Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Mortal Kombat (2021)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, Mortal Kombat (2021). The film is based on a famous 90s video fighting game with the same name and is directed by the debutant Simon McQuoid. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and is available in selected cinemas and HBO Max streaming service.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Simon McQuoid
  • Cinematography by Germain McMicking
  • Edited by Dan Lebental and Scott Gray
  • Screenplay by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham
  • Music by Benjamin Wallfisch
  • Produced by James Wan, Todd Garner, Simon McQuoid and E. Bennett Walsh

+ Note

After the disastrous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), the third film in the franchise was left in hiatus for decades before being finally decided to be rebooted for the younger audience. But due to the violent nature of the source material, several significant changes were to be made namely the hard ‘R’ rating. Unlike the first Mortal Kombat film, this allowed the creative team to freely depict the horrendous yet glorious fatalities directly from the video games. The film was also going to explore certain personal rivalries namely the Scorpion/ Sub-Zero story arc. Another major change that the reboot intended was to introduce a completely new character to the franchise by the name of Cole Young, serving as the main protagonist of the film.

On its opening weekend, Mortal Kombat grossed a worldwide total of $57.5 million, easily recovering its $ 55 million budget. The critical and commercial response has been mixed. Some praise it for being faithful to the source material while others felt it failed to live up as a coherent, entertaining film. Nevertheless, plans on releasing future sequels are now in the cards for the Mortal Kombat franchise.

+ Main Cast

  1. Lewis Tan as Cole Young
  2. Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade
  3. Josh Lawson as Kano
  4. Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden
  5. Mehcad Brooks as Jax
  6. Ludi Lin as Liu Kang
  7. Chin Han as Shang Tsung
  8. Joe Taslim as Bi-Han / Sub-Zero
  9. Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion
  10. Max Huang as Kung Lao
  11. Sisi Stringer as Mileena

+ Plot

Mortal Kombat is a tournament held amongst mortals and beyond in order to maintain balance among the many realms of the universe. Due to his dragon birthmark, Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a wanted man as he might be the gateway for Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Lord of Thunder and protector of Earth Realm, to save the planet from the wrath of Shang Tsung (Chin Han). Can Cole and the chosen fighters of Earth Realm protect and defeat the Outworld forces once and for all?

+ High Points

i – The opening scene of the film is just simply fantastic. Not only is it brilliantly shot and executed but it sets up the Scorpion/ Sub-Zero rivalry perfectly and in the process, inviting new fans into the world of Mortal Kombat. And a lot of credit goes to Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada for their outstanding performances. The gore, the violence, the dialogue, the art direction, all in service of the neverending rivalry between two of the most iconic video game characters ever. As a long time fan of the franchise, I could not have asked for a better opening scene to the film.

ii – Some of the characters are brilliantly brought on to the big screen; namely, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Kabal and of course, everyone’s loveable a**hole, Kano. Whenever he was on screen, Kano’s charisma and personality just took over the whole scene. Josh Lawson did a wonderful job bringing the comedic, nihilistic yet self-serving Aussie onto the big screen. 

iii – Surprisingly, the humor was exactly what it needed to be; fun, dark but never overstaying its welcome. It’s not a coincidence that most of the humor came from Kano but even side characters such as Kung Lao had some great comedic timing to their performances. The film only takes itself seriously when it needs to be. The rest of it is quite self-aware in the absurdity of the plot. 

iv – Some say fan service is just a facade to hide lack of original ideas. But if done correctly, can prove to be quite rewarding for the long time fans of the franchise. Mortal Kombat definitely falls into the latter of the two. There are some sprinkles of “Finish HIM!” or “Flawless Victory” and barrage of the most violent fatalities lifted directly from the games (my favorite always being Kung Lao’s ‘Hat trick’ of course). The film is obviously very aware of what the fans anticipate from the film and to that respect, it delivers in spades.

v – I am happy to proclaim that the R rating was truly justified. With excessive gore, foul language and unapologetic violence, this is how a Mortal Kombat film should be. 

vi – Before going into the film, I was afraid of the Art direction and Costume Design just being ‘cosplay’ material but to the film’s credit, the costume department did a fantastic job with each and every character in the film.

vii – Just like the opening of the film, the end climatic fight scene is also brilliantly handled. The fight choreography was captivating and gets your blood pumping till the last drop of blood. 

+ Low Points

i – With all that’s good on surface level, Mortal Kombat suffers from major plot issues and character development. While an argument could be made that Mortal Kombat was never about the story per se but every good film or literature resonates much more if the audience can relate to the characters on screen. For a film called ‘Mortal Kombat’, the tournament unfortunately does not even really begin throughout the whole film! It’s rather quick skirmishes that frequently happen throughout its runtime in order to keep its audience occupied. 

ii – The whole concept of ‘birthmark’ and Arcana is just simply ludicrous and unnecessary. This is where I would say that the film was trying too hard to justify its absurd premise. Sure, it’s preposterous but that’s what makes the franchise so much fun. As a viewer, if I see concepts of different realms, creatures with 4 arms, human flesh functioning like jelly, I sure as heck not going to ask “Hey, how come you can throw fire from your hands?”. It’s inconsequential to the overall narrative.

iii – Speaking of underdeveloped characters, nothing could be more ‘vanilla’ than our main protagonist Cole Young. “Who?” you might ask.. well, get in line cause (for some pointless reason) he was solely created for this film so people can throw their expositions at him throughout the film. Although the film tries incredibly hard to make us sympathise with him and his family, it’s just not going to happen. He’s too underdeveloped, uninteresting of a character for us to care about him. And to top it off, his “Arcana” or special powers are so incredibly lame and generic, it’s unfathomable. 

iv – The CGI at times was questionable. Not a deal breaker by any means but could have been in the oven a bit more before being taken out.

v – Regardless of all the mishaps mentioned above, the biggest flaw that Mortal Kombat suffers from is that it never felt as epic as they wanted to make us believe. Since the Outworld had won all previous 9 tournaments, one more loss to the Earthrealm could potentially signify its extermination. With such a world threatening situation, you would expect to have a bit more investment into the plot but sadly, that is not the case here. The climactic fight at the end (although fantastic) did not feel epic at all and this for me, is the biggest failure of the reboot. It felt like a limited series episode. Probably a great conclusion to an episode but not to a feature length film. Maybe they should have released it as a HBO Max series instead.

+ Overall

While Mortal Kombat is far from being a “flawless victory”, it still possesses some entertaining sequences and fatalities to keep you entertained throughout its runtime.

Rate: 2.75 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). The film is distributed by HBO Max streaming service and is part of the continuing DC Extended Universe.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Zack Snyder
  • Cinematography by Fabian Wagner
  • Edited by David Brenner
  • Written by Chris Terrio
  • Music by Tom Holkenborg
  • Produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • DC Films
  • Atlas Entertainment
  • The Stone Quarry

+ Note

During the Production of Justice League (2017), a terrible family tragedy occurred and the director Zack Snyder had to leave the project. Whilst adding the finishing touches to the film, the executives at Warner Bros. decided to hire Joss Whedon (who had prior experience on directing the massive Marvel success The Avengers (2012)) as the replacement for Snyder. But during Post Production, the WB executives became skeptical as to how they would compete and market Synder’s dark vision of Superheroes against a massive conglomerate like Marvel Studios. This led the company to add numerous reshoots, cut down the runtime from 4 hours to 2, rewrite certain scenes, shoot completely new footage and of course, the infamous ‘Moustache-gate’. The film was finally released in 2017, to a critical and commercial disappointment. The film was not the Snyder vision that DCEU fans were accustomed to neither was it the fun, light hearted ‘marvelesque’ superhero film that the WB execs were going for. It was obvious at that point that the DC cinematic Universe was in trouble.

In the coming years, fans started speculating that in the vaults of Warner Bros., lies an uncut Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League. Pretty soon, hashtags like #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were trending on social media and a massive cult following began for the unreleased version. Due to its strong popularity and demand, Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. reached an agreement with the streaming platform HBO Max to exclusively release the Zack Snyder’s version Justice League, as it was originally intended. The project began taking shape in early 2020. The film was then reassembled from ground up, excluding all reshot scenes and dialogue, instead opting for what Snyder had intended the film to be. There were a couple of scenes reshot exclusively for the Snyder Cut but most importantly, Zack Snyder got to revisit and fulfill his vision of Justice League. The film was finally finished and released on March 18 2021, garnering praise from critics and fans alike.

+ Main Cast

  1. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman
  3. Amy Adams as Lois Lane
  4. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
  5. Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg
  6. Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman
  7. Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash
  8. Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
  9. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
  10. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
  11.  J. K. Simmons as James Gordon
  12. Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf

+ Plot

Superman is dead. And a new world threatening event is on the horizon. Wonder Woman and Batman need to assemble a team of superheroes (calling themselves ‘Justice League’) in order to fight for the very existence of the human race. Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, all ultimately join in to fight against Steppenwolf, the destroyer of civilizations across the universe. Will the Justice League be able to defend the planet or would they need the help of the Man of Steel in order to fight this new wrath of Evil?

+ High Points

i – Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an improvement over the original theatrical cut in every possible way. The narrative flows a lot smoother, each character’s motivations are much better explained and get to bask in their own spotlight. It is truly baffling to me why Warner Bros. decided to chop the film and reshoot scenes which were perfectly good/ serviceable to begin with! And in most cases, better! The Snyder cut is yet another example why Studio execs should only focus on marketing the film rather than making creative choices. After the less than expected Box Office returns for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. execs panicked and tried their best to emulate the “Marvel Formula”. From badly written quips to light hearted banter, the film ended up resonating with neither the Marvel fans nor the Snyder fans. Thanks to active petition from the fans, we get to see the “behind the scenes” drama of how a creative force gets destroyed in order to have a safe financial return. Now, even Zack Snyder’s Justice League has its own set of flaws (which I will get to later on in the review) but it is safe to assume that the film exceeded my expectations (considering what a mess his last two DCEU films were).

ii – Unlike Whedon’s Justice League, Snyder’s film has a much better explanation of the plot; the three mother boxes, how they got awakened and what consequences it would have once they are all synchronised together. This way, the story has much more stakes going in and keeps the viewer invested throughout the film.

iii – There are two characters that clearly benefited from this recut of Justice League and one of them is Cyborg. His complete backstory was cut out from the original film, left him utterly unrelatable and useless throughout the film. Here, his character (before his transformation) had a lot going for him, gives enough time for the viewer to sympathise with his unfortunate situation and probably, the most emotional backstory of all of the Justice League characters.

iv – The second has to be Barry Allen/ the Flash. In Whedon’s version, Flash was the supposite “comic relief” of the film. But in reality, he was an annoying, bad quip machine that quickly became the least likable character of the Justice League. In Snyder’s version, he is still a comic relief of the film but his personality traits fit much better this time around. Barry Allen’s introduction scene of the film has to be the best, most poetic moment throughout the film. It was simply delightful to watch and was just shaking my head throughout the scene wondering “Why was this scene ever cut from the theatrical release!?”. Not only that, Flash also ends up being pretty integral to the final climactic battle at the end.

v – Less bad jokes. No obnoxious rant on “What is Brunch!?” or awkward Batman dialogue “Guess we’re not getting the Band back together!” or “Do you talk to fish?” or Superman responding to being resurrected from the dead as “Itchy!”. Ugh.

vi – No CGI removal of Superman’s mustache. Funny how a film significantly improves with its exclusion, huh?

vii – One of the most significant improvements that the Snyder cut has is that Justice League really works as a team. They are not overly dependent just on Superman to do the job for them. Each member has their own task to fulfil and in the process, gets to resonate with the audience.

viii – Unlike Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Justice League is much better paced, the dialogues are much better written and each character has their own story arcs. I am by no means a Zack Snyder advocate, I am still not a fan of his portrayal of Superman and his “dark” cinematic universe but I do have sympathy for him with this film. Invertedly, the studio execs took advantage of Snyder’s personal tragedy, butchered his work without his consent and what is even worse, they spent millions of dollars on something which was actually good to begin with! Sheer, utter madness!

+ Low Points

i – For all that’s good with Synder’s original vision, it is at times very self-indulgent and bloated with numerous unnecessary scenes and dialogue. There is a 5 minute scene where Lois Lane hands Clark a shirt. Why do we need to see that? The film is at 4 hour runtime and even though Snyder fans will enjoy every minute of it, it feels completely tacked on and unnecessary to the overall experience. On one hand, I can understand why the Studio execs panicked when they saw a 4 hour nightmare. Three hours or so would have benefited the film perfectly. 

ii – Unlike Thanos from the Marvel films, Steppenwolf is an utterly dull and tiresome villain of the week. True, his motivations have been a bit more explored compared to the original film but sadly, not enough. At best, Steppenwolf is just a plot device for the Justice League to band together to fight the big baddy at the end.

iii – Midway through the film, a certain character makes a very brief cameo appearance and there was no reason for this to happen other than fan service. It will probably leave most audience members completely baffled by it and I don’t blame them.

iv – The last climactic battle is still a dark, muddy CGI mess. The strength of the film lies in its First to Second Act but ultimately suffers from the same Third Act issues as its theatrical counterpart.

v – Speaking of Bad CGI, this whole film is riddled with it. The CGI characters have no weight to them, the movement/ details are jerky and unresponsive at times, it’s amazing that with all that budget, Warner Bros. still can’t accompany their summer blockbusters with decent special effects.

vi – For lack of a better phrase, the film just looks ugly. Yes, the original had color saturation up to 11 but at least you could actually understand what was happening on screen. Snyder always opts for dark, flat colors which are in complete odds with what the Justice League should represent. 

vii – I wish I did not have to say this but… Lois Lane in Snyder films just plain sucks. She is treated by the plot as someone extremely important but her demeanor says otherwise. I cannot (for the life of me) care why she is focused so much during the film when all she has done up till now is mop and being rescued by Superman. 

viii – The 4:3 aspect ratio was supposedly Snyder’s original vision of the film (to fit the large IMAX screens). There is no obvious benefit that Justice League has from this format and it also doesn’t make any sense to release it in IMAX format only to end up being viewed by everyone on their 16:9 Television screens on HBO Max. 

ix – SPOILER ALERT!!! (if you would like to avoid it, please skip directly to the Overall Section):

Snyder’s Justice League has the “LOTR: The Return of the King” effect. Too many ridiculous endings that serve no purpose to the film. Did we really needed to see Martian Manhunter approach Bruce and painstakingly explain to him what will happen in the next coming sequels (which are apparently abandoned by WB/Snyder as of now), how “Lois is the key to all this” nonsense, a badly written dystopian future with hilarious R Rated dialogue between the Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker. Please, I really do not want to hear Joker make a “reach around” joke with Batman. That really is Zack Snyder at his worst. Being pointlessly “dark and edgy”. The film should’ve ended when Darkseid’s threat was averted.  

+ Overall

While the film suffers at times with its incredibly long runtime and overindulgence, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is still a massive improvement over the original. It is a picture perfect example of how a film studio destroys a vision that filmmaker has and why creativity should be left best to the creators. 

Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0 stars (Theatrical release)

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0 stars (Zack Snyder’s)

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on The Dark Knight (2008)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, The Dark Knight (2008). The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and is the second film in the Dark Knight trilogy. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

+ Crew I

  • Directed by Christopher Nolan
  • Cinematography by Wally Pfister
  • Story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
  • Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
  • Edited by Lee Smith
  • Produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • DC Comics
  • Legendary Pictures
  • Syncopy

+ Note

After the success of Batman Begins which rebooted the Batman franchise for a new generation of fans, Christopher Nolan was given full reign to create a sequel for Warner Bros. with the continuation of the Dark Knight saga. The budget this time around was significantly larger and Nolan brought in his brother Jonathan Nolan to co-write the screenplay with him. Two new villains were to be introduced; Heath Ledger as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/ Two Face. 

Interestingly enough, Nolan originally wanted Ledger to play Batman in the first film but was ultimately rejected. Many prominent actors such as Adrian Brody, Robin Williams and Paul Bettany sparked interest for the role of the Joker but Nolan was adamant on Ledger for the Clown Prince of Crime. As was the realistic tone of the first film, Nolan wanted Ledger to move far away from Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and bring his own psychotic interpretation of the character. And with that, it was mostly all Ledger from there. The iconic Chemical Factory mishap origin story was retconned and instead, the messy face paint makeup and scarred smile became the character’s iconic personification. The scenes of Handy cam Footage of the Joker were all staged and planned by Heath Ledger himself. During Production, everyone was at awe with Ledger’s performance and knew it was “something special”. Sadly such intense method acting also encouraged the actor into increasing his prescription drugs which ultimately took his own life before the film was even released.

With the sequel, Nolan wanted to experiment more with Batman’s detective skills while Havery Dent served the role as his counterpart. One of the main reasons for the addition of Two Face was to garner sympathy from the audience that the Joker character could not provide in the film. The filming started around 2007 and was primarily shot in the city of Chicago, USA. Even before the film’s release, The Dark Knight was already being hailed as a “Masterpiece” in the Superhero genre, particularly Ledger’s ecstatic performance. The film turned out to be a massive hit at the box office, earning $ 1 Billion worldwide and thus, Batman was once again the superhero of this generation.

+ Main Cast

  1. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
  3. Heath Ledger as the Joker
  4. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent
  5. Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes
  6. Gary Oldman as James Gordon
  7. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
  8. Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow

+ Plot

After the events of Batman Begins, detective Gordon and Batman combine forces to clean the streets of Gotham from the corruption and terror that it once consumed. The district attorney Havery Dent plans on destroying the criminal infrastructure himself which could leave the Dark Knight’s role ‘obsolete’ as the masked vigilante. Meanwhile, a mysterious psychopath in clown makeup is terrorizing the underworld, calling himself the Joker. He plans nothing more than throwing the city into total anarchy. 

Could Batman and Dent save the city from this monster or will one of them fall into the dark path of utter chaos and destruction of Humanity?

+ High Points

i – To call The Dark Knight  a mere ‘great superhero movie’ is such an understatement. The Dark Knight IS a great film. Period. Nolan’s impeccable direction sets a new bar of what action/ Blockbuster films can be. From the opening Bank Robbery scene to the caped crusader riding on his Bat motorcycle away into the night, every moment, every scene is masterfully crafted. The character arcs, the pacing of each scene, everything is carefully and meticulously preconceived and executed, easily making the film to be one of the Best Films of the Decade. In 2002, Sam Raimi’s Spider-man may have kicked off this super hero revival but it is The Dark Knight that elevated it to an immense high standard of filmmaking.

ii – The Dark Knight is what every sequel should be. It is what The Godfather II was, what Terminator 2 accomplished. Whatever flaws the first film had, Nolan ironed out all the creases and relied heavily on his strengths and allowed his actors to bring their own set of skills to the table. This film is a textbook example of how a sequel should be made.

iii – The film entails excellent performances but all of them get overshadowed by the legendary performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker (and with good reason!). His mysterious ‘multiple choice’ past, his eccentric mannerisms, the antithesis of Batman makes Joker such a unique portrayal that we had perhaps never witnessed on the big screen. With immense heavy method acting, Ledger plunged deep into the psyche of the Joker and easily dominated every scene he was a part of. Although the film is called The Dark Knight, it is in fact the Joker who steals the show.

iv – Even though David Goyer is a great storyteller, it is the Nolan brothers that translate that work onscreen as a masterful three act structure of filmmaking. It is a perfect blend of high intensity scenes and the quieter moments of the film, serving as textbook screenwriting for every other action film hereafter.

v – What is the distinction between Good and Evil? Are they both different sides of the same coin? Is Evil only a misguided personification of Good? Do some good people only need one bad day to turn sides? The question was first asked in the epic Batman graphic novel ‘The Killing Joke’ and has now been immensely explored in The Dark Knight. This brings such high voltage tension between good and evil throughout the film. As a viewer, you are constantly engaged in a battle of who to sympathize and who to root for till the end of the film. It’s not a coincidence that many fans flocked towards the Joker’s perception of the world (even though it is highly flawed and inhumane).

vi – The film starts off with an absolutely fantastic opening Bank Robbery scene. Perfectly sets the tone and pacing of the narrative right from the get-go. And it’s one helluva ride from thereon out!

vii – The car chase scene through the gritty streets of ‘Gotham’ is alone a strong conviction that The Dark Knight is like no other superhero film before it. Nolan’s insistence on shooting with Film and practical effects are highly rewarding onscreen. It is one of the greatest action scenes ever put in modern American filmmaking.

viii – The supporting cast is also no pushover. Every actor brings their A game onto this epic journey and thus, every scene feels intense and exciting to witness. Gary Oldman (once again) is exceptionally brilliant as Detective Gordon and the only ally to the masked vigilante. 

ix – Even though the ‘realistic’ world of Nolan’s Batman might prove too bleak for some viewers, there is not a single moment throughout the film where Nolan is not in control of his work. The city of Chicago (where the film was mostly shot in) creates a plausible depiction of a ‘realistic’ Batman of today without indulging in excessive brute force and losing the sense of Batman’s character (something Zack Synder’s Batman v Superman utterly failed to accomplish). Most violence and blood spree is kept off screen, creating a sense of dread and despondence in the atmosphere. The film shows how well rehearsed Nolan and his team were with the Dark Knight from its source material and reimagined it in such a convincing fashion.

x – I cannot conclude the ‘High Points’ without mentioning its undeniable influence onto American cinema. Unsurprisingly, the film was a massive success at the Box Office, elevating the Superhero genre of films to a whole new level. Even after more than a decade, its impact on superhero/ action films is unquestionable. Although Marvel Studios cracked the formula of superhero Blockbuster success, The Dark Knight still sits high on its throne due to its craftsmanship.

+ Low Points

i – With such masterful filmmaking on display, not everything is (unfortunately) flawless about the film. The character arc of Harvey Dent is slightly rushed and not given enough time for the viewer to sympathise with his inevitable downfall from grace. Perhaps if Harvey Dent was briefly introduced in Batman Begins to the audience, his plunge into insanity in this film would’ve proven much more impactful.  

ii – With such brilliant practical effects throughout the film, the sparingly used CGI unfortunately sticks out like a sore thumb (namely, Two Face’s CGI face).

iii – While the city of Chicago serves well in Nolan’s world as Gotham City, it does come off as somewhat bland and turns out to be unmemorable in the long run.

+ Overall

The testament of every great film has to be its influence and contribution to Cinema and the art of filmmaking. And this film has it in spades. With superb performances, impeccable direction and memorable moments, The Dark Knight is still the pinnacle and one of the very best in the genre. True, not every superhero film needs to be The Dark Knight but every superhero film deserves to be compared to it.

Rate: 5 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Batman Begins (2005)

A review on Hollywood superhero feature length film, Batman Begins (2005). The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and is the first in The Dark Knight Trilogy. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

+ Crew I

  • Directed by Christopher Nolan
  • Cinematography by Wally Pfister
  • Written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
  • Edited by Lee Smith
  • Produced by Charles Roven, Emma Thomas and Larry Franco

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Legendary Pictures
  • Syncopy
  • Patalex III Productions

+ Note

After the critical and financial disaster of Batman & Robin (1997), Warner Bros. took a 8 year hiatus with Batman but during this time, several attempts were made to resurrect him again for the big screen. In 2003, Christopher Nolan (famous for directing the edgy psychological thriller Memento) was hired to direct an untitled Batman film. Nolan and Goyer then began working on a screenplay which would move far away from the kid friendly, silliness of Schumacher’s Batman and give a more darker and grittier look to the caped crusader. Nolan wanted to explore his origin story in detail, something that had not been done on the big screen before and give a larger, more realistic portrayal of Batman in the world we live in. Being a film purist, Nolan wanted more practical effects and high intensity stunts, relying less on computer generated effects and more on hand to hand combat. The film would also consist of well renowned Batman villains Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow which had, till then, never been utilised onto the big screen. For obvious reasons, Ra’s al Ghul’s origin story was reworked in order to fit into the realistic, down to earth tone that Nolan was going for.

The origin story in Batman Begins is loosely inspired by Frank Miller’s graphic novel Batman: Year One and also Batman: The Long Halloween. The goal for Nolan was to bring Batman back to his gritty “Bob Kane/ Dennis O’Neil” roots of grittness and psychological torture of the vigilante. 

Needless to say, Batman Begins was a huge success, critically and commercially, grossing $ 373 Million Worldwide and brought the character of Batman back into the mainstream pop culture which had been missing since the Tim Burton movies. 

+ Main Cast

  1. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
  3. Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard / Ra’s al Ghul
  4. Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes
  5. Gary Oldman as James Gordon
  6. Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow

+ Plot

After witnessing the death of his parents by a mugger on the street, the young billionaire Bruce Wayne decides to train himself in combat so he could protect the city of Gotham as the masked vigilante, the Batman. Meanwhile Ra’s al Ghul’s army of followers see the corruption of Gotham City as ‘irredeemable’. They want to destroy and rebuild it from the ashes of which the city will perish in. Is the mysterious Batman up to the task of protecting his father’s city and become its saviour?

+ High Points

i – Nolan almost single handedly resurrected and revitalized the character of Batman back onto the silver screens. Considering Batman’s last film was simply an unapologetic Toy commercial, Nolan had a massive task ahead of him and he passed with flying colors. The box office numbers spoke for itself that Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman was what the audiences wanted to see on the big screen. It was the rebirth of Batman that we all patiently waited for.

ii – The direction is excellent throughout the film. From beginning to end, the plot effortlessly follows its main protagonist and as a viewer, keeps you engaged throughout its runtime. The goal of Batman Begins was to simply make the audience believe that a masked vigilante like Batman could exist in the world we live in. And it is quite safe to say that the transition was a success.

iii – With all its talent, the film needed a Batman who was more than up to the task to depict what Nolan had envisioned. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/ Batman was a stellar performance which perspicuously delivered the complexities, past trauma and vengeance that we know and love the character of Batman for. 

iv – The opening half of the film is masterful storytelling. It’s a picture perfect example of how a superhero origin story should be told. Although Batman doesn’t make an appearance till the film’s half way mark, the complexity of the Bruce Wayne character was captivating enough to drive the film through to its second act.

v – Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow serve perfectly as adversaries to Batman’s initial task as the protector of the doomed city. Since Ra’s al Ghul is behind Bruce Wayne’s training to become the dark knight, it adds a much needed drama and personal stakes between the two men on the opposite sides of salvation. On the other hand, Scarecrow’s psychotic hallucinogens perfectly encapsulate the fear they can induce in each individual. This also plays a vital role in Bruce confronting his fear of Bats  (plus Scarecrow has a bad ass looking mask to boot!).

vi – Batman’s slick, combat suit costume design, ‘turnable’ mask, and of course; the Bat ‘Tumbler’ mobile. They all add up to a complete “reimaging” of Batman and his warfare gadgets. Although not my personal favourite, these designs fit perfectly into the realistic world that Nolan’s Batman is supposed to exist in.

vii – I really have to mention Gary Oldman as James Gordon. This might possibly be the best, most empathic depiction of (soon to be) Commissioner Gordon in any medium (outside comics). Oldman has always the knack and tenacity of leading his audience to any side of the coin he so well pleases. 

+ Low Points

i – With all that’s praise worthy about the film, there are some glaring issues that hinder Batman Begins to be a perfect Superhero origin film. And unfortunately, that lies in the second most integral part of any superhero film; the action set pieces. Since this was Nolan’s first action film, his lack of directing fight choreography is painfully apparent. The fight scenes are incredibly disorienting, haphazard nonsense that confuses the viewer as to what exactly he/she is supposed to look at. But as history shows, Nolan’s a quick learner and improved upon it ten fold in the sequel to this film (which I will also be reviewing very soon).

ii – The Editing is pretty amateurish for such a high end film. As mentioned above, this is most apparent during the fight scenes where its just a mishmash of extreme closeups and the fight ends before one can comprehend as to what is even happening.

iii – The love interest of the film; Rachel Dawson is what in film you call a ‘plot device’. She exuberates no character of her own, Rachel is only there to push Bruce Wayne’s character development. Rachel Dawson is another aspect that the sequel improves upon quite well. 

iv – Now this may be controversial but I am not a fan of Michael Caine as Alfred. The loyal butler has always been there to serve as Bruce’s conscious of good. He is what keeps Batman a hero. Alfred always serves best (pardon the pun) as a supporting character and his secret, military, medical past is interesting because it is never fully elaborated on. Since, in this film, Alfred is played by Michael Caine, he is given a lot more needless dialogue and 2-3 minute long speeches, spoon feeding the audience how they are supposed to feel at that moment in the film. Needless I say!

v – SPOILER ALERT! : The third act of the film loses a bit of momentum that the first two so successfully led us to. And I do feel Batman acts completely out of character in order to defeat the main adversary of the film.

I won’t kill you….but I also don’t have to save you!

Uh..yes, Batman. You are committing what is known as “Second degree murder”. This is not what Batman does and this fact is constantly reminded throughout the film so why does he ignore his own conscious late into the conclusion of the film? 

+ Overall

After the horrendous Batman & Robin, Nolan was the saviour of the Batman franchise and blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. With great characters, near perfect origin story and an entertaining story arc, Batman Begins is one helluva way to kick off a franchise. Even with its flaws, the film has really stood the test of time and perfect stepping point to what it was eventually going to be followed up with a masterpiece of a film.

Rate: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (2016) Ultimate Edition (with SPOILERS)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (2016) [Ultimate Edition].  The Costume Designing by Michael Wilkinson while it’s Distributor is Warner Bros. Pictures.

 

+ Crew I

  1. Directed by Zack Snyder
  2. Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
  3. Cinematography by Larry Fong
  4. Edited by David Brenner
  5. Music by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL
  6. Produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder

 

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  1. DC Entertainment
  2. RatPac Entertainment
  3. Atlas Entertainment
  4. Cruel and Unusual Films

 

+Note

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice [Ultimate Edition] is heavily inspired by the graphic novel ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ by Frank Miller, ‘Superman: Peace on Earth’ & ‘Death of Superman’. The comic book fans would be thrilled to see these two iconic DC characters bash each other first time on big screens. However, some people complained the film to be much darker and grittier.

The director used Christianity religious beliefs & their symbolic figures on his characters throughout the film. Such as Superman can relate directly to Jesus Christ (PBUH). The fight scenes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman refers to ‘Trinity’ belief. Unlike the Batman in ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’, this Batman shown as aged, most probably in his 40s with at least two decades of crime fighting experience. I see him as a very different Batman of another time line. I cannot and would not compare it with ones who have already portrayed Batman on screen.

The main henchman of Lex Luthor name ‘Anatoli Knyazev’ is one of the secondary villains of Batman story line up, who is also known as ‘KGB Beast’. Jena Malone character as Jenet Klyburn is also a treat to watch on the Ultimate Edition only.

 

+ Main Cast

  1. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Henry Cavill as Clark Kent / Superman
  3. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
  4. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
  5. Amy Adams as Lois Lane
  6. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
  7. Lawrence Fisherburne as Perry White
  8. Holly Hunter as June Finch
  9. Diane Lane as Martha Kent
  10. Scoot McNairy as Wallace Keefe
  11. Callan Mulvey as Anatoli Knyazev / KGB Beast
  12. Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves

 

+ Plot

During the events of alien invasion by Gen. Zod and his army, Bruce Wayne and many people lose their loved ones as causalities. Ever since then, Batman grows hatred for Superman and sees him as the main threat to human race. On the other hand, Lex Luthor enjoys their hatred for each other so much that he even disturbs the corpse of Zod and releases the ultimate weapon of destruction upon this world.

 

+ High Points

i – The first and second acts of the film are very interesting and of high quality in the comic book film standards.

ii – Jeremy Irons did a good job as Alfred Pennyworth. Ben Affleck also plays a good aged Batman. He and Gal Gadot’s performances were much appreciated.

iii – There was one particular scene where Batman is at a deserted site with ruined city background. Later on, we see Flash who is trying to warn Bruce / Batman of a distant future and trying to give a message in a very short time. This is a vision in the film that is intentionally shown as dark & gritty which is in fact taken from a story of popular DC video game is based on ‘Injustice: Gods among us’. It seems the director has very interesting story to connect later in the film series or in upcoming JLA film in 2017.

iv – The Ultimate Edition provides proper introduction between Lois Lane and the photographer who he accompanies with but for only short moment. The comic book fans would instantly recognize his name as one of the most beloved supporting characters of Superman story line that is ‘Jimmy Olsen’. Unfortunately, he has a very small limited role in one of the first scenes of the film.

v – The sound track and visual effects are executed well in the film.

 

+ Low Points

i – I believe that one of the main reasons why the critics did not like this film is due to the fact that the Act III was weaker out of the other two Acts of the film. In the Act III, we have major scenes of Batman vs Superman fight, Wonder Woman intro and Doomsday fight. When the final showdown comes of Batman and Superman fighting each other. The fight scene between the two is not as cool as shown in the graphic novel ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ or in its animated film.

ii – Due to a lame reason, Batman stops the fight and his huge grudge on Superman suddenly diminishes.

iii – The Lex Luthor is ‘wonderfully’ (NOT!) portrayed by Shahrukh Khan (Jesse Eisenberg). The audience would be able to see his true real appearance just like in comics comes in the end scenes of the film.

iv – The antagonist, ‘Doomsday’ appears on screen for the first time… it seemed as though a ‘Giant Ninja Turtle’ without his weapons or colored mask came to fight Superman and Batman. After a short while Wonder Woman joins the fight and so does the Doomsday get better by mutating itself he is nowhere near as terrified and frightening as it shown in the comics, video games and cartoons. Not only he doesn’t look like as it is shown in comics but even he never able to fire beams from his eyes. Superman’s one of the main villains ‘Darkseid’ is one who can fire Omega Beams from his eyes and not Doomsday. Whereas the fighting scenes of Wonder Woman with Doomsday, they tried to show no matter how much punches she takes from him, she treats it as if it’s a causal fight for her which does not stop her on her track but welcomes it. However, the facial expressions of Wonder Woman were as if she was getting sexually aroused by fighting him. Even after firing atomic bomb on Doomsday in very start of the fight between him & Superman, it doesn’t stop him… the US army very quickly (literally) gives up on fighting the monster villain. Then, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman battle with Doomsday, we see no army, air force or police whatsoever for miles away from the fight. As if, people have abandoned them to keep themselves safe and hidden whereas at least half of Metropolis city is burned away very rapidly.

v – The fight scenes of this Batman are lesser in quality than of ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’ series.

vi – The cameo appearances by the other JLA characters i.e. Aqua Man, Flash and Cyborg in Act III of the film seemed as though were forced to show.

 

+ Overall

Too much hype was created before the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Although its ‘Ultimate Edition’ is far superior than the theatrical cut, yet it still can not fix major issues of the film which are connected with the main plot.

 

Rating: 2.75 out of 5.0 stars (Theatrical Edition)

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0 stars (Ultimate Edition)