A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the epic “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the only two films brave enough to open against it “A Swingers Weekend” and “Adventures in Public School.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nick Dixon to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the superheropalooza “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the only two films brave enough to open against it “A Swingers Weekend” and “Adventures in Public School.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the epic “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the only two films brave enough to open against it “A Swingers Weekend, ” “Adventures in Public School” and the eco doc “Panda.”
In the world of the Avengers less isn’t more. Bigger is better. The newest instalment “Avengers: Infinity War,” the nineteenth in the Marvel Universe, is their most epic film yet. Taking place all over the universe, it pits daughter against father, challenges the true nature of love, all while saving the world from certain destruction.
Set two years after relations soured in the Avengers camp—“The Avengers broke up,” says Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). “We’re toast.”—the new Avengers spectacle sees them put aside their differences to once again save the world. Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and a laundry list more, including all the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), band together to prevent intergalactic despot Thanos (Josh Brolin) from collecting the six powerful Infinity Stones hidden on earth. “He is a plague,” says Bruce Banner. He is the strongest creature in the universe, so pumped up he can toss Hulk and Thor around like they are rag dolls.
With the half dozen gems Thanos can decorate his bad-guy golden gauntlet. Not only fashionable, the artefacts, once collected, will also enable him to bend reality to his will. “The entire time I knew him he only ever had one goal,” says Gamora (Zoe Saldana), “to wipe out half the universe. If he gets all the Infinity Stones he can do it with a snap of his fingers.” Gah! Simply put, “He’s from space,” says Stark, “and came here to steal a necklace from a wizard [Dr. Strange a.k.a. Benedict Cumberbatch).”
“Avengers: Infinity War” is where good and evil and franchises collide. The good guys—essentially everyone but Thanos—put aside their grievances with one another for the common good. From far and wide, from outer space and the mystical realms, they unite, trade quips, kick butt and try to beat the odds. “There are 14,000,605 possible outcomes,” calculates Doctor Strange, “but only one where the good guys win.”
Then there’s Thanos, whose twisted idea of tough love involves a genocidal solution for overcrowding on planets, and his nasty minions. The big man is a get the job done kind of guy but he’s not simply evil. He’s a villain who feels the psychic weight of his evil doing. His conscience doesn’t slow him down much—he still does terrible things—but he is more layered than your usual CGI baddie. Brolin shines in a mo cap performance that gives the character depth despite his cartoon appearance.
Combined they create a primal battle of good and evil on a scale that makes all other Avengers movies pale by comparison.
The sheer number of cast members brings to mind the old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer slogan, “More stars than there are in the heavens.” Iron Man, Thor, Scarlet Witch and the Guardian gang are put to good use but too often the superheroes are set dressing. There are so many characters and interactions that even at two hours and forty minutes the film struggles to find meaningful things for all of them to do. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow does little more than grimace and say things like, “Let’s do this!” Tom Holland as Spider-Man is given a cool new suit and a couple of action scenes but like many others like Falcon (Anthony Mackie) don’t seem to be there for any other reason than to bulk up the marquee. Even the main players check in and out, often disappearing from the narrative for substantial chunks of time.
There has been much speculation as to which characters live and who dies. All I’ll say is that there will be some actors looking for work after “Avengers: Infinity War” opens.
Many of the actors may not get much to do character wise but most are in almost constant motion in some of the largest Avengers fight scenes ever. For the most part they are CGI fests, geared to make your eyeballs dance. They are expertly realized but many of them feel familiar, like larger versions of the smash ‘em ups from the other films. If the fight scenes are your favourite bits of the Avengers movies then you’ll be pleased. If not, look out, they eat up a good piece of the film.
What makes “Avengers: Infinity War” compelling isn’t that it is bigger and louder than its predecessors, it’s that there are high stakes for everyone. Once again the world is in peril but we’re used to that. The powerful work is interpersonal, between characters. No spoilers here, but lives of characters we’ve followed for years are changed and it brings humanity to a film that could have been computer generated overload.
“Avengers: Infinity War” ends with a downbeat cliffhanger that leaves much up in the air. The final scene—after credits so long it seems like everyone in the world worked on this movie—gives a hint of the worldwide consequences of Thanos’s plan but gives no hint as to what’s to come. For that you’ll have to wait until part two hits theatres on May 3, 2019. The dangling nature of the story will be frustrating to some. For fans, however, the movie should deliver in a big way.
Despite laying the foundation for the wildly popular Marvel Universe Stan Lee says he is no superhero specialist.
“I’m not an expert of any sort,” says the ninety-three-year-old on the line from his Los Angeles office. “I really try to think of stories that I myself would like to read. I try and think of characters that I myself would be interested in. In other words, I never try to write for a certain segment of the readership. I write for myself and I hope that I’m not that unusual. If I like it other people might also like it.”
When it came to naming his characters he had an unusual habit of using alliteration—think Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Matt Murdoch and Reed Richards—for a very practical reason.
“It’s because I have a bad memory,” he says. “If I could remember one of the names like Spider-Man, if I could remember his first name was Peter then I knew his second name began with a P and it was easier for me to think of it. That is really the only reason. I have a terrible memory for names and by making the first and second letter the same if I thought of one name I had a clue as to what the other was.”
These days Lee, who will appear at Fan Expo in Toronto this weekend in what is being billed as his last-ever Canadian appearance, enjoys superstar status but is humble when asked about his legacy. “I didn’t go out of my way to be enduring,” he says.
In fact, when he began writing comic books over seventy years ago, “I was just hoping that somebody would buy them so I could keep my job and be able to pay the rent. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought I’d be travelling around the country, talking to people like you about the comics. It is incredible what has happened.
“I just hope that maybe I brought some enjoyment to people, and they enjoyed reading the stories.”
And they have. Bolstered by passionate fan—or True Believers as Lee calls them—support Lee’s work has endured in the form of movies, videogames, books and on hundreds of comment boards where aficionados pit superhero against superhero in epic make-believe battles and argue over who would emerge victorious. Lee, however, claims he doesn’t have a preferred character.
“People expect me to have a favourite,” he says, “so I always say Spider-Man because that’s what they expect. I’m really not good at favourites. I really love them all.”
So out of Spider-Man, Hulk, Professor X or any of the other three hundred or so characters he created, who does he most relate to?
“Of course I think of myself as being like Tony Stark because he’s glamorous and intelligent and handsome and all that,” he laughs. “But seriously I think there is a little bit of everybody in all these characters. I think that’s why them seem to be popular. I tried to give hem all hang-ups and weaknesses. None of them are really perfect. They are just like regular people, I hope.”
It’s not a spoiler to let you know the Avengers save the world in The Age of Ultron. The spectacular six have rescued the planet before and, no doubt, will save it again in future. In superhero movies the globe is always on the eve of destruction.
The original movie, 2012’s The Avengers, saw the team protect the planet from Thor’s evil brother Loki while in Superman II the Man of Steel battles three Kryptonian criminals set to obliterate our orb. A baddie named M tries to wage world war in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and recently the Fantastic Four prevented a giant cosmic entity called Galactus from gobbling up the earth.
“I see a suit of armour around the world,” says Tony Stark in Age of Ultron. “Peace in our time, imagine that.”
The movies get bigger every time out and with thirty more superhero flicks scheduled for the five years—including Deadpool, Doctor Strange and Gambit—the mind reels at the ways villains might endanger our world. It sounds entertaining but haven’t we’ve already been there? Where do you go from the threat of total annihilation?
Diminishing returns in terms of audience reaction, that’s where. We all know The Avengers will pull out all the stops to save the earth. Buildings will crumble, trucks will go airborne and giant cracks will appear where city streets used to be but by the end credits you know everyone will emerge relatively unscathed, with the bad people vanquished and the good guys grinning from ear to ear. Viewers are left with CGI fatigue, but dammit a catastrophe was averted. Again.
But we’ve been there, done that. Why not freshen things up and turn back the hands of the doomsday clock a few minutes to create tension in the form of different kinds of situations? It sounds counter intuitive—bigger is always better, right?— but imagine Captain America going mano a mano with Kim Jong-un or Iron Man shrinking down to the size of a microbe to battle cancer from the inside à la Fantastic Voyage.
The real world is a very complicated place. Every day the news delivers more bad information than all the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles combined. Stories of beheadings, terrorism and all manner of terrible behaviour flood the airwaves aching to be corrected by some sort of superhero. How great would it be to see warrior princess of the Amazons Wonder Woman unleash the Lasso of Truth on the Canadian Senate or weather maven Storm get all medieval on climate change?
An injection of real world issues might not make for big box office, but it certainly would infuse the movies with a sense of unpredictability—just like real life events. Real life is messy and volatile and that’s what keeps it interesting.
I understand one of the reasons we go to movies like The Avengers: Age of Ultron is to see things we’ll never witness in real life, but it’s hard not to agree with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) when he says, “We’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow—it makes no sense!” These movies try to dazzle our eyes—and they do!— but bringing them down to earth, literally, might help us engage our brains as well.