Justice League – Film Review

It’s difficult to overstate just how much the DCEU needed Wonder Woman. After the dour and mean-spirited Batman V Superman and the full-metal racket of Suicide Squad, Gal Gadot’s virtuous Themysciran warrior was a Wonder-ful leap forward for the franchise, finally placing an endearing superhero at the heart of an entertaining movie that was as witty and inventive and it was groundbreaking.

If the success of Diana Prince’s first solo-outing offered the chance for the DCEU to shift gears, it’s one Justice League fails to take. Visually ugly, boring and repetitive, this souped-up superhero team-up is a return to the murky aesthetic, sketchy characters and chaotic action that have continuously dogged the series since its conception.

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Tonally, the movie is all over the place, clumsily attempting to stitch together it’s disparate elements into an uninspiring whole. This is most noticeable during a labourious opening act which swings wildly between a grim and gritty Gotham, the shimmering lands of Themyscira and the submerged ruins of Atlantis as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) grumpily tries to recruit a mis-mash of meta humans and ancient gods to his nebulous cause.

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It’s several months after the ‘death’ of Superman and the absence of the son of Krypton has encouraged exiled God Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of buzzing Parademons to invade Earth in search of three cosmic MacGuffin boxes that, when combined, posses the power to destroy the universe. Realising that a seven foot supernatural warrior with a magic axe might pose more of a threat than a bunch exploding wind-up penguins, Batman assembles a ramshackle band of super-beings to help him defeat Darkseid’s right-hand man and prevent the world from becoming an apocalyptic wasteland.

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Such a hackneyed plot holds few surprises, essentially following the tiresomely typical beats of a team-up movie – even the idea of an alien baddie invading Earth to unite a trio of cosmic trinkets is ripped straight from The Avengers. Perhaps that’s why the movie is in such an almighty rush to get down to business. Coming in at a trim two hours, it’s a brisk, breezy adventure – further leavened by an abundance of knowing gags, no doubt penned by Joss Whedon, who replaced director Zack Snyder after a family tragedy and here receives a writing credit.

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Yet this leaves very little time to get to know our new heroes and to dig down into the team dynamics. Like every other movie in the DCEU, Justice League is so eager to catch up with its Marvel rival that it assumes our connection with its characters rather than earning our affections. As a result, the planned emotional beats fail to pay off and the entire story descends into an underwhelming mess of ropey visual effects and lunkheaded plot developments – culminating an overblown finale featuring giant purple tentacle-things, flying zombie insects and a CGI monstrosity so sloppily developed it’ll make you yearn for the heady days of Doomsday and Superman playing computer-rendered whack-a-mole.

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Even so, there’s great fun to be had, particularly in scenes of the League together, bickering and bonding in a rapid-fire exchange of quips, and the cast play off each other extraordinarily well in the circumstances. Ezra Miller is the highlight as a whip-witted and overzealous The Flash, while Gadot once again radiates gravitas as Wonder Woman. Ray Fisher perhaps needs more fleshing out as the brooding Cyborg, though his digitised Frankenstein arch holds promise. Of the new recruits, Aquaman is by far the worst served, Jason Mamoa reduced to bellowing stock-jock phrases like ‘Oh yeah’ and ‘My man’, as if he’s a drunken frat boy rather than the heir to an ancient kingdom.

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If Batman feels like an after thought to the team, that’s hardly the fault of Affleck, who brings an enjoyable gruffness that works well with his elder statesman interpretation of the Caped Crusader. The problem is that Batman is simply not suited to the role of inspirational leader to a team of superheroes – a point the movie tries to address, to unsatisfying effect – and his physical handicaps when compared to the rest of the team understandably see him left behind during many of the action scenes.

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Justice League is undoubtedly brighter and funnier than any DCEU movie to date. But it remains lumbered with the same flaws that have been dragging the franchise down from the beginning – namely a loose grip of its tone, haphazard plotting and a collection of unengaging heroes who fail to live up to their billing. As long as these problems persist, there’s no danger of the DCEU usurping the big red behemoth as ruler of the multiverse.

Runtime: 120 mins (approx)
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriters: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher

 

 

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Thor: Ragnarok

It’s been six years since Chris Hemsworth’s Thor swaggered onto the MCU scene with charmingly misplaced arrogance and pecks that could crush an Infinity Stone to dust. But lately it feels like the God of Thunder has grown stale: Alan Taylor’s grimly stogy follow-up and an overstuffed Avengers sequel proving that all the Shakespearean haminess and entitled worthiness were starting to lose their appeal.

Thankfully, Thor: Ragnarok is just the bonkers shot in the arm the hammer-twirling superhero required. Gleefully tearing up the rule book for a cape-and-tights adventure, director Taiki Waititi has crafted a colourfully cosmic thrill ride that’s funnier and more uproarious than a modern superhero movie has any right to be.

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The director of affectingly funny Kiwi comedies Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows, Waititi wastes little time in stamping his off-beat style on the Norse god. Things kick-off with a side-splitting prologue in which Thor’s attempts to reason with a fiery demon are constantly interrupted by the twirling of his restraints and the from there delivers belly laughs at every turn.

It’s indicative of a movie that cheerfully brings out the superhero genre’s inherent silliness by undercutting any hint of seriousness or pomposity with a perfectly executed mix of clever, daft and just plain weird gags. Make no mistake, Ragnarok still delivers all the pulse-quickening set-pieces you could desire – it’s just that it’s all imbued with an effervescent sense fun which brings a whole new energy to proceedings.

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The God of Thunder likewise feels reinvigorated by this change in tone. Since we last saw him swatting verbose robots in Age of Ultron, Thor’s taken to wandering the cosmos to learn more about the Infinity Stones (or “glowing stoney things” as he calls them). That is until a premonition forces him to return to Asgard – where his brother Loki has dethroned Odin and dumped him in an Earthly retirement home – to head off the threat posed by Cate Blanchett’s invading Hela. After receiving an almighty pasting from the Goddess of Death, Thor is tossed from the Bifrost and finds himself stranded on the junkyard planet Sakaar. There he’s promptly taken hostage, shorn of his cape, his trusty Mjolnir and, most devastatingly of all, his flowing golden locks, before being thrown into the gladiatorial pits to fight for his freedom.

Being stripped of his defining traits proves to be transformative for the buffest of deities. Left with only his fists and wits to survive, we get to see a grittier, wilier Thor, but also a more vulnerable one, which is particularly enticing given his strength is about to be severely tested in terrifying new ways. It also allows Hemsworth to flex the comedic muscles he so handsomely displayed in last year’s Ghostbusters reboot, ditching the fish-out-of-water schtick of previous outings and throwing himself into a much sillier version of Odinson.

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And then there’s the big green rage machine. Riffing on the Planet Hulk storyline, Thor is joined in his kaleidoscopic exile by Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, whose stuck in perma-Hulk mode and eking out an existence as Sakaar’s premier tourist attraction. Having developed a broader vocabulary, the strongest Avenger gets more to do than just Hulk smash his way through every scene (though there’s still plenty of destructive force on show) and quickly forms a winning double act as the tightly-wound straightman to Hemsworth’s reckless hero.

Indeed, the movie is stuffed with staggering performances. Tom Hiddleston makes a welcome return as sly mischief maker Loki, who finds himself unexpectedly on the fringes of his brother’s plans after his previous betrayal. Jeff Goldblum is at his most flamboyant as Sakaar’s eccentric overlord the Grandmaster. Tessa Thompson is an impressive addition, playing an ale-swigging Asgardian warrior-turned-scavenger. Meanwhile, Waititi almost steals the entire movie with an hilarious turn as softly spoken Kronan gladiator Korg whose heartfelt commentary results in some of the best lines.wits

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But true to Marvel form, the villain fails to inspire. Blanchett is a certainly striking presence, looking for all the world like Marlyn Manson’s stroppy sister with her smudged eyeliner and twisted headdress, and poses a significant threat with her superior strength and ability to conjure razor sharp weapons out of thin air. Yet she’s underused, her motive for invading Asgard never fully fleshed out and little being made of her complex connection to Thor’s family. Her scenes rarely move the action forward and serve only as an unwelcome distraction from the bombastic joys of Thor’s off-world hijnks.

That’s ultimately where Ragnarok falters: when it’s forced to be a straight-forward superhero movie. Though the plot is far from slight – dealing with massacres, slavery, refugees and the small matter of the end of days – attempts to reach the heavier emotional beats are hampered by the constant barrage of gags that are fired towards us. It feels like the movie spends so much time goofing across the universe that there’s little time left for character building or emotional depth. With the stakes made to feel so low, it’s hardly shocking that the climatic showdown lacks gravity – and not just because Waititi can’t help but resort to the usual Giant CGI Thing cliche.

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Nevertheless, Thor: Ragnarok is a delirious carnival of psychaedelic colour and bonkers entertainment that offers a fresh, invigorating look at one of the most popular Avengers. If only Waititi has resisted the urge to revert to formula in the final third…

Runtime: 130 mins (approx.)
Director: Taiki Waititi
Screenwriters: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett

Spider-man: Homecoming – Film Review

After six movies and two reboots in the last 15 years – not to mention a further 16 outings for Marvel’s other heavy hitters since 2008 – fans could be forgiven for growing weary at the thought of yet another Spider-man movie. Thankfully, Spider-man: Homecoming repays audience persistence in spades.

Having already wowed fans with his zingy and zestful cameo in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s first full outing as the web slinging crime fighter deftly walks a tricky tightrope between paying heed to the larger Marvel machine and offering a fresh and revitalising spin on the typical comic book movie template.

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By far the film’s best move is skipping Spidey’s tired-and-tested origin story, with which we’re already far too familiar. Unburdened by the shackles of dead parents, murdered uncles, cute neighbours and radioactive spider bites, we’re free to jump straight into the action.

Picking up right after that almighty skirmish over the Skovia Accords, 15-year-old Peter Parker is dropped back in Queens by his new mentor Tony Stark and told to wait by the phone for another call to join up with the Avengers. Cut to two months later: Peter’s heard nothing from Stark and his reluctant minder Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) isn’t returning any of his texts, leaving Peter to act like ‘a friendly neighbourhood Spider-man’, catching petty thieves and helping old ladies with directions in return for deep-fried Mexican treats.

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Scaling back the influence of the larger Marvel universe proves to be a masterstroke. Though Downey Jr’s Stark featured heavily in the promos, his appearances here are minimal and fit seamlessly into the story. And with the wider MCU taking a backseat, there’s plenty of room for us to get to know our new hero in greater depth than ever before. The result is something more akin to a high school comedy than a superhero movie as Peter tries to contend with jealous school bullies, getting invited to the cool girl’s party and finding a date for homecoming dance; all the while squeezing a spot of crime fighting between the end of school and his 10pm curfew.

With so much of the focus on the young hero, it’s handy that he happens to be the best on-screen Spider-man thus far. Introduced geeking out in a homemade video after meeting the Avengers, there’s something instantly endearing about Holland’s version of the web slinger. Though he’s gifted with spider-like abilities, he feels entirely relatable. Like any teenager, Peter is reckless, impulsive, dangerously ambitious and refreshingly earnest in his attempts to figure out what kind of person he wants to be.

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He also happens to be appealingly lame as a superhero, struggling to control his powers (understandable, considering he now has more than 500 web settings in his new Stark-modified suit) and frequently falling flat on his face during his hapless attempts to help others. That he remains likeable even when his mistakes have potentially fatal consequences is in no small part due to Holland’s cheeky and heartfelt performance.

Drawing sparky performances out of talented youngsters is quickly becoming a calling card of director Jon Watts. Having caught the eye with revenge thriller Cop Car, which deftly balanced gripping thrills with dark humour, Watts brings a similar lightness of touch to proceedings here. The freshman humour is uproariously on point – there’s a great Ferris Buller gag – and even the action sequences are peppered with quick-witted one liners.

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Yet Watts appears to struggle when dealing with the larger scale demands of helming a Marvel movie. Many of the big set-pieces, while effective and well-executed, feel far too mundane to make much of an impact. And except for a vertiginous rescue atop the Washington Monument, there’s not a single action sequence that sticks in the memory, which falls far below the level of inventiveness we’ve come to expect of a summer blockbuster.

This lack of whizz-bang visuals is more than compensated for by the presence of a surprisingly compelling villain. Like Peter Parker, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is an ordinary guy trying to cope with extraordinary circumstances. A former salvager who turns to illegal arms trafficking to support his family, Toomes’ motivation is entirely believable, if not forgivable. Even more so when you consider the political context of his actions – Toomes makes angry speech about rising up against the greedy 1% who keep all the money for themselves – which feels incredibly relevant in the wake of President Trump and Brexit.

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It’s not quite perfect. The final showdown between Toomes and Spider-man inevitably descends into the usual blurry CGI slugfest and many of the female characters are completely without their own purpose or agency. Yet these issues feel like minor quibbles in a movie as fresh and invigorating as this. Ditching the overwhelming superhero angst and sludgy pacing which dogged previous incarnations of the character, and replacing it with a fun and breezy coming-of-age comedy, the youthful Spider-man: Homecoming is the most original comic book movie to swing into cinemas in a very long time.

Runtime: 133 mins

Director: Jon Watts

Screenwriters: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley

Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Jacob Batalon

Wonder Woman – Film Review

We’re all agreed Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the best thing about DC’s dour and dispiriting man-spat Dawn of Justice. Amid all the grim soul searching, moody visuals and bludgeoning SFX work, Gadot’s Amazonian goddess strode into view like an ass-kicking, lasso-whipping electric cello riff in human form to brighten up the darkest of hours for DC’s faltering superhero universe. It’s little wonder there’s been so much excitement and goodwill surrounding Diana Prince’s first solo outing. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s the first female-led (and, with Monster’s Patty Jenkins behind the camera, female-directed) superhero movie.

Feminist triumphs aside, though, Wonder Woman feels like a missed opportunity. While it’s undoubtedly the best movie of the DCEU thus far, brightening the tone and demonstrating a stronger handle on its core characters, it’s still plagued by many of the issues that have held previous DC movies back: over earnestness, mind-numbing action, and a slogging origin story that’s framed around a messy, wildly preposterous plot.

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Having already been introduced as an experienced, battle hardened warrior in the present day, Wonder winds the clock back to Diana’s picturesque childhood on Themyscira, the hidden island of the Amazons. This tribe of athletic, gold-plated female warriors live in a bubble, protected from the corruption of man, as they prepare for the prophesised return of Ares, the Greek god who plans to wage an endless war to destroy humanity. And then Chris Pine’s charismatic American spy washes up on shore, bringing with him a flotilla of German soldiers, and tells of a horrifying war raging in the outside world. After one of the most bizarre action sequences of modern times – a slow-mo beachfront battle between pirouetting women and gun-totting men – Diana decides to defy her mother’s wishes, stealing her trademark sword, shield and lasso before setting sail for the world of men to stop the war once and for all.

As Diana, Gadot is extraordinary. Dawn of Justice proved she has the youthful athleticism to stand toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s pumped-up Caped Crusader, but Wonder gives her a chance to explore the nuances of an impulsive, idealistic young warrior who has a disarming belief in doing the right thing. Gadot infuses Diana’s sweet innocence with a ferocious defiance that helps to keep the more hokey moments in the script from sounding too goofy. She’s funny, too, especially during the fish-out-of-water scenes in a civilised London where she attempts to tackle a revolving door armed with a shield and sword.

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Using World War I as the backdrop for a highly-stylised action movie might make some people uncomfortable. Yet it allows Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg to explore themes of feminism, oppression and the evil that men inflict upon each other. It also neatly sidesteps the issue of needing to find a villain capable of facing-off against a near-indestructible warrior created by Zeus, by making Diana’s unshakable belief in the power of good the thing that’s tested rather than her physical prowess. Jenkins sensitively captures the devastation of the conflict, bringing a grim tangibility to scenes of wounded soldiers and bloodied refugees trudging though the mud and charred remains of their former lives.

With so many positives here, it’s a shame the movie is hobbled by a clunking, sloppy script. Like Thor, this is supposed to be a story about a naive demigod coming to terms with the harsh realities of the world. Instead, much of the focus is on a clumsy love story between Diana and Pine’s Steve Trevor. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of romance, but its use here only serves to sideline Diana for much of her own movie. With no experience of the modern world, she’s largely useless once we’ve left Themyscira, which means Steve steps into the valiant hero role, leading the mission to stop the war and making the noble sacrifice that saves the world. Diana is essentially his MPDG, using her optimistic innocence to undercut his early cynicism so that he can find his inner hero. It’s hardly a fair dynamic, especially when you consider she has the power to break him like a twig.

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It’s also poorly structured, spending far too much time milling around Themyscira and period-era London despite events there having very little to do with the actual plot – which involves stopping Elena Anaya’s intriguing but underused German scientist and Danny Houston’s military chief using a deadly gas to prevent the armistice agreement. That leaves no time to explore Diana’s world view, which goes unchallenged for much of the movie, as we rush towards yet another weightless, overblown finale where two CGI beings levitate at each other. Wonder Woman might be a Diana Prince-sized leap in the right direction for the DCEU, but it still has a lot to ground to make up if it wants to match the sparkling triumphs of its Marvel peers.

Runtime: 141 mins

Director: Patty Jenkins

Scriptwriter: Allan Heinberg

Stars: Gail Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Danny Houston

Iron Fist – TV Review

Be honest: you’d forgotten all about Iron Fist, right? The final recruit to Netflix’s ambitious Defenders team-up had already been bumped to the back of the line after Luke Cage was the breakout star of Jessica Jones and there was truly very little excitement surrounding this belated small screen outing for the little known comic book hero. That feeling is reflected in the series itself which is entirely forgettable from the bland opening credits – think Daredevil but with less blood-soaked Hell’s Kitchen and more inky oriental hand waving. Iron Fist shares all of the flaws of its predecessors but crucially lacks the authentic vision and compelling characters that made Netflix’s previous superhero efforts so watchable.

For the many who are unfamiliar with the comic books, here’s the rub: Danny Rand is the heir to a billionaire family whose parents die when their private jet crashes into the Himalayas. Danny is the only survivor of the crash, pulled from the wreckage by warrior monks who transport him to K’un-Lun, a mythical city which exists in an alternate dimension, where he is trained to become a fierce fighter. Fifteen years later, Danny returns to New York to reclaim his family’s company and fulfil his destiny as the Iron Fist, a legendary figure who can punch really hard… sometimes.

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If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen this smug-rich-guy-returns-from-Asia-with-superpowers storyline play out countless times before, most recently in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. But Iron Fist can’t boast the same mind-bending visuals that made that Benedict Cumberbatch-starring vehicle such an entertaining ride.

In fact, the show has nothing to offer that we haven’t seen before. The action is slow, clumsy and lacks the brutal tension of Daredevil’s bloody punch-ups. Not one of the dull, by-the-numbers characters manage to make a lasting impression. The plot lacks depth, originality and momentum, staggering along without incident as we wait for something… anything to happen. It can’t even muster a convincing villain for Rand to come up against, instead lumbering us with a tedious power struggle between the newly-returned billionaire and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey), the Patrick Bateman-lookalike who has taken control of Rand’s company in his absence.

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Perhaps such boardroom battles could be compelling if Rand was anything more likeable than a spoiled frat boy. Quite why Finn Jones chose to play Rand as an arrogant, self-aggrandising, tastelessly immature know-it-all is a mystery only he can answer. Perhaps he was just trying to draw attention away from claims his casting was another example of the media whitewashing Asian culture, which, one incident where Rand whitesplains kung-fu to Jessica Henwick’s Japanese-American dojo master aside, prove to be unfounded. At one point Rand, after being shown kindness by a homeless man who brings him food and offers him clothing, laughs to himself and smirks: “I guess people think we’re quite alike.” He really is a “living weapon”.

It’s disappointing because there are shades to Rand that are intriguing. He’s clearly suffered a very traumatising childhood, not just from the plane crash but also from the ritual bullying at the hands of a young Meachum, and the culture shock of returning to New York after 15 years must surely be overwhelming. Yet showrunner Scott Buck never explores these feelings, preferring to pad his scripts with countless flashbacks to the plane crash and forcing Finn to repeatedly yell “I’m Danny Rand” in the hope someone will actually believe him this time.

In short, it’s a wasted opportunity. Free from the pressures of audience anticipation, Iron Fist could’ve cast an Asian lead, or at the very least tapped into the pulpy 70s Kung Fu movies that the original comics tried to rip-off, to create something more uplifting and magical compared to the gritty, urban tone of its predecessors. But Buck never stamps an original personality on this plodding piece, succeeding only in creating a superhero show that will test the patience of even the most committed Marvel fan. So much for saving the best until last.

Logan – Film Review

Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine opens in familiar fashion: a ripped and raging Logan, adamantium claws protruding from clenched fists with an iconic ‘snikt’, ready to reluctantly dispense some stabby justice to a bunch of human hoodlums. Cut to: the former X-Man getting stomped into the dirt by his aggressors after a few wild swings prove worryingly ineffective.

If that sounds like an unexpected take on the hirsute hero we all know and love, well that’s entirely the point. Logan is a gnarled and bloody middle finger to what director James Mangold notoriously described as the “gravity-defying, city-destroying, CGI fuckathons” that have dominated the superhero genre for the past decade. Swapping meaningless spectacle for visceral action and a surprisingly human story, this is a superhero movie that gleefully defies convention.

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Tonally it’s pitched somewhere between The Wrestler and Shane, with an important character even poignantly aping the latter’s “there’s no livin’ in the killin’” speech at one point. There’s certainly not much livin’ where Logan is concerned. We find him in a ravaged near future, a battered and bloodied shadow of his former self, scraping a living as a limo driver before returning to the remote makeshift home he shares with Caliban (Stephen Merchant in non-funny mode), who cares for a frail and infirm Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

It’s a shock to see Wolverine in such a weakened condition. Bloodshot eyes, greying hair and a body tattooed with the scars of previous battles point to the declining effectiveness of his healing powers and the poisonous effects of the adamantium that is slowly killing him. Jackman, as ever, is on imperious form in his final and most challenging performance, subtly playing the hopeless bitterness of a man who’s forced to confront his violent past and the grim reality of his legacy without losing any of the ferocious intensity that still flickers behind Logan’s bespectacled eyes.

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As watchable as Jackman is in this state, though, it’s not too long before he’s dragged back into the fray by the arrival of a mysterious woman who seeks his help with Laura (Dafne Keen), a gifted child as feral as she is tiny who might just be the first mutant born in more than quarter of a century. Circumstances, namely Boyd Holbrook’s Reavers, a team of cybernetically enhanced former soldiers, force Logan to make like a Trump-fearing Clinton voter by fleeing towards the Canadian border with Laura and Xavier in tow.

Transforming Logan into a gritty road movie proves to be a masterstroke, forcing Logan, Xavier and Laura to confront each other and allowing for their dysfunctional family dynamic to play out with an intimacy that’s entirely unexpected in a blockbuster of this scale. Xavier, played with a mix of weary confusion and profound profanity by Stewart, acts as Logan’s conscience, still trying to steer him onto the right path after all these years; meanwhile, Laura, the scowling force of nature that is newcomer Keen, gives him a glimpse of the life he has so often deprived himself as he suddenly becomes responsible for preparing an innocent child for a dangerous world. It’s no surprise the film’s meatiest scenes come when these three fine performers are sharing the screen together.

The action is just as stripped-back and brutal as the drama. If reports of Jackman taking a pay-cut to guarantee the film’s R-Rating are true, this is his reward. Gory fight scenes see characters chopped up with ruthless abandon as Wolverine finally has the opportunity to go full berserker. Baddies are beheaded, shredded to bloody pieces by a tornado of splinters, and, in one memorable scene, stabbed through the chin until the tip of Logan’s claw pops out the top of the victims head, all the while racking up a body count that would make Deadpool blanche.

If this really is to be Jackman’s final outing in the claws and mutton chops, Logan is a high note for the mutant fighter to finish on. Delivering all the hardcore Wolverine action fans could desire without skimping on the nuanced character drama, Logan elevates the superhero genre to new heights and guarantees Jackman’s status as one of the great cinema superheroes.

Runtime: 137 mins; Genre: Superhero; Released: 3 March 2017;

Director: James Mangold; Writers: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green;

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook

iBoy – Film Review

There were plenty of reasons to be excited by the prospect of iBoy. Netflix’s first original Brit flick, it stars two of our most promising young actors, Bill Milner and Game of Thrones’ Masie Williams, and offers an enticing blend of superhero shenanigans and gritty urban thrills. And while the end result might fall short of the subversive bite of Deadpool or Kick-Ass, iBoy is a pulsating and absorbing thriller about a very different type of superhero.

Not that you would expect such a thing on hearing the film’s rather ordinary sounding premise. Tom (Milner) is a typical teenager who lives on a grim council estate in the heart of London. A social outcast at school, he spends most of his time alone, cramming for exams and quietly pining for the girl he has fancied for as long as he can remember. Of course, that all looks set to change when he is attacked after witnessing the sexual assault of Williams’ Lucy and wakes up in hospital with fragments of his smart phone lodged in his brain.

This being a superhero movie, it’s not long before having bits of computer chip floating around his head starts to have a peculiar affect on Tom. What starts out as a crackle of white noise and an ability to see phone data floating in the air Sherlock-style, swiftly develops into the power to hack into any piece of tech using only his mind. His data roaming charges must be astronomical.

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This might not sounds particularly ground-breaking – indeed, iBoy riffs rather heavily in the visual motifs of well-know sci-fi movies like The Matrix and The Dark Knight trilogy – but it’s the way in which these cliched components work together that is really invigorating.

Tom’s story doesn’t unfold as a typical hero’s journey, but rather an exploration of the lengths to which people will go to avenge the ones they love. Tom has next to no interest in saving the world or battling outlandish villains – although Rory Kinnear is excellent as a sneering, over confident gang leader. Instead the young hero is fuelled by an intense need to seek revenge against Lucy’s attackers, channelling his powers into hunting them down and causing them pain. The premise might be ridiculous, but Tom’s motives are a whole lot more believable than dressing up as a bat because your parents were murdered.

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Director Adam Randall also deserves praise for tackling the aftermath of Lucy’s rape with honesty and sensitivity rather than sweeping it away as a cheap plot device, which has become sadly habitual for many genre offerings. Williams is nothing less than convincing and compelling throughout as Lucy, who comes to accept that she has been the victim of a terrible crime but resolves to fight through the trauma and not let the incident define her.

This is not to brand iBoy as faultless, far from it. The script is often lacking in levity, which is required with such a silly premise, and at times the scope of Tom’s powers strain credulity a step too far – at one point he manages to fend of a gang of heavily armed thugs simply by downloading martial arts videos from YouTube. Nevertheless, iBoy is a slick, suspenseful and inventive take on the genre that provides a glimpse of a very different type of superhero. He might not be one we all like, but he’s certainly one we can believe.

Runtime: 90 mins; Genre: Superhero/Thriller; Released: 27 January 2017;

Director: Adam Randall; Screenwriters: Joe Barton, Kevin Brooks (novel);

Cast: Bill Milner, Masie Williams, Rory Kinnear, Miranda Richardson