Hate Marvel? Still Want To See Infinity War And Have It Make Sense? Help Is At Hand!

[Spoilers for all movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!]


Hello there, my oddly photogenic Caucasian friend! What seems to trouble you today?

*sigh* I really want to arrange a trip to see Avengers: Infinity War with my friends, but none of them have ever seen a Marvel movie! They just can’t be bothered to watch all 18 movies. What on earth should I do?

Not to worry! Circle of Cinema have spent the last few days endeavouring to work out a solution. Below you can find “Circle of Cinema’s Marvel Series For Slothful Spectators”™  In only three simple sections we explain the minimum amount of time you need to waste spend in order for Infinity War to make some kind of sense!

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What You Don’t Need To See

Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger

What You Need To See

Thor, The Avengers


The Avengers is really the daddy here. Say what you will about Joss Whedon, but that man really knows how to take a multiple installment franchise and then introduce the entire thing to a new audience in about two hours (see Serenity). As important as some of the Phase One films are to understanding the nitty-gritty of the Marvel characters and their motivations, The Avengers manages to cover almost every necessary piece of information in its limited runtime.

Take, for example, Steve Rogers’ origin and the introduction of the Tesseract in Captain America. Though extremely important to the future of the MCU, the relevant information about both these things are shown in The Avengers through the judicious use of flashbacks and small snippets of dialogue.

There might be some people reading that will be surprised neither of the Iron Man movies make the cut. But really, outside of knowing that he’s a quick-witted billionaire with a penchant for REALLY expensive mechanical suits, what more do you need from his movies that affects the big picture?

There also might be a few readers that are equally surprised Thor does make the cut. And in theory, you might be able to get away with just watching The Avengers. The issue is that without it, you don’t get a proper introduction to Asgard, Loki, Odin or any of the other minor aspects that make up the far more important Thor: Ragnarok.

As for The Incredible Hulk… Come on, really?

Total Time Needed: 257 minutes (4 hours 17 minutes)

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What You Don’t Need To See

Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Ant-Man

What You Need To See

Captain America: The Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron


In a similar vein to Iron Man 1 & 2, the third installment in the adventures of Tony Stark doesn’t really contribute any major changes to the MCU. That’s in spite of an ending that indicates otherwise. But since Iron Man 3’s finale ends up being ignored in all future Tony Stark appearances, it’s safe to say the average person can do the same.

A similar approach can be taken when it comes to The Dark World and Ant-Man. Both movies end up being pretty stand-alone to the larger narrative. (In the case of The Dark World, while the McGuffin / the Aether is technically important to later films, the actual portrayal of its powers within the film itself is so bland as to be rather pointless.)

But when it comes to the three films you need to see from Phase Two, missing any of them would leave you in knots. For one, Winter Solider and Age of Ultron together end up introducing seven major characters that all play significant roles in future installments. (Though, admittedly, without watching the Iron Man trilogy, the appearance of James Rhodes as War Machine / Tony’s best friend is going to seem really random!)

As for GOTG, considering how deeply Marvel end up diving into the cosmic realm, this one’s a no-brainer. Add the fact that this is the first movie to give a clear description of the Infinity Stones; it would be close to impossible to understand anything in Infinity War without seeing this adventure with Starlord and his crew.

Total Time Needed: 399 minutes (6 hours and 39 minutes)

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What You Don’t Need To See

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-man: Homecoming, Black Panther

What You Need To See

Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Thor Ragnarok


Like the movies you can skip in Phase Two, GOTG Vol. 2 and Homecoming are basically really good examples of standalone entries in the MCU. Take the character of Spider-Man for example; Civil War already does more than enough to introduce him to Marvel newbies, thus making Homecoming redundant. And while GOTG Vol. 2 does make Mantis a part of the crew, her impact in Infinity War is so small as to be easily ignored.

The interesting part here is Black Panther. While the third act of Infinity War would suggest you need to have watched the stand-alone film, all the relevant information is actually given in the post-credit sequence of Civil War. Though the scene lasts only a minute and a half, it quickly explains what happened to Bucky and the general idea that Wakanda is a technologically advanced nation.

So basically, in the same way that The Avengers is at the core of Phase One, Civil War ends up being the core of Phase Three. An absolutely must-see movie.

That leaves Doctor Strange and Thor Ragnarok. Again, considering the former acts as general audiences’ introduction to magic and the Time Stone (and taking into account how pivotal Doctor Strange’s role is in Infinity War); this is another unmissable entry.

Thor: Ragnarok, however, might cause a little bit of confusion without having seen The Dark World. Without the latter, a newcomer might wonder how Loki escaped from prison and how on earth he took Odin’s place as King of Asgard. But considering the time gap from his appearance in The Avengers, most viewers will probably extrapolate an explanation for themselves or overlook it. Of course the more important issues that make Ragnarok a necessary watch are the destruction of Mjolnir, the loss of Thor’s eye, the reintroduction of the Hulk, as well as positioning all the characters for the beginning of Infinity War.

Total Time Needed: 392 minutes (6 hours and 32 minutes)


Total Time Needed For Avengers: Infinity War To Make Any Kind Of Sense:
17 hours and 28 minutes

And there we have it. Less than a day needed to catch up. Good luck Marvel Newbies!


Photo Credit: “Young man experiencing immense sadness” by Ananian is licenced under CC by 2.0

Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – A Climax To End All Climaxes

[Spoilers for Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future Part II, Empire Strikes Back, and all prior movies in the MCU]

Do you know why Back to the Future Part II has a better cliffhanger ending than Empire Strikes Back?

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Okay, that might be a weird way to open up a review for Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th film in Marvel’s seemingly endless cinematic universe. But let’s cast our minds back to 2014, a time when the most concerning thing that the American President had done was wear a tan suit.

At a specially arranged fan event, Marvel proceeded to lift the lid on their entire line-up for Phase 3, including the reveal that there would be a two-part adaptation of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline; the first in May 2018, and the (now currently untitled) sequel following a year later.

On hearing this there were a lot of issues that made me wonder if Marvel could actually pull off a movie of this scale. But, one by one, the movies of Phase 3 put my mind at rest. Captain America: Civil War showed that it was possible to tell an engaging story with an above average sized cast. Doctor Strange made it clear that Marvel could be bold when it came to even the weirdest of worlds. Thor: Ragnarok proved that Marvel weren’t afraid to make major permanent changes to their universe. And movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther indicated that Marvel could create astounding villains when they put their mind to it.

This left one final concern: how would Marvel end Infinity War?

Being that Infinity War was originally part one of a two-part story, it was kind of a given that a cliffhanger ending would be on the cards. But what type of cliffhanger would it be?

Take Back to the Future Part II for example. BTTF 2 was careful to conclude the major story of the film’s second half, i.e. finding and destroying the Almanac. Once that happens, for all intents and purposes, the main plot for BTTF 2 is concluded. The remaining five minutes or so are just a setup for BTTF 3. Put simply, the audience are given emotional closure before being presented with a small added plot point that acts as a cliffhanger for the final movie.

But Empire Strikes Back pissed in the audience’s faces, leaving them emotionally unfulfilled by its refusal to finish the main story. The audience (who in real life waited three years) have to then waste the first 20 minutes of Return of the Jedi finishing a plotline that should have concluded years earlier.

My point, in this otherwise long-winded and self-indulgent pivot, is that the type of cliffhanger Marvel chooses can make or break what would otherwise be a great movie. In other words: has Marvel delivered a complete and coherent experience, as they have for all of their previous 18 films? Or has their magnum opus ended on nothing but irritation and annoyance?

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Two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the superhero team known as the Avengers have become almost a distant dream. But their skills are needed once more as Thanos (Josh Brolin), a brutal despot, wishes to rid the universe of half its population.

To do so he attempts to collect the Infinity Stones, a collection of six powerful gems that allow the holder mastery over the minds and souls of living creatures, as well as the metaphysical aspects of Time, Space, Reality and Power.

Standing alongside him are his four children, Cull Obsidan (Terry Notary), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Corvas Glaive (Michael James Shaw) and Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). Collectively his children are known as the Black Order, and along with their father, they launch a multi-pronged attack against the various owners of the Infinity Stones.


See that synopsis above? That represents the single greatest move by the Infinity War team: making Thanos the protagonist. It must have been so temping to take the easy path and instead make someone like Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jr.) or Captain America (Chris Evans) the star (and to be fair, the pair do function as strong supporting leads.)

But this is very much Thanos’ story through and through. Credit must be given to veteran MCU writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, for their stroke of genius. Because of their choice we get to see Thanos struggle for a cause he believes in, witness the setbacks, the sacrifices and the pain of his journey. Indeed, like all the greatest villains, he believes he’s the hero and what he does, he does for the greater good.

Much of that is down to Brolin’s performance as The Mad Titan. It takes a special kind of acting to make us emphasise with a genocidal manic, but goddamn, he pulls it off. It’s all the more impressive as his performance is entirely through motion-capture.

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Due to this decision to essentially tell the story from the villain’s point of view, there’s a drastically different tone that permeates throughout, at least when compared to the average Marvel movie. The most obvious being that Infinity War is easily the darkest of all Marvel’s output. I never thought I’d see the day where a film aimed at children would focus on multiple acts of genocide, but here we are.

As such, this willingness to embrace the darkness helps dispel one of the biggest criticisms of the MCU: the lack of true death. Well criticise no longer mere mortals because, Christ almighty, death has come and it is here to stay. (Eat your heart out Deathly Hallows!) To say more would obviously be a spoiler. Let’s just say that the chances of certain beloved characters seeing Phase 4 is next to zero.

But do not fear, Marvel haven’t just made Schindler’s List. There are still jokes aplenty. Indeed one of the most joyful aspects of the movie is watching characters that have never met before interact with each other. As such seeing Iron-Man verbally spar with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch); Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) fighting back to back with Okoye (Danai Gurira); or even Thor (Chris Hemsworth) sharing a moment with Groot (Vin Diseal) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) make up some of the most thrilling moments of the movie.

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Speaking of Thor, while the film has to juggle numerous storylines, it dedicates a surprisingly large amount of time to the God of Thunder. Considering we just had a two hour movie all about him less than six months ago, it’s a strange choice, but a welcome one. In a universe that is slowly approaching its endgame, Marvel takes a moment to make us realise just how much Thor has lost over the past few years compared to his Avengers brethren. The deaths of his mother, father and sister; the murder of his best friends; the loss of his lover, his kingdom and his home. It all whirls together in a scene that Hemsworth pulls off with aplomb.

References to Thor’s past are just some of the numerous callbacks and allusions to events of old. If you’re hoping for an easy introduction to the Marvel Universe, this is not the film for you. From the opening scene, directors Anthony and Joe Russo hit the ground running and woe be you if you can’t remember a variety of details and individuals from across the past 18 movies. As a matter of fact the biggest criticism is, unlike Civil War, the cast list is so overwhelming that even a few fan favourites feel somewhat extraneous and end up having nowhere near the same impact as previous films.

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Still, as mentioned in the introduction, my biggest concern is that of the ending. And I must say… I am impressed!

Yes it’s true, there is no avoiding the fact that this is half a movie. But it’s not an unfinished movie. If anything the ending brings to mind Peter Jackson’s work in the first two Lord of the Rings movies. While the journey of the One Ring was yet to be concluded in Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, Jackson and his cohorts made sure that each film ended with a sense of closure. Infinity War does much the same, leaving a few threads open for a sequel, but fundamentally bringing the story of Thanos and the Infinity Stones to an end.


There is no disputing the groundbreaking nature of Avengers: Infinity War. Dozens of characters from nine different franchises being brought together into the single biggest story ever committed to celluloid.

And the way that story is told is equally groundbreaking. While clad in the guise of a superhero film, Infinity War tells its tale in a way never before seen on the big screen, and likely will never be seen again.

It’s not just generation defining. It’s history defining.

Overall Score:

five-stars


All images © Marvel Studios 2018 via IMDb

My Top 12 Most Notable Films of 2016

And here we are ladies and gents, the end of what has got to be the most interesting year of my life. I honestly wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me on December 31st 2015 that within the next 365 days…

  • Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States.
  • Princess Leia would be the first of the Star Wars trio to shuffle off this mortal coil.
  • The Philippines would elect a President that would straight up murder 4000 of his own people AND still be popular.
  • The UK would vote to leave the European Union.
  • Batman V Superman would be one of the worst movies ever made.
  • And Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win that damn Oscar!

But as is tradition for those of us in the film loving community, what follows is a list of films that I have found especially notable during the past 12 months.

When trying to piece together which films would make the cut, my only real rule was that the film had to have been released in the UK between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2016. Unlike the BAFTAs, I don’t need to pander to the Americans and pretend the year ends in February!

So sorry to Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land, but maybe you’ll be on my list next year.

And before you ask… Why 12 and not 10?

Well… why not?

Special mentions: Spotlight, Deadpool, Truth, Anomolisa, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Marguerite, Life Animated, Golden Years (Also known as Grand Theft OAP), Where to Invade Next, Weiner, Finding Dory, Pete’s Dragon, The Girl with all the Gifts, Train to Busan, Arrival, Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, Your Name, Victoria, Hell or High Water.

Guilty Pleasures: Crazy About Tiffany’s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Eddie the Eagle, Hardcore Henry, Bad Neighbours 2, Star Trek Beyond, The Shallows, Bad Moms.


1) Creed

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My first entry into the Rocky franchise (I know, right!), I was a little concerned that having missed the previous 6 movies, the plot would be almost impenetrable to a newbie like me. Fortunately a great script from Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington meant that I was always engaged as I followed the journey of Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Creed is, without a doubt, a stunning addition to the pantheon of sports movies.

2) Room

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Unlike Spotlight, Room has shown it was worthy of its various awards as, nearly 12 months later the journey of Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is still as powerful and moving as it was when first released.

Adapted from her own book of the same name, Emma Donoghue managed to craft one of the most emotional films released this year. Along with the Oscar worthy direction of Lenny Abrahamson, Room is a mighty example of how the love between a parent and a child can overcome the most dastardly of obstacles.

3) Bone Tomahawk

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A rather overlooked film when first released, Bone Tomahawk is nonetheless a fantastic example of how an old fashioned Western can still be relevant in this age of expensive, overlong comic book dross.

Bringing together an A-list cast led by Kurt Russell, writer S. Craig Zahler has made an incredible directorial debut with only the most minimal of budgets. Accompanied by Benji Bakshi’s long sweeping shots of the beautiful yet deadly Californian desert, Bone Tomahawk is the best Western I have seen since 2010’s True Grit.

4) Zootropolis / Zootopia

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It’s getting more and more common for Disney’s animated release to be superior to the annual Pixar release, and this year was no exception. Zootropolis is without a doubt the most imaginative film I have seen this year.

As has already been mentioned in hundreds of reviews, watching Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) fight through both society’s and her own prejudices is surprising relevant to our own world. While we can all argue whether or not this is the best animated film of 2016, I think we can all agree that this film contain the best “Sloth” related scene in cinema history!

5) The Edge of Seventeen

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Might as well quote from my own review!

… (Steinfeld’s) performance can easily stand alongside other great teen portrayals (and) the interactions she has with the supporting cast are what help elevate this film into one of the best comedies of 2016… The biting wit and snappy rapport bring to mind a Joss Whedon level of dialogue and help cement The Edge of Seventeen as one of the best debut films of the 21st century.

6) Captain America: Civil War

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“What an idiotic idea for a film” – What I said when Iron Man was released.

“This film’ll never work” – What I said when Avengers was released.

” Guaranteed Box Office Bomb” – What I said when Guardians of the Galaxy was released.

This film SHOULD NOT work. And yet, Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely have done some of the best work of 2016 and written a script that not only gives decent roles to over a dozen characters, but never forgets that this is a Captain America movie and gives him his most intimate story yet. Knowing that almost all the creatives involved are now responsible for bringing Infinity War to the silver screen, its impossible not to have a sense of childlike excitement when thinking about the future of the Marvel Universe.

7) Sing Street

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I’m not the biggest fan of musicals (which makes it all the more baffling that I have two of them in my top 12 list!), but Sing Street is a special case. Coming from the mind of Director/Writer John Carney, Sing Street is, on the surface, just about a boy meeting a girl. But a little digging shows off a love letter to the 80s accompanied by incredible performances from its young stars. Easily a five star classic in the vein of Moulin Rouge or Hairspray.

8) Adult Life Skills

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Guaranteed to be the least seen film on this list, it’s disappointing that Adult Life Skills couldn’t find a bigger audience. (Though I suspect going up against The Secret Life of Pets didn’t help!) However this is a great comedic debut by Director/Writer Rachel Tunnard, and in Jodie Whittaker she has found a wonderful leading lady, able to deftly switch between the heights of hilarity and the rock bottom suffering that her character must endure.

9) Tickled

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A documentary that also doubles up as one of the most frightening horror films of the year? Who knew!?!

Tickled explores the niche market of “competitive endurance tickling.” Directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve travel to America to find out what type of people would compete in such activities. But to say anymore would be ruining a stunning exploration of the human psyche. Quite possibly the best documentary of the year.

10) Popstar: Never Stop, Never Stopping

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Only grossing $10 million off a $20 million budget, it’s a true shame to see that the newest project from the guys behind The Lonely Island is a Box Office Bomb. One of the wittiest satires of 2016, the film might not be for everyone; but I think most people will find a hilarious film that is guaranteed to become a cult classic.

11) Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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What’s up with New Zealand? Last year was Deathgasm, the year before was What We Do in the Shadows. And this year, from Director/Writer Taika Waititi, is one of the funniest, yet most beautiful relationships between a man and a child. Sam Neil is perfectly cast as the grumpy Uncle Hec, and his chemistry with the younger Ricky (Julian Dennison) is next to none. Supported by several amazing character actors, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is well worth a watch.

12) Eye in the Sky

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Alan Rickman fortunately doesn’t suffer the same fate as Raul Julia, as Rickman’s final film before his untimely death is one for the ages. Essentially a military thriller covering the issue of drone strikes, Eye in the Sky is a highly engaging and tense experience, guaranteed to stick in the mind long after finishing.



And that’s all from me in 2016 guys! I’ve only had this blog for three months, but it’s been a lot of fun writing all my reviews, my numerous movie related thoughts, and sharing the progress and achievements of my screenwriting career.

Also, a big thanks to the 8 people that have kindly been following my blog. It great to know that someone appreciates my work!

Have a safe and prosperous 2017 everyone!