Watching the Infinity Saga during Quarantine (Phase 3)
The finale to my blog post trilogy. Phase 3 is by far the biggest and I got some shit to say about a few of these films. Another friendly reminder, these aren't opinions -- they're objective truths.
Watching the Infinity Saga during Quarantine (Phase 3)
Time to wrap this bad boy up. In case you're new, this a part 3 in my quarantine project to talk shit about all the Marvel movies in the Infinity Saga (starting with Iron Man, ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home). If you wanna check 'em out, here's links to my ramblings on Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 3 is a fuckin' trip though, so strap y'all selves in, cuz we got some work to do.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)
Holy shit y'all, this movie is extraordinary. I really lowered my expectations for compelling person-to-person narratives in these things, but this one really restored my faith. Usually, there's a villain who's plot is just obscenely evil, and their power level is what necessitates all the Avengers teaming up to kick ass. Loki had his army of grey mannequins, Ultron had his army of silver mannequins, and later, Thanos will have his army of dog mannequins.
Captain America: Civil War actually had a compelling interpersonal plot with a weak, but smart villain! And it fuckin' worked! We get a better chance to see each hero as more than just a super power, but as complex people with emotions and motivations. Vision's passion for order, Stark's unending guilt, Black Widow's allegiance to Cap. Even if there were no action scenes in the movie, the character drama alone gives this thing a massive boost above the others. But, there is action, and spoiler alert, it slaps.
I could go on endlessly about the plot and how it plays on perspective, and boundaries and mistakes. It doesn't force one obvious 'right side' down the viewer's throat. It's complex and realistic and nuanced. But that's not what most people watch these movies for. They watch it for Cap fighting goddamn Tony Stark, and the movie did not disappoint. There is no shortage of action, even with as much political intrigue as they packed it with. The fight scenes are intense and well choreographed, and each hero plays on their power naturally. Black Widow isn't trying to sumo slam aliens or some shit, she's fighting Hawkeye, and it's a compelling match up. Not even to mention that this is the first time we see Black Panther and Spider-Man on screen!
God, just thinking about this movie gives me chills. I didn't remember it being this good, and I can't rave about it enough. Unfortunately, no movie is perfect, and there are a few flaws here and there. For one thing, Ant-Man was a cool addition, but realistically, his character wouldn't risk prison again just to side with Cap, he loves his daughter too much — he'd be on Tony's team if anything. Secondly, Vision kinda felt like he was pulling his punches, especially considering he waited for the jet to be in the clouds and with friendlies in the way before taking his laser shot. Lastly, it made me sad that they americanized Wanda's (Scarlet Witch) accent. She sounded really cool and unique before, which I thought was fitting, considering she's not like the rest of them, and not American. There are probably more big plot holes, but I was too busy oohing and aahing at the screen to notice 'em. Loved this flick 🍿.
Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016)
I gotta say, Doctor Strange is definitely one the most visually impressive movies in the Infinity Saga, at least thus far. I don't know anything about actually creating CGI, so it might actually be easier to copy/paste folding buildings but it was still hella cool to look at. Binge watching these movies back-to-back, you start to bat your eyes when buildings fall over, and cars do rolling somersaults. I've seen more explosions in the past two weeks than I've seen people in the past two months. I'll take mirror dimensions, and bald wizards running upside-down any day of the week.
I don't actually have all that much to say about Doctor Strange besides that. I definitely think they could have spent a bit more time exploring his character prior to the injury, but they had a lot of plot to chug through, so I don't want to harp on that. Plus I definitely feel that they did a fine job characterizing him, and you can easily track his personality changes and developments, so no harm there either. Unfortunately, I really didn't think that the plot they chose to tell along with these character developments was anywhere near as interesting as it could have been.
It's hard though, I'm pretty torn. For most other heroes, their origin story comes from a close connection to another character they had prior to becoming 'super'. Iron Man has Iron Monger. Thor has Loki. Captain America has WW2 stuff, pretty much anything pre-21st century. This isn't a formula that needs to be followed, but doing it this way gives the film enough time to explore the villain's evolution alongside our character's. Sadly for Dr. Strange, that guy's origin comes from his own idiocy. Fuckin' dude is a brilliant surgeon, but he'll try to check out x-ray nudes while going 100 mph in the wrong lane. Then he becomes a wizard. You can't really develop an interesting enemy with that kinda story; you're kinda forced to tell the villain and origin separately. Maybe the Lamborghini salesperson worked for Hydra?
Anyway, I think lowering expectations is not my place, especially since I plan on comparing these movies to one another. The story revolves around some cult whose read too much Dormammu fan-fiction, and believes they'll be granted immortality if they let him go HAM on earth. Mid-training, the Doctor is pretty much thrown into a trippy fight sequence that lasts the rest of the movie. Since there's so much prerequisite knowledge to follow, often times the movie slows down to have characters exposit to one another, sometimes in a forced scene (e.g. that scene where a mechanical gimp suit forces Kaecilius to tell Strange his entire evil plan). I felt myself bored during these moments, usually just waiting for the next mind-melting fight to begin, which is usually the exact opposite of the way I watch the rest of the MCU films.
Giving credit where credit is due, I'm extremely happy that they didn't completely abandon Strange's history just because he got some Magic Fingers. A few times throughout the film, Strange goes back to his home hospital to get wounds treated, spouting his accrued knowledge of medical practice the entire time. Even if this is usually just for him to turn into Casper™ and float around while Christine does all the hard work. It's definitely not a bad movie, and I don't want to give that impression. I've never read the source material but it definitely sounds difficult as hell to translate into a movie, and they did a pretty good job. The slip-ups in pacing, and writing definitely do not outweigh the visual FEAST and fun vibe they mixed up in there.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5, 2017)
You know what they say about the art of film, "Tell, don't show. Showing is for losers. No one shows nowadays. What are you, Kubrick? We make movies to sell action figures."
I haven't felt this much disdain for a MCU movie since Iron Man 2, and I really didn't expect that to be topped. I remember not enjoy this one when I saw it in theatres, but I was pretty much alone on that front. It seemed like everyone else had a great time, and I was just sitting there wondering if I had missed something. Glad I got around to a re-watch so I could affirm my beliefs. Turns out everyone else is wrong.
So I think it's coming across that I didn't enjoy this movie. I want to explain why I believe this by dividing the review into three major failures: Writing, Characters and Plot. I can already hear those gears turnin' in your little noggin dearest reader. You're thinking "What else makes up a movie?" Well, you got the 'Pretty Pictures' category, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 passes on that front I guess. It looks pretty neat. Almost everything is CGI, but I was never really yanked out of the experience by ugly animations or anything. Those three types of failures were responsible for that.
Okay, let's start with the writing. I'm not a great writer, so usually this is difficult to critique. I generally just give writing a pass if the characters don't sound like they're reading scripts. I like hearing them converse like human beings. That being said, here are some of the lines from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
- "Quill, to make it through that [quantum asteroid field] you'd have to be the greatest pilot in the universe"
- "What was your second choice?! Scrotum Hat?!"
- "Oh, I get it. You're jealous of because I'm part god! You like me being the weak one!"
These are just a few of the notable examples from the movie that absolutely floored me while watching. It's like the first draft accidentally got sent out early and everyone just kinda went with it. Aside from the immature, boring humor (nipple jokes, turd jokes, anything involving Drax being a rude dickhead because he's being 'literal'), the movie has this painful issue where it keeps assuming that you're an idiot and need things explained to you. A character will tell a joke, and they'll follow it up with a big overblown reaction as if to convince you it was clever or funny. Some examples:
- Drax yelling "I have famously huge turds" after Rocket tells Quill he's putting shit in his pillow
- Drax's super over-the-top laughter after Mantis reveals Quills 'love' for Gamora, followed by Mantis joining in.
- Quill explaining how much worse it is to call Rocket 'trash panda' instead of raccoon
- Drax screaming 'That's called a practical joke!' after telling Mantis she can pet Rocket.
It may sound like I'm picking on Drax and that's because I am. He's an awful character who devolved into a motivation-less crutch that they depend on for humour far too often. Isn't it funny that 'literal man' called Mantis ugly? Look he did it again. Look he gagged because he thought she wanted to bang. Watch him talk about his sensitive nipples again. Laugh at our jokes, sheep.
In my correct opinion, the best comedy happen when characters are interacting in response to funny situations, not when they're making fun of one another, or spouting punch lines. The funniest moment in the movie was when Baby Groot brought Rocket and Yondu a severed human toe. Their reactions are deadpan, and the timing is great; you can't help but laugh. Hearing Drax ask Ego if he has a penis, is the opposite of clever comedy.
Now, let's talk about the characters. So the plot of this film is that Ego, Quill's dad, is a celestial who wants to control the entire galaxy with his big boy brain. I think his end goal involves him being the only living entity in existence. But, big plot twist: he can't do it alone, so he's trying to get Quill to agree to lend a hand with his half-celestial powers.
Okay, hearing that quick synopsis, we can play a little game. Guess which characters have the biggest development arcs. 3-2-1-okay. If you said Rocket and Yondu, you win a prize, congrats. Every other character is so forced into their gimmick that they lose all personality and autonomy. The rest of the cast is there to service the writer's weak story. Let me go through each main character one by one and explain a bit further.
Firstly, Gamora. She does nothing the entire film except act as a foil for Quill. When Quill is dismissive of Ego, she says they should just go and see. When Quill gets into Ego's vibe, she's suspicious and concerned. Besides that, she just exists to be Quill's love interest. At one point, she's in a field doing nothing, and the PLOT crash lands into her.
How about Nebula? Nope, she's just horny for revenge. If I understand her back story correctly, she was tortured her entire childhood for not being as good as Gamora. A lifetime of building anger and frustration culminates in a 2 minute fight. Nebula kamikazed her ship trying to murder her sister and fails. When she finally has her against the ropes, she can't bring herself to actually kill Gamora. She just explains that all this time, she just wanted a sister. Ohhhh, I get it, she was lonely! Now her relentless attempts to kill Gamora across two movies makes perfect sense! Sure she could have communicated this to her sister while growing up, but the audience wasn't there to see it, so let's do it now! 🙄
Maybe Drax is better? Nope. He doesn't do a single thing the entire movie. He just spouts 'jokes' and rude comments about Mantis, who we're supposed to believe is naïve enough to mistake this for friendship. They had exactly one meaningful chat, and Drax was still a dickhead during it, but whatever. Besides that, the writers just throw a couple punch lines at him and have him stand around the rest of the time.
Mantis is Ego's living sleeping pill. Why? Why are you asking? Are you a cop? Fuck you, that's why. How else were we going to get our runtime out of Drax?
Even Quill, he starts off the film as an arrogant douche. He becomes even more arrogant and douchey when Ego gives him powers, and then he gets saved by Yondu. He doesn't evolve or apologize or anything. Sure, he learns more about his parents but it's still pathetic that we're supposed to call that a character arc. Seriously, at the climax of the film, Ego talks about how all 'mortal' beings are beneath them and irrelevant. Ego's had hundreds of half-siblings fail him in search for Quill, and now they can finally begin consuming entire planets. Quill listens to all this and just gets a bit bummed since he kinda really liked his friends. Ego's like "oh shit lol, the script says we're supposed to fight... Hmm.... oh yeah, I also killed your mom". Thanks Quill, I always knew you were the moral compass. Real tough choice, I'm proud of you.
Meanwhile, Yondu starts off looking melancholy and aimless in some alien brothel. Someone comes along asking him to hunt down Quill, but this causes his crew to mutiny. He clearly has a soft spot for Quill, and the movie tells us it has something to do with why the other ravager gangs hates him. They simply say that Yondu took a child trafficking job, and leaves it up the audience to put two and two together. This is already a compelling plot hook, but wait, it gets better.
After the mutiny, he and Rocket are captured and end up in the same jail cell. Rocket's character started off as the same compulsive, money-centric raccoon that met in Guardians of thee Galaxy. He's still hot-headed and the only reason he's here is because of an arrogant fight with Quill. In this prison cell, Yondu and Rocket team up to escape the ravagers. With some help from Groot, they succeed, and it leads into moment abord their ship when they both confront their feelings. Yondu tells Rocket that they're pretty similar people. Both of them compulsively push others away when they get close, and that put on a tough facade to hide the fact that they're scared.
This revelation connects them as characters, and leads them to re-think how much they value their friends. It's impactful, and well set-up and it shows up in the climax of the movie. Yondu sacrifices himself for Quill to atone for his mistakes as a ravager and to affirm how much he cared about Quill. Rocket prepared the ship to save his friends (sacrificing Quill and Yondu) because he didn't want to risk their lives any longer. He even knocked out Gamora to keep her safe. Both of them made tough decisions which stemmed from their inner discoveries throughout the film. Drax made pee-pee and poo-poo jokes.
This review is getting a bit long, so I'm going to try to keep this section tight. The 'plot' is garbage and filled with conveniences to move the script forward. The team split up for no reason. Rocket, Groot and Nebula had no working ship on a foreign planet with an entire race in hot pursuit, why wouldn't they go with Ego as well? It's never even explained! Anyway, after the Rocket gang gets captured, and the ravagers mutiny, why didn't they break Yondu's arrow? Or kill Yondu after Nebula took off? Regardless, that entire scene was so gruesome for PG-13 movie, glorifying all this revenge killing, when the mutineers had some valid concerns. Fast forward to the big reveal that Ego is evil. Did I say big reveal? Woops, I meant that everyone in the theatre likely knew as soon as he showed up on screen that he'd be a bad guy. Turns out he's been killing babies until he found one with powers. He didn't really have a reason to, but he's the villain so he had to do something. Also he's the entire planet, so how are the Guardians of the Galaxy going to win this one?
Listen, if you're going to have an overpowered supervillain with an insane ability over our heroes, you have to introduce a weakness. Something that can turn the tide in their favour, so that wits or planning can lead to victory. It pisses me off in movies when the big bad has a 'weak point' that services an unwinnable victory. Kinda like the Death Star in A New Hope. Ego had a literal brain at the core of the planet AND gave them a map of where to find it at the start of the film.
Instead of coming up with a clever solution, the Guardians have a better idea. They have Quill 'distract' him. The guy who can manipulate every cell of the entire planet. Then they strap a bomb to Groot and have him blow up Ego's brain. Their plan shouldn't work and it does, simply because Quill beats up his corporeal form. Ego even said he doesn't HAVE to take a physical living form, it's just an imitation he put together to understand life. But he does, and Quill beats his ass and the bomb goes off. Unwinnable fight has just been won.
And there, that's a short review about the failures of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Just to be fair and give both sides of the argument, there are some good parts of this movie. The opening credits roll was pretty cool, seeing Groot dancing while a fight transpired in the background. I also liked some of the music. That's about it. All in all, this movie really makes you feel like a guardian of the galaxy, 7/10 -IGN.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017)
This movie was amazing, but maybe I'm just a sucker for Spider-Man. He's by far the most relatable hero, and when you throw in some clever quips and a funny, awkward attitude, you get this lovable goofball that I can't get enough of. I'm glad there's such a massive age difference between him and the rest of the Avengers, it lets them explore a different scale for plot purposes. He isn't stressing out about secret Hydra agents infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D., or intergalactic space demons spawned by a Dark Energy cult. He's trying to swing around and get Liz to go to the homecoming dance with him. He's trying to impress kids at his high school by showing them that 'he knows Spider-Man'. It's absolutely dumb, menial shit, but it's the exact type of thing a high schooler in his situation would do.
Hell, even the villain fits his scale. They didn't focus too heavily on some intriguing complex narrative, but I'm glad it's not some meaningless "I'm gonna get you Spider-Man"-style super baddie. It's just a dude trying to provide for his family in an unfair world. He has understandable motivations, and the introduction does a great job establishing his motive. Vulture's gang even discuss how they don't want to attract attention by starting some large scale operation, they just want to fly under the radar. Even the villain goes through his own character arc, starting out with focus on making enough money to provide for his family. As things go wrong, and Spider-Man draws more attention, he gets vengeful, and angry and starts taking bigger risks. I fuckin' love that!
While most of this stuff worked great, there are a few gripes that I have with the movie. Personally, I wish that we would've gotten more time to see Peter establish his relationship with his classmates. As it stands, he bails on them at every turn to go do some Spider-Man shit, and ultimately nothing comes of it. They still take him to D.C., they still forgive him at the end, and Liz still says yes to Homecoming. I'm wish there were more evidence that he has to work to foster these relationships instead of just being handed them, maybe he gets pizza for the team, or has a big extravagant way of asking Liz to the dance. Another gripe I have is with Flash's entire character. I mean he's obviously there for comedic reasons, but it kinda felt like he was the only one who knew he was in a movie, and decided to play up the 'high-school villain angle'. I mean seriously, dude even took the trophy when escaping the falling elevator in D.C. He reminded me of those nerds who get evicted from the Big Brother house in the first few episodes after watching all 27 seasons back-to-back. Pompous, narcissistic attitudes who act rude for attention and screen time, but maybe that's just how Marvel thinks high school bullies behave. Lastly, a few lost marks for that cringey half-suit half-Peter shot when he's trapped under rubble. Along with the Tony Stark voice over, that forced imagery was so over the top I literally died, missing the ending of the movie.
Overall, it's one of my favourites in the series. Lovely characters with appropriate motivations and a believable plot that knows its scale.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3, 2017)
I'm really happy with the new direction they took with Thor. The previous movies weren't all that interesting, and definitely felt out of place compared the likes of Iron Man and Captain America. Those guys had movies that were so much more 'realistic'. I guess I should say something like 'realistic-adjacent'. You know what I mean, they were just dudes with clear cut powers and capabilities. Thor is a god. It's hard to make his problems and demeanor relatable when you frame it all as the result of an ancient war between Asgard and some other peeps. Dark elves, Frost giants, who cares.
This time, X is actually Thor's long lost sister. If you think that sounds like a ret-con and a bit bullshit, you'd be right. In a perfect world, Hela should have been alluded too way before her initial appearance. That way, it isn't as jarring when they try to introduce, establish back story, and conclude an entire character arc in a few hours. Their attempt to do so didn't completely fail, but she fell into that supervillain grey area where they become so evil that nothing seems to be off the table. At one point in the film, she commands her soldier-man (Star Trek guy) to kill a civilian because she wants to show everyone that she means business. Personally, I think single-handedly murdering their entire defensive garrison did the trick, but you do you Hela.
I'm sure it sounds like I didn't like this movie, but that's not really true. Most of my issues are with the mediocre plot, but it sort of felt like they knew that when they were writing it. Lots of stuff doesn't make sense and we just sort of accept it. Are you telling me Hulk just flew a plane out of Earth and across the galaxy to a new planet, the same one Thor flew into by chance. Or the same one that Valkyrie went to after her friends were murdered? I'm not trying to nitpick, but it seems like the writers didn't try to make the plot 100% airtight, but rather just wanted enough to justify some cool action scenes, and that isn't always a bad thing.
There's enough going on the Asgard-part of the MCU that I've learned not to question it. How did Heimdall get his powers? How did they repaired the Bifrost? Why did they store the Surtur Crown beside the Eternal Flame? Lots of questions and no answers. Fortunately, this movie did that whole new direction thing, and just focused on comedy and visuals. And it worked surprisingly well! The jokes are funny, and only occasionally wind up feeling forced. The music is absolutely phenominal, and they add up to some memorable and extremely satisfying fight scenes. It's an absolute joy to see Hulk and Thor kick ass together, they did an awesome job characterizing Valkryie too. She isn't just 'Girl with sword' like Lady Sif. She actually has layers, and a history and flaws. Frankly, she stole the show for me. I loved whenever she was on screen because she made the dialogue more interesting than 'We should do good because it's right'.
Compared to the other Thor movies, Thor: Ragnarok definitely sits at the top. Visually, it's a entertaining few hours, but the plot definitely leaves something to be desired. The clever ending (Asgard is a people, etc.) is also a neat touch but doesn't really follow any of the movie's themes. I just hope that all those Asgardians find a big, friendly planet where they can settle down and live happily ever after.
Black Panther (February 16, 2018)
As we get further into the meat of the Infinity Saga, it becomes harder and harder for solo films to stand out. People refer to Captain America: Civil War as 'Avengers 2.5' simply because of how much screen-time is dedicated to setting up characters that aren't in the title. I'm not saying this argument is wrong, it's just the result of the trending size of the MCU. They can't do individual films for each of the Avengers, so they start doubling up; including stories bits for more characters per film. Hulk + Thor for Thor: Ragnarok. Spider-Man + Iron Man for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Ant-Man + Falcon for Ant-Man. Sure, they don't have central roles, but people love seeing their heroes beside one another.
I think this is what impresses me most about Black Panther. It doesn't do any of this. It's a new character, with a new back story, in a new location. Everything on screen is novel to the MCU audience, so the movie has to establish its own scale and importance. It earns itself, if that makes sense. We don't get attached to King T'Challa because he helped Captain America, who we've been watching for 5 years. We get attached because he's an intriguing complex character. The villain isn't planning on blowing up Earth, and isn't motivated by 'darkness' or 'the screen-writer'. He's a realistic character, with a challenging back story and an appropriately sized plan of attack.
This entire film was a treat. I loved the characters, the set pieces, the culture and music. It celebrated tradition and Afrofuturism at an incredible scale, and I couldn't get enough of it. Non-Avengers movies in the Infinity Saga often have forgettable villains, but not Black Panther. Killmonger was quite possibly the most intriguing opponent to date! His introduction is terrifying, and intense with some strong characterization. There aren't any contrived reasons for his actions and have a justifiable history. He IS an heir to the throne, and his family WAS wronged. His motivations are actually in the right, but his approach is violent. Even after his climactic fight with King T'Challa, there's a level of respect between them. King T'Challa know his family has made mistakes in the past, and uses that as motivation going forward. He takes Killmonger's motivations as his own, opening Wakanda to the public and building outreach centres. Instead of a violent approach, its a peaceful one! In the end, Killmonger still got what he wanted, but it wasn't muddied by his skewed morals.
There are so many layers to this film that make it an incredible trip. King T'Challa tries to hide Killmonger's origin the same way King T'Chaka tried to hide his brother's fate. Okoye's complex oath to Wakanda, serving a king she doesn't agree with. There is no black and white, right and wrong — it's deeper than that. She only turns on Killmonger when she sees that Wakandan tradition is not being honoured. She struggles with her loyalty to two parties and it's fascinating! There's also Shuri, the new smartest character in the MCU. She clearly has a disregard for tradition, and they show that some of the elders in the Wakandan council look down upon that!
I can't say enough good things about this movie. I love almost every aspect. The most common criticisms are the CGI, and the polictics, which I want to address individually. Sure, the CGI fails in some scenes of the movie. People most often point to the Black Panther vs. Killmonger scene on the vibrainium light rail. Yeah, it doesn't look perfect, but it definitely didn't kill my immersion. The unique characters, and exciting visuals kept me hooked for the rest of the movie. Are you telling me you didn't nut when T'Challa fought Killmonger in ritual combat? That shit was FIRE! Or Okoye spearing a car to an instant stop?! Off topic, sorry.
As for the politics, there's a few directions here. Some people say the movie is too political, and foreign to most MCU films. If you agree with that, you should know that being black, or talking about race isn't 'too political', and Killmonger had a point. The oppression he talks about is genuine and the film addressed it appropriately. If you just didn't like that there weren't many white people, you're probably part of thee problem. Another direction is that the movie isn't political enough. Look, the movie touches on real issues, that extend outside of the MCU. Having a film recognize those issues, celebrate an often unrepresented culture, and have a diverse cast will do more good for a wider audience than trying to shoe-horn a TED-talk on systemic racism. Yes, I kind of wished Killmonger spoke more to the inequalities and atrocities against black people, but I personally think he did so with his actions. He was clearly motivated, and angry, and even convinced T'Challa in the end. I'm not an expert, but I do think tearing a movie down for 'not doing enough', when it already does so much good is ultimately harmful.
The only change I'd make is to fire whoever decided to include the 'What are thoooooose???" line, and ban them from the writing room.
Avengers: Infinity War (April 27, 2018)
Alright, so if I had to pick one word to describe this movie, it'd be relentless. This movie, does NOT stop. You may have paid for a seat, but you'll only be using the edge.
Shitty stolen jokes aside, it never occurred to me how endless Thanos' onslaught really was. In the 2.5h run time, he goes from planet to planet to get all six infinity stones and it doesn't seem forced or contrived. It's more like a well thought-out plan executed perfectly. He doesn't enter a fight which he can't win, and really only wavers at two moments.
- When Mantis is trying to force him asleep
- When Thor brings Stormbreaker into his chest
Neither of those moments felt unearned. Those who read my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review know that I'm not the biggest fan, but I appreciate that it's established that Mantis is able to make powerful beings go to sleep. I'll allow it's use on Thanos, even if only half-working because of his 4-stone gauntlet. And as for Stormbreaker, that shit has an entire arc in the film itself, so if any weapon can kill Thanos, it'd make sense for it to be that one (although, I did think Cap's vibranium spike shields should have at least cut his skin).
I'm really not sure how to talk about this film though. It's all so fast and exciting but never feels messy. If you think about, it cuts between many different stories masterfully, and as long as you've seen most of the MCU films prior, you'll follow along. It doesn't take the time to introduce these characters, so I'm not sure what the experience is like if this is your first Marvel movie, but if that's the case you fucked up. There's the WandaVision gang, the Unfunny Gang (Drax/Quill/Mantis), the Dr. Iron Spider gang, the Stormbreaker gang and Thanos' crew, all elegantly balancing screentime. theres obviously some gang cross over, but I loved how even at the climax of the film, the heroes on Titan never met heroes in Wakanda. They were divided, and ultimately failed in isolation. It's like, MEANINGFUL n' shit.
I'm usually a nitpicky bitch boy when it comes to plot, but I didn't see a problem with this one. Sure it's not as complex/nuanced as Black Panther or Captain America: Civil War, but it had emphasis and weight behind it. Thanos knew what he was doing, and was demonstrably unstoppable. The only way I would've allowed him to lose was by overwhelming him, which the Titan crew almost managed to do. One-on-one, nobody stood a chance, and I think that did a great job showing his strength with the stones. Rewinding Vision's death, crashing the moon on Titan, shattering reality with in Knowhere, it was all so powerful. Thanos didn't throw away the victory because the plot demanded it, he fucking WON!
Maybe I'm just entranced by the pretty pictures on the screen, but I genuinely felt anxious, and excited and worried at all the right times. I was going for the ride again, it felt exactly like it did my first time watching it, IMAX on the opening weekend (quick flex). Not many movies do a good job exacting this intense variety of emotions from its viewers, but Avenger's: Inifinity War really accomplished that. Partially because of the 10 years of setup, but maybe also because of the well-choreographed action, compelling smart villain, and it's outright refusal to pull punches. I love this movie, and if you haven't seen it since its release, I recommend you do so immediately.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6, 2018)
This isn't a bad movie, at least I dont think it is. It's just a bit messy. A lot going on, with not much to think about. It's a fun experience, but not too deep or compelling in terms of plot. They learned what worked and what didn't from Ant-Man and seemed to refine the formula. More comedy, less science, faster pace. I think this movie probably did really well with younger audiences. They seemed a bit more confident in ignoring the science, and just had a bunch of cool shit on screen; like the hot wheel cars, or the big Ant-man scenes.
All of this makes for a good movie that I think most people can appreciate. However, since I'm a nitpicky cynical asshole, I want to point out the issues that bothered me. For one thing, it's established that Scott Lang has a masters degree in electrical engineering, even if it was some time ago. I think it's fair to say to say that he's a smart boy. That being said, they underplay his intelligence sooooo often, just to have a joke. At one point, he acts as if he's never heard of a 'warddrobe', which bugged me. Along with that, the new style of comedy seems to be taking itself from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The scenes actively pause, in order to tell a joke, rather than integrating it naturally into dialogue. For example, the X-Con group makes some jokes about the breakfast they're getting while the rest of the team is planning their next movie. The scene grinds to a halt to accomodate this, while Scott, Hank and Hope just sit there. At one point, Scott does the whole "Stop guys! We gotta get back on track!" shit (you know the one Gamora has trademarked), then he notices his shitty desk and goes off on his own tangent. Then Hope has to do the exact same thing again, but for Scott this time!
This type of thing bothers me, probably more than it should. This movie definitely had a lot of interesting characters to introduce, but it felt like their impact was diminished by the weird plot and odd narrative decisions. Another example of this is when it's revealed that Bill and Ava (Ghost) are working together. They go into a expository back story where we learn that Ava is the result of her father's experimental failure and S.H.I.E.L.D. her newfound abilities promising a cure. She's in constant pain, and Bill has promised to help her, which will involve 'funneling quantum energy' or some shit (which may kill Janet, who's presumably stuck in the Quantum realm). Cool, big back story, lots to unpack here. Then Scott gets a bunch of texts and a video call, and theres a comedic scene where his daughter is asking for her soccer shoes. This was definitely cute, but it's a hell of a way to undercut your 'villain'. All that dramatic build up was just snubbed, to tell a silly joke.
Again, this is proably just me being cynical but maybe that's because I was thrown off by the presentation. I want to bring it back to the 'odd narrative decisions'. One of the ones that stands out is their need to include Burch at all. He's pointless! He's some black market criminal goober who doesn't seem to do anything substantial for most of the movie! His motivations are just money! He's not smart, or scary, or memorable, and I think the dynamic with having the only opponent being Ghost could have been way more interesting. See the thing with Ghost is that she's completely in the right. She was fucked over by S.H.I.E.L.D., and just wants to live, and is willing to do whatever it takes to do so. She's been in pain for so many years and that drive to survive is a novel motivation for a character. Unfortunately, the narritave and music portray her as a cold-hearted villain that Ant-Man and the Wasp have to stop! They could have all just teamed up on helping Ava/Janet, but instead they act as though they're enemies and all hell breaks loose. Ava even kills(?) an FBI agent at one point, for seemingly no reason.
They seem to want to introduce drama without having earned it, and do so with weird, out-of-character choices. Since we're on a roll with examples, let's have another. Hank and Hope are dismissive of Scott at one point, since he has to get back home before the FBI find out he's broken his house arrest. The thing is, Scott isn't being unreasonable and doesn't have anything to apologize for! Sure he stole the suit for Captain America: Civil War, but they're way past that at this point in the film. Hope pretty much abducted him, and he's only a few days from completing a two-year sentence! How can they guilt him for wanting to do what's best his family, and not helping their family on their schedule. They didn't even really have a time constraint on rescuing Janet!
Okay, I think I got it out of my system. My point with all this ranting is that there are very easy flaws that a viewer of this movie can pick apart and criticize. Some are big, and glaring, while others are pointless and I just mention them because I'm a cry-baby. Does that make for a bad film? Nope, it's definitely still got some comedy gold, and has a much more fun-loving jokey vibe than the first one. Baby Ant-Man in the grade school was adorable, when Janet took over Scott's body I was smiling ear to ear, and hearing Luis recount ANYTHING always cracks me up. Even the fight scenes were much more creative and badass, with Ghost's seemingly endless ability to 'suburban power-walk' through drywall. Plus, as a bonus cherry on top, the young actress for Cassie Lang is absolutely phenominal, and might be the best child actor in the MCU (sorry Iron Man 3 kid).
Overall, it's a great comedy film, and the low stakes, fake science, and go-with-it nature make it an pretty fun experience. It's one of those, don't-look-to-deep-just-enjoy-yourself type things. Check it out if you missed it 🙂.
(Okay last nitpick I swear, but when Hank faked a heart attack to get Bill to open the Altoid container I felt so bad for him. The 'villain' showed genuine compassion for his enemy and The Ant Gang was just like "lol got eem" at dipped. That maneuver is what bad guys do in zombie movies, smh)
Captain Marvel (March 8, 2019)
I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. It makes me think that the real mistakes happened in the editing room, because it's almost like I can see a good movie in there. As it stands, it's a mediocre adventure/action film, but even with that, it wasn't like the characters seemed realistic. Their dialogue felt scripted. And like I get that that's kind of a stupid thing to say, but it made the entire movie feel more like a performance than a story. I'm really torn, but let me try to explain.
First of all, Captain Marvel does some neat characterization very early in the film. From her banter with Yon-Rogg, you get the idea that Captain Marvel/Carol/Vers is a quippy, smug, confident soldier for the Kree. Unfortunately, she's lost her memory and this film will follow her piecing her own origin story together. It's not a terrible plot, and I personally really enjoy this non-linear story telling, but the I wish the protagonist was more into it! See, I mentioned that they characterized Carol as smug, confident solider. I really enjoy that character, and definitely think that this personality can be a great hero, except this smugness is always front and centre, while the plot takes a back seat.
Frequently (if you're like me), you'll be thinking to yourself that Carol doesn't seem the least bit interested in the plot for personal reasons, and just wants to focus on the mission. The 'laidback' style she has feels so unrelatable and awkward that parts of the story made me cringe, simply because they're so odd. A perfect example is when she first meets up with her past best friend, Maria. Carol acts so casual, and easy-going and subtly just heats up a kettle to a boil and I was immediately put-off. Maria and Fury and pretty much every human who sees her powers should be freaking the fuck out, but they just immediately accept it as normal. Only Maria's daughter seems to be having an appropriate reaction! She starts talking about how they missed her, how she saved all of Auntie Carol's stuff, and trying to catch her up on her six years away. They're only mildly surprised when a shape-shifting alien breaks into their home!
It's just an odd feeling watching a movie with such subdued acting. It's like someone was holding a gun offscreen and told the actors to play it cool. Maybe I'm the odd one out, but I want to see regular humans flipping out at superhero shit, it's what I would do. And while I like that Carol is so 'cool', I wish her performance had more emotion than 'looking cool'. Being smug isn't what made Tony Stark a great character, it's his values and conflicts. His struggles with relationships, and his arrogance and mistakes. Captain Marvel seemed to take on a similar personality, but without any flaws or issues. It makes for a flat, boring character and I think it's a big misstep. It's not an awful movie, but so many of the Marvel films are great, that it's hard to rank this one very high.
Avengers: Endgame (April 26, 2019)
Oh man, we're finally here. Avengers: Endgame. I'm not even sure how to talk about this movie. It feels as though it's in an entire class of its own; like Superhero Epics. It's so unlike every other movie in the MCU simply because of the extraordinary scale. It pays off the 10+ years of prep work that went into setting up that final battle. I want to break my review up into distinct sections and try to stay objective, but with this movie that might be a little messy. Let's see how I do.
So first thing's first. Story. I don't think people really recognize how much detail was put into crafting this movie's narrative. You may remember it as a constant action-fest bombarded with references and payoffs, but there's a very intriguing truth to the whole thing. There are very few moments that seem contrived, and for the most part they didn't attempt to ret-con anything with the time travel. I appreciated that the agents were always Hydra, and that they didn't just ignore Thor: The Dark World because it wasn't as well received. It may have felt like a nostalgia trip, but the plot had a reason to go that direction, and it felt natural. It was a joy being able to see the clean-up from The Avengers, and watching new angles on Quill exploring Morag. However, since I always have to complain, I will bitch about a few things
- The Ancient One (from Doctor Strange) had an awesome scene with Hulk, but the idea of her silently killing some Chitauri on a rooftop was definitely a ret-con
- Nebula knew about the sacrifice for the soul stone (she says so in her dialog when she gets captured) and didn't tell Hawkeye or Black Widow
- Nebula getting zapped at the exact moment she was teleporting (with Rhodes) felt super forced, and I think if they had just somehow disabled her suit with a drone or something it'd have felt more natural
- If Doctor Strange could portal from Titan to Earth, couldn't they have joined the rest of the team in Wakanda? (Avengers: Infinity War)
Now, let's talk characters. This monster of a film far too many characters to go one by one, so I'm going to gloss over many of them. Pretty much all the notable MCU actors got some screen-time, with my only noticed expectation being Ghost from Ant-Man and the Wasp. I didn't actually notice this detail until my girlfriend mentioned it, but many of the Avengers who survived the snap were the originals! Like from The Avengers! I'm probably the only one who didn't notice that, but I'm happy they got a bit more focus. And by a bit more focus I mean that they had the entire first half of the movie. Still though, I'm glad that everyone got their chance to shine in the final fight. Plus, it was an excellent last fight for the core Avengers, considering they probably won't be the same going forward. Natasha and Tony are gone (in great moments for each of them), Cap and Hawkeye (probably) have retired, Thor is a Guardian of the Galaxy now (God rest his soul), and Hulk lost his arm. It was an unforgettable way to write an ending for each of these characters without it feeling heavy handed. Seriously, Pepper Potts telling Tony that 'they're going to be okay', and 'he can rest' was incredible. Whoever wrote that should kiss themselves on the mouth, it was a perfect send off.
This last category is a bit different, and definitely unique to this film. I'm going to give it the title 'Experience'. This movie is iconic, regardless of whether or not you liked it. It was essentially the conclusion to a series of overlapping stories spanning over the past decade, and it fucking stuck the landing. You know how poorly it could have went? How many Game of Thrones Season 7's could have happened in that writing room? It's a miracle that the product that came out of a project this epic was as good as it was, even if it did have a lot of fan service. The 'Experience' part that I want to mention really comes from how it feels to watch the movie. It's weird, and sort of meta, but I can't help but say something about it. Avengers: Endgame gave me (and countless others) the best theatre going experience of my life.
I remember going with Jordine on opening night, IMAX seats, in a crowded line of fans just like us. There were people cosplaying, and the staff was handing out posters. During those moments of the film, the entire theatre would cheer, and cry out in excitement. That energy is incredible, and I'm not sure what movie will give a group of strangers anything close to that in the future. Re-watching it for this review had a different feeling. Not a bad one, but different. I caught myself clinging to those moments, and just waiting for them to come back on screen. I definitely got giddy n' shit when they happened, but it did feel like watching a highlight real, and not as much like that first experience. It's kinda fuckin' stupid to judge a movie based on rewatchability, but I did want to convey my own experience.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2, 2019)
What a fun movie! I really enjoyed Spider-Man: Far From Home, it's just a bit odd that they chose to end the Infinity Saga on this one. I'm a fan of Spider-Man, he's one of my favourite heroes in the MCU, but Avengers: Endgame surely had a more definitive ending. That being said, it felt like a nice send-off for Tony, considering how fond he was of Spider-Man. In addition, Peter went through his own Iron Man 3 arc; making mistakes and dealing with this existential dread about living up to expectations. Maybe I'm just really into the idea of 'filling big shoes' in movies, but that's part of the reason I love Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.
While it was an enjoying few hours, I wouldn't really call this movie excellent. I enjoyed the whole twist with Mysterio faking the Elemental attacks, but I can't help but think the movie ultimately suffered because of this. The first hour or so feels heavily rushed, and left me with a weird feeling. I understand it's all so that when Peter hands over Edith, there's a big "Haha got you! You thought Mysterio was good!" moment, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't enjoying the setup. Like it hits all the beats, introduces Mysterio, talks about the threat, executes a plan to prevent the threat, and it goes off with minimal issues. It feels like an entire movie crammed into the start just to subvert your expectations. Even some of the meaningless 'high-school' arcs were a bit lame. That whole thing with the drones and Brad taking a photo of Peter was so far-fetched and forced that it actively made me uncomfortable.
Even if the first half was mediocre, the second half of the movie is awesome. There were some great visuals and even better characterization. Mysterio is a compelling character and I liked how he narratively became increasingly unhinged as more of their plan fell apart. Peter's honest dialogue with MJ was satisfying and made sense, especially because they hint at MJ having a crush on Peter in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The dream-ish sequences where Spider-Man is trying to fight Mysterio was so cool to see, and the climax where he Peter-tingles his way through the bridge is even better! I'm totally a sap for cool Spider-Man moments so it's hard to stay objective, but those scenes gave me goosebumps.
Overall, I feel like the Mysterio twist did a disservice to the first half of the film, but it did prepare the scene for the second half, which was visually interesting and had some great character moments. Not my favourite Spider-Man movie, but had the best live-action visuals by far.
Okay, we're finally out the other side! We (and by we I mean me) have gone through every single movie in the Infinity Saga and insulted each of them in different ways. Some of my opinions are going to differ from your own, and I challenge you to throw away your obvious misconceptions and take my word as law. I have a movie podcast so obviously I know what I'm doing.
Anyway, stay tuned kids — I have a final post coming up where I rank the films in a definitive list. I figured that deserves its own post since these ones have too many words. I hope you at least partially enjoyed my ramblings. Now I just have to sit still until I can binge Phase 4, like the good little capitalist consumer I am 😁.