Tag Archives: superhero

Review Avengers: Infinity War by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Avengers was the accumulation of years of planning and character development that had originally started in 2008’s Iron Man. It wasn’t the first to bring multiple characters together from other movies but this was the one that clearly had a plan, each character got their own movie so they could all be here and gathered together. In the end, it made a promise of a villain that there was more. Infinity War is the payoff.

Now, ten years later and eighteen movies we have arrived at where the plan was apparently alway to be. Many heroes, many different locations, visuals, effects, moments etc. This movie takes everything in the toy box and throws it at us and introduces new ones while doing so.

Only recently has MARVEL done better in having better villains in their movies. But most of them weren’t really serious threats, they were scene chewing, fun bad guys. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is one of the biggest and baddest of villains in the comic book world and has now been realised on the big screen. He stands eight feet high, bulky with muscle and a plan that will devastate everyone. He believes that there is too much population in the universe so he has taken it upon himself to wipe out half the population to stabilise it. This is quite mad and the characters point it out. Dread is packed into the way the characters talk about him and he proves that he is indeed someone to fear. Not only does he pack a punch, but can take one and has a sophisticated way with words and philosophy. Brains and brawn, he most certainly has a few key elements of a great screen villain.

His plan revolves around acquiring six Infinity Stones that all control a certain aspect of existence (reality, mind, time, soul etc.). Once he has all of them he can accomplish his goal with a literal snap of his fingers. These Infinity Stones have been scattered throughout the other MARVEL movies so for us watching we can connect the dots. Now the race is on to either get to a stone before he can, get them away from him or destroy them. Failure means the death of half the universe.

To describe all the different scenarios going on and who is where will take up too much space in the review, so I will simply name the players. Iron Man (Robert Doweny Jr.), Cpatian America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Panther (Chadwick Bosseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Winter Soilder (Sebastian Stan), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cummberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bentny), War Machine (Don Cheattle), Falcom (Anthony Mackie), Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper). There are a few more but that’s enough.

This is obviously a big cast. Approximately twenty characters that are not just present but are essentially their own main character. What helps is that they have had their own movies previously to help develop them so they can come into this movie smoothly, a lot has been established so the writers have plenty to work with and the actors know the characters inside and out. But what if this is the first movie you’ve seen and have not viewed any of the others yet? Well, you’ll probably suffer from overload, I don’t recommend this as your first MARVEL movie but it will definitely be someones. There is just enough in terms of efficiency establishing the characters in their moments of introduction to understanding who they are and roll with it for the rest of the movie.

Beyond having all the characters on-screen at the same time what the filmmakers have to consider is the different visual style all the other heroes have. The Guardians have a stronger, disco colour pallet, Black Panther has more jungle colors and Dr. Strange comes with psychedelic visuals. All of them have to be represented here. They are. Along with that, this is (along with tone) the darkest MARVEL movie color wise. There is a lot of blacks on-screen, deep, true blacks, contrasting with other deep, vivid colours that pop out. It makes for an engaging image and adds to the dire nature of the story.

As I have mentioned at least once in my recent review’s of the MARVEL movies the screenwriters are prone to adding quips in the dialog. Or sometimes having what feels like mandatory jokes happen every ten minutes. The tone of the movies has always been a light-hearted one to a degree so it wasn’t off-tone and they were funny so that also wasn’t a bother. They are present here as well, a character makes comments on the others attire, name, mentality etc. But these are moments of characters either being themselves within moments of respite or even dealing with this seemingly hopeless situation.

This movie naturally comes with its share of action set pieces. As previously stated we have had many other movies to get to know these characters and in the time they have in this movie is enough to connect with them. So we care a little about who is going into battle. But when it comes to the fights everyone has different abilities and they use them like great pieces in a strategy game, others get close, while one attacks from a distance and another distracts (these are just examples).

A popular criticism of other MARVEL movies is that their aren’t any real stakes because none of the main characters ever die. Only a handful of important characters have died and these movies are light as a feather and so forth. Well, it’s as if this really was all part of the plan because now characters do indeed die. I won’t spoil who (go see the movie!), but early on they do and later on others. So being that some can it means anybody can die, which adds great gravitas to the action scenes that now have the biggest stakes of all.

I have to mention directors Anthony and Joe Russo and scriptwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely that took on this monumental task of juggling all these characters and taking all the story threads and weaving them into something not only consistent but effective.

This movie doesn’t work as a single character arc, nor does it work as a self-contained story, because of the immense story and characters, this is actually part one of two. This is a grand accumulation of seeing all of the characters and worlds we have come to know and love over the course of many movies and face something that is too big for any one of them to handle on their own. It shows all the amazing images and feet’s of imagination and drama that the world of Superheroes is able to present before us. All the fun times and pulp from before is brutally stripped away and since we had that mindset in the previous movies the darkness and brutality hit all the harder.

 

Review Black Panther by Jonathan Evans

“You don’t feel as real if you don’t see yourself reflected in the media. There’s something very powerful about seeing yourself represented.”

-Dwayne McDuffie

 

(4 / 5)

Black Panther is here to make up for lost time. It is not the first Superhero movie to have a black lead, that goes to Steel, but we are now ten years into these MARVEL cinematic movies and now they have enough capital and are allowed to explore other characters that are nonwhite people. It is here with a mission. It is here to give the spotlight to characters and actors that aren’t Caucasian, to represent black culture in both Africa and America and deliver a message of legacy while proceeding forward.

In Captain America: Civil War one of the standout characters was Black Panther himself. Chadwick Bowesman embodies this character with his physicality and majesty with how he walks into a room or a fight and owns everything. This is a time where monarchy is a tricky subject, I wont throw my opinions in here but I do believe he is an engaging likable character so if people are able to pin down their beliefs for the sake of the movie I believe they’ll be very appropriately entertained.

The country in Africa in which T’Challa reins is Wakanda. It is a city that has reached the pinnacles of modern technology. The buildings stand and pieces of modern art, shining bright underneath the sun and with high-speed trains that go from the skyline to the deep caves of the land itself.

The movie also comes with a generous colour pallet. Many different, vivid colours are onscreen making it visually stimulating. In Wakanda the sets have colder colours or blues and whites and a characters costume has yellows, reds or green to make them pop, it is an effective way to make the people and surroundings instantly identifiable.

Director Ryan Coogler has already built an impressive resume for himself. His directorial debut was the  poignant Fruitvale Station, then followed by the sublime Creed. So he is able to handle delicate moments of emotion and fight scenes. Something that I believe helps to sell the fight scenes is the sound, they have convincing punching sounds so when a punch or a kick lands you believe it. Coogler has made two very strong movies on a low scale and now he’s proven he can handle a blockbuster, this is a man with a promising career.

The cast is ninety percent black, being that most of it takes place in Africa this just seems like a logical move but we’ve seen studios whitewash stories that should include non-white people but they’ve found a way. I foresee people complaining about the filmmakers having an agenda and pushing it onto the audience, there have already been other examples of this. For that I say of course, yet if the cast was comprised of white men nobody would cry fowl, it is a case of people needing to rethink about representation.

Adding again the immersion of black culture in the movie is the soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson and Kendrick Lamar. Its fast paced and even spiritual at times, using Hip-Hop and African instrumentals which distinguishes itself from the other MARVEL movies as-well as most other blockbusters that come out.

This movie, like all the other ones, comes with a serving of jokes. Visual ones, one liners etc. I am fine with this because I believe that superheroes should be fun, they can be other things but if they’re not fun something has gone terribly wrong. But I do take issue with that T’Challa seems to have changed to someone that is much more chatty. When we saw him before he was the dry, stoic one, are these movies incapable of having longer sequences of silence?

Michael B. Jordan plays Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (yeah that’s a pretty on-the-nose name). He clearly has an agenda that will link him with T’Challa, the writing clearly tells us that he’s quite intelligent and Jordan brings his great physicality to the role where he is able to sleekly handle guns and perform hand-to-hand combat effortlessly making him a physical threat and the cherry on-top is his  tooth-filled grin that he has when walking into a fight, saying that he will take some malicious enjoyment out of this.

The plot holds a few surprises but none that will really shake you up during the experience. They do many clever things with the the technology and visuals and there are moments of laughter and the action is high concept but you also feel the impact. The movies true strength is in immersing itself in black culture and representing it before the mass audience.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review Thor Ragnarok by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Let me tell you about a man named Jack Kirby. He worked in the comic book industry for most of his life. He made history when he and Stan Lee created The Fantastic Four together, from then on he co-created or created so many other characters I wont even try listing them. He propelled the medium of comics to feats of wild, cosmic scale ideas, that with the tools of paper and pen you could say and show the vastness images humanly conceivable. He had his own style that he continued to refine and produced so much work on a seemingly nonstop basis. He is probably one of the most influential figure for the medium of comics and the genre of superheros.

Thor Ragnarok operates, more than any other MARVEL movie like something Kirby would have created. It packs in so many ideas and visuals, it crackles with the enthusiasm of putting so many different kinds of characters, lines and images into a great vision.

Writer director Taika Waititi is a man with a unique gift for comedy and story telling. His previous two movies which I’ve seen are What We Do in the Shadows was an amazingly fresh take on vampires and Hunt For The Wilderpeople was one of the most original, well-made and hilarious movies that I’ve seen in a while. Here he inserts his unique brand of humor and also adopts most of the things we’ve come to expect from these MARVEL movies. Expect many quips.

Entering the picture is Hela, played by living screen legend Cate Blanchette. This is the role where she definitely has had the most fun in. She is a larger than life character that who’s nature is a big reveal for the Thor franchise and is easily one of the most powerful adversaries in all the movies. Since Loki the MARVEL movies now have another really engaging villain for their roster.

In this movie Heimdall, played by Idris Elba finally gets to play a more important part of the story. Elba is still not used to his full potential but at least it is more deserving of an actor of his caliber.

Due to plot reasons Thor is transported to the planet of Sakaar, when there its two obvious main influences shine. The first being Kirby, with it’s varied colours and designs using circles and blocky lines that resemble the circuitry of a computer chip. The other it’s science fiction movies of the eighties.

Another reinforcement of having the eighties as their influence is the music. Mark Mothersbaugh creates a synth rock score like something John Carpenter might have created. As well as the most perfect use of Led Zeppelins The Immigrant Song.

They really did find their perfect star for Thor. Chris Hemsworth comes with the muscle, hair and chiseled jaw that artist have drawn Thor to look like but he himself also has so much charm and is able to absolutely deliver a joke. To look at he’s Thor and he is him in performance as well.

A shaky first act and some other emotional moments that probably go by too fast so you don’t truly get absorbed into them are such minor complaints that they are hardly worth dwelling on. This is is crazed mad vision brought to life by a filmmaker who knows their craft and was given a budget to see it through. It is a glorious, unashamed baroque rock n’ roll nerd painting.