I didn’t have high hopes going into this movie, despite being a fan of Tom Hardy and the Marvel character he was playing. The reasons for my doubts were that this movie had been mauled by the critics and the idea of making a film about Venom that is separate from Spider-Man doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, given the history of the character. Hell, his whole look is based on the wallcrawler, so how would they explain that here.
The answer is, they don’t and, frankly, it doesn’t come up as they ditch the spider on his chest and so the only real Spidey influence is the eyes.
The film is fun, with a lot of decent action sequences and plenty of humour wrung out of the internal bickering between Hardy’s Eddie Brock and the symbiote which infects him. The bloodthirsty alien clashing with Brock’s morality is handled well, with the two slowly starting to warm to each other and eventually becoming more like one entity. It’s almost a buddy movie played out within one body, and props to Hardy for making it entertaining while also giving a sense of Brock’s panic and unease.
Plot wise the film keeps things simple, dodgy science guy Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is looking for ways to save mankind from the world they have bled dry and overpopulated. His idea is space, where he looks for possible new homes, and on one of his missions his team retrieve some symbiotes, alien beings that need hosts to live. Unfortunately, one gets loose and causes a crash on re-entry, possessing the sole survivor before moving on to another host and deciding to track down Drake’s Life Foundation in San Francisco.
Needing to do damage limitation on the accident Drake decides to do an interview with investigative reporter Eddie Brock. However, Brock discovers some dodgy human testing information which he only knows about because he snoops on his fiance Anne’s (Michelle Williams) computer. Anne working as a lawyer for the Life Foundation. When Brock raises this allegation at the interview it throws his life into chaos. He is fired and blacklisted, and Anne, hurt by the betrayal, dumps him.
Six months pass and Brock is struggling, but one of the scientists who works for Drake approaches him, no longer able to keep quiet on the human trials they are doing which kill the hosts. Brock investigates and discovers a homeless woman he knows as one of the test subjects, letting her out he is then attacked and the symbiote transfers to him.
Unlike other subjects, Brock and the symbiote, named Venom, bond successfully and flourish. Drake is interested in finding out more and sends goons after Brock, but the symbiote grants him new powers which help him to evade capture, although the symbiote’s fighting style is extremely vicious, which Brock is horrified by.
Can they stay out of Drake’s clutches? Will Brock be able to curtail Venom’s aggression? Or will the symbiote gain the upper hand? What is the plan of the other symbiote that is making it’s way to San Francisco? How much can Brock trust the alien within and what is it doing to his body?
Like I said at the top, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, which I think injected some much needed dark humour to proceedings and didn’t water down Venom’s darker aspects. That being said, I felt the 15 rating was a bit harsh, while it was definitely too creepy for younger audiences and there were a few swears, the violence is surprisingly bloodless and I’ve definitely seen more at this level.
Hardy is, as ever, superb in the lead role, making Brock a likeable loser type, who’s own obsession ruins him and leaves him a broken man. There’s humour in the portrayal, especially in the panicky, bewildered way Hardy plays some of the scenes and his disbelief at what’s going on.
The rest of the cast do their jobs well enough, although Ahmed’s Drake is a little bit bland as a villain. His coldness works, but there’s just something missing from taking him to that next level.
The action sequences are pretty cool and the way the symbiote moves and shifts shape during combat is impressive, as is the final reveal when Eddie goes full Venom.
It’s not brilliant, and it lacks a major emotional punch, but it’s perfectly fine viewing, even if it does make you regret that they didn’t introduce this character into the MCU as there doesn’t seem to be any real threat for Venom to face off against here. Potential sequels may change this, but it’s hard to see how they’ll manage this without it seeming shoehorned in.
Also, there’s the villain problem. Ahmed’s performance is solid, but the character is bloodless and the other symbiote, while impressive, doesn’t quite work. The film also suffers from the fact that it and Venom look too similar, meaning during their big showdown it’s hard to tell who’s who.
Enough of it works to make it fun, but this is definitely a lower tier comic book movie.
Verdict: Fun if a bit average. Hardy is good as the lead, but he’s good in everything. The supporting cast are underwritten and it could do with a better villain, but these quibbles aside it has a few laughs, solid action and some pretty cool effects. 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
One of the questions during Infinity War was where was Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man? As one of only a handful of heroes not to appear, Marvel fans were left wondering where he and Hawkeye were when Thanos attacked. Luckily this film explains a lot of what Scott Lang was up to.
Last seen locked up with the rest of Team Captain America (Chris Evans) at the end of Civil War, Scott has done a deal which has seen him allowed to return home but forced to live under house arrest. He has gone into business with best friend Luis (Michael Pena) starting a security company, and has no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who helped him become Ant-Man.
After Scott shrunk to a subatomic level entering the quantum realm and returned, Hank has begun to think that his wife may still be alive, trapped down there. The father and daughter team prepare to find Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), but their machine doesn’t work, however, Scott has weird dreams about Janet and her memories. After leaving a message with Hank, they kidnap Scott, who worries about breaking parole with only a few days left.
While they try to work out what’s going on they have to deal with black marketeers who are after the quantum tech Hank is working on, and a mysterious figure known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who wants the quantum machine in order to drain Janet’s quantum energy to stabilise her powers which cause her immense pain and are slowly killing her.
Can Scott make peace with Hank after forcing him underground and stealing his suit? Will Scott and Hope reconcile and get their relationship going properly? Will they rescue Janet or will Ghost get to her first? Will Scott get caught and sent back to jail?
First of all, I have to say that this movie is great fun. The dialogue sparkles with humour and the action scenes are magnificent, really making use of the characters’ shrinking and growing powers to create striking, inventive fights and chases. Paul Rudd is predictably great as Scott Lang, and is a likeable, charming presence at the heart of the film and Lilly does really well as his more collected partner. Lilly’s intensity and badassery is a nice contrast to Rudd’s goofiness, and the Wasp is a great addition to the MCU and I hope to see more, but this is still Rudd’s movie.
Despite everything this movie does right this feels like a lesser entry into the MCU canon. While still hugely entertaining it fails to live up to the shared universe’s recent run of form (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War). It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s missing but I think it may have to do with two major factors:
Firstly, after the massive scale of Infinity War it feels rather small scale, and while it explains Scott’s absence there to an extent and has one killer reference to the film’s events, it lacks the emotional punch of that film.
Secondly, the film drops the ball with Ghost.
A lot of people say that the MCU has a villain problem, but for me this is something the most recent run has worked hard to fix. We’ve had characters like The Vulture, Killmonger, Hela, Ego and Thanos, all villains who have posed a serious threat while also having solid motivation and varying degrees of depth. You felt some sympathy for Killmonger and Hela, cast out by their families. Ego was unrepentant in his ruthless plot. Thanos while flawed showed some love for Gamora and the Vulture remains probably the best of the bunch, a flawed, desperate man pushed to extremes to support his family.
So, what’s wrong with Ghost? Simply put the film makes her far too sympathetic. We see her suffering from the effects of her powers, hear the tragic backstory about how she gained them and how SHIELD weaponized her. The problem is that this could set up a debate about which life is more important, Janet or Ghost. Is it fair to save Janet if it means they can’t cure Ghost, is it okay to kill Janet to save a life? Unfortunately this conflict is never fully developed and while Hank offers to help we never see him working on it, as he’s focused on his wife, understandably.
Worst of all, the film’s actual resolution feels rushed, overly simple and disappointing.
It seems the film has decided that Ghost isn’t a true villain and they throw in Walton Goggins’ smarmy black marketeer, Sonny Burch. While Goggins is quite good in the role he’s clearly there to be a real villain of the piece, but his goons are never an even match. Perhaps had they given Burch a few flash weapons or even a super-powered goon for hire the fights may have been more evenly matched, but as it is they pose little obstacle for our heroes or Ghost.
The laughs come fast and furious, the characters are solid and engaging. The visuals are magnificent and well worth checking out on the big screen, but the film sags and disappoints at the end. Well, apart from one of the best post credit scenes so far.
It feels a waste of the characters and a step back, the first film since Thor: The Dark World that feels like a rushed sequel and not part of a growing universe.
Verdict: Fun, but disappointing. Rudd, Lilly and Pena are great, but they soften the villain too much and it’s definitely a lower tier Marvel movie. 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I’ve not long finished watching the Netflix series The Punisher, which sees Jon Bernthal take up the role of Frank Castle, the one man army waging a quest for bloody justice. As a massive fan of the comic book character, particular Garth Ennis’ fantastic work, I kinda enjoyed the show although I was glad that they wrapped up the conspiracy theory angle. I’d quite like it if future seasons stuck more to the basics, Castle’s war against organised crime.
One character who is returning to the season is Frank’s former friend and now enemy, Billy “the Beaut” Russo (Ben Barnes), last scene heavily bandaged in hospital after Frank introduced his face to some cut glass. Earlier this week the first on set images of Barnes appeared and the reaction I’ve seen has been largely negative.
It is true that the TV version is distinctly less horrific than the version of the character who adopts the name Jigsaw due to his patchwork face of scars. But for me this is a good thing. Why? Well, let me explain.
First of all, while it may have been entertaining to see a horrifically mutilated Jigsaw akin to something from a horror movie, it wouldn’t be fitting with the world the Netflix shows have built, which is far more restrained than the source material. To have Barnes walk around like Leatherface wouldn’t fit with the rest of the look of the show.
My second argument for the reduced scarring is that it could actually work well into the character’s story, motivation and presence in the second series. A fully deformed Russo would be almost sympathetic and his psychopathic tendencies easier to dismiss. But the less scarred version? That’s a lot more interesting.
While the scars are noticeable and the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to have done to you, they’re not actually that bad. But here is where the writers’ can play up Russo’s vanity and warped perception. He can see himself as an utterly hideous freak, describing the wounds in extreme terms or even seeing something different when he looks in the mirror. It can become an obsession for him, a mania that he can’t escape from, regardless of the reassurance of others or the actual physical reality.
Billy was a rich man in season one, and while many of his assets will no doubt have been seized by the authorities, it makes sense that he’d have some stashed away. We could have the story follow that he’s burned through these resources with surgeries to tidy his wounds, but wants more done.
This could lead him to sell his military skills as an enforcer/hitman to organized crime, leading him to cross paths with Frank once more.
Similarly, they could highlight the depths of his obsession by showing his changed circumstances. We saw Billy as a man with expensive tests but he could now be shown a broken man in more than ways than one. Living in a mirror of Frank’s stripped down bases, he has only the essentials and a plethora of skin creams and ointments which he applies with obsessive dedication. Rebuilding his shattered face is his major obsession, rivalled only by his desire for revenge on the man who inflicted it on him.
At least, that’s how I would write it.
So, I don’t see the minimal scarring as a cop out, but rather as a sign that the show is avoiding grotesquery and going for something a little more subtle and psychological.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
The first Deadpool was a blast, a crude, rude romp of OTT violence, winks to camera and gags. Could they capture lightning in a bottle twice? I was hopeful, but apprehensive. Thankfully a few minutes in and the line “Hit it, Dolly!” settled my nerves. We were back and this was gonna be a whole lotta fun too.
Ryan Reynolds as the Merc with a Mouth is easily one of the best castings in comic book movie history (along with Patrick Stewart as Prof X, RDJ as Tony Stark and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian), and he’s on fine form here in a fast paced, foul mouthed adventure.
After a mistake leads to personal tragedy Deadpool finds himself at a low ebb and seeking redemption, leading him to join the X-Men as a trainee. On his first mission he deals with an angry teen mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) who wants vengeance on the people who run the centre he lives at and takes the name Fire Fist. After trying to talk him down Wade has to use force to subdue him but realizes Russell is being abused, prompting him to kill one of the staff, causing the anger of new teammates Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Stefan Kapicic and Briana Hildebrand, respectively). Russell and Wade are taken into custody, their powers negated, meaning that Wade is slowly dying from cancer which his healing factor was keeping at bay.
Wade brushes off Russell’s attempts to create a partnership and advises him to find other prisoners to protect him. However, when the prison is attacked, Wade defends him and fights the attacker, Cable (Josh Brolin). It transpires that Cable is from the future where Russell has become a mass murderer, including killing Cable’s family. Cable plans to kill Russell in order to stop these events.
Russell hears Wade say he doesn’t care and seeks out a dangerous inmate for an ally, while Wade realises saving Russell may be the purpose he needs. To achieve this he puts a team together to save the kid and stop Cable, dubbing the team X-Force.
Can Wade find purpose? Will he be able to stop Cable and can he set Russell on a different path? And is he really cut out to lead a superhero team?
I loved this movie, which had me crying with laughter in places and is relentlessly entertaining. The action is bloody and wince inducing in places, but much of it is played for laughs. Also the story of redemption, destiny and “being better” is handled well without being preachy.
The relationship between the characters is handled quite well, particularly the wise cracking Wade having to deal with the stoic Cable, played with deadpan badassery by Brolin, who does well with the part.
It’s not going to be for everyone given the crude nature of many of the gags, the gore and the tone, but for me it works. The new characters who are introduced are an interesting bunch and a poorly used character from the X-movies gets a second chance to impress.
There are a few gags that probably won’t age well, but most work fine and Reynolds is charismatic as the lead, and seems utterly at home here. Here’s hoping we get more adventures.
Verdict: Manages to match the original and keeps the laughs and action flowing. It misdirects the audience nicely a few times and there are several nice touches. Reynolds impresses again. Bloody, crass and delightfully postmodern this is a great ride. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
In 2008 when Robert Downey Jr made his debut as Tony Stark in Iron Man, I don’t think anyone could predict just how successful the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. Several cracking movies later, the main event arrives, the arrival of Thanos (Josh Brolin) which unites all the various strands into one story.
The movie kicks off with Thanos having attacked the Asgardian refugees (see Thor: Ragnarok). Here he defeats Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). The Hulk is transported to Earth, while Thanos having got his hands on the Space Stone destroys the ship.
This leaves Thanos with two of the six infinity stones he needs to gain supreme powers. The other four are scattered throughout the universe- the Mind Stone and Time Stone are on Earth, the Mind being part of the Vision (Paul Bettany), the synthetic Avenger while sorcerer supreme Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) posses the Time Stone. The Reality Stone is in the possesion of the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) on the planet Knowhere. The final one, the Soul Stone is missing.
Thanos’ minions head out to retrieve the stones. Thor, cast adrift is found by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who agree to help stop Thanos. The team splits into two- Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively) join Thor to go and get a weapon powerful enough to kill Thanos. Meanwhile, Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) leads the others to Knowhere. Before they leave Gamora (Zoe Saldana) reveals she has important information and that Peter must kill her if Thanos is about to take her captive.
Meanwhile, on Earth the two individuals with the stones are attacked. Doctor Strange, having been warned by the Hulk contacts Iron Man, who tells him to run. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) joins the fight, but they are unable to stop Strange from being captured. Iron Man and Spider-Man stow away aboard the space ship and attempt to rescue the Doctor as they head for Thanos’ homeworld Titan.
The Vision is attacked while with Scarlet Witch (Emma Olsen), but they are helped by Captain America (Chris Evans) and his teammates Black Widow and Falcon (Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie). They defeat the attackers and after linking up with War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the Hulk they decide to remove the stone from Vision, as he may survive without it. For help they travel to Wakanda, kingdom of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
Can they protect all the stones against a powerful foe and his army? Will they stop Thanos’ quest to restore balance to the universe by killing half of the population.
Thanos’ quest is of course utter madness, but it’s root is from a place of coldly logical thought and Brolin does well in the role, which has unexpected vulnerability and humanity. He’s still a fanatic, obsessed with his mission, but we do see he has real feelings and connections. He’s almost sympathetic at times while never stopping being the villain we want to see defeated.
With so many heroes in one film the film could have become muddled and rushed, but to the filmmakers’ credit the story unfolds at a decent pace and the idea to split up our heroes and having them fight on different fronts works very well. It adds a sense of scale and keeps the storylines separate, and allows different teams to form.
All the different characters have chances shine and the action sequences are impressive. There’s a real “event” feel to proceedings and the crossover works brilliantly.
Hugely entertaining and with high stakes this also packs an emotional punch. With such a formidable foe deaths are on the cards and I’ve been dodging spoilers, and will avoud them here.
There are a fair few bodies dropping in this movie and most land emotionally. Even after the first couple they don’t lose their edge and one of the last ones is the one that cut me deepest.
There’s a school of thought that dismisses the MCU as being too lighthearted, but for me the quips and gags have always been deliberate attempts by characters to mask fear or pain. It’s telling here that as the movie moves towards an Empire Strikes Back style of downbeat ending there is a stop to the jokes. In fact, dialogue stops all together as our heroes deal with the fallout.
After teases and hype Thanos finally hits the MCU and does so like a freight train. He delivers on all the threats and references, leaving our heroes reeling and damaged. And for the first time the villain is still standing at the end, and still a threat.
But you can’t keep a good hero or franchise down, and the post credits scene hints at a new player entering the fray. This isn’t the end for the MCU but does feel like a new chapter. And part of me dreads what comes next, especially as contracts run out.
For a young comic book fan the big universe shaking events were always a big deal (although partly because they were rarer then) and this movie manages to capture that excitement and scale, and gives most of the characters a chance to shine.
Marvel knocked this out of the park.
Verdict: A big blockbuster that actually feels big. All the planning plays off and with a legitimately threatening villain this has genuine peril. Amazinly it delivers on the hype and is a superhero epic. 9.5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Often the weight of expectation can seriously damage your enjoyment of a movie, and having watched the excitement and adoration for this film grow online when I finally got to see it this week it had a lot to live up to.
To it’s credit it is a solid movie, entertaining throughout and a worthy addition to the MCU. However, for me it seems like a second tier entry in the series and not quite as good as some of the hype had said.
The film deals with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to his homeland of Wakanda to assume the throne following the death of his father (see Captain America: Civil War). He must deal with his own doubts about whether he is ready to rule.
He also pursues Ulysseus Klaue (Andy Serkis) an arms dealer who has stolen Wakanda’s most valuable resource, Vibranium, the metal which powers their advanced technology. Klaue also has a new ally in Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a vicious and ruthless individual with a murky past and secret connections to the Wakandan royal family.
Can T’Challa adapt to his new role as king and maintain justice? Can Wakanda keep it’s advances secret and safe from the rest of the world?
The good for this movie is that it continues the entertaining, fun and action filled tone that the Marvel universe is built on. It also creates a whole new setting in Wakanda, a high tech utopia. To the credit of the filmmakers they have crafted a fictional society that feels real, with it’s own traditions, factions and history.
Some aspects of this are wonderfully done like the Dora Milaje, an all female elite guard who are shown as a brilliantly badass fighting force. Or the way each of Wakanda’s five tribes is different.
However, there was one aspect of Wakanda that struck a bum note with me. It seems massively selfish of the country to horde the technology it has, and while concerns over their weaponry are understandable, their withholding of medical advancements is hard to defend. This forms part of the plot of the film but at times the “Wakanda is best” rhetoric from some characters felt a little bit full of itself.
Similarly a point about how Wakanda had been spared oppression unlike much of Africa didn’t ring true. Yes, it had kept out foreign invaders, but T’Challa’s ancestors had taken over the five tribes because of the powers given to them by Vibranium.
These minor points aside the movie works well, although for once this is a comic book film that could have benefited from more villains, perhaps a henchman for Killmonger. It would have provided a second more viable threat for the finale.
That being said the finale is pretty good anyway, and the fight scenes throughout are very well done, particularly the larger scale battles. There’s also a belter of a car chase.
I enjoyed this movie and had great fun. I’ve long liked the character of T’Challa and Boseman does good work here, even if the love subplot was a little underwhelming. And there are some good new characters introduced, particularly M’Baku (Winston Duke) leader of one of Wakanda’s tribes and a swaggering, colourful character who exists on the fringe of Wakandan society. Similarly I also really liked Okoye, the Dora Milaje leader played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, who can kickass but hints at a softer, more humorous side.
A solid adventure and ticks a lot of boxes, but I think I went in expecting too much.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
As ever this is my personal ranking of the movies I saw this year.
Carried by the easy charisma of Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, nobody could call this movie smart but it kept the laughs coming with an OTT plot and some nice touches. Read my full review here.
9. Kong: Skull Island
Glorious on the IMAX screen, this succeeded where Godzilla failed in succeding as a fun movie. The monster throwdowns are entertaining and the 1970s setting works. Sure, I didn’t quite buy Tom Hiddleston as an SAS badass, but other than that a solid blockbuster. Review here.
8. Wonder Woman
The strongest DC movie so far this gives us the background of Diana (Gal Gadot) coming to the world of men.
It’s a decent movie, but WW only gets a handful of fights with enemies equal to her own abilities and there is way too much slo-mo. Also, in a film which repeatedly talks about how wrong violence is, the Amazons fighting are clearly supposed to look cool. A decent movie, but I think some reviews were a bit hyperbolic. My own response is more measured.
7. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright produces a fun, fast paced action musical loaded with killer songs and a great cast. Slick and in touch with its genre roots. Here’s my quick review.
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The first Spidey movie that for me truly got the character right with Tom Holland excelling inside and outside of the suit. It captures the struggles of Peter Parker both as a regular teen and with his new powers and responsibilities. Having Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark as a mentor figure is a nice touch and Michael Keaton’s Vulture is a cracking villain, with layers the character has lacked.
Hugely entertaining, with some great action sequences and quality gags this was like a Spider-Man book come to life. I gush even more here.
5. Beauty and the Beast
Disney manage to give a live action spin to one of their best animated films. It works because it captures the original magic while also deepening and strengthening the story. I loved it.
Hugh Jackman has been playing everyone’s favourite Canadian mutant for almost two decades. This his ninth outing is the perfect way to hang up the role. With an end of the line feel this grim, gritty tale sees an aging, failing Wolverine looking after a dementia struck Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Content to hide out and lay low, he is forced back into action when a young girl very much like him crosses his path.
The dark tone works well, and the higher rating allows Logan to finally cut loose on screen, proving that he is the best he is at what he does, and it ain’t pretty. A great send off for Jackman and the character and the best X-movie of them all? I think so.
3. Thor: Ragnarok
Chris Hemsworth’s third outing as the Asgardian Avenger is his best. Just fun from the jump with familiar faces alongside some cool new characters. I wrote about it here.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Marvel’s misfits return for a second adventure which matches their arrival. The wisecracking anti-heroes explore Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) past and evade numerous foes. Hugely entertaining, it also packs an emotional punch near the end and having rewatched on telly my admiration only growns. One of Marvel’s best, you can read my original thoughts here.
Christopher Nolan delivers a war movie which is amazingly tense and in many ways understated. There are no gung ho heroics, just regular men desperately trying to survive. The cast is superb and the chronological shuffling heightens the tension and allows us to see different aspects. It’s not fun, as it’s far too intense for that but it is excellent filmmaking. Review.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I saw this back while we were in Florida but I just haven’t got round to writing a review until now.
Ever since I got into comics as a teen one of the Marvel characters I’ve always loved has been Thor, the hammer swinging God of Thunder. He was different to the other heroes and I loved the fantasy vibe and that his dialogue was in a different font. Of course, with the winged helmet and style of talking I knew bringing him to the big screen was risky, but the MCU delivered and Chris Hemsworth has been great.
But while the first Thor movie was an entertaining origin story, the sequel was one of Marvel’s weaker efforts. Still fun, but a bit meh.
With Thor missing from Civil War I was keen to see where he was and this the third outing didn’t disappoint.
As arguably the strongest Avenger, this movie works because they strip Thor of several of his allies and weapons, force him into a role of greater responsibility and have him face off against a dangerous foe who appears too strong for him to defeat.
Our hero is cast adrift in a strange world, broken and grieving. Kudos here to Hemsworth who captures this sense of loss and struggle with subtle pain, while still carrying himself with a swagger which appears to be a mask. In short order he learns of his evil, destructive sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, loses his father and in his first showdown with Hela is easily beaten, his mystical hammer Mjolnir destroyed.
Despite this Thor is deternined to return to Asgard to protect his people and stop Hela. It’s this that makes him a hero along with the way he adopts the role of Adgardian leader depite his self doubts.
The movie is fast paced and despite the high stakes there is plenty of humour. Pairing Thor with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki works well, with their differing views leading to confluct and the actors have great chemistry together. Similarly characters lile Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Skurge, played by Karl Urban, have comedic moments, but there is enough shade beneath.
The cast is uniformly good, with Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett impressing as newcomers. And Mark Ruffalo continues to impress as Bruce Banner/The Hulk and his interactions with Thor, in both forms are wonderful.
Criticisms of it as lightweight or too comedic didn’t hold water with me. While it is consistently funny, Hela is a legitimate threat and the stakes feel real. Yes, a few deaths are swept aside a tad too easily for me, but I felt it married the darkness and light well.
All the cast are on fine form and it leaves the characters in an interesting place going forward. It’s also good for the MCU as a whole because Thor is peefectly placed to link three aspects of the universe- the magic of Doctor Strange, the superheroics of the Avengers and the intergalactic adventures of the Guardians.
A great blockbuster that shakes up the world of a major character, and advances their character. Easily Thor’s best outing so far and one of the MCU’s best films.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Tobey Maguire was a good Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield was a good Spider-Man. Tom Holland is the guy who nails both halves of the character.
For starters, Holland looks closer to an awkward teenager and is just wonderfully charming as he stumbles and bumbles his way through his teenage life. This charm and awkwardness transfers across when he dons the mask, the body language still capturing the gawky youth and attempts to be cool. Also the voice work captures the enthusiastic way Spidey goes into action.
This movie gets one of the things I loved about the character of Spider-Man. He enjoyed being a hero. Sure, there was drama and tension, but when he got up there swinging, he was having a ball. The same is true for large parts of this film, Spider-Man throws himself into crime fighting, even for minor offences with boundless enthusiasm. Even when things get tough there’s still a sense that he wants to be a hero, and that he likes being in the tights. It messes with his day-to-day life, but there’s no stopping him, and there’s no brooding.
There is frustration, having helped out in Civil War Peter hopes to become an Avenger and work closely with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), but finds himself sidelined. Stark tells him to stay close to the ground, and that he’s not ready.
Some criticised the movie for including Stark, but I like it. It makes sense that after recruiting Peter he would keep tabs on him, and Tony’s attempts to mentor him show how the character continues to evolve from the playboy at the start of the first Iron Man movie. RDJ is excellent as ever, and his affection and concern for Peter is pitched just right. There’s a sense that he respects Peter despite his youth and sees his potential to be great, evidenced when he tells Peter that he wants the young hero to be better than him.
Eager to prove himself Peter decides to go it alone aftee discovering someone is selling hi-tech weapons. This leads him against Adrian Toomes AKA the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who turned to crime having been thrown off the salvage contract after the events of The Avengers leaving him in financial difficulties. He and his crew use the alien tech they grabbed to make weapons and to steal more, leading them to cross paths with Spidey, who persists after Iron Man warns him off.
Michael Keaton’s performance and the changes to Vulture’s backstory are fantastic and make what I’ve always viewed as a lacklustre villain more interesting. Not only does his origin tie in with the rest of the MCU and show the fallout of previous events, it makes him a more relatable and believable character. All his crime is driven by his need to provide for his family, and Keaton captures a sense of a man driven to extremes to keep his head above water. Not that he isn’t great at the basic villain stuff, with him giving the character an intimidating steeliness which as the film continues to impress and increase. Not an utter villain, but with a ruthlessness that makes him a decent threat.
The plot unfolds at a cracking pace, the film fizzing along so that the action and laughs flow constantly, but with enough character stuff to mean you genuinely care, largely due to Holland’s work.
While there are some MCU similarities this film has its own tone, being closer in tone to a teen comedy at times, just with superheroics thrown in, there’s a nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that’s kind of the vibe here. It helps that the dialogue is genuinely funny and some of Peter’s schoolmates are wonderful.
Best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is a scene stealing character, a geeky fanboy who is overjoyed at discovering his best friend is a superhero and who pesters Peter with questions. It’s a charming and funny performance, and Ned provides a lot of humour as well as providing Peter with a confidante.
Also worth mentions are Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and a delightful performance from Zendaya as Michelle, Peter’s sarcastic, offbeat classmate.
The whole movie clicked for me, managing to balance peril and humour. It felt like the closest to the Spider-Man from the books and fits well with the MCU by adding a slightly smaller scale. Peter is the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and the bigger more cosmic threats can be left to the other characters.
I was won over by Holland in his brief appearance in Civil War and this builds on this. For me this is up there with the best of the MCU movies and I hope Sony continue their deal with Marvel because this is how to do Spidey.
Verdict: An entertaining ride from start to finish this has bags of charm and action. Simply magnificent. Holland IS the character. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Disclaimer: I have tried but there are a few spoilers ahead, so be warned.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a surprising gem of a movie, with James Gunn bringing a smaller, more obscure Marvel team to the big screen and expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos. It’s among my favourites of the Marvel movies and so this follow up arrives with additional pressure the first didn’t.
Luckily it never allows this pressure to effect it’s performance and while a couple of gags are revisited, this strikes out into fresh territory.
Having saved the universe Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) discovered his father was not of Earth. This mystery continues to bug him, but he pushes it awau as he leads the Guardians. We find them defeating a gigantic space beast to the backing of ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky”, the action largely in the background as Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), the child reincarnation of the team’s living tree, dances about happily.
The team has been hired to stop the monster by the Sovereign, led by High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). The Sovereign, a gold skinned race have bred their people to be the best they can be, and so view their citizens as too precious to risk. Their fee is the handover of Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) villainous adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) who they plan to hand over to the Nova Corps.
All goes well and they leave. Aboard the ship Peter apologises to Gamora for having flirted with Ayesha, but she brushes this off. Drax (Dave Bautista) advises Peter that he has no chance with Gamora and should instead find someone “pathetic” like he is. Shortly after the Sovereign chase them as on their way out the gruff, gun toting raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) stole valuable and powerful batteries from them.
Rocket and Peter argue about who is the better pilot and their struggle for control damages the ship. Luckily, the remote controlled pursuers are destroyed by a mysterious figure who arrives astride his own ship. The Guardians escape but crash land, their ship severely damaged.
Ayesha’s next move is to recruit Yondu (Michael Rooker), the alien who abducted Peter as a child to capture the Guardians. We learn that some of the crew think Yondu is going soft and that his team of Ravagers are outsiders to the other clans, with his old friend Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) who says he is an exile because he broke the code, and traded in children.
The Guardians meet Ego (Kurt Russell), who is Peter’s father and a Celestial, beings with great power who live for millions of years. Ego takes Peter, Gamora and the musclebound Drax to teach Peter more of his past.
Rocket and Baby Groot remain to fix the ship and keep an eye on Nebula. Unfortunately, the Ravagers arrive. Yondu announces he has no intention of handing over the Guardians, as there is more money to be made from taking the batteries and selling them on. The crew view this as proof he is too soft on Peter, and they mutiny. Nebula, released by Baby Groot, intervenes and Yondu and Rocket are imprisoned.
Nebula heads after Gamora for revenge, and Yondu and Rocket learn they will be sold to former enemies. Yondu is also not happy to learn that Peter has gone to Ego’s home world.
Ego’s planet is an idyll where he lives almost alone aside from Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empath who he treats almost as a pet and who has no social skills due to being alone for so long. Ego reveals he is the planet and that Peter shares his ability to create things, and Ego wants to teach him about his powers and his purpose.
Gamora, however, is suspicious which causes friction between her and Peter. After an argument she storms off alone where Nebula attacks, they fight and then discover something Ego has hidden from them.
Can they trust Ego? Can Yondu and Rocket escape? Will the Sovereign ever stop hunting them?
I loved this movie, which captures the same vibe of the original, with solid action sequences, likeable characters and a funny, clever script. The plot hooks you in because early on the characters win you over, particularly Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, who’s cocky swagger is still in place but mention of his father in an early scene obviously hits close to home. It’s a great performance with Pratt managing to make the character cool despite his buffoonery and the fact that he often trips himself up.
The rest of the Guardians are solid throughout, and it’s a nice touch bringing Nebula back as her relationship with Gamora is fleshed out slightly. Also, the “unspoken thing” between Star-Lord and Gamora develops nicely, and a lot is gained by underplaying it.
A lot of the publicity for the movie has focused on Baby Groot, and it’s easy to see why as he is straight up adorable and centre stage for some of the funniest moments of the film.
For me, however, the film’s strongest asset is Michael Rooker as Yondu. Rooker is consistently dependable on screen (Cliffhanger, Mallrats, The Replacement Killers, The Walking Dead, Tombstone), and has far more to do this time round, which is good as he impressed me in the original. Here we learn more of Yondu’s past and it adds to the character, as does the development of his relationship with Star-Lord and Ego. The plot that sees him in exile from the other Ravagers gives him a certain vulnerability, and he’s brought low early on.
His comeback is impressive and one of the strongest parts of the film, and the sequence where he and Rocket escape, and he gets revenge on the crew who mutinied is a masterpiece, one of the most visually impressive, inventive and darkly funny action sequences I’ve seen in years, and worth the ticket price alone. And his “magic arrow” weapon is just badass.
Rooker’s softening of the character doesn’t mean that Yondu loses anything, and in fact, the character’s slow acceptance of his softer side coincides with the film’s major theme, which is about creating our own families. Yondu and Star-Lord’s father and son vibe, is well handled and Yondu is thereby placed opposite Ego, who slowly reveals a more sinister, cynical nature.
Ego is brilliantly played by the legendary Kurt Russell, who brings an easy charm to his early scenes. His laidback, jokey manner is similar to Star-Lord’s character and their bonding over the music Peter’s late mother loved is gentle and sweet.
Of course, all is not as it seems. Having won over Peter, his facade slips and the invented history he has created is shown to have been romanticised, but the film holds back one more revelation which delivers a gut punch to Peter and the audience, and serves as the turning point for the film.
The action, set on strange new worlds is glorious, the fights have energy and verve, with moments of humour dotted between the blows. The visuals are striking, and there are some nice nods to other Marvel worlds throughout.
But more than just looking great and keeping the laughs flowing, this movie has a strong emotional core. Ego’s shocking statement leaves the audience reeling, but come the end of the movie the other characters and how they work together has you emotionally invested, and breaks your heart. I’m not ashamed to say that during a sequence soundtracked by Cat Stevens I found myself welling up.
Thanos, the villain Marvel have been hyping since the first Avengers movie still lurks in the background, but this serves less as a movie to move the MCU forward, and more a film to move the characters forward. The films pulls the team closer together and the promise at the end that “The Guardians of the Galaxy Will Return” is one I’m very happy about.
A strong contender for the best Marvel film yet, and current frontrunner for film of the year.
Verdict: Builds well on the first movie, adding more to the characters and their relationships. It’s entertaining from start to finish, with superb action, humour and a decent plot. An utter gem. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.