Thoughts About Avengers: Infinity War

As of the events of Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers are no more. At least not in the way that we’ve gotten to know them in three movies. Captain America and the heroes who stood by him are now fugitives. Iron Man is in charge of The Avengers now with only The Vision by his side. War Machine is crippled, though there is a strong possibility that he can probably still function a suit. Spider-Man is something of a question mark as even though Iron Man was very pro registering, he still enlisted a teenage hero who clearly did not register. Black Widow is in the wind. The Hulk and Thor are dealing with more important things in outer space. So where does that leave the heroes when Thanos inevitably comes? How do the Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Captain Marvel fit into this?

There is no doubt that the heroes will reunite by the time of the sequel of Infinity War. But what about the events in Infinity War? We know that Thanos has finally gotten off of his chair and is about to get the Infintiy Stones. There are many more movies by the time Infinity War comes around so even though Thanos is not announced as appearing in any movies until Infinity War, there is no doubt in my mind that Thanos will appear before then. I mean it’s not too hard to get Josh Brolin, the actor who plays Thanos, to come in for a day or two to do motion capture for the character and just plug Thanos into a movie. But that’s something I’ve talked about lately. 

Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel are going to be a masterclass in filmmaking. There are a lot of balls in the air and one mistake could mess up the whole thing. It not only has to acknowledge everything that has come before. It also has to set up the movies that come out after and in between its sequel. The Russo Brothers only had about a dozen characters to deal with in Captain America: Civil War. They have said they will be dealing with about four or five times more than that with these two films. One cannot envy their position. Maybe you do because this is something that is unprecedented and are breaking new ground. We will all know in May 2018.

Here’s a picture of Sean Gunn who does the motion capture for Rocket Racoon on the set. Check out the new logo

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Captain America: Civil War Review

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Captain America: Civil War is both a sequel to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Solider as well as 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film picks up about a year after the end of the latter movie. The film picks up with the current Avengers and a disastrous mission that puts the team under the microscope. Tony Stark is faced with his conscious after his actions in Age of Ultron are called into question. This eventually leads to the Sokovia Accords which requires all heroes to sign under a UN legislation and if not, be considered criminals. Captain America is against it while Iron Man is for it and a schism is formed. Things are further complicated by the return of Captain America’s old friend, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and an enigmatic figure, Zemo.

First things first, this is a Captain America movie. It is his actions that drive the plot of the movie. Chris Evans shines once again in his role as Steve Rogers/Captain America. It is easy to see where his characters stands as his previous interactions with government have been less than desirable. He is a character who stands firm in his beliefs and when those beliefs conflict with others, he is still willing to listen and give the benefit of a doubt. This drives his effort in helping Bucky who is a wanted man. There are different sides to Cap shown here as though he is usually shown as the altruistic member of the Avengers, he is no saint. There were times where it was easy to see where people’s frustrations with him came from.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man takes his iconic role in a different path. As someone who has never been a fan of the quippy Stark that has become so prevalent, it was interesting to see a Stark who was much more morose. He still had his one liners and quips but there was a pain to the character that was there from his first scene. Guilt is what’s driving Stark now but he is still a Stark who acts first without really thinking about the consequences for later. There were times where I surprised myself by agreeing with Stark. The film provides a good balance between the two points as neither is in the right or the wrong.

Many of the other Avengers and other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters have parts to play, some smaller than others. Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch probably gets the most. It is her actions which kick off the events in the movie. It is a definite improvement over her role in Age of Ultron as we learn what makes Wanda tick and where her future will take her. Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow takes a somewhat backseat in this movie compared to her roles previously. Widow is conflicted as she sides with Stark, who she is not a fan of, on the state of registration while opposing Cap, who she has come to respect and care for. Anthony Mackie returns as Sam Wilson/The Falcon who and shows why he is an Avenger. His loyalty to Cap is steadfast and it extends to his fellow Avengers. His subtle competition with Bucky as who is Cap’s best friend brings a levity to the movie.

The other Avengers and MCU heroes play less of a role. Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton/Hawkeye and probably gets the short end of the stick. He is not in that many scenes but does make the most of them. He shows why he is the most personable and his everyman qualities play an important part later between a conversation between he and Stark. Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine fares a bit better. He gets a few more scenes but the scenes he does have do shine. There is an especially poignant moment between him and Stark that really conveys a friendship and love that never came across in the Iron Man movies. Ant-Man and Spider-Man are the two who gets the least scenes and could be considered glorified cameos at best. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man returns from his solo movie and is a welcome addition. His character is just happy to be along for the ride while still hinting at his anti-establishment characteristics. He brings about one of the more standout moments in the movie. Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is in the same boat as Ant-Man. He is a teenage superhero who is happy to be along (and brought along under suspicious circumstances). He brings out the youth in Spider-Man such as his nonstop talking during battle but also showing just how dangerous Spider-Man can be. His character was a delight and it is only a bright future for this iteration of the character.

The two wild cards in the movie are The Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier and is now something of a combination of the friendly Bucky from the first Captain America movie and the cold blooded killer from The Winter Soldier. Stan conveys a man who is at best a man wanting to figure out his past but also a man who is at his worst a dangerous killer. His scenes with Evans shine as you are reminded of the friendship between the two and can understand why Cap is going the distance for him. Chadwick Boseman debuts as T’Challa/Black Panther. He is a new character whose origin is touched upon but you know what this man is all about. He is royalty and carries it through his actions. He is nobility and is serious when he needs to be but there is an affability to him when he needs to be. This is someone who is on par with Captain America when it comes to physicality and it shows every time he is on screen. The future is bright for his character.

When it comes to conflict, it stems from two sources. One of them being Thaddeus Ross aka General “Thunderbolt” Ross who was last seen eight years ago in “The Incredible Hulk”. He is now Secretary of State and is the main person pushing for the registration. Though he claims to be on the side of the Avengers, anyone familiar with the character and his last appearance knows that all may not be so simple with him. There is also Daniel Bruhl who plays Helmut Zemo. Zemo is a mysterious character and the less said about him the better. Zemo is not a showy type of role especially for a villain. At first I thought Zemo wasn’t that effective of a villain but on more thought, Zemo was actually a good villain and one with sympathetic reasons for doing what he does. Bruhl was a perfect actor to cast in this type of role.

The movie finds a great balance between plot, character development and action. The film never gets too bogged down in plot and exposition. It also never suffers from too much action either. There were only a few issues that I found with the plot where I found myself losing track of the characters’ motivations. Zemo’s plot is especially shaky when thinking about it too hard. The action scenes are phenomenal especially the confrontation between the two teams at the airport. This comes in the second act and the final action scene wisely takes a step back and makes it more intimate. This intimate final action scene is a good mix of plot and action and really highlights why this movie shines. The movie never loses track of why these characters are doing what they are doing.

Overall, Captain America: Civil War is a triumph. A movie that on paper with its many characters and heady themes could be easily pegged as destined to fail. Though there are a few bumps on the road, the ride was great and one that I will gladly take again. This movie not only a must see for comic book movie fans or superhero movie fans. This movie is a must see for movie fans.

Score: 10/10

 

Ranking The 12 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

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12. Thor: The Dark World

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My biggest issue with this movie is a lack of clear direction. The tones of this movie are all over the place as there will be a very serious moment and then a sudden burst of comedy that mostly falls flat. Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman are certainly phoning in their performances. The villain is forgettable. The only saving grace is the relationship between Thor and Loki.

11. Iron Man 2

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The sequel to the unexpected hit that was Iron Man but instead of hitting the ground running with this one, it hits the ground stumbling. The movie was rushed into production as returning director Jon Favreau wanted more time and one can tell. The film has to serve too many masters and it is the films undoing. On one hand it has to be a sequel to Iron Man which it fails with but also has to set up the concept of the Avengers which it also fails at. Tony Stark is also very unlikable in the film as he has gotten worse from his first appearance and there is little character development.

10. Iron Man 3

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There is definitely nothing wrong with this film. It is certainly an improvement over Iron Man 2. However that is faint praise. It is the first film to happen post Avengers and supposedly throughout the film Tony Stark is suffering from some sort of PTSD. However, besides a few panic attacks, it is treated mostly as an afterthought and it is seemingly cured from a few words from a child. Once again the villain is lackluster as there are twists to the villain that think it’s more clever than it actually is. What is probably a bigger problem is that the film could have been wrapped up within the first 40 minutes.

9. Ant-Man

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This film is good but not great. It is a solid film. The film is basically a retread of the first Iron Man film which is a detriment. The main thing that elevates it though is its main character played by Paul Rudd. Rudd’s excitement of being in the movie carries over which helps cover its basic plot and once again another lackluster villain. There are interesting action scenes which come with the fact that the main character has the ability to shrink. The best thing about the movie is the potential for more as you can see where they can go with a sequel.

8. Thor

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The first Thor film had the biggest challenge of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film at that point. It had to introduce the Asgardians who are some sort of alien gods and link them to the rest of the MCU. It is backed by a likable lead of Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor as a somewhat spoiled and ego driven prince who has to learn humility. He is backed by the Tom Hiddleston as his conniving brother Loki who has very understandable but twisted reasons for his actions. The rest of the supporting cast is all likable and there is a sense of wonder that comes with Asgard and exploring other worlds.

7. The Incredible Hulk

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THE INCREDIBLE HULK, 2008, (c) Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

The redheaded stepchild of the MCU. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in this film which was the second MCU film. It has a unique tone as it is very much a ‘Fugitive’ type of film. Banner is on the run as he thinks of himself as a monster and with good reason but he is being pursued by people who are bigger monsters than he will ever be. This film would certainly rank higher as it does leave something to be desired. There are many deleted scenes which if weren’t cut would have fleshed out the movie more. It is unfortunate Norton did not continue to play the character but the show must go on.

6. Iron Man

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The first film in the MCU that set the tone for the films to come. Robert Downey Jr. shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The director Jon Favreau does an impressive job with a character that was obscure and launched the character and the universes into the stratosphere. The supporting cast is also excellent. The biggest issue with the film is the sudden shift in the third act where the villain goes from subtle to complete insane with no clear plan and an underwhelming final action scene. However, the strong first two acts more than make up for the faults.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

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Arguably the biggest risk of the MCU. This film took a property that was even unfamiliar to most comic book fans. That is probably where the film prospers the most as it works from a blank slate, more or less. A common reoccurring issue is the villain are lackluster and Ronan the Accuser is no exception. However the stellar cast and chemistry help smooth over some of the rougher edges in the movie. It is also very subtly a very important factor in setting up the MCU mythology.

4. Captain America: The First Avenger

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The film that introduces Captain America to the MCU takes a step back into the past of World War 2. The main thing with this film is introducing the future leader of the Avengers and explaining as to why he will be. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers shines as he goes from a sickly underdeveloped man to the peak of human perfection but that is not what makes him special. How small beginnings helped shape a hero and though he may come from a “simpler”time, there is nothing simple about him. Special mention goes to Hugh Weaving as The Red Skull who is probably one of the only standout villains that is not named Loki.

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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The sequel to the first Avengers film is a solid film. The biggest thing that keeps it from being up to par with the first film is that it is more of the same. The action is better than the first but there are certain things that hamper the film. The humor in the film is very off as so many characters are filled with quips as no character really has a distinct voice. The main villain Ultron is filled with potential but comes off as all over the place and never really scary or intimidating. One of the highlights is The Vision played by Paul Bettany. There is an interesting conversation between the character and Ultron towards the end of the film that is very poignant and unexpected in a summer blockbuster.

2. The Avengers

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The conclusion to the unprecedented buildup in the MCU. After five solo films; Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow come together under Nick Fury to form The Avengers. It also features the return of Loki who is the main villain but there is a bigger bad in the background with huge implications for the films following this one. What makes this film work is putting all of the characters who have never met one another and seeing how they mix and don’t mix together. The plot is thin but one thing that keeps the film going is how fun it is. Nothing will ever top the feeling of seeing all of these heroes together for the first time.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Solider

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Arguably the best movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film firmly solidifies Captain America as the focal point within the universe. Showing that a character who many consider to be a “goody two shoes” and “out of time” still has plenty to say and do within the modern era. This film has had the biggest repercussions within the MCU but even though it is an action film, it is still all about the characters. Chris Evans shines and carries the film and finds his footing as Steve Rogers. It is worthy to note that the legendary Robert Redford plays the a major role in the film which only helps to solidify that this is not just some superhero film. This is one of the true triumphs within the superhero genre.

 

Team Captain America or Bust

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With Captain America: Civil War being released in a few weeks, there are battle lines being drawn between the assorted heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are the heroes who are on the side of Iron Man. There are the heroes who are on the side of Captain America. The marketing for the movie asks the question as to whose side are you on? Ever since this movie has been announced, I know for sure that I am on Team Captain America. I’ve never hidden the fact that Captain America is my favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so I’ll skip over him and dig into the others.

Hawkeye – I’ll admit that Hawkeye is probably my least favorite hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character is fairly different from most portrayals of the character. This may be because he’s appeared the least and the audiences only really learned about his character in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Hopefully the character gets more fleshed out in this movie as it is curious as to what brings him into the conflict. He seemingly retired at the end of his previous appearance so what exactly brings him out of that?

Scarlet Witch – The most fresh faced in the lineup as she only became a hero at the end of her initial appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. She is probably the biggest enigma as her powers are ambiguous at best and she was defined by her relationship with her brother who sacrificed his life. That mystery surrounding her leaves her character intriguing and she is probably the biggest wild card with her unknown personality and ambiguous power set.

Ant-Man – Scott Lang is also an enigma as to why he is brought into this movie. The only thing known is that it has something to do with The Falcon who he had encounter with. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Ant-Man movie itself but I did like Scott Lang the character. So it will be interesting to see how he fits into the movie and what he brings to it. He was established as being anti establishment in his movie so it is easy to see why he would join with Captain America’s movie.

The Falcon – Captain America’s OTHER best friend. This was a character that I loved instantly in his first appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He was established as a kindred spirit to Cap himself and an immediate bond was formed as it was clear that both cared for one another and would probably die for one another if it ultimately came to that. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the bond between Bucky and Cap as he has helped his best friend find his other best friend.

The Winter Soldier – Now this is the big one. Bucky Barnes who who was once Captain America’s best friend from childhood and spent years as a brainwashed assassin. He started to regain his former self at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier but the damage has been done. So it will be interesting to see how he is from now on. He is no longer the warm best friend to Steve Rogers nor is he the deadly killing machine that almost killed Captain America. So who is Bucky Barnes going to be from now on and what does he bring to the table as he only has a connection to Steve Rogers himself.

So I’m Team Captain America but who knows how I will feel when watching the movie? I might switch to Team Iron Man. I doubt it but you never know. We will find out on May 5th.

Ranking The Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

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As of today, there is only a few more weeks to go until “Captain America: Civil War” is released into theaters. It is also the official kick off to “Phase 3”. So before the movie drops, I figured it would be best to rank my favorite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall the MCU is a solid one. I only feel that there is only one film that is so-so and two that are bad. So here is the ranking:

  1. Captain America: The Winter Solider
  2. The Avengers
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Iron Man
  7. The Incredible Hulk
  8. Thor
  9. Ant-Man
  10. Iron Man 2
  11. Iron Man 3
  12. Thor: The Dark World

Why I’m Excited For Captain America: Civil War

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If you had told me in 2011, that Captain America would be my favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would say you’re crazy. Come 2016, Captain America is my favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Univse. This all stems from a combination of many different factors but ultimately it comes down to great storytelling and a great actor in the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America.

In 2011, Captain America was featured in his first solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It detailed his origin of a sickly youth who wants to do the right thing so much that he is willing to go to a potential lethal length to be able to achieve it. It is easy to peg Captain America as something of a stereotype but this movie showed that there is much more to the character. The ending firmly brings him into the present day which leads into his next appearance.

In 2012, Captain America returned to the silver screen in The Avengers. This was meant to show how Captain America fits into the modern age. Since in-story, his character has only been around in the modern day for about a few weeks, it shows that while there is still some clashing that he may not be able to fully acclimate to, he doesn’t completely stick out like a sore thumb. It also went to show that his “do good” nature is exactly what the team needs with the team consisting of various forms of cynics and outsiders and while some people, mainly Tony Stark/Iron Man, don’t exactly like him, they will like listen to him.

In 2014, Captain America’s second solo movie, “The Winter Soldier”, was released. In-story it has been two years since his appearance in The Avengers and it shows that he has acclimated to modern day as best as he can and has been keeping busy as SHIELD’s best soldier. However, his honest nature is beginning to clash with the shady politics of the era are starting to chafe and the appearance of the mysterious Winter Soldier, who is a link to Cap’s past take its toll.

This was the movie that completely changed my opinion on Captain America as a character and made him my favorite character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was growing weary of the films within the Universe but this one upped the ante and is my favorite within the franchise. This was due to show why a character why Captain America is needed within dark times with his steady nature. That he wasn’t just a blind soldier who followed orders but someone who believed in what America stood for but not its politics. The film also detailed his relationships with The Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Nick Fury, The Falcon and others.

In 2015, Captain America appeared in the sequel to The Avengers, dubbed “Age of Ultron”. This movie continued the trend set by, “The Winter Soldier” as Cap continued his nature as he was once again someone who continued to do what he felt was right despite what others, Tony Stark specifically, otherwise thought. The movie also hinted that since Steve Rogers’ whole existence as Captain America, was to serve and fight, he might actually feel uncomfortable during peace time and that he might have developed something of a thirst for fighting. The movie ends on an ambiguous nature regarding where he stands as he claims he has found his home with The Avengers but earlier scenes suggest that it’s a distraction.

So in 2016, “Captain America: Civil War” will be released and it is the third Captain America solo movie but is one that features the rest of the Avengers and at the heart of the movie is the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America. The trailers flat out say that Captain America is not down with working for the government as has been shown in, “The Winter Soldier” and “Age of Ultron” after another international incident, the first one being in Age of Ultron, puts them in the sights of registration. The incident also involves his friend turned brainwashed turned somewhat recovered best friend, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier. Iron Man being the opposing the side.

While it is easy to anticipate this movie because it features The Avengers, Captain America is at the center of the movie and as he should be. The trailer really makes it known that while there are many other heroes, he is the center of it all with his relationships to the others driving the plot of the movie. I can say that Steve Rogers/Captain America has gone through an interesting character arc throughout all of the films that will carry into his third solo film.

Ant-Man Review

“Ant-Man” is the twelfth production from Marvel Studios and is considered by many to be the riskiest project to date. The movie stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang who becomes the titular character of Ant-Man. He is a former criminal who hopes to redeem himself by helping Dr. Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, the former Ant-Man, with a heist. This movie is directed by Peyton Reed who took over from Edgar Wright after he departed the project.

Right off the bat, Ant-Man is probably the lightest Marvel Studios movie to date. While there are stakes at hand and there are some dark moments, it never loses it’s light tone. That is not a detriment to the movie as it is a welcome change especially in counter to the Marvel Studios movie that proceeded it, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, which had a darker tone and was a stuffed movie.

The plot of the movie is pretty standard as it is a hero origin story mixed with a heist movie. As noted, Hank Pym recruits Lang to help him take down his former protege, Darren Cross played by Corey Stoll, who has seized control of Pym’s company and wants to harness the miraculous Pym Particles for nefarious purposes. The Pym Particles is what makes things shrink and grow. They are joined by Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne played by Evangeline Lilly and members of Lang’s thieving crew which includes Luis played by Michael Pena. The story is basic and it seems without the talents of the cast, the movie would also feel the weight of that.

Rudd is the highlight of the movie. While he is mainly known as a comedic actor, he does have dramatic credits to his name an he is able to handle the movie well. Douglas certainly brings a gravitas to his role that probably would have come off as generic in lesser hands. Lilly is frankly just there in the role as Hank’s estranged daughter. While she does get to stretch every and then, there was something off about her character. There is an instance at the end between her and Rudd’s characters that does not feel earned. Stoll as the main antagonist is also a cliche in himself. One gets the impression that there was not much there for him to do and in fact, there is a whole chunk of the movie that he wasn’t on screen and I completely forgot he was in the movie. He does the best with what he’s given but Marvel Studios does have a problem with its antagonist in their films and he is a good example.

The special effects is where the best parts of the movie comes. It is pretty amazing to see things from a microsized perspective. The final action set piece is where this truly shines as well. While recent Marvel Studios have relied on a certain formula of the final action set piece occurring high in the sky and with many things exploding, this is the total opposite. Instead mainly taking place within ordinary household items and using them to their advantage, it is a welcome change of pace.

Since this is a Marvel Studios film, expect their to be many references to events and characters throughout the film. While a film such as “Iron Man 2″ was laced with them to its detriment, this finds a good balance. There are many references to the Avengers including an appearance from one, it is never too distracting.

Overall, “Ant-Man” succeeds in more ways than it doesn’t. There is a good time to be had in the film.

Score: 8/10