Yearly Review: 2016

So it is basically the end of 2016 and it has been a year that has been shouted at to the point I’m starting to wonder if people actually believe that a duration has a personality and that that personality is draconian-evil with paranoid tendencies. With this year like with all concurrent years, of ago and ahead, is the tradition of an array of superhero films based off the characters of Marvel and DC. After watching all seven cinematic-based films I have thought that it would be nice to just summarise the year of super-films in a judgemental yet highly subjective ordering involving what was my least favourite to the ones I found most enjoyable. So lets go for a bit of a build-up by starting on Number 7… i.e. my least favourite:

#7. X-Men: Apocalypse.

It has come to my attention that in my circles of friends I am the only one who found this the most disappointing film this year in regards to superheroes. Now with all this I will say that this year hasn’t been too bad give as though this is what I felt was the lowest film. It’s not like it was Batman and Robin vs. Fantastic 4 featuring Catwoman and Howard the Duck. Yet a lot of the good features in Apocalypse were reflections on past films, like the Quicksilver scene and the bad qualities came with a plot more unhinged than even your usual superfilm. Having Apocalypse rush into a plan of world domination has him set up as poorly developed and non-threatening. Adding to that a good amount of the film shoehorning a new Wolverine origin story for the new timeline bluh-bluh-comics-bluh-bluh … never mind. So yes, the film wasn’t terrible or even unwatchable but it was in a word “off-putting”  and I leave less sure of what I watched and just as less sure of what its point was.

#6. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Sooooo, what was the point of BvS:DoJ? Was it to introduce Batman? Well then have a Batman film. So maybe it was to develop Superman as a better hero and character. Nooo because Superman does nout all in the film, give or take, and still is something of an uninspiring, dull symbol. As well as all this, Jesse Eisenberg’s miscasting of Lex Luthor as an unstable and cracked-minded megalomaniac is perplexing and the overall plot including the DCEUs origin of Doomsday, introduction of other people (somewhat) and the titular event and its dismay of an anti-climatic and unfocused conclusion is something of concern.Even though the film does all this it is only fair to notion that a number of scenes with Batman were really enjoyable and that the easter eggs were something to enjoy in this film. Nevertheless, these are small fix-ups compared to the whole patched up work of Batman vs. Superman. Here’s to hoping that the ‘dawn of justice’ is the only part of the day that is a bit ‘meh!’ We shall see.

#5. Suicide Squad.

Honestly, comprehensively I shall admit that I had so much difficulty in deciding which was better of this year’s two DC live action and I will regret saying that Suicide Squad was the better of the two films. Its villains are lousy and poorly expressed, it lacks the psychedelic-coloured and pseudo-nostalgic elements that were reflected in its trailer and the method of introducing the ‘heroes’ in this film loses its attachment to the enjoyment that the audience needs to make the movie be judged in a positive manner that it does not hold. What Suicide Squad does do is make some fun of the superhero film trope and attempt to turn it upside down and it does well on this to an extent that it almost by showing the means of been a supervillian who is coping in the new world that exists. Still what makes Suicide Squad a bit bleak and disappointing is that there is so much that could be done to improve it and make it interesting, even small details like making it brighter or removing magic, which I hated from the start because you need to show magic in a creative, powerful and fun manner which you can’t do if you’re negating it to equal its level against a crazy woman with a baseball bat. Never mind, Suicide Squad was watchable but as dumb as anything out here. I walked out satisfied mind you which helped with notching it up.

#4. Batman: The Killing Joke.

Now we get to more mediocre in the list and in way Batman: The Killing Joke was this year’s most evenly mediocre film in that the first half was unwanted ‘cringe’ and the other half was wanted justification to Alan Moore’s renowned Batman one-shot. I watched The Killing Joke in the cinema (which is why I’m counting it on this list compared to most other straight to DVD animated movies like Teen Titans vs. Justice League) and felt it a great visual display to watch. Yet its cinematic time did caution the tedious patience needed to real get to the wanted visual of this movie. To make all the ends meet in length and in making the movie appropriate to viewership, before we have the titular story at hand, we have a 40 minutes prequel that seems to show us that the movie crew wanted to get it over and done with just as much as we did in viewing it. The remaining part (the part we wanted as I keep on) was a rather surreal yet enjoyable watch, a treat to those with a feeling of understanding in the liking of The Killing Joke graphic novel and its impact on the Batman stories in the ‘80s and the understandings of the Joker as a person and as a villain. Mark Hamill’s return as the Clown Prince of Crime is also as enjoyable even if it is not is best performance, I’m sorry but that is my honest opinion; I’ve heard him do better.

#3. Captain America: Civil War.

In terms of a Marvel film, Civil War was a fun and easy-to-watch movie which displayed good action, new characters, and the reminder that Marvel’s villain list is so poor and expendable that the best fights are when the heroes are against each other. Civil War encompasses these things in a good amount of detail and lets the knowledge that we have a healthy amount of understanding on each of the characters allow for developing the superhero grouping more holistically. It’s downsides more or less come from the major villain/planner of plot, Zemo. His plan to do some stuff that was improbable to ever happen and then it did happen, like, I dunno, it was scripted to in some predetermined form… yeah, my suspension of disbelief wasn’t really feeling this plan was a goodie. Plus, there’s a villain in it called Zemo and I say this also a poorly sarcastic way to hint that I found the villain a bit forgetful, not like Christopher Malekith forgetful, like barely passable ‘he’s in the shadows forgetful’. At least they did a damn good Spider-Man, Ant Man was a joy to watch and Black Panther was pretty cool. Add some funny moments, mostly with Vision, and some political interests and you end up have a successful Marvel movie. I will say a lot of people said that this was the best superhero film of the year but I feel like it could open up more to standing out and be lighter on the already seen characters, which might be where the final two movies make sense to my likability.

#2. Doctor Strange.

Oh, how I loved Doctor Strange. It’s been a needed staple in comic-based films that we get something of magic. Like real, fun proper .. you know MAGIC! Apart from that Constantine –lite Constantine movie, the Enchantress in Suicide Squad which is a disappointment to count and the fact that the Thor films felt the need to sloppily make out that magic was cold super-science … bluh bluh COMICS bluh bluh. Doctor Strange felt different to these in that it was enjoyable and fantastic in its playfulness, emotion, and it the general wit and charm that seemed to be felt in number of parts to the story. Although Doctor Strange did fall into the trap of sorts that is the generic Marvel movie formula of “this guy or does this thing and meets this evil guy or does this opposite but similar thing and then is expended and the end” it does mess around with a ‘number’ here and there and can be excused for it’s beautiful and try unique visual effects. The so esoteric that you might be playing on both meaning of that word Easter eggs are also a joy to look out for and the way it anchors itself to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whilst also adding to its needed uniqueness is nicely balanced. “Would watch again. 8 out of 10”.

#1. Deadpool.

Deadpool was a film I can watch so much, it was the only film this year I watched more than once in the cinema, if that helps. What Deadpool meant for me was to try something that fans wanted and it feels like a lot of superhero movies shunt in the ability to do this, hey it isn’t perfect in doing this, there are a number of imbalances due to budget and trying to understand that even though Deadpool has cycled into popular culture not everyone can really understand the point of the comedy and meta-based productivity that comes from Deadpool in a number of this mediums. If I am to explain why Deadpool was my number one movie it is more of a personal liking to it more so than to the concept that Deadpool was a great film, based on reviews and grossing success, yes this is true but I like a number of factor in the way that Deadpool is executed. I love meta; a huge fan for ages, this is enough to lead me to love all formats of Deadpool. The humour really got to me and the unusual post-modern method of reflecting the honesty of the superhero is something that really builds into been … well yes, lazy… but if shown off right, fun to observe. Deadpool does well with these, I found, and I hope Deadpool II takes to find a harmony between this film and something different. That is gonna be a difficult task so we will have to await and a-see.


Review: Doctor Strange.

Before I get into reviewing the Doctor Strange film that came out, I feel I need to ‘footer’ the absence of the  Suicide Squad film by saying the Suicide Squad film was a bit of a critic’s fatigue and decided on omitting it through and through. The film was judged in a very face-first perspective, people reviewed, sorry I mean “reviewed”, the film with 5-star ratings before the film was out to make it shine good on metacritical websites. Simply put Suicide Squad was a mediocre film that I wanted more from. Simply that to be fair to it.

Review time.

Right, spoilers… of some degree.

If I am to be honest, Doctor Strange is one of the few Marvel characters on the top of my list of characters I want to see in a film. With the fact that more ‘magical’ superheroes and bizarre and inventive imagery is something to look forward to in these notions, it has become a real enjoyment that Scott Derrickson (director of Sinister, which I haven’t watched) has decided that Doctor Strange shouldn’t be an bland story of a doctor who gets magic but a beautiful colour-rich and especially special effects-blended story. Yet even if this makes the film visually outstanding, the film makes a somewhat strong attempt to place itself not only as a unique contemporary fantasy but also as the new instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a renowned medic and neurosurgeon, whose talents of knowledge and skill are par with his arrogance and displays of self-importance. When a car accident causes severe nerve damage to his hands make him lose his amazing dexterity in the surgical department, Strange’s depression in losing his life’s work sends him on a path to find a mystic known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who shows Strange the truths of magic, humility and the ultimate reality, in a metaphysical take on the showing of the multiverse and the other mystical dimensions that co-exist.

As it is, the film is supported by the Marvel formula, a formula that has been respected for its seemingly unbreakable construction. Needless to say that the Marvel formula has been criticised for have a few ‘decimals’ and ‘symbols’ been out of synch to truly good cinematic viewing but all-in-all Doctor Strange confidently places its unique elements in the right places, and is one of my favourite Marvel films to be released. So before I do into it I will just say that Doctor Strange is, to summarise, a delightful, fun and beautiful… and I mean really beautiful on the eyes film to watch and I have felt that it encourages a desire to see it. Yet, and this is important, a number of parts to the film, be them related to the film itself or as a comic adaptation have something of flaws that I feel can be improved but don’t ruin the film in its overall just in my general expectations.

To start with Doctor Strange’s greatest strength, in my opinion, is the scenery and CGI which mainly responds in the form of psychedelic multiversal layouts. It is some of the most beautiful blends of vision and transition.

Not just is the scenery truly wondrous but also the plot is done well for a character that is not that truly renowned but also a concept that is quite unique and starting to be revealed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; sorcery.

The characters are also all enjoyable, even Kaecillius who is not a fantastic villain, not by the least bit (he slots nicely in the Marvel cinematic formula of have a villain that is easy to remove and forget) does have a few sparks of dialogue with Strange. The promise in the ‘problem of villain’ is the development of Karl Mardo.

I have really struggled with reviewing Doctor Strange because I love talking about it. The problem with reviewing Doctor Strange is that it is so unique and positively fascinating that I don’t wanna monologue about it so much as converse with others. So with all that I will stop on this hurdle calling this a new learning curve for me and start on something with less passion to discuss with the wondering of listening to others and find something that is in the mind for realising. I will probably move to listing how I found the superhero films of this year from worst to best (opinion-wise).

Well, to publishing this since I am like two months late… ONWARD!

Review: Captain America: Civil War

SPOILERS… and all that jazz.

Based on a number of posts that I have seen, it does seem like we are in an age where the superhero genre of cinematics is seemingly cliché; with people saying that perhaps superhero movies are repetitive and superfluous with their recurring development been on the annual movie lists. With this we seem to have Marvel Studios’ first film of 2016 been not only a live-action take on an infamous comic storyline but also themed like an unintentional simulation to DC Comics first 2016 film. So what of Captain America: Civil War?

First off, yes, it is simple to compare ‘Captain America: Civil War’ to ‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ but as I finally watched the film, the differences were more forward than I had intended. Based on what I can only hypothesise, if this was Avengers III: Civil War I would imagine something bigger and louder to be the case like it was in Dawn of Justice. However this is a Captain America film and though the titular character is quite bold in appearance, Civil War seems to emphasise that this is a Captain America film by blending espionage tropes like cloak and dagger combat, terrorism and political ideology (though these manifest a lot in superhero films, I felt that they are to a greater peak due to the nature of this been a Captain America film) with the general superhero tropes of action, adventure and amazing powers and abilities.

‘Captain America: Civil War’ is based on Marvel Comics’ ‘Civil War’ storyline but mostly in its foundation. The main focus of the film is the relationship of the characters that are Avengers (instead of including x-men, Fantastic Four et al due to licensing reasons), and the act of reflecting the Civil War story into something that relates to the Cinematic Universe’s history. This is explained by ‘Civil War’ been a year since the events of ‘Age of Ultron’ where the city of Sokovia’s destruction occurred. With an Avenger’s-based intervention, occurring at the start of the film in Lagos, having innocents’ lives become lost, it becomes a question of if the Avengers’ members need control. This concept fuels a feud for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). Rogers’ choosing of the Avengers’ freewill to sort any situation they come across on their own terms is opposed by Stark’s support of the government making the decisions for the actions of superhumans and users of advanced gadgetry.

The fuel for the feud is mainly in the way of a B-story that focuses on the arrival of Rogers’ old ally and friend-turned brainwashed assassin Bucky a.k.a The Winter Solider (Sebastian Shaw), as well as the occasional appearance of ‘actual villain’ Helmet Zemo (Daniel Brühl).

A lot of people have said that this film is the greatest Marvel film to date. If by greatest they mean the most characters then fair enough; it does seem to have that. As far as the most amazing film Marvel film to be made so far, I’m not sure. I didn’t get the level of enjoyment other movie have delivered before ‘Civil War’. This is by no means me saying that ‘Civil War’ is a bad film, it was better than Dawn of Justice whilst been alike, in terms of superhero vs. superhero action, and it has been one of the most enjoyable films in quite sometime in the MCU (maybe this is what other critics are trying to say when they say best Marvel film, I don’t know). All I can say is this is the most enjoyable film I’ve seen from Marvel Studios since ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’; though this could just mean that 2015 was all in all just not a good year for the MCU for whatever reason.

What was enjoyable about the film was the method of showing why each character was on the side that they were. I was worried this was to be a rushed attempt that would be hazed by the combat of the film but as the events of the film play out each side has its questions as to if it is the more righteous/helpful side whilst facing the responsibilities of the decisions made. As for the combat itself, Civil War has some of the most creative and unique fight scenes I have seen in a superhero film for some time. Instead of dull punches or plot-associated shooting scenes, Civil War is creative in making sure that the viewers know that each character has their own special array of powers and abilities and gets effort for trying to show potential in each character, though at times this was not truly achieved to peak potential since so much was happening to make it matter. Ant Man (Paul Rudd) trying out his Giant Man abilities is fun but seems to be somewhat distracting and ‘slow’.

In terms of recently brought up characters from last year’s two films, with Ant Man I felt like even though there was an forced attempt to make the character worthy of been in this film, the usually comedy-based superheroics of Scott Lang were a good way of making the film that bit more light-hearted. As for characters returning from Age of Ultron, the Scarlet Witch’s (Elizabeth Olsen) use of power was very interesting and creative and one of my hopes for this film was that she would get more flexibility with her powers. Not only does the film show this more but adds more depth to the powers themselves in relation to the bestowing of them to her from the Mind Stone, which I thought was a strong decision to include to this film. Speaking of the Mind Stone, the Vision (Paul Bettany), who has said powerful gem as a part of his physiology, was a favourite to watch develop. From the nature of his powers to his attempted understanding of human nature, Vision was a fascinating character to take enjoyment in viewing in this film. The relationship he tries to build with Scarlet Witch and her power’s relationship to the Mind Stone that powers him is a wonderful reflection to themselves and also an association to their relationship in the comic books.

As for new superheroes, the two that we have are big players which most would argue, I’d think, are worthy of MCU appearances. First is T’Challa a.k.a Black Panther (Chadwich Boseman), whose appearances in Panther costume and out of Panther costume were great to watch. The way that T’Challa is shown as an intelligent, strong-willed character, full of physical and mental prowess, makes him a watchable superhero. The character has been an enjoyable character in comics and animation and now thanks to this film, live-action too. Boseman makes himself an actor that I can trust as been good as a protagonist in their own film. As for the first Marvel Cinematic Universe’s appearance of Peter Parker, the Spider-Man (Tom Holland), there are a lot of positive things to be said. Holland plays the character in the more agreeable way that I like to see Spider-Man, as well as Parker himself. Although a little younger than I would have liked, this feels forgiven when Holland makes the character very grown up for his age whilst allowing the character to develop a rather delightful and fluid curiosity that Parker commits to even in combat. I can imagine it been hard to play Spider-Man because of how well-known the character’s history and personality is in popular culture but Holland does a damn-good attempt.

As for the more political and well, Captain America-orientated parts, these sometimes felt slow and only necessary for the fact that Captain America is in the title. To be fair I did enjoy the first two Captain America movies but it hasn’t been my favourite title in Marvel Studio film sets. Although Daniel Brühl’s Helmet Zemo was a well-designed villain to sharpen the flow of the movie and to give it an antagonist to complete the superhero movie formula, the character is easy to not care about and I felt was easy to forget too. This is somewhat paradoxical in the villain that’s so insidious in the film that it makes them ironically brilliant at their scheme whilst also making the ability to see them as watchable apathetic compared to the rest of the characters.

This film nevertheless was a fun film whilst been very grown up for a Marvel film; allowing the characters to sit down and talk in order to show them been able to development and grow whilst been more enjoyable without asking them to give up the use of action. The film has its flaws mind you, some of the scenes dragged yet I can sympathise that the more boring scenes were helpful in the film; I just felt that they could be more summarized perhaps. Also the amount of characters is crossed with a lot of jumping around. Sometimes this was needed but in the end it made Civil War jagged in storytelling. I do recommend watching it but I do feel like I need to miss some important stuff out like Agent 13, Martin Freeman in the MCU and War Machine just to wrap this review up but the film can explain all that to you.

Just one more thing, I was on Team Rogers. Just in case you were wondering.