Avengers: Infinity War

Okay, so it’s finally landed and as promised, it’s an absolute epic. Just about every Disney/Marvel character from the past decade makes an appearance – that’s about twelve leading characters in all, and to be honest I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle it; that is a lot of people to pack in a movie set to run for two-and-a-half hours.

Well … they pulled it off, and I think I see how they did it.

So you’ve got Thor, the Black Panther, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of The Galaxy, Spider-man and the Avengers in one movie, fighting a common enemy on Earth and in space, and that was what the movie was about: the common enemy: Thanos, possibly the most powerful and complex villain in Comicdom.

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So instead of trying to divide the audience attention between too many heroes and their problems and personality defects, the directors focussed on Thanos and his very simple agenda: eliminate half the population of the universe. What makes him so fascinating as a villain trul is that believes he’s doing this for the greater good (there aren’t enough resources in the universe to support its ever-increasing population, so a drastic “correction” is needed). Yup, lots of villains reckon they’re on the side of the greater good, but Thanos is willing to sacrifice anything to achieve his aim, no matter what the cost to himself.

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For thousands of years, Thanos has an enjoyed an on-off relationship with the universal embodiment of death…

Who survives his universe genocide will not be a choice based company in wealth, race, age or religion – it’s a choice the universe itself will make completely at random (though I imagine he’s going to make sure he’s safe). Thanos himself is brilliantly played by Josh Brolin (who’ll be pulling double duty as Cable in the next Deadpool movie) and a lot of CGI. The rest of the cast does an excellent job even though they’re support players to the villain’s master plan. There’s a lot of humour, a lot of tense interaction between the people trying to save the universe, and considering how much screen time has to be shared between so many people, you still get the sense that the characters are more than two-dimensional. That couldn’t have been easy, but it was probably helped by the fact that we know them so well already.

The story works, the plot hangs together (a small miracle in itself), and Marvel Studios continues to kill it when it comes to set action pieces and special effects (this has got to be one of the most expensive movies ever made). It’s edge of your seat stuff from start to finish, so don’t even think you’ll have time to nip out for a comfort break.

An easy ten out of ten.

Review: Black Panther

 

Well, it’s already smashing records so it doesn’t really matter  what I say about it, not that that’s going to stop me…

Black Panther is possibly the most hyped super-hero flick of all time, and remembering the circus that travelled with Wonder Woman, that’s really taken some doing. That level of exposure risks disappointment, especially amongst fans of the Black Panther comic, as well as drawing the ire from those who may be less than comfortable with the ideas it represents (a hidden African nation that resisted slavery and exploitation, and so prospers to become the most socially and technologically advanced civilisation on Earth) It’s never going to please everyone, so Ryan Coogler did what all good directors do: he read the story, understood what it was about, and then went on to deliver something that was as true to original as he could manage.

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Sure it was missing a few bits (there was little mention of T’Challa’s intelligence, which is as least as important as his physical prowess), but the story was tight and the action was evenly paced. The dialogue was nothing to write home about, but it did have those nice humourous touches that Disney/Marvel do so well. The special effects were top notch and the setting were amazing; a lot of work has gone into imagining a world that blends African tradition with hi-tech wizardry, and they pulled it off beautifully.

Performances were creditable all round, though I don’t think anyone stood out in particular for me, which is probably not a bad thing when I think about it.  The African accents were … passable, but the occasional ‘Americanism’ crept in here and there, which sort of took you out of the moment. Annoying, but infrequent enough that they aren’t really going to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the movie.

Most super-hero films avoid making any sort of political comment; Black Panther dives straight in, and for that reason I’m expecting it to see a lot of flack in a few weeks when the hype’s died down. DC tried to go political with the somewhat hastily prepared Black Lightning, exploring the plight of black people in city ghettos, but avoiding any exploration of the underlying causes.  Black Panther doesn’t shy away, and that’s commendable. I’m not sure it represents a bold new direction for the genre, but it’s certainly the most entertaining and memorable super hero flick to date.

I’m going to give it ten out ten.

Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

I don’t usually crack straight on with a sequel straight after reading Book 1, but the whole Mortal Engines thing intrigued me. The whole setup was so well-done, so painstakingly executed that I wanted to see, from a purely technical viewpoint, if the author could maintain that level of commitment through to the sequel. In many cases, a second book comes across as a little bit tired – not so here. If anything, Predator’s Gold was even better than Mortal Engines.

61DiWWb-hRL.jpgThe writing was a lot more confident, and the characterisation, I felt, was  much deeper. Tom (our main protagonist) hadn’t really changed that much in the two years since we’d seen him, while Hester, his partner, has hardened (and I didn’t think that was possible) further into the kind of selfish and embittered survivor he needs to keep him alive. That’s the thing about Tom: he’s an almost passive observer to things going on around him, so  he sometimes seems to fade into the background, especially if he’s in a room with far more interesting people. Th rest of the characters are gloriously over the top: they’re either shockingly evil, in a Christmas pantomine sort of a way (YA fiction, remember?) or laugh-out-loud comical.

Like Mortal Engines, there are two really stand-out points with this novel. First off, the settings. The whole idea is magnificient. This notion that towns have evolved into almost living things that prey across the landscape of a ruined planet, lying in wait to devour smaller, unsuspecting towns is simply brilliant.

And secondly, we have the quality of the prose: tight, easy-flowing, not a single word goes to waste. Reeve has actually done something that is enormously tricky to pull off; he’s written the book in an omniscient viewpoint, dipping out of the characters heads, sometimes within the same paragraph. He’s made it work, and I can’t say I’ve read many authors that have managed to get that right.

Ten out of ten.