It’s not the best superhero movie ever made but Black Panther is one of Marvel’s most ambitious films to date

FILM REVIEW

by dominic v. cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Black Panther – the latest film from Marvel Studios – is finally out, after being rescheduled to fit in with Marvel’s Nostradamus-esque phased plans. With a star-studded cast, in addition to Ryan Coogler of Fruitville Station and Creed fame being at the helm of the operation, it’s no surprise that the last inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also one of its most ambitious.

It may stick true to the usual globetrotting shenanigans that we’ve come to expect from Marvel, everything about this film feels somewhat smaller in scale, ultimately feeling more introspective. Sure, there are colossal threats aimed at the head of the world but the way the story is told seems to take into consideration how what is happening, well, happened and the chain of destruction that could come from a bad decision.

Considering that this take isn’t the norm at this point in the series, or the action genre in general, the plot can feel slightly muddier as a result and arguably less clear though it doesn’t detract from it being interesting. There’s a repeated complaint about these superhero films and how we’re on the umpteenth one (realistically we’re only at number 18 which is admittedly still bizarre) but Black Panther makes sure that viewers question what they’re watching and taking in, resulting in a movie that ultimately deals with mortality, loyalty and how far is too far in order for the greater good.

Considering Black Panther is a superhero movie some thought should be paid to the action scenes which just drip cool. There are a few fantastic fight scenes throughout the movie, some of which are aided by CGI, but it is at the set pieces where these moments shine, the audience chiming to themselves “cool”, or “wow”, or “holy shit”. They make excellent use of space and camera angles, as well as going in a completely different direction from where an action fan might think they would go, resulting in this aspect being equally as interesting as the story itself.

The easiest thing to praise in the film is by far the acting; where maybe the tension falls short, or some of the story just loops forward, the acting is consistently worth being commended. Chadwick Boseman gives a really nice performance as the warrior king T’Challa and in the moments where he’s not panthering around, you kinda just want to be his pal. With a cast as impressive as this movie has, a lot of the actors do just run away with the scenes, one of these guilty thespians being Letitia Wright, who plays the new king’s kooky scientist/younger sister. Wright absolutely commands every scene she’s in, being equal parts sincere and heartfelt, as well as absolutely hilarious which really brightens what can be quite a dark film. Someone else who deserves praise for their performance would be Danai Gurira who plays the proud warrior part very well, acting as a large strong figure on the screen.

To conclude while Black Panther is by no means the best superhero movie of all time, it is at its core an oddly thought-provoking movie, with more depth than a regular spandex clad romp, and so full of talking points it permeates the movie. With smashing set pieces and great performances put in by the cast this movie is well worth a watch, regardless (or especially) if you want to catch Infinity War in just a few months.

rating 7

Is Thor: Ragnarok The Most Fun Marvel Film Yet?

By Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Ragnarok, the third in the solo Thor movies, is by far the best. With What We Do in the Shadows actor and director Taika Waititi at the helm, the movie benefits from having an experienced funny man in charge of things, as aside from being good (thoroughly quite excellent) it is fun. It is the only adjective that comes to mind; the movie is funny, smart and uses the actors to fantastic lengths.

To say the previous Thor films have come short is putting it lightly: the first one was kind of nondescript, feeling really small scale and The Dark World felt too overtly serious a solo romp for a character that is the real comic relief in the Avengers movies. Thankfully, Ragnarok gives the viewer no fear that there will be much in the way of Schindler’s List level seriousness.

The tone of the movie is absolutely perfect throughout, adjusting just enough to fit, while keeping a comfortable goofiness. In this sense, the set design is really just perfect, especially in some of the more exotic locations. It really harks back to the whole 80’s marvel celestials stuff, mad bright colours and random circuits drawn on things, makes the movie just so pretty that you’d be hard-pressed to take your eyes off it.

Story-wise, Ragnarok isn’t anything super unique or that deep but without the pressure of being final or important (i.e Avengers), it definitely had a more, setting up vibe, like a comic book getting ready to go into a big series wide event; which on the way to Infinity War’s release is really refreshing.

One thing that ought to be commended for the movie is the actors: Chris Hemsworth absolutely nails the boisterous thunder god and seems really relaxed in the role, just having fun with it. It did feel at points uncomfortable to be seeing Loki on screen again, but Tom Hiddleston’s performance as the trickster god really makes you forgot misgivings as he and his onscreen brother bounce off one another so well.

As always, Jeff Goldblum is absolutely fantastic as the eccentric Grandmaster, bringing a kind of Ralph Fiennes M. Gustave panache to the roll. It would have been nice however to see more development with Cate Blanchett’s Hela as sadly, she just comes across as a nondescript big bad.

Being a superhero movie, the action scenes are fantastic, off the cuff, using CGI very well, and while it may not be photorealistic, it does lend to the very comic book style the movie seems to have, and moves away from something that has plagued the bigger Marvel movies – a problem of being too serious at times, and giving the fight scenes interesting venues.

Finally, while the move is nothing new, the sheer sense of fun at play here definitely makes it one of the better Marvel movies. With the main cast bouncing off of one another so well, it is just sad this sort of thing couldn’t have been carved out for the Norse hero sooner. Hopefully, after the unprecedented success of the more comedic ventures like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ragnarok, this fun practice becomes more of the norm from the folk at Marvel.

rating 7

Captain America: Civil War REVIEW

When news got out that Civil War got greenlit due to Batman Vs Superman, a film that was as dull as it was messy, it wasn’t a surprise that many grew worried about the reality of this massive clash of clans. Not only is the film a sequel to the Marvel magnum opus Winter Soldier but it’s also a successor to the rather disappointing Age Of Ultron.

In addition to this, there’s also the film’s duty to introduce new characters as well as set things up for future installments in the MCU and somehow, whether it’s due to some infinity gem or the Russo brothers natural talent, Civil War manages to do all of this and more, managing to be just as enthralling as its predecessors and then some.

Having the Avengers fight amongst themselves isn’t anything new but it’s never been on this kind of scale. With The Avengers now being seen as dangerous whilst ungoverned, due to events in previous films as well as those in Civil War, the team is now split into two: Team Cap which feels that the Avengers should stay independent and Team Iron Man who supports the government oversight.

The story, for what it’s trying to achieve, isn’t overly complex and has a surprisingly good flow despite the 2hr 27 min run time, managing to establish the motivations of both teams superbly. Often you’ll find your allegiance fluctuating, despite tweeting how you were #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan religiously beforehand, making the film just as engaging as you’d have expected.

Civil War 1

Thankfully there’s no MacGuffin, an issue that I covered in my rant on the MCU, though the “villain” isn’t much of an improvement. While he has some well established motivation rather than just being evil, unlike Lex Luthor in BVS, it feels like the character of Zemo, one with a very interesting backstory, could have been best kept for a future installment due to his minimal involvement in the film.

Civil War is also full of emotion due to the conflict ignited by Bucky Barnes whose past is the catalyst for a lot of action which this film does perfectly. The big clash at an Airport Terminal is undoubtedly the best set piece ever conceived in the MCU which I refuse to spoil due to some pretty surprising elements. Just make sure to pick your jaw up from off the floor afterwards.

Civil War 2

The highlight of the film for me were the introduction of two major characters, the first being Black Panther. Having never made a big screen appearance before, he didn’t disappoint on his debut and left the audience desperate for his big solo venture in 2018. No doubt we’ll get some more info about his origins which may or may not differ from the comics but regardless, the Prince of Wakanda looked badass as fuck.

Then there’s the elephant or, rather, Spider in the room. Yes, the web slinger makes his MCU debut and oh my god. Never before has there been such a faithful adaptation of Spiderman before now as Tom Holland manages to manifest the awkward, teen charisma for his time as Peter Parker but then hits out with his quick witted jibes that had the whole cinema laughing out loud.

Civil War 2

Surprisingly he has a lot more screen time than I expected and may have even had more lines of dialogue than Superman in BVS! Marvel may have messed with beloved characters before but this iteration of Spiderman more than makes up for that.

While the film isn’t perfect by any means, the first half feels a bit sluggish from time to time, Civil War goes some way in combating the fatigue many face when it comes to superhero films. What we have here is a film that asks questions but doesn’t forget what should be the main focus of these films: having fun.

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TV REVIEW: Daredevil – Season 2

Netflix and Marvel hit it out of the park with another sublime superhero-full season

*SPOILER FREE*

It seems fitting that a TV show focussed on “The Man Without Fear” was approached by many with nothing but pure dread. To many, Daredevil was a character whose potential was ruined by the Ben Affleck fronted 2003 film, tainting its reputation and making any future adaptation seem highly unlikely. However, Marvel’s collaboration with Netflix last year proved all doubters wrong, providing an astounding, solid first season featuring tremendous performances from the likes of Charlie Cox as the titular lawyer by day, hero by night Daredevil.

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Charlie Cox donning the famous red(?) suit as Daredevil
Not only did we have a strong lead but the supporting cast was one of the best many had seen in quite some time, leaving those who fell into the painfully addicting habit of binge-watching with one question: how can they top this? Whatever voodoo magic or praying Marvel did has paid off as Daredevil Season 2 is bigger, ballsier and, dare I say it, better.

It wouldn’t be a sufficient review without addressing the new characters, of which we have two: The Punisher and Elektra. The former, played by The Walking Dead’s Jon Berthnal, has been done many times before but it has never felt as well done as it has here. The clashing morals between him and Daredevil make for some very intense scenes in the earlier episodes where we get high octane action as well as an endearing and heart touching backstory that helps to flesh out the character.

daredevil-season-2-punisher-0Elektra also gets some redemption after her terrible portrayal in the aforementioned Daredevil flick, being played this time around by Elodie Yung who, to me anyway, is the quintessential actor for this role. While we have some very strong female heroes in the MCU, Elektra’s strength, independence and wit is very welcome and helps the character to stand out in what could have been an overcrowded mess of a show.

Thankfully that isn’t the case though as the flow of Season 2, for the most part anyway, is superb, only occasionally getting a bit clunky due to the transition from Punisher to Elektra. The story this time around feels much more grand and allows for characters like Foggy Nelson and Karen Page to flourish. That’s why I’ve always preferred Daredevil to Jessica Jones as the former has a support cast that is as complex, detailed and talented as its titular star whereas the latter seemed to chug along whenever the focus wasn’t on Jones herself.

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The great thing about Season 2 of Daredevil is that, given past MCU efforts, it could have easily done the same setup as Season 1 and whilst I would have been satisfied with that, I’m glad that the showrunners decided against it. Not having a big baddie like with Kingpin until the last few episodes meant that we got drawn in even more to what was happening with each character, making the big reveal hold more significance due to the potential collateral. Not only that but everything I loved about the first season was improved with the action being as brutal and raw as ever, truly deserving that 18 rating.

Unlike last time we met with Matt Murdock and co., plans for the future look a lot clearer with The Defenders soon going to become a reality rather than a dream. With two great shows under Marvel’s belt and another two left to go, it’s clear that now more than ever the MCU shines brightest on the small screen: make sure you don’t get left behind.

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So what did you think of Daredevil? Love it? Hate it? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments down below and make sure to follow me on all of my social media down below so you know when I post another review or post!

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Thoughts On: Marvel Cinematic Universe

A new cinema powerhouse is fated to face the same demise as any empire: how can they stop it?

It was only a matter of time. When I was watching the latest Civil War trailer, I was happy with what I saw, everything that was happening confirming my excitement for the film’s release at the end of April: Iron Man and Captain America fighting? Check. Black Panther being added to the roster? Check. An inevitable divide within the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Check.

However, it wasn’t until the final seconds of the trailer that excitement levels for me went through the roof, leaving me in a similar state that I was left in back when the very first film for Marvel’s favourite web-slinger came out. I’m of course talking about Spiderman finally getting his big screen reveal.

“HOLY FUCKING SHIT” was my immediate response and the reaction I gave after watching the trailer repeatedly was pretty much identical. Finally we have Spiderman in the MCU, donning a suit that is beautiful fan service to anyone aware of the original style of Spidey’s look in the 60’s animated series as well as his original look in the comics.

However, the more and more tweets I saw about Spiderman, claiming that his look was awful and that he sounded too young, I started to realise how askewed some fans priorities are. Exile me if you want but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is far from perfect and the empire that it has become won’t collapse because of how cheap Spiderman’s costume looks: it’ll be our resistance to criticising these films.

Before I start listing all the issues I have, it’s important to point out that I do enjoy superhero film and Marvel’s are no different. Guardians Of The Galaxy was hilarious and engaging with a soundtrack that is undeniably perfect for the film and Captain America: Winter Soldier is one of the few films from the MCU that I could recommend to anyone, even those who detest superhero films.

However, if we want to see these films improve then we must realise that they’re not perfect. Nothing is and to live by the opinion that something is perfect sets up the very thing you love to become the very opposite of it and my biggest gripe with the MCU has to be the villains.

A problem that has been ever present in these films since Day 1, villains are seen as a total afterthought in the grand scheme of things. Ask someone to name a nemesis from a MCU film that isn’t Loki and they’ll be struggling, not because of their own bad memory but because of how poorly developed these villains are.

What makes this even more bittersweet is the fact that these villains are played by wonderful actors. Mickey Rourke, Guy Pearce, Tom Hiddleston, it’s a total injustice that Marvel and Disney waste the potential they have. Marvel can make great screen adaptations of villains as shown by Spiderman 2 and Daredevil which has not only irritated myself and many others but even George R.R Martin, author of a little fantasy series you may know that started off with Game Of Thrones, threw his hat into the ring:

“I am tired of this Marvel movie trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man. Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting.”

How good your villain and hero are is irrelevant however when the plot itself is severely lacking and this is another pitfall that Marvel have yet to address properly.

If you don’t know what a Macguffin then it’s time for a little lesson. A Macguffin is defined as being “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation”. A Macguffin goes by many names in the MCU, most typically the Tesseract or an infinity gem, and it has resulted in the predictable, formulaic stories we see more in these type of movies.

“Superhero x fights supervillain y to get object z to save the planet/universe” could sum a vast majority of Marvel films and while there has been some tweaks to the formula, Ant Man managed to make it more of a heist film than all out battle, that feeling of Deja Vu never seems to go away.

Speaking of Deja Vu, it seems like oversaturation is a word Disney and Marvel can’t seem to find in their dictionary. Although not all of these films are theirs, the amount of superhero films present no doubt spawns from their actions. Ten Marvel, eleven DC as well as other Fox owned properties are set to be released in the next four years alone with many others still to be announced.

All of this wouldn’t be a problem if directors were allowed to make the film they wished to but the fact of the matter is that isn’t the case. Edgar Wright, director of Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, left halfway through Ant Man due to creative differences, no doubt down to how every Marvel film intertwines, something that is undoubtedly cool as it makes the movies feel like they’re important in the grand scheme of things.

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I’m not alone in what I’ve said and I’m not trying to take some hipster approach as I’ve said before that I thoroughly enjoy superhero films but I am aware of their faults. While there is leeway for things like scientific inaccuracies in a world where a man can turn into a huge, green monster, there is no excuse for poor villains, plot and planning.

It’s not too late for Marvel to deal with these problems as all they have to do is focus more on what the director feels is right rather than the producers who seem more concerned on quantity rather than quality. Phase 3 of the MCU is set to kick off with Civil War and it has been teased that this will change the future of these films.

I can only pray that this is the case.

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Deadpool MOVIE REVIEW

Wish superheroes nowadays weren’t all dure faced, serious shits? Then Deadpool might be the film for you. 

If you weren’t able to tell from the countless trailer reactions and previews up on my site then you should know that I was a little bit hyped for this film about a loud mouthed, regenerating merc with as much one liners as he has ammo, so much so that I named it my number one most anticipated film of the year. So of course I should have been disappointed with it since there’s no way it managed to surpass the expectations I had set out for it?

Nope. In fact I’m going to go so far as to say it’s the best film Marvel has ever created since Spiderman 2 (please put the pitchforks down). Thankfully I won’t be just throwing that in for controversy and will justify myself in this fun, not at all Buzzfeed-esque list. (Ooh, click-baity.) So without further ado….


1. A Truly Faithful Comic-Book Adaption 

It would have been so easy to incorporate Deadpool into the Marvel Cinematic Universe just to make a few extra bucks. It’s an easy safe net for any new superhero film that may risk being too weird or unfamiliar (see Guardians Of The Galaxy) and when you’re dealing with a character like Wade Wilson, who has a tendency to brutally mutilate his enemies after hitting on them, I can understand any urges Marvel may have had to censor it.

Thankfully this isn’t the case as Deadpool is as potty mouthed, violent and weird as ever. Wearing it’s 15 rating with pride, the film never lets you forget it with some truly cringe inducing moments with bones breaking, brains splitting and heads suddenly no longer being attached to bodies with extremely gruesome detail.

This isn’t just an excuse to have a bit more blood on screen though as it helps for the viewer to better understand the relationship between our titular  character and his prostitute girlfriend Vanessa as well as experience the true pain and torture Deadpool had to endure to get where he is. Violent and heartfelt, this is near enough the perfect Deadpool film. We’re forgetting one thing though…..

2. Side Splittingly Funny

The main factor that draws in people to Deadpool is his self referential humour that doesn’t so much break the fourth wall rather than totally destroy it. In the comics we have him pointing out the cliches and pitfalls of the medium and Deadpool in this film is no different.


The funniest moments and the narrative rely heavily on the fact he is aware he’s in a film, one being where Deadpool points out the size of the set before bringing up the fact that he’s only seen two of the X-men because of budget issues. Other moments are a bit more subtle (“I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to them”) but all of them add up to further enhance Deadpool’s uniqueness both in its humour and execution. We’ve got last one point though and it may be the best reason yet to go out and see this film…

3. Marks A New Age For Comic Films

Right bare with me on this point before you laugh me off as going insane or something along those lines. Think back about the history of superhero films. Back before the 2000’s we had some awful adaptions of our favourite heroes bar a few batman films and by the time Spiderman hit our screens we had what I’d call the cheesy phase of comic films where they were still finding their footing and sometimes even hit it bang on (X-Men being a great example).


We had the dark, gritty era brought on by Christopher Nolans batman films before we endured the onslaught of interlinked films like Iron Man and Captain America where we seemed to have perfected the formula which, love it or hate it, works. As far as I see it, without any dramatic change we’re gonna hit a superhero fatigue and with Deadpool I can see a whole new range of mature, vastly different comic book films.

With Deadpool being sold out at certain times and converting those who previously had no idea who he was, it’s inevitable that this will be another franchise in the making but if a chimichanga loving, mercenary for hire can become a success then what’s stopping DC giving Deathstroke his very own film or Marvel getting even more obscure characters to have a shot?

 Deadpool has been both a critical and commercial success and for good reasons: the pacing is flawless, it’s true to the source material, it packs as much heart as it does laughs and it’s not unafraid to wears its shortcomings on its sleeves. So go grab a ticket and enjoy yourself, though not as much as Deadpool does when left alone with a unicorn teddy.

9/10

For Fans Of: Kick Ass

X-Men: Apocalypse trailer reaction 

Christmas has came early for nerds everywhere. While Father Christmas is only a fortnight away, we’ve already had the Civil War trailer, a proper glimpse of the Batman vs Superman film, more hype for The Force Awakens and now? A trailer for the follow up to one of the best comic book movies ever.

The X-Men prequels/reboots/(I’m not sure any more after the events of Days Of Future Past) have definitely made up for the slip up that was The Last Stand all those years ago in the original trilogy. Even before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a thing, Fox struck gold with Bryan Singer’s blockbuster tales of super mutant teams (no, not the Fallout variety) facing the government, other foes and, most importantly, one another.

“You are all my children and you are lost because you follow blind leaders.”

The name in the title if you hadn’t guessed refers to Apocalypse, one of the X-Men’s greatest foes who has been mentioned in other media (like the Legends video games on the Xbox) but in the films he’s only had one brief mention in the after credits of DOFP. In an age where most trailers drip feed us info, this new one tells us a surprising amount: his motives, what he’s capable of, how the X-Men team dynamic will change, etc. With most big screen adaptions of Marvel villains being mediocre at best, it’s exciting to see what could be our first proper, memorable threatening villain since Loki.  The X-Men team dynamic I pointed out? Not only did we get to see the likes of Cyclops hit out with his full power optic beams, oh how I’ve missed them, and the other horsemen of the apocalypse but we also saw in the trailer how our titular villain is able to control and manipulate the characters. With they’re already being a blurred line dividing between the two sides, it’ll be a treat to see how it all falls down.

The past two X-Men movies have been not only some of the finest comic book movies ever but some of the best action movies of the past decade. While the third movie in a superhero trilogy tends to turn out quite underwhelming (Spiderman 3 I’m looking at you), from what we’ve seen 2016 couldn’t feel as far away as it does now: bring on the calamity.

Also can we briefly talk about that final trailer scene with James McAvoy donning a baldy? I NEED THIS MOVIE NOW.

Big love, Liam x

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