A confusingly claimed final instalment of the two-decade franchise, Dark Phoenix is something of a boring, anticlimactic mess.
The end of the prequels (set in the 1990s where the original X-Men first stepped in) sees a few changes to the storylines of future and past as Jean Grey (Sophie Turner – X-Men: Apocalypse, TV’s Game of Thrones) comes to terms with her mutation and a corrupting power that turns her into a Dark Phoenix. The rest of the team need to reach her before the alien Vuk (Jessica Chastain – The Help, Zero Dark Thirty) taps into that power and brings destruction to mankind.
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult et al are all ever present as our favourite mutants – but in writer/director Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut, all have little input as Jean goes on the rampage, angered as she is by McAvoy and his blocking of her truth of the car-accident that killed her parents.
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), it’s a welcome sombre note to the Marvel proceedings, particularly after the wall-to-wall battles of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
After the defeat by Thanos (Josh Brolin) and destruction of half the world’s population, the surviving Avengers are (mostly) unsurprisingly resigned and introspective – even Iron Man himself (Robert Downey Junior) has settled into an idyllic familial rural lifestyle. But the sudden ‘spitting out’ of Ant Man (a very funny Paul Rudd) from the quantum realm changes everything.
It’s a fittingly gargantuan and fabulously grandiose conclusion of 22 Marvel films – but with its humour, pathos and not too much reliance on excessive battles, the result is Avengers: Endgame is suitably one of the best.
Generic and somewhat flat, the latest in the Marvel universe is an uninspiring genesis film.
A generally unconvincing Oscar-winning Brie Larson (Room, Kong: Skull Island) finds herself on the wrong side of good in a galactic war that, slowly, reveals her human roots. Mentor Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Cold Mountain) encourages the latest superhero to overcome her emotions in the fight against the Skrulls – but contact with former (human) friends and SHIELD agents, including (a digitally enhanced) Samuel L Jackson, undermine her training.
The underlying humour (Jackson and the cat in particular) make Captain Marvel passable, but directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Billions, Half Nelson) are sadly out of their indie film/TV comfort zone.
It’s telling when, in director Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, the most engaging moments are the two (short) scenes between Tom Hardy (The Revenant, Inception) and his local Asian female shopkeeper.
Venom is a unimaginative bombast of an origin film as Hardy acquires the power of an alien symbiote as an alter ego in his (initially reluctant) battle with power-crazed Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed – The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Nightcrawler).
In spite of all the CGI, the latest in the Marvel Comic oeuvre feels somewhat dated and wastes a great deal of talent. It’s an uninspiring yarn lacking any sense of the fun expected from a director responsible for Zombieland and Gangster Squad.
Marvel’s follow-up to the refreshing 2016 Deadpool is a templated repeat formula of the first film – but with no suspense, off-the-mark humour and a derivative storyline.
Ryan Reynolds is back as the foul-mouthed Wade Wilson – and it’s fellow mutants who need to band together to save the young Firefist (Julian Dennison – Hunt for the Wilder People, Paper Planes) from the time-travelling Cyborg, Cable (Josh Brolin – Sicario, George W.)
An interesting casting decision regarding Brolin as Cable and Thanos in The Avengers but that’s where any interest in Deadpool 2 begins and ends. A bore.
The behemoth that is Marvel Comics continues unabated with the next instalment of its superhero comic characters. Yet, in spite of new blood attached to The Avengers in the guise of The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers: Infinity War is the same same and not really very different. Result is that, whilst occasionally funny and occasionally exciting, it all gets monotonously boring.
Thanos (Josh Brolin – Milk, Sicario) is looking to collect all six Infinity Stones to cull the universe: The Avengers needless to say are out to stop him. Problem is they’re spread all over the universe. And that’s how it predominantly stays with various superheroes separately in battle with Thanos or his sidekicks. The fractured nature of physical presence (were they all ever on the set at the same time?) is reflected in a fractured narrative that is repetitive and ultimately dull.
There’s no question that the latest in the Marvel Comic franchise is politically important with its virtually all-black cast. And director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) has bought more than a touch of meaningful social commentary with him. But you can’t help thinking that Black Panther is more than a little over-hyped.
It’s an incredibly slow start with its origin story and photogenic African savannah panoramas. And while the court of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman – Get On Up, Captain America: Civil War) livens up considerably, a sluggish Black Panther is upstaged by his senior general, Danai Gurira (Mother of George, All Eyez On Me), as well as the villain of the peace, Michael B Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Creed).
The Marvel Comics domination of all things box-office continues unabated with the third instalment of the Thor stand-alones (although Thor: Ragnarok also features Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner /The Hulk).
There’s a lot of humour in the latest episode as Thor (a returning Chris Hemsworth) must face up to not only his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) but his unknown-he-had-one sister, Hela (a splendidly vindictive Cate Blanchett – Lord of the Rings, Carol), intent on revenge for her banishment from Asgard.
It’s entertaining enough (courtesy primarily of NZ director Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows) and a considerable improvement on the previous Thor: The Dark World, although the constant on-screen battles of all things Avengers is starting to wear more than a little thin.
An adolescent superhero within an adolescent storyline. The cheeky charm of Tom Holland (The Impossible, How I Live Now), introduced as Peter Parker in a cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil War wears thin over the length of Jon Watts’ (Cop Car, Clown) first foray into the Marvel canon.
A predictable storyline (youth ignored by adults who therefore relies on his own wits to save the day) with a flat, uninvolving telling with little real excitement and only the occasional flashes of humour. That’s Spiderman: Homecoming.