Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Spoilers ahead, beware! I’d say, with this movie the statue of limitations is short, and everybody is going to see it anyway, so there’s no point in writing a spoiler-free review 😉

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We went our friend Rodzyn to see the new Avengers movie on the very first day it was being played in Poland. It certainly is a complex, carefully constructed story of epic proportions, aiming to be a climax of the entire theatrical MCU so far. Most of the heroes we’ve met meet to fight the ultimate threat – Thanos. He’s been looming on the horizon since The Avengers, and now stepped up to become THE villain.

So… did they succeed, is it the greatest team-up, the biggest foe, the most epic struggle and the most heart-wrenching story of the MCU?

Piotrek: It… well, it is, for me. Not the best MCU movie, but definitely the proper culmination (or at least the first part of…) of all the interweaving storylines. The scale is bigger than anything that happened before, and a chaotic disaster on the DC scale was a real risk – but it works! It works, because we had a decade to prepare and now it just click together nicely.

Ola: I’m not sure if this indeed is a culmination – or, to be more precise, a final one. The superheroes surely deal with the biggest and baddest foe to date, and it is the most epic struggle of the MCU as we know it. However, the heart-wrenching part is a definite exaggeration on your part, Piotrek ;). It’s a wonderfully made, cleverly written, visually arresting, truly funny and sometimes even quite emotionally gripping – money grab 🙂

Piotrek: Isn’t everything. But it’s quite a good one, as blockbusters go. And it’s more than just a sequence of fights and quips.

Rodzyn: It’s hard not to admire the weavers behind MCU mentioned by Piotrek . After all those years we get to the skilfully crafted final stage, one that avid viewer can enjoy immensely. But neither the decor of epic battlefields nor the sheer number of assembled heroes gave me the most joy. In my eyes the best part of MCU are the relations and dynamics between our protagonists, ‘family drama’ feel of supernatural gathering.

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Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

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Ola: The Last Jedi is the second instalment in the new Star Wars trilogy, produced by Disney and without any direct involvement of George Lucas, the original creator of Star Wars universe. The Last Jedi starts right where Episode VII ended. My review for The Force Awakens, and my openly expressed criticism, can be found here. Episode VIII was supposed to open a new field of play, built on the flimsy foundations set in the derivative plot of Episode VII. Most of the fans had high hopes for The Last Jedi, both because of the immensely advanced technology allowing for more picturesque and dynamic scenes, and because it is the middle part of the trilogy – the analogies to The Empire Strikes Back were clear from the beginning, with Luke Skywalker doomed to reprise the role of Master Yoda.

The Last Jedi turned out to be a wholehearted reprisal of The Empire Strikes Back: with Dagobah set on a stony island, a reluctant hermit teaching the secrets of the Force to a young (but too old anyway!) and strong in the Force adept, a doom hanging on suddenly desperate Rebels… What happened to the New Republic? There are also some additional scenes taken out from The Return of the Jedi: our protagonist, trained in the ways of Force, tries to rescue the Big Bad Skywalker, in whom a conflict of darkness and light burns brightly… The protagonist is tortured by the evil Emperor with a badly distorted face and a penchant for terrible sneer (or Supreme Leader, whatever) only to be saved by the Big Bad Skywalker.

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I hope everyone’s already seen Episode VIII. Because my first question is: WTF??? Why are you, Disney, so bent on killing all the beloved characters of old trilogy? Is this some kind of ritualistic patricide? I mean, I probably should be glad you didn’t use pretzels as a means of gruesome death, but that’s not enough for me, not by a long shot.

Piotrek: I, on the other hand, had fun watching the latest installment of Star Wars franchise. I’d say it was a very nice movie, but perhaps not a good addition to the SW universe.

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Wonder Woman (2017) – votum separatum

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There’s been a lot of talk about Wonder Woman, very favorable reviews (one of them, by Piotrek, on this blog), fan hype and critical acclaim. The movie’s heyday is already past, with Justice League on screen and other superhero movies crowding the benches. So why do I come back to it now?

Well, probably partly because I’ve been recently reading Moses Finley’s seminal work, The World of Odysseus – very highly recommended to anyone interested in ancient Greece. And partly because the movie sits like a thorn in my side, its popularity and acclaim, when confronted with its painfully stereotypical message, truly baffling.

Wonder Woman has been hailed as the first superhero movie with a woman as a lead. This is surely something laudable? After all, thanks to this movie we’ve read about subversive feminism and whatnots, discussed chainmail bikinis as a source of empowerment or subjugation, depending on one’s stance, and so on. Even Gloria Steinem took a stand, saying the film was very good, although noting at the same time that she “may be desperate – […] just happy that the Amazons had wild hair”. It’s been called the best of DCU movies so far, and while it in itself is not a big feat, it definitely forces comparison to other movies. It all seems highly beneficial to a summer flick which on its own is rather mediocre. We’ve all probably heard the voice of reason, saying, “it’s not perfect, but better this than nothing”, “it’s a step in right direction”, “I’ve seen worse”.

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Critics Consensus: Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise — and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Piotrek: This from Rotten Tomatoes, where the movie got 93% freshness rating from critics and 90% from the audience. Points are slightly lower, with 7,5/10 from critics and 4,3/5 from regular movie-goers. On imdb it’s 8,2/10. From sites and reviewers I follow, not a single one disappointed voice. See Angry Joe and his crew, their enthusiasm is contagious. Just as everybody, they describe T:R as non stop fun, great comedy, a new direction for both Thor and Hulk. Also as two hours of fan-service. And I agree, but I’m not as sure it’s good fan-service as they are. Or, to be more clear, it might be very good fan-service, but for me it’s not enough for a 10/10 rating. I’ve enjoyed the movie, I’ve laughed a lot, several scenes are superb – arena duel, some of the fight sequences (one using this!), Dr Strange’s cameo, Gatling-shooting Valkyrie… and more.

I couldn’t fully enjoy the movie though, and it’s Ola’s fault. I’m not talking about the scathing review I’ve heard before I had the chance to go to the cinema, but several collected comic book she made me read, with storylines that supposedly inspired T:R.

Ola: Thank you! To keep things simple, cinematic adaptations of their source material generally can be judged based on faithfulness/originality, which gives us three basic categories: 1) faithful to the original, keeping its spirit (if not the whole content) intact despite the difference in medium – Watchers are a good example of this case, 2) better than original, expanding the material in ways unique to the new medium and/or times it had been adapted in –  I know my choice will be controversial, but Guardians seem a nice enough example here, or 3) worse – for whatever reason cannibalizing/trivializing/creating serious misconceptions about the original. Thor: Ragnarok falls firmly into this last category.

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A quick look at Wonder Woman (2017)

I believe this is a great year for superhero movies. Each of the great studio delivered. We got best X-Men movie ever in Logan, we got near-perfect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and now there is the first good DC movie since Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

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I’ve never been a fan of comic book Wonder Woman, but it wasn’t a strong dislike, I just couldn’t bring myself to treat someone in such a silly outfit seriously… and this simplified approach to Greek mythology was somehow more difficult to stomach than Marvel’s Asgard.

In the disastrous Batman vs Superman, Gal Gadot’s character was one of few good things. Seeing all the stellar reviews I decided to give it a chance. I was not disappointed.

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