Movies

Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War

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Warning: This is as spoiler-filled as a spoiler-filled write-up on Infinity War can get. Please, watch the movie before reading.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first...

On the Black Order

Marvel Studios had a ton of things to juggle, in this movie more than ever: not just the 20+ superheroes from previous films, but all the new characters as well. (I’ll include Thanos in there, since all we really know about him is that he’s big and OP.) Even with two and a half hours of screen time, it remains a tall order, if not the tallest in cinema history, perhaps after what Star Wars Episodes I and VII had to do.

Among the new characters are the members of the Black Order, aka “Children of Thanos”. Whatever they were, they weren’t much of it.

Now, by-and-large, Marvel did a tremendous job, but the poor treatment of the Black Order kind of sticks out. To a non-comic-book fan like myself, the Black Order were just a little band of tough, but run-of-the-mill, henchmen: there was the big tough guy, the wizard tough guy, the tough ninja girl… and their dog army. That’s about all I can remember. 

Sure, the MCU’s had plenty of forgettable villains. I’m not even one to complain about underdeveloped villains, as long as they give the heroes a legitimate conflict. But my particular issue with the Black Order was that, given their almost non-existent introduction into the universe, none of them were tough enough that it felt like they had influence over any of the events onscreen, but they were tough enough that it was annoying how they could let up a fight against the freaking 10-years-of-movies’-worth-of-battle-worn Avengers. Then of course comes the “Where were they this whole time?” sentiment for new characters that only grows as the MCU progresses.

On the MCU TV shows

Although that pales in comparison with how egregiously left-out any acknowledgement or influence the TV shows should have had in the MCU by now, much more at this point where everything is supposed to culminate, much much more where one of the epicenters of the chaos is New York City. Isn’t this where the TV shows take place or something?

Case in point: I haven’t watched a single episode of any MCU TV show. Not one. Avengers: Infinity War did the worse possible job at making me feel left out in any way.

On deaths

That about does it for negatives. This is an otherwise amazing roller coaster of a film – it’s the biggest crossover event in cinematic history, how could it not?

The deaths in this movie takes everything up a notch. It’s what the fanbase has been clamoring about for years now – it really does drastically raise the stakes – and I’m glad Marvel held off until now to kill off major characters.

Loki’s demeaning death – after simply being choked out by Thanos, before which he’d totally laid out Hulk – was an excellent start and set-up for the movie. From this point on, every scene with Thanos interacting with someone is like playing roulette.

The deaths come one-by-one, each one heart-wrenching in its own way, then all of a sudden half of all life in the universe – heroes included – simply turns to dust. Then comes the somber credits sequence – a stark contrast to previous ones… It’s one of the more artful moments in the MCU arc of movies. I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

On Thanos

Coming into Avengers: Infinity War, I already knew that Thanos had it in him to simply flick off any offense and annihilate the heroes where they stood. But after having seen the movie and having mulled over his story arc… I realize that there’s a surprising amount of it with just him simply letting things happen rather than him forcing things to happen.

He was slow to speak, methodical, and never dealt his best hand, at least not immediately – and still got the job done. Thanos, the godlike villain and soon-to-be decider of the universe’s fate, was the quiet eye in every storm. He was so scarily calm that even talking at all risked wasting motions. He knew, just as much as anyone did, how insanely powerful he already was and was to become.

Giving his character the history that they gave him, and his arc those emotional beats, particularly having to sacrifice Gamora for the Soul Stone, just did that much more for him. Thanos, in my book, is one of the best movie villains already, and the best – definitively – in MCU.

It’s hard to articulate about him further... I’ll probably have to follow up after watching again.

The Making of "Audition" from La La Land

Everything that I’ve experienced with La La Land – from seeing the trailers for the first time in a cinema (and finding out Whiplash director Damien Chazelle was one of the brilliant minds behind it), to actually watching and hearing everything the movie has to offer – has been nothing short of magical, nostalgic, and breathtaking.

Hrishikesh Hirway interviews composer Justin Hurwitz on Song Exploder about the climactic track “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. (Minor spoiler warning. Try to focus on just the music aspects.)

 
 

The relationship between the story of the song’s composition and the plot point the song surrounds – it blows my mind.

I came across this episode before having seen the movie, but having already heard the song from my viewing of the trailers, which I think is the perfect time to listen to the podcast. So if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t understand the hype, you might want to hear this first. 

Star Wars Gives Disney Its Best-Ever Quarter

Julia Greenberg for WIRED:

 

"In our very own galaxy, the company brought in a record $2.9 billion in earnings in its first quarter this year, which technically ended January 2. That record-breaking number is all thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

'Driven by the phenomenal success of Star Wars, we delivered the highest quarterly earnings in the history of our company,' said Bob Iger, the chairman and chief executive officer of Disney. 'We’re very pleased with our results, which continue to validate our strategic focus and investments in brands and franchises.' "

 

Consider that the Walt Disney Company is probably the world’s biggest, most established owner of fiction franchises in history - it’s amazing that Star Wars can help even Disney achieve something like this. Some might say its inevitable with the popularity of the franchise and the money Disney has, but I’d like to think it’s a little more than that.

It helps that Disney knows exactly how to capitalise on the potential its brands have in this day and age - see the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also helps that Disney has a hand in the music and theatre industry, and uses their expertise to create multi-sensory experiences and market it as “magic” - see Frozen. I personally thought some of that magic could be felt during Rey’s introduction in Episode VII.

It’s only been a month or so since The Force Awakens - Disney is just getting started. A few years from now when all the movies are released, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’d already be a gargantuan catalogue of comics, action figures, collectibles, music, clothing, and more, based solely around this new trilogy (and the spin-offs) as opposed to anything that came before it, even the original trilogy. 

(Via WIRED)

Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Now that I watched the new Star Wars twice, the second time in glorious IMAX, I think I’m better equipped to dish out more informed observations and hypotheses. And of course, spoilers are to come.

Disclaimer: The Prequels and extended universe don’t exist *waves hand*. Also, the quotes I use are paraphrases, I didn’t bother to look up the exact ones.

  • Before I start, I encourage any fan to watch the movie twice. The underlying gravitas of the movie only got to me once the “OMG, Star Wars is back” cheeriness had passed.
  • Speaking of gravitas, this isn’t just an Original Trilogy-tier Star Wars film. To me, this is neck-and-neck with Episode V: Empire Strikes Back. It is very much a play-by-play of Episode IV: A New Hope, but the weightiness of ESB is very much present here, perhaps due to modern cinema tropes and CGI advancements.
  • Now onto nitpicks. When Han dies, I’ve heard discussions regarding Chewbacca, whether he went rampaging in retaliation or him simply carrying on like nothing had happened. Well, I still couldn’t tell the second time around, since Chewbacca isn’t a very emotive character to begin with (less than the droids, even). I couldn’t sense any violent, aggressive edge to Chewie post-Han’s death either, just him being visibly distraught after Rey and co. return to the Resistance base on D’Qar.
  • Another detail I picked up: It was ultimately Leia’s fault that Han died, having convinced him that Kylo Ren “still had light in him”. Han was hesitant beforehand.
  • Everyone’s up in arms about where Captain Phasma had gone off to. If we’re being cynical, she probably died via trash compactor as implied by Han, meaning the intimidating, second-in-command-ish “chrometrooper” Phasma would’ve died as the butt of a cheap throwback joke. Yeah, probably not true.
  • Rather than disappointed, I’m pretty excited about Phasma in future episodes. A personal theory is that she’s a conspirator against Kylo Ren, and that she’s vying for the apprentice role to Snoke’s master role (based on the Rule of Two). This leads her to being easy on Finn, Han, and Chewie when bringing the shields down and rescuing Rey, and letting them do the dirty work. Could make a great plot and a point of contention within the First Order, which we haven’t yet seen in the Dark Side. Although, we don’t know yet whether or not she’s Force-sensitive, a distinct feature of previous apprentices.
  • But what about Maz Kanata, where’d she go?
  • Another area of complaint I’ve seen discussed was Rey’s “sudden” adeptness in combat and use of the Force. Regarding combat, it could be an inherited trait from her lineage (in which Luke is speculated to be part of, particularly him being Rey’s father), but I’d wager that it’s simply from her experiences on Jakku. We’ve also seen her take down two thieves on Jakku before encountering Finn, as well as outrunning Finn and stopping him with her staff.
  • What I think is inherited from her lineage is her use of the Force, hence implying relation to Luke. But how’d she get so good at it? Simple: It’s stated that the Force’s purpose is to bring balance between the Dark Side and the Light. Before Rey discovers her powers, Kylo is the only active user of the Force in the Star Wars universe, given Luke has little use of his powers living as a hermit, and Leia isn’t Force-sensitive/uses it sparingly. The only way to counteract that is to bestow such powers onto Rey, perhaps even greater than Kylo’s to make up for “Light side deficit”, if we look at it mathematically.
  • When Rey co-pilots for Han on the way to Maz’s cantina, she remarks how she didn’t know “there was this much green (plantation) in the entire galaxy”. Han then blatantly stares at her for a while - a good two seconds, at least - perhaps showing sympathy, thus awareness of Rey’s origin and upbringing. Again, fuels the fire of the “Luke is Rey’s father” theory...
  • …or Han is Rey’s father. The similarities between Rey and Han might’ve not just been foreshadowing of Han’s death. Plus, I’ve yet to encounter contradictory evidence.
  • Finn isn’t dead. He’s clearly breathing when Rey kisses him on the forehead and leaves.
  • The length of Finn’s hair changes between acts. Rey’s tears disappear and reappear during her interrogation scene with Kylo. Just putting that out there.
  • Finn mentions a massacre on Han’s freighter, which Rey asks about. I think it alludes to Luke asking Obi Wan about the Clone Wars in Episode IV. Could it be referring to Kylo Ren’s massacre of Luke’s Padawans?
  • Finn also mentions being in the sanitation department during his tenure in the First Order. So how did he end up being sent to Jakku in the opening scene? Clearly there was no deficiency of Stormtroopers, so why him?
  • The final thing I want to address is the frustration over Starkiller Base, aka “Death Star 3”, and how “easy” it was to destroy as the last one. Well, it wasn’t. It required a much more elaborate plan than shooting a vulnerable opening with Force powers, as Luke does in Episode IV - not to mention a very specific skill set from the Resistance. Firstly, a shield was present and could only be bypassed by anything travelling at lightspeed, as well as the piloting skills and timing Han had. Only Poe was a credible alternative, but he had to lead the fleet into the oscillator. Even then, they nearly crashed into a mountain and ended up nearly flying off a cliff. I’d say they were a bit lucky.
  • Speaking of luck, they were incredibly lucky to have the sole defector of the entire First Order, Finn, with them at the Resistance base. Only he could locate Phasma once Han and co. were on Starkiller Base (how is beyond me).
  • The plan nearly failed when a big enough opening couldn’t be found on the oscillator. Only when Chewie detonated the chamber they were in - right as Poe and co. were ready to give up - were his fleet able to efficiently assault the Base’s weak points. It's deus ex machina like that only Star Wars could get away with.

That’s all I have to say about that. I recommend listening to The Incomparable’s Episode VII discussion if you’ve still got a Star Wars itch left to scratch (and a whopping three and a half hours to spare).