Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Justice League (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Justice League – Film Review

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of Superman’s death, with the planet feeling vulnerable and sensing that an attack is not too far away, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of some heroes to help save the world from the threat of the villainous Steppenwolf…

Review: When reviewing the extended universe that DC is constructing, it is extremely difficult to not compare their efforts to that of their major rivals, Marvel. Similarly, it has been hard to ignore the difficult time DC has had in getting its Extended Universe off the ground. A strong start but a few blips followed that threatened to derail the universe before it even got off the ground good and proper. Thankfully, Wonder Woman came along and put everything back on track and now the pieces have been put together for DC’s answer to the Avengers to finally get their first cinematic superhero outing.

The decision to not go the Marvel route and give each character their own film before going into the superhero team up flick, was certainly a bold one. The debate as to whether that was the route DC should have gone, could be debated for an eternity. Nevertheless, in the wake of the events of Batman v Supermanand the heroic sacrifice of Kal-El, Bruce decides to form a team as he (correctly) believes that someone is about to attack the planet, and so the Justice League is formed, with Batman, Wonder Woman, and new recruits Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The aforementioned attack comes from Steppenwolf, whose origins are not really explained to any significant detail, all you know is he’s the bad guy and he is seeking some items that he wants to bring about an end to humanity. Usual comic book movie shenanigans.

Though he did direct the movie, due to personal tragedy, Snyder stepped down from the project in post production. Thus Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the project in Snyder’s absence. Though the movie does certainly feel like a Snyder film, in terms of its visuals, Whedon’s influence is certainly noticeable. Snyder is certainly a very visual director, but Whedon’s influence, given that he has a screenwriter credit, helps really flesh out the characters giving each team member an opportunity to shine, and it’s an opportunity they all take.

The standout though by far is Ezra Miller’s Flash, almost every line out of his mouth is quip after quip after quip, and it’s hilarious. Gal Gadot continues where she left off from her solo movie, and really continues to excel in her role as Wonder Woman. Jason Momoa as Aquaman is almost as if Khal Drogo cut off some of his hair and developed a deep love for the ocean, he certainly has charisma, with his Trident of Neptune in hand. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is functional, though there is certainly scope to explore his origin story a lot more somewhere down the line. As for Affleck, though he does look as though the role of the Caped Crusader is taking its toll on him, he continues to deliver the goods, though it remains to be seen if this is his last hurrah as Batman.

Even with Whedon’s input on the screenplay, it isn’t perfect. There’s some problems in terms of its storytelling, it feels a little bit rushed in the opening act. However once we arrive at the second act and the team are together, there’s enjoyment to be had without a doubt. The banter between the team is vintage Whedon and the action scenes are enjoyable to watch. There is a lot of CGI (to be expected) and while some of it is great, there are one or two instances where it could have maybe been cleaned up. As for the villain, unfortunately even with such a talent as Ciarán Hinds playing him, he falls into the category of rather bland villains, a problem that has been plaguing Marvel’s Universe since its inception.

For DC, their Extended Universe is still in its infancy, and although Justice League isn’t quite the home run that the studio would have undoubtedly liked it to be, it should give the fans more than enough to be hopeful for the future. Given the backlash and problems that have troubled DC, and only being a mere five films into their universe, you wouldn’t blame them if they opted to hit the reset button. However, there seem to be no plans to do that, and given that there’s lots in the pipeline they’re going full steam ahead, much to the dismay/delight of comic book fans everywhere (delete where appropriate).

There’s plenty of entertainment to be had seeing DC’s superhero team getting their first big screen outing, and despite an imperfect story, it’s a noticeable improvement on both BVS and Suicide Squad.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Film Review 

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader

Director:  Joss Whedon

Synopsis: When Tony Stark seeks to create a peacekeeping program around the world, he mistakenly creates the villainous Ultron who then seeks to bring humanity’s destruction, forcing the Avengers to suit up once more…

Review: How do you top the biggest superhero movie ever made? This was the challenge that faced Joss Whedon when it was announced that a sequel to 2012’s The Avengers was in the works. The first film smashed box office records and became the third highest grossing film of all time. It may have looked a daunting task for the man behind such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. As with The Avengers, Age of Ultron is the culmination of all the second phase of Marvel’s ever expanding universe, the phase that brought us a gun wielding raccoon and a talking tree let us not forget. and yet again, Marvel and Whedon have hit it right out of the park with this highly anticipated sequel that will set events in motion for Marvel’s upcoming phase three.  

As with a handful of Marvel’s Phase 2 movies, the tone of this sequel turns very dark almost right of the gate as the team are gunning for HYDRA and Loki’s sceptre from the first film, believing it may have something of significant value. Providing some sweet action scenes right out of the gate that are almost as good as anything that we saw in the first film. Super powerful shields are combined with almighty hammers that were forged in the heart of a dying star, is it little wonder that DC is struggling to compete, who needs Batman V Superman(!)

Through some discoveries, Tony Stark seeks to create a peace keeping programme ” a suit of armour around the world” as he calls it. Yet his plan goes awry as the being he creates is the villainous Ultron who seeks to obliterate the Avengers and mankind both. Thus drawing the team together once more to prevent Ultron from carrying out his evil intentions, and this time instead of one battle in New York City, the fight goes global and the ante and the stakes are upped considerably.

When the team met in the first movie, it certainly wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, they bickered and squabbled on almost anything they could, until they were forced to unite to save the world. Again the team has some internal conflict to deal, largely down to the addition of Scarlet Witch. Through her manipulative mind bending powers, she troubles each of the team with some less than pleasant visions of the future that create disharmony among the team. On top of this disharmony, the team have to take down Ultron, voiced excellently by James Spader. While Marvel has enjoyed dominance over DC for a number of years, the villains in the MCU, with the exceptions of Loki and The Winter Soldier, have on the whole been weak links. However this does not apply to Ultron. Through Spader’s excellent work, through every word he speaks he displays his utter contempt for humanity and desire to see us wiped off the map.

With a lot happening in the film, it would be very easy to get lost in the world and all of the action, because there is a lot of it on show. Yet Whedon, as the master of character, shines through once again. When a character is on the screen, they get their moment and chance to shine and through the excellent writing and performances you see certain characters share sympathies with the others. The returning team are all once again superb in their roles and the ensemble has grown this time around including new additions Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. They are initially are hostile towards the team but are eventually coerced into siding with the Avengers.

Their Eastern European accents are quite noticeable and there are times when they lapse a little bit, but they are solid additions to the great plethora of superheroes of the MCU, especially in the case of Scarlet Witch who adds another strong female lead, something that is lacking in the world of Marvel and comic book movies in general, while this addition of Quicksilver, while solid, does not quite match Evan Peters’ portrayal of the character in last summer’s Days of Future Past.

Yet again, Whedon has hit it out of the park and delivered what every single Marvel fan wanted. Flawless visual effects are combined with  a strong story, some great performances, and excellent direction. The story does lag a little in places, but overall Whedon delivers. As events in the Avengers set the wheels of phase 2 in motion, the same is almost certainly applicable here with the likes of Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 all in the Marvel pipeline. With Ant Man set to see out Phase Two, before next year’s Captain America: Civil War arrives to kick off Phase Three, this current phase of Marvel-ous domination is preceding as planned.

Bolder, darker, and just as amusing as the first Avengers outing with a terrific and growing ensemble of some truly great characters, the all powerful Marvel machine is in full throttle, and there may be no stopping it.  

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Avengers (2012)

 

avengers
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Avengers – Film Review 

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow

Director:  Joss Whedon

Synopsis: When Earth faces a grave threat from the banished Loki and an alien army, the planet’s last hope: the Avengers must assemble together and save mankind

Review: Cast your minds back to 2008, and the post credits scene in the very first Iron Man film where we had our first look at Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and he spoke about this mysterious “Avengers Initiative.” For a long time, a movie like this may have been a pipe dream, but with many successful films leading up to it arcing and crossing over, in what we now know as Marvel’s Phase One. Most of the characters got their own solo outing, their own chance to shine and it was definitely leading to something. It all culminated in an inevitable ensemble movie and much was riding on this. Marvel threw all of their eggs into one basket with this film, and if it had bombed, the subsequent phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have been left in pieces. Luckily for us all, that was not the case as Marvel triumphed with flying colours, delivering one of the coolest, funniest and best comic book movies, that arguably is the best film of the MCU and also retains its status as one of the best comic book movies of all time

With so many larger than life superheroes mashing together in one movie, it would be a difficult job for any director to contain all these egos and give each lead character their own moment and opportunity to shine, enter Joss Whedon comes in. The man who can take many characters and make them all relevant pieces in the puzzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and through excellent writing and remarkable performances from all the ensemble cast, every member of the team shines. With each scene, each character takes their turn, be it a scene with Black Widow or a scene in which Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers are clashing (cue massive Civil War excitement.) Each character gets their moment to shine individually and when they come together as a team, except it’s not sunshine and sweeties when they immediately meet. There’s bickering, squabbling and in fighting Of course, bringing all these larger than life characters in one room, odds are that they will not get along immediately. In fact they will bicker and squabble till the cows come home, or until a significant event draws them all together and they have to team up to save humanity.

Given the intense action that appeared in many Marvel films leading up to it, you would expect lots of action in this ensemble showdown. While there are snippets here and there, the final showdown in all its glory takes its time to come around, yet it is not irksome as you appreciate the team build up their trust (or disdain in the case of some) for each other. Every member of the team delivers top notch performances, with each well established in their previous films, bar of course the recasting of Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo took over green rage monster duties from Edward Norton and Ruffalo delivers a brilliant performance that cements him as the best Bruce Banner we have ever seen on the big screen. Downey Jr of course brings his effortless charisma and personality to the role of Tony Stark. Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans both carry on their excellent displays. While coming to the fore this time around is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who delivered her best MCU performance up until that point (until 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier came along.) With all the team shining, they are of course matched by the villainous and equally terrific Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Newcomers Jeremy Renner and Cobie Smulders are also given platforms to shine, but they do not deliver as strong performances as their SHIELD co workers

The final showdown in New York City provides some of the sweetest action scenes we have seen in the MCU to this day. It’s glorious to watch the team tackle Loki and his army of the Chitauri, who are unfortunately rather forgettable and almost weedy, as the challenge they pose to the Avengers is somewhat weak. There is a lot of destruction mind you, but not quite on the same level as a Bayhem sort of destruction like we have seen in the Transformers franchise. Throughout the battle there are some glorious comedy moments that will provide the audience with some chortling moments in between some great action scenes.  It all built up to this and it did not disappoint. Paving the way for more brilliant movies of phase 2 of the MCU that will lead to sequel that has every potential to be another explosive thrill ride. The bar has been raised very high and with Whedon again in the director’s chair for the upcoming sequel, the bar could very well be hulk smashed once again.

Humorous, entertaining, with a strong script, a terrific ensemble and some stellar direction from Whedon, this ensemble meeting raised the platform of the superhero genre, and it raised it to some very high standards. The sequel has some big shoes to fill. 

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