Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame (SPOILERS)

Probably the best thing about Endgame is that it's the (almost) last of the first generation of MCU movies (we still have a Spiderman movie, maybe a Black Widow movie, and I'm sure a whole 'other next-generation of MCU movies are in the works). Is it a good movie? No. Is it a good-MCU movie? It's fine, much in the same way that Harry Potter 8 was fine: it does what it is supposed to.

That it broke box office records is understandable since the last movie was a cliff-hanger. Less understandable is its rave reviews, unless the reviews are based on its "must see" quality. Because, even from a Marvel perspective, the movie just barely makes sense, is disjointed, has too many scenes that are just sketches, has too many underused characters, and has an ending that is somewhat anti-climactic. What it has going for it is some emotional impact (a bit), some humor (not all of it good), some flashbacks to previous MCU movies, some nice visuals, and a sense of an ending.

PLOT: Following the last movie where half of the universe is wiped out, the characters are upset. The survivors track down Thanos who has already destroyed the stones so that his work can't be undone, so all they can do is kill him. Five years later Ant-Man is accidentally rescued from the quantum realm but has experienced only 5 hours, which leads him to think that the Avengers can use the quantum realm to go back in time - and space (???) - to very specific times and places in order to steal the infinity stones from the past, undo what Thanos did, and return them to their timelines. Unfortunately, while in the past, future Nebula's presence and memories alert past Thanos to this plan and he travels into the present to destroy the universe and remake a new one that won't try this plan again.

REACTIONS: Let's put a pin onto the obvious time-travel paradox problems, and even the rest of the insane problems for one minute and take the movie as is. This movie takes a little time to show us Hawkeye's family, Iron Man's daughter, and a few other character-relationship moments, which is a little more than we get in most MCU movies and which was nice. There was at least some attempt to deal with the failure and loss of the last movie, although, other than an argument from Iron Man and a sense of purpose from Captain America, these attempts were laughably badly done. Thor's gut belly and indifference was supposed to be funny, but other than the quick visual punch it really wasn't. On the one hand it was nice to see an overweight superhero. On the other, too many jokes were made about him being out of shape.

Now we have to take the pin out, because this movie's basic plot, premise, and how it deals with what happened is just insane:

  • If you wipe out half of all "living creatures", what about the animals and vegetation?
  • If you wipe our half of all living creatures, far FAR more than half of the remainder are going to die, and pretty soon. Half of all airplane pilots of mid-flight airplanes and half of the air-traffic controllers are gone. That's thousands of crashed flights. Half of all drivers of cars and trucks are gone but their cars are still speeding. That stops EVERY car and truck on the road, killing millions of people and instantly blocking every major and minor thoroughfare. Who's left to un-jam the roads? Half of all surgeons are gone mid-operation and nurses mid-care. Half of all single-parents with dependents that can't get help. Half of the people that care for remote villages.
  • How about every religion? How many of them could deal with half of their flock, including their pope or chief or most of their cardinals, dying? No riots? No looting? No new cults or major overthrows? How are the governments still working? How are buildings? How is food and medicine getting delivered, let alone produced and harvested and supplied?
  • How about financial markets and the collapse of industry? How about the collapse of all national security? How about rogue nations and terrorism? How about ...
  • Let's talk about what it would mean then to reintroduce half of the population again five years after the world has moved on without them. Where are they reintroduced into the world, including the ones that were mid-flight or mid-driving? Up in the air, at their destination, or at home? Who owns what? Who is married to whom? Who is producing food for them and where do they live?
  • The point is that this kind of disaster is a mcguffin, something that you can't think about even in the most shallow terms because it doesn't make any sense, but the MCU just throws it in and expects you not to think about it.
And that's not even considering the loony ways that time-travel is dealt with, screwing around with multiple timelines with no concept of how to resolve any of the changes. But that consideration is, at least, par for the course for bad sci-fi movies. Also, how does time travel = infinite space travel?

As far as characters go:
  • Iron Man is well acted and has a good show. It was nice to see his callback to the end of the first movie
  • Captain America has definitely grown as a character and had a good show.
  • Black Widow / Hawkeye: yes, it was a better choice for her to die, since he has a real family, but the movie doesn't make you feel that that was more than a plot consideration. Her death was more tragic than Iron Man's, but she is only given a few words of remorse while he is given a whole ending funeral and condolence scene. Which just goes to show that the MCU still doesn't consider the women to be as important as the men.
  • Captain Marvel has barely 15 minutes of screen-time after her big movie. It's entirely unclear how she rescues Iron Man at the beginning. The nice shot of all of the remaining women characters was nice, but it shouldn't be: there are tons of shots of all men characters that we simply take for granted, but the MCU makes us wait for a big, dramatic shot of women characters. I will be more excited when there are so many scenes and shots of women superheroes that we don't notice them anymore.  Which just goes to show that the MCU still doesn't consider the women to be as important as the men.
  • Thanos' powers are never explained. Why would the God of Thunder and several of his weapons have no effect on him, why is he able to break Captain America's unbreakable shield, and why can't even Captain Marvel put a dent in him? Plot, is the only reason. The MCU dug themselves into a hole when they gave superheroes so much strength and then could not think  of a way to create tension without simply ignoring all of that strength. Tension with an overly strong superhero is supposed to come from moral complexity, deception, and self-actualization, not from Something Even Stronger.
  • Hulk: They keep finding new ways to present him to keep him fresh, which is nice. But he's still pretty boring as a character.
  • Ant-Man: I kind of forgot where he was, once the time travelling started. Oh wait, I think I saw him flying around with the Wasp here and there. Whatever.
  • Nebula and Gemora had a lot to do, and they were the stars. Too bad they were pretty boring in their previous movies.
  • Pepper: Gwenyth stole the scenes she was in just by being a better actor and presence than anyone else.
  • Black Panther, Spider-man, Doctor Strange, etc all showed up just to be there, but served no other purpose.
As a movie qua movie, the movie exists only to complete what happened in the last movie. It contained no real moral dilemmas, no real character tension, no real insights, no real inspiration or sacrifice (Black Widow's sacrifice was antiseptic and Iron Man's was accidental), and nothing really interesting story-wise other than its utter mangling and refusal to deal with the more interesting ramifications of story that was supposedly occurring around them.

Was it entertaining? If you ignore all of the parts than made my brain hurt, then it was entertaining. I wanted to see how it ended, which is about all one could have hoped for and no more. Infinity War was more entertaining and more satisfying (not that it was good, per se, but it was a better MCU movie). This was just okay.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Frankenstein: A New Version of It's Alive from Invedars

Hey guys. News about the game formerly known as It's Alive.

After the first prototypes, two editions of It's Alive from Reiver Games, and two versions of Hanukkah themed versions called Candle Quest by Victory Point Games and on The Game Crafter (still available), the game has been picked up by Invedars, returning to its original Frankenstein theme.

The new version is called Frankenstein and it looks amazing. New artwork, and a figurine and a new events expansion for Kickstarter backers.

The project is up on Kickstarter and reached its goal in only 24 hours. It is now many times above its goal.

They have already sent prototypes to reviewers for new reviews, for example:

Follow Invedars and progress about the game on Facebook.