‘Captain America: Civil War’ Throwback Review: The One Everyone Loves

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

After The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier, it was clear that the Captain America films were the most popular solo series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This was largely due to Chris Evans’ career-making performance as shield-wielding super-soldier from Brooklyn. Several months after The Winter Soldier‘s release, Marvel shocked the world with the subtitle of the threequel: Civil War. Around the world, fans of the Marvel comics rejoiced, knowing that one of the most popular arcs in the history of superhero comics was going to be brought to the screen. Unfortunately, the film shares very few similarities to the comic, with the storyline taking a drastically different path than the pages did. Fortunately, that doesn’t prevent the film from being among the best of the MCU.

In Captain America: Civil War, after one tragedy too many, the governments of the world decide that The Avengers need to be controlled, working under the authority of governments. However, the team becomes divided and following the re-emergence of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), friendships are tested as the division explodes into all-out war.

One thing that has made the Captain America films stand out is the darker tone that is not typically seen in MCU films. Captain America: Civil War is arguably the darkest MCU film to date, with a much-decreased emphasis on comedy and more emphasis on drama. Considering the foundation of the conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) revolves around Tony’s unresolved anger over his parent’s deaths, it’s not surprising that the Russo brothers chose to dial down the comedy.  There are, of course, still the typical humour you’d expect to find in the MCU, but it never feels overdone or forced.

Another aspect that the Captain America films have always done better than the other solo films was the action. This is largely due to the hands-on nature of the character compared to the technological prowess of Iron Man or the mythical powers of Thor. Civil War is filled with memorable action sequences but as I’m sure you expect, the standout remains the iconic airport sequence. There’s not a lot to be said about it that hasn’t been said before. It’s inventive, enthralling and quite simply, spectacular. It is without a doubt, the best action sequence in the entire MCU and one of the greatest, if not the greatest action sequence in comic book film history.

At the heart of Civil War is a story of friendship and loss. The events of the film test Steve’s loyalty to his friend Bucky, most significantly when it is revealed that Bucky was responsible for the deaths of Tony’s parents. This conflict it sets up, forever alters the dynamics of the MCU and has me extremely intrigued about how Avengers: Infinity War will handle the aftermath of Civil War. The film does something truly spectacular as it makes Tony Stark a human being. Previously, he had come across as untouchable. The hero that while often a drunk idiot, would always do the right thing. However, Civil War destroys that perception in the third act, turning him into a vengeful son, determined to kill his parents’ killer. The film does a great job of balancing its representations of the characters, making the audience question which character is morally right in their actions. Watching Cap and Iron Man engage in a brutal fight is heartbreaking but greatly rewarding given the difference of ideologies that had been presented right from their first interaction in The Avengers.

Civil War also marks the debuts of Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Both immediately make their presence in the MCU known with performances that not only feel totally in-sync with the veterans of the franchise but actually outshine them. Having seen their own solo films, its safe to say that Marvel has two more cases of perfect castings.

As for the rest of the cast, there is not a single poor performance. Everyone gets their moment to shine, including minor characters such as Crossbones (Frank Grillo) and the returning Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt). Robert Downey Jr. is given an opportunity to play an emotionally damaged Tony Stark, something that he was never given during his own trilogy or the first two Avengers films.

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That being said, the villain, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is underused. Having lost his entire family during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he plots to tear the Avengers apart from the inside, enacting his plan from the sidelines. This, unfortunately, means that the audience hardly sees any of him. As his motivations are understandable and relatable the character ends up being sympathetic, immediately making him a standout, if underused villain within the MCU. What’s frustrating is that the character had real potential and it’s just a shame that he is given such a small role in the film. That being said, the final scene with between Zemo and Black Panther is outstanding, as the King lets go of the rage that had plagued him after his father’s death when confronted with a man who had let his own rage consume him.

Superhero films can’t seem to function without a romance, and Captain America: Civil War is apparently no different. It’s just a shame that the romance introduced in the film is so creepy. Following the funeral of his love, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Steve gives into his feelings and kisses none other than Peggy’s great-niece, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). It’s a romance that has disgusted comic fans for years and considering that there had been very little interaction between the characters prior in The Winter Soldier, it ends up not only being creepy, but rather random.

In the end, Captain America: Civil War is an exceptional film within the MCU. The film benefits from having a more serious tone and showing the darker aspects of Tony Stark. It’s not surprising that the film is so beloved by fans, even though it is almost unrecognisable with its source material.

Rating: 9.4/10

‘Ant-Man’ Throwback Review: The One That Is Overrated

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Originally scheduled to be directed by Edgar Wright, (who had spent ten years developing the film), before he stepped away from the project over good old “creative differences” with Marvel and was subsequently replaced by Peyton Reed. The film seemed to have a lot of issues right from the start with the directorial chang-up pushing production back drastically, giving the crew an undesirable small window to shoot and edit the entire film. This on top of the fact that veteran comedic actor Paul Rudd’s casting as the protagonist had drawn some ire from fans, all pointed to the very real potential that Ant-Man would be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) first flop.

Ant-Man tells the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a middle-aged professional criminal who is recruited by renowned scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to assist in a heist.

It’s not surprising that Rudd’s casting drew so much ire from fans as they just couldn’t picture the Anchorman star with a six-pack. Rudd has made a career through the genre of comedy and the idea of him playing a superhero was (and on some level still is) ridiculous. However, he proves to be a great piece of casting, utilising his traditional comedic talents and buffed up physique to craft a believable and fun hero. He doesn’t feel out-of-place in a cinematic universe filled with stars that were seemingly born to play their roles. Also, Michael Douglas gives an extremely fun performance as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. The standout performance is arguably Michael Peña as lowlife thief Luis. He is the primary source of comedic relief and steals every scene he is in.

It should come as no surprise that a film based on a character who shrinks down to the size of an ant is heavily reliant on CGI. Many MCU films are criticised for their uneven CGI, however, Ant-Man remains one of the most technically brilliant films within the MCU, as it’s CGI is consistently impressive.

As for the humour, the reception to it really ends up being based on personal definitions of comedy. Although Peña’s Luis is often praised as the highlight of the film, he will also irritate some viewers who simply do not appreciate the style of humour that he represents. For me, however, he is quite possibly the funniest character within the MCU and it’s just a shame he wasn’t in the film more.

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Ant-Man is no different from the majority of MCU films in the villains’ department as the antagonist, Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) is pathetically weak. He might just be the most forgettable MCU villain. His portrayal as a psychopath is unbelievable and it doesn’t help the character’s longevity that Stoll’s hammy performance makes Cross come across as embarrassing rather than intimidating. Despite the fact that many fans are frustrated with Marvel’s standard of killing off villains at the end of each film, it’s probably a good thing that Cross bites it at the end of the film.

The film follows the typical Marvel formula making it a predictable, clichéd and rather hollow experience. There’s nothing particularly memorable about the film except the production issues it faced.

Lastly, as a huge fan of LOST, I was disappointed to see Evangeline Lilly’s role as Hope van Dyne is surprisingly restricted. She is the typical female character that helps the male characters but does nothing significant herself. She doesn’t exactly give a strong performance either and her chemistry with Paul Rudd is almost non-existent which makes the relationship that is suddenly revealed at the end of the film that much more frustrating, as it is totally unearned. It is clear from both the title of the sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, and the marketing so far that she will have a more prominent role, and I remain hopeful that she will deliver a performance that is on par with the performances she gave week in and week out on LOST.

Ultimately, Ant-Man is a mixed-bag within the MCU. Paul Rudd proves that the fans are not always right, as he doesn’t feel out-of-place within the blockbuster franchise. It shocks me that the film boasts a solid 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, beating other MCU films such as Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers: Age of Ultron. For me, Ant-Man is a fun yet vastly overrated piece of popcorn entertainment, which was clearly rushed following a troubled production.

Rating: 6.4/10

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Throwback Review: The One That is Underrated

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

After the incredible success of The Avengers (I’m still refusing to call it Avengers Assemble), Joss Whedon was hired to write and direct the follow-up. The film, titled Avengers: Age of Ultron, had a lot to live up to considering the overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Avengers, so it’s not surprising that for some, the film was a massive disappointment. It is fair to say that Age of Ultron is not as good as the first film, however, to say that it is a massive disappointment is a totally undeserving criticism of an extremely enjoyable film.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the team are forced to reunite to fight Ultron (James Spader), an artificial intelligence, created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who believes the only way to save humanity is to destroy it.

The most important factor that The Avengers had to get right was the character dynamics. It’s safe to say that Joss Whedon absolutely nailed it, in both The Avengers and its sequel. The interactions between the heroes felt natural considering the personalities of the heroes. However, Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) role was criticised by audiences and Renner himself, as he was relegated to a brainwashed slave for the majority of the runtime. Fortunately, Hawkeye is given much more to do in Age of Ultron, with what is easily his most significant contribution to an MCU film so far. There is a fun rivalry between Hawkeye and “enhanced” Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). It could be said that Hawkeye is the most important Avenger in the film, with the introduction of his family, giving the character a sense of purpose and an emotional conflict throughout the film.

Age of Ultron attempts to make the action more gritty and realistic, and it is safe to say that it accomplishes this. Right from the fantastic opening tracking shot, which showcases all of our heroes taking on Hydra agents in impressive fashion. As the film plays out, the action never feels overdone.

The film also looks brilliant. A common criticism of the first film was that it looked very cheap, whether it was the costumes, production design, CGI or cinematography. The film looked more like an expensive made-for-TV film rather than a Hollywood blockbuster. However, for Age of Ultron, there is a change of cinematographer with Ben Davis replacing Seamus McGarvey, and this results in an at-times stunning film.

Although the MCU is often criticised for having a problem with creating compelling villains, Ultron is an exception to this. Thanks to James Spader’s excellent voice work, and the sheer brilliance of Joss Whedon’s writing, Ultron ends up being a memorable villain, whose motivations are easily understandable. There is a sense of a child-like innocence with Ultron that makes him a rare sympathetic villain compared to the murdering psychopaths that we constantly see in Marvel films.

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Due to the ever-growing plans for future films in the MCU, it is not surprising that these future films are set up earlier on. Age of Ultron, however, is guilty of including scenes which exist in the film solely to tease whats coming next. The likes of Thor’s trip with Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) to a pool and the mention of the Infinity Stones feel totally unnecessary and had no purpose being in the film.

Another factor of the film that feels out-of-place is the romance between Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). It feels far too random as there had been absolutely no establishment of their relationship for this in any of the earlier films and ultimately feels too forced.

Lastly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson on paper is a great casting for a role which had been made famous by Evan Peters in Fox’s X-Men films. Although it’s not surprising that he did not manage to live up to performance that made Peters’ version so popular. Taylor-Johnson delivers a surprisingly below-par performance as the speedster with an atrocious attempt at a Russian accent.

In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron is not as good as the first film, however, it is nowhere near as bad as some fans will claim. Benefiting from a larger budget and a different cinematographer, Avengers: Age of Ultron is an incredibly underrated film that succeeds as a piece of blockbuster entertainment.

Rating: 7.9/10

 

 

 

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Throwback Review: The One That Surprised Everyone

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

Of all the risks that Marvel Studios have taken over the years, Guardians of the Galaxy remains the most impressive. I would have loved to have been witness to the pitch about making a major Hollywood blockbuster featuring a talking racoon and a sentient tree. It’s quite incredible that Marvel actually chose to go ahead with the film considering there were and still are many other, more well-known characters at their disposal.

Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human who was abducted as a young boy and taken to live in Outer Space. Decades later, he forms an alliance with four other outcasts to fight a common enemy that threatens the galaxy.

Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with the exception of The Incredible Hulk, put an emphasis on fun. However, Guardians of the Galaxy is without a doubt the most fun out of all of them. James Gunn brings his signature directorial style to the cosmic side of the MCU which results in the best time that I have ever had at the cinema.

One of the key factors that make the film such an enjoyable experience is the sheer brilliance of the characters and the performances of the cast that bring the characters to life. Chris Pratt was originally best known for paying the chubby, lovable goofball Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation and its safe to say he shocked the world when his buff physique was revealed in the trailers. He delivers a charismatic performance that bears resemblance to Harrison Ford’s performance as Han Solo in the Star Wars saga. As for the rest of the Guardians, Zoe Saldana brings a scarred yet tender character in the form of Gamora to life, whilst Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel absolutely nail their voice performances as Rocket and Groot respectively. The surprise package of the film is former wrestler turned actor, Dave Bautista as Drax.  He proves himself capable of not only blending in with a cast of talented performers but actually steals the show with his pitch-perfect comedic delivery. The cast also includes fun performances from Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reilly, and Glenn Close, but the focus of the film is firmly on the Guardians and the development of their bond. The chemistry between the core cast is the reason why the film is so beloved by both die-hard Marvel fans and casual audiences alike.

A common criticism of many MCU films revolves around the rather mixed CGI. However, with Guardians of the Galaxy, the CGI is outstanding. The worlds of Xandar and Knowhere are simply stunning. There is not a single frame that looks substandard to expectations that come with a $200 million budget. It is through the fantastic visuals and CGI that the world-building of the cosmic side of the MCU succeeds.

Guardians of the Galaxy is also the funniest film within the MCU.  Although some of the jokes lose their effectiveness after multiple viewings, the majority of the jokes still bring uproarious laughter. This is largely down to James Gunn’s direction and the comedic line delivery of the cast.

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The action in Guardians of the Galaxy is brilliant, with the third act, in particular, being particularly impressive. The film, while a huge risk itself, takes an even more significant risk with his final confrontation between the heroes and villains. Instead of the characters punching or shooting at each other, Peter Quill instead attempts to distract Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) by dancing in front of him and challenging him to a dance-off. This is something which would typically be a terrible decision, however, due to the film establishing Peter’s love of music, it is a decision which not only works but proves that James Gunn understands these characters.

I can’t talk about the positives of Guardians of the Galaxy without bringing up the exceptional soundtrack. The music is as crucial to the film as the characters. In a way, the soundtrack is its own character. The songs selected by Gunn all play their part in shaping the tone of the film perfectly. Now I can’t hear of ‘Hooked on a Feeling‘, without thinking of the Guardians.

That being said, the film is not perfect. It like most comic book films ever made has a serious villain problem. The film features three primary villains in the form of Ronan the Accuser, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou). Ronan is very one-dimensional, whilst Nebula is under-written and Korath is given absolutely nothing to do. Additionally, Michael Rooker is extremely underused as the space pirate Yondu, something which, thankfully, the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, rectified.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy is an outstanding film, especially considering the fact that prior to the revelation of any footage, the film was widely expected to be Marvel’s first flop, both with audiences and critics. Propelled by the action-star-making performance of Chris Pratt, and his chemistry with the rest of the cast, the film is easily one of the MCU’s strongest outings to date.

Rating: 9.2/10

 

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Throwback Review: The One Where Things Got Serious

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

The Captain America franchise is the only franchise within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which gets better and better with each film. Captain America: The First Avenger offered a change of tone with its period setting and for that, it stands out among ‘Phase One’ of the MCU. Naturally, the sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, also offered a change of tone. Directing duo, Anthony and Joe Russo, created a film that is less of a comic book film and more of an espionage thriller film. It focuses on addressing real-world issues to craft a narrative that audiences can appreciate. After rewatching The Winter Soldier, and their work on the threequel, Captain America: Civil War, it’s not surprising that the brothers were hired to direct the highly anticipated, Avengers: Infinity War, and its untitled sequel.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier continues the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who discovers a conspiracy that threatens the world. At the centre of the conspiracy is a mythical assassin known as The Winter Soldier.

The Captain America films have always been the “serious” MCU films. The Winter Soldier is a perfect example of how to create a comic book film that has a thoughtful message in its narrative alongside genuinely intelligent humour. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Arrested Development or Community, two comedy shows that the brothers both worked on.

The action is exhilarating with the Russo brothers proving that, despite their extensive background in comedy, they know how to craft fantastic action set pieces. The action feels more like something you would see in a spy film, with its gritty and often brutal nature. The opening scene sets the standard that the rest of the action, not only in The Winter Soldier but any action sequences in any film featuring Cap. Watching Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) take on an entire ship of terrorists remains one of the standout action sequences within the MCU.

Just like The First Avenger, the performances in The Winter Soldier are all exceptional. There really isn’t a poor performance in the film. Chris Evans asserts himself as a true action star whilst Scarlett Johanson further continues to prove herself as capable (probably more than her male co-stars) of performing in the action-heavy scenes. It’s hard to highlight the standout performers as everyone is at the top of their game in The Winter Soldier. However, Robert Redford does deserve a special mention for his performance as the villain, Alexander Pierce. He took on the role as he wanted to experience the process of making a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster, and he fully gives himself over to the process, delivering a thoroughly compelling, though underwritten, villain.

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Although The Winter Soldier is filled with awe-inspiring action sequences, it doesn’t forget the most important part of any film: its characters. The relationship between Cap and Black Widow is both fun and hilarious. A romance between the pair is initially implied, however, by the end of the film, it is made very clear that their friendship is, thankfully, completely platonic (making their relationship romantic would have been a disservice to both characters). Also, the revelation that The Winter Soldier is Cap’s believed-to-be-dead friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is brilliant as the relationship between the pair is not only the real heart of The Winter Soldier but the entire Captain America trilogy. Another standout addition to the MCU is Anthony Mackie who makes his introduction as Sam Wilson/Falcon. He delivers a charismatic performance as you’d expect from him and is now one of the most exciting prospects within the MCU.

That being said, the film does follow the typical Marvel formula and as a result of this, it is often predictable. This is especially true during the third act which ends up being nothing more than the typical GCI explosions seen in almost every comic book film ever. The twists involving Black Widow disguising herself as a member of the World Security Council is not surprising in the least. Furthermore, the major twist involving Nick Fury’s “death” is frustrating as it further emphasises The Winter Soldier‘s conformation to the MCU formula. Fake deaths are something that the MCU has been extremely guilty of, with major characters being resurrected numerous times, and not always in the films, as seen with Phil Coulson’s (Clark Cregg) resurrection on the TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. These resurrections harm the film’s credibility as it often feels like there are no stakes for any characters that are in the least bit important.

Lastly, the CGI is, like most MCU films, rather mixed. The major CGI creations like the ‘Helicarriers’ look great but the same cannot be said for the CGI explosions. It is so disappointing that these films, with their massive budgets, still suffer from distractingly poor CGI. However, it needs to be said that as the years go by, the quality of CGI is vastly improving for the MCU.

In the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best films in the MCU. The Russo brothers prove themselves to be one of the most exciting filmmaking duos in the industry today and rewatching The Winter Soldier further increased my confidence that the pair can live up to the hype with Avengers: Infinity War.

Rating: 8.8/10

‘Thor: The Dark World’ Throwback Review: The One Everyone Hates

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Following the polarised fan reaction to Iron Man 3, there was a lot relying on Thor: The Dark World succeeding both with critics and fans. Naturally, Marvel Studios hired Game of Thrones alum Alan Taylor to direct the sequel, hoping that his experience with wide mythologies would help him create a film of epic proportions. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Thor: The Dark World continues the story of the God of Thunder, who returns to Earth to visit his girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) only to discover that she has been infected with an ancient weapon that signals the return of a long forgotten race that seeks to destroy the universe.

One thing that Thor: The Dark World excels at is its visual effects. The effects are as great as you’d expect them to be for a film with a budget of $170 million. The Dark Elves’ attack on Asgard clearly took up much of the budget, and it was totally worth it. It’s not just during the action that the visual effects impress. Asgard has never looked better, nor has the Bifrost.

As for the action, Alan Taylor brings his Game of Thrones experience to craft brilliant action set pieces. The attack on Asgard is, of course, the standout sequence from the film. Watching Heimdall jump onto an invisible Dark Elf ship is simply outstanding. Considering the somewhat tame action seen in Kenneth Branagh’s film, the action in The Dark World is easily superior.

The score, composed by Brien Taylor, is quite possibly, the very best among the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Thor’s theme remains the standout of Marvel’s hero themes. The score adds a real sense of majesty to the film.

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Unfortunately, the performances are as you’d expect. Chris Hemsworth proves once again how perfect he is in the role, whilst Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins do the same for their own roles. Rene Russo is given much more to do than she was in the first film as Thor’s mother Frigga, and she takes the opportunity to craft a character that audiences care about. On the other hand, the film is dragged down by the rather bland performances of Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) and Christopher Eccleston (Malekith).

The script is often criticised for following the typical marvel formula without offering anything significantly different. Also, the film just isn’t very funny. It relies on cheap humour such as Erik Selvig running around Stonehenge naked. The MCU has established a tone and The Dark World tries to follow it, whilst ignoring the most crucial factor, the humour.

Comic books films, both for Marvel and DC, have been criticised for having a problem with their villains. The Dark World‘s villain, Malekith, is the epitome of this trend. He looks scary but he is as one-dimensional as a villain can get. The side villains aren’t any better with Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) being nothing more than muscle. It boggles the mind why Marvel even bothered casting an actor of AAA’s talent only for him to spend the majority of his screen time standing around.

A common complaint of the first film that many comic book fans had been around the fact that Thor’s friends, known as ‘The Warrior’s Three’ were totally wasted. The same has to be said for Thor’s companions in the sequel. They have roughly the same amount of screentime, which was very little despite the talented actors in the roles. As Thor: Ragnarok has been released and seeing what was done with them, its safe to say Marvel has really messed up with these characters

The hilarious Chris O’Dowd is also in the film, for some reason. He has no purpose being in it and whenever he shows up, it highlights the issues regarding the Thor films’ handling of Jane Foster.

There was so much potential for The Dark World and it’s heartbreaking how weak and bland the film actually is. Though not the worst film in the MCU, it is easily down at the bottom end of the franchise.

Rating: 6.0/10

 

‘Iron Man 3’ Throwback Review: The One That Pissed Off A Fanbase

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Iron Man 3 was the first film to release following The Avengers and marked the beginning of ‘Phase Two’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys), the film is arguably the most controversial film in the MCU.

Iron Man 3 continues the story of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who challenges a terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), whilst dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder following the events of The Avengers.

Before I discuss THAT twist, the twist which, quite frankly, pissed off an entire fanbase, I will talk about what Iron Man 3 does right. Firstly, the opening 35 minutes of Iron Man 3, is the MCU at its very best. It does a brilliant job of establishing the tone and considering the rather sarcastic nature of Tony Stark, is surprisingly dramatic. As for The Mandarin, he comes across as terrifying, contemporary villain. Much of that is down to Ben Kingsley’s enthralling performance, as he steals every scene he is in (as The Mandarin).

Another aspect where the film excels at is the visual spectacle. Iron Man 3 is a gorgeous film, thanks to the veteran cinematographer, John Toll. Toll, whose work includes jaw-droppingly beautiful films such as The Thin Red LineThe Last Samurai and Cloud Atlas, has helped to create a film which is easily one of the most visually stunning amongst the MCU, and the comic book genre as a whole. He makes good use of lighting which emphasises that this is a darker version of Iron Man.

The script, by Drew Pierce and Shane Black, is great. The humour is of a consistent tone with the other Iron Man films, something which needs to be praised considering the different tones present in typical Jon Favreau films compared to Shane Black films.

Iron Man 3 is easily the most action-heavy Iron Man film, with several memorable sequences. The CGI is vastly superior to the previous films and the advanced CGI adds a greater sense of realism to the frankly, ridiculous set pieces.

As for Shane Black, he creates a brilliant film with Iron Man 3. However, it has often been criticised for being too unique within the MCU. There is definitely a case to be made with that criticism, however, it is all tied to THAT twist. Ultimately, Iron Man 3 is a great Shane Black film, filled with the typical wit that you’d expect from one of his films.

Of course, the performances are, for the most part, great. Downey Jr. continues to prove how perfect he is in the role which revitalised his career. Gywenth Paltrow remains excellent opposite Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau has a hilarious but unfortunately limited role. The rest of the cast are fine, however, Guy Pearce is rather generic as Aldrich Killian. Ben Kingsley steals the spotlight through the first hour and a half of the film. The Mandarin is quite frankly terrifying, with clear similarities to 9/11 mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.

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It’s time to address THAT twist. The twist which pissed off a fanbase and frustrated even casual audiences. Ben Kingsley does not play The Mandarin. He plays an actor playing The Mandarin. I’m not exactly sure what went through the head of whoever made that decision but it is terrible. It’d be like a Batman origin film arriving at the moment where he is supposed to finally embraces his persona as Batman, but instead turns to the camera and says “Nah”. It completely ruins an exceptional performance from Kingsley and sacrifices a great villain for a rather cliched villain in the form of Aldrich Killian. The twist takes the typically terrifying villain and turns him into a joke. It’s no wonder fans were so furious after leaving Iron Man 3.

Another negative is that after the impressive opening 35 minutes, the film strands Tony with quite possibly the most insufferable character in the MCU, portrayed by Ty Simpkins. Ty Simpkins doesn’t do a bad job, it’s just his character is written in a way that is supposed to be funny but instead is just plain annoying. I sorta feel bad for him as his two most famous roles (Iron Man 3, Jurassic World), require him to be the typical, annoying kid that gets in the way.

The film also wastes the talents of both Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce. Neither of them gets worthwhile material to work with. Hall’s character ends up being nothing more than a minor supporting role, whilst Pearce’s Aldrich Killian comes across as too cartoonish and easily a weaker villain compared to Kingsley’s Mandarin.

Lastly, the film introduces Tony’s fragile relationship with Pepper, only to fix it rather easily. That is not the problem here. The problem is the method of which the relationship is fixed. Tony in a bid to prove his love, destroys all of his suits and vows to retire from superhero life. This is ultimately worthless as the pair have eventually separated off-screen by Captain America: Civil War (even though they are back together as of Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Tony never actually retires, as by his next appearance in the MCU, Avengers: Age of Ultron, he has several suits and remains a prominent member of the Avengers.

Iron Man 3 is a fantastic Shane Black film but a poor MCU film. The twist really hurts both the entertainment and reputation of Iron Man 3. However, there is still plenty of fun to be had with Shane Black’s only entry into the MCU.

Rating: 7.5/10