FILM REVIEW: AVENGERS INFINITY WAR (2018)

Standard

Groot: I am Groot.
Steve Rogers: I am Steve Rogers.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Winston Duke, Peter Dinklage and Tom Hiddleston

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

The third entry in the Avengers Trilogy and the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the post credit scene in Iron Man (2008) when we were introduced to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Marvel fans around the world leapt for joy as they knew this was the beginning of a Marvel connected Universe. Over ten years we have been introduced to iconic Marvel Heroes such as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and even deeper cuts such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. Each film is unique in its own way but they have all grown into a similar formula. Regular man whether rich or poor comes across gaining special powers and learns life lessons from friends and villains then eventually saves the day. It is a common trope among all superhero movies however Marvel Studios has perfected the formula through perfect casting, strong directors and heaps of nods to the classic comic books where they all originate.

One thing that has spanned across most of the Marvel films is the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Fans have been waiting for this epic showdown and I’m sure for the fans it does not disappoint. The film opens with a dark and cold introduction of Thanos (brilliantly played by Josh Brolin with menace and ferocity) to show his true power and cruelty. This picks up straight after the previous Marvel film; Thor: Ragnarok. Thor and his team are powerless to his destruction and Thanos begins his quest to find all of the Infinity Stones. He comes to earth to wreak havoc on the streets of New York as Iron Man meets Doctor Strange and Hulk falls from the sky to warn them of what just happened and the threat of Thanos. What ensues for the rest of the film is the team all trying their best to stop Thanos from getting all of the Infinity Stones and ruling the world (or destroying it). The plot is quite simple and there isn’t much time for character development or character arcs except for perhaps between the Guardians of the Galaxy. The characters are still all played to perfection from the cast we know and love including; Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Tom Holland (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/ T’Challa), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/ Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Bradley Cooper (as the voice of Rocket), Vin Diesel (as the voice of Groot), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Anthony Mackie (Falcon/ Sam Wilson), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Benedict Wong (Wong), Don Cheadle (War Machine/James Rhodes), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Peter Dinklage ( Eitri) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Although Josh Brolin’s Thanos is perhaps Marvels best villain to date his henchmen – The Black Order are pretty forgettable. Proxima Midnight (Monique Ganderton) brings a tough female villain for the female heroes to battle and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) is chilling, particularly his torture scene with Doctor Strange. However the rest of the villains just reminded me of the Orcs from the Lord of the Rings films, simply fodder for our heroes to punch and kick.

Most of the film is filled with epic battle sequences and it is very fast paced for a 2 and half hour film. It is fun to see all of our heroes together although they eventually split up into three factions. Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man end up on a spaceship trying to uncover the true identity and motives of Thanos. Captain America, Black Widow, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Hulk end up on Wakanda joining Black Panther’s team to help protect the stone in the Vision. Then we have the Guardians of the Galaxy rescuing Thor from space. Thor’s initial meeting with the Guardians is fantastic especially his meeting with Peter Quill provide some great comedic moments. Eventually Thor teams with Rocket and Groot to travel to another planet to find a weapon to kill Thanos and the rest of the Guardians join Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man to stop Thanos from getting the time stone from Doctor Strange.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a real highlight in this film from their opening to the song The Rubberband Man by the Spinners they add comedy to dramatic scenes (especially Drax) but also have really strong heartfelt moments especially between Peter Quill and Gamora. Rocket and Groot teaming with Thor was also a stroke of brilliance.

All of this leads to an epic fight in Wakanda where Thanos tries to get the stone from Vision. I won’t spoil the rest (read below) however the epic scale of this battle is jaw dropping and reminiscent of the end battles of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Overall the film is quite grim for a Marvel movie. There are jokes and fun banter between the heroes but overall this is the darkest Marvel film and it is more similar to a fantasy film in the style of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones rather than the Iron Man or Captain America films.

I enjoyed the film but I did feel it was a bit too overstuffed with characters and overall the plot was quite thin; stop Thanos from getting the Infinity Stones nothing more and nothing less. What was impressive were the incredible epic action scenes from start to finish and just generally catching up with characters we’ve grown to love over these ten years.

B+

Spoilers & Extra Thoughts:
• Gamora was a real highlight in this film. The scene of her backstory was gut-wrenching. Zoe Saldana’s performance was brilliant. Also her death was shocking and heartbreaking. However I have a feeling she may return in either the next Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
• I thought this would be a stand-alone film like the original Avengers and its sequel Age of Ultron. I remember hearing they were going to split it up into two parts like the final Harry Potter and Hunger Games films but Kevin Feige decided against it. However that’s exactly what they did! They ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t enjoy the ending and to be honest I’m still confused as to why some characters began to die/disappear while others didn’t. I guess we’ll find out in the next one.
• I love Drax’s scene watching Peter and Gamora kiss while eating chips stating he has been there for hours and he has perfected the art of being silent and still.
• I loved how Thano’s killed Loki in the opening scene. Loki has been useless since the original Avengers. In hindsight he probably should’ve died in the original Avengers film.
• Speaking of characters dying I am disappointed that (besides Gamora) none of our major heroes died. The scene where Tony Stark got stabbed by Thanos had the crowd in my cinema gasping and I thought this could have been a great end to the character who had been around for ten years and launched the franchise. Marvel could have moved on and created a new path for the series. But they wimped out and let him survive. Most disappointing part of the film for me.

FILM REVIEW: THE AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

Standard

avengers

Tony Stark: Shit!
Steve Rogers: Language.

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: As The Avengers defeat the remaining forces of Hydra a new threat arises as Tony Stark and Bruce Banner attempt to develop a new security system for the world. When their experiment backfires, Ultron is born. A computer program/robot who wishes to exterminate humans from earth.

With mammoth expectations from Marvel Studios after last year’s critical and box office successes Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers Age of Ultron arrives with slight disappointment from fans. It is an impossible task for Whedon to top his first attempt of combining Marvels favourite heroes in 2012’s The Avengers. It is also an impossible task to keep the Marvel brand fresh off last years quite surprising hits especially Guardians of the Galaxy. However with a deeper look you can see that Whedon actually has topped the original with better chemistry between the heroes, a better villain with James Spader’s sly Ultron and bigger and better action set pieces beginning with a snowy attack on Hydra’s base in the opening scene.

This photo provided by Disney/Marvel shows, Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers, in the new film, "Avengers: Age Of Ultron." The movie releases in U.S. theaters on May 1, 2015. (Jay Maidment/Disney/Marvel via AP)

Avengers Age of Ultron actually delivers what everyone wants; nothing more and nothing less. Perhaps that is the issue with the Marvel brand in general, with every film released we are teased with the next feature. In 2011 we knew with the releases of the original Thor and Captain America and the success of the two Iron Man films that we would have an Avengers film the year later. With the ending of The Avengers and the reveal of Thanos we knew we would get an Infinity Wars Avengers film coming up. With Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World we knew we would get an Avengers sequel in 2015. There are no more surprises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even with the release of Age of Ultron we know next year we’ll get Captain America: Civil War. Marvel has even released their five year plan to the press so we all know what adventure our heroes will go on eventually. This takes the surprises and stakes out of the picture for Avengers AOU because we know Iron Man and Captain America will face off in next years Civil War and Thor will fight again in a further sequel in 2016. All we can do is try and enjoy this particular adventure on its own terms even through we know no one significant will die and nothing significant will happen that will alter Marvel’s five year plan.

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Hulkbuster-Armor

However sitting in the cinema and watching the action unfold, listening to Whedon’s witty banter come out of my favourite heroes mouths I can’t help but feel in love. I love Downey Jr’s snark and wit in Tony Stark, I love Evans naivety and stoic in Captain America, I love Hemsworth’s viking swagger as Thor, Johansson’s sexy Black Widow and Ruffalo’s brooding Bruce Banner. There is also Renner’s new and improved Hawkeye, Cheadle’s over-eager Rhodey and Anthony Mackie’s dedication to Cap in Sam Wilson. There are new surprises with Spader’s brilliant Ultron, Paul Bettany’s unique and amazing The Vision and Elizabeth Olsen’s sexy and scary Wanda Maximoff. Unfortunately Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff is a bit of a letdown after last year’s superior version in X-Men Days of Future Past. As you can see I’m a huge fan of Marvel and even though I know where each franchise is going I can still enjoy this adventure on its own terms and I think in time people will look back at this as one of the better adventures in the Marvel canon. Even though there are multiple plot lines, too many characters and the novelty of the heroes coming together for the first time removed, I think Whedon still excels as a comic book film auteur. It is a shame he is leaving the franchise however I believe he will deliver another excellent film soon.

black-widow-the-avengers-age-of-ultron

With excellent performances, brilliant action set pieces and a great villain in Ultron, Whedon has delivered a worthy sequel to The Avengers and also paves the way for more adventures that I can’t wait to see.

Rating: 4 Stars