Review: In “Avengers: Endgame,” the MCU takes a victory lap and a moment to reflect

For how much the Marvel Cinematic Universe has proven its willingness to be malleable in its storytelling, to allow filmmakers to both shape and expand what we categorize as a superhero movie, finality is something it’s never really concerned itself with.

Post-credits scenes, cameos and cross-pollination have become as much a characteristic of these films as tight spandex and daddy issues. We used to see individual superheroes exclusively on the frontlines of their own big-screen stories – Tobey Maguire never web-slung across the city alongside the Human Torch – but that’s become a relic of yesterdecade with the MCU’s steadily calculated erasure of narrative borders because of, and in service to, an overarching narrative that only began to become clear several films into the MCU’s existence.

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Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ a nearly wholly underwhelming MCU origin story

It’s fair to say that “Captain Marvel” – the 21st entry in the franchise to rule all franchises, and in many ways its most pragmatic – is arriving at a bit of a crossroads for this ever-blossoming superhero saga 11 years after it began.

More accurately, it itself is the crossroads; another origin story for another superbeing whose name hadn’t been uttered in over 40 hours of films, and yet the story of a hero with pre-ordained expectations of the highest order, thanks to a post-credits stinger, a pager and a logo that sent the Internet into a frenzy last April.

With “Captain Marvel,” our MCU overlords ask us to forget, if for a couple hours, about half of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes being reduced to dust, and instead shift our gaze to Kree and Skrulls, a disorienting story that feels three steps ahead of the audience in the worst of ways, and Carol Danvers’s introduction as already one of the MCU’s most charismatic figures in spite of it. The miracle of overcoming one of the more ill-advised MCU narratives in recent years isn’t quite achieved, but the superhuman strength on display in the last bits of the movie by its titular hero should have Thanos sweating. Continue reading →

Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts: Crime of Grindelwald’ doesn’t conjure up enough charm to make up for confounding story

They linger, skitter and roar; excite and intimidate. Their presence can be curious, and at times the absences of others are a relief. They have their own hierarchies, although at times clashes can break out for the worst.

When a film’s moniker bears the words “fantastic beasts,” it’s not an advantage when those above words describe its multitudes of plot threads as accurately as the extraordinary creatures conjured up for J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

Much like this universe’s beloved nifflers, powerful dragons or sassy bowtruckles, the various tidbits of story and exposition in the second installment of this “Harry Potter” prologue series are disparate, with their own ambitions and unpredictable tendencies rooted in a hunger for attention. Ultimately, it’s to the film’s detriment, though fans of the series would be hard-pressed to leave the theater not feeling a little enchanted simply on the merits of returning home to this universe. Increasingly, it feels like reuniting with an old, robed friend. Continue reading →

Review: Marvel pokes fun at itself with ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ and has a blast doing it

It’s about time we got something like “Thor: Ragnarok.”

After nearly a dozen years of spinning an increasingly complex web of Marvel stories and characters, the studio realized a need for giving audiences something new and invigorating; something to keep the spark alive, if you will. And they picked the perfect franchise to do it.

With “Ragnarok,” one of the MCU’s least consequential (and – let’s face it – one of its least interesting) franchises doesn’t just get a facelift; it’s infused with a new energy. With the third solo entry for Thor – “solo” becoming more and more ambiguous the further along the MCU machine churns –  he’s officially the ugly girl you initially passed up on who went on to become a runway model. Continue reading →