Thor Ragnarok Review

Spoilers may follow

Another day, another Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I fear that when writing this review, I’ll be repeating my reviews of previous entries in this franchise. It’s fun, the characters are well-played and have good dialogue etc. Indeed, while I did find Thor: Ragnarok entertaining and enjoyable, there was still the sense that this universe has almost run its course.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston again do commendable jobs as their respective Norse gods, and Mark Ruffalo is a hilarious highlight, both as a battle-loving Hulk and a confused Bruce Banner. He gets the lion’s share of the most memorable scenes, proving that Hulk is indeed the one when you want to have fun.

There, however, still exists the typical MCU problem of an uninteresting villain, especially annoying given this villain had potential. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is Thor’s older sister and goddess of death, so she could have been an interesting antagonist, but sadly, she just comes off as your typical evil sorceress, the type you’d find in abundance in, well, Disney films.

There is still a lot of fun to be had, and some of the jokes really work well, like utilising “Pure Imagination” of all songs. Yet there still is the sense of “second verse same as the first”, that so much of this has been done before and done better in previous MCU films. It’s a space adventure like this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II, yet doesn’t have as much heart as that film did. The villain, as said before, isn’t as interesting as the Vulture was in the last MCU film.

So I am recommending you give Thor: Ragnarok a watch; you’ll enjoy yourself, it’s good to watch while munching on a big bag of popcorn. It just feels like something’s missing.

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Spider-Man Homecoming Review

There was plenty to like about Captain America: Civil War, but one of the biggest highlights was Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-Man, even though his role was a small one. Loveably dorky and awkward was he, and it made several viewers want to see him in his own movie. And here we have it.

Spider-Man has been battling street-level crime using the suit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr)  gave him, but wishes for a greater challenge. That arrives when he comes across a group of bank-robbers using high-tech weapons supplied to them by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). Assisted by his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Peter attempts to put an end to Toomes’ operation, even though it might mean Stark losing trust in him.

The film begins with scenes from Civil War, and Stark does play a significant role. He does not, however, dominate the film, and enough is explained that those who haven’t watched previous MCU movies could follow. It’s certainly refreshing to watch after Amazing Spider-Man 2, which seemed only to exist to set up regular movies. There’s no origin shown this time (though mentioned) but this does have all the elements of a good Spider-man film; not only do we have Peter chasing down villains, we have him dealing with teenage angst.

Tom Holland is once again perfectly cast as Spider-Man, making him likeable, funny and sympathetic; possibly the best on-screen Spider-Man yet. The film’s second most memorable performance comes from Michael Keaton, who may not have been as fun as DeFoe’s Green Goblin but is certainly a threatening villain, made even more so by the human elements of his character. A lot is happening in this movie, yet it never feels overpacked or overlong.

2017 has certainly proved itself to be a good year for superhero flicks. Spider-Man: Homecoming is not as funny as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or as engaging as Wonder Woman, but is still a tonne of fun.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

May include spoilers

What a wonderful surprise Guardians of the Galaxy was! Though prior to the film’s release Rocket Raccoon and Groot were nowhere near as big as Spider-man or the Hulk, it was still massively entertaining and humourous. It showed that the Marvel Universe wasn’t afraid to embrace the sillier aspects of its source material, and now, every grim and gritty product from DC like Batman v Superman and Gotham is met with “Why be so serious? Marvel had a movie with a talking racoon!” (which makes it odd that the new Marvel Studios opening is somewhat reminiscent of the opening credits of 1989’s Batman).

Sure enough, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 maintains a lot of the cheeky humour of the original. The very intro of the film involves a miniature Groot (Vin Diesel) dancing while his friends battle a hideous tentacle monster in the background, we get another cameo of none other than Howard the Duck, and of course, Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) gets several good lines and interactions with his teammates; a highlight is when he gets into an argument with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and threatens to leave a turd – not necessarily his, either – in Quill’s bed.

The characters say and do funny things, but they are characters we care about as well. Despite Rocket’s sarcasm, Drax’s inappropriate comments and little Groot’s naivete, there is still the sense that this group need each other, and it still does make you care that Peter lost his mother. The main villain is also more interesting than most in the Marvel canon, not to spoil anything.

The film also looks very visually appealing, with characters like Rocket and Groot looking like they belong with the human characters. Some of the alien designs are nothing really that interesting but a planet they spend a good amount time on is beautifully realised. There’s also one hilarious visual where characters’ faces warp and bend when they’re going through portals.

It may not be as good as the first, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still enjoyable enough to make you smile when the credits promise “The Guardians of the Galaxy will return”.

Doctor Strange Review

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A common argument about why Marvel’s movies are generally better than DC’s is that Marvel is less afraid to explore the more surreal side of comic books. Man of Steel was too moody and trying too hard to be realistic, but Marvel made a fun little movie where characters included a tree man and a talking raccoon. Now we have Marvel’s latest movie, Doctor Strange, where magic and warped Inception-esque cities abound, and it works pretty well.

The titular doctor, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is involved in a car accident that leaves him unable to use his hands. When he learns of an ancient order that apparently healed a paraplegic, Strange goes to find that order and learn magic under the tutelage of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Strange becomes skilled in the magical arts, and uses what he learns to battle the evil sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen),who wants to bring forth the demon Dormammu.

The best thing about Doctor Strange is definitely its visuals; it’s a film that deserves to be seen in IMAX. Just the scene where Strange first meets the ancient one, and is taken through a metaphysical journey where his hands grow hands is worth the price of admission alone. The Marvel universe is meant to be a weird and wonderful place and now that it has sorcery at its disposal, it has a lot of fun with it.

As for the story itself, it is the typical superhero fare: character gets powers, learns how to use them, and there’s the big evil portal to the big evil dimension that we’ve seen in this year’s Ninja Turtles and Suicide Squad. Thankfully, it is kept entertaining and engaging by Cumberbatch’s performance. True, it does seem similar to his Sherlock, but it’s an interesting setting for a Sherlock-esque character to be in. Though Strange’s co-workers find him arrogant, he’s still a character the viewer enjoys spending time with.

Mads Mikkelsen has done a brilliant job playing Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal TV series, and he does a good job with the villain of this film, even if the character himself isn’t really anything special. Swinton’s performance and character are more interesting, and has some good interactions with Cumberbatch.

Doctor Strange is another enjoyable entry into the Marvel canon, and one especially worth seeing in 3D.

Captain America: Civil War Review

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Spoilers (for this film and Dawn of Justice) follow

Due to the destruction and collateral damage caused on their missions, especially that accidentally caused by the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in Nigeria, superhero team The Avengers are told they are to be put under government supervision. Captain America (Chris Evans), wishing to be freer in the team’s crimefighting, opposes this notion, while Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), guilty at the deaths caused, supports it, and the Avengers are split into two camps against each other. Later, Captain America sees that a bombing is being pinned on his old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and goes to find him.

Being a film that features many of a certain comic company’s flagship heroes, and has two of those heroes against each other, an obvious comparison to make to Civil War would be to last month’s Batman v Superman. Both films have a lot of characters to juggle, but in the case of Civil War, they’ve at least had more time to develop and build up these characters. While Dawn of Justice felt like it needed to have another movie before it, the two main opposing heroes of Civil War have been properly developed and their reasons for their alliances is understandable. Superman died too soon in the DC Cinematic Universe, while Civil War‘s story feels like it was released at the right time.

The film has Captain America in the title, and he is the main character, but nearly all of the Avengers get a chance to shine. One particular stand-out is the newcomer Spider-man (Tom Holland), who may not appear that often, but is so humourously geeky that you just want to see more of him. The characters on both sides are well-written and entertaining to watch, and you care about what happens to our titular Captain, as opposed to the rather bland Superman of Dawn of Justice.

Civil War may deal with the consequences of the Avengers’ rather violent actions, but that doesn’t mean the film is afraid to indulge in a little action from time to time, and the action scenes it offers is extremely well-done. The airport fight is every bit as exciting as one might have heard it is, mixing fast-paced battles, lovable characters and hilarious comic relief into a glorious unified whole. Paul Rudd returns as Ant-Man, and his role at the airport more than justifies his reappearance.

But what is really justified here is the existence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Dawn of Justice showed us videos of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, it felt like a discordant attempt to “catch up” with Marvel, and we all rolled our eyes when we heard news of a “Hanna Barbera cinematic universe”. This cinematic universe, however, gives us some interesting storylines, more than just “good guy beats up bad guy”, and some entertaining characters who play well off each other. It’s a universe that, despite the death and destruction, is a nice place to visit from time to time.

Captain America: Civil War is probably one of Marvel’s best, bringing fine drama, action and humour, reminding us why it’s a good thing this universe is being kept alive.