SpiderMan Far From Home Review

I’m Back and so is Marvel, just a few short months after they released the mammoth that was Avengers: Endgame we have the return of Spiderman. Fresh from his exploits there, he is back and desperate to go on a school trip and have a break from the superhero life for his summer vacation with his school friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it turns out that quite a lot could go awry for Tony Stark’s protege, and indeed it does. The events that we see are hard to go into without spoilers, but I found the movie compelling throughout the whole run time, although there is a clear point in the film where things kick up a gear. This film is half about Peter Parker, half about Spiderman, but instead of feeling disjointed, i felt it really worked well showing the two sides of Peters life that he struggles to balance in every incarnation of the character.

I will start with the obvious for a Marvel flick now, the action. They nail it again, and even though the earlier fights feel a bit odd and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is given a number of cooler moments than Spidey. I didn’t mind too much, as I enjoyed everything about Mysterio in this film (more on that in a sec), but I did feel Spiderman felt a little under-powered. It is explained through the film why he might seem that way, but I wanted more from the early scenes.

In the latter part of the film the action picks up and goes to another level. Peaking at the end of the second act. I have loved these two characters, Spiderman and Mysterio, for a long time, and seeing them playing out the scene they do genuinely had my jaw dropped in disbelief. The film sets everything up in such a way that everything that happens feels feasible, something I never thought I would say about Mysterio. He has always been the one Spiderman villain i couldn’t see how they would ever get him into a movie. But my god did they nail it.

The look and the skill set of Mysterio is one thing, but getting an actor as talented as Jake Gyllenhaal to portray Quentin Beck is a masterstroke. The character’s arc is surprising, and I loved the way the film played him. It was a departure from what I expected in many ways, whilst also being exactly what I wanted. I will say no more as I can only imagine how fun this film is if you have no idea what to expect from Mysterio.

Now that the action and spectacular stuff has been talked about, I can get into the real shining light in this film. Tom Holland is unequivocally the greatest Peter Parker we have ever had on the silver screen, but a big part of that is the chemistry he shares with his supporting cast. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Zendaya as MJ, Tony Revolori as Flash all return from Homecoming, with a few new members of the group, most notably Angourie Rice as Betty Brant. They all really sell the idea of them being a group of friends, and provide some amazing comedic moments alongside their teacher Mr.Harrington played by Martin Starr.

The stars though are Tom Holland and Zendaya, who share chemistry that neither of their characters know quite how to deal with. This leads to some really genuine feeling moments of awkwardness that we can all relate to when we think back on our teenage years. I really hope as the franchise continues we see these characters grow together and deliver on the potential they have to replace, and arguably outshine, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as the power couple of the MCU.

Those two are absent from the movie, but playing a key role is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. He was there, acting and directing at the start of the Marvel Universe in Phase 1, and here he is at the end of phase 3. How they managed to film his parts in this film whilst he is also busy directing the Lion King, which comes out in two weeks time is an absolute marvel in scheduling. He was a distant contact for Peter in Homecoming, but now he has stepped up to be much more of a caring Uncle to peter, perhaps too caring in some ways. He and Peter share a scene which should have felt like a cheesy, too obvious wink at the camera, but the pair act the hell out of the scene and it earns it place as one of my favourite quiet moments in the entire MCU.

So there we have it, every MCU film we know of has now been released, and for the first time ever, we don’t know what lies ahead. The 2 after credits scenes hint at some things, but nothing obvious. Spiderman Far From Home feels like Marvel showboating. Showing off their Cinematic Universe with a wink and a nod, whilst also giving us a really fun teen comedy and delivering some of the most memorable moments we have had so far. Marvel is a movie machine, and Far From Home is another great film to add to the list.

Good: Spiderman, Peter Parker, Chemistry with the entire cast, an astounding action sequence, and two great after credits scenes.

Bad: Well at this point if the MCU isn’t for you, steer well clear. Also you will need to do your homework and see Endgame and probably Captain Marvel to understand everything in this film. Although you don’t have to see Endgame 5 times over like I did.

9/10 – Mysterio is in this film. Go see it.

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SPOILER FREE – Avengers Endgame Review

10 years, 21 films, over 38 hours of cinema. All of that in an effort to set up one film. That film is Avengers Endgame and the fact this even exists is enough to put a smile on my face. Did Marvel actually manage to land this incredible, decade long journey?

It kind of goes without saying at this point, but you should not watch this film without doing your homework. Without the supporting 21 films, this really doesn’t work at all. However this film does have the 21 supporting films it needs to be able to tell the finale of a story its audience is completely invested in. Characters we have loved for 10 years, with nearly all the same actors in the roles (Terrence Howard must be kicking himself) allow this movie to forego with setting up the protagonists. Last year’s epic Infinity War set up Thanos, and paid off on the promise of his looming presence over 10 years with a simple snap of the fingers.

So, all the characters are people we know and love, allowing Endgame to just be all action three hour romp right? Well, no it doesn’t. Endgame starts quick, and then kind of slows down to a brisk walk as it sets up the events of the film. I am being as vague as I can, as there is so much that could be spoiled. The first two acts are a slow build, very much like a piece of music. It puts into place all the elements needed before breaking out into a breathtaking crescendo that lasts an hour and will make nerds happier than when they have their first child.

The actors we have watched for 10 years are all excellent. Chris Evans consistently portrays Steve Rogers perfectly, and believably, although he shouldn’t have shaved that beard. Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson are all great and all get their moments to shine in ways we haven’t necessarily seen before. Top of the performances for me though are split between 4 people. Robert Downey Jr is of course amazing as Tony Stark, he started all this and is maybe the most accurate casting in history.

Less expected, at least to me, was Paul Rudd as Ant Man, he is genuinely funny, and also seems to have that giddy excitement about being an Avenger. Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, and he is given more to do and a better arc than any of his previous outings. The biggest surprise of all though is Karen Gillan, as daughter of Thanos, Nebula. She has been an odd, very one note character throughout, but for some reason in this film I got it. The character makes sense more than she ever has during this film and she is slowly becoming more human the more time she spends around the heroes.

There isn’t much I can talk about in this spoiler free review, except to say that I was hooked for 3 hours, and I felt incredibly satisfied with the ending. This is much less like a film, and more like the finale of an epic TV series. One with 22 feature length episodes, and more characters that you care about than most TV shows. If you are a Marvel fan, you are in for a great end to the “Infinity Saga” that started 10 years ago. This is an impossible film that works, and pays off a decade of hype in a satisfying way.

Good: Marvel fans will adore this film, and it will bring some nerds to tears, whether that Joyous or Sad tears I will let you decide.

Bad: As a standalone movie watched on its own, it makes very little sense, but nobody should go into any franchise at episode 22.

9/10 – They did it. Again. 

 

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse Review

Animation has come on a long way in the last couple of decades, with films like Iron Giant, Toy Story and Tangled pushing the technology used by filmmakers to new heights. Spiderverse takes that technology and uses it to produce what looks, even from just 10 seconds of a trailer, like nothing we have ever seen before. 

 Just from the stunning visual style alone, I had to see this one as soon as I could. A talented voice cast and a screenplay by one of the people behind The Lego Movie (Phil Lord) all just added to the appeal of this film. Straight away, you know you’re in for something different to the usual animated film, and also a departure from the Comic-Book movies we are all accustomed to by now.

Everyone knows Peter Parker, they know his story, and this film knows that everyone knows it. The jokes at the expense of previous movies and an abundance of easter eggs all pay their respects to Marvel’s most iconic hero. Spiderverse is not about Peter Parker though, it’s about the next most well-known spiderman, which is probably not a very well known character, Miles Morales. Essentially this is the origin story for that character, with a host of other spider-things involved. If you have watched a trailer you know there are 6 spider-characters in this film, and somehow, they all work brilliantly.

The film expertly handles its very comic-booky plot, involving multiple members of the Spiderman rogues gallery on top of introducing the multiverse with hints at there being infinite possible versions of the spiderman we know. Somehow this doesn’t get over complicated, and the film moves at a good pace constantly bringing new information to light, clever character interactions and twists on the norm that will surprise people.

The fast pace, fun characters and startling visual style really do make this film incredibly exciting to watch. Every frame could be hung on a wall and admired, and honestly I don’t think i have ever admired an animated films technical aspects as much as this film. The use of different animation techniques slammed together on one screen really does pop and your eye is drawn to every moment something new happens on-screen. This style is at its craziest in the action scenes, with colour flashing everywhere, comic book style pop up words, excellent framing for each scene so you can clearly see what each character is doing.

This is a film where the creators have chosen animation and then let their creativity go wild. There are no limits to what can be done in animation, and this film makes full use of that range. In a world of animated films becoming more and more lifelike, this goes against the grain and says why not have a (very minor spoiler) Spider-pig drop an anvil on a man-scorpion. It may possibly be a little to bombastic for some, but I found this films sense of fun is infectious and loved watching it.

In a films that is under 2 hours long and packed with so much light-hearted entertainment, there is still a lot of time spent on developing the character of Miles Morales, and his struggle coming to terms with having the burden of super powers on top of the struggle he is already dealing with as he is coming of age and the dynamic between him and his father is a really beautifully done element of the film.

I am aware I am just gushing about how great this film is, and that’s because to me this is not just the best animated film of the year, it’s up there with the best films of the year in general. The vocal performances are all excellent, bringing to life every character in a well written script. The technical skill in the editing, directing and cinematography are astounding and I am struggling to remember a film I liked this much for a long time.

I don’t have any negatives, for the casual movie goer who isn’t into nerd culture too much, this film is a very fun ride with some new characters alongside one most people know very well. For comic book fans, particularly spiderman fans, this is everything you love about comics in movie form. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is awesome.

Good: This film. All of it.

Bad: People who don’t like superhero films won’t like it, but even then I can’t imagine you wouldn’t have a decent time.

10/10 – Homecoming, Spiderman PS4 and now this, Spidey is killing it lately. 

Venom movie actually happening..

Sony are moving into production on a Venom film, to launch a Spiderman universe which is NOT connected to this year’s Spiderman Homecoming.

I honestly thought the rumours and stories would all die out and common sense would prevail but they’re going for it and Sony aim to create yet another superhero universe. This will feature all of the villains and side characters from the Spiderman comics, just sans Spiderman himself.

I always want to support new movies and I love comic book films as much as anyone but this smacks of desperation. The failure of the Amazing Spiderman films, which was meant to lead to multiple Spidey spin offs, led to Sony making a deal with Marvel and getting Spiderman in the MCU in Civil War and then Homecoming. The success of those films has sparked Sony to make an attempt to capitalise on the positive Spiderman buzz to create their own universe of Spidey characters.

Is there really an audience out there for a big budget Venom film? The main exposure the general public have to the character is from Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3 over a decade ago, and nobody has a positive memory of that mess of a film.

I hope I’m wrong, and that Sony have found a way to have their cake and eat it at the same time. Unfortunately I fear another flop could be in the pipeline for a studio that really needs its own hit now they have lost the rights for James Bond.

Mm.  Cake.

Spiderman Homecoming Review

Marvel and Sony collaborate to bring Spiderman to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in his own movie after the cameo he had in Civil War last year. Considering he is my all time favourite Marvel character my excitement for this film was through the roof. The trailers looked a little Ironman heavy, but the glimpse of Tom Holland we had in Civil War gave me so much hope.

Hope that was in good hands, as Spiderman Homecoming gave me everything i wanted from a Spiderman film. Tom Holland is so perfect as 15 year old Peter Parker, and he carries the film effortlessly with Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man being featured very little in comparison to what the trailers implied. This is very much a Spiderman movie and not Iron Man 4.

Tom Hollands school friends are an interesting bunch of characters with Zendaya’s Michelle and Jacob Batalon’s Ned being the most entertaining of the group. I felt there was a genuine friendship growing between those 3 in particular, and hopefully it can continue in any sequel we see as the dynamic is different to anything we have seen in the Spiderman world before.

The entire cast is pretty impressive in Homecoming, and none more so than the antagonist for this film Michael Keaton. In what is easily the most memorable Marvel villain since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Keaton brings an intensity to the role of the Vulture unlike what we have seen in Marvel villains to date. He is probably the first genuinely interesting villain from  a psychological perspective as the film sets up his motivations straight away, and you understand what he sees his role as in this world and why he is doing what he is doing.

The combination of the best Spiderman put to film to date and a rare great marvel villain blend in perfectly with the marvel movie fun tone we are used to. This films tongue in cheek, self aware humour make it one of the funniest films around, with the comedy blended very well into the movie to where it all feels like a natural progression throughout the film which is a credit to director Jon Watts who handles the young cast terrifically, guiding them through the transitions from light-hearted fun to dramatic and tense scenes.

The one area I felt Homecoming could improve is the action. Whilst it does have a terrific scene on a boat, the majority of the fighting is pretty cut heavy, chopping from angle to angle in a style that didn’t quite work for me. It isn’t transformers level bad by any means, but it could use a little cleaning up and maybe pulling back the camera a touch so we can see everything happening with less cuts.

Verdict

Spiderman Homecoming is one of my favourite MCU movies ever, I love the characterisation of the webslinger they have gone with and Tom Holland is so engaging in this role I could watch him quipping and swinging around for hours on end. The slightly choppy action hurt my score a little, but Spiderman Homecoming is still a great film.

9/10 – THEY PLAY THE TUNE AT THE START.