With the Avengers franchise hitting 13 films with Captain America: Civil War, there are understandably questions as to why we keep watching. The fact is that in terms of commercial success, critical acclaim and durability, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most successful movie franchise ever.
‘You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike god…’
Avengers vs Skynet…
The problem that director Joss Whedon faced when following up the inaugural Avengers movie is how to keep things fresh in the face of the series overall approaching double figures. To do this Whedon brings previously unexplored characters to the fore with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow enjoying much more screen time and a fleshed out back story.
Also helping to bring a different feel to Age of Ultron are new faces Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch respectively. I have been banging the Olsen drum for ages and whilst I would like to see her take on something more challenging she again impresses here.
Elizabeth Olsen continues her hot streak.
Perhaps the biggest ace in the pack for the Avengers sequel however is villain Ultron. Masterfully voiced by James Spader, Ultron is part Pinocchio, part Frankenstein’s monster and part Terminator to create a memorable and powerful antagonist for the Avengers to tackle.
In terms of the returning cast Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth improve in every instalment as Captain America and Thor as they have been allowed to grow into their roles gradually. While series favourites Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo take a bit more of a back seat in Age of Ultron, with Downey Jr seemingly coming to the end of his involvement in the Marvel universe.
It is very discouraging that Joss Whedon has decided to step down from the directing the third and final Avengers film Avengers: Infinity War as his talent in combining so many disparate characters into one finished article is unparalleled and with Ant-Man, Wasp, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Falcon, Captain Marvel and maybe ever the Guardians of the Galaxy rumoured to appear it is difficult to see how Avengers: Age of Ultron will not be the last great Avengers movie.
Colin Firth plays tinker, tailer, soldier and spy as Matthew Vaughn continues his hot streak.
With 2010’s Kick Ass, director Matthew Vaughn turned the comic book genre on it’s head with gritty realism and unfamiliar character arcs and story line. After continuing his good work in that area with X-Men: First Class (one of the finest films in the whole comic book genre), Vaughn has turned his talents to the classic espionage genre and if not reinvigorated it then certainly made it interesting again.
I wasn’t that taken with the Bourne franchise, despite my undying love for Matt Damon, and I flat out dislike Bond films so the only reason I ended up watching Kingsman was for the excellent cast and because of Matthew Vaughn’s track record (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick Ass and X:Men: First Class to date).
Heading up a mostly British cast are Colin Firth and Mark Strong who always collaborate well together and it is nice to see Strong as a supporting hero rather than as a stock British villain. Firth is a touch of class as ever and he has more of a twinkle in his eye in Kingsman than in some of his recent work which has appeared a bit phoned in since The Kings Speech.
Alongside Firth and Strong, relative newcomer Taron Egerton does a brilliant job as the protagonist in what is a tough role to pull off. The cockney wide boy can so easily become caricature but Egerton is equally at home in trackie bottoms or a smart suit and he could be one to keep an eye on for the future.
Slightly worrying is the inability to escape completely from genre trappings with tired plot devices like a ticking clock and also cartoonish villains (Samuel. L Jackson is disappointing as the antagonist) unfortunately present. Another concern is the action genre in general is still guilty of failing to find interesting roles for woman with Sophie Cookson little more than a prop in her supporting role here.
With Joss Whedon, JJ Abrams, Gareth Evans and to a lesser extent Zack Snyder doing great work on similar projects we could be entering a new golden age for big action blockbusters and Matthew Vaughn should be able to pick whatever project he wants next after such a strong start to his directing career.
Marvel takes a gigantic risk… and still remains triumphant.
Wolverine… but in Japan!
It is easy to get lost in the current X-men time line what with all the sequels, prequels, half reboots and origin stories so to get something straight The Wolverine is intended as a straight sequel to X-Men 3 so there is lots of a ghostly Jean Gray rearing her large forehead at inopportune times. Despite this obviously still being fresh in his mind ‘loner’ Wolverine still immediately finds himself embroiled with another damsel in distress in the form of newcomer Tao Okamoto’s Mariko. Before any of this however we see Logan at Nagasaki while the A bomb drops which makes for a pretty impressive visual spectacle.
The visuals are admirable throughout actually what with most of the movie taking place in vibrant and colourful Japan and the acting and basic premise are also solid. Hugh Jackman has now completely nailed playing Wolverine and gives possibly his best performance to date in the never ending franchise. The story is an interesting one and there is more to it than ‘What would happen if Wolverine fought Samurai!?’ but this being Marvel and and an action film it still falls into familiar tropes (good guys turn out to be bad guys and also a fight on top of a train? Really?).
One thing that sets The Wolverine apart from nearly every film that takes place in this world is the relative lack of actual mutants. Wolverine and antagonist Viper aside it is slim pickings with Logan mostly battling mere mortals plus his own inner demons which is an interesting direction to go in.
I love all of the X men films (apart from X-men 3) including X-Men Origins: Wolverine so it was going to be hard for experienced director James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted, Walk The Line) to miss as far as I am concerned but for Marvel sceptics this will do nothing to change anyone’s mind and for Marvel fans I know I am not the only one who would have much preferred a Deadpool or Gambit movie.
A solid if possibly unnecessary entry in an already bloated series.
Cast reunion for every actor to have ever played an x man…
Boring superhero saves world yet again…
Same characters. Different faces.
Nine (!) years after the original Sin City, director Robert Rodriguez finally gets round to releasing a sequel and it is mostly worth the wait.
Right off the bat it is pleasing to see Rodriguez and Miller are not resting on their laurels visually. Sin City: A Dame to Kill for not only matches the original in terms of looks it easily surpasses it adding a number of visual flourishes that work better than anything Rodriguez has previously attempted.
New additions Josh Brolin and particularly Joseph Gordon Levitt impress, the former stepping into Clive Owen’s shoes ably and the latter providing the best storyline of either film. Jessica Alba is also a big positive given more to do than just erotic dancing this time round and Mickey Rourke is on top and worryingly comfortable playing psychopath Marv.
The problem here is just how long it took to get this film made. In that time Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy have tragically passed away, Clive Owen has lost interest and Devon Aoki who was so great as Miho in the first instalment has all but quit acting to start a family. This leaves A Dame to Kill For feeling disjointed and frustrating. This could have been every bit as good as Sin City but nine years is a long time in Hollywood.
Robert Rodriguez gets the balance right between B Movie weirdness and Hollywood blockbuster with his adaptation of Frank Millers Sin City.
Sin City’s breathtaking visual style literally brought graphic novels to life and paved the way for 300, Watchmen and others.
Sin City was not just a trail blazer in this regard it is easily still the best in the genre. Visually it really is an impressive achievement with every shot looking like the pane of a comic book. Sin City was part of a golden age of comic book adaptations with Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins also released in the same time period and it deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as those mentioned.
Basin City is like Gotham but drenched in the film noir of the forties and the Americana of the seventies. This makes stars like Bruce Willis and Clive Owen perfectly fit this world with their classic leading men persona’s. The rest of the varied and talented cast don’t miss a trick with Rosario Dawson every inch a femme fatale and Mickey Rourke a revelation as the now iconic character of Marv.
Sin City is maverick director Robert Rodrigeuz’ masterpiece and if you haven’t seen it already now is the perfect time on the eve of the release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.