Movie review – Black Panther

Movie review

Black Panther

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Martin Freeman

Certificate 12A

Unlike Marvel favourites Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, Doctor Strange and Thor, Black Panther was never given a dry run as a TV movie.

Launched in the 1960s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creation barely got a look in as an animated hero either. Which seems odd as he has such a rich back story and interesting characters.

However, now Marvel has a decade’s worth of blockbusters under their belt, it’s clear they’re willing to take a few ’risks’, such as an African American superhero.

Of course this should have all happened decades ago, and at one point it looked like it would with Wesley Snipes, but he opted for a lesser Marvel character – Blade.

No, Black Panther’s road to the big screen has been a long, rocky one.

And at the helm is director Ryan Coogler, whose critical success with Rocky sequel Creed proved he could breathe life into one of Marvel’s most ambitious movies.

As a fan of the comics, thanks to black and white British reprints from the early eighties, I was keen to see if the movie worked, but the trailer left me cold. Generic shots involving flying vehicles and expensive futuristic cityscapes all felt rather derivative.

Then the reviews arrived, and critics claimed it was an epic like no other.

So I settle in for what is admittedly a visually stunning adventure, but while millions of dollars were obviously spent on the effects and stunning costumes, about a tenner was spent on the script. It’s a yawnsome array of humdrum one-liners, clumsy exposition and forgettable monologues.

There are some standout lines, most notably from excellent villain Killmonger during the obligatory showdown. It’s one of those movies where the villains are far more interesting than the heroes. Michael B Jordan is more rounded than Chadwick Boseman’s bland, noble hero T’Challa. He sounds like a young Nelson Mandela throughout, but the banter with his sister Shuri falls flat.

On the subject of which, Shuri, the gadgets mistress – a Q to Boseman’s Bond if you like – is one of the most memorable characters in the movie. Letitia Wright, last seen in the excellent Black Mirror, is a fun, engaging breath of fresh air, and along with a scenery-chewing Andy Serkis and ever reliable Martin Freeman, helps lift the film to another level.

It’s not a bad movie, though some ropey CG rhinos, confusing action scenes with the gravity-defying hero, and an improbable laboratory which looks like a tourist attraction at Epcot does jar a little. And the ritual fight scenes feel like a musical waiting for a rousing song that never comes.

And don’t get me started on those masks and suits that appear out of thin air. The Batmobile’s instant CG shields bugged me in 1992’s Batman Returns, and this looks even more improbable.

Yes it’s a fantasy but the best comic book conversions, like Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, have a believable gravitas. This just feels like anything can be summoned from thin air.

Solid support comes from Get Out’s BAFTA-winning Daniel Kaluuya, while Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker and Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira help give the saga some heft.

Given the mammoth box office returns after week one, safe to say a sequel is in the works, but before that, our hero and a few sidekicks return for the enormous Avengers: Infinity War.

I hope Coogler and Boseman have a better script for Black Panther 2. So much time and effort was taken on the look of hidden kingdom Wakanda, that it would be nice if the dialogue matched the occasionally stunning vision.

7/10

Advertisements

Film review Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok

Directed by Taika Waititi

Starring Chis Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston

Certificate 12A

Back in 2011, when Kenneth Branagh was making Thor, I was keen to see how he would tackle one of Marvel’s best loved comics characters.

The result was a solid blockbuster; a little talky in places, but the movie really came alive when the eponymous character arrived on Earth, fell for boffin Jane Foster and tackled a generic robot destroyer.

It rightly made stars of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, and paved the way for terrific sequel Thor: The Dark World. Another great mix of fantasy and comedy with Hemsworth and Hiddleston stealing the show again.

Wisely Marvel gave the saga a rest for four years while prepping more helpings of Captain America and Avengers.

So now we catch up with the god of thunder in a movie which throws out the rulebook and starts afresh. There’s no Jane Foster, sexy sidekick Darcy or seasoned boffin Erik Selvig. Most of Thor’s allies are also removed in favour of assorted monsters. This owes more of a debt to Guardians of the Galaxy than the previous Thor movies, and the style change may be deliberate as Marvel preps its biggest film, the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, which will see just about every member of the MCU involved in a smack down with the galactic godfather, Thanos.

Hiring Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) as director was a stroke of genius. He brings an irreverent tone to the saga which is irresistible. At one point when the brilliant Jeff Goldblum is doing his eccentric bonkers routine as intergalactic villain Grandmaster, I’m laughing so hard I miss about five gags.

Getting rid of Natalie Portman was also a good move. Great actress, but I found her bland in the series. Newcomer Tessa Thompson is a terrific heroine. Smart, funny and lends the saga much needed femininity amid the testosterone. Cate Blanchett also has a great time as the antagonist, and even though her by-the-numbers dispatching of countless Asgardian troops is okay, it’s her bitchy comments that prove more effective. She chews whole chunks of scenery like a ravenous lioness.

And Hemsworth reminds us why he’s far more than just a gobsmacking six pack and set of biceps. His comic skills are excellent. Seeing improv so funny in a film this epic is a welcome breath of fresh air.

There are times when it feels like a couple of other movies. A bit of Lord of the Rings here, Warcraft there. But there’s also plenty of the usual Marvel staples: fight scenes; boss monster; dogfights in funky fighter craft and a lot more. It’s all expertly done and rounds out a great year for comic book movies with Spider-Man Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy: vol 2 fine additions to Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Obviously the presence of Hulk and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is a major selling point (in a storyline inspired by the comic Planet Hulk), but Taika Waititi’s rocky gladiator Korg steals many of the best scenes. Again, his improv is often side-splitting.

And as usual, stay through those closing credits for an extra scene or two which should keep fans intrigued over Thor’s future. Even if you’re not a fan, there are so many gags here, it’s guaranteed to brighten the bleakest autumnal day.

Good luck topping this Justice League. You’re going to need it.

8/10

Universal v Disney – Variations on a Theme Park

Travel – Orlando, Florida

Another autumn holiday beckons, and once more than magnetic pull of Florida sees my partner Rachel and I heading for the sunshine state.

After flying into Miami and spending a few days at Fort Lauderdale to see a David Cook gig, we head to Orlando and our obligatory pilgrimage to the theme parks.

First up is Universal Studios, a place that never ceases to amaze me. Unlike some Brits who have been coming here since the early 1990s, I made my first visit in 2002, and enjoyed many trips since, either covering the launch of The Simpsons Ride in 2008, or just for pleasure.

Universal; photo: Roger Crow

Of course the beauty of being a repeat visitor is knowing which rides and attractions to experience and which to steer clear of.

Dinner, or rather brunch at Finnigan’s Irish bar is terrific. We get there at opening time, 11am, so there’s time to enjoy The Blues Brothers show outside while scoffing fish sandwiches.

That gives us time to plan our day: tick the map of attractions that are ’musts, maybes and avoids’ as we’ve done them before.

In the ’musts’ is Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which I’ve been looking forward to since our last visit in 2015.

Thanks to Express Passes, we are on in no time. Dense jungle and skulls on poles line the queuing area, and once we’re inside the ride zone, there’s the usual 3D glasses to collect before boarding trucks that take us off on the perilous journey.

With 3D films playing on both sides of the vehicle, that all important immersive experience soon kicks in as cinema’s greatest ape tackles dinosaurs and lethal beasts, while terrified and thrilled holiday makers make a series of interesting screams and yelps. Me included.

Universal: Photo: Roger Crow

It’s five years since I experienced a similar Kong ride at Universal in California, so it seems the company have taken elements of that, and merged it with new scenes from the enjoyable Kong: Skull Island movie. Or maybe it’s all new. I do know it’s a terrific experience and well worth the trip. As are most of the attractions at Universal, especially the new improved Spider-Man ride. Again thanks to Express Passes, we walk straight on, so if your time is limited (and whose isn’t on holiday?), it’s worth spending the extra money.

Rachel and I also experience the thrilling but truly bizarre Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon, in which the talk show host takes punters from his studio in the Big Apple off through a breakneck ride through the streets. Fallon’s a huge name in the States, but his comedy shtick loses a bit in translation, especially his woeful teenage girl character which the locals love, but I find hugely annoying.

All parks need at least one must-see attraction, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Universal’s. I’ve seen the place grow from stage one at the start of the decade to the gobsmacking experience it is now. In 2015 it blew my mind that Potter covers two parks, and that a replica of King’s Cross Station had been created. That experience is obviously a less gobsmacking when you know what’s coming, but it still amazes me the scale of the experience.

I’m not a Potter fan, but full marks to the team who created one of the greater park attractions ever seen.

As it’s autumn, or fall, the traditional Hallowe’en Horror Nights means the park becomes something a lot darker after the regulars go home. We’ve done it in the past and it’s an extraordinary experience, so if adrenaline-fuelled attractions are your thing, it’s definitely worth a look.

But what of the competition? Well, if you do nothing else in Florida, I’d recommend…

Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora – Flight of Passage vlog review by Roger Crow

Years ago, news arrived that Disney and James Cameron were planning a theme park experience based on his blockbuster. I was thrilled, but lost interest when nothing happened and assumed the gap between the 2009 film meant it would never see the light of day.

But Disney and Cameron never do things by halves, and finally walking round Pandora, I realise why it took so long to create. Cameron’s lethal planet is now a lot more friendly at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando. And it really was worth the wait.

The thought of a two-and-a-half hour queue to experience Flight of Passage (riding on a banshee, aka a dragon that looks like it’s burst from a Roger Dean 1970s album cover) did fill me with dread, but the wait is so entertaining, it’s never boring. Watching cascading waterfalls from huge ’floating’ rocks, or soaking up the exotic scenery is a treat for the senses.

And after the winding queue takes us inside Na’avi caves and into a lab, we get to see one of the huge floating blue bodies that our brain syncs with for the ride. (I think my avatar has trouble finding my mind, it’s so blown by the experience).

For newcomers, It helps if you’ve seen the film, but is not essential.

Eventually I settle into what looks like a glorified motorcycle ride, but what unfolds after that is a stunning flight through the skies of Pandora, swooping, diving, soaring through that exotic landscape. It’s everything I hoped for in 2009, and a thousand times more.

In short: Pandora is an incredible experience.

Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; footage: Roger Crow

It’s proof of what can be achieved with one person’s fertile imagination; millions of dollars, and an army of experts, both on the design and construction side, that manage to create this behemoth of an attraction.

I was an enormous fan of Cameron’s 2009 fantasy blockbuster, like many others who helped turn it into the most lucrative film ever made. And it had to be. As the most expensive movie in history, it was a huge gamble for 20th Century Fox, but Cameron has long been one of the most reliable filmmakers in Hollywood, since The Terminator turned him into a superstar filmmaker back in 1984. By the time he made Terminator 2: 3-D, a thrilling park attraction at Universal Studios just around the corner, Cameron had raised the bar for theme park attractions so high, many suffered vertigo trying to match it.

But that was years ago, and in the time since, Universal created the aforementioned Harry Potter attraction that literally took my breath away in 2015 when I first experienced it in its finished form.

Just when you think that can never be topped, Disney and Cameron has created the largest, most stunning attraction ever seen.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom; footage: Roger Crow

Inbetween rides, Rachel enjoys the best vegetarian dining experience she’s had in a theme park. My reinvented burger in a bun, a ’pod’ of doughy ’bread’ filled with minced beef, is a nice change from the ubiquitous burger and fries you get in most parks.

Having recharged our batteries, we set off to queue for the Na’vi River Journey, in which we travel through the bioluminescent forest of Pandora. After a 50-minute wait, we board our vessels and set sail. This is a less full-on experience both in queuing and the trip itself, so I’d recommend doing that first if you want to get a taste of the Avatar experience and then get blown away by the Flight of Passage ride.

Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; photo: Roger Crow

We only have a day at Animal Kingdom, one of my favourite of the many Disney parks, but Pandora aside, it’s never dull. Though my favourite other attraction, the tigers in the Asia section, are busy raising young, the sight of monkeys leaping from branch to branch is forever fun and awe-inspiring.

Obviously there’s plenty to see and do at the other parks, so there’s little chance of the ankle-biters getting bored. Epcot especially is a terrific experience, not least because of the annual Food and Wine experience in which you wander round the world showcase sampling food and drink from different vendors. We didn’t get a chance this time but will no doubt be back in a couple of years.

:: With thanks to Universal and Disney for their help with this article.

Wind River – Film Review

Wind River

Directed by Taylor Sheridan

Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham

Certificate 15

I know three things about Wind River before I settle into my comfy cinema seat. It was scripted by Taylor Sheridan, who penned Sicario and Hell or High Water (two of my favourite films of recent years), and stars one of my favourite actors, Jeremy Renner.

Everything else is, aptly, a mystery.

As the movie opens, and I’m treated to vast snowy vistas at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, we meet US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Renner).

It reminds me of why I love cinema. You just don’t get that same emotional impact on TV or (obviously) on your phone.

And that wintry American landscape is a key character in this beautifully told, brutal, intelligent thriller based on a true story.

Lambert has a tragic past, a Native American Indian ex-wife and son. While hunting vicious wildlife he happens upon the body of a frozen woman with bare feet.

Enter ill prepared FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, Renner’s co-star in the Avengers/Captain America movies).

She’s obviously in over her head and needs Cory’s skills as a hunter who knows the area and the locals. Assisted by the wonderfully deadpan Ben (Graham Greene – Dances with Wolves), the story takes its time offering pieces of the jigsaw which slowly slot into place.

It’s not a film that feels in a rush, and director Sheridan keeps the attention throughout.

Yes, there are action scenes, and a lot of footage of Renner on a snowmobile, which keeps the energy up when it could start to flag.

The most important thing here is the performances and the dynamic between Renner and Olsen. Obviously they gelled in the Marvel movies, but while she’s all wide-eyed inquisitive and wet behind the ears, his face is a relief map of experience and buried pain. He’s cut from the same cloth of iconic heroes of old like Steve McQueen and Harrison Ford in his prime.

Not sure about Nick Cave’s soundtrack, which sounds like a drunk had stumbled into the recording studio when no one was looking, but it does add a spiritual element to the movie mirroring the Native American theme.

I’d quite happily watch this again as a double bill with Hell or High Water. Sheridan has a knack for crafting great thrillers with compelling characters, and if there’s any justice, Renner should get an Oscar and BAFTA nomination for his turn. It’s one of his best performances since The Hurt Locker.

Laced with humour to alleviate the tension, it ticks over beautifully with well realised characters and a breadcrumb trail that leads me and the audience further into the mystery.

The movie closes with a chilling statistic about the fact the FBI does not have statistics on missing Native American women, whose numbers remain unknown. It could be preachy but isn’t.

The fact I stay through most of the closing credits is testament to how good the film is.

Some critics have called it one of the best films of the year. I’d have to agree.

8/10

Dr Strange – Movie Review

For the most part the latest film from the Marvel stable is a lot of fun, even if it does tick all the boxes of your standard origins story. 

Benedict Cumberbatch is on good form as the arrogant, wealthy Stephen Strange, a gifted New York surgeon who during one fateful night has a terrible car crash, careers off the road and sees his own career in tatters also. 


When his hands are crushed by the dashboard, Strange undergoes rehabilitation and even more painful surgery before realising there is little help. However, when he gets wind of a fellow patient who he thought was beyond help, but spends his time playing basketball, Strange goes to find out why. The recovered sports fan seems like the most unlikely person in New York to have gone on a mystical quest, but gives Strange just enough information for him to pack up his things and head off to Nepal. 


There he finds Chiwetol Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton as mystical warriors who will help Strange heal his hands and send him on a mystical quest.

Mads Mikkelsen is on good form as the obligatory bad guy, and there are nice comedic touches that help make the whole outlandish premise far more acceptable. Despite some dazzling visuals and stunning fight scenes, not to mention an impressive Hong Kong sequence in reverse during the third act, it was all a little underwhelming. 

Rachel McAdams was wasted as Strange’s under used love interest, and the finale with the big bad character felt a little dull.


It’s not the worst superhero film I’ve ever seen, and certainly not as bad as Batman versus Superman Dawn of Justice, but given the high water marks of Spider-Man 2 and the original Iron Man, Dr Strange ends up less in some weird mirror verse than in a limbo realm of also ran comic book-inspired movies. 


Thankfully, I’ll repeat the earlier statement. Cumberbatch is spot on as the eponymous spell caster, and is supported by some terrific character actors.

It’ll be intriguing to see how Strange fits into the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, and we get a hint of that during the closing credits. 

Captain America – Civil War review

Marvel don’t seem to want unique directors any more. They want plate spinners, helmers who can keep keep multiple storylines going while dazzling audiences with a wealth of computer enhanced effects. The major plus point with Captain America: Civil War is that the Russo brothers manage to keep two dozen plates spinning at one time while avoiding the usual Marvel pitfall – hero faces off against boss monster/villain. In this case half a dozen heroes face off against more MCU favourites. 

  
The big problem is it’s hard to care about Cap’s plight – defending his buddy, Bucky Barnes – when the latter is so vanilla. Sebastian Stan could have been played by an animated action figure for all the empathy I felt for him. The bromance between the two is uninvolving. Thankfully, Chris Evans and Robert Downey jnr share more chemistry. Enough to carry the movie forward as their personal differences spark, sometimes literally. 

With old favourites Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man back for more, they attempt to steal the limelight from series newcomers Spider-Man and Black Panther. 

It ticks over, lurching from one action set piece to another, peaking with the 17 minute airport battle and finishing with a more personal showdown. 

It’s fun, good value for money and more appealing than The Winter Soldier. 

  
Let’s hope that now they’ve got their personal differences ironed out, the team can reassemble for the two part Infinity War as more buildings are levelled and a few thousand computer graphics jockeys earn their keep with the pending cast iron money spinners. 

Doctor Not That Strange

Many years ago, in an era before video recorders, (imagine that kids!), I stayed up late one Friday night to watch a 1978 movie. That film was Dr Strange, a forgettable TV fantasy epic starring Peter Hooton and John Mills, based on the classic Marvel comic of the same name. I was never a fan of the comic, but hoped that one day we would see a lavish big screen version. So when the news arrived at that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the eponymous sorcerer, like millions of fans around the world, I was thrilled by the news. 

Now the trailer has arrived, I’m not so sure.

Thanks to the success of films like The Avengers Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy, we are in an era where Marvel are taking some serious risks on the lesser known properties. 

One problem with Dr Strange is it looks like it was ghost directed by Christopher Nolan.

Consider the scenes: maverick hero staggering around a Nepalese wintry location? So far, so Batman Begins. A city folding in on itself? Didn’t we see that in Inception six years ago? Even the score sounds like it was composed by Hans Zimmer.

  
Obviously as these movies cost hundreds of million dollars, the producers want to make it look like the blockbusters we’ve seen before, so we know we are in safe hands. But are we? 

Director Scott Derrickson was responsible for The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, which was not a bad take on the classic 1950s Michael Rennie sci-fi offering. However, the third act turned into a generic orgy of pixels and CGI jiggery-pokery. In short, it was a massive letdown.

If Deadpool taught us anything this year, it’s that fans of Marvel movies are a bit tired of sci-fi fantasy epics that take themselves a bit too seriously. 

We are about to embrace, or run from, the epic that is X-Men: Apocalypse, another of those Bryan Singer movies in which Magneto hovers around, lifting things up and dropping them from a great height. 

The twist this time is that the ubiquitous Oscar Isaac plays the purple bad guy, who looks like he’s stepped from a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie.

Judging by the trailer to that movie, there’s not a single laugh in the offing. 

Obviously in the DC camp, there have been reports that Suicide Squad, the Dirty Dozen of superhero movies, expensive re-shoots have been taking place to inject more comedy into the proceedings.

Why? Because many fan boys and girls thought that Batman versus Superman: Dawn of justice was a bit too serious for its own good, and obviously with Deadpool costing a little over $50million and grossing almost $800million, comedy was the way forward.

Marvel’s next big movie, Captain America: Civil War, (or should that be Avengers 2.5?), is with us in the next few weeks, and that also looks like it will test the patience. 

Shoehorning even more Marvel characters into the good guys versus good guys concept, it reminds me of that classic Python sketch in which a world of Supermen is not that special, but one man steps out from the masses – Michael Palin’s Bicycle Repair Man.

And if you exclude excuse the obvious segue, we are in a cycle of costumed hero flix that have outstayed their welcome.

What we want from our heroes is something super, but because there are so many of them Dr Strange is going to look more like Doctor Mundane as he fights for his place in Marvel’s rather crowded cinematic universe.

Jessica Jones – The Review

When Marvel moved into the world of Netflix-backed adult drama with Daredevil, the mix of extreme violence and slow burning story proved compelling. Characters were allowed to grow and breathe over a dozen episodes or more. It buried the Ben Affleck mess for good and paved the way for more binge TV. But of all the characters in the Marvel universe, few were desperate to see Jessica Jones, the tale of a sexy alcoholic private eye who operates on the same streets as Daredevil. 
  With expectations at zero, thankfully it proved to be a darkly compelling watch. 

Krysten Ritter is superb as the eponymous protagonist, all world weary sex appeal while being tough yet vulnerable when needs be. 

However, David Tennant stole the series as the lethal mind controller Kilgrave. 

A heroine is only as good as the villain she goes up against and Kilgrave is one of the best. Tennant was in his element, chewing scenery like a ravenous goat let loose in a theatre. 

 
Solid support came from Mike Colter as old school Marvel hero Luke Cage. His relationship with Jones adding sex appeal and comedy. 

It’s a compelling watch and for this instant convert, the inevitable season two cannot come soon enough. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron- The Review 

Daddy, I’m bored“, moans a little voice a few seats away from me.
Clearly the noisy ankle-biter who’s assembled for this Sunday morning IMAX 3D screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron is not feeling the love for Joss Whedon’s sequel to his 2012 blockbuster Avengers Assemble.

Given the moments of exposition and downtime between literally blockbusting scenes, I can understand why a little fatigue has set in.
This might be a film for little kids but it’s also a movie for serious comic book fans who like substance and story with their explosions, something of a rarity in the age of Transformers.
Whedon is no stranger to keeping plenty of plates spinning, as he proved with Buffy all those years ago.

If Avengers Assemble involved his kitchen full of revolving crockery, then Age of Ultron is Whedon’s warehouse full of rotating dishes.

So, on top of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Hawkeye, added to the mix are Scarlet Witch and her twin brother Quicksilver, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy‘s closing credit cookie.

As a fan of The Avengers comics in the 1980s, I dreamed that one day we’d see Scarlet Witch and red faced android The Vision on the big screen.

Of course there’s a gulf between comics and movies, and seeing how well cast and crew bridged the gap was engaging to my 46 year old self and the 11 year old within.

By the end of the first act, Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster versus the green muscle mountain was enough of a finale for any movie.

The second act was a welcome spot of downtime as our heroes had a rest at a key character’s safe house.
Smartly giving franchise-carrying protagonists more of a backseat in favour of beloved secondary Avengers, writer/director Whedon helps flesh out his ensemble.
When the inevitable full-on, explosive finale occurs, there’s a sense of peril for those characters we previously knew little about.

Does it work?
Well, some of the effects are a little weak, and Ultron looks like a snarky Terminator on steroids – not sure about his metal lips – but it scarcely matters.

There’s so much to gawp at throughout, with moments to reflect on how daft the whole thing is if you think about it for a few seconds, some may leave the cinema elated and exhausted.

Performances are all great – Robert Downey Jnr, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson gel beautifully.

Series newcomers Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) and Paul Bettany (now in Vision as well as sound having played Stark’s AI sidekick Jarvis since 2008) slot in perfectly, but Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Quicksilver was less engaging than the same character featured in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

However, the overlong running time could have been tightened up, without sacrificing any of the story or character development.

Given a shopping list of all the other Marvel Cinematic Universe franchises that needed setting up (Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War), Whedon does a fine job of ticking all the boxes, while keeping the viewer hooked.

Okay, it’s not a perfect film by any means, but while it lacks the freshness of movie one, and Tom Hiddleston’s superb villain Loki, there’s much to enjoy here.

It’s a good job there’s usually a three year gap between these huge Marvel epics, because it might take that long for my overloaded brain to recover.