Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

You’d think I’d been frozen in Carbonite with the length of time that we’ve been away, right? Or maybe frozen beneath the permafrost awaiting someone to unearth us?? Although we apologise for our recent lack of activity at Film Phage, there’s much more to those opening two sentences than mere hypotheses: Star Wars and Captain America. What happens when you try and blend the intergalactic space drama that is Star Wars with that Marvel-bent that is becoming the hallmark of the comic book movie? Well, you get a film about a tree, a raccoon, a human and some aliens. My friends, you get Guardians of the Galaxy… perhaps the finest post-Avengers movie in Marvel’s stable.

Now, when this was announced over 2 years ago at the San Diego Comic-Con, it raised a lot of eyebrows, including my own (yes, a Phage has eyebrows). Marvel were seemingly trying to transition from the grounded approach of Iron Man and Captain America to a film about the aforementioned talking trees and raccoon combo of Groot and Rocket. This didn’t make sense and genuinely appeared to be a case of jumping the shark in our eyes. But much has happened in the intervening two years. Marvel have brought in Gods, fire breathing Extremis people and aliens, along with a mere glimpse of the “mad Titan” Thanos at the end of Avengers… a reference that was lost on the vast majority of viewers, but pervaded nevertheless.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Skip forward to 2014 and on the eve of this year’s SDCC, we got our preview screening of Guardians of the Galaxy. Could Marvel make it pay off? Of course they could. They’ve delivered what is possibly the finest “Phase 2” film of the bunch. Yes, whilst in our hibernation, we saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier… but we didn’t think it merited all that praise. Mainly because we find ol’ Cap to be quite the dull hero in his one dimensional “must do good” attitude. If we’d written it up, we’d have slapped a solid 3 Phages on it… in case you were curious. Briefly, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the tale of Peter Quill / Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and the highs and lows he goes through after scavenging a mysterious orb. Through various bounties placed on his head, he’s thrown together with an oddball group including an assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), bounty hunter raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his tree companion Groot (Vin Diesel) and warrior Drax (Dave Bautista) as the villainous Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) quests after the orb, which he plans to use to commit mass genocide. All of this is set against a very colourful backdrop of planets and characters, plus that famous Marvel humour.

Where do I start? Let’s start with the nerdy paragraph shall we? The one where we talk about it tying into the Marvel universe and linking to the source material? Briefly, this film, despite being set away from the Iron Man / Thor / Captain America trinity fits perfects providing you’ve been paying attention since Avengers. Die hard fans will see certain plot elements coming together and can see where Avengers 3 or Avengers 4 will be heading… *cough* Infinity Gauntlet *cough* (we can’t wait for the SDCC reveals on Saturday!). Plus, we FINALLY get our first real views of the arch-bad Thanos (Josh Brolin). A HUGE grin came over our Phagey face when we saw him on-screen finally. We cannot wait for more of him in the future! As for how it links to the source material? There are liberties taken, but they all work, and should just be kicked to the back of your mind for now.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

What works so well in this ensemble piece, as it does in The Avengers, is the strength of the cast. Whilst The Avengers had several films to set up the characters and their origins, James Gunn does a fantastic job of doing all that within the film’s 2 hour run time and taking them on an adventure too. Chris Pratt is enormously charismatic and really is the “every man” that people can relate to. In fact, despite being a guy romping through space, he’s the most grounded lead character in all of Marvel’s endeavours. I could actually go through each of the cast members in turn and sing their praises (God knows I love doing this with Bradley Cooper all the time anyway), but that’d take far too long. Suffice to say, that there are no weak links in this story. Even Lee Pace, as Ronan The Accuser comes off very well here. I only mention this, as typically villains are fairly one dimensional (spare Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) in their aims… such as Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, or Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash in Iron Man 2. Here it’s nice to see a villain that genuinely looks menacing and works well.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

No Marvel movie would be a Marvel movie without a dose of humour. Well, unless the title is prefaced with Captain America. Guardians of the Galaxy brings humour by the bucketload and genuinely made me laugh on several occasions. As dedicated reader will know, I’m not one to laugh at everything like some deranged drunkard (although many audience members are), but this had some good belly laughs thrown in there. Plus, they reference Kevin Bacon a lot… no joke…

So, what are the shortcomings? Honestly, I can’t isolate any. Some may say this is simply “The Avengers in Space” or feel that it’s becoming formulaic for a team up movie to play out this way. Some might even brandish this as Marvel’s Return of the Jedi owing to some “toy-friendly” characters like Rocket and Groot, but I disagree. The pace is frenetic, the acting is sharp and the humour is on point. This is Marvel firing on all cylinders… bring on next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Simply put, if you’re a fan of any of Marvel’s past adventures, then this will have you riveted. I’d also argue that if you haven’t been dedicating masses of time to these films in the past years, you’ll pretty much be ok too. There are threads of continuing plots running through it that may make little sense if you haven’t seen The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World (particularly the after credits scene), but the film can stand alone on its merits too.

And this marks our thawing from the Carbonite! We have returned from our long hibernation, and for that we apologise. We still saw films… we just… well, went off for a while! You’ve heard about the Ebola outbreak in Africa right? Well, a Phage gets distracted! Ha. And maybe this is actually just OUR Return of the Jedi? Maybe I’ll start wearing black, become a real Jedi, cut off my father’s hand and throw an old man down a well? Well, as I write this, it IS a Friday night… so anything is possible…

Phage Factor:

4.5 Stars

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Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I love comic book movies. What? You didn’t know? Where have you been hiding for the past year or so? Anyone that’s read Film Phage for a length of time knows that I positively gush whenever a comic book movie is released. Especially when they come out of the Marvel Studios lot. Sure, the Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four (OK, maybe not them… until their reboot in 2015) franchises excite me, as they feature some of my favourite characters, but it’s Marvel Studios that are storming ahead right now. Speaking of storms… it’s about time we heard from our favourite Norse god. One that wields a massive hammer, speaks in a semi-olde world tone… and enjoys taking his top off for at least one scene in every film. Yes, it’s the return of Thor in Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

As is common across all of Marvel’s “Phase Two” films up to present, Thor: The Dark World, like Iron Man 3, picks up after the events of The Avengers. This will be something that we also see happen in next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but probably not Guardians of the Galaxy. Essentially, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to Asgard with his somewhat devious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) after the latter tried to take over Earth (naughty, naughty!). So we see Loki sent to the dungeons whilst Thor attempts to deal with the latest threat to the “Nine Realms”… Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith is a dark elf determined to bring about the end of all worlds by ushering in a return to the darkness that prevailed in the universe before… erm… the universe by capturing the Aether. Ok, there’s a lot of oddness in the plot, but this is Thor – anything can happen! He’s a goddamn god… for god’s sake. God! Add into the mix Thor’s ongoing love for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and we have ourselves a plot!

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World arguably boasts the strongest ensemble cast of any of the individual Marvel Studios movies. With the likes of Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Portman, as well as Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as Friga and Idris Elba as Heimdall. The cast is strong, and this film really showcases that. Each character has more room to breathe and develop. The first film, like so many origin stories, placed a lot of effort into developing who Thor was and how he would become the hero we know in this film. Now that that’s out of the way, Thor: The Dark World can show the Thor world we all needed to see… and it bloody well works!

This is a more fully-realised film than the original Thor. The Asgardian universe feels more fleshed out, the action is more frenetic and the set pieces are far bigger. I mean, who thought that the final showdown in Thor was impressive? It was just Thor versus a set of armour in a small town in the US. This was hardly the super showdown we would want! Thankfully, no battle in Thor: The Dark World is as dull… especially not the final battle between Thor and Malekith. Why did I like it so much? Well, not just because it was set in good old London, but because it was simply entertaining.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Entertainment is high on Marvel’s agenda it would seem. For despite the subtitle of “The Dark World”, Thor isn’t a dark affair. Like April’s Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World features good slabs of humour in the mix. Not all of it hit the mark for me… not in a way that some critics would have you believe any way. This isn’t a comedy film. It has humorous elements (especially in the final battle), but they never distract from what’s actually going on in the film. This is a very good thing.]

I really have to come back to an earlier point to sum up why Thor: The Dark World worked so well: the cast. Chris Hemsworth has really grown into the role in a way that I’d now find it hard to replace him, just as I do with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. I’m eager to see whether Chris Evans‘ turn in next year’s Captain America sequel will do the same for him, as for me, he’s currently the weakest link in the “core” group of heroes. But it doesn’t end there. Tom Hiddleston epitomises what’s so great about Marvel’s casting choices; he’s simply fantastic. Hiddleston clearly loves playing Loki and his chemsitry with Hemsworth is at an all-time high. We need more of this in the future. Please Marvel, please. I could volley the same sort of compliments to the main cast, but I’ll avoid getting carried away. Needless to say – it’s a great effort from Alan Taylor on directing this entry into Marvel’s canon. Just give us more Thor!

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Oh, and a sidenote? That mid-credits “stinger” teaser scene? Thank you Marvel. That’s much appreciated! Just as Thanos’ appearance at the end of The Avengers confused many non-hardcore comic fans, I feel that this one will totally throw you off the scent. But if you’re a comic book fan… and particularly are keen to hear a bit more of the Thanos mythos… it’s worth waiting around for.

Thor: The Dark World is another roaring success for Marvel Studios. Whilst it probably won’t attract the sort of audience that Robert Downey Jr. is capable of pulling with Iran Man films, it certain ranks as one of the best movies out of the studio. Sure, it has a bonkers plot, and Christopher Eccleston is criminally underused, but it’s a great piece of superhero action. Arguably, some might say, the comic book movie of 2013. So now… all eyes are on 2014… where we can expect Captain America: The Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes, 2014 looks like a tasty fight!

So, why see Thor: The Dark World? Well, see if you tick any one of these boxes: 1) You like comic book movies, 2) you like lightning, 3) you like Chris Hemsworth‘s massive pecs, or 4) you just like bloody good films. If you’re ticking more than one of those boxes, then why aren’t you at the cinema already? Or at least googling “Chris Hemsworth topless” to know why the ladies love this Austrailian! Oh… you’ve already done that haven’t you? Cheeky!

Phage Factor:

4 Star

 

Comic-Con 2013: Film Round-Up

Comic-Con 2013

Ah, Comic-Con… it’s that time of year again to get excited about being nerdy. What is this time of year you ask? Okay, I guess Comic-Con isn’t quite as well known as something like the Oscars, but it’s becoming increasingly known as the place where some of the world’s biggest movies are launched / previewed to the world. What type of movies? Well, look at the title of the convention will you? It doesn’t take a genius to work it out. Yes, Comic-Con is dedicated to the world of comics, which thanks to films such as Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Avengers actually now dominates the world of movies.

A year ago from now, we put together a preview of what went down at Comic-Con 2012 and highlighted the big films coming out of Marvel and DC’s stables… well, this year we’re doing exactly the same! We’ve collated all the information that was released into one handy little page for y’all to view. We’ll also be offering a bit of depth to these announcements, as we know that you’re not as all nerdy / informed as The Phage. Failing that, look at this YouTube video for some girls in costumes… it’s also pretty funny to boot…

First up, it’s my boys and girls at Marvel. As regulars will no doubt know, this is my favourite publishing house and consequently produces the movies I get most excited about. Sure, we all wish that Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and The Avengers were all held by the same studio and not this fractured mess we have between Sony, Fox and Disney, but hey… the movies look pretty damn sweet! So, let’s have a closer look shall we?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Comic-Con 2013

I’m picking up with arguably the biggest franchise under the Marvel monicker… The Avengers. You know, the second highest grossing movie of all time? Yeah, that one. Well, its sequel isn’t due until 2015 (I know… an age), but we now have a title. And a title can tell you a lot of things! But I know what you’re thinking… who the hell is Ultron? Well, in the comics, Ultron is a robot engineered by Dr. Hank Pym (he’s Ant-Man by the by… a film scheduled for 2015 too). But the machine goes a bit sentient and decides that it must rid the world of humankind. Through this, we see the machine make its own humanoid machine: The Vision, in order to destroy The Avengers. Basically… lots of robot action.

Ant-Man, Ultron and The Vision... surely all three can't fit?!

Ant-Man, Ultron and The Vision… surely all three can’t fit?!

What are our thoughts on this? It’s interesting, if a little odd considering the chronology of Marvel’s films. There’s going to have to be some serious story deviations considering that Hank Pym / Ant-Man won’t be introduced until AFTER The Avengers: Rise of Ultron in the Edgar Wright-helmed film. Whether they totally retool the story, or bring in Pym in the sequel itself and expand post-Avengers, we’re not sure at the minute. Well, as I was writing this, it’s actually come up in conversation with Joss Whedon! This story arc will not follow the comics… so no Hank Pym in the new Avengers film. We’re getting hints that it’s going to come out of the pre-existing story… So… Tony Stark / Robert Downey Jr. creates Ultron then? I can already hear the fan-boys seething at the deviation, especially following the “events” of Iron Man 3… Maybe he makes Ultron to compensate for his lack of suits? Who knows, but time will tell…

What rumours do we have on this film? Well, Vin Diesel‘s been kicking up a fuss recently, as he does have a role in “a” Marvel film, apparently (although there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors going on here)… could it be in this film? Could he be The Vision? We also have Aaron Taylor-Johnson practically saying he’s Quicksilver in the Joss Whedon-helmed sequel (to go along with another new addition: The Scarlet Witch). Whatever happens, expect Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America to return with some new buddies to bring down a robot… and not Thanos…

Guardians of the Galaxy

Comic-Con 2013

Yes, Thanos was the guy teased at the end of The Avengers in the credits scene. Which scene? This one:

Now, many believed that was a hint to the direction of The Avengers 2… but that’s now totally wrong. Thanos is clearly too big a bad guy to launch into straight away. So… like Ultron… who is Thanos? Thanos is a cosmic entity from the moon of Titan, who’s constantly trying to court Death: his love. He’s a formidable character and is essentially a God, like Thor… but different. In the comics he eradicates all of the Marvel Universe of heroes. He’s pretty aggressive. But it seems Marvel are saving him for a future Avengers sequel. BUT… we know he’s confirmed to appear in James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy

Comic-Con 2013

Yes, this is what I was a little nervous of last year when it was announced. Now though, we have some casting and plotting at the very least. Starring Chris Pratt (Star Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax The Destroyer), plus the CGI-ed Groot (big tree… no-one named yet) and Rocket Raccoon (little raccoon with big gun… again, no-one named yet), it’ll see this team of intergalactic renegades teaming up against a cohort of other intergalactic entities including Lee Pace (Ronan The Accuser), Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Benicio Del Toro (The Collector). God knows how this is all going to play out, as I have zero familiarity with this particular title. Regardless, this is going to Marvel’s most “out there” franchise to date… it’s a space opera with raccoons, trees and super-powerful beings. I’m very keen to see how this plays out… my initial scepticism is fast turning into excitement as August 2014 draws closer…

Thor: The Dark World

Comic-Con 2013

Well, this is a little closer to release than 2014! Yes, Thor will return to our screens in October (for the UK) and November (never mind, USA). Comic-Con showed off some new footage, but we already know essentially what’s going on here with Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor facing off against Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith – a Dark Elf, who’s a pretty nasty character. We’re also seeing the chance of a team up between Thor and Loki to take down Malekith… will it hold? Will it hell. But this should be another top drawer movie now we’ve got rid of the “origins” story of Thor. Straight into the action? Yes please.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Comic-Con 2013

Similarly, we’ve dispensed with Captain America’s (Chris Evans) origin story now, so we can plod on with his narrative in Captain America: The Winter Solider in April 2014. What’s the story here? The titular Winter Soldier is a big clue. Remember the train scene from Captain America: The First Avenger? Where Bucky falls out of the train into oblivion somewhere in the frozen waste? Yeah… he’s not dead. He’s back with a metallic arm and a grudge against Captain America. Comic-Con got a first glimpse of the action here with a reveal of Bucky’s Winter Solider garb. Once again, we’re excited for it… although as with Thor, there’s not that much to explain here. We’re all familiar with the main characters. And these two? They’re hardly new announcements!

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Comic-Con 2013

Now we jump away from Marvel Studios / Disney to Fox’s Marvel movies… yeah, it’s going to get confusing. X-Men: Days of Future Past will pick up chronologically after this week’s The Wolverine, which itself comes after X-Men: The Last Stand. However, we’re going to see a melding of time lines to bring in the cast of X-Men: First Class. Yeah… we’re getting trippy here. The original storyline in the comics revolves around a future where mutants are hunted down relentlessly by Sentinels (large, anti-mutant robots at the behest of humankind). So, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page in X-Men: The Last Stand, and here) sends her consciousness back in time to alert her former-self to the threat that’s coming to try and stop the future. In the animated series, we saw Bishop head back in time (rugged black guy from the future, M scar on his face, loved wearing a red bandanna around his neck) to stop an assassination… and Bishop is cast in this movie…

The surprise of the day... all X-Men in attendance!

The surprise of the day… all X-Men in attendance!

But what did we find out this weekend? Well, who do you think’s getting sent back? Yes, it’s Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine… the poster boy for Fox’s X-Men franchise. So, we’ll see the old cast of the X-Men (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry etc.) and the new cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence etc.) in the same film. This could either be a very special movie, or a very flawed one. We’re optimistic here. It’s ambitious… but if it works? Wow… it’ll be good!

X-Force

Comic-Con 2013

A quick mention of this here… as it wasn’t officially announced, but we got confirmation that a script was being put together for X-Force. Now, who the HELL are these guys? They’re an X-Men off-shoot of mutants who’re a bit more cavalier in their attitude and fighting. We couldn’t possibly guess who’ll feature in this team though, as it’s a constant revolving door, much like The Avengers. We could see Wolverine, Cable (Cyclops and Jean Grey’s son… from the future), X-23 (Wolverine’s female clone), Deadpool (not the abomination from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Archangel and a whole host of others. Although a load of those need their own backstories setting up. Especially Archangel… who was last seen with big fluffy angel wings as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand, instead of the blue-skinned, metallic-winged guy known as Archangel… we’ll see how this develops. IF it develops…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Comic-Con 2013

I wish Sony had gone with a more inspirational title for this movie instead of just bolting a “2” to the end of it! But this is what we get I guess. Here, we’re following up from the original The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield as the titular hero. But this time, instead of Rhys Ifans‘ Lizard, we see him up against Jamie Foxx‘s Electro, Paul Giamatti‘s Rhino and potentially Chris Cooper‘s Norman Osborn / Green Goblin… well, it’s certainly a busy time for Spidey! Whether it suffers from villain overload, we’re going to find out, but again… I’m optimistic. I was underwhelmed with the original Amazing Spider-Man, as I thought it was too soon for a reboot. But the teasers released for Foxx‘s Electro? And the footage aired at Comic-Con? We could be in for a treat. Electro could be a great villain, unlike the ones we’ve seen before… Check the clip for the reveal…

Man of Steel 2 / Superman vs. Batman / World’s Finest

Comic-Con 2013

This was perhaps the biggest shock of Comic-Con that no-one really saw coming, and for once… it wasn’t from Marvel. We knew a sequel to the recently released Man of Steel would be inevitable… but few could have predicted this. Zack Snyder waltzed onto the stage to announce that the next instalment would feature both Superman AND Batman… a rebooted Batman, free of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. Want something else? They’re going to be at each other’s throats. Wow. And again… Wow. I’m not even a DC fan, but this is impressive news. No-one has any specifics yet, except for the fact we’re going to see the return of Henry Cavill and the cast of Man of Steel and that it’s going to drop in 2015… It seems that year’s hotting up now… with The Avengers: Age of Ultron and now Man of Steel 2 hitting in the same summer… ALONG with Ant-Man at some point too. Sheesh… it’s going to be a busy one!

And we can’t wait…