A Big Red Right Hand – Hellboy

7 09 2016

Hellboy (Revolution Studios - 2004)

A few weeks ago while dining at a church fellowship meal, someone on the table remarked at how everything on TV and at the Cinema all involved Super Heroes. Now while this is something more of a cliché possibly or more likely an over exaggerated statement, there is a lot to be said about the number of Super Hero based things on TV and at the Cinema at the moment. Things like Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow on TV, whereas cinema this year has had several comic book related films like Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men Apocalypse and of course Deadpool. The reason for all of these of course is that right now they are very popular franchises, plus more importantly..…they make money. Super hero/comic book/graphic novel based movies are nothing new, they have been around for a while, its only in the last 8 years or so that they have really gained much in the way of traction; however, it should be noted that not all comic book/graphic novel interpretations are about super heroes, I mean, would you call V for Vendetta a Super Hero Movie?

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. - 2006)

Released in 2004 by Revolution Studios, Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro; Hellboy is a comic book adapted movie based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name by Mike Mignola and released by Dark Horse Comics. This is by no mean Del Toro’s first foray into making movies based on comics, as 2 years previously he directed Blade II.

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In 1944, The Nazi’s with the help of Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), build a machine off the coast of Scotland to create a portal in the hope of releasing a group of monstrosities called the Ogdru Jahad to aid them in winning the war. Rasputin opens the portal with help from Ilsa Von Haupstein (Biddy Hodson) and Thule Society member Obersturmbannführer Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), who is also Hitler’s top assassin. A group of allied soldiers arrive just in time guided by Trevor Bruttenholm. The German team is defeated and the portal is closed, sucking Rasputin in, in the process. As the allied soldiers search the grounds however, they discover that an infant demon with a big right hand-made of stone did travel through the portal. Bruttenholm decides to adopt him, and the soldiers call him Hellboy. Sixty years later, in the mountains of Moldova, Kroenen and Ilsa resurrect Rasputin, while in America, young FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) at the request of Bruttenholm (John Hurt), where he meets the amphibious humanoid Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the now grown up adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who has grounded off his horns. As soon as he meets Hellboy though, they get a shout that something is going on at a local Museum. Inside the Museum, Rasputin has unleashed the monstrous Sammael (Brian Steele) and bestowed upon him the power of reincarnation. Hellboy fights with Sammael, defeating him after a long lengthy fight, before then disappearing to see Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a former BPRD member who is now residing in a mental hospital hoping to gain more control of her pyrokinetic abilities. After Hellboy is gone however, Rasputin visits, and mentally activates her powers which in turn burns down the hospital.

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Back at the BPRD HQ, the team discovers that a creature from Sammael laid eggs into Hellboy while it was attached to his arm. Whilst John goes off to visit Liz and encourage her to return to the BPRD, Hellboy, Abe and a team of guards including Agent Clay (Corey Johnson), head to the subways to find and destroy a nest of eggs belonging to Sammael, into which Hellboy discovers has come back to life, while Abe fights with another. Abe is severally injured in the fight while Hellboy dispatches with the other. Several BPRD Agents are killed however by Kroenen, who then shuts down his clockwork body so he can be taken into BPRD HQ. FBI Director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is not too pleased with Hellboy’s actions. John takes Liz out for Coffee, while Hellboy who has romantic feelings for her, stalks them. In the Bureau HQ, Kroenen re-animate himself, and both he and Rasputin make themselves known to Bruttenholm. Rasputin reveals to him, that Hellboy is the agent that will reopen the portals and destroy the world. Bruttenholm who is dying of Cancer, and who has raised Hellboy like a son, believes that Hellboy in the end will make the right choice, and Kroenen stabs him in the neck.

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Manning takes over the BPRD after Bruttenholm’s funeral, and leads a team consisting of agents, John, Liz and Hellboy to Russia in hope of finding Rasputin’s Mausoleum. With help from a local cemetery corpse resident Ivan (Guillermo Del Toro), they find the mausoleum, but get separated once inside. Hellboy and Manning find the lair of Kroenen and quickly defeat him, while Liz and John find Sammael’s eggs, where there are no quite a few of them. Hellboy arrives and does battle, but its Liz who saves them as she sets fire to the lair, killing all of the Sammael’s and his eggs, meaning he can no longer be resurrected. The group though is captured by Ilsa and Rasputin. Using Liz’s soul as a bargaining chip, Hellboy reveals his true power as Anung un Rama, with his horns growing back and begins the ceremony to release the Ogdru Jahad. Myers quickly breaks from his restraints and reminds Hellboy of what Bruttenholm brought him up to be. As such Hellboy breaks his horns, and kills Rasputin before the creatures could be finally released. Rasputin, revealing to have had one of the Ogdru Jahad possessing him, releases the tentacled monster. Hellboy defeats the creature by blowing it up from the inside. He then returns to Liz, whispering into her ear, threatens to go to the other side unless her soul is returned to her, as such Liz is revived instantly and the two share a kiss.

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Hellboy isn’t what you would exactly call a Super Hero Movie. It definitely shares traits and themes to films of this Calibre, but in all perfect honesty, Hellboy is not really a Super Hero, he is more an Anti-hero. He saves the day and the world on a regular basis from threats and monsters from the other side, but when he goes back home, he doesn’t live a life of obscurity or simply puts some glasses on, he returns home and does what he wants when he wants. In a way, he is more a mirror image of the human condition and what most of us are likely to do if we were super heroes, and want we would want out of it, not what is right, but what is desire. He wants fame, he wants fortune, he wants food, he wants love, don’t we all deep down? Yes, he is a super natural force from a world that is not this one and is employed to defeat the forces from beyond, to protect this world from the greatest threats not of this world or even this reality, but he is given a pampered life to make up for the life he simply cannot have as to who he is. If you look at other super heroes (except for maybe Deadpool), and what they do, and how it drives them, Hellboy is not in it for that, and when he does go in for a fight, he makes it as big, as loud and as exciting as possible, just because it allows him to go outside once in a while. He is less a Super Hero, more just like you or me, in it for a kick, but secretly desiring more.

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As a film, the tone and ideas are a little bit off-putting, there is no middle ground in explaining, this film is based on subjects about the dark arts, and the grim dark and horrid after life that is in the lead’s name. But through all that though, comes this incredibly well thought out and well created mythology and ethos surrounding the characters, what they do and who they fight. It’s very similar I think to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it’s setting and mythologies are all based on well documented ideas and beliefs, but brings them into the here and now rather than through some old age orientated may centuries ago fantasy world. This is the kind of Fantasy that should be explored more often, because it makes it more apparent, believable and interesting to a more modern culture and audience. I can see why Del Toro did this film in the end, it works perfectly to the style of films he started out doing and continues to create (Fantasy Horror). The setting is of course our world, but it goes on to suggest a dark uncertain future, including the possible apocalypse, and through its ideas creates some visually stunning moments. We are not talking Independence Day like scenes here; we are only talking a small fraction of visuals, but still aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also amazing and horrifying to believe. It all works well into this well created and wonderfully designed setting while also providing everything else a film needs to grab the attention of the audience. It’s visually stunning, with grips of an enchanting and horrifying storyline while also adding a well-researched and believable mythos.

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It’s interesting to note the strong calibre of movie industry veterans cast in major roles in what is really such a small comic book movie, but I bet that comes more from the established director. Jeffrey Tambor is someone I have had little exposure to in the past and before seeing this, the only role I have seen in him was Muppets from Space. In that he had a high seniority role which came with a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but overall was an incredibly funny role. Here we have something somewhat similar minus the comedy. He comes in as something of a corporate/political nemesis whose only concern is really himself and his position and finds that while the BPRD has its uses, he considers them overall a joke and a waste of resources. From his first appearance onwards he presents himself as someone who does not at all care for Hellboy, and his immediate introduction is shown of someone with a lot of power and whom carries a large level of intimidation. This carries on, showing his more demanding, not necessarily selfish side, but one who wants and demands respect; although how he reached his position could be questionable. He however, like a good scripted character, does show his uses and redeems himself in a flat second by showing his thanks to Hellboy for saving his life, and shows him how to light a cigar. Similarly there is of course John Hurt playing the adoptive father of Hellboy and head of the BPRD. He presents himself on a more caring but still serious note and overall rather than being a head of section comes more across as that chemistry/history teacher that we all come to be fond of and respect. His father figure like stance has its moments and the story of him dying ensures to enrich the plot and reason for Myers existence in the film, all which leads to a revelation point as to the true meaning for Hellboy, but still his ensured faith as to that Hellboy will make the right choice.

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While this film is primarily about creatures/monsters, there is of course a lot of human interaction. Some of these have been allowed very little screen time but are presented enough and are performed brilliantly enough for them to remain a key part. Characters like Ilsa are a good show for this. Someone who is a high officer in the Nazi Party and the key love interest for Rasputin, who, slowly but surely begins to reveal a sort of near psychopathic and heretic side, someone who believes in the cause no matter how it comes. She is very old-fashioned and also en-richly disciplined given her growing up and position, and keeps to this even after 60 years have passed by. Kroenen meanwhile is more a Monster than a human, and becomes a key villain from start to finish, even if he is just a puppet in the end. He too shows an incredible dark side, killing without mercy and has even showed some remains of being human showing traits such as laughing; however his body is less the case. Rasputin is something of a cross between Dracula and Darth Vader I find. He is presented more as a prophet and is unwieldy fiendish, but for him it’s all been planned out, and if it’s not part of the plan, he has no motive for it and will either order it dead, or just not think about it. He uses as much as he can to get what he desires and will maintain a level of control to keep the plan ripe and eventually fruitful at all costs. He is an interesting villain, but you get this feeling though that he is not the puppet master either, like there is someone else pulling the strings, but it’s never really shown (also, he has this weird change of voice before he turns into the monster).

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Myers comes across though as a young man in his prime excelling and desiring to do what is right in what is already a stressful job. He does not get on too well with Hellboy, and it feels like he is side-lining himself just so he can work on/with Liz, either because working with her feels more normal, or because of another reason. He continues to try and work with Hellboy, but while he is supposedly the lead human in this film, it feels like his point or part just gets more and more obscure and less needed other than to help Hellboy make the right decision. Other than that, he has almost served his purpose already. Maybe he is just an Introduction to the world of the BPRD, for the sake of the audience, as while he is a key feature for the first act, and a bit of the second, by the third, it feels like he is not even there. Agent Clay I find is a lot more of an interesting character than Myers, as he comes off a lot more strongly to begin with, and his compatibility with Hellboy comes off immediately as the two respect and care for each other even if their position does not require it. He shares very few scenes, but when he is in them, it feels like he is a much stronger lead in comparison to Myers, and that deep down, Clay should be the lead, but I don’t see how that could work either, as it’s clear he has been around a while.

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The one theme this film tries to tell and thoroughly resonates, is what it takes for someone to become a Man. It gets mentioned start to finish and in the end becomes the story. This theme though really does work well for Hellboy. You need to remember that Ron Perlman is playing a very demanding and physical role, but in reality is the only real actor who could play the part, as the character needed someone physically big but also who could act, not like hiring an actor who is big but is only hired for physical capability. But despite the experience and wisdom of Perlman, it should be noted that Hellboy is actually a much younger character than Perlman is. In reality, Hellboy is actually very childish; a spoiled brat who gets more than he deserves but still demands more. He is like an over pampered cat, receiving so much food and attention, but still desires and believes he needs more. He is also something of a smitten lover, desiring Liz, even though she would rather lead a more normal life. He shows this by endlessly talking about her and trying to visit her/bring her back to the BPRD then eventually stalk her when she goes out with Myers. Like the average action hero, he does in the end ‘get the girl’, but it’s not through his childish ways, it’s when he grows up, becomes more respectful, and then threatens to fight tooth and nail for how much he loves her, therefore going from a childish brat, to a man, even if he is not human.

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Abe Sapien I find is something like a rabbit in a field of cats. This film’s ideas and premise surrounds a demonic identity, then in the meantime there is this character who is not that in anyway shape or form. He is less an alien, nor a demon, he is more in fact a natural mutation with a human life. He is more a book work than a man of action, less likely to get into a fight and more read his way out of a battle than throw a fist. He however though carries the trait of a group counsellor. He carries a lot of wisdom even if he could be considered a little young; he comes packed with knowledge, but still packs a little attitude. But in the end knows his place and where he belongs and knows the importance and vitality of the groups function and works to act as a mediator in-between the heat. He may feel less than respected or a part of the group, but he believes in it. Liz Sherman for me though is the one who stands out the most. She comes across as this shy, and vulnerable character, who is scared as to who she is and what she can do. She carries a real fear for it, and though while not a monster in appearance, feels on equal footing to the others in what she is. She desires a more normal human life, feeling more like an outcast in all walks of life. She has power but looks human. She wants to be human, but knows that humanity won’t give her credit as to what she looks like given as to what she can do. I do feel this really affection for the character, and really come to know who she is and how that affects what she desires. She then starts to build confidence thanks to Myers and receives the opportunity to lead a more normal life thanks to him, but then, upon the death of Bruttenholm comes to the knowledge that the ‘freaks’ need to stick together, and that Hellboy needs her support in what is a hard time for him. She grows and grows, becoming a tough fighter in the final battle escapades and even something of a leader, showing great deals of professionalism while also still coming to terms with whom she is and what she can do, which she then discovers, and comes to less fear it, more embrace it. Selma Blair plays what is for me, a very identifiable role and one whom I somewhat can’t get enough of, and come to anticipate with joy her next appearance.

Selma Blair (I know it's from Hellboy 2)

The film being one that is filled with many marvellous and very imaginative creatures will of course come packed with the not so original assortment of special effects to make these things come to life. It should be noted however that a great deal of special effects in this film are not necessarily the work of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, in fact for the most degree, many of the needed special effects more take the form of make-up, masks and costumes. It should be noted that in his early life, Del Toro actually studied and worked for 10 years in special effects and even started his own company. It is obvious to note then that when it came to Special Effects needed for this film, that he already had it planned out early one. For the actual shoot and filming of scenes, Hellboy, Abe, Sammael and Kroenen are actually costumes and or models when needed. CGI is only brought in when they needed to use them for a scene that would require CGI and when a Suit/Mask/Makeup would not work. Scenes such as creatures in Water, Sammael’s resurrecting, and the giant portals and monsters. This allowance but also reduced requirement for Computer Graphics means that there is a lot more involvement between characters in certain scenes, and makes the fighting look more fluid and dynamic, because the fighting is real. The other thing is though, that you can actually see the difference, as when the costumes are in shot, because the physical entity is living you can see it interact, but also, it looks fresher. When the computer animated imagery is in place, there is a feel that some of it is rather unfinished. Don’t know if you saw my review on the film Mimic (also by Del Toro), but in that the CGI was easy to be seen as not good or possibly unfinished, there was a direct correlation between real life and fake quality. In this you get a similar feeling, and it only really works for the CGI when things are happening quickly, like a fight scene or a chase as it blurs in and you don’t spot it, but then when you get it standing still, it’s very noticeable, that more could have been done in that department.

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Special effects are not everything in a film like this, because in order to convey the right feel to such an imaginative thing, you need a good quality soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) to back it up. Hellboy does have a sort of strange mix of pieces of music, ranging from the dark and mystical, to the old-fashioned with a bit of attitude. Pieces of music in those areas include when the portal is opening near the end, when Liz’s power is awakened in the hospital, to pieces like the BPRD theme when Myers turns up, Bruttenholm’s funeral, to the more modern sounding music as Myers and Liz go for a ride, then intermixed you also have the one of piece that sounds just sort of added and silly, but not in a bad way. But for me I want to highlight 3 distinct pieces of music. Now the third one I should note is only available really with the Director’s Cut of this film, but I would like to point out here and now (if I have not already) that this film’s Director’s Cut is where this film is at. It really enhances and includes and builds on from the original cut and though while its original cut is pretty good; to get the full experience, watch the DC. Anyway; the first piece is really this film’s main theme and you hear it the minute the credits are about to roll. It’s sort of twisted and sinister, that’s how it comes across anyway; and intermixed has a romantic track line, but for the most part is this dark and twisted tone that really sets up what you have been watching for the last 2+ hours and sort of puts it into a level of context, while also providing a mystical identity.

The next two pieces are more sort of added as to enrich the soundtrack but by adding pieces that were already made but not necessarily for this film. The first is Red Right Hand (I wonder why) by Nick Cave and the Dark Seeds. It only gets played after Hellboy’s introduction to Myers as the gang go to the museum in a bin lorry. However, well in the film plays as a really groovy soundtrack that just dominates most of the sound and works well to present the scene as best it can, especially when you see the agents marching in front of the bin lorry as the doors open. It’s a dark, twisted tune, but comes with a sort of light listening punch that you can’t help but sing a long too (much like the third song). The piece is actually very different in presentation to how the film puts it in, but either way, it’s still good.

Then you have this song by a band called Forseps. It’s just called Hellboy, but that is something of a lyric. It’s very different to everything else as it’s more heavy rock with a twist of a groove packing mystery and excitement as the song builds, explaining who Hellboy is, but then it hits this Lyric ‘HELLBOY’ and into that we get a lashing of attitude, the attitude this film has included, but only really feels now is the time to unleash. It’s mainly just a nice, interesting, but also levelly piece of fun on which to end the film on.

I really like Hellboy, both as a film and as an idea, especially the character. I consider him definitely worthy of equal footing in comparison to the other big super hero movie boys out there, if not a greater footing than them, it’s definitely more interesting and fun than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here you have very human like characters, even if some of them aren’t. You have these well thought out and researched ideas, enriching a really cool but also big plot and it comes packed with everything in between to male what is a very enjoyable film. While its mythos and ideas will put some people off, for everyone who does (‘dare’) to see it, there is a lot to like and a lot to enjoy, and in the end while such ideas are present, they are not the be all and end all of the tale, in fact it sort of goes beyond that and goes into other ideas and mythology, springing out-of-bounds to other locations and interests. Packed up with an incredible cast, touch-able-worthy special effects, and a mystically dark soundtrack that packs a punch, altogether Hellboy is a very magical film, and while I would not necessarily consider it a Super Hero Movie like the other adaptations of this sort, when you do think about it in league with those films and series: While it may currently only have 2 films in a potential trilogy, it still packs more and is generally more entertaining than many others. Yes, there are a lot of Super Hero Movies and TV Shows right now, but spare a quick thought for those that dare to do something different.

GENEPOOL (Also, quick shout out to Ivan).





Hermione Granger In A Hostage Situation – White House Down

6 07 2016

White House Down (Columbia Pictures - 2013)

Ok, so you have created Super Soldiers, you have visited other Planets, destroyed entire Cities, messed with Nuclear Monsters, fought for the Independence of your new country, survived the raw Power of the Weather, gone back in time to fight Sabre-Toothed felines, destroyed entire Cities (again), claimed Shakespeare was a fraud and have been hit by a bolt of Lightning: so your next logical step must be to invade the White House right?….Right?

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Released in 2013 by Columbia Pictures; Directed by Roland Emmerich and Produced (as well as written) by James Vanderbilt; White House Down is an Action/Thriller film about an attack on the White House. What is supposedly one of the biggest spec script purchases in cinema history; White House Down happened to be released the same year as another film very similar to it by idea at least in Olympus Has Fallen directed by Antoine Fuqua. I personally have not seen Olympus Has Fallen; but being a fan of Roland Emmerich, this film has been on something of a to do list for a while, and as Independence Day: Resurgence has just been released, I thought I should give Emmerich’s previously latest (BIG) film a look over.

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Current President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) has recently been generating controversy over a potential peace treaty that would involve removing armed forces from the Middle East. John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a police officer who formerly fought in the military, and has been assigned as a bodyguard to speaker of the house; Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). Cale really wants to work in the secret service, but after an interview with former college acquaintance and Secret Service agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he is turned down for the role. Not wanting to let his politically interested swat daughter Emily (Joey King) down, he takes her on a tour of the White House where they run into the President who puts a shout out for Emily on her Vlog. Meanwhile, Secret Service head Martin Walker (James Woods) is celebrating his last week there and orders Carol to go home. As the morning progresses, a janitor detonates a bomb within the US Capitol Building. Raphelson and Finnerty are taken to an underground command centre underneath the Pentagon, while Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) is taken aboard Air Force One. The White House is locked down separating Cale from his daughter, and a group of mercenaries led by Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) start killing off security and take hostages, with Cale escaping just in time. Walker escorts the President to the building’s Emergency Operations Room, but there kills Sawyer’s guards, and reveals himself as the group’s leader. Cale arrives in the nick of time after failing to locate his daughter and rescues the President.

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Outside the press arrive, and news circulates fast, but Emily using her phone gets video footage from inside, outside, before she gets captured by Carl Killick (Kevin Rankin). Meanwhile Walker and Stenz bring in Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) to hack the building’s databases, but still require the President to unlock a nuclear weapons briefcase (or Nuclear Football if you so wish). At the Pentagon, Carol clashes with army general Caulfield (Lance Reddick) as to how they handle the situation while Vice President Hammond plans to switch control to himself. Cale manages to get a line through to Carol who tells him the best way of getting the President out. The military is already positioned outside, but require the President’s permission to storm the building. Using Emily’s video they are able to ID the men, and from Walker’s wife, they discover that Walker is dying and wants revenge on Sawyer for the death of his son. Cale and Sawyer eventually find a way out in a secret tunnel (built by JFK to move Marilyn Monroe in and out of the White House), but find it rigged to blow. They make another desperate scheme to get out by using the Presidential Limo, but it gets turned over and crashed into a pool. After a quick kerfuffle with Walker and Stenz, an explosion erupts, presumably killing Sawyer and Cale. Hammond is then sworn in as President and orders an aerial attack on the White House.

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With this knowledge, Cale tries to stop the choppers from being destroyed, but after fighting with Stenz, he is unsuccessful. Skip meanwhile finally breaks into the databases and taking over NORAD, fires a missile at Air Force One, killing everyone on board. Raphelson is sworn in as President and orders an air strike on the White House. After discovering that Emily is Cale’s daughter, Stenz and Walker threaten to kill her if Cale does not give them the President. The President surrenders himself, and Walker reveals that he really admires the President, but wants to destroy the Middle East with a Nuclear Strike. Cale, now with knowledge of the Air Strike and inspired by an old painting, sets fire to several rooms within the White House. After freeing the hostages, Cale fights and kills Stenz. Using the football, Walker has begun targeting the cities in the Middle East, but is killed before he can launch them. With Sawyer and Emily safe, Emily runs outside and waves the Presidential Flag to call off the Air Strike. Emily is branded as a hero, but Cale and Sawyer hear from Finnerty to discover that Walker did not call in the Mercenaries. Raphelson – hoping that the aerial attack on the White House would destroy the evidence – is discovered to have conspired with Walker and wanted to send troops back into the Middle East, going against Sawyer’s treaty. Raphelson is arrested by Sawyer’s orders, who then names Cale as his new Special Agent and takes both him and Emily on a helicopter ride.

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If you look at the poster for this film, one thing that immediately becomes abundantly clear is that this film comes from the Director of the films: Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Highlighting this piece of information is by no means a bad thing; many big films that get released today carry information like this on similar lines as it is a great way to advertise a movie. With a film like this highlighting that it is indeed Roland Emmerich who directed it, and that his previous work includes those previously mentioned films highlights, that if you liked those films you might like this one. The added benefit is that as well as that, people who may not have seen those films, but were big popular films; know that this latest film must be of some noticeable attention to note where this new film is coming from also. There is a bad side to this though, as though while those films may not be teaching lessons or winning awards, advertising those films based on their legacy puts pressure on newer films to stand out, because though while Emmerich’s output over the last 20-30 years has been rather successful, it does not mean that the latest film he releases is pure gold (this does not just apply to Emmerich’s output, but to others of course, but we are not talking about them). In stark contrast to his previous and better known works, White House Down is actually a much smaller film. Films like the ones mentioned above have usually involved a worldwide catastrophe caused by events out of human control, whereas here we have an action orientated film about a building under siege. OK, it’s not just some ordinary building, it is the White House after all, but there is no Aliens, No Weather, No Prophecies, just humans. Going into this film I had no real previous knowledge of this film other than seeing a bit of it on TV. So I was completely unaware as to what was going to happen other than expect certain and specific Emmerich movie trademarks. Some people have suggested similarities to films like Die Hard and Air Force One, where as I can see elements more similar of The Rock myself. Setting up an attack on the White House is going to be hard for anyone who dares attempt it, and so far the only time I have seen it work was in an episode of 24. In this case though we get a pretty good idea of what one could look like that is very thrilling, but also very believable.

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For the first 30 minutes I must say that this film is rather boring. It suffers some lighting effects, the characters are all rather dull and unimpressive and not much happens. This sort of continues even into the movies main events. But then the film turns everything around and just makes it work, and by the end, I was literally on the edge of my seat. Setting up was definitely a weak spot for this film, and even when things do get going my overall excitement level was rather ‘MEH!’ But then you get big moments, big scenes, explosions, fights, special effects galore and even a shift around for the film’s characters, and it becomes an extremely enjoyable film. I am not necessarily saying that a film needs to have explosions and large amounts of special effects to be good, but it certainly did help to get this film going and generally improve. On the whole it was a combination of nearly everything that finally made it exciting enough to keep watching, get involved and see it through to its rather glorious end. I was looking around on Kermode Uncut (at time of writing) and spotted a post talking about a film that Kermode did not like for the first 30 minutes but then absolutely loved. Now I did not actually watch the video (have since, it was not White House Down, it was Mamma Mia!) but through my mind I wondered if he was talking about this, because I certainly felt that way about it.

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The cast is a bit of a shot in the dark if I am honest with some cast members really standing out and others I am not going to bother talking about. Much like the film a large number, especially a lot of the film leads are a bit boring before coming good. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is a prime example of this. She begins as a really stuck up-tight boss like character always trying to put a smile on but being far too professional and near horrid. She starts this way, and becomes a sort of political woman of action who for the beginning is not worth the hassle. But then while she is in the underground base, she sorts of turns that off and becomes really caring and understanding. I believe Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat! said that a film is about change, and the lead character or characters must change from who they are into something better by the end. Gyllenhaal proves this by changing from her near horrid start, into a really caring and supportive character by the end and becomes a real stand out. She is much better in this than she was in The Dark Knight (at least she is not grumpy the whole time in White House Down). The same could be said for James Woods. When I saw this on TV, I just could not take Woods seriously as the villain; he seemed to be more like James Woods in Family Guy rather than James Woods playing a character such as he did in Shark. But then he turns it around also, when you hear of the 2 reasons why he is doing what he is doing, and then as the film picks up pace you forget about him being Woods (although it’s hard with such a strong and recognisable voice) and see him more as this very respectful but now very corrupt character who is about to do the unthinkable. He becomes not necessarily a psychopath, but a really good political villain, a leader, not someone who does the killing, but someone who does the ordering.

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Like many other films of this genre; comes packed with other actors although not necessarily leads of note who also deserve a mention. People such as the tour guide Donnie (Nicolas Wright), who acts like a comic relief in similar style to the Gadget man from xXx (Michael Roof) but is quirky as he does it. He is not a clown; just someone who takes his job seriously, even in such a tense situation. Then you have someone like Emily’s mother Melanie (Rachelle Lefevre) who adds that real outside tension to the story with the knowledge of her daughter being caught up in the distress. Then there is someone powerful, but also rather scary in Lance Reddick playing General Caulfield. Recently I have been playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II and noted how in that they cast Tony Todd as an Admiral. I thought it was a strange move as his voice does not really lend itself to high military position as it sounded more intimidating than commanding, but I wondered if that was what the film makers were going for here with the casting of Reddick as an army general. He almost seems schizophrenic, if not psychopathic, that combination of look, attitude and voice, it’s very similar I feel to that of Todd in Black Ops II. But it works; he is an interesting cast choice, but still a powerful and intimidating presence that just demands your attention when he is on-screen.

Lance Reddick

In a similar vein it’s a lot like the character provided by Jason Clarke. I really enjoyed his presence in this film. He was more like a physical bad guy in comparison to Woods, and as the early film appearances ramped up, I was constantly asking, why not just Clarke; why Woods too? Clarke is a man of action and a real tough nut to crack and has some terrific scenes and one of the film’s best lines (“No, I don’t want cake! I’m diabetic!”). But it felt like the producers either had other plans for who they wanted in that part, or had ideas as to whom they wanted Clarke to be like, as Clarke does feel, act and look a bit like Kim Coates I feel. I really did think that at least earlier on, Clarke really helped get this film going, that though while the film was struggling to get a grip and make ground; it already had the perfect man as its villain, delivering a constant presentation right to its end. The character of Emily similarly got me confused with actors, as I thought she was being played by Ivana Baquero from Pan’s Labyrinth. Emily is an interesting one as she seems less like a damsel in distress, but more like Hermione Granger in a hostage situation. She shows herself as a similarly tough nut with great understanding of the President and what he does, and shows a lot of respect for that, but similarly she is also trying to be the stereotypical grumpy teenager, which does not work all too well as she does do a lot of talking rather than sulking. She is pretty fun though, and takes away from the idea that kids are not strong independent people, nor are entirely harmless or are just going to sit in a corner and cry, as Emily shows great courage and confidence throughout and becomes one of the film’s major and bravest heroes.

Joey King

The dynamic between Foxx and Tatum is uncanny. They work off each other so well. For the earlier parts this film feels like it’s some kind of Action buddy movie, but then becomes something of a Wrestling Tag Team with one being unable to be without the other. They come from different backgrounds, different worlds; but are incredibly realistic and pure joy. Singularly and before they meet, they both struggle. But when they do meet, and come to rely on each other, it’s so impressive to see how they just click and work off each other like they have done it before. Foxx is very serious and political, while Tatum is heroic and protective. They both respect each other and come to know each other as their opposite equal. Without each other they have no real influence or direction over this film, but together, they are inseparable, and you don’t want them to become separated at all, because without them, this film is virtually worth nothing.

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A film like this would be a bit out-of-place if it wasn’t for some large scale Special Effects. I do think this film struggles with back drops and lighting. The lighting looks especially bad. Some cases it can be too dark, and other a bit too overcast. It’s just a bit annoying as there is hardly ever a clear picture. When you combine this with the similar back drops, it sets the film in a world that does not look real. Some of the film’s special effects similarly struggle. It’s not as good as the effects in Independence Day 17 years previously, and as this film touts it’s from the same director, it’s a bit of a let-down. That is until about half-way through, and then it shines. From the explosion in the Capitol Building, to the destruction of Air Force One and the flight of helicopters through the streets of Washington, while it may not be a giant alien spaceship casting a city sized shadow, scenes such as these create incredible spectacles that forever stand out as moments which are not only a wonder to behold, but also become moments that help improve the film as they continue.

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As for the soundtrack (composed by Harald Kloser); I don’t actually remember much of one. I really don’t. I watched this film from start to finish and I can remember hearing music, but I just cannot remember what the soundtrack presented or what it sounded like. All I can really remember is the credits music (Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones) which includes that track that was in V For Vendetta. It’s a real shame as Emmerich’s films have gone great distances to create as big as a soundtrack as the special effects and big disasters, but maybe because in contrast this film is much smaller, maybe they didn’t go as far with the soundtrack. I am not saying there isn’t a soundtrack or anything like that, it’s just I cannot remember hearing much of one. Maybe I was just too glued to hear one.

Altogether, I really did like this movie. It combines all the elements of a good Roland Emmerich film: Action, Big moments, Special Effects, interesting characters, and an interesting story. The film is let down a bit by how it takes a while to get going, it’s lighting, some effects and a missing soundtrack, but one thing this film does is Improve as it goes along. It starts off boring, but by the end it ends up as one of Emmerich’s best films to date. Yes it’s smaller than something like The Day After Tomorrow. Yes there is less happening than Independence Day. But what this film does present is enough of Emmerich’s movie trademarks to create an amazing spectacle that will entertain all movie goers of this genre plus plenty of little extras that will entertain everyone else too. It’s a proper fun and exciting action movie, one that belongs in the Action movie Hall of Fame no doubt (if there is one?).

GENEPOOL (I probably should have mentioned that neither Hermione Granger nor Emma Watson appear in this Movie, sorry).








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