AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR REVIEW

10 years, 18 films, was Infinity War worth all the hype?

I loved how the Russos made this surprisingly accessible for fans who may not have obsessively watched the entire Marvel backlog beforehand or ever (Sacrilege, I know).

Crucial plot points were covered BUT you would be missing out on a lot of character depth, back stories and little references if you haven’t dipped into the other Marvel movies.

It felt like all the other films had been gearing up for this moment.

As much as I griped about some of the earlier Marvel efforts (Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers Assemble, the Hulk reboots, Iron Man 2), I never faulted the characters; what they stood for, their journeys and their progression over the years.

I have to say that I was actually excited to finally see all these incredible characters unite against a common foe (and what a foe!).

Josh Brolin, take a bow. I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on the Purple Mountain. His vocal gravitas lifting the amazing visual effects. The detail on his expressions were impeccable. For me, one of the most memorable Marvel villains to date.

For a moment, I almost felt empathy for the tormented maniac. An engaging presence that chewed up every scene. You could almost understand his motives. The flashbacks providing a much needed depth with his relationship to Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

Even his minions delivered; Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was brilliant as Ebony Maw and a worthy adversary (most notably for Strange) and it took me half of the film with all that make up to realise that it was The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon playing the bloodthirsty Proxima Midnight (What a name!)

Surprisingly the opening sequence didn’t grab me. As much as it set the tone with Thanos claiming lives from the get go. It didn’t pack the emotional punch I hoped. Maybe because the lives involved were hardly a shocker.

However once Stark, Strange and Spidey united; my doubts were instantly extinguished.

I loved how IW had the perfect balance of humour, drama and action.

The fast paced set pieces, the stunning visuals, the quick witted one liners, the fun exchanges. 2 1/2 hours breezed over in a heart beat.

Mixing up all the characters made for so many brilliant encounters. The biggest highlight involving the unexpected teaming up of Thor, Rocket and Groot.

The Guardians gang almost stole the show from everybody. Drax and Mantis were fantastic: delivering some of the most quotable dialogues.

I think everybody had their moment to shine (The Cap’s Third Man entrance, Strange’s sorcery, any scene involving Thor). An impressive feat in itself considering how many characters were thrown into the mix.

The battle of Wakanda sequences were incredible! It almost (almost) rivalled the epic Helm’s Deep battle of LOTR (Nerd!). The animation, the intensity, riding every high and low.

Now don’t get me wrong, the film wasn’t perfect (Scandalous!). Ruffalo had already won me over as Banner/Hulk BUT he got on my nerves. More so because Hulk failed to turn up when the chips were down?!

I loved how the trailers lied. Manipulating the order of scenes and showing moments that weren’t necessarily in the movie. Some for the better, some for the worst.

After watching Banner embrace Hulk and appearing to resolve his inner turmoil in Thor: Ragnarok, I was a little annoyed that he was still very much unstable and out of control. Watching Ruffalo pull constipated expressions, groan and go a little green after a bad vindaloo was a little infuriating. Tut tut tut.

I’m sure you have heard whispers of characters being bumped off. I wouldn’t be commending a bold finale if risks weren’t taken but the removal of one particular character was abrupt and handled a little poorly for my liking *cough* Soul Stone *cough*

I had to laugh that Gwyneth Paltrow made a seemingly unnecessary cameo and yet both Ant Man and Hawkeye were out of the mix with just a passing comment to explain their absence. Really?

Even the special clip (that all Marvel fans endure endless credits for) was disappointing. Setting up the introduction of another Marvel character that we all knew was coming.

However, the gripping finale delivered a surprisingly dark turn and a very bold move from the Marvel team.

I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. It’s hardly a spoiler to know that this is only Part One but I’m already pondering theories on how they can work Part Two and any other projects between the release dates.

BUT one thing has been established. It may have spanned 10 years but the Marvel movie-verse still has plenty in the tank (Especially right now) and I for one cannot wait for the next instalment.

3.5/5 (with room for a 4)*

*If some of the little niggles are addressed and rewarded in Part 2!

*NEW* CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR REVIEW *NEW*

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Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr).

The mega Marvel movie franchise have really hit their stride. Gripping, action packed and possibly the best film of the bunch.

Brilliant. It was good to see all that waiting pay off with subplots resolved, loyalties tested and great performances all round.

*HERE IS YOUR WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!* I DON’T THINK THERE ARE ANY BUT I’M WARNING YOU ALL THE SAME!

I’ve admitted numerous times that I had mixed feelings about the Marvel movies. I didn’t rate The Avengers BUT loved Age of Ultron.

Despised the endless Hulk reboots (Even though I enjoyed the Bana version. Whaaattt? I know). Loved the Thor movies. Loved Iron Man 1 and 3. Let’s not talk about Iron Man 2, eh? Felt Captain America was rushed to fit in with the first Avengers.

Thank God for Winter Soldier, one of the most underrated and unexpected surprise sequels of the year.

I was relieved to hear the Russo brothers was taking the helm again to bring Cap’s third outing to the fold and boy, oh, boy, what a treat!

It would help to watch the Cap movies to really enjoy the little subplots. My little brother had barely seen any of them BUT was still able to fill in the blanks and enjoy this just as much as I did.

Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made this easily accessible for the less hardcore Marvel fans while not boring the hell out of the rest of us.

We finally got to explore the background of the mysterious Winter Soldier as the opening got straight to business flicking back and forth from the 90s to the present.

It was great to see Sebastian Stan (The Martian) take centre stage as the conflicted Bucky as his story line came to a head with Cap’s loyalty tested to the fore. Forcing him to make a choice between his old wartime pal and his Avenger colleague:

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“Sometimes I want to punch in your perfect teeth”.

RDJ delivered a much more sombre turn as Stark. It made a fresh change as the millionaire faced some of his own personal demons as well as battling it out with his closest friends. His fractious relationship with the Cap reaching boiling point as the Avengers face disbandment after a botched mission. Evans nailed it yet again as the Cap.

You could argue that it was always going to be tough to give such a plethora of characters a chance to stand out BUT it didn’t come far off. I could have grumbled at the list of absentees; *cough* Thor *cough* Hulk *cough* Pepper Potts (again) *cough* BUT there was enough going on to make me almost forget about them. Almost.

I know the die hard comic book fans were ripping the small airport battle sequence with their own list of absentees in the mix BUT the fighting sequences were excellent. Well choreographed, fast, furious and intense. The special effects were decent. One particular highlight involving Hawkeye and Ant Man surfing on an arrowhead.

Everyone had their moment to shine. Even the newest addition Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman – Get On Up) impressed in a top heavy cast. They managed to make his slightly silly costume look badass. BUT there was one character that really took the biscuit.

I enjoyed the Maguire-Spiderman movies (Yes, even the third one. What do you mean? What’s wrong with me?) and liked Garfield’s performance BUT hated the reboot. When I heard that Spiderman was being rebooted again (Confirming my reservations about the Garfield efforts), I was annoyed. Really? Is this doomed to fail like the Hulk movies?

Tom Holland (The Impossible) . . . Well done. He may have had the cameo with the most lines BUT he stole the show and captured Spidey to perfection. I am actually looking forward to Homecoming.

I think the only characters that suffered a little and fell into the background was Jarvis/The Vision (Paul Bettany) and War Machine. Cheadle never really had a chance and wasn’t strong enough. Terrence Howard was the man for me. It didn’t help THAT Cheadle’s Rhodes was never really brought into the mix in the other movies.

Marvel have really struck a winning formula while DC continue to splutter (So far). It had a bit of everything and nailed the dynamic perfectly.

The humour was perfectly balanced against some of the more serious moments. It tied in a few loose ends that had bugged me and actually made Emily VanCamp’s (Revenge) role necessary after her lacklustre turn in Winter Soldier.

There were revelations and twists along the way. It was tense, engaging, riveting and, despite the odd niggle and the pace testing its 147 minute length, highly enjoyable. Best film of the year? It’s a strong contender.

And of course . . . persevere through the credits. Yeah, I didn’t think I needed to tell you either.

4/5

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

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Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunken party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.