Avengers: Endgame

Spoiler Warning! This review discusses some things some readers may want to avoid knowing before seeing the film.

Marvel have saved some of the best for last. Infinity War was over-populated, underwhelming, and seemed designed purely to set up the second half of the duology. Endgame had a lot resting on its shouldering and, I’m happy to report, does a tremendous job of lifting its burden.
Marvel have charged the script for Endgame to Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus; the same duo who produced Captain America: Winter Soldier, easily one of Marvel’s best additions to its cinematic universe. Infinity War saw half of the population dusted by Thanos, which left the crop of Avengers nicely thinned out. Without the over-crowded cast of Infinity War, Endgame is able to give the remaining characters real emotional arcs and a cohesive storyline that is satisfying and not completely disorientating. For the most part, the original Avengers are the focus of this film. By and large the film treats their more experienced heroes with respect and love because for many of them, Endgame is their goodbye.
For all the things this film does right (and there is a large list), it also has some flaws. There’s a recurring fat joke – a type of nasty humour I thought Marvel had grown out of, especially given said character’s weight gain is due to a severe case of PTSD. Marvel also promised Endgame would be the film to introduce queer representation into the cinematic universe: a representation that comes in the form of a side character relevant to only one scene, which could be easily cut out for distribution in China. It’s hardly the bare minimum and it shows.
More specifically, I found the final resolution of Black Widow eye-roll inducing. She and Clint Barton, stuck in a self-destructive spiral after the loss of his wife and children, are sent to re-retrieve the Soul Stone. As we know from Thanos and Gamora in Infinity War, a soul must be swapped in order to access the stone. Clint and Natasha argue over who gets to self-sacrifice, but it is ultimately Black Widow who is traded. The suicidal desire to throw herself off a cliff stems from no discernible source, except it would mean that Clint could return to his family and also continue to feel like an angry matyr after the death of his closest friend. While not exactly the trope of an excellent woman sacrificing so a man may better himself, it is close enough for me to be completely bored by it. Although this end shouldn’t be a surprise – the cinematic universe has never known what to do with Black Widow. It is worth mentioning the newly announced Black Widow movie – a prequel that comes ten years after her first appearance and long after the other Avengers received their own individual films. It’s a strange move from Marvel that feels like they were anticipating the backlash from the hero’s death and want to stave off most of the criticism. Given the success of Captain Marvel you could reserve a small allowance of optimism, although Black Widow’s cinematic history is not hopeful.
Something similar could be said of Thor’s storyline in this movie. The Asguardian did much of the heavy lifting emotionally in the previous movie and having failed at his attempt to stop Thanos, it’s as though the writers had no clear idea what to do with his emotional arc from there. However, his story has more saving grace than Natasha’s and it seems as though Marvel will continue to feature the God of Thunder in other films.
That said, Endgame is full of moments of pure joy – there was a scene with a certain shield-wielding captain and a certain unliftable hammer that had the audience in my screening squealing with absolute glee. With more of an emotional centre, the fights in this film are more meaningful and relate to the plot, instead of mindlessly filling run time the way they did in Infinity War. This is also a tear-jerker, particularly if you’re a Marvel die-hard. I won’t say much more, for the sake of spoilers. I had a grand time watching Endgame and I would thoroughly recommend going to see it.


Words by Riana Kinlough

4/5 stars

Picture property of Marvel.

 

 

The Avengers: Infinity War

Spoilers ahead!

thanos

When I walked into the cinema, I expected some of my favourite characters to die. Not just because certain actors’ contracts are expiring, but because this film has been ten years in the making. The villain, Thanos, has been working in the shadows of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since The Avengers was released in 2012. Since Iron Man in 2008, eighteen films have been released, and that makes an awful lot of heroes available to show up against the villain, and an awful lot of heroes available to die. Not only that, but the sequel to Infinity War, which continues the two-part war against Thanos, concludes Phase 3 in Marvel’s cycle of films, and a new wave of heroes like Captain Marvel will be introduced to the Avengers team roster.

The film started right off where no one wanted it – with a major character death, and that of a fan favourite. Things only got emotionally worse from there. I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film, grieving for my favourite characters and paranoid that more would fall. The plot was fairly straight forward: a threat is identified and the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, almost every hero and side character is drawn into the battle to stop Thanos from collecting the last Infinity Stones and committing intergalactic genocide. Some take the fight to Thanos, like Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider Man, and Star Lord, while others protect the home front from his invading forces, like Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Vision. Further yet, Thor is the hero who ties them all together as he bumps into the Guardians, sends some of them to Earth, and takes Groot and Rocket Raccoon to a mythical place to forge a new weapon that could defeat Thanos. And this weapon almost does, if Thor had perhaps aimed it better.

Unlike in Captain America: Civil War, the character introspection was quite subtle. Our favourite heroes were put to the test – would they kill the one they love to save them from being destroyed? Could they sacrifice one person for the sake of the universe? It’s a question that heroes often face in superhero films like this, and not all of them make the best choice. We also got an insight into the mind and motivations of Thanos and his determination to exterminate half the universe, as he is also faced with the same choice. However, we didn’t get to see the consequences of Civil War, which was the most recent film with a big Avengers roster, and which directly impacted where the Avengers were and what they were doing at the open of this film.

On the other hand, there were some great character interactions that I had been anticipating for years. The meeting between Thor and Star Lord surpassed my expectations, adding some much-needed humour into an otherwise grim film. My favourite interaction by far was shared between Rocket and Bucky Barnes, otherwise known as the Winter Soldier. They only had a brief moment on screen, but in that time they worked together to shoot the bad guys in a glorious pirouette of death, and then Rocket asked Bucky if he could borrow his arm, which was a wonderful homage to the first film where Rocket constantly tries to steal people’s artificial limbs. One that fans would have been particularly looking forwards to is between Steve and Tony, seeing how Civil War ended, but that never happened. And considering how high the stakes will be at the beginning of the next film, I doubt it ever will.

My only criticism of the film was that I wasn’t a huge fan of the musical score. It fit certain moments, but in others I felt like it was going for the dramatic in the battle scenes instead of a more severe and anxious tone.

Needless to say, I went home and finished off the tub of ice cream.

 


Words by Amelia Hughes

3.5-4 star film, conditional of your love for superhero films, and how the next Avengers film (coming out next year) concludes the storyline.

Thor: Ragnarok

In Thor: Ragnarok, the third and final instalment of the franchise, we meet Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the tail end of an intergalactic quest to stop Ragnarok and the subsequent destruction of Asgard. But it’s not long before a new villain emerges in the form of Thor’s banished sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett) the goddess of death, who quickly makes her way to Asgard to plot her conquest of the universe and generally wreak havoc. These events find Thor hammerless and stranded on a junkyard planet ruled by the half-tyrant, half-gameshow host Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and launches the film into a wonderfully colourful sci-fi adventure.

This film is unabashedly fun. It’s refreshing to see a superhero movie with such a sincere sense of humour and it’s not hard to see the influence of director Taika Waititi, well-known for independent comedies like What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). No one is exempt from this comedic touch—even the sombre Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has some great lines (‘Are you the god of hammers?’ he asks Thor at one point.) Waititi himself shines as Korg, an alien made of rock whose attempt at revolution was thwarted by a shortage of pamphlets. Even in the relatively minor role of Topaz, the Grandmaster’s right-hand-woman, Rachel House gives a wonderful comedic performance and delivers a reference to The Castle that many Australian fans are sure to enjoy. All of the cast give solid performances and, vitally important for a comedy, they clearly have a lot of fun while doing it.

While many of Marvel’s offerings have been fairly serious action flicks with a smattering of jokes dropped in at the last minute, Thor: Ragnarok is almost the polar opposite. Yet the humour is never hammy or parodic—it’s balanced well with a number of beautifully shot and, put simply, cool action sequences. There is of course the hotly anticipated battle between Thor and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) that’s been featured in the trailers, but some of the best moments come from scrapper, drunkard and former elite Asgardian warrior, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).

The vibrant cinematography combines with a nostalgic soundtrack of 70s and 80s synths and rock to create some truly awe-inspiring moments. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the image of Thor facing off against a tower of undead enemies while Led Zepplin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ roars through the cinema speakers.

With delightful humour and seriously cool action, Thor: Ragnarok is a movie that knows exactly what it is and revels in it.


Words by Justina Ashman