Number three in the Ant-Man stand alone features – and sadly much of the irreverence and humour is lost in a dull, unengaging adventure narrative.
Turns out Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer – Hairspray, Dangerous Liaisons) wasn’t completely forthcoming in her time in the Quantum Realm. A whole convoluted universe (think Star Wars) exists where power struggles are fought – and Janet was a key member of the rebel forces against Kang (Jonathan Majors – Da 5 Bloods, Creed III). Dragged back into the realm, Scott (Paul Rudd – Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Fundamentals of Caring)and now-teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton – Ben Is Back, TV’s Big Little Lies) find themselves separated from the Van Dynes. They need to find a way to come together and prevent Kang escaping the Quantum Realm into their real world.
Derivative storytelling and visuals, the third Ant-Man from director Peyton Reed is sadly lacking in any sense of excitement or urgency. Moving from scenario to scenario, there’s little in the way of connection between the combined saviours of the world. Dull.
Thirteen years in the waiting since Avatar with Jake Sully now living as a Na’vi with his family in the forests of Pandora. But the familial idyll is threatened, forcing them to leave and find protection elsewhere.
Happy family life of Jake (Sam Worthington – Clash of the Titans, Transfusion) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana – The Adam Project, Infinitely Polar Bear) in the forests of Pandora is threatened by the return of a too familiar adversary. Only a cloned Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang – The Independent, The Lost City) and his grunts are in a very different guise. With Jake targetted for revenge, the family leave the forests to protect their people and find a home in the coastal settlements of the webbed Na’vi, led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis – Doctor Sleep, The Dark Horse) and his initially unwelcoming wife, Ronal (Kate Winslet – Ammonite, The Dressmaker).
Unsurprisingly, Avatar: the Way of Water is a visual feast as James Cameron (Avatar, The Terminator) takes us into the depths of Pandora’s oceans and a gamut of new creatures, friendly or otherwise, and environments fill the screen. But as a narrative, it feels little more than the repeat button has been firmly pressed but with an increase in cuteness as young family members feature. The result is a tedious overlong slog of same, same. It does not bode well for films 3, 4 and 5.
Nominated for 4 Oscars in 2023 including best film, production design, sound – won 1 for best visual effects.
A tour de force adventure love story that sees director/writer/producer James Cameron exponentially raise the technical bar once again in this stunning fantasy tale.
Marine grunt Jake Sully (Sam Worthington – Hackshaw Ridge, Cake) and recent paraplegic finds himself in demand on the distant Pandora on the death of his scientist twin brother. Sully shares identical DNA – and under Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver – Alien, Gorillas in the Mist) massive advances in the use of avatars have been made, of which Tom was a crucial team member. The seven foot blue avatars are being used to get to know the native humanoid indigenous Na’vi.
But the planet is under threat from mining interests: Sully is instructed to keep Colonel Miles Quiritch (Stephen Lang – Public Enemies, Conan the Barbarian) in the loop of Augustine’s plans. Torn between orders and protecting the world he feels is his home, as the avatar and able to walk Sully falls for Neytiri (Zoe Saldana – Star Trek, The Guardians of the Galaxy).
Cameron (Titanic, Aliens) transports the viewer to a completely new world of the imagination. Visually stunning, Avatar is a tale of heart and message as corporate greed destroys community, tradition and the order of things. But it’s also a love story celebrating difference and respect of the tradition being destroyed.
Nominated for 9 Oscars in 2010 including best film, director, editing, won 3 – cinematography (Mauro Fiore – Southpaw, The Equalizer), visual effects, art direction. But of course, regardless, it went on to become the most successful film at the international box office in history.
A macho strut sequel to the earlier space invaders of Independence Day, part two is little more than a rehash of the original – only everything is exponentially bigger.
Some 20 years after the original invasion, as predicted the aliens are back and bringing with them the mother ship carrying the egg laying queen. New defence systems have been built – but will they hold? Scientists David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum – The Fly, Jurassic World: Dominion) and his dad Julius (Judd Hirsch – The Fabelmans, Independence Day), along with the rest of the world, certainly hope so. But if it gets a little too close for comfort, there’s always pilots Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher – The Banker, Shaft), son of the first film hero Will Smith, and Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth – The Hunger Games, Poker Face) waiting in the wings. And just to ensure there’s an element of gender balance, Maika Monroe (Honey Boy, Significant Other), daughter of former president Whitmore (Bill Pullman – Dark Waters, The Coldest Game), is more than a dab hand flying jets.
A trashy, overblown, big budget sequel to a film that didn’t need a sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, directed by Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC), a director known for trashy, overblown, big budget features is an almost joyless (Goldblum’s humour the exception) tedium.
The passing of Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa/Black Panther respectfully and movingly prequels Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, his absence constantly felt.
And sadly, as grief pervades, so the narrative and focus of the feature struggles in Boseman’s absence. With the throne passing to his mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett – What’s Love Got To Do With It, Black Panther), the world looks to unsettling the power base and gain access to vibranium. As T’Challa’s sister Suria (Letitia Wright – Black Panther, Ready Player One) attempts to create a new Black Panther to protect Wakanda, so an underwater empire led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta – Sin Nombre, Bel Canto) threatens both the African state and global stability.
Director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station) returns but brings with him something of a plodding approach lacking in any real thrills.The power base certainly shifts as Wakandan women rise even more to the fore but the lack of focus as to the direction of the storyline undermines and confuses.
Nominated for 5 Oscars in 2023.
When Gorr looks to make the gods extinct, Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-lover, the dying Jane Foster (Natalie Portman – Black Swan, Thor) with her newly found superpowers.
After the irreverant humour of director Taika Waititi’s first foray into the world of Thor (Thor: Ragnarok), this latest episode somewhat overeggs the pudding with many of the jokes falling flat. As Hemsworth and Portman rekindle their love, so a splenetic Gorr (Christian Bale – The Dark Knight, Exodus) looks to total annhilation.
It’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe outing, so it’s inevitably all things visual with plenty of destructive battles. But Waikiki teeters on adventure versus comedy with a smattering of romance resulting in a somewhat juvenile hotchpotch (what’s with the two goats?).
The first Alien film without Sigourney Weaver and Ripley, Prometheus, set in 2093, sees Ridley Scott return to the director’s seat in what can certainly be seen as a prequel to the later films.
Visually impressive, deeply stylish, Prometheus is an ambitious genesis exploration as renowned archaeologist, Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace – The Drop, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), and her partner, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green – Across the Universe, Upgrade) follow clues to the origin of mankind. Initially based on earth, they are financed for a deep-space scientific expedition to discover the existence of the superior extraterrestrial species, the Engineers. But like all of the films in the series, nothing goes according to plan, even with the likes of Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Thor) as captain and Charlize Theron (Bombshell, Monster) as company representative on board the space ship, Prometheus.
More adventure thriller than horror, Prometheus is something of a sumptuous hollow crown. But there is the magnificently manipulative Michael Fassbender (Shame, Steve Jobs) as the android, David.
Nominated for the 2013 best visual effects Oscar.
Famed for the half-court basketball shot, Alien: Resurrection sees Ripley (Sigourney Weaver – Alien, Working Girl) revived as a powerful human/alien hybrid clone 200 years after her death on Fiorina 161, the maximum security prison of Alien 3.
Genetic cloning is the key to director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s (Amelie, Bigbug) foray into sci-fi. The Company is looking to extract the alien from the then pregnant Ripley. But experiments have seen her DNA fused with the queen, resulting in one kickass superclone. Restricted to the science lab space ship where more experiments on the aliens are taking place (who, of course, escape), Alien: Resurrection is an oddball haunted house tale as the likes of Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence, TV’s Stranger Things) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Nightmare Alley) look to destroy the labs – and survive.
To be honest, the whole thing is something of a mess that adds little to the development of the franchise – but it’s an eminently watchable mess.
A return to the more confined, claustrophobic setting of Alien by director David Fincher (Gone Girl, Se7en) after the excesses of James Cameron’s Aliens, Alien 3 was surprisingly slammed by critics and fans alike.
Having escaped LV-426 and the egg-laying Queen with Corporal Hicks and young girl Newt at the end of Aliens, Ripley’s hyper sleep is not what was anticipated. A crash landing on Fiorina 161, an all-male maximum security prison, reveals her two companions dead – and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver – Avatar, Ghostbusters) far from alone.
The few almost forgotten inmates within the decrepit prison structure are sitting ducks as, after initial deep suspicion, Ripley convinces the men there’s a threat far greater than she as a woman (many of the men have found a episcopalian religion under the leadership of Leonard Dillon (a deeply threatening Charles S. Dutton – Legion, A Time to Kill)). But then Ripley discovers she has more bad news.
Stylishly shot in a muted grey palette, Fincher’s austere, character-driven episode of the franchise is less blockbuster, more arthouse.
Nominated for best visual effects Oscar in 1993.
The big budget follow up to the deeply disturbing Alien, James Cameron’s (Avatar, The Terminator) Aliens sadly lacks the psychological undercurrent of its predecessor. Instead, Aliens is simply a testosterone-fuelled high adventure war film.
With Lt Ripley (Sigourney Weaver – Avatar, Paul) the only survivor from the ill-fated Nostromo, she finds herself disbelieved and dismissed from duty. The Company refuses to accept her story. In the 57 years Ripley has been in hyper sleep, there’s been no reported problems from LV-426 on which the Nostromo landed. But then communication with the planet is lost.
Reluctantly agreeing to travel, on arrival the planet settlement is found to be deserted – with the exception of Newt, a surviving young girl. Taking her under her wing, Ripley discovers she is in the company of trigger happy grunts – and a Company representative (Paul Reiser – Whiplash, Diner) determined to recover the aliens for biological weapon research.
It’s a full-on, blast-your-way-out-of-trouble approach from Cameron that ultimately becomes dull and tedious – not helped by a Newt that spends most of the time she is on screen screaming.
Nominated for 7 Oscars in 1987 including best actress, editing, art/set direction, won 2 for best visual and sound effects.