Category Archives: Comic Book based

Review – The Avengers Assemble 3D (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 4/5

The Hulk, Iron Man I & II, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were all made to ready audiences for The Avengers Assemble, the culmination of Marvel’s superhero comic-books turned movies. But could throwing together a bunch of supernaturally-gifted souls work in practice? The Avengers Assemble demonstrates the folly of those who doubted the project.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at SHIELD, puts the Avengers Initiative into motion to save (or avenge) the world from Loki.

The film kicks off with Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Thor, Midnight In Paris, Black Wings Has My Angel) opening up a portal to Earth. After seizing control of the minds of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner – The Town, Mission Impossible IV, Mission: Impossible V) and the scientist Erik Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard – Angels & Demons, Thor, Romeo & Juliet), Loki steals the Tesseract, the translucent and supernaturally-powerful cube that belongs to King Odin of Asgard.

Fearing the worst for Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson – Star Wars I-III, Iron Man I-II, Captain America II), the director of SHIELD, reactivates the ‘Avengers Initiative’ to bring together a group supernaturally gifted individuals to save the world against foes beyond man’s conventional capacity. Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson – The Prestige, Iron Man I-II, Her), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo – Shutter Island, The Kids Are Alright, Thanks For Sharing), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man I-III, Sherlock Holmes I-II, Due Date), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I-II, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America II) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Thor, Snow White and The Huntsman) all answer the call.

Despite their differences, the group must co-operate in order to defeat the onslaught upon Earth that Loki shall unleash with the power of the Tesseract behind him.

The villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), smirking as he tells Nick Fury that nothing can stop his plans from coming to fruition.

There is nothing remotely complex, original or realistic about the storyline for The Avenger’s Assemble. Nevertheless, it is greatly entertaining. It has plenty of action scenes and an amusing clash of egos (of Godly proportion) between Thor and Iron Man.

Without being a comedy, the film is littered with banter and jokes. This is because (thankfully), like in This Means War, none of the actors in The Avengers Assemble take their roles earnestly. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark would have looked utterly preposterous if they had tried to seriously discuss astrophysics before turning into a green beast or donning an iron costume.

The Hulk and Iron Man might be the most dominant characters in the film, but director Joss Whedon gives each member of the cast a chance to shine. He gives them all a back story as well. This does not mean that the protagonists in The Avengers Assemble are any less divorced from the society that they have promised to defend; and nor does it mean that they have the depth of the Bruce Wayne of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy or some of the mutants in X-Men: First Class, such as Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven. Yet, it ensures that Whedon’s comic-book heroes are not mere kick-busters in ludicrous outfits either.

The Avengers in action. Captain America, the all-American hero wearing the stars and stripes, leads the group as they attempt to defend the world from the metal monsters coming from outer-space.

Irrespective, though, of whether the narcissistic Tony Stark has come to like his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man I-III, Contagion, Thanks For Sharing), as much as he likes himself, or if Bruce Banner explains the injustices that have led to him turning into a green monster when he gets angry, the special effects are consistently brilliant throughout The Avengers Assemble. Again, there is little new to behold (the highly destructive flying caterpillars have become standard among alien invasion movies since last year’s Transformers III), but the effects assist the action scenes remarkably well. Even the 3D works a treat!

Over-all, The Avengers Assemble is a thoroughly entertaining and humorous movie. It has an affable group of protagonists, who all seem to have great chemistry on set, plus fantastic fighting scenes and superb special effects. The film might not be original or complex, and it certainly has no deep moral message. Yet, The Avengers Assemble is everything that a light-hearted, comic-book, superhero movie should be. Bring on the sequel!

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Review – Captain America: The First Avenger 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2/5

Since when did a man wearing a bright, tight costume become a symbol of heroism in war? Only in the world of comic-books could this be possible. Indeed, whilst watching Captain America: The First Avenger (a prequel to The Avengers Assemble, due out next spring), one has to remind oneself where this (Marvel) superhero comes from to remotely appreciate the film.

Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) suddenly all toned after coming out of the machine that turns him into a superhero.

Captain America is set in the early-1940s, during World War II. Steven Rogers (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I & II, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Avengers Assemble) is a small, scrawny young man from Brooklyn, who is desperate to join the American army. Except, he keeps getting rejected. It is only when Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci – The Devil Wears Prada, Burlesque, The Lovely Bones), a German-American doctor/scientist, wants to conduct an experiment on him that Steven is given the chance to enter the war.

Dr. Erskine wants to turn Steven into a super-strong human weapon, capable of defeating Johann Schmidt/Red Face (Hugo Weaving – Transformers IIII, The Wolfman, The Hobbit I), Erskine’s other experiment that went awry. Schmidt is a Nazi, and one of Hitler’s main henchmen. Schmidt, however, has his own intentions, such as destroying the world by using the almighty power in the Tesseract, a translucent cube, of King Odin of Asgard, Thor’s father. Only the enhanced Steven – Captain America – armed with a shield bearing the stars and stripes, can stop Schmidt from implementing his plan.

Captain America’s nemesis, Red Face (Hugo Weaving). If he’s a Nazi, where’s the swastika insignia on his arm?

The storyline can be followed easily and runs at a fairly decent pace. But at two hours, the movie could have done with being a bit shorter. Undoubtedly, one has to take the plot with a pinch of salt. When one watches Captain America take on whole armies in military fortresses, cheesy images of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger with double-barrelled machine-guns (and seemingly limitless ammunition) spring to mind. This never bodes too well for a modern-day action movie, and Captain America is not immune from this either.

If the late-1980s/early-1990s action scenes don’t make one laugh, then the piteous acting and dialogue certainly will. The eponymous characters in Iron Man I & II and Thor (the other prequels to the upcoming The Avengers Assemble) may have lacked the depth of the main characters in X-Men: First Class, not to mention those in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, but at least Iron Man and Thor had arrogance, swagger and humour. None of the characters in Joe Johnson’s (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman) Captain America have any real substance. They take themselves daftly seriously, with perhaps the exception of Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Men In Black I-III, Lincoln), playing Colonel Chester Philips. Apart from him, the cast (including the usually sound Hugo Weaving) come across as wooden and shallow. They also say some embarrassingly cliché lines (even for a comic-book movie!) that do them no favours.

Captain America all dressed and ready for battle.

The music is little better than the acting. The same can be said for the special effects and the 3D. That does not mean that the special effects are disastrously poor; they are just not of the exceptional quality as those in Transformers III. The 3D, however, is virtually unnoticeable.

Captain America is unquestionably simplistic and appeals almost exclusively to Marvel comic-book fans. It distinctly lacks all the appeals and complexities of Nolan’s Batman series or Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class. Then again, with a propaganda-inclined title, what else should one expect?

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Review – X-Men: First Class (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 4/5

There is a theme currently in Hollywood not only to remake films, but also to make prequels of blockbusters, such as Batman and Hannibal. (Although, whether one would call Planet of the Apes a blockbuster is questionable.) X-Men: First Class is part of the wider X-Men Origins series that began with Wolverine two years ago. First Class is not as dark and gothic as Batman Begins; yet, it is an entertaining movie with strong moral messages.

Erik, Sean/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Charles, Moira, Raven/Mystique and Cyclops’ younger brother, Alex/Havoc (Lucas Till) all making observations during their time in CIA Headquarters.

Set mainly in early-1960s America, the film centres on the mutants Charles Xavier (James McAvoy – Atonement, Wanted, Trance), the future wheelchair-bound Professor X (played by Patrick Stewart in X-Men I, II & III), and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender – 300, Inglorious Basterds, Shame), the future renegade Magneto (played by Ian McKellen in later films).

Whilst the storyline is about how the US and Soviet governments need their respective mutants for espionage and to avoid going to war over Cuba in the run up to the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962), the mutants spend much time discussing how they just want to fit into mainstream society, despite being different: ‘mutant and proud’ they say (sounds similar to ‘gay and proud’ if you ask me). Oh how such slogans must make Lady Gaga happy! Nevertheless, one cannot help but note the political message here in First Class. The movie takes place at the same time as black people in America were starting to demonstrate and riot for equal rights. That mutants would want the same rights is understandable.

Yet, despite the civil rights aspect and the revising of history with a fantastic conspiracy theory about how the Cuban Missile Crisis played itself out, First Class is more about the contrast in mentalities between Charles and Erik: two friends who would become adversaries.

The mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), formerly the Nazi, Mengele-like doctor who experimented on Erik when he was a boy, casually chatting with the beautiful Emma Frost/White Queen.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender both play well, without being brilliant. As a wise professor with little baggage, McAvoy has the easier of the two roles. Fassbender, without being crude or cliché, illustrates well Erik’s transformation into Magneto. (Arguably, more time could have been given to this, and it could have made for some fascinating psychological viewing. This is just a personal opinion though.) Alas, much of what Erik says is true; yet, undoubtedly, the crucial message of the film – ‘that killing will not bring you peace’ – is put across emphatically by Charles, who fears for his friend. If one thinks about an angry group of hate-filled people against the West in our own age, we might get a true understanding for who that message is really aimed at.

Charles and Erik are not, though, the only mutants seen in First Class. Although many of the bigger names of the later films do not feature, there are still some mutants that audiences may recognise. However, with exception of the beautiful, but insecure Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone, The Beaver, The Hunger Games), none of the lesser characters are given much screen-time. Note though that all the women in the movie are gorgeous and sexy: Dr. Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne – 28 Weeks Later, Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz – The Brave One, Californication) and, especially, Emma Frost/The White Queen (January Jones – Mad Men, Unknown, American Pie: The Wedding).

Two good friends happily playing chess. It is here that Charles voices his grave concern to Erik, regarding the latter’s desire for vengeance.

If the women and the differences between Charles and Erik are not enough to keep one entertained, the action scenes and the mutants’ supernatural powers should do the trick. The training sessions, wherein Charles teaches his mutant pupils how to control their abilities, are very funny. The special effects are not bad either. They may not always be great, but they adequately enhance the scenes.

All-in-all, First Class gives the viewers what they would want from this sort of film. It may not be as dark as other prequels; nonetheless, the movie has action, a good-looking cast, and poignant moral messages. Most importantly, the director, Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake) shows us how Charles and Erik became enemies and sets up the context for X-Men I, even if some of the major characters have yet to join.

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Review – Thor 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating 3.5/5

Another superhero movie? Haven’t we seen it all before? In fairness, one probably has seen a great deal of what Thor has to offer; especially if one is interested in this genre. Nevertheless, despite being a predominantly male-orientated film, Thor is an enjoyable movie with some awesome special effects.

Thor, left, standing behind his father, King Odin, and alongside his brother, Loki as they approach their enemies..

Thor is about (surprise, surprise) a young man called Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Red Dawn, The Avengers Assemble). He is a ferocious, unnaturally powerful warrior and heir to the throne of Asgard. Yet, Thor is arrogant and cruel. After disobeying his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins – Hannibal series, Mission Impossible II, Fracture), he is stripped of his powers and his hammer (the source of his powers); and banished from Asgard.

He wakes up to find himself in the desert of New Mexico, America, to be surrounded by a scientist called Jane (Natalie Portman – Black SwanStar Wars IIII, Lawless), plus her assistants Darcy (Kat Dennings – The 40 Year Old Virgin, The House Bunny, Lives of the Saints) and Erik (Stellan Skarsgard – Pirates of the Caribbean II & III, Angels and Demons, The Avengers Assemble). Thor is determined to do whatever it takes to regain his god-like powers and return to Asgard. Meanwhile in Asgard, in Thor’s absence, a traitor increases his influence over the ailing Odin and his court. This will set Asgard to war, again, against the frost-people of Jotenheim.

Despite being about fictional realms, the plot for Thor is easy to follow. The director, Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Frankenstein, Valkyrie), has structured the film well so that each scene flows nicely after the other and the pace of the film is just right. As a result, Thor is a very entertaining movie. Undoubtedly, the action scenes in the film are the highlight as they are superb and will leave viewers wanting more.

The movie may lack the goriness of Watchmen (not to mention the political connotations of that film); yet, Thor makes up for it in special effects. Regardless of whether they are accompanying the action scenes or are merely backgrounds for the fictional sceneries of the different worlds, the special effects throughout are fantastic. In some ways, they are so good they almost rival those in Avatar. It is a shame that Asgard is explored less than Pandora because some of the sceneries in Thor have the same ‘wow’ factor; particularly during the credits at the end. The 3D assists and makes the effects a little more spell-binding; however, on the whole, Thor is another example of a 2D film that has been converted, post-production, into 3D.

Thor promising Jane that he will return to Earth to see her.

Unlike the action scenes and the special effects, the acting in Thor is quite average. Chris Hemsworth performs adequately as the main character. But, as Thor, he is not given the depth of personality to make himself stand out in the same way as Christian Bale does as Batman. This results in him coming across as quite immature and superficial.

It is a shame that less attention is given to Thor’s younger brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Conspiracy, Midnight In Paris, The Avengers Assemble), as it could have made for interesting viewing. But, alas, we are deprived of this. Instead, we have the standard ‘lesser’ brother who wants to emulate his older, more decorated sibling. The other characters, for better or worse, are not given much time on screen. Again, they all have little by way of depth and do not add much to the film. (Yes, even the gorgeous Natalie Portman.)

Ultimately, Thor may initially have the feel of ‘yet-another-superhero-movie.’ It may not have the violence of Watchmen or the deep characters of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, or the political nuances of those films. Nevertheless, Thor is a fun film with plenty of action and some awe-inspiring sci-fi-style special effects.

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