Dune


Viewed – 18 December 2021 online rental

Set in the distant future, a family dynasty are awarded the responsibility of reining over the planet of Arakis, a world who’s deserts contain a valuable resource called ‘spice’, sort after throughout the galaxy. As the only air to his family’s empire Paul Atreides stands on the brink of a greater destiny only hinted at in his dreams.

Under the direction of Denis Villeneuve, who gave us Blade Runner 2049 as well as sci-if gem Arrival… it’s clear that Frank Herbert’s epic tome couldn’t be in better hands. Bathed in a haunting, majestic beauty, this ‘part one’ of a proposed saga is arguably the year’s most visually captivating movie. Brought to the big-screen previously by David Lynch, this carries over the same structure and plot details whilst creating a feel all it’s own, managing to weave a Shakespearean-like tale of warring houses that also made me think of Game of Thrones. Casting is solid, with decent performances including a sensual Rebecca Ferguson, suitably supported by Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. However the story sits on the shoulders of young newcomer Timothee Chalomet, who thankfully manages such a task in an understated yet capable turn.

The first half did take its time building characters and plot, and I found some elements easy to get lost by such as the various races / houses. So this may not be the easily digestible space opera of Star Wars, yet was still full of imagination and had some decent action … and as the credits rolled, with the promise of a story just beginning – I was left thirsty for more.

Verdict: Recommended

Zack Snyder’s Justice League


Viewed – 29 May 2021 Blu-ray

This doesn’t happen very often, does it? A movie getting pretty much re-released that isn’t simply a director’s cut but in fact almost an entirely different movie. I feel I was one of the few that enjoyed the original 2018 version of Justice League, and while I could see the flaws, overall it still did its job. So sitting down to this much expanded, 4 hour version was both exciting and a bit intimidating.

Avengers assem… oh, wait.

The story has a megalomaniac villain called Steppenwolf who is searching for three ancient cubes that once brought together will transform our world, destroying all life in the process. So on learning this Bruce Wayne / Batman rushes to form a team of super-powered heroes in hope of stopping Steppenwolf in his tracks.

Zack Snyder, for some reason delivers this version of JL in 4:3 aspect ratio, and despite black bars either side of the screen, after a while I stopped noticing them. His style is so striking here, and with a muted colour pallet compared to the garish tones of JL 2018, this immediately felt more serious and epic. Much of the humour has been toned down, although The Flash’s wise-cracks remain intact. Also, with so much more time there’s far more emphasis on character, especially that of Cyborg, and at times this can feel very much his story, given the most interesting character ark. Superman’s status of being dead and his eventual resurrection is also packed with emotion. The villain’s motives are also better explained, with the addition of one character this time around filling a Palpetine type role to Steppenwolf’s Vader.

The movie may be over 4 hours long but with how it is split into six parts, and spread over two Blu-rays (I watched it over two nights) it didn’t feel bloated or padded and in fact zipped along at a decent pace with several great action scenes. It never gets as powerful as say, Avengers: Endgame, its central plot feels cliched and Steppenwolf isn’t all that interesting. There’s also some unnecessary sequel-bating here and there, with scenes involving Martian Manhunter and even Jared Leto’s Joker needing to be left on the cutting room floor …. but overall this was still an improved, highly entertaining, visually stunning and satisfying experience.

Verdict: Recommended

Aquaman


Viewed – 23 June 2019. Blu-ray

When Nicole Kidman’s Atlantian queen washes up before a lighthouse, her forbidden love with land-dweller Temuera Morrison produces Arthur a half-breed who grows up to become underwater superhero Aquaman. However despite his reluctance to be the hero he’s destined to become, a war at his home world of Atlantis causes his own kind to come calling.

This colourful, energetic comic book adaption has a potentially star-making central performance from Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa and delivers a setting that immediately intrigues. It’s a shame then, that an over-use of CGI and green screen means that almost nothing in this looks like it was shot on location, leading to a largely artificial look and feel. Add to this a cliched story I felt I’d already watched with strong resemblances to the Thor films and Black Panther, with predictable revelations and plot twists … and what’s left is a movie that feels like it arrived too late for its own party. Momoa is charismatic and well cast and handles a plethora of fight sequences with genuine skill and showmanship, and the gorgeous Amber Heard is equally enjoyable. Willem Defoe feels kind of miscast and despite often being cast as the villain – should still have been the villain (Patrick Wilson is largely forgettable) and what really, is Dolph Lundgren doing here?

With that all said it’s hard not to be entertained. The action is slick and at times jaw-dropping (a particular roof top chase is heart-in-mouth exciting) and at times it’s really feel good. It re-introduces the character (following Justice League) well and brings with it a fascinating underwater world ripe for sequels. Just a pity it’s all feels so deja-vu.

Verdict: 3 /5