Avengers: Infinity War, Epic Fights, Space Battles and…

Although I’ve seen most of the comic book movies over the last 15 years, the genre is not one of my film favorites. However, this third Avengers movie promised to be, well, super because of the all-star cast from so many other good movies coming together. It should have stirred the heart strings and made my pulse race with tension. Instead, it left me with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

Spoiler Alerts

Avengers: Infinity War had all the major players with the notable exception of Antman. Screen time is dominated by Ironman, Thor, and Peter Quill, although  Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Gamora, and Black Widow play major roles as well. Everyone else in the Marvel movie world shows up in smaller, sometimes bit parts. That’s okay too because having the audience follow too many superheroes in their multiple storylines would be too confusing. The plot bordered on that already with a lot of jumping between Earth attacks and Thanos progressing his way through his stone collection on other worlds. I never felt bored with the movie, but I never engaged with it either.A Infinity Wars

What Went Wrong?

In the roughly 2.5 hours I sat in the theater, I never felt emotionally involved with the film. By trying to force so much story in a short time, the creators didn’t slow down long enough for the audience to develop any attachment to the scenes. Tears should have flowed when Gamora begs for death or when many of the heroes meet their death. Some audience members did cry. Unfortunately, I simply walked away with a feeling that it wasn’t real.

Instead of focusing on the relationships, my mind filled with all the mistakes they made. First if Gamora is so important to Thanos’ scheme, why didn’t she disappear to unknown parts? Surely the galaxy is big enough to hide in. I also felt that Dr. Strange’s character was downgraded dramatically from his stand-alone film. Here is a guy that held another interdimensional god at bay with time manipulations. Why wasn’t this an option again? He also freaked out and befuddled two other gods, Loki and Thor. Granted neither of those have high intelligence skills but Dr. Strange even trapped Loki into an ever-falling dimension. Why could this not happen to Thanos’ minions? I will say (Spoiler!) that Dr. Strange gave the biggest hint of all about the end of the war, (not the same as the end of the movie) in two separate lines.

The end of the movie proved to be worse. During the final fight in Wakanda, the forces of good go up against the forces of alien in an epic battle that reminded me of scenes of Braveheart. It shouldn’t have. Braveheart was set back in the pre-technology days where swords and spears made sense. We’ve got guns people! Bombs! And Wakanda is supposed to own advanced technology. They used it but in limited ways. So why are we fighting hand to hand here? Why not wait to bomb the raging critters after they’ve come through the shield? Why run full speed into battle, exhausting yourself before the first blow and dispersing your troops? Looks good on film but dumb in battle.

Finally, I didn’t go into the theater expecting to see the first in a two-movie story. This always irritates me because I expect a film to wrap up the plot unless it is otherwise advertised. Avengers: Infinity War ends with half or more of the heroes dead. Thanos won. Heck, half of the galaxy is instantly erased from existence. Why do I know it is a two-movie plot? Because no studio would ever kill successful cash cows such as the Black Panther, Spiderman, and Thor without a plan to bring them back. Since the wielder of the infinity stones controls time, reality, and space, death becomes an easy fix.

By the end, I didn’t feel like I wasted money but I would not see it again. Nor am I sure I will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out. Considering I’ve collected many of the comic book movies, that says a lot.

So should you see it? If you’ve followed the comic book movies, then yes, see this film. No doubt the plot will be a major factor in the future MCU films. If you are not a Marvel fan, then don’t bother. For all of its fast pace, great CGI and pageantry, Avengers: Infinity War fails to stand on its own.

 

 

 

The Black Panther Phenomenon, Is Hollywood Listening?

In April of 2017, I wrote a blog about Hollywood whitewashing and how people should vote with their money if they wanted to see more diversity in films. Well, congratulations because you, the American audience, did vote and the outcome was fantastic!

Black Panther Review

First and foremost, Black Panther is an excellent movie. Don’t spaz out about it being an all-Black cast, because it isn’t or being for only the Black audiences because it isn’t that either. It is simply a damn good movie, which is reason enough to see it multiple times.

The Black Panther character originally shows up in Captain America: Civil War. The current movie capitalizes on the Captain America film and fills in the gap of Prince T’Challa ascending to the throne. This episode in the long line of Marvel movies is much better than many of the other origin tales. I found Thor’s and Ant-Man‘s beginning tales a little on the dull side, and no one has measured up to the panache of Iron Man. Yet Black Panther matches the heart-racing action of an Iron Man flick while being filled with the filmography beauty and use of color found in the Thor films.Black Panther

Chris Pratt called it a “Bond movie meets Shakespearean tragedy.” in a tweet and he was right. Royal brothers battle for the future of their country. The result of that conflict has far reaching effects on both of their sons who later battle for the throne as well. Yes the throne is in a small, hidden, and (to the rest of the world) unbelievably poor African nation, but that does not detract from the importance of the outcome. In reality, Wakanda is one of the most technically advanced and wealthy nations on Earth due to their gigantic deposit of vibranium. In their battle to rule the kingdom, one brother wishes to do only good and serve his people. The other wants to use the high tech to conquer the world. The stakes could not get any higher than that.

The Actors

Chadwick Boseman did an excellent job as the complex, brooding T’Challa, the new ruler of his nation and the most recent in a long line of panther heroes. His near worship of his father is shattered when he discovers the previous king’s mistake in killing his brother and leaving the man’s only child, Erik Killmonger behind in an impoverished area of Oakland. The comparison of his childhood in oppression as compared to T’Calla’s wealthy world is only hinted at but easily imagined by most Americans. Michael B. Jordan raged on the screen as Erik, a frightening figure of obsessive vengeance.

However, in my mind, the women nearly upstaged the men. T’Challa is surrounded with intelligent, fiercely loyal women, including his mother, played by lovely Angela Bassett; his geeky-tech sister Shuri, (Letitia Wright); the love interest Nakia, acted by Lupita Nyong’o; and Okoye, the fierce general of the all-woman guards (Danai Gurira). In some ways, this was a strong feminist film as well since many of the top advisers to the king, and in some cases the ones that handed him his victories, were all strong, beautiful women.

Breaking Box Office Records.

Still one of the really important points of this Marvel film was that the crowds came out for it. As everyone probably knows by now, it broke all kinds of box office records, which is not easy in this post-Star Wars age. The movie stands on its own excellence and will possibly be the biggest hit of the year. I saw it on a Tuesday night when the weather outside was crappy enough to make people stay home. Yet the theater was more than half full with a ethnically mixed crowd, families and dates, young and older, and everyone loved it. I’m sure audiences of all backgrounds and ethnic groups will continue to enjoy it for many weeks to come.

So Hollywood, are you noting the true lesson here behind the Black Panther movie? The people have proven that ethnically diverse movies can be great in the box office. We want to see more Black, Asian, Hispanic, and other nonwhite actors in great roles that aren’t just second fiddles to all-white leads. We want really great films that support diversity. And we, the American audience, will vote with our money.

Are you listening, Hollywood?