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.
George Lucas’ shock sale of his beloved Star Wars to Disney seemed like a concern at one stage. Yet considering the work he’d done delivering three prequels that seemed to focus more on CGI than gripping narratives with fully fleshed out characters … perhaps it was time for another company to try their hand? The result? Well we got The Force Awakens and the rest as they say, is history. Or is it? The proposed continuation of the saga was also going to have a series of spin-off movies focusing on plots away from but connected to the main saga. So despite that last movie’s un-argued success in bringing back a once treasured franchise … it could still all go tits up.
Jyn is the daughter of a scientist who at the beginning of this movie gets taken away to work on the Empire’s latest weapon. Yes Daddy is helping build the death star. Cue fifteen years after and Jyn is all grown up and seeking out the rebellion and the man who rescued her after her father was taken. However along the way she befriends a reluctant assassin (Diego Luna) and his sarcastic droid and also a defected imperial pilot (Riz Ahmed). Turns out there’s a mission to steel the plans to the death star in hope of finding a weak point, and so sets forth a sort of inter-galactic dirty dozen and boy, was I along for the ride.
A different beast to The Force Awakens but every bit as polished and entertaining, this boasts several stunning battle sequences that possibly eclipse that movie and strong performances, especially from newcomer Felicity Jones and her band of brothers, including a blind monk played by martial arts supremo Donnie Yen. The movie plays itself rather serious for the most part but still finds time for gentle in-jokes and plenty of ‘was that…?’ and ‘hey that’s…!’ visual nods to Star Wars of yester-year. Effects work is some of the best I’ve seen this year, even down to a shockingly real (sorry…spoilers) recreation of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin from the very first movie (apart from those eyes…). Add to this perfect set design, costumes and some gorgeous cinematography and well, this had my jaw hitting my lap on a regular basis. That much loved mysticism of Star Wars, especially the force, Jedi’s etc. seemed pushed aside however in favor of a more gritty ‘mission’ structure. It also has to be said, some of the support characters were under-developed.
This could have been just a simple cash-in. Yet director Gareth Edwards has made an inspired ‘alternative take’ on a familiar franchise and delivers a loving celebration at the same time. So if you hadn’t figured it out already – I loved this.
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