Film review: Venom

These days you can split the Marvel super-hero flicks into two camps: the films made by Disney (who own Marvel Comics), and the films made by Sony.  Sony has made a nice little niche for itself by snapping up franchises for the movies that are much less family friendly: the likes of our old friend Deadpool, and now, Venom.

The film follows Eddie Brock, ably played by the infinitely versatile (if you don’t mind the mumbling) Tom Hardy. Brock is a down-on-his-luck and somewhat self-centred journalist who, by way of crashed spaceships, mad scientists and poor security at airports, finds himself bonded to an alien parasite/symbiote that grants him superhuman powers. Now, the alien itself seems to get tetchy when you tell it it’s a parasite, but since it starts feeding on its host’s organs if not regular supplied with live prey, then I’m sure it’s a lot closer to a parasite than a symbiote – though should I ever encounter one I’ll probably keep my opinions to myself.

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Deadpool 2

This was always going to be a chancer, but Ryan Reynolds and co. have managed to pull it off … but only just.

First, the good: the film is funny. It’s very funny. Not as funny as the first one, but still gets a few good laughs through a two hour stretch that could have done with being a little more pacey in places. Reynolds relies a lot on breaking the fourth wall to keep the smirks coming, but I think the trick doesn’t work quite as well as it did in the first outing.

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And the film is good. Well … when I say good, I mean that it knocks the spots off anything the DC Universe has produced to date, but when compared with the rest of the Marvel/Sony collection, I’d say its sailing near the lower-middle of the pack.

Okay, Ryan Reynolds was obviously born to play Deadpool and Josh Brolin turned in a creditable performance as Cable, though it was probably a little more intense than I was expecting. Zazie Beetz (no, I have no idea who she is) was really good as Domino, which again was something of a surprise because I’m assuming this isn’t her day job.

The script was okay, but it lacked the relaxed, anarchic feel of the first outing. I got the impression that writers were out to prove that the phenomenal success Deadpool 1 wasn’t a fluke, and as a result they ended up trying too hard. Some of the humour seemed forced, and some of the sequences leading up to the joke were a little contrived. The plot bounced all over the place, occasionally flying off on blind tangents,just about holding the story together, but not always keeping the audience interested.

A nod to the action sequences though: some of the best fight scenes I’ve seen on screen; just a pity there weren’t more of them.

If you’re a fan and you liked the first one, then definitely see the sequel. If you’re kind of on the fence about the whole Deadpool thing then you might be a little disappointed. It’s a good movie; I just expected better.

Six out of ten.

Review: Black Panther

 

Well, it’s already smashing records so it doesn’t really matter  what I say about it, not that that’s going to stop me…

Black Panther is possibly the most hyped super-hero flick of all time, and remembering the circus that travelled with Wonder Woman, that’s really taken some doing. That level of exposure risks disappointment, especially amongst fans of the Black Panther comic, as well as drawing the ire from those who may be less than comfortable with the ideas it represents (a hidden African nation that resisted slavery and exploitation, and so prospers to become the most socially and technologically advanced civilisation on Earth) It’s never going to please everyone, so Ryan Coogler did what all good directors do: he read the story, understood what it was about, and then went on to deliver something that was as true to original as he could manage.

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Sure it was missing a few bits (there was little mention of T’Challa’s intelligence, which is as least as important as his physical prowess), but the story was tight and the action was evenly paced. The dialogue was nothing to write home about, but it did have those nice humourous touches that Disney/Marvel do so well. The special effects were top notch and the setting were amazing; a lot of work has gone into imagining a world that blends African tradition with hi-tech wizardry, and they pulled it off beautifully.

Performances were creditable all round, though I don’t think anyone stood out in particular for me, which is probably not a bad thing when I think about it.  The African accents were … passable, but the occasional ‘Americanism’ crept in here and there, which sort of took you out of the moment. Annoying, but infrequent enough that they aren’t really going to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the movie.

Most super-hero films avoid making any sort of political comment; Black Panther dives straight in, and for that reason I’m expecting it to see a lot of flack in a few weeks when the hype’s died down. DC tried to go political with the somewhat hastily prepared Black Lightning, exploring the plight of black people in city ghettos, but avoiding any exploration of the underlying causes.  Black Panther doesn’t shy away, and that’s commendable. I’m not sure it represents a bold new direction for the genre, but it’s certainly the most entertaining and memorable super hero flick to date.

I’m going to give it ten out ten.