icons-03 icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo

blog

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

By midlandsmovies, Apr 28 2018 10:06AM



Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Dir. Anthony & Joe Russo


17 films and 10 years later, here we go with the big enchilada coming to town in Disney’s Marvel’s Kevin Feige's The Avengers: Infinity War MCU franchise behemoth. As large as that sounds, the film is even larger and with a huge number of characters that we’ve grown with every step of the way the film had a very difficult balancing act but thankfully, mostly gets it spot on.


So what’s the deal here with this new $350 million gargantuan? As most fans would already know, but as a recap for the uninitiated, there have been hints of the Infinity Gems throughout the Marvel films and in this culmination of their story arc, a giant world-conquering warlord known as Thanos (a CGI Josh Brolin) wants to get his hands on all 6 of them in order to rule the galaxy. It may sound simple but the Russos do a great job in giving Thanos an understandable and subtle backstory, faults and all, and Brolin’s performance comes through much more than the purple Bruce Willis version of the trailer.


The film then follows various groups trying to prevent his life-ending goal throughout the universe – Iron Man and Spider-Man hitch a lift on a ship and jet off into space with Dr. Strange, whilst Thor crosses paths with the Guardians and Captain America and friends seek sanctuary in Wakanda.


The film is overstuffed, and slightly overlong, but that was always going to be an issue with trying to give so many characters some screen time but the Russos fast-paced editing jumps from one place to another making the disparate superhero gangs and their individual goals easy to understand. Tonally, it holds up too although it heavily relies on the serious scene/funny comment schtick that has subsequently got really stale since the first Guardians introduced it.


In the negative column there’s a few absences but I understand the need to trim here and there and audiences are always going to want to see more of their favourites. Hawkeye and Ant-Man are completely jettisoned whilst Black Widow is STILL being underused despite being present since Marvel’s third film. C’mon Feige – give the excellent Johansson her own film for once!


Steve Rogers appears an hour in and his emergence from the shadows was a huge moment of cheer. I have to mention again how Chris Evans’ steely and righteous performances as Cap has turned into one of the defining roles in the whole series (see Civil War review) and anchors the film(s) much more than I think most realise.


Infinity War also dips its toe into everything established before – Thor’s ancestry, Guardians’ 70s music, Wakanda’s glorious savannahs and Stark’s battle with technology and so the film feels a bit like a Greatest Hits album. All the boxes are ticked and at times it feels a little bit too familiar. It certainly didn’t have the wow factor of Wheedon’s inaugural Avengers film when the superheroes met for the first time.


That said, Greatest Hits albums are no bad thing. Classic character after classic character appears on screen and if you’re not too bothered about one particular superhero, its fast pace means another will be along soon. Here the film suffers slightly as I mentioned before, with no-one given that much room to breathe owing to the volume of characters. The one exception strangely is probably Thanos himself. His story is fleshed out in flashback with his daughters Gamora (sci-fi legend Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) in an emotional intensity rarely seen in the MCU.


Speaking of relationships, the Russos have dug deep to give these characters finally some romantic interest – a part of human nature that has been sorely lacking over the years. The films have already established fierce confident and adaptable females (Lady Sif, Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Frigga) but a lack of real personal relations always seemed odd to me.


Here however, the Russos put relationships at the forefront. It’s what connects these characters and what makes us connect to them. Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) get the bulk of these developments whilst Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora additionally are involved in some truly touching scenes. Previous hints between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff was one of the best parts of the disappointing Age of Ultron but unfortunately, like their Hulk and Black Widow alter-egos, they sadly don’t get the full treatment here in Infinity War.


And it’s not just romance. Friendship, support, family are all strong themes and Tony Stark’s surrogate father figure to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man led to one of the most emotional moments of the entire film. And despite being guilty of a ‘Rogue One’ with some trailer shots blatantly absent from the movie, the film’s action sequences are as large as you expect and aside from some ropey alien hordes, sit more comfortable in real locations than either Ragnarok or Black Panther.


A film in which no one feels safe and a few fan-pleasing cameos from films past, Infinity War is as huge as anyone could have asked for. Personally I don’t feel it hit the heights of that initial buzz from Iron Man – heck, I was 28 when that came out – or the first team-up of The Avengers. Additionally it didn’t feel like the genre game-changers that were the highly praised Winter Soldier or James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. But, and it’s a huge but, this is explosive summer blockbuster cinema of the highest order without question.


A greatest hits album in all senses of the word, Infinity War is a compilation of scenes containing previously established crowd-pleasers with a high degree of already agreed notability. However, like those albums it is common to include remixes of the popular tropes and the Russos add enough new material, depth and high stakes to lay down the gauntlet to other filmmakers resulting in this absolute gem of a movie.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, May 8 2017 09:04AM



Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Dir. James Gunn


After the huge success of the first film, writer-director James Gunn returns to the vibrant day-glow world of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his eclectic gang for this sequel in the never-ending Marvel franchise.


One of its positives is perhaps its lack of connection to the shared Marvel cinematic universe allowing for (aside from few post-credit scenes) a focus on its own story rather than setting up future characters and films with a set of unfulfilling cliff-hangers.


Here the superhero film focuses on the Guardians crew who are now mercenaries for hire of sorts and after defeating a large squid in a superb one-take musical opening, meet with a golden race called the Sovereign. Their reward for their job is Gamora’s sister Nebula (Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan respectively) but they are soon on the run after Rocket Racoon (voiced brilliantly still by Bradley Cooper) steals valuable batteries from them.


After being chased, the group split with Peter, Gamora and Drax ending up on a sentient planet created by Peter’s God-like father Ego (Kurt Russell) whilst Rocket and Vin Diesel’s (baby) Groot cross paths with Michael Rooker’s superb Yondu who is in trouble with his own mutinous clan.


GOTG Vol. 2 is a fresh, superb sequel that delves deeper into these characters established in the original and each distinct personality has their own unique narrative arc. Gunn has done a great job with a multi-character script with a few pop-culture references (TV’s Knightrider is brilliantly given a nod) which do not muddy the deeper themes. Gunn uses serious drama, stories of revenge and love and a father-son dynamic to create conflict in a lesson to all budding scriptwriters. Yet, none of it feels like a surface gesture.


Drax’s “literal” laughter develops into more understanding of his bluntness whilst fun jokes, such as the ones at the expense of the strangely named Taserface, sit perfectly with parental quarrels and inter-team tensions.


The film never once felt slow or dragged out and is edited to within an inch of its life letting the audience know exactly where everyone is and what their motivations are. This is without losing the crucial essence of the characters. Rogue One this isn’t and thank goodness for that.


Given the film’s sensitive subject matter to me after my own recent loss of a parent, the ideas and excellent delivery of them by Gunn hit an emotional core that may be beyond the casual viewer. However, that’s not to say others will not find an emotional resonance with the superbly played out poignancy of the film’s conclusion – where I admit a tear of two was shed.


Dave Bautista as Drax rounds out the first-rate acting on show and I would go as far to say that the film could be even better than the first. Like Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, the film jumps straight into the drama without the need for the “origin story” and delves deeper into each character and their universe akin to classic sci-fi follow up Empire Strikes Back.


With enough new elements added, as well as the obligatory 70s soundtrack which is incorporated well into the story, GOTG Vol. 2 is an exceptional feat. The film could be the best-looking Marvel film to date with its eye-popping colour palette and with outstanding costumes, make-up and special effects scenes will satisfy the action fans. However, for me it showed that if you care about your leads then these are hugely heightened. Yet the film’s best asset is Gunn himself who delivers the whole package needed in a summer blockbuster and it is he who is the Guardian of his own gorgeous galaxy.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike

RSS Feed twitter