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47 Meters Down (2017)
A torture for divers
I'm used to a lot of nonsense when it comes to diving in films and I can usually tolerate it, but "47 Meters Down" has such enormous disregard for the physics of diving that I couldn't even enjoy its cheap pleasures. The two girls stay about 45 min in a depth of 47 meters (in shorties - they shouldn't shiver because of the sharks but from the cold). With 10 liter tanks and normal air. The "experienced" diver (who needs way more air than the total rookie!) "explains" that they have to stop 5(!) minutes on their way up for decompression (the duration of their dive doesn't seem to matter, it's always 5 minutes - lol). Fact: For a 24 min dive to 45 Meter you already have 28 minutes of decompression time (1 min at 12 m, 4 min at 9 m, 7 min at 6 m and 16 min at 3 m); I didn't find a decompression table for longer dive time but I'm positive their decompression times would have been way above an hour. Nitrogen poisoning - especially when combined with hypothermia and stress - can start right away and already in depths from 30 m plus. Long dives with normal air below 40 meters also lead inevitably to oxygen poisoning which also increases over time. Last but not least because of the water pressure of almost 6 bars in 47 meters each breath takes in about 6 times the amount of air (compared to the surface). That's about 18 l each breath. A full 10 l tank (200 bar) contains about 2000 l of air. Do the math. When planning a deep dive to below 40 m you usually expect 5-10 minutes bottom time max because including descend, ascend and decompression that's all the time you have before you run out of air - and you'd take 12 or 15 l tanks. Apart from the fact that physics were not dumbed down but rather declared non-existent in the script, the movie consisted of cheap scares and atrocious dialogue. Mandy Moore, why do you have to do something like that? At least the digital sharks looked alright - but of course did as the script needed them to without any attempt to justify their behavior.
The Jungle Book (2016)
If you love Kipling's books you will be disappointed
My father read the books to me as a child, I read them again and again over the years and I've read them to my own children. You could say I'm a fan. But of course I also love the original Disney version which is probably still my favourite classically animated film. Now we got an unbelievably realistically rendered CG version which kind of wants to be like the animated film - or at least exploit its most beloved moments - but also wants to be really impressive. It feels wrong the moment the "real" animals start to talk. (I should note that I saw the dubbed German version; I'm pretty sure the original voice cast is much better but that won't make the fundamental flaws disappear.) The animals look and move incredibly real but they talk like humans. The voices convey human emotions but because of the attempted realism we got no matching facial expressions. The animation doesn't want to anthropomorph but the voices (and the script) do. More: Despite being such a visual film the narrative is done mostly by dialogue. And the dialogue isn't written very well. It doesn't have the light, witty tone of the Disney classic (when attempted it fails because of the reasons mentioned above) and it doesn't live up to the deep (but earned) pathos of Kipling. It's just so-so - a typical Hollywood script that doesn't take any chances but throws in a Balu who talks like a "cool dad", because...? And what was this terrible, terrible version of King Louie? Too big, too scary but then... SINGING? This would have been an awesome film if they had let go of the Disney version as a blueprint and made a serious adventure film after the books with a lot less talking and a lot more showing. (And please finally the real Kaa, Mowgli's wise friend who is probably the most awesome character of the books...) But of course this is Disney. They got the money, they got the tools but they also gotta do the family version.
I didn't think it possible to make a Transformer movie worse than the 2nd one, but compared to Age of Extinction Revenge of the Fallen was quite watchable. I still cannot believe how terrible the editing was. No rhythm, no style, no sense - like a rough cut done by a rookie. I guess the editor quit early, because he/she couldn't stand to watch this garbage of trite, senseless dialog (if you can call it dialog rather than strings of words we all heard 10.000 times before), "action" without purpose and sexist camera angles any longer. I really did like the first one, which was a fun ride, I could tolerate the third, but the forth I'll never ever want to watch again. It's not even possible to pick at the "plot" or the "characters", because there simply wasn't any of that. Plot, who needs it, if you have the money for hundreds of full cgi slow motion shots that tell absolutely nothing. If, for a moment, I try to ignore that there was no story to follow, there's still that this whole "world" that's so elaborately created, has no physical rules whatsoever. Transformers may crush the concrete floor in one shot but seem to have no weight at all in the next. Bad transformers are destroyed by a hit but human beings survive explosions right next to them. Optimus removes a sword stuck in his own torso, then kills a bad guy by sticking the same sword in his torso. Elevators stay open, because the scene isn't done. Metal ("Transformium") can suddenly fly through the air but when it "manifests" (or whatever) it's apparently heavy. Your brain tries to find some guidance to make this fantasy world believable, so that you can at least enjoy the spectacle, but it's not possible, because this is lazy writing and filmmaking at its worst. It's without structure, without any coherent idea and without a spark of intelligence. Also, I have to point this out again, it's really disturbing how the camera treats the daughter. Yes, Megan Fox was eye candy in the first as well and the shots also focused a lot on her body, but it was still done in a way to make us (also) see her like the main character did, so it told a (tiny bit of) story and transported some emotions. This is no longer the case here, the camera work on Nicola Peltz is simply creepy. And I'm a man and usually don't mind looking at hot women. All in all this movie is like a cry from Bay: Don't watch this! Don't make this a financial success! So that I never have to do another one. But, alas, he failed with that as well. I am also looking at the Chinese audience and ask: Really? (300 million US$ box office!). And my fellow Germans? (Almost 40 million US$ box office!) I gave the second star for all the people who worked with so much skill on the special effects, albeit it was all in vain.
Ender's Game (2013)
Much better than expected (from a fan of the book)
Two things first: I love the book "Ender's Game" and its 3 follow ups and no, I have no tolerance for Orson Scott Card's homophobia which is so very much in contrast to the themes of this brilliant series of books, which belong to the rare species of intelligent, thought provoking and well written Scifi. So this review - rather a 'how does the film compare to the book' - comes from a fan and will contain huge spoilers. Only read on if you know the book or have seen the film.
I was absolutely looking forward to this film, while expecting a disappointment at the same time. But the filmmakers got a lot of it right. They didn't change it to some dumb action flick, they didn't make it sentimental, they didn't include some stupid love story, they didn't add comic relief, they didn't choose only great looking kids and they didn't go for a happy ending. Also they largely kept the violence of Ender's self defence acts (though it should have been messier). Asa Butterfield (while of course much too old and tall) got Ender just right, with a restrained but nonetheless powerful performance. To portrait Ender is difficult because there's so much inner monologue in the book, luckily they didn't go for the easy way out with voice-over but relied on acting and atmosphere.
Praise has to go for the visualization of the battle room which is just perfect and the "simulations", including the final battle, where they stay away from Star Wars like space battles but go for a completely different look, maybe inspired by RTS games. That probably surprised me the most and it really keeps the visuals fresh because we haven't seen anything like it before on this scale. Of course they had to reduce the complexities of the book. Harrison Ford gives an uncompromising performance as Colonel Graff but his character is missing a lot of the ambiguity and subtlety, being much more a villain than a torn father figure (who loves his children and still sends them to war, being a master manipulator and always finding ways to justify his actions). They muddled up the timeline, tuned down on the gifted children aspect (which is a huge thing for OSC), sort of left out the Ansible, made some confusing choices when to reveal who's attacking whom and where and why, they didn't have the time to properly introduce and characterize the other children. A lot of time and development is missing in battle school, I'd have loved to see the progress of the battle room actions but again, they didn't go for the Hollywood standard montage ("the Rocky Routine") and I appreciate that. I wasn't happy with some casting choices: Peter and the short, weird looking Bonzo didn't fit and, please, Ben 'Any Nationality' Kingsley as Razor Rackham? He's often a great actor but if you need a Maori cast a Maori! Now for the ending (after the battle). Maybe the biggest change (again to simplify story telling) was to relocate the human's command base to a planet close the the Formic home world, so Ender just has to step out of the base to find the cocoon. But in the film it's not the baby queen in the cocoon that directly communicates with him but there's a (barely) living queen in the cave! Could have been awful, could have been Matrix 3 awful (remember giant talking face with ominous voice?), but no. It worked. Largely because there was no queen voice, neither physical nor in Ender's head and also not the easy way out by explaining everything in a telepathic 'vision' (which again could be expected from a Hollywood production) - and because the creature design was really well done, perfectly fitting the description of "beautiful yet terrible". So as a fan I would have wanted this to be 3 hours longer or a trilogy, but as it is, I'm really pleased with the result which is far better than could be expected, with some astonishing anti-mainstream choices. I have no idea how people who haven't read the book will view it, but all others should see it.
One last thing: Lots of professional reviewers talk about this film as being made for a teen audience - that's incredibly stupid. This is a film for a (mentally) mature audience of whatever age.