ORBzine - Marvel Superheroes Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Iron Man

Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr - Shaggy Dog ) is a playboy arms-dealer. While selling weapons to the US Military in Afghanistan he is captured by a militia who force him to build weapons for him.

Stark's experiences as a hostage, combined with an encounter with liberal journalist Leslie Bibb , convince him to give up his arms-manufacturing ways. Creepy-looking business partner Obadiah (Jeff Bridges - ) tries to convince him that this is a mistake - after all, closing his factories would put a hundred thousand workers out of a job!

Stark then ignores his friends USAF officer Terence Howard (Big Mama's House) and sidekick Pepper Potts ( Gwyneth Paltrow ), and spends his spare time perfecting the ultimate weapon, an armoured suit. The CGI version of the mechanics is reminiscent of the Transformers robots, but then they were designed by the same company so it is hardly surprising.

Naturally Stark still has to fight the villains. It is all a bit predictable. Since he is too much for a bunch of men with rifles to take on, it is convenient for the story that a similarly-armoured opponent comes along.

If you wait past the extended credits, there is a final scene that makes it all worthwhile!

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  • Iron Man 2

    Iron Man 2 Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr - Tropic Thunder ) is stalked by crazy Russian weapons designer Mickey Rourke. He also faces competition from the villain from Charlie's Angels.

    Back in the office, Pepper Potts ( Gwyneth Paltrow ) takes over as CEO despite her rivalry with Scarlett Johanson . Journalist Leslie Bibb also pops up.

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  • Incredible Hulk

    Incredible Hulk This is not a direct sequel to the film Hulk . It has been completely re-cast, and there is a new back-story (as shown in the credits). However, it takes off where the first film ended.

    Bruce Banner (Ed Norton - Fight Club ) is living incognito in South America. General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt - ) sends in a snatch team led by psychotic Royal Marine Tim Roth ( Rosenkrantz and Gilderstern Are Dead ) ...

    The military guys certainly do not expect what they run into when the Hulk makes its first appearance. It is bigger, meaner and scarier than in the previous film!

    Bruce ends up returning to the USA, where he needs help from Betty ( Liv Tyler ). There may be a cure for the Gamma Poisoning that causes his transformations - but can he get cured before the US Military can dissect him?

    Despite the incredibly brutal violence, this film is only a PG-13. This leads to a somewhat distracting problem - even in the heat of combat, nobody actually swears!

    The climax, predictably enough, allows our hero to show off his talents against another monster. And like Iron Man , there is a final scene that implies something greater may be in the offing.

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  • Thor

    Thor This was directed by Kenneth Branagh . The title character, Norse God of thunder, is an alien who has superhuman powers (like Superman ). His father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ), exiles him to Earth until he learns to control his warlike urges.

    Thor crashlands in New Mexico, where he befriends scientists Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Saarsgard ( Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest ). However, the MIB Agency of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes an interest. Agent Coulson and Hawkeye the Archer (Jeremy Renner - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol ) turn up the heat on our hero.

  • 2000
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  • Captain America: The First Avenger

    Captain America: The First Avenger It is 1942, and New York's biggest weakling (Chris Evans - Sunshine ) is recruited to the US Army super-soldier program by scientist Stanley Tucci ( The Lovely Bones ) and General Tommy Lee Jones ( Space Cowboys ).

    The villains are a Nazi cabal named HYDRA, commanded by Nazi officer Hugo Weaving ( V for Vendetta ) and scientist Toby Jones ( Your Highness ).

    British Rent-a-villain Richard Armitage ( Robin Hood ) has some great scenes

    This completely fails the Bechdel test. But it does tie in with Iron Man as a lead-in to the forthcoming team-up movie Avengers Assemble .

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  • Marvel Avengers Assemble

    Marvel Avengers Assemble Loki, villain of Thor , is back for more. He has the backing of a mysterious race of aliens. His plan is to steal the Tesseract cube that Hydra used in the recent Captain America Film.

    Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson - Deep Blue Sea ) and his new sidekick (jumpsuit-clad Cobie Smulders ) assemble the Avengers, a mis-matched group of superheroes from other Marvel films.

    Will the villains unleash an army with a thousand speeder-bikes into Manhattan? Is the army controlled the same way the Trade Federation's was in Phantom Menace - by a single control ship? At least the villains in Independence Day could still try to fight back after their control centre was taken out.

    This is the best blockbuster movie of 2012 so far, as good as the best bits of the previous four films put together. If not better. It certainly beats the other Marvel Universe superhero team movies ( X-Men, Fantastic Four ). Despite having three empowered female characters, and a Girl-Power writer-director ( Joss Whedon ), this actually fails the infamous Bechdel test. That said, the test is not a guarantee of quality.

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  • Iron Man 3

    Iron Man 3 This was co-written and directed by Shane Black , who previously directed Robert Downey Jnr in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Black's biggest previous film is Lethal Weapon 2, and this effort seems to mimic it on some levels. The action setpiece that features heavily in the trailer, where the villain's helicopters shoot up the hero's seaside home, and a clifftop house is toppled down the cliff,

    Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr - Tropic Thunder ) spends more time out of the Iron Man suit than in it. But at least his best buddy (Don Cheadle) gets something to do. The story turns into a mixed-race buddy-cop effort, with the explosive climax aboard a freighter in dock.

    It all starts in 1999, when Tony Stark is at a Symposium in Switzerland. He meets biologist Rebecca Hall (she is in everything these days) and eccentric brainiac Guy Pearse ( Lock Out ).

    As the plot thickens, Stark takes on a Bin Laden-like warlord, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley - The Sound of Thunder ).

    Finally, Pepper Potts ( Gwyneth Paltrow ) actually gets to do something!

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  • Thor 2: Dark World

    Thor The movie starts with an exposition splurge by Odin (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ). The Frost Giants are extinct, and the Chitauri are out of the fight, but luckily Asgard has even more enemies. The Dark Elves (reminiscent of the villains of Hellboy 2 ) were once defeated, but this ancient evil will be awoken ... A bit like in Green Lantern .

    Two years after the events of the first film, the human scientists ( Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings ) have relocated from New Mexico to London. They have had no luck detecting anything alien - until The Convergence happens. This is a planetary alignment.

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  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    Captain America: The Winter Soldier This starts with Cap and Black Widow ( Scarlet Johansson ) leading a Special forces mission to liberate a SHIELD vessel that has been captured by Algerian pirates. Cap's use of non-lethal force is at odds with the Widow and the SHIELD goons, who kill anything that moves. And later on, Fury reveals his next plan to Cap - the militarization of Earth, to prevent another alien invasion.

    Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson - Deep Blue Sea ) suspects a conspiracy is at work. And when someone tries to have him killed, Cap takes over the investigation. The tiny band of surviving heroes must team up and overcome the Military Industrial complex. Just like in the recent GI Joe: Retaliation Movie, but with CGI super-soldiers instead of CGI Ninjas. Same difference, really.

    This all takes place over about three days (of the Condor - sorry, couldn't resist) - so our heroes have no time to call in the other Avengers. After all, the events of Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 mean that the others have lives of their own to lead in other cities. However, this means that a lot of supporting characters have a chance to shine instead. Cap's neighbour Sarah ( Emily Van Camp ) comes in useful. Maria Hill ( Cobie Smulders ) actually has something to do as well. Even Danny Pudi (Abed from Community) pops up as a SHIELD desk-jockey.

    SHIELD is presented as the mainstay of the US Military-Industrial Complex, but the International board of managers includes Jenny Agutter (English) and the villain from Lost (Australian). So is it the equivalent of the USMC, all of NATO or the United Nations Invasion Task-force?

  • 2000
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  • Guardians of the Galaxy

    Guardians of the Galaxy Our protagonist (Chris Pratt - Jurassic World ), the self-proclaimed Starlord, is a Han Solo type who completes Indiana-Jones style adventures, falling foul of gangster Michael Rooker ( Walking Dead ) and alien super-soldier Djimon Houson (Amistad). He obtains a plot device, but before he can sell it he is targeted by a couple of bounty hunters - Rocket the Racoon (Bradley Cooper – My Little Eye ) and Groot the Tree (Vin Diesel – Riddick ).

    Worse, there is a Megalomaniac super-villain named Ronan on the loose. Lee Pace (the villainous Elf-Lord in The Hobbit ) has beefed up to look like something out of 300 , and is backed Thanos (Josh Brolin – Deadpool 2 ). Yes, the arch-villain who used Loki as his proxy in Avengers Assemble is back to his old tricks, using intermediaries to invade other worlds. Thanos lends Ronan a pair of gorgeous female assassins – the blue-skinned Karen Gillen and the green-skinned Zoe Saldana .

    The result is possibly the finest of the Marvel Avengers universe movies so far. It works on every level - great action and great comedy.

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  • Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron

    Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron The film starts by finishing the HYDRA arc started in Captain America: Winter Soldier . Cap leads the Avengers against the HYDRA HQ in central Europe - it looks like the castle used as the Schloss Adler in Where Eagles Dare. How nice to see world-class superheroes take on normal humans with guns. Thor goes out of his way to mention that the Avengers did not actually kill anyone, which reduces this to a child-friendly PG-13 film. In contrast, the Agents of SHIELD kill as many HYDRA goons as they can, while in this movie the villains just get handed over to NATO. This begs a series of questions about morality and legality.

    The Avengers’ goal is Loki’s staff, which contains one of the four magic stones. Thor wants to take it back to Asgard, to give it to Odin ... which would create more problems than it solved. Worse, Tony Stark gets his hands on it first. Yes, since Stark privatised global security after SHIELD fell, he pays for the Avengers … but they follow his agenda (such as destroying his political enemies in HYDRA). In Iron Man 2 the villains used robotic drones to fight Stark, while in Iron Man 3 he had modified his suit into an army of drone pieces. Now he decides to take it a step further, using Loki’s evil magic-stick to create a super-AI that will protect the world with drones. Has he learned nothing from SHIELD’s folly in attempting world domination in the name of good?

    Naturally, Stark’s A.I. (Ultron, voiced by James Spader - Wolf ) goes rogue. This makes Tony Stark the biggest super-villain in history, since everything bad seems to be directly or indirectly his fault. A pair of former HYDRA minions (Scarlet Witch Elizabeth Olsen and Quicksilver Aaron Taylor-Johnson) also want revenge on Stark, teaming up with Ultron to help him get what he wants.

    After the climactic global invasion of the first film, if anything this is a let-down. In part it is an origin story for the Avengers B-team, introducing new characters and bringing the two African-American sidekicks into the mainstream. While it is nice to see locations outside the USA for a change (the Hulk rampages through a city in South Africa, while the others have a chase scene in a South Korea city) there is nothing that we have not seen before. There is a lot of spectacle, but not much originality.

    Even the relationships between the Avengers have changed. Black Widow ( Scarlett Johanson ) used to be close to Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner - Bourne Legacy ) - but now he has a new love interest ( Linda Cardinelli ) and she is flirting with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo - 13 Going On 30 ). Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson - Snakes on a Plane ) is still pretending to be dead, even though HYDRA has been destroyed so there is no reason for him to hide.

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  • Ant Man

    Ant Man After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Michael Douglas ( Haywire ) falls out with Tony Stark’s Dad and Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell). He quits SHIELD, and takes his secret shrinking formula with him …

    In the modern day, the world’s best burglar (Paul Rudd – Role Models ) gets released from prison. Unfortunately he does not have a parole officer to find him a job. He gets a minimum-wage customer-service job at Baskin and Robbins (yes, there is a lot of product placement in movies these days) but ends up having to resort to crime again.

    Meanwhile, Douglas’ protégé (Corry Stoll – The Strain ) has decided to do what Stark could not do – duplicate the shrinking formula. The guy is clearly a supervillain, and an obsessed one at that. He has already built a flying battle-suit, something that was the holy grail of the new MCU arms race in Iron Man 2 . We also see there are effective counter-measures to an attack by a shrinking man, So he would be better off forgetting about the formula and just mass-producing the battle-suit instead.

    The burglar gets recruited to be the new Ant Man. He gets trained by his mentor’s estranged daughter ( Evangeline Lilly ), who has unresolved issues regarding her father. She is feisty, combatative, all the clichés. Also, she has an ugly wig that is quite distracting.

    HYDRA make a re-appearance towards the end. Despite by this stage their main leader in the USA IS Gr*nt W*rd in Agents of Shield , they have somehow scraped together (or stolen at two weeks notice) thousands of millions of dollars.

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  • Captain America: Civil War

    Captain America: Civil War This is not a Captain America movie, since it has most of the regular Avengers. Hulk and Thor are absent, probably off getting their own movies. Some fans think Black Widow ( Scarlet Johansson ) deserves her own movie by merit of being the token female on the team. Well, no longer - Scarlet Witch ( Elizabeth Olsen ) is a full member of the team now. Unfortunately Ms Olsen has stated in press interviews that she does not want the stress of being the lead performer in a major tentpole movie.

    Cap, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch try to stop Crossbones, a former HYDRA goon, from stealing a bio-weapon and selling it to supervillains. In an effort to save hundreds of civilians in a crowded marketplace, the team cause slight damage to a nearby skyscraper. Nothing on the scale of the destruction to New York or Eastern Europe in previous films, but it is nice to see a film where violence actually has consequences. This causes the US Government to overreact and send in General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt - Humans ), the fascist psychopath who obsessively hunted the Hulk for years. Ross is now a politician, which if anything makes him more dangerous. He wants the Avengers to sign a document that makes them servants of the United Nations. Not the World Security Council, which presumably was a United Nations sub-committee, or SHIELD (which officially no longer exists) but the entire united Nations. Tony Stark is keen on this, because he is feeling guilty for causing Age of Ultron. Captain America refuses to sign, however, because he takes responsibility for his own actions.

    Some of the collateral damage in the skyscraper included civilians from Wakanda, the fictional country where Vibranium comes from. It is like Eddie Murphy's homeland in Coming To America, and the Prince who gets his royal foreskin cleaned every day is also local superhero Black Panther. When a terrorist attack is blamed on the Winter Soldier, Prince Panther swears revenge. Captain America decides to help Bucky, even though the cops have orders to shoot on sight. The Black Panther is a man who works out in a gymn and trains in a dojo a couple of times a week at most. Captain America and the Winter Soldier are virtually indestructable super-soldiers with decades of combat experience. Somehow he fights them so well he has earned his own spin-off movie.

    When SHIELD was destroyed, Earth's global defence was privatised and Tony Stark became the final decision-maker in the planet's future. This was obviously a terrible mistake. However, his most recent decision - to hand the Avengers over to a bunch of greedy politicians - is just as bad as any of his previous ones. This leads him on to another terrible decision - to lead half the Avengers to go against anyone who will not sign their life away. He even recruits a teenage boy as a child soldier. Yes, Peter Parker makes his first appearance in the MCU - and for the first time in a movie he actually looks young and wisecracks funny.

    The massive hero-on-hero fights actually detract from the overall film. It is nowhere near as grim as DC's Batman Vs Superman , because we know the goody-goody Avengers are not in any real danger. Civilians have a tendency to become collateral damage, but nobody cares about them anyway. There is a major disparity in superpowers - Hawkeye can lift his own bodyweight, Cap can lift half a ton, and the Iron Man suit can lift a hundred tons. However, they all come across as more or less equal.

    While the Civil War plotline is somewhat disappointing, the actual theme of the film is quite interesting. This is the first Avengers movie where the characters actually examine the consequences of their actions.

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  • Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange A villainous wizard (Mads Mikkelson - Valhalla Rising ) and his minions attack an oriental den of wisdom, in a scene reminiscent of The Golden Child . Luckily a jedi-powered Tripitaka figure (as in Monkey Magic! ) appears, and gives the villains a scenery-bending encounter that puts Inception to shame.

    Doctor Steven Strange (Benedict Cummerbach - Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug ) is an arrogant doctor, the best in the world at what he does, who ends up crippled and bitter against the world. Not unlike House, M.D. ... and that character (an American played by a Brit) is basically a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes ... who as recently played on the BBC by Cummerbach himself! Strange gets ditched by his girl friday ( Rachel Adams , veteran of the Guy Ritchie version of Sherlock Holmes ). However, a recovered cripple (Benjamin Bratt - Demolition Man ) points him to a mystical monk in Nepal.

    Strange starts to learn the mystical arts of wizardry, but ends up getting dragged into a war against a demon. This creature is an interdimensional Galactus (like in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ) and may be practically unstoppable.

    There are two post-credits scenes, and at least one of them is set-up for the sequel.

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  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 (2017)

    Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) The Guardians are back, earning a living as mercenaries and bounty hunters instead of just straight-up thieves and pirates. Even Baby Groot the Sapling (Vin Diesel – Riddick ) is still on the team, and plays an eye-catching role in the opening credits.

    The human protagonist (Chris Pratt - Jurassic World ), the self-proclaimed Starlord, finally gets to meet his birth father - Ego (Kurt Russell - Escape From New York ). The others tag along with him to Ego's planet, but they all have their own sub-plots.

    Rocket the Racoon (Bradley Cooper – My Little Eye ) is still a thieving little rodent. He steals a valuable plot device, which leads to a sub-plot involving pursuit by his victims. It also gives him the chance to bond with Starlord's foster-father, the disgraced gangster Michael Rooker ( Walking Dead ).

    Nebula ( Karen Gillen ), a villainous hench-woman in the previous film, is now a freelancer obsessed with revenge on her sister Gamora ( Zoe Saldana ).

    Just like the previous Guardians movie, this is one of the finest of the Marvel Avengers universe movies so far. It works on every level - great action and great comedy. There are cameos by Stan Lee, Howard the Duck and Sylvester Stallone ( Demolition Man ), as well as FIVE post-credits scenes!

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  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

    Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) The story starts in the aftermath of Marvel Avengers Assemble . A salvage contractor (Michael Keaton - Birdman ) and his sidekick (Bokeem Woodbine - Blade: The Series ) are shut down by a SHIELD type US Federal Agency called Damage Control. They decide to go freelance, salvaging alien tech for the highest bidder rather than for the benefit of Stark's global financial empire. In all truth, we cannot blame the Vulture for what he does. Tony Stark has not merely privatised the world's defences. He monopolises the military-industrial complex, and gets paid to clean up the very messes that he himself has created.

    The story picks up a few years to the current timeline of the MCU. Stark has gotten worse, he actually recruited the teenage spider-boy as a child soldier in Captain America: Civil War . Peter Parker has been corrupted by his perceived friendship with Stark. He is so obsessed with the Stark internship, as he calls it, he does not even bother to learn how to use his super-suit properly. However, he has to come to terms with the fact he has been all but abandoned.

    Peter is not driven by the character's classic motivation, the death of Uncle Ben. In fact, we have no idea how the Marisa Tomei version of Aunt May became single. This is probably a good thing, because in the last two decades we have already had TWO different big-screen retellings of the origin story, so it actually makes a change for us just to see the character develop by himself. Instead, we see a teenage Spider-Man who plays the role of vigilante superhero in order to impress his absent father-figure, Tony Stark.

    The main storyline would actually work as a crime movie, with the Vulture and his friends saving the working class from Tony Stark. However, instead we get a light-weight comedy-thriller with Parker (who actually looks like a teenager) mixing dialogue with his suit (voiced by Jennifer Connolly , wife of the man who voices Tony Stark's suit).

    There is a lot of teenager stuff, as Parker is still in High School. The supporting cast are now a racially diverse bunch, but they are well-cast and do a great job. For example, instead of being a blond-haired football jock the school bully Flash Thompson is now a snobby rich asian kid. Zendaya plays a geek girl - a real one, not a fake like the ones now running Marvel.

    All in all, this film is a great mix of different aspects. The characters and situations all work perfectly. There are even cameos of Captain America: even though he is technically an international crimninal the US Government still uses his image to inspire the school-children. Keep an eye out for the after-credits sequence.

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  • Thor 3: Ragnarok (2017)

    Thor 3: Ragnarok (2017) This was directed by Taika Waititi , the Maori director best known for the New Zealand childrens' movie The Hunt For The Wilderpeople. He brings a comedic touch that lightens the tone of every scene. Since many of the characters are physically indestructible, this allows them a certain klutziness. There is also a plethora of New Zealand and Australian actors in the cast.

    The movie starts with Thor off on a quest to save Asgard. He heads home, and discovers that things have been changed. Heimdal (Idris Elba - 28 Weeks Later ) is on the run, accused of treason, and his job is now done by a comedy-relief character named Skurge (Karl Urban - Dredd 3-D ). The city centre has a huge statue of Loki (Tom Hiddleston - Crimson Peak ), like Thor promised to build and then forgot all about. A group of actors led by Sam Neill ( Jurassic Park ) are acting out a stage-play called The Tragedy Of Loki, about events from the previous film that only Thor and Loki were present at. And Jane Foster ( Natalie Portman ), but she has dumped Thor so she does not appear in this film.

    It is evident to Thor that Loki has secretly usurped the throne.

    Odin (Anthony Hopkins - Silence Of The Lambs ) has been exiled to Earth. Thor takes Loki to New York City so they can find him. Dr Strange , Earth's self-appointed guardian, takes an interest in their quest. Loki is on the naughty list, but Strange ensures there is no risk of a repeat of Avengers Assemble .

    Odin's time has passed. And with him gone, there is a new claimant to the throne of Asgard - his firstborn, Hela the Goddess Of Death ( Cate Blanchett ). Her powers include the ability to thrown an infinite number of magical daggers. Not only can they wipe out an entire army, they are also powerful enough to take out the space-ships that are used for close air support. She soon conquers the entire world. Once she has Odin's palace she uses the eternal flame to revive all the dead warriors buried in the palace crypt, thus making herself an army of zombies.

    Thor winds up dumped on an alien planet. He gets enslaved by a fallen Valkyrie ( Tessa Thompson ) and sold to fight in the arena. The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum - Jurassic Park ) and his sidekick Topaz ( Rachel House ) use Thor as a fighter in their gladiatorial arena.

    As the trailer gives away, Thor discovers why nobody has seen the Hulk on Earth for the past few years. Apparently the Quinn jet was capable of interstellar travel. The Hulk has now got an expanded vocabulary and a personality that extends beyond mindless violence.

    The section on this alien planet is basically a side-step from the main storyline. However, it takes up the entire second act of the movie. Thor spends the time recruiting a bunch of reluctant helpers who he calls The Revengers. Then they return to Asgard for the climactic Third Act, where they confront Hera and her zombie army.

    The online media has cast Valkyrie as the breakout character. She is not the first female or black Asgardian in the series, not even the first in this movie. However, she has taken all the glory. In this reviewer's opinion, the really impressive character is Skurge. He starts as a comedy relief in an already light-hearted film, but comes into his own when he does scenes with Hela.

    There are only two after-credits sequences. One sets up the characters' transition to the Infinity War storyline, but the final after-credits sequence is disappointing and inconsequential. This is on top of a lacklustre music score for the end credits, which is a pity because there is at least one good song in the sound-track. It just does not compare to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 .

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  • Black Panther (2018)

    Black Panther (2018) The story starts with a historical prologue, way back in the bad old days a quarter of a century ago. This was the Rodney King era, when the USA was torn apart by racial politics. To some people it was a repeat of the Watts Riots in the late 1960s, which illustrates the country has deep-seated problems that rise to the surface with every new generation. For some reason, the Wakandan intelligence service has chosen to place a spy in the working-class African-American neighbourhood of Oakland. Not just any spy, but the King's brother. Worse, he has gone native and joined the Black Identity Extremists. The King drops by, and accuses his brother of stealing vibranium so it can be used to arm the rioters and overthrow the US Government.

    The main story starts in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War . King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman - Gods Of Egypt ) sets out to rescue his ex-girlfriend, Nakia ( Lupita Nyong'o ), a Wakandan spy who has taken on some Al Quaeda woman-traffickers. He wants her to attend his coronation ceremony. The master of ceremonies is Zuri (Forrest Whittaker - Species ), while the matriarch is T'Challa's mother Ramona ( Angela Bassett ). Despite the country being technologically advanced, their government is basically decided through trial by combat. Yes, T'Challa's claim to the throne relies on three things - he is of the royal bloodline, he is liked or trusted enough for most of the other claimants to step aside, and he is capable of defeating any challengers in a fist-fight. Family, friends and fists.

    In London, we meet Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan - Fantastic Four (2015) ). He acts like a social justice warrior, berating the female director of the British Museum for having African exhibits on show. He asks her if her ancestors paid a fair price for the items, but in reality the iron price is as good as the gold one. And museums are like libraries - they provide knowledge for free to everyone. In comparison, Killmonger works with Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis - Lord Of The Rings ) - a murderous recurring villain who wants to sell vibranium to the highest bidder.

    T'Challa wants to catch Klaue, to take revenge on behalf of his buddy W'Kabui (Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out! ). To this end, he goes into a casino like an African James Bond . The main difference is that his team are all female - his ex, his bodyguard Okoye ( Danai Gurira ) and tech support (his little sister in the Q role). He sees a couple of familiar faces. One is Stan Lee, making his cameo. The other is CIA Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman - The Hobbit ), who is not there by coincidence. This leads on to another action setpiece, a car chase reminiscent of the one in Captain America 3.

    Finally, Bilbo gets a face-to-face confrontation with Gollum. Well, they are the Tolkien white guys!

    Our heroes return to Wakanda, where Ross gets urgent medical attention. As the token white man he is subjected to disparaging treatment that the token black guy in a mainstream movie would not be subjected to. Well, the story-tellers have to ensure this is not a cliched White Saviour narrative like Avatar , AKA Dances With Smurfs. However, the Wakandans' use of the word Colonizer towards him is problematic. It may be technically accurate, as Wakanda is an extremely isolationist ethno-state that does not share the benefits of its civilisation with its neighbours. However, it is used as a racial slur, and since the institutions are run by black people then the prejudice plus power equation that defines institutional racism means that they were definitely being racist towards him.

    Rather than bog the story down with the usual save-the-world routine, this film is more of an origin story. Wakanda's advanced technology is only used to support the story. The real battle is for the throne, because whoever rules the Kingdom decides how the technology is used. The political divide goes back a generation. T'Challa follows in his father's footsteps of isolationism, while his rival wants to start his own global Empire. This works quite well as a story setup, because in all fairness the villain has a very good point. Like Wakanda, Tony Stark has access to next-generation technology - but at least he has the decency to sell it to people so that peoples' lives can be improved by it. In comparison, Wakanda's isolationism has deprived the world - including its African neighbours - of advances that could have ended plagues and famines.

    The claimant to the throne wins the loyalty of the army. T'Challa has a few loyalists on his side. The bottom line is that this apparent utopia has a massive civil war. The army dress like shepherds, but their woolen cloaks contain energy shields. Their cavalry is not tanks, but cybernetic rhinos. Air support is in the form of flying gunships, which can be remotely controlled by a holographic interface and an Artificial Intelligence named Griot (Trevor Noah - The Daily Show).

    All in all, a great film that sits comfortably among the best of the MCU.

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  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

    Avengers: Infinity War This starts up sometime after Thor 3: Ragnarok left off. The Asgardian ship, filled with refugees, has been ambushed by Thanos (Josh Brolin - Deadpool 2 ). This sets the tone for the rest of the film. Familiar characters are not just put in jeopardy - they are killed.

    We have never seen Thanos in action before - he is usually seated and giving orders. Now he takes on the Incredible Hulk in a fist-fight! He also has an army of alien warriors, including a handful of creatures that have super-human powers. The warriors get sent to Earth to retrieve the stone from Dr Strange (Benedict Cumerbach - Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug ) and Vision (Paul Bettany - Solo: A Star Wars Tale ), while Thanos himself goes after the stones held by the Collector (Benicio Del Toro - Star Wars: The Last Jedi ) and Red Skull.

    The whole Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) is represented in this movie, except for Hawkeye and Ant-Man . This allows us to finally compare the abilities of different heroes. For example, we learn that Starlord (Chris Pratt - Passengers ), with his off-the-shelf second-hand alien technology, can match Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior - Tropic Thunder ) in his custom-built next-generation Iron Man suit. Captain America (Chris Evans - Sunshine ) can survive a punch that would stun the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo - 13 Going On 30 ).

    The climax leads on to a cliffhanger ending. Yes, this crossover story is so big that it cannot be contained in a single movie.

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  • Ant Man And Wasp (2018)

    Ant Man And Wasp (2018) Thirty years ago, Hank Pymm (Michael Douglas - Haywire ) and his wife Janet ( Michelle Pfeiffer ) went on a mission to save the world. Unfortunately Janet was lost in the quantum zone, trapped in the sub-atomic level of the universe.

    Back in the modern day, Scott (Paul Rudd - Role Models ) is under house-arrest because of his part in the events of Captain America: Civil War . He, alone of all the Avengers, has been convicted of breaching the Sokovia Accords. Since SHIELD is officially gone (except in the Agents of SHIELD TV show) the law is now enforced by the FBI.

    Scott has dreams of Janet's memories, which implies that he encountered her while in the Quantum Realm. He contacts the Pymms, who are trying to build a quantum tunnel so they can rescue her. They are so desperate, they even contact estranged former cow-orker Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburn - Event Horizon ). Unfortunately an ex-SHIELD assassin code-named Ghost ( Hannah John-Kamen ) wants to steal the technology for her own use. There is also a sub-plot involving a greedy arms dealer (Walton Goggins - Django Unchained ).

    As in all good action-adventure movies, there is an extensive car-chase scene. Despite the movie's comical tone, the chase is conducted at high speed through the crowded streets of San Francisco. The chances are that this would have ended in multiple fatalities, including those of many innocent bystanders. However, this is all played for laughs.

    As with all MCU superhero movies, the villain is a dark reflection of the protagonists. In this case, Ghost wants to be cured of the super-power that is slowly killing her. It is refreshing to see people who do not want to destroy the world, or even just to conquer it. Instead we get relatable characters with human motivations.

    The after-credits sequences are references to the climax of Avengers: Infinity War .

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  • Captain Marvel (2019)

    Captain Marvel (2019) A woman with amnesia teams up with Samuel L Jackson in the 1990s. They discover that she is an unbeatable warrior, and they fight against people she used to work for. If this supposedly ground-breaking story sounds familiar, it is actually a description of The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).

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  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)

    Avengers: Endgame (2019) In order to avoid spoiling this movie, which would actually spoil the entire twenty-two movie arc, this reviewer will attempt to avoid mentioning any undisclosed specifics. For example, there are certain things that are blatantly obvious and are not spoilers. The title indicates that this movie is about a group called the Avengers, and the word Endgame means this is the climax of the main storyline so far.

    The first Act basically covers ground that has already been shown in the trailer. Captain Marvel ( Brie Larson ) makes her appearance, although she is only in a few scenes and does not steal the show from the real heroes. The story shows the world trying to adjust to life after the events of the previous film. Yes, finally we get consequences to a event in a genre where 9/11-type catastrophes get shrugged off all the time. Remember when alien invaders trashed lower Manhatten in Avengers Assemble and there was no emotional blowback?

    The second Act is the main body of the film. Generally it is the bit where the characters go on a mission. Now, before this film was released there was a joke that Captain Marvel had a time-travel power and could set everything right. Well, as stated that was a joke and Captain Marvel is a very peripheral character.

    The third Act is a massive battle, which dwarfs the climax of the previous film. This time the good guys do what they should have done first time round, and call in everyone from all the different movies. Not the TV shows, which is a pity.

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  • Venom (2018)

    Venom (2018) This is based on a Marvel comics villain from the 1980s, previously portrayed by Topher Grace in Spider-Man 3 .

    Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy - Mad Max: Fury Road ) is a journalist. His girlfriend ( Michelle Williams ) gives away his backstory in a throwaway line. He got fired from the Daily Globe (not the Bugle) in New York City, and now works as a television journalist in San Francisco.

    Brock discovers a tech billionaire is doing illegal medical experiments on homeless people. This is generic medical techno-thriller stuff - Hugh Grant caught Gene hackman doing the same thing in Extreme Measures (1996). As always, the hero tries to expose the villain but gets the sack. And since the girlfriend is the villain's lawyer - like in Darkman (1991) - he loses his relationship as well.

    Brock does not bother setting up his own YouTube channel and becoming a self-employed journalist. Instead he just mopes and feels sorry for himself. Luckily the call to adventure arrives, and he breaks into the villain's lab. Naturally he gets infected with the substance the villain is experimenting on. It turns out to be an alien symbiote that gives him super-powers. He runs amok like The Incredible Hulk , and gets chased by both the police SWAT team and the villain's henchmen.

    As with all superhero stories, this must end in a climactic save-the-world battle between hero and villain. Remember, that tacked-on Third Act is what ruined Trank's Fantastic Four (2014) . But the real problem with this story is that Brock does not get redeemed. It is Venom, the alien parasite, who actually develops as a character. Well, he decides it is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. Brock is just a likeable jerk who is a bit morally lax, and whose only objection to eating people is the taste rather than the morality.

    Stan Lee's cameo is shoe-horned in at the end. There are a couple of mid-credits sequences. One of them introduces Woody Harrelson ( Hunger Games ) as Carnage for a potential sequel. The other is an intro clip from Into The Spider-Verse .

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