Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

© Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Film Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams

Director: Sam Raimi

Synopsis:  After an encounter with a girl who has the ability to travel in between different multiverses, Doctor Strange begins to fully grapple with the concept of the multiverse and the horrors it could unleash….

This review will be 100% spoiler-free…

 

Review:  The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become such a gargantuan cinematic juggernaut of an impressively inter-woven universe that has successfully tackled a plethora of different genres across 28 different films. However, despite all of its incredible accomplishments, there is one particular genre that (for understandable reasons) the MCU has avoided tackling, and that is horror. Multiple projects of Phase Four have established the multiverse as a central aspect to their stories, and an endless number of doors have simultaneously been opened for Marvel in Phase Four and beyond. Now, with the Multiverse in full swing, it has allowed Marvel to fully embrace this concept, and what better director to bring this to life, than Sam Raimi.

Following on from the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Dr Stephen Strange is beginning to grapple with the multiverse and all of its infinite possibilities. Whilst at the wedding of his former co-worker and one-time love interest Christine (McAdams) he encounters a girl named America Chavez (Gomez) who has the power to travel in-between multiverses. Strange quickly realises that with the scope of her powers, it is extremely likely that some dangerous individuals will soon be making their play, wanting her power for their own ends. Fearing the consequences if that came to pass, he seeks the help of someone else who has knowledge of the multiverse, Wanda Maximoff (Olsen), to help protect America and prevent her power from falling into the wrong hands.

In what is his sixth time playing the ex-Sorceror Supreme, Benedict Cumberbatch once again excels in the role. It is clear when we meet him that this is a man with a lot on his mind, especially since he played such an integral role along with Spider-Man (remember him?) in establishing the multiverse and all of its perils as a very real danger to the world that he is sworn to protect. Furthermore, even though his actions helped restore the universe to undo the consequences of the Blip, there are some decisions that Strange is grappling with. Most notably, concerning his one-time flame Christine. However, with the arrival of America Chavez, Strange knows that he cannot afford to dwell on the past, because dangers both old and new, are threatening to reap unimaginable destruction on not just our world, but every world out there. Given how central her character is to the film, Xochitl Gomez brings likeability, fearlessness and determination to the role of America Chavez, and she stands toe to toe with the experienced MCU regulars.

While Cumberbatch excels, the even bigger star of the show here is Olsen’s latest portrayal of Wanda Maximoff. The events of WandaVision gave Olsen a chance to dive deep and fully explore the tragedy of this character. Having seen what her life could have been through those alternate realities, this is a woman who is on a deeply personal mission. Now fully embracing her Scarlet Witch mantra and fuelled by a frightening combination of rage, grief and heartache for her long lost family, it enables Olsen to demonstrate a side to Wanda that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, an extremely powerful being who’s more than capable of giving any character in this universe a run for their money, and more than likely, a good arse-kicking.

With his experience with both the realm of Marvel with the original Spider-Man trilogy, along with the Evil Dead trilogy that launched his career as a director, it is fantastic to see Sam Raimi back in the director’s chair after a nearly decade long hiatus since his last project in 2013. The visual effects wizards once again bring the magic when it comes to the actions scenes, but it is no coincidence that with Raimi at the helm, the film really pushes the boundaries of the 12A/PG 13 rating, in a way that the MCU has never done up to this point. Some scenes definitely have a more noticeably horror movie element to them, and are much more violent. It could have been a match made in multiversal heaven. However, it’s really disappointing that Michael Waldron’s (who wrote the Disney+ TV show Loki) screenplay quickly becomes very convoluted and is filled with a frustrating amount of exposition that really drags the film down, with certain scenes serving as little more than fan service that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

With a title like In the Multiverse of Madness, audiences would surely have expected a thrilling ride that delves deep into the madness of the concept of a multiverse, especially given what the MCU has already explored with the concept thus far. Yet, the reality is that what’s presented here only really scratches the surface of what it could have explored in the 126 minute run time. Multiversal shenanigans are enjoying an unprecedented spell of popularity at this moment in time, and the potential was there for another great entry into this particular sub-genre. Yet, even with the recruitment of Raimi, not even his wizardry can conjure away the feeling that this is a massive missed opportunity.

It’s a joy to see Sam Raimi return to the realm of superhero filmmaking. Though, even with him working his magic, this multiversal adventure never fully lives up to the potential teased by its bonkers title.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

© Marvel Studios, Sony and Columbia Pictures

Spider-Man: No Way Home   – Film Review

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, J. B. Smoove, Benedict Wong, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: After his identity is revealed to the world, Peter Parker asks for the help of Doctor Strange in a desperate attempt to make everyone forget he is Spider-Man…

This review will be 100% spoiler-free…

Review: Back in 2019, when Marvel Studios released Avengers: Endgame to the world, it was the crowning and unprecedented achievement of a decade-long cinematic adventure. Unlike anything that had ever been accomplished before in cinematic history it broke box office records, and – for a time – held the title of the highest-grossing film of all time. After the conclusion of that thrilling journey, Marvel would have been forgiven for spending five or so years to take stock of what they’ve achieved. The pandemic might have forced them to wait a bit, but this year Marvel have gone full steam ahead with the continuation of their Cinematic Universe. Phase 4 is beginning to take shape, and now, perhaps the biggest film of this phase thus far, and certainly the biggest since Endgame, has arrived.

Set immediately after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spider-Man’s identity has, thanks to Quentin Beck/Mysterio been revealed to the world. Consequently, Peter’s whole life has been turned upside down. With his identity now a known fact, it’s having an adverse impact on the lives of his family and friends as well. Desperate for help, he turns to Doctor Strange and asks him to cast a spell that makes the world forget his secret identity. However, when Peter attempts to tamper with the spell, it goes horribly wrong and unleashes the Multiverse, as hinted at in Disney+’s Loki. The Multiverse is something that they know, as Strange puts it, “frighteningly little about.” The corrupted spell causes strange visitors and foes from different universes to arrive in our world, and it’s up to Peter to stop them and send them back to their own realities.

After two MCU Spider-Man films that very much dealt with the impact that Tony Stark/Iron Man had on Peter Parker and his early career as everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, this concluding chapter is a welcome departure from that. With Iron Man having passed on, it’s left Peter Parker with no choice but to grow up, stand on his own two feet and wrestle with the fallout from his identity being revealed. Though that’s all with the help of a certain magic Sorcerer, who thankfully is not predictably stepping up to the mentor void left by Iron Man. Tom Holland has proven himself to be a fan favourite in this role with his numerous appearances across the MCU, but it’s here which he gives his absolute best performance. Being the hero that he is, there’s a lot resting on his shoulders, to save the world and to also protect those he cares about from being harmed by his mistakes.

Having seen a previous, and beautifully animated, Spider-Man film brilliantly using the concept of a Multiverse; screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers had the unenviable task of adapting the Multiverse into this iteration of the character. They also had to make this third MCU Spider-Man film live up to the lofty expectations that fans had hoisted upon the film from its announcement. Depending on what you have seen in the build-up to the film, it may or may not live up to those expectations. The first act is a little rough to start off with, but once we get to the tampered spell, and the opening up of the multiverse the film finds its feet. Previous Spidey films have often been left to rue their mistakes when one too many villains get dragged into the picture, and the plot as a result gets severely messy. Thankfully, lightning doesn’t strike twice – or perhaps thrice – here as director Jon Watts is able to weave all these threads into a satisfying narrative that never feels as bloated as a Russian rhinoceros.

It would be easy to see this film as nothing more than just an enormous helping of fan service. While it is most certainly true in that regard, it does definitely have its moments that will undoubtedly please long-time fans of this character. However, it doesn’t negate what matters most to the character of Peter Parker, and the core values that the revered hero stands for. The character is one that has been a favourite for generations of comic book fans and thanks to our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, Phase 4 of the MCU has now opened the multiverse good and proper, and the possibilities that brings are plentiful and very very fantastic.

Juggling a lot of different plot webs has proven to be a stumbling block before, but with a career-best performance from Holland and an excellent cast of supporting characters, this Spider-Man threequel triumphantly swings its way to success.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Eternals (2021)

© Marvel Studios

Eternals  – Film Review

Cast: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie

Director: Chloé Zhao

Synopsis: A group of immortal beings, known as the Eternals, are sent to planet Earth to protect humanity from an evil race of aliens known as the Deviants…

Review: When you have created an all-encompassing cinematic universe that has spanned over a decade and 25 films, making cinematic history along the way. There does come a point for Marvel Studios, where they will need to think about, where do they go from here? When you’ve created a universe that has conquered all before it, how do you reinvent the wheel and keep things fresh and interesting for audiences to maintain interest in the universe going forward? Well, the answer seems to be, hire the most recent Academy Award winner for Best Director, and introduce a brand new crop of characters.

7000 years ago, a group of all-powerful beings known as the Celestials, created a powerful race of beings called the Eternals and sent them to Earth to protect humanity from their Celestial’s evil counterparts, known as the Deviants. For millennia, the Eternals have been watching from the sidelines, protecting humanity from any Deviant attacks. As they watch from the sidelines, some begin to develop a fondness for humanity. Yet, they have been under strict instructions to not interfere in any human conflict, unless the Deviants are involved. This all changes when an event known as The Emergence threatens to bring about unprecedented destruction, the Eternals must unite to prevent humanity’s destruction.

From the opening crawl, akin to something out of Star Wars, this film is in every sense, a brand new chapter for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What they accomplished with the first three Phases of their Universe is undeniably incredible and nothing can take that away from them. However, that era of Marvel has come to a close, and with this film, this feels like they are in many senses, starting fresh. All franchises that go on for any length of time will inevitably develop a formula. While that formula has served the MCU so successfully over the years, there was a need to step away from it. To its credit, Eternals tries extremely hard to deviate from that, with varying degrees of success.

Fresh from her Oscar triumphs With Nomadland, a film that shined a light on a group of people who are cut adrift from society, whilst touching on themes of finding a belonging. Chloé Zhao’s Oscar winner touched on themes of individuals who have found themselves cut adrift from society, roaming from place to place, without somewhere to call home. This is a theme that feels very much relevant to the Eternals. They watch humanity from afar, intervening only when they must. The first two acts of the film where the Eternals are battling with this dilemma of interfering or not when it comes to human conflicts is compelling because, like most things in our lives, there is a difference of opinion amongst these incredibly powerful beings.

What Eternals brings to the table is an extremely rich and diverse cast, filled with extremely talented actors. The most memorable of these are Gemma Chan’s Sersi and Angelina Jolie’s Thena. Sersi is very much the leader of the Eternals and Chan’s performance is easily the most memorable. For Thena, there’s a fascinating internal struggle that she’s battling with, and it makes for an intriguing relationship between her and the rest of the Eternals as she battles to control that. On top of which, the film doesn’t shy away from diversity. There’s a landmark moment for LGBT representation, the very first ever sex scene, and the MCU’s very first superhero with a disability in Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari as both the actor and the character are deaf.

Unfortunately, because there are so many new characters that are appearing on screen together for the first time, developing all of them is a near enough impossible task to fit into a two-and-a-half-hour film, even for a director as talented as Zhao is. Some characters have barely any depth or personality. As such, it gives the audience little reason to care about them, as there is no emotional connection that has been built up over many years of different MCU films. Plus, as different as the film tries to be from all the previous MCU films that came before it, some familiar MCU tropes are present. Credit where credit is due for the screenplay’s ambition and scope. However, you cannot help but wonder if, had these characters been introduced via a TV show, it might have been better suited to give all these brand new characters sufficient time to make an impact.

Chloe Zhao works magic by bringing the humanity to these incredibly powerful beings. However, while it is to be commended, the ambition of introducing so many new characters in one go prevents the film from truly soaring.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

© Marvel Studios

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Film Review

Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Synopsis: After living many years living a normal life in the USA, martial artist Shang-Chi (Liu) is forced to confront his past and his father’s organisation, The Ten Rings…

Review: In the years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken over Hollywood, producing a remarkable interconnected universe, and smashing records here, there and everywhere, there has been no shortage of remarkable accomplishments and awards. Yet, there have also been historic and ground-breaking moments in terms of representation along the way. First there was Black Panther that was the first MCU film to feature a predominantly Black cast that celebrated Black culture. Then came Captain Marvel, which marked the first female-directed and driven film in the franchise. And now, the all-conquering juggernaut that is the MCU, has now provided us with its first Asian lead superhero film, alongside a predominantly Asian led cast.

Shang-Chi is a skilled martial arts warrior who spent his early life growing up in the shadow of his father Wenwu (Leung)’s organisation The Ten Rings. Wenwu is in possession of ten mystical and magical rings that grant him incredible power and immortality. With this incredible power in his possession, he has conquered pretty much anything and everything in his path over a great period of time. Also, in that time he raised a family, and put his children through rigorous and intense training. However, his son Shang-Chi has been for many years on a different path. Namely, the path of a normal life in the USA, working as a valet alongside his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). Until one day, his past catches up with him and he realises he can no longer escape his father’s shadow, coming face to face with his father once again.

To be tasked with the leading role in the first Asian led MCU film is a massive responsibility to have on the shoulders of the actor in question, especially if this is your first leading role in one of the biggest franchises in the world currently, such as the MCU. Fortunately, Simu Liu proves to be a perfect choice to play the titular role, as he has the charisma needed to carry the film on his shoulders. While Shang-Chi is unquestionably an extremely skilled warrior and martial arts expert, unlike say, a Tony Stark, there’s no arrogance or cockiness to him, he’s very humble and grounded. Alongside Shang-Chi is his best friend Katy, who is initially completely unaware of her friend’s past as a fierce warrior. Any MCU film is guaranteed to have a substantial amount of comedy, and a lot of this comes through Katy. The role of a comedy sidekick is one that Awkwafina has played before, and once again she’s perfect at it.

In a similar vein to Black Panther, there is a core of badass and powerful women alongside Shang-Chi. As well as Katy, Meng’er Zhang as Shang-Chi’s sister Xu Xialing threatens to steal the show from her brother. A feat that is all the more impressive when you consider that this is her first foray into the world of acting. Fala Chen and Michelle Yeoh may not have the most screen time, but both use the short amount of screen time they do have to wonderful effect. Marvel villains can often fall short of being memorable, or indeed not very threatening. This is most assuredly not the case with Tony Leung’s Wenwu. Right from the moment he’s on screen, armed with these powerful rings, he’s a very formidable foe who makes his presence known. However, there’s a lot more to his character than just being a skilled warrior in possession of ten magical rings. At the core of his character, is a desire to reconnect with his long lost children, and it represents the crucial emotional core that’s central to the story.

It is crystal clear that the iconic martial arts films of the past serve as an inspiration for the action scenes. Director Destin Daniel Cretton and the stunt teams here are paying the utmost respect to the Martial arts films of the past that inspired them. Consequently, there is a unique flair to some of the action scenes that’s never been captured in previous MCU films. While this is consistently maintained throughout, it does get to a point where the action becomes an abundance of CGI, particularly in the third act. This is not a bad thing by any means, due to the fact that emotional investment in the journey of these characters is strong. Yet, given how common it has become in superhero films, it is something that like to see superhero films move away from. Nevertheless, in the same way that Black Panther irrevocably changed the MCU forever, Shang-Chi is poised to follow suit by being a massive step forward for wider representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With the unique visual flair and choreography of its action sequences, and the committed performances of its cast, especially Liu, Zhang, and Yeung, all these factors combine to make Shang-Chi another superb MCU origin story. A new hero is born.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Black Widow (2021)

© Marvel Studios

Black Widow  – Film Review

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz

Directors: Cate Shortland

Synopsis: Set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, something from Natasha Romanoff’s past draws her back to her early days as a KGB assassin and her training in the ominous Red Room…

Review: Since making her MCU debut back in 2010, it didn’t take long for Natasha Romanoff to establish herself as an integral part of the MCU and its core group of badass superheroes who will stop at nothing to save the world. Even if it comes at great personal cost for the hero, as Natasha’s MCU journey brought was brought to a devastating conclusion where in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, she heroically sacrificed herself to ensure that all those who were snapped away, were eventually able to come back. Given that tragic fate in Endgame, it does seem a bit odd to have a Black Widow solo film be released now. However, even though it has definitely come a few years too late, it is joyous to see this beloved character finally get her own moment in the spotlight.

Picking up just after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha is on the run from the authorities having violated the Sokovia Accords. She is laying low in some picturesque terrain, in the middle of nowhere, planning her next move. When she receives a package from someone in her past that connects to her training in the mysterious Red Room and the Black Widow programme, she heads to Budapest. Whilst there, she reunites with her “sister”, and fellow Black Widow recruit, Yelena Belova (Pugh). When deadly forces come after them, they resolve to find the Red Room, and bring down the man behind it, the villainous Dreykov (Winstone).

Given that she has played this role for over a decade, Scarlett Johansson once again shines as Natasha/Black Widow, in what is in all likelihood, her last ever appearance in this role. Though given we know what ultimately happens to her character, the journey that screenwriter Eric Pearson takes her on for this film gives the audience an understanding of certain events in Natasha’s past that previous MCU films had only given the most brief of references to. While Johansson has plenty of moments to shine, Florence Pugh as Yelena is the one who ends up stealing the show. Given the MCU’s use of humour, a lot of these moments come about in interactions between Yelena and Natasha, as well as their adoptive parents Alexei (Harbour) and Melina (Weisz), the former of whom is clearly having a lot of fun in this role as Red Guardian, the Russian equivalent to Captain America.

With so many MCU films having come before it, it’s almost an expectation at this point that the film will be accompanied by exhilarating action scenes, which this film has. While they are unquestionably exciting to watch and competently directed, action scenes like this have become so commonplace that you have to make something special to stand out, and unfortunately, the action scenes here are very much run-of-the-mill for the MCU. While the performances of all the main cast shine, what is often a big problem for MCU films is their villains are disappointing, and sadly the film’s antagonists very much fall into that bracket. While Winstone is menacing as Dreykov, his iffy Russian accent leaves a lot to be desired. Likewise, for the film’s secondary villain Taskmaster. Those who have played the PS4 Spider-Man game will know what this character can be like, and unfortunately, this on screen iteration of Taskmaster feels but a poor imitation of what had the potential to be a very intriguing antagonist.

While the second and third acts are thrilling to watch due to its strong themes of female empowerment, and the Captain America: Winter Soldier-esque espionage thriller elements that are at play, there’s unfortunately one inescapable fact that this film cannot shake off. Namely that, as this new phase of Marvel kicks off, the films and TV shows becoming inter-twined, the potential impact that a Black Widow solo film could have had on this franchise has been lost due to the time in which it has taken for it to come to fruition.  Due to the knowledge that we have as to where this character’s arc ultimately concludes, releasing it as the first film to launch Phase 4 means that the lack of stakes present here really hamper the potential that it had to become a top-tier, game-changing MCU film. What might have been had the film been released during Phase 3 instead?

The wait for a solo Black Widow film limits its overall impact on the MCU in general. However, thanks to its strong story and the introduction of some exciting new characters, Johansson’s swansong in this role does justice to this beloved character that played such an integral role in the MCU over many years.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Far from Home – Film Review

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L Jackson, Cobie Smoulders, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: Following on from the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker is preparing to go on a school trip with his friends around Europe. However, in a world that will never be the same again, a new threat is lurking in the form of the mysterious Elementals…

Review: After twenty-two films and an utterly incredible journey, the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminated in Avengers: Endgame, a film that has changed the MCU forever more. However, even after all that drama and heartbreak, the MCU is not slowing down. Previously, after their flagship Avengers ensemble showdowns, Marvel turned to the smallest hero in their roster, namely Ant-Man. Now though,  it’s up to everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to pick up the pieces in the wake of the earth-shattering events of that climatic battle with the Mad Titan Thanos.

In the months since that intense battle, Peter is in an extremely tough spot, having lost his friend and mentor Tony Stark. On top of that he is trying to balance school life with his superhero web-slinging duties. With an upcoming school trip to Europe, Peter hopes that will take his mind off things and allow him to live a normal life. However, whilst he is off seeing the sights of Europe and trying to tell his crush MJ (Zendaya) how he really feels about her, a terrifying new threat emerges in the form of the Elementals. Whilst simultaneously, a mysterious new force in the form of Quentin Beck (AKA Mysterio) emerges, who claims to be from an alternate dimension.

“Karen, activate stealth mode….”

This is his fifth outing as everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and Tom Holland proves once again that this is the perfect role for him, as he turns in another excellent performance . He’s got the bravado that a hero should have, but he’s still a lovable, if slightly awkward, dork. Though she had a relatively minor role in Homecoming, Zendaya’s MJ has a lot more screen time, given that she is now the subject of Peter’s affections, and the duo have solid chemistry. Similarly, the bromance between Peter and Ned is as strong as ever. Indeed, all of the class from Angourie Rice’s Betty to Tony Revelori’s Flash Thompson, have a lot more to do, likewise for the ever-reliable Happy Hogan.

Given how many Spider-Man films that have graced the big screen, it’s clear that director Jon Watts is aiming to broaden the horizons of Spider-Man. We have almost never seen him venture outside of the Big Apple, so to see him spin his webs around the globe is an extremely refreshing change. As these ominous Elementals threaten to wreak havoc on our world, which is where Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio comes into the picture. Mysterio by name, mysterious by nature as on first glance he seems like the kind of hero to fill the void that was left by Tony Stark, but that is just scratching the surface. When you get an actor of Gyllenhaal’s talents, it can only be a positive, and Gyllenhaal excels in this very intriguing role.

The screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, carries over the John Hughes esque high school comedy vibe from Homecoming, and the jokes remain witty and hilarious. With each movie that Marvel has made since they were able to incorporate him into the MCU, they have taken the character in directions that haven’t been attempted before, especially with a truly mind-bending, and awesome, third act. In a post Iron Man/Captain America MCU, Marvel will need heroes to step to fill that void as we move into Phase 4, and in everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, you have a hero who is more than capable of taking on that mantle.

Closing out Phase Three of the MCU, Far From Home is another fast paced, entertaining, globe trotting adventure that cements Tom Holland’s status as the best live action Spider-Man we’ve had to date.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame – Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: After half of the galaxy’s population is vanquished by the Mad Titan Thanos,  the Avengers still standing must take their final stand, and do whatever it takes to reverse the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon the universe…

This review will be 100% spoiler free…

Review: It is quite remarkable to think when a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist announced that he is Iron Man, audiences had absolutely no idea of the journey that they were about to go on. As the years went by, piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe assembled itself into this enormous cinematic juggernaut almost unlike anything we had seen in cinematic history. Now, eleven years since Tony Stark uttered those famous words, and the twenty one films that followed afterwards, this journey is now at its end.

Set directly after the events of Infinity War, The Avengers who survived Thanos’s snap are all left completely desolate and broken after failing to stop the Mad Titan succeeding in his aim to bring balance to the world by wiping out half of all life. It’s a completely bleak existence for them all, but when an opportunity to undo the catastrophic damage that Thanos has done to the Universe presents itself, the Avengers take their final stand for a mission that represents the biggest fight of their lives, with literally everything on the line.

Having pulled off a masterfully crafted piece of action cinema, full of stupendous action set pieces with Infinity War, the Russo brothers, and returning writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely go very much in the opposite direction for this sequel. The film, in all of its three hour run time, significantly dials back the action, in favour of more personal, more sombre moments of reflection. It bides its time, exploring the emotions, and the development of these characters. As we watch our heroes contemplating what might have been, whilst simultaneously licking their wounds and dealing with the enormous consequences of Thanos’s actions. It crucially allows the audience to watch these heroes that we have known and loved across this last decade of Marvel films, be in a such a traumatic place, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before in the MCU.

It is quite incredible that in this decade and almost two dozen MCU films that the cast that has been recruited for all these eclectic and colourful characters has been practically flawless across the board, with so many memorable characters that have undoubtedly charmed their way into the hearts of audiences around the world. There isn’t a false note in any of the performances, for this film and for its predecessor, but as the marketing for the film demonstrated, the MVPs here are the original gang of Avengers (Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor.) It’s this group of heroes that first banded together to save the world in the first Avengers film. We as an audience owe so much to these guys for being the awesome bunch of characters that they have been across these movies, and for laying the foundations that this incredible universe has been built upon.

This isn’t to say that some of the newer crop don’t get their moment to shine, because they most certainly do. Furthermore, in these dire circumstances, the film finds its ways to be extremely humorous once again. Though the action is dialled back significantly, it wouldn’t be an Avengers film without some intense action. With that, as they have done for the last three films that were under their expert vision, the Russos continue on that trajectory to again deliver an absolutely jaw dropping sequence, one that hardcore fans of the MCU will undoubtedly enjoy every minute of it.

It is worth re-emphasising the sheer scale of what Marvel has achieved across these films. The work that all of the writers and film-makers, and all of the crews who have worked on these films have done, to make this cinematic universe so successful.  Three phases, twenty two movies, rich and well developed characters, laughter and gags aplenty, and plenty of insane and jaw dropping action sequences, it has all been a fantastic journey to have been on. While the MCU will undoubtedly carry on past this point, part of the journey is the end, and now this iteration has reached its Endgame, and that final outcome is a marvellous and unprecedented achievement that will go down in cinematic history.

A monumental cinematic achievement that delivers the conclusion the legions of MCU fans were hoping for. A triumphant conclusion to one of the most impactful franchises of modern cinema.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain Marvel (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Captain MarvelFilm Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Synopsis: Whilst training on the alien homeworld of the Kree, a soldier has flashbacks of what she believes was her past life on Earth. With the threat of an alien invasion, she tries to piece together her memories whilst stopping the incoming attack…

Review: For all the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its powerful array of characters, there has been one thing really missing from its roster. While the universe has seen plenty of powerful and inspiring women, it never had a female led film. This has all changed with the introduction of Captain Marvel, and though it has been a long time coming, this heroine makes quite the entrance, and she might just be the most powerful of them all.

Our titular hero is training on an alien planet belonging to the Kree (the race of Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy) with no knowledge of her past. Whilst on a mission, led by Jude Law’s Kree general to retrieve something of critical importance, she becomes caught in the crossfire of a war being waged by two alien species. Through a sequence of events, she arrives on Earth in the 90s, which coincides with one of those hostile alien races infiltrating the planet.

Look into my eyes….

One thing that any superhero film has got to get right is the casting for its main hero, and with an actress of Brie Larson’s immense talents, Marvel once again got their casting spot on. Larson gives Captain Marvel personality and depth, and she is a hero you definitely want to root for. As with any hero, she has moments of vulnerability but, she takes those head on and become the hero, which is just so satisfying. Though he might be de-aged Samuel L Jackson is once again extremely entertaining as Nick Fury. With the film being set before he became the gruff eye-patched badass we know and love, he is able to get out and about and not glare menacingly at people. Also, yes that little ball of fur AKA Goose the Cat is the purrrrrfect (sorry) little companion.

It is extremely positive to see, at long last, a MCU film directed by a woman. Furthermore, Boden and Geneva Robertson-Dworet become only the second and third women to receive writing credits. The screenplay wastes no time putting the audience right in the picture from the word go, but its not without its problems. It does wobble in one or two places, most notably the second act. The pace comes to a sharp halt, as it strives to weave some extremely relevant political subtext into the story. Admirable as this may be, it doesn’t quite flow as seamlessly as it could do. With this being the 21st film in this universe, it is difficult for the filmmakers to make something that really stands out from the rest. There’s nothing on the magnitude of say one Mad Titan snapping his fingers and half the population turning to dust.

However, this isn’t to say that the action Boden and Fleck give us isn’t extremely entertaining. It is exhilarating, especially once we hit the third act and Captain Marvel has acquired her stripes, accompanied by a glorious 90s soundtrack. The arrival of Captain Marvel brings a new dimension to the MCU that opens up an array of possibilities for the future of the franchise, that will hopefully have more female heroes front and centre.

 The familiar formula of MCU films of the past is very much present, but with a terrific lead performance by Larson, Captain Marvel is a very welcome addition to the Marvel roster.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp – Film Review

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer

Director: Peyton Reed

Synopsis: With Scott Lang (Rudd) still under house arrest, Hope van Dyne (Lilly) and her father Hank Pym (Douglas) believe that they may have uncovered a clue as to how retrieve Hope’s mother from the Quantum realm…

Review: Sometimes you have to wonder, is Marvel intentionally picking on the smallest hero they have to follow and pick up the pieces in the wake of a cinematic juggernaut? It was 2015, when we were first introduced to Scott Lang, and his chance encounter that led him to becoming the titular hero, all while following in the wake of Age of Ultron. Now three years later, and the torch is once again passed to Ant-Man once again who must step up, in the aftermath of the earth-shattering events of Infinity War.

However, as was the case in 2015, turning attentions on its smallest (and sometimes biggest) hero provides a much welcome comic relief that helps lighten the mood. We find Scott, after running away to join Cap in Civil War has consequently been put under house arrest. However, his quantum realm foray in the last film triggers a potential lead to Hope’s mother, long since believed to be lost there several decades ago. Scott finds himself teaming up with Hank and Hope once again in a bid to find her. All the while, new threats emerge hoping to steal some of Pym’s rather fantastic tech for their own mischievous purposes.

You all look like insects from this height…

The film does follow its predecessor in a lot of ways, not least of which is how zany it is. Same universe though it may be, it feels like it is another world away from the likes of Black Panther. The story is also similar, lots of chit-chat about ants, as well as some science-y lingo and of course, as you would expect at this point from Marvel, lots of humour. When you have an actor well known for his comedic chops like Paul Rudd as your leading man, you know that you’re going to get a charismatic and funny performance, and once again Rudd delivers exactly that.

Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas are also on excellent form once more, with the former finally able to get her wings as the new Wasp and take some bad guys down. Though not all of the humour works unfortunately, Michael Pena’s very funny flashbacks from the first film are once again called upon, but this time it feels a bit forced for the sake of an extra laugh or two.

What Edgar Wright would have brought to this franchise, we will almost certainly never know. Nevertheless, Peyton Reed proved he was an assured choice to direct the first film and once again, he directs the action sequences with a zippy energy that keeps the plot moving along at a steady pace. However while it should keep the attention throughout, there is nothing here that will likely stick in the mind of the audiences once we hit the credits. The story does try to have a more personal edge to it, but this again is a bit hit-or-miss. And while there is an attempt to flesh out chief villain Ghost (John-Kramen), she does unfortunately fall into the category of somewhat disposable MCU villains, likewise for Walton Goggin’s smarmy businessman.

For the most part, the film stands on its own two feet (or should that be wings). It is an undeniable blast of colourful and fun insect sized entertainment, there is nothing here to leave a lasting impression. As for where it stands in relation to the seismic events of Infinity War, make sure you stick around for the mid credit scene, as that is one that is likely to have a very significant impact for MCU films to come.

Retaining the eccentric humour of the first film, competently acted and directed by all concerned, but ultimately, there is not enough sting in this one to rank it up there with the very best film to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

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