Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Movie Review - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

It's been less than two years since The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted the Spidey film franchise, earning over $750 million worldwide and fuelling the next stage of the series. Its mixed reviews primarily targeted the unanswered questions and mediocre villain, but praised its talented cast and visuals. The growth of the franchise is occurring quicker than ever with this inevitable sequel; more villains, more subplots and more characters await. But were they worth waiting for?

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) continues to subdue crime in New York City as Spider-Man, but faces internal struggles with seeing his girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), whom he promised on her father's deathbed he'd avoid. It soon becomes clear that this isn't the only problem he must face; the elusive past of his parents begins to unravel before him as an old friend Harry (Dane DeHaan) and a new foe Electro (Jamie Foxx) appear - and he soon understands that his enemies have more in common than he initially thought.

What is immediately apparent when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins is that its structure is far superior to that of its predecessor, which felt a bit undercooked in terms of storytelling and exposition. Key plot points felt rushed, the villain was half baked and it seemed too eager to reveal the titular character, sacrificing steady pacing to get to that stage. With this sequel we begin with a beautifully choreographed action scene, packed with all the excitement and humour we've come to expect, and the meat of the narrative unfolds at a comfortable pace as the rest of the film continues. The villain this time round is a lot stronger both before and after his evil transformation, and the inclusion of several more never upsets the flow of the narrative.

The talented cast truly shine; Andrew Garfield is further proving himself to be a worthy successor to Maguire, and the chemistry shared between him and Emma Stone is one of the films strongest merits. Newcomers Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper also portray their characters superbly, and DeHann's performance is perhaps one of the best in the entire film. While it's fair to say the film has its issues in the form of contrivances and a seemingly rushed climax, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 remains a superbly filmed and smoothly directed summer hit. There's signs of a rushed script, but there is actual effort put in here, making it a great watch from beginning to end.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Movie Review - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off last year with the blockbuster giant Iron Man 3, and after last winter's Thor: The Dark World, it's time for the very first of the Avengers to have his shot at a long awaited sequel. Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place two years after Avengers Assemble, where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) tries to adjust to modern society and continues his work for S.H.I.E.L.D alongside Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

S.H.I.E.L.D soon comes under threat and there is little security over whom to trust; especially when a superhuman assassin arises under the title of The Winter Soldier. While the past two instalments of this franchise have been nothing but bitter disappointments, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an intelligent and gripping story from beginning to end that creates the best balance of humour and honest thrills since Avengers Assemble in 2012.

A number of excellently choreographed set pieces inject tons of excitement into the overall plot, even if they sometimes go on for far too long. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the film is the sense of political fear as the protagonists cannot seem to trust anyone. Plot elements from The First Avenger and Avengers Assemble coincide here to create a fresh story that keeps us hooked the minute it begins. It's not without its flaws; some characters such as newcomer Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and even the titular villain are not as polished as they could've been, but this is fairly easy to overlook when the other central heroes and villains do so much to impress.

Acting is top notch throughout, and Chris Evans is slowly proving himself to be the most impressive member of the Avengers lineup. He's a brutal badass but an honest and loyal hero, making him vastly likeable as he takes on a number of sinister baddies. Jackson performs as good as he always has in his role as Nick Fury, and a Johansson is surprisingly great with her role, thankfully making it more than unnecessary eye candy. Perhaps one of the most impressive performances is that of newcomer Robert Redford, whose role is a complex and highly interesting one. Overall with some superb action and a thoroughly engaging plot, The Winter Soldier is a welcome return to form for Marvel at the movies, and has rekindled my faith in this gargantuan superhero franchise.