Aquaman

I’m going to try and make this review as fair as possible considering that the film was pretty much ruined for me. I booked in to the super-duper 2DX screen at my local cinema (of you’re not familiar it offers a 270-degree screen experience) which I thought would be fabulous with all the underwater scenes in Aquaman. Well, the technology is new and it decided to break down meaning that we watched the first 15 minutes of the film 3 times while they tried and failed to get the projector system up and running.

Because of the interruption, it took me a while to get back into the film and I was constantly keeping an eye on the time as I had another film booked later in the evening and it was looking increasingly like both films would clash due to the delay and I’d either have to leave early or get in late (both of which I hate to do).

Anyway, I concentrated the best I could and this is as unbiased as I can do!

The film starts with Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) finding a woman washed up on the rocks at the bottom of his lighthouse. It turns out that the mysterious female is a Queen of Atlantis who has fled to avoid an arranged marriage. The unlikely pair fall in love and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) gives birth to a son who the name Arthur after a hurricane that’s raging out in the ocean.

While Arthur is still young, guards from Atlantis track down Atlanna and try to take her back. She fiercely fights them off (girls got some moves!) but realises that in order to keep Tom and their son safe she needs to leave but leaves her advisor Vulko to train Arthur in how to fight and what it means to be an Atlantean.

Fast forward a few years and Arthur (Jason Momoa) is now a big burly bloke that likes to have a few beers in a bar with his Dad and rescue submariners from pirates. It’s this confrontation that brings Arthur face-to-face with David Kane who will later become the Black Manta (no, I hadn’t heard of this D.C villain either) and vow revenge on Aquaman after his Father is killed in the submarine raid.

As well as Black Manta as a baddie in this film, we’re also introduced to sleazy Orm who wants to rule the underwater realm by uniting the sea clans using some rather suspect tactics. Plot twist: Orm is Arthur’s half-brother! Way to add a conflict plot point – that’s two boxes ticked!

Orm decides that he needs to get Arthur out of the way for his plan to succeed and launches a tidal wave to take him out, fortunately Princess Mera (Amber Heard) is on-hand to help save Arthur and his Dad so Arthur agrees to help thwart Orm’s plans. I’m not sure if the effects were good in this bit or not as the scenes were so dark that you couldn’t really see what was happening. This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme with films at the moment, if a scene is either difficult or the budget doesn’t quite stretch they make it take place at night so they can get away with shoddy CGI (more on that later).

The rest of the film is set in the underwater realm which is film in a cool and yet odd way. The floating hair is clever but the movement of the character’s bodies is a little off which I found somewhat disconcerting. There are also bubbles. A lot of bubbles. When there are any action sequences they roll out the bubbles so you can’t see a lot of what’s happening.

Part of the problem with this film is that it’s not quite sure what it should be. At one point Arthur turns into an Indiana Jones style character when he and Mera head off to find a lost spear, in other parts he’s almost a sulky teenager that wants nothing to do with his underwater heritage and in others he’s Aquaman, scourge of the underwater pirates.

I also think that having two villians in Orm and Black Manta is a bit much – one would have sufficed but they need to set up a sequel so they bung in an unnecessary character.

It’s not a bad film – it’s certainly 20,000 leagues (get it?) ahead of Batman vs Superman and The Justice League but it’s nowhere near Wonder Woman (despite what the box office figures might say).

Jason Momoa is good as Curry but his performance reminded me a lot of his character Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis (ooooh…. Maybe he was Aquaman undercover and not an alien after all!), Patrick Wilson chews the scenery as King Orm but is perfectly suited to the role, Willem Defoe usually plays a bad guy so I was distracted quite a bit wondering when he’s turn nasty and Dolph Lungren is… well, Dolph Lungren.

I rated this film a 7 which is probably slightly higher than it deserves but I can’t give half-marks on my tracking app and didn’t want to mark it down unfairly.

Watch this film if you want to get away with watching a superhero film and your girlfriend is up for a chic flick.

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!

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.