Wow – what a spring we’ve had because in three months there has been A TRIO OF TERRIFIC BLOCKBUSTERS – IRON MAN THREE, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and MAN OF STEEL.
Looking back at the films that were released this spring, I’ve felt compelled to write about how wonderful I thought they were and how nice it is to see big, commercial movies being so very well made by talented, visionary film-makers.
So first up, you had IRON MAN THREE in April – Shane Black’s extraordinary new movie in the Tony Stark franchise and an example of a real rarity: when is the third film in a series the best? Well, this proved it can happen and then some.
Has Robert Downey Jr. ever been wittier as this character than he was here, courtesy of Drew Pearce and Shane Black’s dynamite script, which lead to real developments in Tony’s relationships with Pepper Potts, gorgeously played by Gwyneth Paltrow – love the vest! – and Rhodes, a very smart and sassy Don Cheadle.
But that wasn’t all. A collection of great actors were assembled for the other key parts – Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Ty Simpkins, William Sadler and a truly gob-smacking Ben Kingsley, making this film one of the highlights of my movie-going year so far. So if you didn’t see it on its cinema release, then make a point of buying the DVD or Blu-ray when it comes out in September, you will not be disappointed.
If you fancy seeing my full review of the film, it’s here.
Following not far behind it in May was STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – J.J. Abrams’ fantastic sequel to his stellar 2009 reboot of the adventures of Kirk, Spock and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
My first feeling after watching it and something I noted in my review of the film, was that it brought to mind that other great sequel The Empire Strikes Back and I loved the fact how Abrams upped the emotional ante considerably for this instalment. Kirk and Spock, Kirk and Pike, Spock and Uhura – all of those relationships were put to the test by the arrival of one hell of a fearsome and complex villain John Harrison, played with effortless panache by Benedict Cumberbatch. What a truly great nemesis he was and further proof it seems (if it was needed) that British actors really can do memorable baddies.
The scope and visuals of the movie were superbly expanded but that wasn’t at the expense of the witty script which was again very much in evidence and even more welcome as the story was so much more darker in tone than the first film. All in all, a winning sequel and one can only hope that with Abrams’ directing duties now also employed in a galaxy far, far away, he’ll come back for the 3rd movie to finish off what would be a dazzling trilogy.
For my complete low-down on the movie, you can read my review here.
And then in June, we had MAN OF STEEL – Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman legend which was just stunning. Everything about this film was fresh and startling, from the awesome new soundtrack courtesy of Hans Zimmer – no John Williams here – to the twists and new takes on this familiar story and characters, right down to the explanation of the famous ‘S’.
Henry Cavill made a perfect, strong-jawed and yet tender Clark Kent, as that’s who he believed he was for a large part of the movie and Amy Adams was just the right mix of feistiness and vulnerability as Lois Lane. But just as Star Trek and Iron Man Three showed, what you also need to make the movie fly is a remarkable villain and this had in the awesome shape of Michael Shannon’s General Zod – a powerful, uber-focused and yet conflicted soldier whose actions, although extreme, was in his mind for the good of Krypton. He dominated events every time he appeared and what could have unbalanced the film was beautifully matched by Russell Crowe’s terrific turn as Jor-El, the father Clark only latterly comes to know.
Crowe’s undeniable presence on screen was used so well by Snyder, particularly as your memory of Jor-El in previous films is really no more than an occasional presence – even when he’s played by Marlon Brando. Here, he’s an important element of Clark’s maturing into Superman for what we know is coming, when he has to face Zod in the climactic battle. It was all top stuff and Snyder’s most accomplished film to date.
If you want to read more, then my full review is here.
Of course, you’ll have read some less positive reviews of these movies but hey, those critics are wrong! For me, because of them, this year has been quite unlike any other in my recent memory in producing such a superb collection of features that all make their mark. Usually, you get one movie that really captures the imagination. Last year that one was The Avengers and seeing IRON MAN THREE’s immense success so far (currently over $1 billion) there’s something to be said for, like The Avengers, being the first movie out of the gate in April.
Having seen Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger, After Earth and White House Down struggle on their releases this summer, it’ll be interesting to watch how the big films that are coming out towards the end of the year – Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, for example – fare and hopefully find an audience. I’ll be fascinated to see.