Quick Review: Avengers: Endgame

When the first Ironman movie came out my children were elementary school age. I was still a hands-on software developer, and my first marriage wasn’t quite over yet. It’s been 11 years since this film launched, and just like real life, a LOT has happened. In this past decade we’ve been introduced to dozens of new characters, and the small little plotline that started as an after-credits scene has exploded into a cinematic phenomena that redefined how to film comic book movies. The entire MCU experience has changed the very notion of a big blockbuster, as fans flocked to movie after movie with high expectations of seeing big battles, great humor, and a complex intertwined plot that spans the childhood of a generation.

It all came to fruition in Avengers: Endgame. Instead of putting up big spoiler warnings, or trying to write a vague review, I’m going to seek to answer one simple question.

Was it worth it?

Reflecting back on how the entire Infinity Stone saga moved through all of the various properties I’m struck by how smart it was for Marvel to invest in an entire universe instead of trying to retcon one thing after another. Marvel took a big picture approach to the entire story arc and it showed in the execution. Comic books have long been the king of the crossover event. Going back into my childhood I remember big events in the DC Universe like Crisis on Infinite Earths that would span multiple titles, and would culminate into a huge world changing finale. As a comic reader I would find myself buying titles I never would have thought to pick up, just because they were part of the overall story arc. It introduced me to lots of different characters that I might never have read, and gave me a broader perspective on the world that the writers were trying to create.

In a nutshell, that’s what these final movies in the Infinity Stone saga are. A perfect representation of this old comic book paradigm, brought to the big screen. Each of these movies in the saga can stand on their own, and the writers and actors did an amazing job bringing an unbelievable world to life. However, our desire to see what happens next helps draw us to one after the other. We want to see our favorite heroes, but we also want to find out what happens next with these weird stones. It brings us into the world in a way that no other movie property has done in the past.

However, these big crossover events don’t work unless the payoff works. In the case of Avengers: Endgame, the entire saga comes to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. It’s the perfect movie to wrap up something as huge as the story that’s been built up over 11 years. I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face, mostly from the satisfaction of a masterfully told story. The visuals are amazing, of course. The action is epic, and the humor is spot on. All of those movie elements are executed perfectly but what impressed me the most was the story.

The payoff was totally worth it. For me, that’s the best thing I can say about this movie.

Quick Review: Spider-man Into the Spiderverse

A lot of people I know, including my kids, have told me that this is a great film. So tonight I took the plunge and rented it. I’m happy to say that I was really, really impressed, and agree that this might be one of the best Spider-man films out there. I’ll try and keep this review spoiler free, so let’s break down what I liked, and didn’t like.

Starting with the likes, I have to first say that the animation style was amazing. The blending of realistic animation, with what amounted to abstract art, was phenomenal. The world of Miles Morales came to life in a way that was real, but yet bent into the absurd when needed. Yet, that bending never felt out of place. Even when things were happening that couldn’t happen in real life, it felt natural. Visually, this was a great film.

The story was also unique and engaging. There were tropes and easy-to-spot plots, but it flowed naturally. I never felt like I was being spoon-fed a generic storyline. A couple of twists didn’t become apparent to me until they were close to being sprung, which helped keep the suspense moving. Without giving anything away, it also showed that the writers had fun with the basic plot they were given. They got to express themselves in a lot of varied ways, and it all ended up working really well.

Add to this, some top notch vocal talent, and it was a an easy sell for me to enjoy this flick. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t poke a couple of holes in some areas that could have been improved.

Of all the relationships in the film, I felt like the one between Miles and his dad needed more work. I know I was supposed to care about it more, but I felt like there might have been something left on the cutting room floor that could have made it deeper. There could have also been more growth and discovery as their relationship evolved, and it would have helped drive home the point of their love at the end.

My only other big complaint was with Wilson Fisk, one of the bad guys in the film. It’s a small complaint, but I wish that they had gone with a more realistic interpretation of the character’s shape and size. I understand wanting to stay true to the comic book version, but of all the weird characters in the film, his stuck out as being truly absurd and over the top.

Despite these couple of small nitpicks, I couldn’t find much else to complain about. This film was a really fun way to spend an evening, and I’m incredibly happy I took the time to watch it. If you’re a fan of fun, superhero stories, do yourself the favor and rent this when you want to have a nice relaxing evening. It’s well worth the price of admission.

Quick Review: Captain Marvel

For my son’s birthday we decided to take in a movie. Captain Marvel just came out and so it seemed like a great option. I’m happy to report that we weren’t disappointed.

I’ll keep this review spoiler free as best I can, but I do need to comment on a few things that I really enjoyed. Right off the bat I have to comment on the setting. This movie is set in the 1990’s and they captured the era amazingly. At one point I actually asked myself the question, “Where in the world did they find so many mid-90’s cars that are still operable!” It was this attention to detail that added a huge amount of charm to the overall story.

I also really appreciated that there was a bit of humor in this film. It was really successful in movies like Ant Man, and Thor: Ragnarok, and it helped to keep the characters more believable in Captain Marvel. After all, we’re expected to accept that we’re seeing Nick Fury and SHIELD in it’s early days and that we’re not supposed to know anything about him yet. It was fun to actually get re-introduced to the character and fill in a lot of back-story.

The visuals were top notch as usual, and the story was as fun as the best Marvel movies. Brie Larson does a great job as Captain Marvel, and was an excellent choice for the role. She has a toughness to her personality that is offset by a bit of roguish charm. It makes her believable and entertaining.

I’d recommend going to see this in the theaters and seeing it on the big screen. As with most comic book movies, the visuals are worth seeing on a big screen. Captain Marvel is a fun ride, and I’m anxious for everything to tie together in Avengers: Endgame.

Quick Review: Ant-Man and The Wasp

The wife and I finally had some time tonight to sit down and watch a movie together. Lately it’s been hard to invest in anything other than TV shows or YouTube videos. However, as luck would have it, the holidays mean that we’ve got some time without a lot of commitments. On tonight’s agenda was Ant-Man and The Wasp.

We enjoyed the first movie when we saw it many years ago, and a bit part of that was due to the quirky humor of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. Having a character with such a fun approach to life is a breath of fresh air for such serious super hero action films. That same humor was on display again in the sequel, although at times I felt like Scott Lang was a sidelined character. This movie was most certainly not about him.

This movie is about Hank Pym and his quest to find his wife, lost in the quantum realm. But more than that, I felt like this movie was a way to show us that Hank really isn’t a great guy. Many of the problems of his life were his fault, including pushing people away, and using people to get what he wanted. This film doesn’t change that image of him, which left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. You want him to win, but at the same time, you kinda wish someone would just smack him around a bit and burst his ego.

Despite Hank, I enjoyed many of the characters in the film. I actually really liked the Burch side-plot, and loved how it allowed the X-Con gang to get more involved. It gave the movie a certain human element that showed that not all superheroes have super suits or powers. Sometimes, the ordinary guy can actually be a part of something good.

As usual the effects were top notch, and the production was typical Marvel style. Lots of big images and CGI effect scenes, that were done incredibly well. It’s almost to the point now that if a Marvel movie has only “adequate” CGI it’s considered bad. They’ve raised the bar for themselves over and over again to a point where everything they produce has to be excellent.

I won’t give much of the story away, but suffice it to say I mostly enjoyed the plot. There were a couple glaring plot holes that bugged me to no end, but I was able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy what I was being fed. In the end I still enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Obviously, there were a couple mid and post credit scenes that flow into Infinity War, and we’re all ready for that ship to finally sail. I’m a little concerned on where they might be taking the next Avenger’s movie, but hopefully it’ll be done well. Overall, Ant-Man and The Wasp is a fun addition to the Marvel Universe. Just like the first film, it proves that you can have a lot of fun action, and quirky humor, but still be a super hero movie that can fly with the best that Marvel offers.

Quick Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

We got out today to catch a showing of the latest and greatest movie in the ever expanding Star Wars universe, Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is a film set in the younger days of our favorite scoundrel, Han Solo, as he begins his life and career, long before he ever met Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I’ll keep this review short and spoiler free, and simply say, this is one of the most fun Star Wars films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a heist-style plot (as might be expected with Han being a smuggler) that jumps from one tough situation to another. Just like future Han, sometimes things just seem to always get worse, no matter how good a feeling he has about things. In this movie we meet an array of characters that are new, as well as a couple old friends. In particular Lando (played by Donald Glover) was a complete scene stealer, just like in Empire Strikes Back. He was smooth, cocky, and witty, despite not always being able to get himself out of his bad situations.

The entire movie plays out with lots of action, which flows together smoothly into a wonderfully fun plot that doesn’t require you to have to think too hard. This is a movie that you can just sit down and enjoy. You get nods to a lot of the broader Star Wars universe, but it never pulls you away from the swashbuckling that is happening right in front of you. Solo doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s just good, solid, Star Wars fun.

I realize that it hasn’t gotten overwhelming reviews, but in my book it’s one of the most fun movies I’ve been to in a long time. It brought me back to my youth as a big Star Wars fan, with high stakes adventure that is fun to experience. It’s well worth the price of theater admission in my book. Just don’t go in with expectations for anything other than a fun romp.