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The Avengers: Believe the Hype
Fling a bunch of superheroes together and you either get the New Year’s Eve of superhero films or you get a slice of unbridled awesomeness. Thankfully, The Avengers, which crams Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hulk into one film without short-changing any one character, falls squarely into the latter camp. In fact, it’s mayor of that camp.
Exhibit one of its awesomeness: Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow gets an introductory scene that is more badass than her entire Iron Man 2 arc and in fact, she’s one of the most awesome characters in the film. Exhibit Two: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, with her entire three minutes of screen time, manages to come across as smart, hilarious and generally super cool; three things that can’t be said about her roles in both Iron Man films put together. Exhibit Three: Hulk, who was previously so mistreated by Hollywood that he needed a reboot instead of a sequel, is the most badass superhero in the line-up. Although Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, in all his power hungry, revenge seeking insanity, is a joy to watch.
The film’s plot is rather simple. Loki (Hiddleston), Thor’s (Hemsworth) brother, is out to take over the world and has assembled an alien army to do so. All he has to do is get his hands on the Tesseract - a super powerful energy source - and use it to open a portal through which his army can join him. Nick Fury (Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to reactivate The Avengers initiative and calls on the world’s superheroes - Iron Man (Downey Jr), Captain America (Evans), Black Widow (Johansson), Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor and Hawkeye (Renner) - to counter this extraterrestrial threat. Despite the fact that they can barely stand each other, they’re forced to put their planet-sized egos aside to save the world from Loki’s dominion.
We could go on and on about everything that makes this film far superior than all the other superhero films that came before it, but it can really all be summed up in two points: the dialogue, and the visuals. The dialogue here has Joss Whedon written all over it. Seriously, anyone who’s watched one episode of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly will recognise his voice from the very first one liner. The relentless onslaught that follows only solidifies his status as the king of quips. This film is so hilarious, that you’ll frequently miss jokes because you’re laughing too hard at the one before. And no, they don’t all come from Iron Man. It also has to be said that the actors really prove their comedic skills here whether with outright jokes or more wry material.
As for the visuals, they’re Transformers good. It rivals anything Michael Bay has put out in sheer thrill factor alone. The main difference though, is that there’s space to breathe. In between all the mayhem and destruction, the characters get time to take a moment, get back on their feet, trot out an epic one liner then throw themselves back into the fray. It’s awesome! The combination of The Avengers’ skill sets makes for really interesting fight scenes where the characters’ personal fighting styles and weapons of choice come together in really exciting ways.
You don’t need to have seen each character’s films before seeing The Avengers but a basic knowledge of the superheroes is actually recommended - Thor and Loki in particular as it’s their relationship that drives the story. While not technically a sequel, it does tie all of the characters’ previous story arcs together and relies to an extent on the fact that the characters have all been established already.
Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist can rightly claim to be one of the most successful haunted-house tales ever told and so a reboot of what is probably one of the scariest films of all time makes sense in that money-grabbing Hollywood kind of way. But as with so many reboots, Gil Kenan’s uninspired take on the 1982 classic proves that it’s no easy task.
The story is centred on the Bowens; a family of five who, due to the recent recession, have been forced to downsize their home and move to a more affordable neighbourhood. Having recently lost his job, Eric Bowen (Rockwell) and his wife, Amy (DeWitt) have been struggling to keep up with the mounting debts and finding the perfect home for themselves and their three kids; teenager Kendra (Sharbino), her younger brother, Griffin (Catlett) and their youngest sibling, Maddy (Clements) hasn’t been easy.
Settling on a semi run-down estate in a town where the pricing seemed to be just right, the Bowens are excited to get settled into their new surroundings. However, things soon go bumping in the night and both Griffin and Maddy – the latter of whom doesn’t seem to be at all bothered about making new ‘friends’ in the closet – begin noticing strange occurrences. Griffin is the first to voice his concern, however his parents think that he is just being overly-anxious about his new home – that is until Maddy goes missing only to resurface as a voice inside the family’s television.
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire – see Rabbit Hole – the script stays very faithful to its source material. It’s something to be commended, yes, but the horrors of old just don’t have the same effect as they did back then and this reboot lacks freshness, creativity and that extra little oomph needed to bring it into the 21st century. Subsequently, it’s difficult to assess as to how loyalists to the original will receive the film; on one hand, it stays close to the original, but on the other hand, there’s nothing new – no new angle, no new pull.
Luckily, the acting is solid and everyone involved turns in relatively convincing and connecting performances. One of the most versatile actors working Hollywood right now, Rockwell turns out to be a decent choice for the role of the troubled father and Clements - although, nowhere near as powerful as her predecessor - is creepily endearing.
In the end, though, Poltergeist 2015 is too weak to stand up to the original. One of the things that made the 1982 version the iconic horror it is today is that unnerving atmosphere and the unsettling energy which followed the story from beginning to end. For what it’s worth, Kenan’s keen eye and roaming camerawork manages to keep his audience on the edge of their seats, but the predictable jump-scares only serve to take away from tension.
Spooks: The Greater Good, the big-screen treatment of the long-running BBC television series, comes almost four years after the show’s exit from the small-screen. Known for its devastating twists, fans of the original show will be pleased with Bharat Nalluri’s commendable effort, although those who aren't familiar with it, might feel a little lost in the process and even a little underwhelmed with the end-result.
The adaptation sees Peter Firth reprise his role as the unflinching and emotionless MI5 chief, Sir. Harry Pearce, and the film opens with a long opening credits sequence showing Pearce taking the heat for the escape of a Middle Eastern Terrorist, Adem Qasim (Gabel) during a botched prison transfer from MI5 to the CIA. Taking full responsibility for the escape, he is soon forced to resign from service and, as a result, fakes his own suicide and goes rogue, which triggers an investigation. The man given the find out what happened to Harry is – dramatic pause – his former protégé, Will Holloway, ably played by Game of Thrones hunk, Kit Harrington.
Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, there’s a distinct sense of grittiness and realism that is often missing from similar productions across the pond in Hollywood. The tone is applied well to what is a heavy mix of traditional and modern elements of espionage films and the twists and turns are aplenty – perhaps a little too many to keep a steady track of. But the urgency behind each and every one of them can be felt throughout. Sadly, however, the film’s faults are of its own doing; produced on a relatively modest budget, it tries a little too hard to impress and it’s only when it tries to move things into the kind of grandeur and ambitious action set-pieces associated with its Hollywood peers that it falls a little short.
Firth, who has been playing the same role for the past ten years, is unsurprisingly convincing as the ex-MI5 Head of Intelligence Chief, though Harington doesn’t shake off his pretty-boy persona enough to be as affective. Visually, the film is a winner and the silvery-blue aesthetic it’s coated in perfectly communicates the murky winters of London and the aforementioned gritty tone. There’s a lot to commend in Spooks: The Greater Good, but at the end of the day it offers nothing new to the genre and it’s big-screen adaptation just needed to be more daring and step out of the confines of television.