Saturday, June 1, 2019

GODZILLA -King of the Monsters (spoiler free) review

Must there be a Godzilla?

DIRECTOR- Michael Dougherty
CAST- Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, several new Titans.. a few humans like Ken Watanabe, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown and others.

Count the dead, Alfred..thousands..what's next? millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race...

The movie starts in 2014 right during the events of the first movie, where Mankind is introduced to these God-like beings.  We get a glimpse of the same events but from the perspective of the human beings who suffered while Godzilla was trying to save the city from other monsters yet causing enormous collateral damage in the process. Further into the movie there are news report debating what the discovery of these super-powerful beings mean to us, there are senate hearings discussing the impact of these Titans. A centuries old villain is awoken...he is an alien abomination who is a desecration without name who can re-grow body parts which have been cut off. He also uses yellow lightning like beams and appears almost unstoppable. Our hero nearly fights him and dies. But sun light and radiation save him. He appears at the last moment to fight. But just when it looks like he is outmatched again, the female goddess like protagonist shows up to save him.  The human character who initially lost a dear one in the battle later on learns to accept and appreciate our hero.
Maybe it’s the BvS fandom in me, but by God (zilla) does this movie have several parallels to Zack Snyder’s super-hero epic. I mean why not, with the success of comic book movies, almost every genre is taking inspiration from them. Shared universes which used to be a novelty are now a demand from the studios looking for the next cash cow franchise. About time someone tried to do to the monster movies what Snyder did to comic book genre. But it tries at best, doesn't necessarily succeed in that aspect.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is  the 3rd movie in the Legendary films’ ‘Monsterverse’ Godzilla franchise started in 2014 by Godzilla then followed by Kong: Skull Island in 2017. While the first two movies in the franchise received lukewarm critical yet decent audience responses, this one is the longest of the movies clocking in at 132 minutes. Director Michael Dougherty (who career includes low budget horror movies like Krampus and primarily as a writer on movies like Xmen 2 and Superman Returns) has also said in a press conference that he has a 3 hour cut which he feels wouldn’t work as it would be too long. However, the cut supposedly fleshes out the human characters more.

A major criticism of Godzilla (2014) was that it tried to follow the ‘Jaws’/ 'Cloverfield' approach to monster movies by not showing a lot of Godzilla and concentrating on the human drama too much. KoTM tries to remedy that by showing not 1 or 2 but actively 4 on screen with glimpses of 3 others. It literally tries to dazzle you with its apocalyptic imagery and you know what? It excels in that area. The visuals are outstanding, while some of the scenes are filmed in the horrific ‘shaky-cam’ technique, most of the action can be witnessed in its full glory. The  the movie through its ingenious visuals and sound-design manages to convey the gigantic scale of these monsters. Plus, I really loved the creature design and apparently they have designed a few more original creatures for this movie which I thought were really interesting.  The action is beautifully crafted monster-mayhem and the inner kid in you will definitely walk out satisfied. It deserves to be experienced in IMAX, so if possible please do watch it in an IMAX theatre. The music by Bear McCreary is good if not particularly memorable in my opinion. Except for when Godzilla’s theme kicks in. I am personally not really well versed in the Toho-verse, so I do not know whether the theme is a call back to earlier Godzilla music but the theme is primal, tribal and has a sense of excitement yet dread to it.

In case you are not aware of Godzilla’s 60 years of movie history and the various Kaiju that are part of his lore, do not worry. In case you haven’t seen the 2014 Godzilla or Kong : Skull Island and the only Godzilla movie you remember is the 1998 Ronald Emmerich version starring Matthew Broderick, do not worry. This movie does a good job of bringing you in to the universe of Titans (as they are called here instead of Kaiju as is the traditionally used term for the Godzilla and other monsters established and owned by the Japanese Toho co.)  To summarize a bit, it is soon discovered that Godzilla is not the only pre-historic Titan on earth and that the secretive organization Monarch has been researching 50 plus sites around the world. These Titans form the basis of our myths and legends and were literally the Gods that we worshiped in ancient times. An eco-terrorist organization is trying to wake all the Titans up for their own reasons and soon Godizlla’s alpha status is challenged by another gigantic monstrosity. The one good thing the movie does is that it doesn’t resort to exposition dump. It doesn’t have on-screen text before the movie or some typical Hollywood scientist like figure dump it on you in one go. The information is spread throughout the movie and forces you to pay attention.

The script does try to balance out the extreme monster-mayhem with human characters. Ken Watanabe and Vera Farmiga are the stand out performances with a decent performance by young Millie Bobby Brown as the estranged daughter caught between two destructive parents (see what I did there?). While the movie does offer some interesting arcs particularly for Farmiga’s character, it still turns out slight bit clichéd towards the end. The characters aren't particularly memorable and their drama does appear to be the weakest part of an otherwise enjoyable movie.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Why? Because there is a 3 headed monster residing on top of an exploding volcano! There are giant monsters running at each other (again BvS parallel) and crashing into each other in middle of a city! There are flying monsters! And ancient undersea civilizations!  The cast and the human characters are serviceable and act as the perfect foil for the epic fights. This does not hamper the movie as many critics will have you believe. Also, the monsters are not just monsters. Although they are shown as this unstoppable forces of nature, the movie does well to give each of them a personality without ever having humans explain it to us. You know when Godzilla is pissed or hurt, you know what kind of douchebag evil minion Rodan is….you feel the goddess-like presence of Mothra. That is the real success of the movie.

The plot maybe somewhat convoluted, but not more so than Avengers Endgame. This is not a dig at Endgame but if you can enjoy Endgame for its fan service and fun moments, then KoTM shouldn’t be a problem. The movie may have its flaws but it delivers what it promises in dollops. The world-building and showing the real world after effects of the existence of such Titans (a trait again inspired from Snyder’s deconstructed super-hero movies) is something new to see in a monster movie and although not a thorough deconstruction plants some really good ideas.

Godzilla: King of monsters is TOTAL TIMEPASS!!

PS- Must there be a Sequel?...There is.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Wick Chapter 3 (spoiler free) review

Raise your hand if you have no clue what “Parabellum” means?



If you narrate the story of 2014’s John Wick, it sounds honestly like a parody of any typical Hollywood action movie. So Theon Greyjoy is the son of a rich Russian mobster. He and his friends break into Keanu’s house just for kicks. They steal a car he loves and then just to add the rotten cherry to the shit-pile, they kill his innocent little dog…a dog which was a gift from his dying wife. Little do they know that Keanu’s is the ONE. I mean Keanu is always the ONE. But this time, he is the one guy who you do not want to mess with- A retired assassin who can kill you with a fooking pencil. Now he pissed and he will not stop at anything to give some payback.  

If that sounds ridiculous as hell… it is.  But in the best possible way. No the movie isn’t over-the-top and doesn’t parody itself. Keanu’s just got some vibe which really makes you feel for his loss. The movie has ridiculous concepts like this whole secret world of assassins with their own hotels where they can’t kill each other, own currency, terminology etc. But it still worked like a charm. The movie was made by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch- who have immense years of stunt experience in Hollywood.  In a world of CGI villains and save the world plotlines of super-hero or spy movies- they made a movie with natural looking but slick cool efficient action. John Wick was a breath of fresh air. It soon became a cult hit.

Followed by another success in John Wick Chapter 2 in 2017, which expanded upon the secret assassin world even more ridiculously by adding concepts like Blood debts, a secretive High Table which controls the entire network etc etc. But it still worked. The movie again continues the series by delving a slight bit into Keanu’s past and giving us another engaging story with great long take action scenes. The movie ends on a cliff-hanger with John Wick now being excommunicated and now being hunted by the entire assassin community for killing someone on neutral grounds.

John Wick chapter 3: Parabellum continues exactly minutes after the 2nd one. Now Keanu must find a way to apologize to the mysterious High Table and stop running. But most importantly, he must also find it within himself a reason to live. His wife is dead, his revenge completed in the first one and his blood debt paid back in full in the 2nd one. He is falling back into the murdering ways which he had given up long time ago. He literally has no reason to live. The best thing they do is unlike most other Hollywood action franchises they don’t just give him another love interest or damsel in distress to save. Even amidst more ridiculous concepts like Ninjas and a bond villain movie set in the climax, they still manage to keep John’s journey realistic. He is even questioned by many characters as to why wants so desperately to live that he is willing to go to the far corners of the earth to find the Elder- an Assassin who is above the High Table itself.

Even if you are not acquainted with the previous movies or with the John Wick mythos, don’t worry. Unlike Comic Book movies, where you have to have seen 20 movies that came before it to understand- here you don’t have to. They do organically explain what happened before and if you just go with the flow, you’ll get it. Because even if the story doesn’t interest, the action scenes will. God-damn, they really upped the game in this one. All of the scenes are beautifully crafted and by the end, you’ll be left with wondering which one was your favourite. Although they tried to do it in the The Dark Knight trilogy, this is the first movie to properly convey Ninja shadow techniques really well on-screen. You can literally see them appear from a dark corner of the screen and disappear…but you don’t know where. They need to get this same cinematographer on the next Batman movie.
Couple that with great performances particularly by Keanu whose real life Spiritual seeker vibe plays well into his character here. Halle Berry’s character though interesting just appears midway and disappears without much else to do with the climax. However, she has two war dogs with her and the action with her co-ordinating with them in a shootout is some really creative stuff. Ian Mcshane is regal as usual and Laurence Fishburne even in a small role delivers a proper arc. This arc may serve as the set up for the next movie. Oh also, Bronn from Game of Thrones is in the movie. I think after having Theon Greyjoy (really sorry can’t ever remember that actor’s name) in the first one, they had to have another GoT actor in this one.

The story also delves into John Wick’s past a bit and that was good to see. The mistake most action franchises make when they have a hit series on hand is either repeat the same concept again and again (Fast and Furious, Taken) or try and elevate the same scenario but in a different location. (If you liked Die Hard in a building, now we have Die Hard in an Airport. Ok the 3rd and 4th ones were great though) Am not saying John Wick saga is all planned Chapter wise, but they are not completely clueless about where to take the character either. They know that the plot is more or less wrapping for the cool, stunts and Keanu’s charm but they are trying to deliver the best possible wrapping. Digging deeper into the character and his motivations instead of just placing him in the same scenario in another location is a genuinely good move. The movie deals with actions and consequences and redemption. It also isn’t like deep Jean Luc Goddard level character drama but still works if you are watching this movie for more than just the action.

Only problem with the movie, is that near the climax it gets a slight bit longer than needed. There is a villain, a rival Ninja assassin who if I have seen him before in the franchise I can’t remember him, who is built up to be the John’s arch nemesis. They have an elongated climactic action sequence in a room made of glass which pays homage to the legendary scene from Enter the Dragon. The sequence is great but I don’t know why I should suddenly care about a character I knew nothing about before or am told nothing about. He just shows up and suddenly gives the typical Hollywood villain –‘we are not so different you and I’ speech to John Wick. Maybe it’s poking fun at the trope but that kinda irked me. Also, John Wick are not known for the realism but John Wick 1 at least had John’s cop friend show up when he heard noises in John’s home. Here people straight away slice other people’s necks at a crowded railway station and the people don’t notice at all. I mean its not just covert spy movie klling, bodies fucking fall and no one cares. The Continental Hotel is transformed into a battle zone and there are no consequences.. no cops, SWAT anything. This was maybe stretching the imagination a slight bit too much.

However, other than those gripes, John Wick 3 is great ride. In spite of being 3 movies into an action franchise they have managed to keep it fresh and I think I like this slight bit more than the 2nd one. If you are done with epic intergalactic battles and superhero stuff for a while and want to take a break… watch this movie where an un-killable assassin must go through hordes of enemies with a variety of weapons and martial arts skills, the enemies keep getting more difficult to kill and the movie has some ridiculous rules of its own, its own challenges and missions to complete before you level up to… wait a fucking minute- John Wick 3 is the best video game movie adaptation! (Just not based on an actual game).

John Wick Chapter 3 is Superrific!

PS –
  •  Mad Dog from the Indonesian action gem – The Raid movies shows up in a prominent action scene. He even speaks in Bahasa Indonesia and John responds.
  • When I read the title, I always thought Parabellum much like Pendulum or Parabola was some kind of Geometrical motion or shape. Turns out is a part of the Latin phrase –“Si vis pacem, para bellum” – “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Also, Parabellum is the name of a kind of gun cartridge.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Avengers : Endgame movie review

“Is it done?”


“What did it cost?”

“11 years, 19 movies a few of which were unnecessary, 5 T V shows, a shit load of merchandise, hordes of social media influencers and critics either bought or brainwashed, stealing the competitions ideas (Civil war wasn’t planned till DC announced BvS. Also the plot of JL 2 was eerily similar to Infinity war) and ruining the genre to a point that generic mediocrity is the sole acceptable standard. But hey, you do get to finally hear Captain America say ‘Avengers Assemble’. “



The greatest achievement of the Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is to finally bring super-heroes to the main stream. Call it easily digestible story-telling or Disney’s marketing clout or some truly amazing performances over the years by actors like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansan etc. But the MCU did what any market player wanting to build a strong monopoly does- saturate the market with its own product, often at the cost of quality and also crush the competition with somewhat questionable means. All said and done, they are currently the only standing shared universe with a financial and popular success rate unparalleled in cinematic history.
Endgame is more than a movie. It is a cultural event with Theatres selling houseful shows at 3:30 a.m. for the first 5 days. Even If I personally started getting disillusioned by the MCU after Iron Man 3, I am still a comic book and pop culture fan. I was still gonna be there at 7:00 in the morning wearing my Captain America T shirt. So, like most comic book movies I had to watch this twice. Once to satisfy my inner nerd. The second time to look at a movie from a storytelling perspective. So I have tried my level best to keep all the hype aside and look at this as just a movie.
But that isn’t it, is it? A movie is more than a set of images with dialogue. Especially Comic book movies these days. Especially Marvel movies. The screaming, the chuckling at the quips in the middle of a life threatening battle, waiting for the Post-credit scenes and checking out the memes later on social media is now a part of our social cycle. Also, how do you review a movie that’s the last part of a saga? It’s not unlike Harry Potter and the deathly hollows part 2 but with a much bigger fandom and an even bigger build up. Walking into this movie without at least a fair idea of its predecessors would be like walking into the season finale of a popular TV show without watching any previous episodes. But people do it. For fear of being left out of such a pop-culture tidal wave. For such people, I have some friendly advice- either do your homework and come watch this or just don’t. Nobody wants to hear you ask your friend in the theatre every 10 minutes –‘Who’s that? Who’s this?’ Frankly it doesn’t matter. No matter what hardcore MCU fans (many of whom have never even touched a comic book) will have you believe. You are not missing out on a cinematic masterpiece that can stand on its own.
However you are missing out on an experience of people really enjoying themselves. Kids being kids, adults being kids. People in general having a great time. It’s like a carnival with food and screaming and laughing. Just like a carnival has no particular artistic value than enjoyment, I feel the MCU is the same. Oh come at me, all those people treating this as though nobody ever thought of making a 3 hour movie before this or that its some oscar worthy movie just because the Russo Bros. managed to not make it a complete mess are kidding themselves.
Firstly credit where credits due. I really admire the Russo bros. for what they did in Winter Soldier. After Iron Man 1, Marvel finally made a movie where it feels that the consequences matter. Their mediocre visual and action skills were pardonable for that one particular quality. Bringing gravitas to a franchise which many didn’t take itself seriously. They did it again with Civil War. Which for the most part managed to have some sense of grit to it, until the airport battle at least when heroes fighting each other to death joke with each other. But Infinity war was where they got their groove just right. I mean IW had its fair share of tension puncturing trademark Disney humor but by God that climax was amazing. In my review of Infinity war I had quoted Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman Begins – “You have finally learned to do what’s necessary”. That’s how you make a great saga. An Empire strikes back, where Luke loses his hand and Han Solo is frozen in Carbonite. A fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf is dead and the fellowship is disbanded. The fact that it took MCU their 2nd last movie in a saga to get there is the sad part of it. But better late than never. There is a reason that IW worked so well, because it had what MCU has always lacked before. A menacing Villain in the form of Thanos. A villain who carried with him the impending doom of Destiny. But the bigger achievement of IW was that it wasn’t a mess. I never thought putting so many characters together in one movie would work out. Some would overshadow the others (I mean Hulk got completely overshadowed) and it could just become a great idea in theory and not in practice. But the Russos made it work and work really really well. Endgame is a much better movie because of Infinity War.
Because on its own, it has its share of issues. That’s again not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It was as I said a fun experience, but personally just like the previous highest grossing movie Avatar (whose record Endgame might easily break) it has little replay value. And that’s also fine, not all movies need to have that. However, what this does is that it makes certain parts of the movie boring, especially on second viewing. The movie tries its best to make the consequences matter. But except for two characters –Hawkeye and Tony- it really doesn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t wanna make that comparison (fuck it I really wanted to) but real world drama like this is best left to DC. War, Alien Invasion, Vigilantes, crime, poverty, Traumatic past- you name it and DC (having the collective DNA of Nolan and Snyder) have been able to deal with it better. That’s why the dramatic parts in a good DC movie are the crux, the spectacle is just a bonus. Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy had some of the most unimaginative action scenes and particularly Batman’s hand to hand combat skills were weirdly shot. But still, it’s the scenes of dialogue between characters that are the most fascinating.

Hawkeye loses his family and turns into Ronin- a shadowy ruthless assassin who murders criminals who survived Thanos’ snap deeming them unworthy of life. Tony and Nebula are in space with only 2 days of Oxygen left, when they are rescued by Captain Marvel (whose only job in the movie is literally showing up at the last moment and win things without any struggle. Just like her movie.) When Tony returns he is so weak and already crippled by the PTSD he has been carrying since the first Avengers (though it sometimes disappears in Guest appearances in Spiderman: Homecoming) that he blames Cap for not being there when they needed him the most. In a short but effective scene by RDJ, he conveys the exact stakes and tone that was needed for this movie throughout. However other than that, the movie doesn’t do enough to show how the snap changed the universe or our earth least. How are people, how are the govts. And societies dealing with 50% of the population just disappearing. Cap does mention a few things like seeing Whales in the Hudson river or reduced pollution but its all talk and no show. Things just chug along until the movie kills its original villain – (Yes Thor decapitates a defeated, broken, limping Thanos. Somehow Superman stopping Zod by snapping his neck coz he had no choice doesn’t seem that bad does it?) and takes a 5 year jump. Now by sheer co-incidence a rat activates a quantum machine where Antman was trapped during the snap (as shown in the post credit scene of the blandest movie possible – Antman and the Wasp). He comes back and..well read this- My fan theory as to what would happen in Endgame was proven right.

Now in a large story like this, a few co-incidences are but expected. Especially when a movie starts dealing with Time travel…it’s even more expected. Nothing is going to perfectly fit together. But the amount of questions and glaring pot holes the movie doesn’t address even till the climax is astounding. As I said, once you remove your hype googles you might see the holes in the holy (Ya bitches. That’s a BvS reference in MCU’s swansong.) Yet the best and I say the really amazing parts of the movie begin when they finally start going into another timeline to retrieve the Infinity stones from different locations so that they can get all the people who had disappeared in the snap back.

This is then Marvel at its corniest best. The jokes are back. The quips are back. The spectacle is back. From then until the climax, where Thanos from another timeline is suddenly our villain now (Don’t ask) it’s just pure payback on your Marvel movie investments. There is just pure fan service after that with some iconic and well shot scenes. And one of the best third act battles in comic book history. However, I have come to the conclusion that the Russo Bros. are not great at handling super-powered characters. Captain America and Iron man are one thing but I really hate the unjust treatment given to two of the mightiest avengers – Hulk and Thor. Thor the Norse God of Thunder and protector of Earth is turned into a joke (no surprises there) but he doesn’t even do anything useful in the movie. Thor could technically be completely removed and it won’t make a difference to the story. If you saw Hulk get his ass beat in IW and wanted him to give Thanos or the Titans some payback then prepare for some incredible disappointment. Captain Marvel shows up at the end and then again is uselessly thrown away. Dr. Strange is just set aside and not allowed to exhibit his full magical potential but hey he did predict this scenario and allow it to happen.

Thanos is somehow able to handle all these attacks even without one of the Infinity stones (plot armour is the strongest stone) and finally….finally someone has to step in to stop him. Put on the Infinity stones themselves and risk taking the huge energy surge on their body to eliminate Thanos…. Of course it had to be Iron Man. Oops…spoiler alert I guess. I mean if you were paying attention from Infinity War it had to be him. RDJ again delivers a fantastic performs as you can see the life leave his eyes silently. Having left a safer world for his child to live in.

The movie still spends some more time giving proper ending for almost all the characters- except Hulk coz I think the Russos really hate him. It has a very confusing end for Captain America- Satisfying but logically confusing. And that I think is the essence of the movie. Satisfying… so much epic satisfaction in the final battle but logically (and by that I mean pre-established logic by the previous MCU movies) confusing movie. There are weird tonal shifts and sometimes I feel if given free reign the Russos might have wanted a more serious movie. The movie avoids making bold risky choices when it’s the only  super-hero movie guaranteed to make those and still win financial and critical acclaim, for simpler satisfying ones.

But it’s understandable…that’s the MCU way. They wouldn’t have wanted the end of an era to take any risks.  The slight risks taken by Guardians of the Galaxy 1 or Iron man 1 or Winter Soldier or Black Panther or Infinity war are avoided here. But the best part is—it’s done. It’s finally done. I mean not exactly- MCU is coming up with Spiderman Far from Home in 2 months and other movies already announced…but the original Avengers cycle which started in 2009 is done. We can get back to finally watching other movies for a while. Comic Book movies can finally get to experimenting again without worrying to match up to Marvel’s standards. I am not saying we’ll be seeing another BvS or Watchmen or TDK but still things are gonna be hopefully different. We have Joker coming in October and who knows if Warner Bros. will finally wake up after Endgame hype has died down to Release the Snyder cut of Justice League.

 All my criticism for Marvel apart- Endgame was an epic conclusion but didn’t really need to be 3 hours long. It didn’t have the substance to carry that length. It is an adequately enjoyable movie and obviously the hardcore fans will enjoy it a whole fucking lot. As an independent movie or even if combined with Infinity War, it doesn’t have the same intensity or pace. It is like an exciting new cocktail which feels and looks very innovative but doesn’t age well like the whiskey it’s based on.

Since Endgame is such a difficult movie to rate, I am coming up with a new rating for it.

Endgame is Fun but not gonna age well.

P.S,:- Endgame is
1) A long 3 hour movie
2) Has a lot of violence and death and serious scenes
3) Heroes have lost and are questioning themselves
4) The movie has a bloated middle act
5) It has a scene where one hero stops the other from fighting him by merely saying a beloved’s name.
6) The directors have had to frequently explain the movie.

So the movie is almost everything DCEU movies, particularly BvS was criticized for and yet this one appreciated.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Tashkent Files (absolutely spoiler free) review

It took Bollywood 106 years to finally come up with a good intense political conspiracy thriller…doesn’t matter if it took me 4 days to finally write this review




As a kid growing up, I was very much attracted to history shows on the Discovery channel…particularly the ones involving some conspiracy theories like Hitler’s suicide, JFK assassination etc. I ahve always said that even though India is a land of mystics, we sadly never had any such cool mysteries. With the exception of a few like Subhash Chandra Bose’s death, the Black Taj Mahal, Nana Saheb Peshwa’s Treasure, the city of Dwarka etc. Our 2nd Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri’s death at Tashkent in Uzbekistan seemed like a decent but least interesting of the lot. I mean an old man died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. Not much to it. Also, no one really cares about Shashtri (This movie will tell you why you should). The factors surrounding the death were interesting – he died exactly after signing a peace treaty with Pakistan and in Soviet Russia during the height of the Cold War (You could add that phrase to anything and it suddenly becomes mysterious and cool. For example: “In Soviet Russia during the height of the Cold War, a lonely cow grazes on an endless collective farm”. Don’t tell me that doesn’t sound like an opening for a John Le Careé or a Robert Ludlum Novel or maybe a BBC documentary on collective farming during the cold war.)  But for me, LBS’s death was nothing more than a footnote on my list of cool Indian mysteries.

This movie took that footnote and made a fascinating study, not just of the mystery but of the Indian socio-political climate. I have seldom seen an Indian movie with such surgical precision peeling off masks of our most generic yet ever present characters. A converted liberal social worker with short hair and derision of authority (Mandira Bedi), a Padma Bhushan awardee Historian who has no time to listen to any other arguments (Pallavi Joshi) , a reporter who’ll stop at nothing to get to the truth (Shweta basu Prasad), a proud Hindu who sees malice behind any muslim name (Pankaj Tripathi), shrewd politcians embodying the notion that politics is indeed theatre (Mithunda and Naseeruddin) etc. These are all characters we have seen in some shape or form on screen before, where Agnihotri succeeds is giving them some sort of depth. Putting them around a mystery and making them a reflection of our times.  They are not just stereotypical cut outs where you realize hours before the climax as to how these characters will exactly react. The drama between them forms a majority of the story….while the ghost of LBS’ death lurks around the corner.

The story is about a hungry young reporter who’ll stop at nothing to be successful, to find the next big scoop. She suddenly gets a call from an unknown source, testing her Shashtri trivia before sending her some pretty revealing documents. Her publishing of the scoop eventually leads to opposition party leader (Mithun) to raise such a ruckus in public demanding an enquiry into Indian govt.’s response to LBS’ death, that soon a committee is called upon. The majority of the other cast comprise of members of that committee discussing the various factors/theories surrounding the death at Tashkent with the exception of ruling party’s home minister (Naseeruddin shah) who appears to have his own plans in mind while constituting the committee.

The majority of the drama and the investigation aspects happen in a single room where the committee is meeting. The interaction of the characters with each other is reminiscent and (knowing Agnihotri’s style) definitely inspired by the classic movie 12 Angry Men. While following such minute details by mere dialogue can be a bit tedious, Agnihotri makes certain intelligent cinematic choices to insert highlighted documents and actual interviews of reporters, descendants of Shastri, references of actual books etc. in the movie. These aspects kind of also lend a docu-drama feel to the movie and makes it more than just some potboiler conspiracy like The Da Vinci Code.

But the problem for me personally begins when the movie flows as though you are already aware of all the details and shifts its focus way too many times. When the characters debate small details like a knocked over thermos or introduce us to some rogue spy assassin currently living in Uzbekistan- it gets a bit hard to follow. Mystery is my favourite genre to read and write. I have always believed that to get an audience involved in the mystery the events must primarily be presented first- albeit from a skewed perspective. Then shining a light upon the missing details is the eventual unravelling of the mystery. Take for example a Sherlock Holmes episode (TV series starring Benedict Cucumberwatch)- it gives you a brief glimpse at the event which occurs then sets Holmes onto investigate it. Or look at any Sherlock Holmes original stories – Almost all of them begin with a mysterious client calling upon Holmes and Watson and describing the peculiar incident to them. I am not saying that’s not a format that can’t be played around with- but that’s what a mystery thriller is. If the movie would have took its time establishing the incident with at least known details (perhaps with a dramatic visualization) then it would have been even more interesting to follow. The characters always talk as if everyone knows every goddamn detail of the story and hence there is no one – not even our reporter protagonist- with whom we take this investigative journey.

The dialogue between the characters sometimes natural and organic, sometimes suddenly gets overtly dramatic and becomes a shout fight for no particular reason. However, those instances are few and far in between and the movie does near the end manage to keep the dialogue crisp and to the point. It’s like this, if you asked me how exactly Ragini Fule – our hero journalist- arrives at her final conclusion, I wouldn’t be able to recall that journey. I can however tell you how many times she cried or was frustrated or scared. Just goes to show – Shweta Basu Prasad does a fantastic job as Ragini. Particulary her climactic speech earned claps in my theatre. She has the right mix of anger, selfishness and patriotism in her eyes at all times. The rest of the cast are all stellar performances as well with special mention for Pallavi Joshi in one specific scene and an equally eye-opening pre-climactic speech by Mithunda. That speech is the best ripping apart of our society that I have ever seen.

Now am not stupid enough to assume that the claims made by the movie are 100% accurate but it is definitely some food for thought. Agnihotri is anything if not bold. His last movie Buddha in Traffic Jam was a somewhat messy but courageous endeavor. To make a movie on the Indian intellectual’s elite dubious connections with Maoist terrorist movements is no small joke (Go watch it, its free on Youtube). Agnihotri is a bit of an outcast in hypocritical, ultra-secular Bollywood. But that makes him perfectly placed to make movies like these. If you are even remotely acquainted with modern Indian history- this movie should make you ponder a lot. When the movie towards the end reveals actual KGB documents (with a certain Indian politicians name redacted to avoid direct attacks) made me remember Joker’s line from the recently released trailer of Joker (starring Joaquin Phoenix). To paraphrase it- I used to think my nation’s history, its politics was a tragedy…now I realize it’s always been a comedy.

A bit tighter editing and definitely better background music would have earned this movie a higher rating. But as of now it is definitely – Worth Watching Once.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Kalank movie review

Kalank spoiler-fre…lets face it, no one gives a shit if this is spoiler free or not.


Ya well, let me start this in reverse by giving my review in advance.

This movie is a Waste of time.

In my 80+ movie reviews (Ya they got deleted, I managed to restore some of them though) over the last 6 years, this has been my subjectively designed rating system from highest to lowest-

Total Timepass
Worth Watching Once
Watch if you have Nothing else to do
Save money watch on TV (and/or on a streaming service)
Waste of Time

Well, call me a generally positive person or misguided cinephile but I usually end up giving even the most forgettable of movies, a “Watch if you have Nothing else to do” or at least a “Save money watch on TV”. As far as I can recall, only 2-3 movies in my film reviewing history have had the lowest “Waste of time” rating. This may also be because I don’t watch all the movies that come out, only the ones which I feel like watching. But sometimes, I just decide to go out of my comfort zone and decide to give a movie which never excited me in the first place a chance. Because I have been wrong before. Tamasha is a prime example of a movie that I didn’t watch in the theatre when it came out and found it to be one of the most fascinating Hindi romantic drama movies ever. I mean EVER.

Having said that, I didn’t go into Kalank expecting a pleasant surprise of that kind. Because my one and only litmus test for particularly Hindi movies is not the marketing or the even the trailers. It’s the storytellers…the directors/producers. So if there is a movie directed by Sriram Raghavan or Anurag Kashyap or Raju Hirani or Vishal Bharadwaj…I know what kind of movie to expect and whether I should give it a shot or not. As much as I have love-hate relationship with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I do know when he has written/directed a movie- it is going to be well crafted. Sometimes it’s also about the production house. I mean I know it’s going to be a different movie if Anurag Kashyap or Vishal Bharadwaj or Vidhu Vinod Chopra or Excel productions (Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar) are producing it. If it’s a Dharma productions movie (Karan Johar) it strictly meant candy floss entertainment and a strict no-no from me a few years ago. But since last few years I think Dharma productions started diversifying and producing/distributing fascinating content like Brothers, Bahubali, Raazi, Kesari etc. So when I saw Karan Johar’s name attached to a film…I was intrigued but I didnt know the director or the writer so I wasnt. Then I saw that it starred Madhuri and Alia and I was intrigued but then I saw Varun Dhawan and I…wasn’t. Then I saw Sanjay Dutt and I was intrigued and then I saw it was some multi-starrer family period drama and I wasn’t.

And that exactly what the movie is. Up and down. A confusing mess. Kalank starts with a very stylish title sequence showing only glimpses of the main star cast doing certain things and then flashes back to 2 years earlier to follow the story. While this kind of structure is a favourite structure of mine, the movie just messes it up completely. Suddenly you have Alia Bhat 10 years later narrating this story to a writer. But then the movie shows parts which she couldn’t have known. Even though that can be forgiven as a minor oversight, the movie sometimes includes her voice-over narration and sometimes doesn’t. It doesn’t stick to a tone.

The story is set in Husnabad a suburb or maybe a city close to Lahore (the movie doesn’t make it clear) in pre-partition India. There is no point in me recalling the plot here but it involves Alia Bhatt being forced to marry Aditya Roy Kapur a rich Choudhary news paper owner, whose first wife who is dying from cancer (Sonakshi) arranged that marriage, Sanjay Dutt is his stern father and Madhuri is an aging tawaif / Dancer (Because of course she is) and Varun Dhawan is her illegitimate child she had with some powerful guy in the city. There is a love triangle which between Alia, Aditya and Varun which is a major part of the story and there is a hidden secret which the movie tries to play around with but am sure even reading my plot summary you must have guessed what it is. There are also things like partition related communal riots, artisans losing their jobs because of industrialization, newspapers shaping social opinions, bull-fights in the Hindu Kush mountains  (yes CGI bull fights with a bull who can do only one move), classical music and kathak dancing, elaborate Dussehra festivals in pre-partition muslim dominated areas with performances so spectacular that their budget that would rival modern day movies and of course item numbers. (Kriti Sanon is hot. I don’t care)

The movie at 3 hours is way too long. And although it tries really hard to be a Shakespeare-esque family drama in the line of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet with family secrets and politics forming the background of a love/revenge story. But a movie like this requires either the raw,dark energy of Vishal Bharadwaj to make it work or the aesthetic grand scale of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Director Abhishek Varman (2 states) tries desperately hard but fails at it. Only appearing to be a gareebon ka Bhansali with elaborate sets that don’t make sense and aren’t captured as well cinematically. He also lacks the venom and intensity Bharadwaj or even Kashyap could bring to such a drama. The dialogue lacks the flair to be anything interesting. The music by Pritam is passable and even they eventually give Madhuri a chance to dance (I mean let’s face it, they only cast her in that role for her dancing skills. I mean am not complaining. Dedh Ishqiya did it a million times better by giving her a great character too) they have a utterly forgettable song which filmed the dullest possible way you could film a goddess like Madhuri in her element as a dancer.

Not to say that there arent interesting elements in there. As I said, it has Shakespeare-esque potential and with a tighter script could have worked fairly well. There is a good movie in there, but I don’t think the writer (I don’t know this person. But I can bet he/she is the producer’s cousin, maasi etc.) The film has a very old-school feel to it and I don’t mean it in a good way. It tries desperately to be this long, musical family drama/love story like Waqt or K3G but doesn’t quite have the intensity or the charm to hold my interest. I read that Yash Chopra had conceptualised this movie 15 years ago and it shows. Maybe he or hell even Karan Johar could’ve made it a more fun experience. The movie languishes at a pace which is not keeping with the times and nor with its own story. It has like multiple endings with almost every character narrating a voice over ending when only Alia had started telling the story in the first place. There is a journalist cum writer who is writing this story, as well as modern day Aditya Roy Kapur is also telling this story…also, Varun Dhawan says something when he dies (I already said this is a spoiler review) as well as all the main characters are in heaven like version of Husnabad in white clothes also there is Alia in the end talking to us.  It’s like the writers had 3-4 different endings in mind and they just decided to film all of them. Then they forget to tell the editor which one to keep and the movie got released with ALL of them.

This movie except for one or two scenes was a completely forgettable experience. And a boring one. Very surprising that Alia would choose a movie like this after being in Raazi and Gully Boy. She has become my favourite actress working currently after Deepika and although she is the highlight of the performances, she can’t do much with a movie that doesn’t flow well. The rest of the cast actually have some good performances, some scenes are good but again it’s the overall movie that’s a let-down. I usually respect movies so much that I don’t even go peeing for longer so that I don’t miss anything. I didn’t respect this movie at all. Skip it. Watch Tashkent files instead. Am watching that today. Review coming soon.

PS- Avengers Endgame hype is on!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

SHAZAM! (spoiler free) review

“Even though am a huge fan of super-hero movies, I dont think we are getting too much variety. I mean Aquaman was visually stunning but as a movie it doesnt have any repeat value for me. Everything’s the same..even DC is following Marvel formula now. I superhero movie are bor-“


“That was magical!”


DC or Marvel, the reason most of us these days love super hero movies or comic books in general is that may be you relate with the mythological 'Gods among us' aspect that DC stories tend to have or the relatable heroes with humanity aspect that most Marvel stories have. Aside from all the action or the operatic epic story-lines that examine our own humanity through these fantastic characters, think of the very first reason that as a kid attracted you to comic books. It wasn't the psychological depth of Batman or the social discrimination themes of X-men or the jokes the Avengers crack (yes that's what they have been boiled down to these days) was purely wanting to be a superhero. As a kid you wanted nothing more than to magically transform into a super-hero... but without all the mutation, criminal activity or alien genocide tragic backstory behind it. The genius of Shazam (Yes I know his real name was Captain Marvel. But there is a wholeass story that I dont wanna get into right now) as a character is just that. Its about a  15 year old kid who can turn into a flying,super- strong adult superhero by just saying a magic word.

Didn't you as kids in lunchrooms ever have the conversation about what would you do if you had super strength or hyper-speed or laser beams? (I mean I still have them coz it matters to me more than budgeting) This movie actually celebrates that aspect of the fandom. The one thing that always bugs me about any fantasy fiction (be it Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Spiderman or zombie movies) is when the protagonist finds out that he or she has magic powers or that some fantastic element exist but they initially refuse to accept it or are burdened by their own personal issues to actually be fascinated by it. That's the thing the especially bugs me about Harry Potter as a character. Bitch you are an abused kid who found out he is a wizard...any real kid would be putting their heart and life into figuring out EVERY FUCKING THING that they could do with those powers. It feels many a times that characters in these stories don't ever have fantasy stories of their own.  How can you not want to fly on brooms every damn time if you had that power?! How can you living in the modern world are confused as to why dead people are walking and eating live people? Did you never play a video game?! Didn't you ever read kids stories as a kid?! I mean if you ever had any super-power in real life- be it climbing walls or kicking really fast. I bet the first thing any teenager exposed to so many games,books and movies would do is try to be a super-hero!

The best thing about DC movies has always been that they place Gods among us. They place these weird characters (even non-superpowered ones like Batman) in our real world and see how they would actually react and how the world would react to them. Remember the first flight scene in Man of Steel when Clark Kent first learns to fly? He is smiling like a kid who just learned he could fly. Coz thats what just happened! (People still think MoS is an emotion-less movie). In Wonder-woman too, when Diana first discovers her powers she immediately wants to know what else she can do with them. Even in Aquaman where young Arthur is told by Vulko that he can swim really fast and breathe under-water, he is awed by the things he can do.

While the earlier DC movies have concentrated on how we as a society would react to these meta-humans (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad), the later movies are beginning to concentrate on how these powerful beings would react to us. Wonder Woman is between the two-capturing both society’s reaction to a God as well as our impact on her. From Aquaman onwards, this has started moving into the other direction where Arthur Curry deals with his identity as well as his responsibility to his hidden underwater kingdom. Shazam takes this focus on the personal lives of a meta-human to another level.

When Billy Batson  gets his powers, he isn't completely freaked out by it or wants to turn back. The first thing he does is find out his recently made foster home friend Freddy. Freddy is a huge DC fanboy who has a collection of real world DC memorablia like the Batarang from BvS and numerous paper-clippings, merchandise etc. Billy and Freddy are maybe initially freaked out but within minutes they get to what any god-damn 15 year old would do if he was transformed into a magical super-hero... start testing powers. This is how Shazam even being a comedic movie still is weirdly realistic. The humor comes organically from what would really happen if two teenagers were testing out powers for the first time and not because Iron Man hasn't cracked a joke for 10 minutes.

Other than the appealing to the wannabe superhero little boy in you, what the movie really has going for it is the family aspect. I mean most movies particularly the ones appealing to kids, try to shove in a family message which doesn't appeal to me personally. But this movie treats the family part very sincerely and genuinely stopping just two steps short of being cheesy. There were scenes in the movie especially when a 3 year old Billy Batson is unable to find his mom, that teared me up a bit. When Billy finally finds out that who is real family is and then has to transform into Shazam to save them...fucking hell..that scene really hit me in the heart. In the age of epic inter-galactic battles or a toxic society reacting to super-heroes, a movie having that kind of heart was refreshing.

Zachary Levi as the adult superhero Shazam captures perfectly the feeling of being a child on the inside. Even though they never share screen time, Asher Angel as Billy Batson and Zachery Levi as Shazam have the perfect chemistry that each looks like a magical progression of the other. The surprise package was Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddie. I could relate to him the most as he is a sarcastic, know-it-all comic fanboy who uses his knowledge of comic books to mask his insecurities. (That got a li'l too personal). Freddie and Billy slowly but surely develop a natural friendship which forms the core of the movie. All the other supporting cast is great especially Faithe C Herman as lil Darla is just wayyy too cute. Billy Batson's foster parents especially Cooper Andrews  as Victor Vasquez is a perfect gentle giant fatherly figure. While a movie like this understandably concentrates on the hero, it surprisingly opens with the villain's backstory - giving Dr. Sivana a slight bit more depth than I thought it would have.  Mark Strong is of course a great actor especially in negative roles. While in terms of other DC villains, he is not the greatest as a character coz well Dr. Sivana isn't that interesting as it is. Any comic book fan knows who Shazam’s real villain is – Black Adam. (Oh Btw, The Rock has been slated to play him). I understand why they use him in the first movie coz if they had Black Adam (THE FREAKING ROCK) in Shazam’s first movie obviously the hero would’ve been overshadowed.

Shazam is a small, personal (low-budget at around 70-80 million) super-hero movie. And it keeps its focus on the personal aspect of it. That's not to say there isn't a grand climactic battle with some slo-mo and POV punches (nods to Man of Steel and a certain Mr. Snyder)  Director David F Sandberg has mostly made horror movies up to now and he uses those skills here as well. Shazam might be a kids movie but there are some interestingly dark moments in it. Sandberg also has a charming social media presence and a hilarious taste for comedy. This is felt wholly through out the movie and mainly its marketing. I really think a lot of movies could learn a thing or two from this movie’s marketing.  What you see in the trailers just gives a basic idea of who and what Shazam is going to be about – A 15 year old kid who lives in a shared foster home, suddenly gets transported to a magical cave where a wizard grants him powers that turn him into an adult powerful superhero. In case you didn't know absolutely anything about Shazam, that's what the trailers let you know. And that my friends isn't even 0.5% of the movie. The trailer so brilliantly choose to hide its best parts that you’ll never complain that it showed a lot.

Although the music is a bit too nostalgia baiting for me (They literally re-purposed the John Williams Superman theme for Shazam) it isn't too bad. Most of the humor as I said is organic to the premise of a kid discovering his powers, but some of the jokes look a bit forced. (almost Marvel-esque) But not more than a few. Sandberg has said that the inspiration behind the movie were kids movies of the 80’s –Gremlins, Goonies, Ghostbusters, E.T. etc. Adventure + horror + family. And He really does well to emulate the feel coupled with some modern comic book movie sensibilities.

Even though I still hate Warner Bros. /DC for butchering Justice League (#ReleasetheSnydercut) and Suicide Squad and stopping their directors from elevating the genre to newer heights. I kinda like the new direction they are taking after that debacle. Even though the movie is chock-full of references to the Worlds of DC, it isn't set within any particular continuity. You don't need to watch 8 movies to enjoy it. WB is concentrating more on making self-contained movies that you should enjoy on their own. They are also offering so much variety from an immigrant story/first contact movie (Man of Steel) to a socio-political operatic epic – (BvS), from a first world war story/discovery of humanity (Wonder Woman) to a fantastical underwater kingdom (Aquaman) to a kid’s movie about a teenager who turns into a adult superhero. Its a more wider buffet to choose from. Which except for the Snyder’s 5 movie arc was the original plan (If only the fuckers would've let it happen Snyder basically was making an Endgame before the Endgame). They are making a truly diverse multiverse. Not TV episodes for the next season.   Although a mid-credits scene sets up a sequel, I personally thought it was unnecessary, since the movie ended on a Super note. (Also, Warner Bros really needs to sort its actors’ contract issues out)

So go ahead, take your kids to it to enjoy this one, go in yourself and let the kid within you enjoy. Shazam is Total Timepass!

PS:- I have been told by multiple people that they like me listing Easter Eggs/references, so here they are (mild spoiler alert. But don't worry, I will list them without context) 
  •       The Batarang, Superman bullet etc. Are obvious. Am skipping the really obvious ones. 
  •          Shazam and Freddy are playing Mortal Kombat in which Shazam is playing the Thunder God Rayden. Shazam himself has lightening based powers. DC has frequently collaborated with Mortal Kombat creators to create games like Injustice. A certain character also screams “Finish Him” in Shao Khan’s voice from Mortal Kombat. Same character who also looks a bit like Ryu from Street Fighter also screams “Hadoken” while throwing a laser ball. That's a Street fighter AND Mortal Kombat reference in one movie!
  • .       Although the movie is set in Philadelphia, the name of the school the foster kids go to is Fawcett school. This is a reference to Billy Batson’s city in the comics and also to the original company that owned Shazam before DC bought it- Fawcett comics.
  • .       There is a scene where Shazam and Freddy are discussing the length of his powers – When they say “More powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”. This is a reference to Superman’s description in the widly popular Superman radio serial from the 50’s –“Faster than a speeding bullet, More powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”

Sunday, March 17, 2019

POST-CREDIT SCENES - Why I love and kinda hate them

You are still here?....It’s over…go home..Go..”

Ferris Bueller’s day off was a movie so ahead of its time that it probably predicted the whole post credits era of storytelling and got to parodying it 20 years before Nicky Fury walked out at the end of Iron man 1 to the delight of the few people who had stayed back after the credits started rolling.
But as much as many people would like to believe, Marvel didn’t invent post credit scenes. Neither did they invent shared universes (But that’s a different story for a different time).  A few movies from the 80’s like Airplane or The Producers had post-credit scenes just for the fun of it. Jackie Chan movies had blooper reels play during the credits. The Pirates of the Caribbean series also had some funny scenes.
MCU (meaning Marvel cinematic universe as run by Disney Marvel) probably wasn’t even the first one to use it in place of what was earlier the cliff-hanger ending in movies or the season-finale style tease on TV. X-men: The last stand had an ending with Professor X waking up to talk to a nurse. However, that can also be said to have been just fan-service as there were no apparent plans to expand the X-men trilogy after that point (Not that I know of. There are rumors that stand-alone movies were being planned). So it’s not like they were teasing the next planned movie. But Marvel in 2008 already had a very ambitious plan in mind. So when the first Iron man movie released and it had that Nick Fury scene, it wasn’t just fan service…it was actually teasing what direction they were gonna go next. Although the Avengers coming together seemed impossible at that point, kudos to Marvel for really changing the face of comic book movies and cinematic story-telling as we knew it.
Now teasing the next movie of a character used to be done either in the actual climax of the movie (In Batman Begins, Gordon shows a Joker card left by someone on a crime scene to Batman) or with a simple on screen title declaring “James Bond will return” (Let’s face it- World conquering villains, an attractive but flawed hero with incredible gadgets, secret identities and action scenes- the Bond movies are essentially comic book movies). Comic book movies weren’t that big a deal and were seen as a risky genre which sometimes makes good money. The next one only happened if the first made money. So rarely anyone teased the next movie because they didn’t have anything planned that way. Even if Batman Begins teased the Joker or TDK ended with Batman taking blame for Harvey Dent’s crime…it wasn’t necessarily an advertisement for the next movie. It was the good ol’ cliff-hanger, meant to keep you excited but only for the next Batman movie.

“You think you are the only superhero? You are a part of a bigger universe…you just don’t know it yet”

Since Marvel was going for a shared universe with multiple characters having their own movies and eventually teaming up, the post-credit become a good story-telling tool to link an Iron Man movie with a Thor one without having Thor actually show up at the end. Keeping it post the credits was a stylistic choice. Director Jon Favreau of Iron man 1 & 2 had said in an interview that it was meant to be wink at the fans because nobody ever believed an Avenger’s movie would ever happen. The dialogue was carefully chosen to almost break the 4th wall and tease delighted fans with a wise reveal on par with a particularly skilled married seductress. A tradition was born which was so popular that many movies started having 2 post credit scenes- one mid-credits and one after all the titles are done. Marvel themselves parodied it in Avengers (The team eating Shawrama) and Guardians of Galaxy Vol 2. So did others like Deadpool (owned by Fox at that time) who literally used the Ferris Bueller scene and even poked fun at Nick Fury’s scene from Iron Man 1.

Over the years, the fame (or notoriety) of the post-credit scenes has grown so much that people waited for stuff to happen at the end of all comic book movies. As much as a shocking twist is considered a part of suspense movies, the post credit scene became a part of comic book movies in the minds of people. It grew so much that soon people started to wait at the end of horror or other fantastical genre movies for a tease for the next movie.

However many people failed to realize that a post credit scene is something integral to the MCU and not everyone has a shared movie universe planned. Even film-makers didn’t realize this as many studios rushed to cash in on the shared universe concept and we saw post credit scenes in movies like Green Lantern (2011) and The Mummy (2017) try to bait its audience into its universe without any proper plans. The worst affected by this trend was of course Marvel’s big rival – DC.

“The world changed when Superman flew across the skies….it changed again when he didn’t”

When Nolan finally finished his epic Dark Knight trilogy in 2012, Marvel had already tasted success with their first Avengers movie (Phase 1). Warner Bros. was eager to get in on the action and employed papa Nolan to steer the ship into a shared universe direction. They wanted him to do to Superman what he did for Batman by rebooting him and then subsequently set the stage to branch off into a shared universe. Nolan laid his faith in one man – Zack Snyder to bring Superman to the big screen.
Man of Steel (2013) was a big success for WB as it was their most successfully non-Batman comic book movie ever. Even though Snyder still had his haters, many critics liked the movie as well. The movie did well…but it was something different. Not just the tone or the superior cinematography but the story-telling as well. There were no open name drops for other characters and no set up for future movies. Something which the audiences had started to expect by now.  It only had two major easter eggs for the keen eye – A Lexcorp oil tanker and a Wayne satellite destroyed during fight scenes alluding to the existence of other popular DC characters. It didn’t have a post credit scene which many people were accustomed to by that point. It was in essence a stand-alone origin film.

Initial interviews and articles show that Snyder wasn’t really open for a Marvel style multi-character universe- he only had a 5 film arc in mind for Superman. But studio managed to convince him to jumpstart a shared universe and Snyder being Snyder knew that he had to distinguish himself from the competition. Now this is not the first article to point out how he did it. John Arryn Garza at DC Films Hub wrote this fantastic article which you can read here -  

Essentially Snyder decided to do away with the post-credit scene to create a unique story-telling device that would make a movie self-contained yet leave room open for other characters as well. The climactic fight at the end of Man of Steel (MoS) between Superman and General Zod in Metropolis is used as the opening setting for Batman V Superman :Dawn of Justice. It was smart of Snyder, writers Chris Terrio and David Goyer to take this route. MoS was criticized for something many superhero/monster movies had gotten a pass for over the last 50 years. It was criticized for showing city-wide destruction caused by two super-beings fighting and not caring about collateral damage it could cause. (Something that also happened in New York in Avengers but somehow no one pointed that out). Leave it to Snyder to take something negative and turn it into a positive- they literally used that criticism as a valid point for the next movie. Bruce Wayne witnesses the fight and this is what fuels his rage against Superman for not caring about the collateral damage. This time we witness the scene from a normal citizen/Bruce Wayne’s perspective on the ground and the ensuing destruction with it. The scenes are shot so well, you will find many videos on youtube combining the ‘Black Zero event’ into one seamless scene that fits perfectly well together from both Superman’s above ground as well as Bruce Wayne’s on ground perspective. Essentially the ending of one movie was the beginning of another but from a different perspective.

BvS doesn’t have any post-credit scenes (while some argue it could have used one). It drops some key connections to other characters in the middle of the movie itself -The Knightmare scene with flash running back in time to warn Bruce, Lex Luthor’s ‘communion’ with Steppenwolf 's hologram just before his arrest and the (in) famous Lex Luthor’s metahuman research files on Wonder-Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. Wonder-woman being a major character in this movie, her origin is teased more than the others.  While some argue that setting up other characters in the middle of the movie may have made the film a bit bloated, it was probably done that way for two reasons. One being that WB was obviously desperate at this point to branch out all the other characters fast and two being that Snyder and co. wanted Superman’s death to be the last thing that you remember going out. Not some post credit interruption that you will think about more.

But alas, due to the biased trashing of the movie by critics and cowardice on WB’s part to not release the fully fleshed cut of the movie, the movie didn’t perform as well as WB would have liked. They panicked and butchered their next movie – Suicide Squad- before it got released. They added a lot of Marvel style humor and wait for it…a mid credit’s scene. Admittedly though this movie wasn’t written or directed by Snyder meaning it didnt need to have the same narrative technique…David Ayer still admits that it wasn’t the movie that he originally filmed. Although the movie was changed drastically by a marketing team it carries somewhat of Snyder’s prologue-epilogue style and opens with Superman’s funeral and Amanda Waller mouthing those words about the effect of Superman's death on the world in the first few minutes.

Wonder Woman which was penned by Snyder also opened with a plot device set up in BvS. An old war photograph. I wonder if Snyder co-opted this idea from his proposed film ‘The Last Photograph’ which was also about a war photo. It also had post-credit scenes shot but Snyder and Director Patty Jenkins decided to go against it. But by this time, WB’s panic levels were reaching sky-high levels. Their greed not letting a barely nascent cinematic universe flourish as planned. Justice League was originally again supposed to open with Lois Lane at Superman’s funeral and we would have started the movie through her perspective. The whole drama behind JL is pretty well known now and that was the end of what could’ve been a great alternative experiment in serialized storytelling. Snyder and co. by no means invented the recap or prologue/epilogue but it still was an interesting story-telling choice much like the Post credit scene originally was.

DC’s next movie Aquaman was supposed to pick up with when he leaves in a truck at the end of Justice League. It opened differently barely referencing Justice League. WB decided to change its approach and Aquaman also had a proper post credit scene teasing his next movie.

There has been a lot of debate about the post credit scene as a story telling device. While some argue it essentially makes the movie you are watching a 2 hour commercial for the next one, others say it is nothing but a harmless tease. Director James Mangold of Logan said that he didn’t feel like he needed any post credit scenes after such a dramatic and heartfelt ending. The surprise was the many people expected it. Just because it is a comic book movie.
I personally had initially loved post credit scenes,a tease is something that fascinates me. The excitement for the unknown, the wait for it is very much a process I enjoy. But having said that this fun little tool has now been reduced to gimmick. An obligatory one. Even Joss Whedon initially didn’t want to insert a post/mid credits scene during Avengers: age of Ultron.
Whatever becomes obligatory starts becoming less fun as time goes on…what was once a surprise has now become a formality. The post credit scene has become such an important tool that many MCU movies have had decent success only because of people being curious about what next movie is being teased. Antman and the Wasp and Captain Marvel are such examples. Mediocre movies which only had success because they had this connection to the eagerly awaited Avengers: Endgame.
Will Marvel ever change the post-credit trend? Well not in the near future at least. They know they have a winning trick in hand and are gonna use it till it stops earning them money. So the post-credit tease is here to stay for a while at least. 

WB will obviously try to copy the formula in lieu of doing something original at least until the management changes or they stop making money off of it. But there is one thing where they could be doing something different from MCU. Something bigger…something if which they can properly exploit could potentially change cinematic story-telling again…..

Written and researched by Ambarish Deshpande. (Twitter- @ambarish17)
Thanks to DC Films Hub, John Arryn Garza, other youtubers like CinemaWins, Patrick Willems Chris Wong Swenson for inspiration.
Thanks to My wife Madhura for being my bouncing board of ideas.

P.S. – No I already teased my next article in the climax, not gonna tease it post-credits.