a little girl because that’s the right thing to do and he can’t walk away. Side note: the moment where the little girl helps pull him up is one of the sweetest things ever.

Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) is a brilliant villain because through one small dinner scene with him, his wife (Donna Murphy), and Peter you get to see the man who likes poetry and loves his wife and science. Having the robotic arms have powerful AI be part of the cause of his descent into villainy is a clever idea. He’s smart, perhaps too smart, and comes up with a failsafe to protect himself but when that fails and he sees the love of his life die in front of him, it’s easy to see how he’d be manipulated by AI that’s smarter than him to solely focus on redoing the experiment no matter the cost.

The action sequences in Spider-Man 2 are still some of the best in the superhero movie genre. They are shot so you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another and the majority of them happen in the daytime so that along with not being too heavily edited means you can see what’s happening. The bank sequence is a lot of fun and is a great prelude to Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s next confrontation. The train sequence is still something that stands out even after over 15 years or more superhero movies. It’s exciting and while it’s a fight between Peter and Doc Ock it’s also a fight for Spider-Man to save the passengers on the train. The New Yorker’s standing up for Spider-Man is something that still gets me in the feels. It shows the good of the average person and how while the Daily Bugle and others may hate Spider-Man, there’s still many who feel like he’s a hero.

One thing I didn’t expect to get from this film was how much I empathised with Harry Osborn. He’s constantly in people’s shadows and no wonder it makes him act out. First it was his father, never living up to his expectations and pleasing him, and then Peter, not being as smart as him or being the one that MJ wants out of the two of them. I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of Spider-Man 3 after not seeing it for so long as there’s so much good groundwork laid in this film for Harry’s arc. He feels lost and desperate after suddenly being thrust into the role of head of Oscorp and then finding out that his best friend is who is (supposedly) to blame for his father’s death. It’s a lot for him and while Harry’s plot is a minor part of Spider-Man 2, James Franco does a great job with what he’s given.

Spider-Man 2 is truly a brilliant film. Even after all this time it’s still the film other Spider-Man films aspire to be as great as. It’s the combination of Peter’s struggles with responsibility and the various relationships in his life, it’s the villain that can be very creepy and almost horrifying at times, and it’s just how there is still humour to be found even though Peter’s life really does suck the majority of the time. 5/5.

REVIEW: Eternals (2021)

The Eternals, a race of immortal and powerful beings, have lived on Earth for centuries. Their mission was to protect its people from creatures called Deviants but when a new danger threatens Earth and its people, they decide to take a stand to protect the place they’ve learnt to call home.

Eternals is the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in some ways it’s different to what has come before, but in others it falls into the general tropes of the MCU. The scope of Eternals is huge and there’s a lot of information to take in about these characters and their history. They are all pretty much demigods with different powers and how they fight together, using those different powers is really fun to watch. And while they are all from the same place originally, they each have experienced different things in their thousands of years on Earth and that along with their general core beliefs make them different to one another.

There are ten Eternals so natural some characters get more development than others but each character gets at least one very cool moment, whether it’s a quiet, dramatic moment or something in a big fight scene. Sersi (Gemma Chan) could be considered the lead in this ensemble cast. She, along with Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sprite (Lia McHugh), is the one who sets out to find the others and bring them all together to stop this new threat. Sersi is a character whose core values are really love and kindness. She’s always liked and cared for the people of Earth even when some of her companions thought them to be not worth saving or a danger to themselves.

A lot of the comedic moments come from Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) and his human valet Karun (Harish Patel). With Karun, he could’ve easily become an annoying comedic side character but the film knows exactly when to use him to its advantage and he actually has a really heartfelt moment which I did not expect. Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos also has some funny moments but his humour is a lot more subtle and dry and having that kind of humour balances out the more typical MCU-type humour which was nice.

The cast and the characters are what made Eternals for me. These characters have all lived different lives but they all still care about one another. They do often seem like a dysfunctional family and no dynamic between two characters is the same. There are friendships or maybe even romantic relationships between various characters that are stronger than between others but that’s true to life in any kind of friendship group or family. It doesn’t make any of the relationships lesser and instead adds something to the various characters motivations. The chemistry between certain actors was great if unexpected – Barry Keoghan’s Druig and Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari were a standout.

The cinematography in Eternals is often stunning and that has to be at least in part due to director Chloé Zhao and her love of natural lighting and filming in real locations. At times this does make the CGI a bit more noticeable when it is used as the blend of the real and computer-generated doesn’t always hit the mark.

Eternals is a bit more of a serious MCU film as it presents lofty ideas and themes about humanity and the value of life of one species vs another. It’s the kind of film where even though you see the worst of humanity, you can also see the best and its potential. But with all these serious discussions, there’s also spectacular fight sequences where it’s really fun to see these characters work together.

There’s a lot to take in, but overall Eternals manages to be an engaging and hopeful story with fun action sequences and a lot of mythology to get your teeth into – and there’s enough in the film itself and its two post-credit scenes to get you interested in a sequel. 4/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man (2002)

As Spider-Man: No Way Home is being released next month and there’s talk of it including multiple universes and characters we’ve seen from past Spider-Man franchises (I watched the first trailer when it was released in August and have done by best to avoid everything Spider-Man-related ever since) I thought it was about time to revisit some of the previous iterations of Spider-Man. I’ve reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home but I’m pretty sure I’ve never reviewed the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. Plus, I’ve not even seen many of those films in their entirety for years, or in some cases, since the cinema.

As these films are older and are rewatches there may be some vague spoilers in these reviews.

So to kick it off we go back to the beginning and to the Summer of 2002. I was 10 years old when Spider-Man came out and I distinctly remember seeing it in the cinema with my dad, my (much older) sister and her then-boyfriend. I know I enjoyed it then and on rewatch nearly 20 years later I still really enjoy it.

What director Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man is really help lay the blueprint of how brilliant a superhero movie could be. There are a lot of elements at play in this film with the different characters and relationships and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) doesn’t even get into his Spider-Man suit until practically half way through the film. But that doesn’t bother me because the things going on in Peter’s life are just as compelling as any Spidey-related adventure.

Spider-Man sets up the relationship/potential love triangle between Peter, his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) and the girl he’s been in love with forever Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) so well. You get why Peter and Harry are friends even though they come from completely different worlds and you get why Mary Jane would be attracted to both Peter and Harry. All three of them have believable relationships with one another.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is one of those instances of perfect casting. Ever since I saw him in Speed 2: Cruise Control Dafoe has been able to freak me out with just his eyes – he can put so much intensity/craziness in his eyes it’s almost concerning. How the Green Goblin toys with Peter is so good. He believes he knows what makes Spider-Man tick and once he figures out who Spider-Man is he’s even more certain of it. The scenes where it’s just Norman Osborn talking to the Green Goblin, either via the mask or a mirror are just captivating. They’re unsettling and show so much of the two sides of this character. Because really, while Norman Osborn may have pushed his son and his staff, he was also someone who wanted to succeed in their business ventures and wasn’t necessarily an inherently cruel person until he became the Green Goblin.

Some of the CGI may now look a bit dated but on the whole the action set pieces really hold up. The attack on the parade is fun with how Spider-Man bounces on the giant balloons and how he goes between fighting Green Goblin to rescuing bystanders shows what kind of a hero he is. The hand-to-hand fights with Green Goblin are pretty brutal and Peter Parker sure goes through a lot in this film. All the fight and action sequences are well shot and choregraphed and you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another.

I have to mention J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson – an actor who made the role his own that there was no way he could be played by anyone else in any of the other Spider-Man franchises. J. Jonah Jameson is loud and brash but he’s also quick-witted and all the scenes at the Daily Bugle are funny because of him and his various underlings. What really stood out to me (because I’d completely forgotten about it) is that that when he’s being threatened by the Green Goblin who wants to know who takes Spider-Man’s picture, James lies. He says he doesn’t know and they’re sent in the mail. He might be a mean and rude boss but it shows he does care about Peter Parker and the rest of his staff. He has a moral backbone and won’t sell out his staff. It’s little moments like that in Spider-Man that make a lot of the character work stand out.

Spider-Man is a very entertaining superhero film and is truly one of the great origin stories. It’s filled with drama and action and so many believable characters. Seeing Spider-Man swing through New York still looks fantastic and when that Spider-Man theme by Danny Elfman kicks in it’s hard not to get goosebumps. 5/5.

REVIEW: Dune (2021)

After his family, the House of Atreides, is called to take ownership of the planet Arrakis, Paul (Timothée Chalamet) becomes entangled in the war for the most valuable resource in the galaxy.

I read Dune by Frank Herbert a few years ago and saw the 1984 film version earlier this year so I did have some background knowledge going into this latest adaptation which is a good thing as Dune as a story is still incredibly dense with political intrigue and various people and families being important.

Dune is indeed absolutely stunning to look at. There’s no denying that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser have put together a fantastic looking film that really emphasises the scope of this story and makes all space craft look huge and tangible. The size of ships and rooms in cities may mean there’s a lot of space but the way things are shot and how the tension builds between some characters means that there’s often a claustrophobic feel to things too. Everything is so vast but as there’s so many things out there looking to harm Paul and those he cares about – huge sand worms and other Houses included – that it feels like there’s a threat from every corner.

The huge score from Hans Zimmer also contributes to this. It often compliments the shots on screen but some of the musical choices (I’m talking about the bagpipes) does feel a bit out of place. Though House of Atreides and Arrakis each have a distinct theme which is always nice to hear and it’s always nice to hear echoes of music throughout a film.

Dune has a huge and talented cast and some (Zendaya and Javier Bardem) are not in it much at all but they all do give great performances. Chalamet does a fine job being pretty much the centre of the whole thing but the two standouts were Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother Lady Jessica and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, one of Duke Leto’s (Oscar Isaac) right-hand men. Ferguson captures the many sides of Jessica brilliantly. She’s composed and skilled while also barely containing her terror in one key scene. Before even Paul or you as the viewer know what he’s about to face you are on edge thanks to her performance. On the other end of the scale, you have Jason Momoa. While Ferguson is restrained, Momoa is exuberant in all situations, even battles. Every time Jason Momoa comes on screen it’s like the film got a shot of adrenalin. He is charismatic and charming and Momoa seems like he’s just having a great time being a space warrior who also manages to befriend everyone. Duncan Idaho is like a mentor to Paul and their dynamic is great and he’s such an affable character that it’s hard not to enjoy his presence whenever he’s on screen.

Most of the problems I have with Dune the film are the ones I had in Dune the book. It’s a dense story with a lot of political machinations and moving parts, and a lot of the characters aren’t afforded much depth. Chalamet does a fine job at Paul but the problem lies with the kind of character Paul is, he’s a prophesised saviour-type of character and so while there’s moments where you can see he’s smart or skilled, you never really get to see who he is as a person. It’s difficult to connect with a lot of the characters because there’s so much to take in about each of them, and with many of them it’s their sense of duty or legacy that comes across more than any kind of appealing personality.

Another problem with Dune is that it’s technically part one of the story. This would be less worrying if two things had happened. One, that the second film was confirmed to be happening – at the moment it seems to be dependent on how much money this one makes etc. And two, if this film actually felt like it had a beginning, middle and an end. This film just stops and in some ways a lot seems to have happened, and in others it doesn’t seems to have achieved anything at all. If anything, it feels like it stops hallway through the second act, so there has been a lot of setup but not a lot of resolution. Even films like The Lord of the Rings that are three distinct parts of one overall story each have three clear acts. With Dune you can’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied.

There is no denying the impressive filmmaking that produced Dune. The special effects often look invisible making you believe in these worlds and the technology and people that live in them, and the whole atmosphere of the film is very distinct. The cast are great too but it’s the story structure and the story itself that doesn’t quite stand up to how the film is presented. Maybe if/when we get a Dune Part Two it’ll make this film go up in my estimations. For now, it looks great, but much like the novel I cared little for the story or most of the characters. 3/5.