Top 20 Films of 2014

Based on UK theatrical and festival release dates, here are the Top 20 Films of 2014.


20. Starred Up

Director: David Mackenzie // Link to trailer

When describing Starred Up, it can be defined with one word; visceral. However, it is also violent, realistic and unashamedly British. Rising star Jack O’Connell is Eric Love, a 19 year-old with a short fuse. Due to being too dangerous for a youth offender’s prison, Love is transferred to a different jail, where his father is kept. Through the help of therapy, Love tries to settle in with his new inmates, but the volatile relationship with his estranged father is too much to handle. O’Connell’s performance might be one of the toughest roles of the year, as Starred Up is unquestionably raw, explosive and of all things, not to be sniffed at.


19. Locke

Director: Steven Knight // Link to trailer

Steven Knight’s Locke follows one tense and emotional evening for Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), who is a dedicated family man and construction worker. Shot from the confinements of his car (with a few traffic cutaways), Ivan Locke has a secret that will drastically affect his livelihood. Whilst the film’s narrative structure isn’t purely original, it is carried by the weight of the charismatic Tom Hardy, who finally sheds the tough persona we’ve seen in some of his recent work. Locke is a gripping film, and it’s a testament to Tom Hardy’s talent, as he can keep you enthralled and invested in the movie, despite the surroundings. For a brilliant character performance, look no further than this.


18. Obvious Child

Director: Gillian Robespierre // Link to trailer

Robespierre’s directorial debut managed to impress this year, with a movie that tackles the sensitive subject of abortion with maturity, wit and compassion. As aspiring comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) recovers from an emotional break up, a one-night stand results in an unwanted pregnancy. Suddenly, the twenty-something has to deal with the threat of adulthood looming over her directionless life. It’s a breakthrough performance from Jenny Slate, who is joined with a great cast, superb writing and a movie that surprisingly feels authentic. It’s an inventive take on the genre, and it’s about time a film such as this should feel genuine, as it abolishes stereotypical female leads, all whilst maintaining poignant tone.


17. Life Itself

Director: Steve James // Link to trailer

Renowned documentarian Steve James recounts the extraordinary life of film reviewer Roger Ebert, with an affectionate and truly personal film. Shot during his last moments, Life Itself explores the wonderful life of Ebert, touching upon several aspects, such as his peculiar relationship with the late Gene Siskel. Life Itself is a fantastic way of recognising and remembering one of the greatest cinematic staples of our time, without being overly sentimental. Roger Ebert’s life is an inspiration to many, and this film ranks as being the best documentary of the year.


16. The Raid 2

Director: Gareth Evans // Link to trailer

Gareth Evans blew audiences away with his brutal, gut-wrenching Indonesian film; The Raid: Redemption back in 2011, but this year saw the release of its sequel which surpassed the qualities of the first. The Raid 2 follows the skilled Rama, who is set to uncover the corruption within his own police force. Set only moments after the first movie, The Raid 2 dials the action up to eleven, with jaw-dropping fight sequences and outstanding choreography.  If there’s one stand-out character in the action genre this year, it’s the deaf-mute Hammer Girl.


15. Fury

Director: David Ayer // Link to trailer

Starring a great ensemble cast, Fury is set in Germany during 1945, as the allies make their final push behind enemy lines. A Sherman tank led by the hardened ‘Wardaddy’ (Brad Pitt) is out-classed by the Nazi forces, whose firepower and armoury is vastly superior. Along with the new recruit, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), Wardaddy’s crew are exposed to the brutality of the SS. Ayer’s film is an unsentimental take on WWII, which is comprised of grotesque scenes and tense action sequences. Thankfully, the film never reaches the jingoism of other recent war movies (see: Lone Survivor), and it excels with its cast (Shia LeBeouf surprising many), and Ayer’s excellent direction.


14. Edge of Tomorrow (Live Die Repeat)

Director: Doug Liman // Link to trailer

Now being labelled as ‘Live Die Repeat’, Doug Liman’s science-fiction movie is equally as explosive as it is entertaining. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, military officer William Cage (Cruise) gets thrown into an alien warzone, with a seemingly invincible foe. Killed within moments of joining this war, Cage discovers that he’s trapped in a constant time loop, which resets to the preceding day.

Edge of Tomorrow opened to an underwhelming box-office response (perhaps due to the terrible marketing), but Liman’s movie proved to be one the most exciting action flicks of the year, and it further proved that Tom Cruise can be a fantastic lead. It has spectacle, superb concepts and it’s surprisingly funny in places. It’s blockbuster film-making done properly.


13. The Guest

Director: Adam Wingard // Link to trailer

Adam Wingard’s The Guest is destined to be this year’s biggest cult hit, as it boasts some incredible one-liners, questionable acting, quirky humour and an effortlessly cool synth soundtrack. With an inexcusable US box-office taking of just $280,000, The Guest manages to capture all the classic tropes of 80s thriller/horror movies, with a superb leading role by Downton Abbey’s very own Dan Stevens. It is a pure delight from start to finish, with the final 20 minutes becoming one of the most entertaining and ridiculous sequences of the year. Adam Wingard excels in genre film-making, and The Guest is no exception.


12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Director: Joe Russo and Anthony Russo // Link to trailer

The Russo brothers managed to transcend the superhero genre this year with The Winter Soldier, which was suspenseful and politically relevant. Loosely based on the critically acclaimed series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the film focuses on a dark secret from Steve Rogers’ past, along with the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. Full of dazzling visuals and some of the best hand-to-hand combat seen in the superhero genre, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to be one of Marvel’s best efforts yet. It takes the genre seriously, whilst managing to entertain and surprise.


11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reeves // Link to trailer

Taking place a decade after the events of the first film, Matt Reeves Apes sequel focuses on Caesar’s nation of evolved apes, who are threatened by the occurrence of a small band of human survivors. The film’s themes are based on trust and survival, as the story has a surprisingly captivating hook. Dawn features some of the best motion capture work to date, which is partly thanks to the talents of renowned actor Andy Serkis and even Toby Kebbell.

The film expands brilliantly on its predecessor, by becoming one of the smartest and most entertaining blockbusters of this year. The CGI is cutting-edge, and whilst it blatantly sets up the third Apes movie, there are no concerns considering Matt Reeves is signed on for the sequel.


10. Frank

Director: Lenny Abrahamson // Link to trailer

Perhaps the most thought-provoking movie of the year, Frank is an endearing comedy with a memorable performance from Michael Fassbender. The film follows young musician Jon (D.Gleeson), who finds himself joining an avant-garde band; The Soronprfbs. Quite the eclectic mix of people, The Soronprfbs attempt to record an album and tour. Frank touches slightly upon the subject of mental illness, and it does so quite commendably. It’s an unusual and clever movie, and it’ll leave viewers thinking for weeks.


09. Dallas Buyer’s Club

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée // Link to trailer

Dallas Buyer’s Club is a career best for Matthew McConaughey, starring as the real life Ron Woodroof, whose life was turned upside down during the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Ostracised by most of his friends after discovering he’s HIV-positive, Ron Woodroof explores alternative treatment for the disease and attempts to best the FDA. The film boasts an incredible performance from McConaughey, along with an eye-opening role from Jared Leto. Dallas Buyer’s Club sports a remarkable story, which manages joy and sorrow into one delightful mix.


08. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson // Link to trailer

Arguably Wes Anderson’s most accessible movie to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel turned out to be one of the most charming pictures of 2014. Elaborately shot with stunning compositions throughout, The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the story of the great Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the famed European hotel, who is framed for a murder he did not commit.

It’s the quintessential Wes Anderson movie; offbeat, funny, beautifully shot and wholly sentimental. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a visually engaging movie, and it stands as being one of Anderson’s finest accomplishments to date, in his long list of wonderful and heartfelt movies.


07. The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese // Link to trailer

Based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is an incredible piece of work, starring Scorsese’s new go-to actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Returning to what he’s best at, Scorsese brings forth an R-rated overindulgence of sex, money and drugs. Undoubtedly DiCaprio’s finest role to date, The Wolf of Wall Street also showcased the abilities of Jonah Hill and newcomer Margot Robbie.

Whilst The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t in the same league as Raging Bull, it stands as being Scorsese’s funniest film to date. It’s an outrageous black comedy, which is unabashed and unapologetic with its content, lucidly presenting the depravity of its characters. Jordan Belfort’s corruption is an engaging story, which is superbly written and acted brilliantly. At the age of 72, it appears Scorsese is showing no signs of letting up.


06. What We Do in the Shadows

Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi // Link to the first six minutes

Movies within the comedy horror genre have always struggled to get it right, and 2014 has been no exception. The abysmal waste known as A Haunted House 2 was released, and Life After Beth failed to impress despite everyone involved. However, this fresh and unique take on ‘mockumentaries’ and vampires managed to be 2014’s funniest film of the year.

Following four vampires sharing a house in New Zealand, What We Do in the Shadows embraces the mundane issues of normal everyday human life, whilst mixing elements of the undead into the mix. Not only do these vampires pay rent, finish chores and visit nightclubs, they also antagonise the local werewolves, avoid sunlight and deal with the rigorous diet of human blood.

It’s a fantastic premise, and hilarious from start to finish. The casting is simply perfect, with Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clements having one of the funniest and most memorable lines of the movie. What We Do in the Shadows truly is the first great vampire comedy to grace our cinema screens.


05. Guardians of the Galaxy

Director: James Gunn // Link to trailer

Marvel’s biggest gamble to date, Guardians of the Galaxy took a fairly unknown superhero team and turned into it a box-office success, as it became the 2nd highest grossing movie of 2014. The film follows an unusual team of criminals, who band together to stop Ronan the Accuser from destroying the universe. Despite its generic plot, Guardians of the Galaxy excelled with some of the funniest comedy seen in sci-fi film, a fabulous 80s soundtrack and some of the best casting seen in the genre.

The film boasted a selection of breakthrough characters, who became fan favourites this year, especially the talking alien tree, Groot. Chris Pratt, who also plays the leader Starlord, proved to be the most charismatic leading man of the year.

It was a pleasurable surprise for cinemagoers, as Guardians is arguably Marvel Studios best movie to date. It is the quintessential blockbuster, chock full with awesome CGI, action, comedy and wonderful characters. James Gunn proved he’s a truly capable director, and his sheer attention to detail should be admired. Here’s to the upcoming sequel.


04. Gone Girl

Director: David Fincher // Link to trailer

Based on the best-selling book by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl is another outstanding piece of work by director David Fincher. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl tells the story of how one man’s wife goes missing, and how he ends up becoming the number one suspect.

It’s an exhilarating piece of filmmaking, and Rosamund Pike managed to surprise everyone with her role as Amy Dunne, which a career best. Gone Girl has Fincher’s trademark fingerprints all over it, as it’s ultimately stylish, dark and character driven. Somehow, Fincher always brings out the best with the actors he works with, and this film is no exception.

It’s an almost perfect thriller, which really kicks into gear after the first hour. A selection of unsettling scenes really set the mood for the final act, which will leave jaws agape. Gone Girl manages to pick apart various subjects, such as the media, the economy and its effect on marriage, and the fatal flaw in any relationship; dishonesty. It’s an inherently smart thriller, with some captivating performances. It might not be Fincher’s best, but it’s still up there.


03. The Lego Movie

Director: Chris Miller, Phil Lord // Link to trailer

Essentially a feature-length advertisement for the Lego brand, Miller and Lord’s animated masterpiece really resonates with viewers of all ages. The movie follows the hapless Emmet, a construction worker who is mistakenly selected as the prophesied ‘Special’, as it is foretold that he has the gift to thwart the evil and tyrannical Lord Business.

Surprisingly, The Lego Movie stands as being one of the best animated movies in recent years, which is all down to a wonderful mix of talent. It boasted the strongest casting of any film this year too, with 2014’s leading man Chris Pratt, the manliest man Nick Offerman and the acting legend Morgan Freeman, to name some.

It is a beautifully constructed piece of work, and whilst it doesn’t necessarily tread new narrative ground, it still feels fresh and unique. It consists of some great underlying themes, such as conformity and individuality, without it being obnoxiously thrown into the viewer’s face. It manages to appeal to almost everyone, with a heart-warming and thoughtful story, which is brought to life with Miller and Lord’s fantastic direction.


02. Nightcrawler

Director: Dan Gilroy // Link to trailer

Strikingly cool, Nightcrawler is undoubtedly the best thriller of 2014. Starring a gaunt Jake Gyllenhaal, Dan Gilroy’s movie focuses on the subject of crime journalism, and a group of freelance news crews in LA who sell their shocking footage to bidding news stations. Gyllenhaal’s character, the morally ambiguous and manipulative Lou Bloom, is the actor’s most mesmerising performance yet.

Gilroy’s directorial debut is deliciously twisted with its material and Gyllenhaal flourishes as Lou Bloom, and it’s equal in style as it is substance. It’s satirical in nature and as sharp as a razor, as the script never falters with its disturbing content. Of course, it’s primarily character driven, but it’s aided with a decent cast, and a pure visual feast.

As the film progresses, Nightcrawler does a fantastic job of providing some feeling of discomfort, which can be felt during the devastatingly effect final act. The car chase for example, shows Gilroy’s strengths, as cars frantically speed across the LA streets in a frantic sequence, which results in a killer ending.

It is a career best for Gyllenhaal, who has wowed audiences in the past with Donnie Darko, Zodiac and to a lesser extent, Prisoners. The upcoming film Enemy is also another notch on Gyllenhaal’s fantastic filmography. Nightcrawler deserves to be watched, as it’s a no-nonsense, twisted masterpiece.

01. Boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

2014’s best film was Richard Linklater’s ground-breaking triumph, which is unlike anything else that has been in cinemas this year. Filmed over the period of 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood is about how one six-year old, Mason, grows into adulthood. It’s an incredible piece of film history, which intimately documents the human condition.

Alongside the main lead Ellar Coltraine, the film also stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s divorced parents, who assist as the ideal vehicles for Mason’s journey. The film touches upon all those fond memories of growing up; the first romance, Harry Potter, leaving school, family issues, that first drink and of course, discovering what you really want from life.

Despite the technical achievements of Boyhood, the film can still be recognised as a coming-of-age film that really hits all the right notes. It can resound remarkably well with someone, with its several tender moments, its drama and ultimately, its humanity. Linklater hit the jackpot with Coltraine too, who really manages to ground the film with his natural performance.

The late Roger Ebert once believed that films are machines that generate empathy. They allow you to understand and connect with the feelings of a specific character, and in Boyhood, Ebert’s statement has never been more significant. You get a glimpse of one young man’s transformation, which would not be as effective if Coltraine was replaced throughout the years.

It’s not often that you get to experience something like Boyhood. It’s remarkably condensed into its 166-minute running length, and during that time we are treated to moments of real life moments. It’s truly ambitious and intelligent, and it is Linklater’s finest work to date. There’s no doubt that Boyhood will be recognised for years to come.



So there we have it, the top 20 films of 2014. It’s been one hell of a year, and in retrospect there are a few movies which will be remembered for their storytelling and craft for some while. Despite not being in this list, there are a number of other movies that should be recognised, such as the unique horror The Babadook, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and perhaps even the ambitious yet flawed Interstellar. There were a few abominations this year too, such as Ninja Turtles and Tammy, and we have had some unfortunate disappointments. Here’s looking at you, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

All in all, 2014 was still a great year for film. For a medium that is supposedly dominated by the superhero genre, it’s interesting to see that there’s at least been some diversity, and almost every single one of those superhero films released in 2014 has been received favourably. Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past was a refreshing return to the franchise, and Guardians of the Galaxy dominated the box-office this year. It’s interesting to note that The Amazing Spider-man 2 had a decent take this year, but critics opinion is generally split, so it’s future is still unknown.

2015 is surely set to be an explosive affair too, with the return of several franchises. Jurassic World has a June release, with the new Avengers and Terminator being nearby. Also, there’s that new Star Wars film out in December, if anyone’s heard about it. Having said that, there’s sure to be some amazing films which aren’t massive blockbusters. Here’s to the following year.



Framed Recommendations – 12/11/14

This week saw the release of two new Marvel comics, Superior Iron Man and Captain America. Unsurprisingly, both comics failed to impress. Superior Iron Man came straight out of the current Marvel event that keeps giving, and Tom Taylor’s script was vastly underwhelming. There’s really no reason for Tony Stark to be written as such a reprehensible character anymore. Axis’ core concept might be switching the alignment of good and evil, but it’s just not interesting or exciting.

Captain America was also disappointing, despite Stuart Immonen being on the creative team. Rick Remender has proven he can be fantastic before, especially with Uncanny X-Force, but Captain America was fairly boring from start to finish. The final reveal wasn’t anything new, as it’s all been done before. Let’s get some new blood into Captain America’s rogues’ gallery already, Marvel.

However, it’s not all bad this week. Cameron Stewart’s Batgirl arrived on our shelves, and here’s hoping this Batgirl is here to stay. It’s such a refreshing read, and the artwork really compliments the script. How long can DC keep it up? Who knows, but here’s hoping it’s a while.

Admittedly, a guilty pleasure of the week was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman. Sure, we’ve seen it all before. Batman conveniently has the upper hand against Superman and the Justice League every time, but it was still a bit of fun. It’s probably helped by Capullo’s artwork as well, making it the nicest looking Batman story for some time now.

Finally, Mark Millar’s MPH had it’s fourth issue this week. Duncan Fegredo’s artwork is always on form, and even though it’s a strong statement to make, his Hellboy artwork was better than Mignola’s. MPH has had a decent build up so far, and it’s strange to think it could be a film worth looking forward to. Ignoring Millar’s Kick-Ass sequels and other nonsense, titles such as MPH and Starlight make you realise he’s got a great deal of talent.

BATGIRL #36 Stewart + Fletcher / Tarr DC
Stewart + Fletcher / Tarr
BATMAN #36 Snyder / Capullo DC
Snyder / Capullo
Duggan / Lolli
MPH #04 Millar / Fegredo IMAGE
MPH #04
Millar / Fegredo

The Avengers – Review

Back in 2008, Marvel Studios released a film about one genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, Iron Man.  For the first time ever, Marvel had creative control over their characters in cinema, and went on to release four more films, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.  Since their first film, Marvel’s plan was obvious.  These entertaining blockbusters were setting up for their main event, The Avengers.

Four years later and now finally, that time has come.  The Avengers hit cinemas in the UK 26th April, to thousands of anticipating moviegoers.  Regarded as one of the biggest movie events of 2012, The Avengers is set to impress a lot of people.

Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers stars an unlikely bunch of superheroes that are forced to team-up to defeat the deadly Asgardian trickster Loki, who is now fully equipped with an unstoppable alien army.

The original cast members from their previous movies have returned, apart from Edward Norton, whose role as Bruce Banner has been replaced by Mark Ruffalo.  Ruffalo is now the replacement for Banner and the Hulk, who stands beside the legendary Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow.

S.H.I.E.L.D leader Nick Fury has a more substantial role than before, and returns alongside the fan-favourite Agent Coulson.  There is a newcomer to S.H.I.E.L.D, Agent Maria Hill, who is portrayed by How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders.

The story focuses on the return of Loki, who is back to create yet more havoc on Earth.  This time round though, the trickster has come prepared.  After being lost in space after the events of Thor, Loki returns with the Tessaract (Cosmic Cube) and a fierce alien force.

He is up to his devious ways yet again, and attempts to break apart the superheroes, both physically and mentally.  To defeat him, Earth’s bravest heroes’ team up to form the Avengers, a new superhero team to be reckoned with.

Zak Penn and Joss Whedon’s script is the quintessential superhero story, infused with action, comedy and drama.  Whilst it was possible for Tony Stark to completely steal the show, each character gets their own respective amount of screen time, which is just enough to showcase their great talents.

Even Maria Hill engages in an exciting turn of events during the first few minutes of the film, which just goes to show that Whedon leaves no character behind.

He manages to encapsulate the look and feel of an actual comic-book, transferring it straight into a blockbuster movie.  Explosions feel like they’re ripped right out of a double page spread, fight scenes are captured with great imagination, and the Hulk is the perfect portrayal of his comic-book counterpart.

Thanks to this genius script, cinemagoers will be quoting the film for months to come.  The dialogue is typical Whedon, which is very beneficial for a movie of this magnitude.  Even the action comes with some great laughs.

Loki’s treacherous ways still impress, but that might be partly due to Tom Hiddleston’s impeccable acting skills.  Yes, fan-favourite Loki is still the scene-stealer he was from Thor.  He is undoubtedly the best villain to use for The Avengers, as he proves yet again that Loki is the best Marvel villain to date.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as the charming Tony Stark, continuing the role he was born to play.  Of course, his super-ego and cocky attitude is present throughout, which is met with great distaste from Steve Rogers.  This makes for some engaging conversations between the two legends.  Stark brings forth some of the most memorable quotes of the film, but then there’s no surprise there.

Jeremy Renner finally gets to show off his Hawkeye skills in the film, presenting viewers with some great scenes.  He is joined by the Black Widow, who is played by Scarlett Johannson.  Widow fits the bill nicely, which is a surprising turn after her dull introduction during Iron Man 2.  Both the agents’ limits are recognised, but utilised in a manner which is works for the film.

For those who were concerned with Captain America’s new costume and part in the film, there’s no need to fret.  Chris Evans fits his new attire nicely, and he fits well within the storyline.  His transition from the 40s to modern day is addressed, but it doesn’t hinder the flow of the film.  If fans weren’t too enthused by his own film, there’ll be sure to applaud the Captain, especially during the later fight scenes.

Of course, there’s one character in particular that everyone will be talking about.  The Hulk has finally received the proper treatment he deserves.  Mark Ruffalo might be the new guy here, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  He brings a lot to the Hulk’s character, which was accomplished with some neat motion capture technology.  The Hulk’s potential is finally recognised, as he delivers some of the best action scenes in comic-book movie history.

ILM’s work on the Hulk is ground-breaking, as he fits in with the other Avengers seamlessly.  The same can be said for the other effects in the film, as the alien forces look lifelike.  A lot of moviegoers questioned the sheer amount of explosions in The Avengers numerous trailers, but there’s no cause for concern.  Unlike Michael Bay’s films or the dreadful Battleship, the action is structured and presented clearly.

The running length of the film may seem long at first, but the film doesn’t drag.  Every segment of the film doesn’t overrun, and scenes don’t feel out of place.  It’s been said that Whedon cut down at least 30 minutes of the film, just to keep everything streamlined.  So if there are any fans who are wanting to see Captain America’s transition in further detail, look no further than the DVD/Blu-Ray extended cut.

So, is the film that fans have been wanting?  Definitely.  The Avengers may be the perfect comic-book film.  Whilst it may seem a little extreme to present the film with that title, it should be known that The Avengers manages to impress on so many levels.  It is extremely hard to fault the film.

Whedon injects his great talent straight into The Avengers and thanks to him; moviegoers get an enjoyable, exciting thrill ride.  It might just be the film of the year, especially for comic-book fans.  Loki is a wonderful villain, Stark has the best quotes and the Hulk gets the most satisfying action scenes.  It really does meet fan’s expectations, whilst meeting the demands of your average cinemagoer.

What’s next for The Avengers? Well, if the mid-credits sequence is any clue, we’re set for a more explosive, dramatic affair than before.  If there’s one problem to be found with The Avengers, it’s that its sequel has a difficult task of improving on this perfect comic-book film.


Captain America – The First Avenger. Review.


Steve Rogers has always been an icon for popular culture, ever since he punched Hitler on the cover of Captain America Comics in 1941.  Since then, Marvel’s patriotic creation has been through many changes.  From Joe Simon through to Ed Brubaker, Captain America has been an interesting icon to follow.  A few filmmakers have challenged themselves at portraying this character on the silver screen before, including his war serial in 1944 and the awful 1990 adaptation which strangely stars Red Skull as an Italian fascist.  It has been 21 years since his last outing and fans have desired something new.

Since Marvel Studios successful Iron Man, Avi Arad and many others decided that a combination of films were to be produced, that would lead onto an epic Avengers trilogy.  First came Tony Stark, followed by Bruce Banner and Thor.  It made sense, allowing three productions of each main super hero, before culminating into one massive trilogy.  Thor was deemed a success financially and somewhat critically, but it was up to Joe Johnston to lead with Captain America – The First Avenger.

A lot of names were tossed around for the portrayal of Steve Rogers but Marvel finally landed with their Captain America.  Chris Evans, known for the enigmatic Johnny Storm in Fox’s awful Fantastic Four series was picked up by Marvel.  It was an important role for anyone to play, due to the character’s iconic status.  Joe Johnston was also picked for directorial duties, whose previous work has included The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Jurassic Park 3.  Was Captain America – The First Avenger to be completely set in the Second World War? Was it going to focus on Rogers time in the Avengers? Well, questions were soon answered and costumes were finally revealed.

A weak, admirable Steve Rogers wants to join the forces which fight against the evil threat of the Nazis and their splinter group Hydra, lead by the sinister Red Skull.  During his training, he is chosen by scientist Dr Abraham Erskine as an experiment for the Super-Soldier serum.  Soon after his strong dosage of the serum, Steve Rogers later becomes a national hero known by all as Captain America.  From there on in, he joins his friend Bucky Barnes and the Howling Commandos to finally defeat Hydra and Johann Schmidt once and for all.

The film boasts incredible casting, such as Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones and even Toby Jones.  Weaving plays the menacing Red Skull brilliantly, which comes as no surprise.  The actor manages to portray villains well and here he leaves no room for error when playing the leader of Hydra.  His posture never falters, along with his threatening persona.  Tucci is an inspired choice as Dr Erskine, who provides much of the humour for the beginning of the film.  The difficult Colonel Chester Philips is Tommy Lee Jones, whose disapproval of Rogers comes off quite convincing.

Toby Jones is the Skull’s right-hand man, Arnim Zola.  Look out for the reference towards his comic counterpart during his introduction.  Jones manages to set himself aside Weaving effortlessly.  The casting choices are pretty much perfect.  Dominic Cooper stars as an incredibly assuring father to Anthony Stark, along with Sebastian Stan who definitely requires his own film as Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier.

Thankfully, the action including the star-spangled Avenger never falters throughout.  Each shield swing is convincing, which almost comes off as a surprise.  Hydra’s goons are disposed of with style and fighting grace, whilst Rogers looks perfect in his costume.  Perhaps one particular montage scene could have been extended, to at least focus a bit more on what Rogers is capable of.  Note that this is only a minor concern, as the film maintains a credible amount of action.  Especially during its climax, as brutal fisticuffs are exchanged between Schmidt and Rogers respectively.  The Howling Commandos may have been robbed of some action, but then again this is Rogers’ story.

Captain America – The First Avenger boasts its own unique style, which thankfully never gets too camp.  It was a huge worry for a film which tackles such material, however Jonhston knew how to manage it to a certain degree.  Hydra is one example of this, as their ridiculous costumes fit into the fabric of the film.  Captain America’s costume is altered throughout to fit the specific circumstances and yet each change is welcome.  The design of the vehicles works well too and certain technology manages to pass off as being somewhat believable even then.  This is due to the 1940’s comic book aesthetic though, as these bizarre uniforms fit within the period.

CGI is aplenty throughout the film, even appearing during instances where many wouldn’t notice.  The first twenty-minutes boasts an incredible use of CGI, allowing all to witness a convincingly weak Chris Evans.  Look out for the neat reference to a particular Golden Age character during the beginning, too.  His gaunt frame is unique, as Evans provides some real acting chops during these sequences.  All in all, Evans comes off as the perfect pick for Steve Rogers.  He possesses the look of an all-American hero, with the brains and brawn to get the job done.

There isn’t much to fault on Captain America – The First Avenger.  The vast number of characters don’t get lost throughout the story and Steve’s romance and friendships are believable throughout.  Towards the end of the film, the drama is laid on thick and yet it works.  It tugs at the heartstrings ever so slightly, fitting well with the heroic traits of the character.  The climax is a satisfying end to the film, even if it only ties a few loose ends.

Chris Evans is a charming Captain, which only makes fans clamour for yet more of the Super Soldier.  Jonhston brings to the table a believable hero, which fits well for the upcoming Avengers.  There’s some heart to this film and it can be seen quite clearly, from the well-thought out beginning to the emotional revelation towards the end.  It is a wonder as to where the character can go from here, other than leading the Avengers.  Hopefully some focus is put upon Ed Brubaker’s concepts, as a sequel featuring more of Bucky Barnes would fit nicely.  Marvel Studios has yet another film to be proud of, now here’s to waiting for the ever ambiguous Avengers film.


Panels of the Week

Interesting week or two for comic books.  Fear Itself manages to impress with a neat ending to the Spider-man mini, whereas the fourth issue in the crossover event provides some great action in the form of the classic Avengers three.  The last scene provides readers with that clamouring desire to see Thor finally set loose.  It’s been too long since we’ve seen his true God-like powers, so hopefully Fraction won’t disappoint in the next issue.

Flashpoint is still a fairly stale event, however – Azzarello’s new take on the infamous Batman was insane.  Some great writing and art from the same team of the great 100 Bullets, it was nice to see such a variation here.  Sure, we may have some atypical ruthlessness going on throughout, but that’s okay – it just works perfectly here.  Finally, an issue in the dull event which has actually piqued my interest.

The next big event for the X-Men is being heralded as ‘Schism’, an event which unsurprisingly breaks up the friendship between Cyclops and Wolverine.  However, the set-up works in this introductory issue.  A great character borrowed from Grant Morrison’s run returns to wreak havoc but without actually causing a loss of lives.  It’s a unique turn, with hints of 90s nostalgia.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, when the art and writing is this good.  X-Men: Schism looks to be an interesting event, and it’s one to look out for.

Recently picked up Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea, one of his first pieces.  Along with that, Brian Wood’s DMZ which is incredible.  Check out the links, and consider purchasing these comics!

Thanks for your time, looking forward to next week’s releases.

Venom #04 – Remender/Moore

Avengers The Children’s Crusade #06 – Heinburg/Cheung

Moon Knight #03 – Bendis/Maleev

Fear Itself #04 – Fraction/Immonen

Captain America #619 – Brubaker/Guice

Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance – Azzarello/Risso

Fear Itself: Spider-man – Yost/McKone

Thunderbolts #160 – Parker/Shalvey

The Amazing Spider-man #665 – Slott/Stegman

X-Men: Schism #01 – Aaron/Pacheco

I, Zombie #14 – Roberson/Allred

Captain America #01 – Brubaker/McNiven