Archive for Marvel

Review: Doctor Strange

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan


The second of the Marvel films for 2016 is the first new character’s origin story since Guardians of the Galaxy, the difference with Doctor Strange is that it goes back to introducing a single character.

Doctor Strange’s story reflects the, by now, familiar origin arc: Arrogant, wealthy surgeon, Stephen Strange gets into a car accident that damages his hands, effectively ending his career. On his quest to regain his former life he spends his vast wealth on all sorts of consultations, none of which work until he learns about a place in Nepal that helped a crippled man to walk again. He spends the last of his money to get there and is eventually taken in by what look like Buddhist monks where he is trained in magic.

It’s a very familiar arc to Tony Stark in Iron Man, except the Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is quite an unlikable character, shunning the help and support of a, frankly, marginalised Rachael McAdams as the long-suffering, on-again-off-again love interest. He is also dismissive of everyone, much like Stark is, except Stark still manages to keep you on side because he oozes charm. Strange is just a bit of a dick.

There are some amazing visuals in this film, which are based on the city bending visuals introduced in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. The technology has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade, however, at the world-bending that happens in Doctor Strange is almost too much to focus on. But it’s really impressive.

Tilda Swinton is always a class act and largely silences critics of whitewashing with a brilliant performance as The Ancient One. Bennedict Wong’s character, … Wong, is Strange’s man-servant in the comics, thankfully he’s given a more rounded role here as the librarian and keeper of spells, although he is proven to be a little incompetent in this area. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen round off the main cast and lend real heft to both Strange’s mentor, Mordo and the villain of the piece, Kaecilius respectively.

As visually amazing and full of top-class actors as Doctor Strange is, it is let down by the formulaic origin story, too many quips from characters that don’t feel like they should be quipping and the treatment of its female characters, something Marvel really need to sort out after nearly a decade. Rachael McAdams is largely sidelined and Tilda Swinton’s character is killed off. The only strong female character Marvel has is Black Widow, it amazes me that they keep writing out virtually all their female characters. But that’s another blog altogether.

One of the things that does make Doctor Strange stand out from the rest of the superhero genre is that the final battle, for all it’s CG-ness isn’t a big laser battle where two big machines/monsters level a city, it’s more a battle of minds. Yet it certainly isn’t a thinking person’s film!

The inclusion of multi-dimensional travel will make the future films very interesting indeed and could be the way Marvel reboots after the contracts of the original actors expire. Though I’d still rather see Deadpool kill the Marvel Universe!


Review: Captain America: Civil War

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Captain America Civil War poster

This is the second film this year where the good guys are punching each other in the face because of disagreements over how to deal with collateral damage caused during previous films in the franchise. Though instead of two heroes we have about six on each side in this film. Is it too much?

Before I answer this question there’s another, more pressing question at hand: How long can Hollywood keep pumping out superhero films before they reach a critical mass and people get bored? How long can they keep making enough money to continue their franchises into the 2020s and beyond like they’re planned for?

The last few films about costumed crimefighters have left me feeling a bit nonplussed leading me to question whether they’re working any more. Avengers: Age of Ultron was underwhelming with some great bits, Ant Man was fun but not great and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had some great moments but was a complete mess.

Fortunately, for me, Captain America: Civil War raises the bar back up again for this tired genre. It is unfair to compare CA: CW and BvS: DoJ, but it’s inevitable. Where the DC/Warner Brothers film felt like something to endure, despite rattling along, Marvel know how to invite the audience in and have fun. Even when everything is going wrong, it’s still colourful and interesting to look at, except for a certain scene near the end which is heart-wrenching to watch. This can only be achieved after experiencing these characters’ stories over the last eight years and got to know them as (almost) fully rounded characters through multiple movies, something the darker DC/WB films failed at as we don’t know much about any of their current clutch of characters.

It would be fairer to compare CA: CW to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron was potentially a great villain, but the film was mishandled and felt like a film made by committee rather than by an auteur. Once again though, Marvel killed off a great villain, which is what is so refreshing about CA: CW. It is cleverly written by the Russo brother, just like CA: Winter Soldier was and, although Crossbones was killed off in the first scene (bad Marvel!), they have introduced the most calculating villain since Loki in Zemo. And he didn’t even wear a costume or even a uniform.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel oeuvre, you’ll really enjoy this, it has all the colour, panache and witty dialogue you’ve come to expect. But there is also real heartbreak in the fallout from Zemo’s plan and the conclusion of the film has an ellipsis that really makes you wonder where the characters are going to go from here.

CA: CW is the Avengers film we deserved from A: AoU and expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe further, amazingly giving each of the myriad characters enough time to shine in their own right. The film  is stolen by stand out performances from Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Ant Man does something you may not expect and there’s a really great bit of misdirection involving Zemo’s plan the Winter Soldier(s).

There’s a heck of a lot going on in this movie, but even so there were two or three moments where the film sags, unlike BvS: DoJ you are acutely aware of how long you’ve been in the cinema during these scenes. But even so you always know what’s going on and each character’s motivation is crystal clear and that’s a testament to the writing and the storytelling that has come before this.

Put simply, I’m really looking forward to the Spider-Man and Black Panther movies, but CA: CW has rejuvenated my interest in the superhero genre, for the time being.

Review: Deadpool

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Deadpool Poster

First off: I thought I’d posted this over a month ago. Secondly: I’m a massive Deadpool fan, so this review could be heavily biased. (Aside: It will be.)

What is there to say about this film that either hasn’t already been said or could possibly spoil it. For once we’ve been given a film where the trailer gave away quite a lot of the plot and the set-pieces, but it didn’t matter.

Deadpool isn’t a traditional super hero film and it has managed something Fox, Sony, Warner Brothers and even Marvel have failed to do; appeal broadly to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise go. The Warner Bros. films might be seen as too earnest, the Marvel films might seem too unwieldy what with all those characters and interlinking stories, The Fox films have messed about with time-travel and the Sony films have re-invented Spider-Man for the umpteenth time. Deadpool stars heart-throb Ryan Reynolds, it looks funny, and it’s not taking itself seriously at all.

This is why Deadpool has given Fox its highest opening weekend ever, even more than Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and the highest opening weekend for a 15 (R-Rated) movie ever. It’s different from anything people have seen in a super hero film. And this should worry you.

I could go on to describe how I started laughing about five seconds into the film and didn’t stop throughout, or the fact that Reynolds was born to play this role. I could also go into the two-dimensional supporting cast and how this isn’t necessarily a problem. I could even go on to explaining all the in-jokes and how much this is a film for the fans that, somehow, appeals to many more than the core Deadpool-reading audience. But there’s no reason as everyone is saying he same thing and by now you really should have seen it.

What I will say is that Hollywood regurgitates successes ad nauseam until it gets old, so expect to see a lot more gore and close-to-the-knuckle comedy in superhero films going forward. Already Warner Bros. have said there will be an R-Rated version of Batman v Superman;Dawn of Justice for the DVD/Blu-Ray release and Fox have stated their final Wolverine movie will be R-Rated too. The problem with this is that the gore and some of the language suits Deadpool, it may work for Wolverine, but it doesn’t really suit Batman and really isn’t needed in a Superman film.

Not everything needs to follow a successful formula to be a hit. Deadpool didn’t and look what happened there… oh, wait…

If you’ve not seen this film it’s too late, but it is well worth a watch. Could be a little annoying for those not familiar with ‘the Merc with the Mouth’, but that’s who he is and this film is unashamed of that, as it should be.

Review: Ant-Man

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan


Paul Rudd is the latest comedic-actor-turned-superhero in Marvel’s latest cinematic outing, Ant-Man.

He plays Scott Lang, an ex-con trying to turn his life around so he can spend more time with his daughter who idolises him. This is a refreshing change from the recent Marvel films which deal with giant armies of murderous robots or legions of aliens or cosmic forces. The stakes in Ant-Man are very small (no pun intended).

Unfortunately the career choices for an ex-burglar are limited, and after getting fired from a milkshake bar he is tempted back for one last ‘job’. A rich man has gone out-of-town and has a safe, the contents of which could change his life.

Once the safe has been cracked all that it contains is a suit. Disappointed, Lang takes it anyway and decides to try it on. Thus starts a new chapter of his life as the Ant-Man.

He is mentored by former Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who, it turns out, had set up the robbery in the first place. Pym has been bought out of his own company by his protegé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who plans the weaponise the idea of the Ant-Man suit, calling it the Yellowjacket. Pym needs Lang to become Ant-Man to stop Cross before the technology falls into the wrong hands.

The casting is great, Paul Rudd is a great comedic presence, Michael Douglas provides a seasoned performance of a weaker, former hero who is out to protect the world, but also his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who gives a suitably waspish (pun intended) performance.

The supporting cast of Lang’s conspirators, Michael Peña, T.I. and David Dastmalchian provide the comic relief when the plot gets a little tied up. The scenes where fast talking Peña is describing how he has heard about certain jobs through the grapevine are hilarious and reminds you of certain scenes from Spaced.

The fingerprints of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s original script are still there throughout the film and have a distinctness that Wright’s work often has. The problem is that the parts re-written but Rudd and Adam McKay stand out only inasmuch as they don’t ‘pop’ like the bits that seem to have been left in from the original script.

The plot is incredibly complex, with many sub-plots going on and reveals happening , but it doesn’t feel as constrained as the recent Age of Ultron script where everything is happening to set up the next phase of films, leaving very little space for Joss Whedon to tell a coherent story.

Ant-Man is a breath of fresh air in a franchise that is quickly becoming saturated with the same characters teaming up and competing for screen time. It’s nice to have a stand-alone(ish) film that introduces some great new ideas and characters.

Ant-Man may be a bit messy, but it has fun in the process. It’ll be interesting to see how the swathe of new characters slated to be introduced in the coming years will go down, hopefully Marvel will feel like it doesn’t have to rely on throwing in characters from other properties to sell what could be a self-contained movie.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 133 – Spoilercast: Ant-Man

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan


This is the latest in the spoilercasts, episodes where Ant and Tom talk in great detail about films they’ve seen at the cinema and are very excited about. This week’s film is the latest offering from Marvel/Disney, Ant-Man.

As usual (and as the title of the episode suggests), there will be massive amounts of spoiling in this episode. So, if you’ve not seen the film yet, and want to (you should have done by now!), it’s probably best that you go see the film first before listening.

You have been warned.

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Anywhere But Here, Episode 121 – What Are Words?

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan


This week’s episode starts off with a catch-up on the social interactions of the last week, including one listener’s suggestion for an improvement to beans on toast, which gets Ant and Tom talking about food and also getting fit.

There were comments on Age of Ultron, which lead on to the pictures released from the set of Suicide Squad, the trailers for Super Girl and Legends of Tomorrow.

Tom has been watching John Hughes films with Jo in the last few weeks and has conflicting views from her on certain ones, which sparks the debate; is it nostalgia that blinds you to the fact certain films date badly?

Guitarists are discussed as the documentary, ‘It Might Get Loud’, featured The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White, throwing conflicting views of certain musicians. Plus, the Edge falls off a stage while on tour!

In the real world, Kim Jong Un may or may not have executed another of his officials, while in the world of Guild Wars 2 a player found hacking the game had his avatar publicly executed.

It was a strange episode this week as Ant and Tom both space on names of people, bands and films. If this is your first taste of Anywhere But Here, please go and listen to any other episode. We’ll be back and better next week. Promise!

Here’s The Edge falling off stage at a recent gig:

Guild Wars 2 hacker’s character get’s publicly executed:

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow trailer:

Supergirl trailer:

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Anywhere But Here, Episode 120 – Spoilercast: Age of Ultron

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan


This week, talk turns to Ant’s honeymoon to Ibiza, helium running out – even though it’s the second most abundant element in the universe, and the election results, as well as listener interaction.

Then the episode proper takes place. In a change to the usual schedule, Ant and Tom give a spoiler heavy review of Avengers: Age of Ultron. So, if you’ve not seen the movie yet, you may want to leave this episode until you’ve seen the film. Then come back. Please.

Please send in your views on the film to the email address below, so you don’t ruin things for people on social networks.

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