The Eternals: The New Gods Of The MCU

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A race of space faring beings known as Eternals have been on Earth for thousands of years and now they are finally stepping out into the limelight in order to save the world, naturally.

Major Spoilers Incoming

The trailers for this film did it no favours. Then the critics reviews came in and savaged it for the most part. I went in with incredibly low expectations, however I was pleased to say this might have been one of the best MCU films so far.

To address the main concern up front the action in this film is used sparingly, as in to say there is less here then in other Marvel films, however what is here is used well. The action scenes often carry with them a large amount of tension and stakes that help them to feel more than just the standard mashing of two CGI figures together. A good example of this is the jungle action sequence in which the Deviants have tracked the Eternals down and ambush them this feels incredibly tense.

A lot of people have said that this film has pacing issues, is too long, and is too talking heavy. I disagree with all of those statements. I enjoyed the character focus, it was a nice change from the bang bang nature of most MCU films, the conversations were mostly always incredibly impactful either to establish MCU lore, which this film does beautifully, or to create a connection between us the audience and the characters.

Speaking off, every character here is done well and you become attached to them. Over the course of the film you really do become enamoured with the character drama and are excited to see where it goes. Even bit characters like Kit Harrington’s Dane Whitman aka Black Knight are given moments to shine. Speaking off make sure to stick around until the second post credits scene as there is an incredibly exciting one teasing out the future of Harrington’s character and Blade?

My one complaint of this film would be the Deviants. This complaint is threefold, firstly the Deviants all look the same, bland CGI heavy baddies that feel cut and paste with a deeply uninspired design. Secondly, the film does nothing interesting with them, midway through it plays with the idea of Deviants being a sentient race who are just trying to stay alive, just like the Eternals themselves which creates a nice dichotomy however the film does nothing with it. Thirdly, in the final act of the film they just abruptly kill off their leader and that is the end of the Deviant threat as other characters and beings rise up to become villains of the piece.

Overall, one of the most meaningful and impactful films in the MCU a real gem in its hat, if only the Deviants could have been used better.

Pros.

The characters and performances

The post credits scenes, mainly the final one

The emotions and the powerful dialogue scenes

Using action in a smart way

Breaking the MCU formula

Cons.

The Deviants

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The Amazing Spider-Man: Why Do The Police Always Hate Spider-Man?

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

You all know the story by now, Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield, gets bitten by a genetically altered spider and becomes Spider-Man, this time facing off against the Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans.

I would say that of all three of the big screen adaptions of Spider-Man these films are probably the ones that the least amount of people like. That is not to say they are bad films, this one certainly isn’t, but really they never could live up to the Tobey McGuire films and that is what killed them.

Many people say that Andrew Garfield is too cool for the awkward nerdy role of Peter Parker, however I think he does fine.  I enjoy his outsider/loner persona and think he does a good job of nailing both the heart and the comedy of the character. I thought Garfield’s Spidey had a number of good one liners that land well. Moreover, I think that Peter and Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone have terrific chemistry, better even than McGuire and Kristen Dunst did in the previous version of the character. I think Stone really makes the character her own and I would like to see her show up in the MCU through multiverse shenanigans.

It is nice to see this film move away from using the Green Goblin, even though the sequel would, and instead feature a lesser known Spidey baddie in the Lizard for the film’s villain. I thought the effects of the Lizard were quite good, and I enjoyed the fact that the finale had more to it then just a big CGI punchout.

However, that is where the positives end.

This film has a real issue with pacing, I know they were trying to cram a lot in but honestly watching this film in one sitting is oppressive, it doesn’t feel like two hours and a bit instead it feels more like five. I am left asking did we really need to see Uncle Ben’s, played my Martin Sheen, death again so soon after we saw it in the McGuire films? Surely there must have been ways to trim this down.

Overall, a good Spider-Man film but no one’s favourite.

Pros.

Garfield

Stone

The Lizard

The heart

Cons.

Uncle Ben’s death again

Pacing issues    

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Venom Let There Be Carnage: The Odd Couple Split Up

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy, and Venom, voiced by Tom Hardy, are back and this time they are fighting a new evil symbiote in the form of Woody Harrelson’s Carnage.

I was sorely underwhelmed by this film.

The first was by no means a masterpiece of the craft but it was better than this. The first really cared about its body horror elements and its mature themes and subject matter, this however feels like it is going out of its way to ditch them. The age rating card said there were scenes of horror in this film, and I ask you where were they? I didn’t see them, were they cut? This feels so safe that I don’t see why it didn’t get a lower certificate. Clearly this is being done so they can bring Venom into the MCU.

Continuing on in that form this film feels a lot sillier than the first film and I mean intentionally so, there is far more of the MCU style of humour here and much like with Star Wars it is all the worse for it.

Tom Hardy still feels like he is trying his best but everyone else around him is either underused or just terrible. The near always fantastic Stephen Graham is entirely underserved and is given such a weak part that anyone could have done it, the same can be said for Harrelson’s Carnage. Now I don’t know if Harrelson’s performance wasn’t good or the character was poorly written but there was just nothing to Carnage, the tragic serial killer angle has been done better before and the CGI monster fight at the end has been to. Any actor could easily have taken over the role and probably matched what Harrelson was giving off here.

Finally, the post credits scene is perhaps one of the weakest and most blatant I have ever seen. Going so far as to show us Tom Holland as Spider-Man, and force in a weird scene of Venom licking his face on the screen. In my mind entirely needless.

Overall, don’t waste your money seeing this in a cinema wait for it to come to a streaming platform.

Pros.

Hardy

A few funny jokes

Cons.

Carnage

Why bring back Michelle Williams and then give her nothing to do?

It feels toned down in the worst way

The humour mostly doesn’t work and feels too much like a copy of the MCU

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X-Men Apocalypse: Ripping Up And Ruining Comic Books Over The Space Of Two Hours

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Apocalypse, played by Oscar Issac, awakens in the mid Eighties and tries to take over the world.

This film takes a steaming dump all over the X-Men in many ways. Firstly it brings in fan favourite characters such as Psylocke, played by Olivia Munn, Angel, played by Ben Hardy, and Storm, played by Alexandra Shipp and then barely uses them. Worse still in the case of Angel the film just kills him off. This shows almost a contempt to the lore or the universe as Angel is a character that has had a long and storied comics history and has many places to go, not that this film cares.

Likewise, the film had the perfect inspiration in the Age of Apocalypse storyline from the Nineties yet it doesn’t even bother to draw an influence from that, and instead gives us a mess riddled with needless Eighties nostalgia and horribly used CGI. The final battle in this film is one of the worst realised of any superhero film in terms of its use of CGI, it looks visually repulsive.

The cast across the board isn’t very good with two key exceptions that I will get to, the young actors brought in to play the new version of the X-Men are all terrible with no exceptions, Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner are particularly poor. Jennifer Lawrence clearly doesn’t want to be there and though normally he is terrific here James McAvoy is sorely underused and as such can’t deliver.

The two good performances and the reason this film doesn’t get lower are Michael Fassbender as Magneto and Evan Peters as Quicksilver. I thought the exploration of the father son dynamic between these two characters was interesting, I would have liked to see the film commit to it rather than just dance around the subject but it framed the film nicely. Of course the slow motion scene with Peters is cool to look at, but it is the emotional scenes where his character shines.  

Moreover, the scenes with Magneto as a family man, who then loses his family and breaks bad again are very well done and easily become the highpoint of a deeply mediocre affair.

Overall, the clear start of the decline for the Fox X-Men films.

Pros.

The father son subplot

Fassbender

Cons.

Wasting Oscar Issac

The young cast

The CGI finale mess

A weak plot

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Avengers Age Of Ultron: Hawkeye’s Moment In The Sun

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The Science Bros themselves create an artificial intelligence with the goal of ensuring world peace, however rather unsurprisingly it becomes evil.

I don’t think this is near the top of anyone’s list of favourite MCU films. My issues with this film come from the way it is structured and paced. The film feels like it goes on for about an hour too long, and during the exorbitant runtime it sets up a million different things for future films, some of which don’t even end up happening. Truly, therein lies the problem with this film, it is trying to do too much. A lot of Marvel films set up things to come, but this film feels more focused on what is coming then it does on actually being a good film. This can be seen best in the end credits sting of Thanos coming to get the gauntlet, which whilst a cool visual has little to do with the MCU in that moment.

Moreover, the romance between Black Widow, Scarlett Johannsson, and Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo, is one of the most poorly thought out decisions in the MCU. Firstly, Winter Soldier gave us Natasha in a staring role where her merit is not decided on being someone’s girlfriend or her ability to have kids, yet here she is reduced to a supporting character and Hulk’s girlfriend. Ew. Secondly, there is a line in which Natasha refers to herself as a monster for the fact she can’t have children, despite being forcefully sterilised whilst in the Red Room program, pardon me what? What sort of message does this send? It also destroys Hulk as a character as he does not really say anything to reassure her after she says this, the whole scene is needless. Finally, the relationship existing at all devalues and basically nullifies Banner’s relationship with Betsy Ross, Liv Tyler, from his solo film, which was the heart and soul of that film, so that sucks.

There are things I like about this film such as the introduction of the Twins and Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner, getting far more of an expanded role. I think this is the best we have ever seen Hawkeye and likely will ever see him, here he gets a number of heroic moments and really does standout amongst the jacked line up. Moreover, the decision to blend horror into Wanda’s, Elizabeth Olsen, early appearances by having her movements be played backwards is a stroke of pure genius and as a creative choice really works for me.

Overall, it has its moments but is by far one of the weaker MCU films.

Pros.

Scarlet Witch’s early movement

Hawkeye

The final scene at Avengers Academy

Cons.

The Black Widow/Hulk romance

The scene where Natasha reveals she can’t have kids

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Captain America The Winter Soldier: If A Government Agency Wants The Ability To Kill Anyone Anywhere Generally They Are Evil.

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Captain America, Chris Evans, is forced to question what and who he is fighting for, when Shield, the government agency he has been fighting for turns out to be overrun with nefarious forces hellbent on world domination.

Until Antman and the Wasp came out this was my favourite MCU film. I watched it several times when it first came out, but this is my first time rewatching it since. Whilst I still think this is one of the best films in the MCU, I can see that there are issues with it that I didn’t see the first time around namely the pacing.

I enjoyed the deeply personal feel of the film, and the great character work between Cap and those around him. I think the character interactions are at their strongest with Cap and Scarlett Johannsson’s Black Widow, with this really being the film for me where she really came into the character and established a firm presence within the MCU. Moreover, I like the set up and building friendship between Cap and Sam Wilson, Anthony Mackie. Evans and Mackie have strong chemistry together and this makes for a number of strong humorous scenes.

I thought the Hydra twist worked really well and is an excellent choice to reset the MCU status quo. Moreover, the return of Bucky, Sebastian Stan, now as a villain is a stroke of genius as it furthers the emotional and moral burden on Caps shoulders. Even when first watching I knew the film was going to bring back Bucky as I was familiar with the character from the comics, however for those who are not familiar with the source material this would have been quite a surprising reveal I am sure.

Chris Evans performance as Cap is even better than it was in the first film, and that is saying something. He plays the do-gooder who no longer knows how to do good so well, and I enjoy the morality of the character and his decisions this time around. I think Evan’s performance emotes this split in the character, and he does a lot without saying very much at all. Certainly one of the best performances in the MCU.

Overall, a strong MCU film that has a few slow scenes but on the whole manages to be one of the best films in the MCU.

Pros.

Evans

Johansson

The twist

The Winter Soldier

Cons.

The pacing is off    

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The Avengers: The Film That Changed Hollywood

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The phase one heroes finally assemble, and we get to see the birth of the Avengers.

Rewatching this now, all these years later the magic is still there. There is just something about seeing all these heroes interacting on screen for the first time that just resonates no matter how many times you have seen it. Each character and even the main supporting characters are all given their moment and it truly does feel like an ensemble, a team building activity.

The reason I didn’t give this a five as you might have expected me to, is because of Loki and the strange characterisation he is given. Up until this point the only other time we have seen the character is in Thor, so that is what I will judge him off, in that film he is villainous sure, but he is also redeemable and remorseful by the end, he is more along the antihero line. Here however, he is uncharacteristically evil, wanting to ‘crush the ants’ and basically make humans a slave race, and yes you could say it was Thanos messing with his head or the mind stone, but to me it seems like bad writing. Maybe originally a different villain was supposed to be used here, one that would make more sense as being a purely evil character and he was rewritten to be Loki as the character proved popular. A few comedic scenes thrown in here and there can’t distract from the noticeable change.

I think my personal favourite thing about this film is Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. Coulson was always there is the background in most of the early films and yes here and there he got a witty one liner or had a memorable moment, but it was not until this film that he really came into his own as a character. He is the heart and soul of this film, and the choice to have him die here is simply a master stroke as it ends up with you feeling the same way the characters do which helps you to connect with them more and give greater meaning to the Avengers forming. Moreover, as a moment it is surprising as you quickly learn just how much you care about this fairly average background character.

Overall, a film that doesn’t nearly everything right.

Pros.

The character work

The set up

The character interactions

The final battle

The humour

Cons.

Loki

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Captain America The First Avenger: Lying On Top Of Grenades

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Little guy Steve Rogers, Chris Evans, is given a super soldier serum because he is pure of heart, once this happens he is sent over seas to be the US poster boy for the Western Front conflict.

I the Captain America movies are always the best or amongst the top tier of any MCU phase, certainly this is true of phase one of the MCU. What I enjoy the most about this film is the earnestness of Evan’s performance, you buy him as this guy who has been picked on all his life but who never gives in and who always stands up for what he believes in. Moreover, what separates Captain America from someone like Iron Man is the fact that he wholly just a good person that tries to see the best in people, whereas Iron Man is the loveable rouge, which can be grating.

I think of Phase one the Red Skull is easily the best villain; it is a real loss that Hugo Weaving does not want to come back. Weaving brings a lot to the role, he plays evil well whether it is through facial acting, subtle mannerism or line delivery. I thought his character was just as menacing before he took his face off and that is all on Weaving.

Furthermore, I liked seeing the formation of an early Shield team. I thought Hayley Atwell was superb as Agent Carter, I am glad that What If is bringing the character back there is a lot more there to explore and the series didn’t do her justice- though that is more the fault of the cancelation than anything else. Moreover, I thought Dominic Cooper was a strong Howard Stark, who I liked more than the other version we get. Additionally if you’re reading Disney executives you should make a young Howard Stark show with Dominic Copper back in the role, it would be fantastic to see him in the war setting and during the cold war, you could have him age into the later version of the character.

Overall, the best of the origin movies.

Pros.

Chris Evans

The likeability

Hayley Atwell

Dominic Cooper  

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Guardians Of The Galaxy: The Quest For The Ultimate Mix Tape

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peter Quill, Chris Pratt, is abducted as a child and taken into space. Years later he has become a rogue of the galaxy going by the name Star Lord, this all changes when his quest for an infinity stone brings him into contact with a group of people who would go on to become his family.

I think the often complained about, even by myself, Marvel sense of humour really helps these films on a rewatch. This is my first time rewatching Guardians Of The Galaxy since I first saw it in the cinema all those years ago, and you know what it actually holds up fairly well.

I think the strongest element of the film is certainly the family dynamic between the characters with each having key emotional moments along the way that really help to open them up as characters and help us the audience relate to them. Each character is loveable in their own way, each has the potential to easily be someone’s favourite.

Sadly however, the same can’t be said for the films antagonists who are left fairly cookie cutter generic. I don’t think anyone will ever say that Ronan is their favourite Marvel villain because he just has no personality beyond being evil and wanting to commit genocide. The oversimplification of the villain’s motivations really is the issue here and with a lot of early Marvel films. To have an interesting film you need an interesting and compelling villain.

The jokes I thought worked mostly well here, though I would say the film isn’t as funny as something like Antman, certainly there were more misses here and a few scenes that should have been played for laughs really weren’t.

Overall, a good Marvel film though one let down my a poor villain and not always hilarious jokes.

Pros.

The emotion

The family dynamic

Yondu

The soundtrack

Cons.

A weak villain

Inconsistent jokes

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The Suicide Squad: Rats Save The Day

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Taskforce X are back with another suicide mission to shave some time off their prison sentences, this time looking to destroy a research project being conducted by a non US friendly Southern American Country.

Some out there on the internet are trying to create a moral outcry about this film, whilst others are loving it, so, where do I fall? Closer to the latter but with notes.

Firstly and lets just get this out of the way, this is not a family film, this is not a film you can watch at a family party or all gathered round the TV; the age rating really should have given that away. Many people online seem shocked by what they are hearing about the content in this film, and clearly they have never red a Suicide Squad comic book in their lives.

Yes, this film is very true to the comics featuring all the death, gore and general unpleasantness that you would expect. However, in my mind it does go too far but only in one respect: that is of course the birds. This film does not like birds, in the opening scene we see one mashed with a ball and then later on we see a bunch of them set on fire, now obviously this is all fake, but still as someone who likes animals this was a little uncomfortable to watch and I felt like the film lingered on it for a bit too long each time.

In terms of characters Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 was my favourite, I thought she perfectly embodied the hopeful silliness of the film down to the bone. Moreover, I liked the relationship between her and Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. I thought the surrogate father daughter dynamic worked well and helped to push both of their character arcs along nicely. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is better here, and less obnoxiously all over the place as she was in Birds Of Prey, I do think Harley works best as part of a team, rather than being the centre of basically a solo film.

Overall, a good film and certainly one of DC’s best, it would have been getting five from me if it weren’t for the birds; but that is a personal thing to me.

Pros.

Melchior

The jokes

The character moments/ growth

The violence

Cons.

I don’t like seeing a bird mushed by a ball and then having the shot linger on it

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