Tag Archives: Alex Proyas

I, Robot (2004) Review

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I, Robot

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner
Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Susan Calvin
Alan Tudyk as Sonny
Bruce Greenwood as Lawrence Robertson
James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning
Chi McBride as Lt. John Bergin
Director: Alex Proyas

Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates the murder of Dr Alfred (James Cromwell), who works at US Robotics, with the help of a robopsychologist. He tries to deduce if a robot has violated the laws of robotics and killed him.

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I saw I, Robot a long time ago and I remembered liking it, but I didn’t remember it strongly. Having seen director Alex Proyas’s The Crow and Dark City (and unfortunately Gods of Egypt) since, I was interested in watching it again. While there are issues for sure and it could’ve been better, I enjoyed the movie for what it was.

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I, Robot is seemingly based off a sci-fi novel, I’m not familiar with it however so I’m treating it as its own movie. Whilst there are moments of interesting scientific musings about the nature of AI and consciousness, it doesn’t really go below the surface level. It could’ve been more, especially considering that it’s from the director of Dark City. It opens strongly with an interesting murder mystery which questions the evolution of technology but by the end is a rather familiar sci-fi action blockbuster. With all that being said, it’s pretty enjoyable taken solely as an action oriented Sci-Fi adventure. Overall, it was a semi-predictable but still moderately intriguing work of sci-fi that still kept my interest. It does take heavy influences from sci-fi films in the past, the robots desiring to become human aspect alone has been popular since Blade Runner. However, it at least has its own creative voice to the table in its worldbuilding on artificial intelligence. It questions the nature of free will, and the plot is a well thought out mystery. It’s not one of the most intelligently defined feature film on robotics (it’s no Ex Machina) but it works enough. There are some issues for sure. There’s a general amount of generic action tropes present, and some dumb dialogue scattered about. The story also does have its cliches and also have some pretty obvious twists. At the same time, it holds a certain charm to it, whether it be the sci-fi aspects, or the over the top 2000s action stuff. Additionally its paced pretty well and I was reasonably engaged throughout.

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The acting is mostly good from the cast. Will Smith is charismatic, energetic and layered in the lead role of a cop who’s prejudiced against robots. He’s close to playing the same hero character he usually plays, but he’s not just mugging to camera, he’s actually playing a fully defined character. Overall he made for an enjoyable protagonist. Alan Tudyk gives a very thoughtful performance as a robot named Sonny, who’s a key character in the story. Even though it’s a voice performance, Tudyk was the highlight performer. The rest of the supporting characters and actors are capable, if not exceptional. Bruce Greenwood is convincing in a villainous sort of role, and James Cromwell works as the murder victim at the centre of the mystery. If there’s a weak leak amongst the cast, it’s Bridget Moynahan in one of the main roles. Her performance is rather bland and forgettable, and robotic (no, there’s no twist where she’s a robot or anything), and the character wasn’t that interesting. Otherwise the rest of the acting was overall decent.

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Alex Proyas directs this, and while it’s not one of his best works, he does some good stuff here. The movie is high on his trademark visual flair and action. The production design was well done, much of the world that we see is just ‘typical futuristic sci-fi stuff’ but the style is good and well put together. The film is littered with dated early 2000s CGI that hasn’t aged gracefully, the CGI visuals for the multiple robots particularly don’t hold up as well now. Overall, I liked the visual atmosphere of the film though. Proyas knows his way around an action scene, and there are some entertaining action here. It does have some excessive early 2000s slow motion action and the hollow and dated effects do hold these scenes back from being as great as they could be. With that said, it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of those moments hugely, I still had fun with them.

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I, Robot isn’t a particularly original film in the sci-fi genre, and it has plenty of problems from the CGI to the predictable and standard plot (especially in the last act). However there are some entertaining action, good performances from Will Smith and Alan Tudyk, and at the very least is a good enough action sci-fi movie which entertains. Don’t expect anything like Ex Machina, but if you’re looking for a fun sci-fi action flick, it’s worth a watch.

Dark City (1998) Review

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Dark City

Time: 100 minutes (Director’s Cut: 111 Minutes)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch
William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch/Anna
Richard O’Brien as Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson as Mr. Book
Director: Alex Proyas

John (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel with no memory and learns that he is wanted for a series of murders. While seeking answers, he discovers a group of aliens called the Strangers who are controlling the city.

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I heard a bit about Dark City, the main thing I knew of it was that it was a sci-fi movie that was quite similar to The Matrix, and in fact came out a year earlier. It didn’t do well with critics or at the box office upon its release but has since become a cult classic. I went in not really knowing what to expect but I ended up loving it. There are some roughness to it for sure, but it just really appealed to me, and I found it to be a unique, engaging and visually stunning sci-fi film.

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I should mention that I watched the director’s cut of Dark City, and I highly recommend seeing this version of the movie. I’ve heard that the director’s cut fleshes things out a lot more compared to the theatrical, and having seen the former, I definitely say to watch this version. The director’s cut also doesn’t have an introduction explaining the setting and world that the movie takes place in, and that really added a lot to the experience as you (like main character John) are trying to piece together and figure out what is happening. Therefore, I highly recommend going into this movie knowing as little as possible, it makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. As that, Dark City has an intriguing plot with a great atmosphere, it is a mix of sci-fi, mystery and film noir, and that combination is guaranteed to have my attention. The mystery itself is very interesting and I found myself wrapped up with the main character as he tried to find out what was happening in this strange world he woke up in. In terms of criticisms, the characters aren’t all that great or interesting, they serve their part in the movie but that’s sort of it. It didn’t bother me too much however, I was invested enough in the plot.

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As I said earlier, the characters aren’t all that interesting, but the actors elevates them with their performances. Rufus Sewell is in the lead role and he does very well, even if his character is sort of a blank slate, with him not remembering anything and essentially serving as our entry into this strange world. The supporting cast also work on their parts, including Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt. Kiefer Sutherland is also in this, and I think this is one of his best performances, one of his most unique and different roles for sure. Additionally, there’s the villains of the movie known as The Strangers, who are effectively menacing and sinister yet intriguing characters.

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The direction by Alex Proyas is spectacular, I really liked The Crow but I’m pretty sure this is my favourite film from him. I love the style, it is visually stunning and very much noir influenced, especially with the lighting and colour pallet. The setting is so great, it’s always dark and shadowy, and while the world is familiar, it always feels off and rather alien. There is so much attention to detail, especially with the environments and production designs. Now some of the CGI don’t hold up all that well (especially with the climax in the third act) but you can accept that with it being a 1998 movie. The rest of the effects surprisingly hold up quite well. The score by Trevor Jones I thought was also effective and fitted the tone of the movie perfectly.

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Dark City is a fantastic, atmospheric and engaging sci-fi noir, that’s directed excellently, and acted incredibly well. On top of that, this movie also appealed a lot to me stylistically and thematically, and I have a strong feeling that this is going to quickly become one of my favourite movies. I highly recommend that you check it out (preferably the director’s cut) as soon as you can, you won’t be disappointed.

Gods of Egypt (2016) Review

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Gods of Egypt

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus
Brenton Thwaites as Bek
Gerard Butler as Set
Chadwick Boseman as Thoth
Élodie Yung as Hathor
Courtney Eaton as Zaya
Rufus Sewell as Urshu
Geoffrey Rush as Ra
Director: Alex Proyas

The survival of mankind hangs in the balance when Set (Gerard Butler), the merciless god of darkness, usurps Egypt’s throne and plunges the prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. Hoping to save the world and rescue his true love, a defiant mortal named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) forms an unlikely alliance with the powerful god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Their battle against Set and his henchmen takes them into the afterlife and across the heavens for an epic confrontation.

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Since its release, Gods of Egypt has been panned, absolutely everyone has been trashing it and calling it one of the worst films of 2016. So naturally I was curious and wanted to check it out. While others despised the movie, I personally enjoyed it, but for all the wrong reasons. It really will surprise you how bad it this movie gets, from terrible green screen and CGI, to an uninteresting and familiar story. This film doesn’t work at all. Aside from the unintentionally hilarious aspects and two of the performances, Gods of Egypt pretty much fails on every level. I almost recommend seeing it.

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The story itself isn’t really interesting at all. We’ve all seen this story and types of characters many times over, there’s nothing to really comment on. I’m finding it difficult to remember much about the plot itself. The only reason this film works in a bad way is the way they try to execute this movie. They make the film so over the top, it’s kind of a glorious trainwreck to watch. The dialogue is really bad, awkward and clunky, the romance in the movie you don’t buy at all and there is also some humour which seems really off (which is funny but not because it’s done well, it’s funny because it was so horribly and awkwardly done). Pretty much almost nothing about this film works at all.

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Hands down the best part of the movie is Gerald Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Gerald chews up the scenery as the villain and looks like he’s enjoying every second he’s on screen. Nikolaj at times looks like he’s genuinely trying to give a good performance, despite the bad material he’s given. Everyone else is forgettable, granted they didn’t have a whole lot to work with. Even some of the really good actors like Chadwick Boseman and Geoffrey Rush don’t really come away with anything. I think it is worth noting that there aren’t any Egyptian actors in this film, Gods of Egypt didn’t have any Egyptians. Not really a flaw with the performances, just thought it was worth pointing out.

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The green screen and action scenes were done absolutely horribly. Think of how out of place the green screen was in the Star Wars prequels. Only it’s 5 times worse. You can clearly see where the green/blue screen is around the actors, its kind of embarrassing. Same with the CGI, nothing feels natural. And as for the action scenes, there is so much slow mo and camera rotations used, it’s crazy. It tries to make it look epic but it ends up looking ridiculous, over the top and amateur. It’s weird because the director of Gods of Egypt made The Crow, which didn’t use a lot of CGI but still I don’t see how he could’ve made both films.

Undated Film Still Handout from Gods of Egypt. See PA Feature FILM Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Entertainment One. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Reviews.

I didn’t give it my lowest score as I enjoyed this movie as a so-bad-it’s-good movie and Gerald Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau were actually good in the movie. But it’s still so far the worst movie I’ve seen this year, with the awful CGI, greenscreen and action scenes, the mostly mediocre performances and a cliché story. Gods of Egypt really is the Jupiter Ascending of 2016. However, if you like so bad it’s good movies, you should definitely check this out when you can. This film is definitely one to remember, for all the wrong reasons.