Mix it up – Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Guardians of the Galaxy – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn (screenplay), Nicole Perlman (screenplay), Dan Abnett (comic book), Andy Lanning (comic book)
Stars: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana

It is no secret that I am a fan of Marvel films. One of my friends asked me when I was going to write a negative review of a Marvel film. I told him that I’d write one when I saw a bad one in this new phase of Marvel Film productions. Guardians of the Galaxy was another in a long line of films that I will watch on repeat when I get my hands on the Blu-ray.

Comic books translate into film either really well or hopelessly. There have been hits and misses. But since Phase 1 began it has been hard to fault them. I’m even partial to Iron Man 2 (yes I know that is controversial, and it isn’t my first choice but they introduced Black Widow there so I can’t hate on it). Guardians was a risk. It isn’t in the Avengers realm, there isn’t much chance of Iron Man or Captain America showing up (at least not yet in the films). It is a new universe for the Marvel Films to venture into, but the thing is I’ve grown to trust Marvel Films to put on a good show. You know when you walk into that dimly lit cinema with popcorn accidentally spilling onto the floor from your flimsy bucket, that you are in for a fun ride. Whether it is the thriller suspense of Captain America, the action/comedy of Iron Man or the fantasy world of Thor, there is an understanding between Marvel and the audience that you will be met with quality. This bond hasn’t just grown in the cinema over the last six years but over the last 75 years through the comics. We trust that the people bringing these stories to us love them just as much as we do.

Guardians is no different in this wonderful, trusting relationship. It is of the highest calibre of comic book film. It has the humour, the action, the villain and the hero (although not the way you would usually think of it) and you have those delicious graphics. The writing is incredible, the story flows beautifully, the characters develop genuinely, and the filming is gorgeous. My favourite part though? (And this probably isn’t a big guess for those of you who know me) Zoe Saldana. In a mostly male cast she holds her own as the strongest character, the one with the best character reveal and development, the one who gives the most and who has the most to lose. Gamora is fierce and there is no one that could do a better fierce than Saldana.

Guardians will be a treasure in my heart for a long time. A movie that is fun and adventurous and that genuinely makes me happy. It is so very almost perfect.

4.8/5

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PTSD and the objectification of women – Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Iron Man 3 – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Iron Man 3 (2012)

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Drew Pearce (screenplay) & Shane Black (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book) and Don Heck (comic book) and Larry Lieber (comic book) and Jack Kirby (comic book)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle

Iron Man 3 was always going to have to compete with the success of Avengers and I for one was hoping it could live up to my incredibly high expectations. Avengers was my favourite film last year and after the bomb of a film that Iron Man 2 was I was hesitant to want to expect too much of this next instalment. But if there is one thing the Marvel Universe know how to do it is to rise to the challenge and defeat the bad guy of negative reviews. This film was incredible.

Iron Man 3 focuses on Tony Stark after the events of the Avengers film. Tony is back in his lofty life as a billionaire, play boy, philanthropist but is having troubles adjusting after saving the world by traveling through a portal into another part of the universe with a nuclear missile on his back and then falling back down to earth. And thank goodness they brought that up because if he had just gotten back on the horse after that film then he wouldn’t have been a man any more. He would be something other than the Iron Man we know and love.

Of course you have your psycho villain who wants to destroy the world again, now in the form of the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and the ever so helpful rival scientist mad man of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who team up to create a formidable opponent. There are a few nice little twists to the villain which provide some good entertaining scenes, especially between Ben Kingsley and Robert Downey Jr. The expected epic battles, the near indestructible villain, and some very high tech special effects create a fast-paced and action packed ending.

But I want to talk about the middle of the film.

Tony Stark is stuck in Tennessee with a ruined suit and some kid who keeps triggering his newly discovered panic attacks. Now you would think that if Tony needed to find technology, computers, etc, then there would be a logical place to find these things, but the makers of this film have decided that a T.V. station van outside a beauty pagaent in the middle of winter when the ladies are in bikinis is completely logical. This scene infuriated me, as did the lack of any substantial female parts apart from Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). The reason it got to me was because comic hero films have an opportunity unlike most films to really portray all people equally awesome and with intelligence and substance, but Iron Man 3 has decided that there will be many scenes with skimpily clad ladies just standing around the men who do all the work and all the action. And I know what you’re probably thinking, “chill out! It’s just a film, it was just a small part of the film, there are strong women in the film like Pepper and Maya Hansen.” But it still bugs me and it is what I left the cinema thinking about. I want female characters I can look up to and aspire to be like. Pepper Potts is the typical damsel in distress for the majority of this film and yes Tony is a mess for most of it as well, showing the depth of character that we want. After Avengers I wanted more female leads, they started well and could have improved their rep even more, but alas it wasn’t so.

Okay, feminist rant over, now onto Tony’s PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of those things that I’ve never really experienced but seeing it on screen makes me happy that it is getting more publicity because so many war veterans suffer from it, as do those who have been through major trauma. Robert Downey Jr may not have got it bang on but Stark’s humour and flippancy are powerful contrasters for his panic attacks and especially with the kid beside him. You see Tony struggle and become powerless in his fight against the stress. The increased depth of character is something that really made this film for me. It’s balanced with the action and fits well in the plot line and pushes the character of Tony Stark to new levels.

All in all I loved this film. I will see it again and again and apart from that little issue of bikini clad women through the whole film, I really do think this is one fine comic book hero film.

4.6/5

Yay, something new and different for us – The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Amazing Spider-Man – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt (screenplay and story), and Alvin Sargent (screenplay), and Steve Kloves (screenplay), Stan Lee (Marvel comic book) and Steve Ditko (Marvel comic book)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans

I was fairly excited about a new Spider-Man film. Emma Stone is one of my favourite actresses, she is my female crush and I was super excited to see her take on Gwen. After loving The Social Network and the amount of depth Andrew Garfield brought to his character in it, I anticipated a new depth to Peter Parker as well and was excited to see what he would bring to the picture. The previews made it look amazing and blockbuster beautiful. And so I took myself off to the cinema, got my popcorn, and sat waiting in anticipation for the film to begin.

I have to say, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield lived up to my expectations. They were brilliant! As was Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter Parker’s aunt and uncle. Their performances brought a humour and emotional depth to the film which made it genuine and real. However, the narrative failed to capture my imagination to the extent that I was hoping for. I suppose after The Avengers I was expecting something as great, but it just didn’t do anything new. And I suppose there isn’t much new you can do with a comic adaptation because fans expect certain aspects of the original to be included. But apart from the monster being a different person from the 2002 adaptation, there wasn’t much new. Oh and Gwen is a much more likable character than Mary-Jane in my opinion, but that’s a secondary point.

I really wanted there to be more back story about Parker’s father and mother to be revealed. It was introduced as a main influencing factor into Peter’s reasoning for why he was the way he was but then was just used as a plot device to introduce him to Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill). It was disappointing to say the least. There was so much you could have done with that back story to influence Peter’s motives and the narrative could’ve been much more interesting. However, this was not the case. And maybe it is my naivety about Spider-Man the comics that means they couldn’t have explored that particular storyline anymore without outrage from fans but I thought it was underdone.

The film as a whole was entertaining and Garfield and Stone have a great, awkward chemistry on screen. There is a great scene in the halls of the school which is so endearing that from that point on you just love both the characters to bits. I really just wanted to giggle and jump up and down with Gwen after that scene and was on board with her character from that point on. Garfield’s Parker is likable, genuine, and understatedly hilarious at points. The graphics are brilliant and seeing it in 3D is kind of worth the extra dollars. The action scenes of Spider-Man flying around the city are possibly the best thing about this film, next to Stone and Garfield, which is also kind of sad when there was so much potential for more.

All in all the film was good but disappointing. I really hope the next one has a more interesting narrative to carry it along, and better character development. For a franchise that has done so well in the past it is surprising they didn’t put a more unique twist on this new adaptation. I suppose copyright pressures are what drove it to be made in the first place and so we can’t expect much but with all the talent in the world surely the next one will be better. Right?