DAY VERSUS NIGHT! MAN VERSUS GOD! DINOSAURS VERSUS TERMINATORS! The Schizopolitan podcast returns in a blaze of glory, celebrating its one-year anniversary with a bumper edition crammed to the rafters with genial chat about film and television! San Diego Comic-Con has once again blasted pop culture with a salvo of news, trailers and general insanity, and Saxon and Jehan take a brisk look back at the biggest highlights of recent news – they debate the official announcement of who’s directing the Han Solo origin movie, while the behind-the-scenes video from Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets them wondering if they could get any more excited about the upcoming film’s emphasis on practical locations and effects:
Then – it’s time for the battle to begin! The first extended trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was also shown at Comic-Con, and thus Saxon and Jehan are pitched into a conflict of ideals and opinions that will SHATTER THE WORLD! Is it a good trailer? Does Zack Snyder even get Superman? Is Ben Affleck looking like an interesting take on the Caped Crusader? And how in heaven’s name are they going to get Wonder Woman to fit into all this?
Also! Saxon takes a look at the recent Netflix series Sense8, co-written and overseen by the Wachowskis, and asks if this is the project that’s going to redeem them after Jupiter Ascending. THRILLS! WEIRDNESS! INDULGENT PLOTTING! PSYCHIC ORGIES! And then, if that wasn’t enough, Jehan tackles two recent attempts at franchise reboots! Is Jurassic World a fitting sequel, or does its flaws hamper the story it’s trying to tell? Does Bryce Dallas Howard’s Jurassic World character really wear heels for the entire movie? And exactly how bad is Terminator: Genisys? The truth can only be found in the new episode of Schizopolitan! LOOK UPON OUR WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!
00:00:00 – 00:06:25 – Intro 00:06:25 – 00:13:19 – The Han Solo origin movie 00:13:19 – 00:19:08 – The Star Wars: The Force Awakens 00:19:08 – 00:48:31 – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice 00:48:31 – 01:19:30 – Sense8 01:19:30 – 01:39:23 – Jurassic World 01:39:23 – 01:58:05 – Terminator: Genisys 01:58:05 – 02:01:30 – Outtro
It’s back! The Schizopolitan podcast returns, and this time Jehan and Saxon tackle the thorny subject of the newly released DC movie slate! A slew of release dates have been revealed for movies in the DC shared universe (which will be properly kicking off in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) stretching through till 2020. But what does this mean? What properties have been chosen, and why? Will DC stand any chance of matching Marvel’s success? And will any of what Jehan and Saxon say result in Aquaman actor Jason Momoa wanting to punch them? Listen to the podcast to find out the answer to these questions, and many more!
Also, Lego movies! Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them! Rumblings in the world of Marvel! And does Sony really not have the faintest idea what they’re doing with Spider-man?
Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Follow this link to subscribe – the first three episodes are already available, and this latest one should be up there in the next 48 hours…
(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)
It’s been a long time, but Schizopolitan has risen from the grave… and this time we’re trying something a little different – presenting the SCHIZOPOLITAN PODCAST! I’ve teamed up with my friend and occasional collaborator Jehan Ranasinghe (on Twitter as @Maustallica) for what we’re hoping is going to be a regular series of podcasts looking at the world of Movies, TV, Animation, Games, Comics, and whatever else grabs our attention. It’s our first attempt at anything like this, so bear with us as we figure out various problems, wrestle with technical difficulties and generally ramble like there’s no tomorrow.
In this debut episode (running for 95 minutes), we use the recent aftermath of San Diego Comic Con to discuss some of the con’s announcements and reveals, but that soon spirals into a general discussion of blockbuster cinema in general – there’s talk about Star Wars and the new TV animated show Star Wars: Rebels, the first photo of the Wonder Woman costume and how much we know about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the potential upcoming DC Universe movies, and then a more wide-ranging talk about the ‘problem’ of a Female-fronted superhero blockbuster and why Hollywood seems so nervous about the idea…
Hope you enjoy our first episode, and stay tuned for more editions of Schizopolitan: The Podcast soon!
(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)
The Low-Down: A schizoid mix of Shutter Island, Brazil, Inception, Moulin Rouge and Caged Heat, Zack Snyder’s geekfest opus Sucker Punch is an ambitious failure of jaw-dropping proportions. It’s also firm proof that it takes more than a gun, a sword and a midriff-exposing schoolgirl outfit to make an empowering kick-ass heroine…
What’s it About?: Sentenced to a grim lunatic asylum by her evil, EVIL stepfather, Babydoll (Emily Browning) is a traumatised teen who’s facing a personality-wiping lobotomy in five days, thanks to a corrupt orderly. Or is she the latest addition to an opulent bordello, where the girls all dream of escape? Or is she a superpowered action heroine, questing her way through lurid and explosive universes of the imagination?
The Story: In an odd kind of way I can’t help but slightly admire Zack Snyder. After all, this is a man who said “I want to make a film where nubile warrior vixens in suspenders battle giant samurai, dragons, and steampunk Nazi zombies”, and actually got someone to pay him to make it happen. It’s just a pity the end result ends up so ferociously boring, as well as being possibly the most misguided and wretched example of a director trying to prove themselves since Guy Ritchie’s hilariously awful 2005 oddity Revolver.
At the least, it’s hard to fault Sucker Punch in terms of ambition. In an era where big-budget original projects are the exception rather than the rule, it wants to stand out from the crowd. “Hey,” it says, “why can’t I be a reality-altering tale of a quest for freedom and the transformative power of the imagination, refracting my ‘escape from a girl’s mental institution’ plot through three separate realities?” It’d be a great idea, if all the ingredients of Sucker Punch weren’t crammed artlessly together in an indigestible stew that functions more as a sequence of music videos than an actual story, giving us a film that isn’t much more than a hyper-stylised guided tour through Zack Snyder’s personal scrapbook of geek fetishes.
From the evidence here, he’s definitely one of those directors who’s only as good as his material, and should on no account be allowed to write his own stories, as he barely seems to know how to create a believable emotional reality on camera. From the soundtrack of nu-metal cover versions (which somehow manages to choose songs that are both thunkingly obvious and staggeringly inappropriate) to the wildly inappropriate tone (which was obviously never meant to be tailored for a PG-13 certificate in the States), you’ve got a film that simply lurches from one scene to another, feeling like a teenager’s crazed recreation of some film they saw once that they really liked.
This needn’t have been a fatal problem – after all, plenty of films have been massively flawed but coasted by on the strength of their eye candy and some exciting battle sequences. And yet, one of the greatest acheivements of Sucker Punch is that Snyder takes the concept of sexy girls fighting Nazi steampunk zombies, dragons and ninja robots, and actually make it dull.
All of these sequences take place in the head of our main character, the vacuous and completely uninteresting Babydoll (Browning) while she’s performing lewd and lascivious dances that have the power to turn all the men in range weak at the knees. These sequences are supposed – in theory – to be heightened versions of the missions the girls have to perform in order to escape, metaphors for their imagination triumphing over adversity.
Trouble is, it’s impossible to care – these sequences are spectacular, but there’s never any sense of reality, never any stakes, and never any reason to emotionally connect with these ‘superhero’ versions of the characters. Parallels with Inception have been made – but while Inception has its flaws (and excessive exposition is definitely one of them), the one thing it does have is a genuine sense of risk, of something being at stake. We know the rules, and we know how the multiple worlds connect to and relate to each other. Sucker Punch’s multiple worlds exist simultaneously but only rarely connect – once the fantasy sequences start, we’re basically in a different movie for the next ten minutes, one that only rarely links up to anything resembling actual drama. Stuntwork, CG and absurdly overblown slow-mo are the order of the day, but presented without any explanation, any reason, any reality.
Yes, Snyder is capable of rendering some amazingly energetic and imaginative battle sequences – but half of his tricks are ripped off from other directors, and the rest are worn to the ground in Sucker Punch to such an extent that he’s effectively robbed me of any fleeting interest in seeing a Zack Snyder-directed Superman movie (especially in the train-attack and subsequent robot fight, where the CG-assisted speed-ramping is cranked up to such a ludicrous extent, I almost thought it was a Zucker Brothers-esque parody of how insanely stupid CG-assisted fight sequences have finally become).
Sucker Punch ends up playing as if someone had edited videogame cutscenes into a Baz Lurhmann remake of a Seventies girls prison flick, and the grinding repetition (nu-metal cover version, briefing, kill footsoldiers, fight boss, rinse, repeat…) soon becomes incredibly wearing – the insane spectacle loses its novelty, and simply becoming noise for noise’s sake.
It’s not as if we’re given anything much to care about outside of the action. Lead actress Emily Browning is a complete cypher, spending most of the film looking awesomely photogenic and slightly dazed, and while Abbie Cornish (the angry one) and Jena Malone (the spunky, rebellious one) make a vague impression, it’s not as if they’re actually being given characters to play.
The only performers who really make an impression are Scott Glenn, channelling the late David Carradine as the wizened Wise Man who guides Babydoll through the various missions (and also manages to make some of the clunking dialogue sound almost bearable) while Oscar Isaac as evil orderly/evil brothel owner Blue actually pulls off a genuine performance (one that’s certainly stronger than Carla ‘Enjoy my eccentric European Accent’ Gugino).
Everyone else is essentially playing paper-thin cartoons and eye-candy, but while the Girls-prison-flick meets Moulin Rouge tone runs out of steam pretty quickly, the biggest failure of all in Sucker Punch is that this overblown, pretentious, chin-stroking nonsense actually thinks it’s empowering. Note to Snyder: When your film has its main character spend virtually the entire film being menaced by men, exploited by men, admired solely for her gorgeousness (and her ability to harness the power of Sexydance), not having anything resembling an interior life, and regularly escaping into a fantasy world where she gets told what to do by a man – that’s not empowering in the slightest.
It’s really no worse in this regard than any Hollywood film in the last ten years that’s tried (and usually failed) to do a decent action heroine (aside from rare examples like Kill Bill), but if you’re going to make a lurid exploitation flick, just come out and say it. Sucker Punch wants to be saying “Free your mind!” – but its only real message is: “Yes, dear, you can go killing dragons and zombies, but do make sure that you’re wearing something incredibly skimpy that shows off your arse, won’t you?”
The Verdict: If you want two hours of things going KA-BOOM and skimpy outfits, then Sucker Punch will intermittently push your buttons. Otherwise, this ambitious failure is the working definition of ‘a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’ – a mish-mash of influences that’s too busy throwing CGI and opulent production design in the audience’s faces to give them anything to care about.
I mean it. I was okay with Henry Cavill – after all, he’s the kind of mostly unknown actor who’s still notched up plenty of experience, and could work out very well. Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Kal-El’s adoptive father? A brilliant, almost blindingly obvious choice. Diane Lane as Martha Kent? Hell, yes – even if the attractiveness of Superman’s mother just shot through the roof. But so far, I wasn’t too invested. After Superman Returns not working out at all, I wasn’t going to let myself get excited about another Superman film. All was well.
Then Amy Adams got cast as Lois Lane. I’d been expecting a twentysomething, and probably someone who’d be slightly miscast (as in Superman Returns, with poor old Kate ‘I look about twelve in this film’ Bosworth). Lois is one of those deceptive roles that looks easy but isn’t, and even Teri Hatcher in the Lois and Clark show never got close to besting Margot Kidder in the original Superman movies. However, Adams could conceivably do it – and suddenly, I was in a bit of a bind. After all, this was Zack Snyder’s Superman we were talking about – a film I was in no rush to see before I saw Sucker Punch, and after which all I wanted to do was grab a Warner Bros exec by the scruff of the neck and scream “Why? Why would you do this? WHYYY???”
And then, you had to do it. You had to cast Michael Shannon as General Zod.
That’s an incredibly good choice. If you’re going to do Zod (especially after the simply magnificent job Terrence Stamp did in Superman II), you’ve got to get it right. There were rumours that it might be Viggo Mortensen, but Michael Shannon is just as good, if not better considering he doesn’t have the visibility and foreknowledge that comes with Viggo. Shannon has, up until now, been one of those quietly impressive character actors who occasionally turn up in big films, but do most of their work in quiet, intense indie dramas (the most notable films I can think of featuring Michael Shannon are Grand Theft Parsons, Shotgun Stories, and The Woodsman – all of which feature him in very different roles). He’s an intense, dedicated actor, capable of bringing real fierceness to the role, and this will certainly catapult him into a much-deserved bigger league. It’s a great bit of casting.
I just wish it wasn’t for a Zack Snyder film.
I didn’t see your Dawn of the Dead remake. 300 was attention-grabbing, but shallow as a puddle. And I was burned with Watchmen – which was a decent, admirable effort, but did feel like a two-and-a-half hour thesis on why adapting Watchmen into a movie was a very bad idea. I recently made the mistake of seeing Sucker Punch, and am still reeling from the experience (it’s taken me a long time to write a review, just to fully express my slightly rambling feelings on exactly how unempowering this supposedly empowering fantasy was).
You may be a really nice guy – but your directorial style is, to be honest, borderline insane. You don’t seem to have any idea how to create a consistent emotional reality in your films (you managed it occasionally in Watchmen, but then, you had an excellent blueprint to work from). You throw eye-candy at the audience whether it’s necessary or not, bludgeoning them into submission. Your ability to select a completely inappropriate or thunklingly obvious pop song for your film soundtracks is unparalleled. (From the awfulness of the Leonard Cohen-scored sex scene in Watchmen, to the non-stop “Oh dear god…” experience that was the Sucker Punch soundtrack, your musical taste is truly the gift that keeps on giving). There doesn’t seem to be a single shot that you don’t think couldn’t be at least slightly improved by slow-motion, or funky CG speed-ramping. You were convinced the world was ready for an 3-D CGI animation starring armoured owls (A hint: it wasn’t). You actually managed to somehow make a film where sexy girls in kinky underwear fight Nazi steampunk zombies into one of the dullest, most repetitive things I’ve seen in a cinema for years.
You are quite plainly completely out of your mind.
Even with the new title – just ‘Man of Steel’, no Superman – your new movie fills me with a sense of foreboding. I’d like to think that maybe you’ll ratchet your style back and approach the film in a calmer perspective. But I really doubt it. A Zack Snyder Superman film isn’t something I wanted. But I’m getting it anyway. So…
PLEASE STOP CASTING ACTORS I LIKE IN YOUR SUPERMAN FILM!
You’ve made your point. Go nuts from hereon in. Perry White and Jimmy Olsen? Go nuts. Cast the most ludicrous actors you can think of. I don’t mind. Just please- don’t let me look at another casting notice and think “Damn that’s a really good choice,” followed by a Wrath of Khan-style cry of “SNYYYDERRRR!!” Okay?
I’m glad we had this little chat. And I’ll be watching you, you slo-mo lovin’ motherfunster…
Zack Snyder’s new cinematic reboot of the Man of Steel just took a big step closer to actually happening, as he’s cast the title role. And who’s the actor stepping into the legendary blue-and-red spandex?
It’s Henry Cavill. And if your first thought is “Who’s that?” then you’re not exactly alone. Yet again, and fairly sensibly, they’ve gone for another fairly unknown actor (although nowhere near as unknown as Brandon Routh was when he was cast in Superman Returns) – British actor Cavill certainly can’t be described as a star, although he’s actually worked pretty consistently for the past ten years, and is currently best known for regularly getting his kit off in the luridly OTT historical drama The Tudors as nobleman Charles Brandon.
And my first thoughts? Well, only having seen one episode of The Tudors (I have what could be described as a ‘problem’ with anything that involves giving Jonathan Rhys Meyers the chance to either yell or pout), I can’t say that Cavill made a massive impression, and certainly isn’t as interesting as casting Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. From the photos, Cavill’s certainly got the chin for the role, and he’s got that handsome if slightly anonymous thing down pat. Despite my dislike of Superman Returns, I thought Brandon Routh was the best thing in it and it’s a shame he’ll never get the chance to play the part again, but it does rather feel as if they’ve gone here for a safe relative unknown, rather than a risky out-of-nowhere blind-sider, which isn’t that surprising as Warner Bros really, really, really need this to work. There’s always the chance that Cavill may turn out to be really good , but to be honest, getting excited about this casting would involve getting excited about this movie in general, and I’m finding it rather difficult. The moment Snyder was signed, my interest in a new Superman film (even one being ‘shepherded’ by Christopher Nolan) plummeted – he’s a director who’ll certainly make something flashy and eye-catching, and I’m sure that his Superman film will, whatever the flaws, be better than the deeply misconceived Superman Returns (I admire Bryan Singer for attempting it, but good golly, that film didn’t work in a whole variety of ways), but ever since 300, he’s shown no sign of doing anything other than eye candy and visual bluster (even in Watchmen, which managed some good sequences, but fell flat as a piece of cinema). The new Superman will be slick and good-looking, but if it manages to capture a tenth of the spirit that the original two Richard Donner (and part-Richard Lester) films managed, I will be seriously surprised…
(Of course, it doesn’t help that one of the main reasons Snyder got Superman in the first place is that he’s good at doing projects quickly – Warner Bros not only need this film to be succesful, they need it to go into production pretty damn soon, otherwise their legal battle with the family of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gets even more complicated than before, and they risk losing the rights to one of the best-known superheroes in the world. It’d be nice to be optimistic, but I can think of very few examples of films pushed into production to meet a precise release date that have actually turned out well. But – I guess we’ll have to wait and see…)
UPDATE: It’s just been pointed out (by someone else) on Twitter that we now have a situation where three of the biggest superheroes are all played by British actors (the others being Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man, and Christian Bale in Batman). Not sure exactly what that signifies, but felt it was worth sharing…
UPDATE: Via www.slashfilm.com, it’s been revealed that the other contenders on the shortlist were Matthew Goode (best known as Ozymandias in Watchmen), Matthew Bomer (from TV shows Chuck and Tru Calling), Arnie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network), Joe Manganiello (Alcide in S3 of True Blood) and Colin O’Donaghue (now in daft-looking religious horror The Rite). While Arnie Hammer might have been interesting after his work in The Social Network, I think Cavill is actually the most potentially interesting of the bunch, and it certainly says what they were looking for – a late twentysomething absurdly handsome actor with the right kind of chin. And while Matthew Goode can be a good actor, after his oddball turn as Ozymandias in Watchmen, I’d rather not see him near any superhero characters for a while…