Category Archives: Comic Book based

Review – X-Men: Apocalypse (12a) [2016]

X-Men 3 - Title banner

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Director:

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • John Ottman – X-Men IIHouse of WaxFantastic 4 I-IIValkyrie, X-Men: Days of Future PastNon-Stop, 20,000 Leagues Under Sea

The Godfather Syndrome is a common problem for film trilogies. When the first film is a good and the second is better, the third film has a hard act to follow. So often, it cannot raise the bar to the required level and, consequently, the film is unsatisfactory. The Godfather trilogy is the most high profile to fall victim to this syndrome (hence the name), but the third film in the Alien franchise and in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy suffered from the syndrome as well. Sadly, so too does the third film in the X-Men prequel trilogy, Apocalypse.

Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has awakened and keen to inflict punishment, using his incredible powers, upon the 'decadent, corrupt' world of the 1980s.

Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has awakened and keen to inflict punishment, using his incredible powers, upon the ‘decadent, corrupt’ world of the 1980s.

X-Men: Apocalypse begins in Ancient Egypt with the creation of the most powerful mutant of all time (played by Oscar Isaac). This mutant is not given a name, but his enemies nickname him Apocalypse. No sooner is Apocalypse created when he is entombed and falls into a coma.

Fast forward to the 1980s and Apocalypse is awoken. He sees the world is full of decadence and corruption. So he decides that he must destroy it in order to make a new and better world. He recruits four (angry) mutants to his cause: Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn), in order to carry out his master plan. Only the X-Men can stop this plan from coming to fruition. But only if they unite.

Apocalypse’s plot is quite dull, unoriginal and unfaithful to what the X-Men prequel trilogy has been about. First Class and Days of Future Past were original and interesting because they were not about good vs evil. Rather, they were about the polar-opposite approaches of Charles Xavier/Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto to tackle the problems mutants faced in the world (mirroring the stances of Martin Luthar King and Malcolm X during the American Civil Rights movements of the 1960s). Neither Professor X’s nor Magneto’s approaches were completely right or completely wrong, which was what made First Class and Days of Future Past so fascinating and realistic (for the X-Men world that is). However, Apocalypse goes back on this theme and focusses more on stopping an all-powerful, under-developed and poorly written (and so obviously evil) villain. This is a real shame as director Bryan Singer should have done more to continue the theme of the previous two installments.

Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) using his machine to find mutants around the world... and being mentally invaded by Apocalypse.

Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) using his machine to find mutants around the world… and being mentally invaded by Apocalypse.

Yet, the near abandonment of the theme running through the first two movies of this trilogy is not the only major problem with Apocalypse’s plot. The storyline is bitty at best and incoherent at worst. As is so often the case in X-Men films, there are many characters with competing storylines. To condense so many storylines into a TV series is a struggle (just look at Game of Thrones). But to do it in a 144-minute film, and to develop the characters as well, is nigh on impossible. As a result, so much in Apocalypse is left under-explained or simply not explained at all: for example why Magneto begins the film in a metal-works factory in Poland (yes, just go with it)? Why, also, does Apocalypse need four assistants to help him execute his grand plan? (One would think these questions are profound enough to warrant answers. But, no, instead Singer spends the time explaining how Professor X went bald and how Storm’s hair turned blonde.)

It is safe to say that Apocalypse’s plot has enough holes to rival Swiss Cheese. However, to some extent one can ignore its many problems and enjoy watching some of our favourite mutants once more. Like in First Class and Days of Future Past, the acting and the dialogue is good. Again, both are a little bit down on the other two movies. But that may be due to viewers becoming accustomed to the high standard of acting set by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence in particular.

No, the only real surprise in Apocalypse is how much screen time is given to the new members of the cast; notably, Sophie Turner as the young Jean Gray. Turner’s American accent vacillates across the Atlantic during the course of the film and she does not have the screen presence or the charisma (as yet) of the more senior members of the cast. But Turner does a good job with what she is given nevertheless.

The new mutants: young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, left), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, centre) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan, right) in the thick of the action, trying to stop Apocalypse from carrying his plan to destroy the world.

The new mutants: young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, left), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, centre) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan, right) in the thick of the action, trying to stop Apocalypse from carrying his plan to destroy the world.

And like with the acting and the dialogue, the action scenes and the special effects are good without being spectacular. Similarly though, audiences have seen what Apocalypse has to offer before (not only in previous X-Men films, but also in other sci-fi and comic-book movies). This, therefore, leaves viewers feeling underwhelmed and yearning for something more interesting to watch.

All-in-all, X-Men: Apocalypse is a disappointing film. The storyline is a muddle, undercooked and a betrayal from what made the previous two films in the trilogy so engaging. With a plot so problematic, it is no surprise that neither the quality of its cast nor the numerous (inconsequential) action sequences can save this third film from being a let-down. Thus, The Godfather Syndrome has struck again and means that the X-Men prequel trilogy has not got the conclusive third chapter that it richly deserved.

PG’s Tips

Review – Captain America III: Civil War (12a) [2016]

Captain America 3 - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Directors:

  • Anthony Russo – LuckyYou, Me & DupreeCommunityCaptain America II, The Avengers III: Infinity War: Part I
  • Joe Russo – Welcome To CollinwoodArrested DevelopmentYou, Me & Dupree, Captain America II, The Avengers III: Infinity War: Part I

Cast:

Music Composer:

Six weeks ago, Batman v Superman (BvS) finally arrived in cinemas. It was essentially about 100 minutes of a jumbled nothingness in order to get two superheroes to take opposing sides and smash each other black and blue. It was a tremendously disappointing film. So upon entering Captain America III: Civil War, with the prospect of a dozen superheroes taking sides and smashing each other up, was one right to be apprehensive? Hell no!

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons of signing up the Sokovia Accords.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons of signing up the Sokovia Accords.

Put simply, Captain America III begins shortly after the events in Sokovia (the final battle in The Avengers II: Age of Ultron). The world is furious with the Avengers due to the amount of death and destruction they caused. As a result, the UN have issued the Sokovia Accords and want to ratify them, to ensure that the Avengers will be unable to act without UN approval in future conflicts. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) agrees with the need for the accords and general oversight since he feels guilty for the carnage the Avengers caused; particularly as he created Ultron.

However, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) disagrees. He believes in his own judgement and claims to know when it is best for the Avengers to act, not the UN. This splits within the Avengers down the middle as some take Stark’s side while others take Rodger’s side. Complicating matters further is the return of Roger’s friend, Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Stark believes he is a great danger, but Rogers does not. And so the civil war begins.

Captain America III is a lot of fun. It is 147-minutes of continuous smash ups involving our favourite Avengers characters (minus Thor and the Hulk), with some aspects of a storyline (or three) in between all the fighting. Unsurprisingly, the plot makes little sense. But to give directors Anthony and Joe Russo credit, the plot for Captain America III makes considerably more sense than BvS (despite having three times as many characters). In addition, the tone is consistent and enjoyable due to its carefree comic nature, in stark contrast to BvS’s imbalance of ultra-seriousness and unrealistic, over-the-top fight sequences.

Captain America (centre) and his side of the civil war, consisting of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Anti-Man (Paul Rudd) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Captain America (centre) and his side of the civil war, consisting of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Anti-Man (Paul Rudd) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Another element of Captain America III that the directors get right is the lack of background for all the characters upon their introductions, including the new Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland). That is not to say that the introductions aren’t done well. On the contrary, they are apt and very amusing too, but more in a welcome back way (with the exception of Spiderman) rather than in the form of long-winded origins stories. (Take note Zack Snyder: when something has been done well already, i.e. Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s background in 2005’s Batman Begins; or has been overdone badly, i.e. how Peter Parker got his Spidy-powers in 2002’s Spiderman and 2012’s The Amazing Spiderman, there is no need to put in the same tale again that cinema-goers are tired of, and especially not in slow-motion.)

Captain America III gets a lot right. Nevertheless, it is too long and the constant bashing that the superheroes do to each other does become repetitive. One can have a snooze in the movie, wake up and still be watching the same fight scene or a different one. It really makes no difference. Nothing of lasting consequence ever happens.

Team Iron Man, consisting of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). Spiderman (Tom Holland) is also on Team Iron Man, but he is not in the picture.

Team Iron Man, consisting of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). Spiderman (Tom Holland) is also on Team Iron Man, but he is not in the picture.

Also, like in Captain America II, Civil War’s storylines run out of puff long before the film’s climactic battle(s). Viewers can be forgiven for forgetting (or even for failing to understand) why Captain America and Iron Man are fighting one another by the end. Then again, one could say that about pretty much all the Marvel comic-book films really. And, strangely enough, that is the point: it doesn’t matter. That is why viewers like Marvel comic-book films and why the studios keep churning out more of them.

Over-all, Captain America III: Civil War is an entertaining, light-hearted film. It is funny and action-packed. Yes, those who have seen other Avengers-related films have probably seen it all before, but who cares? Audiences go into comic-book films, like Captain America III, wanting to enjoy themselves, to watch an ensemble of superheroes beat each other up, and to laugh. The movie delivers, which is more than what can be said for another film about an ensemble of superheroes that fought one another recently.

PG’s Tips

Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (12a) [2016]

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Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • Zack Snyder – 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Justice League: Part I

Executive Producer:

Cast:

Music Composers:

Batman v Superman…? The title alone draws a sigh. How can a mortal defeat an immortal? How can a man defeat a god? These questions already hint at problems with the film and that is before its 151-minute running time begins. And then there is the problem of Director Zack Snyder, and the sigh lengthens. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was doomed from the start, wasn’t it?

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

  Batman v Superman (BvS) is about… well, that is another of the film’s many problems. The first 90-100 minutes are a convoluted, chaotic and inconsistent muddle just to pit Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) in a fist fight against one another. And this fist fight, which comes to include Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Doomsday (aka the Cave Troll from Lord of the Rings I: The Fellowship of the Ring) goes on for an Earth’s turn.

One would have thought that Zack Snyder had learned his lessons from Man of Steel and not put in a long (pointless and boring) fist fight in which collateral damage is caused on a colossal scale. (The first two-thirds of BvS bangs on about how much of a menace Superman is because of the collateral damage he caused in his flying fight with General Zod.) But no. The fight scenes at the end of BvS go on for even longer and cause even more collateral damage than in Man of Steel. It is quite astonishing, really.

What is not astonishing, however, are the twists in BvS. Worse, they are not in the least surprising. (The trailer gives most of them away anyway.) One twist in particular, which has to do with Clark Kent’s and Bruce Wayne’s deceased mothers, is downright stupid. Who thought that was a good idea? Was it you, Snyder? Really?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this 'terrifying' monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this ‘terrifying’ monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

And whose idea was it to have an origins story for Bruce Wayne? We had that in 2005 with Batman Begins. There was no need to have it in this film; especially not with that utterly clichéd, slow-motioned “Noooooooooo!”. For goodness sake, in 2005 Darth Vadar did it in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and it was laughable back then. So again, whose idea was it to put that in BvS? Was it you, Snyder? Or are you going to blame Christopher Nolan? (Yes, that genius who gave us The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and a host of other thought-provoking films. Quite frankly, it is hard to believe that Nolan had any input into the plot for BvS as one can believe he can excrete a better film than this one.)

Whether Snyder or Nolan are to blame for the paucity of BvS, it should be noted that the actors are entirely blameless. In fact, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Amy Adams should be commended for trying so damn hard to make something of this train wreck. No-one can question their efforts. Although, Clark Kent/Superman is by nature devoid of character, making him somewhat boring to watch; and Lex Luthor… well, it is hard to say what Snyder was aiming for with the character. Villains can be scary, cunning, honourable, witty, sadistic or cruel (or mixtures of all those traits). But villains cannot be annoying, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is bloody annoying. As a result, one wants him dead the moment he introduces himself and for all the wrong reasons.

Lastly, it should be said that even this disaster of a movie has some positive points. The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred is one such point. Alfred might be the commander-in-chief of Bruce’s arsenal instead of his butler (just go with it), yet whenever the two of them are together on-screen the scenes are genuinely enjoyable and wryly funny. For a film that takes itself way too seriously (but has stupidly unrealistic fight scenes), Bruce and Alfred strike the right tonal balance so as to make the jokes apt for their circumstances.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

The other major positive point is the visuals. Credit where credit is due: Snyder knows how to make his products look shiny. It is just a shame that the visuals have no substance under the gloss.

Over-all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mess. The storylines are all over the place, the tone is off, and the fight scenes go on for too long. Bruce Wayne and Alfred provide highlights that one can enjoy, but not even Ben Affleck’s and Jeremy Irons’ best efforts can make this film worthwhile. No, they and the rest of the cast have been badly let down by director Zack Snyder. The man should not helm another movie until he learns how to write a sound and logical script. Nevertheless, guess who Hollywood has signed up to direct Justice League: Part I & II? Yes, you guessed it: Zack Snyder. To quote Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”

PG’s Tips

Review – Deadpool (15) [2016]

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Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Tim Miller

Cast:

  • Ryan Reynolds – X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Buried, Truth In Advertising
  • Karan Soni – Supremacy, Goosebumps, Other Space, Ghostbusters
  • Ed Skrein – The Sweeney, Game of Thrones, The Transporter Refueled, The Model
  • Stefan Kapicic
  • Brianna Hildebrand – Prism, First Girl I Loved
  • Gina Carano – Haywire, Fast & Furious 6, In The Blood, Scorched Earth
  • Morena Baccarin – The OC, Homeland, Gotham, Malevolent

Music Composer:

Ryan Reynolds has wanted to play Deadpool since 2005. In 2009’s (forgettable) X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he got his wish; although, it was an insignificant role and did such an injustice to the foul-mouthed, raunchy character that has lit up Marvel comics since 1991. Well, now, Reynolds has finally got his wish and has made a Deadpool standalone film. But is the movie any good? Does the movie do justice to the character?

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Deadpool centres round Wade Wilson (Reynolds). Wade is a former US special forces operative who works as a mercenary in New York City. One day, he finds out that he has multiple and terminal cancer(s). Not wanting to die, Wade goes to a special, underground clinic that claims to be trying a new cure for cancer, which could potentially save him.

However, when Wade arrives at the dodgy clinic, he learns that Ajax (Ed Skrein), the one performing the experimental cure on him, is not trying to cure him at all. Rather, Ajax is attempting to create a mutant, super-slave and disfigures Wade. Wade escapes, but does not manage to kill Ajax before the latter gets away. Wade is out for revenge and puts on the red spandex for good measure.

Deadpool is an entertaining film. It is action-packed, rude and raunchy. Wade/Deadpool is also the antithesis of what a superhero should be. Spiderman, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Captain America are modest, selfless and caring individuals, while Iron Man and Thor are egotistical maniacs yet altruistic characters at heart. Deadpool, on the other hand, is irredeemably arrogant and selfish, and Reynolds looks like he is revelling in it all. (And fair play to him too. If one generally waits a decade to play a role, one should enjoy every moment of it when it finally comes around.)

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

The film’s filthy dialogue reflects the character. Possibly the best element of the movie is the numerous, inappropriate jokes. Not only are they genuinely funny, they keep audiences entertained when the action is not taking place. Nevertheless, due to the way Tim Miller has put the film together, one is never more than ten minutes away from a shoot-out or an explosion. The movie starts on an over-the-top chase scene. It keeps cutting out/back in time during this chase scene to explain the background, with the (unneeded) aid of a voiceover from Wade, until the movie catches up with the chase scene. Then, the film continues with the action.

As one can imagine, this style of directing can become grating after a while; particularly as Wade/Deadpool is so unapologetically full of himself. Equally grating are the constant (and unsubtle) references to other comic-book films, such as The Wolverine and the X-Men franchise. (We get it, Deadpool, you were in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the studio did not want to pay for the entire X-Men cast. You don’t need to ram it down our throats every fifteen minutes.)

Furthermore, the plot is silly and the villain is clichéd. Indeed, the silliness of the plot and the clichéd nature of the stereotypical British villain (played with unrepentant glee by Ed Skrein) should have fans wondering if the creators of Deadpool could have been any lazier in their planning.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

The women add nothing to the film too. They are either there to be the (hackneyed) damsel-in-distress or to kick some arse. These are comic-book tropes that have been done repeatedly since Sam Raimi’s Spiderman came out in 2002. All the same, if done well they make for entertaining viewing. And Deadpool is undoubtedly entertaining viewing.

Over-all, Deadpool is a fun film. It has action aplenty and enough genuinely funny jokes to render it better than most comedies. Of course the movie is silly, referential to other comic-book movies, filled with tropes from the genre, and annoying. Yet, that is all pars for the course with the character and the movie certainly does our rude, crude and foul-mouthed super anti-hero justice. Thus, Deadpool has exorcised the pale imitation that appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and is the film that Ryan Reynolds and fans of the comics have been waiting for.

PG’s Tips

Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past (12a) [2014]

X-Men 2 - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • John Ottman – X-Men II, House of Wax, Fantastic 4 I-II, Valkyrie, Non-Stop, X-Men: Apocalypse

The Batman and X-Men franchises have undergone similar arcs and reboots in relatively recent times. 1997’s Batman & Robin and 2006’s X-Men 3: The Last Stand were so bad that the franchises were torn up and magnificently re-started in the form of 2005’s Batman Begins and 2011’s X-Men: First Class. And just as 2008’s The Dark Knight was a great sequel to Batman Begins, so Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise with X-Men: Days of Future is a great continuation of First Class.

Storm (Halle Berry), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Blink (Blingbling Fan), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) decide upon their plan of action, whilst watching in horror as the Sentinels attack.

Storm (Halle Berry), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Blink (Blingbling Fan), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) decide upon their plan of action, whilst watching in horror as the Sentinels attack.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is loosely based on the comic-book with the same title. The movie starts in the apocalyptic, present day or the near future. Led by the reunited Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen), the last handful of mutants are trying desperately to hold out against the invincible, changeable Sentinels.

With the situation hopeless, Professor X, via Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), sends Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973. Professor X’s hope is that Wolverine can persuade a younger, mentally-broken Charles (James McAvoy) to re-establish his friendship with Erik (Michael Fassbender) and stop Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) from creating the Sentinels.

X-Men: Days of Future Past has an engaging storyline that interlinks the two time-periods within the film nicely, if not without problems for some of the other X-Men films. Indeed, Days of Future Past may come at the expense of some elements of the three original X-Men movies and may even black-out the existence of the two Wolverine spin-offs (but that is probably for the best).

Moreover, Days of Future Past involves itself in crucial events in history, in the same way that First Class did with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights movement in America in the 1960s. Like with its prequel, Days of Future Past does this in a smart and hilarious way. This, combined many in-jokes and phenomenal special effects, makes Days of Future Past very enjoyable to watch.

Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) finds Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who finds out that she is still furious with him about something that happened off-screen in the past.

Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) finds Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who finds out that she is still furious with him about something that happened off-screen in the past.

Nevertheless, what makes (First Class and) Days of Future Past so interesting is that it is not about a showdown between Good and Evil; it is about the friendship/rivalry of Professor X and Magneto. These two characters may not have the depth or the darkness of Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but their personalities and differing ideologies make for a refreshing change to the crash, bang, boom nature of other superhero movies like all five Spiderman films, Iron Man III and Captain America II among countless others.

Additionally, the dialogue and acting in the latter two X-Men films is significantly better than in those above-mentioned superhero movies, with the exception of The Dark Knight Trilogy. All the actors in Days of Future Past (old and new) are brilliant without fail. Whether it is Sir Ian McKellen or Michael Fassbender, Magneto is played with the same vigour and damaged personality as in First Class; Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful as the vulnerable Mysterique, whose unhappiness in her own skin has led her to take vengeance against anyone who takes a dislike to mutants; Hugh Jackman once again shows that he owns the Wolverine character; Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy play magnificently as Charles Xavier, although McAvoy undoubtedly has the more demanding parts of the role; and Peter Dinklage is great as Dr. Trask, even if his accent switches from his normal New Jersey accent to Tyrion Lannister’s English accent for no obvious reason.

The above-mentioned characters may dominate Days of Future Past, but they are only a minority of the swollen cast. Consequently, a great many characters are not given much screen time, including new mutants like Blink (Bingbing Fan), Sunspot (Adan Canto) and Warpath (Booboo Stewart). These mutants have a back-story and it would have been good to hear it.

Otherwise, in the eleven years between the end of First Class and the beginning of Days of Future Past (1962-73), viewers are told of many interesting developments that have occurred off-screen. It would have been nice to have been shown these. (Then again, another film in between these two movies would have been needed for that.)

Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) explaining why he needs to create the Sentinels.

Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) explaining why he needs to create the Sentinels (which come to look remarkably like the machine-monster Thor fights in Thor I).

And, lastly, the film deviates quite significantly from the same-named comic-book; for example, in the comics, it is Kitty Pryde who goes back in time, not Wolverine. But if comic-book geeks are honest, even they would accept that Kitty Pryde cannot dominate the screen (or hold viewer’s attention) in the same way that Wolverine can. And besides, these alterations should not knock down a film that achieves so much by way of its ambition and is so entertaining.

Over-all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a really good film. It has its flaws and it would have been nice to learn more about the non-central characters, and to see some of the events that happened off-screen. But, on the whole, Days of Future Past is amusing; it deals well with its two competing time-periods; continues the conflict maturely between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr; and is a credible sequel to X-Men: First Class. Now all the franchise needs, like with The Dark Knight Trilogy, is a satisfying conclusion in its third instalment, X-Men: Apocalypse.

PG’s Tips

Review – Captain America II: The Winter Soldier (12a) [2014]

Captain America 2 - title banner

Star Rating: 3/5

Directors:

Cast:

Music Composer:

Titular characters are usually (and unsurprisingly) the main characters in their films. Bruce Wayne/Batman is the lead character in Batman Begins, Conan is the central performer in Conan the Barbarian, and Tony Stark/Iron Man is the dominant personality of the Iron Man franchise. Yet, in some movies the titular character is usurped by a member of the supporting cast. This is what happens in Captain America II: The Winter Soldier, and in this case it makes for a better spectacle.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) bent over a computer, uploading data as part of her mission.

The saucy Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) bent over a computer, uploading data as part of her mission.

Captain America II is the third instalment of Marvel’s ‘Phase II’ and takes place two years after the events of The Avengers Assemble I. With military and spy technology having evolved, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) has become increasingly uncomfortable with how SHIELD is operating. Believing that there is something underhand at SHIELD, Captain America and his fellow Avenger, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), go on the run to find out who or what might be behind SHIELD’s worrying change of direction. And that is when they come up against the powerful Winter Soldier…

Captain America II is a significant improvement on Captain America I. Its storyline is much more enjoyable and it justifies its 136 minute running time. Unlike the lacklustre and simplistic plots of Captain America I, Iron Man III and Thor II (the latter-two films being the previous two instalments of Marvel’s ‘Phase II’), Captain America II’s storyline tries to be complex and raises some thought-provoking moral dilemmas. Issues, such as the use of drones, and how far government agencies are permitted to use technology to gather intelligence about its citizens (and foreign ones) are matters that are greatly relevant to the present era, and the film should be commended for bringing them up.

However, Captain America II lacks the stamina to maintain these complicated themes as the film goes on. This is because the movie does not have the maturity of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so it falls into laughable stereotypes and senselessness; all of which is a shame to a degree, yet do not affect the film’s entertainment value.

The part-masked and super-powerful Winter Soldier, whose identity and motives are unknown to SHIELD.

The part-masked and super-powerful Winter Soldier, whose identity and motives are unknown to SHIELD.

Chiefly, this is because of the role of Black Widow, played wonderfully by Scarlett Johansson. Black Widow has appeared in Iron Man II and The Avengers Assemble I; nevertheless, it is only in Captain America II that Black Widow is given proper screen time to express herself and she does not disappoint. In a similar vein to the Joker in The Dark Knight, Christian Bale’s Dicky in The Fighter, and Loki in Thor I & II, when Black Widow is not on screen viewers long for her return. It is not just due to her skin-tight costume, her excellent kick-ass skills, and Johansson’s tantalising good looks (although those are inordinately influential); it is Black Widow’s astuteness, savviness and (somewhat) enigmatic personality that makes audiences want to see more of her, since she keeps one guessing as to what her agenda is throughout the movie. (Indeed, it’s pity that there is not more of her.)

Black Widow undoubtedly overshadows the titular Captain America. This is not surprising since Captain America is the least talented and the least interesting of all the Marvel heroes. Captain America is merely the archetypal soldier without a bad bone in his body, which (as lovely as it sounds) makes for dull viewing (which was probably why Captain America I was so boring and why the directors included Black Widow this time around). This is not to say that Chris Evans does a bad job with the material he’s been given; it’s just that the material doesn’t have enough substance to it and wastefully does not develop Captain America’s character. The same is true for Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), while the villains (none of whom I’ll name for fear of spoiling the film) are even less fleshed out and significantly more trite.

Trite is also how one can describe the dialogue in Captain America II. For the heroes, the dialogue is lazily written; for the villains, it is pitifully comical.

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), in full garb, ready to take out his (and America's) enemies, alongside the Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), in full garb, ready to take out his (and America’s) enemies, alongside the Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

But dialogue aside, the many (but thankfully not too many) stunts and action scenes are well choreographed. Those, in addition to the decent CGI and the uplifting music score, make Captain America II an enjoyable watch.

All-in-all, Captain America II: The Winter Soldier is an entertaining comic-book hero movie. Its attempts to be complicated, both on a plot and on a moral level, may become silly as the movie goes on. Yet, the film holds its audiences interest throughout its over two-hour running time. Unquestionably, this is because of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. In Captain America’s own movie, Black Widow steals his thunder (pardon the Thor pun), so much so that the film should not be called Captain America II: The Winter Soldier, but Black Widow: The Savvy Avenger.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Wolverine (12a) [2013]

The Wolverine - title banner

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • James Mangold – Girl, Interrupted, 3:10 To Yuma, Knight & Day, Three Little Words

Cast:

  • Hugh Jackman – X-Men I-III, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Les Misérables, X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Famke Janssen – Goldeneye, X-Men I-III, Taken I-II, In The Woods
  • Rilo Fukushima
  • Tao Okamoto
  • Hiroyuki Sanada – The Last Samurai, Rush Hour III, The Railway Man
  • Svetlana Khodchenkova – No Love In The City, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Royal Killer

Music Composer:

Troubled productions can take on many forms. The Wolfman needed to reshoot scenes after completing filming; Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen did not have script three weeks before filming; and Margaret had numerous post-production problems that led to the movie coming out six years after it was shot. Suffice to say, all of these movies were a mess when they arrived at cinemas. The same is true for The Wolverine, which had a change of director and several delays at pre-production stages.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) running with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), trying to protect her from assassins working for... well that's anyone's guess.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) running with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), trying to protect her from assassins working for… well that’s anyone’s guess.

The Wolverine follows on from events in X3: The Last Stand. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is traumatised from having killed his lover, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and he spends his time nomadically walking around.

One night, he stumbles into a bar and meets Yukio (Rilo Fukushima), a random Japanese girl who has been trying to find him for a year. Yukio tells Logan that Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), someone Logan apparently saved at Nagasaki as the nuclear bomb went off in August 1945, is dying and wishes to see him one more time before he dies. Reluctantly, Logan agrees to go to Japan for a day to grant Shingen his wish.

But upon arrival, the paralysed Shingen informs Logan that he can end his immortality and pain. Logan declines. Shingen then begs Logan to protect his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), the heir to his company and fortune, from others wishing to kill her to seize everything for themselves, to which again Logan reluctantly agrees.

As is often the case with films with major production problems, The Wolverine’s dialogue is senseless and the plot is all over the place. A flashing red light should immediately go off in one’s mind upon realising that the film takes place after events in 2006’s panned X3, warning viewers of the train-wreck ahead. And also, when has it ever been mentioned in any of the other X-Men films that Logan spent time in Japan during World War II and survived a nuclear bomb? These oh so small details are merely the starting point for the film’s problems. That the film does not even bother to explain why Logan was in Japan/Nagasaki in 1945 or what his relationship with Shingen was in the first place merely adds to the sense that the movie lost its way long before filming started.

Logan with his claws out ready to fight a nameless, Japanese sword-wielding baddie.

Logan with his claws out ready to fight a nameless, Japanese sword-wielding baddie.

Yet, what is probably most disappointing about The Wolverine is that it feels like an irrelevant sideshow throughout its 126 minutes of running time and adds nothing to Logan’s personal story. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine might have been (rightly) ridiculed by fans and critics alike, but at least it showed audiences (albeit badly) how Logan acquired metal claws and why he has blanks in his memory.

The only positive aspect of The Wolverine’s storyline is Logan’s trauma. One must praise James Mangold for making Logan keep his psychological problem. But a trauma is a little bit more than half a dozen flashbacks to a deceased loved one. That the film doesn’t explore other angles of Logan’s psychological issues hints that the trauma was the idea of Darren Aranofsky, a specialist in films focussing on psychological problems and the initial director of The Wolverine, and that James Mangold carried on with the idea without having any real clue as to how to develop it.

Contending with this mess of a movie, Hugh Jackman does not do a bad job as the eponymous character. Whilst his performance is nothing special, Jackman at least makes us believe that the invincible Logan is suffering internally. Undoubtedly, Jackman is the film’s saving grace. The leading Japanese male actors do little more than shoot and swing swords (because that’s all Japanese men can do apparently), and the leading female actresses Rilo Fukushima and Tao Okamoto have no chemistry on set with Jackman/Logan and barely have an expression between them. Perhaps this is because Fukushima and Okamoto aren’t even actresses! They’re models (reminding us all of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s dreadful performance in Transformers III). Why couldn’t James Mangold find some qualified Japanese or Japanese-American actresses to do the jobs? What possible excuse is there for this?

Logan attempting to fend off the allure/threat of the sexy Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of several ambiguously-motivated, peripheral villains in the film.

Logan attempting to fend off the allure/threat of the sexy Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of several ambiguously-motivated, peripheral villains in the film.

One may argue that viewers do not go to see films like The Wolverine (or Transformers II) for the acting, but rather for the action and the special effects. If that is the case, The Wolverine won’t frustrate such people since there is a plethora of decent-looking (if inconsequential) fight scenes that fill the time. But it has all been seen and done before in the previous X-Men movies, making the fighting pointless and tedious.

All-in-all, The Wolverine’s troubles behind the scenes are reflected in the film’s end result. The plot goes to nowhere; the script makes no sense; the cast (with the exception of Hugh Jackman) are wooden; and the special effects and action scenes fail to flatter. Thus, but for the fact that the film is about Wolverine, arguably X-Men’s most well-known superhero, The Wolverine might as well as have been thrown in the bin.

PG’s Tips