Black Panther (Film Review) – A Top 5 MCU Film

Black Panther is a superhero film directed by Ryan Coogler and it is the eighteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as T’Challa/Black Panther alongside an ensemble cast that includes Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan.

The story of Black Panther takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and T’Challa returns to Wakanda as King after the death of his father. However, he finds his sovereignty challenged by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). A conflict ensues between the two which has the capacity to have severe ramifications both in Wakanda and beyond.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Black Panther

Every time another MCU film is about to be released, I am pretty confident that it will be a good and entertaining as an absolute minimum. Black Panther was a different story. This film had a lot of potential to be amazing and one of the best MCU films to date. Everything I had seen from Black Panther looked unique and fresh. I was excited to see what was in store and, once the film was receiving universal critical acclaim, all it did was increase my expectations for Black Panther.

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther/T'Challa in Black Panther

Another thing which filled me with a lot of hope that Black Panther would be something special was the directorial talent behind the film. Appointing Ryan Coogler as the director of the film was a great choice. His work on Fruitvale Station and Creed cemented him as being one of the most promising, up-and-coming directors working in the film industry today. He has had a great career so far and to think that he is only 31-years-old and has so many years ahead of him is exciting to say the least.

The cast for Black Panther just speaks for itself. Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Chadwick Boseman among other talented individuals should entice any film fan to see the film they are in. Everything was in the favour of Black Panther to be something that could transcend the superhero genre, especially with its social, racial and political themes which are extremely relevant in today’s climate. I wanted this film to be rich and have an abundance of depth. Moreover, I hoped Black Panther would be at high enough level of quality where it would be one of my favourite films in the MCU.

My Thoughts on Black Panther

Truly, I cannot remember the last time I was as emotionally invested in an MCU film as I was with Black Panther. Without a doubt, this film is in my Top 5 favourite MCU films and Ryan Coogler continues to impress me as a filmmaker with the incredible work he did in Black Panther.

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger and Daniel Kaluuya as W'Kabi in Black Panther

A variety of reasons exist as to why I love Black Panther as much as I do. Let me start with the biggest positive of the film; Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. For me, the biggest flaw of the MCU has been its inability to consistently produce compelling and/or sympathetic villains/antagonists.

In my mind, it is clear to see that the MCU struck gold with Killmonger. For me, he is one of the best MCU villains. This is because you identify with him due to his past struggles and how he wants to reveal Wakanda to the world and put an end to their isolationist tendencies. However, he goes about things in the wrong way and his methods would do more harm than good to the situation. Because of this, even though we know that he is the bad guy, we feel for KIllmonger throughout the film and it makes certain scenes towards the end of Black Panther that more of a gut punch.

He was the strongest aspect of the story in Black Panther and the story itself was very engaging and superb performances from the cast helped to bring it to life, particularly when it came to the actresses. For me, the women of Black Panther were huge standouts. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) were phenomenal and really pulled me into the film from an emotional standpoint, particularly in the third act.

Dora Milaje in Black Panther

Excellent World-Building + Timely Themes

Make no mistake, Chadwick Boseman was great as T’Challa/Black Panther. He was captivating in the lead role but the women around him, as well as the villain, elevated both him and the film. Moreover, an element of Black Panther such as the Dora Milaje, a team of special forces which Okoye was the leader of, helped to flesh out Wakanda.

Certainly, the amount of world-building was immensely impressive, especially as it was all done in one film. You see how vast and rich the lore and nation of Wakanda is and it pulls you into the film. Additionally, the story being told deals with some extremely relevant social, political and racial themes which also elevates your experience with the film. Undoubtedly, Black Panther is a timely film which has a lot to say beyond its superhero plot.

It is an important film to watch because of what is going on in the world nowadays which helps Black Panther transcend the superhero genre. Scenes in the film which proved how well it becomes more than just a superhero film include Killmonger’s conversation with his father, played by Sterling K. Brown, as well as his final scene with T’Challa. Both scenes were incredibly powerful and showcased the themes of the film in a great way.

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther/T'Challa in Black Panther

Other Highlights of Black Panther

As you can see, I have been incredibly positive about Black Panther so far and that is not stopping now. The use of colour was brilliant, the score and its use of percussion was excellent and it fitted in well with the film. The humour in Black Panther, like every MCU film I have seen, was more hit than miss. This is especially the case whenever M’Baku (Winston Duke) or Shuri were involved.

The only criticism I would have of Black Panther is that the lighting for the action scenes could have been better so I could see what was going on more clearly than I could. Still, that is a small gripe in an otherwise amazing film which ranks amongst the best in the MCU. Moreover, it has made the wait for Avengers: Infinity War more unbearable than it has been and I cannot wait to return to Wakanda and these characters in that film.

Black Panther Film Review Pin

 

Thor: Ragnarok (Film Review) – Another Fun MCU Film

Thor: Ragnarok is a superhero film directed by Taika Waititi and it is the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is the third individual Thor film in the MCU and it stars Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth.

The story of Thor: Ragnarok focuses on Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who is trying to save Asgard from Hela (Cate Blanchett) and the prophesied Ragnarok. He enlists the help of The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to do this.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Thor: Ragnarok

I went into Thor: Ragnarok with no baggage when it came to the individual Thor films in the MCU. I have never seen Thor or Thor: The Dark World and those films have been divisive. Some say that Thor is great, others say it is okay while Thor: The Dark World is considered to be very mediocre and one of the worst films in the MCU.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor Ragnarok

As a result, my only exposure to Thor in the MCU has been through films such as The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron which I thought were very good and I liked Thor in those films. Chris Hemsworth, for me, has always done a great job at portraying the character he was seemingly born to play. I was looking forward to seeing him in Thor: Ragnarok as well as the rest of a great cast.

Certainly, I would argue that Tom Hiddleston portrays one of the better villains in the MCU as Loki and to see him in a sort of anti-hero role intrigued me. Obviously, Cate Blanchett is a phenomenal actress so I knew that she would deliver as would Mark Ruffalo who I feel is severely underrated as an actor. Moreover, to see Anthony Hopkins and Tessa Thompson (both starring in Westworld) in Thor: Ragnarok was sure to lend some more class. Oh, and Idris Elba; brilliant.

Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk in Thor Ragnarok

Everything seemed to be pointing towards Thor: Ragnarok being great. Certainly, from the marketing, the film looked to be very funny and when you see that Taika Waititi is directing Thor: Ragnarok you must know that you are not in for a typical, conventional film. Before Thor: Ragnarok, the only Taika Waititi film that I had seen was What We Do in the Shadows and I really enjoyed it. It is weird but very funny and it showcases his type of humour quite well.

If he could bring that humour to Thor: Ragnarok, then I was in for a good time with this film and it would cap-off a great year for films in the MCU. Indeed, 2017 has seen the release of both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming which were very entertaining films and, for me, they rank amongst the best that the MCU has given us. I hoped that Thor: Ragnarok would continue this trend of non-stop entertainment before we get to more serious entries in the MCU next year in the form of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

Surtur in Thor Ragnarok

My Thoughts on Thor: Ragnarok

My hopes were realised. Thor: Ragnarok is hilariously entertaining and, once more, the MCU continues to give us fun, consistently good superhero films. From the very beginning, the film established the beautiful cinematography, tone and type of humour we would be getting and it never lets up from there. There were so many brilliant comedic moments that I was surprised Marvel let Taika Waititi get away with some of it.

In fact, I would strongly argue that Thor: Ragnarok rivals Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of pure entertainment. Whether it was the brilliant cameo from Matt Damon or Loki’s reaction to seeing Hulk again after their “incident” in The Avengers, I was laughing at various points throughout the film. All of the characters in this film have their moments of humour yet, to be honest, I have to say that Korg was the stand out character in this regard.

Taika Waititi as Korg in Thor Ragnorok

Korg was actually played by Taika Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok and, by far, he was my favourite thing about the whole film. He had so many great lines in this film and I pray to god that Marvel sees that they have a gem on their hands with this character. I hope he has a much bigger role in MCU films in the future, especially in Avengers: Infinity War because he could provide some great comedic relief in a film that I expect to be very dramatic.

Thor and Loki

While Korg was my favourite character and part of Thor: Ragnarok, that does not take away from the great work that the rest of the cast did in this film. Chris Hemsworth once again proved how great he is as Thor and his dynamic with Loki really showcased how great their chemistry is with each other. Moreover, seeing Tom Hiddleston as Loki in an anti-hero role was a nice thing to see after his villainous role in The Avengers. His character and relationship with Thor was really fleshed out in Thor: Ragnarok and it made the film better as a consequence.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor Ragnarok

The Hulk was another character who had some brilliant moments in the film, especially with Thor. Indeed, seeing these two argue like petulant brothers in one scene was hilarious and credit should go to Mark Ruffalo in this regard. It is not easy to play what is essentially two different characters in Hulk and Bruce Banner and he found the right blend of being funny but also dramatic and poignant when he was wrestling with his identity in the film. He has done this brilliantly in previous MCU films and he did it again in Thor: Ragnarok.

I mentioned that Matt Damon had a small cameo in Thor: Ragnarok but that was for comedic purposes rather than something that would further the story. However, another cameo in Thor: Ragnarok was important in this regard and that was the small role that Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) played. We essentially saw an extended version of the post-credits scene that we saw in Doctor Strange and it was cool to have these two films connected like this.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk in Thor Ragnarok

More importantly, I think that the interaction between Thor and Doctor Strange has established a relationship that will have importance in future films in the MCU. It also led us to a great scene between Thor, Loki and their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Clearly, Anthony Hopkins brings a lot of gravitas to any role he is in and the scene that took place in Norway between Odin and his sons was very poignant. In a film such as Thor: Ragnarok, you needed a good blend of comedy and drama and the moments that involved Anthony Hopkins as Odin gave the film the dramatic heft that was required.

The Negatives of Thor: Ragnarok

Still, this brings me onto something that is not really a negative of Thor: Ragnarok but it did hinder my appreciation of it. Seeing as I have not watched Thor or Thor: The Dark World, my appreciation for moments in the film such as the one between Odin, Thor and Loki were not as big as they could have been bigger. Moreover, some stuff in the film that involved Loki as well as Heimdall (Idris Elba) kind of went over my head because I do not know what happened with these characters in Thor or Thor: The Dark World. So, it is not the film’s fault that I did not appreciate some of the stuff in it but my own.

Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor Ragnarok

Nonetheless, one element of Thor: Ragnarok that I believe was a negative was Hela. Marvel has always had a problem with its villains. Most of the time, they come across as one-note and bland. While I think Cate Blanchett gave a good performance as Hela, the arc that her character went through in this film was not one that allowed her to shine or have a lot of depth. Overall, Hela was quite forgettable and, to be honest, so was Jeff Goldblum. I enjoyed him in the film because he is Jeff Goldblum but I could never take him seriously. He was more of a caricature than a character.

My Final Thoughts on Thor: Ragnarok

On the other hand, one character who was not forgettable was Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Some film critics/pundits argued that Tessa Thompson was the best thing about Thor: Ragnarok. While I give that accolade to Korg, there is no denying that she was great in the film and her character went through every scene she was in with a drunken swagger that was very entertaining.

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in Thor Ragnarok

Indeed, the whole film is entertaining and it solidifies 2017 as a great year for comic book films. If you have not see Thor: Ragnarok, then I urge you to do so as soon as you can because it also caps off a year where the films in the MCU have been funny but also dramatic where it needed to be. Now, we look forward to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War which I am sure will be just as good if not better than the MCU films of 2017 but in different ways.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film Review) – Thoroughly Entertaining

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superhero film directed by John Watts and it is the sixteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Tom Holland reprises his role as the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man/Peter Parker after his debut in Captain America: Civil War.

The cast for Spider-Man: Homecoming also includes Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr. The story of the film focuses on Peter Parker as he tries to find the balance between being both Spider-Man and a teenager at high-school while also dealing with the looming threat of The Vulture (Michael Keaton).

My Knowledge and Expectation of Spider-Man: Homecoming

To say that Spider-Man: Homecoming has been a film that I have been highly anticipating would be an understatement. My excitement for Homecoming mainly comes from how much I loved Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. To me, his scenes and Spider-Man himself were the best parts of a film which, overall, I found to be good but overrated.

I hoped that the good foundation that was laid for Spider-Man in Civil War would be built upon in Homecoming which would also further the MCU in the process. Additionally, I could not wait to see the continuation of Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s relationship with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and I was curious to see whether The Vulture could buck the trend of underwhelming villains in the MCU. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive so, with all of this in mind, I was expecting good things from Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man/Peter Parker in Spider-Man Homecoming

My Thoughts on Spider-Man: Homecoming

After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I thought that it would be tough for any superhero film coming out in 2017 that is in the MCU to be better. Spider-Man: Homecoming achieves this. This film is so entertaining and it is another success for Marvel. I was smiling from beginning to end and the film is a fantastic blend of being a superhero film and a coming-of-age film. In fact, Spider-Man: Homecoming did remind me at times of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and a direct reference to that film is made in Homecoming which was nice to see.

A big reason why Spider-Man: Homecoming is so great and enjoyable is because of Tom Holland. He continues right where he left off from Civil War and comes across as a real teenager. We can see that he is struggling with all the normal pressures of puberty, adolescence and high-school in addition to his superhero abilities. It is very easy to connect to Holland’s Spider-Man/Peter Parker and he is so likeable, awkward and funny in Spider-Man: Homecoming. I cannot wait to see more of Spider-Man as he has become one of my favourite characters in the MCU.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Spider-Man Homecoming

Moreover, his relationship with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) was another highlight of the film as it felt extremely natural and authentic. I also liked Michelle (Zendaya) as she provided some enjoyable dry humour and seeing Donald Glover in his small role was cool to watch. Still, my favourite interactions that Tom Holland had in Spider-Man: Homecoming were with Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr.

Since the MCU began with Iron Man in 2008, Robert Downey Jr. has been consistently brilliant and he continues this in his small but important role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in this film. We had the perfect amount of Robert Downey Jr. and, instead of overshadowing, he enhanced the character of Spider-Man/Peter Parker. This gave Tom Holland the chance to successfully lead this film.

A nice surprise in Spider-Man: Homecoming was just how good The Vulture was as the villain in this film. Michael Keaton does a fantastic job in portraying one of the best villains in the MCU to date because he is a very sympathetic character. While he is committing bad acts, the motivations and the reasons why he is leading a life of crime is very understandable. He is much more layered than other villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which means that he ranks amongst my favourite villains in the MCU.

Michael Keaton as The Vulture in Spider-Man Homecoming

Other elements of Spider-Man: Homecoming that impressed me were the action and the visual effects and, in this regard, I must give a lot of credit to director John Watts. I knew nothing about him going into this film and I feel like he is going to get a lot more opportunities after how well he directed Homecoming.

He crafted a film which is another entertaining chapter in the MCU and elevates Spider-Man to a place where he is now an integral part of this franchise. I know that this is the second reboot of this character and that may put you off seeing this film. I urge you to reconsider as I guarantee that you will leave the cinema much happier after you have seen what is, for me personally, one of the most entertaining films of 2017 so far.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Film Review) – A Worthy Sequel

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a superhero film directed by James Gunn and stars an ensemble cast featuring Chris PrattZoe SaldanaDave BautistaVin DieselBradley CooperMichael RookerKaren GillanPom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. This is the fifteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and takes place right after the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. In Vol. 2, we focus on how the team are coping with their status as Guardians while also delving deeper into the parentage of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).

My Knowledge and Expectation of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

My expectations for this film were extremely high…until last week. I should set this review up by stating that, while I have enjoyed most of the films that I have seen in the MCU, they are disposable. The reason for this is down to the fact that I did not grow up with the characters in the MCU. I never read the comics or watched the animated shows. As a result, I do not have an emotional connection to the characters in the MCU and, consequently, no emotional connection to the films.

However, my favourite film in the MCU is Guardians of the Galaxy. I loved the humour and the fact that the film was completely separate from the rest of the films in the MCU. It worked as a standalone superhero film and I was eagerly anticipating Vol. 2 as I would be reunited with the characters I love such as Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) who is now in baby form.

Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Yet, early reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 tempered my expectations slightly. While the majority were good, I interpreted a consensus that Vol. 2 was not as good as Guardians of the Galaxy. As a result, I was expecting a good, entertaining experience rather than a near-flawless film.

My Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Overall, I found Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to be a tremendously enjoyable and a worthy sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy. While not as good as the original, there was a lot to love about Vol. 2. For instance, I found the humour in this film to be brilliant. Drax was the character who provided most of the film’s funniest moments but the chemistry between the entire ensemble cast was a big factor in how funny this film was. You can tell that the cast had a great time making this film and it benefited the quality of it in the process.

The use of music was another element of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that worked very well. For me, the highlights were the use of Mr. Blue Sky’ in the opening scene and I liked the re-occurrence of The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac throughout the film. I was a bit disappointed that ‘Fox on the Run’ was not in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 after its use for the films’ trailer. However, that is a very small nit-pick and it did not worsen my experience.

I also thought that the visuals in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were vibrant and they really added to the fantastic viewing experience I had. In terms of character development, while I found Peter Quill’s arc to be good and at times quite poignant, it was surprisingly Yondu (Michael Rooker) who was developed as a character to the best extent. That was one of the nicest surprises in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Still, it is a film which could not recapture the freshness of the original.

Yondu and Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But, in hindsight, it was a difficult task for James Gunn to recapture the originality and freshness that Guardians of the Galaxy had. Vol 2. also has a story which is more incoherent than its predecessor and the second act is a bit slow. I also thought that Karen Gillan gave a performance as Nebula which was a bit over-the-top.

Yet, as I have said, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy sequel and a worthy entry in the MCU. I cannot wait to see the Guardians show up in future Marvel films. Additionally, I am really pleased that James Gunn is returning for a third Guardians of the Galaxy film which will hopefully provide the same amount of enjoyment I had with Vol. 2.

Doctor Strange (Film Review) – Unique and Familiar

Doctor Strange is a superhero film directed by Scott Derrickson which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who suffers a tragic car accident which ends his career and guides him down a desperate path which eventually leads him to studying the mystic arts from the Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. This is the fourteenth film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and I was curious to see if Marvel could continue its streak of making consistently good films.

The Ancient One teaches the Mystic Arts to Doctor Strange

My Thoughts on Doctor Strange

I am pleased to say that they have and they have done it in a very unique but familiar way. The uniqueness of Doctor Strange is purely down to its stunning visuals. Honestly, I struggle to think of another film which has better visual effects than Doctor Strange. It is like Inception but on steroids and LSD.

Watching Doctor Strange was an enthralling experience and some of the things which are set up in this film are very new and have the potential to take the MCU in a very strange direction (I promise no pun was intended!). I also thought that the performances in this film were excellent across the board, particularly from Cumberbatch and Swinton. Still, good performances in an MCU film are a normal expectation nowadays.

This brings us unto the elements of Doctor Strange which feel very familiar in a MCU film. Firstly, the humour in this film was, for the most part, very good. Secondly, the structure of this film was very formulaic but well executed in terms of telling an origin story. These were the positive aspects of the film which felt familiar.

Again, A Weak Villain

However, the negative aspect of this familiarity was that the villain, played by Mads Mikkelsen was very forgettable. While this is the norm in MCU films, it was a real shame considering that Mikkelsen has played really captivating antagonists in the past such as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. He felt a bit wasted in this film.

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius in Doctor Strange

Still, weak villains in the MCU have not hugely affected the overall quality of MCU films in the past and they are not about to with Doctor Strange. Overall, Doctor Strange has some unique, new and exciting elements which elevate the film to a place where its familiar aspects, both positive and negative, do not diminish the quality of the film. For me personally, this is a very good film which I would highly recommend to both hardcore and casual fans of the MCU.