Avengers: Infinity War (dir. The Russo Brothers, 2018) – The Avengers unite to defend against an all-powerful Thanos, set upon his misguided ways to salvage the universe.
Patience begets us heroes that need no introduction, such that characterisation may take a backseat to Marvel’s epic vision. Escapism at its best, ten years in the making.
Warning: Thanos demands you avoid all Infinity War reviews, until you have seen it.
There is no stopping Marvel. After a decade of build-up, the expansive universe has finally culminated in one of the biggest studio blockbusters in cinematic history. Sure enough that Avengers: Infinity War is far from the pioneers in crossovers. But scale is not its only impressive feat; there are few things more gratifying than to see a ten-year plan come into fruition with such apparent ease.
Kudos to directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who have yet again proven their flair for presenting intricate stories in accessible terms. What seemed like an inevitable mess turns tractable in their capable hands. As done before in The Winter Soldier (which remains my personal favourite), the pair admirably brings out the charm of each individual faction from an impossibly massive cast.
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Annihilation (dir. Alex Garland, 2018) – A team of military scientists enter The Shimmer, a quarantined zone where mutations thrive.
Annihilation finds both terror and beauty in the mutation of nature, as it does the same in our innate instinct for self-destruction.
It is in our nature to destroy ourselves. As Annihilation puts it, almost none of us commit suicide, whereas almost all of us self-destruct in some part of our lives. We drink, or take drugs, or destabilize the happy job or happy marriage. For some, vices are due punishment on themselves for reasons of guilt. Others feel alive by simply keeping our lives in motion – even if it is but chaos.
Such self-destructive tendencies occur biologically too. We change, as nature mandates. Human cells divide at a constant, and the natural process of mitosis sees our bodies duplicate new cells to replace damaged ones. We degenerate to heal and deteriorate with age, while cells replicate rapidly – without control – turn cancerous.
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Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2018) – T’Challa’s rising to the throne of Wakanda is met with opposition by a vengeful outsider, who challenges his claim to the crown.
Embodying cultural and political significance, Black Panther claws its way out of MCU’s formulaic plague.
The repute of Black Panther is, and will be for a time, inseparable from its notable majority cast of black actors. Such representation in the genre has been a long time coming. But what director Ryan Coogler has achieved goes beyond on-screen cultural progress. In a decade when superpowers continually call for walls and borders against refugees, his work also comes as a timely and thoughtful study in modern isolationism.
Black Panther follows the events of Civil War, as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) comes to terms with his father’s death and rises to the throne of Wakanda. Under his reign, Wakanda continues to watch the world from the shadows, hiding her people in the cloaked safety of their beautiful secret sanctuary.
The hardened stance of Wakanda takes forms in our world, where defectors gets no reprieve from countries desperately trying to keep them out. What T’Challa’s confidante W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) proclaims is striking in its familiarity, “You let the refugees in, they bring their problems with them and then Wakanda is like everywhere else.”
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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (Hannah Tinti, 2017) – After years spent on the run, Hawley moves into his late wife’s hometown with his daughter Loo, who has begun to question the cause of her mother’s passing.
On love and loss, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is rich with poignancy, evoked by perfect cadence and thoroughly beautiful prose.
Every scar tells a story. The twelve on Sam Hawley’s body reveal his dark past, where his reckless crimes have left him trapped in a cycle of endless retribution. What is his to bear, afflicts his family just the same. A constant shadow looms over his indisputable yet tainted love for his child Loo.
In unravelling the reasons for Sam’s broken self, author Hannah Tinti adeptly weaves the complicated lives of father and daughter in The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. Tinti captivates with her beautiful prose, making astute observations of selfless familial love that is not always visible.
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The Cloverfield Paradox (dir. Julius Onah, 2018) – During the testing of a device that may solve the Earth’s energy crisis, a space crew ends up facing a dark alternate reality.
While a decent work of entertainment, The Cloverfield Paradox is as much a sequel to Cloverfield as Toy Story is the second parter of Puppet Master. (It isn’t.)
By now, the secret is out. The Cloverfield Paradox has turned out less of a sequel to the monster movie than an ambitious concept riding on the waves of it. It would not be wrong to call this a marketing scam. But on the bright side, the anthology has lent a boost to scripts that would have usually gone under the radar.
After all, the trick had worked once. Two years ago, 10 Cloverfield Lane sprung a pleasant surprise, where John Goodman’s conspiracy theorist abducts a young woman and claims the role of her protector. His ambiguous motives tease his insanity, but also a possible catastrophe beyond the bunker. Could the disaster be connected to the titular monster? The question rouses anticipation for its arrival, which makes the final minutes particularly gratifying.
Similar loose ties should have been expected of The Cloverfield Paradox. If only the Netflix production had not been touted as the answer to how the monsters first arrived on Earth. Setting viewers up for disappointment from the get-go, The Cloverfield Paradox is off to a shaky start.
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