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 Skarsgård. 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.
When I was writing one of my recent Chris Evans’ reviews I remembered that he appeared in 2010s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. I know why I forget Evans is in this film: it’s cause he’s so good and I wasn’t used to that feeling 7 years ago. It does mean that I’ve had a deep-seated desire to watch this film ever since so I decided it would be the perfect film to talk about this TBT. It’s been a while since I saw this but I absolutely love this film. I’m also a fan of the graphic novels that it is based on. Really, Scott Pilgrim is the reason that I often get the desire to dye my hair bright pink or blue every now and then. I’ve always wanted to be more like Ramona Flowers. I mean, without the crippling emotional detachment and stuff but, you know, the coolness. It’s no wonder Scott falls in love with her at first sight. I certainly did.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels. It is a special effects dream that plays out like a video game. It sees Hollywood’s favourite geek, Michael Cera, take on the role of Canadian slacker, Scott. He is living an uneventful and uninspiring life until he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls head over heels. In order to win Ramona’s heart Scott discovers that he must first battle her 7 evil exes in a series of fantastic showdowns.
The genius of Scott Pilgrim is that it places itself firmly in reality whilst also amping everything up to ridiculous proportions. The characters and relationships are all very believable but every dispute is solved in an epic showdown where one combatant inevitably ends up as a pile of coins. The world of Scott Pilgrim is just that little bit more technicolor than ours and there are different laws regarding injuries and death. It’s a weird setting, then, but, director, Edgar Wright manages to pull it off.
He manages to do this by sticking fairly closely to original text and mimicking their style. It expertly mixes the crazed action sequences with the quieter moments of Scott’s slacker lifestyle. The action cuts seamlessly from one venue to another and the use of on screen captions and cartoony sound effects help to remind the audience what’s going on. Scott Pilgrim has more in common with Wright’s tv show Spaced and it’s endless supply of pop culture references than it does with his Cornetto trilogy. But the end results is smarter, sharper, and more relaxed than any of his previous work.
Wright manages to capture the mood with his manga-styling and picks up on the comedy and the drama on screen. He uses whip-pans, extreme close-ups, split screens, and changes in speed to get things moving in the right direction. The evil exes are introduced with animated sequences accompanied by Ramona’s voiceover. The game also embraces everything good about video games and becomes one of the few successful video game movies. Who can’t help but feel joy in the references to Street Fighter and 8-bit animation that keep cropping up? It’s a film that loves the world of gaming and will feel familiar to pretty much anyone who has had any contact with a game.Scott Pilgrim is a triumph of visual effects and style. It is a treat to watch and is an absolute hoot. It never takes itself seriously but it never makes the mistake of being too derisive.
The source material is treated with the utmost respect and the film works because of it. However, the fact remains that there are moments when the scipt and the narrative just don’t live up the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the series of graphic novels but there can be no denying that a lot is lost in translation here. Scott’s story plays itself out over 6 volumes but the film chops it all up to fit into a neat 112 minutes. It all feels a bit rushed and simplistic in this form. The battles become rather repetitive and confusing here. You don’t really get any time with the exes before they explode into currency.
Of course, this isn’t enough of a problem to dampen the film. It’s sometimes difficult to connect this with the series in which it originated but, as a film in itself, it is perfect. The cast are all really well chosen and bring something fantastic to their characters. With a host of actors who have since become big or even bigger names, it’s wonderful to revisit. I keep forgetting that Chris Evans plays Lucas Lee, Ramona’s second ex, and he absolutely steals the show. He plays a brash and egotistical actor who talks a bit like Christian Bale as Batman. It’s amazing. Kieran Culkin is hilarious as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace, and Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, turns up as Scott’s ex-girlfriend.
Scott Pilgrim may not be the film that fans of the comic books necessarily wanted it to be but the source material is in safe hands with Edgar Wright. The film is funny and an absolute wonder to watch. I defy anyone to watch it and not feel better afterwards.
So I’ve just finished the first episode of Season 7 of Game of Thrones and I have so many thoughts buzzing through my brain. Which is why I’m not trying to get an early night ahead of my 7 am start tomorrow morning. Instead I wanted to write a quick post in response to yesterday’s announcement about the new Doctor Who as there has been so much controversy. Naturally, people have a lot of feelings on the matter… but that’s hardly new. Every regeneration has had some amount of hatred. Even the amazing Peter Capaldi still has his doubters as I discovered today when a female coworker proudly proclaimed that she hated him. I really had to bite my tongue at that moment. Capaldi has suffered because of terrible writing but has done wonders with the character. His version of the Doctor is one of the best we’ve had in years but his stories haven’t served him well enough. I have nothing against Matt Smith or David Tennant but Capaldi tried to do something different with the character and I will defend him to anyone. I imagine that the people who dislike him are also the same stupid people that fail to accept that Donna was the best companion. I reckon they’re all fans of David Tennant and Billie Piper and just can’t move on. Speaking of moving on…
After the men’s finals as Wimbledon yesterday, the BBC annonced that Jodie Whittaker will take over from Peter Capaldi and become the next Doctor Who. Yes, the new Doctor is a woman and I’m pissed off. Why? Because I wanted to be the first female Doctor. But I’m not an actor and have never wanted to be so that’s fucking crazy. So, putting those jealous feelings to one side, I’ve decided I’m okay with it… but I have some provisos. As a proud feminist, I’m all for better representation of women on television and better roles for women. As a fan of pop culture, I’m also all for making sure this happens organically and not for the sake of it. I understand why people are so excited that after 50 plus years the Doctor will be played by a women but I also worry about permanently tying the news to some sort of political benchmark. It should be about making sure the transition is handled correctly. Which is where I really worry.
In my opinion, Doctor Who has been steadily declining in quality since the fourth season. That’s not to say before then was all stellar but it’s undoubtedly gone to the dogs since Russell T’s final episodes. I can barely remember anything about Matt Smith’s first two series and the first two with Capaldi were abysmal. Moffat can crank out astonishing one-off episodes but, when it came to his time as showrunner, he’s allowed a lot of shitty episodes to make their way on screen. If Jodie Whittaker’s entrance is handled that same way Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi’s were then we’re in trouble because she’ll fail to make an impression. If the switch is handled for laughs then it will play into the naysayers hands. Whittaker needs to be given a well-defined and new characterisation of this well-known character. It’s going to be tricky.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it should happen. I love the idea of a female Doctor and I think Whittaker is a great actress. I’m remaining hopeful that this could be the best thing ever. Even now, as a 29 year old woman, I’m excited to see this character that I grew up watching is becoming someone I can relate to more. The image I have of Doctor Who from my childhood is Jon Pertwee’s face. Doctor Who has always been a white haired, white skinned man. Maybe this is why the show didn’t really stay with me as I grew up? Well, that and the fact that the older series were so rarely shown. When it came back in 2005 I watched it and loved it but it was always lacking. There was no really powerful female presence. I know people loved Rose but she didn’t cut it for me. Especially when she started going ga-ga over Tennant. That’s why Donna, so underrated, is my fave. She’s a genuinely strong and independent female who shows real growth. We need a female Doctor who takes after Donna.
And we do need a female Doctor. The show gets a lot of views and has a young audience. It is right that we show young people that women can take roles like this. It’s wonderful to see the reactions of young girls or parents who are rejoicing that their Doctor is a women. In the same way that we needed someone like Rey to be the hero of the new Star Wars films. It’s important and is everything this show has been about. The Doctor has never been about a specific gender but more about the ethos that has stayed with every incarnation. It’s about this good being who wants to explore and helps people along the way. The show has always been trying to encourage it’s audience into taking an interest in science and the universe around them but it’s always been a very traditional take on that world. The older male scientist and his sexy young assistant. It needed to be changed to reflect the real world.
And, no matter what the majority of angry fans are saying, there has always been room to make this work. The Doctor is an alien being who travels in time and changes his face every few years. If you can accept that but can’t accept that he can change into a woman then you really are a narrow-minded fuckwit.
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.
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.