Category Archives: Marvel Films

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Warning: Minor Spoilers

Every actor has brought something different to the role of Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Tobey Maguire was a great Peter Parker but never completely convinced me as Spider-Man – apart from his brief turn to the dark side in Spider-Man 3. Andrew Garfield was immensely likeable as both but wasn’t really a great fit for Peter Parker – he has too much natural charm to play a socially awkward geek. Tom Holland was impressive in his brief civil war appearance, but Homecoming gives us a proper look at his take on both sides of the role. As Peter, he’s more believable in the role than Garfield and less wet than Maguire, while as Spider-Man he’s an improvement on Maguire but not quite as loveably cheeky as Garfield.

The script is nothing revolutionary, with a very familiar coming-of-age style plotline, but the dialogue is decent and downright hilarious in places. They’ve prevented this being too similar to previous entries – Harry Osborn and J. Jonah Jameson are nowhere to be seen, Peter has a love interest who isn’t Gwen or MJ and we (thankfully) don’t have to see Peter’s origin story or Uncle Ben’s death for a third bloody time. The direction is generally good, although the final fight between Spiderman and Vulture isn’t all that well shot. The soundtrack isn’t all that memorable. Its the tone of the thing where the film succeeds – the interplay between the cast is very good. Downey Jr. steals all the scenes he’s in (predictably) but is used sparingly enough that he doesn’t overshadow proceedings.

The one aspect the film nails completely is humour. Peter’s friends Ned and Michelle get most of the best lines, while Peter’s youthful ineptitude often raises a few laughs. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil anything – but its funnier than Guardians Vol. 2 was, so you should definitely go check it out for yourself.

In ways, this film feels like what an Iron Man 4 might have looked like. Between Tony’s significant role in events, Peter’s AI in his suit, a more ordinary villain whose interested in profit than world domination and appearances from Stark’s bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) and partner Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Given how much I don’t like the Iron Man trilogy (the villains were bland, Paltrow terrible and Favreau dull – Downey Jr. was the only good thing in them) I was surprised how little of an issue for me this was. But for several reasons Homecoming was considerably better than the Iron Man films; the support cast was better, the script was much more humorous, and the villain was considerably better acted. On that note…

Adrian Toombes/Vulture is a more grounded villain than we’ve seen in a long time. He doesn’t want to rule the world or destroy the Avengers – he simply wants to do right by his men and his family and give them comfortable lives. He also has something of a personal code – on two separate occasions in the film he spares/defends Spider-Man despite their rivalry because he has reasons to be personally grateful to him. He’s still a villain, but he’s a relatable one, and his hatred of the 1% like Stark and governments who prop them up probably struck a cord with some of the audience. That said, in other hands, he might not be all that memorable, but Michael Keaton brings a certain gravitas to the role, and while he isn’t spectacular, he has a certain understated intensity that works wonders. His henchmen are less memorable, though their alien weaponry allowed for some cool fights with Spider-Man, particularly his clashes with Shocker.

I liked how they chose Vulture and Shocker for the villains in this film – Spider Man has a huge rogues gallery (only Batman has a better one) but we’ve not seen that many of them in the 5 previous ones, so it was nice to see a different two here. The first post-credit scene also hints at the villain for the sequel, who will be another character we haven’t seen on screen before. Speaking of post-credit scenes, the second one is Marvel massively trolling the audience (kind of a more tongue in cheek version of Deadpool’s ‘why are you guys still here’). So its not exactly an essential one if you can’t be bothered waiting through the credits.

Overall I’d say this was one of the best Spider-Man films. Its funny, entertaining and well-acted, but isn’t perfect – the direction could be better, its a bit clichéd and predictable in places and Jon Favreau’s Happy is a complete waste of space. Still a very, very fun superhero movie though.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Marvel really has been full of surprises this year hasn’t it? I wasn’t expecting Guardians Vol. 2 to have the stronger storyline than Spider-Man or Spider-Man to be funnier than Guardians. Not only that but both films have had strong villains, and its been a long time since two Marvel films in a row have achieved that. Hope Thor: Ragnarok can keep the momentum going!

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff and Kurt Russell.

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS! (I mean it’s been out for a month guys, you really should have seen it by now)

I honestly think I prefer the Guardians to the Avengers as an ensemble. No avengers film has ever serviced all its characters well in the same film (Hawkeye is badly sidelined in the first one, Thor in the Second). Guardians films never have to waste time setting up  future standalone films, and the relationships and banter between them always feels natural. Vol. 2 splits the Guardians team up for much of the middle of the film, yet the individuals and double-acts are still as compelling as when they unite as a whole team at the start and end of the movie.

Chris Pratt is arguably the biggest rising star in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) right now – he’s headlined Jurassic World and Passengers in between films and is certainly a more memorable lead actor than say, Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth (i’ll grant its a given that none of them get close to Robert Downey Jr., but that almost goes without saying at this point). While Vol. 2 retains the ensemble feel from the first film, Pratt gets a greater share of the limelight, and proves he can handle the emotional stuff just as well as the comedy. Baby Groot is adorable, but to be honest I felt like they could have done more with him in this film (i.e. in the first film Groot was undoubtedly my favourite of the Guardians, this time around it was probably Quill with Drax a close second). The film does do a good job of fleshing out Gamora (Saldana) and Nebula (Gillan) who were arguably two of the least well-utilized (and least interesting) characters in the first film. Nebula in particular is a far more sympathetic character, and Gillan flexes her acting muscles far more this time around. Michael Rooker’s Yondu, another supporting player from the 1st film, also really comes into his own here and his comradery with Rocket is one of the strong points in the middle part of the film. Newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is a sweet and welcome addition and gets plenty of amusing banter with Drax, who like last time gets most of the best lines. But the film’s real strength comes from Kurt Russell’s Ego, a celestial (a living planet with a human form of himself) and Quill’s father.

Ego is the best villain Marvel has given us since Loki. He’s better than Ultron, Zemo, Yellowjacket and Winter Soldier (the only ones other than Loki to leave a good impression). Kurt Russell kills it with his sweet, manipulative and largely convincing act as Quill’s remorseful dad, and then excels at portraying Ego’s true superiority complex and universe conquering delusions. CRUCIALLY, Marvel finally give this villain enough screen time to have a real impact, something which hamstrung Lee Pace’s Ronan (as it has with so many other MCU villains) in the last Guardians adventure. The final fight between him and Quill is quite possibly the best hero/villain fight in the MCU (only the hilarious Ant-man/Yellowjacket battle or Captain America/Winter Soldier confrontations spring to mind as equally memorable). Ego also allows Chris Pratt to show different sides to Quill, as his barely contained rage at Ego’s murder of his mother takes the film to a far darker place than most Marvel movies ever reach.

All this is very welcome, because the early part of the film (particularly the first half hour) feels like a less interesting re-tread of the first films antics and jokes, while not offering anything particularly new. The soundtrack is still good, but isn’t quite the knockout Vol. 1’s was, while not all of the jokes in the first hour land as well as they could have. Nevertheless the special effects seem to have got an upgrade since the first film (which still looked bloody good!) and now everything looks even more awesome than before (something helped by the fact that James Gunn is one of the better directors working for Marvel atm). The plot is a great deal more involving than the ‘infinity stone’ quest in its predecessor ever was, and the film manages to set the stage for a third entry without dragging this instalment of the series down with endless set-up (looking at you, Dawn of Justice). To summarise, some things are an improvement, some are a slight step back, and thus Vol. 2 comes out about equal to its predecessor.

The five (FIVE!) mid and post credits scenes are generally an absolute hoot, the two highlights hinting at a major comic-book character’s arrival in guardians 3 (Adam Warlock if I had to guess) and a comedy cut-away showing a teenage Groot with some serious attitude. Pity about the Stan Lee cameo. That guy needs to fuck off and stop shoehorning himself into films which really have no time for him (the one here is especially jarring).

Overall a terrific second half and a formidable villain overcomes an uninspired first half to deliver a good, if imperfect Marvel movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Coming Soon: My review of Wonder Woman, a film that signals a welcome return to form for DC…

Logan Review

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook and Richard E Grant.

First half of review will be spoiler free, second half includes MAJOR spoilers, I’ve included a warning at the start of that section.

There’s so many superhero films at the moment its hard for any to stand out from the crowd. One of the exceptions last year was Deadpool, because despite not being a perfect film, it offered something different to the no-stakes popcorn cinema of Xmen/Avengers and the gritty relentless drama of Dawn of Justice (and whatever shit Suicide Squad was trying to be). Even though Captain America: Civil War was a better film, Deadpool seemed to have a greater impact simply through being something new in terms of tone and style. Logan is this year’s example of a superhero film which doesn’t conform to the stereotype. Unlike Deadpool however, Logan backs up its unique tone with a compelling story and a script lacking any particular superhero tropes (Deadpool hilariously poked fun at them, but still had the same Hero gets girl, stupid Stan Lee cameo and defeats bad guy storyline we’ve seen a million times. Logan doesn’t).

Logan gives us the Wolverine we’ve wanted for a long time but seldom got – badass yet vulnerable, heroic yet flawed and violent as hell. The action sequences in this film are the finest I’ve seen in a superhero film – Marvel or DC! Even the lauded Batman-Bane fights in Dark Knight Rises can’t capture the raw brutality of what we see in Logan. The direction is standout, and makes you wonder how much James Mangold was held back by studio execs in his previous entry in the series, The Wolverine (the one set in Japan released back in 2013), because his work here is absolutely sublime. The soundtrack from Marco Beltrami is unorthodox (carrying a strong western vibe like the rest of the film) but fits the film pretty damn well and lends an extra intensity to the action scenes.

The acting, as usual with X-Men films, is top notch, with Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and newcomer Dafne Keen, playing a young mutant called Laura/X-23, (a child-actress who is on Maisie Williams’ level – that’s how good she is!) all giving class and at times raw performances. Stewart is particularly excellent, as he plays an older Xavier who isn’t quite all there any more, and is tortured by the increasing lack of control he has over his body and his powers. Stephen Merchant is good support as Caliban, one of the few other mutants who makes an appearance, while Boyd Holbrook and the ever superb Richard E Grant make the most of their villainous roles, who while not exactly classic foes, are exactly what the film needs them to be, reminding me somewhat of Alexander Pierce from The Winter Soldier (i.e. compelling human villains who actually get enough screentime/personality to make the audience care about them, even if they lack powers).

Overall, this film gets pretty much everything right, and my one gripe with it can’t be mentioned in the spoiler-free section – so for those who haven’t seen it yet I’ll say this – this isn’t just the best X-men film or Marvel film, but it is only the 4th ever superhero film I’d give 5/5 to. It’s up there with Dark Knight Trilogy. But it is far more emotionally charged than any of those films – one sequence in particular is up there with the worst parts of game of Thrones in terms of producing an emotional reaction (we’re talking Hold the Door and Red Wedding levels of upset here). Its also bold in a way the Avengers series has never shown itself willing to be. So go see it!

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS INCOMING!!!!! DO NOT READ ON UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE FILM ALREADY!!!!!

The films setting is interesting, in a 2029 where mutants are becoming rarer (and near extinct) and Xavier is heavily implied to have killed many surviving X-men accidently during his ‘Westchester incident’. I thought it was a bit odd we didn’t get any flashbacks to this disastrous episode of his, but I suspect they wanted to keep the film at a reasonable running time. Laura/X-23 is also a great addition to the x-men universe – not sure if she’ll be back, but she certainly added a freshness to proceedings. Speaking of freshness – who else was pleasantly surprised to see a superhero film with no love interests? Far too often they seem to through ones in for the hell of it – but Logan is the first I can remember to not bother with one at all (even Jean Grey wasn’t mentioned, which came as something of a surprise given how essential they’ve always made her to Logan’s emotional state).

On another note, I thought the Wolverine clone made for a worthy adversary, if a not so subtle hint that Logan is usually his own worst enemy, and the fight scenes between the two were suitably visceral, as was the clone’s death by adamantium bullet. (How glad is everyone they didn’t edit this to get it a 12 rating?!) My one problem with the film was Xavier’s death – it felt sad, but was a bit underwhelming (though not as pointless as his previous death scene in The Last Stand) – Logan’s reaction to it was spot on, but the scene itself wasn’t as gut-wrenching as it should have been – even Caliban’s death felt more impactful.

On the other hand, Logan’s death was done perfectly, with Laura’s reaction in particular making most of the audience (in the cinema I was in anyway) cry (including me – I’d argue you have to be stone cold/slightly inhuman to watch that scene and not get emotional). After this and Rogue One, I’m glad films are starting to take risks with their endings and not just play it safe (looking at you CIVIL WAR!!!!!) – endings where heroes die shouldn’t be the norm, but they need to happen occasionally for audiences to believe there’s any kind of stakes in the franchise – and as Logan proves, they make for pretty compelling viewing when done right.

If this, at it appears, is the last time we see Jackman or Stewart in these roles which they’ve played for 17 years, then they’ve both left on a high. I still wouldn’t mind Jackman’s Wolverine showing up in a Deadpool film though.

Rating: 5 out of 5! It joins Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel (haters can fuck off) as the only superhero films I love enough to give a perfect rating to.

Will any of the other superhero films this year come close to matching this? Guardians 2 is my tip for best of the rest, but I don’t think any of them (Marvel or DC) are matching this – but I’d love to be proved wrong – and if I am, its gonna be a hell of a year!

Lastly, for any PlayStation gamers reading this – were any of you struck by how similar parts of this film were to the Last of Us? (For those who don’t know the Last of Us is a fantastic survival game set post Zombie apocalypse, whose main characters are a gruff tough as nails old guy called Joel and a young badass girl named Ellie – seeing any similarities yet?) For me, the emotional plotline, the brutality and the setting all gave off very strong Last of Us vibes, and Logan may be the closest thing we ever end up getting to a film adaptation!

 

 

My Top 10 film moments of 2016

I’ve missed a few of the major films this year (notably Arrival slipped by me) so instead of doing a top 5 films I’ve instead decided to pick out my favourite moments from films this year, as even the weaker blockbusters like Dawn of Justice had their moments. Enjoy.

Warning: Minor Spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Rogue One, Major Spoilers for Batman vs Superman.

10. Jacob and Queenie (Fantastic Beasts) While Newt and Tina were the lifeblood of the film, Jacob and Queenie stole every scene they were in and were undoubtedly its soul, and their pairing was both sweet and believable. Jacob’s smile at the end when Queenie strolls into his bakery and seemingly restores his memory is the icing on the cake for arguably two of the best characters JK Rowling has given us. They better be back in the sequels!

9. Wolverine’s Cameo (X:Men Apocalypse) The X-men series is always accused of over-using Wolverine, and somewhat ironically, his best two appearances have now been cameos (him telling Xavier and Magneto to fuck off in First Class and here, where Wolverine’s psychopathic rampage through Stryker’s bunker reminds us of just how badass/terrifying/awesome the character is). Hugh Jackman now is so intrinsically associated with the character I doubt anyone else will be able to play him for a good 20 years (and they shouldn’t, hopefully next year’s Logan is a worthy send-off to both the character and the actor). Anyway, while Apocalypse was a very fun movie, this was the sequence that will stick in my mind the most.

8.Doomsday battle (Dawn of Justice) Doomsday may have had a completely different origin from the comics, but his threat level was actually genuinely impressive for a superhero film in 2016 (he wasn’t easily beaten in 5 mins in a final confrontation – looking at you Enchantress in Suicide Squad and Kaecilius in Doctor Strange!!!) as Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman team up to stop him and barely survive… and Superman doesn’t. We all know he’ll be back in some form for Justice League but his heroic sacrifice, backed by Hans Zimmer’s haunting ‘This is My World’ still made this a very emotional moment. Also nice to see a superhero film where not every hero makes it out alive (basically EVERY MARVEL FILM EVER apart from X-men), bold move DC, bold move. Even if the first half of the film was a total mess, you did nail the ending.

7. Inside the Case (Fantastic Beasts) The beasts were appropriately the centrepiece of the film, from the cheeky niffler to the amorous Erumpent to the magnificent Thunderbird, with those and many others stunningly showcased in the heartwarming sequence where Next shows Jacob around the inside of his travelling case where he keeps the animals for their own protection. A very sweet interlude in this loveable film.

6.Vader Returns and Kicks Ass (Rogue One) After the tremendous battle of Scarif sequence, Rogue One could have easily ended as the Death Star opened fire. But it didn’t, instead giving us the best scene with Darth Vader since ‘No, I am your father’. Vader’s first scene in the film where he threatens Krennic was tense/awesome in its own right, but the second is full-on terrifying as Vader is unleashed on a group of rebels and scythes through them with brutal ease. It might be the best 40 seconds of cinema in 2016, hell maybe ever. If it wasn’t so short a scene it would have been much higher up the list, but still, damn that that was awesome!

5. The Fight in the Cistern (Inferno) Inferno may have been a relatively weak film, but was saved by its riveting climax as a betrayed Langdon allies with the WHO to try and stop a viral breakout in a cistern in Istanbul. Hans Zimmer’s superb track ‘Cistern’ really makes this a heart-stopper and the divergence from the book really leaves you with no clue how it will play out as Langdon and co fight with Zobrist’s extremists. Hell of an action scene.

4. Everything K2 does (Rogue One) K2 was easily the best character in Rogue One (not that that was easy or anything) and made the film sassier and more hilarious that I’d have ever expected it would be. His constant deadpan humour and the brutal way he took down imperial soldiers were the icing on the cake in one of the best films of the year.

3. Airport Battle (Captain America: Civil War) Civil War was the best superhero film of the year, and its highlight was the fight between Team Cap and Team Iron Man in a deserted airport, which was both highly amusing and seriously cool. Spidey and Ant-Man arguably stole the show, but every character got a chance to shine even if, as usual with Marvel, there weren’t really any lives at stake here. Still, this was a high point of an excellent film – shame they bottled out on giving it a memorable ending afterwards, but still, perfect popcorn cinema here.

2. Batman takes down Superman (Dawn of Justice) Despite the controversial way the fight ended with the whole ‘Martha’ scene, the fight itself between the two giants of the DC universe was the high point of the film. Batman uses a state of the art battlesuit and some Kryptonite gas-grenades to not only pose a genuine threat to superman, but after a titanic struggle, actually beats him. The whole ‘Man VS God’ thing the film was going for paid off beautifully here, even if the film as a whole still has a wealth of problems, this scene alone was worth it.

1. The Battle of Scarif (Rogue One) Wow. Now that is how you do a finale! The battle between the Rebels and the Empire had everything: awesome visuals, high stakes, tension and good direction. An epic way to cap off the first Star Wars spin-off film and without doubt the best sequence in film this year. Well done Gareth Edwards, Felicity Jones et al, this was simply amazing!

I’ve seen a fair few films that don’t have appearances here (Deadpool, Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange etc.) but I couldn’t think of any stand-out moments in those films – they are entertaining throughout, but there aren’t any moments of greatness. Suicide Squad was too poor to merit a place here, and I haven’t seen many other films this year, so there may be some omissions.

My Film Awards 2016:

Best Film: Rogue One
Best Director: Gareth Edwards (Rogue One)
Best Script: Captain America Civil War
Best Special Effects: Doctor Strange
Best Soundtrack: James Newton Howard(Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)
Best Actress: Felicity Jones (Inferno/Rogue One)
Best Actor: Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
Best Voice Actor: Alan Tudyk (Rogue One)
Worst Actor: Jesse Eisenberg (Dawn of Justice)
Worst Actress: Holly Hunter (Dawn of Justice)
Worst Script: Suicide Squad
Worst Director: David Ayer (Suicide Squad)
Worst Soundtrack: Suicide Squad
Worst Film: Suicide Squad (noticing a pattern here? Well done DC…)

Doctor Strange Review

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen

Warning: Major Spoilers (but this has been out for several weeks so I’m assuming most of you will have seen it!)

First up, the positives: visually, the film is stunning and has the most memorable special effects I’ve ever seen in a Marvel film. The direction was superb, particularly in the mind-bending Mirror-realm segments. The acting was excellent as well, with Benedict Cumberbatch nailing both the arrogant, slightly unlikeable Doctor and the hero you end up rooting for in the second half (the transition in Strange’s personality is both believable and well executed). Rachel McAdams was one of the better love interests Marvel has given us (putting both Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman’s bland attempts to shame) being both believable, likeable and a important character in her own right. Chiwetel Ejiofor shines as Mordo, Strange’s mentor/friend/ally destined to become his nemesis (as comic-book fans well know), Benedict Wong and Tilda Swinton are excellent supporting characters and Mads Mikkelsen makes the most of his thankless role as yet another forgettable Marvel villain in Sorcerer Caecilius. The only major downside of the production was the soundtrack, which is very workmanlike and forgettable when it really should be complementing the sense of wonder the visuals are providing – especially disappointing from Michael Giacchino (who scored the Incredibles, which has a great soundtrack, so we know he could have done better).

I won’t go into detail about the film’s plot (mainly because AGAIN its something we’ve seen before in Marvel’s origin stories – Guy struggles with adverse circumstances, guy becomes a hero, underdeveloped villain has seemingly overcomeable advantage, hero’s mentor/parent dies/hero defeats villain rather easily/hero gets girl – seriously – get some new fucking ideas Marvel! At the very least give us a decent villain who doesn’t lose the final confrontation in 2 mins for once!!!!) Caecilius was the latest in a line of one-note villains played by talented actors who don’t get enough screen time (seriously, aside from , Magneto, Loki and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy’s villains when have any Marvel villains ever gotten a decent amount of screen-time and good writing backing them up???)

Fortunately Dormammu was a step-up as a villain, despite his 5 mins of screen time, Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the villainous entity lent him a feeling of sheer power and malovence that Marvel villains almost always fail to achieve. Hopefully he will return in the sequel (or maybe be a more prominent villain in phase 4 once Thanos is dealt with? He was dealt with rather easily – but it was refreshing that the hero had to bargain for Earth’s safety rather than fight because Dormammu was too powerful to defeat outright – and only lost because of Strange’s infinity stone.

As yes, the Eye of Agamotto is officially the Time Stone. Five down, one to go, and if the comics are an indicator, the Soul Stone will show up in Guardians 2. I’ll say this for Marvel, they are building up Infinity War remarkably well… don’t blow it now guys. Also shown were two post-credit scenes, one with Strange and Thor joining forces (presumably setting up the events of Thor:Ragnarok) and the other revealing the villain for the second film (surprise! Not really. Its Mordo, whose shift from hero to villain seemed a bit abrupt to me – i’d rather see him slowly be corrupted in film 2 and then be the villain in a third film, but I doubt that’s what Marvel has planned). The Thor scene was brilliant, fortunately featuring a return to the lightness that makes Thor such a fun character to watch.

Overall, a very fun and enjoyable Marvel film with dazzling visuals and a winning turn from Cumberbatch, plus the best post-credits scene Marvel’s given us in years. Unfortunately plot-wise, we’ve seen it all before, and Mads Mikkelsen is the latest great actor to be wasted in a thankless role as an under-used villain (following Ben Kingsley, Christopher Eccleston, Lee Pace etc.) hopefully Mordo will avoid that fate in the inevitable sequel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

So for those interested on my list of Superhero films in 2016 this would come fourth, behind Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse but ahead of Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Marvel has officially won 4-0 in 2016 (thank god DC has a far better run on TV – its getting creamed at the cinema – hopefully Wonder Woman and Justice league can save them!) Despite their success, my patience with Marvel playing it safe is running low – if Black Panther ends up being another bloody origin story with the same plot and a forgettable villain I’m going to explode.

Article: Which is the best Avengers film?

The MCU faced it’s biggest test when Ant-Man appeared in cinemas – the skepticism was high and the anticipation low. It wasn’t the disaster many expected – but how does it stack up to the other Avengers outings so far? Here’s my list of Avengers films ranked in order of quality – with a few surprises…

Warning: Spoilers! And definite controversy.

I’m ignoring the 2003 Hulk film – because 1. I haven’t seen it. 2. It’s reputation isn’t great. 3. It isn’t technically part of Marvel’s phase one even if the Incredible Hulk is a sort of follow-up to it.

12. Iron Man 2: No surprises here. Iron Man 2’s reputation has never been good. It’s villains are notoriously weak (the OTT Whiplash and the dull/unthreatening Justin Hammer), the plot isn’t much different from Iron Man (someone trying to steal/reproduce Stark’s technology and use it for their own purposes) Gwyneth Paltrow is irritating throughout and the action sequences are generally by-the-numbers. The one exception is the thrilling Monaco Grand Prix sequence where Whiplash attacks Stark. Other plus points? Robert Downey Jr. is as good as ever, and Scarlet Johannson as Black Widow livens things up considerably. Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

11. Iron Man Probably the most overrated Marvel film, the initial Iron Man outing might have seemed a breath of fresh air back in 2008, but looking back on it’s shortfalls are obvious: its by the numbers villain isn’t very memorable, Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t get an awful lot to do as Tony’s love interest (though as its Gwyneth Paltrow maybe that’s a good thing!) and barring the sequence where Stark battles a couple of American fighter planes in his Iron Man suit, the action sequences aren’t anything special. All that said, there’s nothing terrible here and Downey Jr… (you get the point, the guy is easily the best thing about any of the Iron Man films so i don’t need to praise his performance again). Fun to watch but a very average superhero film. Rating: 3 out of 5

10. Iron Man 3: This should have been so much higher up the list. The first hour was pretty brilliant. And then one plot twist ruined everything. Way to go Marvel, the Mandarin-is-actually-an-actor plot twist is still the worst fuck-up you’ve ever made. The film itself is actually decent enough despite this, especially Downey Jr., but Guy Pearce is not in Ben Kingsley’s league as the replacement villain. Had Kingsley been the real Mandarin, and had they killed off Gwyneth Paltrow at the end rather than copping-out, this could have got 5 stars. A monumental missed opportunity! Rating: 3.5 out of 5

9. Thor: The Dark World: A very entertaining film. Just not a great one. The most undeveloped villain of the series (a criminally wasted Christopher Eccleston as Malekith) is pushed to the sides by Loki (though I’d argue this film makes best use of Loki of the three appearances he’s had). Chris Hemsworth is far more likeable as Thor this time around, and the supporting characters are all a joy to watch. Good soundtrack too. But it’s all too familiar to get a high rating – hopefully Thor: Ragnarok will take a few more risks and have a better villain alongside Loki. Rating: 3.5 out of 5

8: Captain America: The First Avenger: The first one on this list I’ve done a full review of, so I’ll keep this brief. Decent plot, decent villain and a good supporting cast, but a weak ending fight between Cap and Red Skull and too much patriotism for any non-American viewers. Peggy Carter is still one of the best love interests the series has produced. Rating: 3.5 out of 5

7: Thor: The first of the really good Marvel films, Thor’s origin story surpasses that of Cap and Iron Man with ease. The supporting cast are all excellent, particularly Odin and Loki. Problems? The destroyer, one of the toughest foes in the comics, is defeated rather easily, and Thor isn’t particularly likeable for the first 1/2 of the film but it’s good value nonetheless. Rating: 4 out of 5

Wondering why Ant-Man hasn’t cropped up yet? I warned you this list had surprises, and the next film is another one…

6: The Avengers/Avengers Assemble: Yep. Seriously. The second-most overrated Marvel film comes in at sixth. Hell i almost put Thor higher. Yes it was what we’d all been waiting for. The biggest team up in superhero history. But that doesn’t make it an automatic classic. The final hour is undeniably great (but with two major plot contrivances – Hulk’s sudden ability to control his anger and the way the Chitauri all die when the wormhole closes – er why exactly?). The first half of the film isn’t anything special, seeing the heroes meet and interact is fun, but barring the fight between Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, nothing is particularly memorable. Black Widow and Hawkeye also don’t get much to do. It is a very entertaining film. But Nolan trilogy quality? Not even close, so… Rating: 4 out of 5

5. The Incredible Hulk: If you missed this one i don’t blame you, i only saw it this summer on TV. Barring a Tony Stark cameo it hasn’t much of an impact on the series (though antagonist General Ross is set to appear in Civil War). However it’s actually a remarkably good film. It’s also by far the darkest and deepest of any of the Marvel films. Edward Norton is good as Bruce Banner/Hulk (but I’m still glad they went with Ruffalo for the Avengers because he has such good chemistry with Stark and Black Widow) and Liv Tyler is great as love interest Betty Ross. General Ross (her father) and Emil Blonsky/the Abomination (Tim Roth) are a decent pair of villains. Barring the first ten minutes or so, the film throws you into events remarkably quickly and the four sequences where Banner Hulks out are great (the effects haven’t dated too badly – unlike the 2003 Hulk film). It’s not the standard Marvel film, but it’s nonetheless worth a look. Rating: 4 out of 5.

As you may now have guessed, my top four films are the last four Marvel has released, but I’d be surprised if you can guess what order they are in (unless you’ve read all my reviews of them)…

4. Guardians of the Galaxy:  Marvel could have stumbled with this. But they didn’t and created one of the most popular superhero ensembles from characters virtually no-one knew about. Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper are great as the voices of Groot and Rocket, and Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt have shot to fame (now starring in Spectre and Jurassic World respectively) after their winning turns as Drax the Destroyer and Peter Quill (Star-Lord). The soundtrack is awesome, the action sequences engaging and the script is pretty funny. Only weak villains and a lack of complexity stop it going higher up the list. Rating: 4 out of 5

3. Age of Ultron: The biggest blockbuster in the bunch kicks into gear a hell of a lot faster than it’s predecessor, and the character interaction is just as fun second time around. Black Widow and Hawkeye really come to the fore here, and the Hulk vs. Iron Man (in Hulkbuster armour) fight is one of the best sequences in the Marvel universe. Ultron is a good villain, but still not as menacing as I’d have liked, and Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver don’t get all that much to do. It tries to pack too much in, but 80% of it works brilliantly regardless. Great ending though, and a promising mid-credits tease for Infinity War. Rating: 4 out of 5

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The first outright classic Marvel made, Cap 2 has everything, great villains, one great plot twist involving Shield and HYDRA, engaging action scenes, a good final fight between Cap and the Winter Soldier, and a great supporting cast, particularly newcomer Falcon and a more playful yet still bad-ass Black Widow. Not quite perfect – the Nick Fury plot twist is so obvious I’m knocking half a mark off out of annoyance – but it came very close. Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This means the Winner is… no wait surely not… oh yes it is… it’s Ant-Man!

1.  Ant-Man: The real shock. I wasn’t sold for the first 30 minutes but once this hits its stride it never lets up. It’s one of the funniest films of the year – a wise move, as playing this as a serious film would never have worked. It takes the Guardians formula and makes everything sillier but at the same time, more successful. Paul Rudd is a charismatic, Chris Pratt-esque leading man who it’s impossible not to root for. It has a good villain from Corey Stoll as Yellowjacket, a good supporting cast, a great cameo/fight scene with Falcon, a comedy heist crew with a ton of great one liners and its fair share of heartfelt moments between fathers and daughters. Loved it. You might not and I’d understand why but for me, this is the best Marvel has ever done. Rating: 5 out of 5!

I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with this order. You’re free to. It’s only my opinion. Coming soon though, I’ll do similar lists for Batman and Superman as we build up to Dawn of Justice…

Movie Review: Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell

Warning: Spoilers!

The original two Fantastic Four movies were not well received. Personally i enjoyed Silver Surfer, but it still wasn’t a good enough improvement on the first film to merit a third. So now we have the reboot, which has gone in an entirely different direction with tone and style. So what worked? The casting for a start, was spot on. Miles Teller is spot-on as the nerdy outcast yet ambitious scientist Reed Richards and Sue (Kate Mara) and he bond far more believably than the previous origin story managed. Michael B. Jordan is fun as the wise-cracking Johnny and Reg. E. Cathey lends some gravitas as their father Franklin Storm. Aside from the casting the darker tone meant this didn’t feel like a total rehash of the original (which was the main problem with the Amazing Spiderman – it was too similar to Spiderman 1 to win audiences over completely – though i do like it). Given the low budget compared to some superhero films the special effects hold up pretty well, and the soundtrack is unremarkable but effective.

The best thing in the film? Without a doubt, it’s Doom. Victor himself is a far more believable, less OTT version of the character, but it’s after his transformation that Doom really shines. In the original films, you could believe that any of the Four could hold their own against Dr. Doom. In this one, you can’t. He’s far more powerful, menacing and scary (mainly down to his new ability to implode people’s heads – which was depicted far more graphically than i expected in a 12A film) In general this is the one thing this film got right compared to the previous attempts – it’s depiction of the heroes and Doom’s powers is much better.

Unfortunately, i just ran out of good things to say about the movie. The friend who i saw this with wouldn’t have even had that many positives – she totally hated it. Most other reviews I’ve seen were mixed to negative as well. This one is mixed – but if the sequel doesn’t improve things then they should scrap it again. For a relatively short film (just over 1h 40) it’s spends an awful lot of time on build up (which would be fine if it had been 2h 30, but as it is half the film feels like set-up, which is never good). To put this in perspective, it takes nearly 50 minutes before they acquire their powers and another 35 before Doom comes face to face with them – the last 15 minutes are pretty epic, but come far too late and for far too little time.

Other reviews criticised the four’s lack of chemistry, but I’d argue that’s down to the limited amount of screen time they share rather than the actors. I suspect yet again the studio is to blame for this (it is Fox after all) because the final 30 minutes feel very rushed (like a lot was cut perhaps) and the heroes only get one real confrontation with Doom . Can studio execs f*** off and let directors do their jobs please (after all X:Men The Last Stand, Spiderman 3 and Amazing Spiderman 2 have all been worse than they should have been for this reason – and this film is another case in point). The pacing is the film’s biggest problem by a long way. Overall there are some good ideas and casting here. But the script, pacing and plot are so weak it’s hard to notice them. I was going to give this film 3 out of 5, but because it was so much weaker than it should have been I’ll have to knock that down to…

Rating: 2.5 of 5. It’s officially as bad as Iron Man 2 and as much of a wasted opportunity as The Last Stand. Well done Fox…