There have been plenty of advantages to lockdown measures being relaxed this year, and one of them is that cinemas are open again for the release of new films. Sadly, Top Gun: Maverick has been pushed back again to next year, but there’s been plenty coming out in the meantime. Here are my brief thoughts on the films I’ve seen at the cinema so far in 2021.
Fast & Furious 9
With the world providing so many ways for mental health to come under threat, it was actually quite pleasant, for my first cinema visit this year, to just turn my brain off and watch an uncomplicated action film. The people behind the Fast & Furious franchise are obviously having to stretch to make each film more explosive and over-the-top than the last, and there is so much ridiculous stuff in this instalment, from the characters being harder to kill than the burglars in Home Alone, to a presumably deliberate ignorance of how space travel works. A bit stale, and certainly not as good as films 7 or 8, but still entertaining.
There was certainly enough of a compelling story and enjoyable action to justify finally giving this long-running character her own film, though I wasn’t happy about how it completely wasted the character of Taskmaster. Maybe the MCU can retcon that, particularly with the multiverse having been established.
The Suicide Squad
Both a sequel and a soft reboot, this film is a massive improvement on its 2016 predecessor; it feels like the sort of film that the original wanted to be but was too restrained by the studio to pull off. It both gets you to care about all of the main characters and gives all of them something substantial to do – Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn remains as brilliant as ever – and goes all out in terms of violence and craziness; the fact that the final boss is a giant mind-controlling starfish tells you all you need to know about the overall tone.
A decent Disney adventure, very much in the same vein of the Pirates of the Caribbean or National Treasure films.
My favourite film so far this year. It has a compelling story with likeable characters and a great deal of heart, and also has plenty of fun with its video game setting. Ryan Reynolds is at his most charming, and Jodie Comer gets to show off even more accents after Killing Eve.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
This is basically everything you expect from an MCU film; it’s certainly good, but it doesn’t do much to defy complaints about these films being formulaic. I did like its portrayal of a platonic male-female friendship between Shang-Chi and Katy without feeling the need to have them hook up in the end; and the use of Ben Kingsley’s character does a lot to make up for that awful twist in Iron Man 3.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Another sequel that I liked much better than the first film, this one takes a simple approach: more of what worked in the original, less of what didn’t. With the boring setup and origin story out of the way, more time can be devoted to the hilarious relationship between the resident odd couple, Eddie and Venom. The limited action is very watchable, and all the actors seem to be enjoying themselves. It also felt refreshing to watch a film that’s closer to 90 minutes than 120. I ultimately had more fun watching Venom: Let There Be Carnage than either Black Widow or Shang-Chi.