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Spider-Man 2 review

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It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks in the world of fandom, in particular the latest Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. My expectations are sky high, and I hope the movie can live up to the great run of previous MCU movies as well as live up to the fantastic standards set by comic book movies this year, with all of them being brilliant.

So, to honour the third incarnation of Spider-Man on the big screen, I’m looking back at not only my favourite comic book movie, but one of my favourite movies in general: Spider-Man 2. In my opinion, this is also the finest sequel ever made.

What’s so brilliant about it? Simply put, it’s the story. The story of Spider-Man is simple: a cocky teenager is given powers through chance and through events such as the death of his uncle he learns to use his powers for good. This is all set up in the first film just fine, but it’s in this movie where the themes of the character come into play. In Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker is struggling between his superhero identity and his normal life. He fights crime at night but loses focus on the things that he cares about such as Aunt May and Mary Jane. It’s a simple but captivating dilemma: should Peter give up his responsibility as a superhero to be happy or should he continue his superhero life because it’s the right thing to do even if he can’t be truly happy? This dilemma is at the heart of the film and is the main reason why this movie is amazing.

It’s all in the subtlety of how the story is told. While I love The Dark Knight, I feel the themes are a bit “in your face”. The characters often break the flow of the movie to discuss the themes at play, which is fine, but Spider-Man 2 addresses its themes in a more subtle manner and maintain a strong pace throughout. This is helped by the humour (especially J Jonah Jameson), the comic book esque direction and colour pallette (one of my few flaws with the MCU is how the colour palette is the same greyish tone throughout, except for Guardians of the Galaxy) and the camp factor. It’s an inherently cheesy movie but I feel like it has to be: it’s a movie about a guy dressed in red latex fighting a guy with giant mechanical arms. I feel like comic book movies have to be cheesy, which is why I’m glad DC is embracing the inherent silliness of their comics in Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad after the grim tone of their previous movies. The key to avoiding a completely camp disaster is to have heart and a sense of direction, which is what Spider-Man 2 has.

J Jonah Jameson is the. Best. Character. Ever.

There are so many standout scenes, most of them not action scenes. Even a simple scene like Peter admitting to Aunt May what really happened the night Uncle Ben died have so much impact due to the background behind the characters. My favourite scene is Peter’s vision of Uncle Ben convincing him to keep being Spider-Man, which Peter refuses to do and throws the costume away. It’s a marvellous scene because it perfectly captures the themes of the film, which is Peter abandoning his promise after Ben’s death to ensure no one else has to suffer the same way he did. By abandoning his powers, Peter is also throwing away what Spider-Man stands for.

There’s also Aunt May’s speech about ordinary people having the strength to do extraordinary things as well as the scene where Harry Osborne learns of Peter’s secret identity. Harry is another strong character in the film and his journey builds brilliantly on the ending on the first film and sets up the third. Even though he isn’t the focus of the film, he still gets an arc, which is another strength of the film-making every character feel real.

The best character next to Peter (Spider-Man isn’t in the film much, but when he is it’s brilliant) is Doctor Octopus. An incredibly one dimensional character in the comics (he’s a mad scientist and that’s about it) is turned into a very complex, fleshed out villain. I wouldn’t even call him a villain, as he’s just misguided. He just wants to continue his experiments and the death of his wife drives him to madness and he turns to crime to help continue his research. This is why his sacrifice at the end of the film is important, as he realises the error of his ways. A fantastic villain who complements the themes of the movie perfectly, as whilst Peter is struggling with his double life, Doc Oc has embraced it. This is another aspect of older comic book movies I wish more recent ones would embrace, and actually have a compelling antagonist.

I haven’t even talked about the action yet. As I’ve mentioned, the action in the movie is not the main focus, with the action scenes being there to further the story forward. That doesn’t stop them from being fantastic though. Spidey and Doc Oc’s brawl at the bank is fantastic but the ultimate action sequence is the train battle near the end of the second act. After powerful character moments, compelling dialogue and a brilliant story which details Peter’s struggle to return to normal life, Peter Parker dons the suit once again to battle Doc Oc for a second time. The experience of watching the scene is nothing short of breathtaking, as it’s literally a comic book battle brought to life. I can’t describe the brilliance of this scene, so I’m just going to put the scene here and you will see for yourself. It’s the best action sequence ever put in a comic book movie and it’s so awesome the final fight in the old clocktower feels underwhelming in comparison, even thought it’s still good. The only other times I’ve felt this giddy whilst watching a comic book movie is the Avengers fighting each other in Civil War, and the only other action scene that gives me this amount of satisfaction is the Battle of Minas Tirith in Return of the King.

Overall, Spider-Man 2 is what I would call a perfect movie. It sits comfortably in my Top 10 favourite movies of all time and is the finest comic book movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard that Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film, and while I’m sure it’ll be awesome, I don’t feel like anything can top the genius of this movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 review

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Yes folks. Two posts in a week. And a post that isn’t a Doctor Who review!

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much I love Red Dwarf. I LOVE Red Dwarf.

And speaking of awesome sci-fi comedies (how’s that for a segway?), we have the latest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. After the emotional highs of Civil War and the uniqueness of Doctor Strange, this movie was a return to the goofy banter and silliness of the earlier Marvel movies. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as the first Guardians movie is one of my favourite Marvel movies, and this movie is even funnier. The funniest characters are Drax and Baby Groot, who steals the show every time he’s on screen. I won’t spoil the jokes as this will be a spoiler free review, but the high level of comedy is maintained throughout the movie.

Much like Age of Ultron, this movie is a bit more complex and character based than the first movie. The team is split up and there are two stories going on: Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax get caught up with a mysterious figure claiming to be Star-Lord’s father whilst Rocket and Groot are being pursued by Ravagers. That’s the basic plot and I won’t give too much away, but it takes the Two Towers/Empire Strikes Back approach and takes time developing each character by splitting them up and focusing on the different dynamics. It really works and when the team unite at the end, it’s immensely satisfying.

My favourite character in the movie is Rocket Raccoon and he’s basically everything I love in a character: snarky, funny, complex and an anti-hero. He gets some awesome development in this movie and while the story doesn’t focus on him, he’s still my favourite character overall. His interaction with Groot are as hilarious as ever and the dynamic he shares with Yondu is great. Star-Lord gets the most focus and he goes through a lot in the film, and the film itself is a lot more emotional than the first, with darker themes and a major, major event that addresses one of the biggest issues in the MCU.

The villain of the piece is one of my favourite in the MCU.  Without giving anything away, they’re a lot better than most villains in the franchise and gets a lot of development. They are probably my favourite MCU villain along with Loki, Ultron and Alexander Pierce (I’m seriously trying to not spoil anything here- I’ve seen so-called “spoiler free” reviews that reveal plot points and characters. Kind of defeats the purpose of spoiler-free.) There are a lot of new characters, and I’ll admit not all of them are that memorable and there’s a character whose sole purpose is to be a punchline. It’s not too bad as it’s a funny joke, but some characters are pretty one dimensional.

The action is fantastic throughout, though not as innovative as Ant-Man or Doctor Strange. The climax is quite similar to other endings in the MCU but the emotional weight makes up for it. In an age where there are new Star Wars movies it’s hard for space battles to be particularly unique but there’s a still a distinct Marvel feel to the action and there’s a strong amount of variety in the action and plenty of quiet moments. The movie has really good escalation, with a big mystery and gradual character growth until the absolutely bonkers third act where the story gets genuinely fantastic. Despite this, the overall tone of the film is still optimistic, which is needed in movies at the moment and particularly due to the MCU getting darker. Much like the first movie, it’s standalone, so all you need to watch is the first Guardians of the Galaxy without having to know anything else about the MCU. It does help to have knowledge of the Marvel universe though, as many Easter Eggs and references are linked to the comics. Stan Lee gets one of his best cameos and the five (yes five) after credits scenes are a mixture of fun scenes and one very important one, so keep watching when the credits roll.

Overall, Volume 2 is another fantastic Marvel movie. Whilst it’s not as good as the first film or even the two MCU movies of 2016, it’s still a great time at the cinema and offers heart and emotion along with awesome action, humour and Baby Groot. Next up for the MCU it’s Spider-Man and then Thor, Hulk and Doctor Strange teaming up. I can’t wait.

Doctor Strange movie review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a lot of strange stuff. From Norse gods to talking raccoons, synthetic androids and shrinking guys that can talk to ants, the MCU has done plenty of bizarre things in their movies, lifted straight from the comics of course. Their most recent movie, Doctor Strange, sees Sherlock Holmes become a sorcerer to defend Earth against threats from across the multiverse. Totally weird and bonkers, and totally Marvel.

az-doctor-strange-2

This movie is about Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who gets involved in a near fatal car accident and loses the ability to move his fingers properly. As a result, he goes to Nepal to find a new way of life, and ends up working with a secret group of sorcerers to battle a bunch of radical sorcerers who aim to bring chaos to the world. Most of this is his backstory in the comics, so revealing this isn’t spoiling much.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, mostly the visual effects. It is one of the most unique Marvel movies and the visual effects help add to this unique nature. Think the ending of Ant-Man was really weird and awesome? Well it gets tripled here, and Doctor Strange’s initial trip into the multiverse is truly breathtaking. I don’t watch movies in 3D but I think this movie would look great in 3d due to the great imagery. The action sequences are also great, with stunning choreography and incredibly interesting and dynamic sequences. I won’t spoil much, but the final fight is so bizarre and brilliant that it has to be seen to be believed. The best fight however, has to be the battle in New York (no you won’t get Avengers flashbacks). I won’t say much, but just-wow.

Another highlight is Doctor Strange himself. At first it was very weird hearing Benedict Cumberbatch in an American accent, but you’ll get used to it. Doctor Strange represents everything I love in a character- he’s snarky (this is Marvel), wears a cape, uses magic and has a strong arc through the film. At the beginning, he is arrogant and takes his job for granted, not really caring for anyone and believing himself superior to everybody else. Just like Sherlock really, so it’s perfect casting. When he loses his job due to his injuries he loses faith in everything and risks everything to reach Nepal and find a way to fix his hands. He shuns his new job at first, wanting only to heal himself, but events in the movie forces him to become Doctor Strange and battle evil.

A common criticism of Marvel movies is the climax always being “things in the sky trying to hit things on the ground”. Marvel have fixed this in recent movies, from Ant-Man’s hilarious subversion of the city battles of the Avengers movies to Civil War’s emotional and character driven final brawl, and Doctor Strange continues this trend. The climax seems like any other Marvel movie- then things get really clever and really fun to watch. I won’t spoil it, but it remained me a lot of the Doctor Who episode Heaven Sent. I guess good Doctors think alike.

Just like any comic book movie, there’s Easter Eggs and fun references to the comic books, but casual viewers should be able to get into it due to the standalone nature of the movie. There are references to the rest of the MCU, but as with Guardians of the Galaxy it is very accessible to anybody who has an interest in it. As per usual with the MCU, Stan Lee gets a great cameo and stay after the credits for an AMAZING tease. The opening Marvel logo has also changed, and it is glorious.

Overall, Doctor Strange is another fantastic entry into the MCU. Not only am I pumped for the sequel, but I desperately want to see Doctor Strange with the rest of the Avengers in Infinity War. I highly recommend this movie even to people who have not heard of the character or don’t enjoy superhero movies. It is a lot more character driven and clever than a standard Marvel movie and is more akin to Inception or Harry Potter.

Captain America: Civil War review- The squeeing is strong in this one

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Wow. That is all. Just wow. Captain America: Civil War is in my opinion a brilliant, brilliant movie which is easily the best Marvel Studios movie and up there with the best comic book movies along with Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Civil War’s predecessor The Winter Soldier. I was blown away by this movie, as it got everything I wanted from it and more. I will keep this spoiler free, so it’s safe to read if you haven’t seen it yet (it’s weird how here in the UK we got Captain AMERICA a week before the US. If there’s ever a Captain Britain movie, the US should get it first). I won’t reveal anything that hasn’t been revealed in trailers.

united we stand

The main plotline revolves around a dispute between the remaining Avengers about whether they should be controlled by the United Nations, who have created the Sokovia Accords, or whether it’s better to remain free from control. Iron Man, feeling guilt over Ultron, decides to sign the Sokovia Accords along with Black Widow, War Machine and the Vision, while Captain America, not being able to trust authority after SHIELD’s takeover by HYDRA, decides not to. Things get more complicated when the Winter Soldier reappears with both the Black Panther and a mysterious figure tracking him down. I won’t get into details, but it’s amazing how everything fits into place.

While I liked Age of Ultron a lot, one problem with it was how some characters felt pushed to the side, Thor in particular. In Civil War, every character feels important, whether it’s for the plot, advancing their individual arcs or just there for comic relief, which is needed in this film. The tone is overall more lighthearted than Winter Soldier, thanks to the presence of Spider-Man and Ant-Man, but at the same time it’s the most mature and compelling film in the MCU. A character driven plot has only really happened in Iron Man 3, and Civil War takes a similar look at the psychological effects of being a superhero.

My favourite character this time around was Black Panther, without a doubt. While Spider-Man was brilliant (more on him later) Black Panther felt much more crucial to the story. The way his character ties in with the rest of the story was really well done, and he is just such a cool character. He moves and talks in a unique manner, has his own fighting style and the soundtrack momentarily switches to an African vibe whenever he enters. I cannot wait to see his solo movie. Black Panther is such a unique character in the comics and it’s great that the MCU has done justice to him. The trailers show him being on Team Iron Man, but in the movie he’s more complex than that.

black panther

The action is incredible. There’s fistfights like in The Winter Soldier and there’s also an epic chase scene involving Bucky, Black Panther, Captain America, Falcon and the German police. The main fight however is the fanboy pleasing airport fight which felt like a comic book come to life. The stakes are real, the characters all have motivations for fighting and it’s just brilliantly handled in every way. Spider-Man and Ant-Man steal the show, with the two characters providing the funny moments and some of the standout scenes in the fight. The dynamics in the fights are great, with nearly everybody fighting everybody else. The build up is fantastic, as the characters try to talk before hitting each other. And of course there’s an epic group shot for each side.

So what about Spider-Man? I’m a huge fan of the original Spider-Man from the older movies but I have to admit this one was just as awesome. His mannerisms are right, his quips are on point and he blends into the action brilliantly. Unlike Black Panther, Spider-Man isn’t vital to the story, but he doesn’t feel forced. His world was set up well and just seeing Spider-Man fighting Captain America along with Iron Man just made the Marvel fan in me squee in delight. While I can’t say he’s my favourite version so far, hopefully Spider-Man: Homecoming will change my mind.

spider man yay

But where this movie really works is the character interactions and the realistic motivations and conflicts. The villain of the film is hard to talk about without spoilers, but he isn’t a throwaway Marvel villain like Malekith, Ronan or Yellowjacket. His plot works and he is actually quite complex and ties into the film’s themes. The conflicts within the protagonists are even more compelling. Captain America and Iron Man have had a complex relationship since meeting, and here both characters are pushed to the extreme. Age of Ultron has affected them both, while themes from Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier are revisited. It’s such a layered movie which is so much more rewarding if you’ve been following the MCU like I have. The plot is complex but not confusing and there are plenty of twists and turns that make the film ridiculously engaging and more importantly, fun.

In conclusion, Civil War is to me the new Marvel highpoint. Everything worked, and it has set a high bar for the rest of Phase 3. My new most anticipated movie from Marvel is Black Panther, with Thor: Ragnarok and Doctor Strange close behind. I hope the rest of the MCU sticks to the tone established by Civil War- dark and mature, yet still fun and entertaining.

My 5 favourite MCU movies

Age of Ultron review

Thoughts on Batman vs Superman

When it comes to comic book companies, it may seem like I prefer Marvel (which is true on the movie front) but in reality I prefer DC. I own more DC comics, I find the characters more interesting and the world more diverse. My anticipation for this movie was quite high. I know the trailers made it look dark and gloomy (which is not the tone of most DC comics, excluding Batman) but I loved what the film was going for and where the cinematic universe was heading. I watched the film wearing my Batman shirt and expecting a good time. Due to the negative reviews I was quite anxious, but I ended up quite liking it. There is a lot to work on in terms of making this cinematic universe better, but as an introduction to most of the Justice League it’s a decent set up.

I’ll do things slightly different from my usual reviews. I’m going to look at the good points and bad points separately, before looking at where the cinematic universe could go and how to improve. Let’s call the good portion Yay, and the bad will be Nay. Let’s look at the good first, and there will be spoilers ahead-

Read the rest of this entry

My favourite Marvel characters

Today I will finally watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. With this, plus the fact that on Wednesday it was National Superhero Day, means I think it is time I stated which characters from Marvel comics I like the most. But, since I don’t want to leave out DC, I’ll quickly list my favourites from it-

  • Batman
  • Martian Manhunter
  • Aquaman
  • The Joker
  • Deadman
  • Mr Freeze

So now, let’s dive into the world of Marvel, starting with the God of Thunder…

  • Thor
Thor by xploitme via Flickr.

Thor by xploitme via Flickr.

My favourite Avenger, Thor appeals to me because he is so alien and yet so human. Not only does he possess great strength, he is also a hero through and through. He is one of the most heroic superheroes I have seen, willing to follow orders from lesser beings like Captain America and Iron Man and putting his life at risk for the safety of his friends. Despite this, he is still incredibly funny and has awesome powers, with a giant hammer called Mjolnir and the ability of summon lightning. He started out as a brash and immature god who used his powers to his gain, but thanks to Odin and the Avengers he learns to be a person who helps others. It also helps that I know bits of Thor’s mythology and the Norse gods, so he automatically appeals to me.

Let’s not forget he says one of the coolest lines in comic book history…

“Ultron. We would have words with thee.”

  • Captain America
Captain America punching Hitler. Image by Rick Marshall via Flickr.

Captain America punching Hitler. Image by Rick Marshall via Flickr.

Before The Winter Solider I didn’t think much of Captain America. Afterwards, I loved him. Captain America is the true leader of the Avengers, and it also helps that he is completely awesome. Whether he is a soldier, an Avenger or a spy, Captain America is a great character. He is stuck in a time which he is unfamiliar with and has grown and evolved in the 70 years since World War II. This would drive a normal person insane and upset, but Captain America chooses to push his emotions aside and fight the evils which still threaten the world. He is a strong person and it is easy to see why the Avengers choose to follow him. The true development for me though was in The Winter Soldier, when he uncovers a government conspiracy and discovers that he is truly out of time and that he is irrelevant as the world has moved on. It’s this, plus him being completely amazing at fighting which made him one of my favourites.

  • Magneto
Magneto by Bill Toenjes via Flickr.

Magneto by Bill Toenjes via Flickr.

My favourite comic book villain is the Master of Magnetism himself. What is fascinating about him for me is his motivations and goals. He wants to allow mutant kind to live in peace, but to him that means destroying humanity. This makes his rivalry with Professor X incredibly interesting. They don’t hate each other and they want to achieve the same goal in the end, but they each have different ways of getting about to that goal. His backstory of being a Holocaust survivor means he is perfectly justified in his reasoning as he is tired of persecution and hate. His powers are amazing, as he can turn a paper clip into a deadly weapon or the metal inside a person into floating balls, which he can then turn into a disk. He is my absolute favourite villain in any medium.

  • Ultron
Ultron by sly_3 via Flickr.

Ultron by sly_3 via Flickr.

I only really became aware of Ultron when the movie was announced, and upon some research and reading I discovered my second favourite Marvel villain. Like Magneto, his aims and reasoning for his actions make sense because of who he is. He was designed by Hank Pym (Tony Stark in the movie) as a peace keeping force, yet was not programmed to have human logic. As a result, he believes the only way to ensure world peace is to destroy all life. It’s flawed logic but it is justifiable. He also has a massive God complex, believing himself to be indestructible and above all life, leading him to create the Vision as a weapon and as a way to prove his might.

So they are my four favourite Marvel characters. I also like Spider-Man but he isn’t in my absolute favourite characters list, despite Spider-Man 2 being an amazing film. I also love the X-Men, but they are a group and I wanted to focus on individual characters for now.