Category: Film Criticism

Way of Whatever

This is a short post about the new Avatar film, Way of Water, but a few considerations:

  • I haven’t seen the movie!
  • I like James Cameron films, generally.
  • I saw the first film and thought it was okay.

I am unlikely to watch this movie in the cinema. I know, I know it is important to support movies and the industry; I know the best way to see it is immersive experience (preferably IMAX). But, I just can’t bring myself to watch it.

I saw the first Avatar at an IMAX cinema. I thought it was a breathtaking achievement in both 3D filmograpy and directorial ability. I also thought it was about 2hrs too long as there was zero real story. So, the idea of returning to a cinema in an experience for two people that is going to cost, with travel, at least 50 pounds (GBP) films me with zero enthusiasm.

This is also because I pay for a Disney subscription so will just wait and watch it there. i know I will be seeing it in less than perfect circumstances. But I will also be investing almost zero extra cash, and a shorter percentage of my time, on something that may push cinematic boundaries in cgi and 3D direction and offer precious little else.

I feel it is the type of movie that we will all be subjected to when the computers do all the writing/directing and everything else…

Wonder Woman

It’s late at night so I am going to be random and even less cogent than usual…

I just watched the latest Wonder Woman movie from DC and its selected film partners and have a few random thoughts.


Hated the way the new outfit looked in Batman vs Superman, okay not really hated as I thought it was pretty sexy but is that what we really wanted to display, is that the image we should associate with a female here?[1] I felt they used it to satisfy a desire and not a need. So hated it as it just was a pander (or a Panda).

So to set this straight I don’t mind good looking people and sexy clothing I just want the association to be appropriate.

In contrast the way the camera is used here, the manner in which we linger on the lead is not in a predatory manner. Diana was sexy, the outfit was good, the camera wasn’t a voyeur for once, so well done. Pay particular attention to where the focus lingers and compare it with say Suicide Squad or Batman Vs Superman.


Would give it both a 5 out of 5 and a 3 out of 5. yup it had issues, so lets settle on a 4.372 out of 5. Where it was good it was really good and the rest of the time it ticked the boxes. Not sure what happened as there was nothing specific it just didn’t have the right impact which is a shame as some bits were stand out ace.


I would have done things differently and there were points where I wanted things to be shown in a different way. It took me until near the end of the movie to realise the issue I was having. The director was clearly learning the medium and wasn’t ticking the usual boxes, so they were not the problem, maybe I was. It was fine and nicely rounded. The director knew when to emphasise and when to hold back and let the story take control. Solid and very professional.


Some didn’t have enough to do.

Some were given less than the best lines – see script

Some needed more screen time and some just seemed ensemble cast for a single arc story  (the leads had all the work to do).

However the focus on the leads was great and both of them were good, very strong and reliable performances.


Deserves its praise.

Some people will hate it and I could have long discussions why.

Yes, if you want to discuss gender narratives I think this film has something to say but I am not going to discuss that much here or say whether it is a positive or a negative, and I doubt I care to be trolled into giving a long answer as I’d need to re-watch it and think about it and my time is limited.

It is worth watching.

It is worth thinking about.

Aside from the overt hype, it is very worthy of recognition on a number of fronts.

It pisses on the rest of the recent DC films (Superman, Batman Vs Superman, Suicide Squad) .[2]

[1] No this doesn’t mean that women can’t be smart and sexy. No I don’t think that women need to be ordinary and portrayed as less than any image they choose. No I am not indicating anything other than what we are generally fed. No I don’t care to discuss this any more than what I just said in a vague hand gesturing way.

[2] However I don’t think that is that hard as I don’t rate these movies much above popcorn and low brow analysis fodder. And in parts cringing fucking awfulness. But they are very stylised, expensively so.

Monsters (versus Aliens)[1]


On the flight from Manchester to Orlando recently I managed to catch up on a few films I had missed at the cinema in the past few months, amazing what a new baby does to your social life, one of these movies was Monsters. Monsters drew parallels by some critics and audiences to the previous years District 9 as they are both by first time Writer/Directors, both scifi movies and both have extraterrestrials in them. But this comparison was unfounded and unfair to both movies.

District 9 is an odd movie, it starts almost as a social parable reflecting on Alien integration in South Africa and their confinement in camps or ghettos, there is a reflection of South Africa’s turbulent past pitched into the nature of the film making it immediately thoughtful and blessing it with the commentary on the regions past and present. The aliens are misunderstood both socially and culturally and forced to move into deeper draconian control and our sympathies are directed towards them.

Once the movie has established this premise it turns into an invasion flick with an infected host[2] and then into an action movie that Arnie would be proud to be in. The movie therefore sat uneasily as its tone wasn’t balanced. Was it commentary or eye-candy, thought-provoking or mind-numbing, you could take your pick. It certainly spanned across genres and it was *very* entertaining. The direction was superb as were the performances and the sleight of hand in both film making and story telling well done with the plot events harder to determine than first imagined.

Monsters on the other hand is a drama. The sci-fi elements in this movie are used simply to highlight the director/writers motifs and allegories. He could have easily have used a zombie plague or a viral infection to achieve some of the same effect[3] in the surface notion of a world split by the need to control an aggressive enemy.

The “monsters” of the title are seemingly unthinking creatures who devastate lives and communities almost without meaning. The director uses them to portray different attitudes that can be given to the same impetus. The Mexican/South American people have learned to live with the encroachment, seasonal disturbances and death whereas the American (USA) attempt to force control or wall in the threat. The US attempts to control using force are debated upon as they are seen to aggravate the creatures, the effectiveness is called into question throughout the movie and is even seen to cause needless disruption and eventual failure of this type of approach in later scenes. The monsters are seen a forces of nature by some of the main protagonists, they are simply responding to and living with their environment, though as the movie develops the creatures and give some hint as to an unknown intellect with them analysing television performance and communicating with each other in some manner.

Into this mix we have the central drama facing the characters, a woman dislocated from a family she seems emotionally detached from and a man forced to have no attachment to a family he so clearly craves. The developing bond between the two leads and the cleverly constructed performances (though I have to say the male lead was the finer performance in my opinion) draw the audiences sympathies. It is a credit to the director that he almost unobtrusively allows these two to develop themselves as opposed to pushing onto us there evolving nature. Their approach to the creatures and the situation they witness, the male lead is a photographer whose initial stance as a journalist merely there to document is gradually eroded by the circumstances in the film as he is embroiled in the conflict.

Monsters, therefore, is a more rounded drama, the film knows where it is going and its tone stays consistent throughout. It does suffer somewhat from a lack of dramatic tension during the middle third of the film, and at times the female leads is called on to be a little too detached from her surroundings, though this does balance well with her being drawn into the real world around her and experiencing it rather than ignoring or running away.

This is by no way a judegement on either film, I would happily watch both again and would probably give them similar scores if asked to grade them as they both have a multitude of different advantages to perk my interest.

I think District9 has more immediate re-watchability as its pace is snappy and it is easy to stay focused as you are not called upon to use *too much* brain power. Monsters requires a lot more engagement from the audience as its central themes are questioned and challenged in the layered narrative[4] which left me feeling questioned and reflective.

I wish we could stop the poor comparisons that are made between films[5] and attempt to analyse them for their own worth. I have always maintained that comparative analysis is derogatory[6].


[1] By Aliens I am referring to District 9 as it had an identifiable intelligent Alien species whereas the alien species in Monsters was not so clearly defined.

[2] Overtones of 50s Red under the Bed socialist-sci-fi-parables mixed in with 80s re-reading of such movies.

[3] Though the use of zombies or a virus would mute the impact, it also would be at odds with some of the themes that are expressed and without as much implication and toying with our sympathies as it is easy for us to instantly be against Zombies/Virusses as they are immediately bad.

[4] I felt that in Monsters there was a slight overuse of dramatic pause that perhaps added to the feeling of a slow middle section.

[5] I guess they are encouraged by studios and marketing departments as linking your production to another that was successful rewards you with bottoms on seats, the issue for me is that degrades both films, especially films like these which are so different that the only element that links them is EBEs.

[6] Comparisons are often used as they make it easier for us to relate to things, I know they are necessary I just wish people were more aware that they are degrading the item, and themselves if the comparison is flimsy.