Captain Marvel

Since 2008, the Marvel series of films have been spectacular hits. Raking in dollars as well as garnering a new legion of superhero fans, the movies have become a cornerstone in modern commercial film-making. They have their detractors, like any series, but success isn’t a bad thing in Hollywood which is why they keep on being made. ‘Captain Marvel’ is more of the same with the only enemy facing the production being the limitations of the writer’s mind.

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a former U.S. fighter pilot, unwittingly gains great superpowers. Joining the peaceful alien Kree group Starforce and calling herself Captain Marvel, she becomes a valued member. Aided by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), an agent for SHIELD, Danvers faces a potentially deadly enemy in Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). A shape-shifting member of the Skrull empire, Talos’ supposed wicked ways seemingly meets its match in Danver’s cosmic powers.

‘Captain Marvel’ lies in the middle of the Marvel movie pantheon. Certainly not one of the worst produced but nor one of the best, it does the job in providing visually appealing escapism. The eye-popping colours and grandiose spectacle are in place with the direction moving the somewhat predictable story at a fast pace. ‘Captain Marvel’ is a generally light-hearted romp with the caustic interplay between Danvers and Fury adding to the enjoyment.

One of the issues ‘Captain Marvel’ has is its casting. Larson fails to project the charisma needed for such a hero, only looking at the camera in serious monotone. Her acting range isn’t the best but her co-stars are much better. Jackson slips into his regular role as Fury with ease with Mendelsohn enjoying playing a different role than usual. The CGI and photography are first rate as expected with the musical score suitably bombastic and loud.

‘Captain Marvel’ may feel like more of the same and in most cast that’s true. It’s clichéd in places with a lead failing to register in the gallery of heroes. For a breezy popcorn yarn this should do the trick until the next ‘Avengers’ film comes along with this captain not being as marvellous as hoped.

Rating out of 10: 6

Alita Battle Angel

Based on a popular Japanese manga series, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ has been a long time coming. Trapped in Hollywood’s infamous ‘development hell’ – where announced projects become stuck in eternal creative and financial abyss - its long genesis has enhanced its mysterious reputation. Produced by James Cameron and Directed by gifted fantasy helmer Robert Rodriguez, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ successfully mirrors its comic-book counterpart. The film looks like it cost a fortune and would need to make one with its elongated gestation adding to its gargantuan budget.

Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a cyborg who awakens after a severe technological mishaps destroys earth. Wondering what has happened, she finds answers from her friend Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). Discovering a post-apocalyptic world shaken with fear, Alita also must contend with other cyborgs who want to cause more damage to a broken world. Among them is Zapan (Ed Skrein) who has Alita in his sights as the battle between machines escalates towards the point of no return.

One of the problems with current big epic films like ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is it crams too much information in a restricted run-time. This is where modern TV trumps movies like these at it has the ability to effectively to tell such a sprawling story. It’s not that ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is bad, it’s that crucial plot points seem missing with characterisation sacrificed for spectacle. The latter is where it excels with each bruising battle sequence and chase keenly felt. This is Rodriguez coming into his own as his usual directorial flourishes are seen in full flight. Whilst not the best of his long career, he still infuses genuine energy and danger to proceedings.

The biggest drawcard is the special effects that look suitably amazing. Both Cameron and Rodriguez know how to create new worlds that feel real. Their ability to develop new societies within each world shows their fondness for the sci-fi genre. It is unfortunate the story overall is somewhat muddled with hidden agendas and double-crosses dissolving into a small mess. The characters aren’t particularly memorable either despite the spirited performances. The typical ‘setting up events for sequels’ plot-strand is annoying but in terms of providing a visually arresting experience ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is worth seeing on a big screen.

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ has problems but is entertaining if one doesn’t think too much about the story. It’s a shame it isn’t up to par with the CGI which obviously had the most dollars poured into it. The ‘Playstation generation’ should dig this movie even if the screenplay becomes lost amongst computer generated wizardry.

Rating out of 10: 6