Spider-Man: Homecoming – Review

The MCU continues unrelenting, with it, Marvel open their arms and welcome into the fold a name that faces few equals: Spider-Man. Despite two solid showing as Andrew Garfield’s Amazing variant, Sony decided if you can’t beat them, sell back some rights and take a cut of the profits.

For Marvel’s part, they decided the best way to keep those profits high was to not deviate from what has worked before. This doesn’t mean a rehash of former Spider-Man movies. Oh no, not at all. It means shoehorning Peter Parker into the MCU by stripping away his uniqueness.

This is where two opinions on this latest film will tail off from one another.

If you love all things MCU, then you won’t mind this alternative direction for Spidey. If you hold Spider-Man dear to your heart, brace yourself for an onscreen character assassination.

This isn’t the Spider-Man many grew up with. There’s no driving motive behind his foray into fighting crime. He isn’t burdened by loss in the family. He isn’t crooning over Mary Jane (she’s here, hiding in plain sight, but for now, he half-fancies a girl called Liz). There’s no such thing as a Spidey Sense and his best mate isn’t going to become the Green Goblin.

So, what do we have instead?

A boy that was bitten by a spider (he briefly tells his buddy this, no origin drama to deal with) who can walk on walls and ceilings. That’s it. The Spider-Man suit is actually a Tony Stark design, complete with visual/audio guidance.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has turned Spider-Man into Iron Man Jr.

Such is the simplicity – and deceit of the true nature of the character – the plot and film remains decidedly average. Generic set plays on peril, and a villain – played by the excellent but left with little to explore, Michael Keaton – whose integrity and overall threat is undermined by Iron Man existing in this world.

There is hope Keaton can reprise his role as Vulture in later films, and the way he was a property salvager working on the post-Avengers New York debris, able to come across alien tech but put out of business by Stark and the authorities, is the sort of loose tie-in the film benefits from.

However, the overbearing MCU connections even kill this element.

There are good interactions between Jacob Batalon’s turn as a Ned and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. The identity of Spider-Man is accidently revealed to Parker’s geeky best pal, adding a fresh element but this should be the unseen cement in the movie, not a standout plus.

This could be the moment Marvel jumps the shark on the big screen. From the Captain America school videos during classes to the Stark created Spider-Man. It’s too cheesy, too much comic book for the screen. And not the best sort of comic book. It’s the dated, outmoded variant most haven’t lifted from a shelf in years.

Marvel are either on a collision course with creativity or cleverly tapping into a dumbed down audience. Either way, it makes for a very average Homecoming for the character that should be the jewel in Marvel’s crown.

5/10

(P.S. Don’t stay to the final end credits scene, it’s a lame joke and offers no insight or progression to future MCU stories.)

Wonder Woman – Review

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s what you have come to expect from this site and now’s not the time to disappoint. Wonder Woman has already been heralded as the saviour of the DCEU. A female has supposedly achieved what DC’s finest two males couldn’t pull off. It’s true, she’s managed to bring about change. But better the Extended Universe? No. Not one iota.

Before cries of misogyny come thick and fast, this review has nothing to do with the gender of the lead, the director, or in any way an attempt to prevent the empowerment of women. The movie does a grand job of resetting the balance when it comes to the perception of females on film.

What is slightly upsetting, is how the World War I era plays up attitudes as archaic when even, a hundred years on, women face unreasonable challenges compared to their male counterparts.

The movie starts on Diana’s all-female home world, the hidden Amazon island of Themyscira. It is here where women are warriors. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, is against her taking on combat training but Diana’s aunt General Antiope helps her anyway.

There’s a conflict of interest. Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen who managed to avoid her brother’s advances in Gladiator) knows – as does Antiope – she is Zeus’s ultimate deterrent against the God of War, Ares.

That particular God is Diana’s half-brother. Oh yeah, Diana is the product of Zeus’s loins.

When American pilot Steve Trevor, or Kirk from the new Star Trek, magically appears through the fabric that shields the island, bringing a bunch of Germans with him, Diana sees it as a call to duty. Against her mother’s wishes, she decides to join Kirk on his return to Earth as we know it.

She’s convinced the head German, Ludendorff, is the manifestation of The God of War. If she defeats him, the human battle will also cease.

The segments in London – and subsequently Europe – are all well and good, in the sense it flows okay and characters are established. Gal Gadot pounces off the screen. She is an inspired choice and without her, it may even have dragged during the build to the final battle.

But it is during this passage and subsequent payoff the film hits terminal problems.

Not – this must be made clear – as a standalone movie. Judged as a brains out film, it’s fine. Nothing challenging at all but fun. Like a Marvel movie. It’s a watered-down Captain America.

The war elements feel too small for Diana; when the God of War finally appears, it’s too far-fetched for a DC live action affair.

Remember, the DCEU’s opening gambit was Man of Steel, a movie with Christopher Nolan listed as producer.

Wonder Woman confirms the worst fears for true DC fans (and I’ve checked with resident expert Christopher William Kinsey) that the DCEU won’t be playing to the strengths of their branding and onscreen successes. Instead it’ll be an imitation Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The CGI ending, with Ares making a suit from the molten metal of destroyed aircraft hangers and debris, was something beyond corny, cheesy, and cringe worthy. It was lazy.

But it has received approval from the same people that misjudged Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because it actually had depth, thus, needed a little thought. The same people that think the new choice for Spider-Man is good but got lost with Suicide Squad’s dark undertones.

The perceived success could mean the tone of spinoffs like Suicide Squad are phased out and Warner Bros. and DC produce more live action cartoons.

If the DCEU was in trouble before, it is truly doomed if this is the sort of popularity it seeks.

4/10

Logan (2017) – Review

If Get Out sold us short on the trailers, then Logan reset the balance. We know it’s Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, and the arrival of young girl in the said trailers indicates X-23 is likely to be brought into the X-Men cinematic universe. It’s also clear we’re heading for a serious drama, less superhero feast. Knowing all this doesn’t detract from what we’re given.

Many are saying we should thank Deadpool for Wolverine getting – at last – an adult movie. Let’s face it, his previous two solo outings were subpar. And that’s being nice about it. The studio told director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman to make the film they wanted. Why don’t studios just do this all the time?

We find an aged Wolverine in a future where mutants are a distant memory. The disappearance of those with special abilities is explained clearly. Richard E. Grant’s Zander Rice has developed the vaccine earlier X-Men films fought against. He describes getting rid of them no different than curing Polio outbreaks.

The aging of Wolverine is a little less clear. We’re led to believe that perhaps it is the adamantium slowly poisoning the body, acting as a cancer. This just doesn’t wash with me. Sorry. But he’s had it long enough to dispel that theory. However, we have excused the fact his adamantium magically reappeared at the end of Days of Future Past so we can just accept the idea he’s not in the best of shape.

Neither is Professor X. He’s being kept locked away in a metal container, on lots of meds, to protect the world from his brain. See, it’s a massive problem if your head is classed as a weapon of mass destruction but you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Logan’s joint carer for Charles Xavier is Stephen Merchant’s Caliban.

Quick segue here, so Tómas Lemarquis played Caliban in the very average X-Men: Apocalypse. The two versions in no way can be married up. It’s effectively a different character with the same ability (they’re trackers, in Logan, Caliban is captured and used to track the escaping Wolverine(s) and Professor X). It raises the question: Is Logan really canon?

It feels like a set-up for a continuation or a spin-off but could remain standalone. The future of mutants is preserved because Zander Rice has been attempting to weaponize strands of DNA with powers. Hence the arrival of the excellent Dafne Keen as Laura, or X-23, or future Wolverine.

As the story unravels, and Logan tries to get Laura to her meeting place, we realise some of these children have been saved from the clinic. The displays of abilities are the only let-down of the movie. They are clearly working to a tight budget and it betrays the feel of the majority of the film. The legend of the X-Men has made it to comic book form, which Logan explains is overblown nonsense.

The idea the reality was grittier fits the grittiness we see for the first three quarters of the story.

The only other problem is the appearance of a younger, healthier Weapon X. The film didn’t need cheap parlour tricks to slow Logan down. But it does offer a mirror on his growing and real humanity. So perhaps it was a good move?

The catalyst and reason for Logan to open up to his feelings is, of course, Laura. She steals scenes without using words. As there ever been a child actor so expressive and effective? Not to mention kick-ass bad. She’s determined and also vulnerable, she needs Logan’s love.

Charles Xavier also prods the conscious of Jackman’s character. Here it is touching as we see two old friends, with years of history, care for one another. Logan looks after his body and protects his mind. Not just from destruction but the truth of some unknown atrocity Professor X is guilty of committing.

In return Charles reminds Logan he is good. He can be saved.

The tone of Logan is perfect and as the main X-Men franchise loses its spirit and becomes more and more the mindless blockbuster it once stood apart from, this is a reminder that the best comic book films are the ones with heart.

It is graphic in parts. The stall is set out in the first scene when Logan places his claws through the skulls of carjackers. But it is never played for the sake of shock. It’s a movie trying to be honest.

Patrick Stewart announced on The Graham Norton Show this would also be his last film connected to the X-Men universe. By the end, you can understand his reasoning. There’s nothing a future film maker will be able to offer that bests this complete picture.

It is a passing of the torch. In Dafne Keen’s hands, it’ll be carried safely.

9/10

The Lego Batman Movie – Review

After 2016’s flurry of superhero films, this year promises to keep up the trend. Before the world feels burnt out with them, Warner Bros. hand over their prime property to The Lego franchise. Before we get more of the Ben Affleck Dark Knight, we get Will Arnett’s light-hearted brick version.

Criticism Marvel fanboys aim at their DC counterparts is they are too serious and dark, that comic books should be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with The Lego Batman Movie. Sure, it’s not a canon entry. It’s aimed at the kids’ market (some would say, this is Marvel’s core audience) but if you need the exact opposite of “serious and dark” then this is it.

Like the best of modern animation movies – looking at you Toy Story – there’s action for the kids and jokes for the parents. Lego Batman pleases the children with explosive action sequences, Lego being used and reshaped to create unique outcomes, and behaviour they can relate to. When The Joker fires his weapon, he makes little shooting sounds just like kids playing with Lego need to do.

The Lego Gotham City does feel authentic. You can tell what world we’re in. All the rogues are here too, proving that a good film can survive with an overflow of enemies. It’s clear from the start the movie’s makers are willing to point fun at the source material, and at first, having nearly every conceivable Batman villain on screen seems like a quick pun. But they stick around and The Joker manages to recruit even more bad guys.

Thanks to the Lego tie in, anyone that can be made from the little bricks appears. Even the Daleks show up, although never referenced by name.

The main story is how Batman is too withdrawn and refuses help. Cue Robin and new Commissioner and soon to be Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. Alongside this is how he breaks The Joker’s heart by denying him the title of main villain. He says he fights around, that there isn’t an “us.” It’s great humour that will probably fly over the heads of younger members of the audience.

To make Batman appreciate him, Joker hands himself – and all the villains in Gotham – over to new Commissioner Gordon. Batman, easily manipulated by his nemesis, doesn’t sit tight and starts a sequence of events that sees Joker release all the baddies from Superman’s Phantom Zone.

Suddenly Gotham needs Batman again but he can’t do it alone.

Usually kiddies’ films like this are big on the moral message and speed up the slower adult scenes. Here, even though the ideas it’s trying to tell are plainly obvious, they blend into the background. Early on the plot building will lose some younger viewers. Even when having fun, Batman has to be moody.

The Easter eggs, often in the form of one-liners, come thick and fast, and clearly are designed for older ears. The fun is bright and outlandish, satisfying the kids. The flashy sequences aren’t to cover any deficiencies in the cast either.

Ralph Fiennes does a great turn as Alfred, Michael Cera is back to form as Robin, and it’s a compliment to say you won’t realise (although, you will now) Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon. Even the cameos go to big names.

It doesn’t pull on heartstrings like some animation movies nor is it a film made just for children. It’s not perfect but it works well and Bat-fans and kids alike will enjoy it.

7/10

Captain America: Civil War – Review

If you eat too much of anything, however much you may enjoy it, you’ll eventually become bloated. 2016 could be the serving of one superhero film feast too many. To make matters worse, here is a review for another that sees good guys face good guys. Can Captain America: Civil War add energy to Marvel’s concept and make us forget the market is oversaturated?

I’ll save you reading 500 words and give you the answer now: It’s a big, fat, No!

Now I’ll humbly explain why.

It starts with so much promise. Captain America and his team (Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch) are heading an espionage mission in Africa. At this point I found myself applauding the Captain’s films. I like how they blend superhero with spy movie. Had this remained the case – indeed, remained a Captain America film – we wouldn’t have had a problem.

The problem came when Scarlet Witch, by accident, threw a baddie into a building full of innocents.

Cue the morale debate about should superheroes be allowed to go around without anyone giving them orders. A little bit like the Superman subplot in Batman v Superman but without any of the meat on the tired old bones.

Rather than it be an area of worthy exploration, it becomes nothing more than a plot device. And what a dire plot. Captain’s buddy, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, appears to blow up the UN when all The Avengers minus Captain America sign a new treaty, placing them under the control of men rather than being outside of the law.

Obviously, Captain America has to defend a guy he shared double-billing with on the last solo movie poster and Iron Man has to stick to the letter of the (new) law and treat him as a criminal. Also pretty obvious, is how it’s all been a set-up to make Bucky look bad. The motivations and the main bad guy an extraneous excuse to see our heroes have a fight.

Once the action starts, you may ask, surely it masks the poor plot?

Nah, not really. Ant-Man steals the show in the main battle, which is more like handbags at ten paces. And proving that Marvel fanboys make the most noise but the least sense, I can now confirm the new Spider-Man is the worst incarnation seen on the big screen.

Andrew Garfield must be wondering how on Earth Marvel couldn’t have shoehorned his version into the movie instead of this lame replacement. The teabag I squeezed out of my cup ten minutes ago has more screen presence than Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. As Spider-Man, things do improve, but Garfield was more wisecracking and it felt more natural.

While I will never deny the beauty of Marisa Tomei, is it really progressive to have her as Aunt May? The moral compass of a young hero that still looks like the lap dancer from The Wrestler? Yeah, that’ll work, Marvel.

The flaws in the films message and the bad guy’s main intention fall apart in the final scenes because it is plain stupid. His idea could never have worked and there’d always be some version of The Avengers regardless of infighting.

Sadly, due to overeager reviewers and the fanboys, there’ll always be Marvel movies like this.

It isn’t the worst ever (it can thank Iron Man 2 for that) but it isn’t far behind. It seems unfair Marvel can be applauded for another misfire while DC struggle for any type of credit from mainstream critics.

If things don’t vastly improve in the MCU, sooner or later others will speak up, and 2018’s Infinity War may forever be in pre-production.

5/10 (It would have been 4/10, if not for the opening Captain America elements.)