Zombieland: Double Tap Trailer- Thoughts

Ten years. A lot has changed over the last decade. Britain has had three prime ministers, the US two presidents. Kendrick Lamar’s entire discography of studio albums was released during the last ten years, as was a majority of the MCU (save for Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk). An entire generation of gaming consoles started, and will soon be coming to a close with the release of Xbox’s new console next year. Finally, after all these changes, we are getting a Zombieland sequel! After such a large gap in time, the trailer, which came out yesterday, had to successfully remind audiences why the first one is so great, justify the existence of a second one, and excite audiences enough to forgive the studios for such an excruciating wait.

What is most noticeable is the lack of actual zombies. Given its title, and even its subtitle, there is an irony hanging over the whole trailer, for most of the trailer presents us with shots and scenes featuring the original cast, and very human new additions. Ultimately, this is probably a smart route for the second film to follow. If the emphasis laid on the zombies, it would risk prioritising action and spectacle over character and comedy, which are the main strengths of the original movie. Plus, The Walking Dead buzz is certainly much quieter now than it was ten years ago. Giving the zombies the primary focus would not have sparked much hype, for it is the characters we want to see return.

Character appears to be the focus of this second instalment, which I’m very happy to see. The scenes in the Oval Office feel very real and genuine- if I were one of the few to have survived the apocalypse, the first thing I’d do is go visit all the places I was not allowed to go before. The Oval Office would probably be one of them (maybe Area 51 as well, if it is not already “stormed” by that point). It also fits the characters, who, in the first film, break into Bill Murray’s house. I’m glad to see their sense of curiosity, and their desire to explore remnants of the old world, have survived the ten year jump. Further, there is a strong emphasis on the family dynamic. “I’d really like for you to stop calling me little girl”, says Little Rock to Tallahassee out of frustration for being seen as the baby of the group, hinting that the film may focus on how the family dynamic, set up in the first Zombieland, has changed, grown, or struggled over the last decade. Perhaps this sense of inequality is why she ends up running away, as the trailer implies. More tension appears to come from the introduction of new characters into the group. The film appears to be centred on the family and how it works, which is a lot more interesting than seeing the same group fight some zombies again.

Of course, the original film was a comedy, so it is great to see that the franchise’s sense of humour is still as golden as ever. All of the jokes work and made me laugh- particularly the joke about Tallahassee not “giv[ing] a shit” about Columbus, and the weed gag. Hopefully, these are not the only good jokes, nor simply the best gags. I do have hope the film has a whole has more to offer. The scenes in the Oval Office certainly allow for some biting satirical commentary, which will always be a pleasure to watch.

This new trailer is very successful. It reminds me of why I enjoyed the first film so much- the characters and the humour- and reassures me that they will be the focus of the second one. There is also a lot of potential in the “ten years” later set up, as well as a lot of potential for humour in the film’s choice of setting. I’m very excited to see this movie. It is such a shame I had to go through the whole of secondary school,  sixth form, and university to get to a point in my life when I can finally see the Zombieland sequel. It has been a long wait, but I’m sure it will be a worthwhile one.  

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Retrospective Reviews: Blade Runner (1982/1992)

Watch this as soon as you can…

Watching this film today, it is hard to believe it is merely set in 2019. It was made this year. The original version was released in 1982, with a director’s cut coming out ten years later. Yet, the stunning representation of a dystopian, decaying, much more mechanic version of Los Angeles are as  impressive today as they were thirty-seven years ago. The attention to detail that went into the street settings, the costumes, and the breath-taking skylines all work towards creating one of the most immersive science-fiction experiences you’ll ever see. It is no wonder that it has inspired so many films in the genre since its initial release.

This film is famous for creating an forgettable mood and atmosphere. It is hard to describe what mood it creates, but it is even harder to shake that feeling off once the movie is over. Vangelis’ score is somehow other-worldly, passionate and ambient all at the same time. The chiaroscuro lighting helps to make this film feel incredibly dramatic, and adds to the power of the visuals.

Of course, the film is more than just a fabulous feast for the senses. Harrison Ford plays Deckard, an ex-“blade runner”, which is essentially a cop whose job is hunt and execute replicants (human-looking android servants who no longer obey their masters’ commands). Four such replicants, led by Roy, played by Rutger Hauer in his breakout role, are rebelling against their human masters. It is Deckard’s job to stop them. On a philosophical level, this premise allows the film to ask complex and thought-provoking questions. The morality of Deckard’s job is constantly under scrutiny as Deckard is moved by the very human memories implanted in Rachael’s brain, and certainly overwhelmed by the replicants’ lust for life, and their dread of knowing that they are pre-programmed to die very soon. Throughout, the replicants seem to value their humanity and their time on Earth more than the humans do, drawing attention to the cruel and arbitrary nature of Deckard’s role as executioner. Some have described this film as slow paced, but I prefer to use the words thoughtful and considered. The film asks important questions, and does not seek quick, nor easy, answers.

The performances of the film’s two main characters further blurs the lines between human and android. Subverting all expectations after playing heroic and charming roles like Indiana Jones and Han Solo, Ford’s performance is startlingly robotic. Very effectively, Ford plays a character who is often cold and laconic, which juxtaposes with Rutger Hauer’s performance, which expresses Roy’s aching desire for equality, and for life, magnificently. His famous “tears in rain” monologue cannot help but move. Despite its memorable technological achievements, it is Rutger Hauer’s performance as the emotional core of the film that I think of first when I look back on Blade Runner

It is easy to see why Blade Runner is considered a classic. Everything from the visuals and the score work together smoothly to create an overwhelming and unforgettable experience, and the film tackles complex philosophical questions that audiences, thirty-seven years later, are still trying to answer.

The Lion King (2019) Review

Wait until you can stream it…

Despite being longer, this film feels like a shot-for-shot remake of the original film, with most of the dialogue being copy and pasted. Same film, new coating. Whilst this does bring some successes, this new look for The Lion King is ultimately a detriment.

The only major change that springs to mind is that this film is much more muted. Gone are the dazzling, crazy colours. The grand musical set pieces are much more grounded in reality, as tracking shots simply track the singing animals as the sing and walk to their destination. The film is also hyper-realistic. Everything looks as real as a David Attenborough documentary. It is impressive, truly. Technology has clearly come a long way. This brings the major drawback, and ultimately the film’s greatest limitation, and perhaps its downfall: the ability for the film to express emotion is greatly restricted. Lions cannot express emotion like humans, and where the original film would use colour and grand musical set pieces to express how a character is feeling, this film is held back by a much more grounded reality.

With regards to the representation of Scar, this does actually works. Jeremy Irons’ Scar was much more eccentric and over the top. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Scar is a much more shadowy presence. He is cold, calculating and cunning, always working at the corner of your eye. I really like both versions. Ejiofor does a fantastic job, and the muted nature of the film compliments his performance well. Scar’s emotionless face, the quieter, eerie score when he is on screen, and the darker lighting all complement each other to create a truly sinister and threatening presence on screen.

However, the grounded approach to filmmaking is a disservice to nearly every other character. Timon’s and Zazu’s jokes often fall flat because, whilst the vocal delivery is funny, the blank facial expressions of the characters stop the jokes feeling real. Comedy is all about the visual and the aural. This film snatches away the visual side of the comedy. Arguably one of the saddest moments in the original film- Mufasa’s death- does not move me in this version. Simba’s face, in the original, is free to express as a child would, and it makes Mufasa’s death heart-breaking. This new version cannot express Simba’s sadness and terror over losing his father simply because lions cannot express emotion like we do. We just get a blank, emotionless face that jars with a vocal delivery filled with grief. It just does not work, making the efforts of the excellent voice cast, consisting of such talents as Donald Glover as Simba, ultimately pointless. The hyper-realism of this movie allows for technically marvellous shots, but it takes away much of the original film’s heart and emotion.

This film is the Avatar of the Disney remakes. A technical achievement, yes, but one lacking in emotion. To extend the Avatar analogy further, this new version also lacks originality. The plot’s structure is not changed. The variance in dialogue between both movies is barely noticeable. The director, Jon Favreau, does not even make the effort to represent the familiar plot using new shots, from new angles and positions. As mentioned before, this film feels like a mostly shot-for-shot remake. Why remake the original if your intention is to take away from the original, without adding anything new?

The Lion King remake embraces the imagery of the “circle” of life- it is utterly pointless. Remake proves to be the wrong word to describe this movie, for that implies something new has been made. This is more of a digital remaster, to borrow a term from the gaming industry. Games from the PS2 era are often imported onto a PS4 disc with improved graphics. When done with games, there is at least some point for the consumer, for you may not have your old console anymore, and you are now being given an opportunity to play some of your old favourites all over again. I fail to see why this movie exists other than as a way of milking cash from a beloved property, or as a showcase of ground-breaking technology. Artistically, it only takes away from the original, and gives nothing back.  Whilst the original was a roar capable of bringing in a stampede of devoted fans hailing it as a classic, the remaster is much quieter roar from the same lion, but much less powerful.