FlixChatter Review- JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM (2019)

Parabellum is Latin for “prepare for war” and is often used within the context of the phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum, meaning “If you want peace, prepare for war.” (per Wiki). This title is absolutely spot-on for John Wick 3, which picked up exactly as the second movie left off. Our titular hero who’s beaten and bloodied is on the run, literally. There’s a lot of running in this movie… running in the rain, in the streets of Manhattan, dark alleyway, fluorescent-lit building with glass walls allover, you name it… John is either running or fighting.

Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves) has less than one hour until he’s declared excommunicado by The High Table, a shadowy council of high-level crime lords, a society of well-dressed, lethal assassins. The reason for his persona non grata happened in John Wick 2, when John broke the rule of conducting deadly business on The Continental grounds, which is supposed to be a safe haven for assassins. With $14 million contract bounty on his head, naturally ALL of the world’s most dangerous criminals are on to him. Yes, initially John was all about avenging his dead puppy (given by his beloved late wife), but the previous film has shown us a bit about his backstory and his connection to this mysterious underworld society. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad and his team of four writers has crafted something quite intriguing with the High Table concept, but in the final chapter, there’s no time to delve deeper into this underworld as the focus is on action, action, and more action.

Director Chad Stahelski, a former-stunt-guy-turned-filmmaker (who used to double for Keanu himself) clearly loves action and all forms of martial arts. He relished in basically giving action fans all kinds of fight sequences imaginable. By now he’s specialized in hyper-kinetic action as a form of storytelling. There’s barely any pause in between gun-fu shoot-em-up and another well-choreographed fight sequence with swords, knife, basically anything John could find. Man, even a book is proven to be lethal in the hand of Mr. Wick! The movie is obsessed with the ballet-of-death and there’s even an actual ballet dancing in it. As an Indonesian, I have to say I was quite giddy when two Indo actors (Pencak Silat experts from the equally-violent actioner The Raid) get to fight John Wick and even uttering some lines in Bahasa.

To make life even more complicated for Wick, the High Table sent The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to declare severe verdicts to anyone who helps him. Wick’s perilous adventure takes him from Manhattan to Morocco where he goes to collect his debt from Sofia (Halle Berry), a former assassin who’s pretty much Wick’s equal. Hey she even have a pair of killer dogs she loves like her own children, definitely John Wick’s kind of woman. Debt collection is a running theme in this movie, in line with the classic themes of loyalty and allegiance that’s common in this genre. Angelica Huston has a brief but intriguing moment as a high-ranking member of the High Table that Wick encountered.

Now, John Wick is definitely made for people who love action movies, specifically the fantastical action flick in the vein of Mission Impossible, James Bond, Fast & Furious, etc. It’s an action franchise where absurdity is the norm given the sheer invincibility of the hero. It’s fitting that the trailer song is Andy Williams’ The Impossible Dream, its lyrics say ‘To fight the unbeatable foe… To bear with unbearable sorrow.‘ All the ridiculous and over-the-top action sequences are expected demanded by fans, and Stahelski & Reeves obviously knew this. They upped the ante by raising the stakes so high that blows the limit of credulity out of the water. I find myself laughing and shaking my head a lot during the craziest action scenes. The ultra-stylized action gets so overblown it’s cartoonish, but THAT is precisely the appeal of John Wick movies. The horse chase through Manhattan traffic scene in particular was a lot of fun to watch because it is absurd. I have to say though, some of the action scenes, no matter how amazingly-choreographed they are, would get repetitive. My mind glossed over quite a bit during many of the brutal, no-holds-barred fight scenes, even as I heard a lot of moviegoers wincing loudly as Wick viciously goes through one opponent after another.

Visually speaking, the movie is stunning. Danish DP Dan Laustsen created a vivid, luminous cinematography with extended long takes on the fight sequences where you can practically see every movement. That glass set towards the end is particularly beautiful to look at, which of course becomes a ‘house of pain’ for Wick as he literally crashes into one glass structure after another. Mark Dacascos proves to be one of Wick’s toughest foe in the final battle, but he provides some comic relief as well. The dynamic score by Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard (who also scored the previous films) perfectly punctuates all the action.

Gif courtesy of range365.com

In a hyper-stylized movie that prioritizes adrenaline-pumping action above everything else, there’s no room for narratives nor logic. There are so many inconsistencies in the way the High Table or The Continental is supposed to be run. Obviously the filmmakers care so much more about perfecting their action sequences than exploring the film’s own ‘mythology.’ After all of that world-building it did in the second film, I can’t help thinking that it’s a missed opportunity not to explore those further. Wick’s Russian backstory is merely hinted at and uttered in passing as if it hardly mattered. We’re constantly shown what John Wick can do, instead of who he really is and what truly drives him. Just as Wick’s opponents often get hit over the head with things, I feel like the filmmakers are hitting the audience over the head with Wick’s fighting skills. There’s only so many ways one can kill another person before we get numbed by the deafening gunfire or knife slashing sound.

That said, it’s still a fun experience to see Keanu Reeves in his element, doing what he does best. I’m always glad to see familiar faces from the previous films – Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick, the loyal concierge who finally got in on some of the action, but this movie truly belongs to Reeve from start to finish. It’s interesting that the most peaceful actor (whose known for his benevolence and humility) makes the most mercilessly-violent movies. But he’s become an action legend as this suffering hero, a role he’s clearly born to play. The super-fit 50-something star doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, and neither does this franchise.


So, what do you think of JOHN WICK franchise? If you’ve seen JOHN WICK 3, let me know what YOU think!

FlixChatter Review: Passengers (2016)

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Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Written By: Jon Spaihts
Runtime: 116 minutes

I heard about the premise of this one a few years ago when the project was still stuck in development hell and for some time it was meant to be a vehicle for Keanu Reeves. Well, now we’ve got two of the biggest young A-listers as leads, but what attracted me was still the premise of what could’ve been an intriguing psychological sci-fi thriller.

Well, if you have seen the trailer or tv spots, the studios pretty much marketed this as two passengers who’re stuck in a spacecraft traveling to a distant planet when they’re awakened 90 years early. Within 10 minutes of watching it, you’ll realize that isn’t quite the case. A giant asteroid hits a part of the spaceship, causing a malfunction that triggers Jim’s sleeping pod to open 90 years early. Apparently in the future we still age as we do today, so of course Jim is going to die of old age before he reaches his destination. The first 15 minutes or so are pretty entertaining when it was just Chris Pratt‘s Jim Preston all alone on the ship wondering why he’s the only one awaken on board. There are some funny moments, i.e. how it takes 50+ years for his SOS message to reach earth and the machine says ‘we apologize for the delay.’ Ha! It helps that Pratt has that aw-shucks likable charm that the film puts to good use, but he could only sustain it for so long before he’s starting to get on my nerves.

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When does Jennifer Lawrence enter the picture, you ask? Well, to talk about it would spoil the premise, so I’ll discuss that later in the spoiler section. I could tell you that her character’s name is Aurora Lane. Heh, the Sleeping Beauty reference is just way on the nose it’s lazy. And is ‘Lane’ meant to be an homage to Lois Lane as Aurora is a writer? [shrug] Speaking of Lois, there is a space *walk* halfway through that evokes the flying sequence in the first Superman movie… and of course Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. In fact, Passengers made me recall so many other [read: better] sci-fi movies: 2001 Space Odyssey, Sunshine, Ex Machina, etc. but in a bad way because it could barely hold a candle to those films. Oscar-winner Lawrence herself doesn’t really get much to do in this movie. She’s pretty much reduced to a damsel in distress, one with questionable principles no less, by the end of the movie.

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I have to admit the visuals of the movie, which is basically just the set design of the spacecraft Avalon, is stunning and sleek. It’s like a pristine, futuristic mega mall, complete with state-of-the-art rooms and all kinds of amenities such as bar, dance studio, swimming pools, etc. The special effects of the pool losing its artificial gravity whilst Aurora’s swimming in it is pretty cool to watch. But it’s to be expected from a movie with a $100+ mil budget, and this movie is pretty much all style no substance. Director Morten Tyldum (whose gone Hollywood since making the Danish indie film Headhunters) seems more concerned with the actors’ physicality/physiognomy than their psychology. In a dramatic moment where Aurora’s supposed to be feeling emotionally distressed, the director shows off her svelte physique in a snazzy bathing suit that tells you nothing of what she’s feeling. Apparently Jon Spaihts‘ script was from the coveted Black List, though you wouldn’t know it from the final result.


For a movie built on the romance of the characters, there’s zero emotional resonance here. Mostly it’s because most people wouldn’t be able to easily reconcile the fact that a bored, lonely man basically does something so selfless. Obsession is NOT true love, no matter how slick Hollywood tries to package the story nor how attractive the actors they hired to sell it. SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read): At one point Aurora calls Jim a murderer for waking her up to keep him company, and that description is absolutely justified. There’s no denying that Jim basically stalks Aurora in her pod, then proceeds to rob her out of her future and deceives her into falling for him. No matter how you look at it, he’s a creepy dude who doesn’t deserve our sympathies, yet the filmmakers want us to root for him.

Aside from the unethical decision of the protagonist, it’s hard to root for either of them as we just barely knew them. No character development than mere superficial hints of their professions prior to their space journey. There’s also no real threat for any of the characters, even at the most dire scenario when all hell broke lose in the spaceship. Don’t even get me started with the bombastic finale. The mechanical failures in the ship feels like a cop out plot to avoid facing the morality of the story, while also conveniently give the protagonist a ‘get out of jail’ free pass. As for the rapport between the two leads, well they may seem like buddies in interviews, but there’s no chemistry between them as a couple. The hyped-up sex scene is pretty lame and I never believed them for a second as two people falling in love.

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Well, I’ve described this movie in the worst possible way and I actually like it less the more I think about it. The only bright spot here is Michael Sheen as the android bartender, but he’s barely around often enough and his talents is wasted on this role. It’s also nice to see Laurence Fishburne popped up briefly, though his appearance can be considered a cameo. He did have one memorable line in the film delivered the only way he could, which only vexed me that he’s not around longer.

There’s really not much to recommend this movie. But the biggest disappointment of Passengers for me is that there’s an intriguing story here buried under studios’ meddling. It has the potential to be a haunting sci-fi that makes us ponder on our humanity, but all the thought-provoking bits gets swept under the rug [or more appropriately here, thrown out to space] in lieu of a generic space action adventure. No amount of star power can save a flawed script, pair that with studio meddling and you’ve got yourself a real cinematic misfire.


Have you seen Passengers? Well, what did you think?

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Everybody’s Chattin’ + John Wick: Chapter 2 trailer

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Happy Tuesday, or if you’re an eternal optimist, happy-three-more-days-until-Friday! 😀 My hand is still not well yet, apparently it’s NOT Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s something w/ a fancy name: Extensor Tenosynovitis. Heh, it’s really annoying, I have to wear a splint daily which makes typing a chore. I might have to do MRI in a couple of weeks if it’s still not better by then.

In any case, it’s time for some community links… so here we go!

Ahhh I love Autumn… it’s my fave season. That’s why I LOVE Alex‘s latest quiz post

Michael reviewed the classic Hitchcock Strangers On A Train

… whilst Keith just reviewed the New Zealand comedy I can’t wait to watch: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

A new blog I recently discovered, The Double Take, just reviewed Deepwater Horizon

Jenna & Allie reviewed Bridget Jones’ Baby which I also enjoyed (my review should be up later this week!)

The latest HBO show Westworld has got everyone talking, check out Margaret‘s recap of episode 2 (we’re gonna binge on it in November when most of the episodes are available!)

Speaking of TV, Getter just posted about The Fall season 3.

Since it is Halloween month, lots of sites are dedicating a month of horror…

Dell just reviewed Scouts Guide to Zombie Apocalypse which actually sounds like a hoot…

… and Steven just reviewed Bride of Frankenstein


Now on to the sequel I can’t wait to see…

Though generally I prefer new, original stories, once in a while came a movie so fun I can’t help wishing for a sequel. Well, John Wick is such a movie and it seems that people are quite um, taken by this action franchise as there’s reportedly John Wick 3 in the works even as the first trailer just dropped!

Well, you don’t mess with Keanu, the seemingly meek and mild-mannered man who can spontaneously combust whenever his beloved dog is threatened. The trailer promises even more action and Keanu being as lethal as well as bulletproof as Neo! We’ve got the same director, Chad Stahelski, as the first one, and the movie looks just as stylish done on a modest budget (reportedly the first film was done for only $20 mil). Oh and speaking of The Matrix, gotta love the Neo + Morpheus reunion w/ Laurence Fishburne, woo hoo!

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I love the teaser poster of the hero being measured for a suit. Per HitFix, Keanu told the New York Comic-con crowd that “I really liked putting this suit back on and doing what John Wick gets to do… He’s a guy that’s really fighting to be free.” He’s just so perfect for the role and he makes John Wick so watchable!

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The Rome scenery looks gorgeous too. Not quite a Roman Holiday though… no rest for the wicked I suppose. Well let’s hope John gets a bit of some relaxing vacation in the Eternal city before all hell break loose and he puts an end to his enemies’ dream of an eternal life on this earth.

John Wick Chapter 2 is out a day before my birthday on February 10, so hey, nice to see something exciting released in the *dead months* of Winter!

 


What do you think of the John Wick 2 trailer? Are you as psyched as I am? 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review – The good, the bad and the ugly

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By the time I sat down to write this, I’ve actually seen BVS twice in a week. Yup, you probably think I’m a masochist and I don’t blame you. But hey, it’s really out of solidarity with my dear hubby that I saw it again a second time, as we weren’t allowed to bring guests to the press screening and I actually couldn’t wait for him to see it so we could discuss this drivel movie together.

I have a lot to say here so it’s best to break things down in three categories, like I did w/ some award commentaries. Let’s start w/ the positive.

The Good

I tweeted when I sat down at the press screening that despite the title featuring two of the world’s biggest superheroes, I was mostly excited for Wonder Woman. And well, she did NOT disappoint. In fact, I was literally giddy the first time we saw Diana Prince dressed to kill in a skintight red dress at Lex Luthor’s party. The biggest audience cheer throughout the entire movie was when Wonder Woman finally showed up in costume.

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Gal Gadot slayed it, she was all badass and heroic. I wish they hadn’t revealed that exact moment in the trailer, I mean they could’ve shown ANY other WW scene besides THAT one, heh. Oh and the WW theme song, OMG I’m seriously obsessed w/ it now. The score is written by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL who just did the awesome Mad Max: Fury Road score, and this particular track has Junkie XL written all over it.

Like most moviegoers, I was more curious than excited about BVS and it’s to see the Batfleck. Ben Affleck followed up on the strong impression left by Christian Bale in the best Dark Knight trilogy, but y’know what, if we’re just judging on Ben Affleck’s portrayal alone as Batman/Bruce Wayne, I’d say he nailed it. Right from the moment we saw him driving around the wreckage of Gotham as Superman and his Kryptonian foes are wrecking havoc from the sky, we get a grizzled, world-weary and indignant Bruce Wayne. I gotta say Affleck looked damn good as Batman and his alter ego. He certainly has the gravitas of an older and wiser caped crusader, though he’s certainly far more brutal and doesn’t have qualms knocking down bad guys and even killing them. But then again, the supposedly more gracious Superman is nowhere to be found here either.

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The actual BVS battle itself was pretty fun to watch. It could be because we’ve spent nearly TWO hours waiting for the damn thing to finally happened. I was like FINALLY! The action scene here was well-staged and there were moments where I thought they could do serious damage to each other. It’s not quite the level of suspense of Batman vs Bane in TDKR however, I think Nolan crafted that sense of dread and serious peril much better than Snyder. But still, within the grim and dour universe of BVS, this scene was one of the highlights.

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Which brings me to…

The Bad

Oh dear, where do I begin.

Basically everything I didn’t care about the third act of Man of Steel is back with a vengeance. All the clanging noise that threaten to do serious damage to my eardrums are ever present as soon as Doomsday showed up. It’s an eyesore too. The world of Gotham/Metropolis are so severe and somber, and the ugliness of the Kryptonian/human monster hybrid so potent I had to look away a few times.

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Doomsday is a cross between Lord of the Ring’s Orc, the Hulk, Ninja Turtle and King Kong, also with a penchant for leaping into tall skyscrapers. That whole battle between the three heroes and this grotesque monster is a colossal CGI smash that went on far too long. It’s a sensory overload that feels like an endurance contest for the audience. If it weren’t for Wonder Woman forming the trio, I think this entire battle sequence would’ve been a total bust.

Speaking of Wonder Woman again, all of the wonderful things about her awesome intro, it is offset by the perpetual damsel-in-distress situations of all the women in Supes’ lives, be it Lois or her mother. It’s like, for one step forward in the right direction about female empowerment, there are three or more that took us back. It’s not Amy Adams‘ fault really, but I’m not fond of THIS Lois at all.

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Now, what I’m about to say is going to make Henry Cavill fans furious but y’know what, a huge fan of Superman it actually pains me to say it. Superman is actually the least interesting character of this movie, thanks to what Snyder created in Cavill. Neither Superman nor Clark Kent was a character worth rooting for. Gone is the heroic and sympathetic alien who cares deeply for humanity, he even refused to take ANY blame for all the monstrous destruction that could’ve been easily avoided if he went around the buildings instead of flying through them! Not only that, he was delusional enough that he told Bruce Wayne that nobody saw him as a liability and that the world was entirely on his side. Cavill’s Clark Kent is no longer the meek, mild-mannered reporter, as he’d rather argue relentlessly with his boss Perry White and had the worst work ethic. Yes Clark was always MIA in previous movies too, but we actually saw he had a good relationship with his boss and there’s a mutual respect between them. None of that is displayed in Snyder’s version.

Don’t get me started with the cringe-worthy scenes between him and Lois. Gone are the sweet and flirty banter between the two, instead we get cheesy lines about hope and what have you, and the supposedly romantic gestures just doesn’t compute at all because none of it felt true. And what’s with the constantly-constipated look on Cavill no matter what circumstance his character finds himself in.

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He had the same baffled/sad/forlorn/reflective (all of the above? none of the above??) whether he’s talking to his mom/Lois, at the courthouse, surrounded by strangers during Day of the Dead festival, etc. I think he only switches to something of immense rage when he’s facing Batman, which doesn’t exactly make me like him one bit as he comes across more like a bully than a wise and gentle hero we’ve seen in Christopher Reeve. What’s more, Snyder sexualizes Superman so much here it’s putting me off. There’s a scene of him jumping into a bathtub and a gratuitous scene of him cooking with no shirt on. Sorry but that had the opposite effect on me. I don’t want a sexually-alluring Superman, I want a Superman I can believe in.

The Ugly

[SPOILER ALERT]

Ok, one of the screenwriting rules I’ve read often says to steer clear of dream sequences. Unless something is hugely integral to the plot (like say, in Inception), there are very few narratives in which this structure fits. Well, guess what, there wasn’t just one but MULTIPLE dream sequences. I literally was gonna throw things at the screen when it happened, and after seeing it twice I STILL have no clue what the heck those scenes are about and how it served the story. It has no purpose being there other than to infuriate the audience. Seriously, the movie could’ve easily been trimmed to under 2 hours long without these inconsequential scenes.

The scenes of Batman in the desert fighting a bunch of goons wearing Supes’ emblems in their uniforms followed by some ethereal-looking ghost talking to Bruce, what the hell was THAT?? And the whole Superman talking to his dead earthly dad scene in the North Pole. Heh, we already know Supes has daddy issues. Same with the wholly extraneous scene of Bruce’s parents being gunned down. The whole thing is played out with the most irritating slo-motion as if seeing Thomas & Martha Wayne dying a slow death would make us care more about them. Is it so that the movie can start AND end with a funeral scene?? [shrug]

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Forget daddy issues though, this movie seems to be more about the moms. The filmmakers used the fact that Bruce and Clark’s mothers share the same name as a plot device. Good gracious, it’s not only trite, but it’s simply lazy writing. So they needed a good reason for why Batman would stop from killing Superman and that’s all they could come up with?? We’re talking about a writing duo comprised of David S. Goyer (who co-wrote the Dark Knight trilogy) and Chris Terrio (who won Best Screenplay Oscar for ARGO).

[END OF SPOILER]

That said, it begs the question whether it’s actually possible to forge a worthy script that tells SO many origin stories in a single movie with SO much going on there’s absolutely no room at all for any character development. My hubby and I were talking about it this morning on the way to brunch that this movie could perhaps work as more of a Batman story, with Superman treated as a supporting character (plus cameo from Wonder Woman) so it could be more focused on a single character whilst still serve as a launching pad for other characters in DC cinematic universe. But perhaps the studios want to appease the fans for Man Of Steel 2 being delayed indefinitely, as the ‘battle’ between these two characters, no matter how epic, just can’t make up for the messy storytelling.

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All the intriguing ideas about deity and humanity seem so half-baked and completely lost in a sea of clanging CGI death-match. I roll my eyes every time the characters are saying some philosophical mumbo-jumbo about hope and that ‘man is still good’ or whatever, because the film hasn’t earned them. The quasi-spiritual themes feel tacked on instead of being an inherent part of the narrative.

Other Observations

I haven’t mentioned Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, whose take of the villain is more of a deranged and power-hungry tech megalomaniac who likes to play god. He played it much like his Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but with more than a few screws loose. He’s hellbent on destroying these demigods, liken them to Biblical demons, but it’s never clear what he’s true agenda is. But y’know what, he’s at least amusing in his nervous ticks that he actually offered a bit of relief from all the drab and grave mood of the movie.

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Alfred is portrayed as being more of an equal as Bruce, more akin to James Bond’s Q than the traditional English butler in previous screen adaptation. I have no problem with that and Jeremy Irons rocked as the dry, sarcastic and no-nonsense Alfred who looked like he could’ve been a perfect Bruce Wayne in his younger days. I also love Laurence Fishburne as the commanding Perry White, he’s definitely a more authoritative version of the Daily Planet editor. He respects superstar reporter Lois Lane but doesn’t let her walk all over him either. Perhaps that’s what’s needed to head a newspaper in the digital age, though I have no idea how they’re still in business.

The intro of other DC characters which will live on as part of Justice League and in various stand-alone movies are handled pretty well. At least it didn’t feel jarring to me, though at that point I really didn’t care so much about them as I struggle to muster up sympathy for the characters in BVS.

Final Verdict

It’s mind-boggling just how haphazardly-constructed this whole movie was. It proves that no amount of money ($250 mil production cost) can guarantee quality. Surely it’s a challenging task for even the best director to make a smorgasbord of plots to interweave seamlessly and no director is less than up for the task than Zack Snyder. The transition from one scene to the next is so mind-numbingly jumpy and disconcerting. It’s not quite a complete disaster but still, the bad far outweighs the good for me and trust me, I already had a very low expectation for this one.

I can’t believe Warner Bros entrusted so much of DC universe to a one-note director who has absolutely no talent for storytelling. So he’s known for his visual flair, but to be honest with you, I can’t even think of a single truly spectacular scene that took my breath away. Ok so there’s the moment where Batman drives his Batmobile into his Batcave through a secret entrance hidden in a dam that I thought was pretty darn cool. But that is all I could remember from an entire 2.5 hour movie, which is saying a lot.

It’s unforgivable that Snyder & co. has made a formidable hero like Superman so tedious and impossible to root. After this, I can’t be bothered with any other DC movies in the future. The only one I’m looking forward to is Wonder Woman and that’s mostly because a female superhero on the big screen has been so long overdue. The fact that it’s NOT directed by Zack Snyder is another reason to cheer, but since Dawn of Justice hit a big box office record on its opening weekend ($170 mil), I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet. Alas, Snyder will still be allowed to make more movies, and that’s the real travesty of it all.

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So what did YOU think of ‘Batman V Superman’? Did you like it more or less than I did?