– By Ben L.
Sequels, reboots and some of the biggest Hollywood stars headline this year’s blockbuster summer. So how did they fare? My summarised reviews below:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (May)
The first Avengers movie was a fun way of uniting our favourite superheroes on the big screen. But since then almost every Marvel film has featured more than just the titular character, which means that the second Avengers film had already lost its uniqueness as a superhero movie of ‘epic proportions’. James Spader was menacing as the voice of Ultron, who was one of the more intriguing enemies to feature in the Marvel cinematic universe. But a weak storyline failed to develop the tenacity of what could have been a powerful villain to devastatingly hurt Earth’s mightiest heroes, hence adding to the frustration of a certain super-villain who will be entering the fray in due time. Iron-Man’s Hulkbuster suit was one of the few delights to watch, and congratulations to Jeremy Renner whose character Hawkeye has a more useful role as an Avenger this time.
In essence: this is nothing more than an expensive set-up for the 2016 “Avengers have yet another falling out, but this time it’s catastrophic” movie. 3/5 stars, half-star deducted for massive overhype.
Mad Max: Fury Road (May)
By contrast, for a film that is essentially about being chased by crazed people on a poorly planned road trip, the Mad Max reboot was a hugely entertaining ride through a dull barren wasteland. The cars may look rusty and shoddily welded together, but the exhilarating action sequences make this year’s Fast and Furious movie look more like a Hot Wheels advertisement. Also, props to not-so-subtle messages of empowering women – yay to being progressive in cinema, even though boobs still had to be shown. Tom Hardy is a man of few words, but he flexes enough muscle to show why he is the leading choice for the next Hollywood action star.
Sequel highly anticipated. 4.5/5 stars, half-star added for most energetic guitarist dangling on the front of a high-speed truck.
Jurassic World (June)
Another actor earmarked to be the next action star is Chris Pratt, who leads another overdue movie franchise reboot. Once again he displays wit, humour and versatility to ultimately save the day, but one wonders if he might be stuck in that mould because his character Owen Grady is about as refreshing as putting Star-Lord from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy in the raptor cage. For a screenplay that is ridden with as many plot holes as the number of flying reptiles that broke out of the aviary, director Colin Trevorrow, who has only directed one other feature film, still manages to pull off a satisfying movie that captures both the adventurous spirit and terrifying suspense of the 1993 Jurassic Park. One wonders if the movie would have been better served if elements from its marketing material online actually made it to the big screen, because they do answer some questions regarding the 22-year gap from the events in the original film.
What we want to see in the next movie: T-Rex with a missile launcher, special ops Raptors and B. D. Wong as a hybrid. 4/5 stars, half-star added for… Oh come on, do we need to explain how awesome it is to see dinosaurs in the cinema again?
We go from larger than life creatures to the tiniest of heroes, as the original founder of the Avengers finally gets his own movie. A certain air of skepticism hung around the film after its troubled development, so it was a huge surprise to see that not only was Ant-Man a highly entertaining piece, it also managed to retain some of Edgar Wright’s style even though he had left the project before filming began. Against the bigger and duller Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man proves that size doesn’t matter by punching its own weight without the need for high-budget explosive set-pieces. But with a slightly different direction from the conventional Marvel films, the necessity of tying the film to the larger MCU with the forced inclusion of a certain fight scene also felt a little out of place, though fortunately it did not distract too much from the overall vision of the film.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man is humorous and refreshing, albeit with a distinct British flavour, and like the 2014 film it is also essentially a heist film involving superheroes… Wait a minute! 4/5 stars, half-star added for the flawless CGI version of a younger Michael Douglas.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (August)
Tom Cruise is one man who definitely doesn’t need CGI – he doesn’t seem to age, does he? And doing his own stunts at the age of 53 (or so we’re led to believe) – we’ve certainly not seen the last of him in an action movie. It’s business as usual in the fifth film in the franchise – a highly trained enemy is threatening the world, and Ethan Hunt must overcome specially designed obstacles to complete his mission. If you thought 2011’s hair-raising attempt to scale the glass windows of the Burj Khalifa was ballsy, wait till you see Cruise literally hang on for dear life on the door of a cargo jet as it takes off. The movie never fully realises the potential of a villainous group of former black ops operatives who played dead in order to seek greener (or darker) pastures, but then again who really cares about the bad guys when all we want to see is how Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt cheats death once again? Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson had our heads spinning not just with her beauty but also her mysterious role as a double agent, while Simon Pegg was a huge asset to the team with his comical lines. If IMF was ever shut down (again), Ethan and Benji should seriously consider being a comedy duo. On the other hand, poor Jeremy Renner who received a small promotion in Avengers: Age of Ultron only to see his IMF character demoted and relegated to the desk.
What we want to see in Mission Impossible VI: Tom Cruise fighting great white sharks and attempting to beat the ERP gantry while embroiled in a high-speed chase. 4.5/5 stars, half-star added for the cheeky reference to MI:III’s ‘rabbit’s foot’.
Think I’m being overly critical of Age of Ultron or too biased with my love for dinosaurs? Let me know in the comments below.