Avengers: Infinity War


Viewed – 09 May 2018  Cinema

Do I suffer from comic-book movie fatigue?  To a degree yes.  I still enjoy some super-hero smack down action but have felt underwhelmed by recent fare both through over-familiarity with the concept and the desire for something different and a little deeper.  So we come to this epic instalment where it seems Marvel is throwing everything at the viewer for the ultimate battle against what appears to be the ultimate foe – Thanos.  Hinted at and foreshadowed in previous movies, the intergalactic megalomaniac, played by Josh Brolin is finally out to claim the fabled Infinity Stones, of which if he claims all six will give him ultimate power over life and death in the universe.

Avengers Infinity War

So the stakes are immensely high and it’s up to a disbanded Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow etc) and any friends they can pull into their ranks (including Spider Man) to stop this powerhouse of a villain.  In a movie like this it would be easy to go lazy and just fill the run time with fight after fight, which we get in spectacular fashion … but what takes this to another level is the depth to the characterisation I wasn’t expecting and even though it’s crowded with ego’s butting heads, somehow many of the characters get time to have their moment and stand out individually.  Despite such a serious situation it also throws in moments of decent humour, especially with the inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the scenes between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star Lord proving particularly funny.

So we come to the central figure here, the long awaited and somewhat hyped appearance of Thanos, and Josh Brolin brings a surprising amount of pathos and grit to the character that makes him the closest Marvel has got to the level of Heath Ledger’s Joker.  He really is that good, and in a movie with many surprises and bold plot developments, he elevates the movie into the realm of classic status.  The fact the movie takes risks with a very familiar formula, especially in it’s closing moments just has to be applauded also.  This is the best Avengers movie yet and could possibly be the best Marvel movie.  So simply put, you have to see this one.

Verdict:  5 /5

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Captain America: Civil War


Viewed – 06 September 2016  Blu-ray

There seems to be a theme of late in these continuing comic book franchises, that of repercussions and casualties of otherwise heroic endeavours.  First we had Batman facing off against Superman after the fall out from Superman saving the world from the threat of General Zod, and now we have the Avengers turning against each other when a government initiative tries to Police them.  Tony Stark / Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jnr) feels his band of heroes, that he helped put together has caused too any deaths in their bid to save the greater population, but Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t feel having to await orders from a higher power is the way to go if or when a new threat appears.  Then in the midst of their conflicted beliefs, Steve’s old friend, elite brain-washed super assassin The Winter Soldier is supposedly linked to a terrorist bombing.

Civil War

This complex plot at least on paper is aided immeasurably by a wealth of solid, at times stellar performances and it’s ensemble cast, that also includes Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and even Spider-Man to name but two, never feels bloated or confused.  The writing is key here and everyone’s agenda and personality gets time to shine and despite a ton of superbly executed fights, chases and battles the focus on character and agendas is brilliantly done.

Iron Man War MachineHowever once again rather vague references to the other movies in the series gets a bit mind-blowing at times unless you’ve you have a cast-iron memory for the Marvel movie cannon (including Iron-Man 3 and Avengers 1 & 2).  Also, I thought how the villain’s master plan seemed to rely on a rather convenient plot development was a little cheap … but this isn’t a movie that follows a tried and tested route and how things eventually turned out surprised and shocked in equal measure … not something we normally get in these kinds of movies.

I had a great time with this as you’ll probably have figured out and along with the last two movies in the Captain America franchise, you can consider this a hat-trick of quality entertainment.  And it delivers the ‘heroes turning against each other’ better than Batman V Superman.

Verdict:  4 /5

Avengers: Age of Ultron


Viewed – 29 September 2015 Online rental

With the never ending juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, it would be easy to say this cash-cow is getting milked dry. However with a plethora of comic book stories to mine from, those udders aren’t drying up any time soon. So we come to this sequel to the highly entertaining Marvel Avengers Assemble.

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We are thrown straight into the action as our heroes attack a Russian Hydra base to steal back Loki’s sceptre (which you’ll recall him wielding during the last movie).  However little is explained as to what is going on or why, and so despite having seen all the other Marvel movies up to this, I still felt a bit in the dark. Now here’s the first issue – this is again a sequel that relies on you having a very good recollection of not just the last Avengers movie but also Thor: The Dark World and especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  So Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is missing from the line up, the Avengers are holed up in Stark Tower with seemingly Robert Downey Jnr as their boss (?), and there’s two rogue super-powered teens wanting revenge for something Tony Stark did with a bomb.  Then Downey’s Stark goes and complicates it even more by creating an artificial intelligence (Ultron) that turns evil and goes all megalomaniac.

elizabeth olsenSo we come to this globe-trotting and overly complicated sequel’s saving grace … James Spader’s Ultron; a charismatic, darkly humorous villain, with seemingly unstoppable power and a somewhat clichéd kill the entire human race and start again evil plan.  Yet Spader livens up what would otherwise be just another, albeit action-packed super hero movie.  Director Josh Wedon’s skill at snappy dialogue seemed watered down in place of more realism, with downbeat and heartfelt exchanges instead of the humour I’d expected (although there are still some great gags).  The first half an hour or so also drags with a couple of redundant scenes (the tiresome lifting Thor’s hammer bit).  Yet a romance sub-plot between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk is handled well, and each character again gets their moment in the spotlight, most welcomely Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

Overall a solid sequel slightly let down by the usual sequel trappings such as too many characters and storylines going on at once.  Yet with slickly directed action, several stunning sequences (especially the Iron-Man vs Hulk fight…) I still have to recommend this one.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Viewed – 05 September 2014  Blu-ray

I thought the last Captain America movie was the better of the several origin tales leading up to Marvel Avengers Assemble.  The World War II setting, the fact Steve Rogers goes from a wimpy rookie to a super soldier (and the special effect used to fool us…) as well as a great turn from Hugo Weaving as Red Skull all made for a top class piece of entertainment.  So you ask, where to go now ol’ cap is in the modern world?  Well how about an attack on s.h.i.e.l.d and a conspiracy where the agency he trusted suddenly turns on him?

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Scarlett Johansson is here as the sultry, bad-ass Black Widow and well, kicks all sorts of ass, despite a dodgy fake tan.  Oh and this time we get a lot more screen time with Samuel L. Jackson’s cool-as-ice Nick Fury, who gets his own actions scenes for a change.  Villainy is in the form of The Winter Soldier, a tough as nails enemy with a metal arm (!) who is every bit the match for Chris Evans’ increasingly llikeable Captain.  What follows are a series of bombastic encounters, a stand-out showdown on a freeway, very impressive effects, surprisingly vicious hand-to-hand combat (with some martial arts thrown in), and a keep you guessing plot.  Robert Redford plays one of the senior guys of s.h.i.e.l.d. but is looking his age, and Anthony Mackie is pretty cool as Falcon, even if he seems to come out of nowhere.

As a follow-up this packed quite punch in the action stakes and gave us some good character development with Captain America facing his past, and Nick Fury questioning his allegiance.  Chris Evans is still perfect and handles the action well, as does Johansson (prrr…).  A quality sequel, and made me thirsty for the next Avengers – surprising considering all this comic book stuff was starting to get a bit tired.

Verdict:  4 /5

Captain America: The First Avenger


Viewed – 05 October 2012  Blu-ray

There was a time when I really didn’t think the newly formed Marvel Studios would pull it off.  A grand concept, 4 origin stories, leading to a big ensemble smack down with this year’s highly entertaining Avengers Assemble.  Yet I have to give it where it’s due, until now in  my opinion these have all been polished and well made movies … with this being no exception.

Set during World War II, a wimpy but gutsy guy (Chris Evans) dreams of joining the army and following in the footsteps of his soldier friend.  Yet being small and skinny, he continually fails every medical, and soon begins to believe he’ll never get to fight for his country.  That is until a scientist (Stanley Tucci) see’s potential and signs him up, leading to him becoming the first human test subject for an experimental formula that apparently creates super soldiers.  At the same time a power-hungry Nazi meglomaniac dreams of conquering the world, and as you can imagine – it’s going to take that exact super solider to save the day.  Step forward Captain America!

This wasn’t the Captain America I remember.  Wasn’t he something to do with American Football?  But this follows the early comics of the character more closely and makes for a fun, often amusing and very slick action thriller.  Chris Evans like in The Avengers, made for a more complex, conflicted ‘hero’ than some of his contemporaries, and in this zero to hero story carries the film well (with quite incredible skinny guy effect).  Hugo Weaving is on hand as villain The Red Skull, and always makes for a great boo-hiss baddie (see: The Matrix Trilogy), and along with decent support from Tommy Lee Jones and the aforementioned Mr Tucci this is a movie that’s very difficult not to enjoy.  Special effects, action sequences and story are all delivered with style and energy.  For an origin story it makes for absorbing if lightweight material, with more of a glossy, propaganda themed image of the war than how it really was (think 1940’s comics), and some of the earlier Captain America poster-boy stuff seemed to mock the character, sitting uneasily alongside all the cool action and drama.

Still this was easy viewing and made for my preferred origin tale of the saga.

Verdict:  4 /5