Name: Kunal Khandwala
It has been 2 years since the New York incident and wars are raging all across the nine realms. Asgardian warriors have the onus of restoring order and warding off all evil. Meanwhile back on Earth, Jane Foster has accidentally unleashed an ancient weapon of the Dark Elves that resurrects their race, threatening the very existence of the Universe. The Norse God of Thunder has a mighty force to reckon with and will need the assistance of his deceitful brother Loki. Thor must prevent the world from falling into darkness before the imminent convergence of all realms. With most of the events unfolding upon Asgard, some fantastic special effects were obvious devices to be used by the celebrated TV director Alan Taylor whose most recent works include several memorable episodes of Game of Thrones, Mad Men & Sopranos. 'Thor: The Dark World' is undeniably an exciting superhero epic that outdoes its predecessor and establishes Chris Hemsworth as a worthy Avenger.
While the Asgardians police the realms and keep trouble away from their homeland, Thor's ambivalence is highlighted. On one hand, he has a role in protecting Midgard as an Avenger and being closer to Jane Foster and on the other, the responsibility of being the King of Asgard in the near future. As Jane accidentally becomes the host for the dark power Aether on Earth, Thor decides to bring her to Asgard. Darkness then draws onto itself and the resurrected Malekith (Christopher Eccleston – Who?) attacks the might of Asgard itself causing terror and despair. Thor must now seek the assistance of whom he wouldn't trust at all but retribution, has common enemies. Together with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor must prevent Malekith from unleashing darkness upon the world before the convergence of all nine realms occurs. The common plane of this rare alignment falls in Greenwich, which then serves as the final battleground for an epic clash between Thor and the forces of the Dark Elves.
At his third outing as the God of Thunder, Chris Hemsworth is more convincing and iconic than ever before. He effectively manages distinct relationships in this sequel, between his father, his conniving brother and his love, Jane. With more humor, action and evil, Hemsworth does a mighty job with his hammer. Natalie Portman has a better role that is suited to her talent and at Asgard, she feels just at home as she was on Naboo as Queen Amidala. Anthony Hopkins might look weary of playing Old Odin but his voice and persona still make him the most suitable King. The show stealer however, is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. His comic timing and charm simply add to his character's dishonest nature. The untrustworthy Loki is turning out to be the most lovable villain and that simply asserts how well Hiddleston plays the part.
Alan Taylor's comprehensive background with major TV series does enable him to blend in several elements of the story in a fast paced, eventful and exciting movie of less than 2 hours. A seemingly uncomplicated plot does yet provide the grip and thrill. With some exemplary visual effects that not only showcase the fantastic realm of Asgard in vivid light and colors but also showcase the epic destruction in Greenwich, Taylor makes remarkable use of technologies to enhance the story's appeal. The best part is, he directs the screenplay in a seamless manner that keeps the audience engaged with the pace so the film isn't heavily reliant on its visuals but is merely aided by it in its storytelling. That is precisely how such superhero movies should be made. The cinematography is excellent even with simple scenes such as Thor's arrival upon Earth, London's aerial view and the action on desolate landscapes of other realms. The background score has the epic tone and sustains the darkness associated with the film's evil.
Technicality finds its happy medium with comic book storytelling and Taylor deserves credit for enhancing Thor's presence in the Marvel world. As Malekith's evil grows with the power of Aether, Thor's strength increases with his loved ones around him. His definitive stance for Midgard's well being and for his love, Jane Foster will establish him as an Avenger and protector of all realms. Meanwhile, Loki's wile ways shall keep us entertained with the brilliant Tom Hiddleston.
Thor: The Dark World isn't ground-breaking but it does everything right for a superhero movie and that, is the simple reason you should spend that money. Oh, and to watch the scene where Thor sheds his cloak, jumps off the balcony, catches the incoming mjölnir and flies away. Epic.
- 8.688 on a scale of 1-10.
Several attempts were made over the years to create Indian cinema's very own superhero. Most attempts were ridiculed until the 'K' obsessed Rakesh Roshan introduced an alien inspired by Spielberg's 'E.T.' who bestowed magical powers upon Rohit whose son, in turn, would be the first convincing superhero that leaped across long distances in a long black coat. This young Krishna is now back as a more refined Krrish whose nemesis is not only the mutant generating apocalyptic maniac but also his father's script that introduces unwanted drama and cheeziness to restrict this 100 crore venture from being a fine example of India's advancement in films. 'Krrish 3' or 2, as you like it, is technically impressive and stunning in several aerial shots, action sequences and the climactic showdown between two immense forces but it is the storytelling that sees no advancement or refinement. With a cartoonish plot of a villain seeking world domination with his self-generated mutants, Rakesh Roshan seldom offers intrigue, surprise or nuance in a story of good v/s evil. Expectations are high and people will certainly flock to the cinemas for the special effects from Filmkraft but one can't eliminate the realization that most of the story was based around action sequences that were adroitly visualized rather than the other way around.
The sequel finds its roots in the events in Singapore when Dr. Siddhant Arya used the DNA from Rohit Mehra (the better Hrithik Roshan) to create new life. Years after Krrish's victory over Dr. Arya's malicious attempt to change the world, we see him struggling with jobs he can't keep while being the superhero that the city occasionally needs. While his father Rohit's experiment to harness the sun's power achieves limited success, his main focus is to find an antidote for a deadly virus outbreak in Namibia. An elusive pharmaceutical company finds the cure eventually, garnering enormous profits and funding for its proprietor's relentless attempts at creating a life form that can cure his handicap with a DNA matched bone marrow. Kaal (Vivek Oberoi) has no regard for human life and sends his mutants to Bombay to unleash the virus again. Millions of lives are threatened but the father-son duo create an antidote and use Krrish's powers to distribute it in Diwali style. Furious at his foiled attempt, Kaal sends his mutants to threaten Rohit's family and Kaya (Kangana Ranaut) replaces Priya (Priyanka Chopra) with her form changing ability.
Intrigued by the common DNA signatures between the virus, its antidote and a captured mutant, Rohit seeks to unravel the mystery in Singapore where Kaal seizes him. Krishna, who has just realized Kaya's deceitful ways is determined to rescue his wife, unborn child and father from Kaal's hideout. Meanwhile, the nefarious villain finds the DNA he seeks and now has renewed powers with which he threatens the city of Mumbai once again. Only a superpower can stop him. Only its hero can prevent the annihilation of the city.
The refinement in action sequences and special effects is delightful to watch. This is by far, the best that our cinema has achieved. Krrish's entry over the city's skyline is simply stunning. But then there is the unwanted overacting by people on the airplane. The visual effects of Krrish's antidote deployment look really cool but that is only followed by a song praising him with God, Allah and Bhagwaan. The intermission point is with Krrish standing at the edge of a crane looming over the city and its skyline. Quite impressive even though it resembles many of Batman's epic scenes.
The film then drags through some love, affection, heartbreak post intermission till Rohit links the DNA facts together, bringing Krrish to Kaal's mountain hideout and then of course, the subsequent showdown in the city.
The climax seems unlike Rakesh Roshan. Not to discredit the director but the sequences look incredibly powerful and thrilling, were it not for the similarities with that of 'Man of Steel'. Yet, the attempt is commendable and does pack most of the film's budget into the 20 mins.
Thus, Krrish 3 leaves the impression that things have evolved in the past 6 years. The action, the budget, the superhero's powers, the villain's malice and strength as well as Rohit's role as a guiding father, have evolved collectively to create a bigger impact. However, the flaws are deep and are many. Rakesh Roshan still relies upon corny storytelling that may appeal to kids. Various themes such as Batman, Superman and X-Men are obvious inspirations and that is detrimental to all the hard work put in by the actor and the technical crew that came up with such stunning visual effects.
Music by Rajesh Roshan is perhaps his dullest work and brother Rakesh favors him by featuring the various songs abruptly through the storyline. The biggest flaw however, is that the story seems to follow the action. Big action sequences were visualized and the story seems like an afterthought to the 100 crore ideas. That sadly, is the reality of the action film genre in India where there is no dearth of creativity in the technical aspect but severe dearth of nuance in storytelling.
Hrithik Roshan is much better at playing the paternal role of Rohit where he is so distinct from the dull and bulky Krishna. After several years, he still portrays the same innocence, silliness and intelligence that won him accolades. Only if there was more life in Krishna's character that the series will now depend on. As Krrish, Hrithik needs to stop his facial vibration to depict aggression. It just doesn't work. But he is great with the action sequences and even when he silently stands with hands crossed behind him, looming over the villain or the city with a watchful eye.
Priyanka Chopra can of course play into the melodrama and create more forgettable moments of the movie. Kangana Ranaut on the other hand, plays the role of a mutant very well. Her evil form is as convincing as her guilt ridden one that admires Krishna. Rajpal Yadav has barely 3 minutes of comedy and he does well to make us laugh. Vivek Oberoi maintains good composure as a handicapped villain. His aggression is focused and we seldom see him overact when he easily could have. Only if he were given a better metallic suit for the climax sequence, he would've had more fans. Negative roles do suit him more than romance and comedy as is evident from 'Company', 'Shootout at Lokhandwala' and now as Kaal.
Rakesh Roshan had everyone's hopes up with this huge release and with Hrithik averaging one movie a year (if that), the audience shouldn't be blamed for expecting a lot. The script, storytelling and little brother's music do not work for such expectations and a film of this budget but the action sequences do when they need to because of the adroitly crafted visual effects. Cinematography in those sequences is quite stunning but not impressive otherwise.
As the film closes with the sun setting over Bombay's skyline through a panoramic aerial shot of a construction crane, its hero stands tall on the edge, observing with a watchful eye and a keen sense for any looming threat. That visual is convincing. The idea of such a hero is convincing. Krrish being that hero, is convincing.
- 7.778 on a scale of 1-10.
The human will to survive catastrophe has been depicted in various elements. While 'Castaway' was about the desperate attempt to get off an island, 'Life of Pi' was about getting onto one. Mountaineers, sailors, disaster survivors and characters genuinely lost, have battled natural elements and phenomena to delineate the human will that defeats all odds. What director Alfonso Cuaron ('Harry Potter & Prisoner of Azkaban', 'Children of Men') does now is suspend a human in an environment of void against some spectacular backdrop, occasionally exposed to threatening objects with the challenge to survive and find a way back home. 'Gravity' soars on the technical genius of a visionary film-maker and his incredible team that creates the adventure in the great spatial void while masking the logic, science and pragmatism with which two astronauts struggle to survive flying debris and vacuum.
Sandra Bullock is Dr. Ryan Stone, who is awkwardly on a space outing to repair parts of the Hubble telescope, along with Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and the funny Indian astronaut who met a quick fateful end. The Rom-Com specialist doesn't have to deal with much Speed this time around but rather prolonged silence, desperation and inexperience of maneuvering in space. The funny conversations and meticulous processes of repair are abruptly halted by NASA's command to abort the mission due to some flying debris being closer to them than was originally conceived. Russia's missile launch onto their own satellite resulted in this havoc in space that led to severe and totalitarian destruction of human objects around Earth's orbit.
With their shuttle suffering carnage by the flying debris, Ryan spins over and over desperate for balance, semblance and reserve until the cool-headed Matt attaches himself to her with a cord as he cruises along toward the I.S.S. with his thrusters. As the communication with mission control is broken and their oxygen levels run low, Matt maintains positivity with his corny conversations, punchlines and his endearing gallantry; a result of which leaves Ryan little time, hope and options. With the debris completing its rotation every 90 mins, Dr Stone must find a pod from one of the space stations that can take her back to Earth, gravity and home.
Much of the drama in space is accompanied by spells of silence, emptiness, and Ryan talking to herself. The thrills are provided by the struggles of moving in space and of course the oncoming debris that creates havoc. Thus, one would think that for the most part, Cuaron's focus would be on character building, plot progression, emotions in precarious situations and alluring powers of a strong cast that can enthrall audiences against the dark background of space. Instead, the director chooses to cast two of the foremost Rom-Com actors in lead roles. When Sandra Bullock isn't gasping for the scarce oxygen, she still sounds as panic stricken as she did when she had to make a sharp turn in a bus speeding at 80mph. George Clooney may have the voice that warrants attention but his charm seems a bit out of this world in the context. One has a difficult time relating to these actors whose backgrounds are solely in their own memory, their body language is only that of suspension in vacuum in a space suit and then there's one more element that doesn't quite help them.
With its sheer lack of life, Space does not offer much in thrills, excitement or the unexpected. Ang Lee had a tiger, a hyena, whales, birds, rodents and storms that challenged Pi on his boat ride. Tom Hanks had weather, starvation, injuries, boat building, fire making and fishing as challenges. Ryan does have to find her way into a pod and release it from a station but the only threat really is that of the flying debris. The rest of us mortal beings who haven't been in space cannot relate to the challenges of maneuvering in space, getting in and out of a suit, breathing inside the helmet on depleted O2 or understanding Russian and Chinese equally well to control space stations. That's precisely where Cuaron uses the best of modern film technologies to captivate audiences and overcome such issues. What the actors can't make up for, their surroundings do. What the notion of flying debris cannot do, their velocity can and what the vastness of space cannot do, the moving camera angles can. The Cuarons have written a tight storyline that doesn't just wander in space. If the action isn't frequent, the sense of its coming surely is. There is no back-story of the actors nor is there a flashback of their memories.
From the beginning, Gravity pulls you into space and impresses you with its visuals and excitement when the astronaut has barely any metal to grab onto for dear life. Many of those moments can make you clench your fist and that's exactly where the film leaves its mark. As unreal as it seems, the film makers have convinced us that we are really up there, suspended in space, faced with flying debris and barely a handle to hold on to.
The post production work on 3D is good, yet non overbearing. Its main contribution is the flying debris that comes onto you but other than that, the great void doesn't have any object jumping out of the screen to impress with 3D.
Alfonso Cuaron has directed a well-paced storyline with an exemplary vision, realized by a very talented technical team that quite literally takes us beyond our realm. The story's linear nature and pace release the pressure from actors to portray more emotion and movement than required. It could very well be Sandra Bullock's best performance but that's not really setting any standards is it.....?
In the end however, Gravity is about the triumph of human will to survive and endure through its adversities even though, it seems to fall short of being one of those 'epic' tales. Yet, it is genuinely, a triumph of technologies in cinema when you view our spectacular world from up there.
- 8.004 on a scale of 1-10.
Director Ron Howard ('A Beautiful Mind', 'Frost/Nixon', 'Da Vinci Code', 'Apollo 13' etc) doesn't narrate the story of 'Rush' by letting you choose sides through one driver's perspective. In fact, with some adept writing by Peter Morgan ('The Queen', 'Frost/Nixon'), we travel in time to witness the events that lead up to the Formula 1 World Championship of 1976 and the formation of an unparallelled rivalry. Back then, racing wasn't as safe as it now is. It was rather an era when recklessness and flamboyance brought glory to some racers while two of the others on the grid, died every year. In the midst of this, are two men driven by danger; two rivals driven by passion; two legends driven by each other. Ron Howard is renowned for having a keen sense of the idiosyncrasies of his protagonists and here too, he depicts the influence of their personal lifestyles that shaped their racing styles. But where he really excels, is with the rivalry on track. The sheer thrill, excitement and dangers of Formula 1 racing are brilliantly captured as we travel the globe through stormy wet weather with cars screaming across the screen at 170 mph.
They called him a loose cannon but his raw talent was unmistakable. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) was aggressive on the circuit and foolhardy off it. Being an outspoken, alcoholic casanova was his way of having fun and believed that it was a necessary balance to the challenges of being a risk-taking race car driver. With an independent, small budget team, Hunt moves up from Formula 3 to the join the ranks of the F1 racers, only to meet his nemesis from the past season. The methodical, reserved but often brash and terribly fast Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) enters Formula 1 by buying out a team with his loaned money and engineers his car meticulously to be the fastest man and champion in only his second season. The cool headed and thoughtful Lauda was quite the opposite of the aggressive and impulsive Hunt and therefore, their confrontations are a treat to watch and more often than not, they battle it out on the track. The film's turning point though is the incident at the German GP in Nurburgring (deemed to be too unsafe to race on by Lauda). 6 weeks later, a struggle for survival, the willpower to race again and the hunger for victory, bring the rivals together once more to fight for the title. In the spectacularly soaked Japanese GP, the engines rev up once more and the tyres spin over the track in a thrilling finale to one of the greatest rivalries in sports history.
Ron Howard has made his most exhilarating and brilliant film. Peter Morgan's exemplary screenplay and dialogue make the confrontations between the drivers edgy while giving the story some good substance to keep the non-racing scenes interesting as well. Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle is quite simply, superb. The close up of rain drops against wheels spinning off the starting grid, the gloomy sun on a stormy race day in Japan, the slow motion effects of the crashes and the point-of-view angles during the races make for some compelling viewing. Not only has the visual effects team worked hard in recreating the 1970s era by providing some retro tones, they have mastered the art of showcasing Formula 1 racing in all its rawness and refinement. From the costumes to the cars and the circuits, Howard has meticulously crafted a brilliant visualization of racing in the 70s.
The essence of Hans Zimmer's background score is the theme of each race being a risk that is only rewarded with a victory. The tone somehow reflects the aggression and tragedy of the rivalry itself and is quite epic upon reflection.
The ravishing Olivia Wilde and a well composed Alexandra Maria Lara support the racers on and off the track but the film is completely dominated by the two powerful performances of the racers. Chris Hemsworth is quite a revelation when one simply attributes his noteworthy work to being an angry, strong yet charming superhero. With his aggressive driving, impulsive drive for sex and outspoken brashness, Hemsworth appears well collected and mature to tackle the challenges of being the legendary James Hunt. Among his best scenes is one with some positive argument with Lauda towards the end of the film, where he justifies his lifestyle and his winning ways. While one sees the fun, reckless and victorious Hunt, there couldn't have been a better portrayal of his opposite.
Daniel Bruhl has portrayed Niki Lauda in the most remarkable manner. With the prosthetics and speech, Bruhl emphasizes the technicalities and his focus to take racing seriously just as the living legend would. Much more reserved than Hunt ever was, Lauda was a dedicated and disciplined racer for whom mental focus and physical conditioning were key to winning in a well engineered car. Bruhl's performance showcases this keen understanding of Niki Lauda while adding the matter-of-factness to his dialogues. He seldom smiles because when he does, the joke is upon him. In being calculative, his emotion of happiness in love is a loss to him as he considers it a weakness that won't let him risk it all on the track. Bruhl's portrayal is surely worthy of a nomination if not more and a defining salute to Niki Lauda.
Driven by the actors' sincerest performances, 'Rush' feels more alive. Peter Morgan's exemplary writing gives the film its exciting moments and Mantle's superb cinematography brings the thrilling intensity of F1 racing on the big screen in epic fashion. Ron Howard pulled in some great talent and added his expertise of characterized drama with a surprising jolt of epic visuals to recreate the magical era of racing in the 70s.
James Hunt and Niki Lauda conclude an important point of the story that they are both driven by each other. From their low points to their victories, what kept them going, was their rivalry and their hunger for victory. They often reached a physical and emotional breaking point but there was no margin of error when the championship was at stake. 'Rush' is a grand prize from Ron Howard and should be cherished by fans of Formula 1 racing as well as movie-goers who simply like a tale of triumphant human spirits.
- 9.14 on a scale of 1-10.