comic book movies

REVIEW: The Batman (2022)

When the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman (Robert Pattinson) investigates and finds a web of corruption that his own family may be entangled in.

The Batman is a great standalone film while also being a film that offers enough of its key cast that makes me want to see more. There are no origin stories for any of these characters, any backstory can be inferred by their actions or, if it’s needed to move the plot along, via dialogue. Gotham as a place feels real and lived in. It’s rundown and lawless and a mask vigilante would certainly not be out of place here. The vast majority of the film takes place at night – or at sunrise or sunset – but it’s a film where you can see exactly what’s happening even when it’s dark and raining. The Batman is a well shot and often very good-looking film; cinematographer Greig Fraser does great work here.

The Batman sees a Batman who has been doing this “job” for two years and has become a figure of fear to the criminals in the city. The interesting thing is you see Batman for the vast majority of the film, rarely seeing Bruce Wayne. This Bruce is so focused on being Batman and saving the city that Bruce is seen as a recluse, shut up at home and only seeing Alfred (Andy Serkis) and a housekeeper. He has yet to become the playboy public figure we’ve seen in other Batman films as this Bruce is so caught up in his anger and grief over his parents’ death that he almost doesn’t know how to be normal and make human connections when he’s not wearing the cape.

This leads to one of the most interesting dynamics in The Batman, which is the one between Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). It’s a take on the relationship that I haven’t seen in previous Batman iterations. They work together well and while they may argue they also trust one another. For a film that’s “dark and gritty” there’s almost always a wry sense of humour whenever these two interact. Potentially this is because Gordon is a bit worn down by everything and while Batman is a weird vigilante, at least he’s doing something. While Gordon doesn’t know who Batman is, it’s like he doesn’t care that he’s the imposing figure of Batman and can see he’s still a regular guy under that mask. Gordon puts his reputation on the line for Batman while Batman explicitly states that Gordon is one of the only people he trusts and believes in multiple times.

There are a lot of key characters here and as the murders mount up and Batman and Gordon look into the corruption and all the threads tying these people together, it can get a bit convoluted. Though it has its costumes and explosions, The Batman is a crime/mystery story at its heart. Batman, and the police department, are trying to solve Riddler’s clues before someone else winds up dead, it’s just that all these people are tied to one another and with its almost three-hour runtime it can be a bit hard to remember how people are connected.

That being said, I was never bored watching The Batman. The character moments were often as interesting as the action sequences and watching Batman be a detective (though he’s perhaps not the best detective ever yet) felt new and exciting. Seeing him lurk around crime scenes surrounded by dubious police officers while Gordon vouched for him was simultaneously weird, funny, and great.

The whole cast is great but a shout out has to go to Paul Dano’s Riddler who is incredibly unsettling and intriguing with a limited amount of screentime. Colin Farrell as the Penguin is near unrecognisable thanks to the make up and prosthetic work and a fat suit. So, while he plays a fun character, one has to wonder why you needed Farrell in the role and in all that getup. Couldn’t a fat actor have been cast? Especially as in this film Penguin is more or less a standard mob boss. Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman rounds out the main “villains” in this film and her dynamic with Batman is something I’d like to see more of.

Overall, The Batman is a pretty great film. The whole vibe of it is dirty and often almost hopeless but with Gordon – who almost acts like a co-lead at times – as the good centre there is some hope. This Batman is pretty interesting as he tries to find how to be both a figure of fear and a figure of hope, depending who needs it. I would love to see more of these characters and of this Gotham. And I can’t finish this without mentioning Michael Giacchino’s score – it’s excellent, suits the tone of the film perfectly and just heightens how threatening and imposing Batman can be. 4/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

After the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is dealing with the repercussions of the world finding out his secret identity. When things starting affecting his loved ones, Peter turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help but when a spell goes awry, dangerous villains start to appear with one goal – take down Spider-Man.

Don’t worry, this will be a spoiler-free review!

In previous Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man outings, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has felt very young and naïve. He’s previously made mistakes but it’s seemed like it took him a long time to learn from. For me, No Way Home finally sees Peter mature and become Spider-Man in a way we haven’t really seen much before in the MCU. It’s impressive that with a film chockfull of characters, Peter Parker stays the focus and driving force behind everything and Tom Holland does an excellent job in the role.

MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) as team FoS (Friends of Spider-Man) are both great, adding both humour and suitable drama to various situations. Having the two of them knowing about Peter’s not-so-secret identity and helping him on his missions just feel right. All three of them have different skill sets but are super smart and seeing them work together and deeply care for one another is great.

It is a joy to see past Spider-Man villains on screen again. Alfred Molina once again delivers pathos to Doc Ock, but it’s Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin that is the real standout. How he portrays both sides of the character, Norman Osborn and the Goblin, and can switch instantly between the two is still incredibly creepy.

It’s easy to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home prays on nostalgia and fan service with all these characters we’ve seen in previous iterations of Spider-Man making an appearance but No Way Home uses these characters so well that it doesn’t feel cheap. Sure, some of the villains aren’t as well developed as others but generally speaking it feels like these characters are there for a purpose and have a narrative arc that compliments what we’ve seen them before. There’s a purpose to the vast majority of these villains and no one feels like a brief cameo.

The first act is a little shaky but once the spell goes awry and a bunch of villains start showing up everything seems to click into place and Spider-Man: No Way Home is such a fun experience. The action is exciting, there’s some real emotional moments between various characters and so much of the cast has great chemistry that I’d love to see some of these actor combinations on screen again some time.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is probably not a perfect movie, but I can’t deny how much I enjoyed it and how I got swept away by it all. Having too many villains has been detrimental so many films before but here they know how to use them to great effect and keep Peter Parker at the centre of it all. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is loving being Spider-Man though he does feel guilty about continuing his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as he feels he’ll only put her in danger. That danger soon arrives in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and as Peter tries to deal with this new threat while still coming to terms with the secrets of his parent’s past, his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York.

Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now, knowing this was Andrew Garfield’s last outing at the titular character and the filmmakers/studio never brought to screen the Sinister Six they spent a chunk of this film setting up, is a very funny and kind of a sad experience.

Because by the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 you can’t help but feel it’s an extended set up for what never came. There are so many plots in this film and if a few were cut out or even shortened it might have made a more cohesive film and the plots left might’ve been more effective. In the end, there’s a lot of things that felt pointless and repetitive.

Speaking of repetitive, the on and off again romance between Peter and Gwen got old very quickly. While yes, they’re supposed to be awkward teens in love they just kept going over the same arguments about why they should or shouldn’t be together. Garfield and Stone still have great chemistry but there’s only so many times you can watch two people have the same argument or talk at cross-purposes.

Another aspect that felt pointless and dull was all the stuff about Peter’s parents – or rather his father, his poor mum certainly got shafted. There was one minor detail revealed once Peter learns more about his dad but it’s more of a “Oh that’s cool” thing rather than having any major narrative impact. Otherwise, anything to do with his dad seems to say Oscorp is bad – something which was already pretty clear from the first film. In The Amazing Spider-Man you learnt that Peter’s dad didn’t want his research getting into the wrong hands and in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it just rams that point home again.

Electro is a pretty decent villain. His looks and powers are interesting though (like another character) his decent into villainy felt far too quick, especially because of where he started. Before he got his powers, he was a nerdy guy who was a pushover and idolised Spider-Man so seeing him first of all be scared and overwhelmed by what was happening to him felt true to character. How he changed from loving Spider-Man to hating him so quickly felt more out of place.

Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is still one of the best we’ve seen on screen. He’s confident, cracking jokes and poking fun at the bad guys, but the problem is that the attitude bleeds into his Peter Parker. While his Peter Parker is clearly more intelligent than the Maguire version (always like the scenes where Peter is doing experiments to improve his web shooters) he doesn’t seem as awkward, quiet and nerdy.

Surprisingly considering how little screentime and decent character development he had, I once again both really liked and felt sorry for Harry Osborn. Though, I probably would’ve liked his arc a lot more if it was given more time and his decent into villainy wasn’t shoehorned into the end of the film. Also, having Peter and Harry be childhood friends reconnecting is a neat way of getting him back into Peter’s life but there’s only really one scene where you see them bonding and acting like friends before Harry starts to want something from Peter. Cutting out some of the will they/won’t they stuff with Peter and Gwen to give us more scenes of Harry and Peter could’ve helped all three of those characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just has too much going on and now there was never a third film in this series the flaws seem even more obvious. It’s messy when trying to juggle all these plot threads and while many of the Spidey scenes are great fun and action-packed, there’s a bit of a videogame quality to them due to the CGI.

I’ll end this on a positive, I did like the score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger, Junkie XL, Johnny Marr, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. Electro’s theme especially was eerie with the whispers underscoring the techno and it really suited the character. 2/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

After getting bitten by a genetically-engineered spider, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds himself with amazing new abilities. As Peter begins to look into the secrets of his father’s (Campbell Scott) past, he meets Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) whose own life-altering research turns him into something dangerous.

The Amazing Spider-Man sure had a lot to live up to in comparison to the (first two) Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. It’s hard to not compare the two but I’ll try my best. The Amazing Spider-Man does have some of the same narrative beats but it’s impossible not to when you’re adapting the origin story of a character who has been around for decades.

Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a different kind of nerdy kid compared to Tobey Maguire’s Peter. Because, as 21 Jump Street showed, what’s nerdy and cool changes over time. Things Peter may get picked on now is not what he’d get picked on ten years ago. Side note: the Tom Holland films continue this trend of what makes Peter nerdy/unpopular.

Peter is quiet and smart and a little awkward and when he suddenly gets superpowers, he is definitely not responsible with them to begin with. He has some power now and uses that to make him feel better and even embarrass those who used to bully him. You get to see Peter change and grow and he’s definitely more of an angsty teen and it’s totally un but is just as understandable why. The fact he feels abandoned by his parents (though naturally the focus is on his father) is a big part of this Peter’s personality. He is desperate for answers does some reckless things to get them.

Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is Peter’s love interest and the two of them are actually quite sweet and work well together. She’s smart and a bit awkward too but it just as smart as Peter, if not more so. Stone and Garfield have great chemistry and it’s nice for the romantic lead to know of Peter’s secret identity from the outset. Having that dynamic means that she can help him when he’s Spider-Man as well as when he’s Peter Parker.

It does feel like The Amazing Spider-Man has a wasted opportunity with the villain. Dr Connors/the Lizard is sort of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario but Dr Connors never gets enough character development for you to really care about him. He’s a guy in a lab coat and as the focus is more on Peter and his dad’s connection to Dr Connors’ research, you never really get to see more of him than the scientist part of his life.

Overall, the action sequences are pretty great and the moment in finale with building cranes is a nice touch of the support Spidey has from New Yorkers – because this Spider-Man has been on the job for a far shorter time when he has his big final battle than Maguire’s Spider-Man had in his first film.

Personally, I find The Amazing Spider-Man good but not outstanding or thrilling like most of the Raimi films were upon rewatch. I think my main problem with this film (and from the little I remember of it; I have a feeling it’ll be a bigger problem in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is the focus on Peter’s dad and the secrets he had. While I admire them putting a different spin on the story (and maybe in the comics Peter’s dad was a man of mystery, I don’t know) it kinda makes Peter Parker/Spider-Man not so much of the focus of his own story anymore. Also, while I understood why Peter was acting as he was when avoiding his grief, I didn’t particularly like him then, and I never got as attached to him (or any of the other characters) as quickly as I did with the Raimi version – but then again, maybe that is nostalgia talking. 3/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

I remembered very little of Spider-Man 3 going into it and what I did know/remember was more the general consensus of it rather than how I felt about it myself. Watching it now, about 15 years since I last saw it in its entirety, I can certainly say that Spider-Man 3 is a bit of a mess. There are some great action sequences and character moments but it’s all bogged down by trying to juggle too many characters.

Was Spider-Man 3 the origins of the “too many villains” flaw? Because I definitely feel like removing one of the villains and tweaking the script here and there would have solved a lot of the film’s problems. By having three villains as well as a lot of relationship drama between Peter (Tobey Maguire) and MJ (Kirsten Dunst) not enough time is really spent on any of them to flesh them out. Well Harry Osborn’s (James Franco) arc mostly works but that’s down to two prior films worth of character work.

Peter and MJ were having issues long before “Venom” became involved in Peter’s life so if that plot/villain was scrapped then there’d still be a lot of the conflict between the two of them and then more time could have been spent on the other villains – Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Harry Osborn’s descent into becoming the New Goblin as he’s called in this film. Peter and MJ are having issues because for the first time their fortunes are reversed.

In previous films Peter has been the loser, struggling to hold a job and be Spider-Man at the same time while MJ has been the popular, successful Broadway star with confidence in who she is and her dreams. In Spider-Man 3 you have a Peter Parker who is totally comfortable with his dual life and enjoys being Spider-Man and in some ways because of that becomes oblivious to MJ’s struggles. MJ on the other hand is now the one with a struggling career and is having knocks to her confidence at every turn, even by Peter though it’s not intentional on his part.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read over the years that it was studio interference that meant “Venom” had to be included in Spider-Man 3 but so much of the conflict that the symbiote exacerbated was already there, it just made Peter an asshole rather than a clueless idiot when it came to people in his life he’s supposed to care about.

The CGI in Spider-Man 3 is noticeably worse than in the previous two films. Scenes where Spider-Man is swinging through the city look weird and Spider-Man looks like a computer-generated character, all plasticky and not real. Also, maybe sand monsters never look great on camera as some of those sequences reminded me of The Mummy and not necessarily in a good way – a film with almost ten years-worth of special effects advancement shouldn’t look as good as and sometimes worse than a film from the 1990s.

The sequence where Harry first attacks Peter is pretty good though and is a personal highlight of the film. The way there’s longer shots and the camera swoops around following the two of them as they fly/swing through the city is genuinely engaging.

Like I said in my Spider-Man 2 review, I did not expect this revisit to the Raimi trilogy to have me loving Harry Osborn so much but that love is even more prevalent in Spider-Man 3. The ending of Spider-Man 3 is one of the few things I could really remember about this film going into it so when Harry with memory loss called MJ and Peter his best friends and he’d die for them it was just such sad foreshadowing. The three of them love each other so much that even the final scene where MJ and Peter are reunited, it’s not really a grand romantic moment! They don’t kiss, they just hold each other with tears in their eyes as they are the only person who understands the grief they are going through.

While obviously there was never a Spider-Man 4, it would have been interesting to see what this Peter and MJ would’ve been like without Harry. Because the three of them seemed to help each other in different ways and both Peter and MJ got something from their relationship with Harry that they didn’t necessarily get from each other.

Overall Spider-Man 3 is not great but it’s my love of the central trio and their relationship that makes me not hate it as much as some seem to. I guess Spider-Man 3 follows the pattern for me that if there’s characters that I like in a form of media, if I enjoy spending time with those characters the film/TV show around them could be terrible but I wont care too much if what’s happening in the plot doesn’t destroy the characters I love. Though Peter Parker certainly came close to falling down in my estimations a number of times in this film. 3/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 is truly a fantastic film, never mind a fantastic superhero film. Upon rewatch after seeing so many other MCU and DCEU films (some of which I do generally love) it’s easy to see why Spider-Man 2 is still considered to be one of the best examples of a superhero film. It’s fun, the character work great, the “low stakes” relationship drama is just as compelling as the high stakes battles with the villains.

Spider-Man 2 builds on what was laid out in the first film with great success. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to juggle life as Spider-Man while also going to college and holding a job. Meanwhile Harry Osborn (James Franco) is now the head of his father’s company and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has made it as an actor and has a starring role on stage and is dating an astronaut who happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) son.

The idea of Peter losing his Spider-Man-abilities because he’s torn between two lives is a really interesting one. This is where this Peter Parker having organic webs shooting from his wrists rather than being something he built really works. He has no control as he’s becoming indecisive over what he wants, if he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man, he can’t be Spider-Man. Likewise, you get to see how good a person Peter Parker is even without the suit and the powers. He runs into a burning building to save a little girl because that’s the right thing to do and he can’t walk away. Side note: the moment where the little girl helps pull him up is one of the sweetest things ever.

Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) is a brilliant villain because through one small dinner scene with him, his wife (Donna Murphy), and Peter you get to see the man who likes poetry and loves his wife and science. Having the robotic arms have powerful AI be part of the cause of his descent into villainy is a clever idea. He’s smart, perhaps too smart, and comes up with a failsafe to protect himself but when that fails and he sees the love of his life die in front of him, it’s easy to see how he’d be manipulated by AI that’s smarter than him to solely focus on redoing the experiment no matter the cost.

The action sequences in Spider-Man 2 are still some of the best in the superhero movie genre. They are shot so you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another and the majority of them happen in the daytime so that along with not being too heavily edited means you can see what’s happening. The bank sequence is a lot of fun and is a great prelude to Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s next confrontation. The train sequence is still something that stands out even after over 15 years or more superhero movies. It’s exciting and while it’s a fight between Peter and Doc Ock it’s also a fight for Spider-Man to save the passengers on the train. The New Yorker’s standing up for Spider-Man is something that still gets me in the feels. It shows the good of the average person and how while the Daily Bugle and others may hate Spider-Man, there’s still many who feel like he’s a hero.

One thing I didn’t expect to get from this film was how much I empathised with Harry Osborn. He’s constantly in people’s shadows and no wonder it makes him act out. First it was his father, never living up to his expectations and pleasing him, and then Peter, not being as smart as him or being the one that MJ wants out of the two of them. I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of Spider-Man 3 after not seeing it for so long as there’s so much good groundwork laid in this film for Harry’s arc. He feels lost and desperate after suddenly being thrust into the role of head of Oscorp and then finding out that his best friend is who is (supposedly) to blame for his father’s death. It’s a lot for him and while Harry’s plot is a minor part of Spider-Man 2, James Franco does a great job with what he’s given.

Spider-Man 2 is truly a brilliant film. Even after all this time it’s still the film other Spider-Man films aspire to be as great as. It’s the combination of Peter’s struggles with responsibility and the various relationships in his life, it’s the villain that can be very creepy and almost horrifying at times, and it’s just how there is still humour to be found even though Peter’s life really does suck the majority of the time. 5/5.

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: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) has been living a normal life in San Francisco with his friends including his best friend and co-worker Katy (Awkwafina) but that changes when his father Wenwu (Tony Leung) sends his men after him and pulls Shang-Chi back into the world of the Ten Rings.

I have seen Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings twice now (and there’s a good chance I’ll see it a third time in the cinema) and I really truly love it. While almost naturally there’s a big CGI-heavy showdown at the end, that doesn’t lessen the impact of this film, and as it’s a very CGI-heavy showdown that still puts the focus on the characters and their relationships, it works and is still very enjoyable. Plus, it pulls in elements from Asian culture that we just haven’t seen before in the MCU so it doesn’t feel like the typical end of the world scenario.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a story of a family, and perhaps more than that it’s a love story. But not the kind of love story you’d expect with the superhero lead having a big romance. Here the love story is between Shang-Chi’s parents, Wenwu and Li (Fala Chen), and how their love shaped each other and their children. Throughout the film there’s flashbacks to Shang-Chi’s childhood (played by Jayden Zhang as a child and Arnold Sun as a teenager) to see the events that shaped him into the adult he is now. The way these scenes are interspersed throughout the film always feel natural and are complimenting what’s happening in the present. These scenes, while often more family and relationship focused, are just as compelling as the action sequences that are happening in the present. Ever single flashback feels important and adds something to the characters involved; whether that’s Shang-Chi, Wenwu, Li, or Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing (played by Meng’er Zhang as an adult, Elodie Fong as a child and Harmonie He as a teenager).

Having these flashbacks scattered through the film means that the main action and story of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings kicks in very quickly. After a prologue narrated by Li (and all in Mandarin) telling the backstory of Wenwu, the ten rings he possesses, and how the two of them met and fell in love, it’s straight into the everyday life of Shang-Chi and Katy and how they both quickly get caught up in Wenwu’s schemes. The first action sequence is set on a moving bus and straightaway you can tell that this is a film made by people who know how to shoot fight and stunt sequences – and it’s clear that Simu Liu (like other cast members) put in many hours of stunt and fight training because it’s easy to believe that he knows martial arts.

All the hand-to-hand fights are just thrilling to watch and the way they’re choreographed often shows little character moments in them. Character’s fighting styles aren’t all the same and Shang-Chi incorporating a headbutt (something far more American than anything his father would’ve taught him) into a fight is a fun little moment.

The MCU often has a problem with its villains; namely that they’re pretty generic and forgettable. The two main exceptions to this rule are Thanos and Loki and now there’s a third with Wenwu. He is a villain, he is a murderer and a conqueror, but he can love though over time it becomes twisted into something else. He is an understandable and complex villain and his connections to Shang-Chi and Xialing makes him compelling and the conflict between the hero and villain that more impactful.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of my new favourite MCU movies and is definitely one of the great origin stories of the MCU. It’s fun and vibrant with great characters, fights and visuals and overall, it feels like a breath of fresh air in the MCU. Also, I appreciated how the comedic moments were handled throughout the film. Katy is the main comedic character but her jokes and comments are never to the detriment to a dramatic or sombre moment. Plus, she feels like a real character by actually having her own family connections and skills that can aid the hero. I honestly did not expect to love this film as much as I did and I can’t wait for Shang-Chi and to meet other characters in this universe because i feel his dynamic with them would be so interesting. 5/5.

Also got to give a shout out to whoever put together the trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. There is really very little of the movie in the trailer, and of the third act especially. In some ways it’s good as there were so many surprises to be had when watching the film but in others it’s not as I thought the trailer was fine but it didn’t make me desperate to see the film. But maybe that was for the best as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has far surpassed any expectations I may have had.

REVIEW: The Suicide Squad (2021)

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends the latest criminal recruits to Task Force X including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), and Peacemaker (John Cena) to the enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese to complete a mission that no one must know about.

The Suicide Squad is the sort of sequel/reboot of 2016’s Suicide Squad. There are a few characters from the last film in this one, namely Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), but you really don’t need to have seen the previous film in order to watch this one, as while they both have the general premise of a bunch of deadly convicts/supervillains getting sent on a secret mission that’s likely to get a lot of them killed it’s a whole new story.

From the outset it’s clear that the violence in The Suicide Squad is going to be very bloody and gratuitous. The violence is often used to humorous effect but depending on your sense of humour it’ll either get old very quickly or will work for you. The Suicide Squad is a very sweary comedy however personally the jokes didn’t often land, and those that did might’ve elicited a smile rather than a full on laugh out loud moment. The humour is vulgar and weird and sometimes juvenile. It’s also often full of in-jokes and references so if the likes of Deadpool don’t work for you, The Suicide Squad might not either.

The action sequences are often entertaining, especially the one-on-one fights. Harley Quinn rescuing herself is a real highlight and Bloodsport and Peacemaker one-upping each other with kills and quips shows off both Elba’s and Cena’s comedic timing.

What The Suicide Squad does better than its predecessor is making you care about a good proportion of these characters, especially the ones we’ve never seen before, and make you believe that these antisocial characters can actually care about one another in their own ways. A big element of Suicide Squad was when a character suddenly said this “team” was his family – something there had never been any sign of before he actually said it. In The Suicide Squad while it’s hard to say these characters are a family, there are the beginnings of bonds of friendship between certain characters thanks to the dialogue and chemistry between certain actors.

Daniela Melchoir as Ratcatcher 2 is brilliant and she and her pet rat Sebastian almost stole the whole film. They are the softer core of this film and her dynamics with both Bloodsport and Rick Flag are great to watch. Naturally with such a sprawling cast some characters don’t stay around for very long and through them you see just how deadly their mission is. On the flipside of that though, with so many characters with no real introduction as to who they are or even what their skills are, when they do die it’s sometimes hard to care.

The Suicide Squad certainly starts with a bang but that intensity and surprises doesn’t quite last the full runtime. The comedic bits can become grating and while most of the action sequences are entertaining, there’s not enough narrative focus to The Suicide Squad to make it truly memorable and the final showdown just feels rather absurd. Director and writer James Gunn’s signature style of needle drops, witty one-liners and some interesting visuals are all over this film but that does make The Suicide Squad feel like it’s more style over substance. 3/5.