Thursday, 19 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

I was a bit worried going into X-Men: Apocalypse, it came at a time when we had already seen three comic book movies within a space of a few months, and they had already showcased the best and worst the genre can offer. Its trailer showed off a film that made it seem as if we were about to watch Jennifer Lawrence and the X-Men and the early reviews were very mixed. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers though, what I saw last night really surprised me and although it may not be perfect, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Read on to find out why.

Ten years after the events of Days of Future Past, a lot of the cast return but are in very different places from where we left them (you’ll have to suspend your disbelief at the fact none of the cast have aged since...). Mystique is on her own, rescuing mutants where she can, Magneto has settled in Poland with a new family and Professor X has got his school up and running with a set of new students, most notably Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner, Cyclops played by Tye Sheridan and Nightcrawler played by Kodi Smit-Mcphee. All is well until an old and very powerful mutant, Apocalypse played by Oscar Issac, is awoken, who then goes and recruits his four horsemen in order to destroy the world (I think?).

I’ll start by saying that this isn’t your usual X-Men movie; the scale is unlike anything you have seen in this franchise before. Whereas other superhero films have decided to go for personal stakes this year, X-Men has gone the opposite way and I believe this is where some of the criticisms comes from; we’ve seen world ending stakes before in comic book movies however, I would argue that because we haven’t seen it on this scale in the X-Men franchise it instead felt like an exciting new way to take these characters and it also made for some incredible action sequences.

Apocalypse is a very menacing villain and he has quite a screen presence however some of the descriptions of his powers and plans are a bit vague; is he a mutant Wi-Fi booster? Body shifter? Mover of Elements? The power to make characters more comic book accurate? Does he want to destroy the world or control everyone? This is ultimately where the film suffers most. Whether you get his plan or not it really delivers on full blown spectacle and he is very menacing character.

Thankfully the film doesn’t add spectacle at the cost of character development. Some characters get more than others mind but this film really sets up its newest mutants nicely and gives them a chance to shine as they’re testing the limits of their powers in very troubling time. This isn’t Jennifer Lawrence and the X-Men, but instead it’s an ensemble film without the plot leaning heavily on one character as many X-Men films tend to do. This helps this film feel more like an X-Men comic book than previous instalments, it feels like a team film, a team with a crazy bunch of powers which all get their shot in the limelight. It’s as if the films are leaning closer and closer to their source material and although we’re not fully there yet it does make me very excited for what we’ll see next.

I feel like this film has come about at the wrong time, I wish they would’ve waited a couple of months before releasing as I believe most general audiences might need some time away from the superhero genre after Civil War only being released under a month ago. I wouldn’t have minded them waiting either, they could have spent more time perfecting some CGI shots as some look more at home in a video game then a big budget summer blockbuster, or maybe they could have given Olivia Munn more to do as Psylocke who looked very badass but didn’t really get the chance to show off those awesome sword skills the actress has been posting online. Or even Storm, this time played by Alexandra Shipp who gets a bit more to do but not enough in my opinion!

If you’re a superhero fan but weren’t planning on going to see X-Men: Apocalypse this weekend then don’t be a fool, you’re going to have a lot of fun and get a kick out of how the franchise is now edging closer to its source material. It’s not ground-breaking in terms of what we’ve already seen from the genre but it is a different step for the franchise and you finally get to see everyone’s powers in full epic scale mixed with some great emotional characters beats and a pretty wicked score throughout. It’s not the best superhero film this year but it’s not the worst either! I’m rating the latest X-Men instalment a 3.5/5.

What did you think? Was it a hit or a disappointment? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War

I’ve finally seen it; I’ve finally seen Captain America: Civil War! Read on to find out my SPOILER FREE review of the latest Marvel film.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, then go in blind, it’s better that way. All you need to know is that The Avengers begin to learn that their actions have consequences, and how to deal with those consequences splits the group in two.

You know the cast by now but we do get two fresh faces in the limelight and they come in the form of Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa aka The Black Panther and Tom Holland as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. They both do an amazing job in their roles and really are standout performances in the film.  We’ll get back to Spider-Man later though... My favourite performance of the whole film goes to Robert Downey Jr, he gives the best version of Tony Stark/Iron Man we have seen since his first solo outing. The Russo Brothers are great at directing actors, in The Winter Soldier they made Samuel L Jackson act in a role where beforehand he was just being himself and they do exactly the same here with RDJ who really breaks new ground and is more than just himself, he really sells that Stark is a man broken and defined by his experiences. The rest of the cast all do a great job as well, nobody stuck out as being bad or less than satisfactory.

My biggest worry with this film was that they were trying to fit too many characters into the story. Was I right to have that fear? Yes and no. This is definitely more of an Avengers film with a slight emphasis on Captain America. I mean it does follow on from The Winter Soldier and Cap is the most prominent role in the film however, there is just so much going on around him that it’s difficult to say that this was his solo film. If anything I would have just called this film Civil War and have it be a chapter within the Marvel Universe that shifted the status quo, because at the end of the day that is all this film does. It’s not a bad thing though, this film kind of proves all the good that can come from an extended and shared universe, this is the kind of film that us fans have been wanting to see from the start and although it takes a little while to get going, when it all kicks off it kicks off in spectacular fashion. That airport scene, oh boy that airport scene!

This isn’t Age of Ultron though, it isn’t just set up, there is a well thought out and interesting storyline here that does make you very invested. Instead of setting up later films, it instead introduces you to a different side of the MCU, mainly in the form of The Black Panther who I have been waiting to see for years and he does not disappoint.  It’s a lot more personal and smaller Avengers film that I think we all kind of wanted from Age of Ultron but didn’t get. The marketing made you choose a side and I was Team Cap throughout but in the film it’s really not that simple. By the end I was switching sides every 10 seconds, they worked the two sides of the argument so well that neither side was wrong, both made sense and you were fully invested in the outcomes, for the first time in a Marvel film there felt like there were real stakes involved. Nearly every character serves a purpose here and they all get their chance to shine, there are a lot of fist pumping moments. However the highlight character of the film for me was also the one who served the least purpose to the plot...

Spider-Man. You all know by now that I am a huge Spider-Man fan so I was very excited and little bit nervous to see him enter the MCU in this film. My Spider-Man has always been older than the high school version that everybody seems to be shipping recently. Maybe it was because when I read/watched Spider-Man he was always older than me and now in Civil War he’s younger than me, either way, I do respect where they were going when they cast really young, it makes sense and it contrasts the rest of the heroes very well. Tom Holland sold it as Peter Parker for me and even more so as Spider-Man, he cool, he’s funny, he’s annoying and even though he’s out of his league he holds his own.  Basically Marvel have made Spider-Man the way he should be. He brings some much needed humour to a film that isn’t as comedy centric as some other Marvel outings. His involvement in the film is purely down to the fact that Marvel and Sony have made a deal, he doesn’t do anything to serve the plot apart from bring a while load of joy and big smile to my face. It’s too early to say if he can top Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker or Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man as he has had barely any screen time, but the signs are looking very good. I cannot wait for Spider-Man: Homecoming next year!

In terms of cinematography, the film looks like an action film, there isn’t much inspiring here, the action scenes are cool and gritty like in Winter Soldier, but it’s pretty standard in terms of the look of the film. The music as well doesn’t add much, maybe it was my cinema showing but I really didn’t feel it was loud enough to emphasise anything. When I was re-watching The Avengers recently the score really emphasised how epic the film was, it worked so well and I feel we haven’t had something like it since.

Another thing that hasn’t been as good since The Avengers has been the CGI. It’s not awful but there are some moments that have the characters (especially Black Panther) looking a bit rubbery. It’s a shame because Black Panther really kicks ass when he doesn’t look like a computer animated rag doll. Most of it looks great though, there was just the odd moment that caught my eye.

I don’t think this was my favourite Marvel film but it definitely is one of their better ones. It’s a lot of fun and really works in terms of emotional investment and character stakes. I wish it had been renamed though as this wasn’t really the third solo Cap film I was hoping for, however it definitely was the Avengers film I was looking for last year. The film is a celebration of a shared universe and really shows off the potential in storytelling you can have with one. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely the best superhero film we have had this year. I am rating Captain America: Civil War a rating of 4/5.

What did you think? Best Marvel film to date? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!