REVIEW: Aquaman (2018)

Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

The DCEU badly needs a win. To say the DCEU has had peaks and troughs is something of an understatement. Despite, for my part, ‘Man of Steel’ being far stronger than the wider consensus says, and ‘Wonder Woman’ being as universally acclaimed as it is, the DCEU is badly trying to course correct after the mixed reception received on ‘Batman v Superman,’ and the genuinely shambolic efforts of ‘Justice League’ and ‘Suicide Squad.’ It needs a film to reunite DC fans everywhere that convinces them the DCEU could be a success. I think ‘Aquaman’ could well be that film.

Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa stars as Arthur “Aquaman” Curry, a human-Atlantean hybrid with super strength and a swimming ability not too far behind that of Michael Phelps. Living his life as a metahuman living amongst us, Arthur forgoes the secret identity schtick, openly embraces being Aquaman, and spends his time saving people from various nautical disasters. When Orm (Patrick Wilson), Arthur’s half-brother, stakes claim to the throne and threatens an Atlantean takeover of the world, Arthur must return to his true home and claim the throne that is rightfully his.

I’m going to cut to the chase. ‘Aquaman’ is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema in months. I’ve seen some terrific films in the last year, even some genuinely all-time great superhero films like ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,’ but nothing compared to ‘Aquaman.’ As the film escalates towards its inevitable, CGI-tastic battle scene, I found myself actively cheering the action on screen. It forced various exclamations that basically said, in umpteen different ways, “this is so cool.” Because that’s what James Wan, the stellar filmmaker behind films like ‘Saw’, ‘The Conjuring,’ and ‘Furious 7,’ managed to do. He made Aquaman cool. He made the guy who has been the joke of DC for years and known as “the one who can speak to fish” cool.

What really works for ‘Aquaman’ is its cast. It boasts a terrific ensemble, and no matter how ridiculous it all is if you really look at it, everyone is all in on their characters, embracing the ridiculousness of it all, and just having a great time with it. There’s a chemistry amongst every major player, from Arthur and Orm, to Arthur and Mera (Amber Heard), to Arthur and Vulko (Willem Dafoe), to Mera and Vulko, and to Orm and Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), that makes the film work. All the different relationships between the characters are, admittedly pretty blatantly, clear and their motivations are presented well so that everyone knows where they stand as the tensions mount into the third act. The ‘will-they-won’t-they’ dynamics, the rivalries, the father-and-son relationships, it’s all well thought-out and executed extremely well, thanks largely to the great cast.

Where the film does have flaws – and believe me, it has its flaws – is largely down to its dialogue. Despite the well-fleshed out relationships I mentioned above, the conversations are about as on-the-nose as it comes. Characters explicitly describe their emotions and plans in every line of dialogue, shoving in corny, superhero focused one-liners to raise an obvious moral question for Arthur to ponder for 20 minutes. It’s blunt, but it’s serviceable; there’s no room for subtext. But then again, this is fucking Aquaman. At one point, sharks are used as surfboards. Subtext left the writer’s room 27-minutes into Day One. And that’s okay.

The average cinema-goer goes to a superhero film for the action. You can claim all you want that people live for the interpersonal drama you find in the MCU, but a superhero film lives and dies by its action sequences. ‘Aquaman’ raises the bar for what a superhero film’s action scenes should look like. They’re the cleanest, best choreographed, and best shot action scenes since probably ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’ In the first 10 minutes, there’s a very cool fight scene involving Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) in a living room that’s a long-take, one smooth shot in which all 3 enemies are vanquished in expert fashion as the camera swirls around the room. At that moment I knew we were in good hands, but that was just a taster.

There are a lot of nice little action sequences throughout the film, all of which are well done, but there are two stand-outs: Sicily and The Battle of the Trench. Sicily, for starters, includes a glorious long-take following a Atlantean battering ram crashing through 15 apartment walls as it’s the fastest way to Mera who is running along the rooftops, while simultaneously Arthur is being chased by Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the film’s sadly underused but encouraging secondary villain, with various moments for combat thrown in, an exploding church bell, and Arthur using a literal ball and chain as a weapon. At one point, the camera shows Arthur’s fight and zooms across the rooftops to catch up with Mera, mere minutes before she creatively uses red motherfucking wine as a weapon. Just thinking about this scene again brings a smile to my face. It’s chaos in its most glorious form.

The climactic Battle of the Trench is, thankfully, a worthy capper on a terrifically fun time. I can’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but this scene is the main cause of my exclamations of disbelief I mentioned earlier. Some of the moments on screen are wildly creative, they’re moments that will stick with you for months, because it’s a battle on the same scale as that of Helm’s Deep in ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ only this time it involves sharks with freakin’ laser beams attached to their heads, giant crocodiles, giant crabs and lobsters, and there’s even the closest thing to an actual kaiju. It’s not a case of Wan throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks here; everything sticks. The final 30 minutes of ‘Aquaman’ is the best climax to a 2018 film this side of ‘Hereditary.’

Aquaman’ is fantastic. I can forgive the flaws of its screenplay when the action is this satisfying and this impressive. It has charismatic performances, a fantastic soundtrack (‘Aquaman’’s theme is the best superhero theme since ‘Wonder Woman’, for everything the DCEU is doing wrong, it’s nailing the music), and stellar direction and cinematography. It’s one of the most bombastic, energetic, insane films of the year, and it deserves your attention.

Give me more ‘Aquaman.’ I want so much more ‘Aquaman.’

 

RHYS’ VERDICT:

5

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney

Written by Fernando Andrade

You know that feeling when you walk out of a movie knowing you have witnessed something special, something you have never seen before. That’s the feeling you get walking out of Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse. Even though it’s based off a comic book and this character has been done six times before and we know the basic story of Spider-Man, the people behind this movie found a way to make it fresh and have produced not only the best animated movie this year, but hands down one of the best movies of 2018.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse centers around Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), aka Spider-Man. In Miles’ dimension Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is a hero to the people of New York, stopping crime at every corner and doing it with grace. That is until Parker has a run in with Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and his gang of other notable Spider-Man villains including Green Goblin and The Prowler. They have built a device which causes dimensions to collide in an attempt to bring back Fisk’s wife and son who where killed. In the exchange, Peter Parker is killed, yes killed in an animated PG movie, leaving Miles the one and only Spider-Man – so he thinks. Of course as the promotional material has shown us, several dimensions collide bringing with them other Spider-people with them. We have Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Gleen), and Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) – but from a different dimension. It is up to the 6 of them to come together and defeat Fisk in order to return to their respective worlds.

This movie probably could not have come out at a better time, due to the tragic death of Stan Lee, as it shows the true power of comic books and why people love this character. While yes, on the surface this movie is a standard comic book movie pitting good against evil, heroes against villains, it is so much more than that. This character of Miles Morales is so pure and so easy to connect with. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he loves his family, he wants to make them proud, and he is just kind at heart. Honestly it was a nice change of pace seeing this familial interaction and not one having to do with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. This interpretation of Spider-Man also comes with a bit of a different message, although the presence of “with great power comes great responsibility” is still felt, here we get to see someone figure out that they have the ability to become something great and that you are never alone.

This is beautifully done through the brilliant use of all the other characters. Yes, some are used for more comedic purposes and some of the villains just show up, but they are not the main focus. However, all the characters fit, they all have their moments, and it works seamlessly to help tell Miles’ story. Each of the different Spider-people/animal have their own problem, their own origin story, and so do we as individuals – we all have different paths, which is why it is so easy to relate to this story. Sometimes it can feel very lonely out there, as Miles feels as his relationship with his family begins to dwindle as the piling amount of pressure he has to be a worthy Spider-Man builds. But it is through those same worries in which he finds the power to become who he was meant to be. This story has attempted to be shown in other Spider-Man movies as well, some being more successful than others, but the way it was told in this movie has been the most effective. We get to see a young, half black half Latino kid, dropped to this position where he must learn to face this massive challenge, with some pretty great people to help him along the way.

Not only is Into the Spider-Verse a beautiful story, the technical aspects on display here are some of the greatest ever in animation. This is probably what people felt like watching Toy Story for the first time seeing all those 3D animations, but in animation today all we really see is polished, hyper realistic worlds. It is a wonderful change of pace to see such a unique approach to animation, and it works so well with this story. This could never be reproduced into life action ever, it could only have been done this way.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has come along and made itself known as one of the best movies of 2018, and should be leading the charge at the Oscars for best animated feature. Its a universal story that can be loved by everyone, filled with beautifully touching moments for both comic book and non-comic book fans alike, great laughs, and some pretty great music. This movie really showcases what minds like Steve Ditko and Stan Lee saw in these characters and what they wanted to express; a mask is a mask, but what really matters is who is underneath it – and that could be anyone.

 

Fernando’s Verdict:

4-5

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies

Year: 2018
Directed by: Aaron Horvath & Peter Rida Michail
Cast: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Michael Bolton, Nicolas Cage, Greg Davies, Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Lil Yachty

Written by Tom Sheffield

I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this review. Even the hilariously bizarre marketing didn’t prepare me for the weirdest 88 minutes I’ll ever spend on a Sunday morning. I knew we were in for something different when the lights went down in the cinema screen and an animated version of DC’s new intro began to play.

The premise of this little animated caper is that Robin is growing increasingly jealous of all the superheroes getting their own movies in Hollywood, and when he learns that Alfred and the Bat-mobile will be getting one before him he decides it’s time for the Teen Titans to prove themselves worthy by seeking out an arch-nemesis, something all great superheroes have. Robin and the Titans then come face to face with D̶e̶a̶d̶p̶o̶o̶l̶ Slade (aka Deathstroke, although he’s never called that in the film for some reason) and they decide they want him to be their nemesis, but Slade deems them unworthy to waste his time on. The Titans try to help Robin prove he’s worthy with a few catchy musical numbers, a dash of time travel, and a ton of comic book and film easter eggs along the way!

The film boasts an incredibly talented voice cast, with Tara Strong (Raven), Scott Menville (Robin), Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Hynden Walch (Starfire), and Khary Payton (Cyborg) all reprising their respective roles from the Teen Titans TV series. Also along for this ride is Will Arnett, Nicolas Cage (and his son Kal-El), Kristen Bell, Greg Davies, Michael Bolton, and Jimmy Kimmel to name just a few. However, not even Nicolas Cage finally getting to play Superman could top the hilarious cameo from the king of cameos himself, Stan Lee!

The film is full to the brim with pop culture references, comic book nods, and digs at previous DC films. Not even Disney is safe in this film as there’s one particular sequence animated in Disney fashion and puts a twist on the Lion King’s opening sequence. I was constantly scanning the background of each shot for subtle jokes, such as the name of buildings, film posters in the theatre, and characters popping up in the background. I’m pretty sure I missed about 50% of them, so a second viewing is on the cards at some point. These nods and digs were easily the highlight of this film for me, mostly because the majority of the actual dialogue felt like it was targeted to the younger members of the audience (and rightly so I guess!). There’s a joke about pooping that goes on waaaay longer than it needed to, and there are also a few jokes that didn’t manage to get a laugh from any of the audience (the majority of which were young children with their parents).

Poop jokes aside, the musical numbers in this definitely caught me off guard at first, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t toe-tappingly catchy. How could anyone not crack a smile at Michael Bolton singing as an 80’s clad Tiger? In fact, let’s put that to the test. Below is the official clip from the film of the song ‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’. Just let the soothing tones of Michael Bolton’s voice bring you some joy today.

That’s just a taster of the kind of musical numbers this film holds, of which there is a handful. The music is catchy, upbeat, and is accompanied by great scenes in the film. Listening to the soundtrack as I write this, I can’t help but laugh remembering some of the ridiculous stuff that goes on during some of the songs.

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies has the perfect runtime and it doesn’t overstay its welcome (despite Robin’s objections). With only a couple of stinkers, the humor is mostly on point and you can’t help but enjoy yourself whilst watching the film. If you have younger siblings or family members, definitely invite them along for a watch at your local cinema.

Tom’s Rating:

4

Deadpool 2

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

The runaway smash-hit of 2016 ‘Deadpool’ saw the debut (yes, debut) of a fan favourite character known for breaking the fourth wall and being supremely foul-mouthed, as played by Ryan Reynolds in a passion project in the works for years. 2 years on, Deadpool is a household name thanks to Reynolds being widely considered the perfect man for the role and the film being supremely entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny from its opening credits right to its post-credits scene. 2 years on, we have been given the inevitable sequel a record breaking film was destined to have, and I’m happy to report that Deadpool hasn’t changed one bit.

‘Deadpool 2’ sees Deadpool fully invested in his saving-the-world-as-unethically-as-possible shtick as we are shown in the opening sequences. When tragedy strikes, Deadpool finds himself in a rut and it’s up to Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapcic) to pick him back up and continue his attempts at turning him into a true member of the X-Men. Meanwhile, mutants are popping up left and right, namely young Russell Collins, a teenager who can control fire, and Cable, a time-travelling cybernetic soldier who arrives, Terminator style, to complete a personal revenge mission.

What immediately comes across as you watch is ‘Deadpool 2′ has a far wider scope than the original. Where Deadpool spent the majority of its runtime on one section of a motorway, Deadpool 2 zips around the world in a montage sequence catching us up on what Deadpool has been up to since we last saw him. This sequence showcases impressive choreography thanks largely to its new director, David Leitch, fresh off his impressive work on ‘John Wick’ and ‘Atomic Blonde’, while also informing us that the jokes will fly at you faster than you can process them.

The wider scope isn’t only evident visually either, as the dialogue very heavily references other Marvel films, from the X-Men franchise (which Deadpool is very much a part of) to the MCU (which Deadpool isn’t a part of…yet). Some jokes come obviously (Josh Brolin’s Cable is the target of multiple MCU jokes for obvious reasons), while others are far more subtle. It also does very well at referencing lines from the first Deadpool that, granted, not many in my screening caught, but I did, and I appreciated the commitment to writing jokes to include everyone in the audience, from the casual viewers to the hardcore fans.

The quality of filmmaking itself is evident as Leitch brings his stunt related past to the film, showcasing the talent we have clearly seen in his previous work in genuinely impressive sequences like a slow-motion one-take sequence that Deadpool narrates over near the beginning of the film, as well as the fight choreography on the truck in the climax of Act 2. There are no annoyingly fast cuts to be found as the punches are given time to land and take effect; one of the biggest factors in well-shot action is the geography, and it was always clear where each character was after every hit. David Leitch is an exciting director that I hope continues this impressive form throughout his inevitably successful career.

‘Deadpool 2’ continues the trend from the first by being very funny and very entertaining on every level. The jokes do come at you at a supreme pace that you will not catch all of them even after multiple viewings, but ‘Deadpool 2’ is definitely going for re-watchability, which it most definitely is. And yet, while the film is consistently very funny, it doesn’t quite manage to tip over into hilarious territory. A few sequences come very close – Basic Instinct, X-Force for reference – but it doesn’t quite get there as well as ‘Deadpool’ does. “A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like…16 walls” from the first film is an all-time favourite quote of mine, there isn’t a line in ‘Deadpool 2′ that matches this one.

‘Deadpool 2’ does a lot of things very well, not least the cast. Everyone on screen is evidently having a blast with the film, and so many of them are perfect for the role. As aforementioned, Reynolds is Deadpool, Zazie Beetz almost steals the show as Domino, the endlessly cool and very lucky (it’s definitely a superpower and definitely cinematic) member of the X-Force, and Josh Brolin for the second time this year knocks a major Marvel character out of the park with a terrific performance as the time-travelling badass, Cable.

The true MVP of the film though is Julian Dennison as Russell Collins. Fresh off his hilarious turn in Taika Waititi’s ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, Dennison has charm for days and has the ability to make any line, any look, any body movement funny. On top of being funny, Dennison genuinely makes Russell (or Fire Fist as he hilariously named himself) a character you empathise with, even as he descends into pyromania in the final act.

While there are a lot of positives to take from ‘Deadpool 2′, the film does have its flaws that teeter on the edge of having a significant effect on the film. Given the nature of firing jokes at you at an alarming rate, it falls occasionally on the side of jokes not landing. When they land, they’re great, but when they don’t land, you can feel the awkward silence in the room waiting for the next one. There are several of these moments, and they all add up into stretches of the film feeling like dead air. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but the film is 2 hours long, and these long stretches of jokelessness, or unfunny jokes, stay with you.

Secondly, I have praised the film’s wider scope already in this review, but this proves to be the film’s double-edged sword. At several points, the film tries to do things that are just too much for its budget. There’s a very fun sequence that’s effectively a truck chase sequence and the truck, at multiple points, looks like it belongs in a PS2 racing game. In the final act, there’s a self-aware CGI fight (Deadpool literally shouts “CGI fight!” at the screen to set it up) that feels weightless when it really shouldn’t given the characters involved because of how blatantly CGI it is.

Finally, ‘Deadpool 2′ suffers from the same problem as the first film. ‘Deadpool’ very clearly set itself up as the antithesis to the MCU, a superhero film that breaks all the rules and refuses to follow convention, and yet follows all the rules and the convention. The act of acknowledging the conventions before they happen doesn’t excuse the fact that they remain followed. I enjoyed the self-referential nature of the film because it’s something that’s so rarely seen, but it frustrated me to see the trends followed and see missed opportunities to do change things up.

All told, I did really enjoy ‘Deadpool 2′. I thought it was funny throughout, the cast were all excellent, and it has, without a doubt, the best mid-credits scene of all-time. There are problems abound that come with trying to exceed the expectations set by a great first outing, but I honestly feel ‘Deadpool 2′ has more re-watchability than the original because of its attempts to go bigger than the first. Oh, and keep an eye out for some excellent cameos!

Rhys’ Rating:

3.5

Avengers: Infinity War

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joe & Anthony Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johannson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Sebastian Stan, Winston Duke, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Tom Holland, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Vi Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Jeremy Renner, Benicio Del Tor, Jon Favreau, Benedict Wong, Sean Gunn, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper

Written by Dave Curtis

18 films, 10 years and it all comes down to this. ‘Avengers Infinity War’ is the film that Marvel studios has been building too ever since Robert Downey’s first ‘Iron Man’ appeared on our cinema screens back in 2008. Back then, Marvel weren’t even a proper studio, they were just a small cog in a much bigger wheel. Well, now they are the wheel. To say this is a big deal would be a understatement. This is the ultimate event movie. The hype and build up that surround the release of the film have been huge. Very few spoilers have leaked out and we are going to keep it that way. JUMPCUT will be releasing much more and spoiler filled and in-depth reviews over the next few weeks.

This is just initial reactions from the press screening that happened in London on 24th May 2018

Before the screening you could feel the anticipation in the room. Conversations were rife with the future of all our favourite characters. Where’s Hawkeye? Does Cap’s beard play a major role? Where’s that missing soul stone? Answers were coming. The lights went out and the Marvel Studio logo comes up and the crowd went wild.

For the next 149 minutes we were all putty in the Russo brother’s hands. They have woven a tale which bounces around all Marvel’s best and across the darkest corners of the universe and back again to New York and Wakanda. It was always going to be a hard job to give every character their moment but ‘Infinity War’ just about does that. With multiple story-lines, it does feel more like ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Two Towers’ than the normal single story narrative. The script is so tight and every word that is said is important, so listen carefully.

Thanos lives up to his reputation at the ultimate bad guy (A problem Marvel has had in the past). The Mad Titan is at the heart of the movie and Josh Brolin’s voice will send shivers down the spine of any mortal man. He truly is a test for the Avengers.

‘Avengers Infinity War’ at its best is epic, emotional and very, very shocking. It has impressive set pieces and of course it’s very funny. The few faults it does have are going to be down purely to the viewer. A knowledge of all that has happened before is essential. This is not the film for newbies. If you don’t know your Captain Americas from your Star Lords then maybe it would be best to catch up first. . Also as you expect some characters get more screen time than others, sadly some of your favs may just be bit part players. Overall this was worth the wait.

‘Infinity War’ holds true to its core and has truly raised stakes on the Marvel cinematic universal. Nothing will be the same again. Roll on May 2019 for Avengers 4.

ps. There is a end of credit scene, so don’t leave early!

Dave’s Rating: 8.5/10

You can hear more of Dave’s thoughts in his podcast!

Justice League

Year: 2017
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane

Written by Tom Sheffield

Having thankfully managed to avoid spoilers, major plot points, and reading the opinions of film critics, I walked into the cinema at midnight last night full of hope and excitement – and I left completely blown away by what I just witnessed. I think even the DCEU sceptics reading this will be find themselves pleasantly surprised with ‘Justice League’ and the direction it takes.  I will avoid writing any spoilers in this review as I strongly feel that it would really dampen your viewing experience if you knew what to expect!

Following the death of Superman, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince attempt to assemble a team to be humanity’s defence against a new threat to Earth. The pair recruit rookie speedster Barry Allen (The Flash), half-human half-Atlantean Arthur Curry (Aquaman), and Victor Stone (Cyborg), who was recently brought back to life through the power of a Motherbox. The team must come together to stop Steppenwolf and his terrifying Parademons gaining the Motherboxes.

Affleck, Gadot, Momoa, Miller, and Fisher are a delight to watch on screen together. Whilst their characters don’t always see eye to eye, it’s clear to see the cast had a blast working together. Each has their moment to shine, and boy do they deliver! Miller was a standout for me, but I may be a little bias with Flash being my all-time favourite superhero. Miller was the perfect choice for Barry and his humour and charisma were spot on. The cast as a whole were brilliant in their respective roles, so I tip my hat to Snyder and the folks in casting for their choices!

Ciarán Hinds lends a menacing voice to Steppenwolf, and whilst his performance is respectable, the poor CGI is quite attention drawing and sadly weakens his stature as a villain. Steppenwolf shines when he comes face to face with the League – but I couldn’t help but feel we didn’t get to see enough of him. Hopefully this is something that can be resolved in the inevitable extended cut.  Witnessing Henry Cavill back in action as Superman was a beautiful sight to behold – and whilst my review will remain spoiler-free, it’s easy to spot which scenes were part of Whedon’s reshoots as the FX team attempt to CGI-out Cavill’s moustache he grew for ‘Mission Impossible 6’.

Unfortunately, during the filming of ‘Justice League’ Zack Snyder had to step away from the project to be with his family following the tragic loss of his daughter. Joss Whedon, who was already working with Snyder on the film, was asked to step in as Director and finish the film – which included reshoots. Anyone familiar with Snyder and Whedon’s portfolio can easily pick out who directed and wrote the dialogue in which scene, but thankfully they gel well enough together to deliver a sturdy and action-packed 120 minutes. It is a real shame the film got cut to pieces, with lots of footage from the teasers and trailers nowhere to be seen – a thread of which can be found here – but following the bashing the previous films received, it’s understandable (but not welcome) why Warner Bros. would limit the film’s content and run-time to try and appeal to the general audience.

In another twist during the production, Junkie XL was replaced by Danny Elfman as the composer for the film. In all honesty, his score as a whole was a little underwhelming, but there are a few notable moments where the score gave me actual goosebumps , and when you watch the film you’ll know EXACTLY which scenes I mean. Hearing some familiar notes just added to the joy and wonder of what I was witnessing. It really did give off JLA vibes and I felt like I was witnessing my childhood come to life in front of my very eyes.  I would have loved for Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL to score the film, but I guess we don’t always get what we want!

To wrap up, ‘Justice League’ is popcorn blockbuster of epic proportions. Zack Snyder’s  vision comes to fruition with the return of Superman, and with him, the return of hope for the future of the DCEU. I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Snyder and his work, and if this happens to be his final directorial work within the DCEU (which I really hope it isn’t) then he should be proud of his trilogy and what he’s achieved.  ‘Justice League’ is full of heart, humour, and most importantly…hope. It’s flawed and suffers in places with bad CGI, but to finally see these characters on the big screen together and to witness the group dynamic come to life with such an incredible cast is just a childhood dream come true.

You’ll also want to remain seated for the TWO post credit scenes, and believe me, they are well and truly worth it. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Tom’s Rating: 7.0/10

Thor: Ragnarok

Year: 2017
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo

Written by Sarah Buddery

The staggering achievement of Marvel Studios in creating a cohesive, overlapping, and constantly evolving cinematic universe is something which – pardon the expression – should really be marvelled at. Undoubtedly helped by the wealth of interesting and beloved characters it has in its impressive back catalogue, the signs of growth are more evident than ever in the latest offering, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’.

Helmed by under-the-radar (but soon to be household name) New Zealand director, Taika Waiti, ‘Ragnarok’ is like none of the other 16 movies that preceded it. Fans of the off-kilter and quirky sense of humour in previous directorial films ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ and ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ will know what to expect, and everyone else? Well you’re able to get a full-on Waititi slap in the face and you are going to love it.

The first ‘Thor’ film had a great natural humour to it with its fish-out-of-water narrative, but the disappointing ‘Thor: The Dark World’ took itself far too seriously, suffering from weak villains and a clumsy style. ‘Ragnarok’ is Thor on acid, embracing the weirdness of the character in the best possible way. The Thor of the comics is absolutely nuts, and finally we have a Thor film which feels 100% suited to the character.

The comedy is the strongest it has ever been, and dare it be said that it even challenges ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ in that department. There’s zingers left right and centre, genius cameos and characters, physical comedy and oh so much more. Chris Hemsworth has never been better as the God of Thunder; his comic timing is absolutely impeccable and it is great to see him having so much fun where the character has previously been a little stuffy.

On the whole, the cast is absolutely fab with returning members being better than ever, and the new additions feeling like they have always been there. There is a reason why Loki is everyone’s favourite Marvel villain, and whilst not the main villain of this piece, he has plenty of screentime and Tom Hiddleston is, as always, a delight to watch. As Goddess of Death, Hela, Cate Blanchett is absolutely wonderful, but perhaps doesn’t get as much exposure as she deserves in this film; just one of its minor drawbacks.

Always the highlight of every single film he is in (that is a fact!), Jeff Goldblum chews every single bit of technicolour scenery as The Grand Master, and was clearly having huge amounts of fun. Having impressed in ‘Creed’, Tessa Thompson is wonderful as Valkyrie, and she kicks so much ass. Mercifully there is no romantic subplot (it would’ve felt massively shoehorned in), and it is so great to have another badass female hero, and a female main villain as well, for the first time in the MCU.  

The 80s vibe runs through the gloriously unique soundtrack, with synth seamlessly mixing with a more traditional superhero score. Also used in the trailer, it is so good to hear Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ used, and to amazing effect as well; let’s face it, this song was made to be used in a ‘Thor’ movie! Visually, ‘Ragnarok’ is one of the most arresting Marvel movies so far, with some particularly striking slow-motion wide shots, mostly in the flashback scenes and fight sequences. This technique is used sparingly enough so as not to become annoying, and it shows just how diverse a director Waititi is.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is madder than a box of frogs and all the better for it. It does suffer from feeling a little disconnected from previous MCU films, but when a film is this much fun, it almost doesn’t matter. With Waititi’s stamp all over it (and the character he voices, Korg, unquestionably stealing the show!), ‘Ragnarok’ feels refreshingly different and is a much needed injection of fun, particularly for those who are feeling the so-called “superhero fatigue” from oversaturation of comic book movies. A strong contender for one of the best MCU films, and arguably the most fun, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is absolutely unmissable!

Sarah’s Rating: 9.0/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Year: 2017
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya

Written by Tom Sheffield

To say there were high expectations for this film from it’s waiting audience would be a understatement. For the third time in 15 years we were about to witness a new actor take on the role of Spider-Man, but this time would be different because he now exists in the same universe as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and all the heroes we’ve seen so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities that weren’t possible with the webhead’s previous live-action incarnations. Having already been introduced to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker briefly in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, I was eager to see how he would hold his own in his first film. I’m relieved to say he did not disappoint, and neither did the film as a whole.  

Following his participation in the epic airport battle against Captain America and his team, Peter Parker (Holland) returns home feeling that his day-to-day heroics helping average citizens is a huge step down from what he just took part in. Eager to participate in more Avengers missions, Peter wants to impress Stark (Downey Jr.) and show him he’d be a valuable member of the team. When Peter starts interfering in Adrian Toomes’ (Keaton) plans, Toomes sees no other option than to put an end to the Spider-Man.

Tom Holland may just be my favourite portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man to date. He completely embodied Peter’s awkwardness, his eagerness to do more to help people, and his struggle to please everyone. Both in and out of the suit, Holland is a joy to watch on screen and I’m excited for what’s to come for Peter following certain revelations in the film, and the fact we get to watch him progress through High School, juggling school, a social life, and his evening heroics. Michael Keaton was menacingly brilliant as Toomes / Vulture. There’s one scene in particular where he is face to face with Holland and his delivery is enough to send shivers down your spine. Vulture has quickly become one of my favourite villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because whilst a lot of villains we’ve met so far see themselves as Gods or are willing to cause havoc and mayhem to gain power, Toomes is just a guy who thinks he’s doing the right thing to provide for his family. It’s this protective behaviour that spurs him on to don his Vulture wings and do what he deems necessary.

Despite appearing heavily in the trailers and posters, Iron Man’s involvement in the film isn’t as big as many had feared, with people often dubbing it ‘Iron Man 4’ due to how much he was in the trailers. Stark’s protectiveness over Peter and his heroics provides one of the best exchanges of dialogue between two heroes in the MCU, which I won’t spoil here, but if you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean. It truly shows how much Tony has changed from his arrogant, selfish, playboy ways when we first met him in ‘Iron Man’  and how what he’s experienced since then has changed him.

Michael Giacchino’s opening score had me excited from the get go. Incorporating the classic Spider-Man theme tune was always going to be a winner in my eyes, and after hearing it in the little teaser video he released on Twitter, I couldn’t wait to hear it blasting from the cinema speakers. What a treat that was! Sadly, Giacchino’s score throughout the rest of the film is pretty forgettable, which regrettably seems to be a recurring thing in Marvel movies.

Overall, ‘Homecoming’ is one of the strongest first entries in the MCU and I feel that Marvel/Sony taking the risk and not making it an origin story was definitely a huge factor. With this being the third reboot in the last 15 years, the audience for this film know how Peter gets his powers, they know his parents history and Uncle Ben’s fate. Skipping all that allowed them to focus on Peter’s struggle as a kid to balance school, friends, and keeping this huge secret from those closest to him. 

Tom’s rating: 8.7 out of 10

Wonder Woman

Year: 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Lucy Davis

Written by Fiona Underhill

Usually I start a JumpCut review by discussing what drew me to the film and my expectations of it. However, there are two major shadows cast over this particular movie. 1) DC – believe me, I could write A LOT about previous DC films and how it has affected my expectations of ‘Wonder Woman’, however, I’m not going to. 2) Feminism – an endless stream of articles have been produced about what this film does or doesn’t do for women. It feels like the weight of half of the world is on Wonder Woman’s shoulders. However, I am going to endeavour (and I may fail) to write about this film on its merits as a standalone feature. 

After a brief prologue, we first encounter Diana (who will become the lovely Gal Gadot) as the only child in the city of Themyscira, a paradise peopled by the Amazons – a tribe of female warriors given the duty of guarding mankind. However, they have abandoned this cause (which they view as hopeless) and retreated to their secret and protected island. They remain highly skilled in combat and continue training, led by Antiope (Robin Wright) – their greatest warrior. Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen), wishes to protect her daughter, but Diana is headstrong and has the urge to learn the ways of her people. This idyllic haven is punctured one day by a WWI fighter plane, which crashes into the waters just off the islands, followed by German troops in boats. This leads to a stunning beach-based fight scene, which frankly had me welling up with emotion. 

The pilot who has crashed into this mythical world is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and he leads Diana on a mission to try to stop ‘Doctor Poison’ – a brilliant German scientist, from formulating a deadly gas that can dissolve gas masks. This is in what should be the dying days of The Great War, with politicians behind the scenes frantically negotiating their way towards Armistice. One of these politicians is Sir Patrick (a lovely surprise to see David Thewlis) and another beloved British actor in the London-based scenes is Lucy Davis (Dawn from The Office) as Steve’s secretary – Etta. Steve Trevor assembles a small band of rogues (including Charlie, played by Ewen Bremner), to attempt to stop the gas from getting as far as the trenches. 

Firstly, ‘Wonder Woman’ is full of humour. Much of this comes from the ‘fish-out-of-water’ Diana – a demi-god with little experience of the world of men, negotiating the world of war. Secondly, it is visually stunning. The action scenes are thrilling and yes, I will say it, this has a lot to do with the sheer glee of seeing a badass woman on screen in what could not be more of a man’s world. What to say about Gal Gadot? She is physical perfection and she does play Diana’s prowess, coupled with vulnerability and confusion very well. Chris Pine is playing a variation on Captain Kirk – sharp wit, ego, honour and the ability to be blown away by someone he underestimates. Coupling the world of superheroes with the world of twentieth century war does work surprisingly well (I will avoid mentioning one of my favourite Marvel films that does the same). 

Hopefully you have got the gist by now that I loved this film. It wasn’t perfect – there were moments of lull that made the film feel slightly too long, but it was definitely more exhilarating than boring. I am sure Diana will ‘play nicely with others’ in the upcoming DC ensemble films and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I hope she gets to have sequels in her own right – I will assuredly be turning up for them. It is thrilling that at long last, a female superhero in a film DIRECTED BY A WOMAN is getting her due (I warned you that I probably wouldn’t be able to reign it in). I urge you all to support this film in the all-important opening weekend – you won’t regret it. 

Fiona’s rating: 8.5 out of 10