Uncollected Thoughts: Avengers – Infinity War


Well, at last!

It’s been a long week of industriously avoiding spoilers and demanding that workmates don’t discuss it within twenty feet of me, but at last I can get to see Avengers – Infinity War. Admittedly, the first available performance was four hours after I booked, leaving time to fill in between, but I made use of it under a seriously sunny sun (ironic, actually, considering what else I might have to do next week).

Of course, setting a time to be back for only invoked my well-known paranoia, so getting there with only twelve minutes to spare was seriously cutting it fine in my universe. Though as I was on Screen 10, the furthest screen upstairs, about halfway back to my pokey little flat, it felt, the margin was down into single figures by the time I took my seat.

It’s also my first visit to The Light, which has replaced Showcase in Stockport. The seats are wide and luxurious, more like armchairs and if you don’t sit up, they start to slide forward, putting you, should you wish, in the semi-legendary recumbent posture.

Not until the trailer started coming at me in 3D did I realise I’d been lucky to book for a 3D performance. Though I may have to look at upgrading my 3D glasses for a pair less dirty and snaggled before The Incredibles 2.

I think that it was about Guardians of the Galaxy 2 that I said that you know what to expect from a Marvel movie, and that’s what Infinity War delivers, in spades. I could say that in terms of superhero characters, we get everything bar the kitchen sink – from memory, I think the only living ones missing are Ant-Man and Hawkeye, and they both get mentioned – but whilst that’s true, the expression does not suit the film.

Because this is bigger. And more serious. And more real. Bigger, badder, heavier, more powerful and yet in a true balance for every moment. The jokes, the quips, are less frequent but more in keeping: quick, incisive, apt, perfectly suited to the moment.

In short, this is the closest I’ve ever come to a superhero film that is exactly like the experience of getting immersed in a bloody good superhero comic. Everything is real. Everything is exact and believable, however fantastic it is. And the stakes could not be higher. This is for the Universe. And the bad guy wins.

I’ll return to that. Speaking to a workmate before going off to book, I mentioned successfully avoiding spoilers to the extent that all I knew was that there was at least one major death. He denied it, straightfacedly. He didn’t remember any deaths. I was right not to believe him: there were two in the opening scene, Heimdall and Loki.

And another one two-thirds of the way through. And a fourth in the closing phase.

That’s not counting all the still, silent, painless and passionless deaths that follow Thanos’s victory, endless in number, because although this film is over two hours long and I would have gladly welcomed another hour of it and even more characters, it’s really only half a film. Like The Fellowship of the Ring was only a third of a film. There’s another one to come, and who knows what resurrections we’ll see before it’s all done.

There’s a long wait for a single post-credits scene that’s a teaser not for Avengers 4 but for next year’s Captain Marvel movie, though that’s apparently set in the 1990s.

As for tonight, I’d happily agree with this as the best Marvel film so far, which means a great deal has to be done to top it. If we’re still here in a year’s time, I’ll tell you if I think it does.

Uncollected Thoughts: Thor: Ragnarok


Practically all of my cinema-going, for at least the last two decades, has been to Cineworld, at Grand Central, Stockport, and I’ve got a few memories of trips there, in company and alone. Because I don’t rush out for premieres, and I go to the odd showings, Sundays, or mid-to-late afternoons, I’ve fond myself sitting in small audiences, rarely more than a dozen, of late in single figures. I’ve sat alone in the half-dark, wondering if I might end up being the only one there, until a couple of people wander in, sitting somewhere behind me.

It’s ironic therefore that I’ve finally done it, finally been the one person to pay to go to see a film, when this was the last time I shall ever visit this cinema: it closes on Thursday. A new cinema, in a new complex, even nearer to the centre of Stockport, opens the Thursday after. If I want to see Justice League whilst I’m enjoying a week off, I shall have to go all the way out to Didsbury.

Thor: Ragnarok‘s supposed to be very good, very funny, so it was a pity I was sat alone, in the exact middle of Screen 9, because the occasion and the solitude got to me, and overtook the showing, and the many jokes fell flat without the reinforcement of people laughing around me.

Instead, it felt like watching it in my bedroom, on a massively oversized laptop screen, though for once I didn’t have to put up with my back being knacked because I could shuffle about whenever I wanted without worrying about spoiling the view for others behind me.

To be honest, I didn’t find the film all that funny anyway. Snappy wisecracks in and among the action are Marvel’s speciality, and it’s been given a good dose here, so much that Ragnarok has been reviewed as a superhero sitcom. But whilst some of the jokes – the ones I found funny – arose natural from character and circumstance, too much of the humour was of the knowing kind, finding fun in the story and its tropes, in the way that told you that someone couldn’t take thevstory seriously enough.

And I am old enough to have watched the Sixties Batman TV show in the Sixties, as a result of which I have very sensitive antennae for when we get anywhere near that territory, and I bear too many scars to be properly comfortable over land like that.

I’m not going to try to describe the story because there simply wasn’t one, just a grab-bag of confrontations, fights, clashes and in the case of the Grandmaster, as clear a case of camp as you could ever not wish for: Jeff Goldblum was channeling Lorenzo Semple Jr throughout. All this was was 130 minutes with little underlying progression, which eventually stopped after they ran out of bigger things to CGI.

Mind you, I did enjoy it , whilst it lasted, and this time didn’t look at my watch for a good ninety minutes. I even recognised all the bits they took from Walt Simonson’s magnificent Eighties run, still by far the best work ever done on Thor, in my opinion, and something I was there for, month in, month out.

But if I was to go watch it again, it will be for one reason only, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Goddess of Death, and main villain, because, my oath, she was Hot! in every second she was onscreen. I don’t usually respond that viscerally to any actress, but this time I was metaphorically baying at the moon.

Which was an ironic parallel to the pre-film trailer for the remake of Jumanji, which was loud, ridiculous, hyperactive, stupid and so not the film to take me to unless you are planning to snog my mouth off for the whole length of the film, or else it’s the edited version that only has the scenes Karen Gillan is in.

Speaking of trailers, after years of spoiler-avoiding, I also saw the one for Justice League, about which I can only say, Ohhhh shhhiiiitttttt!!!!!!

But this is my response to Thor: Ragnarok, which clearly didn’t get high marks from me, but like I said, I was blindsided by the occasion and the solitude (and having had very little sleep last night) so I wasn’t the best audience for it. Even though I was the only audience for it.