When the daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu) return to Earth with plans to destroy the world of humans, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his adult superhero alter ego (Zachary Levi), must bring his superhero family together to save the world.
The first Shazam! film was an unexpected delight and while Shazam! Fury of the Gods doesn’t reach the heights of the original, it’s still a pretty fun sequel that builds on the themes of family that was so essential to the first one. That being said, I would’ve like Asher Angel to have more screentime with his on-screen siblings, as adult Billy aka Zachary Levi, definitely had the most screentime with the siblings, both the kid-versions and the superhero-versions. The first film had such a great balance between the superhero and the kid stuff but in Fury of the Gods it was definitely more skewed towards the superhero stuff. Which kind of makes sense but it was to an extent where you sometimes for got that this superhero was a teenager – especially as teenage Billy was a lot calmer and more thoughtful than superhero Billy who sometimes veered off into being almost Deadpool-esque with the abundance on one-liners and acting more like comic relief than a hero with responsibilities. (more…)
Nearly 5,000 years after he was given the powers of the gods Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is freed from his earthly tomb, to find his home country of Kahndaq is now besieged by mercenaries, so he sets about unleashing his unique form of justice on the modern world.
The best thing Black Adam has going for it is Dwayne Johnson. He does make an imposing villain/anti-hero and it is kind of fun seeing him be so ruthless with a bunch of bad guys without then second guessing it. It’s clear from the outset that the people who have invaded this country are not good people and deserve anything that is coming to them.
Naturally Black Adam needs some superpowered good guys to go up against and that’s where the Justice Society of America (JSA) comes in. Like all the superpowered characters in this film, I knew nothing about the JSA and I still know little about them and how the Justice Society works as this film gives very little backstory or characterisation to any of them. Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) is the new guy, Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) has pretty cool and colourful wind powers, Hawkman’s (Aldis Hodge) main thing is saying “heroes don’t kill people” over and over again, and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) is just the best and steals just about every scene he’s in – even when he’s going toe to toe with Black Adam.
Everyone gives fine to good performances and the JSA team are all generally likeable and have decent charisma but it was hard to really care about them all. Also naturally, as Black Adam couldn’t be an out and out villain, there was always going to be something that would unite him and the JSA as they fight some other big bad. It’s a superhero movie cliché and unfortunately in this instance, the random new baddie wasn’t particularly interesting either.
Something that the film treats as a Big Reveal and a plot twist, is diminished as it’s in the trailer and it’s not even a subtle thing. If you’ve seen the first trailer, the trailer below in fact, you may be like me watching this film, just waiting for something seemingly obvious to be spelt out, but that thing is only so obvious when you’ve seen the trailer. It’s poor marketing on the studios part as any dramatic heft is lost.
I did like what Black Adam had to say about Western (super) powers not being interesting in the strife of a Middle Eastern country such as Kahndaq, until they have their own powerful guardian and then they are seen as a threat. That kind of on the nose but different (for a superhero movie) political commentary was unexpected but welcome.
Black Adam is neither particularly good nor particularly bad. If I was a kid, I’d probably have a great time with this as it reminded me a bit of those “middle tier” superhero movies like Fantastic Four (2005), it has a lot action set pieces and bombastic fights while also not being very memorable. Some of the CGI is a bit dodgy and trying to stuff so many new and somewhat obscure characters into a two-hour movie means that characterisation is left by the wayside. 3/5.
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.
Determined to ensure Superman’s (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions led by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds).
The trials and tribulations of this film, or this version of this film, are pretty well known and now thanks to HBO Max Zack Snyder has been able to release the version of Justice League that was his ideal vision to release back in 2017 – all four hours of it.
It’s difficult to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League and not compare it to the film that was released in cinemas in 2017. There are scenes that are exactly the same or similar but extended but then there’s also a whole lot of new footage and backstory on different characters. Much like the 2017 version, I think Zack Snyder’s Justice League is mostly fine, it’s still messy but it is a bit more coherent and thematically consistent. It’s just that if you’re not keen on how Snyder represents these characters, making them more like God-like warriors than superheroes, then you’ll probably not be too over keen on this film.
Cyborg (Ray Fisher) gets the most out of this new version. As a character he gets so much more to do, more character development and he does kind of become the heart and driving force of this team of heroes. Fisher’s performance isn’t always great, but his character goes from being an almost non-entity to the glue that holds this team together – and his relationship with his father Silas Stone (Joe Morton) is a big subplot of the film.
Steppenwolf is given more of a backstory too so becomes a bit more than a generic villain who wants to destroy the world. The CGI with all the spikes in his suit makes him appear more menacing and with the extra blood and violence he does seem like a sizable threat.
The four-hour runtime of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a bit intimidating, and you do feel it at times. Slow-motion shots are a big part of Snyder’s directing style and there’s a lot in here. In fact, the use of them is excessive as shots that look cool in a trailer (Jason Momoa’s Aquaman standing in the waves) last for minutes as you have to see them in slow-mo and from every angle, and then there’s sequences like a football game that’s also in slow-mo which seems pointless. These shots may look cool, but having so much slow-motion shots used, all the time no matter the context of the scene, makes them lose their impact when they’re used in a big action sequences.
I think that’s a good way to sum up Zack Snyder’s Justice League. A lot of the time it looks cool but those visual, stylistic choices don’t necessarily make a good film. With it’s four-hour runtime there’s a lot of exposition and action and some it works while some of it doesn’t. More padding around the plot makes it a more consistent film than the one released in 2017, but I see little reason for it to be four hours. There’s probably a really good two-and-a-half to three-hour Justice League movie in here.
If you had problems with the 2017 film, you may like this version more. If you liked the 2017 version, there may be some stuff to like here but there’s not as much slapstick comedy for instance. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is long, often dour but frequently visually interesting. There are a few nice character moments (how the dynamic between Wonder Woman and Aquaman is briefly explored is one of my favourite moments) but then other characters are pushed aside (Amy Adams’ Lois Lane). It’s the balance between character and action and pacing that’s lacking and often makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League a bit of a slog but the film does just enough to keep you watching – if only out of morbid curiosity. 2/5.
It’s 1984 and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is discreetly helping people in Washington and trying to live the quiet life. That’s until power-hungry businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) takes a powerful object and threatens the world and in the process Diana’s colleague Barbra Minerva (Kristen Wiig) goes down a dark path and Diana’s long-dead love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) mysteriously returns.
Wonder Woman 1984 starts with a flashback sequence to a young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competing against full grown Amazon’s in a race across Themyscira. It’s a great sequence but you have to wonder how much it really adds in the film. There is a lesson Diana learns there, which she then reiterates later in the film, but because the film is so long, it doesn’t really have the impact that was probably intended.
Maxwell Lord is an overemotional and desperate type of villain. He’s manipulative and smarmy while also being a bit ridiculous and pitiful. It’s interesting having Diana have to go up against someone who is so much physically weaker than her and makes the final act not be a huge physical battle between the two. There are likely to be comparisons between Maxwell Lord and Donald Trump – whether they were intentional or not. There’s the floppy orange hair, the need to be more powerful and successful that they are, it’s easy to see some similarities.
Gal Gadot and Chris Pine continue to have great chemistry and Diana and Steve’s relationship is truly the heart of this film. The fish out of water dynamic is flipped around from the first film and it’s fun seeing Steve be enthralled with how much things have changed in the seventy years since his death – especially he’s joy in learning about more advanced planes and the space race. There are some emotional moments between Diana and Steve which really work and did cause me to tear up.
Kristen Wiig is good as Barbara aka Cheetah. She has the comedic timing to handle the self-deprecating jokes when she’s shy and awkward, and as Barbara gains confidence, Wiig can handle that too. It does feel a bit like Barbara was mostly in the film so she could become Cheetah and there could be the physical battle for Diana that she wouldn’t get with Maxwell Lord. Personally, I know next to nothing about the character, but some Cheetah fans may feel cheated.
The action sequences in Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t really have the same impact as those in the previous film. It may be because we now know the character of Wonder Woman and what she can do, though I do think the fights just weren’t as exciting and some of them did look a bit weird, which is probably down to shoddy CGI and green screen.
Wonder Woman 1984 really is a perfectly solid three-star film. It’s fun, perhaps a bit too long and convoluted but it’s a bright action, superhero film. The first Wonder Woman film is a lot better overall and, for me more enjoyable and has more rewatch value, I’m not desperate to see Wonder Woman 1984 again unlike how I was with the first film. Which is probably a good thing as now cinemas are closed near me again and HBO Max doesn’t exist here. 3/5.
After splitting up from the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is pulled into the hunt for street thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) by crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) where she crosses paths with club singer Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).
First of all, the rather long title of Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is misleading. This film really should be called Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey because it’s Harley’s movie first, and a Birds of Prey introduction second. So, adjust your expectations over who is more likely to get the most screen time here.
On to the film itself. Birds of Prey is a lot of fun. It does take a while to find its groove and that’s down to the multiple flashbacks that often grind the flow of the film to a halt, especially towards the beginning when you just want to follow these characters who all seem so interesting. Birds of Prey is a story told from Harley Quinn’s point of view, she narrates the story and interrupts herself now and then when she realises she’s skipped a bit. The narrative is often as chaotic and fractured as Harley’s mind which is equal parts interesting and jarring.
The start of Birds of Prey is more of a character study of Harley. She and the Joker have broken up and she’s struggling to get over him and find her who she is when she’s not tied to him. With all the gangsters, criminals and cops out to get her now she’s no longer under the Joker’s protection, Harley must think quick on her feet. It turns out that Harley isn’t as defenceless and as in need of protection as a lot of people think, of if she does need or want help, it’s not going to be from the men who seek to control her. Margot Robbie’s Harley has so many layers and insecurities and strengths and it’s refreshing to see a character like her work through the pain of a breakup and find an inner resolve.
The five main female characters cross each other’s paths in different combinations throughout the film which is great as you get to see different aspects of their personality depending on who they’re with. But it’s in the final act when they finally all come together to take down the bad guys that the film really clicks. It’s an absolute joy to watch them all fight side by side, have banter in between punches and generally compliment and encourage each other at any chance they get.
The fight choreography is brilliant as each character’s fighting style suits their character and no woman fights the same. Harley’s incorporates gymnastic elements, Huntress’s is clean and precise after so many years relentlessly training, while Renee’s is more like a bruiser, throwing punches and is far from elegant. The fight sequences are also fun and innovative with the soundtrack (which is full of absolute tunes) complimenting the action on screen.
While there’s a lot of bad guys for the leading ladies to overcome, the main threat to them all is Roma Sionis. He is volatile, menacing and dramatic. He’s the sort of character you never quite know what he’s going to do next and McGregor gives a great performance. Sionis’ right hand man is Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) and their relationship comes across as queer coded and there’s often shifts in power dynamics between the two of them which is as fascinating as it is unnerving.
Birds of Prey is a bit shaky at times, but the characters and the action pull everything together. It’s a bright, psychedelic fairground of a film with paint bombs and glitter and it suits these characters perfectly. 4/5.
After being chosen by a wizard, foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) becomes an adult with superpowers whenever he says the word Shazam.
Shazam! is so much fun! It fully embraces the concept of a child who can suddenly be an adult with powers, because it’s still 14-year-old Billy even when he looks like a grown up. This means there’s a lot of joyful wish fulfilment but naturally, as he’s still a kid, he can use his powers irresponsibly or selfishly. The balance of Billy learning and maturing, while still being a kid at heart is done very well.
Zachary Levi is brilliant as adult Billy/Shazam. He’s got this enthusiastic and youthful charm that works with comedic moments and is very much a believable kid. Billy’s foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is the only person who knows about Billy’s powers and, because he loves superheroes so much, helps him figure out what his powers are. The way Freddy and Billy’s friendship grows is great and while it should look weird this kid hanging out with an adult in a cape, Levi’s performance makes you see past his appearance, so it seems like two friends the same age are hanging out.
The first half of Shazam! is mostly the antics Billy and Freddy get up to once they discover Billy’s powers, but when the action and fight sequences really kick in, they’re dynamic and well shot. Having a hero that’s not particularly heroic, at least to begin with, provides some very fun fights.
There are so many surprises to be found in Shazam! with the third act being something different to what you tend to see in these big superhero films and it’s all the better for it. There are lots of laugh out loud moments in Shazam! and cheer-worthy moments too, but there’s equally lots of sincere and heart-warming moments about family, friends and figuring out who you are and where you belong.
For being a film that’s very much geared towards kids and feels like a good, family-friendly film 95% of the time, there are some surprisingly dark moments. When bad guy Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) gets his powers and seeks revenge on those who hurt him, it gets quiet dark and violent and there’s a character death that’s shockingly grim.
Besides from those darker tonal shifts, on the whole Shazam! is fun film with a lot of heart. The entire cast are great, the characters are realistic and relatable, and it’s just funny and charming. It’s a superhero film that’s full of childlike wonder and it’s just a very entertaining film. 4/5.
Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is of two worlds. Half-human and half-Atlantean he’s the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis but has grown up on land. When his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) threatens to destroy the surface world, Arthur must become the king and hero he’s meant to be, so that neither world is destroyed.
The film does spend some time setting everything up, introducing new characters, their relationships and the world of Atlantis. The film opens with Arthur’s parents, lighthouse keeper Tom (Temuera Morrison) and Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), meeting and falling in love. Their relationship is one that’s very easy to get attached to very quickly, and somewhat unfortunately, Morrison and Kidman have more chemistry than Momoa and Amber Heard who plays Mera.
Once the story actually gets going, Aquaman is good fun. Momoa is a charismatic lead and as the plot develops you see that Arthur isn’t just brawn but is also a sensitive and kind guy. There is a lot going on in Aquaman. There’s the political intrigue and Orm’s desire to attack the land-dwellers, but there’s also a quest for a mystical item, and another foe for Arthur in the shape of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Black Manta’s character introduction is impactful, but then he becomes a character that’s there to pop up and inconvenience Arthur and kickstart an action sequence.
Aquaman is visually spectacular. The whole underwater world is so beautiful and colourful, and Atlantis feels like its own technologically advanced society, completely different to what we know. The scenes underwater are action-packed and exciting, though it’s almost easy to get overwhelmed by all the computer-generated creations.
Aquaman may be a bit overlong and overstuffed, but it is completely bonkers and a lot of fun. It’s pure escapism with it’s kingdom under the sea, feuding royalty and political intrigue. 3/5.
Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) team up to bring together a group of heroes to stand against a threat like none of them have seen before.
There are many things that are not great in Justice League, but the characters and their interactions are what makes this film a lot more fun and enjoyable that Batman v Superman.
The main problem with Justice League is it spends the first third of the film having to set up three new heroes we’ve not met before, Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), along with a villain in Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) who has a whole backstory as well. There’s a lot of exposition to get through, some of which is heavy-handed, and it slows down the pace of the film as it makes you to wait for any of the action scenes and the main plot to start proper.
When the heroes are together it’s nice to see them getting to know one another as they work together, but unless you know these characters from comics or TV shows, you don’t know enough about them to really care about them or become attached. Still, there’s some funny moments between the team of heroes as you start to see their personalities come through.
Justice League features an end-of-the-world-plot, but you don’t really feel those stakes due to this world seemingly not be populated by anyone but the heroes and people they know. Even when clashes between heroes and villains happen in a major city, there’s no one but the heroes around – it’s quite jarring and makes the threat not feel threatening.
Justice League is watchable, the characters are fun and the action (when it happens) is mostly exciting and engaging. However, the editing in fight scenes don’t always make everything clear and the plot itself has neither high stakes nor is always coherent. It’s the step in the right direction for the DCEU but it is a step down from Wonder Woman. 3/5.
When pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands onto the home of the Amazons, bringing news of a war to end all wars, Diana (Gal Gadot) leaves her home and all she knows to go fight to save those who can’t protect themselves.
Diana is a brilliant hero. She’s confident in her powers and her beliefs so there is none of the “oh the pains of being a superhero” that you often see in superhero movies. She is strong and compassionate, and while she doesn’t always understand the world of Man, the film never makes it into a big deal or is condescending about her lack of experience.
There’s humour to be found in her bewilderment and it’s all very charming but never patronising. I think that’s one of the great things about Wonder Woman, it’s never defensive about its titular character nor its story, it’s sincere in the way Diana and the film itself, celebrates inner strength and the power of love and compassion.
In many ways, the film makes you wait for the action sequences, instead spending time allowing the characters to talk and learn from one another. These quieter moments are never boring and are often funny. That said when the action and fights do happen, they’re brilliant. The way you see Diana, and the rest of the women of Themyscira, fight is magnificent. They are all powerful and skilled and the way the camera shows off their skills is captivating. There is so slo-mo used, which does make sense as Diana can move super-fast, so you can really see how she avoids gunshots and bayonets.
Diana is an amazing character and the shots of her fighting side by side with Steve, and leading him and Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) into battle gave me chills. Gal Gadot gives a great performance, showing both Diana’s power and sensitivity in the face of war, and the quieter moments between her and the other characters are a delight. While there is sometimes a joke made about a woman in battle, none of the men who fight by Diana’s side ever doubt her or her abilities.
The villains in Wonder Woman aren’t the most well-developed but as that is something that could be said of a lot of superhero films, it’s not a huge complaint. I would much rather have a film with a fantastic hero and a mediocre villain, than a great villain and a dull hero. Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is an army General with grand plans and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) is a master at making poisons, she was an interesting character and it’d be cool to have learnt more about her.
Wonder Woman is a wonderful film. It’s very much a traditional superhero origin story but is a lot more charming and sincere with it. Diana is a brilliant hero who brings a sense of hope to the world. 4/5.