adaptation, British, Channing Tatum, Colin Firth, comic book, comic books, films, fucking funny, fucking weird, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Mark Strong, Matthew Vaughn, reviews, spy

Tuesday’s Reviews – Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the first¬†Kingsman¬†movie. It was an insane but really enjoyable spy film that even managed to make Colin Firth seem edgy and cool. I never would have thought it was possible but I guess Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman did the same thing with Nicolas Cage in Kickass. Kingsman¬†is one of those weird films that everyone seems to love. Even my mother watched it when it was on Netflix. It had the benefit of being batshit crazy, incredibly funny, and well-made. It was perfectly over-the-top and a perfect antidote for the decreasingly self-aware Bond franchise. In recent years, James Bond has gone from being a camp British icon to something of a Hollywood bad boy. He no longer feels the need for insane and unnecessary gadgetry and, instead, uses her sheer muscle mass and martial arts skills to get the job done. Kickass¬†took us back to a time when spies were gentlemen carrying umbrella guns and exploding pens. It was great. So, I was pretty gosh darn excited by the prospect of the second one. Especially when it was announced that Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry were all joining the cast as an American version of the UK’s Kingsman organisation. All 3 of those actors are, in their own way, incredibly talented. As you probably know if you’ve read some of my stuff before, I have developed a love of Channing Tatum since I discovered he has a sense of humour about himself and now I long to see all of his films. I swear it’s all about his comic timing… there’s definitely nothing of interest to me underneath his shirt. No way. Never.
The sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s 2005 spy film, Kingsman: The Secret Service¬†doesn’t so much try to carry on the great things as it tries to overshadow them. There is no sense that the second film in the series is going to take things lying down. It is bigger, brasher, more violent and even sillier. Yes, that’s right, even sillier than a film starring an assassin with blades for legs. This one does star Elton John though. Considering how weird the first film is, it’was incredibly unlikely that I’d ever be able to sit and say the second film makes it look almost normal in comparison. But it does. The Golden Circle¬†could certainly do with some refinement but it still contains the same breathtaking stunts and camera work that made the first film so entertaining. As long as your basic requirements for this film revolve around good guys kicking the arses of bad guys then it’ll be satisfying enough.

The Golden Circle¬†sees the unlikely hero from the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), coming up against a dangerous drug baron, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who is essentially holding the world’s drug users to ransom. When Eggsy has a near-death run in with former Kingsman applicant Charlie he finds himself on the tail of the Golden Circle; a drugs cartel who rules the world’s drug trade. When Poppy poisons her merchandise, drugs users all over the globe start showing signs of an illness which leads to a quick and horrible death. Poppy plans to make a deal with President of the United States but, after the rest of the Kingsman were taken out, Eggsy seeks help from his American counterparts, the Statesmen, to bring her down.

It is the introduction of the Statesmen that gives this film such a different feel. Once the majority of the orignal cast have been dispensed with, Eggsy is left with only Merlin (Mark Strong) for company. So we are introduced to American agents in the shape of Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal. All these characters show great potential but they never quite excite as much as the original cast. There is a certain amount of chemistry missing between the newbies and the olds here. You’ll miss the interactions between Eggsy and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) or his fellow new Kingsman Roxy. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Pedro Pascal’s face but even watching him utilise an electro lasso doesn’t make up for the absences.

There is a lot of bloat in this second film that really slows the film down. Not only have we got to go through the process of finding and introducing the Statesmen, which messes with the pace, but then we find out Harry is alive. It’s not exactly a spoiler because he’s been all over the promotional material but, yes, after his grizzly death in the first film Harry is back… kind of. I like Colin Firth in the first film but his return here takes way too much time away from the main story. It ultimately doesn’t add enough to justify lengthening the film that much. No matter how cool Firth looks in an eye patch.

It is not until late on that the film really gets going. After the opening fight scene, that’s where we see most of the super impressive and visually stunning fight scenes that the first film got so right. I mean, speaking critically, I could have done without the rehash of the original’s “manners maketh man” scene but Pedro Pascal is so phenomenally sexy that I can forgive it. It is these insane and completely cartoon-like fight scenes that make the Kingsman films so fantastic. The visual gags, stunts and CGI all come together to create something so absurd yet so appealing. The filmmakers know what they’re doing by now so they’re all pretty by the book but they will still capture an audiences’ attention.

I can’t say that I liked this film more than the original but I did like this film. Well, most of this film. There is a horrible, creepy and unnecessary plot strand that sees Eggsy have to plant a tracking device in an incredibly intimate area that just feels misjudged…. especially in this current climate in Hollywood. However, the rest of the film is silly and funny enough to keep fans of the first film relatively happy. Even if Channing Tatum is horribly underused and overdressed for the duration.

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book, book blogger, book blogging, books, comic book, comic books, Discworld, get to know me, list, tag, Terry Pratchett

The Guilty Reader Tag

¬†Ah how foolish I was all those weeks ago when I promised an additional weekly post full of useful stuff. Turns out Jeff Goldblum was right and life, er, finds a way. I feel guilty with every passing Wednesday that I don’t post something bookish so I’ve decided to rectify this by posting a random tag I found on the internet. I thought the Guilty Reader Tag seemed appropriate. I’m a guilty blogger and a guilty reader, after all. As well as not posting often enough recently, I really haven’t been reading enough. I blame the fact that I’ve been ill but that was only really for a week. I’m just stressed and tired about¬†work. So I can’t concentrate on the text. Plus, the chapters seem to be a lot longer at the moment. I don’t know what’s happened. Next week my intention is to have a review of The Underground Railroad¬†up. I wanted to do it this week but I fell asleep mid-chapter last night. I should definitely have it done soon so will have a proper post up. If not, you can just expect easy/shitty tag posts from now on. Sorry.

1. Have You Ever Regifted A Book That You’ve Been Given?
I don’t think I’ve ever regifted anything ever. I have, however, bought a book for myself then given it to someone else as a supplementary present. I don’t know if this counts.

2. Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?
Obviously. We’ve all been guilty of this when we’re younger. When I was at uni I pretended to read all the shit on my reading list. I also¬†definitely¬†lied about reading George Orwell books when I was a teenager. I had a super judgemental friend that I was really competitive with. What can I say? I was young and I’ve since rectified this fact by reading George Orwell.

3. Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?
Again who hasn’t done this at least once? I’m the kind of person who hates not getting books returned but am also the type of person who forgets to return them. It’s why I don’t really borrow books from people. Although, I think I’ve only kept one book that someone lent me. It was the same friend who I mentioned above and it was an Alice Walker book that I never actually read. Then we all just forgot I had it. I assumed I gave it to a charity shop eventually.

4. Have you ever read a series out of order?
I haven’t really done this for smaller series knowingly. Why would you? It’s madness. Although, with bigger series it¬† can be accidental or unavoidable. I don’t know if comic books count because I definitely have there. Also, Discworld. I mean Terry Pratchett’s series is so fucking huge and I’m not even sure it has an “order” as such. I just tend to pick and chose which books I read when.

5. Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?
I probably have. I mean I try not to but I blurt things out without thinking all the time. It’s not malice; just stupidity.

6. Have you ever doggy eared a book?
Not on purpose but it’s inevitable that when you read and carry around a book it will get messy. I take a book to work so it’s in my bag and will obviously get a bit battered. I don’t mind so much though because it gives a book character. I love the look and feel of a used book. It’s why I collect so many vintage editions.

7. Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?
I don’t think so. I have very little shame anyway and I’ve read a lot of shit during my time at university. Heck, I even admitted to a fellow literature student that I was reading a book from the Richard and Judy book club many years ago. She was judging me but I didn’t care.

8. Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?
Isn’t this the same question as before? Even if it isn’t it’s the same answer. Shame: I have none.

9. Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?
Obviously. If I know I’m not into a book or I’m desperate to finish I will skim read or judge whether certain paragraphs/speeches/chapters are strictly necessary to my enjoyment. I’ve skipped introductions and prologues at times. I skip the epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows every single time.

10. Have you ever bad mouthed a book you actually liked?
This is a crazy question. I mean who seriously does this? I don’t want to keep banging on about this but I have no shame. If I like a book then I’d say. No matter how shit it is. Reading is subjective and shouldn’t be an area of judgement. Life’s too short and I have books piling up around me.

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Cate Blanchett, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, comic books, films, fuck yeah, fucking funny, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel, review, silly, Thor, Tom Hiddleston

Tuesday’s Reviews: Thor Ragnarok (2017)


I have to say , considering the quality of the previous 2 Thor films, it’s been pretty difficult to be a fan of Marvel’s God of Thunder. He has always been my favourite male superhero in the Marvel comic book world but it’s been hard to convince non-comic book fans that he deserves that title. Iron Man¬†is the funny and cool one thanks to RDJ. Captain America¬†has, the best Marvel film,¬†Winter Solider,¬†to make himself look better. But Thor? He’s had a pretty poor showing in terms of solo film outings. I say as someone who adores the first Thor¬†film but also understands that it leaves a lot to be desired. I understand the second one is dire but we don’t need to go into that again. This back catalogue¬†of frustratingly weak films have meant that a lot of people have overlooked Thor. He hasn’t made enough of an impact. His own films are just irritatingly lacking and he tends to get lost in the huge ensembles of the two Avengers movies. Heck, he wasn’t even allowed in Civil War. Instead Thor was¬†benched along with the other Avenger that nobody really knows what to do with: the Hulk. The problem is the very concept of the Thunder God. He’s so caught up in mythology that there is a tendency to play him straight. Living up in his own realm of the God’s means he feels even less realistic than the rest of the line-up and that really is saying something. His roles in these films have left Thor feeling like the weak link in the chain. He’s neither the funniest, the most badass, nor the most memorable of the Avengers. Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with him. Or at least they didn’t. From the minute the first images of Ragnarok¬†came out I was convinced this would be the film we Thor fans have been waiting for. It had¬†Guardians of the Galaxy¬†style humour, an 80s aesthetic, and a fucking awesome soundtrack. Even before I’d seen it I was sure it was going to be my cup of tea. Of course, the fact that it would also serve as the closest we’d get to a Planet Hulk¬†movie was just an added bonus.

The main problem that I remember from watching Thor: The Dark World¬†is that it tried far too hard to be dark. It was around the time that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was at the height of its popularity and before Zack fucking Snyder made us all weary of the grungy, angsty comic book movie. It didn’t really have that fun, silliness, or, at the very least, self-awareness that the best Marvel films have in buckets. It was all dark elves, family melodrama, and a naked¬†Stellan Skarsg√•rd. The second Thor film was trying to be something it wasn’t and the end result really showed what a mistake it was. Thankfully, for his third solo outing for the MCU, it seems Marvel have really learnt their lesson. Despite the title’s reference to Ragnarok, the apocalyptic demise of the Norse God’s, this film is anything but dark. Something we learn from the very first scene is that not only has Thor finally found an on screen presence but he’s managed to pick up a great sense of humour along the way.

For too long comic book movies have been trying to make themselves seem as grown-up and serious. Ragnarok¬†understands that all of this is so crazy that it’s pointless trying to play it straight. Marvel films have dabbled in humour before but Thor 3¬†has a completely different feel to it. It’s more like a comedy film that happens to be about comic book characters instead of a comic book movie with more jokes. Marvel have always been good at letting unexpected directors have a go at massive Blockbusters but New Zealand born director¬†Taika Waititi is, perhaps, the weirdest so far. Thankfully, he was allowed the chance to do his own thing and, as we can see, it works wonderfully.

Ragnarok¬†has a bit of work to do before it gets down to the real business. We left The Dark World¬†with Loki on the throne in disguise¬†and we last saw Thor vowing the track down the remaining infinity stones. So Thor goes back to Asgard to sort shit out but, before he’s even got time to breathe, his long lost sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, turns up to royally fuck shit up. She wants revenge on her father and his people for casting her out¬†years ago. Unfortunately, as this is going on Thor (Christ Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find themselves stranded on a distant planet, Sakaar, presided over by the villainous Grand Master (Jeff Goldblum). Whilst Loki is taken in as a friend, Thor is captured and turned into a gladiator. With no other means of escape, Thor is left with no other choice but to fight the Grand Master’s Champion; who, as we all know, just happens to be the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Can Thor, the Big Guy, his sketchy brother and their new ally, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), an ex-Asgardian warrior with a grudge to settle.

In terms of the basic narrative there isn’t a great deal of excitement and Ragnarok¬†treads very worn Marvel ground. This rag-tag bunch of heroes come together to fight a big evil to save the world. However, there is so much more going on that it doesn’t even feel that familiar. The sub-plot on Sakaar is fabulous and both Hemsworth and Ruffalo get the chance they both deserve to flesh out their characters. His recent pitstop in comedy films has left Christ Hemsworth with a greater comedic confidence and, for the first time since he first donned the red cape, he looks comfortable in the role. Conversely, Ruffalo finally has something to do as he starts to flesh out the green monster before the upcoming Infinity War films. I’ve read criticism that the film completely rewrites these characters but I just see it as positive development. This is one friendship I can’t wait to see get stronger.

There are some amazing performances on display in this film. Jeff Goldblum is at his most Jeff Goldblum and manages to walk the line of annoyingly hammy without falling into oblivion. Tess Thompson¬†is sensational in her role and more than makes up for the abysmal¬†female presence in the previous Thor films. Tom Hiddleston is perfect as Loki, as usual, but over time I find myself tiring of the “is he good or bad?” narrative. It just gets old. Still, I’m always happy to see that face. Finally, Idris Elba, returning as Heimdall, is worth noting. If only for the fact that, at the point that he takes off his cloak, his beefy arms. I love the change Heimdall has made from Gatekeeper to fucking badass.

My only real problem with Ragnarok (aside from the pointless and built up Dr Strange cameo)¬†is Hela herself. The great villain looks the part but never gets the chance to get going. It’s a waste of Blanchett’s talents and a potentially great bad guy. Every time the action switches back to Asgard I couldn’t help but wish I was back on Sakaar. Hela feels out of place in this film just¬†as all the references to genocide and darker elements¬†do. These references are fleeting but they do stick out badly. There are also some poignant moments that are not dealt with properly. It can feel a bit weird. But, really, it doesn’t matter. Everything is held together thanks to an immense amount of charm, humour and utter silliness. This film knows it’s dealing with nonsense so plays up on that fact. I lost count of the time I genuinely laugh-out-loud watching this. Minor problems aside, this the greatest Marvel movie you’ll ever have seen.

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comic book, comic books, films, fucking ridiculous, James Franco, Marvel, reviews, Spider-Man, TBT

FBF – Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Ever since the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming¬†this month the internet has eagerly been taking every chance it can to rank the web-slinger’s movies in order of brilliance. It’s just what we do. We can’t just appreciate things for their own merit. Oh, no. We have to make sure there is a definitive decision on which one you’re allowed to like the most. (She says hoping nobody picks up on the hypocrisy of someone who ranks things every first Wednesday of the month.) Apparently, it’s not possible to thing both the new film and the older films are all okay so we have to decide which is the best. I’ve seen so many lists in the last few days and things are getting crazy. After all, there aren’t that many live action¬†Spider-Man films. There are, really, only 6. Which I assume is the reason that many people are desperately including Civil War¬†on their list so it doesn’t seem so utterly pointless and pathetic. It’s not a fucking Spider-Man film; stop going out of your way to put Andrew Garfield’s film further down the list. So, before this goes into rant territory, the main topic of conversation that seems to exist now is whether the newest film is better than the film that previously topped the list: Toby Maguire’s sequel. It is widely acknowledged that his third time to put on the suit was the biggest disaster to happen to comic book movies ever but is Spider-Man 2¬†actually still better than Tom Holland’s first attempt? There’s only one way to find out.

Spider-Man 2¬†has been my favourite Spider-Man film for 13 years. That’s not really saying much because the 3 films that were released after it were all fairly questionable in their own way and, in some cases, that’s me being super generous. Spider-Man 2¬†managed to follow on from the groundwork laid out by Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire in their first film but actually make it a, you know, good film. It was more exciting that the first, the characters were given a chance to develop and we saw actual narrative complexity in Peter’s inability to decide who he really wanted to be. It had its flaws, certainly, but there was such a massive improvement from the origin story that it made for a really refreshing film. Even though some naysayers, mostly my really annoying colleague, who think it’s solely down to Doctor Octopus. Don’t get my wrong, he helps but there is so much to love about this film that you can forgive a lot of the incredibly cringe moments in it.

Like the ridiculous scene where an unmasked Spidey is carried, Christ-like, through the carriage of a train that he has just stopped from crashing. It’s a scene that shouldn’t really work but, in the context of this film, it becomes a powerful and emotional image. I want to hate it but, god damn it, I cry every time. Spider-Man introduced us to Peter and set him off on his journey but the sequel asks the question “what does it mean for his life?”. The first film ended with his rejecting Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) to protect her from his secret life and it is a decision he has a hard time accepting here. He has loved Mary-Jane for years so he doesn’t understand why he can’t be happy in order to protect the city of New York. It’s a film in which Spider-Man spends about a quarter of the running time not being Spider-Man.

We pick up about 2 years after Peter told Mary-Jane that he didn’t love her and he’s having a rough time keeping up with his double life. He’s struggling in class, having money issues, and is clashing with Harry thanks to his supposed friendship with Spider-Man. He can’t be everything he needs to be and it all gets a lot worse when MJ tells him she’s seeing someone. Peter struggles with the reality that he can’t have a normal life when there are people to save. So he quits. Unfortunately, crazed scientist¬†Dr Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) is going on a rampage through the city and fucking shit up with his AI mechanical tentacles. Will Peter pick up his suit again or let New York save itself?

This was a film that didn’t just want to see action sequences and big baddies putting people in danger. It wanted to focus on characters and the lives of people who put themselves in danger for others. Peter is constantly trying to juggle his desire to help people and his loyalty towards his best friend, Harry (James Franco) and love for Mary-Jane. Unlike the first film’s attempt to create depth and emotion in the horribly handled death of Uncle Ben, this film succeeds in giving Toby Maguire something to dig into and creates some real tension and drama. Incidentally, it also does a pretty good job in those other things thanks to Doctor Octopus, still one of the best villains in superhero movie history.

But is Spider-Man 2¬†better than Homecoming? I don’t know. Both are elevated above their status thanks to great performances by their leading villain and both have undeveloped and annoying side characters. I’m sorry but neither Ned or Liz got enough time to develop and the fuss made about Zendaya was ridiculous in comparison to her 15 minutes of screen time. Then we have Harry the most annoying BFF in history and Mary Jane who is only saved from being the blandest love interest in a superhero film thanks to Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. Both films have their flaws. Toby Maguire still isn’t great and is clearly overshadowed by Tom Holland. However, I think Homecoming¬†suffers in terms of narrative but only because it’s setting up the franchise. It might not be an origin movie as such but it is this incarnations first film. It has a lot of boxes to tick and it slows things down. Spider-Man 2¬†has a great story. If I honestly had to pick I’d say the 2004 film just about gets it but, I admit, it’s probably damn close.

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comic book, comic books, films, fucking awful, fucking ridiculous, Marvel, reviews, Spider-Man, TBT

TBT – Spider-Man (2002)

Before the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming¬†came out it seemed as though everybody in the world had decided without a shadow of a doubt that this was going to be the best Spider-Man film since 2004. Suddenly, Toby Maguire was being hailed as some sort of hero because of his role as Peter Parker. I get that there were many disappointing things about The Amazing Spider-Man¬†but the mistakes weren’t down to Andrew Garfield. They were down to poor writing and Sony desperately trying to build a franchise to compete with Marvel Films. It was handled terribly but I’ve always been a fan of Garfield’s Peter… even though he is a tad too old to play a high school student. Plus, how was everyone forgetting that Toby Maguire is kind of a terrible actor in these films? Those tears when Uncle Ben dies? That’s been a pretty strong feature of the meme circuit for years now. I felt like I had fallen in an insane alternate reality where everybody else’s memories of those films were different from mine. So, I decided to rewatch them for this week… just to be sure.

Right, so first off, the opening credits of this film are so incredibly boring that I, genuinely, repeatedly played the Spider-Man: Homecoming¬†arrangement of the Spider-Man theme song over them. It definitely improved my viewing from the off. No offence to Danny Elfman but that was a fucking weak opening number. Then, to add insult to injury, we are given that god-awful voiceover where Peter tries to get you pumped for his story. It’s the most over-the-top, melodramatic nonsense that I’ve ever heard. Take a look:

Who am I? You sure ¬†you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you it was a happy tale, if somebody said I was just your average guy, not a care in the world… somebody lied. But let me assure you, this, like any other story worth telling, is all about a girl.

Toby Maguire delivers these lines in such a hilariously bad way that it just mars the opening scene. It’s supposed to be dangerous and enthralling but it just feels like a parody. Which is exactly what Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker feels like nowadays. I know classic Peter was a massive loser and was kicked around by everyone but these films don’t even seem to put us on Pete’s side. He’s a dummy but he’s also super annoying. People don’t like him but he never gives us a reason to think they should. This film came out 15 years ago but this portrayal feels so outdated it could easily have 30.

Then we have Kirsten Dunst’s Mary-Jane: I don’t know what to say about her because she’s such a non-entity. I don’t see why people are so obsessed with her because she never does anything. She’s supposed to be the cool and nice girl next door that Peter has been obsessed with for years. However, she’s just the bland, popular girl with the shiny red hair and a really questionable dress sense. And, the less said about James Franco’s¬†Harry Osborn the better frankly. It’s a ridiculous performance that is only marginally better than Franco’s turn hosting the Oscars. I’m not saying Andrew Garfield was everything we wanted in a Peter Parker but he was better than this shit. Plus, with supporting cast members like Emma Stone and¬†Dane DeHaan I find it impossible to see how anyone can say, so confidently, that the Toby Maguire films are better.

Still, there are still some good things about these films. The classic 60s Aunt May, played by¬†Rosemary Harris, seems even more like a bit of a fuddy-duddy when compared to the likes of Sally Field and Marisa Tomei but she’s still perfect. Then there’s Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. It is, for the time being at least, the best version of that character we have ever seen. The fights between Goblin and Spidey are a better watch then the ones in Marc Webber’s version even when you consider how outdated the effects are now. It’s an exciting film to watch and it provides us with a great villain. I also think this film handles Peter’s introduction to his powers really well. There are some great scenes as he comes to terms with his new abilities and it allows for a better sense of how far he comes as a hero.

Spider-Man was an important film in terms of the history of comic book movies on screen. It has pride of place but it is important to remember that it is not the greatest film ever. It’s not even the greatest film in its own trilogy. It was lucky in the sense that it was one of the first comic book movies in the new era of comic book movies. It didn’t have much competition then. It also came out just after 9/11 when New York needed a hero to get behind. The scenes where New Yorkers come to Spidey’s aid will never not be poignant given the historical context of this film.

However, this film falls down because of some underwhelming key performances, a often awful script, and a badly written story. There is too much emphasis on unnecessary things and not enough of a development on important characters. The story collapses under the requirement to show Peter’s origin; both being bitten by the spider and though the death of his uncle. There is so much here that is just in for laughs or for show that you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if plot points hadn’t been glossed over. I would have preferred more time with Ben and May before his death because it just feels shallow here. I will always love this film but watching this now it is even more confusing that people are putting it on such a fucking high pedestal.

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comic book, comic books, films, fucking funny, Marvel, review, Robert Downey Jr, Spider-Man, super powers, superhero, teen movie, Tom Holland

Tuesday’s (ish) Reviews – Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

I’ve always felt that Andrew Garfield got a bit of a rough deal when it came to his time as Spider-Man. He is now widely considered the worst version of the character to appear on screen but it’s hardly his fault. Now, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man¬†and thought Garfield did a really good job with the character of Peter Parker. Yes, he wasn’t the same geeky, isolated young man that we’re used to but we’re living in a world where geek is cool. Garfield gave Peter some sass and it could have worked really well for him because Spider-Man has always been the sassy one. The films didn’t work because Garfield was bad but because he wasn’t given the right material. Sony fucked up the reboot in order to get it out in time. I think the things would have been very different if the actor had been given more of a chance and there had been more thought in the whole thing. Plus, there’s a lot of weird nostalgia surrounding Toby Magurire’s time as the character that I don’t really get. He’s not that good. It’s just that he was the first major big screen version of the character. It just boggles my mind that so much of the stuff I read before I saw Tom Holland’s first solo outing as the web-slinger was focused on how great Maguire was and how shit Garfield was. Let’s be honest, we could do better than both of the attempts Sony made and his brief time in Civil War¬†showed that maybe Holland had what it took.

First off, I have to say it is super refreshing that the third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years doesn’t feel the need to remind us of how the superhero came into being. We all get it by now: radioactive spider bite, superpowers, move into heroics. Yes, there is a brief reference to it but it is so underplayed that it doesn’t matter. Instead, the main action picks up shortly after the evens of Captain America: Civil War¬†as Peter Parker is eagerly awaiting his next call to assemble. Instead, he is left dealing with petty street crime and helping old ladies carry their shopping. Safe to say, the young man is bored. Until he stumbles upon a black market that is selling weapons made out of salvaged alien technology. Run by the mysterious Vulture (Michael Keaton) who literally, thanks to his mechanical wings, swoops in and steals the technology from under the government’s nose.

Spidey, keen to prove to Tony Stark that he can handle the big stuff, starts investigating the Vulture’s gang but constantly finds himself out of his depth. Especially as he’s also trying to make his way through highschool unscathed and get noticed by school hottie, Liz¬†(Laura Harrier). As well as being influenced by the MCU in general, director¬†Jon Watts clearly takes a lot from the coming-of-age films of people like John Hughes. There are countless on-screen references to high-school comedies and there is one particular Ferris Bueller joke that is totally on point. This is a Peter Parker who really is living in two worlds and trying to balance the two. He is an awkward but intelligent young man who worries about girls and grades just as much as he worries about stopping bad guys.

Despite only being on screen for a few minutes in Civil War,¬†Tom Holland had already made a massive impressive on fans of the MCU before Homecoming came along thanks to his portrayal of Peter Parker. It is the best on screen version of the teenager that we’ve ever seen. Holland’s Parker feels the most realistically young version that we’ve ever seen and has been updated for 2017 teenagers. He is techno-savvy but awkward in a way that doesn’t come across as annoying. He reacts to getting superpowers the way that most of us would have done at that age. We can all empathise ¬†with his fanboy reaction to the likes of Tony Stark. He gets caught up in the bigger picture and tries to run before he can walk but it is done with the best intentions. The character definitely has that Marvel sense of development that was lacking in both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s turns. Holland finally gives us the Peter we deserve.

That is not to say that I agree with the people happily declaring that Homecoming is the best superhero movie of the year. I really enjoyed the film and did so as soon as I heard the arrangement of the ‘Spider-Man theme song’ playing over the film’s opening sequence. It is a light-hearted and fun affair that captures the spirit of the character. However, I confess that I felt there was a bit of a disparity between it’s two identities. I realise that the film wanted to situate itself within the MCU whilst also ensuring that this was a Spider-Man film in it’s own right. However, it just feels a bit too confused. It just doesn’t feel enough like either. We have the standard MCU final showdown that is kind of underwhelming in the grand scheme of things but then we also have the teen movie moments like high school parties. Individually these things are fine but they just seemed a bit too at odds for me. I’d have preferred one or the other. I think future Spider-Man¬†films with Holland have the potential to be superb if he can remove himself from the Avengers. This film seemed more about taking the character and showing us that he was firmly part of the family instead of giving him a solo outing.

Still, this isn’t something that really hindered my overall enjoyment of the film. There is plenty to love about the film and, despite my annoyance, it’s always nice to see more RBJ and Jon Favreau on screen. Of course, the greatest strength, after Holland, is clearly Michael Keaton’s Vulture. The Vulture isn’t the biggest or baddest villain that we’ve ever seen in the MCU but he is perfect. Keaton plays him so well and he feels like a realistic result of the increased super-activity in the MCU. There is a scene towards the end of the film where the Vulture and Peter Parker come face-to-face for the first time and the whole scene is perfect. Keaton doesn’t overplay the character but still manages to be chilling and terrifying. Spider-Man: Homecoming¬†has some mistakes, that can’t be ignored, but it’s been 13 years since we last had a film about the character to get really excited about. I see a great deal of potential with this incarnation.

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Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, comic books, Edward Norton, list, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel, Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston

TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – RANKING MCU MOVIES

Tomorrow I’m watching Spider-Man: Homecoming¬†and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve enjoyed the majority of Spider-Man¬†films that have been released, probably only really excluding Toby Maguire’s third outing, but none of them have really done fantastic things. I think Andrew Garfield was perfectly cast but the stories just didn’t cut it. Toby Maguire was fine for the time and his films are still astonishing in terms of that era. However, his portrayal of Peter Parker just seems flat nowadays. With this film being the third time a new actor has taken up the spidey suit in 15 years, it’s starting to feel like every young-ish actor will eventually get the chance to play him. Still, I have high hopes for Tom Holland. His brief appearance in Civil War¬†was an absolute treat within all of the heavy shit going on and proved that a solo film could be full of geeky fun. To get myself in the mood for watching this new film I spent today watching some past Marvel films: namely Civil War and Ant-Man. Both were great, obviously, but it got me thinking about my ranking of the films in the MCU. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid doing because it’s such a changeable thing. However, with another Top 10 Wen-sday upon us, I decided it was time to give it a go. Expect this to have changed by tomorrow.
Fifteen: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2¬†was the first of man disappointing MCU sequels and it is still the worst of the bunch. I understand that it had a lot to live up to because Iron Man was the film that gave the MCU life. Still, this is just a lacklustre film. It is only saved thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s charm. The film offers us two underwhelming villains (wasting the talents of the wonderful Sam Rockwell) and spends too much time showboating to offer anything real. It’s just dreadful.

Fourteen: Thor the Dark World

I think I always look favourably on The Dark World¬†because it contains Tom Hiddleston’s face. Ever since his brief romance with Taylor Swift I’ve kind of gone off the guy. I know it’s fickle but how can I be a massive fan of someone who made that choice? Anyway, as such I now no longer see all of his films through rose-tinted glasses and can see how awful this film really was. The dark elves are not fleshed out in the slightest and Thor becomes a supporting character in his own film. This was a let down from start to finish.

Thirteen: The Incredible Hulk

Before Mark Ruffalo came along I was more than happy to have an Edward Norton shaped Hulk. I mean, yes, you couldn’t have got much worse than Eric Bana (who I assume was only hired because of his name) but Norton brought depth to the character of Bruce Banner. He wanted to explore the pain and suffering that lay behind the huge green rage monsters and it was a welcome change. The problem that this film really faced was that it’s just not going to be easy to make a solo Hulk film. This is something that has become more apparent as time went on but, clearly, having a main character who is silent and ragey most of the time just isn’t a workable formula.

Twelve: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I so wanted to love Age of Ultron. It had everything: Avengers had set us up with a great team full of banter; we were going to see Vision, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver; and it had James Spader as the voice of Ultron. How could it go wrong? Well, apparently quite easily. Age of Ultron was exciting, maybe, but it was a huge mess of a film. The narrative was all over the place and it was basically just a Michael Bay-esque feast of explosion porn. With every viewing this film pains me more. Not just for how bad it is but for how much it let me down.

Eleven: Captain America

I realise that Captain America¬†is a much better film than I give it credit for but, personally, I just didn’t love this film. I admit that I liked it much better on my second viewing for my TBT post but I still find it difficult to get too excited about Steve’s first outing. Hayley Atwell is amazing and there are some great moments but it all feels a bit rushed. Considering what followed in Steve’s solo outings, this film just doesn’t quite cut it.

Ten: Thor

As with above, this is primarily on personal taste and I’m sure most people would have this film higher up. I get it. Thor¬†isn’t the typical Marvel film but I adore it. Kenneth Branagh may not be the most obvious choice to direct a comic book movie but I loved what he did with Thor. He turned it into a Shakespeare play and I think it worked. He was on firmer ground and Tom Hiddleston excelled at playing Loki as though he was Edmund in King Lear. It’s not perfect and there are some incredibly dodgy moments but Thor always makes me feel full of joy. I don’t care if I’m the only one.

Nine: Iron Man 3

I kind of wanted to put Iron Man 3¬†higher up the list because of how badly it treated The Mandarin character. That would have been petty though because, all in all, this is a pretty good film. Shane Black did a great job co-writing the script and directing the whole thing. It’s funny, exciting and dramatic. A huge improvement on the second film in the series. Black and Robert Downey Jr. have a great working relationship and Tony Stark is at his best. There were a few moments I could have done without but, for the most part, this was a winner.

Eight: Ant Man

It might just be because I’ve only just finished watching this film but Ant Man¬†is much better than people give it credit. Paul Rudd is fantastic in the role of Scott Lang and there is plenty of fun to be had. It takes a character that nobody really wanted a film about but shows just how good of a decision it was. Yes, I still wish Edgar Wright had directed the story that he had wanted but this definitely showed the potential of the more random Marvel characters.

 Seven: Iron Man

When Iron Man came out way, way back in¬†2008 there wasn’t an MCU and Robert Downey Jr. was that drug addict from Ally McBeal. This film changed everything for the better. Downey Jr. became a household name and the MCU kicked off in style. This was a brash and exciting film that showed comic book movies could be a spectacle and also a really good film. As important as this film may be in terms of historical importance, it has to be said that it has been overshadowed by future releases. It’s still a great film but there are now better ones out there.

Six: Dr Strange

I can’t say that I was exactly overjoyed to hear that¬†Dr Strange¬†was coming to the big screen because I didn’t know enough about the character. Then I heard the immortal words: Benedict Cumberbatch. I will freely admit that my interest in the film was mostly linked to the face of this great actor but I think that’s reason enough to watch it. There are some fantastic moments in this film and breathtaking sequences where the laws of physics are just ripped to pieces. It’s a visual feast but I wanted this to be better. Dr Strange¬†feels as though it wasn’t give the freedom to be everything it could be and was forced to fit into a Marvel template to keep everyone happy. I hope future films are given more of a chance.

Five: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The second Guardians film was a great continuation of the series but it made the same mistake that most sequels tend to do. It wanted to make thing bigger and better. Yes, this still has the same funny and relaxed feeling that the first one did but there was something confused about it. The effects were too big and the fights too confusing. However, this was an emotionally charged film that finally added some consequences to the MCU. I adored this film but I wish it had been slicker.

Four: Captain America: Civil War

Again, it might be because I watched this today but Civil War is a fantastic film. It is the film that Avengers 2¬†wishes it could have been. Watching this film makes me truly sad that the Russo brothers weren’t allowed to direct Age of Ultron¬†because it would have been a massive improvement. Yes, it still runs into the same problems as Ultron has because it deals with so many characters. Yes, the narrative isn’t exactly wonderful considering the comic book story it comes from. And, yes, the villain’s plan doesn’t exactly make sense when you think about it too much. However, this has some of everything. It had the fun and banter of The Avengers, the darkness of Winter Soldier, and the emotional conflict that has followed Steve through all of his films. It could have been better but it was pretty damn good.

Three: The Avengers

This was the film that nobody thought would be possible; something that gathered together every big name in the MCU up until that point and made them work together. With that many egos in one room, how was anyone going to be able to come up with a decent story. Thankfully, somebody agreed to let the legendary Joss Whedon have a crack and he managed to make it work. This was a funny, clever and exciting film. It knew what it was and it worked with it’s problems not against them. It gave us more of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, which cemented him as best villain in the MCU, and gave us our first glimpse at Thanos. As with all Marvel films, the evil minions could have been better and it could have been a bit slicker but this is still one of the greatest film the MCU has produced.

Two: Guardians of the Galaxy

The best thing about Guardians¬†was that it was such a breath of fresh air. It came after Thor: The Dark World¬†and Winter Soldier¬†had given us a supremely grim and dark set of Marvel films. It seemed to be following the Batman trend that dark and gritty was better when it came to superhero films. Guardians¬†was always going to be something of an underdog because the source material wasn’t as well known to the general movie going public at the time. So it decided it wasn’t going to take itself too seriously and, boy, are we glad. This was the first comic book movie in such a long time to have a real sense of humour about itself. Director James Gunn managed to create something so full of joy that was also exciting enough for comic fans. This had it all.

One: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I know a lot of people would put Guardians as their number one because it’s so watchable. I agree that it’s great but, in my heart, I know that Marvel as never been better than in Winter Soldier. Of course, it isn’t as fun or light-hearted but it’s really well crafted and it totally changed the landscape of Marvel’s future. It ramped up the emotional side thanks to Steve and Bucky’s friendship and it gave us the delightful Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson. It may have followed the Marvel staple of having a huge object fall to Earth in it’s finale but this film was so close to perfection. It deserves the top spot.

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Chris Evans, comic book, comic books, films, fuck yeah, Marvel, reviews, Scarlett Johansson, TBT

TBT – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (20

After seeing Wonder Woman¬†last week I claimed it was my favourite DC movie so far. It definitely is but, considering that it’s only the 4th, that isn’t really saying much. It’s not like the mind fuck of trying to work out which is the best Marvel movie. Most of the time my favourite will be whichever was the last film I saw but that’s only because my attention span is the same as a bloody goldfish. It also comes down to what you consider important for making a good film. I mean, a well-made film isn’t necessarily going to automatically entertain you the most. And, likewise, a super fun film isn’t necessarily going to be good. In a job interview a few years ago, whilst discussing this blog, I was asked what my favourite film was. Now, this is a terrible question to ask anyway but in an already stressed environment I almost collapsed. I ended up by garbling an answer like “I know it should be something classic like Citizen Kane but it’s probably more like Space Jam.” It’s a cop out but I think it raises a good point. The films that regularly grace the top of ‘the best films ever made’ lists aren’t necessarily the ones that you watch about 7 times a year. So do I chose something like Thor¬†that I know isn’t the greatest but is so much fun to watch? Or do actually pick the greatest film in the franchise? Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that one so it’s probably time I revisited it. Oh, and fancy that, it happens to be Thursday too.

Oh what a difference a film makes. Before I saw Winter Solider¬†I had very little interest in both Steve Rogers and Chris Evans. Now, he’s one of my favourite heroes in the MCU and my love of Chris Evans is threatening to overthrow my love of Chris Pratt. Hemsworth is still top and, I’m afraid, Chris Pine never really stood a chance. This was never a race for the top Chris spot in my heart but it was all about second place. The first Captain America¬†film felt like a super rushed effort to get us to The Avengers¬†before people got too distracted. It wasn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly felt a bit too retro and hokey. So, as excited as I was to see Bucky return as the Winter Solider, I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat waiting for the sequel. What a fucking idiot I was back then.

The Winter Solider¬†is, hands down, the greatest Marvel film that has ever been released. Don’t get my wrong, others come super close but this was the greatest all round film to come out of the studios. It was so unexpected. Not only did it completely change the tone of the character after the first movie but it broke the dreaded sequel curse that had afflicted both Iron Man and Thor. Yes, it might not have the relaxed and silly feel that Guardians has and or the great dialogue of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers; what it does have is everything else.¬†It has a narrative that feels contemporary and relevant… or as relevant as a comic book movie can be. There are some great performances and a whole host of great new characters. It has action, excitement and emotional struggle. Cap has lost a lot of the campy feeling that weighed down the first film and is finally ready to show you what he can do. Turns out it’s fucking great.

After the events of The Avengers, Steve is trying to get to grips with the modern world whilst also helping out with any mission SHIELD needs his help with. Until Nick Fury discovers that the agency has actually been infiltrated by HYDRA agents. Turns out the group that Steve thought he had died stopping way back in the War have actually survived and waited until the perfect time to strike. They have possession of an algorithm that can reveal the identity of anyone who would potentially stand in their way and plan on unleashing deadly weapons to take them all out. There’s also the case of the mysterious super soldier that HYDRA seem to have at their disposal: a mam known only as the Winter Soldier. Cap must find out who he can and can’t trust as he tries to prevent the Nazi group carrying out their plan for mass murder. Thankfully, he has Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) by his side, as well as a few more familiar faces.

The Winter Solider¬†is a fantastic narrative that offers a suspense-filled political drama and an action-packed superhero movie. It also features plenty of soul searching for Steve as he comes face-to-face with people from his past. The story feels a lot more grown up than the Nazi chasing plot of the first film and, because it is based in the contemporary world, feels more relevant and cutting edge. There is plenty of action to keep you involved and the tension builds until the epic finale. Although, I will admit that there are certain issues and Winter Solider¬†isn’t immune to the MCU’s final showdown rule where a huge structure falls to the Earth and causes untold amounts of damage. The narrative is full of great ideas but there is a lot going on. Certain sideline characters are introduced clumsily and not really given time to shine. There are a lot of parts to juggle and a lot of exposition to get in. However, for the most part, the film handles itself incredibly well.

Winter Solider¬†is not the perfect film but it is the closest that Marvel has come to perfect. The Russo brothers do a great job taking over the reigns and allow the character to step out of his previously camp light. This is when Captain America stopped being a throwback and started being relevant in the landscape of contemporary film. It was a partnership that worked so well that the brothers returned to direct the equally great third film in Cap’s series, Civil War. I know there will always be disagreements about what is the greatest Marvel film but, for my part, The Winter Solider¬†never fails to entertain me. And that’s all the really matters.

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Chris Pine, comic book, comic books, DC, films, fuck yeah, Gal Gadot, reviews, Robin Wright, superhero, women

Tuesday’s Reviews – Wonder Woman (2017)

If you’d asked me how I felt when the Wonder Woman¬†film was first announced I would probably have told you I didn’t give a shit. I was never really into the character, despite my love of badass women, and my limited view just made her seem a bit campy and annoying. Then there’s the issue of an endless stream of disappointing DC films. Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice¬†were both just too dark and completely thoughtless. Then Suicide Squad¬†ruined the chance to be something different and fun by being completely obvious and uninspiring. So, yeah, maybe thanks to their insane love of Zack fucking Snyder I was kind of convinced that DC would somehow fuck this up. Wonder Woman¬†had a lot to live up: it’s the first comic book movie about a female superhero. They beat Marvel at showing a woman being awesome front and centre. It needed to be good. With their track record I couldn’t help but feel that was unlikely… but then again I’m old and cynical by now.
Question: how many times did I actually cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: 1. Question: how many times did I nearly cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: a bazillion. From the moment I started tearing up during the opening scene depicting strong Amazonian women training for battle I knew this film was for me. Finally, a female-led superhero film that shows how strong women can be whilst still remaining feminine. I was instantly hooked. It looked like this was going to be the film I’d wanted: somewhere where women can kickass and show they can do whatever their male counterparts can do. Which is probably why this film takes so many pointers from previous superhero films. Just like Captain America: The First Avenger¬†we travel back in time to World War 1 to see where the breakout character of Dawn of Justice¬†came from. Like Thor we become immersed in a world of Gods and great warriors before being planted firmly in a realm away from mankind. Finally, there are plenty of nods to Richard Donner’s classic Superman films.

However, Wonder Woman is a key film in its own right as it is the first female-led superhero film by either big comic book distributor. Yes, there have been attempts to cater for women in the world of comic book movies but the less said about either Catwoman or Elektra the better. Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, has the weight of Hollywood on her shoulders as she attempts to prove that women have a place in superhero films. Not just front and centre but in the audience too. There is still an obscene generalisation that it is only men who enjoy action films, which in this day and age if frankly an absurd thing to claim. Thankfully, with Patty Jenkins and the insanely amazing Gal Gadot at the helm, Wonder Woman has smashed all kinds of records to, hopefully, show that 2017 was the moment women made their presence felt in the world of comic book movies.

To briefly sum up the narrative before my endless appreciation of this film: Diana is one of an island of Amazons who were created by Zeus to protect mankind from Ares, the God of War. After Zeus dies attempting to overthrow Ares, the Amazons are sent to a secluded island, Themyscira to hide. They spend their time training for the inevitable battle when Zeus final gift, the God Killer, will vanquish their foe forever. Diana, daughter of the island’s Queen¬†Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to fight but is forbidden by her mother. She is trained, in secret, by Antiope (Robin Wright) until she becomes the greatest fighter the island has ever seen. Just in time, as it happens, because war comes to Themyscira in the form of an American pilot and the fleet of German soldiers chasing him. Diana suspects Ares is the reason humanity if at war and, with the pilots help, goes to the frontline to confront and kill him. There’s also the obligatory romance because, really, what kind of woman can go to war and not fall in love?

Wonder Woman¬†may owe a lot to the films of Richard Donner but it has so much fun subverting them that it becomes a whole new thing. Instead of the dashing heroic man saving the damsel in distress, we see the strong, beautiful woman leaping into danger with the puppy-dog eyed pilot lolloping after her. Not that Chris Pine could be accused to lolloping, of course. We clearly have a flipped arrangement of the classic Clark Kent and Lois Lane relationship going on here and its great. More than that, actually, because Pine’s American Spy, Steve Trevor, has some depth to him. He’s not just the Jane Foster of Wonder Woman; he has his own story arc and everything. Steve has to overcome his own demons about the war whilst also casting his sometimes sarcastic eye over Diana’s way of life. What Chris Pine is essentially doing here is WW1 Captain Kirk but, hey, if it works it works.

Steve is more than a match for the Amazonian Princess, Diana, who absolutely sizzles on screen thanks to Gal Gadot’s portrayal. Diana is both terrifyingly strong and noble whilst being incredibly naive and tender. We knew from Dawn of Justice¬†that the ex-Israeli military woman could handle the action sequences with ease but here she proves that she has the talent to bring the character to life. She is brave, sweet, moral and, though we’ve seen it countless times, an adorable fish out of water. She is also, more importantly, funny. A trait that has been sadly lacking in the DCEU for its last 3 films. The visual and narrative links to Clark Kent are numerous, even down to the clothes that Diana uses to remain incognito in WW1 era London, but it all just works.

Wonder Woman¬†is a film that relishes in tackling the excitement of a comic book movie by ensuring the action scenes are over-the-top and visually stunning. However, it does fall into the comic book movie trap of having a final battle scene that just becomes a heavily CGI’d, garish affair. The final 30 minutes of this film drag and lose the glorious momentum of the previous film. My one criticism is that Wonder Woman¬†is so bogged down in Greek mythology. The rest of the film is kind of silly, very important and glorious celebration of the character and women in general. The hunt for Ares just drags it down into the murky, dark waters currently housing every Zack Snyder film ever made. It’s too much. I would have been happy if Diana and co. just kept rescuing innocent people from German soldiers.

Wonder Woman¬†is the perfect DC film. It overshadows its predecessors and shows them just how easy it could be. It offers important messages about female empowerment and feminism whilst also addressing that pesky subject of humanity doing terrible things to each other. I didn’t expect to enjoy this film but I’m happy to eat my own words. This is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Gal Gadot is my ultimate hero and Robin Wright is the biggest badass of all time. I sat through this film with a massive grin on my face… until the finale. But, still, it’s a wonder to behold.

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Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, comic book, comic books, films, Marvel, reviews, Zoe Saldana

Tuesday’s Reviews – Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Last week I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2¬†with a friend. Before I saw it I was filled with fear and doubt about how good it was. The trailers hadn’t really done much to suggest that Marvel were doing anything other than call-backs and in-jokes mixed with loads of shots of Baby Groot. I was sure it was going to be super fucking cringey and just ruin my love of the first one. I mean, Baby Groot is cute and all but I need something more than a CGI’d tiny tree to keep me happy, you know. So I was concerned but I loved the first film so much. It wasn’t perfect but, really, what Marvel movie is? We don’t love them because they’re flawless films; we love them because they’re awesome regardless. Anyway, this film boasts Kurt Russell as Ego and I’m not the kind of person who can happily walk away from that situation. Two powerhouses coming together in one place? Yes, please. Especially when accompanied by still buff Christ Pratt. Really, it didn’t matter if this film was good or bad as long as Star Lord was as easy one the eye as the first time.

Whilst Guardians of the Galaxy¬†is now well-known as being part of the lighter side of the MCU, it’s important to remember that it opens with an incredibly emotional and dark moment. It opens with the very real and human sequence where young Peter Quill is faced with the death of his mother. It is something that soon gets lost in all the fun and quips but it hangs over Quill’s life and the film. It showed that, despite seeming like being nothing more than a jolly good time, Guardians¬†was willing to deal with some deep shit. This is something that is also true of it’s sequel. Seriously, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be walking in to but I definitely didn’t expect there to be quite so many feels.

But we’ll get there, Guardians of the Galaxy¬†starts off as everyone wanted it to and proved that director James Gunn was still going to approach this in the same way he had the first one. We dive headfirst into an impending battle between out hapless heroes and a huge beast. Unexpectedly, however, we see the battle take place in the background as tiny Groot dances to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. It’s a fabulous opening scene that had me grinning from ear to ear and caused all of my doubts to dissolve in the overriding sweetness on show. It’s a great opening scene and makes huge promises to the audience. Unfortunately, it can’t deliver on all of those promises.

Where Guardians 2¬†really flies is within Gunn’s dialogue and in the interaction between the group at its core. When the main 5, plus Yondu, get a chance to really shoot the breeze everything just feels right. There’s such a great chemistry on screen and Gunn has a wonderful sense of how the relationships should work. In an ideal world, this film would literally just have been a rambling film where the gang fly around space and banter with each other. However, films of this type generally require plots and action to keep an audience interested. So, thanks to a clunky plot device, we are quickly introduced to Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) estranged father, Ego (Kurt Russell). Turns out, Quill comes from very good genes as his immortal, planet God father is all too eager to tell him. Whilst Quill loves getting to know his only living family his team mates have bad feelings about this.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) doesn’t trust the newly discovered father figure and as it turns out, she has good reason. When Ego showcases a desire for some doomsday level shenanigans, the gang must save Peter from falling under his spell. Before we get there, of course, there’s some other stuff with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) getting caught up in a coup on Yondu’s ship and a shit load of adoptive sisterly tension between Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Plus, plenty of times where Drax (Dave Bautista) is able to be fucking hilarious. After the super slick and fun opening sequence the rest of the film starts to run away with itself. Gunn always manages to reign it in but there is the inescapable feeling that everything is rushing towards the inevitable CGI filled climactic showdown. Really, it kind of seems that Gunn was so desperate to outdo himself that it ends up being a bit desperate and over-the-top. There’s just so much drama and action and it’s just not necessary. Then there are the endless pop culture references that, whilst fresh in the first one, just seem relentless now. It feels like all those YA post-apocalyptic books that reference 80s music to hide the fact that the author doesn’t have the creativity to build a fleshed out post-apocalyptic world. Missing something in your narrative? Just reference a classic sitcom or song. It feels like Gunn’s constant referencing is just an attempt to paper over some cracks.

This isn’t a bad film, though and, even in it’s dodgier moments, always maintains that sense of fun and heart. There are some fantastic scenes and the expansion of Michael Rooker’s Yondu is a fabulous edition. It was a surprising turn of events that this film ended up having one of the most emotionally fraugh ending of any film I’ve seen recently. More than any film in the MCU so far, Guardians 2 has some fucking hard consequences… and it’s brilliant. The sequel may not be quite as good, clever, or original as the first film but it’s still well-worth a look. I mean it was never going to reach the heady heights of the first one because that was such a shock. We knew what to expect here and it delivered exactly that, which was, in a way, its undoing. It’s the awful irony of success I suppose.

Despite everything I really loved this film and was super happy with how Gunn and co did in creating a sequel. It was funny, exciting and visually interesting. The main 5 are getting better and better together and I look forward to future films. I just hope they reign themselves in a bit. Both in terms of the actual film and the post-credits scenes. I mean fucking 5 clips? This whole Marvel tease is getting out of control. Although, it would be fine if they were fulfilling clips but most of them add nothing. I guess one was funny but most just felt unnecessary. A brief tease to a future character, a glimpse to appease comic book fans and a teenage Groot moment that just fell flat. Guardians 2‘s greatest sin was putting the final nail in the coffin of the post-credit bonus clip. Marvel, it’s time to stop this nonsense now. Thanks.

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