Archive for Stan Lee

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be the sleeper hit of Marvel Studios’ prolific output from the last 12 years because it came completely out of left field, with no huge stars (on-screen at least) and about characters very few had ever heard of. However, the mix of a hilarious script, irreverent soundtrack and the chemistry of the cast came together to blow audiences and critics away.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have that same luxury, people know what to expect from it. So, how does Vol. 2 go about replicating, if not building of the success of Vol. 1? As with so many sequels – especially in the comic-book genre – Vol. 2 goes bigger right from the jump.

The opening five to 10 minutes looks like it cost more money than any opening scene ever. But what the film does is focus on a very small, cute detail rather than the massive action set-piece happening in the background. And, in a way, that’s kind of the point of this particular franchise: the first film was about finding family, this film is about being a family – while also being a team that saves the galaxy.

Almost all the characters in Vol. 2 have been fleshed out and given more depth, rather than sticking with the templates that were sketched out in the fist film. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Drucker) have been given deeper issues to work through, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is more playful, the relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) has been deepened with Nebula giving the real reason for her hatred of her stronger sister. Drax (Dave Bautista) continues to be a scene stealer with all the best lines, but his character has even been given more depth. Instead of being a character that takes things completely literally, he is now trying to use sarcasm, though he still doesn’t understand it.

The only character that doesn’t seem to have been given more is Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), despite the fact he has become the leader of the group and is the lead human character that we’re supposed to empathise with. He’s found his biological father in Ego (Kurt Russell), a god of sorts that offers Quill the chance to become a god too. For some reason though, this his character doesn’t seem to have the spark or charisma that he did in the first film.

There are some decent, if not well-telegrahed, plot twists along the way and some great visuals. Some of the action sequences, especially towards the end of the film, can be a little hard to focus on because of the quick cutting and the fact that there is so much going on.

There are some interesting cameos including Sylvester Stallone (who is difficult to understand), Ving Rhames (fleetingly), the Hulk (possibly), Jeff Goldblum (buried in the credits) and David Hasselhoff (bizarrely)! But my personal favourite was Stan Lee’s double cameo that goes some way to addressing a fan theory about his cameos. In it he is communing with the Watchers, a race of aliens who oversee the Marvel universe, telling them about his various entanglements with superheros on Earth. It would have been truly mind-blowing had he referenced a cameo in one of the Fox or Sony films… but that’s me getting super-geeky about things. Is he a Watcher in human form, or just a human go-between, keeping them abreast of goings on they may have missed?

If anything, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a funnier film than it’s predecessor and has been given more substance. The few criticisms levelled at it are the abundance of characters muddying things, the lack of development of the central character and the fact that a lot of what happens in the film relies on your knowledge of the previous film, even more so than most of the other films Marvel puts out. But if you’re seeing a film with Vol. 2 in the title before seeing the first, you’re doing something wrong.

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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!