Where Avengers: Endgame was the result of a decade of carefully curated MCU crossovers, No Way Home uses a freak multiverse fracture to draw ad hoc from the past twenty years of Sony’s Spider-Man movies, delivering perhaps the ultimate in cinematic fan service for those who grew up during that period. Its strength is the resulting character interaction between characters who would never normally have met, drawing on the parallels and differences between the lives of the various Peter Parkers we have seen. The script uses this for emotional payoff and even to provide some unexpected closure years later. In-jokes abound based on the earlier films and even Internet memes that grew out of them. In all of this, the film can be joyfully playful in a similar way to Into The Spider-verse. No Way Home does place certain expectations on its audience’s knowledge, which leaves it unburdened by the need to explain its position in the MCU or to provide fresh introductions for its rogues’ gallery of villains, whose backstories instead become throwaway gags. The weak link is the action which continues the franchise’s trend for CG-heavy fights and wanton property destruction; even J. Jonah Jameson seems incredulous as he criticises the damage to yet another landmark. The most interesting choreography is a sequence combining Spider-Man’s acrobatics with Doctor Strange’s portals, which shows more creativity in a few minutes than the entire climactic battle.
“DC… the house that Batman built. Yeah, what, Superman? Come at me, bro.”
Arguing The Lego Batman Movie‘s ranking amongst DC movies is amusing, but more interesting is that applying The Lego Movie‘s tongue-in-cheek humour to Batman’s storied past has created DC’s closest big screen competitor to Deadpool. It takes swings equally at DC’s successes (Joker describing his plan as “better than the two boats”) and its failures (“What am I gonna do? Get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That’s a stupid idea.”), as well as highlighting the sociological flaws in supporting a billionaire vigilante. Will Arnett returns to voice Batman largely as a gruff and self-involved caricature. Though we see some loneliness and self-doubt beneath the cowl, it’s not written to be as nuanced as Arnett’s voice acting in the sublime Bojack Horseman. The Joker unsurprisingly takes a central role but the film takes full advantage of Batman’s extensive list of villains, as well as co-opting a few from other franchises with Lego deals. Director Chris McKay was the animation supervisor on The Lego Movie allowing for a seamless transition in visual identity with bright colours and showers of bricks as well as some impressively atmospheric lighting. The (constr)action, however, is far less creative which leads to a disappointingly forgettable third act that will cause fatigue as most adult viewers zone out.
“I think Nick Fury just hijacked our summer vacation.”
With Avengers: Endgame the obvious culmination of Marvel’s epic decade-spanning story arc, it seemed a little odd that Phase 3 would actually conclude with a Spider-Man film, but it actually makes a lot of sense to address the aftermath of those momentous events in a smaller interstitial that shows life in the MCU goes on. The breezy globe-trotting harkens back to the lighter entertainment of the early MCU, at its strongest in the more personal stories of Peter’s pursuit of MJ and his struggle with the loss of his mentor. This is not to detract from Jake Gyllenhaal’s wonderfully charismatic Mysterio, who makes it believable that Peter would latch onto him as a surrogate for Stark. The early fights benefit from a smaller scale, particularly in Venice where we stick with Spider-man as he works damage control while a battle rages between Mysterio and an elemental in the background; by the time we reach London, the drone-filled conclusion is CGI bombast over careful choreography. All of which goes to show that there is plenty of space for purely entertaining outings with characters old and new in the MCU. From where its future depth will come remains to be seen.
“It’s a lot easier to be brave when you’ve got lives to spare. It’s a lot harder when you only have one life.”
Dr Smolder Bravestone
When Jumanji was first announced, I expected a lazy nostalgia cash-in. It was a pleasant surprise to find a thoughtful and fresh take on the jungle adventure. Although boardgames are now in vogue once more, a shrewd move is for the original movie’s cursed game to transforms itself into a 90s console cartridge before being discovered in the present day by four schoolkids in detention. The use of outdated 90s videogame tropes as characters, inhabited by the minds of these children, allows for smartly written conflict and self-discovery. The highlight is undoubtedly Jack Black’s performance as a phone-obsessed teenage girl, whilst Dwayne Johnson ably undercuts his own typical charismatic presence with a believable lack of self-confidence. Meanwhile, intentionally clunky 90s videogame exposition and level structure keeps the pace swift in this fun comedy-adventure.