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Review: Jurassic World

In a year of supposed blockbusters, where most so far are proving to be pretty disappointing experiences, along comes another much hyped, and much anticipated event movie which fails to buck the trend.  My anticipation for this film was quite high last year, but as the trailer campaign progressed I grew less interested as it looked to be more Jurassic Park 3 than 1 or 2 (yes, even 2 has some redeeming features).  The ropey CGI seen in the trailers didn’t worry me too much as surely they would refine that in post production…surely?

Jurassic World, as many will tell you, is the spiritual successor to the first film.  Ignoring the side stories of the different islands of the previous sequels, this film is set decades after the events of the first film, and a fully operational dinosaur park has been established.  However, bizarrely it didn’t take the population of the planet too long to tire of dinosaurs (even though the packed streets and attractions of the park that we keep seeing kind of contradict that contrived plot element), and so the park works at not only extracting more DNA from fossils, but also mixing up their own new brand of dinosaur.  Enter the deadly Indominus Rex, a genetically bred mix of mysterious origins (although the twist of where the DNA came from isn’t although clever although so it thinks, being easy to work out in the first lines of dialogue introducing the beast).  Cue Rex escaping and rampaging over the island, putting park guests and exhibits in danger.  Included in them are the nephews of the park controller, the generic military madman who wants to use dinosaurs as weapons, the nerdy worker in the control room, and Chris Pratt in a role that seems like an afterthought which was expanded when Guardians of the Galaxy proved popular.

Let me first of all get off my chest that this is yet another film  in which unnecessary conversion to 3D actually helps damage the experience thanks to some genuinely poor composting of multiple images.  In crowd scenes, the live action characters are mapped poorly among CGI constructs, resulting in moments where they seem to be mapped ahead of other people when they should be behind.  Shots in motion result in a bending of scenery (and in some cases limbs) as the forced perspective struggles to keep up with the changing visual perspective.  The jarring effect of such poor rendering snaps you out of the film, and you end up unable to really immerse yourself in the events on screen.  In addition, this is yet another action film where converting to 3D makes it so that too much is going on in some moments for your eyes to follow, and I had to close one eye on occasion just to keep up with the visuals on screen.  When combined with some sloppy CGI which quite clearly wasn’t improved after the trailers, it doesn’t make for a great experience.  The dinosaurs look great, however, but it is the many CGI park shots that fail spectacularly.

But even without the 3D and ropey CGI, the film is nothing more than an average experience, marginally better than the third film was, but nothing more.  The characters are dull, generic drones, with Pratt suffering the most from a part that (as mentioned) seems to have been expanded once his popularity exploded last year.  The story setting – a packed theme park – should have led to more peril than we had seen in previous films, but instead we only really have a small number of people in peril, aside from one small moment when crowds (who mysteriously vanish minutes later) are attacked.  A few half baked forced nods to the original film (and seriously, how long do batteries last in equipment that is decades old?) make it seem that the director desperately wants you to love his film as much ands that old one.  Continuity between shots suffered at times, and I get the feeling there are some late re shoots and additions forced in which account for the problems (especially as most involve Pratt and Howard’s characters, which further highlight the expanded minor role previously mentioned).

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But, hey, maybe I’m being too picky.  After all, surely all that people want from the film is dinosaurs?  Well, if so then the film does deliver.  The effects for the dinosaurs are great, with all the favourites in the mix, and the new Rex being a gloriously terrifying creation (although also an inconsistent one in the tracking abilities it is said to have).  The roar chills, the skin detail is disturbingly real, and the creations all fit well into the scenes.  It’s just a shame that the human elements are so weak, as instead of us being thrilled at the peril on screen, we are nought but visitors to a theme park ourselves,  watching the dinosaurs with a modicum of interest, but internally feeling a bit tired of seeing things we have seen 3 times before.

Jurassic World will no doubt thrill the easily pleased who just want dinosaurs fighting dinosaurs, but to those of us who prefer there to be some semblance of plot, characters, or drama (you know…human element) in our films, then it is nothing more than forgettable eye candy destined to be looked back on as just another sequel.

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What I learned re-watching the Mad Max films recently.

***Note: I originally intended to post this before the release of Fury Road, but didn’t get round to finishing it.***

With Mad Max Fury Road finally arriving on the big screens over a decade after it was originally intended to be made (and if you still haven’t seen it, then get out and do so now), it seemed an opportune time to revisit the films about Max, the road warrior.  It has been a long while since I last saw any of these films – in fact it was round the release of Beyond Thunderdome, a film so disappointing at the time that it retroactively destroyed all memories of the first two films.  Whilst re watching the trilogy, I began to realise a few things about the series, and why they are so iconic.

1: The first film is the only ‘true’ story of Max
Now, I’m not trying to claim that there really is a road warrior out in the Australian outback, ramming cars into bikes, trucks, and strange men in gyro copters.  No, what I’m saying is that the first film is the only part of the series that is realistic and restrained to some kind of grounded setting.  As the origin story for our protagonist, it is told as is, not via voice over of someone telling the tale.  Grounded in reality it may look cheap at times (hey, it was a low budget film), but it tells  powerful story of a lawman who tries to put his family first, but loses everything and is pushed over the edge.  By the end of the film to all intents and purposes Max has lost his mind and gone off the deep end.  The Mad of the title can be seen not as a word for angry, but for genuine insanity.

2: Kids imaginations are responsible for the bondage-punks style of the villains
Mad Max 2 introduced the , mythical aspect of the road warrior by telling the tale via flashback.  The opening and closing is narrated by an elderly tribe leader, talking about his encounter with the mysterious stranger.  The thing is, as we find out to the end (did I say spoiler alert?), the narrator is the feral boy from the film, a primitive character who was quite clearly a disturbed young child (he had a bladed boomerang – that’s not normal).  The story he is telling is quite clearly exaggerated by his childhood memories, and likely enhanced to make for a better story.  So, the good guys dress in white (or cream colours), the bad guys have weird masks, spiked leather bondage clothes, and drive cars built out of Satan’s meccano.  This is similar to when you start to tell your mates about that time you got in a fight on a night out, but realise that the reality (that you were beaten up by a girl and ended up a bloodied mess on the floor crying) wasn’t that impressive, so you add 14 armed bouncers to the mix, who you deftly took out one by one until that one guy sucker-punched you.  Yup, the events of the second film were probably just a small argument at a petrol station which turned into a bit of a fight, but as told by this aging madman it becomes a mythical adventure, inspired by old stories of lone cowboys fighting off bandits.
Now Fury Road may seem to dismiss this theory, as the opening voice over is by Max, but to which I refer you to the last line of the first point.

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Hold on..that's Weird Science! Ah well..

3: Practical effects from decades ago look better than modern CGI
Look, they just do, you can’t deny it.  Whilst some CGI can look great (the recent Planet of the Apes films for example), so much today looks cartoon like and fails to impress.  When you watch CGI cars flipping around in Transformers films, you can’t help notice that they are bouncing wrong (we all know how gravity works).  Now, regardless of how old it is, if you have a shot of a real car smashing through a real bus, it will always look like a car smashing a bus because, well,  it is.  Same goes for dismemberment and blood spurts – yes, it does look a bit fake at times, but the fact it was done practically with models and fluids makes it still work better than doing similar with CGI.  Thankfully the new film, according to reports, knows this and we can expect real stunts and blood bags ahoy in Fury Road.

4: Thunderdome wasn’t actually that bad
Look, it is a bit of a mess, and mashes two stories (Bartertown and the plane survivors) unconvincingly, and Tina Turner is a bad choice, but it still has some great moments.  Just accept it as a warped tale being told by an aging survivor trying to recite his encounter with Max, possibly whilst getting drunk with his mates (see point 2), and you can find it a lot easier to accept the failings of the film.

5: They can tell any tale in this world
Thanks to the mythical nature of the series since that second film, you can spin any story out of the setting.  Seriously, think about it for a second.  Say, for example, someone came up with the idea to pit Max against a mutated hyper-intelligent dog, well they could easily add a back story of genetic research being conducted some time before the fall of civilization, and we’d just chew it up and accept it so long as it had cars and bad guys in bondage.

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Even epic vehicles like this!

This is also why everyone has been quite accepting about the new film being made.  Bear in mind that reboots and remakes get a bad rep, with many judging before it is even made, Fury Road was warmly embraced from day one, even when it was made clear that Mel Gibson wasn’t coming back.  The world collectively said, “So what? Just give us cars and carnage!”  Think of Max in the same way as James Bond, anyone can play the role so long as it sticks to the basic conventions of the setting (Bond = spy, Max = twisted future).  Although if in the next film (which has a script ready to go) Max drives an invisible buggy to an ice castle, I’m out.

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RIP Sir Christopher Lee (1922 – 2015)

Another one of the greats has left us.  Sir Christopher Lee passed away on Sunday morning, with the news only breaking today as they wanted to ensure that family and close friends were informed first.

Lee is an actor who, at 93 years old, must have had an impact on pretty much every generation of film viewer today, with him being fondly remembered for a variety of roles.

For myself, I first discovered his work through roles such as Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun, or as Rochefort in the Musketeer films, along with his iconic turns in the Hammer Horror films (I was quite a young viewer of Hammer films on TV, lapping up the theatrics and dread).  Films such as Wickerman came to my attention at a much later time, which meant there was a body of work that I could explore more of as I got older.

Never an actor to take himself too seriously, his appearances in films such as Spielberg’s (unfairly) maligned comedy 1941, or as a mad professor in Gremlins 2, showed a degree of humour he possessed (although the less said about Police Academy: Mission to Moscow the better).  Even in interviews he had a gentle wit, such as when he was quoted as saying, “Somebody once asked me how I found Peter Jackson, and I said: ‘Well, I parted his hair, and there he was.'”

In more recent times he has found a new audience through roles in the Star Wars prequels, Lord of the Rings, and varied Tim Burton films, and even when those films haven’t quite been as good as you would hope, there was no denying that Lee stood out and made his scenes engross and entice you.  As he said himself, “Every actor has to make terrible films from time to time, but the trick is never to be terrible in them.”

All of that iconic work, and without mentioning the same gravitas he brought to TV roles in dramas such as Gormenghast, or voice roles such as the Discworld series (animations Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music, and live action Colour of Magic) as the voice of Death.

Rest in peace – as the great man himself once said, “To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead or excessively old!”  Well, he got to life to a fantastic age, and his legacy of work will ensure that he will live on forever.

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Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

It is quite common in this day and age to find old franchises given a new burst of life via a reboot, sequel, or remake. Much of the time any such announcement is met with derision from the fans, and nonchalance from the general public, resulting in many people already making up their mind to hate the film before it even starts filming. Strangely this has not been the case with this new Mad Max film, which has been embraced by the whole community from the offset. Perhaps it is the fact that the original creator and director is still involved, or perhaps it is that people realise that tales of Max are timeless and can be told for each generation to enjoy. Either way, it is safe to say that there was a lot of anticipation from the fan community for this new entry into the series.

Real stunts by real madmen!

Real stunts by real madmen!

This new film kicks off right into the action. Max stands alone, haunted by memories of those he failed to save, when he is ambushed by a gang, resulting in him being used as a blood-bag for a warrior in a great kingdom built into rocks. The leader of this domain, King Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the first film) rules from high up in the rocks, where his control of the water has given him power over all, and allowed for him to build trade routes with nearby fuel and ammunition tribes. When one of his regular trade runs, led by Furiosa (Charlize Theron), diverts from the route, Joe discovers that his Five Wives have been taken and sets off in pursuit. Caught up in amongst the carnage that follows is Max, hooked up as a bloodline to Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a War Boy intent on proving his worth to Immortan Joe and entering Valhalla in the afterlife.

Much has been said of the fact that the stunts and carnage were done with as little CGI as possible, and this staple of the franchise not only works well here, but has some of the most spectacular action moments on film this year. The explosions, carnage, and destruction are all brutal, and unlike certain CGI fuelled action films of recent years, believable. But it isn’t only in the destruction that George Miller shows his skill at direction and visualisation. Beautiful shots of sandstorms, swamp-walkers, and cities built into rock flesh out his mythical future world even more, and serve not only the story, but the whole franchise well. On top of that there is the expected bizarre vehicle design, all beautiful in their twisted construction, but none more so than the drummers, wall of speakers, and guitarist on a vehicle serving as mock buglers,sounding the battle chimes. Comical, and stunningly impressive, this one vehicle alone represents the madness of this future world – a world gone very wrong.

Seriously awesome!

Seriously awesome!

With a character as iconic as Max, it was always going to be a hard job to follow Mel Gibson’s take on the part. After all he made the role what it is, and anyone attempting to copy him would be under severe scrutiny. Maybe this is the reason that the character doesn’t have a lot to say through this film, as it gives a chance to redefine the physicality of the character in the form of a new actor, rather than forcing us to compare mannerisms and voice inflexions. Suffice to say, Tom Hardy rises to the challenge, and aside from adopting an Australian accent, doesn’t attempt to copy Gibson’s take, instead making the part his own for a new era. Charlize Theron also steps up to the plate as Furiosa, and the film is more about her than Max. As the one-armed driver of the rig who goes off-mission and starts the whole chase off, her character begins as cold and empty, but as we learn her story she grows more depth. As, too, does Hoult’s character, who at the early part of the film we want killed, but as the film progresses you start to root for him. Such character growth in what is essentially a 2 hour action extravaganza put many recent blockbusters to shame.

It has been thirty years since Beyond Thunderdome, that’s 30 years in the wilderness for Max Rockatansky. But it has been 30 years well spent if this is anything to go by, and with Miller saying he already has plans for two more films (at least), then it is a welcome return. We may not need another hero, but we do need Max to show action cinema how to really do it.

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Silence Please

When going to the cinema these days it is a sad fact that you have to accept a certain level of disturbance as just ‘par for the course’.  From the rustle of bags, to the munching of popcorn, the annoyingly incontinent person who manages three toilet breaks in 90 minutes, and then whispers, “What did I miss?” on their return to their friend.  These things, sadly, are not only the norm, but are the minor inconvenience compared to the unacceptable things such as the person on the row in front who insists on texting her friend or checking Facebook every 10 minutes, the guys who laugh annoyingly at moments that aren’t even funny, the person behind you who has not only had their feet up, but has chosen to remove their shoes, and the person who insists on adding a commentary to the whole film (“Oh,  he’s behind them and going to jump out!  What will they do?” How about watching the film to find out? If I needed audio description I’d ask for a set of headphones at the box office!)

We all know these frustrations, and some of you out there may even be guilty of providing them.  As a worker within the cinema industry, watching for these on a daily basis has had the result of making me hypersensitive to even the most minor of disruptions, which, as you can imagine, makes attempting to watch a public showing of a film nigh on impossible.   I have lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up missing most of a film as I am too busy asking people to put phones away, be quiet, sit down, or stop kicking the chairs.  I have even become obsessed with counting people out the screen as they go to the toilet, then back in again, occasionally catching screen jumpers sneaking in by doing so.  All of this on my days off work, trying to relax with a film.

So, as a result, I tend to watch private showings for staff or screenings for press instead, especially on the films I am anticipating the most.  You would expect staff and press to have some common courtesy and respect for others watching, as we are all lovers of the art, so wouldn’t want to disturb or disrupt it for anyone.  Surely that is the case?

Well, as I discovered today, sadly that is not always true.  Today (as with a few other times over the years) I encountered a few amateur bloggers for a popular site who seemed to be under the impression that chatting and discussing the film whilst it is playing was, in some way, perfectly acceptable.   Their total disrespect for the rest of us trying to watch the film without the usual disturbances was frustrating, and I can only ponder how much of the film  they were actually taking in for review purposes, and how much they were just there to see the film before anyone else.

Now I understand the taking of notes during a press screening, jotting down important points in a pad, slight rustle of paper and maybe one of those pens with a torch built in so what you write is legible.  But discussion during the film only highlights how little attention you are paying to the scenes you are talking over (which tend to be those boring scenes with, you know, dialogue…otherwise known as the plot).  Save the discussion until after the film, have a pint and chat about what you loved or hated, but during the film keep the noise down…its just professional courtesy.
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The Sting in the Tail (or credits)

**The original version of this post was made over at World of Superheroes last summer, but with the release of Age of Ultron, it seemed an opportune moment to re – draft it.**

The post credit sting has become something synonymous with comic-book movies over the past decade, and I find myself spending a lot of time explaining them to others. But why do we have these stings, and indeed are they needed at all?

The sting is a reasonably recent phenomenon – and by ‘recent’ I mean’ within my lifetime, which admittedly may not be classed as recent to others. The first noted use of the sting was in 1979’s The Muppet Movie, and from that point onward it became a common occurrence in comedies. Most of the time it was in order to throw out one last throwback gag, such as at the end of Airplane! (1980) with the passenger in the taxi, still sat waiting for Striker to return (this scene also followed some amusing end credits, which was a particular shtick Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams loved). When Ferris Bueller told people to, “Go home,” at the end of his 1986 film, he was merely retreading what Animal had told us back in 1979.

It was in 1980 that the first occurrence in a comic-book movie was used when Flash Gordon finished with a tease that Alex Raymond’s hero would be back to fight Ming again (sadly, he didn’t – disappointing box office put the stop to that). However, it wasn’t until 2001 that the post credit sting made its way to comic book movies again, and it wasn’t a ‘superhero’ film either. The excellent Ghost World, adapted from the Daniel Clownes comic book, rewarded loyal credit watchers with a fourth wall breaking extra, offering an alternate take on an earlier scene. By this point the sting had become prevalent in comedy and horror films, and had begun branching out into other genres (there were 18 general releases with an end credit sting in 2001). Since then we have seen films such as Daredevil (2003), Hellboy (2004), Blade: Trinity (2004), Constantine (2005), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), Transformers (2007), and more throw tags on the end of their films, to hint at the future of the franchise – and how we smirk at those which never see a continuation.
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In 2008, something changed. Iron Man flew in and thrilled audiences as Marvel set the stage for their grand ideas. Their plans were revealed in a post credit sting that had fanboys and geeks around the world fist-pumping the air in excitement, as Col. Nick Fury (played, of course, by Sam Jackson – him having been the inspiration for the Ultimate version of the character) told Tony Stark about something called ‘the Avengers Initiative’. From that point onward, audiences to Marvel films expected something extra on all their films. Iron Man 2 teased out Thor, which led to Captain America, and then tumbled into The Avengers. The small extra scenes sowing the seeds of the arc, and Avengers itself gave a mid-credit scene showcasing a future villain in the form of Thanos.

But how important are these scenes? Well, to the casual audience member, not very. They usually leave those who don’t know the comic books baffled as to why they just sat through 12 minutes of end credits just to see a hammer/glowing cube in a suitcase/etc. Those are the folk who usually end up asking people like me what it means, and then regretting asking ten minutes later as I am around a quarter of the way through explaining the Infinity Gems (and don’t get me started on those who thought Thanos was Hellboy!) But to us fans, these are juicy nuggets of information. A five second glimpse of a hammer told us that Thor was coming, and things were going to be epic. We knew that one would come to take the hammer, and all manner of Asgardian wonder would ensue. Generally I suggest that if you are a fan, stick around, if not then don’t bother – you can catch it on the DVD release later.

But, there is also confusion. So synonymous with Marvel films the end stings have become, that audiences expect them on films which are Marvel, but not ‘Marvel’ – i.e. X-Men, Spider-Man, and other properties owned by Fox, Sony and the like. Some even expect them on DC films, which results in quite accusatory questions being levied at cinema staff when one doesn’t appear (“Why isn’t there a bit at the end?” “Because the film makers didn’t put one there!” “Really? I find that hard to believe!” – seriously, this happens more often than you would think!) Additional confusion came last year with Amazing Spider-Man 2, which shoehorned in a tease for X-Men: Days of Future Past, which had nothing to do with Spider-Man, but left general audiences expecting a crossover between the two franchises (it was a deal in order for Sony to keep Webb directing the second Spidey outing despite still being under obligation to Fox).
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But, confusing or pointless, end credit stings are a big thing now. Recent early viewers of Guardians of the Galaxy at worldwide premiere screenings last year were kept from seeing the sting for that film, Disney/Marvel wanting the secret of the sting to be kept for the opening weekend. Was it worth waiting for? As a fan of Howard the Duck, I thought it was (and I mean the comic book, not that dreadful film from the 80s – seriously, if you’ve never read Howard, give it a shot.   Heck there’s a new comic series out now which is hilarious.)  However many people hated it, and I mean really hated it.  Avengers: Age of Ultron has a small mid-season scene (and it isn’t that fake Spider-Man one that’s been going around), which I look forward to having to explain over the coming weeks (thankfully this time the groundwork has already been laid in explanations of past stings).

Like them or hate them, the sting is here to stay.

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Review – Avengers: Age of Ultron

**Warning – minor spoilers**

As strange as it may seem to those who know me, I wasn’t overly excited going into this second team-up of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe characters. Yes, despite being a qualified member of Stan’s Merry Marvel Marching Society, and being somewhat obsessive about the Marvel comics and films, I genuinely lost my excitement over the past month. Don’t be mistaken, I expected it to be as thrilling and action packed as previous outings, but there just wasn’t that high level of anticipation anymore. After all, we’ve come to accept that Marvel can do no wrong, so there is nothing left to hope for as we now have complete trust that they will deliver. Add into that the fact that the recent Netflix Daredevil series has shown what Marvel can genuinely achieve without any studio interference, and Avengers just seems another chapter in the ongoing film franchise. Suffice to say, the film delivered exactly as expected and whilst it was yet another great entry into the series, it was nothing more than that. Maybe Marvel have already peaked with the first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, and to expect them to deliver more than those films is crazy. Maybe so, but it is safe to say Age of Ultron is a crowd-pleasing, action packed adventure, and nothing more.

The film kicks off right into the thick of action as the team are on a mission to take out a HYDRA base (yes, there are still HYDRA bases around, as anyone keeping up with Agents of SHIELD will already know) and retrieve Loki’s staff. We get to quickly see how the team have learned to use each other’s abilities in unison to function as a whole, and we also get to see how Hulk is tamed by Natasha. Post mission analysis on Loki’s staff reveals that the core of the gem could provide the solution to an AI problem that Stark has – how to activate the Ultron plan for an automated peacekeeping force. However, activation of the AI leads to unfortunate results as Ultron determines that humankind must evolve or die, and thus declares war on the planet. Added to the mix are the twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, one with the power of super-speed, and one with telekinesis and mind control/manipulation powers. Together they will confuse and manipulate the Avengers, turning them against each other.

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From the offset, there is a bit of a flaw with this new entry into the Marvel Cinematic timeline, as it appears that all the events of Iron Man 3 have been forgotten, and Tony’s arc in that film (traumatised after seeing an alien fleet, clamouring to build lots of defence drones to combat any menace, but to then realise that none of it matters as the man inside the suit is more important) seems pointless as we start to repeat his paranoia again, thus leading to the creation of Ultron. It does beg the question, why did they not actually introduce the Ultron program in Iron Man 3, and then springboard it to life in this film (much as Loki was introduced in Thor, then made sense as a villain in Avengers). The result is a sudden burst of exposition to pluck the Ultron concept out of thin air, as well as another project that suddenly pops up that came from no-where, and a film that is a series of action set pieces held together by a ropey plot. Now, I’m aware that Marvel films have always been scant on plot (heck, there are articles online that highlight how Guardians of the Galaxy is exactly the same film as Avengers), and what matters most is the action and the wit, but is this right and should we accept it? Surely if the films are just going to progress to be a series of bigger, more spectacular explosions, then it is weakening what is so important about Marvel’s comic stories. Maybe it is more the fact that this current team of Avengers are far too familiar now, and it just seems there isn’t anything new to claw at. Phase 3 will hopefully inject that aura of anticipated excitement again as new characters and histories come to the franchise in Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange. With the next team up (Infinity War) being a two-parter, I only hope that it does take time to grow a story rather than just throw lots of things into the mix and hope the action distracts the audience from the weak exposition.

Reading back through that paragraph I’m aware that it may seem that I didn’t enjoy the film, but far from it, I was caught up in the moment and loved the banter between the team, and there were some excellent sub-elements that worked really well. Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton, for example, who was extremely short-changed on the last film, here gets possibly the best role in the film. Close behind is Natasha ‘Black Widow’ Romanoff, whose past we explore a bit more, and her relationship with Banner in and out of Hulk mode too. The Maximoff twins are superb additions, as is Vision (who comes into play in the latter half of the film), and I look forward to seeing more of those characters in future films. But the general story feels like an afterthought, and doesn’t end the second phase in the same manner the first Avengers film did. In fact it feel more like a set-up for Phase 3, with hints and nods toward what is to come, which unfortunately means that Ultron feels short-changed in his villain role. The menace we saw in the trailer seems somewhat subdued in the end product, and whilst the safety of the world is still in jeapordy, it feels like ‘just another day at the office’ for the team. Even the attempt to divide the group and turn them on each other doesn’t really have the impact it promised, although maybe Civil War will work that one better.

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All in all, the film just feels like it was made just because the fans wanted another team up, yet it delivers much less than Iron Man 3 or Winter Soldier did, and fails to feel like it is pushing the overall story forward any further. For fans of comics there are a smattering of nods and references to keep a keen eye out for, some subtle (Jocasta), some blatant (Klaw), and there is a mid credit sequence that comic book fans will hate simply because they now have to spend the next year or so explaining it to the non fans (seriously, why do non fans stick around for these sequences? They won’t understand the reference, and will just be confused!)

If I was to score the film, I’d give it a firm 7 or 8 out of 10, with the action, excitement, and characters all working, even if the overall story doesn’t quite make it.