So sad to hear that the legendary Stan Lee has passed away. The creator of many of our favourite super heroes, including Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, he was the pioneer of many a kid’s childhood fantasies and well, we wouldn’t have the Marvel Cinematic Universe without his boundless imagination. He will be sadly missed.
The prospect of a new entry in this long running franchise, for me would always come with a degree of trepidation . Previously Rob Zombie attempted to reboot it with his remake and then the ill-conceived Halloween 2, one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. So we come to this latest attempt … how does it fair?
A sequel set 40 years after the events of the original 1978 movie has Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode now a paranoid recluse, estranged from her family and still planning for masked-killer Michael Myers’ return. Seems like on Halloween night she’s finally going to get her wish. With production overseen by John Carpenter himself yet directed by David Gordon Green, from the start this feels like familiar territory. However unlike the 2008 reboot it’s only trying to pick up years after, reintroduce characters, see where they are now … and then get on with being a straight forward yet slickly made slasher movie. Gone is some of the tension and stalking but in place is a ferocious force of nature Michael Myers, who doesn’t need analysing or figuring out … he’s just pure evil. So of course it’s time for Laurie to stop him.
The movie gives ample screen time to new characters, most welcomely Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter and there’s several subtle, clever nods to that original classic. Add to this a newly commissioned score from Carpenter and this really feels like the sequel we’ve always wanted. The important thing here is that the film-makers respect and understand the material and it makes for a thrilling, often unnerving and very effective experience. Granted, it could have been bloodier, some kills being hidden by (a little too) fancy editing, and that lack of slow stalking weakens the atmosphere early on, but considering what’s come before … this remains a triumph.
I’ll admit I had some anticipation leading up to the release of this Marvel comics adaptation. Last time we got to see the character was in the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, of which I recall the Venom aspect being one of the better parts. So with the casting of Tom Hardy, an actor who often takes to a challenging role with relish and (usually) delivers … this just couldn’t fail.
Hardy plays TV reporter Eddie Brock who comes into contact with the alien substance after investigating a crooked business man who is doing shady experiments, and soon finds himself part man part alien when the substance uses Eddie as a way to break free from a top secret facility. Nothing that original plot-wise and an underwhelming feeling doesn’t stop there despite some recognisable names amongst the cast and a cool shape-shifting character at it’s core. Yet as it turns out neither the film makers nor the cast seem to know how to handle the material. This is not helped by actors (especially Hardy) who come off as uncomfortable and uneasy with their own performance (along with a dodgy American accent) and even Michelle WIlliams, usually dependable (she’s great in The Greatest Showman) phones her role like she’s only eyeing up a pay cheque. Villain Riz Ahmed, decent in other movies I’ve seen him is is woefully miscast here also.
The movie does have a couple of things going for it … when the action finally turns up it’s pretty fun with the way Venom / Hardy uses his powers to take on bad guys and scale buildings, and the effects work is generally decent. Also once we get he banter going between Venom & Hardy, there’s some fun interplay between the two characters. However as a movie it’s far too focused on a limp script and under-developed characters I’m not sure what went wrong. Studio interference? Bad direction? Whatever it was, the problems are all their, clear as day on the screen. Disappointing.
I think most of us knew that the sequel to the unexpected hit that was Deadpool, would be bigger and better, A movie that was basically a one trick pony first time around, that of Ryan Reynolds’ wise-cracking, self-aware ‘merc with the mouth’ didn’t have a great deal more going for it as far as plot or an interesting villain. So coming into this I was hoping for more. Step up to the task Josh Brolin, fresh off his movie-stealing turn in the latest Avengers, he plays Terminator-like bad-guy ‘Cable’, sent from the future to kill some acting-out mutant kid who wants to blow up an orphanage and those that govern over him. Deadpool see’s some injustice in the kids plight and offers to help, along with his band of reluctant friends he awkwardly names ‘X-Force’.
Reynolds is on brilliant form and his wealth of one liners, observations and fourth-wall breaking piss-takes are often hilarious. Thankfully this time around he’s not the only pull this movie has, because Brolin is again brilliant and there’s also a few other colourful characters to keep things interesting (personal fave: Domino). Yet the child actor at the centre of the plot is somewhat lacking, has poor line-delivery and stands out compared to his more seasoned and entertaining co-stars. Yet we do get a wealth of at times very violent, bloody action that is utterly unrestrained but skilfully executed, showing director David Leitch is an assured replacement for the original’s Tim Miller.
Some rather cheap-looking CGI doesn’t look all that much better than the first movie (especially Colossus) and not all the gags hit home runs. However, this matters little when what’s presented is just so infectious. I haven’t had as much at the cinema in a long time as I had watching this funny, exciting and crazy ride … which may play to the juvenile kid in all of us, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. Just go see it already.
Do I suffer from comic-book movie fatigue? To a degree yes. I still enjoy some super-hero smack down action but have felt underwhelmed by recent fare both through over-familiarity with the concept and the desire for something different and a little deeper. So we come to this epic instalment where it seems Marvel is throwing everything at the viewer for the ultimate battle against what appears to be the ultimate foe – Thanos. Hinted at and foreshadowed in previous movies, the intergalactic megalomaniac, played by Josh Brolin is finally out to claim the fabled Infinity Stones, of which if he claims all six will give him ultimate power over life and death in the universe.
So the stakes are immensely high and it’s up to a disbanded Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow etc) and any friends they can pull into their ranks (including Spider Man) to stop this powerhouse of a villain. In a movie like this it would be easy to go lazy and just fill the run time with fight after fight, which we get in spectacular fashion … but what takes this to another level is the depth to the characterisation I wasn’t expecting and even though it’s crowded with ego’s butting heads, somehow many of the characters get time to have their moment and stand out individually. Despite such a serious situation it also throws in moments of decent humour, especially with the inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the scenes between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star Lord proving particularly funny.
So we come to the central figure here, the long awaited and somewhat hyped appearance of Thanos, and Josh Brolin brings a surprising amount of pathos and grit to the character that makes him the closest Marvel has got to the level of Heath Ledger’s Joker. He really is that good, and in a movie with many surprises and bold plot developments, he elevates the movie into the realm of classic status. The fact the movie takes risks with a very familiar formula, especially in it’s closing moments just has to be applauded also. This is the best Avengers movie yet and could possibly be the best Marvel movie. So simply put, you have to see this one.
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