It would be remiss of me not to say I’m kind of burnt out on these comic book movies. How many have there been now? Yet the quality is (mostly) always so high they’re an easy option when there’s not much else to watch. This sequel has Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finding his dreams invaded by a young girl called America Charvez, who it transpires can jump between other universes. When demons come chasing her though to claim her power, Strange has to step in to prevent a multiverse catastrophe.
Directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead) this is energetic and chock full of imagination and at times jaw-dropping CGI. However, with its reliance on having a good knowledge of previous movies in the MCU, including TV show WandaVision, with its references and plot elements – this is not a movie for newcomers. Also America, a likeable new character felt under-developed. That being said the various set-pieces impress, mostly down to Raimi’s flamboyant style that he’s always been known for. He brings not only super-hero spectacle, but also his outlandish brand of horror, and it works. A stand-out Elizabeth Olsen also brings us a malevolent Wanda / Scarlett Witch more ferocious than we’ve ever seen before. Lastly, Cumberbatch is again great in his role and remains one of the most nuanced Marvel characters we’ve had.
Fans of MCU and Dr Strange will eat this up. It’s a great deal of fun. The plot is a bit simplistic and it’s too reliant on what came before. I also thought they could have gone much further with the multiverse concept than they do … but overall it was hard not to enjoy this.
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.
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.
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.
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.
However 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.
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