Posts Tagged Angelina Jolie

Eternals (2021)

2h 36m
Chloé Zhao
Chloé Zhao (screenplay) Patrick Burleigh (screenplay by) Ryan Firpo (screenplay by)
Stars: Gemma Chan Richard Madden Angelina Jolie

Eternals follows on from the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), and features the Eternals (ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years) to come out in the open and come together to fight against mankind’s ancient enemy, the Deviants. Straightforward enough story and I’m a big Marvel fan, so I should have enjoyed this, right? Wrong. I largely hated it. Here’s why.

Too long, too many characters and an unconvincing version of diversity. A mess but an interesting one!

The film is just too slow and long. Two and a half hours where I found it difficult to take much interest or empathise with any of the characters. It has far too many characters and it promotes an unrealistic version of diversity.

Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos) is the Marvel franchise’s first openly gay superhero. As Jenna Benchetrit · CBC News points out: “Previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have featured “gay moments,” like Avengers: Endgame’s brief scene in which a non-superhero character, portrayed by director Joe Russo, describes a same-sex date. In other cases, characters are canonically LGBTQ+ in the comics (including Asgardian warrior Valkyrie) or in other Marvel properties outside of the realm of films (like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who hinted at his bisexuality in the eponymous Disney+ television series).

In 2016, Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool winked and nudged at the character’s pansexuality — but that’s where it stopped.”

I welcome the fact that Marvel reflects reality by including gay characters. I don’t like the fact that some backward nations saw this as a reason to try to censor or ban the film. I dislike the way that Phastos is depicted as a ‘family’ orientated character. The family relationship between Phastos and his husband, Ben (Haaz Sleiman) and their son Jack (Esai Daniel Cross) is cloyingly stressed. Turning to my Woke Newspeak Phrasebook I would call it a hetreonormative portrayal of queer life. We will be making real progress when this vanilla coating isn’t seen as necessary. I look forward to the day the Marvel ‘universe’ is big enough to include bad gay people – even villains! I’m just not sure whether the studio’s promise that Phastos’ sexuality would simply be a part of his character and not a defining feature has been kept. The (no chemistry) kiss between Phastos and Ben has upset some but I’m glad that the studio refused to edit it out when they came under pressure – it’s just a part of life and really in this day and age is it something people should get worked up about even if they don’t like it? I don’t think so.

The hetrosexual sex scene in Eternals (between Richard Madden’s Ikaris and Gemma Chan’s Sersi) is a new departure too. The only thing close to a sex scene in any Marvel universe movie previously was early in 2008’s Iron Man. It’s very tastefully done and I believe it’s a good thing to show this as part of relationships even in Superhero movies. As the film’s Director, Chloé Zhao, said: ““For us to be able to show two people who love each other, not just emotionally and intellectually but also physically, and to have a sex scene that will be seen by a lot of people that shows their love and compassion and gentleness — I think it’s a really beautiful thing.”

The sheer number of characters means that characterisation is underdeveloped. This results in it being difficult to identify with or care about any of them. There are just too many characters that need backstories and motivations explained. The only character in Eternals I liked was Indian actor Harish Patil. He steals every scene he is in and I would have liked to have seen more of him as his appearances are brief.

All in all the film is a bit of a mess. It’s an interesting mess and there are some firsts which I applaud but I can understand why some Marvel universe friends say it seemed to last an eternity!

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Unbroken (2014)

Director: Angelina Jolie. Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Alex Russell. 15 cert, 137 min.

Unbroken has had mixed reviews. It has divided the critics. I’m on the side of those who really like the film. At its core is a moral message of perseverance, resilience and the vital importance of forgiveness. It’s a true story about the resilience of the human spirit.

So why the bad reviews? I had to wonder if some in the media just don’t like Angelina Jolie! Is it because she is a powerful woman or seems to have a social conscience? I don’t know. It is incredibly unfair to her talents and what is a great story, well-told in any case.

The story is based on the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). It owes much to Laura Hillenbrand’s exceptionally detailed and superbly written book.

I found the flashbacks to the early life of Louie fascinating. I must confess that I had never heard of him in relation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’d hazard a guess that the only Olympian most people would know from then is Jesse Owens. He is referenced in the film also. Jesse won four gold medals. Germany topped the medal table with 89 (33 of which were Gold). The USA came second overall.

In WWII Louie survived, with two other crashed airmen, in a raft for 47 days. He was then caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a brutal prisoner-of-war camp. Either of these events might have finished any ordinary man!

Louis, however, is in every sense of the word a survivor. He overcomes incredible odds and always seems to have that last burst of energy when you think that it must all be used up – whether in a race or under torture. He wins not by any great cunning or skill but by outlasting his enemies. Some don’t understand why his running got such attention in the film but for me it was obvious. The same qualities of endurance and perseverance he displayed on the track are what gets him through the war. Indeed, one of the key phrases in the film is: “If I can take it, I can make it.”

Though there are different ‘sections’ of the film: the ’36 Olympics; surviving on a raft and enduring brutal imprisonment there is a unity displayed in the attitude of Louis which at base is spiritual. It never felt divided to me even though there are distinct sections. It is as if the three different stories simply express the same basic truth.

Japanese actor Miyavi (also a famous pop singer in his native Japan) plays the brutal POW camp commander known only to the men as “The Bird.” He is a cultured, effeminate thug. There is an element of hinted at and possibly suppressed homosexuality (as in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence) which gives a peculiar edge and is all the more frightening for that. Miyavi operates on the level of inference and implication more than direct threats. Far more subtle. The torture he inflicts on Louie is harrowing and reminded me of scenes from the Railwayman.

Jack O’Connell is great. I kind of knew when I saw him in ‘Skins’ (as Cook) that he would be (but I would say that wouldn’t I?). Nothing he has done since has done anything but confirm my view. Jack is versatile and convincing in all that he does. Now the Americans know about him I am afraid he will be stolen away.

I do have one criticism of the film. The last part of Hillenbrand’s book is about Louie’s obsession with inflicting a bloody revenge on his tormentor. It is skipped in the film which only shows his forgiveness. Like grief, however, there is a process to forgiveness. There are stages to go through. If you don’t show the full process then when you watch Louis running with the Olympic torch in Japan and waving at onlookers you don’t fully understand what an amazing personal accomplishment that was or what a journey he has been on.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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