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.

Logan (Film Review) – A Great Character Study

Logan is a superhero film directed by James Mangold and stars Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. Jackman plays Logan/Wolverine for the final time in the tenth instalment of the X-Men film franchise. Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor X/Charles Xavier for the final time too. The story of the film focuses on an ageing Logan who is caring for Professor X in a dystopian future where mutants are nearly extinct. But, despite the dangers, Logan embarks on one final mission; to transport Laura/X-23 (Dafne Keen) to “Eden”.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Logan

I have a very tumultuous relationship with the X-Men franchise. For me personally, X-Men is a pretty good film and X2 is one of my favourite superhero films of all time. X-Men: The Last Stand is not a good film but I don’t hate it as much as everyone else does. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, on the other hand, is complete and utter garbage. I liked X-Men: First Class a lot and enjoyed The Wolverine up until the last 10-15 minutes where it drops in quality.

Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman in Logan

My biggest issue with the franchise came after I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past which I now see as a great film. Still, after I watched it for the first time, I did not like how the timeline was reset at the end. It made films which I have a deep connection to such as X-Men and X2 redundant. However, X-Men: Apocalypse was a film I really liked and it changed my feelings towards the ending of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Going into Logan, I was in a relatively good place with the X-Men franchise despite its ridiculous continuity issues which I doubt will ever be fixed. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to Logan due to the critical acclaim it was receiving as well as seeing Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, two actors who I have great affinity for in this franchise, for the final time.

My Thoughts on Logan

Overall, Logan is a very good film and a great character study of Wolverine. Certainly, Hugh Jackman gives his best performance as Logan/Wolverine. It has depth and he is much more of a tragic and brutal character than we have seen before. We really delved into Logan’s emotions and how the tragedy of what he has gone through in the past has taken him to a point where he is devoid of hope.

Dafne Keen and Hugh Jackman in Logan

Patrick Stewart was stellar and Dafne Keen was also very good for such a young actress. It was more of a physical performance than a speaking one but she does have some lines in the third act of Logan. I would have preferred it if she was silent until her final scene as it would have been more emotionally affecting but she was awesome as X-23.

The action in Logan is pretty great too. It is gory, raw and fresh compared to what we have seen in previous X-Men films and in superhero films in general. In fact, I contend that Logan is more of a western than a superhero film. Its setting and pacing make it a film which is more in the vein of something like Unforgiven than say a film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its ability to transcend the superhero genre reminds me of The Dark Knight. Still, I find Logan, while a very good film, to be a lesser film than its DC counterpart.

Hugh Jackman in Logan

The Flaws of Logan

While I liked the pacing for the most parts, it is a little bit uneven at times. Moreover, while the ending of the film is emotional, I found other scenes which were supposed to be emotional to be lacking in this regard. I think part of this is because of the fact that, deep down, the continuity issues with the X-Men franchise prevent me from buying into Logan as part of the franchise.

Certainly, while this film attempts to connect to what has happened before in the franchise, it is better to see Logan as a standalone film that is a character study set in the genre of westerns rather than superhero films. If you can do this, then you can really appreciate Logan for what it is.

The Lego Batman Movie (Film Review) – Fast-Paced, Vibrant and Fun

The Lego Batman Movie is an animated film directed by Chris McKay and is a spin-off/sequel to The Lego Movie with the story focusing on Batman and his attempt to overcome his greatest fears in order to stop his greatest villain, The Joker. Will Arnett reprises his role of voicing Batman with Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes also providing voices to The Joker, Robin, Barbara Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth respectively.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Lego Batman Movie

This film has had a really good marketing campaign which is necessary to let the wider public know about its release. Still, for those who really loved The Lego Movie, this sequel/spin-off has been highly anticipated, especially as it focuses on Batman who, in my opinion, was one of the best things about The Lego Movie. Plus, he is probably the most popular superhero ever and certainly the greatest within DC. Hence, it made sense that the next instalment in the Lego film franchise would be about Batman.

Batman and Barbara Gordon in The Lego Batman Movie

My Thoughts on The Lego Batman Movie

I am really pleased that the franchise went in this direction because The Lego Batman Movie is a really good film that continues the fun-filled nature of The Lego Movie. Truly, the film is enjoyable throughout thanks to a great script full of snappy jokes and clever pop-culture references/call-backs which really do come and go in the blink of an eye. You are never bored while watching The Lego Batman Movie but you can also miss some jokes so you do have to pay attention. Then again, this makes the film really re-watchable as you will pick up on things you missed before when you watch it again.

The animation in The Lego Batman Movie is also tremendous. It is vibrant, gorgeous to look at and makes the film feel really fluid which complements its fast-pacing and just adds to how people of all ages can enjoy this film. The voice work by the cast is great as well. Will Arnett continues where he left off in The Lego Movie as Batman and I thought Ralph Fiennes was a perfect choice as Alfred. Still, the whole cast gave good performances and they had great chemistry.

Batman in The Lego Batman Movie

One thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was how emotional this film was at times. There is a really heartfelt story running throughout this film about overcoming fears and the importance of relationships/family. It really gave The Lego Batman Movie some depth which enhanced a film that I have no major problems with. There are a lot of great things in this film which anyone can appreciate. If you are a fan of The Lego Movie or animation, then you have to see this film while you can because I will be shocked if you do not enjoy it.

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.