PREVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

Marvel fans, the time is finally upon us. A year after Infinity War, its follow-up, Endgame, is projected to mark the end of a very long Marvel era and the dawn of a new one. The transition has been going on for a few years now, with newer installments like Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Black Panther beginning to take over the stage from the original core band of heroes. Captain Marvel made history only last month as Marvel Studios’ first female-led superhero film, and the first female-led superhero film ever to gross over $1 billion worldwide. Captain Marvel, played by Brie Larson (Unicorn Store), is expected to play a vital role in Endgame as the remaining heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe rally in a last-ditch effort to defeat intergalactic villain Thanos once and for all.

Endgame was directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who were also at the helm of Infinity War, and features an all-star ensemble cast. It comes out this Thursday, April 25th, and will be playing at the State Theatre, the Quality 16, the Ann Arbor 20 IMAX, and Emagine Saline.

REVIEW: Captain Marvel

This article alludes to minor spoilers.

In a beautifully shot debut, Captain Marvel cultivates a mythological (and exciting and godly) character, rightfully cementing her as one of the most anticipated heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Best known for her Oscar-winning role in Room, Brie Larson plays a Kree warrior referred to as Veers (the reason why is nicely revealed later on). Kree warriors has a single mission to uplift the universe: defeat an alien race called Skrulls who are hellbent on infiltrating and destroying civilizations through shapeshifting. She is often encouraged to suppress her curiosity regarding her lost memories in order to embrace their mission for the better of the Kree army. However, after a failed assignment, she is knocked down into Earth— where she finds out that she might once have had a life on this planet.

Veers — also known as Carol Danvers — has a particularly unordinary origin story. She’s a little difficult to adapt to the big screen, considering she is unknown to the greater public and has a less consistent comic book history. But the movie packs her distinct story in the runtime, establishing the world and moving dynamics within it.

The loss of memory is a major theme— and point of confusion for Veers. However, it never seems to be her main goal to find out who she is, as pointed out by this piece in The Atlantic.

However, I interpreted this as the Kree’s obsession of suppressing emotion and embracing a militaristic way of life— something Veers was (fruitlessly) trying to adopt. I will say, the movie could have expanded the Kree way of living and its operatives a bit more (and more subtly). To delve into the world that adopted her and how they effectively shaped her into being their warrior would have allowed us to understand our amnesic hero more.

But the movie is a lot easier to handle once you realize that Veers is approaching her time on Earth as a single-minded soldier. She is not impressed with what she sees on our planet at all. But there is a break once she realizes that Earth is a lot more personal than she had thought. Larson was given a very confused person to portray, but her cadence and gait throughout carried the character. The movie approached the “obligatory origin story movie” by working backwards, which I believe is ultimately more beneficial to Carol and the audience.  

I thought it was rather effective to leave her emotional Earth connections to past friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch, Still Star-Crossed) and her daughter Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar), rather than her clearly unhappy upbringing. Veers seems to be cemented in the connections she chooses to make, rather than ones forced upon her. There is something poetic to leave much of her past in flashes, mysterious glimpses, as it allows as to see Veers as the person she currently is— a Carol Danvers who has changed, who has experienced a world bigger than hers. I hope dearly we can see the Rambeau family again, as they were darling in every way.

I am especially glad Maria was on board for the climax as well— her relationship to Carol was especially complex, full of distinct grief and care. Lynch gave a performance that balanced the quick-pace of a fun Marvel movie with the underlying yearning of the character. 

The most expected comment of the film will be that Carol is too powerful— and logically, I can see that. But I had a smile on my face throughout the climatic sequence. It’s not subtle, but it’s not distracting. It’s not bad. The movie is just fun, alleviating and paced in ways that a viewer needs.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury was an absolute delight as the deuteragonist. Jackson’s character has been flitting in and out of the franchise for a while now, so seeing him as an unabashedly enthusiastic fan of Veers and her world gave a lot of endearing insight as to why he would create The Avengers in the first place.

It was wonderful to see Fury as wide-eyed, less brittle man who is open to trust people. It explains a lot about Fury in the present timeline— why he isn’t as wary of these powerful superheroes as one would think he would be. It’s because he can sense the good in them— he’s seen it before in Carol. Jackson was consistently uplifting in every scene he was and continues to be a highlight in the Marvel universe. I also hope we can see their dynamic (and the cat) again. 

One of my biggest disappointments definitely stems from the larger problem that the MCU tends to adopt: they hire really fantastic actors, hide them under voice changers and armor, and have them appear essentially as background characters. Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians) and Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, Guardians of the Galaxy) were just a few examples in Captain Marvel— both dynamic and beloved actors but barely used.

Annette Bening (20th Century Woman, one of my favorite movies) played a larger role and even then, I felt like she could have been allowed to chew up the scenery a bit more. However, she was deeply engaging on the screen— a relaxed, cool presence and the key to the story’s mystery.

And if I can take a moment to say— I deeply enjoyed the look of the female characters in this movie. I wouldn’t say I have an eye for fashion sense/aesthetics, but they were all framed in the way that felt deeply different. Maybe it was the absence of a male gaze. Maybe it was the grunge look.

Captain Marvel’s arc wraps up in a satisfactory way, concluding a piece of the larger intergalactic Marvel story. It pumped me up for Infinity War and what our new player can bring as a superhero and as a reassured Carol Danvers.

REVIEW: Into the Spider-Verse

Image result for into the spider verse

The last animated film I fell in love with was Zootopia from a couple years ago, but there’s no doubt that Into the Spider-Verse has indefinitely exceeded it. The animation is utterly breathtaking and alive, capturing all the inter-dimensionality of the storyline and the true vivacity of New York City. The movie is also written exceptionally well with an engaging and relatable main character, Miles Morales, a Afro-Latino thirteen-year-old growing up in Brooklyn. Overall, the movie is a powerful addition to the Spiderman canon with a positive lead character who is a person of color– and, more than anything, all this in combination with its stunning animation and art style make it one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen.

Into the Spider-Verse follows the story of Miles Morales, a nerdy, artistic teanager in boarding school in New York City. His African-American father is a cop, his mother Puerto-Rican, though Miles is closest to his Uncle Aaron. On a night when Miles and his uncle are spray-painting a tunnel in the Subways, Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him the powers of Spiderman. After witnessing the death of Peter Parker, Miles realizes that there are many other spider-people just like him who have similar powers– and they must all team up to close a dangerous breach in the fabric of their spacetime dimensions.

The character for Miles Morales was created in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and comic artist Sara Pichelli, drawing inspiration from President Barack Obama. What I loved about this movie (and what a lot of people seem to want from Spiderman) is how it added a new personality and perspective to Spiderman. Miles seems like a very authentic and relatable kid going through the ups and downs of growing up, which is all exacerbated by his newfound spider powers. His ascent to heroism is believable and admirable, as he struggles and fights to fit into the burden and responsibility of being a superhero. Miles isn’t a flashy, flaunting superhero– he is genuine, down-to-earth, and, even when he’s out saving the world, the audience knows that the guy behind the mask is just a kid from Brooklyn who loves art and is still finding his place. He seems to be one of the most human superheros in the universe, and I love that. The characters and relationships in this movie are written exceptionally well– it hits a sweet spot between funny, touching, and inspirational. I loved laughing at the jokes as much as I loved watching the conflict escalate.

Image result for miles morales into the spider verse
Miles wears a cheap Spiderman costume because he doesn’t have his own yet.

The best part about the movie, however, the part that still keeps me coming back to it, is the visual spectacle. The movie is bursting with color, liveliness, and utterly perfect animation. The style is quite realistic with a comic twist, almost as if the pages of a comic book had just come to life, dancing with color and movement. The accompanying soundtrack features artists like Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, and Post Malone, and it is fresh, original, and fits the movie so well– just like what Miles Morales would listen to. The movie is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend this movie. At the very least, it’s highly entertaining– at the most, you will have come out of the theater with a thrilling visual experience and met the best spiderman yet.

REVIEW: Deadpool

(Please note: This review is written in such a manner as to not spoil the film.)

The first superhero movie of the year crashed into theaters this weekend. However, the Marvel/Fox collaboration Deadpool is nothing like its predecessors.

I’m a huge superhero fan. I love everything from the cheesier, lighthearted fare of the Spider-Man films, to the darker, gritter movies Hollywood has primarily been pumping out more recently, such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With Deadpool, however, the genre goes where it has never gone before: rated R. And with it comes a film that is bolder, bloodier, more vulgar–and 100% funnier than anything we’ve seen so far.

Starring Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern) as the Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool essentially combines the irreverent humor of Guardians of the Galaxy with the fourth-wall-smashing of Ant-Man (with its own hefty addition of F-bombs and innuendos). The dialogue is witty and fast-paced, the jokes (and body count) fly, and the characters are lovable not for being good people, but for being unapologetically, outrageously awful (but still, you know, at least better than the antagonists).

It’s clear everyone involved with the project loved and understood it on an innate level. Every detail is polished to a shine, from the ridiculous opening credit sequence to Stan Lee’s perfect cameo (to, well, pretty much everything else). Without a doubt, this was the role Ryan Reynolds was born to play and it’s no wonder this was the first R-rated movie to surpass $100 million domestically in its opening weekend.

Of course, Deadpool‘s not perfect. The plot is so straightforward, it often feels like an afterthought beneath the pileup of comebacks and battles, and the constant back-and-forth of the storytelling style (flashback to present to flashback to present) gets a little tedious after a while. Plus, I’m concerned about the numerous cultural references (which carry many of the quips) growing stale in a few years.

The first two of these problems are minor in the grand scheme of things, though. The film is definitely more a comedy than a thriller, so the fact that the jokes work matters far more than the twisty-ness of the plot. (And they do work, really, really well.)

As for the cultural references becoming dated: Maybe we just need to get a Deadpool 2 in a couple years to make up for that?

Deadpool is in theaters now. Tickets are available for showings at both Goodrich Quality 16 and Ann Arbor 20. Grab them before someone spoils all the punchlines (both literal and metaphorical) for you.