DUNKIRK (2017): There’s More To Applaud Than There Is To Enjoy

Christopher Nolan is arguably the finest storyteller working in film today, he has created stories that transcend the common tropes of cinema and baffle the audience for the best part of 20 years. Although all in themselves unique, Nolan’s films all have the trend of grounded surrealism and undeniable originality. He takes full advantage of the freedom that comes with making a film and playing around with the idea of reality, without drifting too far into science fiction. Because of this, it was to my surprise to hear that Nolan was working on a war film based on the evacuation of Dunkirk. By drawing from real events, Nolan has confined himself to history and not fiction which leads to the question: How does Nolan lend his distinctive style to a war epic, based on a true story?

 

First and foremost, Nolan wows us with his unwavering use of practical effects. Every ship, fighter plane and explosion was entirely produced practically. Because of this, every single frame of the film felt incredibly real and it gave the effect that the events were being documented as opposed to recreated. This realism creates tension and brings about a sense of panic and urgency when something perilous is around the corner (ie. an enemy jet honing in, or a torpedo heading straight towards a rescue ship). Accompanied by Nolan’s use of strictly large format cameras, you get a real sense of scale and magnitude of this mass evacuation, which is a credit to both him and his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. This led to some beautifully crafted action sequences which is a real step up from Nolan’s previous work. Personally I found that Nolan’s directing style of action scenes was his only downfall for the Dark Knight trilogy, but for Dunkirk he captures the action for both large scale and close quarters combat expertly.

 

Another brilliant technical aspect of Dunkirk is the score. This is Hans Zimmer’s 6th time working with Nolan and is possibly his best work with him. He blends the music masterfully with the surroundings, making it a part of the situation itself as opposed to just background sentiment. Zimmer’s work is a constant beating heart throughout the film and despite crafting 90 minutes of constant ticking tension, he adds enough of his own style so not be repetitive. Similarly to Interstellar, Zimmer’s score knows when to be loud and when to be quiet, making it feel natural to the situation whilst it surreptitiously is tensing you up for what’s to come.  

 

Another stylistic choice made by Nolan is the merging of 3 timelines into one. The 3 storylines are that of the stranded infantry which takes place over the course of a week; the civilian sailors who have come to their aid which is over the course of a day; and Tom Hardy’s dogfight which is over the course of one hour. I think it is important for anyone going into the film to know that in typical Nolan fashion, time in this film is distorted and manipulated. Events are shown from 3 different perspectives which can lead to confusion and have you thinking ‘haven’t I seen this before?’. However, once you get a grasp of what Nolan is conveying, it is a real masterpiece of story structure. The editing is seamless for the juxtaposition of these events – you just have to know that it is going to happen when entering the film, or like some viewers, you will be bewildered. *There is a graph by ‘HavenB3’ at the bottom to explain the converging timelines*

 

However, one of my gripes with the film is a writing choice made by Nolan. He has stated in interviews that he intends to capture the realism of war (with Dunkirk) as opposed to the Hollywoodised interpretations found in the likes of Saving Private Ryan (1998). Whilst this means that there are no rehearsed 5 minute speeches and unrealistic character interaction,  the film is instead relieved of distinctive characters. There were people in the film playing parts, but all of them were unnamed soldiers who had less than 10 lines each. Cillian Murphy has said in an interview that Nolan’s decision to not give the characters names was because each character’s story was representative of tens of thousands of other men. However, in doing this, he makes it impossible to connect with any of the people, or care about whether they live or die. The people in the film act as a blank canvas for you to project yourself onto, as a way to make you feel like you’re in the situation with them, but I didn’t feel like this worked for me and so felt a disconnect from the characters.

 

In fact, some of my favourite moments from the film was towards the end and where the more subtle character moments, events that occurred because of a distinct choice from a particular character. (SPOILER AHEAD) For example, when Tom Hardy’s character at the end chooses to sacrifice himself as a P.O.W in order to save thousands of men from a fighter plane bombing, you feel a real connection with him and it was one of the few emotive scenes for me. Also at the end when Harry Styles’ character is worried about going home as a rescued soldier, as he fears he will be considered a failure by the public. However he is instead greeted with cheers and hospitality. This too, was one of the few endearing moments of the film, and had these two people had proper character set-up, they could have been great scenes. (Back to no spoilers) So, I do understand Nolan’s stylistic choice in this matter and I can see that it has worked for the majority of people who have already seen Dunkirk, but for me personally, it was a disappointment to see the film void of what I think Nolan to be best at; character.

 

All in all, Dunkirk is most certainly a cinematic achievement. Nolan puts his unique style on a tired genre and the 1hr 46m runtime definitely flies by. The practical effects provide for some extraordinary action scenes that are grounded with a shivering sense of realism. However, the choice to have no standout characters leaves the film short of emotion in places where it could be very effective. The film adopts a more documentary style than the typical Hollywood style war film, and although this is intentional (to give it a sense of realism), it suffers because and there is a clear lack of attachment between audience and character. This results in a noticeable lack of tension in what Nolan describes a ‘suspense thriller’.
dunkirk timeline

War for the Planet of the Apes: The Philosophy of Caesar

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR PLANET OF THE APES!

 

Here is my spoiler free review of War for the Planet of the Apes: https://adampadillablog.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-review/

 

The most recent Planet of the Apes series has finally become a trilogy with its latest film, War for the Planet of the Apes. These films, although set in the war between a dying mankind and the forever evolving apes, is very much Caesar’s story. However, as we see from the final, heartbreaking, moments of War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar dies. At face value, Caesar dies from wounds he sustained in battle, but I believe the way he recieved these wounds gives deeper meaning into this story and the future of the franchise.

 

A running theme in both Rise and Dawn is Caesar’s relationship with humans. He always maintained that killing was wrong and only fought when necessary to protect apekind. The antagonist of Dawn was Koba, whose philosophy was far different to that of Caesar’s. Koba endured a life of “torture” at the hands of humans and believed they should pay for their actions. Caesar on the other hand, just wants peace at all costs and lets his love for humans (mostly the character of Will from Rise) create an enemy of Koba.

 

Koba believes apes to now be the apex beings of earth and should inherit it by getting rid of the humans – this is the next step in evolution of the apes and would follow the natural order of things. Koba’s primitive philosophies see the humans as a weaker enemy and therefore possible and necessary to wipe out. Caesar however, believes that the two can coexist; one does not necessarily have to outlive the other in all out war for dominance. However, by the end of Dawn we see that mother nature has her way and War will occur between the apes and the humans.

 

Following on from this, we see Caesar still seeking peace at the start of War. He sends back a captured soldier back to his leader with the intended message of seeking peace. The soldier he sent was there to kill him, but Caesar’s mercy and lack of bloodlust results in this soldier having his life spared. Then in the 3rd act of War we see that same soldier peirce Caesar with a crossbow arrow, before meeting his demise. Caesar manages to lead the apes to their sought after utopia, but does end up dying of his wounds.

 

These two events coalescing shows that the world naturally wants the apes to surpass the humans by evolution. They have been wiped out by the simian flu and apes are now the dominant species. This is something that cannot happen whilst Caesar is alive, as he still lives (in his mind) in a world were humans and apes could live side by side. Therefore, it is poetically his compassion for humans that kills him. He saw his doctrines through to the very end of his days. Although this philosophy could not coexist with the world they are faced with, his ideals will be passed on through the resulting generations of apes, in order for them to live in a civilized way, with rules (ie. ‘Ape no kill ape’).

 

This means that Caesar’s story has come to an end, but as made clear by director Matt Reeves, the apes’ story has not. He described a void between where War ends and were the 1968 original begins. There are references to the original, in War, with the second, mutated strain of the virus taking the voices of humans and regressing them into a primitive state. This ties into the original film having human slaves that didn’t speak. Whether or not we get to this point with these films, the implication is that there are stories to be told in the in between.

 

This new set of films will have to take the series in a completely different direction with the death of Caesar as the apes will now follow a new leader, with new morals, leading them into new conflicts. Ultimately, I think that War had the perfect ending to the ‘Caesar trilogy’ and his death was more than just an attempt to leave the audience emotional at the end. I look forward to where Reeves intends on taking this franchise!

 

War for the Planet of the Apes: Movie Review

With Rise and Dawn being some of my favourite films in recent years, War for the Planet of the Apes was one of my most highly anticipated films of this year. 2011’s Rise saw a new take on the tired Planet of the Apes films; focusing on the Apes and their journey into predatory dominance as opposed to vilifying them by telling the story from a stranded, human perspective. The films are seen through the eyes of Caesar, who is thrown into a bleak world and just wants safety and peace for ‘apekind’. We have seen this 15 year story told over 3 films now and so the question begs, what does War bring to this trilogy?

 

The film opens with some Star Wars style, expositional text to give a brief recap of the story so far. I feel this was much needed as had you not watched the previous two entries immediately before seeing War, you would be slightly amiss being thrown straight into the action. On a side note, the text cleverly hushes the debate about the titling of the previous films; with people arguing Rise should in fact come after the Dawn.

 

First and foremost, the special effects in this film must be commended. Put simply, the Apes look real, and not by standards of CGI, but as if you were watching a documentary. It is breathtaking to believe that all of this is done in post production after motion capture performances. It is a true testament to the skills of the VFX team working on this film as well as the performances from the actors involved. Whilst I don’t want to get into the debate of ‘motion capture being Oscar worthy’, I do think Andy Serkis gives an incredible performance as Caesar. This film at heart is a drama, one told in the eyes of Caesar and if Serkis’ performance isn’t anything less than great, then we aren’t going to connect with an Ape as the main protagonist – let alone for three films. Returning characters such as Maurice (Karin Konoval) also deserve a mention as they are an integral part to the emotional core of the film as well. However, where Koba stole the show in Dawn, War is very much centric to Caesar and Serkis really shines with this extra weight. The character of ‘Bad Ape’, comedically portrayed by Steve Zahn, was also a risky, but welcome addition. Considering the films are such grounded dramas, adding a comic relief character could be a catastrophe (*cough cough* Jar Jar Binks). Despite this, Bad Ape was handled very well, not being too clumsy or stupid, he was a contrasting complement in what is otherwise a sombre war drama.

 

However, the film’s title is a misleading one. The last two films have been building to this all out war between apes and humans and the name of this film would suggest that this is what we are going to get. But, the war we do get lasts all of 5 minutes and is between two human groups, not apes. This is not a criticism of the film itself as the plotline we do get is engaging but anyone going into this film expecting 90 minutes of apes wielding machine guns is going to be sorely disappointed.

 

As well as this, although as I say the plot is engaging, it doesn’t warrant a 2 and a half hour runtime. As someone who respects Dawn for being a dramatic film as opposed to mindless action, I am open to just a character scene between two apes. However, although unavoidable, one on one ape communication is done in sign language (besides the majority of Caesar’s dialogue). Whilst in bursts throughout Rise and Dawn this was unnoticable, War involves a lot of reading and this does slow the film way down. This film also suffers from a lot of false momentum; the stretched runtime leads to a lot of scenes that are just ambled through and too long. Every time a scene builds and appears to be leading to some tension or emotional pay off, we are whipped back to a more slow, drawn out resolution which is accompanied from a sigh by the audience. Although a minor gripe, this does happen a few times and I can see it heavily impeding the rewatchability of this film.

 

All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes is a good film. It manages to capture the raw emotion of its characters for the situation they are in. It may not be the film we promised, but in spite of an exaggerated runtime, is a wonderfully charming, and tear jerking end to what I think is a great trilogy. This is a trio of stories that nobody asked for, but it took an old idea and revitalised it with some incredible characters. If you are a fan of Rise and Dawn, I would definitely recommend going to see this film, but be aware of its false marketing!

Christopher Nolan and the story of Interstellar

[SPOILERS ahead for INTERSTELLAR]

With the upcoming release of Nolan’s latest feature film, Dunkirk, I though it only necessary to talk about my favourite film of his, Interstellar. Nolan is considered one of today’s most consistent directors and hasn’t made a bad film to date. With films like Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-12) and Inception (2010), Nolan has built up a substantial roster of films that have been revered by both fans and critics. Interstellar, however, is Nolan’s only multi-million dollar feature not to receive universal acclaim. Don’t get me wrong, Interstellar crushed the box office, grossing $675 million worldwide and currently stands at 8.6 on IMDb. But, it is considered by some, to be the weakest entry in to his filmography and has received its fair share of dismissal. For me, it is Nolan’s best work and I wanted to give some insight into the film’s early production and a brief explanation of why it resonated with me so much…

 

What some people may not know, is that although technically ‘sci-fi’, the majority of  events that take place in Interstellar, can be backed by modern theoretical science. The film was in fact conceived of almost a decade before its release by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne (who had previously worked on the 1997 film, Contact – which doesn’t deal with dissimilar themes). Thorne’s basic premise was “the most exotic events in the universe suddenly becoming accessible to humans”. This general theme ran through up until the films eventual release nearly 10 years later, and resulted in Kip Thorne even publishing a book called ‘The Science of Interstellar’ after the film’s success. Thorne constructed an 8 page mini-script for the film in an attempt to move forward with some sort of production. Steven Spielberg actually picked up the project in 2006, but after switching his production company to Dreamworks in 2009, the film was in search for another director. Before leaving however, Spielberg had hired Jonathan Nolan to write a full script in 2007. Nolan worked with Thorne for 4 years to develop it, and even studied relativity to ensure that the film had scientific theory to back it up. Nolan drew inspiration from Wall-E (2008) and Avatar (2009) to understand the idea of an apocalyptic earth and to properly convey the desperation that mankind would suffer on a planet with depleting resources. The eventual setting of the film was inspired by the documentary Dust Bowl, set back in the 1930s, and the film ended up using some of the real interviews from that film in its opening and closing sequences.

 

In the meantime, Jonathan had suggested Christopher Nolan to direct the film to Paramount who agreed. Chris began working on a script based off John’s ideas and the first draft eventually emerged. There was a plethora of ideas provided by Thorne and Jonathan in their personal draft, but Chris opted to pick and choose the more conveyable ones for his version, so not to lose the audience due to the complexity of the science. Nolan (now describing Chris) also added the main character of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who was intended as an ‘everyman’, and to serve as the viewers gateway into this intergalactic journey. At its core, Nolan wanted the film to be a story about the relationship and connection between a father and his daughter. So, when pitching the film to composer Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and soon Dunkirk), he gave him only a one page dialogue, which Nolan believed summed up the emotional soul of the film. This was intended to prohibit the film from a stereotypical space sci-fi score and to further this, Zimmer was not even told the genre of the film before generating the main theme. The idea proved successful as Zimmer earned an Oscar nomination for his work.

 

All of this lead to the film having a very human feel. The astonishing visuals and action never seemed to overwhelming as they were accompanied by the real people we were on this journey with. Nolan opted for over an hour of character set-up for the relationship between Cooper and Murph before the film begun its transition into space. It deals with the idea of human extinction and the necessary cost that comes with furthering human existence even if that means one’s own demise (as seen by the philosophy of Michael Caine’s Dr. Brand). This is of course countered by Cooper’s determination to get back home to his daughter and his denial that his connection with her will be lost. I believe Interstellar could have been a much easier and accessible film, had it not try to deal with such human characters and ideals during its runtime, and instead just focus on the universal visuals. However, Nolan’s love of film and dedication to character, led him down this more challenging path for the audience. This however, naturally led to criticism.

 

A regular defence of Interstellar is that those who did not like the film, simply didn’t get it. Whilst I don’t believe this argument holds water, I also don’t feel that it is far off. I think that that those who didn’t enjoy it, simply didn’t buy into it. The word ‘ridiculous’ is thrown around by critics, not in the films corner so to speak when regarding the film’s third act. Despite not agreeing with this, I completely sympathise with the view; had you not connected with the main characters throughout the film, and not invested any emotion into their relationship, then this ending just seems confusing and unnecessarily over the top. But for someone who was invested whilst sitting in the cinema back in 2014, I was left gobsmacked and in complete awe. For me it was a mind-blowing revelation that Cooper, was all along Murph’s ‘ghost’ and that their relationship – the emotional core of the film – was what inevitably saved them both. Murph had that resolution that her father didn’t leave her and Cooper finally redeemed his abandonment of his daughter, all those decades ago. It was an important rarity for a film with such a high budget, and dealing with such ambitious themes to have such importance on its characters and for them both to have an arc by the film’s end.

 

I may say Interstellar is a perfect film, but that is only my own subjective perfectionism. I am privy to agreeing with the regular ‘eye roll’ critiques of the film (ie. Anne Hathaway’s love line and Matt Damon’s character inconspicuously being called ‘Mann’). However, these things do not at all take away from my enjoyment of the film. I understand Hathaway’s line was cheesy and ultimately silly, but this was during a very important part of these characters’ respective journeys [Cooper and Brand]. Nolan saw it as important to remind the audience of what the primitive motivation for these people was, so that their actions were explicable. Yes, it resulted in a poorly written, soppy line, but it was a necessary one and it didn’t weaken my enjoyment. To explain, I’ll use Star Wars: A New Hope as a reference point. This is regarded by more than a few to be their favourite film, and most likely would be described as the perfect movie. But however great the film is, there is no denying that the first Obi Wan Kenobi/Darth Vader is a slow, awfully choreographed, poking match between two old men. Does this hinder their enjoyment though? No. Interstellar obviously doesn’t have the the decades of adoration or the cultural impact that the first Star Wars film had, but, the point remains the same. When it regards something we love, it is not absurd to overlook minor criticisms.

 

Essentially, I am not telling those who dislike it that they are wrong but that they should have a level of respect for this film. Interstellar is a product of ambition, dedication to storytelling and character and most importantly a love of cinema. In a world where 5 Transformers movies exist, films of Interstellar’s likeness are few and far between. Christopher Nolan is one of the few working directors who put story on a higher pedestal than box office intent and I see it as reductive to label this film as ‘stupid’ just because at face value it may seem far fetched or arduous. I implore those who are not fans of Interstellar to revisit it with a different mindset, and if not for that, then for the insight it provides into masterful filmmaking.

Spider-Man: Homecoming… The Best Spider-Man Film?

After a trilogy, a failed reboot and Sony lending the Spider-Man cinematic rights back to Marvel, we are having our screens graced with the third Spider-Man in 10 years. This time, with Tom Holland (Peter Parker) and writer/director Jon Watts at the helm. Despite being the third attempt at our favourite superhero in a decade, Spider-Man: Homecoming does offer something different; a Spider-Man film tied in with the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe…

As we know, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man appeared in 2016’s, Captain America: Civil War for just a little more than a cameo. In a brilliant sequence during the opening act of Homecoming we get a look at a ‘behind the scenes’ type of video diary from Spider-Man as he’s being introduced into the Marvel world. It, however, not only serves as a hilarious head nod to the cinematic universe, but as a great introduction to our new Peter Parker. We get (in my opinion) the first glimpse of how a teenager (in this case 15 year old) would react in this situation; fighting with and against the heroes he’s heard about on TV. We see Peter’s awe and excitement to just be a part of this world, something not captured by any previous Spider-Man film. I think this is largely aided by the casting of Tom Holland. In the two previous iterations of this character we’ve had Tobey Maguire, who by Spider-Man 3, was playing the teenager at the age of 31 and Andrew Garfield who was 28 in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). Tom Holland, however, was cast at just 19, and began shooting for ‘Civil War’ that same week. This contributes massively to his portrayal of the character as he is not trying to capture the essence of a kid, but instead… is one.

On top of this, we get to see Peter Parker in high school for the most part of this film. It isn’t shown as a unnecessary aspect of the film that has only been added to appease comic book fans, but was central to the movie. We get to see the character in different situations and facing dilemmas that are reflective of a genuine high school student. This more grounded approach to the character provides a new perspective to Spider-Man that we haven’t seen before, such as; we get to see how Spider-Man hunts down bad guys when he’s in the suburban parts of New York where there are no skyscrapers to swing from and this provides for some entertaining scenes.

The supporting cast to this film is also great; Zendaya and Jacob Batalon the standouts from Peter’s compatriots. The main villain of this film, The Vulture, is played by Michael Keaton and serves as probably the best antagonist that the MCU has had since Loki. Keaton’s intentions and motivations are clear and although his approach is that of villainy, you connect with him and do sympathise with his reasoning. Most importantly, though, is Robert Downey Jr’s, Tony Stark, who we already know from ‘Civil War’ is acting as Peter’s mentor in to this dangerous world. Thankfully, Stark doesn’t take over the film and is used sparingly, but effectively throughout. We saw more of Jon Favreau’s, Happy Hogan, in this film also who was charged with being Peter’s babysitter, providing some funny scenes.

Albeit not for me, I can see a criticism that hardcore Spider-Man fans may have with this film. That is, his suit. Obviously, with Tony Stark being the suit’s designer, it comes with dozens more ‘bells and whistles’ than any other Spider-Man suit before it. For some this may take away from Spider-Man’s relatable, neighbourhood nature but due to the way it’s used and the total approach that Jon Watts has taken with the character, it doesn’t hinder his accessibility.

Overall, I think this is the best Spider-Man film to date. It is surprisingly coherent despite the 6 screenwriters that worked on it and has genuine, personal stakes. The film doesn’t have a convoluted plot that has Spider-Man saving the world, but instead has the more cordial story of a kid who just wants to help out. Also, having not really grown up on Tobey Maguire’s portrayal, I don’t have the nostalgia towards Spider-Man 1 and 2 and so cannot criticise the film on whether it has that same emotional resonance. I think this film most captures the essence of Peter Parker and what Stan Lee intended all those decades ago. There is also a satisfaction to see Spider-Man as a key character in the MCU, with characters like Iron Man being more than just an easter egg.

Don’t miss this one!

P.S. If you’re planning on suffering through the credits for an extra scene… be warned, although hilarious and attending to a running gag in the film, it has no tease for any future marvel films! Still, I would say, worth the wait.

Baby Driver: Style and Substance

For those who are unaware, ‘style over substance’ is a term used for arguments that are delivered in a compelling way, such that you overlook the actual integrity of what is being argued. For example, a person makes a claim, the claim sounds catchy, therefore the claim is true. When applied to a film, style over substance usually concerns the visuals of the film – its direction, colour palette etc and claims that they are of a higher standard than the story itself. This is a term that is thrown around often to filmmakers such as Zack Snyder (well I say filmmaker) as well as Edgar Wright, most notably ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’. But does Edgar Wright’s new entry, Baby Driver, fall into that same category?

No, it doesn’t. Baby Driver has undeniable style to it as seen in the opening sequence, where Baby (Ansel Elgort) is interacting with the world around him using the rhythm of his music to dominate his movement – and it is all displayed in one gorgeous long shot. With the surrounding area almost contributing to the song that Baby is listening to, the scene is certainly very stylistic. But, it has substance too. In this scene, we learn about the core of Baby’s character: he is at his happiest when he is at one with his music. This may seem like a very futile character trait but it does become an integral driving force to the film throughout. A common struggle for filmmakers is trying to convey vital information to the audience in an interesting way. This exposition is usually given by one character asking a very unnatural, teasing question and another character delivering a very rehearsed, unnatural response. This is usually overlooked as a necessary evil for film goers and critics alike to ignore, but in my opinion, it’s just lazy filmmaking.

Edgar Wright has chosen to make this scene something that is visually aesthetic and audibly intriguing. The exposition is so secondary to the scene that you don’t even notice that it has been given to you and that is the beauty of Edgar Wright’s style – the substance is a natural part of it.

The rest of the film is also brilliant. With actors like, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm lending their comedic and action prowess to the film, it leads to some entertaining action scenes. The pit boss is played by Kevin Spacey and has some of the funniest lines in the film that really showcase Edgar Wright’s love of cinema. The stand out performance is Ansel Elgort, who probably has about 50 words in the film, but his character is suave and becomes instantly likeable.

Where the film could have failed, is the romance between Lily James’, Debora, and Baby. However, although a rushed love affair, the pair make a good couple and you are rooting for them by the end. This is mostly down to the good morals of the characters and the endearing dynamic between them. All in all, Baby Driver is a thoroughly enjoyable film and is tussling Logan for my favourite of 2017. Had it not been for Hot Fuzz, I would also probably be saying that it’s Edgar Wright’s best work. It’s out now, and I would definitely recommend going to see it.

 

Despicable Me 3: Review (sort of)

As a sane, free thinking human being, I do what I can to avoid ending up in a cinema with snotty nosed, crying and poorly behaved children. But every now and then, there comes a time when Disney, Pixar, or in this case Illumination, release a film in which this endeavour becomes a necessary evil in order to see a film within the first week of its release.

Admittedly, I enjoyed the first two entries into this franchise however, after hearing of the torture that was the Minions solo movie, I took some persuading to see Despicable Me 3. So I entered the theatre, avoiding the evil children in an attempt to retain personal hygiene and I watched with absolutely zero expectations.

Surprisingly, Despicable Me 3 isn’t a bad film at all and I’ve seen much worse (thank you Zack Snyder) but it does lack the life and emotional punch that the first two Despicable Me films certainly had. The ‘gorls’, Margot, Agnes and Edith are cast from the limelight in this film in favour of the dynamic between Gru and his twin brother… wait for it… Dru. Because of this, the film certainly suffers in the Pixar-esque heart that this franchise once had. Probably becoming aware of this late on in the writing process, there is a storyline that involves Kristen Wiig’s, Lucy attempting to become a better mother to the ‘gorls’. However, despite being an attempt to inject an emotional core to the film, it just ends up feeling very tagged on.

The saving grace of this film however, is Steve Carrell who had me howling at times. The stupidity of the voice he provides for Gru lends the film some hilarious moments. As well as this, Trey Parker’s, Balthazar Bratt has some comedic parts, yet this is more down to visual comedy he provides as opposed to the vocal performance. Ultimately, the film was serviceable for the most part and the minions taking a backseat definitely helped.

If you’re a parent, then I would recommend taking your kids to see this film, especially if they had a good time with the other two and Minions. I do however plead you to try and control your child during the film in a desperate cry for cinema etiquette to be restored. I found myself at times wondering why Gru had turned into a screaming baby, only to find an unwashed youth balling his eyes out (for whatever reason) a few rows back. This was usually accompanied by an oblivious parent who had chosen not to take their child out of the room for consolement. Instead, they were happy to let the hundreds of surrounding paying customers be subjected to the howls (which in the words of famed Evertonian, Owen Morris is ‘bang out of order’).

All in all, Despicable Me 3 provides a fun experience for the kids and fans of the franchise, probably not so much for parents, but fails to live up to its predecessors. Catch the film in theatres now, or if you want to maintain the will to live afterwards… wait for it on demand.