adventure

REVIEW: Eternals (2021)

The Eternals, a race of immortal and powerful beings, have lived on Earth for centuries. Their mission was to protect its people from creatures called Deviants but when a new danger threatens Earth and its people, they decide to take a stand to protect the place they’ve learnt to call home.

Eternals is the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in some ways it’s different to what has come before, but in others it falls into the general tropes of the MCU. The scope of Eternals is huge and there’s a lot of information to take in about these characters and their history. They are all pretty much demigods with different powers and how they fight together, using those different powers is really fun to watch. And while they are all from the same place originally, they each have experienced different things in their thousands of years on Earth and that along with their general core beliefs make them different to one another.

There are ten Eternals so natural some characters get more development than others but each character gets at least one very cool moment, whether it’s a quiet, dramatic moment or something in a big fight scene. Sersi (Gemma Chan) could be considered the lead in this ensemble cast. She, along with Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sprite (Lia McHugh), is the one who sets out to find the others and bring them all together to stop this new threat. Sersi is a character whose core values are really love and kindness. She’s always liked and cared for the people of Earth even when some of her companions thought them to be not worth saving or a danger to themselves.

A lot of the comedic moments come from Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) and his human valet Karun (Harish Patel). With Karun, he could’ve easily become an annoying comedic side character but the film knows exactly when to use him to its advantage and he actually has a really heartfelt moment which I did not expect. Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos also has some funny moments but his humour is a lot more subtle and dry and having that kind of humour balances out the more typical MCU-type humour which was nice.

The cast and the characters are what made Eternals for me. These characters have all lived different lives but they all still care about one another. They do often seem like a dysfunctional family and no dynamic between two characters is the same. There are friendships or maybe even romantic relationships between various characters that are stronger than between others but that’s true to life in any kind of friendship group or family. It doesn’t make any of the relationships lesser and instead adds something to the various characters motivations. The chemistry between certain actors was great if unexpected – Barry Keoghan’s Druig and Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari were a standout.

The cinematography in Eternals is often stunning and that has to be at least in part due to director Chloé Zhao and her love of natural lighting and filming in real locations. At times this does make the CGI a bit more noticeable when it is used as the blend of the real and computer-generated doesn’t always hit the mark.

Eternals is a bit more of a serious MCU film as it presents lofty ideas and themes about humanity and the value of life of one species vs another. It’s the kind of film where even though you see the worst of humanity, you can also see the best and its potential. But with all these serious discussions, there’s also spectacular fight sequences where it’s really fun to see these characters work together.

There’s a lot to take in, but overall Eternals manages to be an engaging and hopeful story with fun action sequences and a lot of mythology to get your teeth into – and there’s enough in the film itself and its two post-credit scenes to get you interested in a sequel. 4/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man (2002)

As Spider-Man: No Way Home is being released next month and there’s talk of it including multiple universes and characters we’ve seen from past Spider-Man franchises (I watched the first trailer when it was released in August and have done by best to avoid everything Spider-Man-related ever since) I thought it was about time to revisit some of the previous iterations of Spider-Man. I’ve reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home but I’m pretty sure I’ve never reviewed the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. Plus, I’ve not even seen many of those films in their entirety for years, or in some cases, since the cinema.

As these films are older and are rewatches there may be some vague spoilers in these reviews.

So to kick it off we go back to the beginning and to the Summer of 2002. I was 10 years old when Spider-Man came out and I distinctly remember seeing it in the cinema with my dad, my (much older) sister and her then-boyfriend. I know I enjoyed it then and on rewatch nearly 20 years later I still really enjoy it.

What director Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man is really help lay the blueprint of how brilliant a superhero movie could be. There are a lot of elements at play in this film with the different characters and relationships and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) doesn’t even get into his Spider-Man suit until practically half way through the film. But that doesn’t bother me because the things going on in Peter’s life are just as compelling as any Spidey-related adventure.

Spider-Man sets up the relationship/potential love triangle between Peter, his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) and the girl he’s been in love with forever Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) so well. You get why Peter and Harry are friends even though they come from completely different worlds and you get why Mary Jane would be attracted to both Peter and Harry. All three of them have believable relationships with one another.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is one of those instances of perfect casting. Ever since I saw him in Speed 2: Cruise Control Dafoe has been able to freak me out with just his eyes – he can put so much intensity/craziness in his eyes it’s almost concerning. How the Green Goblin toys with Peter is so good. He believes he knows what makes Spider-Man tick and once he figures out who Spider-Man is he’s even more certain of it. The scenes where it’s just Norman Osborn talking to the Green Goblin, either via the mask or a mirror are just captivating. They’re unsettling and show so much of the two sides of this character. Because really, while Norman Osborn may have pushed his son and his staff, he was also someone who wanted to succeed in their business ventures and wasn’t necessarily an inherently cruel person until he became the Green Goblin.

Some of the CGI may now look a bit dated but on the whole the action set pieces really hold up. The attack on the parade is fun with how Spider-Man bounces on the giant balloons and how he goes between fighting Green Goblin to rescuing bystanders shows what kind of a hero he is. The hand-to-hand fights with Green Goblin are pretty brutal and Peter Parker sure goes through a lot in this film. All the fight and action sequences are well shot and choregraphed and you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another.

I have to mention J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson – an actor who made the role his own that there was no way he could be played by anyone else in any of the other Spider-Man franchises. J. Jonah Jameson is loud and brash but he’s also quick-witted and all the scenes at the Daily Bugle are funny because of him and his various underlings. What really stood out to me (because I’d completely forgotten about it) is that that when he’s being threatened by the Green Goblin who wants to know who takes Spider-Man’s picture, James lies. He says he doesn’t know and they’re sent in the mail. He might be a mean and rude boss but it shows he does care about Peter Parker and the rest of his staff. He has a moral backbone and won’t sell out his staff. It’s little moments like that in Spider-Man that make a lot of the character work stand out.

Spider-Man is a very entertaining superhero film and is truly one of the great origin stories. It’s filled with drama and action and so many believable characters. Seeing Spider-Man swing through New York still looks fantastic and when that Spider-Man theme by Danny Elfman kicks in it’s hard not to get goosebumps. 5/5.

REVIEW: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

There may be vague spoilers for the original Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom in this review.

Nikolai Lantsov, King of Ravka, is trying to keep his country from the brink of war and ruin, while battling a darkness that has taken hold inside him. Zoya Nazyalensky, Commander of the Second Army and one of Nikolai’s closest allies, will do everything to protect her fellow Grisha and help Nikolai secure the throne. Meanwhile, far north Nina Zenik wages her own war against the people who would see the Grisha destroyed. Each of them will risk everything to save a broken nation but some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried.

While people said you could read Six of Crows without reading the Grisha trilogy you definitely shouldn’t read King of Scars without having read the five previous books. King of Scars takes place three years after the Darkling’s defeat and there’s a lot of references to past events and knowing what these characters have gone through then, makes their highs and lows more affecting now.

King of Scars is told from the point of view of Nikolai, Nina, and Zoya. Nina’s story does kind of feel a bit like a side quest and quite separate from what’s happening with Nikolai and Zoya. She’s in a different country, she doesn’t even know what’s happening back in Ravka, and while she’s being a spy for Nikolai, she’s trying to confront her demons and her grief over losing the man she loved. Nikolai and Zoya’s stories are more entwined so you get what both characters are feeling about the situations they’re in as they’re trying to protect the future of Ravka. There’s political intrigue as Nikolai, Zoya and their allies (Genya, David, and the twins) try to figure out how to make alliances with neighbouring countries and protect their borders. As well as the politics side of things, Nikolai has to deal with a monster that’s living under his skin. The constant threat of him hurting anyone, or their enemies finding out about it and using it against them, always on his mind.

All three of these characters are struggling. They’re struggling with their guilt, their responsibility, their grief, and they’re all handling (or not) to the best of their ability. Reading King of Scars was a bit odd at times as while I like all three characters (Nikolai was my favourite from the original trilogy), they were all more or less side characters in the stories they first appeared in so to have them front and centre now felt a bit strange to begin with. Though, I have to say while I liked her before, King of Scars made Zoya go way up in my estimations. She’s powerful and mean but she’s holding in a lot of pain and the way her powers and inner strength develop is great to see. I also really liked her and Nikolai’s relationship. While they are close and clearly trust one another, there’s hints at there being something more between them, whether they are aware of it or not.

Though I enjoy it, I don’t often YA fantasy as I’m focusing more on my Read the World Project which tends to be more historical/contemporary fiction or non-fiction, and as I read my sixth Leigh Bardugo book of the year, I was reminded how fun and fast-paced YA fantasy can be. Bardugo’s writing is insanely readable with twists and turns, humour and heartfelt moments, and ends the whole book on a bit of a cliffhanger. I’m not too sure what to make of the ending but I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out (and if Nina’s story becomes a bit more connected to what’s going on in Ravka).

It was a lot of fun being back in this world with characters I like a whole lot. King of Scars technically might not be a 5-star read but I read it in a couple of days and couldn’t put it down. 5/5.

REVIEW: Snake Eyes (2021)

Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) has been living a nomadic life, trying to learn the secrets of his past when he saves the life of Tommy Arashikage (Andrew Koji), heir of Arashikage clan. Tommy takes him to his home and gives him the chance to have a new life as a ninja.

Snake Eyes is a sort of reboot/origin story of the character that’s appeared in previous G.I. Joe films but you don’t need to know anything of those films or the characters in order to follow this one.

Snake Eyes is one of those films I’ve seen recently where I’ve liked the characters more than the plot they’re in. That does give the film some leeway with me as if I like the characters, I’ll pretty much just enjoy spending time with them no matter what they’re doing. I don’t know if Snake Eyes will make enough money etc for a sequel to happen, but I’d be more than happy to see Golding’s Snake Eyes and Koji’s Tommy again. Their dynamic was compelling and the actors had decent chemistry and what more can you want from a pair of leads where they each straddle the line between good and bad.

The action sequences in Snake Eyes are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are edited so much that everything feels frantic and it’s hard to see what’s exactly happening. This is a shame when you’ve got actors who know how to fight like Andrew Koji and Iko Uwais in your film as it’d be more impressive to see them fight in one shot. Other sequences are better, one with motorcycles and a moving lorry is pretty good, and some of the general espionage like sequences are often tense and interesting too.

Overall Snake Eyes is a pretty enjoyable film to get lost into this world of ninjas, spies and secret terrorist organisations. It perhaps does try and cram in a bit too much of the G.I. Joes lore to make it connected to the previous films/franchise but it’s still a fun film with interesting characters. 3/5.

REVIEW: Black Widow (2021)

After the events of Captain America: Civil War Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run but soon her past catches up with her as she’s reunited with her sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and learns that the Red Room she thought she’d long destroyed is still active.

After all this time Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow finally gets her own movie. While I’m certainly pleased that the character, and Scarlett Johansson who has more than a decade with this character, has finally gotten their time to shine, as a film it also feels a bit redundant. Having it set between the events of Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War means that there’s no real stakes for Natasha as we know we see her again. However, while her physical safety may be assured, Black Widow does allow more time to examine her psyche and she a few other characters certainly go through the emotional ringer – whether all those emotional beats land is another matter.

The fight sequences are great and having so many aerial shots make the movements seem fluid and helps these scenes standout more compared to other fight sequences in the MCU. The initial confrontation between Natasha and Yelena who haven’t seen each other for decades is a highlight. There’s the usual big explosions and car chases but it’s the one-on-one fight sequences which are the best and highlight how Natasha differs to her fellow superheroes.

With Natasha unable to turn to her Avenger family, she is forced to reconnect with a family from her past. Her dynamic with Yelena is interesting as while Yelena is clearly a more than capable spy and combatant, Natasha quickly falls back into the older sister role. Alexei (David Harbour) is the only Russian super soldier and Melina (Rachel Weisz) round out this family unit as the slippery scientist who you’re never quite sure where her allegiance lies. There’s an easy chemistry between the four actors but Florence Pugh steals just about every scene she’s in. Her Yelena is sarcastic and funny but she’s also hurting from her own experience in the Red Room. She’s also struggling to compartmentalise what this family unit means as she was so young when they were last together and to her, while it was a family of spies and double agents, it felt real.

Black Widow is a simpler MCU film. It’s Natasha facing her past and while the hundreds of Black Widows out there can certainly cause a lot of damage, it’s not framed as the end of the world type scenario. Instead, it’s about saving these young women from a life of trauma and control. However, the idea of the Red Room and these young girls being trained, and even brainwashed, to become master spies and assassins is a dark one and Black Widow never really goes into it more than at the surface level. Natasha’s past is dark and while Johansson does a good job at slowly revealing the layers of Natasha’s guilt and pain and love that’s all mixed together with her feelings for the Red Room and this unconventional family of hers, it often feels like something is missing.

Black Widow is an enjoyable action/spy thriller and there’s some good character work for Natasha and Yelena. While characters like Alexei are fun when they’re on screen (he’s much of the films comedic relief) they’re not particularly memorable afterwards. 3/5.

REVIEW: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Just a little quick backstory on me and the Grisha’verse. I read and reviewed Six of Crows way back in 2016 without reading the original trilogy. I enjoyed it and still agree with a lot of my review but now that the Shadow and Bone TV show arrives on Netflix tomorrow, I decided to revisit the world. I read the original trilogy for the first-time last month and reread Six of Crows on audio and enjoyed that even more than I remembered due to now having a better understanding of the world and the magic system and I got all the little references. And now I have read the conclusion to that duology on audio, which was narrated by Roger Clark, Jay Snyder, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Brandon Rubin, Kevin T. Collins, Lauren Fortgang and Peter Ganim.

I will try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible but as it’s a sequel events of the first book are likely to be mentioned. Kaz Brekker and his crew may have pulled off the most audacious heist, but they didn’t come home to the fortune there were promised. Betrayed, alone, and weakened they have to pull together to find away out of this mess as criminals, merchants, and officials are all after them. Because it turns out it’s not just their lives on the line, when a powerful drug is the most sought-after tool in the world, the fate of the Grisha world hangs in the balance.

I loved Crooked Kingdom. Much like Six of Crows it’s full of twists and turns and even when you think you know the plan either something goes wrong, or it turns out it was an illusion and the real plan was something else entirely. There isn’t one big job to pull off this time. Instead, there’s a series of schemes to try and keep them all alive and to get the money they were owed.

As events unfold, the crew has to rely on one another even more and seeing how the different relationships, both platonic and romantic, evolve is just incredible. All six of these characters (and you get chapters from all of their points of view this time) have gone through so much trauma. Some of the things they’ve gone through include drug and gambling addictions, surviving sexual assault, parents or family dying or just being terrible people. You get a lot more of Wylan’s backstory and perspective in Crooked Kingdom and it really adds something to the group dynamic.

While I still think you can get by not having read the original trilogy when reading Six of Crows, that is definitely not the case for Crooked Kingdom. Characters from the original trilogy make an appearance (one of which caused me to actually gasp because I was that excited) and a lot more of various countries politics and conflicts come into play here.

The pacing of Crooked Kingdom is just so good. There’s pretty much nonstop action and scheming and even when there isn’t, the conversations between various characters is just as compelling. When characters argue, and some of them are big conflicts, you feel it because slowly you as the reader realise, as a lot of the characters are doing, that these people actually care about each other. They are still liars and thieves and, in the case of Kaz Brekker especially, can be cruel and ruthless, but they’re also growing as people and making connections and even in some small way want to do better.

Crooked Kingdom is a brilliant conclusion to this duology. It expands this fantasy world, gives the characters more development and nuances and does a great job at building tension. All the twists and turns keeps you guessing and it’s just a fun ride with a lot of emotional payoff. 5/5.

REVIEW: Love and Monsters (2020)

Seven years after monsters took over the planet and humans had to take shelter underground; Joel (Dylan O’Brien) sets out to find his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) who is at another colony 85 miles away.

The creature designs in Love and Monsters are fantastic. The creatures are all mutated insects and cold-blooded creatures like frogs and crocodiles. So many of them have gone from being tiny and easy for a human to step on to the size of a car or even a house. The designs are great because you can tell what kind of bug they were originally but they’ve transformed into something out of the stuff of nightmares. Also, the creatures are used sparingly so then tension is always there and when one does show up it leads to a great sequence.

While there is a smattering of other characters throughout the film, Dylan O’Brien (and a dog, but I’ll get to that) carries this film. There’s his voiceover as he narrates his journey in the form of letters to her that’s equally funny, awkward and charming. In fact, as a character that sums up Joel pretty well. He is not known for his bravery and he makes a lot of mistakes in his trek across the surface, but he learns and O’Brien really captures Joel’s fear and joy in learning what’s out in the world.

Because that’s what Love and Monsters shows. There are creatures out there that are happy to stomp on or eat you, but there’s also beauty out there too. Not all of the creatures are nasty and in a world where no human has been for seven years, there’s so much that Joel, and any other survivor, has forgotten about. Even the simple pleasures of the smell of the grass and the feel of the wind, through experiencing them for the first time in so long Joel realises that while he might have been surviving, he wasn’t living.

Now onto the dog. Soon after leaving his colony Joel meets Boy, a dog who saves him from a monster attack, and they have such a brilliant bond. A lot of the time it’s just Joel and Boy together, with Boy being Joel’s sounding board and only true friend. Their relationship is easy to get invested in and as they protect one another, the tension grows because you don’t want anything bad to happen to either of them.

As well as being funny and a bit dark and scary, Love and Monsters is also surprisingly sweet and touching. You wholeheartedly believe in the love Joel has for Aimee and the little moments of connection he finds with other survivors are great too. Love and Monsters is a pretty innovative film about going outside your comfort zone and finding hope and connection at the end of the world. 4/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and what’s left of the X-Men send Logan (Hugh Jackman) to the past in order to try and prevent an event that results in the annihilation of mutants and humans alike in the future.

From the opening scene X-Men: Days of Future Past is firing on all cylinders. You’ve got this small group of mutants fighting for their lives against sentinels (giant killer robots that can adapt to anything) as Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page) sends Bishop (Omar Sy) back in time in order to warn them. The special effects are great, the whole sequence is exciting but it’s also nerve-wracking as it makes it clear how powerful these machines are and that our heroes may not make it out alive. What a way to start a movie and show how awful this apocalyptic future these characters we know are living in.

When Logan is sent to the 1970s, he has to find and reunite the younger versions of Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender). He finds a Charles who is a shell of the man he knows in the future, overwhelmed by his powers and the pain of losing both Erik and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), his shut himself away from the world with only Hank (Nicholas Hoult) for company. Erik meanwhile is in prison in at the Pentagon and Logan knows one person who can help them get him out – Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters). Peter is such a fun character, he’s a bit manic and weird and how his power is shown is really different to what we’ve seen before. He’s a guy who can move super-fast, so it makes sense that to him everything and everyone moves slowly, making a very entertaining scene when you get to see his powers from his point of view.

Days of Future Past sees Erik truly become Magneto. While Charles is still an idealist and Raven is planning to do bad things for good reasons, Erik is firm in his beliefs. He will do anything to protect his fellow mutants even if that means hurting people he once considered to be friends or allies. His power has also grown and thanks to Fassbender’s performance and the costuming, Erik is a foreboding presence when he puts his mind to something.

The balance between what’s happening in the future and in the 1970s is done so well – as is the balance between action and emotion. The action sequences in the future are thrilling, the ones in the past are character-driven and equally exciting but then the scenes where it’s just two characters talking are just as compelling. Whether it’s Logan trying to convince Charles of what the future holds or Erik and Charles reconnecting, it’s just as engaging as the action and spectacle. The best quieter moment is between the old and young Charles Xavier. Seeing both actors playing the same character at vastly different points of their lives together on screen not only gets me in the nerdy part of my heart, but the discussions of hope and perseverance really struck a chord too.

I know I’ve said previously that X2 is my favourite X-Men film, but on this rewatch I was struck by just how impressive X-Men: Days of Future Past is and it might now be my favourite. There’s action and emotion and it’s got some funny moments too. It’s a real celebration of this franchise, its characters and the general story of mutants vs humanity. Just a fantastic film. 5/5.

SERIES REVIEW: Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

As I said in a recent TBR post, though I read and enjoyed Six of Crows years ago I never finished that duology and I’d never read the original trilogy that started this Grisha’verse. Thanks to the trailer for the Shadow and Bone Netflix show, it got me reinterested in this series and now I’ve read the trilogy for the first time – and plan to reread Six of Crows and then read Crooked Kingdom for the first time. And then at some point I’ll probably also read the other duology in this world that has my new favourite character in it.

Set in a fantasy world inspired by Imperial Russia, Shadow and Bone sees Alina Starkov, a mapmaker in the army, suddenly learn she has a dormant but extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. She’s whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling, and soon she learns nothing is what it seems as she may be in more danger than she realised.

Shadow and Bone is my least favourite in the trilogy. I think it’s partly because it’d been a while since I’ve read fantasy, and while it’s still a genre I like, just getting in that YA fantasy mindset took some time. Also because of general internet osmosis, I knew going into it who was the big villain so I was kind of just waiting for that to be revealed too.

That being said, I think it did a great job of introducing the really interesting magic system. I liked the fact that while the Grisha are powerful, they have their limitations. They aren’t all powerful in all types of magic, there’s three different types of magic and they each have the skills for one type. How the magic and the history of this warring country is woven into the story is done well as there never seems a moment where you’re just listening to a history lesson. A lot of the time, you’re learning about things the same time as Alina is. This continues throughout the next two books and it makes the story all the richer for it.

The dynamic between Alina and the Darkling gets more interesting in each book but its here that all that important foundation is set. Their relationship verges on creepy a lot of times in the book before characters intentions are clear, and it gives their interactions an unsettling edge. Their powers compliment one another so they often appear to have the whole two sides of the same coin deal going on.

I gave Shadow and Bone 3/5.

Siege and Storm is my favourite in the trilogy. It feels like almost non-stop action and even when it’s not there’s more political intrigue as Alina learns to navigate the court and starts to become a leader which is just as gripping.

I thought the pacing in Siege and Storm was excellent and how it introduced new characters and new aspects of this world was nicely done. Here you see more of the technology of this country, not only are there pirate ships but also these aircraft which are unlike anything we’ve seen in these books before. The mixture of technology and science/magic in this world is really interesting.

Also, Siege and Storm introduces one of my favourite characters I’ve read in a long, long time – Sturmhond. He is clever and charming but also ambitious and ruthless, and I pretty much loved everything he said. As you learn more about him you see how he’s a man of many faces. He’s almost a chameleon as he can fit in in any social or political situation and often can get people to agree with him. I just loved him a lot.

I gave Siege and Storm 5/5.

Ruin and Rising is a near perfect end to this trilogy. Like Siege and Storm, I read it in two sittings because I was instantly pulled into the story because of the characters and the cliffhangers at the end of each book. While Alina has formed various bonds over the course of the previous two books, in this one there’s almost a family of choice trope happening as Alina and her small band of survivors fight to stick together and to do the right thing. The final act almost seemed to feel rushed. Throughout the book Alina had been working towards one goal but then that changed suddenly and, while there were possible hints in the previous book her original goal had still been an overarching theme, it made the final showdown seem more of a Plan B and it didn’t quite have the same effect.

I gave Ruin and Rising 4/5.

Overall, I really enjoyed this trilogy. Alina is a great and believable heroine. She acts to things how you’d think any sane person would react, she’s constantly learning from her mistakes and evolving into a powerful leader as she accepts and relishes in her newfound power. The rest of the characters are great too. As I’ve said, Sturmhond is my favourite but how some of the secondary or minor characters are allowed to develop is really cool as you see sides to them you wouldn’t have expected to begin with. While Alina’s closest relationship is with her best friend Mal, there’s a lot of good dynamics and friendships between female characters in these books which I always appreciate.

The Grisha trilogy is, on the whole, fast-paced, action-packed, and has compelling characters and a vivid world. I can see why these books have become so well loved and I’m definitely looking forward to the Netflix show.

REVIEW: X-Men (2000)

Due to a certain character’s appearance in a certain Disney+ show, I got the urge to rewatch (and then review) all of the X-Men films. A lot of the more recent ones with the younger versions of the characters I’ve only ever seen once in the cinema and I can’t even remember the last time I watched the original trilogy in their entirety.

In the near future some people have evolved into mutants, people with special abilities, and live with the threat of discrimination from the rest of humanity. The supremacist group the Brotherhood led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) believe that humans and mutants cannot live in peace and while the X-Men led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) believe that can be achieved. Mutants Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) get caught up in the fight between the two groups.

Even though I know that X-Men as a comic series was an allegory for the oppression of minorities and Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto) has always been Jewish and motivated by his experiences in the Holocaust, I’d forgotten that X-Men began with a young Erik having to watch his parents be led to the gas chamber as his powers manifested. It’s quite a bold and hard-hitting sequence to have to start a summer superhero flick.

The scenes where Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are talking are a real highlight. From their first scene together and their performances you can tell these characters have a long history and were even close once. Though really they’re never just talking. Erik and Charles are both smart men and so it’s like they’re verbally sparring as they both have respect for one another while having opposing set of ideals.

Logan (aka Wolverine) and Rogue’s relationship is really the heart of this film. It’s an easy dynamic to like as Rogue can’t be physically close to anyone without hurting them and Logan has built up a lot of emotional barriers. Hugh Jackman really does a good job of portraying Logan’s gruff attitude and often brutal, impulsive side, while also showing a softer, caring side around Rogue – and to a lesser extent Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). She and Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden) round out the main trio of heroes. They all do well in their roles even if some of the dialogue is a bit clunky.

Some of the special effects in X-Men has become dated but the casting of these characters was pretty spot on and it’s easy to see why some of them became staples in the X-Men franchise. Though equally it’s unfortunate how some seem to have got the short end of the stick over subsequent films.

While Blade was the superhero film that made superheroes a viable financial option for film studios, X-Men really is the blueprint for a lot of the subsequent superhero films. It has a pretty simple but compelling plot, does a good job at introducing this huge cast of characters and it balances the action and emotional beats well too. 4/5.