Welcome to the 43rd edition of My Fortnightly Movie/TV Thoughts! Last fortnight, I reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017). This fortnight, I’m reviewing:
- Black Panther (2018), rated M for action violence
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018), rated M for fantasy themes and violence
Those of course are the Australian ratings; in the United States, the ratings are:
- Black Panther – PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
- Infinity War – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references
As usual, I’ll give the trailers at the end, and a clip each. And as usual, I offer the following disclaimer, just to be safe:
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT OWN RISK.
With T’Challa’s first solo movie, Marvel tackled social issues even more touchy than privacy and surveillance. And they delivered a great movie in the process.
Thousands of years ago, five African tribes war over a meteorite containing the metal vibranium. One warrior ingests a “heart-shaped herb” affected by the metal and gains superhuman abilities, becoming the first “Black Panther”. He unites all but the Jabari Tribe to form the nation of Wakanda. Over centuries, the Wakandans use the vibranium to develop advanced technology and isolate themselves from the world by posing as a Third World country. In 1992, Wakanda’s King T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani) visits his brother N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), who is working undercover in Oakland, California. T’Chaka accuses N’Jobu of assisting black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) with stealing vibranium from Wakanda. N’Jobu’s partner reveals he is Zuri (Denzel Whitaker), another undercover Wakandan, and confirms T’Chaka’s suspicions.In the present day, following T’Chaka’s death in Civil War, his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to assume the throne. He and Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of the Dora Milaje regiment, extract T’Challa’s ex-lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) from an undercover assignment so she can attend his coronation ceremony with his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). At the ceremony, the Jabari Tribe’s leader M’Baku (Winston Duke) challenges T’Challa for the crown in ritual combat. T’Challa defeats M’Baku and persuades him to yield rather than die. When Klaue and his accomplice Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) steal a Wakandan artifact from a London museum, T’Challa’s friend and Okoye’s lover W’Kabi urges him to bring Klaue back alive.
Right from the opening narration and opening scene, Black Panther draws us in with an intriguing story of politics, betrayal and revenge in a brand-new world set on Planet Earth. It’s a well-built story and world.
Black Panther invites us into the world of a secretive country with technology advanced beyond any other in the world, a country whose King is a secret and powerful Warrior known as the Black Panther, a country that combines modern technology and ethics with tribal customs – and a country in shock when a previously unknown heir to the throne emerges to try and expose the country’s secrets to the world.
The late Chadwick Boseman, who was taken to his eternal dwelling too soon this last August (I hope his eternal dwelling is in Heaven), provides a solid, nuanced performance as Wakanda’s new King T’Challa, the Black Panther. He truly was the perfect man for the role, bring out both the man, the king and the warrior.
Michael B. Jordan similarly provides a fantastic performance as Eric Stevens, otherwise known as Killmonger, the film’s villain; a man secretly born to a Wakandan Prince, who had a tough life, and has genuinely convinced himself that black people worldwide are oppressed, and wants to do something about it – his methods and the overall result, of course, being quite sinister. Jordan provides an interesting depth to the character, and while I wholeheartedly disagree with both his racial beliefs and his actions, he does raise some valid points and overall provides a thought-provoking element to the film.
Letitia Wright provides a great performance as Shuri, T’Challa’s fun and witty younger sister who is also in charge of developing Wakanda’s technology. A great screen presence.
I also really like Martin Freeman as Everett K Ross, a CIA asset and old friend of T’Challa’s, who through becoming involved in stopping Killmonger and Ulysses Klaue, becomes exposed to the secrets and truth of Wakanda. I can never dislike Freeman, and he gives no reason to here.
Andy Serkis is always a great actor, and provides a solid performance as thief and terrorist Ulysses Klaue, who wants Wakanda’s supply of vibranium – and the country’s exposure.
Black Panther has faced both praise and condemnation for its political themes. While the political element is VERY politically correct – and not in a good way – it’s actually presented neutrally, and the left-wing talk points are mainly espoused by the villain. Many left-leaning people will feel it validates their point of view, and many right-leaning people will feel it validates them. While there’s a clear villain, it leaves it up to the audience to decide just how wrong he was.
The film’s action sequences are spot on and striking, as are the visuals and the overall designs.
And as usual, don’t forget to stick through the credits!
Black Panther is another fine addition to the Marvel pantheon.
Avengers: Infinity War
Now THIS is the movie I’ve been waiting for ages to review! (The main downside to it being #19 in its franchise, and my rule of reviewing franchise films in order of release.) The absolutely epic first part of the climax of an entire decade of filmmaking absolutely lives up to and exceeds all expectations, and is one of the two best Marvel movies ever (both inside and outside the MCU), alongside its own sequel. You are seriously missing out if you haven’t seen the third Avengers yet!
Shortly after the destruction of Asgard in Ragnarok, Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his lieutenants attack the ship carrying the surviving Asgardians, massacring half of them. Thanos extracts the Space Stone (one of the six Infinity Stones) from the Tesseract and adds it to his Infinity Gauntlet, joining the Power Stone, subduing Thor (Chris Hemsworth), overpowering the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and killing Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba), but not before the latter sends the Hulk to Earth to warn the Avengers.
Hulk crash-lands in the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City, reverting to the form of Bruce Banner. He warns Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) about Thanos’ plan to destroy half of all life in the universe, and they recruit Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Obsidian (Terry Notary) arrive to retrieve the Time Stone from Strange, drawing the attention of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Maw is unable to take the Time Stone due to an enchantment and captures Strange instead. Stark and Parker sneak aboard Maw’s spaceship while Wong stays behind to guard the Sanctum.
Infinity War maintains a very consistent pace and tone throughout the film. Right in the opening scene, we’re thrown into a very tense, nail-biting scene with a surprising (and tragic) turnout. That feel is maintained throughout the movie; it grabs you by the collar and never let’s you go. It truly feels like an epic, a high-stakes quest/adventure spanning the galaxy.
Even though the stakes are technically only half that of The Dark World (the Dark Elves wanted to completely destroy the universe, whereas Thanos wants to destroy half of all life), it feels like it has the highest stakes of the whole franchise. Part of this is because Infinity War (finally) brings together ALL of the characters from the previous movies (apart from Hawk-Eye & Ant-Man) for the fight of their lives (spread out among several planets). You truly feel the threat, and the movie goes up close and personal.
Which is another great point: the SCALE! Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Infinity War hops from world to world, with (great) scenes taking place on a large variety of worlds, some of which we’ve seen, while others are new. In short, in addition to the epic, perfectly-executed story, we also get to “sight-see” some of the vast universe the MCU inhabits. And I really am a sucker for that.
Another (very) strong suit of this perfect film: the emotion, the characters, and (SPOILER ALERT) surprise deaths (END SPOILER ALERT) and how much it affects us, the audience. It’s arguably one of the most impactful of the Marvel films to date – at least in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Especially THE ENDING! It’s my all-time favourite superhero ending to date, and I WILL NOT spoil it. Rest assured – you won’t forget it.
And despite having some 40+ significant characters (!), each character in Infinity War is handled excellently, and feel like the great characters Marvel introduced us to. In the case of the heroes, we still love them, root for them, want them to win. Each and every character is a welcome screen presence, and each of their actors delivers their best.
And then there’s the villains – in particular THE villain, Thanos, who stands alongside Loki as the MCU’s best villain to date. Josh Brolin perfectly plays him, and he steals the scene each and every time he appears. He is unique from many of the other villains. He has no personal ambitions, no desire for power. He is a zealot on a mission; a
man alien who truly believes the universe to be overpopulated, and that depopulation – and controlling population growth – is the only way to save us. A man who deeply regrets his actions and the suffering he causes, yet still his actions to be necessary. In short, he’s one of the most dangerous (and realistic) kinds of fanatic around.
My personal favourite part of the movie is when Thor goes to Nidavellir to forge a new weapon. It had a very mythological (and fantasy) feel to it – Nidavellir is one of the Nine Realms of Norse mythology – and adds to the film’s epic quest feel. It’s also an epic scene in and of its own right. (I also really like how they made the Dwarfs who inhabit Nidavellir giants from our perspective. I wonder who named them?)
Infinity War‘s action sequences are tense and at times spectacular, and are all excellently choreographed. From Maw’s fight with Strange, Stark and Parker in New York, to the epic battles of Titan and Wakanda, you will never be bored or disappointed!
And despite all that, Infinity War still maintains Marvel’s excellent trademark humour, which greatly complements the movie, and never ruins any scene.
And unsurprisingly, the visuals are truly spectacular!
Avengers: Infinity War is one of the rare ABSOLUTELY PERFECT films, one of the two best Marvel movies ever, and one of the greatest films of all time. I’ll NEVER be convinced that this film is in any way “overrated”. If you haven’t yet watched it, I can’t recommend it enough!
The Black Panther trailer:
The Infinity War trailer:
A Black Panther clip:
An Infinity War clip:
[What do you think of these films? Be sure to let me know in the comments! Also, send me your review for any movie or show, and I’ll post it on Blockbusters Reviewed.]