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.

Advertisements
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.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

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

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Film Review

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: Having played his part during the Avengers’ Civil War, Peter Parker balances school with his superhero duties. When a new threat emerges in the shape of the villainous Vulture, Peter seeks to use this as a chance to prove himself…

Review: As a character and a superhero, Spider-Man has unquestionably enjoyed a lot of popularity ever since his first comic book came out. Indeed, it’s highly likely that many see him as one of their favourite superheros. Therefore it would surely seem to be an easy task to translate the friendly neighbourhood web crawler to the big screen to make a film that Spidey fans across the world can enjoy, but that is a task that has posed its challenges for Hollywood. One trilogy of his big screen adventures had two gems but then squandered it all with a messy third chapter. A reboot then followed, which produced two more pretty lacklustre outings, and consequently poor Spidey got a third reboot, which this time has thankfully got the character back on course.

Of course, this third reboot only came about after Sony and Marvel struck a deal which enabled Spidey to crop up in the MCU. His MCU foray began with a tremendous turn in last year’s Civil War, and now with both Sony and Marvel’s input, the webhead has a new adventure. As Peter battles with the mundane school life, he yearns for something more and despite his tutelage from Tony Stark, Stark does not believe Peter to be ready. All the while, a new threat is emerging in the shape of the Vulture, a man whose plans turn nasty after seeing something slip out of his hands, and of course he clashes with Peter.

Tom Holland remains excellent as both Peter and Spider-Man, carrying on from his sublime turn in Civil War. The previous films really didn’t for the most part capture Peter as a high school kid, and all of the problems that high school kids go through. Though it is kind of ironic for Keaton starring as a bird-esque villain given his Oscar nominated performance a few years ago in Birdman, he is by far one of the most refreshing villains the MCU has seen, given that the MCU has had some well documented problems in terms of nailing down a villain to match the calibre of say Loki. His character is fleshed out and though he’s not taking the title of the best MCU villain, he’s not the sort of disposable bad-guy that past MCU flicks have given us.

After directing 2015’s Cop Car, Jon Watts calls the shots here, and while some of the action scenes that he helms here are certainly very enjoyable to watch at times, there are moments where it does falter a little bit. It’s not exactly weaving any new webs but it does manage to be for the most part a lot of fun to watch. However, you never come close to feeling the anxiety or the tension of the situation in the ways that Raimi’s first two films in particular pulled off so spectacularly. The rest of the cast do a fine job and as you might expect RDJ is there to provide a considerable proportion of the laughs, a role he shares with Peter’s best mate in high school Ned (Jacob Batalon). Concerns that Iron Man’s appearance would be overbearing are thankfully wide of the mark, as he is used sparingly, but when he has screen time, it’s used to great effect.

After the lull that was the Amazing Spider-Man films, to see Spidey back on track will undoubtedly be pleasing to long time fans of the character be back in a really entertaining film that really explores his high school years in ways that perhaps hasn’t been seen before. Yet at the same time, offering nothing really new and or innovative in terms of what has come before it, both in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and indeed, previous Spider-Man movies.

A familiar premise and characters, but with a refreshingly interesting villain and some well filmed action scenes, but at the same time, not breaking any new ground.

a

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.

a

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.  

b

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. 

a