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.

daredevil-season-2-costume-image
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.

daredevil-season-2-slice

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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