Avengers: Infinity War

May 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

After 10 years of what we now nickname the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Univerrse), and nearly 20 films, we have come to the supposed culmination of what this was all about: the Avengers joining forces with others from other film franchises to defeat a common enemy, known as Thanos. Throughout these films, we’ve been thoroughly entertained by A-list actors portraying high end characters, cross-referencing story lines, and explosive special effects and fairly convincing CGI. Franchises include the “Avengers” movie series, the individual Avengers involved, and even the “Guardians of the Galaxy”. They now share billing in one of the biggest films of all time, “Avengers: Infinity War”. For about 130 minutes of its’ staggering 150 minute running time, it is an absolute hoot.

The Guardians provide most of the best humor, some of the biggest laughs, and the greatest on-screen presence. Maybe, too, their franchise has been the most satisfying; seeing some of these other, more familiar Avengers is a tad tiresome. Not that I’m tired of seeing them, but they’ve been thrown in so many films together that it’s kind of refreshing to see new faces. It’s hilarious when Drax (Dave Bautista) is impressed with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and when Thor continuously calls Rocket (Bradley Cooper) “Rabbit”. It works like a comedic family reunion sometimes, with a lot of quips and pot shots that really keep you smiling throughout.

But it’s not all fun and games and laughs and giggles. Thanos (Josh Brolin), a somewhat mysterious tyrant, is fiendishly collecting Infinity Stones that have been carefully protected by the Avengers, in order to possess all 6. He carries them on a conveniently designed gauntlet, and each has its own power that once forged, can make him the most powerful creature in the universe. He can basically do whatever he wants–and what he wants, is “balance”. That means, for him, to level the population of the world and cut it in half. He will destroy civilization, in his mind, for its’ own good.

Well, that’s obviously not going to set well with the Avengers, or anyone with a good head on their shoulders. However, the more this film reveals about Thanos, the more it becomes apparent that the filmmakers are trying something a bit ambitious:

This is more about Thanos than it is about the Avengers. The Avengers are trying, perhaps in vain, to stop a force that they cannot stop. Thanos already has a few of the stones to start the film out, and he’s already more powerful than any one Avenger–except possibly Thor, who is still without his Hammer. The film portrays Thanos as a “fallen angel” type. Maybe at one time, Thanos was bright-eyed and optimistic about the universe. But he’s older, more cynical, and beaten down by years of torment and self-reflection.

Or is he? We really, actually, never get to know the true Thanos. That’s a hard thing to accomplish anyway in one film, when all this time up until now we have been led to think that the Avengers are the best heroes to follow. Are we now to believe that Thanos is the real hero?

Probably not. But, we still aren’t given a lot to work with to look at it from Thanos’ point of view. We still want to believe that Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has the ability to thwart his plans with his stone. Or Vision (Paul Bettany), with his.

Much of the climax of this film is a lot of highwire acts by the Avengers to stop Thanos from his plan. Many Avengers striking poses, tossing out lasers and bright projectiles. We even get a nice cameo from Peter Dinklage as Thor’s new Hammer forger.

The last 10-15 minutes, though, are really what the whole movie boils down to. I can’t give away details, but my heart sank when I realized what I’m watching.

Part 1 of 2.

Like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1”, we are only getting half the story crammed into a nearly 3 hour movie. That means another nearly 3 hour movie still awaits, and will sum up what “Infinity War” is supposed to be about.

So, I cannot once again give a real definitive review of this film. Did I enjoy it? Well, some parts, absolutely. I was right there with these guys, cheering and applauding whenever they did something heroic or spectacular. When it looked like they were beating the bad guys, I was wholly engaged and almost felt like a kid again, when I was reading comics myself.

But it’s not over, and the way the ending leaves you…it just left me cold. Empty. Unfulfilled. I know they are going to resolve this, and it seems pretty predictable how. After all, can there really be “sacrifice” in a comic book movie? If you’ve ever read comic books, you know the answer to that.

So, my heart sank because as much as this film tries to be edgy and shocking–I think I know the outcome too well to either be disappointed by the resolution, or just expecting what looks to be inevitable.

It came off as arrogant to me, after all these years and films, to make audiences wait for an end to just…make them wait a little longer. Especially since other film franchises are going to go on in the meantime. We’re just supposed to suspend disbelief all that time, until Part 2 is released? That’s going to be awkward.

And for that, I can’t really recommend this…

…yet?

My rating: :?

Black Panther

February 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

“Black Panther” is a project that had been in the words for over 2 decades, beginning with Wesley Snipes, who went onto be in the “Blade” films; and by the time he could realize the film and bring it to fruition, he’d already been known as Blade for too long. “Black Panther” needed a new face. And we would never see that face until “Captain America: Civil War” when we first see Chadwick Boseman portray him. Black Panther was an interesting character, and it was inevitable that in the coming years, we’d get an origin film.

Now, “Black Panther” comes to the big screen in all his glory, and it’s a smashing achievement. Not only is Boseman a charismatic actor, but he has a stoic quality that’s necessary to pull the character off. Much of the film takes place in Africa and South Korea; but it begins in 1992 in Oakland, CA. It’s important that we see this prologue, because we’re introduced to a backstory of Wakanda, a secret African country “hidden in plain sight”–meaning that the country exists in the natural world, but only as a third world country. In reality, Wakanda is home to a resource known as vibranium, that came from a meteorite. It can basically do anything–it can heal, it can destroy, it can even turn you into a superhero. Wakanda sends out undercover agents throughout the world, and the King of Wakanda, T’Chaka, sends his brother N’Jobu to America. N’Jobu winds up being involved with an arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, with no CGI capture this time), and T’Chaka believes this to be a betrayal as he helped Klaue steal vibranium as weaponry. N’Jobu is killed, but not before having a son named Erik. This, of course, will play a big part in the film’s climax.

But before all that, we’re reminded that T’Chaka is killed in the events of “Captain America: Civil War”, and this paves the way for his son, T’Challa (Boseman) to take the throne as King of Wakanda, also making him the new Black Panther (the vibranium superhero). Klaue is still out there, trying to expose vibranium to the world by stealing other artifacts. His right hand man, a now grown Erik (Michael B. Jordan), continues to help him. T’Challa follows Klaue to Busan, South Korea, when he finds out that he’s going to sell the artifact and spread vibranium for his own personal gain. There we’re re-introduced to Agent Ross (Martin Freeman), who also was in “Civil War”. You can’t go one Marvel movie without some cross-pollination injected somewhere. Ross turns out to be an ally for T’Challa, but is mortally wounded while trying to save his ex-lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) winds up helping Ross recover back at Wakanda, since she has all the technology and is a bit of a scientist there.

Wakanda as a secret superpower nation doesn’t set well with Klaue, who cynically wants to expose the country for what it is. But instead of altruistic purposes, he wants to exploit the weaponry. This is used as a MacGuffin of sorts. Wakanda as a nation has much to offer the world, but they have always been shrouded in secrecy to protect its people. There are 5 tribes, 4 of which are loyal to the throne. The 5th, the Jabari, self-exile to the mountains. But their “king”, M’Baku, tries to take the Wakanda throne by challenging T’Challa in combat when he’s initially crowned. This ritual is also revisited when we see Erik again, who returns to Wakanda late in the 2nd act.

The film is bursting with bright color and animation, depicting a lovely world like Wakanda with a sense of wonder. We understand the sentiment that Wakanda’s majesty should be shared with the world, like the vast technological advancements and all of the positives that make it so great. But T’Challa is conflicted because of the tradition of keeping Wakanda under wraps. One of his friends, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), wants to break from this as well. We can sympathize.

As a whole, the film has some breathtaking action, some big laughs, all manufactured from Marvel’s best and most enjoyable films. It’s formulaic and predictable, but that’s become part of the MCU charm. The film holds up as well as any of the best, like “Spiderman: Homecoming”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and “The Avengers”. It doesn’t ever lag, even running over 2 hours, and always has enough going on to keep you entertained. The performances are very good; but, of course, they all fall within the standard comic book movie personality vortex. But there is also a nice message about sharing power for the greater good of mankind; the ending leaves us with a sense of hope that “doing good” can be something that makes this a better world. Corny, sure; but it’s presented as credible enough to take it in with good vibes, rather than negative cynicism.

My rating:  :D