Avengers: Infinity War Is A Bold, Explosive Epic Event For The MCU (NO SPOILERS)

Avengers IW poster The latest entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers: Infinity War, is the culmination of ten years of this phenomenal film series. For that reason, so much is riding on the success of the third Avengers film. Fortunately, Avengers: Infinity War delivers an astounding blockbuster epic that recalls the old-time, star-studded movie events that made Hollywood famous. That is the kind that had posters featuring headshots of big stars and had sprawling storylines that spanned many different places with assorted characters. Avengers: Infinity War brings together most of the stars from the previous 18 MCU films such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Hemsworth and so much more.

There won’t be any spoilers in this review because Avengers: Infinity War has so many game-changing developments that it is best to be vague for those who have not seen this spectacular film. On that note, run out at the first opportunity and be prepared to have a great time.

After Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to measure up to the first Avengers film, there were concerns about this third film. After all, both sequels boasted humongous casts of characters with their own stories and were loud and explosive. Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to deliver because it felt bloated and noisy, too much was going on that didn’t seem necessary. Anyone having concerns about this with Avengers: Infinity War can rest easy to know that it does not have those issues. Yes, the cast is large, the biggest yet in a superhero film and it is an action fest, but the directors Joe and Anthony Russo pulled off a seemingly impossible feat of crafting a well-paced, exciting, and cohesive narrative. The fight scenes have a desperate intensity that is typical of the Russo Brothers’ other MCU films. But more impressive are the film’s fascinating characters and its chilling sense of dread.

What is even more amazing is that though the characters have limited screen time, they have their moments to shine and the film is faithful to their core essences.  All of the actors in Avengers: Infinity War bring their A game to this film and each of them manage to stand out in the crowded field. The most is made out of their screen time and though there is a lot going on (and the film walks a tightrope over this challenge) there is payoff for all the character arcs. Credit to this goes to the Russo Brothers and the well-written script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

The dialogue is crisp, it is funny, it is also tragic and heart stopping, and it is such a joy to see all the unique interactions and team ups as unlikely superheroes meet each other for the first time. Sometimes they clash like when the similar arrogant natures of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) collide with each other. Other times the meetings come off awkward for the characters but are fun to watch like when Strange meets Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) or when Stark and company meet the Guardians.

What is interesting about these interactions is that the tones of their perspective films so unique are repeated here. For instance, the wonderful chemistry and humor of the Guardians of the Galaxy films is cloned perfectly. When Thor (Hemsworth) is onscreen, the otherworldly and faux Shakespearean nature of the Thor films takes center stage. On top of that when the diverse characters and their worlds intermingle it creates joyful, dynamic interactions that stay with you long after the film is finished.

Despite the film’s epic nature, it has an unexpected emotional core with captivating, romantic moments that add heart and weight. This aspect adds more levity and raises the stakes for our heroes and the situation. A common complaint about MCU films is that they can feel lightweight without any consequences. Well, this film dispels that critique as each and every development builds and builds. There are dire consequences for actions and decisions, which prove that even our favorite characters are flawed and all too human.

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One character in the film that deals with consequences is the main villain of Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos (Josh Brolin). He is a gargantuan, imposing presence who has a frightening, yet magnetic presence in the film. Unlike some MCU films, Avengers: Infinity War allows time to explore his dark character and we understand why he is on his mad quest. Every time he is onscreen, Thanos brings a sense of doom as he is an unrelenting and formidable force of nature. Through his dire actions and twisted philosophy, Thanos manages to become possibly the greatest villain in the MCU.

Easily, Avengers: Infinity War is a blockbuster triumph that celebrates ten years of the MCU. Hands down it is one of the greatest MCU and superhero films, even with its faults. Admittedly, it would be helpful that the average viewer has some knowledge of the previous films to better appreciate them here and revel in their developments and interactions. There are also a few moments when the film threatens to lose its cohesion as it jumps between different storylines. Yet, the Russo Brothers manage to keep everything coordinated. That in itself is a marvel (no pun intended) that has to be experienced. Like any great film, you are left satisfied and wanting more of the film experience. Thankfully, we will be satiated next summer with the next Avengers epic.

José Soto

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The Mind-Bending World Of Doctor Strange

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Marvel Studios’ latest foray into the mega-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title character, a former brilliant neurosurgeon who becomes a sorcerer after a reluctant personal journey.

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Basically, Doctor Strange is an origin story that introduces audiences to the sorcerer and his world. After a car accident shatters the nerves in his hands, Dr. Stephen Strange is desperate to repair the nerve damage so he can resume his shallow, entitled lifestyle. Think of a less charming version of Tony Stark before he became the heroic Iron Man. His desperation takes him to Nepal where he comes across a secret sect of sorcerers led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her lieutenants Mordo (Chiwetol Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong). The sorcerers introduce Strange to the mind-bending reality of the multiverse with its indescribable dimensions and its evils. Their mission is one of seeking enlightenment and of guarding the Earth and our dimension from evil. In this case, the extradimensional being Dormammu and its disciple, Kaecillus (Mads Mikkelson) a former student of the Ancient One who embraced the dark side of sorcery and wants to learn the secret of immortality.

Doctor Strange would have been a standard coming-of-age origin story if not for the wildly trippy visuals and the performance by Cumberbatch. Once again Marvel Studios strikes gold with its casting in the pivotal role of the sorcerer, and remarkably enough with Swinton. With the latter, the casting choice is controversial because of the racial and gender-swapping nature being that the Ancient One in the Marvel Comics is an elderly Asian male. But Swinton does nicely in her critical role.

Twisting reality of Dr. Strange

The drawbacks to Doctor Strange have to do with a common complaint about most MCU films, namely the villains. There isn’t any depth to Kaecillus, he’s very one-dimensional and is upstaged late in the film by the gigantic visage of Dormammu, who should’ve had more screen time. Even there, the supposedly powerful foe was handled fairly easily by Strange. Other characters were hit or miss. Mordo had an interesting arc where his fundamental belief system is shaken to the core, while Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) was forgettable and didn’t have any screen presence or chemistry with her former lover Strange.

The story itself was serviceable but on the whole comes off as formulaic for an MCU film. It goes like this; unlikeable or self-centered main character gains super powers and undergoes an emotional journey as a reluctant hero before fully embracing his destiny as a full-fledged hero.

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Still, Doctor Strange is an entertaining MCU film that should be placed in the upper mid tier of the other MCU films thanks to director Scott Derrickson’s vibrant eye for colorful optics. There are many imaginative visuals and effects shots that have never been seen on the large screen. Stephen Strange’s forays into the multidimensional void are alone worth the price of admission, especially in 3D. Many shots perfectly mirror Dr. Strange co-creator Steve Ditko’s unique look, which is astonishing to behold in live action, while unnerving at the same time.

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With this film, Marvel Studios has successfully introduced another novel and spectacular corner of the expanding MCU. Even though the script could have used some more work to match its eye-popping scenery, Doctor Strange is a welcome addition to the MCU and hopefully the good doctor/sorcerer will take an even greater role in it.

José Soto

 

Doctor Strange Trailer Premieres

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As if we weren’t done drooling over last week’s debut of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer, now we have Doctor Strange! Last night, Marvel Studios unveiled the first teaser trailer for this November’s release of Doctor Strange, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

A few thoughts come to mind when reacting to this trailer. On the whole, it’s very intriguing. For a teaser, this trailer for Doctor Strange sets out to do what a teaser should accomplish–to lure us in, make us want to see more. But more importantly it makes us want to watch this thing over and over again. Benedict Cumberbatch, already killing it from the publicity photos in his full Doctor Strange garb, looks great, as does Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. The couple of brief sequences we saw with the two of them together calls to mind for some reason The Matrix film where our hero is introduced to a more bizarre reality from a sage type. Some of the funkier imagery brings to mind the Christopher Nolan film Inception with the swirling cityscapes and it just hints at some of the wilder, weirder stuff to be shown in this film.

However, I just wish the Doctor Strange trailer showed us a bit more of the kookier side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or even a full reveal of Doctor Strange in his classic Steve Ditko duds. We’ve already seen photos of Benedict Cumberbatch wearing the iconic red cape and blue tunic for months so what would be the harm in showing him in his full glory? Also this trailer missed an opportunity to show off Strange performing those graphic incantations from his hands as seen in the Marvel comics, that would have been awesome. Lastly, being that the film is being directed by Scott Derrickson, who is noted for his horror films, Doctor Strange doesn’t feel like a horror film, which would have been an excellent new avenue for the MCU. On the other hand, it doesn’t come off as a superhero film at all, but more of a fantasy film, which is not a minus.

But I get the feeling that we’ll see much more weirder stuff in a second trailer. This one is just an introduction to the more hidden and mystical nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it accomplished it’s mission in whetting our appetites for the bizarre worlds of Stephen Strange.

Waldermann Rivera

 

Ten Films To Look For In 2016

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We’re clearly in the decade of the superhero film and this year’s slate of films reinforces that notion. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting genre films that range from fantasy to solid sci-fi. Here are ten films being released this year that are the most anticipated.

10. Passengers: The two superstars of genre films Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence co-star in this film about a man (Pratt) who wakes up prematurely in a generational starship and awakens a second passenger (Lawrence) for companionship. Given its release date and potentially controversial subject matter (the morality of waking someone up in that situation just to cure loneliness), this film may get lost or get moved to a different date. Still, Passengers sounds like a fascinating film worth watching if done right. (Release Date: December 21)

fantastic beasts9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, it’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last few Harry Potter films. Focusing on an adult sorcerer who comes to America and the strained relations between magical and non-magical people (muggles) the trailer captured the mood of the Harry Potter film universe. The question is will it please the die-hard fans who will miss Harry Potter? (Release Date: November 18)

8. The BFG: The latest genre offering from the master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is based on a Roald Dahl fantasy book of the same name about a girl who befriends a friendly giant. It may be off putting to some fans who may want a genre film from Spielberg with more heft, especially those aching for the long-delayed Robopocalypse. However, it’s a Steven Spielberg film and he is arguably the greatest living director around, so The BFG is something worth checking out. (Release Date: July 1)

7. Deadpool: After a long gestating period deadpool poseand a terrible debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with the Mouth gets his own solo film. Thanks to a tireless campaign by star Ryan Reynolds and others, 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the film last year and soon we’ll see if the efforts were worth it. Everyone involved promises that Deadpool will be a no-holds-bar, in-your-face but most of all, a faithfully violent interpretation of the Marvel Comics mercenary with the superhuman healing power thingy. (Release Date: February 12)

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars anthology film comes out a year after the mammoth return of the space fantasy franchise. Eager to cash in on their billion-dollar franchise purchase Disney will increase the Star Wars movie presence with this prequel of sorts that is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story details the effort of a team of Rebels out to steal the plans of the Death Star. (Release Date: December 16)

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5. Suicide Squad: A film that expands the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), focuses on a group of captured supervillains sent out on a deadly mission by the U.S. government. Highlighted by a Batman (Ben Afflec) cameo and Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and guaranteed scene-stealer Jared Leto as the new Joker, Suicide Squad will explore a darker corner of the DCEU as it gives audiences a unique spin on superhero films. (Release Date: August 5)

suicide Squad

4. Doctor Strange: The second MCU release for 2016 is already making waves on the Internet ever since we got our first glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios is known for not resting on its superhero laurels and Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like an exception based on released concept art, which is quite eerie. Now forging a new storytelling avenue, that of the mystical and horror realm, this live-action presentation of the Marvel Comics character will hopefully be another hit for Marvel Studios. (Release Date: November 4)

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3. Independence Day: Resurgence: Finally after twenty years, we’re getting the sequel to Independence Day, the smash hit of 1996. Reuniting most of the original cast and newcomers like Liam Hemswoth, director Roland Emmerich picks up the alien invasion story twenty years after the giant alien motherships nearly destroyed humanity and the world. Now armed with hybridized alien tech, humanity, led by Jeff Goldblum, prepares for another confrontation with the aliens when they return to our solar system. (June 24)

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eagerly awaited ever since this film was announced back in 2013 during Comic-Con, it’s the first live-action meeting between Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and it looks like a monumental event! Not only does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boast the first encounter between the two but it also has the debut of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and a new Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The last character may not thrill fans who aren’t too keen with the casting of Luthor, but Affleck’s once-controversial casting has won over many fans. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU will boldly engage the MCU in the Superhero Film War. (March 25)

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1. Captain America: Civil War: The epic throwdown between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the centerpiece in the third Captain America film. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics’ mini-series Civil War, this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, promises to be as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the last Captain America film. But that’s not all Captain America: Civil War has going for it. The film will also feature the MCU debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Marvel’s flagship hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland) himself. Still, with all this going for Captain America: Civil War can the Russo Brothers beat the director sophomore curse that has plagued the second MCU films done by veteran directors (see Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau)? On the other hand, the Russo Bros.’ Captain America: The Winter Solider was one of the greatest superhero films ever made and showcased their talents as directors so they should be able to repeat their success. (May 6)

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Other noteworthy genre films coming out this year include: The 5th Wave (Jan. 22), another young-adult sci-fi film about an alien invasion; Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jan. 29), Dreamworks Animation’s martial arts, talking animal saga continues with Jack Black; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5), adaptation of the horror romance of the same name; Midnight Special (March 18), delayed from last year about a father on the run with his superpowered son; The Jungle Book ( April 15), Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic; X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27), apthe sixth X-Men film brings back the rebooted franchise and a new slate of characters, including a mighty foe; The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (June 10), this sequel directed by James Wan reunites the stars from the first frightfest, but many wonder if it can be as scary as the first one; Finding Dory (June 17), Pixar’s sequel to the classic underwater animated film looks just as magical and colorful as the forgetful Dory goes missing; finding doryWarcraft (June 10), director Duncan Jones hopes to beat the video-game movie adaptation with this epic-looking fantasy adventure; Ghostbusters (July 15), a controversial, all-female reboot/remake of the beloved, comedic paranormal hunters; Star Trek Beyond (July 22) the terrible trailer with its Beastie Boys music dampened expectations for the latest Star Trek film, but it could be better than the trailer lets on; The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), David Yates directs this jungle epic starring Margo Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard as the title hero; Pete’s Dragon (August 12), a remake of the Disney classic about a boy and his oversized but cuddly dragon; Gambit (Oct. 7), another live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic book character starring Channing Tatum; and Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21), stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch/Aguilar, a master assassin in this long-awaited, video-game adaptation.

José Soto