Tag Archives: Marvel

Review Thor Ragnarok by Jonathan Evans

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Let me tell you about a man named Jack Kirby. He worked in the comic book industry for most of his life. He made history when he and Stan Lee created The Fantastic Four together, from then on he co-created or created so many other characters I wont even try listing them. He propelled the medium of comics to feats of wild, cosmic scale ideas, that with the tools of paper and pen you could say and show the vastness images humanly conceivable. He had his own style that he continued to refine and produced so much work on a seemingly nonstop basis. He is probably one of the most influential figure for the medium of comics and the genre of superheros.

Thor Ragnarok operates, more than any other MARVEL movie like something Kirby would have created. It packs in so many ideas and visuals, it crackles with the enthusiasm of putting so many different kinds of characters, lines and images into a great vision.

Writer director Taika Waititi is a man with a unique gift for comedy and story telling. His previous two movies which I’ve seen are What We Do in the Shadows was an amazingly fresh take on vampires and Hunt For The Wilderpeople was one of the most original, well-made and hilarious movies that I’ve seen in a while. Here he inserts his unique brand of humor and also adopts most of the things we’ve come to expect from these MARVEL movies. Expect many quips.

Entering the picture is Hela, played by living screen legend Cate Blanchette. This is the role where she definitely has had the most fun in. She is a larger than life character that who’s nature is a big reveal for the Thor franchise and is easily one of the most powerful adversaries in all the movies. Since Loki the MARVEL movies now have another really engaging villain for their roster.

In this movie Heimdall, played by Idris Elba finally gets to play a more important part of the story. Elba is still not used to his full potential but at least it is more deserving of an actor of his caliber.

Due to plot reasons Thor is transported to the planet of Sakaar, when there its two obvious main influences shine. The first being Kirby, with it’s varied colours and designs using circles and blocky lines that resemble the circuitry of a computer chip. The other it’s science fiction movies of the eighties.

Another reinforcement of having the eighties as their influence is the music. Mark Mothersbaugh creates a synth rock score like something John Carpenter might have created. As well as the most perfect use of Led Zeppelins The Immigrant Song.

They really did find their perfect star for Thor. Chris Hemsworth comes with the muscle, hair and chiseled jaw that artist have drawn Thor to look like but he himself also has so much charm and is able to absolutely deliver a joke. To look at he’s Thor and he is him in performance as well.

A shaky first act and some other emotional moments that probably go by too fast so you don’t truly get absorbed into them are such minor complaints that they are hardly worth dwelling on. This is is crazed mad vision brought to life by a filmmaker who knows their craft and was given a budget to see it through. It is a glorious, unashamed baroque rock n’ roll nerd painting.

 

Review Dr Strange by Jonathan Evans

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4 Stars4 / 5

Doctor Strange is a movie that must stand out. It has Strange as in it’s title and the name of its main character. So there needs to be something about it that is unlike the other MARVEL movies, hell at this point, where we may be near the saturation point it needs to distinguish itself from all the other Superhero movies we now have.

What MARVEL now puts before us is a gamble. Just as big or maybe more so than what they did with Guardians of the Galaxy. The straightforward way of telling the superhero has almost run dry, so now they need to give us something new. Can they deliver a movie that captures the psychedelic imagery and mind-bending rules of this character and still make it accessible to audiences?

Our hero is the aforementioned mentioned Doctor Stephen Strange a shrewd, arrogant surgeon able to perform the most complicated operations with ease, he also comes with an encyclopedic knowledge of music. One day wile racing to a soiree in his sports car, believing he can do that and talk on his phone, crashes but survives, except his precious hands have been crushed. He can no longer perform surgeries, he could be a consultant but he cannot accept this and spends his fortune seeking out different treatments, to no avail. His quest eventually takes him to Kathmandu where he finds a new lease on life not in science but through magic.

Benedict Cumberbatch soured to a lot of peoples favourite actors list when he debut as the star of Sherlock. Since then he has amassed a very wide range of roles under his belt. This role requires him to capture the transformation of an arrogant, ego inflated, controlling man and have him broken and rebuild himself in a whole new way. He also sounds like Hugh Laurie in House (though that may just be me).

For his supporting characters we have Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, the part of Stephens ordinary life and his grounding force for humility and kindness. When the training begins we are given The Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton, the mentor character, Swinton is an entity like no other, you really do buy her as a character out of this world or at least not of the norm, able to take the most obscene mystical mumbo-jumbo dialog and roll it off the tongue. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, another but more experienced sorcerer. Ejiofor is an amazing talent and he does indeed have moments to shine in this movie but he really deserves a part where he’s given a fully fleshed-out character that will bring out his amazing talent. Benedict Wong plays… Wong (no really) another sorcerer, head librarian and the classic non-smiling straight-man.

In terms of the layout of the plot this is still what you will have come to expect from most Superhero movies, especially from MARVEL. But what keeps them fresh and able to continue their winning streak is that they perfect the formula, adding the necessary alterations when needed and still giving us something unique. Doctor Strange has been a character that has flourished in its visuals, this movie shows us colours and transitions like we’ve never seen before, there is a scene where Stephen literally has an outer body experience and we get so many visuals that they may have used them all up, but they continue to give us them. This movie is a the psychedelic one of the MARVEL movies. If you enjoy that, then you will find yourself at home in the other worlds this movie takes you to.

Like any fictional world there needs to be rules to establish the way things work and so the audience can understand it. The sorcerers cast spells by abandoning the previously established limitations of time and space, they need to unlock their minds so the normal rules will bend to them. However some acts put too much of a strain on them so they use tools, which allows them to focus their abilities and easily conjure the spells they need to.

Dr Strange doesn’t, and never really has existed in the same realm as The Avengers. His place is a smaller, more neish corner of this universe. He exists within dreams and nightmares, the worlds unseen, but just as important.

The visual inspiration for the movie is very clear. With having a cityscape fold they have obviously taken inspiration from Inception, however that images was taken from a Man With a Movie Camera. But also when we go inside a building it resembles the morphing effect in Dark City.

But what does this matter? Truth is it doesn’t because they use it for their means and make it more complex and intense. But there is also the running theme of the breaking glass, like his hands, his should and his perception of reality, this movie is about the breaking of the this layers we have in life.

In this movie is a chase scene like nothing else I’ve seen in movies (and I’ve seen a lot). It seems straightforward with two people working together to try and get to a portal and they have pursuers. But the pursuers and shift the landscape. They change the angel of the whole city, then bend the buildings and warp the architecture. Eventually the whole things taken on the a shifting rubix cube seen through a kaleidoscope.

Going way back to his first run in the comics Doctor Strange was a character that wasn’t the most powerful but he was smart, strategic and committed to defeating his enemies. Our climax in this movie is not one where two beings hit each-other with lights and sound until the other is knocked out, it is one where what has comes before playing into the end strategy. This is where our hero out-thinks the threat instead of out punches him, a refreshing and important take on to show to the masses in Superheroes.

This movie shows what MARVEL still has. Even with nearly twenty movies under their belt at this point and so many characters used they still have things to show us and different angles and views to take in this genre.

Review Captain America Civil War by Jonathan Evans

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When an irresistible force such as you, meets an old immovable object like me, you can bet just as sure as you live. Something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give.
Frank Sinatra, Something’s Gotta Give

Captain America Civil War

5 Stars5 / 5

The reason Superheroes have been able to endure for so long is because they have always told the next story. Sure Superman will always wear a big red cape and fly, Batman will always don the cowl and punch muggers but there is still a long lasting continuity to these characters and in order to keep them going the villains need to find new ways of fighting them and the consequences of their action have to catch up to them. Civil War is a movie about two paths laying before superheroes, one must be taken, the problem is that the heroes are also people, ergo flawed. So they differ on which is the right path and truly believe they are right, so they will stand by their beliefs to the end.

Early on we get one of those sharply worded, briskly shot action scenes, we see a bad guy with a cool name and an equally cool outfit steal a biological weapon, he is stopped but at a cost of a hospital exploding. This is the event that gets the nations of the world to sit the superheros down and talk. All the events in recent years, The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Winter Solider and now this have had far reaching devastation with a lot of collateral damage.

The “Sokovia Accords” will be a special jury lead by multiple people from the United Nations that will determine what situation requires the superheroes attention. Tony. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is for it and understands that with such power as they wield there must be safeguards to keep them in check. But Steve, Captain America (Chris Evans) argues that such boards usually act with a vested interest, also what if they don’t get together and give them permission in time? He stands by the belief that “the best hands are still our own.” So it becomes a case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, Tony wants to go forward with this new system but Steve is unconvinced and does not budge in his beliefs.

Before this review goes any further I feel it’s important for my own feelings be known. Captain America has always been my favourite character in the MARVEL movies and I was on his team before the movie came out and was still on his side during it. But there still remains a valid argument for either side. This could have been a simple case of one are the idiots the others are smart, these are obviously the good guys and this is who we’re meant to root for. But no, they go the more adult and interesting route where each member on each side is there for their own reasons. Neither is the villain, just a clash of ideologies that either is willing to fight for. There is a villain that lurks in the shadows who sets-up all the pieces to fight, but I do question if we really needed it.

The writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely know how to write with clarity and engaging characters. This is a movie that’s over two hours long so there’s enough time for everything, but they operate on a method where every scene is necessary and we know everything, or at least enough going into each action scene. In the dialogue scenes there are no wasted words or moments so you understand the characters very quickly, then we are able to get invested in the action. It is on-par with Mad Max: Fury Road.

The cast of characters in this movie is immense. It has most of the per-established characters from the previous movies and introduces new players that will most likely get their own movie and other moments in later films. But it works on the level of the actual comics now. We see Ant-Man, understand him and then will probably want to go back and checkout his movie. Also in the short time they have with everything else going on we get characters like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spiderman (Tom Holland) and are able to engage with them through very efficient directing and screenwriting.

As said we need to know the people fighting so we are invested, but good action is still essential. For a good action scene we need to know the layout of the environment and understand who did what when, if we loose track of the basics of what is happening on-screen then it simply becomes lights and noise. However if we keep seeing the same set-up it will become stagnant regardless, the Russo brothers know this so they don’t make the action tedious, they add unique twists or perspectives on their action set-pieces so that its something more engaging. For example a stairway fight, two combatants have enhanced body power so they can do more extreme movements, also one is willing to kill while the other isn’t.

And still, even with all these stakes and dark moments in the movie, we are still treated to comedy and moments of levity. Even here they understand that superheroes are meant to be characters where we can feel good and have fun. There are more than a few examples of movies that cram too much stuff in it just leaves the audience confused and frustrated. Batman v Superman and Jupiter Ascending come to mind. But Civil War is able to so efficiently explain and deliver the characters for the conflict, without necessarily needing to see the previous movies (though you will want to after seeing it) and keep you engaged at all time and with everyone.

Civil War takes out the villain aspect of these movies and puts hero against hero, not in a battle of good verses evil, but a fight for how to serve the greater good. And the drama of these two characters coming to blows isn’t from that mere fact it is happening, but that it was always meant to happen.