Avengers: Infinity War – Movie Review

Avengers Infinity War.jpg

Seems as good a time as any to feel like a drop in the ocean, so I’m going to throw my opinions about the latest Marvel film at the internet.

Although the first Infinity War is less of a standalone, and packs less of an emotional punch than other Marvel films, it’s still entertaining. I’ll explain:

*SPOILER WARNING* – If you are caught up on the films or simply don’t care about spoilers, please read on.

Standalone or stepping stone

Obviously, every Marvel film is part of a greater, ongoing universe so they should naturally feed into one another to keep the momentum for the “series.” They aren’t supposed to be single-shots. However, I believe all of the earlier movies have strong “standalone” qualities; the films individually carry their own story arcs, resolving them before the credits roll.

Even the prior Avengers crossovers provide full story arcs. The characters have internal and external problems at the start, we’re given time to see the problems and potential solutions come to a boil, and then there’s a climax and resolution where most problems are solved and the characters are shown to have grown.

With Avengers: Infinity War, the character development is lacking, relying more on the viewers’ knowledge of past films than ever, and the movie ends in the middle of the rising action. Obviously, this was intentional, since Disney and the Russo brothers plan to spread the story arc over two Infinity War films (with an Ant-Man sequel and Captain Marvel debut in-between). So, with Infinity War, they wrap up Part One by crushing our heroes with major setbacks.

Side Note: This is essentially what was famously done by The Empire Strikes Back, but unlike Empire, I doubt Infinity War will be ever be referred to as being the best of the series.

Ultimately, Infinity War is unique as being the only MCU film to lack a full story arc. It probably also has the largest proportion of movie-goers thinking “WTF?” at the end (I haven’t seen such a response since watching The Fellowship of the Ring in a theater where some folks didn’t know they were only watching the first in a trilogy).

Personally, I’m fine that the movie is more a part of a series than it is a standalone. I’ve been trained since the days Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to be okay with waiting a year or so for the next film. The folks at Disney are becoming experts at intermittently releasing films to build and maintain interest. So, although there are many unresolved threads, I’m still fine with waiting for the wrap-up, especially since we’ll have two other MCU films in the interim.

Death everywhere, but not a tear to drop

Okay, I don’t think I’ve actually shed a tear while watching a Marvel movie, but I’ll admit I’ve come close. With Black Panther, I’m driven to near-tears every time I see Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan; Seth Carr) going up to the apartment to find what happened to his father. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol 2. also got me pretty good when Peter Quill learns the details of his mother’s death. Going back to Phase One movies, I’m also moved when the scrawny Steve Rogers dives on the grenade in The First Avenger.

With Infinity War, we’re treated to a high death count. Try as I might to delve into some sympathy and empathy, I wasn’t quite as affected as I would’ve liked.

In the opening scene, we see slaughtered Asgardians and the fan-beloved Loki choked to death. I felt almost nothing. I was busy thinking, “Dude, we just saw these guys get saved at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. And where the hell is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and that rock guy (Taika Waititi)? Are they all just dead now after Bones/Eomer (Karl Urban) sacrificed himself for them?”

Well, I also thought “Nooooo!” when Heimdall (Idris Elba) was stabbed in the heart, but that was about it. I’d already seen Loki die before, so–yeah.

Perhaps the lack of emotion also has to do with the rushed pacing of the movie. There’s so much to get through, the scenes fly by, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) doesn’t get a fair chance to relay his pain to the audience.

I’m going to take a risk and say the lack of tears is, perhaps, partially because of the men at the helm. For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s work on Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War (it’s probably largely because of their success with Winter Soldier that Captain America didn’t shrink into more of a background character). They do great with the cloak-and-dagger stories, evoking certain emotions featuring the brotherhood between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and certain types of comedy. However, they don’t seem as proficient with the use of pathos in their work.

Then again, getting people to cry probably isn’t the main objective in these movies.

Awkward woman VS woman combat

The movie seems to go out of its way to force the only female villain, Proxima (Carrie Coon), to fight the female heroes. I’ll concede there are instances where they mix it up a bit, most notably in Scotland. However, the film quickly establishes an awkward C-story between Proxima and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson).

This seems to be the result of using a dated mechanic: forcing female characters to fight each other, insulated from the males in rather contrived manners. This issue is most noticeable when Proxima faces off against Black Widow, Okoye, and Scarlet Witch at the same time. The Winter Soldier and Cap aren’t that far away at the moment, so why don’t they go after Proxima? I’m pretty sure the answer is, “All-girl Fight,” preceded by a shrug.

Fan Theory Zone

I generally don’t like to go too much into fan theorizing, but I feel compelled to make a few comments:

  1. Cheating with a bit of meta knowledge, the fact that certain movies have already been announced and certain actors are contracted for more films, a lot of the characters who “die” in the movie aren’t really dead forever (e.g., there are supposed to be more Spider-man and Guardians movies, and I don’t think those would work very well without Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as Spider-man and Star-Lord).
  2. I assume, with Chris Evans’ apparent insistence not to contract for more movies, the only character who is more guaranteed to be “truly” killed off by the end of the Infinity War is Captain America. Many other folks will likely be brought back.
  3. Dr. Strange saw all the possible futures, including one in which the good guys won; he probably had a very specific reason to make sure Tony Stark, of all the folks present, is left alive. So, it’s probably a future where Stark somehow makes it so the characters wiped out at the end of this movie aren’t quite gone.
  4. Thanos’ goal is to get rid of half the population of all civilizations so that the civilizations can continue to exist and not overuse their resources. Maybe what he does by snapping his fingers isn’t to kill everyone, but to separate them into two alternate realities. That would halve the population, like he wants. Or maybe he sends half the population into a state of limbo. Why wouldn’t he just use his all-powerful gauntlet to create infinite resources and make everyone happy? He’s called the Mad Titan for a reason; he has to accomplish his goal (halving the population), but he doesn’t have to do it in the way people expect. At any rate, I think all the people who turned to ash at the end of Infinity War weren’t really killed in the normal sense.

Despite all the critiques I might have, I still found Avengers: Infinity War to be entertaining and I will continue to give all my money to Disney. The only problem is when I re-watch this movie, I’ll feel like I have to immediately go on to the next one because this movie offers no closure whatsoever.

Back in the Habit–Writing Regularly

My writing has been pretty inconsistent over the last year. I’ve used my UCLA Extension classes as a crutch, pretending I’m doing enough writing-related work so long as I fulfill the requirements of the class and get my “A’s.” However, the quantity of writing has dwindled to something that should be unacceptable to any half-serious writer.

Having come back “home,” I hope I can do better with my writing discipline; correct and stay the course. Right now, I’m sitting in one of my old writing spots, trying to use the location to trigger some kind of positive conditioning–to get myself to work. I managed to put together a few hundred words in my WIP novel before I decided to churn out this “quick” blog post. Hopefully, this is the start of more productive habits.

Wish me luck.

whereiwritemaybe

Too Busy/Lazy

So, this is more of a personal post and update on my life than anything else.

I haven’t posted anything for quite a while. I was in South Korea (with the girlfriend) for a year, teaching English. Didn’t write as much as I wanted to, and I didn’t do as much remote legal work as intended, either. However, I am making steady progress with UCLA Extension classes and will probably end up with a certificate in fiction writing by the end of the year.

Now that I’m back in the States, I want to become more established in my careers as an attorney and as a writer. However, I’m also learning to code (java).

I probably need to learn how to focus on one thing at a time.

Without further ado, here’s a picture I took of a dog in China:

doginbeijing

Dog we saw while looking for an ATM during an overnight layover in Beijing.

Bronn: 1, Drogon: 0—Game of Thrones, Season 7, So Far

Game of Thrones Spoiler Alert! (With that out of the way—)

Dany and Jon Snow

I sincerely hope this doesn’t turn into a romantic relationship. The Onion Knight needs to mind his business.

As I watched Drogon bearing down on Bronn and the ballista, I found myself rooting more for Bronn than Daenerys. Actually, I was more on the side of Jaime and Bronn for the entirety of the battle. Given Dany’s insistence that Jon Snow bend the knee in the last two hours of GoT, I’ve been somewhat annoyed with her.

This season, Dany has been acting rather entitled to the Iron Throne and the whole of Westeros, and it’s gotten tiresome. The first Targaryen to sit on the throne had taken the continent through conquest and threat of violence. Robert Targaryen took it back by the same means, relieving the people from the whims of the Mad King. So, though it’s fair game for Dany to say she’s going to take the throne by the might of her dragons and her army, I find it a bit lame for her to so strongly rely on the argument that it’s her “right.”

Jon’s retort to Dany on episode 3 was on point. He basically said he didn’t acknowledge her right to the throne because her father gave up the throne when he went ballistic on the people of Westeros. Overall, I’m not a fan of monarchies and (governing) power-by-inheritance. As a person who grew up with Hollywood films touting the values of Democracy, I kind of want Daenerys to unite Westeros and then put down her crown—as cheesy as it my be.

So after Dany spent two episodes basically clashing with my beloved King in the North, and insisting that she is entitled to the entire continent and all the people’s allegiance, I wasn’t quite in support of her flying down to Highgarden and laying waste to Westerosi.

The showrunners (and, perhaps, George R.R. Martin) intended for these late-game clashes to leave the audience conflicted, and it was done well. I didn’t want anyone to die in this fight. Sure, the Lannisters have a history of being jerks, but all the lives lost in this episode are warriors who should have united to fight against the true enemy.

By the end of the episode, when Jaime told Bronn to use their secret dragon-slaying weapon, I was both hoping and expecting for Drogon to be shot down (sorry, animal lovers). I wanted the dragon to fall, somewhat selfishly, because Dany needed a reality check. I also expected it because, like most folks, you could see this coming a mile away—more lives and resources need to be wasted, from a writing/show-running standpoint, before the good guys can finally band together.

Bronn being awesome

Take that, Drogon.

So the postman may hate Bronn, but he has my support. As for his and Jaime Lannister’s fates on the show after they dodged the flames and fell into the water—

They’re probably okay. They’re not shown in teasers for the next episode just to screw with people. The showrunners seem to be going in the direction of The Walking Dead and leaning a bit too much on cliffhangers to jerk the audience around (which, if true, is a mistake).

What Am I Doing?

Not that you asked, but I’ve been taking courses with the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and am currently teaching English in Seoul. No, I haven’t abandoned my license to practice law—as usual, the legal career is in the backseat while writing drives (life-experiences called shotgun). Before leaving California to go to Korea, I made a few visits to Disneyland.

Disneyland - California Adventure

Okay, this is technically California Adventure, but I didn’t take any photos on the other side.

UCLA Extension

I’ve been taking the Novel Writing series of courses with UCLA Extension. I started with the on-campus class (going back to the old campus is always nice), but switched over to the online version when I decided to go to Korea. Overall, I think it’s been rather helpful.

In terms of craft, the lecture and workshops haven’t taught me anything “new.” I’d already learned much of it via the internet, the Southern California Writers’ Conference, and writing groups. However, the lecture material and workshops have helped me to hone my craft, solidify certain theories (so I can actually apply them more consistently), and develop my ability to read with a writer’s eye.

The instructors at UCLA Extension seem to echo the sentiment I’d read when researching MFA programs: you can’t really teach art, you can only facilitate the growth of artists. So, that’s how the classes have been going. The instructor and other students offer valuable insights and feedback but, for the most part, each writer needs to put in the work to further their own craft.

Teaching English in Korea

The process to get the job in Seoul was a long one. Securing documentation and flinging paperwork back and forth was a bit of a hassle. After months of that, I finally flew to Seoul and was subjected to a highly stressful week of training. The bottome line: if you fail the training, you’re sent back home. Honestly, I did not expect the training to be so taxing.

I’m glad to say, however, it’s been a considerable while since training and I’m feeling fairly comfortable here now. I’m more at ease in front of the classroom, have been referred to as Handsome Teacher a number of times (the girlfriend says this has been inflating my ego), and am slowly swapping out American fast food out of my diet in favor of kimchi jjigae. So, yeah, I’m getting settled and finally feel like I have the time to start posting here again. Hopefully, I’ll also get to write a lot more and have something to report on that end.

Take it easy, folks.

Namsan Seoul Tower

Namsan Tower (AKA Seoul Tower)

Kyle from Last Man Standing = Jeff from American Dad

jefffischerandkyleanderson

A few episodes into Last Man Standing, I realized the character of Kyle Anderson reminded me a lot of Jeff Fischer on American Dad!. They’re both super-nice and kindhearted, have similar amounts of facial hair, are loyal partners to their women, have a noticeable lack of wit, are partial to Hackey Sack, and are more likable than most of the people around them. Oh, and I guess they’re both twenty-something white guys.

Of course, they’re not exactly the same, but listing differences doesn’t seem as fun.

After pointing out the similarity of these characters to my girlfriend, I jumped onto Google to see if anyone has written about it. Finding nothing, I decided I’d write this myself. My best guess as to why no one else has noted this (in an easily Googled space) is because the shows seem to appeal to different demographics (or, you know, something to do with American Dad!‘s recent ratings).

American Dad!, like other Seth MacFarlane shows, leans liberal and has a mostly “young” male audience. Last Man Standing is a bit closer to center thanks to a balance between Tim Allen’s conservative views and a somewhat-left writing room, and it’s probably more appealing to “older” folks (I watch it because I loved Home Improvement as a kid—whether or not I’m “old” may be up for debate). Ironically, the “liberal” American Dad! is probably less PC than the “conservative” Last Man Standing.

Back to my point: People who know Jeff Fischer have probably never heard of Kyle Anderson, and vice versa. Then there are weirdos like me who enjoy both shows and use Google to see if people notice the same crap I do.

Luke Cage! I’ll binge-watch you soon enough.

luke-cage-netflix-premiereDespite the somewhat disappointing Jessica Jones and second season of Daredevil, I’ve been looking forward to Luke Cage. The trailer they dropped a while ago did its job hyping me up to see Cage become a Hero for Hire (and beat a bunch of bad guys up in the process). So much bulletproof awesomeness.

Still, I somehow managed to forget about the launch of the series until NPR, of all things, reminded me it was available for streaming TODAY. When I heard the piece on the radio (discussing mostly race, the creation and evolution of Luke Cage, and how his bulletproof skin brings up certain thoughts in relation to current events), I was in the midst of running errands. I was too busy to rush home and watch.

I’m about to go out right now, too, so it doesn’t look like I’ll  get through a single episode tonight. I’ll probably burn through half of the episodes tomorrow, though. Then, perhaps, I can find some time to share my thoughts about the Defenders shows (Cage, Jones, Daredevil). Hm—I also have to finish blogging about my previous travels before I start traveling again.

Eh, one thing at a time. Luke Cage!

Note: I enjoyed Daredevil‘s second season and Jessica Jones but they weren’t as good as the first season of Daredevil (I really liked it).

Mini life update: I’ve been fairly busy working on re-writing last year’s NaNoWriMo project; I signed up for a writing class with UCLA Extension; and I’m setting things up to work abroad in 2017.