AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Directors
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Starring
Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr
Chris Hemsworth
Scarlett Johansson
Mark Ruffalo
Jeremy Renner
Josh Brolin



**I would have thought this obvious but literally everything about this review is a spoiler and as such, this review is primarily for those who have already seen the movie**

After the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark [Downey Jr] and Nebula [Karen Gillen] are adrift in space but rescued by Captain Marvel [Brie Larson] and brought back to Earth. There, the surviving Avengers locate a signal on a distant planet and discover that Thanos is alone, having used the infinity stones again to destroy the infinity stones. With their plan to simply reverse the effect of the gauntlet ruined, Thor [Hemsworth], lashes out and beheads the Titan. The story then jumps ahead five years and illustrates mankind’s efforts to move on in the wake of the loss of half of all life. The Avengers are dispatched both globally and galactically to act as an unofficial police force. Through random circumstance, Scott Lang [Paul Rudd], whom everyone thought dead, is released from the quantum realm and introduces the idea that quantum physics can be deployed to navigate time and undo Thanos’ actions. Thus a grand scheme is hatched to travel back in time and recover all of the infinity stones to reverse the damage wrought upon the universe.

One of the first things that needs to be addressed is that Endgame has the unenviable task of being a second instalment. More than that, it is the follow-up to a film that got to step away from the standard formula, break the rules and leave its audience hanging in a state of uncertainty. This film had to not only course correct back to the expected but do it in a manner that felt somehow satisfying to the majority of viewers without feeling like a complete retcon. In truth, this movie could never live up to everyone’s expectations, the best it could do was deliver something simultaneously nostalgic, subversive and bombastic – which I believe it did stunningly. Having said that, that statement comes with a lot of caveats.

From the trailers alone, the notion of a time skip and time travel were somehow inevitable and despite what could be construed as a fairly slow-burn first hour, it felt like no time was wasted getting straight to these conceits. But as I said, there was an inevitability to the regressive, self-exploratory nature and a weight of legacy to this feature despite the fact that, ultimately, very little actually happens (I will contradict this exact point later but I stand by it). Oddly enough, both Avengers and Infinity War did the same thing; while achieving something hitherto unimaginable, the core narrative developments were relatively straightforward and could be broken down into a handful of key plot points. But introducing something like time travel to a universe creates a lot of headaches for a standalone tale let alone the direction of a franchise as the question will continually arise: why don’t they just use time travel to fix this new problem? On top fo that, Endgame also sets up its own rules for time travel and then seemingly breaks them – a cardinal sin of story-telling. Certain outcomes are not possible through time travel, others ostensibly are and the only overriding sense of which prevails is dictated by which is more convenient for the plot at that moment in time. Having said that, I would stand by my tried and tested adage that we don’t care that Terminator 2 can’t work because it’s so very, very entertaining and Endgame is no different.

Something that may not be apparent upon first viewing is how well Marvel have balanced character development with spectacle; despite being something they repeatedly exercise in their features. If we take Tony Stark, for example, the catalyst that drives his arc is choosing to potentially lose the peace he has found in defeat or live with the guilt of simply not trying to rectify his failings. What it is to be a hero, what it is to be a father, many of these things may be initially lost on an audience but the script is smart enough to condense it down into three or four lines that will really resonate with fans: “I love you 3000” “I am Iron Man” and “You can rest now Tony.” That’s it. His whole arc in this movie. This is what I stand to lose, this is my choice, this is my destiny. Which is a logic that can be applied to the six central Avengers and the truth is that so many of the core characters have these deeply personal moments but a few may become initially lost in the first viewing. Things like Black Widow’s [Johansson] death, for another example, may feel rushed over, solely because the narrative urgency dictates the pacing. But when we think about Natasha’s role as “the man on the wall” (as Fury once said in the comics), her attempts to bring Clint back into the fold, her sacrifice and finally her almost secondary funeral with only Barton and Wanda in attendance, it says a lot to the nature of her presence on the team as a spy who keeps everyone at arm’s length. Each of the OG members of the Avengers team transitions from individually-motivated hero to saviour, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of humanity. In other words, the film achieves wondrous things with character development and catharsis but by offering so much of it, the nuance is lost, like eating spoonfuls of assorted herbs and spices without a main dish – sure I can kind of taste them all but it’s frankly overwhelming and difficult to appreciate.

If we put the old guard to one side for a second, we end up with the Captain Marvel problem. Carol Danvers is extremely overpowered and is absent for almost the entire film. Sure, it’s explained fairly, highlighting that the Earth isn’t the centre of the universe but she was not only massively under-utilised but also a bit devoid of the personality cultivated in her standalone feature (but I think this is probably down to the filming schedule – I wouldn’t be surprised if her scenes here were shot before anything on Captain Marvel). By devoting such a substantial amount of time to the original core group (as a milestone and a send off), new blood are left a little neglected and curiously, a little obsolete. I understand there will be plenty of time to explore them in greater detail in the coming years and the next 20+ Marvel films but this lack of screen time afforded to individual components felt like an imbalance.

It’s also worth noting that Endgame is a brilliant technical achievement. The amount of exciting and competent visual effects is staggering and the level of production design and recreation involved in revisiting old sets during the time travel sequences is impressive. I still feel one of the standout accomplishments is the level of emotion, physicality and weight of presence behind the motion capture of Josh Brolin as Thanos. Interestingly, with so many periods and settings visited, Alan Silvestri is given quite a lot to play with. He works in the major character themes and instrumentation as well as the dour funereal tones we experienced in Infinity War but also gives us a taste of some levity with the jazz-infused heist music, especially when breaking into the SHIELD facility in 1970. But for every soaring motif, there is a slew of admittedly generic ambient tones that fit the visuals but are far from memorable, averaging out to a functional but fairly uninspired score.

Incidentally, as a rather odd comparison, YouTube board game enthusiasts, Shut Up And Sit Down, reviewed one of the largest, most expansive and indulgent board games (Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition) by stating for all of its merits and all their love of it, it is incredibly stupid. That’s how I feel about Endgame. I am, at this point, a devotee to the MCU; I’m here for release-day screenings and the next decade of stories. I think the whole franchise is a wonder and even when it is misfiring, it’s performing spectacularly. Its interconnectivity and episodic nature is as much a pro as it is a con, the possibilities are vast and the accomplishments to date, undeniable. But if I take a step back from that love, I can quite happily admit that this 22 part saga is a bloated, calculable mound of fatuity and pretension. Yet this is, first and foremost, a celebration; a cavalcade of fan-service. It is as emotional as you are invested. If you are fairly indifferent, you’re not going to suddenly care any more now but if you have an ounce of dedication or investment in this sprawling story or its legion cast, you can’t help but get sucked into the mad glory of its soap opera tropes. The three hours passes reasonably and then we enter into a bit of a Return Of The King multiple endings situation that is more a passing of the torch than an all-out conclusion. Which is probably because Endgame is somehow bigger than a single narrative, it’s a chapter of a larger entity – subsequently it will leave a bitter taste in some viewer’s mouths but the actualisation of the feat remains. It didn’t do what everyone wanted but it did what it was supposed to. It drew a line and allowed this steamrolling behemoth to rest on its laurels for just a moment and proudly announce, “Like it or not, we have done the impossible. And we will do it again. And again.”


Release Date:
25th April 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
During the colossal final showdown between Thanos’ vast army and Earth’s finest, there is a moment when an ensemble of female heroes mount an all-out assault. It makes no sense in a sense of battle logistics but who honestly gives a shit? My wife felt this was a bit forced but it’s about time images like this are forced onto our screen. The fact that the audience could tell the film was making a point to gather its female combatants into a single melee is testament to its importance, specifically we shouldn’t notice, it should be the norm by now and we’re still far from it. And if this is the direction Marvel is taking blockbusters, more power to them. As a second highlighted scene, during the credits time is given to the key players of the entire franchise and there is a genuine rising in one’s chest as Endgame pulls a Star Trek: VI – The Undiscovered Country with the actors silhouettes and signatures acknowledging the significance this cast and these movies have had on the industry.

Notable Characters:
The evolution of Thor from dour to pure comedic relief has been an interesting one. When looking back on Thor’s best moments, people tend to highlight the fish-out-of-water mirth or giddy irreverence, yet the shift in personality was one of the main complaints made about Thor: Ragnarok. I feel the representation of Thor will be a very divisive one here too but for a plethora of reasons. In Iron Man 3, Stark is racked with PTSD at the prospect of his own insignificance and the mounting intergalactic forces that could threaten the Earth. It’s given a very serious treatment and shines a light on mental health. It also appears briefly again when Stark returns to Earth and has genuine difficulty coping with his brushes with death and the monumental inability to prevent the worst from happening. When travelling back to the events of Thor: The Dark World (with some shoe-horned leftover Natalie Portman footage) Thor experiences the same thing and sinks into denial, depression and insecurity but the difference is, it’s played for comedy. Something about it didn’t feel entirely right, especially as the last meaningful interaction between Rocket and Thor was in Infinity War with Thor putting on a brave face and Hemsworth giving a surprisingly impressive and emotive performance. As stated, Thor may be one of the more divisive components, with some loving the performance and others hating it but the fact he’s (probably) being tied into a future Guardians Of The Galaxy release is a work of pure genius.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s time travel.. either all of it is a joke or none of it is”

In A Few Words:
“A magnificent abundance of movie that stumbles only under the weight of its own excess”

Total Score:

4/5

HELLBOY

Legendary AF

Director
Neil Marshall

Starring
David Harbour
Milla Jovovich
Ian McShane



The film opens by introducing us to dark sorceress Nimue [Jovovich] who unleashes a plague on England until she is eviscerated by King Arthur and her body buried across the land. The story then jumps ahead to the present day and we meet Hellboy [Harbour], a powerful, cynical, red demon hybrid named Anung Un Rama who files down his horns to better fit in with humanity. And this is where the synopsis gets tricky. From here we flit about between the BPRD (an agency keeping paranormal threats at bay), the secretive Osiris Club hunting giants, a man-pig-fairy searching for Nimue’s body parts, a medium who has a history with Hellboy and M11 agent Ben Daimio [Daniel Dae Kim] who is concealing a terrible secret… which is hardly hidden considering it’s used in all the trailers and from his scarring and constant serum injections alone, is apparent he has some sort of transformative power; but I digress. Hellboy receives instruction from his adoptive father, Professor Bruttenholm [McShane], that if Nimue is to rise again, it would mean the end of the world and only Hellboy can avert such a fate.

The existence of Del Toro’s< a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167190">Hellboy films is a major issue for this movie. As with all reboots, one assumes that from a pre-production perspective, discussions must have been had about how to approach the story considering the cinematic and published versions are well known to the key demographic but a non-entity to cinema audiences at large. The conclusion they reached was for the plot to gloss over many origin aspects, making the assumption that you are either familiar with what came before or as an attempt to capture that episodic vignette structure of the comics but either way, it leaves the pacing and character arcs feeling disjointed and erratic.

The whole thing has an air of The Mummy remake to it; taking a fan-favourite series, stripping all the fun out of it, adding a darker tone, utilising a very generic attack on London and ultimately producing something that fails to please critics or audiences. As with The Mummy (and the whole misfiring of Universal’s premature Dark Universe), Hellboy feels like the studio’s fingerprints are deeply impressed into every facet. The pacing is terrible, causing the narrative to race and rush along manically, the action is edited to an amazingly sloppy degree and the CGI is extremely ropey at times, ranging from atmospheric (like Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged house stepping out of the fog) to laughably bad (without spoiling too much, a mucusy spectral vision of a dead character at the end of the film). I also felt the song cues were badly selected and while Benjamin Wallfisch is a very adroit composer, capable of creating wonderfully creepy mood-setting pieces (A Cure For Wellness comes to mind), the thematic stings felt intrusive and unnecessarily bombastic. Which is actually a pretty good comparative metric for the entire creative process this film undertook; overly aggressive in its execution of the “r-rated” toy box contents, deploying lazy uses of swearing, gore, violence and a handful of other sophomoric tropes – all of which you become desensitised to quite quickly. All of which is made more baffling when you take into account that Neil Marshall is far from a bad director, producing two genuinely great films in Dog Soldiers and The Descent.

With the technical aspects being so irregular, it’s almost impressive that the only constant from start to finish is how poor the script work is, bordering on insultingly dumb. The core elements of what make a Hellboy story are there, rich folk-lore inspirations, conspiracies, demons, secret societies and ancient orders but they are largely present in name only and heavily weighed down by a mire of clean, sometimes nonsensical resolutions and humour that misses the mark seemingly every time. Evident from the first teaser trailer, the dialogue is painful and ill-fitting for the casting choices made. Harbour is relegated to tired, hammy jokes and awkward quips, Jovovich is assigned the unenviable to task of expositing with every scene, Dae Kim feels like he’s building to a tonal crescendo that never arrives and Stephen Graham is supposed to just swear constantly “Fuckin’ Hellboy! I fucking hate that fucker!” I have no problem with swearing but it loses meaning when utilised without gravitas or meaning. On top of that, Hellboy himself boils down to little more than a pawn and lacks a lot of agency, which I will be the first to admit, is something present in every iteration of the character but the execution is usually so charming and convincing that we not only accept this flaw but embrace it as an inherent personality quirk. Dialogue and interactions aside, there’s also the driving force of the plot and the feeble developments and coincidences that push the plot clumsily from one point to another. At no point did I feel an actual sense of tension or urgency because some last-minute quick fix would present itself. The standard plot development of placing a long-sought McGuffin under the lead’s nose the whole time can be applied cleverly but when boons are haphazardly slapped directly in the hero’s path, it becomes evident that little time, attention or thought has gone into constructing a discerning or coherent tale.

There are a handful of positive elements that genuinely save this release from being a miserable wreck. First up we have the entire Baba Yaga scene, which is atmospheric, a nice hybrid of practical and digital effects, is both creepy and surreally funny, as well as fitting the source material and folk lore. This scene also acts as a reminder that the production design, sets, props and costume work are all very impressive and commendable, inheriting a lot of the elements that acted as the backbone for the (visual) success of the other Hellboy films. In terms of performances, we also have a handful that somehow shine a little despite what they’ve been given (like Dwayne Johnson in mediocre action films). Specifically, Harbour and Jovovich are easily the best things about this movie, with Harbour proving himself a fantastic choice to take the torch from Ron Perlman and Jovovich wading through the dense dialogue to conjure a threatening and believable villain. Then we have Ian McShane who barks and growls his way through every scene and does a terrific job of it but remains a terrible fit for Bruttenholm.

With extensive interference, lack of clear vision and given less less money than the 2004 film, it’s evident that this movie never had much of a chance. More than that, it highlights that to take a project like this forward, you need an exceptional amount of love for the components that make up the source material and the trust of the studio to create a unique vision without obstruction or burden. But as this film will no doubt fail hideously, I can’t see this property being resurrected any time soon.


Release Date:
12th April 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
The finale is terribly anticlimactic. Nimue summons colossal ancient monsters to run rampant through London but Hellboy commits one simple act and they disappear as quickly as they arrived. I will happily admit that is also the plot of the 2004 Hellboy film but it had the good sense to still give us a stowaway that broke through that prompted a pleasing final showdown. This film does not. Giant beings appear, gratuitous violence ensues and then they are gone, all within a ten minute window. It’s a combination of lack of fiscal support, the aforementioned dull writing and the marketing campaign giving everything away in the trailers.

Notable Characters:
Thomas Haden Church makes a brief appearance as BPRD regular, Lobster Johnson; a pulpy ridiculous throwback to classic comic characters. There isn’t a great deal to the performance but his presence in a flashback is one that reminds us of the fun, zany world Mike Mignola created and what this film could have easily been.

Highlighted Quote:
“They have replaced swords with singing competitions”

In A Few Words:
“A shocking misfire that is “saved” solely due to the hard work of the practical effects and production design teams”

Total Score:

1/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #235

[07 April 2019]


Winning Team:
Groot

Runners Up:
Hawkeye
Captain Marvel
Doctor Strange
Black Panther
Captain America
Spider-Man
Thor
Iron Man

IMG_20190407_230100_136

IMG_20190407_230100_133


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the first MCU film, released in 2008?
IRON MAN
2. What is Spider-Man’s real name?
PETER PARKER
3. What is the name of Thor’s homeworld?
ASGARD
4. What is the name of the precious metal mined from a meteorite in Wakanda?
VIBRANIUM
5. Who directed The Avengers?
JOSS WHEDON
6. What is the subtitle of the first Captain America movie?
THE FIRST AVENGER
7. How many infinity stones are embedded in Thanos’ gauntlet by the end of Avengers: Infinity War?
SIX
8. Which Avenger is guarding the old Stark warehouse (turned Avengers storage) in Ant-Man?
SAM WILSON / FALCON
9. What is the name of the infinity stone that Doctor Strange wears around his neck?
THE EYE OF AGAMOTTO
10. What is the name of the intergalactic police force that protect Xandar and other worlds in Guardians Of The Galaxy? [bonus point for naming the actress who plays Irani Rael, their leader]
NOVA CORPS [Glenn Close]


ROUND II: Filming
1. Which actor received top-billing on the theatrical poster for The Avengers? Chris Evans? Samuel L Jackson? Robert Downey Jr?
ROBERT DOWNEY JR
2. In Iron Man 3, War Machine is rebranded as what? Iron Vanguard? Iron Shield? Iron Patriot?
IRON PATRIOT
3. What is the name of the project that Bill Foster and Hank Pym worked on, as referenced in Ant-Man And The Wasp? Talos? Giganto? Goliath?
GOLIATH
4. In Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which character said the following quote, “I’m sick of watching people pay for our mistakes”? Tony Stark? Bruce Banner? Steve Rogers?
STEVE ROGERS
5. What is the name of the missile Tony invents and sells in Iron Man? Jordan? Joshua? Jericho?
JERICHO
6. What is the name of the SHIELD/Hydra group, led by Rumlow, that hunts Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? STRIKE? HAMMER? SWORD?
STRIKE
7. The reality stone first appears in which film? Thor: The Dark World? The Avengers? Guardians Of The Galaxy?
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
8. Which of the following does Baby Groot not bring back when looking for the fin to break Rocket and Yondu out of the Ravager’s brig? Badge? Toe? Desk?
BADGE
9. Mickey Rourke’s character in Iron Man 2 is a combination of two Marvel villains. Which of the following is not one of them? Crimson Dynamo? Omega Red? Whiplash?
OMEGA RED
10. The punk with the boombox in Spider-Man: Homecoming is the same actor who played the punk with a boombox in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. True or False?
TRUE (writer, producer, director and visual effects artist Kirk Thatcher)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. To date, seven MCU films have made over one billion dollars. Name them (one point per correct answer)
$2B AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR / $1.5B AVENGERS / $1.4B AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON / $1.3 BLACK PANTHER / $1.2B IRON MAN 3 / $1.1B CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR / $1B CAPTAIN MARVEL
2. Kaecilius is the villain in which MCU film?
DOCTOR STRANGE
3. What is the name of Bruce Banner’s former girlfriend and General Thaddeus Ross’ daughter in The Incredible Hulk?
BETTY
4. Which actor replaced Joshua Dallas as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World?
ZACHARY LEVI
5. What are the names of the two ice cream flavours mentioned in Avengers: Infinity War? (one point per correct answer)
STARK RAVING HAZELNUTS / HUNKA-HULKA BURNING FUDGE
6. When fighting his father at the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Quill takes on the form of which video game character?
PAC-MAN
7. The following quote is from which film, “You wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations”?
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
8. What is the name of the company run by Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3?
AIM / ADVANCED IDEA MECHANICS
9. Which actor voices Surtur in Thor: Ragnarok? [bonus point for naming the actor who provided the motion capture]
CLANCY BROWN [Taika Waititi]
10. Who directed Ant-Man And The Wasp?
PEYTON REED


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The prologue of Thor is set in which year? 206 BC? 965 AD? 1258 AD?
965 AD
2. What name does Natasha Romanoff go under when first introduced in Iron Man 2? Natalie Roberts? Natalie Rushman Natalie Reed?
NATALIE RUSHMAN
3. What is the name of Djimon Hounsou’s character that appears in both Guardians Of The Galaxy and Captain Marvel? Korath? Att-Lass? Bron-Char?
KORATH
4. Who breaks Wanda out of the Avengers facility in Captain America: Civil War? Falcon? Hawkeye? Ant-Man?
HAWKEYE
5. In Ant-Man, Scott Lang is given discs that can shrink or enlarge objects. What colour is used to shrink? Red? Blue? Yellow?
RED
6. At the start of The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner is hiding in which country? Argentina? Brazil? Colombia?
BRAZIL
7. Which of the following actors did not appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Gary Sinise? William Hurt? Gary Shandling?
WILLIAM HURT
8. What is Valkyrie known as during the majority of Thor: Ragnarok? Scanner 55? Scrapper 142? Scavenger 616?
SCRAPPER 142
9. Black Panther was nominated for seven Oscars. How many did it win? 1? 3? 5?
THREE (best costume design, best original score, best production design)
10. Captain America: Civil War was released in the same year as Captain America’s 75th anniversary, the 10th anniversary of the Civil War comic and Black Panther’s 50th anniversary. True or False?
TRUE


AUDIO ROUND I: Music
1. Black Panther
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians Of The Galaxy
4. Thor: Ragnarok
5. Ant-Man
6. Iron Man 3
7. Doctor Strange
8. Captain Marvel
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
10. The Incredible Hulk


AUDIO ROUND II: Audio Clips
1. “You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!” “And you are an old man and a fool!”
THOR
2. “I don’t know if you know this but I don’t speak Russian”
IRON MAN 2
3. “These items aren’t for sale.” “How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price or did they take it? Like they took everything else?”
BLACK PANTHER
4. “Smash”
THE AVENGERS
5. “You must be truly desperate”
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
6. “You’ve come up with some pretty impressive inventions, Tony. War isn’t one of them”
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
7. “Do you feel that, if you open your mouth, the horrors might never stop? Don’t worry. We only have to talk about one”
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
8. “What master do you serve?”
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
9. “You gotta get better at this part of the job”
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
10. “If only you’d protected Janet with such ferocity”
ANT-MAN


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Avengers / Captain America: Civil War / Iron Man 2 / Thor: Ragnarok
Poster: Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Actor: Clark Gregg