[Batman Day] Batman Returns (1992)

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy

Screenplay: Daniel Waters

126 mins. Rated PG-13.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup

 

On this day in which we celebrate the caped crusader, let’s take a look at the strangest, and dare I say, greatest, live-action Batman film, Batman Returns.

It’s Christmastime in Gotham City, and the rich businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can, Irreplaceable You) is showing his holiday spirit by secretly trying to get a power chemical plant built in the city. When he gets kidnapped by the sinister Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito, Matilda, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), a man more known by his moniker, the Penguin, Max sees a way for each of them to get what they want as he attempts to get Cobblepot into public office as Gotham’s mayor. It’s during this time that Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton, Birdman, Dumbo) begins looking into Cobblepot’s background and see him as a threat to the city.

There’s a surface-level love for Batman Returns that springs out of the fact that it was my first experience with Batman of any level. I hadn’t read any of the comics when I saw the film, I hadn’t watched the cartoon, I hadn’t seen any of the other films. It was my first and most memorable experience of the caped crusader.

Michael Keaton has always been the actor I’ve most associated with the Batman and Bruce Wayne role, and I think he’s the actor that’s always embodied the conflict of the two roles and the sacrifice that he feels is necessary for him to give to Gotham for its protection. He’s better in this sequel than the previous film because here he’s even more conflicted about his role. He’s put through trials that test his commitment to Batman, most notably through his interactions with Selina Kyle and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer, Hairspray, Avengers: Endgame).

Director Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Beetlejuice) put a lot of himself into this film, more than its predecessor, and it’s especially apparent with the villains. Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman both have some altered history with their origins, and there are liberties taken with a lot of what makes them villains, and part of that is likely from Burton’s very obvious disinterest in comic books. While that can be a death knell for a film, I really like his take here, and I think he is able to juggle multiple villain arcs alongside his hero in a way most superhero films cannot.

There’s another accomplishment to Batman Returns that most reviewers and fans tend to overlook regarding its villains. Returns features a third villain, remarkably made from scratch, in Max Shreck. Yes, he’s just as much a villain in the film as Penguin or Catwoman, perhaps a little less zany, but a villain all the same, made by a terrifically unhinged performance from Christopher Walken. Without Walken, the film may not have worked at all. In fact, I would say that I remembered Shreck more than the other two as a child. He was frightening because he was very real, and the role he plays in both the Penguin’s master plan and Catwoman’s origin makes for an effective creepy character.

After the success of his first Batman film, Tim Burton was able to really explore his version of Gotham City and its inhabitants with his special visual blend of gothic and supernatural influences. This is a very arty Batman film, and that’s mostly due to Burton being at the top of his game here. He’s playing with his cinematography, he’s exploring the sound and music of Gotham, and he’s relishing in a classical costume design within the confines of this world.

Batman Returns is perhaps the most unique of all the Batman films in that it is really experimenting with its tone, look, feel, and world. It’s hard to find a flaw, but if there’s one, it’s that the film does take a little pushing at the beginning to get it moving, and in the modern superhero landscape, some of its zanier elements might seem laughable, but revisiting this film in honor of Batman Day has reminded me of how rich an experience Batman Returns is. I highly recommend a rewatch if it’s been awhile.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tim Burton’s Batman, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dumbo, click here.

Brightburn (2019)

Director: David Yarovesky

Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Screenplay: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn

90 mins. Rated R for horror violence/bloody images, and language.

 

Brightburn is an excellent example of a “What-If?” kind of film, one that takes a previously established archetype and turns it on its head. For this scenario, the film takes a look at superheroes, most specifically Superman. No, they’ll never be able to say it’s Superman, but c’mon…it’s Superman.

When a spaceship crashes onto a small farm in Brightburn, Kansas, Tori (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman, Puzzle, Logan Lucky) discover a baby boy inside the wreckage. The two adopt the baby, naming him Brandon. Flash-forward twelve years and Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn, Avengers: Endgame, Gone are the Days), now nearing puberty, is becoming disobedient and troublesome. It is during this time that he starts to notice that he isn’t like all the other kids. He has superhuman strength and a violent temper. Tori and Kyle are forced to discover exactly what their son really is.

Imagine Superman…but he’s evil. It’s as simple as that. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a very interesting idea to explore in a film, and I mostly dug it. Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that I don’t think it really explores the idea fully, and it doesn’t offer up enough twists and turns to maintain investment. I knew where it was going the whole time, and nothing really surprised me about the film. Near the end, it just kind of lost my focus. Something like Brightburn would be better as a short film or an episode of some horror anthology series. If you told me to come up with a story about an evil Superman, I’m pretty sure I would hit all the same beats as the film hit without much trouble.

I really enjoyed Banks and Denman’s chemistry and performances as Brandon’s human parents. Their journey of understanding who Brandon really is works pretty well, and I was invested in their conflict. The best aspect of the film is that question of what to do about him. That’s where the ethical discussion would come into play, and I wanted that further explored.

The rest of the film works fine enough, and it sets up where a potential would go, which excited me. Brightburn gives us some likable characters and a really tough premise, and it hits those horror notes really well. There’s some pretty gory stuff in the movie, and director David Yarovesky (The Hive) holds the tension very well.

Brightburn is a fun little experiment in the deconstruction of the superhero mythology. It works pretty well as a fun little horror movie, but my one major problem with the film is that it didn’t surprise me. Everything that happened in the film is exactly what I expected to happen, and that made me less interested in the narrative because I saw all the plot beats way ahead of time, and I would have liked something with a bit more to its plot. I still recommend it to horror fans and superhero fans for a good little time, and I would be totally into seeing a sequel.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Box Office Report] Hobbs & Shaw Kick Everyone’s Asses Again, Because They’re Hobbs & Shaw

Okay, so the weekend wasn’t all Hobbs & Shaw, but I’m surprised at the staying power of that film.

For the domestic box office, the Fast & Furious spinoff led the pack with $25.4 million, offering close to a 50% dropoff, which will continue to serve it well. Worldwide, the film has taken in a total of $332 million in its two weekends of release, with several markets still yet to open.

There were quite a few new releases this past weekend, with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark coming in second at the domestic box office with $20.8 million, coming in above projects even while scoring a C Cinemascore. I think this was a film where the marketing didn’t do a great enough job to accurately sell the film, and it’s a tough sell in general as it doesn’t really have a specific audience. It’s pretty dark for a kids scary movie but it doesn’t really aim for adults either, but scary movies, especially leading into September and October, are always winners.

The Lion King is holding on strong in third place with $20 million. I knew this was would have some staying power and audiences are enjoying it even with its mixed critical reception. The Disney remake is now the second-highest grossing film of the year at the worldwide box office, coming in behind the behemoth Avengers: Endgame.

In fourth place is Dora and the Lost City of Gold, another new release, with $17 million. I was mixed on the film but overall felt like it would do pretty well, and it landed an A Cinemascore, so audiences are definitely taking to it. I’m expecting this was to drop off quicker than expected, though.

Fifth place belongs to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with $11.6 million. The film has garnered positive reviews and lots of Oscar buzz, but I wish it were performing better. It’s just a film that isn’t really for everybody but I was hoping the film would explode more than it has. It’s doing alright at the box office, but I know the cost was somewhere around $90 million and it currently has collectively hit around $100 million so I would expect the film to end up losing some money for the studio.

The other new releases at the box office this weekend included The Art of Racing in the Rain ($8.1 million), The Kitchen ($5.5 million), Bring the Soul: The Movie ($2.29 million), and Brian Banks ($2.1 million).

What did you see this weekend? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Far From Home Becomes First Spider-Man Film to Hit Billion-Dollar Club

Spider-Man: Far From Home is officially the first and only Spider-Man film to earn a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. This is a major achievement for Sony, as Spider-Man is really its biggest franchise, and it’s also further proof of the power of this cinematic friendship between Sony and Marvel.

If I’m correct, Far From Home marks the end of the Sony/Marvel deal that started a few years ago, and renegotiations are probably underway already or have been discussed. I’m guessing that once a deal is struck (and I would assume a deal will be struck after the successes of Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame), we will likely see a Spider-Man 3 in Phase 4. Sony will not want to sit on this, and it would make sense not to see anything of a third Spider-Man film mentioned at the Comic-Con panel until all the signatures are in place.

There’s a couple reasons this Spider-Man was finally the one to do it. First, the Tom Holland Spider-Man has been very popular, and Far From Home is his fifth appearance in the MCU, so we’ve been with him awhile. The reviews for Far From Home have been quite good, and are coming off a successful Homecoming and a Best Animated Feature Oscar for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so the brand name is strong.

Then there’s the Avengers: Endgame hanging over it all. A film like Endgame left us wanting to know what comes next, and it was handled quite well in Far From Home.

So yes, here’s hoping that we will see more Spider-Man in the MCU after this major achievement. So what do you think? Have you seen Spider-Man: Far From Home? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

or “The Living Don’t Entertain”

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler

Screenplay: Jim Jarmusch

104 mins. Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language.

 

The Dead Don’t Die might have the greatest cast of 2019, but everyone in the film is a guest star in someone else’s movie, but no one knows who that someone is.

In the sleepy and small town of Centerville, the dead have started to rise. Polar fracking has caused the Earth to fall of its axis, causing strange phenomena like sunlight at odd hours or cell phones dying, and of course…zombies. Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray, Lost in Translation, Ghostbusters II) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BlacKkKlansman) don’t know how to stop the phenomenon, and Ronnie has a feeling that this is going to end up bad. The only residents in town that seem to understand the stakes are Hermit Bob (Tom Waits, Seven Psychopaths, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and a mortician with swordplay skills named Zelda (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Avengers: Endgame).

The first sin of this zombie comedy is boredom, and it is visited upon the audience rather quickly. I never would have thought a zombie film with this impressive cast could bore, but it did. Director and screenwriter Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) seemingly pays tribute to zombie history in film, but he does it with what feels like an ineffective laziness, never really giving his zombies any bite. His tone is never struck sharply enough to affect the viewer. It’s clear that he studied the genre, but he never delivers on any of the elements the genre requires. His knocks on the current political climate work well enough, from the Make America White Again hat worn by Farmer Frank (Steve Buscemi, Fargo, TV’s Miracle Workers) to the claims of Fake News on the television concerning the cause of the rising dead.

As I said before, most of the cast listlessly moves through the film with deadpan wit. Some of the jokes work, but most do not, and the way the film is written, with Driver and Murray aware that they are in a film, is neither executed fully nor elaborated beyond three lines of jarringly useless dialogue. If that had been the full conceit, that some of the actors knew they were in a zombie film and understood the rules, that would be one thing, but it is never elaborated on enough to really mean anything. In fact, the characters would behave no differently in the film if I had replaced the zombie problem with something like one of them forgetting to turn off the oven at home.

The Dead Don’t Die has moments of greatness, but they are few and far-between. The cast is wasted on a subpar script and an attitude that shows no real love for the genre. Boring is a tough thing to achieve when you have creatures eating human flesh, and it that was the goal, it was met.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Comic-Con] Russo Brothers Discuss Magic: The Gathering Animated Series Potential

Anthony and Joe Russo had a panel at Comic-Con this week where they discussed a multitude of topics, of course some of it centered on Avengers: Endgame, but surprisingly, we got some insights on other projects they’ve been working on, including the upcoming Netflix animated Magic: The Gathering series.

The two talked about how Magic had an impact on their youth (something we share), which is great to hear that this is more than a payday for them and they likely have some passionate ideas on where to take it.

There was also talk that the animated series could potentially spin-off into live-action. Not much more was elaborated, but I’ve always felt that, while the series makes sense as an animated one, I would love to see a crack at live-action with a Game of Thrones or The Witcher vibe to it. There’s so much content to pick and choose from with Magic: The Gathering that I feel would be very easily translatable into either a live-action or animated format, but the idea that they are playing with all options is very cool.

So what do you think? Does Magic: The Gathering work better as live-action or animated? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[SPOILER CHAT!] Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Hey Hey!

We are here to talk a few of the Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you came here by accident, click here to see my Spider-Man: Far From Home non-spoiler review.

Okay, you’ve been warned.

SPOILERS BELOW!

 

IRON MAN DEEP CUT

It’s great to see Peter Billingsley (of A Christmas Story) pop up again after appearing in an incredibly-small capacity in the first Iron Man. What I enjoy is how they were able to use a pre-existing character in a way that forever changes the way we will watch Iron Man, and that’s pretty damn cool.

 

BARF

So BARF was featured in Civil War as a system designed to use drone technology to create visual planes that one could interact with. I’m excited to rewatch Civil War to see how it plays into Quentin Beck’s master plan, which was a great reveal. I would have liked to have seen an interaction between Stark and Beck, but I get it. I love when films do this, using created lore to build upon. It seems that many of Spider-Man’s villains are tied to Tony Stark, furthering the mentor motif with the sins of the Father being visited upon by the Son.

 

AVENGERS TOWER

So there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Avengers Tower, which has apparently been sold, seen at the end of the film that has a sign on it saying “We Can’t Wait to Show You What Comes Next” with the numbers “1-2-3-?” on it. Many have speculated at the fun of this nod to Phase 4, but part of me questions if Phase 4 is all that they’ve been hinting at here. Who bought the building? There’s two ideas that come to mind.

I don’t recall seeing any reference to OsCorp yet in this Spider-Man iteration, so could it have been Norman Osborn. Let’s question why we haven’t seen Harry Osborn yet. Was he not Blipped and aged 5 years right into Peter’s class and we just haven’t been introduced to him yet?

On the other hand, what if it becomes The Baxter Building, thus introducing us to the Fantastic 4. I know that Kevin Feige has said we won’t see them in the MCU for some time, but what if this was thrown in real quick as a sly introduction. “1-2-3-?” could be referencing them. Even if it takes years to see them introduced, this would be a fun little send-up.

Whoever bought Avengers Tower would have to have a lot of money at their disposal, and it was purchased years before we saw it in Far From Home, so anything could be possible.

 

NO STAN

I figured we would get some Stan Lee overt reference, but no such luck. I’ve been claiming for a while that they would find a way to insert some Stan Lee material in each future MCU film, even as simple as a picture in the background, and maybe no one caught it, but I didn’t see anything either. That’s too bad, and hopefully they find a way to correct that in future films.

 

MID-CREDITS SCENE

Alright, so the mid-credits scene is literally the end of the movie, and it’s a pretty important ending that forever changes the way that Spider-Man’s story will be told.

So essentially, MJ and Peter and finishing their web-slinging date, and then, a news report comes on from none other than The Daily Bugle, in the MCU a podcast/internet radio show similar to Alex Jones apparently. J. Jonah Jameson appears, played once again by the legendary J.K. Simmons. There really is no one else to play him. He announces that Spider-Man is a killer and he has proof from Mysterio’s video feed. He also lets the video feed announce to the world that Spider-Man is PETER PARKER!

It’s an insane reveal that trumps the Aunt May reveal from Homecoming in every way. I’m not even sure how they will pick up the pieces of this moment going into Phase 4.

What’s crazy about this whole thing, too, is that J.K. Simmons is playing Jameson again. That’s the first time that has happened in the MCU, so it’s a big deal. What worries me is that it seemingly was done at the last second, so hopefully there’s more to the Jameson reveal than just the shock of it.

 

POST-CREDITS SCENE

The post-credits scene is probably the most shocking reveal of the whole movie and may confirm some of the theories about Avengers: Endgame, or it may not.

So, the scene begins with Nick Fury and Maria Hill discussing the events they’ve just been through, and then, all of a sudden, they both morph back into Talos and Soren from Captain Marvel. They’ve been Skrulls for who knows how long.

Fury is then revealed to be on a ship somewhere out in the galaxy, working with the Skrulls.

Now, let’s take this a piece at a time. In Captain Marvel, Fury is quoted as saying he doesn’t cut his sandwiches diagonally, something he later ends up doing in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now, this could be a little continuity error, but why would anyone bring up sandwiches twice with a character like Fury. How often would Nick Fury eating a sandwich just happen to come up? That’s what makes it so interesting. I’m assuming that Talos has been Fury at least that far back.

Now, in Avengers: Endgame, many fans claimed to have seen Talos posing as a teacher in the background at the end of the film when Peter goes back to school. Now, I’ve looked at this footage in slow-mo, and I don’t think that’s Ben Mendelsohn. To back it up, IMDb has confirmed on their site of his appearance in Far From Home, even uncredited, but they have not done the same for Endgame. That doesn’t mean too much, but it is curious.

Going back to Infinity War, when Fury and Hill were dusted, does that mean it was Talos and Soren that got dusted? If so, did the real Fury and Hill survive The Blip, and will we see any of that time if they did?

During Far From Home, Fury/Talos is involved in a conversation concerning Kree sleeper cells on Earth, so does that have anything to do with why Talos is posing as Fury? There’s not much more to go on at this point, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Now, going to the second part of this reveal, where is Fury? It appears to be a ship or installation out in space working with the Skrulls. The question here is what would give Fury the ability to help the Skrulls and Talos the ability to help the humans. Outside of being cool, why wouldn’t Talos and Soren be on the ship and Fury be on Earth? What are they gaining by swapping?

Now, I’ve read some online about the installation being S.W.O.R.D., a command post operated as a space-version of S.H.I.E.L.D., which sounds cool, but forgive me if I have no idea what I’m talking about.

That sounds cool, and it kind of reaffirms the general belief that Phase 4 is going cosmic. If Fury is already out there, then it would stand that’s what is happening. Looking at the Avengers as they stand right now, there is Ant-Man, a character who can go subatomic, Doctor Strange, who can get all trippy, the Guardians, who exist out in space, Thor, who is out there with them presumably, and Captain Marvel, who is essentially a space cop. We also have Black Panther and Spider-Man, who I would assume would lead Earth-led stories, but who knows, and then there’s all the new characters we could potentially see. If makes a lot of sense.

 

These are my thoughts on Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you want my full review, just click here!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Box Office Report] Secret Life of Pets and Dark Phoenix Win the Weekend in Underwhelming Openings

The new releases of this past weekend failed to make a large impression at the domestic box office. The Secret Life of Pets 2 opened to $47.1 million. To compare, the first film knocked it out of the park with a $104.3 million opening weekend, a record-breaker for original animated properties. So I didn’t expect the second film to hit that, but it is surprising how not-close it got, especially after opening on 4,561 locations, second highest theater count ever to Avengers: Endgame. I found the first film’s marketing to be much better on an underwhelming film experience. I expected the original film to be about the secret lives our pets have when we aren’t around, much as the titles suggests. Instead, it was a cheaper less-interesting version of Toy Story.

Fox’s last outing with this iteration of the X-Men, Dark Phoenix, opened to a disappointingly low $33 million, making it the lowest-opening of all the X-Men films and an absolute disaster set to perhaps even lose money, close to half the $65.7 million for X-Men: Apocalypse. News and rumors of the production nightmares as well as the reshoots and release date changes spelled potential doom for this film long ago, but I don’t think I expected it to fail on opening weekend. I had assumed that on its second weekend, we would see a higher drop-off, but this was a surprising turn of events. I checked out Dark Phoenix on Thursday night, and while I felt it was far from the worst in the franchise, it was still in the lower half of rankings, with a disappointingly soulless reinterpretation of the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Disney’s live-action Aladdin claimed third place this weekend with $24.5 million on its third weekend of release. The newest of Disney’s live-action interpretations of their famous properties, Aladdin stumbles in a few places but overall is a fun nostalgic ride that aims to try something new with the story, and I really enjoyed it. Globally, it sits at $604 million, which is currently the fourth highest-grossing film of the year behind Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and China Film Group’s The Wandering Earth.

Fourth place this weekend is Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the third film in the MonsterVerse behind Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, with $24.5 million. King of the Monsters has struggled in its release even though I felt like it was a major step up from the 2014 Godzilla, including all that kaiju which I love so much. The film has issues with its human characters but I liked them more than the blander humans of the 2014 film. It’s doing just fine globally, but its domestic run has been a rough one.

Rocketman nabbed fifth place this weekend, the musical biopic of Elton John claiming $14 million. I caught the film yesterday, and I absolutely adored it, and I hope it holds onto the Top Five for a bit longer.

Late Night opened in limited release with $249 thousand in four theaters. I quite enjoyed Late Night, and it should see some recognition for Emma Thompson’s incredible performance as an aging late-night talk-show host.

Next weekend should be an interesting one as Men in Black International drops alongside the newest Shaft sequel and Jim Jarmusch’s zombie film The Dead Don’t Die. Late Night will also open in wide-release.

So what did you see this weekend? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

181 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.

 

Well, here it is. I’m going to try not to use the word culmination like everyone else has, but I cannot make any promises. This is the end of The Infinity Saga, the twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The culmination-dammit…

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, Chef) is drifting through space with Nebula (Karen Gillan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, TV’s Selfie). On Earth, what’s left of the Avengers have collected at the compound, unsure of what to do next. Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Deadpool 2) succeeded in his plan, obliterating half of the universe in a single snap of his fingers. As they each come to terms with the enormous loss that they and the universe have incurred, an old ally appears with an idea, a crazy crackpot idea that has no chance of working. Well, almost no chance. The Avengers, or what’s left of them, assemble on one final attempt to fix everything, and if they fail, they’ll do that together.

I’M TRYING TO AVOID AS MANY SPOILERS AS I CAN, BUT BE WARNED THAT  A REVIEW LIKE THIS WILL ALWAYS HAVE SOME SPOILERS. SEE THE FILM FIRST IF IT CONCERNS YOU.

THIS IS YOUR SPOILER WARNING.

Avengers: Infinity War set up an almost impossible task. Let’s give the villain his own movie and test out characters like they’ve never been tested before. I think that’s the importance of the Avengers franchise of the MCU. Much like any team-up movie, I think it’s important to have the team tested in a unique way, and they should almost always come out of the film with more people on the team or less, because that’s one of the only ways to change the story trajectory. Well, Infinity War had tested the Avengers, and they certainly came out of the film with less characters, but it was also an even bigger test for Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree, Welcome to Collinwood) as well as the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pain & Gain), who now had to bring in the fourth Avengers film on a solid landing and end the story. We knew that they had to do something to save some of the dusted Avengers. Hell, there was a Spider-Man trailer out weeks before the film’s release, and even though we joked about it possibly set before Endgame, everyone knew that Sony would not let Marvel kill their most popular character. Certainly, Black Panther’s story would not end after one solo film, but how was this all going to happen, and what’s the cost?

So let’s start with that impossible task. Knowing all the things that had to happen in the follow-up, it’s incredible how the Russos and the writing team actually pulled it off and made it captivating, exciting, and heartbreaking. From the shocking opening of the film to the final act, a dauntingly epic ending that takes up a large chunk of the film’s three-hour runtime, Avengers: Endgame just cruises on by. In a lot of ways, it’s the flipside of Infinity War’s coin, and it’s a good thing that they changed the titles from Infinity War Part 1 and 2 because as much as they rely on each other, Endgame is a completely different film, and that’s why it works so well. Infinity War was a film that gave each of its characters at least one moment to shine, and Endgame does that too, but Endgame even gives each film before it time to shine. There’s references to Iron Man 3 in this film and Thor: The Dark World, two films that don’t even end up in the upper 80% of most MCU fan rankings of the franchise (full disclosure, though, I love Iron Man 3). It’s a love letter to the 11 years of this franchise and the fans that stuck with it for so long.

The performances from the entire cast are solid, but I want to discuss the ones that I think deserve to be discussed, good or bad. Let’s start with Robert Downey Jr. His performance here is a series best (quite a feat for the actor that has not beaten Hugh Jackman for most appearances as a superhero in a franchise), even better than Tony Stark struggling with PTSD in Iron Man 3 (see, I love that one). There, he’s dealing with the knowledge he obtained in The Avengers that Earth is not alone in the universe, and now, he’s dealing with the failure in saving billions or trillions of lives. He becomes weak, and he cannot hold blame. He keeps going back to wanting to put a suit of armor around the world with Ultron. He’s beaten and broken and still hasn’t forgiven Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Gifted, Before We Go) for abandoning him even though he is just as responsible. He’s also dealing with the loss of Peter Parker on Titan. Tony needs some hard truth at this point on his journey, and he gets it in Endgame.

Steve Rogers watched many of his friends die right in front of him. He’s a man who fell out of time into a confusing one and did the best he could, but he comes to realize that his failure to stop Thanos has hit him just as hard as Tony, but in a different way. He’s running a group that helps people to cope with the loss, and he’s going just as much for himself as anyone else. Chris Evans consistently does the impossible with Steve Rogers/Captain America; he makes this superhero a human. He makes the goody-goody Rogers an actual human being, with plenty of flaws and pain. This is the story that tests him and his need for hope, and there’s no one I’ve seen outside of Christopher Reeves playing Superman that embodies that struggle for hope so well.

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson, Her, Sing) has taken control of the remaining Avengers, and she’s stopped taking care of herself. She’s dealing with the loss by diving into work, hunting down a rogue Avenger who needs her help, but she’s sputtering on exhausted wheels. She’s just looking to make right on a career filled with wrongs. All the bad things she has done before finding her home with the Avengers have led her here, and she couldn’t do anything about it.

This is a film that gives Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right, Now You See Me 2) so much to do with the Hulk character, probably the most unique shift for the character in the MCU, and he does a spectacular job with it. It isn’t what I would have done, but I admire the character arc he takes.

One character that doesn’t get much to do is Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, 12 Strong). This is a man who lost his father still very recently, his brother died in front of him, and half of his people are slaughtered after losing their home. He’s another hero dealing with failure. He should have aimed for the head. He came so close to saving everyone and then he didn’t. He should be dealing with the most pain of anyone in the story. Instead, he is used more so for comic relief than anything else. I get it, Chris Hemsworth is really funny, but I know he can play to drama as well. He just doesn’t get the emotional beats that I wanted him to have. It’s similar to what is done with him in Infinity War, where he just doesn’t get the time to develop his trauma. His alcoholism in Endgame could have some serious consequences and bearing on him, but it just doesn’t.

Lastly, I want to talk about Karen Gillan’s performance as Nebula. I’ve never been a big fan of the character, either the way she’s written or the performance. Nebula always reminded me of a fly that comes in the window in the middle of the night when you’re trying to sleep. You swat and swat and just can’t get rid of her. In Endgame, though, her character is expanded upon so much more because of how we see her and the presentation of how far she has come as a character since we saw her in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. People forget that vol. 2 takes place just a few months after the first one, so it’s been a long time since we’ve really seen Nebula in the MCU, and Gillan’s subtle broken performance is terrific.

From behind the lens, the Russos directed the hell out of this thing, and there’s a lot to be said about the strength of their storytelling as it has evolved over the years. Their cinematography is so clean, especially when it needs to be, in some of the heavier action set pieces. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot going on in this film; there has to be, but the way the Russos keep the focus on where it needs to be to progress the story is great, and the way they handle the set pieces are very focused and strongly laid out. There’s a heavy possibility, especially in the third act, to lose sight of what’s going on and where we’re at from a narrative perspective, but they never let the film lose sight of its goal, a tremendous feat.

With that visual storytelling comes the editing, which is very strong. The film never feels long. It’s the enjoyment factor, no doubt, but clocking in at just over three hours, the film almost should feel long, but it doesn’t. Not once. After seeing it twice, I can say with certainty that there’s only one scene I would cut earlier in the film to tighten it more, and it probably would only save 30 seconds or so.

No offense to Danny Elfman, but I’m really happy to hear Alan Silvestri’s score here after being absent from Age of Ultron. Silvestri’s score takes notes from The Avengers and especially from the ending of Infinity War, but it dives deeper into the depression, loss, and hope that permeates the film, and his score has a note of finality to it. If this is indeed the last time we’ll see some of our favorite heroes, Silvestri sends them out on a high note.

Avengers: Endgame accomplishes the most difficult task assigned to it. It has an ending. This is the end of a big part of this franchise without feeling the need to really set anything else up. For the most part, there isn’t an MCU film that hasn’t had the need to at least set up something in the end credits, but not Endgame, and that’s a strong and restrained decision because the film should speak for itself and everything that comes before it, and boy does it have a lot to speak on. This is an absolute cinematic achievement, and barring a few small hiccups, it comes off without a hitch. The ending raises some questions that we won’t really have answered until Spider-Man: Far From Home (the true last film in Phase 3), but beyond all that, I loved watching this movie and cannot wait to see it again, if only to catch some more of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. If you haven’t yet, then seriously, why not?

#ThanosDemandsYourSilence #Don’tSpoilTheEndgame

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

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