Avengers: Infinity War review

For inSing

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Directors : Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast : Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin
Genre : Action/Comics
Run Time : 2h 29m
Opens : 25 April 2018
Rating : PG13

We’re going to do things a little differently.

Going into Avengers: Infinity War, you’ve been told to avoid spoilers like the plague, and yet, we want you to read this review, which will be spoiler-free.

This will be a review, and yet not a review. We’re hoping that you’ll read this, but if you don’t wanna, that’s fine.

We’ll say it up front: this is a particularly tricky movie to write a spoiler-free review of, but we’ll give it the best shot we’ve given anything.

Marvel has hyped Avengers: Infinity War as the most ambitious crossover event staged in entertainment media. They’re not wrong. No matter which way you look at this movie, it’s tricky to put together. It’s a puzzle with the pieces constantly moving.

Even with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War under the Russo brothers’ belts, there are still many times during Infinity War when one is wont to wonder aloud “how did the guys from Arrested Development and Community get here?” This is a film with a sprawling scope, even for a genre which is all about scope. The Russo brothers, with the in-built support at Marvel Studios, do a commendable job of wrangling it all.

This reviewer would love to have been a fly on the wall while the Russo brothers and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were hammering this out. Imagine all the iterations, all the bits and pieces that maybe didn’t quite work, before we got here.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A studio hasn’t quite been able to announce to the audience “right, you should’ve seen all 18 of these movies, or at least most of them, before you watch this. Off you go, then.” Not even long-running franchises like the Bond movies, Star Wars, or Harry Potter can really demand that, and know that most audiences would have fulfilled that demand. There’s a swaggering confidence about Infinity War, and yet it’s not off-putting or self-congratulatory. If anything, Marvel Studios is deliberately making things really difficult for themselves going forward.

Over the years, the MCU has garnered its fair share of detractors. There are purists, there are ardent fanboys who have fixated on one niggling aspect or another that dissatisfied them, there are those who loyally back the other team (this reviewer has been accused of being both paid off by Disney and being biased towards DC movies), there are those who say it’s all too funny and nothing is taken seriously enough. Depending on the context, some aspects of these criticisms are valid, but it’s important to take a step back and consider all the myriad hurdles that the people making these films have cleared to get here.

At the core of Infinity War is a MacGuffin hunt that has spanned multiple movies, with so much being set up in previous instalments, leading up to this. The film takes inspiration from the Infinity Gauntlet comic book arc in 1991, written by Jim Starlin, and the 2013 Infinity crossover event, written by Jonathan Hickman. Infinity War is the culmination of intergalactic warlord and ‘mad titan’ Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) search for the Infinity Stones. We’ve seen five of the six stones in previous movies, and he’s looking to collect them all.

This is a quest that has attendant consequences and sacrifice, and from the beautifully staged, dramatic and grave opening scene onwards, viewers have a good idea of what to expect. There are plenty of jokes, but unlike in previous MCU movies, this reviewer felt less of a sense that said jokes were stepping on the dramatic beats.

This reviewer wasn’t the biggest fan of Civil War, because there was noticeable bloat and the central conflict didn’t really get enough room to breathe. Weirdly enough, that seems like less of a problem here. Clocking in at 149 minutes and costing an estimated $300-400 million, it seems a foregone conclusion that Infinity War would be more bloated than a beached whale, but it moves with great finesse.

Infinity War could easily have come off as a string of unrelated set-pieces. It’s evident that this was not constructed by devising the set-pieces first, with the plot being filled in around those. Our massive ensemble is handily organised into groups, with said groups meeting and then diverging as the story progresses. The groups all make sense, and there is considerable time dedicated to reinforcing and evolving existing relationships.

The romance between Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) elicited the most emotion out of this reviewer. The Guardians of the Galaxy team up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and we delve a little deeper into the relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her estranged adoptive father Thanos.

It seems like Markus and McFeely really enjoyed writing the Guardians, nailing the voices of each character. There’s a consistency which feels organic and yet must’ve been challenging to achieve. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) butt heads and egos, while Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) faces more struggles in getting control of his alter ego, the Hulk. A good portion of the film is set in Wakanda, which in Black Panther, has just opened itself to the outside world, its people getting more than they bargained for here.

It wasn’t really that long ago when we thought we’d never see Peter Parker in the MCU, so it’s a genuine thrill to see Holland’s Spider-Man interact with so many characters and feel like he was always meant to be in this line-up.

Thanos feels like an actual character rather than just an obstacle our heroes must overcome. We get just enough back-story and there is respectable gravity to the proceedings. There’s a lot of fantastic acting on display from everyone involved. This is not a movie in which the spectacle does all the legwork.

Avengers: Infinity War is a staggering work of virtuosic audacity. Its filmmakers play the audience like a fiddle. The ending is either a howl-inducing gut punch or sheer genius – maybe both at once. You’re probably going to be frustrated at some point or another, but there will be gasps, there will be cheers, there will be laughter, and depending on how fragile the audience at your screening is, there might be open sobbing.

Given the nigh-insane parameters the filmmakers were working within, Avengers: Infinity War is the best movie it could’ve been.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Cap’s Night Out: Team Cap Light-Up and Fireworks at Marina Bay Sands

CAP’S NIGHT OUT
Team Cap takes over the Marina Bay Sands skyline
By Jedd Jong


There has been considerable build-up to the finale of Team Cap’s visit to Singapore, so one could excuse us for being underwhelmed by the end result. Team Iron Man had thrown down the gauntlet, with Robert Downey Jr. lighting up the Eiffel Tower in gold and red, complete with glowing ‘eyes’ and an ‘arc reactor’. “Team Cap…I mean, how do you come back from that?” Downey said after the big reveal in Paris. “You are toast!”

Stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), with co-director Joe Russo, answered the challenge with a multimedia display and fireworks show at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort on the night of 22ndApril. Clips from the film were projected onto the ArtScience Museum and the spine of the hotel’s first tower, complemented by pyrotechnics. The show lasted around six minutes, starting and stopping intermittently.


Team Cap only made their way to the podium on the Helix Bridge 45 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin. Access to the bridge was tightly controlled, following the zealous fan turn-out for the Blue Carpet event the previous night. Most of the media weren’t allowed onto the same pod as Team Cap; F*** was one pod away. Safety was a concern, seeing as the bridge has a limited weight capacity. There were also rumours that Evans had been cranky the previous day, with some taking his attire at the Blue Carpet premiere (the same shirt he wore to the press conference, as opposed to Mackie’s and Stan’s three-piece suits) and his much later arrival compared to the director and other actors as indication that he was reluctant to walk the Blue Carpet.

If one had happened to pass by the Marina Bay waterfront and were catching the display from afar, it would’ve passed muster, but the fans and media weren’t so impressed. This reviewer overhead a fan asking her friends, “can we all agree that Team Iron Man won?” as they were filing out after the show.

The promotional tour rivalry will come to a head with Team Iron Man and Team Cap coming face-to-face at the film’s upcoming premiere in London.

Captain America: Civil War is in theatres 28 May 2016.

Photos by Tedd and Jedd Jong

Action figure is the writer’s own. 


Painting the Town Blue – Captain America: Civil War Blue Carpet

For F*** Magazine

PAINTING THE TOWN BLUE

Team Cap takes Marina Bay Sands by storm
By Jedd Jong

To call it a ‘crowd’ would be a gross understatement. On the evening of Thursday 22ndApril, throngs of fans showed up to try to catch a glimpse or, better yet, a coveted selfie with or autograph from the stars of Captain America: Civil War. The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) were overrun with eager folks armed with homemade signs and cheering at the top of their lungs, some of whom had arrived as early as 10 hours before the scheduled start of the event.
That glorious Scott Pilgrim reference though.
In what must have been a heart-breaking move for any DC fan, a black curtain was set up in front of the DC Super Heroes café that overlooked the Blue Carpet area, out of deference to Marvel. It is perhaps an apt metaphor for how Marvel is pummelling the Distinguished Competition at the Multiplex.
A highlight of Team Cap’s visit to Singapore, stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier) with co-director Joe Russo walked the Blue Carpet. Deejay Glenn Ong and model/actress Stephanie Carrington were the evening’s hosts, with actor Paul Foster providing back-up on the Blue Carpet. The event was kicked off with the finals of a cosplay competition, with an enthusiastic Indonesian gentleman sporting accurate Tony Stark-esque facial hair drawn on and eyewear beneath his Iron Man helmet taking the top prize.

Stan looked more comfortable than he did at the press conference that morning, rocking a striking turquoise suit, with Mackie going for a more classic option. Evans looked like he rolled out of bed, wearing the same shirt and trousers he wore to the press conference – but one could stand to be a little sloppy if one possessed even a fraction of Evans’ pulchritude.
The sale of packages priced at $688 and $1288, including access to the Blue Carpet, had become the talk of the town. It was later clarified that the majority of Blue Carpet passes were being distributed to invited children and teenagers as part of Disney and MBS’ corporate social responsibility initiatives; these children would be invited on stage later. Other recipients included contest winners and VIPs. A limited number of Blue Carpet passes were then bundled together with products like collectible t-shirts, figurines and a one-night stay at the MBS hotel.
A considerable number of lucky fans who had arrived early enough to stake out a good spot lining the Blue Carpet were able to get the attention of the stars, who made every effort to sign as many autographs and take as many selfies as time would allow. Mackie even leapt over the barricades to reach fans standing several rows back, with Russo following suit. Even though the measures to prevent the average fan from attending weren’t as extreme as previously thought, the layout of the Blue Carpet did make it difficult for those who weren’t journalists or pass-holders to get very close to the stars.

The under-privileged children who were beneficiaries of MBS’ social outreach programs were welcomed onstage, and some got to ask the stars and director their questions. It’s difficult not to be a cynic in the face of such a blithely manipulative display on the part of a big corporation, but the children did seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves and a boy was overwhelmed with joy when Stan carried him up and swung him around.
Team Cap was presented with artwork by artists Elvin Ching, Guo Junwei, Noval N. Hernawen and Soefara Jafney which incorporated characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe into prominent Singapore landmarks.
The Team Cap festivities culminate on the night of 22nd April, which will see MBS lit up in red, white and blue, with an accompanying fireworks display as an act of one-upmanship aimed at Team Iron Man, who set a tough act to follow by lighting up the Eiffel Tower in red and gold with glowing blue ‘eye’s during their Paris tour.

Photos by Tedd Jong 

In Civillised Company – Captain America: Civil War Team Cap Singapore Press Conference

For F*** Magazine

IN CIVILLISED COMPANY

Team Cap and co-director Joe Russo touch down in Singapore to talk Captain America: Civil War
By Jedd Jong
 
 
                It seems our tiny city state has been in a bit of a tizzy, ever since Marvel announced that Singapore would be one of the stops on the promotional tour for Captain America: Civil War, the 13th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). A brouhaha erupted over the obscenely high ticket prices that were being charged for premium access to the blue carpet – the passes, priced at $688 and $1288, did not even guarantee actually meeting the celebrities, and a discussion on the exploitation of geek interests for profit spread across social media. It was later clarified that these were package deals, and fans were welcome to line the blue carpet in the hopes of a selfie or autograph for free.
 
 
 
                This morning, stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon) and director Joe Russo, one half of the Russo Brothers filmmaking team, fielded questions from the local and regional press at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, including F***. Deejay Glenn Ong moderated the press conference, as Team Cap laid out their plans for domination.
 
                Civil War sees the Avengers fractured after politicians around the world propose a governing body to keep superhero activity in check, so as to prevent the wanton collateral damage the Avengers have incurred in the past from happening again. Half the team sides with Iron Man, who is for regulation, while the other backs Captain America, who is against it. Stars Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/War Machine) and Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter/Agent 13), with co-director Anthony Russo, threw down the gauntlet by lighting up the Eiffel Tower in red and gold with blue ‘eyes’ during their press tour in Paris. Presumably, VanCamp was brought in as a replacement for Scarlett Johansson, seeing as Agent 13 really is on Team Cap in the movie.
 
                “I saw what Downey did in Paris, and it was great, but I think we can really do something special here in Singapore and show ‘em it’s all about Team Cap,” Evans declared. He was referring to the plan to light up the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in red white and blue; the light-up will be accompanied by a fireworks display. “The more buzz, the more energy that can be created, the conflict between the two camps is going to help the film,” Evans said, tacitly conceding that the rivalry is obviously manufactured to keep the sales machine going.
 
                The Russo brothers return to the MCU after helming the much-loved Winter Soldier movie. They are also signed on for both parts of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War cinematic epic, which will see the Avengers finally come face-to-face with their ultimate foe, the intergalactic warlord Thanos. Russo cited the interplay between the characters as a key component in the MCU, saying “I think this movie has more character interaction than any movie that has preceded it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Civil War is couched as a culmination of plot lines that have been fomenting across the earlier Avengers and Captain America movies, with Russo promising a film that’s “Heart-breaking but also a great deal of fun and “a well-rounded experience at the movies.”
 
                “It’s a Steven Soderbergh-level of cast,” Russo said of the ensemble he and his brother presided over. “Marvel has done an amazing job of filling out the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some of the best actors in the world, it makes my job very easy.”
 
                “They have a wonderful understanding of cinema,” Evans said, returning the praise. “A lot of directors don’t always want to reference other movies, but Joe and Anthony are true cinephiles.”
 
                The Russo Brothers are known for their work on television comedies like Arrested Development and Community. They slipped Community cast member Danny Pudi into The Winter Soldier, and Jim Rash has a cameo in Civil War. Russo drew a parallel between shooting comedy and staging action sequences, saying “When you execute a comedic gag, there’s a lot of correlation to action: spatial relationships on screen, editing, rhythm.” Russo acknowledged the “incredible support” rendered to them by the Marvel Studios brass, calling the visual effects team “unbelievable”.
 
                In order to decide who would be on whose side, the Russo Brothers sat in a room for months with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to hash out the story beats. “We went through the cast we had available us and the cast we didn’t have available to us and we thought very hard about who would line up against who based on their motivations up to this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Russo added that “surprises for the audience” were on the agenda too.
 
 
 
                Throughout the press conference, Stan seemed the most withdrawn, while still projecting a certain sweetness, whereas Mackie was gregarious and game. Perhaps Stan was freshly defrosted from Winter Soldier hibernation. Mackie was handy with the disses aimed at Team Iron Man, like so many bullets from flip-out submachine guns. “We try to get to know the culture that we’re in, eat the food and meet the people,” Mackie said, tacking the colloquial Singaporean interjection ‘lah’ onto the end of a few sentences. “Whereas Team Iron Man, they’re more about just going from the press conference to the spa, and then from the spa to their jet, stuff like that. We hitchhike. They hang on to me, I put on the jetpack and we go straight across.”
 
                In the film, Falcon’s get-up is referred to at one point as a “bird costume.” Mackie reacted with mock indignation when a reporter reminded him of this, replying “say that one more time, homie? I’m described as what?!” When egged on to denigrate Team Iron Man’s outfits, Mackie offered that Stark himself looks like “a coke can”, that Vision looks like “someone just drew over him”, that War Machine resembles “a trash can” and that Black Panther’s suit seems like it’s made of “Michelin car tyres.” He could not bring himself to insult Black Widow, whom he described as “perfect.”
 
 
                When quizzed on how they get in superhero shape for the films, Evans said there was no magic bullet, “Any type of secret workout, diet, doesn’t really work,” he insisted. “We go to the gym, we pick up heavy stuff, we put that down, we do that until we can’t do that anymore and we get big.” Sounds so easy when he puts it that way, doesn’t it? Mackie jests that Evans really is an Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast. Evans admonishes him, saying that his quip is bound to get lost in translation down the line and invariably get taken seriously by somebody.
 
                The film pushes the relationship between Rogers and Sharon Carter/Agent 13 further along, with Rogers learning that she’s actually the niece of Peggy Carter, the co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. who fell in love with Rogers during his WWII days. Evans stated that it “follows in the lineage of what Cap considers his home to be with Peggy Carter, and Sharon Carter is kind of an incarnation of something familiar.” He said he is intrigued by the suggestion of a romantic bond between Cap and Black Widow, which Mackie objected to, since he has his eye on Black Widow. “They come from different backgrounds and find comfort in each other at different times of distress,” Evans reasoned. “I always thought that would be a really interesting dynamic to pursue, but at the same time, it’s very sweet and very pure that they’ve kept it platonic.”
 
 
 
                Russo delivered the closing salvo of the press conference, calling Civil War an “incredibly important” entry in the canon. “Winter Soldier changed the external structure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think that this movie changes the psychology of the Marvel Universe in a very significant way,” Russo continued. Teasing what’s to come, he said that “the ramifications of Civil War are not over, they’re going to carry over significantly into Infinity War.” So, from the ashes of war, there is rebuilding to be done.
Captain America: Civil War opens in cinemas 28 April 2016
 
F***’s coverage of the Team Cap festivities in Singapore will continue.
 
Photos by Tedd Jong