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

The Suicide Squad (2021)

© Warner Bros and DC Films

The Suicide Squad  – Film Review

Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior

Director: James Gunn

Synopsis: A team of high-powered supervillains are recruited into Task Force X, for a mission that takes them to a South American island to learn more details about a top secret scientific programme…

Review: It would be fair to say that the excitement for 2016’s Suicide Squad was palpable. An assortment of bad guys on a bonkers mission, from a director with proven experience under his belt, several excellent casting choices and some excellently cut trailers. It all looked so promising, and well, to say that the film didn’t work out as planned would be a massive understatement. Hence, anyone could have been forgiven for keeping their excitement in check when it was revealed that DC’s collection of B list supervillains/douchebags were getting a new big screen adaptation, courtesy of James Gunn. Would the man who successfully brought Marvel’s ragtag collection of loveable arseholes to life, be able to do justice to the DC equivalent on the big screen? Thankfully this time around, the answer is an emphatic YES.

Task Force X, led by the absolutely ruthless Amanda Waller (Davis), is once again recruiting high powered supervillains to to complete seemingly impossible missions, in order to get time off their prison sentences. Missions that will almost certainly lead to their deaths. This time around, the Task Force are sent to the South American island of Corto Maltese, where it’s believed that the Government is developing some kind of weapon that is known only as “Project Starfish.” Familiar faces Harley Quinn, Colonel Rick Flagg and Captain Boomerang are joined by an extremely eclectic range of bad guys on this dangerous mission. A mission where bloody and absolutely glorious mayhem ensues.

While this new version barely references the 2016 version, returning faces Margot Robbie and Viola Davis once again excel as Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller respectively. Robbie especially has arguably never been better in the role than she is here, and in both cases, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else portraying those characters. Of all the new recruits, and there are a fair few of them, in Will Smith’s place as the team’s commander/sharpshooter, comes Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. His deadliness with firearms puts him at odds with John Cena’s Peacemaker, think Captain America but with an enormous ego and absolutely no morals whatsoever. As Peacemaker is also quite handy when it comes to guns, the testosterone-fuelled banter that constantly zips back and forth between these two is the source for much of the film’s uproarious comedy. Once you see David Dastmalchian’s Polka Dot Man, you won’t have to connect too many dots to figure out what his powers are. Meanwhile fan favourite King Shark, thanks to the voicework of Sylvester Stallone, is so wonderfully brought to life. However, the heart of the film very much lies in Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2, who has the ability to control rats.

As one might suspect from the film’s title, it’s safe to assume that there are going to be casualties, and they would be wise to have that assumption. Gunn really makes it feel like no one is safe, and that anyone could very easily meet their demise at any moment. As his early films as a director were very much rooted in the horror genre, he is clearly having lots of fun with the manner in choosing how to pick off certain characters. Though as he probably was restrained from turning up the dial on the violence factor for the Guardians films, he completely turbocharges the violence, with blood and guts galore. This is probably just as well given that there’s a humanoid shark present who has a craving for human flesh and has no qualms about tearing people apart limb from limb.

It is not news that audiences have in recent years become inundated with the plethora of superhero films. While so many have been undeniably extremely entertaining, there are plenty that have, in some cases through no fault of their own, failed to make themselves stand out from the crowd. This is something that this version of DC’s collection of supervillains avoids, in no small part, thanks to the R rating, the action sequences and the performances of all the cast. The absurdity of the mission, along with the humour and bickering that ensues between the characters, and the gravity of the situation is a tough balancing act for Gunn, but it’s one that they get (apart from one or two minor pacing issues) damn near perfectly right. What you’re left with after all that is, to put it simply: best DC Extended Universe film so far.

A riotous blast of fun from start to finish filled to the brim with well-rounded characters, a hilarious team dynamic and glorious action. James Gunn, it is good to have you back!

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 2020-2029, Film Review

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC Comics

Wonder Woman 1984  – Film Review

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

Director: Patty Jenkins

Synopsis:  Having spent several decades quietly living among humanity in Washington DC, Diana Prince must spring into action as Wonder Woman when a nefarious businessman threatens to reap chaos across the world….

Review: Ever since superhero films have enjoyed a surge in popularity from the late 2000s onwards, the number of films that had women at the front and centre of them were few and far between. It wasn’t until 2017, that a major Hollywood studio produced a female led superhero film. That film was of course, Wonder Woman, which brought the DCEU back from a likely early demise, whilst blazing a trail for other studios to follow in DC’s wake. With the same creative minds returning to helm this sequel to its trailblazing predecessor, it’s extremely disheartening to say that that having worked wonders with the first film, these creative minds have returned to offer a sequel that is a colossal disappointment.

Swapping the trenches of World War I, for the bright lights of 1984 USA, Diana Prince has now settled down in Washington DC quietly living amongst humanity. Whilst occasionally suiting up as Wonder Woman, to protect humanity in any way she can, her life is quite a lonely one without her fellow Amazonians for company. However, whilst helping to collect rare artefacts as part of her job working for the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, she befriends Barbara Minerva (Wiig) a shy and awkward geologist. The pair of them encounter a rare artefact that intrigues them both, but also captures the attention of Maxwell Lord (Pascal), a business tycoon who wants this artefact for his own selfish purposes, that threatens to unleash catastrophic consequences for humanity.

One of the few saving graces for this sequel, is that of Gal Gadot’s performance as the titular heroine. Once again, she proves what an inspired casting choice she was to play this role, as she has no shortage charisma and charm to make the audience want to root for her. The dynamic between her and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor proved to be one of the strongest aspects of the first film, as well as being ripe material for comedy. While it is good to have Pine back in this role, and the role reversal in their relationship is intriguing, the explanation for his return is merely given the most fleeting of mentions, which makes his whole return feel really undeserved and sloppily written.

This feeds into what amounts to be the film’s biggest problem, namely that the film’s script, written by Jenkins, Geoff Johns and David Callaham is extremely clichéd and shockingly lacklustre. While the first film, touched on fascinating themes of humanity, and the ugliness and devastation of war, the themes explored here are nowhere near as interesting. The plot goes in such a nonsensical and frankly ridiculous convoluted direction, that it feels like it would be far more appropriate for some kind of low-budget horror film, not befitting for one of the most iconic superheroes in comic book history.  Furthermore, despite the best efforts of talented actors like Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal, the motivations for the film’s antagonists are extremely weak and are not given time to be properly explored and developed. Additionally, while Wiig tries her hardest to make Barbara/Cheetah a compelling villain, Pascal’s performance is so extremely hammy, that it dials the cheesiness to such an absurd degree that he’s more comical than threatening. While he was far from the perfect villain, the shortcomings of the antagonists here make Ares seem like the most cunning and ruthless villain ever seen in a comic book film to date.

While the action is once again competently directed by Jenkins, there’s nothing here that comes anywhere close to recapturing the thrills and the sheer awesomeness that is the No Man’s Land sequence in the first film. While that film’s climax came in for criticism for a overly CGI third act, there was heart to it that made it compelling to watch. That heart is nowhere to be found for WW84‘s anti-climatic third act, which is compounded by some inexcusably poor CGI for Cheetah. While Hans Zimmer doesn’t disappoint with his score, it’s a great shame that the film surrounding it falls woefully short of recapturing the wonder of the film’s predecessor.

Even with a stellar leading performance from Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman 1984 is an incredibly disappointing sequel falling far below the standards set by the first film, due to a messy script, and extremely nonsensical plot.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dark Phoenix (2019)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Marvel and TSG Entertainment

Dark Phoenix – Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp

Director: Simon Kinberg

Synopsis: After a mission in space goes awry, a deadly cosmic force connects with the powerful Jean Grey creating an unstoppable force that threatens to have deadly consequences for mutants and humanity alike…

Review: Fox’s X Men franchise was for a time, the pinnacle of superhero films in the 2000s, at least before the genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet even as the MCU grew, Fox remained undeterred and, even with a few misfires, produced some outstanding superhero showdowns. However, with the deal to bring Fox under the Disney/Marvel umbrella now officially complete, this franchise is now coming to its conclusion. Though there is one more entry to come before the passing of the torch, this represents one final opportunity for the franchise to go out with a bang, but unfortunately it fizzles out into nothing.

Eight years after the events of the Apocalypse, the X-Men are summoned to a space mission that has gone badly wrong, leaving the lives of the astronauts in serious peril. During the rescue mission, a cosmic force of unknown power latches itself onto Jean Grey, creating the very powerful Dark Phoenix. Upon touching back down on Earth, though everything seems to initially be fine, trouble begins to brew and the X-Men must try and contain Jean’s power before she becomes too powerful for any of them to stop.

For every high that this franchise has experienced, there has always been a crushing disappointment, and sadly Dark Phoenix falls into the latter category, which given its troubled production, shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Things started off brightly when we first met these characters, though in the wake of the underwhelming Apocalypse, this continues that downward trajectory. For a story that is very popular in the comics, and one that has already been attempted before in The Last Stand, writer/director Simon Kinberg efforts to translate it for the big screen fall completely flat. It has a promising start, but once the Phoenix is born, the plot meanders along, only occasionally perking up every now and again to deliver an action scene, which while exciting, is not nearly enough given what we know this series is capable of.

One thing these films absolutely got right was the casting of the younger versions of these characters. James McAvoy is once again excellent as Xavier, being that father figure presence. Though he doesn’t get nearly enough material to work with, Michael Fassbender is solid once again as Magneto. Though, Jennifer Lawrence has definitely had better moments in the blue of Mystique. The key player here is Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, she does a sterling job conveying the pain and anguish that her character is experiencing at that moment in time, but her arc definitely had room for improvement.  Jessica Chastain’s presence  as a villain adds nothing substantial to the plot. Her motivations are threadbare and she’s just not intimidating enough to be taken seriously, a scandalous waste of her immense acting talents.

With the future of this franchise now in the hands of the folks running the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans were probably hoping for the franchise to sign off in spectacular flaming glory. The potential was there, but even with the talents of all these actors, and another excellent score from Hans Zimmer, it’s just not realised. The great journey that we have been on these characters started off well, but they didn’t get the send off that they would have wanted. It’s a real shame that the penultimate entry in this iteration of the X-Men franchise flickers briefly before being extinguished with a whimper.

Another attempt at this iconic story is regretfully another misfire, thanks to some lacklustre performances, stilted dialogue and a very tedious plot. This is one phoenix that won’t be rising from the ashes any time soon.

 

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

Aquaman (2018)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Aquaman – Film Review

Cast:  Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison

Directors: James Wan

Synopsis: When the world of Atlantis seeks to declare war on the surface, the half human/half Atlantean Arthur Curry (Momoa) must confront his half-brother King Orm (Wilson) to save humanity…

Review: It would be far to say that it has not been plain sailing for the DC Extended Universe up until this point. Though it started promisingly, their big budget flagship team-ups ultimately fizzled into mediocrity and disappointment. If a certain Amazonian Warrior hadn’t restored some pride, this fledgling universe might have been perilously close to suffering from an early demise. However, the DCEU is here to stay at least for now, and it is the turn of  Khal Drogo Arthur Curry to get the solo movie treatment.

Much like Wonder Woman before him, Aquaman’s solo film jumps about in time as we watch the meeting of his parents, Queen Atlanna (Kidman) and his lighthouse keeper father Thomas (Morrison), and how two beings of two separate worlds brought Arthur into existence. In the wake of the events of Justice League, a visit from Mera (Heard) a resident of Atlantis informs Arthur of his half brother’s plan to bring a war to those of us who dwell on the surface, and how Arthur must take his place as King in order to prevent this coming conflict. If this sounds kinda familiar, it might be because a little film called Black Panther had a strikingly similar plot, except this time around, the hero and the antagonist have swapped roles.

Brothers (and tridents) in arms…

Carrying on from where he left off in Justice League, Momoa is excellent as Aquaman. His charisma and just sheer badassery just makes watching him so effortlessly enjoyable. Amber Heard as Mera also gets a lot more screen time as both she and Aquaman go on their merry adventure to retrieve something that they believe will be of immense importance for the upcoming conflict. Try as they might, unfortunately their chemistry just doesn’t flow. The screenplay is scattershot and completely all over the place, with some very wishy-washy dialogue. With so many different subplots going on, keeping up with it all can feel a bit exhausting, a little bit of refining would have been most welcome. Furthermore, while certain arcs are interesting enough, they definitely could have been removed from the film.

The film’s strengths really lie in the action scenes. Director James Wan brings a real visual swagger to them, and Rupert Gregson Williams’s score helps keep the film moving briskly along. For all the criticisms that have been hurled at previous DCEU films for being devoid of colour, Wan and his DP Don Burgess don’t hold back, ensuring that each frame is truly awash with colour and vibrancy. As well as being awash with colour, there’s a fair bit of CGI, which considering half the film takes place in a world under the see, isn’t that surprising. But damn, if Atlantis was a real place, you know you would just want to visit it.

The battle scenes feel a bit ridiculous at times, but sometimes you just gotta let it slide and sit back and enjoy the ride. Also, this is the second superhero film this year, featuring an animal performing a drum solo. Not sure when, or if this has become a thing, but if it has, then absolutely no arguments. For all the dour of some of the previous instalments, the fun factor is turned up to the maximum right from the off, and just about manages to keep that going right throughout its somewhat bloated run time. The DCEU hasn’t quite been the tidal wave of success the studio, and the fans would have wanted, but with this solid entry under its trident, the tide could hopefully be turning for DC.

Beset by a messy screenplay that could have sunk the whole project, Wan’s confident direction, a reliable lead performance from Momoa, and some bonkers action keeps it all afloat.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Venom (2018)

Image is property of Sony, Columbia and Marvel

Venom – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Synopsis: Investigative journalist Eddie Brock investigates the Life Foundation and its shady experiments. In doing so, he becomes one with a sinister alien symbiote that gives him superhuman abilities..

Review: It would not exactly be an astute observation to say that over the last few years, Hollywood has treated audiences to a rather large amount of superhero films. The market has become extremely well saturated and so in order to make an impression in this crowded field, you really have got to stand out. Hence, a film that focuses on a character who is not exactly a hero by any stretch of the imagination, can give you that opportunity. While this is not exactly new ground (see Deadpool), it nevertheless gives you a chance to create something unique. Specifically in Eddie Brock/Venom, you have a chance to truly show that “the world has enough superheroes.” Unfortunately, this chance is completely squandered.

Immediately, you know that this is not in the hands of those folks who, piece by piece, put together the wonder that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It starts off interestingly enough though as a mission by the Life Foundation brings these alien symbiotes back down to earth to use them for experiments, and our eponymous anti-hero is born when investigative journalist Eddie (Hardy) merges with one of these symbiotes when clandestinely investigating this organisation. Now Eddie and this Venom creature must learn to live and co-operate with each other whilst trying to prevent the organisation and its CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) from carrying out future experiments.

“Bring Your Symbiote to Work Day” did not end well…

Given that a previous version of this character was completely shoehorned into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, and was only given the most briefest of nods in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a solo film seemed like a good idea, and on paper, the potential is there. With an actor as good as Tom Hardy in the lead, there is cause to be optimistic. While he is certainly trying his best, there is something about his performance that just doesn’t quite click, and his accent is a little iffy in places. Opposite him, Michelle Williams also tries her best, but the lack of chemistry between her and Hardy really hinders the plot. The screenplay also really doesn’t help matters as the set up of Brock becoming Venom is really sloppy in its execution. Also Riz Ahmed is completely wasted in a villainous role, that had this been part of the MCU, would put him in the not-so-prestigious company of some of the weaker MCU villains. Also his main goal just does not make any sense whatsoever.

The dialogue all round here is generally pretty poor. There are some funny moments but it is definitely more of a case of laughing at the characters, rather than with them. What is somewhat interesting is the dynamic between Brock and the villainous symbiote. There is at the very least a solid distinction that they are two very different people, something that the Topher Grace iteration of the character didn’t quite get right. What’s more, moments that are clearly intending to be funny, just come across as awkward, embarrassing and extremely painful to watch.

Fleischer’s past works include Zombieland and Gangster Squad, so he knows how to craft action scenes. While there are some competently made action scenes, we have seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe really show us how it is done when it comes to this aspect. There is nothing here that stands out when you compare it with some of the work that has come from the MCU. Furthermore, a film such as this is tailor-made to push the boundaries and go for some really strong violence, but it doesn’t utilise this opportunity and that is extremely disappointing.

Much like Universal’s Dark Universe, that has seemingly died a death after one film, it might well be the case that Sony’s Marvel Universe is over before it has a chance to get going. However, if he became part of the MCU, the potential that is there for a such an interesting character to be given the big screen treatment that could maybe do the character justice, which would be most welcome after two cinematic misfires.

An insipid and lacklustre attempt to bring something new to the genre, complete with a messy screenplay, and extremely bland and uninteresting characters.

We… are most definitely NOT Venom.

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

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marvel

Deadpool 2 – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Julian Dennison, TJ Miller

Director: David Leitch

Synopsis: When the menacing mutant Cable travels back in time and threatens the life of a troubled young mutant, Deadpool must bring together a team of heroes and to stop him.

Review: The journey for Wade Wilson AKA Deadpool to get to the big screen for his first outing a couple of years ago was a troubled one. Yet when he finally arrived in all of his red spandex glory, it smashed all sorts of records and changed the game as far as comic book and superhero films go. Though in Deadpool’s case, the hero “tag” is perhaps not one he is best suited to. Nevertheless, the fans responded and, with his katana in hand, the Merc with a mouth cut box office records cut in half, and it was inevitable that a sequel would be given the thumbs up.

While the first film was your classic origins story about how the man became the Merc. This time around, we meet Wade trying to balance his Deadpool duties with his personal life with Vanessa. This is until his path crosses with Russell, a mutant with some fire abilities, and the villainous Cable, who travels back from the future with the sole goal to kill this boy. Part of what made the first film the juggernaut of the success it was its routine fourth wall breaking, pop culture references, quite excessive uses of profanity and upping the violence factor considerably. If the first film was not your thing, chances are this film will not bring you over. The story does go in interesting and ballsy directions that keeps things moving swiftly along in a gleefully bloody direction.

Just casually jumping out of a plane, as you do…

Every once in a while, when an actor takes on a superhero role, they are just such a perfect fit that you just cannot see anyone else stepping into their shoes, and Reynolds fits into this description with his performances, gone be the memories of the first time he stepped into the role of this character. Likewise to that other time he took on the mantle of a different hero. Aside from the returning Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, there are a plethora of new characters this time around. Though many are just filler, the main ones to focus on are the lucky superhero Domino (Beetz) and Josh Brolin’s Cable, clearly having not filled his villainous boots after going after those Infinity Stones as Thanos.

The film boasts considerably more action than its predecessor, and having suited up John Wick for the first time (in addition to having killed his dog), former stuntman David Leitch takes over from Tim Miller as director. Like he demonstrated with John Wick, the action scenes are slickly produced and just extremely entertaining to watch. Though the film is for the most part extremely entertaining with some excellent gags to some classic Hollywood cinema (one will stick out in your mind in particular) the plot while undoubtedly entertaining, does run out of steam in a few places, and is a little bit thin on the ground.  Furthermore, you will find it difficult to look at certain plot points and think back to certain films of the past.

In any case, with the memories of the ill-fated first time he stepped into the role, it is great to see Reynolds seemingly have such an absolute blast with the role that he has completely made his own. In this era of superhero and comic book genre dominance, it is refreshing to see this type of superhero film that just honestly doesn’t give a shit and just wants to serve the audience up with a quality sized slice of hilarious, fourth-wall breaking and crude entertainment. If that is what you’re after, then Mr Deadpool is the man to provide that, in hilarious and extremely bloody fashion too.

As crude as its predecessor, all while delivering much bigger action set pieces and some very amusing gags, all while building depth to the Merc with a Mouth’s character. Maximum effort, maximum enjoyment.