I logged a 6th diary entry for Avengers | Infinity War on Letterboxd on 1st September with a rating of ★★★★½.
2018 was a great year for film and I think 2019 will be just as great. As we celebrate another year passing and a new year beginning, I find myself thinking about the films of this year and the ones I’m anticipating of next year. Films released in Northern America in 2017 are included here because they weren’t released in the UK until 2018.
Here are my thoughts on some of the films of 2018:
From the moment he appears on screen, I forgot I was watching Gary Oldman – that’s how good he is. It’s very on-the-nose and self-aware, so I felt invited to take part in its eccentric spirit. As a film based on Churchill, instead of giving us the historical figure, he’s shown for what he is: an unlikely choice for leader who turned out to be the one that was needed for the particular task at hand.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This is a film that I know I need to see again a few more times in order to fully understand it. From my single viewing of it, I’d say it’s about how blame destroys society; that it’s always someone else’s fault. It’s morally complex and deceptively simple at the same time; bitter on the outside but tender within, just like its protagonist.
The Shape of Water
It’s basically a melting pot of lots of things that Guillermo del Toro likes. Perhaps I’d have liked it more if I’d known certain things about it before seeing it. After about the half-way point, it becomes something different and – I must confess – I don’t understand the hype around it.
It spins many plates and styles and versions of its narrative but it all comes together as one cohesive piece. The story is fundamentally about the damage that can be done to oneself and others – emotionally and bodily – by seeking approval and validation, told through the lens of a series of real events that were already dramatic enough. The best film that I saw in 2018.
Avengers | Infinity War
Instead of spinning lots of plates, this lifts as many weights as it can without letting up. Every opportunity is taken and played to its maximum potential. It’s what happens when the highest ambition is combined with herculean film-making and is one of the most re-watchable films I’ve ever seen.
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars
The main shortcoming of this documentary is that it’s all surface. There are a lot of interesting moments touched-upon and explained but it’s all too soon that it moves on to something else. It could’ve given me more.
Just like the original ‘Incredibles‘, the action has value because the emotional core is so believable. This is my generation’s most eagerly anticipated sequel, and was worth the 14-year wait. Many creative choices weren’t the obvious ones but I think that proved to be the best strength.
Mamma Mia! Here we go Again
Look, every ABBA song is great and if you don’t hear the joy in their music then your entire existence is trash, okay? It’s impossible for this film to be bad. I felt Meryl Streep’s absence but other than that it’s just like getting back together with all my old friends and having a great time.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
I enjoyed this more than Ant-Man because of how well the two eponymous heroes’ are combined and their chemistry together. The inclusion of a second major hero added a new dimension that I think was necessary for a genre sequel like this. The gags also made me laugh more this time.
This dramatisation tells the story from one character’s point-of-view; that’s why it has an emotional core. Like many space films, it’s about a person’s own inner space. It’s effective because it’s underplayed and subtle instead of melodramatic and obvious.
At the end, I felt as if I really was at Live Aid, and everything we learn about the creation of the songs in that final sequence only gives it more value. The Queen members feel like a family that fights a lot but love each so I felt a part of that lineup. Rami Malek does give a great performance as Freddie Mercury but the other main actors are, I think, overlooked – especially Ben Hardy as Roger Deacon.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Like most other anthology films, the weaker vignettes tie-down the stronger ones. This is a great scrapbook example of the Coen Brothers’ film-making style; quirky and funny in some moments, and self-indulgent and weird in others. As a single piece, it’s a bit here-and-there, but the segments that do work are very sparse with quickfire wit and humour.
Dishonourable mention: Robin Hood
Having grown up with Sherwood Forest on my doorstep, the Robin Hood legend has always been an influential aspect of the kind of stories I tell. When I look at the trailers to this, it’s basically sacrilege. Going on the box office response, it would seem that everyone else thought pretty much the same.
And now: my most anticipated films of 2019
Of course I want to see how Avengers | Infinity War is resolved. A part of me wonders whether anything after this will be able to live up to it. For now, the rest of me is just enjoying the hype.
Toy Story 4
Toy Story didn’t just establish Pixar as a film studio heavyweight but also defined the cultural zeitgeist of my generation. For them to do a fourth one is a big risk but wasn’t Toy Story 2 as well? Maybe I’d be sceptical were this not Pixar.
Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri were released 12th January 2018. The Shape of Water was released 14th February 2018. I, Tonya was released 23rd February 2018. Avengers | Infinity War was released 26th April 2018. Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars was released 30th June 2018. Incredibles 2 was released 13th July 2018. Mamma Mia! Here we go Again was released 20th July 2018. First Man was released 12th October 2018. Bohemian Rhapsody was released 24th October 2018. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was released 16th November 2018. Robin Hood was released (unfortunately) 21st November 2018. The Christmas Chronicles was released 22nd November 2018. Avengers Endgame is released 26th April 2019. Toy Story 4 is released 21st June 2019.
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Date released: 27th April 2018
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Main actors: Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth
This is the third Avengers film. If there’s a time for audience fatigue, it was going to be now. Yet the reason it become the highest grossing film in the franchise is because it leads the audience to expect one thing, then does the opposite. Every time Thanos attempts to acquire an Infinity Stone, there’s a realistic obstacle and an element of doubt, which would usually be to the heroes’ advantage. So by overcoming those obstacles, the heroes are defeated, Thanos succeeds and the audience’s expectations are challenged. It makes this Marvel Studios films stand out from the rest by having a villain protagonist and a downer of an ending – but it’s not just popular characters being killed for dramatic effect, though the effect is dramatic. It’s the way in which it happens. The battles and showdowns are very much the same but that’s the point. Thanos’ ultimate victory is by the closest of margins. Because we arrived at that place according to established form, the twist ending is a deconstruction of the genre by being the one difference that changes everything but is still believable. The formula isn’t followed, it’s used.
“Evacuate the city, engage all defences and get this man a shield.”
Marvel Studios have announced that, in celebration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 10 year anniversary, the whole, 20-chapter saga is to be re-released in a special series of screenings that will take place from 30th August – 6th September.
Thursday 30th August
Iron Man (2008)
Premiered 14th April 2008. Iron Man introduced Anthony Stark, AKA Iron Man, a founding member of the Avengers. Also introduced is James Rhodes, who’ll become War Machine, a member of the Avengers. This re-release will be the first time that Iron Man has been shown in IMAX.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Premiered 8th June 2008. The Incredible Hulk introduced Robert Banner – whose alternate form is the Hulk – a founding member of the Avengers. The Incredible Hulk is the lowest-grossing Marvel Studios film domestically. This re-release will be the first time The Incredible Hulk has been shown in IMAX.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Premiered 26th April 2010. Iron Man 2 develops Stark’s relationship with Rhodes, who becomes War Machine. Also introduced is Natalia Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, a founding member of the Avengers. Peter Parker is also seen for the first time wearing an Iron Man mask.
Premiered 17th April 2011. Thor introduced Prince of Asgard Thor Odinson and Clinton Barton, founding members of the Avengers. Also introduced is a plot device called the Tesseract.
Friday 31st August
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Premiered 19th July 2011. Captain America: The First Avenger introduces Steven Rogers, AKA Captain America, a founding member of the Avengers, who is frozen in the 1940s and reawakened in the 2010s. Also introduced is James Barnes, who apparently dies. The Tesseract’s backstory is expanded upon. This re-release will be the first time Captain America: The First Avenger has been shown in IMAX.
Marvel Avengers Assemble (2012)
Premiered 11th April 2012. Marvel Avengers Assemble assembled the Avengers for the first time – consisting of Stark, Banner, Romanoff, Odinson, Barton and Rogers. The Tesseract is used as the maguffin, and Thanos is revealed to be the mastermind behind it all. Marvel Avengers Assemble also has the highest-grossing opening May weekend domestically.
Iron Man Three (2013)
Premiered 14th April 2013. Iron Man Three concludes Stark’s adventures as Iron Man. Rhodes’ War Machine becomes Iron Patriot. Events are recalled by Stark to Banner.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Premiered 22nd October 2013. Thor: The Dark World develops Odinson’s journey to Asgard’s throne. The second Infinity Stone, the Aether, is introduced. Thor: The Dark World is the lowest critically rated Marvel Studios film.
Saturday 1st September
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Premiered 13th March 2014. Captain America: The Winter Soldier explores Rogers’ adjustment to life in the 2010s. Barnes is revealed to have become the Winter Soldier. Also introduced is Samuel Wilson, AKA Falcon; Pietro Maximoff, AKA Quicksilver, and Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch – all members of the Avengers.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Premiered 21st July 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy introduces the founding members of Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord; Gamora; Drax “the Destroyer”; Subject: 89P13, AKA Rocket Raccoon; and Groot Sr. Also introduced is the third Infinity Stone: the Orb. The nature of the Infinity Stones is explained. Three more Infinity Stones are revealed to exist. Thanos’ character is expanded upon. Groot Sr. dies, and from him sprouts Groot Jr.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Premiered 13th April 2015. Avengers: Age of Ultron reassembles the Avengers: Stark, Banner, Romanoff, Odinson, Barton and Rogers. Stark comes out of retirement as Iron Man. The Vision is created, sustained by the fourth Infinity Stone: the Mind Stone. Vision joins the Avengers with Rhodes, the Maximoffs and Wilson. After a membership restructuring, the Avengers is reformed into the New Avengers: Rogers, Romanoff, Rhodes, Vision, Wilson and Wanda Maximoff. Odinson realises the significance of the Infinity Stones and begins a journey to discover more about them. Thanos acquires the Infinity Gauntlet.
Premiered 29th June 2015. Ant-Man introduces Scott Lang as the second Ant-Man. Flashbacks show Henry Pym as the first Ant-Man with Janet van Dyne as the first Wasp. Hope van Dyne becomes the new Wasp. Wilson becomes aware of Ant-Man’s existence. Janet van Dyne is revealed to have apparently died.
Sunday 2nd September
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Premiered 12th April 2016. Captain America: Civil War follows Rogers’ point of view during a feud between current and former Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. Siding with Rogers are Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Barton, Lang and Wilson. Siding with Stark are Romanoff, Rhodes, Vision, Parker – who is now Spider-Man – and the here-introduced T’Challa, who becomes Black Panther. The New Avengers disband to enter exile as the Secret Avengers.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Premiered 13th October 2016. Doctor Strange introduces Doctor Stephen Strange and his quest to become Sorcerer Supreme. Also introduced is the fifth Infinity Stone: the Eye of Agamotto.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Premiered 10th April 2017. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees the Guardians of the Galaxy – Quill, Gamora, Drax, Raccoon and Groot Jr. – teaming up again. Joining the team are Mantis and Yondu Udonta. Udonta dies.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Premiered 28th June 2017. Spider-Man: Homecoming develops Parker with a standalone. Stark is also present as Parker’s mentor. Rogers is also featured in video footage.
Monday 3rd September
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Premiered 10th October 2017. Thor: Ragnarok reveals the whereabouts of heroes absent from Captain America: Civil War. Odinson seeks help from Strange and finds Hulk in outer space. The Tesseract is also taken from Asgard by Laufeyson. Romanoff is also seen in stock footage.
Black Panther (2018)
Premiered 29th January 2018. Black Panther develops T’Challa with a standalone. Barnes is revealed to now be the White Wolf. Black Panther holds the domestic box office records for highest grossing Monday, opening weekend in February and winter, opening four-day President’s Day weekend, and any four-day President’s Day weekend. Black Panther is also the highest critically rated Marvel Studios film.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Premiered 23rd April 2018. Avengers: Infinity War is the climax of the Marvel Cinematic Universe metanarrative. Thanos collects all the Infinity Stones in the Infinity Gauntlet in a chain of events that unites the former Avengers with the Guardians of the Galaxy – who also disband – and culminates in the Infinity Gauntlet fulfilling its purpose of eliminating half of all life from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The location of the Soul Stone is revealed. Parker, Vision, Wanda Maximoff, Wilson, Strange, Quill, Mantis, Drax, Raccoon, Gamora, Groot Jr., T’Challa and Barnes die. Avengers: Infinity War holds the worldwide and domestic box office record for highest-grossing opening weekend and the domestic box office record for highest-grossing Saturday, Sunday, April opening weekend, Spring opening weekend, 3-day opening weekend, opening weekend for a PG-13 rated film and quickest film to make 150, 200 and 250 million dollars.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Premiered 25th June 2018. Ant-Man and the Wasp shows the partnership between Lang and Hope van Dyne. The partnership of Pym and Janet van Dyne as the original Ant-Man and the Wasp is presented in flashbacks. Janet van Dyne is revealed to be alive. Pym and the van Dynes are then revealed to be amongst those killed by the Infinity Gauntlet.
Tuesday 4th September: Origins Day
A selection of the origin stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroes:
Iron Man and Doctor Strange are the only conventional origin stories included here (Thor has no secret identity, Lang merely succeeded someone else in the role of Ant-Man and The Incredible Hulk confines the origin story to the opening credits). Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther are not origin stories – Black Panther’s origin was incorporated into Captain America: Civil War, during which Parker is already Spider-Man (his origin has already been told outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe twice). And speaking of Captain America, surely his origin in Captain America: The First Avenger is much more fitting? And even then, there’s only three films there, not four. Personally, I think that the two “theme” days should’ve been excluded, with the festival only running six days instead.
Wednesday 5th September: Team Ups Day
A selection of films depicting the adventures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s teams:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Captain America: Civil War
Marvel Avengers Assemble
Avengers: Infinity War
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an expansion of a pre-existing team and Captain America: Civil War is the dividing of a team into two factions. Marvel Avengers Assemble is the only film included here in which its members do “team up” and Avengers: Infinity War is a teaming-up of two teams together. Perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy should’ve been included as the middle act of a three-film day, but that would still be one less than the previous days. Again, this calls into question the point of running “themed” days just to lengthen the festival to eight days instead of six. It’s not as if those extra two days are showing any films not included in the others anyway.
Thursday 6th September: Fan Choice Day
A poll conducted by IMAX on Twitter (which has since closed) gave fans the ability to vote for two of four films to be screened on the final day: Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel Avengers Assemble and Black Panther. After 50, 000 votes, a combined 66% of fans decided that the two films shown on the final day will be
Marvel Avengers Assemble
The results make perfect sense. Marvel Avengers Assemble not only proved that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could work as a concept, but also still retains the unique experience of seeing the Avengers assemble for the first time – something that successive Avengers films just couldn’t recapture. Iron Man was also the film that started out the whole sage those 10 years ago, so it’s only right that it should be the one to close out a festival celebrating its endurance a decade later.
Happy 10th anniversary year, Marvel Cinematic Universe. Long may you continue.
Best Action Trailer: Black Panther
GTA 19 Best of Show: Black Panther
Best Action Trailer: Avengers: Infinity War
Best Teaser Trailer: Avengers: Infinity War
Best Fantasy/Adventure Trailer: Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther are now available to buy. Avengers: Infinity War is now playing. Thor can be seen in the new ongoing series Thor vol. 5, launching 13th June. Black Panther can be seen in the ongoing series Black Panther vol. 7 and the limited series Rise of the Black Panther. The Avengers can be seen in the ongoing series Avengers vol. 8. The Infinity War was a 6-issue limited series that is now available as a trade paperback.
Box Office Mojo reports that Avengers: Infinity War has now grossed over $1.9B and is on track to gross $2B, becoming only the 4th film to do so. Already, it’s the highest grossing film not to have made $2B. The $2B line was first crossed by Avatar (2009), which was followed by Titanic (1997) during its 2012 rerelease. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) is the most recent film to have crossed the line. It looks like Avengers: Infinity War will soon be joining them some time this week, following 10 years of build up and (clearly successful) marketing campaigns that became viral enough to burst the Internet. The Marvel Cinematic Universe may have its sceptics, but the numbers don’t lie: the general public very much want it to continue. Marvel Studios and all their work isn’t a gimmick.
Avengers: Infinity War is now playing and stars Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle as the Avengers, with Josh Brolin as Thanos.
The Avengers are currently appearing in the Avengers vol. 8. The Infinity War story line is now available to read as a collected edition.
The Hollywood Reporter claims that Doctor Strange re-shoots from director Scott Derickson have been scripted by Dan Harmon. Harmon’s sole previous feature credit is Monster House, with unaccredited contributions to Kung Fu Panda. As such, this is Harmon’s first time writing for a superhero – the titular Doctor Stephen Strange, as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. Harmon created sitcom Community, which was co-directed with Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, who also co-directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which first acknowledged Strange’s existence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and Captain America: Civil War, the most recent instalment of that continuity. The Russos are also due to direct the next two Avengers films, Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled fourth Avengers film (originally announced as Avengers: Infinity War — Part II). It is expected that Avengers: Infinity War will unite Strange with Captain America, also-known-as Steven Rogers, as well Thor Odison; while filming Thor: Ragnarok (written by Stephany Folsom), actor Chris Hemsworth was photographed reading an address – 177A, Bleecker St.; Strange’s address in the comic book source material. The Hollywood Reporter quotes an unnamed source that claims Harmon’s contributions are “for additional photography”. Doctor Strange‘s shooting script has been written by C. Robert Cargill and Derickson, from a story co-written with Jon Spaights.
Doctor Strange premieres in New Zealand on 20th October 2016. Stephen Strange first appeared in Strange Tales (1951) #110.