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).
My review of films released in Australia continues with my top five male performances.
As with female performances, there were a limited number of stand-outs – and looking through films seen in the year made me aware that many of the highlights were ensemble pieces (Moonlight, Dunkirk, Danish film Land of Mine etc).
But my top five male performances for 2017 are:
5: Hugh Jackman: Logan
4: Josh O’Connor: God’s Own Country
3: Will Poulter: Detroit
2: James McAvoy: Split
1: Casey Affleck: Manchester by the Sea
Number five is something of a surprise – it was a toss up between Jackman and Joel Edgerton in Loving. But in his final appearance as Wolverine, Jackman introduced a level of humanity and vulnerability to a character who, in previous films, was something of a two-dimensional superhero.
Set in Yorkshire, God’s Own Country was described as an English Brokeback Mountain, and lonely, isolated Josh O’Connor was suitably dour and monosyllabic prior to the arrival of the Romanian casual labour, Gheorghe.
Whilst Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit was very much an ensemble piece, there was no ignoring that Will Poulter as the devastatingly sadistic white supremacist police officer and murderous psychopath was the stand-out.
A multiple personality disorder provides James McAvoy with a dream series of roles in Split – ranging from a nerdish nine year-old Hedwig, the reasoned Barry (a fashion designer) through to the menacing Patricia and disturbing Dennis. It’s a role McAvoy deserves to gain more accolades.
But it’s the quiet, nuanced Oscar-winning performance by Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea that gets my final vote.
A ponderous launch of the DC superhero collective as a ponderous Ben Affleck looks to bring together the not-so-happy cohort. With the honourable Superman (Henry Cavill) no longer in the picture and crime on the increase, it’s no easy task for Batman and his latest ally, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).
The rise of Steppenwolf, dormant for 5,000 years, and the threat to mankind finally brings Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) into the mix.
Justice League has its moments but as an entertainment, it needs a more convincing lightness of touch and humour. Battle scenes are pedestrian, the chirpy Flash humour not quite funny enough, the interface between characters needing work. The Zack Snyder (director) of Sucker Punch is needed!
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.