Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:05 am

Earth's mightiest heroes team up to face their biggest challenge yet, in the exhausting, frustrating, but never disappointing Avengers: Infinity War. Originally titled "Infinity War Pt 1," the film is best entered into with that mindset. Juggling over two dozen characters from 10 years of previous Marvel movies, it couldn't help but leave you wanting more. And the film ends on a cliffhanger, where for a moment all hope seems lost. There were boos and anger from the audience, but also a buzzing excitement where I'm sure that most of those present would have happily stayed to watch the 2 hour 40 minute movie again.

From now on when we talk about the dark entry in a movie series, we won't say it's the Empire Strikes Back of the series. We'll say it's the Infinity War.

It's a culmination of ten years of story and characters, a sort of Marvel mashup where our heroes seem to be bringing the tone of their own movies along with them. Suddenly it's a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, without the sense of quirky horror-film darkness. Suddenly we're in Wakanda. It's a movie that doesn't stand on its own. And how good it really is depends greatly on how well the next Avengers film delivers on what this film sets up. But everything we get here is good. The Russo Brothers didn't screw anything up.

The film, for better or worse, belongs to Josh Brolin's Thanos, the CGI villain who's been lurking in the background with cameos in the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and who seeks six Infinity Stones of unimaginable power. It's become almost a joke that Thanos' Avengers cameos are short and perfunctory and have little to do with the movies. But he's a star player here, and he immediately seems like he's been here the whole time, as the Biggest Bad of the series. A couple other Marvel villains (and rivals) are here as minor players, as if to underscore the point.

Thanos wants to destroy half the universe, to "balance" it and combat "overpopulation" - a common obsession among white supremacists here on Earth. But there's something soulful about Thanos, and you genuinely believe he considers himself a misunderstood hero, doing the work that others aren't brave enough to do. His most interesting relationship is with his adopted daughter, Zoe Saldana's Gamora. This has always been Gamora's backstory in the Guardians films but it really shines here. It gives Peter Quill (Star-Lord) a very personal vendetta against Thanos, and Drax has long sought Thanos' death. The movie also does a decent job of selling that this is personal for Tony Stark, as Thanos was behind the Chitauri incident which has haunted Tony's dreams for six years, and given him PTSD. It's also very personal for Thor.

As with other Avengers films, a lot of the fun here is seeing characters meet each other and team up, resulting in unexpected pairings and jokes. I've seen fans make the exact same joke that one character pairing (in Wakanda) results in. Thor and Rocket Raccoon make a surprisingly good team, and Okoye's reactions to Bruce Banner, the Scarlet Witch and so on are gold. Don Cheadle's Rhodey gets a moment when entering Wakanda, which suggests he's in on a joke that Bruce isn't.

We're also seeing plotlines bubble up which were hinted at in previous films. The love story between the Vision and Scarlet Witch suddenly becomes very important. Tony Stark still seeks to be a good mentor to Peter Parker. And Loki, well, no spoilers. Otherwise things zip by too quickly. Captain America has been a fugitive from the government, and grown an impressive beard, but doesn't have much to do apart from team up and fight. Nor does T'Challa, the Black Panther.

It's all very CGI heavy, which will surprise no one at this point, but the need for these films to keep building on each other, and deliver the biggest Marvel movie yet, works against the film from an entertainment standpoint. Marvel is still hitting it out of the park with films which focus on one hero (or a few heroes) and stand alone, like Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok, and Spider-Man Homecoming. It's nice to see these heroes team up and throw jokes at each other, but they're not as good here as they were in their own films. The Guardians of the Galaxy come closest, as they take over a lot of the proceedings here, having previous beef with Thanos, and inject a lot of energy.

It's nice to see these actors play off one another in ways we haven't seen before. Inevitably it's brief and leaves us wanting more. It falls a little short when Thanos' henchmen, the Black Order, are all CGI creations rather than live actors, so the fight scenes start to involve entirely CGI characters in fantasy settings without enough real-world grounding. We're often in space on distant fantasy planets, and it's a little odd to see Marvel go so cosmic in a film that isn't Guardians or Ragnarok, which were comedy films. The Avengers films (and Civil War) were set on earth. This film seems to want to become a Guardians movie, but with Tony Stark and Peter Parker and Steven Strange. Then it's a Black Panther film, but with Captain America and company. Both are exciting ideas, admittedly.

The biggest shot of the trailer was of the Hulk charging alongside Team Wakanda and Team Captain America. That's not in the film. They may have rewritten The Hulk's story at the last minute.

Dr. Strange was a weaker Marvel film, and Strange as a character brings a world of magic into the Marvel movies that feels like a bit much. But he's a good choice to have natural conflict with Tony Stark, and to try to take on Thanos. Benedict Cumberbatch's performance is also more on-target than in his own film. Everything about this film shows that the Marvel movies have raised the stakes farther and farther out of the "real world." Tony Stark has gone from an iron suit, to a suit in a suitcase, to a flying suit which forms itself over him in midair, to a suit made out of nanotechnology which builds itself around him, or around Peter Parker. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is suddenly in space as the Iron Spider, and that's as odd as it sounds. The in-universe technology gets wilder, and the CGI crazier, and that's where Marvel's at right now - giving us the whole cow when a glass of milk would do.

That's fine, though. This is an Avengers movie, and those have always been about giving you the whole cow. All your favorite heroes teaming up to fight aliens or robots or something.

With a couple of exceptions, everyone is here, and several characters appear very unexpectedly. The Soul Stone scene features a character I never expected to see again. I nearly fell out of my chair.

Peter Dinklage also turns up as a new character, stealing the show for a bit. It's funny on a meta level that he's a giant, and that he's doing a sort of impression of Chris Hemsworth. Not the only one here to do so either. You can argue that some heroes are underused in this film, but Thor isn't one of them. Hemsworth is terrific, showing that he and his character have grown a lot over these films. And everyone at least gets some good fight scenes in, notably those without superpowers like Black Widow and Okoye.

Thor and Tony Stark also seem to have a real death wish in this film. No wonder Thor and Rocket Raccoon get along.

Focusing on Thanos as a well developed villain helps the film as well, though it steals away a lot of screentime from our heroes. Then there's an audaciously dark ending act which will leave audiences frustrated and angry, and ready for more. Even before that, some things had happened in the film which may have real consequences going forward.

The film ends on a muted, somber note, without a flashy end credits sequence. And there is a post-credits sequence, featuring characters we've missed, which gives us our first onscreen look at what's coming next.

As a culmination of ten years of Marvel movies, Infinity War should be a real victory lap. It has that potential but we'll have to see how the next Avengers film lives up to that. As it is, it manages to take on all those characters and all that history and not drop the ball on it and disappoint the fans. Except when it's doing so on purpose. It is, for better or worse, the biggest Marvel movie yet, with the biggest cosmic threat. It will leave you wanting something smaller, since Marvel's "smaller" films have worked better. But it also leaves you wanting to see what comes next immediately. And to see this one again.
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby filmfan94 » Tue May 01, 2018 8:59 pm

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed May 02, 2018 4:48 pm

Good.
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed May 02, 2018 5:47 pm

Here's a Marvel recap I found:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97OJjlpbuBc
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed May 02, 2018 6:13 pm

Last night, thanks to Steven at Collider, I saw an advance screening of Bad Samaritan, where David Tennant plays a serial killer. Tennant and director Dean Devlin were in attendance for Q&A.

David Tennant is a brilliant actor. He's probably the most iconic and popular Doctor Who of the revival series. He was a terrific Hamlet, starred on Broadchurch and the new Ducktales, and memorably played villains in Jessica Jones, Harry Potter and lesser-known fare like Secret Smile. This is along those same lines. It's a fairly low budget indie thriller. Tennant does an American accent, which always sounds wrong coming from him (as it did in the American Broadchurch remake, and an unsold pilot or two). It sticks out further because the other lead is allowed to be Irish throughout.

It's a decent film. Nothing we haven't seen before, even from Tennant, but watchable for what it is. It hits a few horror movie-like notes without being too exploitative, and has a couple of moments where the audience cheered. On a side note, this is another example of how American films almost always need to portray the FBI as hyper-competent and almost superhuman. While local law enforcement is useless to the lead, the FBI seems to know everything, in a subplot which comes off as silly - and which gives a lot of expository backstory about Tennant's character, who is otherwise presented as an enigma.

We probably don't need to know a lot about Tennant's character here. In the Q&A, Tennant noted that his favorite villain is Anthony Perkins in Psycho, and I'd assume that character was in the back of his mind here. Although it's not nearly as memorable as when he did the same thing as Killgrave in Jessica Jones.
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed May 02, 2018 7:35 pm

Boy, I have a million thoughts on Infinity War after watching most of it again. I might write an essay.

Focusing on the individual characters and their arcs one by one, there's a ton of stuff that is set up really carefully and blatantly, that's easy to miss with so many characters present.

Strange and Quill's arcs jumped out at me in a way they really hadn't before, and so much of it stems from them being paired up initially with characters that they're really similar to on paper (Tony and Thor respectively) but who are very different in practice.

(Tony and Strange is a sort of Kirk/Spock pairing, and being seen as an inferior version of Thor leaves Quill trying to prove himself as a leader the entire rest of the film. But he's set the bar too low, only wanting to be more thoughtful than Drax, who is motivated only by revenge and hasn't thought anything through. In the end, Quill ends up the same way. And Strange, not wanting to make friends and wanting to make just the right, perfect decision, makes the only decision he feels he can make. In one of the film's best scenes, Rocket sizes Thor up immediately as someone who uses confident bluster and boasting to cover an ocean of grief and mourning, knowing that they both have that in common.)

Also, Gamora's scenes all mirror one another. The Reality Stone vs the Soul Stone are the same scene inverted, and two of the best in the film.

On second viewing it struck me how NOT random the deaths here are. Each one is intended to hit someone who cares a lot about them, to tie a bow on the failure of someone who made a very hard choice and lost anyway, or to make sure that our oldest hero loses Everything.

Paul Bettany is real good in these movies for being nobody's favorite.

They also seem to frequently call on Don Cheadle and/or Tom Hiddleston to resolve the entire conflict of the previous film(s) in one scene, and a couple lines of dialogue, but make it seem really casual, like no big deal.
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby filmfan94 » Wed May 09, 2018 10:50 am

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed May 09, 2018 9:30 pm

Thor Ragnarok: Grandmaster - Rough Cut Vs. Final Cut
https://imgur.com/a/Lhmudg7
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Fri May 11, 2018 6:21 pm

Wesley Snipes about trying to make Black Panther in the 90s.

"I laid on him my vision of the (Black Panther) film being closer to what you see now: the whole world of Africa being a hidden, highly technically advanced society, cloaked by a force field, Vibranium," Wesley Snipes begins. "John [Singleton] was like, 'Nah! Hah! Hah! See, he’s got the spirit of the Black Panther, but he is trying to get his son to join the [civil rights activist] organization. And he and his son have a problem, and they have some strife because he is trying to be politically correct and his son wants to be a knucklehead.' "
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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon May 14, 2018 2:40 pm

RIP Margot Kidder.

About Superman 2:

"Oh, I’m so wonderful, too. God, I was heartbreaking. I thought, 'Fuck, Kidder, you could have had an Oscar nomination.' I’m so good in Donner’s version, and I’m so bad in Lester’s."

I agree - Margot Kidder's best work in the Superman films is in the Donner footage from Superman 2, which is usually cut. She's terrific. The Arctic breakup scene is my favorite - it's heartbreaking. And only included in the old extended TV version, which has had no kind of home video release. The DVD "Donner Cut" by Michael Thau includes this material but botches the editing throughout. I was only able to find some sort of hybrid fancut online:

https://vimeo.com/112925923

https://film.avclub.com/random-roles-ma ... 1798215851

The times that Superman has really worked onscreen - and I'll count the Teri Hatcher TV show as well - are when he's been portrayed not as Superman but as Lois Lane's love interest. Margot made it work, and anyone writing Superman really needs to keep that in mind.
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