Avengers: Infinity Snore

First of all I love superhero films. My earliest memory of seeing a comic book film adaptation was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) when it became the first 12A rated film (which I was so excited about because I was 8 when it came out). Since then seeing Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) was also incredible and in time I watched X-Men (2000) and this was during the time when Superhero films were finding their ground in terms of how audiences and critics respond to them, but then…Iron Man (2008) was released and changed the cinema landscape forever. 10 years later and it’s impossible to have a Summer release not feature a comic book film adaptation, which brings me to the point of this article…

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Iron Man (2008)

Phase One of Marvel (From Iron Man – 2008 until Avengers Assemble – 2012 ) is my favourite part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because each film gave complete focus and attention to the heroes taking centre stage and subtlety working in easter eggs to foreshadow a crossover between the heroes. Now I’m at a stage where I have a love/hate relationship with Marvel and superhero films in general (look at DCEU, Man of Steel – 2013 was released and then the next film features a crossover with Batman with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – 2016) it’s rare to have a superhero film that is JUST about that one character, it has to be a crossover of some sorts. Then arrives Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and it’s one of the most hyped films of the year and is meant to be a celebration of 10 years that Marvel have reigned over cinema…yet the only reason why I saw this film was out of obligation rather than from pure excitement…that excitement, awe and wonder of seeing heroes battle it out faded a while ago (apart from Thor: Ragnarok – 2017 and Black Panther – 2018). As someone who used to really love Marvel and who still has an interest in superhero films I have to say that Infinity War felt very underwhelming and not that celebration that these characters deserved.

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Avengers Assemble (2012)

Even though my love for Marvel isn’t fresh as it used to be I still went into the screening with an open mind hoping I would be blown away, however the pacing of this film was very slow and it was basically just to see certain characters interact with other characters and very quickly my interest faded. I always stick it out to the end with a film as you never know if there is that key scene that will save the film for you but very quickly I knew that wouldn’t be the case and I had to accept that this was the most overhyped film in a long time.

The frustrating thing about Infinity War was how the directors (Joe and Anthony Russo) originally planned this film to be part one and part two would be released next year, and then they stated they were two separate films when clearly Infinity War is still part one, though this film felt very much like a filler for the fourth Avengers film which will be released next year and that’s where I feel everything from the past 10 years will properly come together. I understand the themes that Infinity War tried to convey however I felt that it was diluted from the overpopulation of characters in the film which then took away the impact that the directors were trying to implement. You would have a scene with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) then catch up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Guardians of the Galaxy AND THEN catch up with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) so it felt very much like pocket storylines instead of having a more focused and concise narrative. Now I understand that stopping Thanos was the main narrative but because of the slow pacing of the film there was no sense of urgency and knowing there is a fourth Avengers film this film didn’t feel as final as it was meant to be.

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The ending is one for conversation…SPOILER ALERT….

When everyone “dies” it’s meant to be emotional, devastating and shocking. In all honesty, I was not affected by it in the slightest. That’s because I know that they’re nearly ready to film the sequel to Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) set to be released next year  Keven Fiege has stated there’s more Black Panther stories to tell , James Gunn has said the third Guardians of the Galaxy film will be the final film in a trilogy featuring the current members…so already I know some will return so why mourn for something that’s not final?  Now I know not everyone will br brought back to life; Evans, Hemsworth and Downey Jr. all have contracts expiring after Avengers 4 but I’m happy with that because that will usher in a new age of the MCU as some things have to come to end.

To conclude this article; when you think that Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) is a better film that Avengers: Infinity War (2018) that’s saying something…but whilst I was underwhelmed with Infinity War I do have high hopes for the fourth Avengers film that it will hit the ground running and will be the true celebration of the MCU that Infinity War was meant to be.

 

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Top 10 Films of 2017

2017 has been an interesting year for film. It has been a strong year for original films such as Get Out and Baby Driver yet a disappointment when it comes to hyped up blockbusters (with Wonder Woman being the exception). So compiling a list of my favourite films released in 2017 was a tricky one but it made me see that it’s been a great year for independent films and films that have an original story.

Now just to clarify, this list features films released in the UK during the year of 2017. Another disclaimer is that I of course haven’t watched every film released in the UK during the year of 2017 meaning if you think there is an omission from the list it may be because I haven’t watched it.

I’ll start from number 10 and count down to reveal which film I would label as the best film of 2017.

 

10. Get Out

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I was a bit skeptical about this film as I tend not to draw towards horror films so I didn’t see it when it was released in cinemas. However by the critical acclaim and positive responses from audiences that deemed it more than just a “horror film” but a film with a clear message and that had something to say. So when I watched it I was pleasantly surprised how it broke through the label of a “horror film” and managed to make people think and engage in dialogue after the film had finished. Get Out could have been fleshed out a little bit more but I commend the film on its originality and its boldness.

9. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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The Lobster (2015) was awful. However when I heard Oscar winner Nicole Kidman was in Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film I kept an open mind to this film; not to mention the trailer and concept of the film seemed mysterious and fascinating. It may not be for everyone, but I love and appreciate Yorgos’ assertiveness as a filmmaker and the fact he has a clear vision and does not compromise. The film can be hard to watch at times and is “out there” but it works in this film and all the cast pull it off brilliantly. Speaking of star performances; Barry Keoghan was so good in this film and played the enigmatic character of Martin so well. If you want to switch up your film taste and watch something unconventional; The Killing of a Sacred Deer is perfect for you.

8. mother!

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Again, a very unique and unconventional film. mother! has had a lot of controversy and attention for a whole load of reasons and I knew going into it that the film would be nothing like I’ve seen…but I think if people stood back and took a breath there is something here and something to be admired and appreciated. Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong; she plays against character at the start and then she comes into her own as the film progresses and when it escalates very quickly. Oscar nominated director Darren Aronofsky is unapologetic about his vision and what he wants to say and that’s what I admire about him and appreciate about this film. This is not a film that you love or hate, it’s a film that provokes an audience. It’s refreshing to see a film go against the mould of the current state of the film industry be proud about it.

7. Thor: Ragnarok

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One of the few blockbusters that I actually enjoyed this year. I have a love/hate relationship with Marvel nowadays because they have become so convoluted; yet Thor: Ragnarok felt fresh and more concise than previous MCU entries. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) director Taika Waititi brings his fresh and colourful sense of humour to this film to make it stand out. Yes this film does feature that forced Marvel sense of humour but the scenes in particular with Thor and The Hulk are ripe with Waititi’s witty dialogue. We have to talk about Oscar winner Cate Blanchett who easily stole the show (I’m praying for a spin-off film of her character Hela) and is hands down one of the best Marvel villains to date. So if you’ve grown tired and weary from the MCU (and I don’t blame you) give this film a chance.

6. Lion

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Inspiring. That’s all I need to say about Lion. The first half containing a phenomenal performance from first time actor and one of the cutest child actors ever: Sunny Pawar playing young Saroo. Then comes along Oscar nominee Dev Patel who plays adult Saroo and gives a career best, not to mention he holds up his own in scenes against Oscar winner Nicole Kidman and Oscar nominee Rooney Mara. This film is full of heartbreak and joy, featuring themes of belonging and identity. Lion is an inspiring story that you can’t believe is true.

5. The Beguiled

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Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. Golden Globe nominee Kirsten Dunst. Elle Fanning. Oscar winner Sophia Coppola directing. These are reasons enough to watch this film. Sophia knows how to make a lean and clean cut film that gives enough tension and mystery without it becoming self indulgent. That’s all I need to say about this film. Basically it’s really good.

4. Wonder Woman

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One of the few blockbusters that actually was quality and had substance. Gal Gadot is perfect as Diana; so authentic and natural in her performance and with her character standing up for what’s right and not accepting anything else but justice. One of the most refreshing superhero films in a long time; because for once it was a superhero film solely about the eponymous character and not featuring a million other superheroes. Patty Jenkins directed an incredible film that focused purely on Diana coming from an island of perfection and having the character evolve as the film progressed to have a rounded and more balanced view of humanity and what her purpose in life is. Three words: No Man’s Land.

3. Baby Driver

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Edgar Wright delivers one of the most vibrant and exciting original films of the year. Golden Globe nominee Ansel Elgort charismatically carries the weight of the film on his shoulders with notable supporting forces from Oscar winner Jamie Fox and Lily James. Baby Driver has you thinking it’s one thing but then it swerves in a different direction. The whole vibe of the film is so cool and smooth and will definitely stay with you after you watch it.

2. La La Land

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La La Land is reminiscent of Hollywood musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and yet is relevant to todays audience, enabling it to have its own identity. The film features one of the best soundtracks from Justin Hurwitz, Benji Pasek and Justin Paul but the genius of the film is how it is very character driven and how the tone of the films is effortlessly handled as the film progresses. This Oscar winning, instant classic, musical masterpiece has depth and fully rounded characters and is a film that you have to watch right now.

1. Blade Runner 2049

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As soon as I watched this film I knew it would be my favourite film of the year. Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling is of course a great actor but I have to say, he gives one of his best performances in Blade Runner 2049. He’s a very internal actor and everything is said through his facial expressions and that’s a powerful tool to master. In a year where I’ve been let down by blockbusters, Blade Runner 2049 came along and showed everyone how it should be done: thought provoking, sophisticated, creating the right tone and pace and having a great story. Yes the film is nearly 3 hours long but it was very engrossing and captivating that it didn’t feel that long at all. Denis Villeneuve always has great quality and class to his films, which is why he was the right director for the job to carry on the legacy of Blade Runner (1982). I was always excited for this film but it exceeded my expectations and I’m happy to say that Blade Runner 2049 was my favourite film of 2017.

Now I’m being picky but the reason why La La Land didn’t make number 1 was because whilst it was released in the UK in 2017 its original release was in 2016. It made the list but Blade Runner 2049 was released in October 2017 and therefore is a worthy number 1. 

 

So there you have it. I have given an overview of my favourite films of 2017 and I’m already looking forward to what 2018 has to offer.

Please feel free to comment on what your favourite films have been this year!

4 Biggest Blockbuster Disappointments Of 2017

 

We’re approaching the halfway mark through the year so I thought it would be appropriate to review the blockbusters that have been released in 2017, sadly it hasn’t been a great year. 2017 isn’t over yet so we still have some potential saving graces in the form of Wonder Woman, Justice League, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok etc. however I have to say that certain blockbusters that I have seen have not lived up to the hype.

If you want to look at 2017 UK film releases then you would include the multiple award winning films which have been my favourite films of the year, such as: La La Land, Moonlight, Lion, Jackie, Manchester By The Sea, Hidden Figures etc. and thank goodness for these beautiful films as I am starting to lose hope for big budgeted releases. I hope by the end of the year I am proven wrong and can say that great storytelling can be seen in all type of films.

Boring and the Beast

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Let’s start off with one of the most underwhelming and highly overrated release: Beauty and the Beast. Firstly let me state that I am supportive of Disney giving their animated classics the live action treatment (as discussed in my previous post)however with the release of Beauty and the Beast; originality and creativity died and instead it assured Disney to play it safe with their upcoming live action releases. I was excited for the film before its release and I was rooting for Emma Watson as I thought she’d be perfect as Belle, however because the live action took no chances there was no room for mystery and excitement of what was to come in the film.

Interestingly enough the film has become a huge success, which sadly gives Disney permission to keep on playing it safe. The film has revived positive reviews (71% from Rotten Tomatoes) and the film has grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide making it the 10th highest grossing films of all time. Obviously the film has resonated with audiences, so I will respect those who loved the film however I can’t understand how this film has entered the top 10 of the most successful films of all time. I think I’ll stick to the original 1991 animation.

The NOT So Awesome Mix-Tape

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I loved Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and so did everyone else as the film became a fan favourite and raked in $773 million worldwide. It was unapologetic in how it delivered on the fun and it was an antidote to the ‘serious superhero film’. The sequel had a lot to live up to following the surprise smash hit first film.

After an exhaustive marketing campaign for the sequel the hype and excitement to see the film wore off, but I still wanted to see the film and I really wanted to enjoy it…yet it failed to deliver on the fun and thrills. It went down the cliche route that sequels tend to go down, take what was funny in the first film and crank it up to the highest volume. The comedy was too obvious and stupid at times. I liked Groot in the first film but did I really need to see a baby Groot figure out how to play music against the backdrop of a potentially cool action sequence? and the story was pretty underwhelming. That being said, there were some good some small moments between Gamora and Nebula as well as Yondu and Rocket, these moments allowed for some character development and appreciation. Also I think that Ayesha the Golden Priestess was underused and could have been the main villain.

Of course the film has become a huge success and has grossed over $799 million worldwide (and counting) as well as receiving positive reviews (81% from Rotten Toamtoes)so again there has been a disconnect from what audiences have felt and how I have responded to the film. However despite the fact the sequel wasn’t my favourite Marvel film I am excited for the third film and it will be interesting to see the characters in the upcoming Avengers films, so I haven’t given up on the Guardians of the Galaxy just yet.

Alien: The Pretend Sequel To Prometheus

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I will hold my hands up and say I am not a die hard Alien fan, however I have seen Alien (1979), Aliens (1986) and Prometheus (2012) so I am familiar with the franchise. With Covenant promising to return to the horror element I was interested to see how this film would continue on with what was set out from Prometheus and how it would adopt a grittier and darker style from the previous Alien films. That was the problem, Ridley Scott has openly admitted that Covenant was addressing what die hard Alien fans disliked about Prometheus, basically because there was no huge weird alien lurking round a spaceship. When I watched Prometheus I hadn’t seen any Alien film and that was the time when marketing was saying how the film was not meant to be a direct prequel but a standalone film in the same universe, so I thought I was safe in watching it without feeling left out. Then all of a sudden it WAS part of the Alien franchise, meaning Covenant had to make some major changed to please Alien fans.

Covenant was released 5 years after Prometheus because they were trying to figure out whether to make a direct sequel to Prometheus or give in and be openly part of the Alien world. I was really looking forward to see Dr. Elizabeth Shaw meet the Engineers and find out questions that were posed in Prometheus, the tone of Prometheus was slick and futuristic but no without it’s shocking moments. All I got was some 5 minute YouTube video featuring Shaw and David and limp references to the “failed Prometheus trip”. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I didn’t love Covenant, because it tried to jump full throttle ahead of what was started in Prometheus and tried to connect this film to the Alien universe. However, I enjoyed some moments and Katherine Waterston was the best part about Covenant, and with THAT ending I’m definitely interested to see what Ridley Scott has planned for future instalments.

Kong: The Unnecessary Remake

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For me the ultimate King Kong film is the 2005 remake directed by Oscar winning director Peter Jackson. I remember seeing that film in the cinemas when I was 12 and being blown away, scared and emotionally invested in what was happening in the film. I had to except that a new King Kong was inevitable as it’s not restricted to the 1933 classic nor the 2005 remake but it is a cultural pop icon meaning each generation will revisit the character. That being said I still didn’t see the point of a new Kong film, but that’s just my personal opinion.

I have to give credit to the 2017 film as it was doing its own thing and it wasn’t a remake of any Kong film, that at least allows itself to be set apart and judged on its own merit. The other factor which excited me was how it was set against the backdrop of 1970’s Vietnam war meaning it would be a colourful and vibrant take on the classic monster character. Not to mention a great cast consisting of Oscar winner Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston John C. Reilley etc. However what also retracted me from being full on excited for the film was how it was intended to be part of yet another cinematic universe.

Despite my reservations I have to say I was willing to go in with an open mind and enjoy the film, sadly I was right in not believing in the film. The script was so weak and it was painful seeing brilliant actors deliver superficial and unimagined lines, the story wasn’t engaging and the characters weren’t exactly three dimensional. Yes it’s not a type of film where it requires deep exploration of character however even if it’s up to a popcorn film level standard there has to be some reason to invest and care for any character, sadly I could not have cared less about the fate of the characters. I was most disappointed in Brie Larson as it was such a superficial role that it didn’t live up to the whole ‘having a three dimensional female character in a blockbuster film’, of course it was sad to see them all play uninspired characters.

Again, a blockbuster I didn’t like made money and critics had good things to say about the film; grossing $565 million worldwide and received a 77% rating 77% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

The only thing I took away from the 2017 version was to watch the Oscar winning 2005 version.

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Hopefully with the release of the already positively reviewed Wonder Woman and future releases in the form of Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi we can reflect upon the year and say there were some standout blockbusters in 2017.

For the next blog post I’ll be writing about the few blockbusters that have actually caught my interest, there’ll be a few surprises in there for you of which blockbusters I loved this year.

Doctor Strange (2016) Film Review

3/5 stars

Marvel needs no introduction. Pioneering the whole cinematic universe concept they have managed to create one of the most successful franchises of all time. Now Marvel returns with its 14th cinematic outing with Doctor Strange feating Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous character. The premise of the film is that Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who learns the ways of a sorcerer after trying to find healing. Does Doctor Strange live up to the hype? no.

I really wanted to like this film as Marvel has an impressive track record with producing quality blockbusters (with some blemishes). However the film didn’t quite have the emotional punch it needed for the audience to root for Strange and to ultimately care what happens to him over the course of the film. Speaking of Strange we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch; overall he played the part well yet there were moments where it didn’t feel authentic and at times felt forced. However by the end of the film he comes into his own and despite some rough patches in the development of his character he emerges the hero Marvel were trying to create.

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Doctor Strange boats an impressive cast: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams as well as Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen. There was controversy with the casting of Tilda Swinton with many accusing Marvel of whitewashing the character, whilst this is a problem with Hollywood at the moment I think the decision to make The Ancient One a woman was a great move. It’s refreshing to see a prominent female led character be treated equally alongside the rest of the male cast members (we’re waiting for that Black Widow movie Marvel) and of course Tilda Swinton was incredible.

Speaking of female representation in Marvel films we have to look at Rachel McAdams who was sorely underused in the role of Christine Palmer. Fresh from her Oscar nominated role in Spotlight (2015) and with more of a decade of acting under her belt she was resorted to a forgettable role which could have been played by anyone. It was also frustrating to see her portrayed as quite a weak doctor and being told what to do all the time, Rachel McAdams is capable of so much more which is why it was frustrating to see her in this role.

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The one thing I have to applaud Marvel with is making one of the most “standalone” films in quite a while, rarely relying on numerous mentions of the Avengers to keep audiences interested. Many people complain about origin stories yet I have no issue with them, however Doctor Strange at times felt rushed. We’re first introduced to Strange in the operating theatre and in all honesty he wasn’t as arrogant as other characters tried to highlight, and then in what felt like minutes later he is involved in a fatal car accident changing his destiny forever. It didn’t have the impact it should have had because it just felt like a sequence of events; then after an outburst of not getting his way he logically heads to the mountains in Nepal only to mock the concept of healing and spirit when he arrives. I won’t go on as I don’t want to spoil the film but in short, it felt very underwhelming for what it should have been.

Marvel do have their own “comedic” style which people seem to enjoy yet in this setting it felt out of place. This is a man who has had everything wrenched from him and is at the lowest point in his life so when he arrives Kamar-Taj you’d think he’d be a bit more desperate. At times it felt that the film sacrificed emotional and deep moments in favour of “comedic” efforts, preventing it having that emotional punch. However there is one scene between The Ancient One and Doctor Strange which was my favourite scene later on during the film which showcased what the whole film could have been.

There were some standout moments which were exciting: when Doctor Strange faces off against Kaecilus (Mads Mikkelsen) for the first time and when The Ancient One showed everyone up for example. The action and spectacle was present and great to look at which made the film enjoyable, yet as much as the visual effects were impressive please stop comparing it to Inception (2010) Doctor Strange is no Inception.

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It’s no secret that despite my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe I have issues with the interweaving nature of it’s story lines and the film’s dependancy on each other. Yet Captain America: Civil War (2016) had impact in character development and narrative, so from that film to Doctor Strange was very much of a let down.

Overall whilst Doctor Strange had some flash and exciting moments with some good performances from its cast members; it didn’t delve deep enough in order for the audience to care for Doctor Strange and it felt very underwhelming in how it used some its characters and where it took the story.

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

Following up the $1.5 billion smash hit of Avengers Assemble (2012) was never going to be an easy task. This is the moment all comic book and movie fans had been waiting for, the uniting forces of these iconic superheroes that Marvel had been teasing about since 2008’s Iron Man. It may be the sequel to Avengers Assemble, but really it’s the sequel to all the Marvel films. It’s no secret that Marvel plant easter eggs throughout the film universe and the plots all link together. Age of Ultron is a worthy entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however it does have its flaws.

For once Loki isn’t the villain, which makes way for James Spader’s Ultron created by Tony Stark to prevent cosmic attacks. Ultron is a great villain and a worthy advisory to the Avengers, however his motives for the destruction of mankind felt fast tracked. Literally two seconds after he is created he goes on a rant about how he has to extinct the Avengers and mankind, it didn’t feel like a natural conclusion to the characters reasoning to cause havoc. That being said, James Spader really breathes life into the character with his distinctive voice and with such authority.

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Avengers Assemble was about….assembling the Avengers. This time we see the cracks starting to form within their team which is primarily thanks to Ultron. Themes which are no stranger to science fiction are explored here, about just because we can do something doesn’t make it right in most cases. Tony Stark has to deal with the consequences of building an artificial intelligence which is threatening the world with impending doom.

New entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe come from Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Both great editions to the Avengers, though they prove more of a threat to the Avengers at the beginning of the film. The stronger of the pair is Scarlet Witch, Elizabeth Olsen creates her own version of the character making her complex and allowing her to go on a journey to overcome her rocky upbringing. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a good job with Quicksilver, but Evan Peters is a more exciting version of the comic book character.

One of Scarlet Witch’s abilities is being able to manipulate minds which allows us to go deeper into the psyche of the Avengers, seeing their past, fears and potential futures. This allows time for character exploration and that is a gift especially in a film with multiple leading roles.

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If there is a standout character in Age of Ultron it has to be Black Widow. It is criminal that she hasn’t been gifted with a solo film, however in this film we go deeper into her character than we’ve ever seen before. There is one moment where she shares something of her past to Bruce Banner, and it is the most heartfelt moment of the film. Scarlett Johansson really fleshes out her character and adds more depth so we can understand her character more. Please can we have a solo Black Widow film so all can be revealed! The first Avengers film was more fun, classic and exciting.

Age of Ultron is still a great superhero film, however the spark from the first film has fizzled away. The excitement of bringing all the heroes on screen for the first time is impossible to compete with, so with that in mind this is a great follow up. However, it felt like Marvel didn’t exactly deliver in what was promised through the marketing of the film. Yes there is impending doom and there is a darker tone, but it still felt like they were holding back and it could have been a lot more dramatic and impactful.

With Captain America: Civil War due out next year and is basically Avengers 2.5, there is still a lot more that Marvel wants to explore with these characters and this universe.

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