A group of immortal super beings who have lived amongst us for centuries, travel the planet seeking out and killing a race of creatures knows as deviants. Their mission is to aid mankind’s development through the ages. In the present day, an estranged Eternals have to regroup when a new threat endangers the planet.
This latest Marvel Studios effort introduces a new group of heroes, and after countless Avengers, Spider-Man and Captain America movies it was refreshing to see these newer characters (outside of the comics). Casting is decent, with names like Angelina Jolie and Salam Hayek being joined by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden and Train to Busan’s Don Lee. What this generally is, is an epic saga following the lives of these characters over the ages, feeling at times like a pilot to a TV series. However under the direction of Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) a lot is crammed into an energetic 2hrs 38 minutes. The cinematography is often gorgeous, aided by not only a globe-trotting storyline but also the wealth of IMAX shots (yes I watched that version) and it certainly delivers a visual treat. Action is also plentiful and the various abilities of the characters make for some exciting and imaginative encounters.
The story is a bit ‘out there’ and doesn’t entirely add up, and an appearance by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington comes off as an after-thought. Yet with some good character melodrama amongst the action and spectacle, I must admit I enjoyed this. The CGI is decent and the various twists and turns definitely caught me off guard. Better than it’s lukewarm reputation may have you believe and I for one look forward to what we get next.
So I’ve had a break for a couple of weeks. To be honest I haven’t been that in the mood to watch movies and have mostly been focusing of playing games and watch TV shows. Over Christmas I purchased Resident Evil Village which I’m loving and is proving a worthy, atmospheric follow up to RE7. I also put in quite a bit of play on Halo Infinite both single player and multiplayer and consider it a return to form for a franchise which had seemed to lose its footing since developer 343 Industries took over from Bungie. I also finally finished A Plague Tale Innocence – a challenging game with a great premise and a genuinely powerful story. Oh, and I got the platinum on Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart but getting all 47 trophies! A first for me I might add.
As for TV, I have mostly been watching Netflix and Disney+. I am nearly at the end of Hawkeye which is great, and I’m a bit addicted to The Big Bang Theory, which passed me by during its initial run. Desperate Housewives is also a guilty pleasure I’d say, and away from these services I’ve also been trying to finish the final season of Wentworth.
That’s not to say I’ve not watched any movies. Over Christmas I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, an undisputed classic which was part of a 4K Blu-ray box set I got as a present. Image quality was very good with lots of detail and overall it was fun to revisit the movie. Maybe I’ll check out the other movies in the set at some stage. For my birthday in November I received a Blu-ray box set of the Dirty Harry movies and am slowing watching all but for the first (which I’m overly familiar with) with my Dad who’s quite a fan of Clint Eastwood. So far Magnum Force was quite good, whilst The Enforcer was a bit rubbish.
I have a number of movies I want to check out and will be posting reviews as usual. So normal service should resume soon!
The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe release follows the story of a Chinese warlord who comes into possession of ten magical rings (basically bangles) that once worn, grant him incredible powers. After conquering many kingdoms however, he falls for a woman and has two children. Years later in modern-day San Francisco, Shang-Chi is working as a valet parking attendant having turned his back on his father’s criminal empire – but when a threat to his life and that of his estranged sister arises, Shang-Chi chooses to use his martial arts skills to survive.
A convoluted plot sets up this fantastical tale, steeped in Chinese mythology, and delivers a fun if lightweight Marvel blockbuster. Hong Kong Cinema veteran Tony Leung provides the villain and is certainly a presence, stealing most scenes he’s in. We also get an appearance from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh. What let this down though is the exhaustive over-reliance on CGI and green screen, creating a look and feel to everything that is very fake and a bit video-gamey. A set-piece on a bus, which should be exhilarating just looked ‘off’, with a particularly dodgy looking CGI bus. The way everyone jumps around, with frequent sped up movements (rather than genuine martial arts) also made many involved look a bit rag doll-like.
Newcomer Simu Liu proved a charismatic lead however and Awkwafina (memorable also in Jumanji 2) was a fun side-kick. The nods to other entries in the MCU were also appreciated. So yes, I was entertained, and the story was functional enough, even if ‘the big bad’ at the end was a bit ‘meh’. Not essential then, but worthwhile for MCU die-hards and anyone stuck for something to watch.
I think few could argue that Scarlett Johansson is a real movie star and has proven herself more than capable in many types of roles. However many will know her as one part of Marvel’s Avengers alongside the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. However unlike those characters, Scarlett’s Black Widow hadn’t until now got her stand alone origin story. This finds Natasha Romanova / Black Widow being hunted down by the shady organisation that turned her into an assassin, leading her to explore her own past and confront the broken relationships she thought she’d left behind.
Midsommar’s Florence Pugh plays Yelena, the estranged sister of Black Widow and it has to be said steals the show with her personality and sarcasm, and the banter that occurs not only between the two females but also with David Harbour’s Red Guardian proves this movie’s best aspect. Add to this some decent action, with a stand-out prison break sequence, and this was ticking my boxes.
Unfortunately the plot wasn’t very engaging with what was happening and why not pulling me in. Also Ray Winstone’s villain was rather forgettable. Although the mysterious henchman ‘Task Master’ was much more interesting. Yet as an origin story, this failed to delve into the character of Black Widow, only showing glimpses of her training or much of her upbringing. As a Marvel movie however, this still delivers the necessary spectacle, slick action and fun moments – but overall felt a bit under-developed with occasionally lazy writing. For fans of the MCU this is worth seeing, but adds so little to the whole narrative it’s far from essential.
2020 was the first year in a while that we had no real big comic book movies, apart from Wonder Woman 1984 at the end and this decidedly low key release. Set in the same universe as the X-Men movies, this focuses on a group of troubled teens in a hospital who are coming to terms with their mutations as a female doctor studies them … including a Native American girl who arrives following an incident that wiped out her reservation.
Think ‘Girl, Interrupted’ meets ‘Heroes’ and you’ll get the vibe this one’s going for. A recognisable cast includes Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams as a girl with the ability to turn into a wolf, and The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy as a bitchy Russian who can summon abilities from other dimensions. The banter and varying powers between the characters held my interest and there’s some good action, even if this is less a full-on comic book actioner and more a character piece.
However, hints at a shady organisation responsible for the hospital are unexplored, and the whole thing feels like part one of a bigger story. Plenty of potential here despite the fact that teen mutants is nothing new and has been explored in prior X-Men movies. Sadly a luke-warm critical and commercial reaction probably means this story won’t get continued. Worth a watch though.
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