Captain Marvel Review (No Spoilers!)

geektyrant.com

After all the negativity, the backlash and controversy surrounding this film – and lead actress Brie Larson – it is something of a triumph to see how marvelous this film actually is. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have created something very, very special. Not only does it equal the cinematic masterpiece that is Wonder Woman, but in some places it even manages to surpass it. It is a better origin film than any other in the MCU thus far, including Black Panther. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is one of the most likable protagonists to come from Marvel – it’s not just her wit and sass that make her so much fun to watch: it’s seeing how she was before the event that changed her life, and seeing her try to rebuild the relationships she had with friends and loved ones on Earth. There is something bittersweet about the movie, something very sad about every scene where Carol reminisces on her past life, or has a sudden memory of something she cannot fully understand. Seeing her struggling with this trauma is moving, and is one of the finest aspects of the film.

Of course, it is made so only by the fact that Brie Larson is an incredible actress, and even when she is an amnesiac on the planet Hala she still manages to take very difficult material and run with it – fly with it, in fact. When the film opens, she is a soldier living on Hala, the homeworld of an alien race of “noble warrior heroes” – the Kree. But she has memories of something else, a different world, a different life: it’s a classic storyline, but there are so many interesting and unique elements, so many unexpected twists, that it feels fresh and exciting: and poignant – and also, it has Brie Larson, and she carries the whole story with ease. She has moments of intense drama and laugh-out-loud humor, and she blends the two in a way that no other Marvel hero has done with such skill. She is, without a doubt, the definitive reason to go see this film: I, for instance, went into the movie as a Thor fanboy – but when I left, Carol Danvers was my favorite Marvel superhero, and one of the best heroines ever brought to the big screen.

The aforementioned storyline of Carol Danvers, however, is the second reason to see the film – if you like a story that is twisty, complex, and as deeply layered as Captain America: Winter Soldier, or Captain America: Civil War. Admittedly, when the film begins it is hard to follow. There are dream sequences and vague hints, and things that happen very fast and very chaotically – but even Carol doesn’t know what’s going on, which is both a help and a hindrance: on the one hand, it gives us the opportunity to relate to Carol as we see things through her eyes and learn with her, but on the other hand…her confusion rubs off a bit on the audience, leaving us a bit perplexed in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. But then, just as we are wondering what is going on, clues start falling in place, things happen that set off a chain reaction of other things happening, and we suddenly realize that things are not as they seem. The major problem, I think, with the flashbacks that are used frequently in the movie is that, while some of them are relevant, there are others that are not – though they appear to be – and they are interspersed with the relevant flashbacks in a way that can be confusing. Thankfully, this problem goes away early on in the film, and after that it’s smooth flying – well, aside from one spot of space turbulence.

gizmodo.co.uk

The space aspect, actually, is one of the most interesting things in the film: we are brought to a total of three different worlds in the film – the Kree homeworld of Hala, the Kree border-world of Torfa, and Earth. Hala is the most interesting of the three worlds – since Torfa is mostly irrelevant. Hala is a fantastic place, brilliantly lit, and is inhabited by a race of blue alien warriors – or rather, mostly blue warriors: Jude Law’s character is, for some reason, not blue. This race, the Kree, are for the most part background characters: Jude Law portrays the Commander of Starforce, a team that consists of “Vers” (Brie Larson), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), and Bron-Char (Rune Temte). Aside from Law and Larson, the rest get very little screentime – though not as little as Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, a character that will no doubt be familiar to fans of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Besides Ronan, there are many other tie-ins to various Marvel movies – and the most notable is the appearance of Nick Fury, once again portrayed by the great Samuel L. Jackson (though here, Fury is much younger and more naive, and has both of his eyes: his apparent youth is achieved by incredible de-aging techniques that are so seamless you will actually believe you’ve been transported back in time to 1995, which is when this movie takes place). S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) also shows up – also de-aged – though very briefly. There are some terrific nods to the first Avengers, one of which will make fans gasp in surprise, and one of which will fill in some blanks. The mid-credits scene is also…shocking.

Speaking of shocks, there are twists in this movie, twists that you will never see coming. And obviously, because this review is Spoiler-Free, we will leave it at that.

However, I can say this: the film takes place during the war between the Kree and their mortal enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls – and Ben Mendelsohn portrays the leader of the Skrulls, Talos. I went in expecting a two-dimensional villain: I was very surprised at how much depth this villain had, though, so much so that by the end of the film he was one of my favorite characters. I can’t say any more, but there’s a lot to say about Talos.

No review of this film would be complete without mentioning three stand-out performances: Lashana Lynch, who plays USAF pilot Maria Rambeau, Annette Bening, who plays…well, somebody whose name should not be revealed in the Spoiler-Free review, and Goose the Cat. Lynch is incredible, and the first scene that she appears is one that left me in tears: the sheer force and range of her acting was extraordinary, and entirely unexpected. As for Bening – well, she is surprising. That’s all I’ll say about her. She has one very interesting action sequence, though, that had me at the edge of my seat. And Goose? He’s adorable, and is a great mascot for the film, just like Groot is for Guardians of the Galaxy.

What about the action – and especially, the third act battle? Third act battles have become synonymous with “meh” in comic book movies, with even great ones like Black Panther and Wonder Woman failing to stick the landing. So how does this one hold up?

syfy.com

Very well, almost perfectly. There are only two fights in the film that are somewhat flat – a fight on Torfa, which actually does get more interesting after a minute, and the fight sequence on the subway train that we’ve seen in basically every trailer for the movie: more interesting to me was the car chase that was happening at the same time as the train fight – and there was one particularly shocking moment in the sequence that does elevate the stakes a lot. As for the third act battle: perfect. The crown jewel of the film, in fact. Again, it’s too spoilery to say much about, but it has a lot of layers, and all of them are very well-done: and there is one very special moment that seems to tease something that I really hope we get in a future Captain Marvel movie.

So to sum it all up: don’t miss out on Captain Marvel. You need to see her to believe her, really – her powers are incredible, and she could very well become your new favorite Marvel superhero. The movie has a great cast, great acting, a great storyline, and sets up neatly for Phase 4 of the MCU. Also, there is a very touching tribute to the late Stan Lee, that will have you in tears before the movie even begins. This movie is a great tribute to the power of women, and to the power of all individuals to choose for themselves who they want to be.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10

Tolkien Trailer 2!

This movie is either going to be very dear to my heart, and will remain that way forever, or it will be something that I will regret seeing for the rest of my life. I know so much about J.R.R. Tolkien, the legendary author of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and posthumous author of The Silmarillion, that any attempt to translate his life to the big screen is bound to be met with some trepidation from me. There are just so many things that they could get wrong – plus, the first teaser for this movie did nothing to ease my fears, and in fact only made them worse.

So, it was with a heavy heart that I clicked on this trailer, after hearing of its release on The One Ring.net – I was terrified that I would be treated to more of those strangely animated fantasy-sequences from the first teaser, and more not-so-subtle hints at things in The Lord of the Rings.

I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The trailer immediately gets off to a good start, with Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) speaking to the love of his life, Edith Bratt (Lily Collins). He makes a casual statement about how he has always been fascinated by languages, and how he has created his own, and crafted stories around them. Edith is startled, and asks him to tell her a story.

This scene is perfect, and had me wondering if I could possibly be in for a surprise: the real J.R.R. Tolkien was indeed fascinated by languages, and became the world’s leading philologist in his time (philology, the study of languages, is an art that sadly died out with him). It is also true that Tolkien created the languages of Middle-earth before he had ever even conceived of the notion of hobbits, wizards, or the One Ring. Seeing that realized onscreen – and apparently made the focus of the film – is a true relief. Tolkien’s mastery of languages was noticeably absent from the first teaser, and was one of the many things I thought would be lost in translation here.

At 0:34, we get a shot from the first teaser: that odd dream-sequence animation with the rearing horse – that seems to be referencing the design of a Black Rider. Seeing this of course made me think that my hopes were dashed. However, that shot soon gives way to more familiar things: Tolkien as a young boy, play-fighting with friends – a scene that is dramatically followed by one of Tolkien, now a young man, on the all-too-real battlefields of the First World War. It is a striking contrast. We see him lighting a match in the trenches, which fades into another shot of him, as a boy, lighting a candle inside a very ornate lamp that casts beautiful images of eagles and horses on the walls of his room.

Then, at 0:54, we see the T.C.B.S (or, for those unversed in Tolkien lore, the Tea Club & Barrovian Society: that is, Tolkien and his three good friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Bache Smith, and Christopher Wiseman). These young men were all deeply interested in classical arts like poetry and music – we see them at one of their councils, discussing these very matters.

After that, we see Edith and J.R.R. in a wooded area – not, I think, the hemlock grove of legend, as they both seem pretty young in this scene. There are various romantic scenes (Edith and Tolkien with their hands intertwined, or kissing, etc). These then fade to black, and are replaced by a scene heralding the outbreak of the First World War.

This scene is chilling, though its significance is somewhat diminished since we have just seen the War a little earlier in the trailer. But be that as it may, seeing Tolkien in his military uniform, or him and his friends posing for a photograph before they are sent off to the front – it is certainly heartbreaking. No spoilers, but the tragedies that are about to befall this young man are so bitter and painful that I imagine I’ll be crying in the theater.

What follows is the most beautiful scene in the trailer: Edith Bratt dancing for Tolkien in the hemlock grove at Roos in Yorkshire. Here, Tolkien found in Edith the inspiration for the story that is at the heart of all his works: that of Beren and LĂșthien. Their love story is one of tragedy and great loss, but also a bittersweet joy that pierces the heart: it is, as Tolkien says in the trailer, a “magic beyond anything anyone’s ever felt before”. The story of Beren and LĂșthien mirrors that of Tolkien and Edith, so much so that those names are inscribed on the couple’s shared gravestone.

At 1:44, we see a literal fire-breathing dragon – I don’t even know what to say about that, but I’ll acknowledge that it looks better than the fantasy horses and riders from the first teaser.

Additional touching moments include seeing Tolkien playing rugby, and Edith coming to visit him in the hospital where he was sick with trench fever. The trailer concludes with a haunting image of a man (possibly Tolkien himself, or something in a fantasy sequence) walking onto a fiery field of war.

And as the screen fades to black and promises me that Tolkien will be “Coming Soon”, I am left wondering: how is it that I actually liked this? I got goosebumps at all the right moments, I was entranced by the visuals, the actors seem perfect in their roles (even Nicholas Hoult), and the overall tone is spot-on. I think I may end up liking this movie after all, and I am quite happy about that.

Coming soon…

It can’t come soon enough.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

Shazam Trailer 2!

Finally, is my first reaction when seeing this pop up in my YouTube recommendations. We’ve been waiting for this trailer to drop for what feels like an eternity.

I was, honestly, ever so slightly disappointed: much of the footage in the trailer is stuff we’ve already seen before. There’s not a lot new to talk about – more fun little things, like Shazam trying to leap high buildings in a single bound, only to drastically fail by smashing into the side of a skyscraper. That cracked me up. But other than that, and a scene with Shazam holding up a falling bus, there’s just not that much. Thankfully, though, the trailer doesn’t lower my expectations in any way: I’m still pretty sure that this movie will be a very fun experience, and it’ll probably be a good Christmas movie – frankly, I’m confused as to why they decided to release this obvious holiday movie in early April, which just seems…odd. This trailer does, in fact, seem to be downplaying the strong Christmas element from the first one, though, so perhaps it’ll end up working in its spring release date anyway.

This trailer also gives us one particularly great shot, at 0:25, of Billy Batson transforming into Shazam as he leaps from a building – it’s a great shot, even if we saw it before in a teaser.

I am definitely eager to see this movie: unfortunately, it’s been dragged into the ongoing social media outrage about Captain Marvel, which led to Shazam actor Zachary Levi making a statement on Twitter, where he asked fans not to pit the two films against each other simply because Shazam happened to be called Captain Marvel years ago in the DC Comics. If I wasn’t excited to see Shazam before, I definitely was after that, because Levi proved himself to be a truly good human being with that statement.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Fantastic Beasts 3

Spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, ahead!

 

Following Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, viewers were left with a myriad of unanswered questions. However, most of us took assurance in the fact that we would only have to wait two years for the next installment to figure out things like: how is Credence a Dumbledore? How is Minerva McGonagall alive years before her birth? How is it even humanly possible that Eddie Redmayne continues to get more and more adorable in the role of Newt Scamander?

However, our hopes were rudely shattered by the news, which broke in January, that production of Fantastic Beasts 3 had been pushed back to the fall of this year – it had been expected to start production in the summer. This was followed by the revelation that the release date rumored to be reserved for Fantastic Beasts 3, November 20th, 2020, had been given to the sci-fi epic Dune. Now we’ve been able to glean a few more details about why the production was delayed. In an interview with the LA Times, Warner Brothers chief executive Kevin Tsujihara revealed that he is aware that Crimes of Grindelwald was no critical darling, and that its box-office gross was not what he had hoped for: he suggested that this is being taken into consideration now, and that J.K Rowling is “working hard” on the script for Fantastic Beasts 3, which is interesting, since she finished writing it all the way back in December. Tsujihara also said that the third film will be better even than the first Fantastic Beasts movie, and that Rowling has “an incredible vision” of what the future installments in the series will be like. This is all very promising, especially when combined with Fantastic Beasts actor Dan Fogler’s statement that Fantastic Beasts 3 will be bigger than the first two movie combined. We can only hope that more news is on its way, and that we can get answers to our questions soon. But at the moment, it seems most likely that Fantastic Beasts 3 will be Apparating into theaters in 2021. That, of course, is small comfort for all of us fans who are dying to see what happens next to Newt & Co., but in my opinion the delay will actually be helpful: Crimes of Grindelwald, of course, was torn apart by critics and had only a moderate success at the box-office, so giving the production team more time to craft an excellent movie is not a bad idea, by any means. Continue reading “Fantastic Beasts 3”

Dark Phoenix Trailer 2!

Ah, here we have it. The first teaser for this movie was beyond underwhelming. The FOX X-Men franchise has been driven into the ground. The actors seem bored in their roles. Everything about this movie just feels tired. It can’t even settle on a release date.

And, unfortunately, this trailer really does nothing to change that.

We see some very good acting from Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), and James McAvoy (Charles Xavier) is terrific as always – but that’s about it. The other X-Men all look pretty awful, in some of their worst outfits yet. The inevitable epic showdown on a moving train is kind of been-there-done-that. I mean, yeah, Jessica Chastain sure looks creepy, and it’ll be interesting to learn who she’s playing, but I’m not exactly on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out. This series feels like it’s doing anything in its power to go out with a bang before Marvel gets the X-Men, and yet…it’s trying too hard. Attempting to make this feel “epic”, the filmmakers have basically made it into X3, and we all know what that means. A cheap rehash of a better story, pulling the nostalgia card to try and win back disillusioned audiences, a not-so-subtle attempt to remake something that does not need to be remade. And X3 isn’t even that good of a movie anyway!

But let’s see: is there anything in this trailer worth salvaging? Well, as previously mentioned, Sophie Turner looks she’ll do a fine job – she’s such a good actress – as does James McAvoy. Storm’s powers are given a moment toward the end of the trailer, but the CGI looks pretty underwhelming again, given what we’ve seen of lightning powers from Thor: Ragnarok. Mystique is still rather dull, and still looks like a bad cosplay of herself (though I do like her shoes, at 0:17). At least Jean Grey has something of a “look” going on – I love the veins of fire that web through her face. Jessica Chastain rocks a pair of spiky heels at 1:46 – I’ll admit, that scene looks like it’ll be cool: with her advancing calmly into a rain of gunfire. We see glimpses of a battle in outer space – again, cool imagery. Characters like Beast, Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver again are merely background filler, and will likely remain that way – though, honestly, that’s not much of a loss. Cyclops appears to get a good deal of screentime, from what we see here, and seems concerned about Jean: oh yeah, I forgot, there’s supposed to be a romantic thing going on there. *yawn*

So yeah, this movie’s trailers thus far have done nothing to captivate me. I feel bad for the franchise, and I wish it didn’t have to end this way: but we’ll see. It could be good. Turner’s acting skills, at least, should be enough to put a fine veneer of watchability on this movie, which, without her, would probably not be worth seeing at all. If anything from this franchise should be kept by Marvel when they start making X-Men movies, it should be her.

Trailer Rating: 4/10