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: :?

Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Movies

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the sixth “Spider-Man” film, and it’s easily the best since “Spider-Man 2” (from the original trilogy). The Spider-Man franchise has had a bit of inconsistency, starting strong but ending a bit weakly with the dreaded (but somewhat over-hated) “Spider-Man 3”; then, rebooted with 2 completely forgettable films and a forgettable Peter (played as dutifully by Andrew Garfield as possible). As reliable as Spider-Man is as an entertaining comic book hero, his movie franchise hasn’t been as dependable.

Marvel still wants to save their golden boy, however; they threw him in “The Avengers: Civil War”, and a young, boisterous Tom Holland was cast. His cameo was brief but fun, and gave enough of an excuse I guess, to give him a full feature length film.

But this time, the studio was smart to not reboot the whole story all over again, so that in the 3rd time in 15 years, we’d have a “Peter Parker origin story”. In “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, directed by Jon Watts (“Clown”), we already know Peter is Spider-Man, and he’s already fought with the Avengers. This allows the character to be exactly where he needs to be, and not re-introduced again.

Parker has returned from fighting the Battle of New York, and is ecstatic that he’s been able to cut his teeth with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., if you didn’t know that already) and the Avengers. He’s given the guise of being an intern to the Stark company, so no one suspects what he’s really up to. His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) encourages him in his internship, and he seems to be the envy of some students at school. But Parker has his teenage problems: he longs for a shot at a girl named Liz (Laura Harrier), a brainy and beautiful girl that is keen to Parker’s attraction. He also has a little rivalry with the school rich kid Eugene “Flash” Thompson (Tony Revolori), who competes with Parker in the ‘mathletes’. And, unfortunately for Parker, school comes before superhero. He still has to do his homework.

The city has its share of thieves and criminals, but none more powerful than a mysterious villain referred to (in credits only) as the Vulture. He’s only known in the film as Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a contractor whose business is co-opted by Stark’s own Damage Control following the Battle, to clean up the after effects. Toomes, dismayed but not detracted, steals some of the artifacts himself and sells the exotic weapons at a high price to support his family. Toomes is a lunch bucket villain. He’s blue collar, not looking to take over the world, just looking for a piece of American Pie.

But this doesn’t sit well for 15 year-old Peter, who trails him and tries to stop him by himself. This bothers Stark, and Parker’s chaperone Happy (Stark’s colleague, played by Jon Favreau), and it gets Spider-Man in quite a lot of hot water.

For us, as an audience, we’re licking our chops to watch Spider-Man fight. And, like Stark, his suit is powered by AI, a bit of a SmartSuit. His AI, Karen (voiced by Jennifer Connelly), helps him out of jams both with the bad guys, and gives some sage life advice.

Also along for the ride is Peter’s school friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who wants to be “the guy in the chair”, the one behind the scenes who aids his super hero friend. At first Peter is hesitant; but after some run-ins, and Ned’s assistance, he agrees. Ned’s contributions are essential to Peter’s escaping certain doom, and proves his worth as his “sidekick”.

There are some breathtaking action sequences that string the film along, including one that takes place on the Staten Island Ferry; and the other atop the Washington monument. The Ferry sequence may remind viewers of the subway scene in “Spider-Man 2”; but it doesn’t feel like a rip off. This is actually the bread and butter of a Spider-Man story: he has to save a piece of New York City. In the 1st movie, it’s the Queensboro Bridge (in the reboot it’s the Williamsburg Bridge).

Most of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is watching Tom Holland eat up the Peter Parker role. He’s the youngest actor to portray the character, which works to its benefit. There’s a literal breath of new life into the character; and for some reason, it makes him more believable than previous incarnations played by Garfield and Tobey Maguire.

The strongest parts, like much of the MCU films, involve humor. There are a lot of quality laughs here, and it certainly strengthens the film’s entertainment value. Stark’s scenes are amusing; but it’s a lot more than that. RDJ doesn’t have to save this film. He’s just a piece. Keaton is exceptional as the ice cold Toomes, just trying to make a good living, but is also cutthroat. Batalon as Spidey’s BFF is also cute and charismatic. And, can’t forget Zandaya’s Michelle, or “MJ” (duh!). On balance, the whole cast provides good performances. Holland and Keaton’s stand out, but they all do well to round out the film.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” brings confidence back to the franchise, and sets up nicely for its own series. I want to see more of Holland as Peter, and watch him grow up a little. He already started to toward the end of the film. Now, as a future Avenger, we can see the character finally reach his full potential.

Just don’t go forcing Venom on us again right now, mkay?

My rating: :-)