*NEW* WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES REVIEW *NEW*

The best one of the bunch?

Let’s ask our pal Caesar . . .

Not quite. BUT a decent effort all the same.

After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar (Andy Serkis) wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

I remember my reaction when I heard that the Planet of the Apes franchise was being rebooted/remade (again). It was very similar to ol’ Caesar’s.

However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a welcome addition. I was completely surprised and engrossed. Completely caught up in the origin story of the super intelligent ape.

BUT Dawn of the Apes on the other hand . . . NOT so much. A complete misfire. Bar Caesar’s fractious relationship with the ultra-violent Koba, I felt the sequel was hampered by poor pacing and a flimsy plot line.

Needless to say, I was a little anxious on watching War. Wondering if it would suffer the same flaws and ruin what could have been an impressive trilogy. Luckily, I’m not saying that today.

A visual masterpiece.

Andy Serkis was fantastic. How the hell that man hasn’t received an award for all the work he’s done surprises me (I mean, come on. Gollum, Kong and now Caesar!).

It takes a lot more than wearing a green leotard and making monkey noises to bring life to these creatures.

The movements, the expressions. I know it’s CGI BUT for two to three hours, you could almost believe they were real. The effects were impeccable. The detail. They deserve an Oscar nod for that alone.

The first person PoV perspective as Caesar makes his introduction was brilliant. All his various monkey brethren bowing down and raising their hands in respect to their leader.

The slow burning pace actually worked for the (majority of the) film and allowed the characters to develop quite nicely as Caesar fought against the advancing troops. Desperate not to cause a war. Only wanting to exist in peace.

BUT of course, the humans have another plan in mind. There were a few twists and turns I didn’t expect as Caesar seeks vengeance.

However, his clan won’t let him go it alone. And what a bunch of characters. Or should I say monkeys? Maurice the orangutan. Caesar’s overbearing conscience and protector. Forever keeping the angry ape in check.

There was such a great dynamic between the group. I loved how the conversations flicked back and forth from sign language to talking.

With Caesar as the only ape that can speak. Or so he thought . . .

Steve Zahn, take a bow! Sorry, Mr Serkis BUT there was one little chap that nearly stole the show and that was Bad Ape.

It was at the 90 minute marker that I could feel my patience wading BUT once Bad Ape made his introduction. I was back in the mix.

A loner chimp that escaped one of the compounds during the start of the outbreak. Picking up words in order to survive.

A much needed comic relief to the sombre affair as he struggles to understand why Caesar would want to face the Colonel.

I could easily watch a Maurice/Bad Ape spin-off. Those two were a fantastic duo.

Things took a more interesting turn when Caesar and co stumbled across a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller). Flagging up all sorts of questions; why can’t she speak? A side effect of the virus? Will Caesar show mercy?

And what a game changing performance from Woody Harrelson. I wasn’t sure if the Cheers star would be able to pull it off BUT once Caesar and The Colonel come face to face, I was on tenterhooks.

There was a striking contrast that developed between these two stubborn leaders as they fought for their kind. Both suffering losses.

BUT the Colonel (or Colonel Kurtz as I call him) was a man truly on the verge. Deluded in his own mission for finding the cure by wiping out all the apes.

The action set pieces were exhilarating to watch. I just wish the length could have been cut by 30 minutes. The elongated Great Escape style compound sequence was too drawn out for my liking.

There was only so much of Caesar wallowing in self-loathing that I could take.

Don’t get me wrong, it set up a fiery finale BUT after all the build up, it all ended a bit flat. Almost abruptly.

It was a fitting one BUT I still had questions that were hinted in the other efforts. For those who have seen it, I will impose my SPOILERIFIC question further down.

I don’t think it goes without saying that you might need to watch Rise and Dawn to appreciate the little nods.

BUT in all fairness, my mate got the gist and he chose to watch this one without seeing the others. So take your pick.

It may have fell short of Rise BUT this was still a riveting visual masterstroke with some stellar turns. One of the better ones.

3.5/5

I was just glad that I fought the urge not to sing this little gem.

 

NOW *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* After Rise introduced the Liberty 1 expedition (Well, Icarus 1 – a reference to Heston’s spaceship in the original Planet of the Apes), will that still fit into this story line? Is there going to be another one? The girl was called Nova. A hint, maybe?

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*NEW* VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS REVIEW *NEW*

Dull-Erian.

Trust me, that pun was as clever and witty as the dialogue and plot.

Sheesh. What has happened to Luc Besson? The man who gave us The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, Taken, The Transporter.

Okay, yes. He also made Taken 2, Taken 3, Lucy, Transporter 2, Transporter 3 – you get the idea. To say his recent endeavours have been poor would be an understatement.

I really hoped this mega blockbuster would be a return to form but alas it was not to be.

A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne) must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha but the future of the universe.

The iconic French comic book series that spanned over 40 years and influenced Star Wars and Besson’s very own Fifth Element. A series that inspired Besson to personally fund and crowd source one of the most expensive independent films in Europe.

The iconic comic book series . . . that I hadn’t even heard of until this movie. I won’t be seeking it out after watching this. Fo’ sure.

It wasn’t all bad. In fact, Valerian was actually quite watchable.

Cara Delevigne was very good. The high browed model has done it again. She had already won me over in Paper Towns. The less we say about Suicide Squad the better. I can still picture that weird dance.

Anyway, contrary to reviews that I’d read, I thought there was good chemistry between the pair. What didn’t help was the dreadfully corny exchanges and flat lines.

Dane DeHaan really has been getting a bad wrap. He didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that his Keanu-esque delivery managed to make the flat lines sound even flatter. I think he took the airhead persona a little too literal. Only Wick himself would have made that work.

A shame. His lacklustre charisma made Valerian such an unlikeable (Well, I say unlikeable) and uninteresting character. A bit bad considering he’s the main man.

One thing I couldn’t fault was Thierry Arbogast’s stunning cinematography and the visual effects. Stunning.

That gif doesn’t do it justice BUT you get the idea.

The colours, the detail. The immersive galaxies and numerous planets. A feast for the eyes. I just wish some of that detail could have been spent on the script.

The action set pieces were entertaining enough. BUT I wasn’t invested in the people.

All the jumping from interstellar galaxies and dimension guff was cool and an interstellar street market chase kept my grumbling at bay for a good 15 minutes. BUT that was only because I hadn’t got a clue what was going on.

The pace was as long as the ridiculous title. It dipped in and out and was far too sporadic. Ridiculously complicated one second, then dull and predictable the next. No consistency.

It didn’t help that the story was hampered by boring and pointless exchanges with flashbacks that highlighted stuff we already knew about. For example (NO SPOILERS);

CHARACTER: “I was following orders!”

*Cue a FLASHBACK of said character saying, “Follow my orders”.

Really? There were no real twists and turns. It was all too disjointed. And the “unravelling” made more plot holes by the frantic finale. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

The sci-fi references and nods were a nice touch. The Millennium Falcon-esque ship, the Tron style hologram suits, the Battlestar Galactica Cylon style droids, the Blade Runner cityscapes. I knew Besson would excel in that field.

The supporting cast were disappointingly hit and miss with various cameos from unexpected actors popping up in this mad mess. I won’t spoil any. There were two I didn’t expect.

It was great to see Clive Owen back on the big screen. I just wish he wasn’t in this movie.

He did his best with the part BUT he was oh so laughable and old. My God. He didn’t need those silver patches on his sideburns (Ageing his character for a pointless flashback that had no relevance).

Rihanna was a welcome addition. And no, not just for the striptease with her numerous wardrobe changes (that will please any teen fanboy).

She was fun and entertaining as the changeling Bubble. I was more interested in her origin story than anybody else. And NO, not just because of that sequence! Naughty. A tragically small role.

And that’s what was missing.

We needed somebody like this guy;

Valerian took itself far too seriously for its own good. A bit of cheese and humour would have improved this by a country mile.

Besson tried to offer comic relief with some of the crazy and wonderfully animated characters. My personal favourite being the demented gargoyle hybrids of Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck.

Prepared to share information for a price, of course.

BUT it just wasn’t enough. It was watchable guff BUT enjoyable?

Meh. It just about killed the time BUT all I wanted to do when I got home . . . was find my DVD of The Fifth Element and stick that on.

Nothing to shout home about for me.

2.5/5

*NEW* GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 REVIEW *NEW*

They’re back BUT bigger and better?

The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true parentage.

Mad fun BUT it falls short of its predecessor.

The silly opening was entertaining enough as the adorable Baby Groot danced around to the beat of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky while a violent battle ensued in the background.

I felt the banter and chemistry between the dysfunctional team was all over the place. Writer/director James Gunn tried too hard with the laughs that it hampered the piece in places with the cast just shouting flat insults at each other.

I know a good portion of the story was about the team having teething problems after the events of the first film. BUT the squabbling and yelling really grated against me.

A gag involving the name of a villain drew a laugh BUT it soon overstayed its welcome as the name kept getting brought up.

I felt Vol 1 had the right balance. Each dysfunctional member bringing something to the fold.

This time around, it felt a lot sillier with Rocket and Groot spending too much time in the background.

No one expected anything from Vol 1. It was one of my favourite films of the year. I think I even went to the cinema twice to see it and I never do that for a movie.

Such a strong first movie that it was going to take something special to top it.

Henry Braham’s incredibly colourful palette and visual effects were a feast for the eyes. The set pieces were exhilarating and fun to watch.

Kurt Russell was brilliant as Ego. He worked well with Pratt and made their relationship an interesting angle BUT the only problem was that the pace tragically lagged as Quill discovered his true origins.

Even if Laura Haddock’s talents (Transformers: The Last Knight) were wasted yet again. I wondered when she got the role as Star-Lord’s mother if there was going to be more of her BUT what we got was unnecessary and offered new.

Bradley Cooper’s Rocket (Easy now) stole the show with his insults and crazy antics (“Don’t call me a raccoon! Trash panda? *PAUSE* Is that worse?”).

Vin Diesel had the easiest job going yet again delivering his helium induced phrases to the tiny tree root. You couldn’t resist the little rebel.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) was completely wasted in her role as Ayesha.

However, there was one character that stole the show for me and that was Yondu. Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) was fantastic. I loved how we actually got a little depth to the space pirate and explored his past. An unexpected surprise.

Pom Klementieff (Oldboy) was a memorable addition to the mad (and increasingly top heavy) squad as Mantis. Her emotion sensing abilities was a party trick that helped create all sorts of cringe inducing laughs.

Especially on “the thing that nobody’s talking about” between Gamora and Quill (Yawwnnnn . . . ).

The only problem was that Gunn expanded on story lines that were already explored in Vol 1. It made things a little repetitive and predictable.

Gamora and Nebula’s sibling sparring got on my nerves. Especially when the pair kept kicking off. It was almost as ridiculous as Peter Griffin fighting the Giant Chicken! We had all that in the first one!

Don’t get me wrong, there was still fun to be had and I enjoyed the majority of the madness with another fantastic soundtrack that I will no doubt purchase.

Not every wrestling star can make the jump to the big screen BUT Dave Bautista was still on scene stealing form as the deluded Drax with his random outlook and bizarre stories.

The final act redeemed a lot of the problems with an action packed closer that threw in a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

So despite its shortcomings, it was still crazy fun and fans won’t be disappointed.

3.5/5

P.S. I’m sure you’re bored of me saying this BUT don’t walk out on the credits. There are several different teasers that pop up. Definitely worth waiting for.

STAR TREK BEYOND 3D REVIEW

Star Trek be-yawwwnnneed.

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy (Ol’ Luther – I mean, Idris Elba) who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

I’m NOT the biggest Trekkie BUT I have really enjoyed the Abram reboots. Shaking up the cast, reworking the old story lines and tweaking the dynamic.

A breath of fresh air among the barrage of reboots, remakes and endless (and unnecessary) sequels. BUT it was always going to be a tough act to follow Into Darkness.

A new outing that didn’t rely on past plots. My confidence was restored when I discovered that Beyond was penned by an avid Trekkie (Simon ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Pegg!). A man who relished the dream role of playing Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott made famous by James Doohan.

BUT this time around, I felt this lacklustre sequel only just delivered a watchable actioner. From the director of Fast and Furious, I knew I could expect big explosions AND good set pieces.

BUT it was a case of either being too fast and furious with the action or drawn out and repetitious with barely any exploration of the characters. Even the laughs were few and far between.

The opening act didn’t really give me much hope with the crew acting as intermediaries between some silly CGI dog things. Yikes. It seemed to go through the motions with Pine’s Kirk going through yet another existential crisis as he questioned his purpose on the Enterprise.

Quinto’s Spock received some grave news which made the normally unfeeling extraterrestrial contemplate life and death. I just wished it wasn’t so tedious and uninteresting.

That’s NOT to say there weren’t moments to be had. The special effects were impressive. BUT that was only when you could actually see the set pieces. There were several scenes where I actually struggled to see a majority of the action.

I could see the Phaser rays blasting through the darkness BUT only just gather that it was Kirk and Chekhov sliding down a spaceship hanging off a cliff. Ridiculous.

The 3D was a waste of time. It didn’t bring anything to the experience. When the Enterprise was attacked by Krall’s death ships, it was a sight to behold BUT after 15 minutes of explosions and carnage, I found myself fidgeting.

I liked the dynamic between Spock and Bones as the pair were reluctantly put together. Karl Urban (Dredd) was the main scene stealer and kept things light when the pace drudged along.

Once Big Ears got over his nihilistic sulk, he was back on fine form. The banter between the duo was a much needed tonic; “You gave your girlfriend radioactive jewellery”.

The rest of the crew was a mixed bag. The late Anton Yelchin had quite a big involvement in the mix as he aided Kirk in the battle against Krall’s goons. His presence will be missed. Although rumours suggest that Abrams may try and do what they did with Walker in the Fast and Furious franchise.

Pegg’s muddled Scot accent really grated against me. And I was disappointed that his little green pal Wee Man (“Get down from there!”) was left on the sidelines.

There wasn’t any depth to the characters. Bar Dr Zulu’s sexuality. Hardly a revelation and thrown in without any exploration. Shame.

There might have even been a bad continuity error with the length of their journey to the age of Zulu’s child (For those who watched it – Did you notice this?).

Saldana’s Uhura was reduced to being Krall’s prisoner for the majority of the movie. If anything, her absence wasn’t missed. Disappointing, to say the least.

Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) was the best character in the piece as the feisty Jayla. I wanted to know about her origins and why she was the only alien to evade Krall’s capture.

However it wasn’t long before she was pushed into the background for more mindless exposition. Only to be brought back for the frantic finale.

More could have made out of her. A missed opportunity.

Idris Elba did his best with the creepy Krall. The make up was brilliant. He really looked the part BUT Luther’s lines and delivery made him too comical for my liking. You try listening to him with that silly voice pronouncing Captain Kirk. Good lord.

He couldn’t match Cumberbatch’s tenacity or Bana’s bad-assery and was quite a tame villain by comparison. A twist about Krall could have been so much more BUT by the end, I couldn’t care less.

Captain’s Log; Beyond was a bit of a misfire for me. It tried to deliver a bit of everything and failed on all fronts.

A watchable effort that killed the time BUT I think Scotty better beam up a better script for the next endeavour.

2.5/5

*NEW* ALIEN: COVENANT REVIEW *NEW*

Even in space, no one should see this dreadful Alien prequel.

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Sound familiar? It should.

For the love of God, Ridley Scott. Just stop.

I can respect the man and the writers for trying to expand the Alien universe and explore the mythology behind the xenomorphs but if this is the answer, then I think some mysteries were better left unsolved.

They should have learned from Prometheus. But for all its imperfections, I preferred that to this meandering mess.

For all its beauty, brooding score and captivating cinematography; beneath the surface there wasn’t much else.

Scott still can’t get over Cameron perfecting a classic. Alien set the bar high. No one knew how iconic that film would become. Without that slow burning sci-if thriller, there wouldn’t be the monster franchise that followed.

Aliens (for me) took things up a notch and actually delivered some character development and progression for the iconic sci-fi heroine Ellen Ripley.

I had to try and remember what happened in Prometheus (Watch out, spoilers): wasn’t David just a head? What happened to the girl with the dragon tattoo?

The fiery opener certainly piqued my interest. Especially when Fassbender returned as another android called Walter.

BUT after 30 minutes of Scott panning from one lavish set design to another. Picturesque frame by picturesque frame. I thought to myself: “When is this going to pick up?!”

The writers tried to make amends for Prometheus by creating more mystery and questions BUT it just didn’t work.

What’s the title of the film? What is it about? Where are the frickin’ aliens?!

Patience. The slow burning tension and existential debates boring me into a mini-coma.

We had Prometheus for all that. Give us something different. If anything, the questions Covenant tried to answer only made bigger plot holes that undermined the whole thing. Especially on the origin of the aliens altogether.

The special effects on the aliens were excellent and creepy as hell.

That was until they attacked. The stop motion movements and overindulgent CGI was disorienting to look at. The scuttling and wrestling looked so fake. Like something out of a dated Harryhausen flick.

The talented supporting cast were highly unmemorable.

Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) spent so much of the film moping and brooding.

By the time, she finally woke up; her character was nothing more than Ripley 2.0 (Yes, I know this is a prequel so she would actually be Ripley 1.0 BUT I digress).

She didn’t deliver a bad turn BUT the film was always going against her.

Danny “Kenny ducking Powers” McBride should have nailed the space trucker role BUT was heavily underused. Billy Crudup’s protagonist was so weak that I was screaming for a face hugger to dispose of him. Waste of an actor.

Speaking of wasted actors, Guy Pearce had the easiest job going. A completely needless role. Woeful.

I think there was only one reason why Prometheus got a follow up. And that was down to one man’s performance.

Michael Fassbender stole the show yet again. BUT despite a stellar turn, I found his efforts failing to reprieve this mind-numbing disaster.

It wasn’t all bad. It was watchable. Just very disappointing.

When Scott delivered the tension, I could feel myself wincing in dreaded anticipation. He delivered a demented introduction from the aliens with a gory entrance I didn’t see coming.

I still flinched and cringed (as did the audience) as we all knew where it was going when one crew member stumbled across a dormant egg.

The different alien hybrids were a nice touch and looked brilliant. BUT they didn’t go anywhere. A quick gory death to make up for mindless “Do androids dream of electric sheep? chit chat from Fassbender. Not good enough.

It went through the motions, relying on old formulas and retreading old ground that had been done before and much better. By Scott (ironically).

The actual alien screen time probably tallied up to 15/20 minutes. Out of a 2 hour movie? Come on!

The finale was dull, uninspired and a retread of Aliens with a much weaker and predictable twist. It built things up. Only to let me down.

I really hope there won’t be another. To think this prequel trilogy stemmed from a few Alien fans asking about the giant space jockey found on the Derelict (Yeah, I’m a fan. Could you tell?). I wish they hadn’t.

A movie of mere moments. Some finger biting tension here. One jumpy bit there. Some gory and inventive deaths does not a good movie make.

Would I rush to watch it again? (Maybe reassess and see if I missed anything the first time round?) NO.

Give me Alien, Aliens and hell even Alien 3 any day. But this?

Let this stop.

It needs to end.

2.5/5

*NEW* GHOST IN THE SHELL REVIEW *NEW*

Like the protagonist, beautiful to look at BUT no heart or soul. Shame.

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

It was always going to be a big ask to expect Hollywood to successfully remake a cult Japanese anime. I’ll admit. I haven’t seen the original BUT this effort has killed any interest to seek it out.

I could be doing a huge injustice by saying that BUT for all its moments, this sci-fi yawnfest failed to keep my attention.

The slow opener didn’t give me high hopes, despite the wonderful visual effects, as we watched Major’s ‘shell’ being freshly made off the assembly line.

ScarJo played the emotionless Major brilliantly. BUT her subplot was bland to boot. Suffering from ‘glitches’ (flashes/images of old memories), Major soon questions her origins. Wondering if the story of her “creation” was even true.

The only problem was that the truth had been revealed to the audience early on. So the puzzle solving was dull and formulaic as we waited for Major to reach the conclusion we already knew. A product. A military weapon. Nothing more.

Although . . . what a weapon. Her strangely alluring naked camo suit flagged mixed reactions. Especially when Major first stripped to reveal it. I’m sure that scene pleased the teenage fanboys.

The 12A rating restricted the little action that there was. Sacrificing bold visceral violence and the gritty neo-noir undertones for a wider market release. Tut tut tut.

Pilou Asbaek (BBC Four’s Borgen) was the only memorable supporting character as Batou. He worked well with ScarJo BUT the pair spent too much time apart. He bossed the military punk get up and funky Rutger Hauer look.

Jess Hall’s cinematography was incredible. The cityscape was a beautiful mish-mash of virtual avatars, skyscrapers and crazy neon colours. This could have easily fit into the Blade Runner universe.

It was great to see Takeshi Kitano in this. BUT after vowing to never make another American movie after his disappointment with Brother; I was surprised that this was the film to draw him back. Albeit, in an acting role.

A waste of a talented actor/filmmaker. His character nothing more than a zombified desk clerk.

And then in the closing minutes, the crew suddenly remembered that they had Zatoichi in their ranks and allowed him to dispatch some swift justice with an old revolver.

Where was that for the rest of the movie?

The cast sleepwalked through the generic murder mystery. The pace was agonizing. It felt a lot longer than 90-odd minutes.

How could a neo-noir murder mystery that tackled cyber terrorism, personal identity and corporate espionage be so god damn boring?

For all the fitting nods to Blade Runner, did they actually bother to watch the damn film? Come on.

Director Rupert Sanders featured a cast of virtually unknown/small time TV stars. Now that wasn’t a problem because this could have been the perfect platform for them to shine.

BUT with such weak and wafer thin characters at their disposal, it was never going to work.

Peter Ferdinando’s dreadful pantomime villainy did nothing to muster any spark in this cold and lifeless thriller.

If he hadn’t popped up in a giant spider tank (No, not a tank of spiders. An actual tank shaped like a spider) in the fiery finale, I would have forgotten about his character altogether.

I even felt the “surrogate mother” relationship between ScarJo and Juliette Binoche’s (The English Patient) Dr Ouelet was cold and forced.

There was potential BUT it never really got going and failed to make a lasting impression. Fans of the original may feel differently.

BUT disappointing is my final summary on the matter.

2/5

*NEW* LIFE REVIEW *NEW*

Despite the shoddy pace and wafer thin characters, there was still life in this tense little sci-fi horror.

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

I didn’t expect much from this. The trailers bored me and the extended looks did nothing to win me over. BUT I was a fan of the line up. So was it shame on me?

Jon Ekstrand’s ominous score certainly grabbed my attention. The brooding atmosphere, the simmering tension, the nothingness of space. Seamus McGarvey’s glossy cinematography. Perfect.

It was just a shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The slow burning opening act soon put me into a mini-coma.

The disorienting claustrophobic camera work may have simulated the feeling of floating around in a space station BUT it irritated me. The POV angle of Ryan Reynolds’ Rory intercepting the damaged satellite was a nice touch.

BUT it didn’t help that the characters weren’t that interesting.

Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) uptight doc and Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Nocturnal Animals) depressed David were dreadfully dull.

I always felt Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) was an underrated supporting actor BUT his character was dire. A perfect opportunity to shine squandered.

And Ryan Reynolds just played the same old spiel again. Adapting the role of the cocky fast talking joker. Boring.

There wasn’t any depth and the bland exchanges between the crew just killed the tension. Especially as they left messages for their loved ones and gave cringe inducing virtual tours of the ship to the “world”. Yuck.

Thankfully by the 25-30 min marker, the film finally hit its stride as the crew discovered life and the answers to the universe in the form of a squid-like jellyfish named “Calvin”.

Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) made a memorable impression as Hugh. The delighted doc whose fascination with Earth’s new mascot bordered on obsession.

BUT I could still feel myself getting impatient as the crew carried out tests. However, one botched lab experiment later . . .

All that curiousity and wonder swiftly turned into sheer fear and panic as the crew’s new play thing decides to make a break for it. A bloody trail left in his wake.

The middle act delivered with an unnerving and nail biting thriller as Calvin continued to grow in size and intelligence. A game of cat and mouse set in motion.

“Calvin doesn’t hate us. He has to kill us in order to survive”.

The Alien meets Gravity vibe worked as the killer creature craftily picked the crew off one by one.

The special effects were brilliant. Calvin’s transformation creeped the hell out of me. His squid-like tentacles scuttling around the labyrinthine hallways. A spider toying with his prey. Shudder.

I was worried that the wafer thin character development would make me less interested in the crew’s survival BUT Gyllenhaal and Ferguson’s characters were thankfully fleshed out a little better as the danger ensued (Hell, I even warmed up to Reynolds).

There were genuine moments of suspense and I couldn’t see how it was going to end which made for a tense and thrilling finale.

And by the closing credits, I left the cinema pleasantly surprised.

Just persevere with the pace and you have a solid effort that does just enough to hold its own.

3/5 (Just)