Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: Having come out of hiding to claim the throne of Asgard, Hela the Goddess of Death seeks to rule Asgard. Having been cast aside on a distant planet, Thor must use his strength and an old friend to help him reclaim Asgard’s throne, and prevent Ragnarok, the end of all things, from occurring.

Review: Of all the directors Marvel could have hired to take on a film that studio head honcho Kevin Feige described as “very important movie in our timeline”, one of the most out of the blue choices you could suggest would be New Zealand native Taika Waititi. Having made his name with the very quirky comedies such as What We Do in The Shadows, and last year’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Yet, having seen humour become an important aspect of their films, Waititi seems to be the perfect match for Marvel, and as it turns out, it is absolutely a match made in Valhalla.

For a film subtitled Ragnarok, meaning the end of everything, to be pitched as a quirky comedy masquerading as a big budget superhero blockbuster, could have been a spectacular misfire, but in the hands of Waititi it is all just blends together beautifully. On a quest to find out some information is where we meet the God of Thunder, and he quickly learns that The Goddess of Death Hela has come back to Asgard to take her place on the throne, setting off a chain of events that sees Thor trying to unseat the Usurper whilst preventing Ragnarok from occurring. Though not written by him, the script has that Waititi stamp written all over it. There are gags aplenty, and they’re almost always hilarious. It’s a bold claim, but this might just be the funniest Marvel film to date.

Old friends reunited…

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are once again just delightful to watch in these roles that they have made their own, with it also being great to see Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk in all of his green, raging glory back in the MCU once more. There are quite a few new faces here, the absolute standouts being Tessa Thompson’s badass Valkyrie and an absolutely uproarious star turn from Waititi himself in a role that will have you almost crying tears of laughter. It is absolute comic gold and a character one would hope gets his own movie somewhere down the line. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum is inevitably always a pleasure to watch, and as the Grandmaster, it feels like a role that was just written for the Goldblum and he like the Odinson brothers, he bosses it.

A real consistent Achilles Heel for the MCU has been their villains, as the last Thor film testified. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett as Hela is able to avoid falling into the realm of bland and generic villains that have troubled MCU films gone by. She is well fleshed out as a character and it makes her story so much more compelling to watch. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Karl Urban’s character who does sadly fall into that category of villains that are just kind of forgettable.

Whilst also perhaps boasting the most vivid colour palette that the MCU has seen to date, when the action goes down Waititi’s direction is confident and assured.  The battle between Hulk and Thor that we saw a glimpse of in the trailer is just spectacular stuff, you cannot beat a bit of intergalactic gladiatorial duelling can you? With the help of some Led Zepplin, the final showdown is also breathless to watch. The whole thing might seem absolutely bonkers and absurd, but it all blends together into some delightfully, colourful and exhilarating entertainment.

With complaints of superhero fatigue coming from some audiences, this is the shot in the arm that the genre needed to help keep things fresh. It’s so different in terms of style and everything that it is certainly a most welcome breath of fresh air for the genre. With them now a staggering 17 films deep into their universe, Marvel are showing no signs of slowing down, and when they’re continuing to produce such glorious excitement, who in their right mind would want them to stop?

Fusing a deeply personal story with some absolutely first class humour that will have your sides hurting, Waititi brings his vibrant style of quirky comedy to the MCU, and it pays off big time. The best MCU film of the year.

 

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: The Dark World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander Christopher Eccleston

Director: Alan Taylor

Synopsis: As Thor works to restore the peace to the Nine Realms in the wake of the events of The Avengersa new threat emerges in the form of the Dark Elves who are after something called the Aether…

Review: Life certainly isn’t easy for a God, especially not for the ones of the red cape wearing variety. In the same year that saw one red caped wearing God struggle to find his place in the world, and fight a battle that saw an entire city suffer some horrific destruction. We had another one trying to clean up the catastrophic damage that was made by his pesky little brother. But for the latter, namely the God of Thunder, there’s an even bigger problem on the horizon that needs his attention, and above all else, his hammer.

As the climax of Phase One of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe drew to a close, the Avengers had banded together when all seemed lost to help stop Loki and his extra-terrestrial army from subjugating Earth.  Following on from all that wanton mayhem and destruction, and the aftermath of it all is where we find Thor who is now seeking to restore order and peace to the Nine Realms. Yet a new threat is emerging in the form of the Dark Elves led by Malekith who is seeking possession of a powerful artefact known only as the Aether.

Having capped off their first Phase in tremendous style, there was an obvious need to do things a little bit differently to keep interest in the universe alive and to prevent it from becoming stale. By consequence, with the the loss of his powers and how me must learn what it means to be worthy to wield Mjolnir or “Miew Miew” as one character so eloquently puts it, being central to the story. As such the studio clearly decided to change that up a bit and this time there’s no big life lesson Thor has to learn while not being as mighty as he used to be.

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The man with the mighty mallet…

He’s the all powerful God of Thunder throughout and well it’s a good thing he is since Asgard comes under attack from the Dark Elves who have a history with the Asgardians, none more so than their leader Malekith, who has a very personal score to settle. The story while it is interesting and fun to watch, it doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of what the MCU had seen up to this point. there’s nothing here that feels fresh. It all feels a bit by the numbers in terms of the direction. No disrespect to director Alan Taylor, who up to this point had overseen some terrific Game of Thrones episodes.  For instance the Avengers just had Joss Whedon’s stamp all over it. Here, while the action is well handled, it does feel like there’s nothing that feels truly special in terms of giving audiences something that they had not seen before.

Given that these films are centered on the titular God of Thunder, the right man was needed for the job, and once again Chris Hemsworth showed he was absolutely the right man to wear the cape and wield the hammer. Equally important to the equation, and another excellent casting choice is of course Tom Hiddleston as Loki who despite committing those terrible atrocities in New York is a character whom you just can’t help but like, even though he’s perhaps the most untrustworthy character in the entire MCU, but you know that as a character he’s someone you almost find yourself rooting for due to his roguish personality.

However, as with the first film, the villain here is a real let down and perhaps maybe the poorest MCU villain to date. Christopher Eccleston is certainly a very fine actor, but as Malekith the script really doesn’t flesh him out to the point where you understand where he’s coming from and he comes across as just extremely generic and not in the least bit memorable. Ultimately, despite for the most part being enjoyable to watch, even at this point in the MCU, it slots in nicely as a sequel to both the first Thor film and The Avengers, but certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd in the ever expanding world of comic book movies, which is something that even an object as powerful as Thor’s magic hammer cannot fix.

There’s more than enough here to enjoy, but a pretty by the numbers story and direction mean that The Dark World is not mighty enough to ensure it lands a place among the plethora of truly memorable superhero flicks.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor (2011)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: When the God of Thunder Thor, the next in line to the throne of Asgard, is exiled on Earth, he must learn the error of his ways and prove himself worthy to retain his power…

Review: Norse Mythology is something that has certainly made an impression on pop culture. As J.R.R Tolkien himself has admitted, his works such as Lord of the Rings had their influences from the Nordic myths and legends. Indeed, Marvel Comics certainly decided to utilise said mythology in some of their comics, and thus the character of Thor came into being, first debuting in 1962. Back when Marvel was establishing the foundations of their cinematic Universe, Thor and the realm in which he dwells became a part of that all encompassing world, and what must have been quite the challenge to adapt for the big screen was pulled off quite spectacularly.

Thanks to some narration style backstory from the King of Asgard Odin (Hopkins) we learn that Thor is due to succeed his father as King, but a sinister threat approaches in the form of the Frost Giants, who threaten to turn Asgard and indeed everywhere into a cold dark place. When Thor decides to take matters into his own hands, his actions have dire consequences and at Odin’s behest, Thor is banished to Earth as a mere mortal and must learn from his mistakes if he is ever to take his place at Asgard again. Despite the grandiose setting, the themes of this film are at their core very Shakespearean, which means Kenneth Branagh is right at home having done a great many Shakespearean plays. Sibling rivalry, squabbling, betrayal and all that, mixed in with of course Norse Gods and magic of course (or is that science we just don’t know yet?) It might sound mad, it all blends brilliantly.

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This man definitely didn’t skip leg day…

Being one of the key players of the Avengers, casting the right man to play Thor was essential and Chris Hemsworth was certainly the right man. He carries the brash arrogance and swagger that one might expect from a man who wields a mighty hammer, Mjolnir as his weapon. Yet when he’s banished to Earth, he also shows his humility and compassion particularly for his love interest Jane (Portman). The chemistry between a demi-god and a mere mortal human shouldn’t really work but it does. The casting all round genuinely is flawless, Sir Anthony Hopkins certainly has the imposing presence required to play one of the most powerful beings in all the realms. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is also perfect, whilst he appears initially to be innocent, it doesn’t take long for his mischievous streak to emerge. You really feel the family dynamic between these characters and the  family disagreements  intense to say the least, one scene with Loki and Odin in particular stands out among the rest.

Family feuding aside, Branagh also helms the action scenes tremendously well and they are a visual treat to watch. When Thor is laying it down, he is one badass hero that would be pretty hard to stop. Which again when he’s stripped of his powers, makes him so much more vulnerable. When you have a hero as powerful as Thor is, to see him be stripped of his power and go on an important and significant journey to discover what it really means to have the power he possesses. Like a great many Marvel movies, the film weaves humour so effortlessly, despite all the family drama that’s occurring, there’s plenty of moments to laugh out load. That being said, the story is not perfect as there are some moments that do feel a bit rushed. In addition the Frost Giants, and in particular their leader, whilst menacing, do not stand out as very memorable villains, as that dastardly Loki is the one you want to keep your eye on.

At this point, the MCU was very much in its infancy, and so getting this aspect of its universe right was paramount for its future success. Thankfully the nine realms converged perfectly , everything was weaved together perfectly. the God of Thunder took flight and landed in the MCU, with an almighty crash.

Incorporating this aspect of the universe was undoubtedly a challenge, but Branagh steers this ship so skilfully that Thor’s MCU debut was as mighty as the God of Thunder himself.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Image is property of Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Kong: Skull Island – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, John C Reilly

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Synopsis: The discovery of an uncharted piece of land in the Pacific Ocean leads a team of scientists and soldiers right into the home of some larger than life beings, including a giant ape, who don’t exactly welcome them with open arms…

Review: It seems that in the wake of the success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed, almost every studio nowadays is looking to form their own cinematic universe, because as Marvel has demonstrated, it can make some serious dough. Some cinematic universes have enjoyed success, whilst others have yet to really click. Now Legendary and Warner Bros, in the wake of 2014’s Godzilla are launching their MonsterVerse. A Godzilla Vs Kong film is being lined up for release in 2020, but before the Kings of Monsters can battle, we are reintroduced to this latest version of the Eight Wonder of the World, for his eighth foray on the big screen.

This time however, rather than be brought back to the human world, a human venture is lead right into the land Kong calls home, with Bill Randa (Goodman) in charge with Preston Packard (Jackson) as the stern military leader. Also along for the ride are photographer Mason Weaver (Larson) and expert tracker James Conrad (Hiddleston). It isn’t long before Kong enters the fray, in what must surely be the largest Kong ever put to screen, and he’s certainly not happy, which is understandable given what some of the humans do immediately upon arrival.

“GET OFF MY LAND!!!!”

When Kong last graced the big screen courtesy of Peter Jackson back in 2005, you empathised with Kong and the connection he felt with the woman he falls in love with. What’s more, there was a connection between a handful of those human characters, as a select few were well developed, fleshed out characters you cared about. In this instance, these humans are just SO bland and frankly boring. The bright sparks are that of Sam Jackson’s Packard, your no-nonsense military man who just wants to get the job done, and there’s John C Reilly who without saying too much has come to know Kong quite a bit, though how he acquires that knowledge is somewhat baffling. The rest, however, are really bland, uninteresting and severely lacking in character development which when given the talent of the likes of Brie Larson, John Goodman and Tom Hiddleston, is just baffling.

What is good however is Kong himself, the CGI for him is decent, but isn’t nearly as good as Jackson’s version of the character. That being said, he’s still far more compelling than just about any of the human characters. Yet the screen time he receives is just not as much as you would like him to have. So when he isn’t on screen, the film isn’t nearly as compelling as it ought to be. You’re left with characters who aren’t well developed enough for you to care about at all, but then again, the script that they’re given to work with isn’t the best quality either. There are some great action scenes involving the eponymous  gargantuan ape and a few other inhabitants of the island. Though there’s great cinematography with some superb wide shots of the island, the directing is extremely choppy and yet again the CGI for some of these is not up to the standard it should be, which is extremely perplexing given the substantial budget of the film.

With the two films now in the bag, the MonsterVerse is taking shape, though it hasn’t had the roaring success it would have wanted so far. The monsters have for the most part been well realised, but the human characters in both movies have left a lot to be desired. The difference is that Godzilla had a select few characters that were well developed, but the same cannot be said for the characters in this new Kong adventure. There is an admittedly cool post credits scene, but you’ll be left wondering what could have been, given that the end product is the equivalent of a giant piece of ape shit.

A classic case of style over substance, some decent CGI and a few good action scenes cannot mask the disposable characters and a frustrating lack of screen time for the titular monster.

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. 

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