Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thankfully taking a rather lighthearted look at this dark and drab series, Thor: Ragnarok is a satisfyingly fun and adventurous film.

Imprisoned in a gladiator contest on the furthest side of the universe, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is pitted against his old Avengers ally the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With time working against him, Thor must escape his captures in order to stop Ragnarok, the prophesized destruction of his home world and Asgardian civilization. Full of unique and entertaining characters, Thor embarks on one of his biggest journeys yet, literally across the universe.

Visually, Thor: Ragnarok was noticeably more bright, colorful, and vibrant than previous Thor movies. Perhaps the stylistic successes of Guardians of the Galaxy inspired the Thor creators to take a more imaginative route. Whatever the case may be, the beautiful color palette and crafty costumes and character designs give Ragnarok the kind of sci-fi look that I love.

Also nicely designed was Cate Blanchett’s character the evil goddess Hela, who reminded me a lot of Rita Repulsa from the underwhelming Power Rangers remake. Only she didn’t chew the scenery so much (and is in a much better film). I think the writing of the character was a bit bland and not really that menacing. A lot of her dialogue, while communicated terrifically by Blanchett, was very inconsequential and insignificant. Hela said and did a lot of things any typical supervillain would do, and I sadly think her character is the least memorable of the bunch.

This is especially true when it comes to the colorful group of individuals we meet on the planet of Sakaar (where the film predominantly takes place). These entertaining, yet very quirky characters are a pivotal part of Thor: Ragnarok‘s identity, and help make the film as fun and lighthearted as it is. My favorite of these characters would have to be that of Jeff Goldblum, who is hilariously charming every second he’s on-screen.

The humor in Ragnarok was particularly well written, with the comedic timing almost always right on the money. Witty jokes at the perfect times kept the audience laughing throughout a good portion of the film.

Scenes attempting to tie Ragnarok into the Marvel Cinematic Universe were the weakest features of the film, as they usually are for these flicks. Take the Doctor Strange cameo for example. It was funny and well written, except it felt entirely too forced and tonally out of place. As if the studio big wigs told director Taika Waititi that he had to somehow shoehorn this scene in, so Waititi did the best he could.

Thor: Ragnarok isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, as many critics would have you believe. It is however, a solid, colorful, and stylish film that often felt less like a superhero movie and more like a straight sci-fi adventure.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming, an exciting and well-acted entry into the Marvel Universe, manages trim the fat from your usual superhero origin story, and gives fans of Spidey the film they all wanted to see.

Presuming that audiences are exhausted with Spider-Man origin stories (as this is the sixth Spider-Man film in fifteen years), the film jumps right into the part that viewers want to see. Taking place shortly after his fight with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has returned to Queens, New York to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Here we see Peter as he attempts to prove himself capable of joining the Avengers, as he takes on local neighborhood crime while also keeping his social life in balance. Peter’s days of crime fighting quickly escalate when he gets wrapped up in the affairs of the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

The action scenes, dialogue, humor, and characters, are all pretty much everything you would expect from a Marvel film by now. While these details have become a typical, standard package that you get with every entry in the series, this doesn’t really hinder how well-executed Spider-Man: Homecoming is.

The comedic timing of the dialogue and jokes in the film are spot on, as Marvel filmmakers continue to perfect their quickly-timed humor.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man is probably as good of an on-screen Spidey that we’re ever going to get. The film goes very in-depth into how Peter’s role as Spider-Man impacts his personal life, and we see these struggles portrayed very well by Holland. The best part of it all, is that he still behaves and looks like a young kid. He’s oftentimes arrogant, impatient, and awkward, yet still strives to do the right thing (even with serious risk to his own well-being). With a little help from Tom Holland, Peter Parker is as charming of a character as ever.

Michael Keaton as the Vulture was everything I wanted it to be and more. His performance was incredibly strong, playing a very bad man who, deep down, may still have some good intentions. His excellent acting is complimented nicely with just how well his character is written. Instead of creating an elaborate backstory for the Vulture that takes an hour of screen-time to develop, the audience is given a brief summary of his motivations and even gets to see him in his costume, all within the first ten minutes. Again, it seems the filmmakers knew exactly what the audience wanted to see out of Keaton as the Vulture.

This being a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, the weakest moments of Spider-Man: Homecoming happened to be its connections to the ongoing series. A lot of scenes shared between Tony Stark and Peter Parker are unnecessary, serving as detours that the film doesn’t need. Spider-Man: Homecoming is very competently directed, and can stand perfectly on its own as an independent piece. It’s not imperative to include Avengers tie-ins every few minutes, as this type of screenwriting is more likely to hold the film back from reaching its fullest potential.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a well-calculated crowd-pleaser that I found to be very exciting and a lot of fun. Both Tom Holland and Michael Keaton give really strong performances, and share some of the tensest sequences in a Marvel film to this day. Unlike the previous two Spider-Man series, I feel that this interpretation of everyone’s favorite web-shooter will be the most universally loved and respected.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, at first glance, felt as though it might bite off more than it could chew. The audience is very quickly introduced to a slew of characters, old and new, as well as new locations and plot threads. Despite this overload in information, Guardians comes together quite nicely.

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), all return for another action-packed adventure. Now, after two films, these characters remain my favorite in the Marvel lineup. Each is so well written and fleshed out that I’ve truly begun caring for what happens to them on screen, far more than any of the other Marvel superheroes.

The film begins with our favorite intergalactic superheroes doing some freelance work for an alien race known as the Sovereign. After upsetting this race of aliens in usual Guardians of the Galaxy fashion, their ship is shot out of the sky and has to make an emergency landing. They are then saved by a man named Ego (played by one of my favorite actors, Kurt Russell), who claims to be the estranged father of Star-Lord. Weary of the vengeance soon to come from the Sovereign, Star-Lord and friends go with Ego to his home planet, which he created himself. Here, Star-Lord learns of his true parental roots, as well as his future potential for power.

The humor that Guardians employs shows they understand their audience exceptionally well. Most of the jokes are right on the money, as the film utilizes every chance it gets to throw some comedy into the mix. Often, like in the previous film, the humor comes from the nonstop bickering the Guardians partake in, which sometimes goes on for minutes. Another great source of humor comes from Dave Bautista’s character of Drax the Destroyer, as his rather blunt sense of comedy gets the crowd roaring many times.

Some story arcs our protagonists go through, however interesting, have already been done before in the previous installment. All our characters already came to terms with the fact they’re misfits, and Gamora already struggled with her sisterly relationship. So I don’t completely understand why the film deems it necessary to retread these plots points. Sure, there are some unique places they could take these ideas, but I can’t help but think they should’ve tried something new.

Above all other minor issues with the film, Guardians is unadulterated fun. Not a disposable, mindless, or even dumb form of entertainment, but instead an emotional one. Audiences will laugh, be sad, get excited, be disappointed (in a good way), and then laugh some more. Along the journey this film brings us on, we learn a lot more about these detailed and well written characters, while also learning a thing or two about caring for others close to us.

Armed to the teeth with eighties one-hit wonders, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will deliver the audience everything they asked for in a sequel, and maybe even a little more. The action scenes and dazzling effects will entice you, but the reason you’ll stay around is for the characters, as I feel Guardians has gotten characterization down infinitely better than The Avengers. The Guardians of the Galaxy are witty, crude, and know how to win you over. It’s a film I wouldn’t mind seeing again, and would recommend other superhero fans to check out.

The Verdict: A-

– Zachary Flint

Logan Review

Hugh Jackman reprises his most famous role in the highly anticipated film, Logan.

Jackman stars as James “Logan” Howlett (commonly known by his nickname Wolverine), one of the few known mutants left living in the modern world. Logan over time has become consumed by alcoholism and is beginning to show a deterioration in his health and strength. It seems that the only driving force in his life anymore is to conceal and protect his only friend, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

Things change when Logan is approached by a nurse named Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who has been taking care of an eleven year old mutant girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). One of the few adolescent mutants left, Laura is currently being hunted by a biotechnology corporation. A reluctant Logan must now help Laura to seek shelter in North Dakota from this corporation and its affiliates.

Logan gives the audience the chance to see Wolverine unlike we’ve ever seen him before. The film goes beyond the usual superhero brooding and shows us a man who is deeply tortured by his past. The audience doesn’t even get a romanticized typical superhero, we get a beaten down alcoholic who is damn near giving up on life throughout the entirety of the film. This ultimately flawed version of Wolverine is a fascinating character to see develop onscreen. All in all, when I compare Logan to other contemporary superhero flicks, I feel that it’s something a bit more emotionally rich.

Our title character can only be as good as our title actor, and Hugh Jackman does a wonderful job reprising his role. Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine at his lowest point in his life, giving us a very emotional and enthralling performance. For me, Hugh Jackman has now permanently become the face of the Wolverine. Seeing someone other than Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in a live action role would, at this point, feel weird.

Logan involved far less action sequences than I had anticipated. What I thought would be a big epic action movie turned out to be a very character driven story with a lot of heartbreak. As you can probably assume about every trailer for Logan, the tone of the film is extremely dark. Other than a small amount of comic relief, just about everything in the film is depressing and sad. Some people will find this to be a major problem with viewing pleasure, which is understandable. I for one thought the unusually dark tone of Logan was clever, allowing it to include and discuss more heavy handed material.

The few action scenes that we got in Logan were all beautifully shot and a lot of fun to watch. I guess you could say the action sequences have the typical quality of a Marvel film. The camera stays focused on what’s happening and doesn’t jump cut too frequently, allowing for the viewer to fully enjoy the action.

There were also some very bold direction choices made in Logan that I highly respect. On multiple occasions I was left shocked and speechless at the events unfolding onscreen. It’s hard to speak about these events without going into spoilers, but let’s just say that the climax has major ramifications on the future of this series. I love when filmmakers are willing to make daring choices that may or may not receive public praise.

By the films end I was left pondering its meanings, resolutions, and implications. Logan makes a real attempt at getting messages across that go beyond face value. It dabbles with concepts of guilt, letting go of the past, depression, murder, and the idea of ultimately choosing to do the right thing. I can’t remember the last time a superhero film left me contemplating its deeper meanings and values like Logan. This was by far my favorite aspect of the film and is what really sets it apart from other films similar to it.

I would highly recommend all superhero fans to go and see Logan. It takes a very dark look at one of the most beloved comic book characters at his absolute lowest point. All the acting in the film is fantastic, the story thought provoking, and the action scenes entertaining and fun to watch. If you don’t mind a comic book film with a dark (and often vulgar) side, than Logan might be right for you.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

 

Deadpool Review

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Over the past few years we have been brought seemingly countless numbers of superhero films, yet Deadpool still manages to be an original movie. It does this through being completely marketed to an adult audience and taking advantage of its R rating. It’s not recommended you take children to see this, as it is full of sex, nudity, language, violence, blood, and one seriously deranged superhero. However I feel it to be incorrect to call him a superhero, as Deadpool himself says so in the movie. He is much more of the classic antihero as he seems much more violent, provocative, and gung-ho than his X-Men counterparts.

Deadpool is foul mouthed, cheeky, and has a one of a kind eccentric personality. He consistently enjoys breaking the 4th wall and is full of witty pop culture references that people across generations can understand. At times he gets himself into horribly dangerous situations and still manages to crack funny one liners. He has no problem cutting through and gunning down enemies in the well-choreographed action scenes. Deadpool is quite possibly one of the raunchiest and most relentless comic book characters ever to be brought to the big screen.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds as the charming antihero Deadpool (real name being Wade Wilson) and follows his journey to get revenge on the men who tortured him and left his body scarred. The first half of the film is told partially by flashbacks in non-linear storytelling way. Through these flashbacks we get a look into Deadpool`s origin story and how he becomes an eccentric antihero. Along the way we meet many great characters including Deadpool`s love interest Vanessa played by Morena Baccarin. We also get a look into two of the X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead who help Deadpool take on the movies villain in the third act. Both shall most likely appear in the next X-Men installment.

So far the movie has been a hit with audiences and a huge success at the box office, as it very well should. I highly recommend going to see Deadpool as it was a lot of fun. It kept me laughing at its often times macabre sense of humor and kept me engaged with its fast paced story telling. There was plenty of katana swinging, gun firing fighting that traditional action film fans will truly enjoy. I especially loved the little subtle moments of perfectly timed humor that made me tear up with laughter. Like how Deadpool takes the time to roll down the window of a toppled and destroyed SUV to get out. Instead of perhaps just kicking it down. Ryan Reynolds along with the rest of the cast of Deadpool do a fantastic and believable job. By the time it was over I left the theater wishing there was more. Deadpool continues to breathe new life into an ever growing universe of superhero movies. It is proof that there is plenty more superhero stories out there to tell. Even if they stray from the traditional way we view our heroes.

Zachary Flint