icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo Instagram kickstarter-support FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Apr 28 2019 07:29AM



Avengers: Endgame (2019) Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo


What I’ve enjoyed in the MCU (more so than the current rebooted Star Wars) is the actual inclusion of loving relationships. Be it between father-son figures (Guardians, Spider-Man), brothers (Thor) or partners (Iron Man & Pepper Potts, Captain America and Peggy Carter) an aspect so often overlooked is how these “superficial” Hollywood blockbusters – they’re anything but in most cases – deal with human’s love/hate for one another.


So for all their bombast and CGI battles, Avengers: Infinity War was the first part of the end of an EMOTIONAL journey that both the characters, and audiences, have experienced over the last 10 years and it's what underpins Endgame throughout.


So story wise, where are we? Well, after Thanos’ success in gaining the infinitely gauntlet and ‘clicking’ half the universe’s living life away, the surviving members of the Avengers attempt to reverse the loss of their loved ones. Again, the driving factor is love, longing and personal connections and it is why Endgame is ultimately a huge success.


5 years after the event, Scott Lang returns from the quantum realm (seen in Ant-Man and the Wasp) to suggest they can reverse the horrors caused to earth by travelling back in time to snatch the infinity stones before Thanos can collect them himself. Whilst taking pot shots at time-travel paradoxes (Back to the Future is called “bullshit”) the remaining group successfully pull together and, in a nod to Back to the Future 2, head back in time to some of the most important parts of the MCU already.


One group heads to New York (essentially re-inserting themselves into Avengers: Assemble) to get the time stone, mind stone and the space stone. The film brilliantly balances a complex time-jumping narrative with a fun fan-loving re-imagining of the MCU’s greatest hits. It’s like re-discovering your favourite album with the old hits given a fresh new spin.


Rocket Raccoon and Thor travel back in time to Asgard and although their task is to get the reality stone from Jane Foster (referencing Thor: Dark World), the film focuses on Thor’s emotional reunion with his mother whom he knows will soon die.

The film is therefore a superb culmination of the 22-film story but a loving book of remembrance for them as well. Every character is given their moment to shine and as Thanos begins to uncover their plot and re-adjust time himself, the movie builds to a, somewhat inevitable, crescendo of spectacular battles for the fate of the universe.


At three hours, the film IS long. But other than a rather slow first 45 minutes – which to be fair gets the numerous plates-a-spinning and does some much needed reflection and character development – the main story moves at pace and by the end I was itching for more. An extended but poignant ending is Return-of-the-King long but in this case it feels more than totally justified.


Comedy and drama are expertly balanced and the narrative uses time to circularly return us back to the focus on Iron Man and how this blockbuster behemoth began. And like my thoughts on Civil War, I reiterate how Chris Evans is the unsung hero of the MCU. In a world of cynicism, snarks and quips, both in real-life and in their movie universe, his excellent portrayal of pure honesty, innocence and heroism is such a needed antidote that it’s no wonder why his story finale is so satisfying.


The film also focuses on the core ‘original’ Avengers – much to its credit – but the combo of Banner/Hulk was a bit strange and although Hemsworth is now essentially a ‘comedy’ Thor, I would love to see more of his adventures with Rocket. We also return to Scarlett Johansson’s history with Jeremy Renner and they get one of the most affecting scenes in the movie.


Are there any negatives? Well aside from the aforementioned slow start, I unfortunately felt the use of Captain Marvel as an all-powerful being that can change the course of the story on her own a little bit redundant. With only one film under her belt, the character here is a blunt demi-god that feels more part of Marvel’s next stage than someone who has a real history with the (movie) fans.


But speaking of fans, we do get lovely cameos from previous stars Rene Russo as Frigga, John Slattery as Howard Stark, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and most welcoming of all for me, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. Plus many others are included and Stan Lee’s sad posthumous cameo reminds us all where everything started.


At the conclusion, the Russos have delivered exactly what was needed by assembling a perfect narrative, cast and, more difficultly, a rewarding ending to the most epic of stories. Endgame works as a great sequel to Infinity War but it’s so much more than that. Their expert construction of so many puzzle pieces, a global shared audience pop-culture experience and, without understatement, a cinema-changing franchise, everything in Endgame is not just perfect comic-book fare, but the pure pinnacle of movie entertainment and was a gargantuan and gratifying game I never wanted to end.


★★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Oct 12 2018 01:10PM

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Dir. Peyton Reed


What I was most surprised with in this new instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was that the film was directed by Peyton Reed. By that I mean as the helmer of the first film, Reed replaced Edgar Wright but in some ways his quick editing style aped Wright’s chaotic cutting.


However, whether Reed has tried to infuse his own design from the beginning to give the film some weight – away from the soap opera scale of the earlier film – the movie loses a lot of charm along the way.


In this sequel, Ant-Man Scott Lang (a likeable Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after the events of Civil War but decides to join Hope van Dyne (a feisty Evangeline Lilly) and her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to try and recover her mother and his wife Janet from the sub-atomic Quantum Realm. But in their quest they cross Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr, a molecular shifting ‘Ghost’ aiming to use their technology to stabilise her body.


The size changing aspect in Ant-Man and the Wasp is pushed to the forefront here. Their laboratory is the major McGuffin that changes hands over and over again when shrunk to the size of a briefcase – and car chases are a fantastic mix of smash-ups as vehicles are shrunk to Micro Machine size. The villain however is a bit of a non-starter and continues Marvel’s interestingly designed but rather dull and forgettable antagonists (see Ronan the Accuser too).


Unfortunately, other than a handful of solid action scenes – Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp is given a much meatier role and has the best scraps in the movie – the dialogue scenes are filmed in an incredibly flat style with even a hint of sepia-colour grading which really fails to help find the amusing tone of the first. Again, Reed takes his film in his own direction but one that sadly doesn’t really work.


Certainly not “bad” in the traditional sense, I have to admit I was expecting some more “fun” in its delivery so when the trio of Lang, Van Dyne and Pym attempt to retrieve Janet (played with class by the always-dependable Michelle Pfeiffer) I began to think that Ant-Man and The Wasp were secondary characters. The film seemed to hint upon a much more interesting plot focusing on Douglas and Pfeiffer’s story. These legends were never going to be the stars of Marvel’s kid-friendly Hollywood blockbuster but their performances give the film heart, gravitas and wit.


Laurence Fishburne moves from DC to Marvel to show up as another antagonist of sorts – again, as part of Hank’s tumultuous history and not Scott’s – and their dynamic and opposing moralities about developing technology were another highlight. Rudd and Lily’s chemistry is solid and I’ve always been an advocate for a bit more ‘love’ in the Marvel Universe. So their platonic AND romantic relationship adds a feisty layer that also gives their crises some heft when danger approaches.


The visual effects are of course top notch. I’d go so far to say that the Michael Douglas de-aging in the first Ant-Man may be one of the best CGI creations of all time. And although high-quality effects are quite standard for Marvel at this point – Black Panther's rubbery characters aside – the size shifting aspects ensure there’s a little bit more creativity when things get dicey for our heroes.


Away from that action though, I could label the film easily forgettable and, at times, certainly a little bland. With there being talk of a film set within Hank’s past, that was the film that this film left me wanting to see. And so this tale felt like a set up to that far more complex story. Therefore it sadly ends up sitting in the trivial middle ground of the MCU alongside Dr. Strange and Thor: The Dark World.


In the end the movie goes for mammoth but throwaway thrills over small-scale drama with a tone that moves away from its predecessor to become another plain entry into the Marvel cannon.


6.5/10


Mike Sales


RSS Feed twitter