Top 10 Comic Books of the 2010s #5

He is inevitable.

Avengers | Infinity War was going to appear somewhere on this list at some point. It’s the best case example of the most ambitious films being the most impressive to watch if made to their full potential. Half the entertainment value of Avengers | Infinity War is the fact that it even exists, that someone was able to actually make it – and that they didn’t disappoint.

They say a superhero film is only as interesting as its super-villain and Thanos is the greatest super-villain of the decade for several reasons. He has a developed perspective on the universe, the kind not usually seen in action-packed blockbusters. He’s a real character rather than a plot device and arguably, in an ensemble of heroes from across the universe, the protagonist of the film (something rarely seen, if ever). His ideology makes sense, the psychological arithmetic behind it checks out. He’s not a “villain” per se – just an individual whose experiences in life have informed his view. He’s a real person, not merely an excuse for the Avengers to assemble again. He’s also empathetic, in a disturbing way.

The issues which motivate Thanos will need addressing for real when the Human population reaches 10, 000, 000, 000 in the mid- to late 21st century – during most of our lifetimes. In spite of everything, he compels you to at least listen to him – the sign of a great villain.

Which is not to say the other characters are in any way less interesting as a result. The joy of a film like this is of combining a universe of characters together to first see how they come up against each other before eventually combining their respective abilities to find a common solution. When pulled-apart to be examined clinically, these interactions are probably revealed to be nothing more than algorithms in which each character is one functional piece of a larger puzzle but they’re all written consistently so this is hidden by the appearance of everything they say and do being what would naturally happen.

Such a large ensemble cast could’ve threatened to capsize the plot with its own form of overpopulation, so what’s satisfying is that, despite the scope and scale, everything is self-contained and still happens for a reason. The cross-cutting between the three action scenes taking place simultaneously on Nidavellir, Titan and in Wakanda may be a perfect representation of the experience of reading whole-company crossovers with great, double-page spreads but the crucial thing is that it manages to feel weighty and substantial without seeming bloated. The form and function are, like the humour and darkness, perfectly balanced (as all things should be). None of it is ever forced, it all happens for a reason. The crowd-pleasing presentation style comes after the content of the scenes, as opposed to the other way around (something far too many blockbuster filmmakers completely fail to understand).

This is the kind of film which I could spend much longer writing about – a good thing but inconvenient. I’m ranking this 5th amongst the films of this decade in its genre because of how the almost impossible task of bringing together an entire universe of characters was accomplished with simplicity and how the desired spectacle was delivered within that simplicity in order to still be coherent. This is, in a way, the ultimate comic book film and as such demonstrates the appeal of the genre in the best way as well as demonstrating how to avoid some of the genre’s biggest problems. Every character has a least one key moment that proves crucial for the plot yet none are included simply for the sake of being there.

On paper, this must surely have been the most ambitious film to make and therefore the most difficult to do well, never-mind in a way which achieves its full potential – and they did and it does. Simply as a piece of film-making, it’s an unrivalled achievement and is the most easily re-watchable blockbuster – not because it requires no engagement but quite the opposite.

Plus, it’s the first comic book film in which the heroes fail and the villain succeeds. Thor could’ve decapitated Thanos there and then and everything I’ve said about it already would still be true. But it managed to still crawl over that one last, unclaimed inch to deliver an ending which defied everyone’s expectations – and which everyone who, like me, grew up with these films – particularly with this franchise – will remember for the rest of our lives.

Avengers | Infinity War will be streaming soon on Disney+

2018 Year-in-Review/2019 Year-in-Preview

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:

Darkest Hour

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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

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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

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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.

 

I, Tonya

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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

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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

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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.

 

Incredibles 2

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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

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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

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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.

 

First Man

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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.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody

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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

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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

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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

Avengers   Endgame

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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

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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.

Marvel Studios wins big at The 19th Annual Golden Trailer Awards

Wins

Best Action Trailer: Black Panther

GTA 19 Best of Show: Black Panther

Nominations

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.

“Avengers: Infinity War” releases San Diego Comic-Con International 2017 poster

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Characters shown: the Hulk, Spider-Man, Clinton Francis Barton, James Buchanan Barnes, James Rupert Rhodes, Black Panther, Stephen Vincent Strange, Mantis, Gamora, Anthony Edward Stark and Nebula.

Avengers: Infinity War is the seventh film in Phase Three and is to be released in the United States on 4th May 2017.

Doctor Strange reshoots scripted by Dan Harmon

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.