Captain Marvel

As someone who has been quite a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it first hit our screens back in 2008 with Iron Man (and has read a fair few comics in my time too), the one question I had was “When are we going to see a female lead?”

Sure, the X-Men had given us the powerful Jane Grey (Famke Janssen) and fiesty Storm (Halle Berry) and the “reboots” put female characters front and centre but these were very much ensemble movies with (as usual) the men taking centre stage.

When the Avengers first assembled back in 2012 there was hope of a Black Widow movie but as the franchise moved on this seemed less and less likely – especially after the release of the Jennifer Lawrence lead Red Sparrow in 2018. Even D.C got in on the act before Marvel with their wonderfully received “Wonder Woman” released in 2017.

While Kevin Feige would probably argue that a female-led movie was always on the cards for the MCU, I can’t help think that the success of Wonder Woman helped pave the way for (or move forward) the production of Captain Marvel.

So, was the wait worth it?

Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as “Veers”, a Kree soldier with anger management issues who is sent to rescue a spy. The mission turns out to be a trap and leads Veers down a path of deception, self-doubt and self-discovery.

Veers ends up on Earth in the mid-1990s which leads to some great moments for audience members of a certain age – the appearance of Blockbuster and Radio Shack brought a nostalgic tear to my eye and I think I showed my age when I laughed as Veers Googled searched the internet using Alta Vista, there’s also a great moment featuring a Windows 95 PC loading a CD ROM – kids today don’t know the agony!

Anyway, nostalgia to one side, the story is pretty good and moves quickly. It’s one of the shorter films in the MCU at just over 2 hours so they had to cram a lot into the runtime but it’s handled well and you don’t feel as though there are many things that are left out. Being short it also passed the watch test – I didn’t look at my watch once during the course of the movie!

That being said, it would have been nice to have seen more of the relationship between Carol Danvers (as she was before she became Veers/Marvel) and Dr. Lawson (played by a sorely underused Annette Bening). It’s obvious from the beginning of the film what an important role this character had in Danvers’ life and how she viewed her role in the Air Force and beyond. I think an extra 30 minutes of run time (bringing it to the length of a “standard” Marvel movie) would have allowed this relationship to have been developed more fully, along with Dr Lawson’s important back-story.

The majority of the film is set on Earth with Veers/Danvers/Marvel (I think she has a few identity issues) teaming up with a young Nick Fury to stop a supposed Skrull invasion of the planet, which comes with a few twists – not only because the Skrulls are able to shapeshift into anything they see – “Can you become a filing cabinet?” “Why would I want to do that?”.

There’s plenty of humour – most of which comes from Nick Fury’s interaction with Goose the Cat (I wonder if the name is an homage to Goose in Top Gun), and in fact Goose steals most of the scenes he’s in and certainly made me look at my two cats with a sideward glance when I got home!

Jude Law gives a pretty average performance as Yon-Rogg – and there are reasons for this that I can’t divulge without giving out a big spoiler. It would have been nice for him to turn it up a notch in the final third of the film, instead I was left feeling like I was watching a young Albus Dumbledore in a Space Suit rather than one from Savile Row but it’s a passable performance (even if it lacks the necessary “oomph”).

The effects are pretty good although I think the majority of the budget went on de-aging Samuel L. Jackson and as a result a couple of the scenes of a glowing Captain Marvel in space are slightly ropy to say the least. This is only on the screen for a few seconds though so can be forgiven (and I hope not repeated in Avengers: Endgame).

Captain Marvel In Space

So, do I recommend the film – I certainly do! While the couple of plot “twists” were obvious to me almost from the start of the film I found it very enjoyable couple of hours and it’s not often I wish a film could have been longer.

Was it as good as Wonder Woman? Not quite. Given Wonder Woman’s 30 minute extra run time I felt it was able to explore that character a bit more than Captain Marvel, that being said Captain Marvel is still a great film and it’s wonderful to finally have a strong female role model in the MCU – Sorry Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, your background role antics just don’t cut it any more.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Okay, so let’s be clear here: the Spider-Man universe is a bit of a mess as well as our “traditional friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” there’s Spider-Cat, Spider-Monkey and even a zombie version – wow!

While Sony has always taken their ownership of Spider-Man quite seriously in the past, Marvel has a more light-hearted take on their property which comes across in this version and thankfully Sony are happy to go along with the ride.

The film starts with us meeting Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a typical teenager who isn’t happy with going to a school for gifted children and would prefer to go spray graffiti with his Uncle than do his homework. It’s on one of these graffiti trips that Miles is bitten by a strange looking spider and his transition into becoming Spider-Man begins.

Of course, there can be only one Spider-Man and during a battle with Wilson Fisk Peter Parker’s Spider-Man is killed while Miles looks on helplessly, unsure of his new powers and certainly not in control of them.

All is not what it seems however, Parker’s death was caused when Fisk switched on his Super Collider which caused a rift in space-time and spider-characters from alternative universes are pulled in to Miles’ world and it’s up to him to help get them back home and defeat Fisk’s plans.

The fantastic thing about this film is the way it handles all of the different Spider-Characters it introduces, they all have an irreverent look at their origin stories including “that” strut

(They don’t talk about it apparently)

While we don’t see Spider-Cat or a zombie Spider-Man we do have Peter B. Parker – a washed up version of Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir who is black & white and likes to punch Nazis, Spider-Woman who is a young Gwen Stacy, Peni Parker who’s a Japanese anime character and fights in a robot inhabited by her radioactive spider friend and…. wait for it…. Spider-Ham, a cartoon pig (they must have been on drugs when they came up with that one)!

All of the Spider-Folks join forces while Miles comes to terms with his new abilities and as he helps them to overcome their origin issues, they help him become a hero.

This animated film is brought to the screen by the team behind the Lego movie and they certainly bring the same sense of humor and fun to their take on the complicated world of Spider-Man.

The animation is great – I saw this in 3D and while I’m usually not a big fan of 3D films (a lot of them are a waste of time) this really worked well and I’d highly recommend seeing this in 3D if you can as it really adds to the way that the movie is presented on screen.

There are some wonderful little nods to the way that the comics are laid out, from Miles’ thoughts being shown on screen to a couple of Bams! and Aaaaaaahs! There’s also a cameo from Stan Lee which was very moving.

The soundtrack is also fantastic, it matches the tone of the film brilliantly and isn’t too over-powering or distracting which can be a problem with animated films.

You need to make sure you stay to the end of the credits as there’s a little Spidey song you need to hear plus two extra Spider-Men make an appearance in a rather amusing pastiche of the original 1967 cartoon. It’s a shame a cartoon Spider-Man couldn’t show up in the 1977 version of the TV show that I grew up watching (repeats of course!)

It’s nice to see a franchise that can embrace the silliness of some of their on and off screen attempts to reach all audiences and I would have given this film 10 out of 10 but I docked a point for them not using Spider-Ham enough (although Spider-Noir trying to learn colours was amusing).

Watch this film if you’re looking for something that’s really funny and need an alternative to all of the Christmas stuff that’s out at the moment – you don’t even need to know anything about the Spider-Man universe as it’s all explained for you!

Avengers 4 (Title TBC)

WARNING: Some spoilers below – make sure you’ve watched Infinity War before reading!


I’m really looking forward to seeing how Iron Man and the rest of the survivors get out of their predicament considering they’re stuck on an alien world with no space ship or communications – and they don’t even know who else has survived Thanos’ galactic finger click.

News is slowly seeping out (which isn’t surprising as there isn’t a new Marvel film out until March when Captain Marvel is released and they need to keep us interested) and the latest is that the film is going through editing and is currently sitting at the 3 hour mark.

Now, I’m all for telling a good story and not missing anything important out, however I think 3 hours is a bit too much – even in the most comfortable of cinema seats you’ll be struggling (or dozing off thanks to the air con not working which always seem to happen).

When the films first came out they hovered around the 2 hour mark which to me was a perfect amount of time – just right for eating a regular bag of popcorn! Civil war weighed in at 2 hours 27 minutes but they did have a lot of characters to cover so I guess we can forgive that, and Infinity War was 2 hours and 29 minutes which is verging on me having to buy a large popcorn which I’m not too happy about!

Could I sit through a 3 hour movie without thinking about a toilet break, how my back is hurting and the fact I have pins and needles? I don’t think so and Marvel need to realise a lot of people will probably feel the same. No matter how good the film is, how enticing the storyline, the minute your audience start to feel real physical discomfort they’re out of your story and back in an uncomfortable seat in a too-warm cinema.

Ice Cream Lady

Image From A Cultural History Of The Cinema Usherette

What’s the solution? Bring back the good old fashioned intermission and the Ice Cream Usherette! Of course, you don’t need a break in order to change the film reels over any more (Oh, those were the days!) but cinemas are always looking for ways to increase profits so give us an opportunity to nip to the loo and buy another bag of popcorn that way we’re comfortable, the films can be longer and the cinema makes more money – everyone’s a winner!

Avengers 4 (No subtitle yet) is due to be release around the 3rd of May 2019 – can’t wait!

Venom

Venom is the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe – separate from the one inhabited by the other Sony owned Marvel property, Spider man.

Non-Marvel studio’s luck with bringing films to the big screen have been spotty at best (Fantastic Four (2015) anyone?) but Sony needs to kick start their own MCU in order to make use of the 900 characters they own the rights to.

Venom follows investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) who decides to look into the goings on at the Life Foundation after a tip off from a Doctor who works there. Brock’s had a run-in with Life’s CEO Carlton Drake (Ahmed) in the past and it cost him his career, fiancee and cat.

Drake – an Elon Musk-esq character – sent an exploratory mission into space and it brought back samples of an alien parasite. The shuttle crashes on its return to Earth and one of the parasites escapes but Drake is able to take the others to experiment with, hoping to create a human-hybrid that will be able to stand the rigors of space. Brock is infected with one of the parasites when he breaks into the lab and together Brock and the parasite that infected him (named Venom) decide to stop Drake’s plan.

And there you have it, that’s pretty much the entire film in a single paragraph.

The first 30 minutes of the film is spent setting up Brock’s character as a bit of a loser who has distanced himself from the world after he lost his relationship and I think a lot of cinemagoers will be disappointed with the slow build up and pacing of the story line. There’s a car and bike chase scene which, while good isn’t a patch on the one in Black Panther and the final fight scene between Venom and fellow symbiote riot is so dark that you can’t see what’s happening half the time. I’m sure the editors and the director will tell you this is intentional in order to add atmosphere and highlight the dark nature and inner turmoil of the characters I get the feeling it’s in order to hide some poor CGI work.

Don’t get me wrong, the CGI isn’t bad, it’s just not as tight as it could have been (think Henry Cavil’s upper lip in Dawn of Justice). This in no way lets the film down but in the 11 years since Venom appeared in Spider-Man 3 you would have expected some improvement.

The film isn’t bad, I had to rate it a 5 as it’s in no where near the same league as Black Panther or Infinity War which I rate at a 7, or Ant-Man which I rate a 6. Also, with it being a 15 rating you’d expect a more adult tone in the vein of Deadpool but instead you get some swearing and broken bones, both of which could have easily been cut to get the film down to a 12A and make it available to a wider audience.

If you’re a fan of Venom, or the MCU in general that I would certainly give Venom a look – although you won’t be missing out on anything from the original MCU story if you decide to give it a miss.

There are also two post credit scenes: the first after the main credit sequence which sets up a Venom sequel, and one right at the end which is basically a big advert for the forthcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse cartoon movie so don’t feel like you have to hang around for that one.

Ant-Man And The Wasp

Ant-Man And The Wasp takes place after the events in Captain America Civil War. Scott Lang is under house arrest for his part in the action in Germany (he was 65 feet tall so it’s not like he can pretend he wasn’t there) and only has a short while to go before he’s allowed out and about.

You don’t really need to have seen the first Ant-Man film in order to understand what’s going on – the plot’s relatively simple and self-explanatory: Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are planning to rescue Hope’s mother from the quantum realm when a Ghostly attacker steals some important equipment that they need to complete the task.

Scott Lang gets involved after having a dream about Hope’s mother from which they deduce (in quite a big leap) that she imprinted something in Scott’s memory when he visited the quantum realm.

The scheduling of this film seems a bit strange considering Infinity War was released so recently and Ant-Man And The Wasp doesn’t reference it’s events until the post credits scene. Still, it was an enjoyable film but if you haven’t seen it yet you don’t have to panic about any Earth-shattering Infinity War revelations you might have missed out on.

It was nice to have another strong female hero added to the Marvel Universe in Lilly’s “Wasp” character (and she can certainly kick butt!) and the “Ghost” character (played by Hannah John-Kamen) was good, if a little underused.

This is probably one of the weakest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it was still an enjoyable couple of hours – I’d certainly recommend it if you’re a Marvel fan or if you have a teenage daughter who needs to see that there are female heros out there too.