Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

First avenger
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures

Captain America: The First Avenger – Film Review

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

Director: Joe Johnston

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

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

the first avenger

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Film Review

The Hunger Games (2012)

All image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force
Image is property of Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Director: Gary Ross

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a rebellion, a nation forces, known as “tributes”. The tributes are then trained and forced to fight to the death in a tournament known as the Hunger Games until there is only one person standing.

Review: A solid film that sets the benchmark for what could be an exciting quartet of films. Prior to its release, this film had garnered a massive amount of buzz and excitement in the wake of the best-selling novels from Collins. The first film of the series was always going to be crucial to the future success of the franchise, and while the film does have its problems; it is nevertheless an exciting first chapter that hits the ground running and will leave the viewers wanting more. With Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film offers a likeable, confident and strong female protagonist, a rare feature for a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. She is a character that the audience immediately sympathise with due to the horrific poverty that she and her family have to endure as their district; district twelve is one of the poorest districts. She takes the place of her sister Prim (Willow Shields) by volunteering in the Hunger Games, alongside Peeta Mellark, a baker’s boy who Katniss has some history with. Along with the two tributes from district twelve, all the tributes train for several days before being sent into battle in the Hunger Games until only one victor remains.

Lawrence, on the back of her Oscar nominated success from Winter’s Bone, delivers a very strong lead performance. She is brave, strong willed, determined and a powerful warrior. At the same time she shows compassion and emotion when she needs to. While the film does breeze over some important elements of the story from Collins’ work, in particular the Mockingjay pin, it does offer up some exciting moments. Before the action in the arena kicks off, Katniss gives some memorable moments including the Tributes Parade and the showing of her “Girl on Fire” dress while during her pre-Games interview by Caesar Flickerman. (Stanley Tucci) However, this is all a prelude to the Hunger Games itself.

Right from the beginning of the tournament the action is exciting stuff. Yet it does slow down at various points which does enable some important character development, namely between Katniss and Peeta as they grow closer together and begin to form a strong relationship. Despite this, the action soon begins to flow again with the tributes steadily falling down one by one. When the climax of the film happens, it is one of, if not the best action scene of the film. The film does a superb score that accompanies many of these action scenes and it greatly adds to the drama and excitement of the scenes in question. Along with a strong lead performance from Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson is a solid lead character alongside Katniss. It is fascinating to see Katniss’s initial dislike of him turn into some strong feelings.

The supporting cast are also on form. In particular, Woody Harrelson is perfect in the role of Haymitch, the almost always drunk mentor for the district twelve tributes. Stanley Tucci is as charismatic as he always tends to be as the TV personality Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland also deliver strong performances as the colourful and bubbly Effie Trinket and the dark and mysterious President Snow respectively. The latter of which is a character that remains a mystery and he will no doubt come into his own in the later films. A couple of criticisms of the film is that, as previously mentioned, some key elements of Collins’ work are missing from final cut. Another criticism of the film is that the camera work in the film is shaky in numerous parts which made watching the film a little frustrating at times.

In spite of this, The Hunger Games is the solid start to the franchise that many of the passionate fans wanted. It had some strong performances especially from Lawrence who was the heroine that fans Katniss wanted to be and has proved to be the launching platform into mega stardom for Jennifer Lawrence, and deservedly so. The odds are definitely in favour of the Hunger Games franchise.

Young adult novel adaptations in the wake of Harry Potter have been plentiful, but this might just be the start of a special franchise to rival the Boy Who Lived.

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