“Even If There’s A Small Chance. We Owe This, To Everyone Who’s Not In This Room, To Try…”
With the final season of Game of Thrones gracing eager audiences earlier in the month, April 2019 will always be remembered as the time in which pop culture exploded into realms of unprecedented greatness as society witnesses the end point of both TV’s most talked about show and of course, the enormously anticipated, Avengers: Endgame, the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the sequel to last year’s excellent and groundbreaking, Infinity War. Presented as the final installment in the Kevin Feige coined, “Infinity Saga”, which began all the way back in 2008 with Iron Man, Endgame sees our grieving band of OG superheroes come to terms with, and more importantly, attempt to revert the catastrophic damage caused by Josh Brolin’s (Deadpool 2) megalomaniacal titan, Thanos, in the previous chapter, and with the giant purple one’s tricky finger snap having gone down in pop culture loire for evermore, the bar is set impressively high for a sequel which Marvel themselves see as the one film the entire MCU has pretty much been leading up to. Bamboozling critics and audiences alike with a staggeringly long three hour run time, it’s fair to say that in terms of excess, Endgame laps it up completely, and whilst anything stamped with the Marvel branding tends to be absolutely critic-proof, what an absolute pleasure it is in being able to confirm that Endgame is everything that it should be and more, an emotional, bizarre and thoroughly engaging and entertaining cinematic blockbuster which manages to effectively balance spectacle with narrative payoffs, resulting in a closing chapter which beautifully reinforces the idea that what Marvel have done will never ever be executed quite as brilliantly ever again in the history of cinema.
Heading in, it’s quite important to note that Endgame is not in anyway Infinity War part two, and whilst expectations and fan theories always affect judgement on the final piece, the fact that I’ve now watched Endgame twice goes to show that the fourth Avengers piece is not just another movie, in fact it’s almost too much of a movie, a three hour long comic book dream which expects its’ audience to be synchronised with every in-joke, every knowing aside and be able to recount what happened where and at what time in each of the preceding twenty one MCU chapters. If part of this selective band of followers, then Endgame seeks to provide as much fan service to you as humanly possible whilst crucially still understanding the fundamentals of filmmaking by biding its time with an opening act which seeks to show the effects of Thanos’ snap, one which impressively highlights melancholic tales of loss, depression and guilt, resulting in some of the most impressive writing I can remember seeing in a superhero film since The Dark Knight. With the PR team for Endgame deserving their own round of applause for brilliantly being able to manage not spoiling anything at all, pretty much everything seen in the film’s trailers either occurs during the opening thirty minutes or not at all, and whilst particular narrative choices are expected from fans with more observant qualities to their Marvel addiction, the fact remains that in order to enjoy Endgame‘s many shocks and surprises you must simply head in not being aware of anything, with one of the film’s many joys is being able to gasp, cry and fist-pump your way through the action with an audience who are as dedicated to both the characters and the franchise as you undoubtedly are, if not more so.
At three hours long, the fact that Endgame did not feel as if it was testing any sort of patience at any point is a remarkable feat in itself, with both the pacing and the editing serving the action rather splendidly in a way that only the best filmmakers can successfully manage to balance, and whilst at times particular characters seem to be slightly wasted or criminally underused, such a complaint is particularly minor and in a way obsolete, with the primary mission of the piece clearly offering the chance to serve conclusions to characters who have been with us since the start and being well aware that for the new breed, the future is both bright and holds their own tales ready to be told and explored as we head into the franchise’s new phase come the end of the year. With enough hilarious dialogue and slapstick performances to put most so-called comedies to shame, Endgame deliciously plays into the Marvel mould we have both come to know and love, and whilst the balance between light and dark never fails to hit the solemn, gritty realism of Logan, the emotional payoffs of particular character arcs will leave even the most cold-hearted of sociopaths in floods of tears as they come to realise that characters in which their time has been spent with for just over a decade may not be ever seen again, in this universe anyway. When it comes to reviewing Endgame, what Marvel have ultimately achieved is unprecedented in the realm of cinema, twenty two movies across eleven years and all leading to a conclusion which is worthy of both the hype and anticipation laid upon it, and in some way, just being part of such a magnificent journey is reason enough to fall in love with a movie which will not only make it difficult to look at any future superhero movie in the same way, but is in some ways a love letter to fans whose dedication and desire have ultimately made such a dream come true.
Overall Score: 9/10
“It’s Time To Show Kong That Man Is King!”
As per the new craze of recent cinematic ventures, the newest big-screen franchising exploration comes in the form of classic Hollywood monsters being revamped and reissued in Legendary Entertainment’s so-called “MonsterVerse”, beginning of course with Rogue One director Gareth Edward’s excellent Godzilla in 2014 and continuing this week with Kong: Skull Island, a “re-imagining” of the infamous giant ape who graces the big-screen for the first time since Peter Jackson’s take on the character back in 2005. Helmed by The Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, as well as featuring arguably one of the best casts of the year with Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson all vying for screen time, Skull Island is the type of movie which justifies the existence of IMAX-infused mega screens, with the trailer alone being rife with a heightened sense of spectacle and splendour. As for the finished article, Skull Island is indeed the silly, OTT monster-mad movie I think many were expecting without ever pushing the boundaries of being anything more than such.
Light on characterisation yet heavy on the spectacular at times, Skull Island is inherently silly from beginning to end, with a runtime which feels almost half the length of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation but too feels completely different in tone, relying on the effects-heavy production of giant spiders, murderous “skull-crawlers” and of course the titular Kong himself rather than any meaningful contribution to fleshing out its’ leading stars in a manner which took up the first hour of Jackson’s movie back in 2005. Helping the film along in its’ choppily edited fashion is the rip-roaring sound of the 70’s, with a soundtrack which ranges from Black Sabbath to David Bowie. evoking the shadow of a film like Apocalypse Now, an argument particularly obvious due to Skull Island’s Vietnam War setting, whilst the CGI-fuelled monster-battles feel almost too much like a Jurassic World rip-off at times to be put in the same league of jaw-dropping splendour as its’ predecessor within the same cinematic universe, Godzilla. Much likes its’ titular ape, Skull Island is a big and fluffy piece of escapism which knows what it wants to be and doesn’t attempt to be anything more. Yeah, that’s right, Kong is very fluffy. Well, sort of.
Overall Score: 7/10
After last years’ predetermination at the BAFTA’s, with Julianne Moore winning the prestigious Best Actress award for Still Alice, a film that hadn’t hit UK cinemas at the time of the ceremony leaving the choice of winner solely in the hands of preview-screened critics, the Oscar’s soon followed suit and awarded Moore with her first award after many nominations for films such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven. Completing this years’ nominations is a variety of talent ranging from rising stars to cinematic gems with each film definitely getting the vote of confidence from here at Black Ribbon, even Joy, the newest release from David O. Russell, which although features a riveting leading performance from Jennifer Lawrence has been regarded by many as a limp entry into the impressive canon Russell has already established, with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook doing particularly well at the prestigious ceremony in previous years. Could his and Lawrence’s success at the Oscar’s continue this year? Let’s ask the people in the know.
In the wise eyes of the bookies, Brie Larson is set to carry on her success at the BAFTA’s with her being odds on to pick up the Oscar for Best Actress in Lenny Abrahamson’s simply brilliant Room, a film which manages to carry the balance of the dark and the twisted yet ultimately proclaims itself as a life-affirming drama, featuring a world-class performance from young Jacob Tremblay who along with Larson brings the brilliance of the film to light, resulting in the rare occasion whereby I completely agree with the Academy. Sure, Cate Blanchett is rather flawless in Todd Haynes’ Carol and Saoirse Ronan continues her streak of being perfect in every way possible (CRUSH INCOMING) within the beautiful Brooklyn, but Larson is the stand-out, pulling in a performance that those at the Oscar voting table love; no make-up and a lot of crying. It might just be the start of something magical. Cringe.
Next Time: Best Director
“Hello Jack, Thanks For Saving Our Little Girl…”
Starting slightly off topic, Lenny Abrahamson’s latest, Room, based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, is a strange case of reminding me of the success of Disney, particularly that of the works by Pixar, in regards to how films such as The Lion King, Wall-E, and most recently, the simply wonderful Inside Out, could take important and sometimes dark subject matters such as loss, human consumption and the development from child to adult, and present them in a fashion both uplifting and engaging for everyone no matter what their age. With Room, a film that similarly has a disturbing, twisted narrative at its’ core, its’ one of those rare cases in cinema in which a film brings with it an abundance of different meanings, whether it be psychological, mental, or particularly, social, and that alone succeeds in making Abrahamson’s latest a riveting success, one that is both emotionally draining as well as being undeniably life affirming, a strange yet incredible combination if ever there was one.
Beginning by delving straight into the lives of Joy and Jack, the mother and son combination held captive by “Old Nick” within the less-than spacious titular “room”, Abrahamson’s latest begins by showing us the world in which the young Jack is all but used to, a world in which life begins and ends with that of the four walls of “room”, a world in which mother Joy has had to endure ever since her kidnapping at age seventeen. From such a setup, a fundamental fear began to arise in fearing what Room could have potentially become if left in lesser hands, with it perhaps playing out in a Panic Room style thriller, one in which substance was left behind in favour of drama and thrills, yet the true winning formula of Room is in its’ tendency to show the events of the film from that of young Jack, where the dark subject matter, although inherently present, is left in a somewhat ambiguous, confused state in line with our young character’s state of mind, brought on by his sudden change of lifestyle and the existence of, Aladdin reference inbound, a whole new world. It is this point of view that allows the film to present a wide range of sociological and psychological problems that the all too real crime of kidnapping and captivity brings across the world. It’s a film that encourages to think outside the box.
Although Brie Larson has understandably been taking all of the plaudits for her simply brilliant portrayal of the captive mother, caught between making a better life for her son in that of “room”whilst being entirely aware of the power of the outside world and its’ effects it potentially could have on her young child, the film no doubt belongs to Jacob Tremblay, the nine year old actor who, in the face of an intelligent, thought-provoking script, portrays the character of Jack in sheer heartbreaking fashion, with his ability to convey the emotions of a socially-inept child, one who is simply baffled and completely frightened at the prospect of understanding the newly found world, truly outstanding. It’s a performance worthy of examination from a wide range of angles, whether it be from that of one either sociological or psychological, and one that deserves all the attention it can possibly get. Tremblay’s performance is one of the many talking points which results in making Room a truly exquisite experience and one that won’t be quickly forgotten. Room is a film of sheer, unquestionable power and one of the strongest of the year so far in the race for Oscar supremacy.