This Is The End! Avengers: Endgame* *spoiler-free review

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This is, without a doubt, the hardest review I’ve ever had to write, because in order to keep it spoiler-free, there’s really very little I can tell you.

Certainly, in terms of specifics I’m going to tell you absolutely nothing, because the film will work even more effectively if you go in cold. Suffice to say if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know nothing, Jon Snow!

So, let’s keep this general: directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, left the universe in a much-reduced place this time last year – cosmic villain Thanos (father of Gamora and Nebula, from the Guardians of the Galaxy films) achieved his aim to place the Infinity Stones in his gauntlet, snapped his fingers and wiped out half the population of the universe in an instant. The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, lost.

Avengers: Endgame picks up some twenty-plus days later, the remaining heroes split asunder in different corners of the galaxy, in bad places both geographically and emotionally.

What happens next is, quite simply, astonishing. The structure of the (three hour long and not a dull moment) film is continually surprising: the first thirty incredibly intense minutes arguably take the story where you might have expected the entire film to go, and then you’re left with two and a half hours of some of the most bravura narrative you’re likely to see in a franchise movie for a long time.

That the film acts as a total summation of Marvel Studios’ bold and innovative, ten year, interconnected, multi-franchise, long form storytelling is perhaps no surprise: this is where we, and the characters, have been heading all along. But the sheer level of smarts on display is something to be admired.

Because the story is concluded so satisfyingly should not however, lull you into thinking this is an easy ride. The fact we’ve had so long to become attached to these characters means that Marvel pull out all the stops to put the audience through an emotional wringer: I can honestly say I lost count of the amount of times I cried, but I can tell you there were tears of both sadness and joy.

I sat with a goofy grin on my face, with tears of pure happiness streaming down my face, at the audaciousness of the penultimate forty-five minutes. And in the last fifteen minutes the real tears began. To be clear, the film left me a total wreck.

This unrestrained emotional response is a testimony to the genuine skill not only of the storytellers, but also of the actors. I’m sure it would be so very easy to coast through roles like these, but there isn’t a single moment where the cast aren’t completely in the moment.

There is a strand, an emotional arc involving Thor, where the balance between comedy and pathos strains to tip too far in one direction, but Chris Hemsworth manages to keep things just in check.

There might also be an argument to be made that some of the solutions (and yes, I’ll avoid details) lead to a little head-scratching which will no doubt fuel fan arguments for months to come.

It’s also fair to say that while all previous Marvel films have strived to pay-off for both casual viewers and fans, Avengers: Endgame, rightly, is full-on about resolution, and therefore will probably leave newbies wondering what the heck is going on. But after ten years, that’s perfectly right and fair. And earned.

But these are very minor negative points in what can only really be considered as Marvel’s crowning achievement.

Avengers: Endgame not only gives you everything you could possibly have wanted from this finale, but also gives you so much more in terms of narrative twists and turns, satisfying emotional arcs, thematic pay-offs for threads linking almost every single Marvel film and genuine surprises, particularly for those of us who’ve been along for the ride for the past decade.

And while there are plenty of seeds for the next Phases of Marvel movies (interestingly, Phase 3 officially ends with Spider-Man: Far From Home, in July), you’d better believe this is the end, beautiful friend.

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Sane World Rejoices As Disney Reinstates James Gunn For Guardians Of The Galaxy 3!

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In an announcement sure to annoy the grimmer corners of the alt-right internet, but make the rest of us whoop with delight, Disney has reinstated James Gunn to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy 3 for Marvel!

Deadline have just dropped this very welcome bombshell, and while I’m sure we’ll hear more details in the run up to the May 24th release of the dark superhero film, Brightburn, produced by Gunn, I’m happy just to hear this news.

Gunn was fired by Disney when alt-right journalists decided to resurrect poor taste tweets Gunn made almost a decade earlier, and pile pressure on the Mouse House that the writer/director should not be heading up one of its biggest franchises. Sadly, Disney blinked and Gunn was fired.

The report in Deadline states that Marvel Studios never made serious overtures to anyone else regarding Gunn’s replacement and have obviously let things cool down before making this extremely sensible decision.

That decision was complicated by Gunn signing up to direct The Suicide Squad, a sequel/reboot of the critically demolished DC/Warner Bros movie from 2016, but it seems Marvel are willing to push back filming of their movie to accommodate him.

Whether or not you enjoy the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (and I do, a whole bunch) Gunn was undeniably their heart and soul, and the thought of anyone else finishing off his trilogy with these characters was deeply disappointing, especially for such disheartening reasons.

Welcome back to Marvel, James Gunn! Score one for the good guy!


Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

The Guardians Of The Galaxy Stand With Gunn (And So Do I)

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In a remarkable piece of chutzpah today, the entire cast of Marvel/Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy films have released a joint statement in defence of director, James Gunn, recently fired from his position as a result of a concerted campaign by cybernazis.

Here’s the full letter, citing a petition to reinstate Gunn:

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It’s wonderful to see these actors backing their director, and while I don’t often bring politics onto this site, for once I’ll make an exception (because Gunn is someone whose work and public face I’ve personally admired for many years).

Gunn made a whole bunch of tweets that were undeniably in poor taste. But that’s all they were, jokes that some people find distasteful. Since making them he has very publicly apologised – twice, in fact – making a very heartfelt and eloquent case for his growth as a person who would no longer make those same jokes. In short, he owned the immaturity of his younger self. Would that we were all so self-aware.

When Disney hired Gunn to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy, they did so in full recognition of who they were bringing into the fold, in fact you might say they brought him in partly because of his far left-field humour.

The people who targeted Gunn’s past off-kilter humour did so because the director has become a highly vocal and highly visible critic of their right wing politics. They’re not stupid, they know Gunn wasn’t advocating the subjects he was making bad jokes about. They’ve targeted him in order to silence what he says now, not what he said a decade ago.

Disney and Marvel have made a very shitty move in firing Gunn under pressure from these cyber-bullies. It sets a terrible precedent that cannot be seen as anything than deeply troubling.

I don’t know if this show of support from Gunn’s cast will make a difference to one of the world’s biggest conglomerates, but if nothing else it shows that Gunn deserves support from more of us.

This Is The End – Avengers: Infinity War * spoiler free review

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The Marvel films have always struggled with villains, it’s a frequently heard complaint that few villains beyond Loki and, arguably, Erik Killmonger, have left too much of an impression. So let’s get this right out there – not only was Thanos worth waiting for, but he instantly ranks at the top of the hall of infamy.

There was concern that the Mad Titan would be a let down, that he couldn’t possibly live up to the almost ten-year build which has led us to this point. But the combination of a wonderfully layered performance from Josh Brolin and superlative animation effects work brings Jim Starlin’s deranged creation to full, terrifying life in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War.

This feat is even more impressive in a film which (as I’m sure you know from the hype) brings together all the expected characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and perhaps even some unexpected ones).

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) do a splendid job of pulling together an increasingly active number of franchises, giving most characters a neat arc and/or several great moments, though there are exceptions, inevitable even with a two-hour forty minute running time, and a certain amount of shorthand is definitely at play. That they manage this without spending an hour on exposition is a minor miracle, and a testament to deft storytelling (and the good will engendered by eighteen previous films).

There’s an undeniable frisson of excitement (especially for a Marvel geek like me) to see new combinations of characters, having Spider-Man and Doctor Strange interact left me with the biggest grin on my face, but the filmmakers know they need more than just a Marvel Team-Up to make a satisfying film.

There are real stakes here, literally the fate of the universe (or half of it… you’ll see…) hangs in the balance, with a number of different strands occurring in different locations on different worlds, and the action feels all the more vital because Marvel have taken the time to build these worlds and make us care for the characters. And it’s no spoiler to say your emotions will really be put through the wringer – I wept a solitary, manly tear on more than one occasion.

But don’t think the threat of the universe coming to an end or talk of tears means it’s all doom and gloom: this is a thrill-a-minute adventure that hits the ground running and barely lets up on the action, but as usual it’s mixed in with some fabulous and funny character interplay – Thor with Peter Quill and Doctor Strange with Tony Stark bring unexpected delights.

There’s also a distinct feel here of the beginning of a changing of the guard – the first ten years of Marvel movies has seen a very definite roster of characters and Infinity War shows us that the company’s willingness to shake things up is part of what makes them so successful, and which lends even more weight to the story, of course. Even the obligatory post-credit scene nods in that direction (it’s a nod that literally made me whoop in the cinema).

Is there a downside to all this? I suspect that a casual filmgoer would be rather lost but y’know in that case, get with the Marvel game like the rest of the population, I guess.

Avengers: Infinity War is a huge, and hugely exciting, comic book, sci-fi epic that really sees the gutsy long-game approach taken by Marvel pay off, giving us the Empire Strikes Back of their bold, long form narrative, and finally giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe its own Darth Vader, a cosmic villain with a welcome emotional core.

And really, so as not to wander into the spoiler zone, that’s about all I can say, except that this is the huge Marvel adventure we’ve been waiting for.

This is the end*… but bring on May 3, 2019 and Avengers 4 as soon as possible please, I only have so many fingernails left to chew through.

*Speaking of the end, you KNOW to stay right through to the very end of the credits, right…!?

Here Comes Thanos! The Final Avengers: Infinity Wars Is Rather Exciting.

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There’s really not a heck of a lot I can say about this trailer. If you’re not down for Marvel’s All-Star Mash Up by now then there’s probably nothing more here to convince you. You are hopelessly wrong, of course.

For the rest of us, April 27th really can’t arrive quickly enough as Avengers: Infinity War is the beginning of the culmination of ten years of narrative and the chance to see all of Marvel’s flagship characters facing off against the big, bad and purple cosmic Trump, Thanos (as played by Josh Brolin). And seen here? Spider-Man and Dr.Strange, together on screen for the first time! Oh boy! Captain America going mano y mano with Thanos! Gosh!

Marvel have gotten particularly adept and not blowing their wads in trailers and this still feels mighty restrained to me. What do you think? Are Marvel still playing their cards close to their chests?

I’ll see you in the theater in just over a month. I’ll be the one hyper-ventilating.

Epic! The Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Is Here…

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The trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has landed and, wow… you need to see this:


I know, right!?

It’s not the same trailer that wowed audiences at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con (yes, yes, I peaked at the leaked version) but if anything it feels even more epic.

Rumours are running rife that this may be the last time we see some of these characters (at least in their present forms), so better make the most of… hm, well, that would be telling, right!? In the meantime, we can look forward to the ultimate Marvel Cinematic Universe mash-up of The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy as they face up against the Josh Brolin-shaped cosmic might of Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War arrives May 8th, 2018. The hype starts here…