Sony, Disney And The Spider-Man Conundrum

Last night it was announced that Sony and Disney had reached a stalemate in negotiations regarding Spider-Man, leaving the web crawler’s future in the MCU in doubt. As the news broke, as always, Twitter went nuts. That coupled with the fact that Matrix 4 with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss was announced, film Twitter hasn’t had a day like this since the Cats trailer was unleashed, albeit a different reaction but huge nonetheless.

Whilst is was initially hinted and rumoured, it seems everyone was very quick to react and they may have been right to do so. It began as a story which takes Spider-Man away from Marvel and the MCU, and it continued to develop into another story which is that there is still hope and talks will resume and this morning Sony Pictures has released a statement which seems to be the final nail in the coffin. It read that it is Disney’s decision to not have Kevin Feige producing the films any more, that they hope this changes in the future and that they are grateful for his guidance on the path of the character which the want to continue. (Full statement here.)

This is a very confusing statement, essentially they want to carry on with the narrative of Peter Parker / Spider-Man as he is in the MCU but without Marvel he can’t be in the MCU. Surely this is the wrong move for both companies? Up until now, Sony has 100% financed Spider-Man whilst he’s been with Disney and it’s been rumoured that Disney is offering to split the cost 50/50 and it’s still a no from Sony. Why? Honestly, why? After Spider-Man: Far From Home became the studio’s highest grossing movie of all time, why would you let this happen? Well, it’s mainly to do with money. The overall profit sharing most of which currently goes to Sony with Disney taking a smaller share and retaining merchandising rights. Disney has apparently asked for a larger share which may also include adding the remaining roster of Spider-Man characters to the MCU. It seems like a pretty fair deal which will benefit both companies, seeing how the last two Marvel movies Spider-Man has featured in went on to gross huge sums of money. It seems as if both sides are at fault (most of Twitter is blaming Sony because apparently Marvel, Disney and Kevin Feige can do no wrong…), negotiations should still be continuing and yet they seem to have given up.

It’s been a while since the web crawler was solely a Sony property, and since moving on from Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, the character has gone from strength to strength. Being introduced via another movie rather than getting his own solo film, Disney smartly placed him in Captain America: Civil War 6 months after Uncle Ben’s death and him gaining his powers. Plus the casting of Tom Holland was spot on, as he embodied the role of Peter Parker whilst being a naive and quippy Spider-Man. It was perfect and all going so well. In 1999, Sony acquired Spider-Man from Marvel for $10m during a time when superhero movies were nothing like they are today. Over a 12 year period, the company made 5 solo movies, both of which at some point suffered from cramming as many villains into one of its movies as possible. It was a huge sigh of relief when we heard that Marvel and Sony brokered a deal to move him back to Marvel and Disney where he belongs. Disney has shown what a delight he can be, making sure he looks the right age and doesn’t go down the absurd path of making him unattractive and unpopular. It was a smart take which fans have loved since Civil War and his solo films are the best we’ve ever seen him.

The future of Spider-Man could currently go in multiple directions. With Venom 2 currently in production, Andy Serkis directing and Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams both reprising their roles, he could show up in there. Or in the Jared Leto lead Morbeus which is currently filming with Daniel Espinosa directing. There is also Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse which also has a sequel on the way. And of course, they can always create more solo films with a multitude of villains. One thing that they do have is a wide ranging rogues gallery to churn out. So frankly whilst all may not be lost, it isn’t exactly looking great.

This has all comes after Marvel announced their most diverse line-up yet for Phase 4. Films and TV shows including Eternals, Hawkeye, Loki, Black Widow, Shang Chi and more were all confirmed about month ago at SDCC. There was some speculation about there being a third solo Spider-Man film announced, however as it is indeed a Sony property, it would be up to them to reveal anything. The character, Tom Holland, his presence in the MCU and the Disney/Sony partnership is now in doubt, with some fearing yet another recast (it would be the 4th one across 17 years of the live action movies) and yet another Uncle Ben death, also how young will Aunt May be now? In her 20s? Hopefully not, and the ideal situation would see Tom Holland as well as the excellent supporting cast (Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon) continue tenure at Disney and possibly appear in upcoming MCU movies. But with no guarantee of director Jon Watts for now, it’s looking like he may have spun his last web for Marvel.

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Knives Out Announced For BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival has announced Knives Out will be this year’s film for the American Express Gala. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the film features a huge A-list cast which includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, LaKeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon and a lot more. An updated version of the classic murder mystery, Johnson has returned to the director’s chair following his 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The writer/director says, “I’m thrilled to be screening Knives Out at the BFI London Film Festival. This film was an attempt to capture the twisty fun of an Agatha Christie whodunnit, it’s a great pleasure to be showing it in the country responsible for the genre’s golden age.”

Knives Out takes place in the home of renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) who is found dead just after his 85th birthday. With all his eccentric family gathered, an inquisitive detective called Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate as he informs the relatives that no one can leave as they are all suspects.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director says “With Knives Out, Rian Johnson has crafted a devilishly clever and wickedly entertaining new crime caper. As with his previous work, Johnson brings immense erudition and passion for the conventions of the genre he’s working in, but always makes something entirely his own. This is impeccably designed, with writing that keeps you guessing to the final moments and his extraordinary cast are at their arch and compelling best. Knives Out is a whodunit, as sharp as the blade that killed the patriarch at the heart of the film and we are overjoyed to present the European Premiere as our principle partner, American Express’s Gala.”

The film will receive its European premiere on October 8th, with the festival taking places from 2nd – 13th October. Knives Out will be released in the UK on November 27th.

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Chernobyl, review

Based on the real life events which took place in 1986, Chernobyl recreates what happened on that faithful day 33 years ago and the cover up which followed.

A disaster such as Chernobyl is an astonishing event to take in, no matter if that had happened today or years ago. Since the 1986 disaster which has killed countless people, there have been multiple cover ups about the true life events. However the creator has managed to put together the series of events which lead up to the incident. He has explained how it happened in a simplified and dramatic way without dumbing it down.

Craig Mazin, writer of the show, has a CV which includes the likes of two Hangover sequels, Scary Movies 3 and 4. An interesting change from those to this as he has the ability to tell the story of Chernobyl as a groundbreaking series which lets you in on what we’ve never seen. The control room, the lives of those within the community, those trying to cover it up and those desperately trying to tell the truth.

Deciding to keep the story telling grounded by beginning with a modest flat and Jared Harris who plays Valery Legasov listening to a tape of himself talking about the disaster. The date is April 26 1988, exactly two years after the explosion, at which point the scene jumps back moments before to show the residents of the nearby block of flats. It starts with a couple in their home when it happens, it’s a small VFX shot from a distance which draws you into the chaos of the control room. The denial of what happened comes early on when the man in charge Anatoly Dyatlov (Paul Ritter) immediately dismisses a worker who claims the reactor has exploded. It’s a thread which runs throughout the five episode limited series and has become seeded in the real history of what happened. From here, we see the story slowly unravel over the five episode period. Aspects such as the issue of the appearance of graphite, the brutal and shocking effects of exposure and putting out the fire become key immediately. Exploring these issues whilst using specific scientific terms would understandably come across as frustrating to the majority, however, whilst the language has clearly been simplified, it never feels as if the show is talking down to you. You’re very quick to understand the dangers all of these issues possess thanks to the sharp writing which wraps it in a neat, smart and approachable bow.

Whilst it may be relatively easy to understand it’s a difficult watch thanks to the spectacular makeup, effect and styling of those going through the pain of exposure. The effects of which are explored as it shows the slow decline the human body goes through, you can almost feel their pain as they deteriorate. This in turn creates painful emotional beats for their loved ones such as Jessie Buckley’s Lyudmilla Ignatenko who has to watch as her husband Vasily Ignatenko’s (Adam Nagaitis) body is being destroyed. Her actions and emotions are that of someone who is already in grief, but not quite at acceptance. Jessie’s performance is an outstandingly heartbreaking one which carries the burden of expressing what so many people would have felt at the time. At times she has a quiet and subtle way of conveying so much with a stunningly expressive face. In a similar vein, Jared Harris effortlessly embodies the doubts and fears his character has during this crisis with a few gestures here and there, and perfectly subtle facial expressions.

These two are the true stand outs of the mini series full of incredible performances from the likes of Stellan Skarsgård’s Boris Shcherbina who hides behind a wall of anger to conceal his terror as he learns of the severity of the situation; Ulana Khomyuk played perfectly by Emily Watson as she portrays someone powerful and knowledgeable; Paul Ritter who plays Anatoly Dyatlov with such brilliance you almost believe the actor is in utter denial too. Barry Keoghan makes a brief appearance in what can o ly be described as a fish out of water. The bleakness of this situation is further conveyed with the colours used as it shows the mood and tone of the nuclear power planet, its surrounding town, the people and even the buildings. All of which are draped in greys, whites, muted colours and black which helps to portray its tone in a different way.

Chernobyl is a unique part of history that no one will ever forget especially now. Using mostly simple techniques, outstanding cinematography, accurate writing, bleak tones and incredible performances, Chernobyl is one of the great modern mini series which, unlike the events it’s based on will go down in history not as as a disaster, but a triumph.

5 out of 5.

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The Irishman To Close BFI London Film Festival 2019

It’s been announced that The Irishman will be closing the 63rd BFI London Film Festival. The International Premiere for Martin Scorsese’s latest takes place on October 13th and reunites the director with his screenwriter from Gangs of New York, Steven Zaillian.

Martin Scorsese, comments “I’m extremely honoured to be having the International Premiere of The Irishman at the closing night of the BFI London Film Festival. This picture was many years in the making. It’s a project that Robert De Niro and I started talking about a long time ago, and we wanted to make it the way it needed to be made. It’s also a picture that all of us could only have made at this point in our lives. We’re all very excited to be bringing The Irishman to London.”

The film, which takes place in post-war America, focuses on the rise of organised crime across the country and delves deep into the unsolved mystery of the disappearance of Union President Jimmy Hoffa. It stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. Told through the eyes of Frank Sheeran, DeNiro plays the World War II veteran, who is a hustler and hitman, working alongside the most nortorious figures in the 20th century as the film journeys through the history of organised crime and shows its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

Of the announcement, Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director says, “What an immense cinephile thrill it is to close the 63rd BFI London Film Festival with the International Premiere of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. British Film Institute Fellow Scorsese is one of the true greats of cinema – as both a creator and a tireless champion of preservation and film history – and here he and his creative team have delivered an epic of breathtakingly audacious scale and complexity, exploring relationships of trust and betrayal, regret and remorselessness, which dominated a period of American history. This is a major occasion for film lovers and I cannot wait to share this film with UK audiences.”

The BFI London Film Festival takes place from Wednesday 2nd October to Sunday 13th October 2019, with the full programme being announced on August 29th.

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Phase 4 Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe Is Coming

It’s the news so many of us have been waiting for, the post-Endgame continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. San Diego Comic Con is still on however the big news is coming from Marvel’s panel which Kevin Fiege hosted on Saturday and he included huge news and confirmed multiple rumours. Here is what we can expect from 2020 and Phase 4 of the MCU.

Black Widow

Release date: May 1st 2020

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Rachel Weisz

This has been long rumoured and all but confirmed with shooting and casting taking place for the film but no official confirmation from Marvel. But now all that has changed with Kevin Fiege officially announcing it last night. Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the crowd was shown footage of the assassin returning to Budapest to track down Pugh’s character and duke it out. This is a long over due solo film for one of the original Avengers and the second female-lead solo film.

The Falcon and Winter Soldier

Release date: Autumn 2020

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp

The first on the new range of MCU TV shows which will appear on Disney’s new streaming service Disney+. Not too much has been revealed about this besides the returning cast and that Mackie has said that he’s had fittings for the Captain America outfit now he’s taking over from Chris Evans.

Eternals

Release date: November 6th 2020

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, Dong-seok Ma

The second film being released next year to continue the MCU, the casting has been announced along with the director who is Chloé Zhao. She said “It’s about this group of incredible immortals but through their journey we really get to explore what it means to be human and humanity on our time on this planet.”

Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings

Release date: February 12th, 2021

Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung

This was rumoured for a long time and it’s finally been confirmed as Marvel announces an Asian cast and director in the form of Destin Daniel Cretton. The biggest talking point is that we will be getting the real Mandarin, after Iron Man 3 pissed off a lot Marvel fans and they were forced to release a short which claimed that Ben Kingsley’s character was not the real villain this whole time.

Wanda Vision

Release date: Spring 2021

Starring: Elzabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany

Taking place after the events of Endgame, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out considering the feight of Vision in Infinity War. This could have potential with Wanda showing the full force of her powers but maybe it’ll be something else.

Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness

Release date: May 7th, 2021

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen

Another project which we kind of sort of knew was in production to a certain level thanks to director Scott Derrickson revealing that he’s working on this sequel a while ago. Minus the fact that we’ll see more of the multiverse and Olsen will be playing Wanda, there isn’t much out about this film which is fifth time round for Cumberbatch as master of the mystic arts.

Loki

Release date: Spring 2021

Starring: Tom Hiddleston

Answering the question of what happened to Loki after that incident in Endgame, this TV show will do it’s best to do that. After his death in Infinity War, the was talk of him coming back in some way which some Marvel fans loved and some did not. The way it’s being done means it takes nothing away from his heroes death and now we get to see more from the God of Mischief.

What If…?

Release date: Summer 2021

Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Michael B. Jordan, Sebastian Stan, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston and more

The first animated series to join the MCU, What If explores different and possible storylines from multiple Marvel characters and is based on some oddball comics. Including the cast above, others confirmed are Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Hayley Atwell, Chadwick Boseman, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Neal McDonagh, Dominic Cooper, Sean Gunn, Natalie Portman, David Dastmalchian, Stanley Tucci, Taika Waititi, Toby Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Rooker and Chris Sullivan.

Hawkeye

Release date: Autumn 2021

Starring: Jeremy Renner

Not much to say about this one but Jeremy Renner has spoken about this one in the past and it will feature Haweye training Kate Bishop as part of the next generation of heroes.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Release date: November 5th 2021

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Natalie Portman

News broke earlier in the week that there would be a fourth Thor film directed by Taika Waititi with Hemsworth reprising his role. It wasn’t until yesterday that the title was confirmed along with returning cast members as Portman takes on the first ever female Thor. This will be interesting especially as Thompson said she as King of Asgard is looking for her Queen!

Blade

Release date: TBC

Starring: Mahershala Ali

As far as anyone can tell, this was a huge surprise. No rumours and no talk of this whatsoever, announcing this is massive! And to get one of the best actors currently working is equally impressive. Hopefully these are better than the Wesley Snipes ones.

And the rest:

Captain Marvel 2 and Black Panther 2 are both in production but no word on any details at all right now. Kevin Fiege briefly mentioned them as the event but that’s it. He also spoke of working on a new Fanradtic Four and something to do with mutants. No details, no casting at all. Just a few mentions. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 is also coming from director James Gunn, this may be the end of Phase 4 or the start of Phase 5, no word yet. A few empty release dates that some of these could fit into are February 18th, 2022, May 6th, 2022 and July 29th, 2022.

Bottom line is this is a huge step forward for the MCU. With both Thor and the Eternals having LGBTQ+ characters in them as confirmed, a fully Asian cast for Shang-Chi, more female leads it’s about time such a huge franchise took a step into present times. That plus the absence of former Marvel staples Captain America and Iron Man means it’s going to be change from here on out.

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Booksmart, review

High school friends Molly and Amy are on their final day before graduation when they decide to have one wild night before they go their separate ways.

There was a time when high school movies were mostly gross out teen flicks which felt aimed at a small portion of the audience. Coming of age movies really are extremely difficult to crack, partly to do with the subject matter of kids growing up but also to do with dialogue. Olivia Wilde directs her first film with style and confidence to bring the whip smart script to life thanks to her understanding of modern teenagers and the casting of Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.

Starting with Molly (Beanie Feldstein) listening to an inspirational recording, we see quick flashes in her room including photos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama and her Valedictorian sash. It cuts to outside to introduce Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) as the film is quick to establish the pair’s friendship, achievements, feminism, political views, fondness of each other and confidence. A few well-placed bumper stickers including one which says “Life Being at Perception” and another which says “Hot Flashes. Power Surges!” brilliantly adds to that. It may sound like a lot to cram into the opening minutes however it is so well paced and funny, you don’t even notice. What follows is a very modern high school full of a diverse mix including multiple ethnic groups, LGBTQ people, all shapes, all sizes. At no point does the film feel the need to go into the standard teen comedy trope of picking fun out of someone’s difference. The school is full of bright kids who are sure of themselves which is more confidence than arrogance. Whilst there is an obvious clique here and there, no one is bullied or made to feel small.

Our two heroes, who live in each other’s pockets, spent time together off set to make the bond on screen even more genuine. This is a factor that come through in the opening minutes of the film and continues throughout the 102 minute run time. Their consistent compliments to each other and the fact that they miss each other after one evening apart are two more wonderful things to enjoy about their relationship. Plus the fact that Amy’s sexuality isnt an issue and Molly is trying to help her get her first lesbian experience really adds to their dynamic. Just as they are preparing to leave high school, they discover that skipping all the parties and social aspect of school in order to study and get good grades hasn’t been totally worth it. To their horror, especially Molly, everyone else who has been enjoying themselves have also succeeding at school and have all accepted offers to prestigious colleges. Quite a blow to the ego but they plan to squeeze in years worth of partying into one night by going to the final shindig. What follows is a calamity of errors after they go from party to party, unable to find what they are looking for. Going from Jared’s (consistently hilarious fan of Molly played by Skyler Gisondo) boat party to discover very little going on and then to an elaborate murder mystery where they are each given characters. These scenes in particular are full of over the top humour which fit the film tonally including an utterly brilliant feminist take on Barbie-esque dolls and Billie Lourd consistently stealing the scene as Gigi who literally pops up everywhere.

The most striking aspect about this film is the natural qualities it possesses, the diverse school and smart kids who are so sure of themselves they are willing to stand up to authority for what they know is right. The conversations each character has with one another comes from a genuinely well thought script which make these scenes even more enjoyable. The supporting characters all have something interesting about them and become more than one more people. It veers into the ridiculous regularly, leaning heavily on rich kids and its infectious soundtrack. This feels like a game changer for the genre, an up date it desperately needed, coming of age is finally coming of age.

5 out of 5

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Rocketman, review

Taron Egerton takes on the tough task of portraying one of the most iconic singers of all time: Elton John. Dexter Fletcher directs the part fantasy musical biopic starting with his childhood.

It’s a difficult task to create a story about someone’s life. What do you include? What do you leave out? What do you exaggerate and what don’t you? With Lee Hall on writing duties, he and Fletcher have managed to meld the drama of Elton’s life with the fantastical element of his music and fashion in an entertaining film which doesn’t shy away from hard hitting subjects.

Taron Egerton is no stranger to using his vocal chords to belt out an Elton John song. His RADA audition had him singing Your Song and during his part in the movie Sing, back in 2016 where he played Johnny, he went for the classic I’m Still Standing. Very few young actors have the range and charisma of Egerton whose take on Elton John is less of an impersonation and more an embodiment of who he was when growing up and struggling with his own identity and fame. Combining these two elements makes for a fascinating performance in which Egerton uses his skills as a singer, dancer and actor all at once in Dexter Fletcher’s musical. As Elton’s songs bridge the gap between the reality and fantasy, Rocketman instills juxtaposition within a number of scenes as it plays a banging tune along with hardcore drug taking and his downward spiral into addiction.

Starting with the superstar checking into rehab, the film takes a step back in time to tell his story from childhood which he recounts in a group therapy session. It’s in his hometown where we get our first of many musical numbers as young Elton (played by two excellently talented actors, Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor) is introduced in an electric all-singing and all-dancing set piece with The Bitch is Back as accompaniment. From this scene onwards, it deep dives into Elton’s history beginning with his tremulous relationship with his distant father (Steven Mackintosh) and unsupportive mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). Shortly after meeting his parents, we’re treated to another romping and stomping musical number in the form of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. Young Elton transforms into Taron, singing and dancing his way from a pub, to the streets and into a carnival, all in one stunning tracking shot. Dexter Fletcher isn’t afraid to go where is required with a camera, as it bursts through a door and bends down to get through a narrow gap in a fence. It’s these angles which, thanks to cinematographer George Richmond, puts you in the centre of the action and makes you enjoy it even more.

His life is littered with supporting players amongst his parents including his sweet and supportive grandmother (Ivy, played by Gemma Jones), Stephen Graham as record company owner Dick James who dominates each scene he’s in (“I’m gonna have a massage!”) and Producer Ray Williams (Charlie Rowe), the very much naive and excitable person who discovers his talents. It’s not long before he meets Jamie Bell’s Bernie Taupin, his longterm writing partner with whom he immediately strikes up a bond that sees him through his best and worst moments. Bell is perfect in this role as the talented and sympathetic writer who stands by Elton’s side no matter what and who has an instant rapport with Egerton. The pair’s on screen chemistry which can be compared to those who play brothers as they become closer and more in sync. Another significant figure is his lover John Reid played by Richard Madden who is the very epitome of both slimey and seductive. Madden swoops in as potential hero who has other desires in mind. As their relationship grows from occasionally sex to Reid becoming Elton’s lover/manager there’s an increase in the toxicity between them which adds to Elton’s downward spiral into the self loathing he suffered since childhood.

Fletcher has a clear understanding of the narrative he wants to tell by using songs in a particular order. Rather than keeping these tunes in chronological order, he’s places them within the story where they fit best. An enjoyable, fun and hard hitting music biopic which shows the first ever gay sex scene from a major studio and deals with the repercussions of substance abuse. It’s a musical sure, but not like you’ve seen before.

4 out of 5.

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No, Avengers Endgame Is Not Fat Shaming

*****SPOILERS FOR ENDGAME*****

You have been warned, if you’re reading this and you’ve not seen Avengers Endgame that’s your fault.

For a number of years I’ve struggled with my weight, wanting to lose it, putting the effort in, shedding a few pounds but ultimately failing for some reason. It’s a frustrating thing to want to do something but losing that momentum after a short while. I became lazy at some point and after 25, it’s piled on. For a long time I was ashamed at this happening to me, constantly blaming myself and the choices I made. Frankly I assumed my friends and family wouldn’t like me as much. What I didn’t realise until later is that I was still the same person. Still the same slightly annoying, funny (in my humble opinion) and chatty nerd I have been for as long as I can remember.

No amount of weight gained or lost will ever change that or how people see me and care about me. The same can be said for Thor, when we first see him in Endgame he’s the hero we’re used to seeing; confident, brooding and muscular. Hemsworth embodies Thor to a point that, like Rober Downey Jr. as Iron Man, there isn’t anyone else you can imagine playing the God of Thunder. It isn’t until later that we see the toll certain events have taken on him. After slicing off Thanos’ head in the first 20 minutes and failing to undo the Snap thanks to the destruction of the stones, each Avenger goes their separate ways. Five years pass when Groot and Banner/Hulk (Bulk?!) pay him a visit at New Asgard. The reveal of an unkempt and heavier Thor was certainly shocking and played for laughs at first, however after this there is a tremendous amount of pain and pathos.

There was a point when Thor was a one note character, the muscular hero who would always vanquish the villain somehow and do it in style. The worst we saw him is when he briefly pined after Jane in Thor: The Dark World only to be reunited with her soon after. Other than that not a hair was out of place on this God of Thunder. Even when his mother died in Thor 2 and then his father in Thor Ragnarok, very little emotion was shown. Not until his third solo outing did we see a slightly different side to him in part thanks to Hemsworth himself as well as director Taika Waititi, both of which wanted to take the character in a different direction. Stripping him of his signature hair, hammer and home did just that. It also gave Hemsworth a chance to show off his comedy chops, something which be clearly has a natural talent for. Then in Infinity War, we see how hard he’s had it during his chat with Rocket (aka rabbit) where he laid out all who had died and how it’ll help him kill Thanos. It didn’t. What it eventually did was push Thor into depression, PTSD and alcoholism. Think about that for a moment, one of the most powerful beings in the universe had severe mental health issues. No matter what caused it, it really can happen to anyone. Power on the outside doesn’t mean power within.

There are a couple of unfortunate comments in Endgame’s three hour runtime such as Rocket calling him tubby and Rhodey claiming he has Cheese Whiz coursing through him. Whilst it feels in character for Rocket, Rhodey’s off handed comment felt very jarring and unnecessarily harsh. Some may argue that this sort of treatment continues throughout Endgame however it seems to lean more on the alcoholic Thor who is suffering from PTSD. He breaks down right after hearing the name Thanos, he is reliant on beer, grabbing Banner with one hand and still clutching a beer in the other. Not only has it taken its toll on his physical form, his mental state has been severely damaged as well. Not killing Thanos when he should have meant half of the universe died, that’s one hell of a burden to bear.

As he continues with his narrative through the film, he’s subjected to other types of name calling including Lebowski but this comes from the nicknaming Tony Stark. Never does it feel like fat shaming. If anything there is a growing concern for Thor starting when we see him after the 5 year time jump, he’s desperate to be who he was as he clings onto his past when he mentions Jane, and that he is the one who killed Thanos. The pain within him comes out as he continues to drink and can barely hold a sentence together struggling to find the words.

There are two key sections which turn things around for him, both of which help him accept who he is rather than who he’s supposed to be. They are the scenes he spends with his mother when travelling back to Asgard in 2013 and the final battle. Seeing her for one last time knowing full well that she was about to die was a blessing for him and that’s how he took it. It’s here that Thor comes to terms with his failures, suffering and grief. Yes he killed Thanos but not when he should have. His death didn’t change anything and it’s this which causes him to retreat inside himself and drink himself into a depressed and bloated state. Some final words of wisdom from his mother (Rene Russo reprising her role) as she reminds him of who he is and that this hasn’t changed despite how difficult it may be to see. One lift of his hand as he summons Mjolnir and realising that he in fact still worthy is a beautiful cherry on top of a perfect scene.

Then the final fight. The one thing that they could have done which would have ruined it is making Thor ab-tastic again. Keeping him at this size is a clear indication this is who he is now, and that no matter how big or small you become, you are always worthy, you are always powerful, you are always mighty. And apparently lightning can plait your beard!

Endgame changed a lot about the MCU and the Avengers, killing off two of the original members, giving Captain America a happy ending and showing us a smart Hulk. The biggest shock and pleasant surprise came in the shape of Thor. Pushing the character into places we had never see him go, having to deal with the toughest time he’s ever had, coming through the other side and joining the Guardians of the Galaxy. A bold move which didn’t involve killing off the character. With Hemsworth reportedly signing on to carry on his Marvel life into Phase 4, as well as his now more developed character it’s nice to know we’ll have a familiar face sticking around.

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Avengers: Endgame, review

Following on soon after the Snap from Infinity War, the remaining Avengers, all suffering in different ways, want to desperately try and undo the devastation cause by Thanos.

Trying to outdo your previous film which included the most powerful characters who spanned across a multi film universe is tricky to say the least. However producer Kevin Feige, directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have crafted an astounding narrative which sees as a fitting conclusion to this story.

Thanks to last year’s marketing campaign for Infinity War which included shots that were created just for the trailer, it was difficult to trust the promotional footage which was released for Endgame. There were reports floating around that what we were seeing was from the first 15 minutes of the film and this turns out to be true, with the rest shrouded in mystery as you’d expect. It takes guts to wipe out a large number of your characters especially when many of them are fairly new to the fold. Giving themselves fewer options with their heroes, the film focuses on people who survived and what they are doing to move on.

Taking place a few weeks after Thanos clicked his fingers, the remaining Avengers, as well as the rest of the world, are suffering the tremendous loss they have each endured. Dealing with their burdens in different ways, they are frustrated, they want to move on, they have lost a part of themselves and there are those who have become deeply depressed. The extreme grief everyone is going through hits an emotional note like no other, with Thor who has reached the limits of his bravado blames himself as Chris Hemsworth giving his best and most nuanced performance as the God of Thunder. Captain America and Black Widow are both unable to give up and Tony leaves a goodbye message for Pepper as he floats in space with Nebula, or as he calls her the Blue Meanie. Then there’s Hawkeye, whose absence from Infinity War is explained with his house arrest ankle monitor, as we’ve never seen him before. Jeremy Renner is outstanding in this film thanks to the Markus and McFeely script which allows him to explore the depths of Clint Barton. This is something that can be said of all six original Avengers who have been in it together for quite some time now, so it’s a perfect opportunity to delve deeper in the characters we love.

Endgame is split into a three act structure and, whilst the first hour focuses on loss and grief, the remaining almost two hours are something completely different to what we’ve seen in the MCU to date. The initial character driven narrative is a surprising way to begin such a massive blockbuster as you’d expect it to be a fairly action centric throughout. However the writers and directors haven taken this approach to give each actor the freedom to dig deeper than they have before which makes our heroes more human; broken, downbeat, portraying a realistic view on how to deal with this situation. To detail the other two acts would be pretty spoiler heavy however rest assured that they have truly upped the stakes in what is said to be some of the stars’ final Marvel movie.

If you’re concerned that this is going to be a bleak meditation into loss then you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s got the typical MCU humour which never feels unnecessary or forced. You could almost say that it’s perfectly balanced. Lines such as “I get emails from a raccoon, so nothing seems crazy to me” and “You look like melted ice cream” said by Natasha and Rocket respectively just goes to show how sharp they can still be.

The finale is a spectacle like no other, combining the emotion from the MCU’s past with the moments we’ve always wanted to see on screen. Whilst they have fought together before, never has it felt more like a team of friends fighting for what is right. There is an effort to make it a collaboration, making sure they each key member gets a few moments. Endgame will make you laugh, cry and cheer for your heroes and with outstanding performances, dialogue, humour, pathos and action, it is now up there with the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is not only a celebration of the MCU and all that it has achieved in its 11 year history, but also a look of what’s to come from Earth’s mightiest heroes.

5 out of 5.

Keep. It. Reel.

Star Wars Episode IX Title And Teaser Revealed

After a nice long gap, we are getting a new Star Wars film, the final part in the saga and the last one for quite a while. Episode IX, which is due to be released on December 20th, 2019, now has a name. JJ Abrams has returned to direct after Colin Trevorrow was given the boot for that classic reason: creative differences. The name of the new Star Wars film is The Rise of Skywalker

The third part in the latest trilogy is said to be a fitting end to the Saga with Mark Hamill returning (from the dead? ZOMBIE LUKE!) as well as Billy Dee Williams reprising his role as Lando Calrissian and Carrie Fisher making an appearance using archive footage. Walt Disney CEO, Bob Iger has said that after Episode IX, Star Wars will take a break. He says, “We have not announced any specific plans for movies thereafter. There are movies in development, but we have not announced them.” During the Star Wars Celebration event in Chicago, Stephen Colbert presented the Episode IX panel which included JJ Abrams, Anthony Daniels, Kathleen Kennedy, Billy Dee Williams R2D2, Oscar Issac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Naomi Ackie, Joonas, Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran and BB8. During the discussion, they spoke of their previous experience in and outside of Star Wars as well as the current film, whilst new images of the characters appeared on the screen behind them. Some we know well, some we will get to know. We also received the first teaser trailer which shows how the previous Jedis have passed on all that they know to the current generation. We see Rey, Finn, Poe, C3PO, BB8 as they all do battle with Kylo and the dark side. Lando comes back to fly his Millennium Falcon, as we are told no one is ever really gone. Besides Luke, who else will return?

John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o and Domhnall Gleeson all return for the final go in the Skywalker Saga. The Rise of Skywalker has been written by Abrams and Chris Terrio, with Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly getting co-writing credits. After this film, we know that there is The Mandalorian TV series by Jon Favreau, with episodes being directed by Deborah Chow, Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi but that’s about it for now. A break makes sense after Star Wars fatigue did seem to settle in after the release of Solo just a few months after The Last Jedi. We’ll see how long this break is but I’m extremely excited for the final chapter on this 42 year old Saga.

Keep. It. Reel.