EKFR | Avengers: Infinity War

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In the last ten years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reinvigorated comic book movies and taken them to new heights, while succeeding with a winning formula that now everyone tries to forcefully imitate.

And now, a decade in the making, it comes down to their most ambitious film yet – Avengers: Infinity War. The hype for this has been off the charts, easily surpassing the first two, and since its release, it has got fans talking like nothing else. But the question is: does it live up to the expectations like Avengers Assemble, or disappoint as Age Of Ultron did?

Naturally, it is a fan service bonanza as virtually every notable character in the universe, bar a couple of exceptions, makes an appearance, with even a surprise or two thrown in, and overall the chemistry is pretty on point and it is enjoyable to see this wide variety of different personalities clash and work off one another.

What’s impressive is how co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo are able to give a decent amount of screen time to most of these characters, with the several story arcs being mostly balanced well, although admittedly it can be a little cluttered in places.

The acting is strong on the whole, ranging from solid to fantastic, with the two stand outs being Zoe Saldana as Gamora, whose finally gets to showcase her talents that weren’t fully utilised in the two Guardians flicks and forge a connection with the viewers, and Josh Brolin in an incredible show-stealing performance as Thanos.

One issue of the MCU is that most of the villains don’t leave a lasting impact, but Thanos is on an entirely different level, being not only a legitimately scary threat, but also complex and featuring a lot of depth that contributes to easily the best storytelling in all of the film.

As expected, there is a mixture of action-packed fun and humour, but it goes deeper than that. Unlike any installment prior, there is a constant sense of foreboding apprehension that adds to the tension, plus the emotions run high and we get some genuine shocking moments, none more striking than what is a jaw-dropping ending that leaves the film hanging on a provoking note, but the less said about that, the better.

A couple of other minimal flaws include an inconsistent tone, which stems from having to go back and forth between multiple ongoing plot lines, and some awkward CGI that can stick out like a sore thumb in a few spots.

While not the tightest of movies by any stretch, Infinity War does deliver on its ambitious promises and gives us an experience both entertaining and mature, with a bunch of memorable characters and a story that has viewers excited, laughing and emotionally invested throughout the entire lengthy duration.

Now begins the arduous year long wait for the next Avengers mix and mash…

 

 

EKFR | A New Hope

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A New Hope, the very first installment of the now iconic Star Wars saga – but fourth in the main series, just to be chronologically confusing for newcomers – is perhaps one of the most influential movies of all time, changing the film-making landscape and inspiring a whole new generation of people, but does it actually live up to the hype?

The writing is by the numbers in hindsight, but in a way, the simplicity of it is probably what draws in such a wide audience, with the basic essence being that of an evil empire bent on universal domination, and it’s up to a band of heroes, including a humble farm boy, a wise sage and a smuggler to save the princess who has been captured, defeat the villains and restore peace. Simple at its core, but delivered effectively.

While a little stilted in places, the acting is mostly solid. The three main protagonists are pretty nailed to a tee by Mark Hamill (Luke), Carrie Fisher (Leia) and especially Harrison Ford (Han Solo). Meanwhile, Sir Alec Guinness brings class and believably to his role as Obi Wan Kenobi, and the interactions between C3PO and R2D2 are quite humorous.

On the dark side, Peter Cushing is cold and remorseless as Governor Tarkin, and Darth Vader is a badass and genuinely menacing villain, thanks to the combined threatening physical stature and movements of David Prowse, and the chilling deep voice of James Earl Jones.

They build up the Force well, and we get to see the powers of it in both a positive and negative light; albeit briefly; and there’s little exposition about the past, including the Clone Wars, which sets up for more stories straight off the bat to expand the mythology upon.

There are an array of cool sets, and the visual effects are outstanding and still hold up decades later; in particular, the handmade models are superbly detailed. Most of the action is exciting, with the highlight being the Death Star climax which never gets old. In the middle of it all is a lightsaber duel which, while awkward and clunky these days, does carry some weight behind it with the characters’ pasts.

The editing is very tight – a couple of minor dodgy cuts aside – and it helps to keep the pace throughout, and the music by John Williams is epic and perfectly suits the given scene. The sound design is so rich, whether on a big scale or in the most minute specifics, and it adds depth to the environments.

One downside of the film is the rushed development of Luke’s best friend Biggs. It was a wasted opportunity to expand their friendship onscreen together, and supposedly he was originally meant to have way more involvement, but his role was trimmed down big time. Given what eventually goes down, he could have been a worthy addition that we could have gotten attachedto. Alas poor Biggs, I hardly knew thee, and therefore couldn’t care less.

So while straightforward, running off some cliches and not dedicating too much time to building depth compared to later entries, the original Star Wars flick is jam-packed with an ensemble of memorable characters that leave a mark, the action is fun, the effects still blinding and the music just kicks ass. Minimal problems aside, it’s aged remarkably well and still holds up as an unforgettable classic over 40 years later.

All in all, this is a great film and a cracking way to kick off the saga. May the Force be with you.


****1/2