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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Uproar', 'The Marvels' | Dramedy, Julian Dennison, MCU, Brie Larson

Julian Dennison rocking a helmet and a camera, Brie Larson looking confused
Uproar (L), The Marvels (R)


Rugby, drama schools, heritage and coming-of-age tropes blend together unexpectedly in Uproar, a charming dramedy directed by Paul Middleditch and Hamish Bennett that follows the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of one particular high school student. Written by Bennett and Sonia Whiteman, and based on Keith Aberdein's earlier screenplay and an original concept by Middleditch and Mark Turnbull (that's a lot), the movie focuses on 17-year-old Josh Waaka (Julian Dennison) who's growing up in 1981's New Zealand and living a modest and safe life with his mom Shirley (Minnie Driver) and brother Jamie (James Rolleston). Josh is trying to balance his acting aspirations, encouraged by his teacher Madigan (Rhys Darby), with rugby and his emerging Māori identity as the country is seeing an uptick in protests led by its indigenous population, including Josh's new pal, protest organiser Samantha (Erana James).

As one can fairly easily gather from that setup, there's an awful lot going on in the film for just one young man, which can at times work against the intended impact. The script constantly juggles ten years worth of conflicts and life-altering decisions in addition to the societal pressures that are catching up on Josh, and when you condense it all into this movie's timeline, Bennett and Middleditch struggle with the wild tonal shifts and ambitious scope of Josh's self-realisation. Fortunately they're also working with a strong cast that can divide the weight of it all, starting with a pivotal bond between Dennison and Driver and their characters. Dennison impressively boasts great comedic timing whilst never appearing as if he's ahead of his witty dialogue, which in the hands of a lesser performer would undercut his character's dramatic arc—something that the actor finely expresses on his face as well when the film examines some darker topics.

While the filmmakers might not always walk the tightrope successfully, during the last 30 minutes they do find the pathos that they were seemingly looking for. There's confident filmmaking, thoughtfulness in terms of the message and real sincerity in the performances that speak to the movie's questions about identity, assimilation and standing up for what you believe in. Every now and then you have to make a lot of noise in order to figure things out.

Smileys: Julian Dennison, ending

Frowneys: Tone


Julian Dennison wearing a helmet and holding a camera


Filmmaking 101: If in doubt, add more cats in your movie. There's a reason why cat videos are evergreen. Nia DaCosta is the latest director making a jump into the superhero arena as she helms The Marvels, the action adventure comedy based on Marvel Comics and serving as a sequel to 2019's 'Captain Marvel' and likely a few other projects in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. Brie Larson returns to her role as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel who teams up with teenager Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and astronaut Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) after discovering that they are mysteriously connected when any of them try to use their superpowers. The trio must restore the balance of the universe, which is shaken up by Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a leader of an empire who herself is able to wield cosmic powers.

There are plenty of ways that The Marvels follows the trajectory of the franchise, often to a fault, but there's also a delightful sense of joy combined with a really snappy pace that carries the film for a while. Vellani especially is a breath of fresh air when it comes to portraying said joy and some fun is to be had when the main trio actually gets to share the stage. Roads to get to those moments just happen to be convoluted as DaCosta and co-writers Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik aren't able to slash their way through the bland and forgettable story in any way that would grab you. Your attachment to Kamala and Monica seem to depend on earlier TV projects—this is a complete guess as someone who just wants to watch a movie with a beginning, middle and end—and the movie doesn't give them, Carol or the villain much substance at any point.

It's honestly exhausting to mention again that the return to lighter fare would be enough if these instalments just looked or sounded like someone cared about them. The blocking, DoP Sean Bobbitt's lifeless images, Laura Karpman's copy-and-paste score and backgrounds are all filled with perfunctory work, further underlining how aimless the story at the centre is. Why wouldn't you reflect the differences of the three leads with the camera? Why wouldn't you try to break some rules when a whole universe is shifting? Why should the audiences be invested in any of this currently when you sacrifice personality just to reference the past or tease the future?

Smileys: Tone, pacing

Frowneys: Story, score, characterisation


Brie Larson holding a questionable object and looking at something with confusion
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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