Following the death of his father, Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther returns home to claim his birth right and become king of Wakanda. However when news surfaces of a terrorist who has stolen some of his homeland’s resources, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) springs into action to stop his home’s sacred power being used for evil.
This has had a great deal of attention and is now one of the highest rated Marvel movies on RottenTomatoes.com, surprising when the character has never been what you’d call a household name like Thor, Spiderman etc. For whatever reason this movie has gained such attention, what we actually have is a fairly basic super hero movie with the twist of an African setting and largely black cast. Panther is an interesting, layered character and fairly refreshing compared to the usual machismo we get with other characters; but with a rise and fall and rise again story ark, I failed to see how this was any different than what we’ve been getting for several years now. Add to this an underwhelming Michael B Jordan as the villain who’s character is basically a carbon copy of another Marvel villain, and like in Creed has no screen presence and is instead feels miscast beyond his impressive pecks. Yet we do get a fantastic car chase sequence, decent CGI and some tense fight scenes, along with good support from Martin Freeman and especially Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister – who gets all the best lines and funniest gags.
As it stands this was very pretty, often fun but very drawn out considering it’s simple plot, and felt more like an ‘also ran’ in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe than anything else. I still had a good time, but like a lot of heavily-hyped things these days … I also came away wondering what the fuss was about.
I went into this fairly apprehensive. I’d heard only luke warm opinions of it and the usual it’s no ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which has been ringing in my ears with every movie the comedy pairing of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost have appeared in since. This time around Pegg plays a lovable loser whose never really grown up and still yearns to complete the sacred ‘golden mile’ pub crawl that he and his friends attempted and failed at on the last day of school. Now approaching forty, he decides to ‘get the band back together’ and hunts down his old mates who have all moved on, got jobs, gained families, become someone where as Pegg is still the same person he ever was.
A great initial concept sets forth a very energetic ride with snappy dialogue-a-plenty and the usual slapstick pop-culture referencing fun of Pegg & Frost at their best. Lending a helping hand is a wealth of familiar Brit actor faces, including The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman along with Paddy Considine to name but a few. Unlike Pegg & Frost’s last outing ‘Paul’ however this is brought endlessly to life by the scatter-shot, imaginative direction of Edgar Wright, yes the same man that brought us ‘Shaun and Hot Fuzz not to mention the underrated Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Very clever editing and stylish camera work and surprisingly excellent effects work too. You see the friends all go back to their home town to attempt this so-called pub crawl and suddenly find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion where the majority of the towns folk have been assimilated, ala The Stepford Wives.
I’m not ashamed to say it, but I had a riot with this. There’s some very funny lines (… ‘he may be a bit of a cock, and he is a cock … but he’s my cock’…) and some great action (the gents fight scene is first rate, think the matrix with a twist) and the on-going gag of getting a pint in in every pub, no matter what is happening just never stopped being funny. Yes the ending feels a tad thrown together, and well the alien invasion concept is almost as tiresome as zombies … but that never hurt Shaun of the Dead.
I enjoyed the last film in this planned trilogy. Although more light hearted and therefore seemingly light weight compared to the grandeur of The Lord Of The Rings, it was still a joy to return to such a richly detailed and magical world as Middle Earth. We catch up with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of merry Dwarves in their quest to reach the lonely mountain and dethrone a sleeping dragon from their home. A hefty task for sure, but as explained in the opening, the real reason these Dwarves are so desperate to reclaim their home and their gold is because it houses a powerful crystal that will enable lead Dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to claim his rightful place as the Dwarf king. Erm, could have done with that being said in the first movie, if you ask me…
Once again this is a fantastic setting, full of grand locations, brilliantly conceived villages, castle ruins, vistas – its a real treat for the eyes, and New Zealand is again showcased to a stunning degree. More serious in tone this time, with thankfully no Dwarf songs and surprisingly no Gollum (!) but what we do get is greater attention to individual characters, with better focus on each Dwarf rather than them blending into one another like last time. Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf is great as ever, and I warmed more to Freeman’s Bilbo this time. Add to this a returning familiar face in the shape of Orlando Bloom’s Legollas, aided by Lost’s Evangeline Lilly as a warrior elf looking every bit the part (and scrumptious to boot!).
Yet this movie’s undoing, unlike the previous one which seemed to fly by – is that it really does feel long and drawn out. Many scenes are stretched, and you get the impression some could do with being cut entirely (the whole Legolas, Tauriel and Killi love triangle). It’s clear to me that this is a story that could have been summed up in two movies more than three (which was the initial idea) but of course box office receipts mean lets get as much as we can out of this, even if the material just isn’t there … and that’s a fact that’s beginning to show. However, the movie remains full of character and has great sequences (the dragon encounter especially) and looks amazing throughout – but regardless, two movies in and it still lurks in the shadows of ‘Rings – and seems unlikely to escape that.
Of all the movies released in 2012, this was my most anticipated. I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, particularly the movie trilogy, and despite some reservations regarding this adaptation of the much loved book, from the dropping out of Guillermo Del Toro to the spreading of the adaptation over three movies … what I witnessed last night has put (almost) all such fears to rest.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is called upon by long time friend and famed wizard Gandalf to embark on an adventure with a band of dwarves, to journey to the lonely mountain and reclaim a desecrated kingdom back from an infamous dragon. Of course Bilbo not being much of a hero (at this stage) is reluctant to join the quest, but is soon setting off in search of Orcs, Trolls and a bountiful treasure. Immediately I was transported back to the franchise I had watched in such awe years ago (and revisited on Blu-ray), with grand spectacle, stunning set design and beautiful New Zealand landscapes bringing to life Middle Earth equally as well as before. I’ll admit to not exactly understanding why Bilbo would even be involved in such a suicide mission with folks he has nothing in common with, just because a wizard pushes him into it … and the immediacy and importance apparent in the Rings trilogy, seemed absent. That being said the characters (including a trio of comedy trolls), wealth of imagination and truly epic battles and confrontations, quickly glossed over such quibbles.
This first foray into a new saga in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe felt as good as I could have expected, may be a tad lightweight, but has more than enough personality and jaw-dropping spectacle to make it worth your time. Oh and that hefty 2hrs 45 minutes run time flew by. Martin Freeman is well cast as Bilbo, different enough from Elijah Wood’s Frodo (pointless cameo aside) to give the new trilogy its own identity, and with quality support from the brilliant Sir Ian McKellen as well as the likes of James Nesbitt, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett – this Middle Earth fan-boy was grinning from ear to ear. Director Peter Jackson promised big things with this new entry, and although I’m predicting the best is yet to come – I’m happy to say this still delivered. Bring on The Hobbit: part 2!!
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