Archive for S.H.I.E.L.D.

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Captain-America-Winter-Soldier

The Marvel machine continues on its march towards the second Avengers film by revisiting The First Avenger; Captain America.

We pick up with Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) years after the events of Avengers Assemble where he is fully integrated into S.H.I.E.L.D. but is beginning to have some doubts about working with such a paranoid organisation and longs to be back in the army following orders rather than keeping secrets or having secrets kept from him. Deep down, though, he knows that there’s nothing else he can do and that he is needed. However, that feeling isn’t necessarily share with some of the top brass in S.H.I.E.L.D.

More screen time is given to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who, until now, has cropped up here and there to give guidance to superheroes having a crisis of faith. He has been the orchestrator, but we haven’t seen him in arse-kicking action. Until now A plot has been hatched for his assassination during which his car is attacked and we see how Fury reacts when put under pressure, aided by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s technology.

During this scene the Winter Soldier makes his first appearance, a masked man with a metal arm and a proficiency with firearms. He also proves to be quite the match for The Cap too, he’s also super humanly strong with an arm that is even stronger. But the biggest revelation comes later when The Winter Soldier’s mask is knocked off. and throws Cap into a deeper moral quandary.

The Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johnansson), has more screen time than in previous Marvel movies to date. But in a less arse-kicking way. We see a more emotionally compromised Romanoff who has found out the organisation responsible for her second chance at life have been lying to her all along and something wicked has been growing for a long time within its structure.

In fact, Captain American: The Winter Soldier is as much of a political spy thriller as a comic book movie can be. There are some great action set pieces but quite a bit of the film features Rogers and Romanoff de-costumed, in the same way The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3 have done recently with their protagonists. The pair are on the run as Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., has put a bounty out on them. This is a film about spying and counter-spying with a comic book twist.

There are so many special appearances in this film from big names like Redford and Jenny Agutter to bit-players from the previous films including Cobie Smulders as Agent Hill, who had a really small part, Maximiliano Hernández as Agent Sitwell, Gary Shandling, the corrupt senator from Iron Man 2 and many more including Toby Jones as the disembodied Arnim Zola. A couple of notable newcomers include Emily VanCamp, who looks to be set up to be a major player in future films and Anthony Mackie who starts off as an ex-soldier who befriends Steve Rogers, but ends up being a new hero in the same vein as Hawkeye, called Falcon. He is the standout character in the film and needed more screen time than he was given.

This is the strongest of the phase 2 Marvel films so far and any completest will be more than happy with it and there are more than enough easter egg moments to keep you looking deeply into the background as well as on the story. However, if you’re a newcomer to the franchise there may be a little too much going on that you need to understand first in order to understand all that’s going on. The obligatory mid and post-credit scenes set up a few new characters for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film coming out next year. Roll on 2015, the verdict is still well and truly out on the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. You’ll read it here first… I’m sure!

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Review: Thor

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Thor is the latest in the slew of Marvel films leading up to ‘The Avengers’, coming out next year, and the first of the massive budget blockbusters of the Summer.

This is a slightly different beast than its superhero predecessors in that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) isn’t actually a superhero; he is the eponymous Norse God with the magic hammer, Mjöllnir. Though rather than Conan-style loin cloths or Hagar the Horrible furs and horned hats, these Norse Gods wear futuristic fantasy armour and chainmail. Thor even manages to get away with wearing a cape.

The premise is that Thor is banished to Earth from Asgard after invoking the wrath of a race of Ice Giants from another realm, Jotunheim,  by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Upon his arrival he is hit by a car carrying a group of scientists who have been studying strange weather patterns in the desert near the U.S./Mexican border. Now lost and hospitalised Thor has to redeem himself to regain his powers, which have also been stripped from him.

Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents find Mjöllnir in the desert and begin to confiscate the work of the scientists who ran him over. This team is led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, who is having a very busy year), or possibly Erik Selvig (Stellen Skarsgård) and accompanied by, for no obvious reason, Darcey Lewis (Kat Dennings). Portman becomes the love interest in a tender scene on top of the building she works and lives in where Thor explains where he comes from.

So Thor helps them to get their work back just as the rest of his pals (whose names I didn’t catch and weren’t repeated enough for you to remember them, which was a shame) from Asgard beam down to Earth to warn him of foul play back home involving his mischievous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleson). Loki has sent a behemoth down to smite them all and the obligatory ridiculous giant robot fight scene starts with Thor eventually regaining his powers after seemingly giving his life for the fate of the world…or the shit-splat desert town he has found himself stranded in.

The Gods and Goddesses beam back to Asgard to face-off against Loki who has taken the throne, and whose motivations become slightly blurred at this point. But after a fist-fight and destroying the Rainbow Bridge, which connects Asgard to the other realms, and therefore from Jane, the film ends with both of them trying to find a way back to each other (Jane having been recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D.) which will obviously happen as it is stated in the credits that “Thor will return in The Avengers”.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film’s visual style is breathtaking. The quality of the landscapes of Asgard and the Ice Giant’s world of Jotunheim are incredibly well detailed and textured. The costumes are worthy of note as well, though if the acting wasn’t as good as it is they could have run the risk of looking camper than Christmas.

The acting isn’t so serious that the film loses sight of the fact it’s a comic book adaptation; there are some genuinely funny moments of slapstick where Thor is hit by a car, tasered and sedated by a large group of doctors while trying to escape a hospital. The scene-stealer though is Anthony Hopkins as Odin: he is a larger-than-life actor who clearly relishes hamming it up to play the king of the Gods unlike Stellen Skarsgård, who barely manages to conceal his bewilderment with the storyline. But top marks to Hemsworth who resembles and acts like a more muscular Brad Pitt circa ‘Troy’ with a real knack at comedic acting like later career Pitt.

This is a big, big blockbuster where everyone involved in the film is having a lot of fun and this genuinely rubs off on the audience. After a slow start, with a lot of back story explanation, you find yourself getting more involved as the story kicks off and unfolds. By the end you realise you’re having a brilliant time as is everyone else. Instead of feeling like a prequel to ‘The Avengers’ I feel this film stands up well on its own alongside the likes of its Marvel counterparts.