Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.

Film Review: Doctor Strange (2016)

Release Date: October 13th, 2016 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Based on: Doctor Strange by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 115 Minutes

doctor-strangeReview:

I kind of lost faith in Marvel Studios awhile ago. It has been some time since I’ve truly enjoyed a Marvel picture from the Disney side of things. Although, growing up, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic books because it was so different than the other Marvel titles. So there was a part of me that was somewhat excited to finally see Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme on the big screen.

I’m just going to put it out there, this was my favorite Marvel film after Guardians of the Galaxy. I guess the main reason was because it was so different, like Guardians, and it wasn’t a cookie cutter origin story like all the other Avengers’ first movies. Sure, it is an origin story but it isn’t bogged down in that and it moves past it pretty quickly. I think the film benefits from the passage of time being fairly ambiguous.

This is also one of the most visually stunning motion pictures I have ever seen on the big screen. It doesn’t have the enormous scale of Guardians of the Galaxy but the magical realms are just so interesting and vivid. Doctor Strange is definitely a movie that should be seen on the big screen.

Benedict Cumberbatch was pretty much perfect for the role of Dr. Stephen Strange. And since Strange was originally modeled after the great Vincent Price, maybe Cumberbatch could start a side gig of playing Price’s roles in remakes of some of his classics. Just a thought.

Mads Mikkelsen is an actor I always enjoy to see but I do feel like he was somewhat wasted in the film. And really, this is my only gripe with Doctor Strange. His character, the main villain of the story, just feels thin and should have been developed much more. He’s essentially just an evil force of nature who was a great student of the light that was tempted by the dark side. Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is pretty much any Sith from Star Wars but a lot less interesting.

Some people have a problem with Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, who in the comics is an old Asian dude. I didn’t take issue with it and I thought she did a good job with the role. Was it accurate to the comics? No. But Baron Mordo also isn’t black but no one seems to care about that. Why? It really isn’t that important. The next thing these “purists” will do is start complaining that the new Ghostbusters are all ladies. Oh, wait…

Speaking of Mordo, Chiwetel Ejiofor served the role well. Although, I thought his slip into villainy was almost too quick and easy. He was the Ancient One’s second-in-command and he turned his back on the order because of stubbornness that he should have probably been able to get past if he was a master sorcerer with extreme discipline. He didn’t even take a second to process it or talk about it, he just walked away, offended and sad, ignoring his own advice throughout the entire film: “forget everything you think you know.”

In the end though, no one was as awesome as Wong.

Doctor Strange also boasts one of the most impressive and interesting scores in the Marvel film franchise.

The film also isn’t drawn out to eye-rolling lengths and is thankfully, just under two-hours. I swear, Captain America: Civil War felt like a four-part miniseries I was forced to watch in one sitting.

And there are a few other things I could talk about but I don’t want to spoil too much of the film, even though film reviews by their very nature are spoilers.

Doctor Strange is a well-acted and well-directed comic book movie. It flows really well and it is great eye candy. It is one of the best Marvel outings, ever. I hope the future films in the franchise take their cues from this film and from Guardians of the Galaxy because Marvel tends to give us their best when they aren’t following a specific formula.