FlixChatter Review – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War. It’s not just a movie… it’s an event. The buzz is quite overwhelming even when I only occasionally browse Twitter & Facebook as I’ve been preoccupied with a local film festival. The nice thing about being busy is that I barely have time to read any articles on it, and given how even Marvel studio has been begging fans NOT to spoil anything, it’s best to go into Infinity War not knowing much about what’s going to happen to earth’s mightiest heroes.

On that note, I’m going to keep this review relatively brief and I won’t go into any details. I’m also not going to put the actors’ name as most of you already know who they are anyway, or you can easily just go to IMDb if you forget.

Now, there are apparently 40 characters featured in this movie, which is absolutely insane! Yep that is waaay more than in DC’s Justice League, however, the advantage of this latest Avengers film is there have been two films done previously with multiple heroes, AND many of the heroes featured here have had their own individual films (even a trilogy). Therefore, we already know quite a bit about some of their background and why we should care. That is I think, one of the reason Infinity War is not a huge jumbled mess that was Justice League. The Russo Brothers miraculously able to juggle a dizzying number of MCU heroes, and also presented an adversary that poses enough threat to warrant this huge assembly.

I’d imagine one of the toughest tasks for the directors (good thing there’s a PAIR of them, two heads are always better than one) is how the heck do they transition from one to the next? I think for the most part the transition work pretty well with using certain music and superimposing the location at the start of a scene. Some of the character entrances are better than others. I particularly love how Steve Rogers  & his besties are introduced, but then again Capt is easily my fave Marvel hero of the whole bunch. He looks even more bad ass with longish hair and scraggly beard, yowza!

It’s also exhilarating to see T’Challa and Wakanda again after having enjoyed Black Panther relatively recently, and the battle against Thanos’ army is quite exciting. You could say Thor is perhaps the MVP in this assembly, and there’s also a new character we haven’t seen before that’s made a pretty big impact in the movie. I’m going to let you find out for yourself who that is but it’s definitely a memorable one.

Another mighty challenge to get this film right is the tone. I think it’s admirable that the Russos + writing team Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely can balance the lighter tone with the more emotional scenes. Admittedly, some of the humor are on the goofy side, such as whenever the Guardians of the Galaxy posse show up. That bit when they meet Thor for the first time is quite hilarious, yep even amongst a throng of heroes, Chris Hemsworth’s physique is quite something to marvel at. The one liners and repartee between superheroes are a hit and miss, though the banter between Dr Strange and Iron Man did make me laugh. Bruce Banner/Hulk is especially hilarious here and Spider-Man also continues to be a comic relief. His relationship with Iron Man has grown to the fact that Tony Stark’s practically his adopted (billionaire) uncle. The relationship between Wanda and Vision is explored more here as well, but thankfully it didn’t make me cringe the way Black Widow + Hulk was in Age of Ultron.

For a film called Infinity War, naturally you can expect a long battle sequence. Fortunately, there’s more that happened leading up to it that isn’t all about action, action, action. That fact alone is quite a feat, but that’s been the strength of the last two Captain America films that the Russos directed. The action, no matter how bombastic, has to punctuate and support the story instead of overpowering it, and the writers didn’t lose sight of that here. Yes there are perhaps too many plot threads that at times feel overkill, but I’m glad that there is still a singular focus and that is to defeat Thanos. Now, as I mentioned above, despite that rather ridiculous chin, he is actually not just a odd-looking monster hell-bent on taking over the world, but there’s surprising ‘humanity’ to him despite his decidedly twisted logic. I remember cringing every time I see an image of Thanos in all the promos because he looks so silly to me, but fortunately, in the film he’s much more menacing.

What makes a superhero film worth watching is that there’s an actual grave threat that actually requires their superpower. The film also asks just what it actually means to be heroic? It’s not enough that one simply has a superpower, but how much is one willing to sacrifice in order to help others? For some of the Avengers, this battle is a personal one. The personal sacrifice narrative is what gives this gigantic movie its heart and emotional resonance.

Now, as far as all the suspense of which Avengers die in this movie? Well, I gotta say, I did gasp a few times and even shed a tear or two. I wouldn’t say this is a brutal film given it’s a PG-13 flick, but there are some darker moments the fact that there’s a lot at stake for even the most powerful team in the universe and beyond. For the most part, it’s a mostly-thrilling roller coaster ride for Marvel fans, though I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite in the MCU canon. Some parts are overlong and some went by way too fast. Given there are SO many plots to cover, there’s barely any time to immerse in a single one as by the time that happens, it’s already moved to the next one.

Still, I applaud the filmmakers tasked with this gargantuan task of bringing the pinnacle of 19 (nineteen!!) Marvel films. That’s a colossal ambition equal to Thanos wanting to collect ALL infinity stones! I also love the rousing music by Alan Silvestri who’s done the first Captain America and The Avengers movie). As far as the ending, well, they certainly made sure that you know that the war goes on. This is just Part I so things are deliberately left on a major cliffhanger. If you stick around for the end credits, you just might get a hint on what’s in store for the next installment.


So have you seen Infinity War? Well, I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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It’s always nice when a movie lives up to one’s expectations, even better when it exceeds it. As a big fan of the first film, I’m already invested in the character of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. I think director Joe Johnston did an outstanding job in introducing a superhero who’s not inherently cool like most of his peers, but his origins story has its undeniable charm and intrigue, not to mention that it perfectly sets up the larger universe of The Avengers. Naturally I was slightly dismayed that Johnston was replaced by a relatively *unknown* pair of directors, Joe & Anthony Russo have done mostly TV work, but as it turns out, I needn’t worry.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier picks up where the first film left off and immediately hits the ground running. Literally. Cap and his future ally Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson (Anthony Mackie) *meets cute* during a morning jog near the Washington Monument. It’s a humorous scene filled with all kinds of patriotic symbolism and an efficient throwback to our formerly frozen hero adjusting to modern society, what with his notebook filled with pop culture references he’s missed out on and his ride Black Widow calling him a old fossil. It’s tough living as a man out of his time, the only place he’s most familiar with is the Smithsonian which puts the bygone era on display. The ideals Rogers fought for and believed in has been long gone. “S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not as we’d like to be!” Nick Fury tells him, and he’s given a tour to the monstrous helicarrier hangar that reminds me of the Shatterdome (Jaeger-making factory) in Pacific Rim.

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The conspiracy theory stuff harkens us to the 70s paranoia thrillers, which also borrows some themes from Minority Report when Cap quipped ‘I thought the punishment usually came AFTER the crime.’ Yet somehow the story feels so timely thanks to the Edward Snowden NSA scandal about how the Big Brother style government is still very much with us.

Fans of espionage movies like me would love the story arc here where Cap struggles with a moral dilemma and trust issues, but action fans should be pleased with the amount of exciting fight sequences, hand-to-hand combat, and one of the most relentless car chases in history! It’s an exhilarating, adrenaline-pumping scene of the geek-gasm variety. Nice to see Samuel L. Jackson given more screen time here, instead of merely showing up to berate the Avengers or give out orders. But he also gets to do his usual scenery-chewing best. The dynamic between Cap and Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson sporting a sleek new haircut) is fun to watch as well. They couldn’t be more different from each other. Cap with his straight-as-an-arrow sensibilities where he sees things as black or while, whilst ex-KGB Romanoff practically lives in a gray area all her life. It’s an unlikely Avenger-pairing, as she also volunteers to be his matchmaker, that works quite well here as she unrelentingly tries to brings Cap out of his shell. Anthony Mackie is delightfully charming as The Falcon, I secretly cheer every time he came on screen. The interaction between him & Cap provides some of the biggest laughs, but there are also moments that highlights our hero’s humanity.

I overheard someone complain right after the screening that there were too much drama and not enough action. Now I couldn’t disagree more with whoever said that, as I definitely think there’s a nice balance of thrilling action and engaging dramatic tension throughout. Even the decidedly quieter moments has its purpose, and without giving anything away, it’s one I was particularly looking forward to. Even during the most action-packed fight scenes, there’s emotional moments that keeps the blam, whack, pow punches from ringing hollow, especially the moment Cap realizes who The Winter Soldier turns out to be. The action stuff looks quite spectacular all around, which I’ve come to expect from the $170 mil budget. I’m glad to say I didn’t get dizzy from slo-mo or shaky-cam techniques and there’s just the right amount of CGI as the fight sequences felt pretty realistic.

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Kudos to Chris Evans for truly bringing the character to life in such a compelling way. He seems far more confident in the role as well as an actor, which makes Steve Rogers’ journey all the more intriguing. He comes across as someone who’ve seen a lot and been through a lot, a broken-hearted man who somehow doesn’t become embittered by it all. He’s not just a hero because he’s a super soldier with perfect human specimen physique, but it’s his unapologetic goodness and abiding principles that makes him truly worth rooting for. That said, we still get to see plenty of cool scenes that shows what Cap is really capable of physically that’s amplified even more than the first film. He and his seemingly indestructible shield are truly pushed to their limit this time around. There are lots of action-packed scenes worth rewinding for once I get my hands on the Blu-ray!

The supporting cast is first rate all around. Robert Redford effortlessly adds gravitas as the S.H.I.E.L.D. big honcho Alexander Pierce. It’s shrewd casting given how a few of his early espionage films inspired the screenwriters of this film. He serves as a nice contrast to the more larger-than-life villain [but perhaps deemed too cartoonish] of the first Captain America film. Nary of a maniacal laugh or anything of the sort, Pierce is quite a sinister figure. There is one particular scene in his house that actually makes my blood run cold. Sebastian Stan gets most of the action scenes and perhaps not as much of the dramatic stuff, but I do think he has the chops. That’s a good thing as the actor signs multiple-picture deals with Marvel as the inevitable successor of the franchise. I also have to mention Frank Grillo who elevates his character way above the typical thug-ish bad guy. He’s one reliable character actor who I wish would get more prominent roles in Hollywood.

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I think it’s brilliant that this sequel is set in the political thriller genre and not focusing too much on the fish-out-of-water cliché of Cap’s existence. I applaud the studio for making bold choices in the plot, which has been aptly called ‘a game changer’ in terms of its effects to the future Marvel movies. The story gives a nod to his past but also boldly moves the story forward.  I feel that there’s truly something huge at stake here, not just for Cap but for everyone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Thoughts: Thanks to screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and the spirited direction of the Russo brothers, this has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero. It’s nice to see that the story and character still take center stage here and not get drowned out by ultra-bombastic and unnecessary action scenes. I’m thrilled that the Russos will be back for the third film. I think by the time that one wraps, the Captain America franchise could be the most cohesive one as its storyline flows as one unit from one to the next. Hail to the Cap!

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P.S. Make sure you stay until the second post-credit scene. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!


What do you think of this movie? Did you like it more or less than I did?