3 Issues With Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War is a crowning achievement in filmmaking for a myriad of reasons. The sheer scale of the film and its ensemble is something to be admired, but what’s really incredible is simply how well it works. While not every character gets to shine as we’d like, the teams work well together onscreen, creating some of the most memorable scenes in the MCU to date.

Infinity War more than met my expectations and delivered not only one of the greatest villains in cinematic history, but also featured one of the best cliffhangers in a film I’ve ever seen. It sets up Avengers 4 superbly, leaving us left alone to guess and theorize until we’re blue in the face. Meanwhile, in just a few days I’ll finally grab a copy of it when it hits Blu-Ray release Tuesday and hopefully, that will be enough to tide me over. Needless to say, 2019 cannot come soon enough.

I take very few issues with Infinity War, but there are just a few minor complaints I’m willing to share. I want to re-emphasize just how much I love this movie. It’s simply amazing. But no movie is perfect, of course. That said, here’s a few of my nitpicks:

Thor’s Replacement Eye

Thor: Ragnarok is still one of my favorite MCU films to date. It reinvents an increasingly irrelevant Thor and introduces a number of great new characters, all while setting up well for Infinity War. One of my favorite elements of Ragnarok was Thor’s new look, especially the rockin’ eye patch that favors his father, Odin. The battle scar was a great reminder of a Thor that has seen countless battles and lost so much, even part of himself.

In Infinity War, when Rocket Racoon provides Thor with a new replacement eye, Thor tosses the old patch aside and soon seems back to normal. Rocket did make a comment that Thor needed to be 100% ready if he was going to fight Thanos again, so perhaps the eye was a necessary change.

Was it really necessary, though? Am I the only one who loved the eye patch? It just made Thor look that much more hardcore and battle-hardened. It was such an iconic moment in Ragnarok and felt a little cheap for them to remove it so quickly in its direct follow-up. His replacement eye didn’t make any sense to me, either. I know he’s supposed to be god-like, but is it that easy to swap out eyes? Whatever the case – I didn’t love this scene.

Hulk’s major defeat

The Directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, respectively were quoted as saying that Thanos’ power needed to be established early on in the film. It also needed to be conveyed just how powerful he was without the power of the Infinity Stones. So when Hulk leaps into the fight at Loki’s queue, audiences like myself expected a much more balanced fight. What we got was something reminiscent of how badly Bane defeated Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, which was also a very troubling scene in the same regard.

Hulk has been defeated before onscreen, of course, so this isn’t something new necessarily. But in most of those fights, Hulk at least faired longer than this beatdown, courtesy of Thanos. At the very least, I expected Hulk to get a few more jabs in before being taken down. Instead, Thanos completely overwhelms him and within seconds has him effectively knocked out. It just felt a bit unbalanced, even with the context from the writers and directors in mind.

The good news is, I think we can safely say the Hulk will have some form of vengeance in Avengers 4 next year. He is certainly powerful, but he’s relatively new to existence and Thanos’ superiority makes sense when you compare him. Still, for me, this scene is shocking to witness every time, with no exception. Hulk being knocked out that fast is simply mind-boggling.

Captain America’s reduced role.

While it’s understandable that it’s simply not possible to give every major character enough screen time like we’d probably prefer, Captain America’s role is severely limited this time around. His new look is so awesome, but we barely see the depth that normally accompanies his character. He interacts very little with Bucky, his best friend who’s finally become free of the brainwashing from Hydra. It has been said that he’s interacted with Bucky since Civil War, but it would have been nice to see some more evolution of their great friendship.

Captain America may not be as versatile a warrior as Iron Man or as powerful as Thor, but he certainly never steps down from a fight (in fact I’d say he could give Thor a run for his money). He’s given little chance to really show what he’s capable of against Thanos, except for an admirable last stand as Thanos picks off his team one by one. Even this moment is short-lived, though.

The saving grace in this situation, I think, is once again – Avengers 4. We can safely assume Captain will have a much larger role this time around. In fact, I suspect his character may see his end come next year. It’s his last contracted MCU film (that we know about), and Chris Evans has stated more than once how he’s ready to move on from the role. My guess is he will really get to shine in the next entry, along with our beloved original Avengers team (and possibly Ant-Man and Captain Marvel).

Ultimately, I suppose most of these complaints will be gone once Avengers 4 hits next year since it is essentially Part-II of this finale. While I don’t expect every single loose end to be tied up by the time the credits roll, I’m sure we will find it a worthy final chapter to this incredible saga of films, while giving way to a new generation of heroes and films to enjoy.

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Mission Impossible: Fallout Review

The Mission Impossible franchise has long been a favorite of mine, each installment offering continuous thrills and exciting plots that keep you guessing at every turn. It’s a franchise that has somehow not only aged really well in its twenty years of existence but has actually managed to offer its best entry yet with Fallout, the sixth installment in the series.  That’s right – the best Mission Impossible movie is now the sixth film in its franchise. It’s the best in the series, without a doubt.

With the exception of the extremely cheesy second entry in the series, the Mission Impossible franchise has been consistently good time and time again. While some were more memorable than others depending on the plot, set piece, and characters, they have all offered tremendous entertainment. No doubt largely thanks to the admirable efforts of Tom Cruise. He has consistently proven that he will stop at nothing to deliver an authentic action film, even if it means putting himself in great danger. Say what you will about the man, but I have nothing but respect and admiration for his dedication to his craft. In many ways, he is directly responsible for keeping the franchise fresh and exciting.

Fallout not only raises the bar in its action sequences, but its cinematography, character development, and overall plot structure. Even the adrenaline-soaked score is more noticable this time around compared to previous entries. Director Christopher McQuarrie has a great eye for strong visuals and camera angles that really allow the viewer to appreciate the scale of the sequence. I’ve seen it twice now and I still cannot wrap my head around some of the shots this production team produced. It’s one of those action movies that inherently establishes itself as a trend-setter.

Tom Cruise once again brings the charasmatic hero Ethan Hunt to the big screen, holding nothing back like always. Cruise always knows how to portray Hunt in a way that keeps you rooting for him, both for his personal life and when he’s saving the world from terrorists and mad men. Without spoiling too much, there’s a scene early on where Hunt has to make a difficult decision, but his choice reflects one of the many things that makes his character great. This is a more vulnerable Hunt than we’ve seen before, though still unwaivering in his dedication to his mission.

Simon Pegg returns as the ever-capable and comedic relief Benji Dunn, an agent who has proven himself almost as resourceful in the field as he is behind a computer screen. He’s always a welcome addition to his cast, and his comedic quips never feel out of place. In fact, overall the humor of Fallout is never overbearing. It’s a nice balance and an improvement from many past action films that rely too heavily on humor over substance. Ving Rhames also returns as Luther Stickell, another support member of Hunt’s team who’s been with him since the original Mission Impossible. He brings a good balance of humor and helps the narrative bring some levity to an otherwise fast-paced, roller coaster of a plot.

Rebecca Ferguson also returns from Rogue Nation as Isla Faust, a British MI6 agent who had left the game but somehow finds her path crossed with Hunt once again. Ferguson proves to be a great addition to the already excellence ensemble. Her complicated relationship with Hunt and the rest of the cast serves as a great side-plot. I’m so glad she’s not been reduced playing as eye-candy like far too many films do today. She’s a force to be reckoned with, without a doubt.

Another noteworthy addition to the cast is Henry Cavill, who plays as August Walker, a CIA operative sent to aid Hunt in his next mission. Cavill is considerably taller and more muscular than Cruise, still retaining his physique from playing the iconic role of Superman in recent years, and it’s intended to be noticable. Early on in the film, Walker’s handler from the CIA compares her man to Hunt as a scapel versus a hammer (Walker of course being the hammer in this analogy). Walker is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of agent in stark contrast to Hunt’s more calculated and careful methods. On a side note, Cavill knows how to throw a punch onscreen – that much is obvious after seeing Fallout.

Last but not least, I really enjoyed Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow, a relative of a character from the earlier films. Everything down to her mannerisms and her voice is eerily similar to her predecessor, which suits her well. Kirby’s character serves as a nice nod to the original film, and she portrays the White Widow with an almost haunting elegance and confidence. Sometimes actors just know how to use their eyes in a downright captivating way, and Ms. Kirby apparently has this talent mastered. She would be well-cast in a thriller or any drama, for that matter.

Fallout is the most lengthy MI film to date, but somehow the pacing keeps it from ever becoming dull. And even when the action slows down, the characters are given more depth than in previous entries, which gives the movie ultimately more substance than you’re usually accustomed to in action movies. And while previous MI films offered some incredible set pieces, Fallout not only tops all of them, but does so consistently from beginning to end. These are sequences that will burn in your brain for many years, and rightfully so. This is how you make a stellar action film, ladies and gentlemen.

I must also mention how incredible the score is for Fallout. Lorne Balfe has become a recent favorite composer of mine, and this is easily one of his strongest productions yet. At times I noticed themes that reminded me of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s music from the Dark Knight trilogy, but this is not a fault of Balfe’s by any means. The powerful score is as much a part of the storytelling in Fallout as anything else, and in my mind, it serves the film well, adding great emphasis to the already excellent cinematography and stunt work. The score is so good that I find myself playing it on Spotify randomly throughout the day, like many great productions before it.

Fallout succeeds so well because it offers the very best of the Mission Impossible franchise we’ve seen yet, all while offering refreshing takes on our beloved characters, offering an engaging plot, and raising the bar in mind-blowing action sequences. When I really begin to analyze it, quite frankly it’s difficult for me to really find any significant faults. Fallout is the best of the best, proving how action movies can be done in an original way, without sacrificing story and character development. This is flat-out, a great movie that deserves your attention. It’s so good, I’m partially hoping they won’t even make anymore sequels. If this is the best they can do – I’m more than happy with that. Better to stop here while they’re ahead.  They’ve raised the bar so hight now, I can’t possibly imagine where to go from here.

Final Score: 9.3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars: Episode IX Wishlist

Though we’re still well over a year from the release of Episode IX, after reviewing The Last Jedi 6-7 times now, I’ve come to clear conclusions both where I stand with the franchise currently, as well as my hopes for the next and likely final chapter of this sequel trilogy. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, The Last Jedi changed the course of this trilogy significantly. It’s really anyone’s guess now as to how Episode IX will play out. Sure, we can theorize till we’re blue in the face, but that proved to be a waste of time with TLJ. However, since J.J. Abrams is helming this next entry, it’s probably safe to say it’ll be more predictable than Rian Johnson’s efforts.

I’m not going to try and theorize because, quite frankly, I don’t trust my instincts in this area. I’m never right. Instead, I’m choosing to simply state my hopes for Episode IX. I like J.J. Abrams, but I have my doubts on his abilities to finish what he starts. He’s never concluded almost anything, with the exception of a few standalone films. Finishing a trilogy is a whole other beast entirely. Abrams is notorious for delivering intrigue and mystery, but he rarely concludes his stories in a satisfying manner. I’m hoping he’ll prove me wrong and make some bold choices while honoring the stories of the previous entries.

What follows in no particular order is my wishlist for Episode IX:

Go forward several years in the timeline. 

Episodes VII and VIII seem to take place within days of each other, if not sooner. This being the case, the significant changes taking place are harder to swallow. It all feels incredibly fast. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t love the ridiculously fast-pacing of The Force Awakens, especially when it came to plot development. Entertaining, yes. Good plot structure? Not so much. That said, TLJ does so many things that border on a conclusion to the trilogy while maintaining a lot of the same pacing as TFA, we need a minute to catch our breath. Not to mention the loss of Carrie Fisher makes it all the more complicated in terms of handling her story from here on out. It would likely be disrespectful to even portray her onscreen at this point, except to conclude her character. Even then, the more tasteful choice is to find a way to let her character pass on off-screen, likely between the events of Episode VIII and IX.

A time jump would allow for the stakes to rise once again and add more depth to our characters. We could see Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose and Kylo Ren all having experienced more and grown in significant ways. You can only do so much character development in the short time Episodes VIII and IX have taken place. We simply need more time. It just doesn’t make sense for the trilogy to both start and end during such small periods of time.

More Kylo Ren and Rey interactions.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the sequel trilogy is the interactions between Rey and Kylo Ren, particularly in The Last Jedi. They blurred the line between friend and foe, even at times hinting at a possible romance. Kylo’s motivations became much more clear in these interactions, despite the horrid nature of his actions. We could find ourselves actually sympathizing with him as we learned how all parental figures have essentially failed him all his life. Rey found herself on the opposite of the spectrum, wanting only to find her place in the galaxy and know her true parentage. Sharing both contrasts and deep connections, their relationship became a focal point of the movie. Even in the finale, as it would seem their paths are once again in opposition to one another, we still see a sense of longing in Kylo’s eyes.

Some people take issue with their interactions, but I personally found their chemistry to be the best parts of the movie. Hopefully, they won’t find themselves completely at odds with one another in Episode IX. I would like this new relationship at least continue to be explored. Rey may stand in the light, but she is by no means a Jedi. Her curiosity with the dark and its promises of fulfillment may still be a temptation in this next chapter. Suddenly making them clear enemies doesn’t make sense after what we’ve seen in TLJ.

Large-scale battles.

The Last Jedi displayed probably the largest battles we’ve seen in the sequel trilogy to date. Even still, the Resistance continues to shrink in size throughout the film, and by its finale, they’re reduced to a motley band of warriors taking refuge on the Millenium Falcon. Obviously, we expect to see more allies appear in Episode IX, but it looks like an even smaller operation than ever before. Even the Rebel Alliance seemed better suited for large-scale warfare than the Resistance.

One of the things I appreciated about the Prequels and Rogue One were the scale of the battles. Revenge of the Sith demonstrated this especially well, with the opening shot alone providing a great portrayal of the massive scope of the battle above Coruscant. While some complained that these battles lacked soul, featuring many nameless troopers on both sides that the audience cared little about, I found it all a great element to the films. Here’s hoping J.J. Abrams delivers on the scale of the film this time around, and not just in the size of the threat to our heroes.

Introduce The Knights of Ren

For whatever reason, we’re two-thirds completed with this new trilogy and we’ve yet to see the Knights of Ren that Kylo apparently commands. We know that they are likely comprised of some of the students from Luke’s academy when Kylo destroyed it and killed most of them. With the exception of the vision Rey sees in TFA, we don’t know almost anything about this group.

They need to be a major feature of Episode IX for there to be any genuine continuity here. Abrams has a bad habit of introducing a million plot points without resolving them, which is why I’m fine with most of Johnson’s decision to bypass many of them. However, this does leave Episode IX in a weird position with characters like the Knights of Ren. Some theorized they are the Praetorian Guards featured in TLJ, but I doubt this is the case because none of them wield lightsabers. They could serve as a great plot point in so many ways if they’re utilized properly Perhaps one of them could challenge Kylo’s power and try to overtake him or something.

Just use them, already, people!

More Force Ghosts.

Seeing the return of Yoda in The Last Jedi was one of my favorite parts, in no small part because of how great his scene actually was. Yoda summarized the film’s entire primary theme in one scene, once again showing Luke how he’s missed the point, and that’s ok. But one of the biggest questions that plagued The Force Awakens was Kylo’s obsession with his grandfather, even though Anakin was clearly redeemed in the end and transformed into a  Force Ghost. Why didn’t Anakin appear to correct his grandson?

On the other hand, Yoda’s appearance did bring into question the nature of Force Ghosts and their power. Apparently, to at least some degree, Force Ghosts can interact with the natural realm. With that in mind, what does this mean going forward? Will we see more Force Ghosts using actual powers? Or was that just to demonstrate Yoda’s apparently unique power? I’m curious as to where this fits. I expect to see Luke return as a Force Ghost almost assuredly. But what about anyone else? And to what degree?

A Proper Conclusion.

One of my primary concerns about Episode IX is its director, J.J. Abrams. Mr. Abrams has tremendous talent, but he also has one of the most obvious weaknesses of any director working today: He rarely concludes stories. Not only that, the handful of projects he’s completed on his own rarely concluded in a satisfactory manner. He’s generally very good at introducing new ideas, but completing the story is another matter.

Abrams left after season 2 of Alias and after only a few episodes of Lost. He directed the first two reboots of Star Trek, the latter of which was not his greatest effort. He’s produced many shows and films, but only directed a handful himself. He did helm Mission Impossible III, which was a great entry in the series, albeit tame compared to its sequels. He also wrote and directed  Super 8, which I believe ended up being a combination of script ideas. Super 8 was fine but never amounted to being more than a kind of homage to films like E.T. and Close Encounters of The Third Kind.

Most of his films are continuations or reboots or sequels. He’s rarely helmed a standalone project of a truly original idea or completed a trilogy. Finishing Episode IX will force Abrams to do what he’s rarely ever done before – finish a story arc. His obsession with mystery and intrigue serves him well for concepts, but it has also likewise hindered him from showing his ability to conclude a proper story.

For Episode IX to be as memorable and successful as both audiences and Lucasfilm alike desire, Mr. Abrams must deliver a satisfactory story conclusion. This is no time to go all Lost on us (as much as I love that show). A lot needs to happen, and he’s only got one more movie to do it. (On a side note, I would be fine to see an Episode X, as long as Episode IX does not end on a cliffhanger.) Either way, Episode IX doesn’t need to end on a cliffhanger. The cliff-hanger ending was one of the worst parts of The Force Awakens. It might as well have been left to Episode VIII to feature Luke at all. This movie needs to conclude and do it well. Make it memorable. Make it epic.

Take Risks.

I know I’ve already mentioned this from the beginning, but I cannot stress how important it is to make bold creative decisions. The primary issue with The Force Awakens is that it took almost no risks. And no, featuring a female lead is not a risk because audiences have loved female leads for decades. I’ve heard people use this to defend TFA and it does not work. That’s not risky. Nor is casting a black stormtrooper. These are great choices, yes but they’re not risks. Anyways, gender and race are not what I’m talking about.

Rian Johnson took risks in The Last Jedi. Were all of them good choices? Probably not. I doubt any of us want to remember Leia flying through space like Mary Poppins. But many risks paid off well, like killing off Snoke or writing Rey’s parentage as irrelevant to her significance. I loved these decisions because they challenged my expectations and my predictions, and most of them were executed beautifully. I’m still on the fence about Luke’s final scenes, but I still find them beautiful and tragic all at once, even if it’s not necessarily what I wanted to happen.

Abrams needs to stop obsessing remaking the past in his movies. The Force Awakens had great execution but little depth and little originality. That won’t be enough this time around. We need to see Star Wars grow and develop, and Rian Johnson did that in his own way successfully. Otherwise, Episode IX will go down as one of the most predictable and disappointing conclusions to a Star Wars trilogy.

Help us, Mr. Abrams. You’re our only hope. Give us the finale we know you can deliver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the fifth entry in the Jurassic Park franchise, directed by J.A. Bayona and produced by Colin Trevorrow, who directed the previous film. Set three years after the events of Jurassic World, we find that Isla Nublar is on the brink of destruction from a resurgent volcano bound to erupt any day now. With the park abandoned and closed permanently after the catastrophe of the last film, the surviving dinosaurs find themselves at the mercy of the island’s inevitable destruction and the potential rescue efforts of humankind.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Jurassic Park films, despite the variation in quality in each film. Even my least favorite, Jurassic Park III, is still entertaining in its own merit, if but lacking in depth or originality. To be fair, though, with five films in the series to date, originality will become increasingly more difficult as time goes on. I can’t even imagine where the next film will take place, and rest assured – there will be another Jurassic World movie. I’m hoping they will take their time with the (hopefully) final chapter in the saga. Too many sequels feel rushed nowadays.

Fallen Kingdom finds itself in a unique position, as the first act is so entirely different from the second and third, it’s almost jarring when you watch it. This is not necessarily a flaw, although I would have been content with the first act lasting a bit longer. It’s a visual roller coaster and keeps the excitement up throughout most of the first half. The island set pieces are huge in scope, while the latter parts of the film take place in a much more intimate setting. Suspense also plays a major factor this time around, courtesy of J.A. Bayona’s experience in horror films.

For the most part, this is a gorgeous film, both from a production standpoint to the cinematography. Mr. Bayona has a great eye for creative visual shots that help show the story instead of wasting too much time with exposition like many films do. Even with its shortcomings in the plot, there are some key visual moments that will be memorable for quite some time.

Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire Dearing, now leading a campaign to save the endangered dinosaurs still remaining on Isla Nublar from the incident. Her character has changed from savvy businesswoman to motivated activist, now seeing dinosaurs as precious wildlife and not living attractions for tourists. It’s a believable change, and Ms. Howard is always a welcome presence onscreen. She’s one of my favorite actresses in the business today. Smart, capable, and always providing great chemistry with her fellow actors. She and Chris Pratt especially work great together, even if I was disappointed to see that their onscreen relationship is essentially back to square one after the previous film.

Chris Pratt brings back the classic charm as we’ve all come to enjoy his movies. While Owen Grady hasn’t changed much from the last film, it is nice to see his heartstrings get tugged with the appearance of Blue in this film, a raptor he’s known and trained since childhood. In some ways, his role is more or less reduced to action hero, but it works fine and I personally love Pratt in just about everything he’s in. His chemistry with Ms. Howard is excellent. Now if they could just get their relationship stuff figured out. It’s too bad neither Pratt nor Howard are given much depth in this film, but what they’re given certainly works.

Justice Smith joins the cast as Franklin Webb, a tech guru working with Claire’s mission group. He’s a great addition to the cast, even if he’s not given a whole lot to do other than scream hilariously at the ever-imposing dangers around him, giving dry quips and serving as comedic relief overall. He’s definitely not an action hero, but he plays his role well.

Daniella Pineda also joins the team as Zia Rodriguez, a Paleo-Veterinarian (yes, that is a thing in this universe as she claims onscreen). She makes it clear from the beginning of her independence and capability, not wanting to be reduced to a damsel in distress kind of thing. Props to the writers for creating a character like hers. I’ve had enough of the typical damsel in distress characters in movies. It makes sense sometimes, but like Claire in this movie, she brings plenty to the table.

There’s no shortage of colorful characters in Fallen Kingdom. Of that I am sure. The problem with this, as is true of other Jurassic Park movies, are the villains. This time around, they are a bit one-dimensional. I feel like we keep repeating these kinds of characters now, and this time it’s pushed with an albeit particularly interesting agenda. The film does a decent job explaining their motivations, but one villain in particular just comes across as comical. He’s basically a rendition of Hoskins from the last film, which should sum it up if you’ve seen that movie.

One thing I appreciated this time around is Bayona’s attempt to make us truly sympathize with the endangered dinosaurs. There’s a good balance of conflicting views, no doubt in part by the great cameo from Jeff Goldblum, reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcom from the original and second films. The ethics discussions in this movie are noteworthy, even if it’s technically a fictional setting. The questions this film poses are difficult, no doubt. Is man responsible for intervening in the lives of creatures they forced back into existence, even if their inevitable extinction is standing at the door? What rights would formerly extinct animals have if any?

The overall narrative suffers a bit of identity crisis. Since the first act is so different in tone and setting from the rest of the film, at times it’s difficult to feel like we have a complete story. We go from explosive, cataclysmic danger and peril on Isla Nublar to a more intimate setting akin to a science fiction thriller. Without spoiling too much, the movie definitely relies on its science fiction roots more heavily than we’ve seen in previous films of the franchise. In this world, genetics are apparently a door to a ridiculous amount of possibilities. I found myself scratching my head at times, struggling to understand if the movie was taking itself too seriously or not seriously enough. But even though this series is considered science fiction, I’ve always felt like it was fairly grounded since it features (mostly) animals that once existed, and to some extent, real science and paleontology.

Visually speaking, Fallen Kingdom is a gorgeous film. The practical effects mix together quite well with the beautiful CG. I still feel like they aren’t pushing the limits of what CG can really do, but overall it’s still impressive. Some VFX teams are just better at CG, I suppose. Blending these great VFX shots with some excellent cinematography makes for a great looking film, and Director Bayona has a great eye for visual shots. There are several beautiful shots that come to mind, including what will undoubtedly become an iconic scene in the franchise, that linger in my mind still. He also has a talent for creating great suspense, visually.

Michael Giacchino returns to score this entry, a familiar face from the previous films. His talents are always welcome, in my book. He has a knack for utilizing music to help with the storytelling. Everything from LOST, Fringe, Alias, Super 8, Star Trek – the man has done it all. He even scored one of the most recent Star Wars films, Rogue One. In Fallen Kingdom, his efforts do not disappoint. The movie suffers from plot issues, not visual or auditory, which is a plus.

Ultimately, Fallen Kingdom does some bold things for the franchise. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. I suppose it depends on how grounded you prefer the series. It’s quite different from the original Jurassic Park, but then again, this has been true of essentially all the sequels. I think this movie could have benefited from some tweaks in the script, and maybe improving some of the character development. The Jurassic Park films have rarely ever developed the deepest characters, but the villains often remain one-dimensional, which is a failing the series needs to fix once and for all. Do we always need a villain in this film? The dinosaurs themselves have often served this purpose quite well, especially the terrifying carnivores.  Fallen Kingdom certainly delivers on spectacle and some genuine suspense, with a few heartwarming and heart-wrenching moments to digest. If you can get past some of the more absurd science fiction elements you’ll find a solid, if but flawed entry in the Jurassic Park franchise.

Final Score: 7.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

The Future Of Star Wars

Initially, I wrote this article with the intention of articulating my dissatisfaction and concern with the current state of Star Wars, largely in part because of the recent Han Solo film. Funny thing – my original post somehow didn’t save properly, and I was reverted back to an outdated version. Having spent the better part of a week completing that post, I decided to start over. With some fresh perspective, I think I can better paint a picture of how Star Wars is faring as a franchise now, and where it needs to go from here.

Although I have had my share of issues with the new material being produced by Lucasfilm, overall I’ve been pretty content with their releases. The books have disappointed me a little, but I concede that I’ve only read two of them so far. The LGBT-heavy themes were distracting, but ultimately they simply failed to capture my imagination like many previous novels in the old canon.

As for other media like video games, Star Wars has been relatively conservative in this area. The biggest releases so far have been Battlefront I and II, respectively. Both games released with a lack of content, and Battlefront II was marred by its loot box controversy. To their credit, EA and its developers have bent over backward to fix their mistakes. Battlefront II now stands as an exciting Star Wars experience, if still lacking a bit in the content department. Their upcoming plans for Clone Wars DLC is especially exciting and should rectify that error. At E3 recently, EA inserted a tiny announcement for an upcoming title, Jedi: Fallen Order. Like many fans, I’m excited to learn more about it and look forward to its release. Why they chose to announce a huge game in such an underwhelming fashion is beyond me, but perhaps they’ll make up for that.

For this article, I’ll mostly be dealing with the film franchise. Most moviegoers aren’t keeping up with every Star Wars media being released, and I don’t blame them. It’s a lot of material, even for a big fan like myself. In fact, I would say this is the point of division for me. There’s too much content being released. With so many books, video games, shows, movies and more – Star Wars is being a bit watered down, making things just a little less special as time goes on. The marvel and wonder of Star Wars can absolutely be retained, however. Lucasfilm simply needs to tap the brakes a little.

The biggest indication of this overabundance is the recent release of Solo: A Star Wars story. As I was quick to point out in my review, Solo is a film that adds very little to the Star Wars universe and ultimately goes down as a movie made needlessly. I think it’s fair to say that only a fraction of fans cared to see a younger version of Han Solo portrayed. The movie itself wasn’t bad, but its very premise doomed its success before it even released. I feel bad for Ron Howard, who courageously stepped in as director after the previous directors were fired halfway through filming. He’s a solid director, but even he couldn’t save this movie. Bottom line, we didn’t want to see Han Solo recast. The character’s arc was over in Episode VII, and it made absolutely no sense to revive Han in his younger days.

Lucasfilm has taken little to no risk in their film franchise since being bought by Disney, which is their greatest weakness. They’re so concerned with not making fans angry that they’ve produced films that play it too safe. The Force Awakens, while a great movie, is ultimately held back by its unoriginal plot and overly fast pacing. It had great characters and awesome sequences, but TFA ultimately serves to show how sacrificing plot for entertaining characters isn’t always a wise choice. No matter how many times I watch it, I always roll my eyes when I see Starkiller base. They even try to defend its existence by inferring that its gargantuan size compared to the Death Stars somehow makes it different and original. J.J. Abrams has a bad tendency to create mystery and intrigue in his films without following through very well, and TFA is no exception.

Rogue One was entertaining, certainly. It made the opposite mistake The Force Awakens did, however. It chose plot development over character development, which made each character fail to deliver in a more memorable way. Our lead, Jyn Erso is not given enough time to develop onscreen, which leaves us as an audience to struggle to understand her true motivations. Still, Rogue One offers some of the best battles seen in the entire franchise. Darth Vader is also given two excellent scenes, which no Star Wars fan would ever complain about. The whole plot serves really as a prelude to Episode IV, taking place likely only a few days or weeks before the original film. It relies on nostalgia like TFA, but it’s done so well that I still love it, despite its shortcomings.

Ah, The Last Jedi. 

I doubt I’ve examined a film as much as The Last Jedi. No doubt, fans will be split on for many years. I don’t fully understand why it gets as much flack as it does, but at the end of the day, I will likely always defend its brilliance. It’s my favorite Star Wars film Disney has released since purchasing Lucasfilm. It’s got plenty of flaws, but it shines so well in so many ways, I don’t even mind them. This is Lucasfilm taking risks, and it paid off beautifully.

The Last Jedi is a decisive film, and I love it for it. Rian Johnson took the convoluted setup from The Force Awakens and told a more mature, bolder story. And funny thing, I’ve actually even warmed up to it more recently. I used to feel that it did border on feminist and social justice themes to a fault. Now, I’m doubtful. Whether or not Rian Johnson had those themes in mind, I don’t care anymore. I actually really think it’s not either or those things. I love the film for what it is, and I think he did a spectacular job with it. The development of Rey and Kylo Ren is especially compelling throughout the film. Luke Skywalker is shown a more complex character than I thought possible, and his motivations for secluding himself on the island are more justified than I initially agreed with. His entire arc is beautiful, though I was certainly sad to see him pass away into the Force.

Honestly, I have very little to complain about The Last Jedi. I like it more and more everytime I see it. I suppose the scene with Leia force-pulling herself back to the ship was too strange to ever feel comfortable with, but it’s a minor gripe. I’m glad they did not choose this method to kill off her character. I also felt that the movie underused its villains at times, especially characters like Captain Phasma. For the record, I was thrilled to see Snoke killed. I’ve never felt I wanted to see more of him in this new trilogy. He felt like too much of an Emperor Palpatine copycat. Good riddance, prune face.

I’ve discussed this film at length with many people, and most of their complaints are rooted in their expectations. Because The Force Awakens set up so many plot threats, leaving fans to go crazy with fan theories, many people were let down that TLJ did not follow their predictions. The Last Jedi subverted our expectations brilliantly, and I’m so glad it did. The fanbase needed their world shaken up for a change, and this film did exactly that. Did we really need another completely predictable plot, like The Force Awakens delivered? I think not.

The Force Awakens isn’t as memorable because it fails to challenge me as a moviegoer and fan. Its plot introduced many things and failed to resolve almost any of them. At least TLJ gave us a story that felt complete, not a cliff-hanger ending like TFA. I want to see characters grow, fail, and learn from their mistakes. The Last Jedi did exactly that, instead of catering to our every expectation and demand. Bravo, Mr. Johnson. I wish you were handling Episode IX, not J.J. Abrams. Hopefully, Mr. Abrams will take a cue from you and explore bolder themes, bigger scales, and more resolute stories this time around. At least Johnson is getting his own trilogy. He deserves it.

With the failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story, I have questioned the leadership at Lucasfilm in their ability to paint a clear picture for the future of the franchise. We do not want a repeat of Solo, because a mistake like that is a costly one for the franchise. Star Wars is a special franchise, and each film needs to feel self-contained and yet relevant to the larger arc.  I think Lucasfilm needs to change its direction in two ways to save the franchise from becoming stale.

1. Stop making so many Star Wars movies so quickly.

In about three years’ time, we have been treated to four Star Wars films. In many ways, it’s comparable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe formula. Some would argue that Lucasfilm is clearly trying to duplicate their success by releasing so many films back to back that is all part of a shared universe. The problem is, Star Wars simply isn’t like Marvel. They are two widely different beasts.

Marvel can get away with releasing three films a year because each film feels different, yet part of a larger, cohesive story. Avengers: Infinity War did a beautiful job of bringing together ten years’ worth of stories while setting up an even bigger film to follow next year. They have a clear vision for the franchise, and it shows.

Star Wars has largely been following the Skywalker family legacy for decades now, even with two spin-off films having now been released. Its scope is much smaller in many ways. It can’t and should not attempt to copy the Marvel formula, and frankly, fans are not asking for it. Star Wars started out as a film franchise, unlike the MCU, which is derivative of the comic source material. Characters have undergone countless changes and stories in Marvel comics, but Star Wars has largely been about its movies above everything else.

Lucasfilm should tap the brakes and really plan out its vision for the franchise in a way fans can appreciate. I get that they’re in the business of making money, but if they fail to focus on quality over quantity, they’ll miss the mark and fail to keep Star Wars relevant and successful for years to come.

2. Stop milking the past and take us to new places.

The Han Solo movie is a failure for many reasons, but primarily because it takes no risks. The entire movie is a clear cash-grab for Disney. They assumed fans just wanted more of the same, but they were clearly wrong. This film did not work because it relied completely on nostalgia and took not a single risk. Frankly, I’m glad it failed because Lucasfilm needs to see its error.

So far, Lucasfilm has made mention of potential films about characters we’ve already seen, and some of which have almost no significance to the franchise. Boba Fett is a great example. This dude had about two lines in the entire original trilogy, and he met his end in Episode VI already. Aside from looking cool in his armor, what reason do I have to care about a solo film about him? Am I missing something? Lucasfilm, do yourself a favor and cancel this project. Make a movie about a new mercenary, at least.

I will concede that I do absolutely want to see an Obi-Wan movie because Ewan McGregor was the best thing about the Prequels. He could reprise the role for a neat story set between Episode III and IV. As much as I’m ready to see the films go beyond this period of time, it would make sense for it to take place then. An Obi-Wan movie is both something that could work great, and fans are happy to embrace. Lucasfilm should have started with this and skipped the Han Solo prequel.

Star Wars needs to grow and mature and explore its vast galaxy. So do it already, Lucasfilm. The Last Jedi was an awesome example of taking bold steps, but like The Force Awakens, it largely ignores the rest of the galaxy in its plot. At least the prequels did a beautiful job at selling us on the vastness of the galaxy. The Clone Wars felt large in scope, and this new trilogy conflict feels oddly small in comparison.

Bottom line, I hope Lucasfilm will focus more on quality and originality in all its future material. Star Wars has a lot to offer for the future, but they must realize that in order to deliver that future, it must be allowed to grow as a franchise. Constantly relying on the past is not a formula for success. Solo should be a huge red flag to Lucasfilm because that is exactly the kind of mistake that can kill a franchise.

 

 

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Even the greatest film franchises can have their failings. I once thought Star Wars was a franchise incapable of producing a bad movie (although many would say the Prequels were awful – I do not). To be fair, Solo isn’t a bad movie. Not really. It’s just a very, very unimpressive and ultimately unnecessary film. It actually saddens me to even say that about a Star Wars film. But I take serious issue with much of the direction of the Star Wars franchise in the past few years, and Solo is a prime example why I feel this way.

I cannot say I am one of those viewers who is capable of watching this film without comparing the character to his past depictions. To me, Harrison Ford is Han Solo, and nothing can change that. No one can ever replace him or do the character justice enough to warrant recasting him. I love the character as we remember him, and considering we’ve already seen Han Solo come to a tragic end in the Force Awakens, it makes even less sense to revisit him in his younger days.

I’m not ashamed to admit I am very biased while I review Solo, because I still attest that this movie actually proves on its own how completely useless it is. It’s impossible for me to ignore this! This movie is downright unnecessary, and I’d love to know exactly how many fans really wanted to see this because I happen to think it’s a very small number. I think I could safely argue a significant portion of both old and new Star Wars fans never wanted a Han Solo prequel.

That being said…

Solo is the final result of a very troubled film production, spanning several directors, reshoots, and recastings. I was initially surprised to learn Lucasfilm fired the original director duo, choosing later to replace them with Ron Howard. Howard was clearly a safe choice, and while I’ve always enjoyed his films – I wasn’t sure he was up to delivering a film of this scope. Howard simply doesn’t across to me as very ambitious, although he’s definitely talented. He plays it safe all too often. I can see now exactly why Lucasfilm hired him – because he was a safe choice. No danger of a trainwreck of a film with Howard helming it.

Director Howard does a fine job bringing all the characters to their strengths while managing to balance solid actions scenes in between the slower sequences. It drags on a few times, but I attribute this to the script and not the direction. It’s not the most visually engaging Star Wars film, nor does it deliver emotionally the way we may hope, but Howard managed to salvage this troubled production into a passable film.

Alden Ehreneich, a newcomer to me but known for a number of roles by now, has the unfortunate task of trying to both embody a beloved character without performing a flat-out imitation. He definitely takes his own spin playing as Han, though I simply think it doesn’t work. I almost think it would have been better if he had tried to simply imitate Ford because then I might believe I’m watching Han Solo. Ehreneich simply doesn’t capture the attitude or look of Solo enough. His delivery sounds a bit boring, and there’s no confidence or attitude accompanying him. I get that this is a younger version of the character, but there wasn’t a single moment that I could really say reminded me of the Han Solo I know and love. Perhaps if they could have cast someone else who more closely resembled the character, I would feel differently.

Woody Harrelson plays Beckett, the veteran Mercenary who initially recruits Han into his crew of misfits. I always enjoy Harrelson in his roles, and his Beckett is a fine addition to the cast. I never felt he added anything significant to the movie, save for a few key lessons he imparts to Solo, serving as a kind of mentor. It’s already a solid cast all-around, so I consider him a welcome addition.

Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra,  the beautiful love interest of our young hero from his earlier days. Her arc is particularly intriguing and plays unpredictably from start to finish. Clarke is always excellent in her roles, bringing a mix of charm, beauty, and intelligence to her characters. Though her finale leaves me with more questions than answers, I did consider her a highlight of the film. She doesn’t cater to the traditional damsel in distress, but rather she serves as a complicated part of both Han’s past and his potential future. Kudos to the casting director for bringing her onboard. She’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about Donald Glover for a second. I’m a bit split about this character. Lando Calrissian is one of my favorite characters from the original trilogy, and I was likewise skeptical of anyone recasting him. But I have to give it to Glover for bringing a fun iteration of the character, even if he feels a bit different. Somehow the charm is not lost, despite some of the script’s questionable choices for his character. The issue I take is that his entire role in the film feels forced. But this is an issue with the film in general – it follows everything completely predictably.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge voices L3-37, one of the most vocal and independent droids I’ve ever seen in Star Wars canon. She’s quite entertaining, although I rolled my eyes at her continuous political messages. The droid rebellion she starts, however, is really funny and adds to the chaos of an already exciting sequence. To me, her presence in the film really served to show just how political Star Wars has become since Disney bought Lucasfilm. The issue is that these messages are absolutely shoved in our face to the point that it’s actually distracting from the rest of the film. I’ll elaborate on this topic on a separate post, later, but you’ll know what I mean with L3-37. At least she’s super entertaining.

All of the production values are fantastic, everything ranging from the cinematography to the set design, to the costumes – it’s all amazing. Star Wars never fails to deliver an authentic visual experience, and Solo is no exception. The slower sequences have a nice, gritty feel to them that harkens back to the feel of both westerns and the original film. All of the action sequences are gorgeous, and none of the CG looks too cartoony. All of the visual and auditory elements are here to make for a solid Star Wars film.

The big issue with Solo is simply its plot. It’s boring, unoriginal, and predictable (for the most part). There’s almost no real character development with our protagonist. Even with the time jumps, Solo comes across as the same man he was when he was just a few years younger. As the film progresses, his choices almost mirror his in Episode IV: A New Hope, which makes it even less compelling. His only motivations that make sense are with Qi’ra, and even then it becomes less clear when they’re reunited (minor spoiler, sorry).

Most of the film comprises showing us how Solo got his famous trademarks. How he got his ship, how he got his blaster, how he did the infamous Kessell Run. It doesn’t develop his character, it’s more like a behind-the-scenes reel of how everything came together. This is especially disappointing because quite frankly, none of these questions I needed answering. I always like the mystery and intrigue behind Han Solo. Now his character feels less special when I’m asked to embrace this apparent history, all while being forced to likewise accept a different version of him.

None of the other characters really justify their appearance, including a particularly surprising cameo. It feels harsh saying that, but this ensemble has the unfortunate consequence of being a part of a movie that should never have been made. They do their parts fine, but to what end? What’s the point of their story at all?

Solo does nothing to further the character of Han Solo. I can remember one moment that felt like a good example of character growth, but even this felt unnecessary. It’s a shame because the movie isn’t bad – it’s just not particularly memorable. It takes no risks and therefore achieves no reward from audiences like myself.

Enjoy it for the ride it is, but I doubt you’ll remember much while you were there. Solo will go down for me, at least, as the most forgettable Star Wars film to date. It effectively waters down and insults one of the greatest characters in the galaxy far, far away. I don’t even blame the actor playing Han – I blame Lucasfilm for even greenlighting this project. They could have picked so many other stories to tell, but not only did they choose this one, they’ve left us no reason to invest in Solo. It doesn’t look, sound or feel like the Han Solo we know and love, and I can’t get past that. It’s a passable, entertaining film, but nothing more than that.

Final Score: 6.4/10

 

 

 

Avengers: Infinity War Review

Alas, Infinity War has finally arrived.

This is no ordinary blockbuster. This is a film of incredibly epic proportions, but it is also the culmination of ten years of storytelling coming full circle. Eighteen movies later, we finally get to see our heroes battle the mad Titan Thanos, the big bad who has been orchestrating most, if not all attacks on Earth in the MCU. The stakes for Infinity War are much higher than any previous MCU film, and believe me – you will know exactly what I mean when you see it. Within the first sequence, we quickly realize Thanos is not your average villain, and Infinity War is not your average MCU film.

The ultimate question is, does Infinity War pay off? Does it do the previous eighteen films with all the characters and plots proper justice? I’m happy to say that for the most part, this movie delivers and actually exceeded my expectations. Without a doubt, this is of the most ambitious films ever made. It’s a triumph of filmmaking, even with its imperfections.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo take the helm of this massive project, best known for the second and third Captain America films. I imagine the development of Infinity War was no less challenging even with two directors sharing responsibilities. It’s a massive film with a ridiculously large ensemble and jaw-dropping set pieces. I love their previous work in Winter Soldier and Civil War, but I admit I was not sure they could make a film of this scope and maintain quality. Bringing together so many characters, not to mention the key villain, whose role is essentially a lead in this film, is a mountainous task.

One of my particular concerns leading up to Infinity War was how the Russo brothers film action scenes. They have a bad tendency to utilize a shaky camera method that makes it so difficult to follow the action. I still love their previous work and generally don’t mind the shaky camera, but for a film of this scale – they needed to up their game. I’m happy to say they’ve largely avoided this past habit for Infinity War, and the movie is better for it. Matter of fact, the whole film is gorgeous. MCU films have sometimes lacked visual distinction from one another, but Infinity War again manages to rise above those weaknesses. The set pieces are simply beautiful, and there’s plenty of them. There is a lot of CG, as expected, but most of it looks quite amazing. Thanos himself looks incredible, which is saying a lot for a computer-generated character. Unfortunately, some of the Black Order (Thanos’ henchmen) aren’t all that impressive both from a visual and plot standpoint, but they serve their purpose. Ebony Maw is a particularly delightful addition to the Black Order, and probably the only memorable one of the four.

I was thrilled to see the Russo brothers take some bold steps this time around, especially with how they handled Thanos. They crafted arguably the best villain in recent years and without a doubt the best villain in the MCU to date. Somehow, they even managed to make us empathize with him (to a degree), despite his insanity and genocidal plans to wipe out half the universe. Josh Brolin was a perfect casting for Thanos, despite his newness to playing as a motion-captured CG character. His voice booms with great conviction and wisdom, knowing full well the ramifications of his actions. His facial expressions and movements are so realistic, it’s almost eery to watch. This is a perfect example of how CG can be so powerful if used properly. Props to the Russo brothers for picking Brolin, because he’s about as perfect in the role as one could be.

With such an enormous cast, it’s difficult to know where to begin. But really, without spoiling too much, this movie primarily focuses on Thanos, Iron Man, and Thor, with everyone else kind of serving in support roles. Even Captain America, the great beloved heart of the MCU is left with little to do in this film except punch bad guys. The Guardians of the Galaxy make a strong appearance, but they are still sidelined a bit. Everyone does get their moment to shine, though. There are a few noticeable absences, too – but I’m assuming we will see them soon, either in the next standalone MCU films or in Avengers 4 next year.

Chris Hemsworth brings one of his best performances to date as the mighty Thor. His story has been plagued by tragedy after tragedy, yet he soldiers on for Asgard and Earth. Since Ragnarok last year, Thor has changed considerably as a character. We’ve seen him endure tremendous loss time and time again, and the weight of that is beginning to show this time around. He is without a doubt one of the best parts of Infinity War, often stealing the show from the supporting characters. I loved his interactions with Groot and Rocket in their side-plot, in particular.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man is as amazing as ever, providing great leadership and firepower when needed. This is another character who’s grown tremendously since his first appearances. We’ve seen Tony Stark turn from a narcissistic jerk into a sacrificial leader over the many years. Stark really gets to shine in his scenes, both in his comedic abilities and his talent for representing the harder, more mature themes found in the MCU. You really feel the weight on his shoulders, and his desperation to protect the Earth has been prevalent ever since the first Avengers. He’s tried so long and so hard to protect humanity, but a new threat always emerges. Thanos gives him a true run for his money this time around, as you’ll see.

This is where it becomes tricky to evaluate a film of this scale, seeing as so much of it rides on the foundations of the previous films. It’s a standalone film, and at the same time, it isn’t. Since so much of the story calls back to previous films, it’s difficult to say how enjoyable Infinity War is unless you’ve been keeping up with most of the MCU movies. Any moviegoer should find it a solid blockbuster, regardless. In order to fully appreciate these characters and the plot, I highly recommend still taking time to watch at least half of the MCU movies, if not all. The buildup and payoff in Infinity War are largely dependent on your personal investment in these characters. Like I said, everyone should still enjoy it, but MCU invested audiences will be reaping the most delicious rewards in this story.

As silly as it may sound, one of my favorite elements of the film is simply when characters cross paths. There’s so many of them, it’s staggering, but so many of them have never met before. When characters like Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy meet up, it’s an absolute delight. My inner kid really came out when witnessing both the hilarious banter between characters and their epic team-ups in battle. Seeing Chris Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill arguing with Tony Stark while Peter Parker/Spider-Man watches in amusement is just pure fun. There are so many good moments like this in Infinity War, and they’re all memorable. The humor rarely feels forced or out of place, and somehow the darker, serious moments are still powerful. The narrative never feels lost, and everything comes full circle even better than I expected. Regardless of how future Marvel films play out – they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here because it’s never been done like this before.

While Infinity War is a masterpiece in many ways, it does suffer from a number of issues. I’m generally forgiving of these because they’re of lesser importance, and I’m quite certain when Avengers 4 releases next year, we will get the true resolution we’ve been wanting for some time with this huge narrative that spans ten years of movies. As much as the Russo brothers would say otherwise – Infinity War does feel like part one of a two-part story. And I understand why it had to be done this way. There are still two more standalone films before we get to Avengers 4, and I’m assuming both films with play a part in the continued buildup. This is a massive story, and even in a three-hour film, I doubt it could have been done while maintaining the same quality we expect.

Another issue I take is how some of the characters seem a little imbalanced in their abilities, while some seem way overpowered than before. For example, Vision was proven to be nearly unstoppable in Civil War and Age of Ultron, but here he comes across as quite vulnerable upon his first attack. That commanding force on the battlefield Vision possesses seems to have been lost somehow. Scarlett Witch also suffers from this same problem, despite her incredible power. The Black Order suffer from inconsistency, as well. At times they appeared as quite a threat, but other times came across as simply weak. I expected more from characters who serve under such a powerful villain. In one particular scene, two of these Black Order members manage to nearly overpower two of the most powerful heroes in the MCU to date but are dispatched in a rescue attempt by the likes of Black Widow, Falcon, and Captain America. Captain America is really the only powerful character out of those three, which makes his efforts more believable. But all due respect to Black Widow and Falcon – they don’t offer much firepower compared to the rest of the team, seeing as they’re both simply humans who know how to fight. Falcon has those fancy wings – but what else? I thought it was a bit peculiar. When villains are dispatched so easily by seemingly weaker-characters, it does undermine the film’s portrayal of how large a threat they possess.

I loved the recurring theme of sacrifice throughout the film, as both villain and hero must face difficult choices to accomplish their goals. You truly feel the weight and stakes at hand, from both perspectives. MCU films are often criticized for lacking any significant consequences, but Infinity War completely avoids this pitfall by making the villain essentially the central character, and by killing off a number of beloved characters. Whether they’re gone for good remains to be seen, but trust me – by the end of the film, you will feel the pain of these losses like never before.

From a production standpoint, Infinity War has gorgeous set pieces, amazing. riveting music, and some of the best acting in the MCU to date. This is a powerhouse of a movie, and again I applaud the team for pulling this off with such skill and passion. If Avengers 4 delivers on the answers we’re expecting, I will appreciate this movie all the more. That being said, we will simply have to wait and see how things play out in the next few films for a proper opinion of Infinity War.

To me, the MCU is the gift that keeps giving. The movies just get better and better, and I’ve been especially impressed with their lineup since Civil War. I’m invested in these characters tremendously, even more so than probably any other franchise to date, and props to Marvel for making me care for this long. Infinity War manages to both exceed expectations and subvert our assumptions about the plot and its characters. How on earth they captured so much of the greatest things about the MCU in one movie is beyond me. Nothing feels cheap or lazy (although I do take issue with a character’s death early on in the film), and Thanos is handled so well, it’s one of the few times in cinema I have been just as invested in the villain’s arc as I am the heroes’.

Does Infinity War pay off? Does it fulfill our years of expectations and hopes, eighteen movies later? I think so. I don’t know how they actually pulled this off – but they did it. This is an ambitious film. This is an epic film. This is a gorgeous film. It delivers beautifully on so many levels. I just wanted more, no matter what. I hate that I have to wait another year for the story to full wrap up. How will we ever get through this year?

At least Ant-Man and the Wasp come out in July, right? That’s the beauty of the MCU – it just keeps on going and you love every bit of it. Someday, they’ll need to wrap it all up, but in the meantime – I’m enjoying this fantastic journey. Go see Infinity War – what are you waiting for?

Final Score: 8.9/10