Friday, 27 April 2018
As far as event movies go, I think it's fair to say that there's been none as highly-anticipated as Avengers: Infinity War. Serving as the culmination of 18 movies and 10 years worth of buildup and carefully-plotted foreshadowing, the movie finally finds Earth's mightiest heroes facing off against their most formidable foe to date, Thanos. But is the movie itself worth all the buildup and hype? The answer is a resounding yes, and it delivers on the promise that was made in the post-credits scene of the first Iron Man movie all those years ago.
Infinity War picks off right where Thor: Ragnarok left off, with Thanos confronting Thor, Hulk and what remains of the Asgardians. And right off the bat, the movie shows us just how formidable a foe Thanos is. It is hard to talk about any specific plot points without falling into spoiler territory, even that early into the movie, but to sum things up, Thanos is basically gathering the six Infinity Stones. These are to be used in his ultimate weapon, the Infinity Gauntlet, which would help him become the most powerful being in the universe, capable of ending life with the snap of a finger.
In order to stop Thanos, the Avengers must put aside their differences and band together once again. But this time around, they would require all the help they can get, and they join forces with everyone's favorite ragtag group of heroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy. I was indeed surprised by how much Infinity War felt like a Guardians movie, with all its intergalactic planet hopping and quirky sense of humor. But make no mistake, this movie is about Thanos, and he remains at the center of everything.
Much like they did in Captain America: Civil War, the Russo Brothers prove once again that they know how to juggle multiple heroes and still manage to give each one time to shine, even though there were times that felt like there was simply too much going on at once. This is definitely a movie that would benefit from repeat viewings, a requirement if you're hoping to catch all of its various hints and subplots. The movie's biggest shortcoming though is in its two-part delivery, a format that all but necessitates a cliffhanger ending. And what a heart-wrenching ending it was too.
But negatives aside, what Marvel has been able to achieve over these last 10 years is nothing short of amazing. And Avengers: Infinity War stands as the current pinnacle of that achievement. The movie had actual stakes, with the threat of death and total annihilation hanging over our heroes during its entire runtime. Thanos is also a complex villian, with actual, clear-cut motives, and I found myself rooting for him much in the same way we all rooted for Killmonger in Black Panther.
The movie also delivered the goods in terms of spectacle, with barely enough room between fight scenes to digest it all. Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that would be talked about for weeks, months and years to come, and it is quite possible we may never get to experience this level of anticipation and excitement again (at least until the second part comes out next year), so go out and enjoy it while you can.
Sunday, 1 April 2018
Based on the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One marks a much-welcome return to science fiction blockbuster fare for Steven Spielberg, a genre he'd helped bring to the public consciousness over the years with movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Jurassic Park and Minority Report. The fact that some of those works had served as inspiration for the source material only makes his choice as director here a no-brainer.
The year is 2045, and our protagonist Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in the slums of Columbus, Ohio, known here as the stacks for the way its various mobile homes and trailers are stacked upon one another in true shanty town manner. Everyday life in the stacks is tough, and rather than face those challenges head on, Wade takes refuge in a virtual reality world called the OASIS, where he takes the form of his avatar, Parzival. It is a world of limitless possibilities, and one with the promise of a very special reward.
Following the death of its creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), a message is broadcast to all users of the OASIS, revealing an elaborate Easter Egg hunt. In order to complete the hunt, players must complete three tasks while gathering clues from Halliday's past, a past that is heavily steeped in a love of 80s and 90s pop culture. The first person that discovers the Easter Egg would not only inherit Halliday's riches, but also assume complete control of the OASIS itself. And thus began the hunt for the Easter Egg, a hunt that's been going on for 5 years when the movie opens.
Parzival is one of the many gunters (that's short for egg hunters) looking for the egg, and he is joined on this quest by best friend, Aech (Lena Waithe), love interest, Art3mis (Oliva Cooke), and fellow gunters, Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zao). They'd collective come to be known as the High Five when they manage to beat the first task after Parzival cracks the clue hidden in one of Halliday's many recordings. This puts them on the radar of Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), CEO of IOI, a company that is willing to go to any lengths to gain control of the OASIS.
Much like last year's Blade Runner 2049, Ready Player One is a film worth experiencing on the largest available screen. I saw it in IMAX, and looking back, I can't imagine seeing it in any other format. The film is a visual spectacle; everything from the highspeed thrills of the first task, to the breathtaking final battle that surrounded the third one manages to one-up everything that came before. Even the quieter moments of the second task remains noteworthy for its photorealistic recreation of the Overlook Hotel from the Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick horror classic, The Shining.
Ready Player One isn't merely a love letter to pop culture and video game history. It is a celebration of blockbuster filmmaking. It is Steven Spielberg proving once again that he knows how to dazzle with awe-inspiring visuals and action that put the Michael Bays of this world to shame. The fact that none of that comes at the expense of a thought-provoking narrative is icing on an already-delicious cake.