I heard one movie critic refer to this movie as Thanos 1.0 because coincidentally it seems like he's the biggest character in this movie; not literally, of course, but he does command the biggest stage presence throughout most of the movie. Throughout most of the MCU (since the first Avengers movie), he's stood in the shadows as this quintessential big bad that we were eventually going to confront, and now here he is; as menacing as ever. When he's onscreen, he's quite the menace; and even when he's off-screen, he still looms ever large as the mastermind behind something quite sinister. He's definitely one of the best movie villains that Marvel has put onscreen to-date. The "Mad Titan" is played a tad more seriously than his comic book origins; instead of being some lovesick puppy obsessed with courting the incarnation of death, this time around he's a tad obsessed (seemingly obsessive-compulsive) with randomly eliminating a fair random portion of the universe as some form of benevolence that would help restore some semblance of balance. And his methods are quite surgical and precise. The best villains have always been those that you can empathize with; you may not approve of his methods, but you can understand him, and maybe even respect him in spite of it all.
This was characterized as a heist movie from the beginning, but it is so much more than; I'd suggest that Ant-Man was the MCU's one true heist movie. This is part heist movie, and also part melding together of all the disparate stories and characters that had been set in motion; this thus brings the space-faring Guardians of the Galaxy (GoTG) and Thor together with mostly earthbound heroes like the Avengers (post-Civil War), The Black Panther and the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Just like the initial team-up of the Avengers, things are a little messy with egos clashing and loyalties being tested from the outset. This was important to the way things were presented because as viewers we've essentially cosied up to this whole machine that is the MCU, but forgotten that our heroes haven't all encountered each other previously. The writers also keep the story tight by reminding us that not all characters are aware of the events of Captain America: Civil War, and leaving room open to interweave the other separate characters whose stories have yet to be woven into this latest Thanos thread.
Be that as it may, the team-ups are spread far and wide apart. The teaming up of Dr. Strange and Iron Man makes for a mostly palatable arc with the exceptional weak link being GoTG's Starlord. This team has enough pride among its members to just throw things off-kilter; apparently Doctor Strange didn't fully learn the virtue of humility and Tony, being the ever arrogant billionaire, clashes with him from the start. The antics of Starlord, however, seemed a bit misplaced for this movie. His humour sometimes has that strange Marvel quality whereby it makes a joke of something serious...somewhat like the way they wrote Tony in Iron Man III.
One of the best character arcs has to be that of Thor. Thor Ragnarok certainly gave us a greater understanding of the character, and in this movie no one's story epitomizes the theme of LOSS as much as Thor's. Since his vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he's mostly been plagued about the underpinnings of the Infinity Stones. He and Asgard were directly involved in dealing with the Tesseract (Space) and the Reality stones; and he was responsible for helping bring Vision to life, thus making Vision the bearer of the Mind stone. This time around he probably has the largest arc, interacting with most of the separate Avengers teams, and delivers some of the best heroics.
Also fresh of his Thor Ragnarok appearance, Bruce Banner and the Green Goliath also weave an interesting web among the separate teams. Since a lot of Thor Ragnarok was based on the "Planet Hulk" storyline, it stands to reason that not much of Banner was essential to that movie's plotline. However, with an earthbound Banner this time around, we require more Banner than we actually do the Hulk (to a certain point). This movie does put a bit of emphasis on the clash between Hulk and Banner, and is probably starting us along a trail where we'll eventually encounter one of the other Hulk personas sooner rather than later. It was also a treat to see Banner interact with Shuri, the MCU's resident genius-supreme.
This movie worked well for its gnarly two-and-a-half-hour run time; the action was on point with the Russo Brothers' signature penchant for action spectaculars here for all to see. What we have here is a complete story with an ending so sad that even the greatest pessimist will surely be on hand for the sequel to see how things will ultimately be resolved in a positive fashion; but it is missing some things. Thanos' "Black Order", his impressive minions are just as menacing as he is, but they just appear out of nowhere. A part of me wants to see their beginnings and how they all ended up serving Thanos. Surely, they must have an experience akin to Gamora's and Nebula's, something that either tugs at the heartstrings or at least points out why they are so devoted to him and keen to make his vision a reality. One part of the heist is also missing, and I hope we get to see it in the sequel (to mention anything else would be too spoiler-y).
Just have to say that this is only one of 3 movies that I've watched twice during it's theatrical run - Spider-Man II & Batman: The Dark Knight being the other entries - and one of the 2 that I willingly wanted to (ended up watching The Dark Knight again because of a friend). Each time was a joy, but there were a few cinema sins committed this time around.
- Parents, this was rated a PG-13 movie. If you're going to bring your younger children along, get them to be quiet. Having a kid upfront shouting loudly about the blow-by-blow of a scene is downright annoying. I now understand why some shoot outs break out in cinema halls!
- Y'all patrons need to put your phones down. Being interrupted by you flicking your phone on-and-off is uncalled for. It's not like a whatsapp conversation is going to save your life. Get your act together.
- 20th Century Imax is a disaster. Don't think I've ever been able to watch a movie in peace there for a long time. This time around, the projection equipment broke down about 25 minutes into the movie. After 45 minutes of finagling, they finally restarted the movie and basically kept us there for more than an hour. God help me, apart from the IMAX screen, everything else about that theater belongs in the scrap heap.
I did learn one good thing though: if you end up in the front seats (4th row in my case), don't consider sitting in the middle - that'll just be an exercise in cognitive-dissonance. Rather, take a seat on the edges, and enjoy a crisp movie experience.
Finally, I give this movie two thumbs up, an A+. It'll be an enduring memory for years to come. This is as much a game changer as the first Avengers movie, and a gift to the world. Looking forward to what's coming next.