Episode 107: Avengers Infinity War

After 10 years and 18 films, Marvel’s ambitious, unique interconnected world of superhero films comes to this, a team-up movie the likes of which we have never seen before. Historic in its scope and in its box office success, Avengers: Infinity War is a special blockbuster and one that provides plenty to discuss. We’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about this one, its place in the MCU, and where Marvel goes from here.

Avengers: Infinity War Review – 0:02:33

The Connecting Point – 01:27:30


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MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

2 Hours and 29 Minutes (PG-13)

Marvel and The Russo Brothers had a very daunting task before them. Paying off the culmination of a decade of build-up and backstory, stretching over 18 films, is a challenge unlike any studio or director in Hollywood had ever faced. And to accomplish this feat, they worked with what has to be the largest cast of known stars ever assembled for a movie. The ambition of Marvel and its commitment to the cinematic universe it pioneered is worthy of praise and respect.

If there’s one thing I was looking for in Avengers: Infinity War, it was raised stakes. Much like the comic books these films are based on (in which characters rarely die and cities are destroyed without much afterthought), Marvel films have not fully dealt with loss in a way that seems realistic. Right from the start of Infinity War, though, Marvel makes it very clear that has changed. The potential consequences of a Thanos (Josh Brolin) victory are evident and the film progresses with an emotional weight and sense of urgency that it could not have attained if the studio followed its same old formula. This also creates much more investment in characters and the worlds they inhabit, and thus pays off quite a few very moving scenes in a much bigger way. If you haven’t cried in a Marvel movie before, you’re not alone, but this may be your first. I had genuine chills a few different times. But don’t worry, that trademark Marvel humor and witty one-liners are still there and won’t have you depressed for too long at a time.

Another area that Marvel outdoes previous films in their own franchise is with Thanos himself. Make no mistake, this is his film and his story. He is a fully developed villain with more screen time than any before him, and it helps to create a character with whom the audience can both despise and yet struggle with feelings of empathy for. Brolin’s talent is very obvious in this performance despite the incredible looking CGI that encompasses him. His Thanos is not just some loud, angry, destructive villain. He is intelligent and calculating. He is nuanced. He is cold, yes, but when he gives his reasons for what he wants to do with the Infinity Stones and why, in a very warped way it makes some sense. His presence as the foil to the Avengers and Guardians gives this film something unique and memorable.

With a cast this large it is inevitable that not everyone’s favorite will have the responsibility or amount of action they hope for. The Russo’s do an admirable job of balancing these heroes, however, and somehow left me feeling satisfied. Sure, a little more backstory or deeper character moments for them all would be nice, but it’s also unrealistic to expect in a single film of this length. By managing to give everyone at least one small moment in the sun, the Russo’s succeed where I believe many would have failed. Another result of keeping most character development small is that the film moves fast, pausing a few times for majorly impactful storyline beats, but mostly cutting between different groups of heroes working to accomplish different tasks. By keeping the heroes in smaller groups, we get to feel more focused when we’re with them, and enjoy the new forms of dialogue that emerge between characters who previously had not interacted.

The action in Avengers: Infinity War is, as expected, fantastic. Seeing heroes fight together with new gear and weapons, or teaming up in ways never experienced by movie goers before, was a huge treat. In one major battle that involves a host of heroes and countless alien attackers, the Silvestri score and rising stakes create a feeling similar to that in the Battle of the Pelennor Field from The Return of the King. While Avengers: Infinity War never quite reaches that level of epic, it comes much closer than many (myself included) ever thought possible.

VERDICT

If you’re thinking that this review is a but vague, please know that is by design. Fans have waited 10 years for this and going in with as little information possible is going to result in the best viewing experience. Avengers: Infinity War isn’t entirely unpredictable, but it’s got some surprises too. The historic puzzle that the Russo Brothers have put together is nothing short of amazing and will lend itself to multiple viewings. Perhaps that’s the highest praise possible for a film of this kind, that after it finished I immediately would have sat through those 2.5+ hours again. To sum it all up, Avengers: Infinity War lived up to the hype by being both entertaining and emotional. Well done, Marvel. Well done.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 066: Spider-Man: Homecoming

This week we’re excited to be talking about our friendly neighborhood web-slinger and his triumphant return to Marvel storytelling control. Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun, fun, fun. We discuss new tech, getting the high school setting right, and who our favorite Spider-Man of the past 20 years is.

What We’ve Been Up To – 001:15

(Aaron –  Board Games/Pandemic Legacy: Season 1)
(Patrick – The 48-Hour Film Project)

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review – 0:23:59

The Connecting Point – 1:12:47

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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What We Learned This Week: July 2-8

ALL SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL!

LESSON #1: CAST TEENAGERS TO PLAY TEENAGERS— Sorry, makeup artists specializing in the Hollywood Fountain of Youth, but if you want your movie to have convincing teenagers, cast teenage performers.  I don’t care how young somebody looks.  You can tell they are too old when they’re too old.  Take Spider-Man: Homecoming as an example.  Tom Holland was 19 when cast as the web-slinger and he was finally a convincing high schooler after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both well into their twenties playing the character.  His best bud Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is the same age, as is The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori playing Flash Thompson.  The girls were 50/50.  Zendaya was the same 19 playing Michelle, but then 27-year-old Laura Harrier soars past the mark as #1 crush Liz.   Earlier in the year, 27-year-old Britt Robertson feigned playing 18 in The Space Between Us.  Casting agents, dive deeper and younger.  There’s plenty of talent out there.

LESSON #2: NO ACTOR OR ACTRESS DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR ANYTHING— Speaking of Tony Revolori, one tremendous and progressive aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming is the casting diversity.  However, when you get enough terrible Comic Book Guy-types from The Simpsons bearing silly and short-sighted torches, stupid and nitpicky crap occurs.  Revolori recently revealed that he received death threats when he was cast as the typically white jock character of Flash Thompson.   I don’t care what someone does to butcher a character or an entire movie (which Revolori doesn’t, by the way).  No one deserves death threats.  It’s a movie and supposed to be simple entertainment.  The film and the people making it have zero effect on the balance of life.  Tony Revolori may have parents of Guatemalan descent, but he was born-and-raised in Anaheim, California.  He’s as American as you or I.  The same goes for the Hawaiian Batalon, the African-American Chicago native Harrier, and the biracial Zendaya from Oakland.  If you want to complain about immigrants or foreigners, kindly remind yourself that the Tom Holland you are watching and loving as Spider-Man is as British as an English muffin.  He’s the least American thing in the entire film.  Wipe the racism off your face and leave everyone else alone.

LESSON #3: SPIDER-MAN IS SO MUCH BETTER WHEN HE DOESN’T CRY— Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their chances and, for what it’s worth, had their merits for their interpretations of Spider-Man.  Their films asked for angst and the actors gave them angst.  That said, it is so incredibly buoyant and refreshing to have a Spider-Man that doesn’t cry like a big baby multiple times a film.  Tom Holland plays the kid with stresses and troubles, for sure, but with a gumption to weather the moments.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t ever cry.  I’m just saying stories should save that for real loss and we’re not there yet.  No “Tobeyface” is an awesome thing!

LESSON #4:  DEAR SONY, PLEASE DON’T MESS UP THIS GIFT YOU RECEIVED FROM MARVEL FILMS— Sony Pictures wisely put aside studio rivalries to allow Spider-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and, even further, Marvel Films to co-produce Spider-Man: Homecoming to fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  They fixed what Sony ran into the ground TWICE with over-stuffed franchises.  Spider-Man: Homecoming smartly scaled the character and setting down to New York and essentially a single villain instead of two or three as has happened in the past.  That’s the right pace.  Yet, we’re still watching Sony not be able to help themselves by announcing a Tom Hardy-led Venom film before our shiny new Spider-Man even works for the Daily Bugle and encounters an alien symbiote costume.  The future introductions of Carnage, Kraven, and Mysterio were also announced.  In addition, director Jon Watts is talking Morbius, Chameleon, and even an MCU version of Blade in his ideal future (which should send Wesley Snipes’s agent into a tizzy). Spider-Man 3 aside, all of those villains, like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, are untapped characters for the big screen and would make excellent stories… but in due time.  Sony, please take your time.  Slow play this and milk every dollar.  There’s no need for a quick score.  You’ve got a young Spider-Man and you’re set to make a billion bucks on his first film.  This windfall could last a decade or more with patience. Don’t screw this up.  While we’re at it, I hope big-wigs at 20th Century Fox are watching how this plays out.  Deadpool was a nice success, but your X-Men films are lacking.  Hop on the Marvel bandwagon and unite families together

LESSON #5: MARVEL KNOWS WE LOVE POST-CREDITS SCENES AND THEY ARE BEGINNING TO MESS WITH US— When you see Spider-Man: Homecoming, you’ll know what I mean.  Face it.  They have us trained.  No one leaves the theater of the MCU film until the projector turns off and the lights come on.  Post-credits scenes have been a Marvel signature since Iron Man and they are fun little details, even when they are not important or essential.  The final post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming trolls our trained behavior so hard.  You will see and I, for one, applaud them for messing with us.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: March 5-11

LESSON #1: THE SUCCESS RATE OF INDIE DIRECTORS STEPPING TO BLOCKBUSTERS IS IMPROVING— Other than Marc Webb stepping up from “(500) Days of Summer” to the ill-fated “Amazing Spider-Man” double bill and “Moon” director Duncan Jones bombing on “Warcraft,” the recent push of larger studios’ farming of indie directors to helm blockbusters have gone pretty successfully.   All of the greats started small (take Christopher Nolan going from “Memento” to Batman), but the trend is swelling lately.   Colin Treverrow turned “Safety Not Guaranteed” into “Jurassic World” and J.A. Bayona will be moving from “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls” into the dinotastic sequel.  “The Kings of Summer” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cashed up to “Kong: Skull Island.”  This list goes on and on, and 2017 is full of more.  Rian Johnson flips “Looper” for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and Taika Waititi goes from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” for “Thor: Ragnarok.”  Jon Watts of “Cop Car” hopes to not pull a Marc Webb with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

LESSON #2: BIGGER IS BETTER— Speaking of “Kong: Skull Island,” the head honchos at Legendary Entertainment found the easiest and most irresistible route to selling a new Kong film: Make him bigger.   The powers that be have smacked an invisible label on the cinematic Cheez Whiz jar that reads “now bigger than ever,” jacking up the normally and plenty-imposing 25-foot gorilla into a gigantic 100-foot bipedal behemoth.  That changes everything when it comes to the monster’s capacity for destruction and man’s impossible chances of opposition.  Go see the film.  It’s a blast.

LESSON #3: KEEP AN EYE ON THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL— For nine days and 125 features this month, Austin, Texas becomes the center of the independent film scene with the annual South by Southwest Film Festival that is starting to rival January’s Sundance Film Festival for exclusive films and a Hollywood-level red carpet.  This year, you’ll get the premieres of the latest films from Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”), Terrance Malick (“Song to Song”), and Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”).   SXSW’s merger of the arts is becoming a hot ticket with good gets.

LESSON #4: THE WHITEWASHED CASTING OUTRAGE IS STARTING TO SMARTEN STUDIOS UP— I think the combination of warranted complaints,  butthurt rants, and internet courage-fueled protests are starting to work.   Movie news reported this week that director Guy Ritchie will seek Middle Eastern lead performers for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” re-imagining and Niki Caro looks to be doing the same for “Mulan.”   If you look past the animated curtain and beyond all of its inherent entertainment value, “Aladdin” is one of the worst perpetrators in film history for white-washing.  I’m intrigued to see something different and call these active attempts an initial victory towards improved diversity.

LESSON #5: LET’S MAKE UP A NEW WORD: “BRITWASHING”— Piggybacking from Lesson #4, race relations also have a national vs. international bend to them from time to time.  Samuel L. Jackson just stepped out in an interview to criticize the casting of black British actor Daniel Kaluuya to play an American African-American guy in “Get Out” and wonders about missed opportunities.  Honestly, the man isn’t wrong and, as I coin the term, “Britwashing” has been a quietly unsettling trend when you see the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Oyelow playing real and fictional American heroes.  One has to wonder if there is a talent gap between the Brits and the Americans.  What do you think?  How do you feel about foreigners playing American figures and heroes?

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current President of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.