‘Captain Marvel’ review [2 of 2]: Unconventional, dismantled origins

Captain Marvel creatively spins an origin story by reversing the wheels of the classic MCU Phase 1 formula.

Fresh off from the monumental showdown of Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel carries a ton of expectations for fronting the ‘strongest superhero’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not to mention that this stand-alone/Phase 1-ish material competes with several experimental and crossover films in Phase 3, the titular heroine is at a disadvantage for having zero narrative to begin with unlike Spider-Man and Black Panther who have prior introductions in Captain America: Civil War.

And if we should extend the comparison by a universe, when it comes to female representation in this increasingly sensitive era, DC’s Wonder Woman is the first one to blast through that barrier in 2017. Still, a multitude of female demographic in particular are looking forward to this film with the hopes of seeing a part of themselves represented on screen. The result is hardly a game-changer but it sure does have several things going on that other superhero films simply don’t have.

Since most audiences have no idea about Captain Marvel, it is to the film’s benefit that co-writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck structure the screenplay like a mystery. The reverse origin story kicks off with Vers (Brie Larson) already possessing an array of powers under her belt, and that includes superhuman strength and photon blasts (with flight ability to follow). There’s a lot of backstory teased in her fragmented visions but the film cuts right to the action of an intergalactic war. Vers is a member of an elite Kree military unit called ‘Starforce’ whose purpose is to hunt down Skrulls who have been invading peaceful planets in the galaxy.

The Kree Starforce (L-R): Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Algenis Pérez Soto (Att-Lass), Brie Larson (Vers), Rune Temte (Bron-Char), Gemma Chan (Minn-Erva).

Her misadventure sends her crashing to planet C-53 (a.k.a. Earth) where she crosses paths with a young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, played by a magically and seamlessly de-aged Samuel Jackson. From then, the film then turns into an entertaining buddy-cop romp as they try to uncover the truth of Vers’ human origin. Oh, and the film is set in the 1990’s so Gen-Xers and early millennials can expect a healthy dose nostalgia – payphones, pagers, blockbuster video rentals, CD-ROM, Alta Vista search engine, etc. – all of which are intended to evoke warm and fuzzy feelings..

Larson and Samuel L. Jackson (as a young Nick Fury) in ‘Captain Marvel’

While Wonder Woman is evident in its feminist themes (given that Diana Prince lives in an island solely inhabited by women), Captain Marvel has a more complex undertone to its proceedings. At one point, Vers/Carol Danvers breaks free from the conventions that bind her. In particular, her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) constantly reminds her not to let emotions get the best of her. It’s a subtle commentary on the sexist notion that women are too emotional to handle tough jobs. She then comes to a realization that this perceived vulnerability can also be the source of her greatest strength.

Jude Law (Yon-Rogg) and Larson in ‘Captain Marvel’

More than anything, the film is about a superhero’s existential crisis. As the plot progresses, loyalties get reconfigured and Vers starts to question her identity and core. Is she just a mere pawn fighting for a cause she never truly understood? A soul trapped between two worlds, neither of which she feels truly belonged? Her former best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch) helps her to keep in touch with her humanity and given the film’s structure, most of her backstory is filled through quick flashbacks, expositions and testimonials. The storytelling style has its share of weaknesses as this is not the best way to mine emotional depth. Hence, when it comes to an empowering and moving montage of a beaten-down Carol standing up through various stages of her life, it never reaches its maximum desired catharsis.

Lashana Lynch (Monica Rambeau) and Larson in ‘Captain Marvel’

As for the former indie darling, Brie Larson radiates with spunk and girl power. There’s an air of chill arrogance and stubbornness in her portrayal similar to Tony Stark and Stephen Strange, but the former deserves worthy of her attitude because of her unimaginable extent of powers. One can argue that there’s something off with the Oscar-winning actress’ performance and maybe that has something to do with the fact that she spends most of the film running without a solid backstory. Some may lazily dismiss her portrayal as bland but I would have to firmly disagree with that, Larson takes full ownership with what she’s given. And with some chunks of her history still missing, we can agree that the best parts of her character’s journey are still ahead of her.

Admittedly, I came out of this film feeling invested with the powers that Carol has to offer for Avengers: Endgame more so than being emotionally connected with the character herself. Still, that does not make this film a weak entry to the franchise for there are plenty of things to like here. It’s amusing to see Jackson in a different light and his scenes with the orange cat Goose are one of the scene-stealers. Even Mendelsohn’s Talos lends an unexpected emotional weight to the story, making the character memorable in MCU’s current pantheon of villains.

Higher, further, faster. Brie Larson is Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel.

Overall, Captain Marvel succeeds in accomplishing the goals it has set upon. It offers more female representation in the superhero genre and it introduces a kickass heroine’s origin story that nicely retrofits to a larger machine. Hence, this film has enough substance to make it an essential viewing before Endgame.

At one point, Carol says an empowering line, “I have nothing to prove to you.” While the film proves a lot of things, this is a universal shared sentiment that we can all keep in mind against those who try to put us down.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck from a screenplay written by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, ‘Captain Marvel‘ stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Algenis Pérez Soto, Rune Temte, Azari Akbar and Jude Law. Based on Marvel comics character ‘Carol Danvers’ by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan. Run time: 124 mins.

‘Captain Marvel’ review [1 of 2]: Marvelous embodiment of 90’s heroine

‘Captain Marvel’ brightens up the future of MCU with its refreshing take on the superhero origin story.

The first ever female-led MCU film follows the unconventional and retrospective journey of a Kree-human hybrid Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she becomes one of the mightiest heroes in the galaxy. In her past human life, Carol is a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races – Kree and Skrulls, the said incident forces her to joins an elite Kree military team called the Starforce. As fate brings her back to home planet Earth, she begins to unravel the true mystery of her past. The film, set in the 1990’s, operates in an untouched timeline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – it boasts a lot of visual spectacle, cosmic hopping and even a delightful buddy comedy.

I’m probably going to shoot myself in the foot here: As one of this year’s most anticipated movies, Captain Marvel is a total fun blast, especially for the Marvel fans. It features a compelling origin story, coupled with engaging action sequences, and the fun chemistry of Larson and Samuel L. Jackson. Befitting for the superhero genre, this film is heroic and badass in all places. The fight sequences are spectacular as it gives us a climatic space battle and an expansive mood that rivals the Star Wars franchise. As expected with the ‘Marvel formula,’ the humor complements well with its action thus, making the whole package look utterly charming, marvellous and well crafted. It even gets bonus points for being progressive in the way that it subtly tackles the dark and violent subject matter of abusive relationships – an offbeat element not often found in traditional superhero films.

Read more: ‘Captain Marvel’: A spoiler-free character guide

To temper your expectations though, Captain Marvel won’t feature our said heroine immediately leaping in to help fight Infinity War’s mad titan Thanos – such epic showdown is reserved for Avengers: Endgame. Set in the 1990s, this film serves as a prequel to the rest of the films in the MCU. Hence, its tone and vibe feels nothing unlike any other Marvel film. The 90’s nostalgia is used to a potent effect without overdoing it. It’s retro and mysterious, but it remains to be entertaining because the set pieces are frequently changing. The soundtrack and technology used pays homage to the 90’s making the film feel like a love child of Star Trek and Star Wars.

The film features strong supporting performances too. Ben Mendelsohn steals every scene he’s by giving a great portrayal of the Skrull leader Talos. Lashana Lynch gives an emotional weight as her heartfelt portrayal Carol’s good old friend, Maria Rambeau who’s a vital piece to Carol’s origin. And even Goose, played by real-life cats Reggie, Archie, Gonzo and Rizzo, make the most of their screen time along with the surprises that comes with the character.

Captain Marvel is a great and powerful superhero film that showcases Larson’s outstanding performance and her incredible chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson. With that, this film brightens up the future of MCU, as it literally shines among previous superhero origin films while simultaneously setting up the heroine in the right track for Endgame.

It’s a fun movie – the kind that Marvel has become known for in its singled-out hero movies that otherwise retrofits well in a larger universe. With Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s thoughtful and delicate direction, Captain Marvel lives up to the hype. ‘Higher, further, faster’ indeed.


5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck ‘Captain Marvel’ stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou , Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Algenis Perez Soto, Rune Temte, Mckenna Grace, and Robert Kazinsky. Runtime: 128 minutes.

‘Captain Marvel’: A spoiler-free character guide

For casual moviegoers, we can’t blame you if you have little or no idea on what’s going on with Captain Marvel. After all, this first female-led Marvel film initially caught buzz during the post credits scene of Infinity War, where everyone just assumed that the said heroine is the solution to beating Thanos. Anyway, it never hurts to have a little background. Here’s a spoiler-free breakdown of the characters appearing in Captain Marvel.


THE KREE


The Kree are a scientifically and technologically advanced race of mostly blue-skinned “noble warrior heroes” from the planet Hala.


CAROL DANVERS / CAPTAIN MARVEL

Portrayed by Brie Larson

A Kree-human hybrid, Carol is a member of an elite military unit called ‘Starforce’ and her abilities include superhuman strength, energy projection, and flight. In the film, she returns to Earth to rediscover her ordinary human past of being an ex-U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. According to Marvel chief executive Kevin Feige, she is “the most powerful superhero in MCU.”


RONAN THE ACCUSER

Portrayed by Lee Pace

Last seen as the main villain in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan is a ferocious and radical member of the Kree who attempted to obliterate planet Xandar by forging an alliance with Thanos. The Guardians may have successfully defeated and killed him, but since the events of Captain Marvel occur before the aforementioned timeline, we can expect the character crossing paths with Starforce.


YON-ROGG

Portrayed by Jude Law

Yon-Rogg is Kree’s Starforce lead commander who trained Carol to use her powers. According to Law, his character is “almost a devout warrior — unquestioning, conservative, but inspirational.”


KORATH THE PURSUER

Portrayed by Djimon Hounsou

Another familiar face from GOTG, Korath is last seen as Ronan’s cybernatically enhanced warrior who gets slain by Drax the Destroyer during the Battle of Xandar. Before that happens, Korath here is the second-in-command of Starforce.


MINN-ERVA

Portrayed by Gemma Chan

Minn-Erva is Starforce’s efficient and standout sniper who feels slightly threatened by the talented Danvers joining the team.


SUPREME INTELLIGENCE

Portrayed by Annette Bening

The Supreme Intelligence is a god-like entity/artificial intelligence that consists the greatest intellects of the Kree people for the last million years. Each member of the Starforce has a particular relationship with the Supreme Intelligence.


THE HUMANS



NICK FURY

Portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson

Set in 1990s, the ‘would-be’ director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and founder of Avengers Initiative, is a younger, greener and less jaded low-level bureaucrat. Jackson describes his character as a “desk jockey” whose first encounter with a super-powered being (Carol Danvers) transforms his cynical perspective towards bureaucracy. This marks the first time where Marvel digitally de-ages a character by 25 years, for the entire film’s run time.


PHIL COULSON

Portrayed by Clark Gregg

Before he’s killed by Loki in The Avengers, and subsequently brought back to life in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson is a rookie agent who works closely with Fury. Likewise Jackson, Gregg is digitally de-aged by 25 years throughout the film.


MARIA RAMBEAU

Portrayed by Lashana Lynch

As Danvers’ best friend in her past human life, Captain Maria Rambeau is a resilient single mother/U.S. Air Force pilot who plays a huge role in helping Carol to regain her past. Larson describes Danvers and Rambeau’s friendship as equal, with “a playful competitiveness and a mutual respect.”


MISCELLANEOUS



TALOS

Portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn

As the film’s main antagonist, Talos is a shape-shifting Skrull commander who leads his race’s invasion to Earth by posing as a S.H.I.E.L.D. director. In the comics, the Skrulls have been at war with the Krees for centuries. Mendelsohn described Talos’s human persona as “buttoned up” compared to his “more laid back” Skrull persona.


GOOSE

Portrayed by Reggie, Archie, Gonzo and Rizzo

Named after a Top Gun character, Goose is Carol Danvers’s pet and travel companion. In the comics, he’s originally named as Chewie (after Star Wars‘ Chewbacca) and if the film will be faithful to its source material, there’s a strong reason to believe that the house cat is actually an alien of the Flerken race with hidden special powers.


Captain Marvel opens in Philippine cinemas on March 6, 2018.

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ review: Giant-sized fun from miniscule stakes

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, like its predecessor, remains to be a light-hearted yet unpretentious superhero film that holds together with its heartfelt universal appeal of family and extended families.

Temper your anticipation for Avengers 4, Ant-Man and the Wasp won’t answer any of your lingering Infinity War questions. Still, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this size-shifting ball of sunshine to come out after such a harrowing epic. The story takes place two years after the all-star skirmish of Civil War and we quickly learn that Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who began the first film in prison, has now been living under house arrest in this sequel. His term expires in a few days and when he’s not accompanied by his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) during his confinement, he keeps himself busy – that is, playing drums, mastering card tricks, reading sappy young adult novels and other activities that a grounded teenager might do. It’s funny to think that this is happening in the same timeline when the Avengers are out there trying to stop Thanos and his forces.

Scott’s former superhero team, Hope van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and her father/the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) reconnects with him after he starts receiving messages from Hank’s wife/Hope’s lost mother/the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). A brief prologue recaps that thirty years ago, she gets sucked into the subatomic quantum realm during one of her missions with Hank. For the uninitiated, the quantum realm is a trippy alternate dimension only accessible through magic (as seen in Doctor Strange) or tremendous subatomic shrinking (as Scott did in the first Ant-Man film). Having entered the same sphere, Scott and Janet are now quantumly entangled with each other – whatever that means. Not much exposition is delved into this bit, and frankly a lot of unanswered questions are left hanging on a pseudo-scientific standpoint, but the bottomline is, Janet can send signals to Scott from there. (On a side note, the discoveries here might play a key role in future Marvel Cinematic Universe films.)

Hence, the top priority of Hank and Hope in this sequel is to finally locate Janet after learning that it is possible to make a round trip to that realm. They plan to achieve it via travelling through a quantum tunnel – a project that Hank has been developing for decades now. “Do you guys just stick the word ‘quantum’ in front of everything to make it sound scientific?” Scott utters at one point to reflect the viewers’ confusion at all the mumbo-jumbo thrown.

Anyway, if Hank’s and Hope’s concern seems relatively small in the grand scheme of MCU’s planetary dilemmas, Scott’s concerns are even smaller: avoid alerting the FBI that he has violated his house arrest, discuss business plans with his chatterbox friend Luis (Michael Peña) and maintain a healthy relationship with his daughter. The gravitas of Scott’s and Hope’s situation are wittingly juxtaposed in one scene where Scott insists a ‘FaceTime’ with his daughter while being held in captive. Ant-Man and the Wasp makes no attempt to outscope previous Marvel films and that is an acceptable breather at this point.

Why so? Because every now and then, MCU needs to remind its audience that these superheroes are humans too that need to deal with their personal stuff first before heading on to save the world. True enough, the film heavily leans on its light tone – one can even classify this as a straightforward comedy. For the most part, it never gets tiring because there are different types of humor present in here. Rudd has an amazing comic timing when it comes to situational humor, Peña’s motor-mouthed storytelling under the influence of truth serum comes into play, and even ancillary characters led by their former ex-convict friends, Tip “T.I.” Harris and David Dastmalchian, nail their few scenes just like how Drax would do. While the comedy occasionally borderlines to sitcom level, it’s easy to look past at that because everything is just fun to watch.

Director Peyton Reed and his team of writers wholeheartedly embrace the silliness of Pym’s size manipulation technology. Buildings, cars, salt shakers – you name it, are all playfully manipulated for gags. The giant man effect is used to insert fun in a scene where Scott’s suit malfunctions and he decides to roll with it by using a cargo truck as a scooter. While the shrinking aspect simply amazes with the variety of stunt direction and camerawork present during a Wasp’s combat scenes.

Speaking of the Wasp, this sequel’s greatest achievement is to secure her spot in the roster of Marvel heroes. With Rudd taking charge of the comedy, Lilly exudes badass swagger in delivering more dynamic action set pieces, thanks to her wings and blasters. The film’s title is a landmark in itself – it features the first female hero to co-headline an MCU movie (much to dismay of Black Widow fans). The film does justice in giving them equal weight and even Douglas’ Hank Pym shines in being more of a multi-layered character. It is also worth mentioning that Marvel astounds with their de-aging technology in a flashback scene featuring a younger Hank.

Coming out the heels of Black Panther and Infinity War this film, however, falls flat in delivering a well-fleshed and formidable villain. Illogical communication drove most of the film’s plot and the two other opposing sides: low-level criminal marketeer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and scary, wall-phasing Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), all want to get their hands on Pym’s miniature lab for different reasons. Ghost is an interesting take on Marvel’s villain (if she really is); while she has an intriguing backstory and Kamen brings pathos and desperation to her role, the story does little to explore the character in the present to make her feel more than just one-dimensional. Goggins, fared even less as he’s somewhat relegated as a minor roadblock, so random and inconsequential that he’s mainly there to lead the film to its high-octane car chase. Also bogging Scott is FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) who’s been keeping track of his every move. Individually, the conflicts here seem disjointed and miniscule in stakes but the film does pile them one on top of another to be entertaining and momentous enough at the moment. In hindsight, it never really gets at that point.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, like its predecessor, remains to be a light-hearted, inconsequential yet unpretentious movie among Marvel’s bunch. Despite having a bigger and bolder action this time around, the film still holds it together with its heartfelt universal appeal of father-daughter relationships between Scott and Cassie as well as Hank and Hope, or just themes of family and extended families in general. This film should not be given merit merely because it’s a palette cleanser, but because it solidifies Ant-Man films’ spot as one of the comedic pillars in MCU – a reminder that the franchise is malleable enough to tackle diverse superhero tones but still coherent enough to link them together in the bigger picture. If you’re craving for a cosmic romp, go see Guardians of the Galaxy; if royal politics intrigues you, there’s Black Panther or Thor; but if you want a laugh-out-loud, easy-going yet grounded superhero film, Ant-Man films are there to entertain you.


4 out of 5 stars


Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is now showing in PH cinemas starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian and Abby Ryder Fortson. Directed by Peyton Reed from a screenplay written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari. Based on the characters by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby and Ernie Hart. Runtime: 118 minutes.

Sacrifice is the undercurrent theme in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (Spoiler Review)

Marvel’s latest gargantuan, Avengers: Infinity War, has already earned a whopping $1 billion within its first 11 days of release (the fastest film ever to do so), surpassing the biggest opening weekend set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens (for US release) and The Fate of the Furious (for worldwide). Most impressively, Infinity War has nabbed this record (and all sorts of box office records) without the help of the world’s second biggest movie market, China. (The film opens there on May 11). Kudos to the whole crew and cast! It’s safe to say that a huge demographic of moviegoers has already seen this and we can finally go in depth with everything that happened in this epic installment.

WARNING: This is a spoiler discussion. If you want to have an untainted viewing experience, I suggest to check our spoiler-free reviews instead.


‘INFINITY WAR’ STARTS WITH A BANG


Avengers: Infinity War
“Oh, mighty Thanos, I, Loki, Prince of Asgard, Odinson, The Rightful King of Jotunheim, God of Mischief, do hereby pledge to you my undying fidelity.” – Loki, handing the Tesseract to Thanos

The purple mad titan Thanos makes an impression right of the bat by killing off two major characters from the Thor franchise – Heimdall and Loki. The Guardian of the Bifrost’s death makes sense with the destruction of Asgard and the uncertainty of future Thor sequels. Fan theorists, on the other hand, are not entirely sold on Loki’s death considering the “God of Mischief” surely has better plans than deliberately attempting to stab Thanos right in his face.  Still, we can’t ignore if Thanos’ line, “No resurrections this time” is a meta-reference that seals his fate.

Avengers: Infinity War
“Hear me and rejoice! You have had the privilege of being saved by the Great Titan.” – Ebony Maw to the dying Asgardians

We are also introduced to the short-lived, one-dimensional but nevertheless formidable Thanos’ henchmen a.k.a. The Black Order – Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian (Hulk’s counterpart) and Ebony Maw. If I have to pick a favorite, it has to be Maw and his dope telekinesis powers that allows him to effortlessly split cars in half. “Squidward” can easily obliterate most of our heroes but his skills apparently won’t stand a chance against someone like Peter Parker who “has seen more movies.” Taking up on the kid’s suggestion, Tony Stark blasts a portion of his spaceship and Maw is flushed into the vacuum of space, a reference to the film Aliens. Indeed, being a film geek has its own advantages too, especially when it comes to extinguishing intergalactic creatures.


HOW THANOS IMPROVED THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE


Now, I partly discussed on my previous review why Thanos is arguably the best MCU villain to date – how his spiritual journey of collecting the infinity gems is tied up to addressing real-world problems. Let’s add a few more reasons to that.

Avengers: Infinity War
“All that for a drop of blood?” – Thanos

First, Thanos and his children forced our heroes to step up their A-game. Iron Man’s nanotechnology increases his fighting chance to a whole new level and Spider-Man gets a free upgrade as well with his spider-legs (something that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield can be jealous of). Thor earns his title of a Norse god as he forges a new warhammer, Captain America equips himself with two shields this time and even Black Widow manages to hold her own with two electric batons. Doctor Strange, however, bags the MVP award for bringing up most of the new tricks in his sleeve which I will inaccurately call as the “crimson bands of imprisonment”, “the butterfly effect” and some form of “Naruto’s Kage Bunshin no Jutsu technique” (You get what I mean). The battle in planet Titan stands out the most as the whole showdown turned into a Dragon Ball-Z affair (albeit one that doesn’t suck). Yep, Thanos just lasso-ed a moon and threw it on our heroes. Still a great effort #TeamIronMan, #TeamCap will get him on planet Earth (no they won’t).

Avengers: Infinity War
“Broke up? Like a band? Like ‘The Beatles?'” – Bruce Banner, clueless to the Avengers break-up in ‘Civil War’

Next, instead of Banner having a basic storyline of playing catch-up on Earth’s events, Thanos improved his arc by giving him a performance anxiety issue. Fear is usually not a part of the Hulk’s vocabulary, even in Thor: Ragnarok when he has shown willingness to go head-to-head against the overpowered fire demon Surtur. In this film however, Thanos puts an end to his child-play, lifts him up in the air like a professional wrestler and gives him a taste of his classic “Hulk smash!” (Now he knows what Loki felt like in Avengers 1). Down goes his esteem and Banner fails to unleash the Hulk for the rest of the film. It works as a comic relief plus we get more of Banner, so it’s a win-win. Hulk’s shattered ego will surely be explored in Avengers 4.

Avengers: Infinity War
“Let’s talk about this plan of yours. I think it’s good, except… it sucks. So let me do the plan, in that way. It might be really good.” – Star Lord on rebutting Tony Stark’s plan

Most importantly, Thanos teaches Star-Lord a valuable life lesson of putting your head above your emotions so you won’t act like a reckless kid. Peter Quill’s rage essentially costs the Avenger’s win and he indirectly condemns half of the universe in the process. To his defense, his reactions are very human (for a half-human, half-celestial being) and I’m not sure if any of his human haters won’t do the same if they find out that their significant other is killed by their demented father-in-law. Anyway, since Tony Stark went into a profound maturation after inadvertently creating Ultron in Avengers 2, we can hopefully expect some growth from this lovable man-child in the future. Oh wait, he disintegrates into ashes in the end right? Well, more of that later.

NEXT: The twisted love-hate relationship of Thanos, Gamora and Nebula

MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018) [1 of 2]

After a decade of patronage, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ takes its viewers to high highs and low lows. If you’re an MCU fan, you may find yourself buying another ticket for a repeat viewing.


If I were to channel Mantis’ empathic skills to understand Thanos’ plan of saving the universe by wiping half of it, I would stray no further and ponder on the two-hour excruciating morning commute I had to go through to catch an 8AM screening of Avengers: Infinity War. These days, every place is so crowded: roads, restrooms, restaurants, theater houses… there’s an endless queue for almost everything. Not to mention a climate change as moody as a Teenage Groot! For someone who lives in a third world country, Thanos’ vision is not actually hard to take in. Don’t tell me you never fantasized, even just for a second, about erasing half of the human race (spare yourself and your loved ones) at a snap of your finger. The earth will suddenly be a more sustainable planet to live in, right? I guess I feel like Thanos some days, growing increasingly impatient and cynic, looking for quick solutions in this problem-infested world. Thanos believe he’s the hero in his story and I can’t blame him for that.

That makes Thanos as arguably the best MCU villain to date. The Mad Titan’s quest for the infinity stones boils down to an end goal we can all relate to: addressing overpopulation in the midst of scarcity. (The same goes for Killmonger’s plan to liberate the black race in Black Panther). Thanos is the center of the story here; we finally get to know his back story and explore his estranged relationship with his adoptive daughter Gamora. He feels loss and burden but he is more driven than ever to finish what he started, even if it costs him everything. Actor Josh Brolin has the enviable task of giving weight and dimension to this purple giant and the resulting motion-capture performance ends up affecting.

But of course, Thanos is not the main reason why you’ll buy a ticket for this film. You’re here for the cast ensemble. Because Infinity War is also a story of how alliances are formed among the heroes we used to see in MCU’s standalone films. Some of them might not like each other, but with the fate of the universe hanging in balance, they’ll do what they have to do. Like a hit rendition of “We Are The World” brimming on the edge with your favorite artists, this film gives the same amount of feels. Look, that’s Tony Stark and Doctor Strange clashing egos! That’s Star-Lord exuding an unnatural amount of machismo in front of Thor! That’s Bruce Banner awkwardly bowing down to King T’Challa! That’s Okoye fighting side by side with Black Widow! Okay, I’ll stop now. This film makes MCU fans hyperventilate in ecstasy, it’s essentially a fan service but it’s never done cheap and meaningless.

Much like Iron Man’s slick nano-tech suit upgrade, we see how the main characters have evolved significantly since the first time we saw them: Tony Stark flirts on the notion of settling down, Peter Quill and Gamora are finally being honest about their feelings and so are Wanda and Vision, Thor is now a god searching for a purpose after the destruction of his home Asgard in Ragnarok, Steve Rogers has embraced his moral compass in the face of institutional corruption, and so on. Yes, some of the minor players get the shorter end of the stick and mostly serve as comic-reliefs or extra set of hands during the explosive third act, but it’s hard to get mad for those little things given that the film has an overwhelming amount of characters. Marvel has done most of the job in the past and deservingly earned its fan base in the process. Hence, exposition here is at a minimum, it’s now time to witness how these character arcs come together.

And with like 30 characters or so vying for their screen time in this film, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are given the daunting responsibility of threading each one into the narrative all while incorporating ten years’ worth of mythology into a solid script. Could they have done better? I can’t really say, but in the hands of a clumsy writer, Infinity War, at best, will end up looking like a crowded souvenir photo. Thank God it’s far from that case.

It also works hugely thanks to the competent directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who helmed Captain America: Civil War. It’s tough to play with characters coming from tonally different films and make them work as a cohesive whole. The Russo brothers maintain momentum all throughout: Infinity War moves briskly like a roller coaster traversing from one other-worldly set-piece to another, featuring jaw-dropping small to large scale action, peppered with playful banters along the way. It takes you to highs and lows that you can hardly gasp for air. Still, the whole ride never feels too long that you may find yourself buying another ticket.

Plot-wise, Infinity War is perhaps the most straightforward film in MCU and there’s no shame in that. Still, those who haven’t done their homework and watched at least the “essential” MCU films will be short of having a rich viewing experience. (If you’re on crunch time, do check this recap.) This movie in fact does not mainly aim on bringing new audiences to the ship but it’s more dedicated on serving the fans, especially the old-timers who has been there since 2008 when Iron Man changed the film industry for good. The film stands weaker on its own hence it should be treated like a season finale of a prestige TV series played on the big screen with a humongous budget. If you’re not caught up, some of it won’t make sense.

In the film’s final 15 minutes, all the thrills turn into tension, then into dread. It left me shell-shocked to the core and all that’s left in my heart is an eerie calmness, a counterpoint to all the spectacle showcased earlier. Much of the hype of Infinity War rests on who will survive and who will die in this epic chapter but the reason why we really care about these heroes is that Marvel made us believe and invest in them. The iconic characters reflected through the unforgettable performances from its actors allowed us to follow them up to this foreboding dark conclusion. Come to think the beauty of it, this generation of fans all over the world are now experiencing this level of complex emotions in unison.

Marvel has set a highly ambitious goal and hits its mark. For that, I am extraordinarily impressed.


5 out of 5 stars


Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is now showing in PH cinemas.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/War Machine), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spiderman), Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa/Black Panther), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Anthony Mackie (Wade Wilson/Falcon), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/White Wolf), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Groot), Vin Diesel (Groot), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Benedict Wong (Wong), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector), Josh Brolin (Thanos) and Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord). Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

Runtime: 2 hours, 36 minutes

RECAP: Everything you need to know before watching ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Hey MCU fans (or casual moviegoer who has never seen any Marvel film but wants to join the hype for Infinity War anyway)! We are only a few days away from the premiere of the biggest event in the history of cinema and my guess is that you don’t have enough time to re-watch all 18 MCU films (translate to: 38 hours and 19 minutes of movie marathon, no CR breaks included). But fret not, your “friendly neighborhood” is here to give you a recap of all the MCU films, including the post-credit scenes that you might have missed. Here’s everything that you should (and might) know before watching Avengers: Infinity War. Spoilers ahead! Obvi.

PHASE ONE

  • In 2008, MCU kicks off with the introduction of the genius, billionaire, playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Iron Man. After almost dying, thanks to the weapons of destruction he created, Stark builds himself an arc reactor to keep himself alive and an iron man suit to fight off his evil business partner Obadiah Stane who plans to exploit his technology and overtake his company. The film also introduces Stark’s friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes, his personal assistant Pepper Potts and his A.I. system Jarvis. Director Nick Fury pops up in the post-credits scene to explain the “Avengers Initiative” to Stark.
  • Next up is The Incredible Hulk – this is not to be confused with the earlier adaptations starring Eric Bana and Lou Ferrigno. A nuclear physicist and biochemist Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) inadvertently exposes himself to gamma radiation which causes him to transform into an enormous green monster (the “Hulk“) when agitated. He defeats the Abomination in a massive battle and learns that there is no permanent cure for his condition but only an antidote that can suppress each of his transformation. In a post-credit scene, Tony Stark approaches General Thunderbolt Ross and informs him that he’s assembling a team.
  • Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) steps on the ring in Iron Man 2 and works as an undercover assistant for Tony Stark. Stark builds a new triangular arc reactor for his chest and together with her and Rhodey/War Machine (Don Cheadle), they defeat Whiplash, a physicist who wants to exact vengeance on the Stark family. In a post-credits scene, agent Phil Coulson reports the discovery of a large hammer at the bottom of a crater.

READ MORE: Survival odds of each hero appearing in Avengers: Infinity War

  • Of course this hammer referred to is the enchanted Mjolnir in Thor. Exiled to Earth, the titular hero/prince of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth) proves himself worthy to reclaim the hammer and defeats the Destroyer. Thor’s father, Odin banishes his adoptive son Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for plotting to take the throne for himself. In a post-credit scene, Nick Fury asks Dr. Selvig to study a mysterious cube-shaped object.
  • The said mysterious relic is called the “Tesseract” that actually houses the “space infinity stone” inside. In Captain America: The First Avenger, we go back to 1942 when Johann Schmidt/Red Skull and Dr. Arnim Zola intend to use the artifact as an energy source for world domination. In the same timeline, skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) enlists himself in the U.S. military, gets injected with a super-soldier serum and becomes the super-buff Captain America. Rogers infiltrates the fortress of Schmidt’s Hydra organization and defeats the Red Skull. His friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) presumably dies during the mission and Rogers, piloting a jet, crashes in the Arctic. He wakes up 70 years later and Nick Fury proposes him a new mission.
  • The first crossover of the franchise, Marvel’s The Avengers pits our core six heroes: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo) and newcomer Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) against Loki who takes the Tesseract and opens a wormhole to allow his Chitauri army to conquer Earth. The Other gives Loki a powerful scepter with the “mind stone” attached to it allowing him to control the minds of others. After the Avengers won the battle in New York city, S.H.I.E.L.D. takes custody of the scepter while Thor returns Loki and the Tesseract to Asgard. In a mid-credits scene, it is revealed that The Other is a personal servant to Thanos.

NEXT PAGE: Phase Two

Survival odds of each hero appearing in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

The time of reckoning has come. Opening in Philippine cinemas this April 25 is Avengers: Infinity War. The culmination of 10 years and 18 movies leads to this most gigantic and fatal crossover in the history of cinema. And what way to end this event of cosmic significance? With a big bang.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn said in his interview with Vanity Fair: “If Marvel is going to survive, they have to start allowing characters to die.” Likewise, Marvel president Kevin Feige has been vocal on pushing the narrative forward. It’s not even a question at this point. Heroes WILL DIE in Infinity War. I can only imagine the trauma that it will bring to me the kids. The superheroes we’ve grown to love over the years falling into the clutches of Mad Titan Bruce Willis Thanos. And yes, there will be heavy hitters.

Let’s head on and speculate the survival odds of each hero appearing in this installment. It must be noted that Infinity War is a two-part event and these predictions are extended to both parts.

*Spoilers from previous MCU films follow*

PROBABLY SAFE: Hawkeye/Clint Barton
Fans are much disappointed with the lack of Hawkeye’s presence in the trailers released but the Russo brothers assured that he will be in it, “Hawkeye is in his own personal mission.” We haven’t seen the final infinity stone yet (a.k.a. the soul stone) – could he be searching for that?

Now leaked set photos shows actor Jeremy Renner wearing Ronin’s leg armour. Revealing him in that costume might be the reason why Marvel won’t include him in the promotional materials. Anyway, if he’s set to take this darker persona in Avengers 4, he looks pretty safe.

PROBABLY SAFE: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
After a long-running complaint from the fans, Marvel is finally pushing a stand-alone Black Widow movie with Jac Schaeffer penning the script. There’s no confirmation yet if it will be set on the events after Infinity War or if it is a prequel (perhaps they should finally touch on the Budapest mission she and Hawkeye have been talking about), but wouldn’t it be weird to focus on Natasha’s character right after killing her? Black Widow’s solo film spares her from Thanos’ wrath.

PROBABLY SAFE: Dr. Stephen Strange
There’s no confirmation yet for a Doctor Strange sequel but it’s almost certain that it’s about to come. Being part of the new breed heroes introduced in Phase 3 gives him a guaranteed passage. He will act as the bridge for the heroes that are yet to be introduced in MCU. It should be noted he can harness the Time infinity stone’s power to turn back time (though Thanos will probably take it). That could play a factor in reversing the deaths in Infinity War.

MIGHT BE IN DANGER: Wong
This won’t be the master of mystic arts’ first encounter with death. Wong was already killed by Kaecilius, only to be revived by Dr. Strange. In a sea of A-list heroes, he’s in the expendable category and he may be an early casualty.

PROBABLY WILL DIE: Vision
Vision is toast for sure. Attached on his forehead is the mind infinity stone – the very thing that brought him into existence! Thanos needs that and he’ll be an underwhelming villain if his full powers won’t come into fruition. Sure enough, a shot from the trailer shows Vision in crippling pain as one of Thanos’ minions pry on his forehead. But, since he is a synthetic avenger, there’s a slim chance that Tony Stark can reconfigure his life back. That is, if Tony is still around…

(CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE)