Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – Movie Review

avengers infinity warAnd so begins the end of an era. Everything that has happened so far in Marvel’s shared universe that began in 2008, everything has led to this moment. Avengers: Infinity War is where this decade’s worth of narrative & world-building is supposed to pay off. And that makes this film more than just another instalment in the franchise. It’s an epic moment, no less than a cinematic event.

The 19th instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and first of the two planned Avengers films that will conclude their Phase 3 plan, Avengers: Infinity War follows the all-powerful Thanos as he travels across the universe looking for infinity stones that would grant him the strength to impose his will on all of reality and finally faces the Avengers in a battle that would decide the fate of all existing lives.

Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, Infinity War begins where Thor: Ragnarok signed off and what unfolds in the opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the story. It’s no doubt an ambitious undertaking by the Russo brothers but Captain America: Civil War proved that it’s them who were best suited for tackling this massive assignment than anyone else. And for the most part if not all, they do a pretty neat job at it.

Having been teased only in small doses until now, Infinity War puts Thanos front & centre as if it’s his movie. There is more at stake here than previous entries and in Thanos we have a supervillain who lives up to the expectations. His motivation for the sick fantasy that he wants to turn into reality isn’t as strongly appealing but it’s still serviceable. However, the film actually lacks that smooth, perfect balance the first Avengers film exhibited in all aspects.

The VFX team deserves the maximum credit, for everything from the set pieces to numerous locations to changing backdrops & settings to characters’ appearances & outfits is an end result of their work. There are plenty of moments that will make the audience cheer at the spectacle they are witnessing but it could also be exhausting, for CGI-laden action segments don’t carry that lasting effect and may become tiring after a while, which is exactly what happens here.

Cinematography is splendid, utilising IMAX cameras to capture the images in sharp detail & crisp clarity, but it also fails to make the most of the available technology by operating them in conventional fashion. Editing is brilliantly carried out, making sure the action keeps surfacing regularly to keep the interest alive but there were several scenes that it could’ve trimmed from its already demanding 149 mins runtime. And Alan Silvestri contributes with a rousing score that effectively uplifts the film’s larger-than-life aura.

Coming to the performances, barring a few exceptions, the entire ensemble of the MCU return to reprise their respective roles of the Avengers, the Guardians & their allies but it’s Josh Brolin as Thanos who impresses the most. The years of careful threading that underwent into hyping him as the biggest & baddest overlord of villainy & darkness ultimately works out in the film’s favour, as Thanos makes up for one formidable supervillain who’s far more intimidating than past Marvel antagonists and Brolin’s conquering voice makes him stand out even more.

As for the rest of the cast, Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark (Iron Man) with all his charisma & magnetic charm in tact and delivers a confidently assured input. Chris Hemsworth is even better as Thor and is bestowed with the most interesting arc of all Avengers. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers (Captain America) is no slouch either and carves his own moments to shine. Tom Holland is effortlessly captivating as Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and steals almost every scene he appears in. Others do well with what they are given but every single one of them is overshadowed by Thanos’ imposing presence.

On an overall scale, Avengers: Infinity War is an enjoyable, entertaining & satisfying extravaganza that somehow manages to live up to its enormous hype. There are plenty of unexpected surprises & unforeseen tragedies in store, plus the ending is going to hit the fans hard, but all of it would’ve left a more powerful & unforgettable impact if we didn’t already know that much of it will be undone in the next Avengers film. All in all, Avengers: Infinity War nearly pays off 10 years’ worth of investment with an exhilarating action-adventure spectacle and signs off by setting up a perfect stage for the grand finale.

 

10 out of 10 stars

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Captain America: Civil War (2016) – Movie Review

captain america civil war

Combining political intrigue with superhero action is a daring, risky move…but “Captain America: Civil War” couldn’t be in better hands. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo prove once again to be the best directors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, turning Stephen McFeely and Christopher Marcus’s brilliant screenplay into a work of art. No other Marvel movie has yet delivered such a fluid combination of intelligence, symbolism, and heartbreaking opposition as the Russo brothers’ latest entry into the already amazing Captain America series.

Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) reminds audiences why his hero has always been the most likable as he embodies the valiantly flawless titular hero in a way only he can. Robert Downey Jr. introduces a new side of his egocentric Tony Stark/Iron Man, which will either make you love him all the more or repel you, depending on who’s side you take. And that’s one of the many beauties of “Civil War”: the viewer has to determine which hero’s side he’s on, as both have their own opinion of the “Sokovia Accords”, a document that will put the United Nations in charge of all super-powered individuals.

As both heroes recruit others of their kind to fight for (or against) the “Sokovia Accords”, a scheming puppeteer manipulates them, practically unseen, both Captain America and Iron Man mistakenly believing the other to be the true enemy. And Daniel Bruhl as Helmut Zemo, the man most determined to accomplish his agenda, delivers the most moving, emotional performance in the whole movie. Helmut Zemo is at once terrifying and enigmatic, in a way no other Marvel villain has been before, and he accomplishes this without any superpowers, bringing to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker. As he stares blankly into space listening to a voice recording on his phone, his motionless face says more than any other actor in the whole film. And that’s saying a lot, because most of what fuels “Civil War” is dynamic, passionate acting from almost all of the actors.

During its worst moments, the film is thought-provoking, conflicting, and emotionally immersive, and when an action scene obligatorily comes along, it doesn’t forget the inherent tragedy of the circumstances. The many lighthearted, chuckle-inducing moments (many courtesy of Ant-Man) don’t distract from the plot, but remind us that the dueling heroes are still friends, despite their differences. The third installment of the Captain America series–and hopefully not the last–is sure to excite superhero fans, and also entice those harder to please.

Synopsis: “Civil War” is an instant classic that transcends typical superhero movie expectations with powerful acting, an artistic vision, and a story that will spark discussions and arguments many years from now.

 

10 out of 10 stars

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) – Movie Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the unwarranted and unnecessary sequel to 2012’s equally unnecessary and unwarranted The Amazing Spider-Man. It almost goes without saying that this is a staggeringly transparent cash- grab on the part of Sony and to a lesser extent Marvel, but the question is, is it worth your time and money?

The short answer is, absolutely not. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 evokes unavoidable comparisons to the masterstroke of the 2002-2007 trilogy, Spiderman 2, which was unquestionably superior in literally every conceivable fashion. As a matter-of-fact, you’ll often wish – during TASM2’s 140 minute runtime – that you’re watching Spiderman 2. But how can that be? As Buzzfeed like to remind us, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are delightful; Dane De Haan is a promising young actor with a striking resemblance to a young Leonardo Di Caprio and Jamie Foxx is an experienced actor playing a potentially strong villain. Behind the camera, director Marc Webb impressed everybody with (500) Days of Summer and a string of well-known music videos, so what could go wrong? The answer, as is often the case in failed blockbusters, is lazy, shitty writing. It will be of no surprise to anyone that screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have each had a hand in at least one Transformers movie. But I digress.

TASM2, much like its predecessor, tediously and uncharismatically explores the mystery of what happened to Peter’s parents, while Peter himself unconvincingly gets adjusted to his new life as Spiderman. Typically, there is also an antagonist who pops out of the woodwork courtesy of Oscorp (which surely by now should’ve faced at least some legal scrutiny for becoming a world-leader in the manufacture of supervillains), and Harry Osborn also appears as the harbinger of an inevitable Green Goblin return. This much has surely been made obvious by the trailer.

While this movie has some legitimately impressive action set-pieces, it succeeds only in turning a respectable group of lead actors into scenery-chewing, Saturday-morning-cartoon caricatures. During the film’s non-action scenes, the leads unforgivably adopt ham-fisted pseudo- representations of their real-life personalities – I’m referring in mainly to Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone here. It becomes insipidly clear as the film goes on that their off-screen personality as a “cute celebrity couple” has been allowed to directly influence the writing. Often it feels as if they’ve just been thrown into a scene and told to improvise, and riff off of their natural chemistry. This is cute to watch, but when you suddenly remember that the last scene finished with an argument (or even an official break up at one point) it does make you question how well the writers knew their own screenplay. They chuckle and fawn giddily over each other, in spite of the fact that the narrative demands that they behave otherwise – like real human people would.

Poorly written scenes are not in short supply, and they encapsulate the knuckle-bitingly poor dialogue that mutilates this movie from beginning to end. The dialogue in the original trilogy was far from Shakespeare, but it was firm, utilitarian dialogue that moved the plot along. Here, everything is awkward and confused. It also through this poor scripting and story-telling that it becomes unescapable to realise Peter is in fact, quite obnoxious and douchey in this incarnation of Spiderman. Look at the plot from the villains’ point of view as the film goes along, and you’ll see what I mean.

Ultimately, TASM2 just left me feeling quite sad. The writers’ tendency to open up plot holes the size of craters, and the bizarre shift toward Adam West Batman-style “campy” villains just made everyone seem like a dick who wasn’t worth rooting for. By rebooting the Spiderman franchise this early – and getting a great cast to boot – Sony have made the unspoken promise that they’ve corrected the mistakes that the original trilogy made, and even improved upon its positives. However, they have achieved neither. This series has thus far done everything that the original series did, but slightly worse. Anything new it’s tried to do, it has done poorly, and frankly I feel like a sucker for going to see it.

 

5 out of 10 stars

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