There’s something that’s really been bugging me recently in the movies and that has been a lack of scope in big-budget films. Surely you would think with the more-than-healthy budgets they have, you’d have thought they could have spent a bit more on establishing a greater versimilitude. Apparently not. Two films that have really stuck out like a sore thumb this year are Dunkirk and Justice League, both for different reasons.
Although Christopher Nolan is one of my favourite film directors, I didn’t love Dunkirk and a big reason for this was its lack of scope. For a film based on an important World War II historical event, you’d have thought Nolan would have wanted to get everything accurate and really allow the film to connect with viewers. We are only ever told through exposition of the extent of the battle and what is happening in some other place. This is mainly through Kenneth Branagh’s Captain, who I strongly think, is only in the film for expository purposes. Branagh informs other characters what is happening in terms of the battle as opposed to Nolan giving us a visual representation. I really liked the idea of individuals not enlisted in the Navy using their boats to go to Dunkerque to help rescue soldiers and had Nolan capitalised on this idea, Dunkirk would be a substantially more rewarding experience. Instead, Mark Rylance’s character arc in the film is solely for that purpose and we don’t get to see anything else. Even just a few shots of civilian boats would have done the job. Famously, the British effort was collective from not just the Navy and we never get to see this. Nolan can make pretty much what he wants to make and nobody can tell him any different because he repeatedly proves he can make success after success. Surely, if you have the money and passion for this subject, you should try and do this. It’s overall hard to care for a film that looks smaller than it is.
With Justice League, on top of me finding the film a bit of a frustrating experience anyway, the final set piece really began to nark me off in places. The film’s final set piece should be the crowning jewel of this kind of a film, the moment it has all been building up to, but it is boring and juvenile. Characters make many references to saving the poor citizens who are being terrorised by the villain but we only see this suffering through the eyes of one family, stereotypically Russians. Whenever we see characters making these references, the film neglects to show us anyone and actually the area the villain is causing havoc in looks pretty empty. Even just a few shots of people running around the place and screaming would have helped create a more believable world. But the film doesn’t. Justice League has a huge $300 million budget – surely the filmmakers could have spent a little more in order to invoke that this situation is actually dangerous.
As you can probably tell, this is a frustrating issue and I hope this doesn’t continue to happen in many tentpole films. It is not as if films don’t have the money, as demonstrated by these two examples. We, as audiences, should expect more and let them deliver the goods.
Justice League is out now in UK cinemas. Dunkirk is out now on home release.
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