Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor (2011)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: When the God of Thunder Thor, the next in line to the throne of Asgard, is exiled on Earth, he must learn the error of his ways and prove himself worthy to retain his power…

Review: Norse Mythology is something that has certainly made an impression on pop culture. As J.R.R Tolkien himself has admitted, his works such as Lord of the Rings had their influences from the Nordic myths and legends. Indeed, Marvel Comics certainly decided to utilise said mythology in some of their comics, and thus the character of Thor came into being, first debuting in 1962. Back when Marvel was establishing the foundations of their cinematic Universe, Thor and the realm in which he dwells became a part of that all encompassing world, and what must have been quite the challenge to adapt for the big screen was pulled off quite spectacularly.

Thanks to some narration style backstory from the King of Asgard Odin (Hopkins) we learn that Thor is due to succeed his father as King, but a sinister threat approaches in the form of the Frost Giants, who threaten to turn Asgard and indeed everywhere into a cold dark place. When Thor decides to take matters into his own hands, his actions have dire consequences and at Odin’s behest, Thor is banished to Earth as a mere mortal and must learn from his mistakes if he is ever to take his place at Asgard again. Despite the grandiose setting, the themes of this film are at their core very Shakespearean, which means Kenneth Branagh is right at home having done a great many Shakespearean plays. Sibling rivalry, squabbling, betrayal and all that, mixed in with of course Norse Gods and magic of course (or is that science we just don’t know yet?) It might sound mad, it all blends brilliantly.

thor
This man definitely didn’t skip leg day…

Being one of the key players of the Avengers, casting the right man to play Thor was essential and Chris Hemsworth was certainly the right man. He carries the brash arrogance and swagger that one might expect from a man who wields a mighty hammer, Mjolnir as his weapon. Yet when he’s banished to Earth, he also shows his humility and compassion particularly for his love interest Jane (Portman). The chemistry between a demi-god and a mere mortal human shouldn’t really work but it does. The casting all round genuinely is flawless, Sir Anthony Hopkins certainly has the imposing presence required to play one of the most powerful beings in all the realms. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is also perfect, whilst he appears initially to be innocent, it doesn’t take long for his mischievous streak to emerge. You really feel the family dynamic between these characters and the  family disagreements  intense to say the least, one scene with Loki and Odin in particular stands out among the rest.

Family feuding aside, Branagh also helms the action scenes tremendously well and they are a visual treat to watch. When Thor is laying it down, he is one badass hero that would be pretty hard to stop. Which again when he’s stripped of his powers, makes him so much more vulnerable. When you have a hero as powerful as Thor is, to see him be stripped of his power and go on an important and significant journey to discover what it really means to have the power he possesses. Like a great many Marvel movies, the film weaves humour so effortlessly, despite all the family drama that’s occurring, there’s plenty of moments to laugh out load. That being said, the story is not perfect as there are some moments that do feel a bit rushed. In addition the Frost Giants, and in particular their leader, whilst menacing, do not stand out as very memorable villains, as that dastardly Loki is the one you want to keep your eye on.

At this point, the MCU was very much in its infancy, and so getting this aspect of its universe right was paramount for its future success. Thankfully the nine realms converged perfectly , everything was weaved together perfectly. the God of Thunder took flight and landed in the MCU, with an almighty crash.

Incorporating this aspect of the universe was undoubtedly a challenge, but Branagh steers this ship so skilfully that Thor’s MCU debut was as mighty as the God of Thunder himself.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Ingenious Film Partners and Chernin Entertainment

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo

Directors: Rupert Wyatt

Synopsis: Whilst carrying out some tests to research a cure for Alzheimer’s, a determined scientist discovers a young ape who after experimentation, develops remarkable advanced intelligence.

Review: As a species, humanity has had the dominion of Planet Earth has for the past two millennia. Of course, the idea that one day something else could come along and take that away from humanity is a theme that has been explored a considerable amount in cinema. There’s the classic alien invasion films, but the idea of super smart apes taking over the planet is one that has been around since the 1960s and the original Planet of the Apes film featuring Charlton Heston, which spawned four sequels. Then came Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg in 2001, to which a sequel never materialised and after another decade, the franchise was rebooted once more.

In this new take on the franchise, Will (Franco) is a scientist aiming to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. His research leads to the developing of a drug that is given on some Apes, which leads to one particular ape developing unprecedented abilities and super advanced intelligence that Will decides to adopt and name Caesar. As we watch Caesar grow up, and his intelligence becomes apparent, he begins to start questioning himself. All the while, the development of the drug begins to create tensions for the humans and as you might imagine a conflict between the humans and the apes starts to brew.

The wonder of modern technology meant that the apes were brought to life via motion capture work, and it’s just remarkable how advanced the technology has become. The technology is so impressive that it could almost make you forget that there is an actor who’s bringing the character to life. Though there are a handful of actors who bring the apes to life, the main man is the King of Motion Capture, Mr Andy Serkis himself. His work here is flawless, giving Caesar a very distinct personality, and a character you absolutely can empathise with.  Given that it is in fact Caesar who is the main character in the film, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver give him the most back story out of everyone by far, which does mean the back story of others does suffer a little bit.

As Caesar’s main father figure, Franco is excellent in his role as one of the few humans that Caesar trusts, along with Will’s ailing father Charles (Lithgow) and love interest Caroline (Pinto). There’s not a great deal of development on them, but they’re characters you care about.  There’s one human who doesn’t quite view Caesar the way Will does, and that is Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon. Channelling his inner Draco Malfoy, he’s a man who relishes mistreating apes and putting them in their place, and when he meets Caesar, he’s certainly got his hands full, as it’s all well and good telling the audience that Caesar is a smart ape, but actions sometimes speak louder than words, and this is definitely the case with Caesar.

Under Wyatt’s direction the film is visually crisp with action scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. With scenes that take place on California’s Golden Gate Bridge standing out as a particular highlight. The film’s pacing isn’t perfect, there are a few lapses in the plot where the film does drag. However there are one or two moments “holy shit” moments that more than make up for this. If a franchise has been dormant for a decade, any reboot’s key purpose is to reinvigorate interest in the franchise in a substantial way, and in that sense, it certainly was mission accomplished.

What a reboot should be, centred by a magnificent performance from Serkis with some stunning CGI and a very intriguing story, one that paved the way for future greatness.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Image is property of Paramount and Hasbro studios

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a  Transformer ship crashes on the Moon back in the height of the Cold War, triggering the Space Race, it possesses technology that could prove pivotal to the fates of both humanity and the Transformers themselves

Review: When you launch a live action franchise that is based off a hugely popular toy series, it’s almost a certainty that you will get people into the cinemas to see said films and the studio will make a nice juicy profit from these movies. However, you still have to make a good film that will ensure audiences keep coming on back once you decide to make sequels right?

Well not always as it happens, because even if you have one fun enough popcorn flick, but then that’s followed up with to put it mildly, a really disappointing follow-up, it creates the dilemma as to whether the audiences will return for a third film, under the same creative team as the previous two? Well yes as it turns out cos Hollywood does like to make those sequels, and the popularity of the Transformers franchise certainly compelled people back to the cinema, and thankfully this time director Michael Bay listened somewhat to the complaints that people had with Revenge of the Fallen, but not all of them.

In the wake of the previous movie Sam, now with new squeeze Carly (Huntington-Whiteley) is looking for fulfilment after having saved the world twice from the Decepticons, but of course those dastardly Decepticons are by no means willing to wave the white flag in their mission to conquer Earth yet, with their plot hinging around the Transformer ship that crashes onto our Moon carrying in it the former leader of the Autobots Sentinel Prime (Nimoy) and a transformer technology that if the Decepticons get their hands on it, is bad news for humanity as you would expect, and Earth becomes Transformers Bayhem once again.

Chicago has seen better days…

For a franchise that has Transformers in the title, you would like to see a lot more focus on the bots rather than the humans, but for around the first hour, we see Sam struggle in a pretty tedious job rather than see Autobots and Decepticons laying it down, and it’s all just not very interesting, even with a good highway chase thrown in there. However, after Sam learns of a sinister plot that involves the aforementioned Transformer ship that crashed on the Moon, and its subsequent ramifications, the film does begin to pick up the pace a lot. Yet the journey getting there is not exactly enjoyable as you feel like there are some scenes that could have been left on the editing room floor.

It’s when we reach the third act and the city of Chicago has endured a bit of damage that the film really hits its brightest spots and its Autobots v Decepticons Round 3. Bay certainly likes to film his actions scenes with a lot of explosions and here he does so once more. Visually Michael Bay does make some impressive fight scenes and while they are fun to watch, there is not enough substance in them to justify the rather long running time.

The film doesn’t really boast much in the way of top notch acting talent too unfortunately. LaBeouf was watchable for the first film but here his appeal has just fizzled away, Huntington-Whiteley, while being much better than her predecessor isn’t exactly giving an award worthy calibre performance, McDormand as the new Government MVP and Patrick Demspey as the primary antagonist do offer some great performances, but it is the best of a bad bunch. It is a shame that there can be a truly great Transformers movie in there somewhere, and the first film was almighty close to achieving that, but with subsequent films, Bay did not build upon what he had achieved the first time around, and while the end product this time around is not awful, it is a mishmash of robotic mayhem thrown in with some inane human drama.

Throwing up nothing that you haven’t seen before, but considerably improving on what its predecessor gave us with some impressive visuals and action, that are weighed down by indifferent acting and a shaky script.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

deathly-hallows-2
Image is property of Warner Bros and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, David Thewlis,  Michael Gambon, Julie Walters,

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: As Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their quest to destroy the Horcruxes, Lord Voldemort and his followers bring the battle between good and evil to Hogwarts, for one final showdown.

Review: For everyone who read these beloved series of books and went on this epic journey with Harry, Ron and Hermione on the big screen, this is where everything ends (or so we thought at the time!) After going on said journey, spanning eight films and ten years, it was important to ensure that the franchise went out in style, and go out in style, they certainly did.

The first part to this concluding story to the Harry Potter universe, while having its few moments of enjoyment was ultimately all set up for this conclusion. We pick up immediately with the events of the first film, with Dobby having bravely given his life for our key trio to help them escape the clutches of Lord Voldemort. For Harry, Ron and Hermione there is no time to dwell, and their search for those elusive Horcruxes continues. The pacing of the first part was a bit slow, as the relationships of our three leads was put under severe pressure. However, now the trio are united in their quest, and right from the off, this film is a pulsating, emotional ride that never lets up and delivers the satisfying conclusion that the legions of Potter fans around the world will have hoped for.

The franchise has certainly boasted some remarkable action sequences, but this time around we certainly have the biggest one, and maybe even the best of the lot. Yates once again directs these scenes with wonderful execution, from the Battle at Hogwarts to a brilliant mini skirmish at Gringotts. With Harry having returned to Hogwarts in search of a Horcrux, The Dark Lord moves in to attack, and the Battle of Hogwarts commences. It’s a visual spectacle and Yates once again helms it in magnificent fashion. Writer Steve Kloves also deserves credit for once again adding some brilliant lines of humourous dialogue. The best of these falls undoubtedly to Julie Walters’s Molly Weasley, with a superb line of dialogue lifted straight from Rowling’s novel, it’s wonderful to watch and Walters delivers the line in great style.

RALPH FIENNES as Lord Voldemort in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Image is property of Warner Bros.

Yet in spite of the wondrous visuals, this franchise has been built on the characters and there are some truly heart breaking moments where certain characters true natures are revealed. Alan Rickman did a wonderful job bringing Severus Snape to life, but the revelations that are disclosed here show him in a completely new light, and viewers may find themselves reaching for the tissues as Rickman’s performance is so powerful and emotionally heart-breaking, it is undoubtedly his best work in this franchise and reinforces what a wonderful and brilliant actor he truly was. Through all of this magical mayhem and carnage, this franchise has been built on excellent, well developed characters and Snape is one of the many perfect examples of this, with Harry, Ron and Hermione being among many others. Truth be told, every character was brought to life brilliantly by their respective actors, and full credit to each and every one of them for their sterling work.

It was quite a journey that we all went on over the course of a decade, watching these brilliant pieces of literature be brought to the big screen. Four directors, eight films and nearly eight billion dollars grossed at the worldwide box office, this is a franchise that captured the hearts and minds of film goers across the world, and although our journey with the Boy Who Lived might be done, there is still much to explore, With a further expansion of the wizarding world having arrived in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and with four further films to come, the magic of Harry Potter and this incredible world we have all come to know and love, isn’t going anywhere any time soon, even more so when The Cursed Child is inevitably adapted for the big screen.

Sterling performances from just about everyone, some incredible action and breath-taking visuals, the franchise certainly signed off in beautiful and magical style. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

ghost protocol
Image rights belong to Paramount, Bad Robot, Skydance Productions and TC Productions

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: The IMF is disavowed following a mission, and must use any means they can to take down a growing terrorist threat, bent on global destruction.

Review: If there is one movie star today who absolutely commits himself to every stunt he does, for the sole purpose of giving the audience the ultimate thrill, edge-of-your-seat action, then look no further than Tom Cruise. In this fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, Cruise really decided to up the “holy shit” factor by actually scaling the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and in doing so produced one of the best set pieces ever put to film.

Of course, this is one exhilarating and intense action sequence in a movie jam packed with amazing sequences and some really great characters, all under the supervision of animation veteran Brad Bird. The IMF has been disavowed after a pretty catastrophic event which they are subsequently blamed for, and it is up to them to clear their name and find the real perpetrator. From a thrilling prison break sequence in the beginning, a daring mission in Moscow, the aforementioned scaling of the Burj Khalifa, to a climatic chase in Mumbai. The action sequences are thrilling and very intense at times, and can certainly lay claim to some of the best in the franchise. Yet, there are plenty of moments to allow the audience to catch their breath.

burj khalifa

Aptly for the fourth film in the franchise, the IMF has four key players, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, Benji Dunn (Pegg), and newbies Jane Carter (Patton) and William Brandt (Renner). Together the four of them make a pretty effective team, although it’s not always happy times, as Agent Carter has a vendetta, specifically against the secondary antagonist played brilliantly by Lea Seydoux. Each of the actors give excellent performances. Sure Cruise’s Hunt is the main character but the team play an important role too and that is stressed throughout out this movie, they are a team, and they get stuff done as a team. Pegg’s Benji is there to provide the humour, and he does so wonderfully well. Lea Seydoux appears as a secondary antagonist, but she is a much more compelling villain.

The real trouble here is the main villain, Nyqvist is fine in the role, but he is a bit generic. A madman who wants to wreak global nuclear destruction, not exactly anything new in the genre of spies and espionage movies. However, it serves to help the plot move forward, which also in itself is a little bit generic, as it tries to create a new Cold War, except this one wouldn’t be so cold as to very very hot one. Nevertheless, it remains a very exciting movie to watch, and a stylish one at that! When a franchise reaches its fourth instalment, there are times when a franchise needs to be put to bed, or it proves to provide awesome entertainment that ensures it keeps going. The latter is applicable here and when the fifth instalment came out last year, it went on to produce even more greatness for the franchise.

Gripping action sequences, with top performances from its cast, especially from Cruise, the Mission Impossible franchise continues to accept its missions, and with great style too! 

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Posted in 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films

Marvel 10 years

In this era of superhero movie dominance that are making the studios mega bucks, and the actors into huge stars, there is without a doubt one studio that is firmly leading the way, and that is Marvel Studios. Back in 2008, in the first post credits scene of Iron Man, the prospect of the Avengers Initiative was teased. 10 years later and from that one film has spawned an enormous universe filled with colourful characters aplenty.

With a now considerable 20 movies of their Extended Universe graced the big screen, there have been some truly spectacular flicks, and so it is time for me to rank all of these movies so far from worst to best (up to and including Ant-Man and the Wasp). Please bear in mind, that these are my picks, and so I very much doubt you will agree with all of my choices. You might completely agree with me, or maybe you will hate my list altogether, it is all good! Having different opinions is what makes movies and discussions about film so entertaining. So with that all said and done, it is time to Hulk smash into this list!!!!

22. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Speaking of The Hulk, it is where I begin my list. I’m pretty sure if you ask people do they remember this movie, the answer would probably be no. It has become the forgotten movie of the MCU especially since they recast Mark Ruffalo in the role for The Avengers, replacing Ed Norton as everyone’s favourite green rage monster. As a result, this movie has probably slipped from many people’s minds, and for good reason. Norton did a decent enough job as Bruce Banner, and the story was interesting enough, but never truly gripping enough to be memorable.

The action between The Hulk and his nemesis The Abomination just got a bit cartoonish at times and very CGI heavy, in a similar vein to the Star Wars prequels, and it was just a bit boring watching two forces matched in power fight one another and was nowhere near as enthralling as the other MCU movie that came out that year, but more on that later.

21. Iron Man 2 (2010)

This movie is a classic case of a studio just pumping out a sequel too quickly after the explosive success of the sequel. While this movie does have its moments such as the showdown in Monaco which was undeniably entertaining, and seeing Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in action for the very first time was awesome. The story did feel a bit rushed and uneven in terms of its pacing. There was potential for a really good story, but this was not fully realised.

Despite having two antagonists, neither really stood out (more on that throughout this post) and the movie struggled to recapture the brilliance of Tony Stark’s first outing as Iron Man. It is by no means a terrible film, but much could have been done to improve on it and definitely ranks as the weakest film in the Iron Man trilogy.

20. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor tdw

Full review

While the first Thor film was all about Thor learning what it means to be a leader and a warrior, all while being without his God-like power, in this film he had his hammer by his side at all times. While director Alan Taylor did bring some impressive visuals to this story, and there were some really solid and entertaining fight scenes. Furthermore, we got to explore the God of Thunder’s relationship (if you can call it that!) with his brother the mischievous Loki, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hiddleston once again.

The real trouble here was, as is so often the case with MCU movies, the villain. Christopher Ecclestone is a fine actor but his portrayal of the Dark Elf Malakith left a lot to be desired, as he was another of the many disposable Marvel villains and he wasn’t memorable at all. His motivations for his actions were just not explained at all. Furthermore, Hiddleston’s performance as Loki completely overshadowed him.

19. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Full review

This film showing the origins of Steve Rogers as the iconic Captain America showed what the character was all about. A loyal and determined man who thanks to the super soldier serum is transformed into the awesome superhero, who is fiercely patriotic and just wants to serve his country. Chris Evans was an excellent choice to play him and he has done so right throughout his tenure as the character. The rest of the cast were also excellent with Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones all delivering excellent performances.

Equally great was Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, although his accent was a little dubious in places. This film was a bit light on the action scenes, but it was a perfect introduction to see Cap get his stars and stripes, and as we will see, the Captain America franchise only got better and better.

18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Full review

After their first glorious outing, it was inevitable that everyone’s favourite band of flawed but lovable collection of criminals turned heroes made a return to the big screen. The first film was such an enormous risk but one that paid off massively. Hence, it made perfect sense to continue in the bonkers style of the first one, as the Guardians meet a man who claims to be the father of Star Lord. The Marvel brand of humour has become such a staple of this universe and this one very much continues in that trend, whilst also crucially allowing the relationships between these characters to grow and develop.

However, there is a lack of emphasis on plot in favour of telling jokes, which while entertaining at first, quickly loses steam and this film really grinds to a sharp halt in the second act, and the story suffers as a result. Though it does pick up again towards the end, not every joke lands this time around. Much like the first film, the villain is also something of a let down. Though the film has another excellent soundtrack, the first film set such a high bar in terms of quality that matching it was always going to be a tall order, and this never reaches the first film’s lofty heights. Baby Groot though is still really frickin adorable though.

17. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Full review

When we were first introduced to him, Scott Lang was a guy in a tough spot just trying to do what he could for his young daughter, which in turn led him to becoming the Ant-Man. After running off to join Cap in Civil War, it landed him in a bit of bother that consigned him to house arrest. This changes when former associates Hope and her father need him for information concerning Hope’s mother, the original Wasp. After the earth-shattering events of Infinity War, and to a lesser extent Black Panther, a light-hearted blast of entertainment was exactly what the MCU needed, and the tiniest (sometimes the largest) hero Marvel has to offer delivered exactly that.

A very similar film to its predecessor in terms of going deep into the science-y world of Hank Pym, but with a much more personal story this time around, particularly for Hope. As she finally gets her wings and becomes the Wasp after her mother. The chemistry, especially between Scott and Hope is strong which helps to drive the plot forward, but while it passes the time, it is not nearly as memorable or impactful as other MCU entries, most notably the first Ant-Man film. The film itself is very enjoyable, but give a take a few scenes, is quite forgettable. Furthermore, despite an intriguing backstory, the villain once again left a lot to be desired.

16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Full review

When the first teaser for this movie arrived, it exploded all over the internet, with Ultron looking like he was going to be the badass awesome villain that the MCU had been craving for a very long time. When the final product arrived, while it was still really enjoyable to watch and to see the Avengers reunited. The introductions of Scarlet Witch and Vision were welcome ones to the plethora of characters we have seen so far, and the action was, as is often the case with Marvel, really well handled.

However, despite being all badass in the trailers, the Ultron we got was ultimately a little bit disappointing, he had his moments of brilliance but was far from being the quality villain we had hope he would be. For all of his efforts, Joss Whedon couldn’t manage to make a film to go one better than the original, which is what a sequel should do. It was quality to see the team reunited, but a few of the side plots could have been very easily taken out of the finished product, and it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference.

15. Doctor Strange

Full review

The MCU up to this point had dabbled into many fascinating subjects, but until this movie, they had not dabbled in the world of sorcery and magic. It certainly was an interesting direction for the MCU to go in and ensures that the franchise retained interest for the audience. Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent in the titular role and it provided some of the most remarkable visuals that we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point. One could make the argument that it did basically follow the formula that the first Iron Man did, and yes the similarities between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange are plain to see. However, as it was one that worked so well to introduce the MCU to the world, only makes sense to use it to introduce a new facet to the MCU.

Once again though, the villain is the real Achilles Heel of the film. Like with many Marvel villains, Mads Mikkelsen is an extremely talented actor. However it is the script does not give him the chance to become a villain on the level of quality like Loki, though he does have some decent moments, perhaps in no small part due to the rather intimidating eye make up that he and his minions acquire.

 

14. Thor (2011)

thor

Full review

A movie based on the Norse God Thor might have seemed something of a far-fetched concept when it was first pitched, but under the vision of Sir Kenneth Branagh, this movie really worked. Chris Hemsworth as the titular character was a tremendous casting choice, as was casting Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief Loki. The sibling rivalry between the two of them is what ultimately drives the movie forward It’s Shakespeare in Asgard, what more could you want? With the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as Thor and Loki’s mother, and Natalie Portman as Thor’s human love interest. Shakespeare but with Asgardian Gods, and magic.

The cast was excellent and it was well acted but maybe a little bit rushed in terms of its plot, and again a largely throw away villain in Laufey, leader of the Frost Giants. Like with the sequel, Hiddleston’s brilliant work overshadowed the role of the Frost Giants, and that was something of a waste. In spite of this, the CGI was excellent and it was a very different movie to those that had come before it.

13. Iron Man 3 (2013)

iron man 3

The first film of Phase 2 of the MCU, and the third solo outing for RDJ as everyone’s favourite billionaire/playboy/philanthropist, who’s understandably struggling with what he experienced in the wake of the events of The Avengers, and the impact that has on those closest to him. With Shane Black on board as writer and director, this film gave the audience a much closer look at the genius of Tony Stark, and what the effects of fighting off a horde of extra-terrestrial invaders can do to a man.

Yet Tony’s problems extend to more than just PTSD as he battles The Mandarin played by Sir Ben Kingsley. Yet the directions they go in with his character in the film alienated a lot of fans, and the film received quite the subsequent backlash. Whilst it was admittedly a clever plot point, it just seemed such a bizarre decision to have made with an extremely popular character in the comics. Nevertheless, despite this villain conundrum, there were some pulsating action sequences, with the plane scene being a particular highlight.

12. Captain Marvel

Full review

It took a long time, but finally after 20 previous films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first female led superhero film. The MCU wasn’t exactly short of strong, inspiring female characters before Carol Danvers was introduced, but with her arrival, it introduced potentially the most powerful hero the MCU has ever seen up to this point. For her MCU debut, it’s a blast back to the 90s as she crash lands on Earth in the middle of a war raging between two alien races and a hero who’s just beginning to discover the full extent of her powers.

The film is a joyful blast from the past, with a full on 90s orientated soundtrack to boot. A much younger Nick Fury is at play, and it’s a very different side of his character that we haven’t really seen before. The chemistry between him and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is extremely entertaining and undoubtedly one of the best aspects of the film. It’s therefore frustrating that while Larson was an absolutely perfect choice to play the titular hero, the accompanying story goes in an intriguing direction that, whilst admirable, doesn’t quite stick the landing as well as it could have done.

11. Spider-Man Homecoming

Full review

When Marvel and Sony announced that everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man would have his own MCU outing, it was music to the ears of Spidey fans everywhere. Following on from his glorious debut in Civil War, Tom Holland continued where he left off bringing us the best on screen Peter Parker we have ever had.  For Peter, all while trying to impress his mentor Tony Stark, must battle high school troubles and win the affections of the most popular girl in his school. Though it doesn’t break any new ground, it is still an absolute blast of fun as we watch Spidey going from dealing with petty crimes in his neighbourhood to something altogether much more troubling.

This trouble is in the form of Michael Keaton’s Birdman the 2nd, AKA The Vulture, who is definitely one of the better MCU villains that we have had.  His motivations are clear, and it does make you sympathise with his character, something a good villain should do. Furthermore, his relationship with Peter goes in very unexpected directions and it adds so much more to the story, which is crucial because while Homecoming is fun, it never really added anything to what we hadn’t seen before.

10. Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man (right) in battle, in the movie

The film that started this mad universe off, and aren’t we all glad it did! It’s by no means the best film in the MCU but if this film had not been the storming success it was, what has since come after it might not have been green-lit. This film revived RDJ’s career and transformed him into a huge star and he has since become one could argue the face of this whole universe. Jon Favreau put together a very gripping and emotional story telling of Iron Man’s origins and how he became the awesome superhero that he is. While Jeff Bridges gave one of the better performances as an MCU villain than many of the others. The final fight while deeply entertaining and very well made gave a taste of things to come as it was two people with essentially the same arsenal fighting one another, which again proved to be a bit frustrating.

9. Ant Man (2015)

ant man

Full review

When Edgar Wright, who had been attached to direct this film for a long time, left the project, it looked as though this project was doomed, almost destined to be a complete train wreck with very small odds (sorry!) of it being a successful hit. Fortunately that didn’t happen and the movie that emerged was one of the funniest MCU movies to have emerged so far, maybe even the funniest. Paul Rudd excelled as the titular character with Michael Douglas brilliant as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly also on form as his daughter.

New director Peyton Reed did a tremendous job with the action sequences, both small and big, but yet again, the real trouble with this film was the villain, the Yellow-Jacket. Corey Stoll’s performance was one of the better ones, but he proved to be another one of those throw away villains which is again frustrating. In addition, it was another case of two characters with very similar power bases fighting, which while it made for some great viewing, was hard to ignore.

8. Black Panther (2018)

Full review

As with Spidey, Civil War marked the debut appearance of Prince T’Challa, who following the events of Civil War ascends to the throne of Wakanda. After stealing the show, we finally got to see the mystical world of Wakanda and all that it has to offer on the big screen, and though it perhaps took longer than it should have, it was worth the wait in the end. In the hands of Ryan Coogler, this incredible place was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. When a fictional place feels as though it could be somewhere on this planet, that is a very impressive achievement.

The accompanying story sees T’Challa balances his duties as King with the burden of being the Black Panther, and when the villainous Killmonger comes into the picture, he sees his rule challenged. The performances were excellent across the board, in what was a star studded cast. Michael B Jordan as Killmonger was another superb, well fleshed out villain. But the scene stealers were Wakanda’s women, namely T’Challa’s little sister Shuri, his ex Nakia and the leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye. Filled as usual with excellent humour, this was a very important film for the MCU, and it met those expectations with the flying vibrant colours. Wakanda Forever!

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Full review

Prior to the release of this film, if you had asked your average comic book fan: “Name a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy,” chances are good that you would have received a perplexed look in response. When this movie was first announced, there were suggestions that a movie about these characters simply could not and would not work. How wrong they were, how very wrong they were. Director James Gunn brilliantly brought these characters to life with a funny, and exciting story that probably ranks as the funniest film the MCU has seen thus far.

Our quintet of villains turned heroes were all very interesting to watch and each and every one of them had the screen time needed to flesh out their characters and to make the audience care about them. Who’d have thought a talking tree that only says three words could get the viewers tearing up? What’s more, the action was extremely exciting and that soundtrack was just the icing on a very delicious cake!

6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Full review

The events of Infinity War left audiences in utter shock as the Mad Titan Thanos snapped his fingers and half of the population disintegrated away into dust.  It probably left audiences wondering, where on earth do they go from here? In the build up to this film, we were promised that it would be the last hurrah for some of these heroes that we have gone on this extraordinary journey with. So, in all of its three hour glory, they provided us with the answers to the questions we all had, since that fateful click of those fingers.

The hype was enormous, and the final film certainly justified that hype, delivering an extremely satisfying, and sometimes heartbreaking conclusion for these characters. It was everything a fan of the MCU could have possible wanted, with an enthralling final throwdown that was just the definition of epic. From Iron Man all the way back in 2008, to Avengers: Endgame in 2019, an extraordinary twenty two film journey over the course of over a decade, Marvel accomplished something that no studio has ever really done before, and it will go down in cinematic history. They took audiences on an incredible journey, and with Endgame,  this particular chapter of the MCU was brought to an extremely satisfying conclusion.

5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Full review

Usually the third film in a trilogy is the weakest of the bunch, this can definitely not be said for the Thor trilogy. While the first was all Norse Gods meets Shakespeare, and the second sort of continued on that path, everything changed for the third installment. With Taika Waititi on board as director, this was essentially a buddy cop comedy film set in space. Weird combination? Maybe, but under Waititi’s direction, it all meshed together quite brilliantly in what might just be the funniest film Marvel has ever made.

And it’s clear that everyone is just having an absolute bundle of fun on screen. The film brought some very intriguing new characters into the mix such as Valkyrie, and the most fleshed out villain of the Thor franchise by far in Cate Blanchett’s Hela. And yes, perhaps the best side character the MCU has given us thus far, Korg, voiced by Waititi himself. Hilarity ensues every time this bundle of rocks opens his mouth, delivering some extremely memorable jokes, and the perfect use of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song.

4. The Avengers (2012)

avengers

Full review

Back when Iron Man in 2008 came out, a post credit scene hinted at something called the “Avengers Initiative,” fans went crazy thinking something like this could actually be possible. After four years since Iron Man was released, the fans dream came true courtesy of super-nerd Joss Whedon, and it was glorious to watch. As you might expect when the team meet up initially, it is fair to say that they don’t exactly get along. In fact, they bicker and squabble about a lot of things until they’re needed to come together to help save the world from the threat of a familiar face, Loki and his extraterrestrial army.

In Loki, the MCU produced its best villain (until some Mad Titan came along). Like all good villains, you understand why he is doing what he’s doing, even though you really don’t want him to succeed. Whedon managed to also make the movie really funny in places, and Whedon deserves enormous praise for making this film the storming success it was, and it set the benchmark for other studios to try and create their own cinematic universes.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

Full review

After ten years since Iron Man arrived in cinemas, with each film that came along, we knew that this vast universe was building towards something, and that something was the arrival of the Mad Titan Thanos and his bid to seize control of the Infinity Stones. Though his appearances leading up to this film were fleeting, we knew that it was a matter of time before he made his big entrance. And he made that entrance alright in the third MCU film to be helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo. And of course it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him.

With so many characters in this film, balancing them all and making them all relevant players seemed an impossible task, but the Russos did exactly that. The humour that we come to expect from a MCU film is here, but at the same time, it set the stakes to an unprecedented level that we had never seen before in this world. And for all of its problems with villains, Thanos broke that curse and then some, delivering THAT jaw dropping ending that stunned audiences and shook the MCU to its core.

2. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Full review

The thirteenth film to have exploded onto the big screen, and it was at the time of release, the biggest movie that Marvel has made. But was it unlucky? Not a chance. Many dubbed this film Avengers 2.5, but at its heart, it is most definitely a Captain America film. Throughout the movies so far, it has all been building to this titanic clash between Captain America and Tony Stark. The Russo brothers along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivered a really emotional story that was just gripping to watch from start to finish. You might have decided what team you were on before the film’s release, but the film does a tremendous job of making you see and understand where both sides are coming from.

What’s more the terrific introductions of new characters such as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, only added to the collection of great MCU characters that we have assembled so far, along with all the characters we are familiar with from the previous movies. The Achilles Heel of these films has often been that the hero and the villain are too similar, well that is thrown out of the window here! The handling of the action scenes was once again tremendously well done by the Russo brothers, with that airport battle scene being quite possibly the best action set piece that we have seen in the MCU so far.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

 

Full review

The cream of the MCU crop remains 2014’s The Winter Soldier, and that’s a hat-trick for the Russo brothers. This movie took the character of Captain America that was established in the first movie, and made him a very unique and interesting character without a doubt. On top of that, this film provided an enthralling storyline that really went past the standard Marvel formula, and it became this gripping spy/espionage thriller, as we watch that SHIELD is not what we thought it was at all, as the sinister Nazi organisation HYDRA has been lurking in its shadow for decades.

Besides Loki, the Winter Soldier proved to be a very capable villain who certainly left his mark on the MCU, as did the film’s other antagonist Alexander Pierce played by Robert Redford. The decision to put the Winter Soldier in was perfect because as a character, he’s a very significant one to Steve Rogers. What’s more he did not become one of the many throw away villains that we have seen in a few of these movies. Throw in Black Widow kicking ass once again and the introduction of Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and you have for me, what is the best MCU movie to this day.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

First avenger
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures

Captain America: The First Avenger – Film Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper

Director: Joe Johnston

Synopsis: A frail young man with aspirations of serving his country during World War II is given a chance to become the superhero Captain America via a super secret programme.

Review: When the world erupted in war back in 1939, countries the world over were all looking for able and strong men to sign up for their respective armies to take on and bring down the evil Nazi regime.  In the case of one frail sickly young man, who was absolutely determined to sign up and fight for his country, yet his aspirations were forever getting trampled on due to his poor health. This is until, through a top secret programme, he has his chance to become a super soldier. This man is of course Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America.

the first avenger

Back when the all powerful Marvel machine was still in its first warming up phase, director Joe Johnston with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, provide an interesting take on the back story of one of the most popular heroes of the MCU. His journey from a weak young man, to a near invincible badass though was far from an easy one, but it is very interesting to watch. Beaten up by what seems like every kid in his neighbourhood as a child, the early scenes of the film show just how down on his luck he is, with everyone including his best friend, Sergeant James Barnes AKA Bucky (Sebastian Stan), going off to war without him.

Chris Evans in his second stint as a superhero, after two ill fated spells as the Human Torch in 2005 and 2007, is tremendous in the lead role. His humanity and compassion shines through, and it’s this along with his dogged determination, combined with some convincing CGI that makes him look very frail indeed. that brings him to the attention of Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) the creator of the super soldier programme who fast-tracks Rogers for the programme, and for battle.

Yet despite this very intriguing opening, the film suffers from pacing issues, as Cap instead of being thrown immediately into battle, is made to wait. All the while the war rages on, and the dastardly Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) AKA The Red Skull of HYDRA is preparing to unleash chaos on the world in the form of a very rare off world artefact. The pacing issues persist throughout though as while there are some great action scenes for us to enjoy, a lot of scenes are put together in a montage that almost feels like the studio had blown their production budget on certain effects and were forced to cut back on the action. That being said, there are some action scenes that are just flat out awesome, including taking a zip wire onto a moving train. These scenes do make for some spectacular viewing but a bit more action, and not montaging through considerable portions of it would have been great.

There are plenty of some very big names on display here, and all give great performances. Tommy Lee Jones is on fine form as a gruff US General, Hayley Atwell as the fierce but compassionate Agent Peggy Carter who has something of a soft spot for Cap, and she proved to be such a popular character that she got her own spin off series, and Cap’s best buddy, Bucky. Flying the HYDRA flag along with Herr Schmidt and Dr Arnim Zola (Toby Jones.) While both give solid performances, their accents are somewhat questionable. Yet Johnston managed to create a very gritty Superhero war movie that looks superb with great attention to detail, and he gives a character who has proved to become one of the MCU’s most popular heroes a solid introduction to the Marvel Universe and help build Marvel’s Phase 1 to an exciting climax.

Cap gets his stars and stripes good and proper, with some solid acting and directing, but more action set pieces wouldn’t have gone astray. 

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