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.

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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

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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

Captain America: Civil War – Film Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Daniel Bruhl

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: With tensions between the Avengers high following political interference, this results in a rift that divides the team with Captain America leading one faction and Iron Man the other, leading to all out war.

Review: The number thirteen is considered by many to be a very unlucky number, well not for Marvel Studios. After two successful phases and twelve films of their cinematic universe that have enjoyed phenomenal success with audiences across the globe, their thirteenth entry into their MCU, sees the return of the Russo brothers directing the story that many fans have been hoping to see, this of course being Civil War.

The actions of the Avengers in places such as New York, Washington DC and Sokovia have taken their toll, and the world has decided enough is enough. The actions of these superhero folk must now be put into check, and for some of the team this is the step they must take. For others, this is a step too far and the disagreements spill out into a proper war between heroes that have been friends for the most part for several movies now. For the majority of the MCU movies, we have seen the hero, whoever they may be, fighting a villain who is all too similar to them, you think Ant Man VS Yellow Jacket, Captain America VS Red Skull, Iron Man VS Iron Monger. This isn’t to say these battles were boring, but it did begin to get formulaic, well not any more. The formula is thrown completely out of the window.

The story penned by Winter Soldier writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely does allow each character ample screen time. Each character is sufficiently fleshed out enough so that you understand why each character is on their respective side. In addition, while you may have picked your side before the film was released, the story does a tremendous job of making the audience conflicted. There is not a protagonist and an antagonist, the perspectives of both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are well realised and you fully understand where both of them are coming from.

Chris Evans and RDJ have both owned the roles they have played since they first took them and here they once again both deliver excellent and sincere performances as the leads of what is a superb ensemble cast, each character is wonderfully portrayed by their respective actor. The new players making their debuts into this mad Marvel world are also outstanding with Chadwick Boseman excellent as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s portrayal as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is the best that has ever been put to screen. Marvel films certainly have an element of humour in plenty of them, as this comes from your friendly neighbourhood Spider Man and Ant Man, and it’s glorious. For many, there was a feeling that this was going to be Avengers 2.5, but fear not, because this is most definitely a Captain America movie, as it carries on themes that were present in The Winter Soldier.

The Russos certainly showed their hand when it came to action sequences with the Winter Soldier, and here once again, their work is excellent and shows that the Avengers: Infinity War movies are in very safe hands. Right from the very first sequence, the suspense is maintained throughout, and it’s helmed superbly. There is a little bit of shaky cam and some fast editing, but the directors manage to use them very effectively to get the heartbeat of the audience beating fast. Furthermore the airport battle that is shown in the trailers, can definitely lay claim to hands down, the best action battle that the MCU has seen to date, it certainly is a proper war between these guys and it’s just awesome to watch.

However, there are certain parts in which the story did play things safe but it is hard to deny the quality job that the Russos have done in making what are the two best movies of the MCU to date. Phase 3 has got off to the best start it possibly could have, and in this era of superhero movie dominance, Marvel for now at least, continues to lead the way over DC by a significant distance.

A thrilling ensemble cast with some superb performances from MCU veterans and the newbies alike, on top of some outstanding action sequences, the MCU is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ant-Man (2015)

Image rights belong to Marvel Studios
Image is property of Marvel Studios

Ant-Man – Film Review

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Judy Greer, Michael Pena

Director: Peyton Reed

Synopsis: Scott Lang, a one time crook and master-thief, is seeking to re-establish himself in society after a spell in prison, yet Dr Hank Pym, is seeking to recruit Lang to become a new superhero, one that involves stealing  and a large amount of insects…

Review: When the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off back in 2008 with the roaring success of Iron Man, audiences may have wondered: where is this leading? Will audiences get sick of it? What nonsensical gimmick are they going to try and pull off next? When last year’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, question marks were raised, a talking tree and a raccoon? Have Marvel lost their marbles? Yet the naysayers soon shut up as Guardians came out blew everyone away, becoming a critical and commercial success.

Similarly, when it was announced that an Ant Man film was in the works, there was scepticism, particularly when long time writer/director Edgar Wright left the project after having been attached to it for a long time, with creative differences being cited. Would this latest gamble for Marvel work? In short, well yes, yes it absolutely did.

ant man

The departure of Wright may and probably will leave audiences wondering what he would have brought to this, but fear not as Wright’s replacement, Peyton Reed, stepped up to the mantle in terrific style. The story focuses on Scott Lang (Rudd) who has just been released from prison and is seeking to reconnect with his daughter. Yet his luck is gone, and he resorts to his familiar petty thief ways in order to earn some dough. Yet this presents itself with the perfect opportunity as Dr Hank Pym (Douglas) wants to recruit Scott to take on the role of the Ant Man in order to prevent Pym’s rival Darren Cross from unleashing chaos on the world by making a replica of Pym’s original shrinking formula.

With this now being the twelfth film in the MCU, and after this summer’s blockbuster Age of Ultron, Marvel was in the position of having to reinvent the franchise in order to keep things fresh, and avoid things becoming stale. While there are similarities with a number of previous MCU films,  Ant Man does offer something new and unique enough to ensure that the wheels on the all powerful Marvel bus are not coming off.

Paul Rudd really shines in the role of Scott Lang who is tasked by former Ant Man Hank Pym (an electric Michael Douglas) to become the Ant Man and pull off a daring heist, which again feels fresh as a superhero heist movie is a very rare thing. Rudd brings charisma, humour and charm to the role, which is complemented superbly by the comedic timing of Michael Pena. Guardians certainly packed plenty of laughs, and through a script with contributions from Wright, Joe Cornish, Paul Rudd and Adam McKay, the humour is again excellent and adds a lot to the film.

With Age of Ultron, Marvel wheeled out their titan characters once more, there was that big scale spectacle as the whole world was at stake. Thus with this tale, there was a bit of downsizing to do (quite literally). But with that downsizing of scale, there is no downsizing of story, heart and excellent characters that add more strong characters to the ever growing Marvel Universe. Principally, Paul Rudd absolutely shines as the titular hero and delivers a superb performance. When it was announced that it would be Scott Lang and not Hank Pym taking up the mantle, eyebrows were raised but Rudd pulls it off in magnificent style, with some great comedic timing which, 60% of the time, works every time! The action sequences are handled and executed very well , and when our titular hero shrinks in size, the audience is along for the small but exhilarating ride. Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas as father and daughter are also excellent and their fascinating backstory could lead to a sequel should Marvel decide to roll out Phase 4.

Yet as with many Marvel movies, the real let down here is the villain, the Yellowjacket. (Corey Stoll) While admittedly one of the stronger MCU villains in recent years, there was a lot that could have been explored more deeply with his character, which was ultimately not utilised to as great of an effect as it could have been. Nevertheless, Ant Man has proved to be the exciting close to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that everyone was hoping it would be. Phase 2 brought us a lot of greatness but it feels like Marvel is about to step it up another gear as all attentions will now be turning to Phase 3, as war is coming.

Hilarious, action packed, with some great character additions to the MCU  a golden lead performance from Paul Rudd and expertly handled action sequences. Let the excitement for Phase 3 begin now…

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