Avengers Endgame: Analysis, Themes, and Theories

Despite some plot holes and other minor complaints, Avengers: Endgame is great, and all Marvel fans should rush out to see it!

Avengers: Endgame is finally here! I have been so excited to see this movie, and I know you guys have been too. It seems like everyone and their grandma has seen this movie by now. It’s everything it’s hyped up to be, the culmination of eleven years of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is it. This is the finale! Just like for the film, Us, I will be doing a spoiler filled analysis of this movie. The trailers of this movie give so little away that any little aspect of the plot I discuss with you would be considered a spoiler. I will be sure to let you know when I am about to spoil the movie before it happens. If you’re wondering if this film is “worth your time”, the answer is absolutely! This film is an epic cinematic event that any Marvel fan should see as soon as they can! The film is wonderfully and impressively constructed, and despite its lack of “artistic aspects” as some people have complained about with this film, you can’t deny that as a fan this is hugely satisfying! So, yes, see this film as soon as you can, and see it in IMAX because the whole film was shot using their cameras. This means that the film will be presented in an expanded aspect ratio then you get in any other showing, and I can safely say it looks very nice on the big screen.

SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE YET! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

I will admit that I was mostly surprised at the direction this film decided to take. That being they decided to have this film take place five years after the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Although looking back this decision makes the most sense for the characters and for the plot, it’s disappointing that they kill Thanos off as easy as they do in the beginning. I was so looking forward to seeing Thanos confront the Avengers once again, and although it happens, it’s much more anti climatic then you’d expect. In the beginning of this movie, Thanos has his own farm, he’s retired, and has even destroyed the Infinity Stones. When the Avengers realize this, they beat him up, and Thor slices off Thanos’ head with his ax. Thor then talks off into the distance as the camera goes out of focus and the film slowly cuts to five years later.

We then see as the characters try to get over their losses and the lives they lead after the events of Infinity War. There’s trash all over cities, everyone’s pissed off all the time, and plants are not being attended to. We see as Captain America leads a support group to help everyone get over the loss of their loved ones, Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow, takes calls from other members of the Avengers, and Thor lives at the remote little civilization of New Asgard where he is an alcoholic that plays Fortnite with his friend Korg, who thankfully is still alive. The only one who seems to have truly moved on is Tony Stark, Iron Man, who is now married to Pepper Potts and has a daughter. Also, ummmmm Bruce Banner, who is now professor Hulk, dabs while taking a picture with some fans, so there’s that. Anyways, the possibility of time travel becomes relevant when the Avengers discover that Scott Lang has been through the quantum realm in what felt like five hours. This is when Tony Stark uses what he knows about the quantum realm to figure out time travel, and when they decide to try to go back in time to retrieve the stones. They explain that this would be better than perhaps killing baby Thanos stopping him from ever getting the stones in the first place because going back in time and changing something only makes a new timeline.

I understand the reasoning behind the rules they present, but the problem is that it makes this movie very complicated and hard to follow.

If you haven’t noticed, the rules that this film presents for time travel is unconventional to what we are used to seeing in films. This makes time travel aspect of the movie very complicated and difficult to follow. I understand why they chose to go with the rules they have here, but I don’t think it worked as well as they thought it would. They seem to break their own rules when Captain America at the end, after he delivers the Infinity Stones back to where they belong, decides to live a life with Peggy Carter, only to have him meet Bucky and Sam back at the bench as an old man in order to give him back the shield. How is Steve able to meet Sam and Bucky back on the bench many years after he reunites with Peggy? Shouldn’t he now just be gone forever living in a different timeline? It’s very confusing and honestly doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it wraps up an arc for Steve’s character, and it feels very satisfying.

What makes this film as exciting and fun to watch, though, is that climatic final battle!

It’s no secret that what everyone truly came here for was that climatic final battle at the end of the film, and wow it is insane! Every major character you’ve ever known from the MCU (except Black Widow of course) is there fighting Thanos and his huge army, and everyone’s entrance is incredible! It’s so satisfying to see all these characters who were once killed in Infinity War come back from the dead fully ready to fight Thanos. Both times I saw the film, people seemed to have a very strong reaction when Spider-Man appeared again, given that his death was one of the most emotional from Infinity War. And don’t forget, of course, when Captain America finally becomes worthy of the hammer Mjonlir, and uses it to fight Thanos. That was incredible! Another stand out moment was seeing Captain America summon Mjonlir towards him as all the Avengers came together to fight Thanos where he utters the line “Avengers…. assemble”. This was for sure the best part of the movie, and definitely worth the price of a ticket alone.
The only disappointing element of the fight is that the Thanos they fight is one from 2014 after their time travel mission goes wrong, as opposed to the one we grew to know in Infinity War. Other than that, I absolutely loved this scene and thought it was a blast!

Despite its flaws, this film is everything I wanted it to be and more!

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I’d be surprised! Avengers: Endgame is a blast! Even when the plot gets complicated or don’t make sense, the film still feels satisfying and important! It may be a little long and you can definitely feel the length, but the film is nothing short of spectacular! It is already one of my favorite movies of the year, and I’m excited to see it for a third time this weekend! I feel like I certainly neglected to discuss some aspect of the movie here, but I feel that everything that needs to be said about this movie has already been said. Everyone’s seen it and talked about it to death at this point. At this point, I feel like a fan boy talking to a bunch of people on an online forum who have already seen the movie and have developed very similar thoughts on it. I’m so happy the Marvel movies have been as good as they have been for this long and I hope that they continue to keep it up for many more years to come!

So that has been all my film reviews for this semester! And wow what a great film to wrap up the semester with! It’s been a blast talking about these movies and I hope you’ve all enjoyed too. My hope is that I’ve been able to encourage others to think about the films they see differently and to think more analytically about them. Filmmaking is one of the most tiring and stressful crafts out there, and I know as a fellow TFM student how it is. But in the end of the day, making your own art and viewing other people’s art is a ton of fun to me! I hope I can keep talking about films and making films next semester, and I hope I can continue to share that with you all next semester! You’re probably going to see a change in content next semester, but I promise it’s not gonna let you down! So with all that said and done, stay safe and have a great summer! Go Aztecs!

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Is Shazam! Worth Your Time?

Shazam! is a very fun, likable, superhero film! One of the best in the DCEU!

Shazam! (not the music app on your phone) was directed by David F. Sandberg and stars Zachary Levi. The best way to describe this movie is the superhero version of Big, starring Tom Hanks. In this film, young Billy Batson is a foster child who was abandoned by his mother when he was very young, and now roams from place to place looking for his mother once again, while running off from all the foster homes who attempt to take care of him. However, he one day gets zapped away while on a subway in Philadelphia, and meets the wizard Shazam who quickly informs Billy that he needs to transfers his powers to him in order to fight an oncoming threat. When the wizards manages to do so, Billy finds that he now becomes a god like super hero whenever he yells the word “Shazam!”. Not knowing how to handle these powers, he gets help from his roommate, Freddy Freeman, who helps him test out what powers he does and doesn’t have.

Shazam! was a ton of fun! Super light hearted, very funny, and very touching. This seems to be the DCEU film with the most amount of heart and thought placed into it. I still think Aquaman is better for its technical scope and as an epic action film, but Shazam! is a better film altogether, despite its down to earth setting.

The film doesn’t really boast much visual grandeur. Instead, it simply gives the audience a good experience.

Shazam! definitely seems to be a movie that is more concerned with developing its characters and its themes rather than boasting grand action scenes with elaborate cinematography. I will say, at times I was disappointed as I wish this film could have more epic action scenes and grand shots, but I really admired the characters and the journeys they all went through. Billy Batson is a very likable character that I found myself rooting for given his snarky personality and tragic backstory. Freddy Freeman was a character I really admired as I found myself oftentimes relating to him, which was a pleasant surprise. He tries to be very funny and in your face, but ends up coming off as aggressive which is a struggle I know many kids can definitely relate to. These two characters essentially make up this entire film. The relationships Billy develops with every character, in fact, is really the bread and butter of this film. It was really fun seeing Billy Batson as “Shazam” as he does many things that a fourteen year old boy would absolutely do if he was able to transform into an adult himself. Although many of these moments are expected and even at times obvious, having the added factor of him being a super hero as well made these moments not feel tired.

After seeing this film I was able to discern a trend that seems to be going on in many Hollywood films. Many of these films disguise themselves as Hollywood blockbusters, but actually end up serving as coming of age comedies instead. The first instance I would say where I noticed this recent trend was in Spider-Man: Homecomig and Bumblebee, and Shazam! seems to follow in that trend. When I realized this is what has been happening in films recently, I initially wasn’t sure what to think. One the one hand this is a flawed concept as we go to coming of age comedies and blockbuster films on different occasions depending on the mood, but it also serves as an opportunity to present some very clever and creative stories that could potentially be interesting on a budget. Personally, I probably wouldn’t make a movie like this because I think what makes them both work are very different, but I can understand that from a business decision, this makes sense. My one hope for this trend going forward, however, is that they can manage to properly mix the tones that these movies intend to present so that it doesn’t feel uneven. That’s been my main issue with these movies so far, and that is my main issue with Shazam!. The characters and the struggles they go through are great, but it undermines the action at times. It’s almost as if the action really isn’t given a ton of time to shine, which is unfortunate. With that being said, I’m curious to see the route in which these movies will take, and I even support it.

So do I think you should See Shazam?

Yes, I absolutely think you should see Shazam! at some point if you haven’t already. I know that will be challenging as Avengers: Endgame is right around the corner, and this movie came out about a month ago, but I feel that it is at some point worth your time. The movie is an absolute delight from start to finish and I think it is a great time for all. The characters are great, the story can get very interesting and even at times dark, and the action scenes, while not spectacular, are fun and offer some fun surprises too. If you are concerned because you feel DC has never made a good movie in their own cinematic universe, I think you’ll find yourself enjoying this one. From the reviews I’ve seen, it has even the toughest of film critics cheering and on board, which is awesome!

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Us: Analysis, Themes, and Theories

Us is a pretty great sci-fi/horror film that’s worthy of the recent buzz.

Us is directed and written by Jordan Peele who wrote and directed 2017’s Get Out and stars Lupita N’yongo, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. It tells the story of a family that goes on vacation to Santa Cruz, only to have their vacation cut short when they find a strange doppelganger family in their backyard, attempting to terrorize them and murder them. The film then turns into a story of survival as the family must escape Santa Cruz alive, while also stopping the doppelganger family from following them. I chose not to do a regular review for this one. My short recommendation for this movie is that you should at least see it at some point if you are interested. I think this film is super weird, fun, and suspenseful and it’s a great time at the movies. I will say, however, that I after I had the chance to view this film again, there were many issues I found throughout this film that seemed to negatively affect my experience the second time watching it. It wasn’t any issues with the film making really, I just found some plot holes and other inconsistencies with the film that didn’t make sense for me. In order to really discuss this film in full detail, I need to do an analysis instead. Not only because I wanted to talk about the themes of what this film has to offer, which does intrigue me, but also because I want to talk about the elements of this film that frustrated me and caused me to not enjoy it nearly as much the second time around.

SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE FILM SPOILED FOR YOU!

The film starts off as we see Lupita N’yongo’s character, Adelaide, as a young child at a fair at Santa Cruz in 1986. She is with her mother and father, and the father seems to be drunk and playing many carnival games. This clearly frustrates the mother as he is paying little to no attention to the daughter. But when the mother leaves to go to the bathroom and the father plays another carnival game, neglecting to keep an eye on his daughter, she wanders off to the beach below where she finds a hall of mirrors in which she comes across a version of herself who seemingly “traumatizes” her leaving her unable to speak. Years later, she’s grown up, had a family, and they suggest that they take a vacation to Santa Cruz every summer. In the film, we see she is nervous the entire time while there because she seems to remember an incident that scarred her for life at the beach. The film then cuts as the family is outside trying to get in so they can murder them. The version of Adelaide, Red, that seemed to traumatize her is now in front of her face again as she had predicted would happen.

Luckily, the family is able to escape their home, but when they try to go to their friends’ house for help, a family with a father played by Tim Heidecker and a mother played by Elizabeth Moss, they find that the doppelganger of their family has already murdered them, which leads them to more danger. They are able to escape but are stopped when Red captures Jason, their son, and takes him into the underground where they all reside. It is at this moment that we find out that Red explains that there is a whole society of people like her down below who mimic their actions from up above, but never get to go up there. In retaliation, she plans on killing everyone and starting their own society above ground. They also re-create the Hands Across America protest from the 1980’s to symbolize their new dominance over the country. If you don’t know, the Hands Across America event was one in which people all across the country joined hands with each other to make one big line across the entire country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to support the end of hunger in Africa. After Adelaide and Red fight each other, with Adelaide stabbing Red winning the fight, she leaves the underground with her son. We then see a flashback in which it turns out at the beach the day young Adelaide came across her young look a like self at the hall of mirrors, the doppelganger chokes Adelaide, damaging her vocal chords and forcing her underground. In other words, the Adelaide we have been following the whole time is actually the former doppelganger from below all along.

I love this film as it’s a fun, suspenseful horror flick with some great themes and satire.

This is a film that has so much strange elements to it that I cannot help but love and further recommend you check out. I’m really happy that we are able to get original ideas like this still out in theaters, and I’m glad that many people are actually coming out to support these flicks. I love the creativity that this film has to offer and I love that this film can create a concept and a universe that feels like it would be potentially terrifying to inhabit. I would personally be horrified if I found a doppelganger version of myself was trying to murder me. Since it is assumed they are a version of me, they think like me. Because of this, they know what traps I’ll fall for, what scares me, and what especially hurts me. A doppelganger of myself would truly f— me up! It’s a very strange yet brilliant concept that I’m surprised no other filmmaker has ever been able to put up on screen until this point, but I’m glad that this exists now. If you were to analyze its themes that is is clearly going for, it seems to be an allegory for class society and the way we treat and see others because of it. It can also be seen as an allegory for guilt and regret as Adelaide regrets having done what she did to her other self. If you need another interpretation, this could also be seen as an allegory for race relations in the US. Perhaps the people above are the elite race and the ones below are the minorities. This would make sense as Jordan Peele’s last film Get Out dealt with race relations and mocked individuals who would claim to fight for social justice rights for African Americans and Black Americans, but actually end up exploiting them for their victim-hood instead. Jordan Peele does a really great job with creating these horror stories with really great satire implemented into it.

I do have to admit that upon a second viewing, I found many inconsistencies within this movie, which is unfortunate.

There’s a ton of plot holes that come up when you decide to watch this movie again. It’s unfortunate to me to see these because there are instances that I know I shouldn’t be thinking about or acknowledging, but I just can’t help but ask these questions when I see these moments. There’s only going to be a few highlight ones that I acknowledged when watching this movie, but I know for a fact there’s plenty more if you want to examine the film even further. The first question I have with this movie comes at the beginning when Adelaide is nervous about being in Santa Cruz and going to the beach. This is apparently a vacation that they go on every year, as hinted several times throughout the film, so my question is did Adelaide ever get this way in previous years going on this trip? If that’s the case why do they keep coming back. They never acknowledge that she might have gotten this way in year’s past, it’s just a new thing that they realized now. And okay, even if she doesn’t get nervous while at Santa Cruz, do any of them know that she had a traumatic experience at Santa Cruz when she was younger? She doesn’t have to explain it in full detail, but did she ever suggest that she went through a troubling event growing up? And I know a potential defense for that is “she just gets that way when she hears they’re going to the beach” which is fine, but what else do they do there then? I know this seems really nitpicky, but I can’t help but think that they would stop taking this trip by now if it made her as upset as it clearly seems to in this instance. I don’t know, I feel like she would have eventually brought it up at some point that she went through such an experience.

My next questions involve the underground itself. What they suggest is that for every action that takes place above ground, there is a duplicate action taking place underground. Now there’s many actions that the characters below are seen doing that are identical to the ones up above. For example, some will be riding a roller coaster, others will be playing a carnival game, and others will be walking around the carnival. The people riding the roller coaster aren’t moving locations, they are only moving in their seats like it’s a simulator ride at Universal Studios (roasted). This would perhaps make sense because they end up in the same location as before. But what if someone up above is driving a car. They don’t end up in the same location like a roller coaster would. What about if someone up above goes in a direction and the person below is blocked by a wall? Do they go around the wall and catch up with the people above later? Now what about if someone decides to go swimming in an ocean, lake, or river? Are there tunnels below for at least a potential several miles away from the shores of these bodies of water? What about travelling internationally? They suggested that the tunnels are only in the United States, but if someone travels to Europe or Asia, do the doppelgangers still follow them across the seas? How would they get there at the same amount of time as the people above? If the people above take a 12 hour flight to China, perhaps, would the doppelganger follow the person all the way to China. A person cannot physically travel over 600 miles/hour across oceans without vehicular assistance such as an airplane. And if they did find a way to travel 600 miles/hour across oceans underground, those tunnels that lead to areas beyond the United States must be really deep below the ocean. That could almost be potentially tens of thousands of feet below water. This given that the tunnels themselves are already likely around 100-250 ft. below the surface already. Explorers haven’t even been to the lowest depths of many of these oceans. The truth is we have no idea what’s going on down there. Did someone build those tunnels then that are over 35,000-40,000 feet below the ocean? And finally, when Adelaide goes to confront Red and Red explains to her the world that exists underground, it makes sense from a narrative stand point as we as the audience do not understand what is going on, but given the end of the film, Adelaide already knows how this universe works. She’s lived there for much of her childhood, she probably remembers it pretty well.

Honestly I could go on all day listing off the various things that don’t make sense about this universe. I will defend Peele, however, in that he probably did not have much time to explain this universe or set up the rules of it properly. If they ever choose to do a follow up to this movie (which seems unlikely) they would certainly answer these questions. This could potentially lead to really fun discussions and debates to have with your friends. Even though these plot holes slightly take me out of the movie, I do look forward to showing this movie to friends maybe who haven’t seen it or to watching it again with friends who are already fans of it like I am. And I think that is what makes this movie special. For all its plot holes, this movie seems to understand how to keep the audience engaged and entertained. It’s weird and different and definitely a very different film from Get Out. I wouldn’t say it’s so much scary as it is suspenseful. It is creepy, from the perspective of the children, to see your dad being dragged out of your house by a man that looks exactly like him, and it’s also creepy thinking about coming across your own killer doppelganger. Again, they know how you think, and they know how to instill the most painful and horrific death upon you. Overall, this is a really fun movie to converse with your friends about. I think it now makes sense why I wanted to get into spoilers with this one. I don’t know. I will probably keep doing more of these spoiler filled reviews as I tend to find they are much more fun then the traditional non spoiler review. I did a very similar thing with the film Climax and that was a ton of fun, so we’ll see. Expect that with Avengers: Endgame I’ll do the same style of review so I can just get into every little nook and cranny with that one.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Is Dumbo Worth Your Time?

Dumbo is an Unnecessary Disney Remake that has No Purpose for Existing.

So awhile ago, I went and watched the new version of Dumbo, and it was not good. The truth about Dumbo is that this is more of a product than anything else. Disney is a company that I’ve recently had less and less respect for, especially given the growing monopoly that they are beginning to have on the entertainment industry. They release movies to trick the audience into believing that they care about your childhood and the things you loved growing up, but they are actually cashing in on the nostalgia you have of these iconic films and franchises from your past. They’re forcing Pixar to constantly spam of sequels, and they’re pushing out Star Wars movies to the point where “Star Wars Fatigues” now reigns after the (arguably) disastrous releases of The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Somehow, DC has been making better movies than Marvel, and most egregiously, they’re also spamming out live action remakes of classic 2D animated Disney films. I know I keep using the word “spamming” when describing the release of these films, but that’s what it feels like to me. In 2019 alone, we’re getting FOUR other live action remakes. FOUR! Tell me that’s not spamming. After this, we’re getting Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent 2, and Lady and the Tramp, which the latter will be exclusively for Disney+.

With all the complaining about Disney’s evil and conniving business methods out of the way, what makes this movie as flawed as it is?

It’s been probably more than ten years since I’ve seen the original film, but what I remember from it, it told the story of a little baby elephant at a circus who was bullied by his peers for having big ears, but learns to use them to his advantage as he discovers he can actually fly with these ears. He also tries to get his mother back after she goes crazy and puts another circus goer in danger. The remake tells a similar story but adds human characters to it and their struggle to keep a financial living in this little traveling circus they work for. Colin Farrell is the father of two children that he must take care of at the travelling circus but finds it difficult to do so after he discovers upon coming back from war that his wife has past away. Also,Danny Devito is the owner of the circus that agrees to make a partnership with a powerful entrepreneur, played by Michael Keaton.

So if I knew this Movie was Gonna be so Bad, why did I see it?

The reason I went and saw this movie was because I knew it would be directed by Tim Burton. Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, and he’s the man who personally inspired me to make movies. He has so many classic and wonderful films, and I have nothing but respect for the creativity and imagination he has running through his crazy little brain. Although I acknowledge that his film Alice in Wonderland was the reason this whole trend of live action remakes started, at least that movie had a creative and unique voice to it. I had hoped that even if this movie wasn’t good, it would at least be a special and weird experience brought to you by the great Tim Burton.

And I have to say, this is not the worst of the Disney live action remakes. This film does has a voice of some kind. The choice to cast Eva Green, Danny Devito, and Michael Keaton who are all previous collaborators with Burton (see Miss Peregrine’s and Batman Returns), as well as the general aesthetic this movie presents throughout its production design (that isn’t a green screen) gives this movie a certain vibe that only Burton is capable of. The cinematography was neat, although the color palate was sometimes foggy, but not terribly distracting, and there was admittedly a very fun sense of adventure throughout this movie. And even though I knew exactly where this movie was gonna go, I wanted to see that adventure still play out.

Despite admiring Burton’s aesthetic, there are unfortunately some serious issues within the film making here.

When Dumbo isn’t allowing you to enjoy the magic and wonder that comes with seeing an elephant fly at a circus, it gives you a very awkward and otherwise poorly made film with no real personality within its script. If Tim Burton hadn’t directed this script, this would have easily could have been one of the soulless movies I had ever seen. The visual effects are terrible and look very fake given the standards of today’s movies. The acting from the kids is so bad it would take me out of the movie entirely, and the script is stupid, boring, and has no pay off or important themes to spread.

Oftentimes, characters will touch or look at Dumbo and they’ll be totally off from where he actually is. They’ll brush his little body and be missing him by about a few inches. The young girl in this movie also has a scene where she looks at Dumbo and she is not even staring at Dumbo directly, but instead off in the distance somewhere. Did they not use markers or anything to guide the actors and help them to give a better performance. Speaking of which, the girl in this movie is absolutely horrible. I feel bad because she is a little kid and I know it’s hard to act, but she just was unable to attempt to display any emotions whatsoever. She would literally stare at Dumbo flying through the circus tent with a straight face. I could tell she’s supposed to act amazed or something when this happens, because the little boy who’s even younger than her acting with her is much better than she is. It doesn’t help either that her character is just “female STEM major” and that’s it. Not saying there’s anything wrong with females entering the major; in fact I encourage it. It’s just that they make her trait of being a female scientist her only personality trait. It’s a problem that even feminists are having an issue with in current films that feature young girls. It’s a poor representation of a group of people who inspire others and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Overall, Dumbo was thankfully not a complete waste of time due to Burton’s good direction and production design, but is otherwise a film you should have no problem skipping.

It was a boring movie with bad effects, bad acting, and a bad script. I recommend you skip this movie and see Us, Shazam!, or even Pet Semetary instead. These are all films that are much better and made by people who care, at least a little bit, of the films they are putting out there. And you can’t even shift the blame onto Burton. The issues come from the studio for making this the way they did. I know I seem angry talking about this movie, but I think it’s more because I know it’s behind a company that only cares about spamming out products as quickly as possible and generating online buzz and coverage about their movies in the process. The movie alone really just made me want to fall asleep, which is never a good thing to experience with a movie. If you’re also sick of Disney making these pointless remakes that are only designed to be second place to the original anyways, then speak with your wallets and skip this one. I used my AMC A-List for this one, so hopefully theirs not as much blood on my hands.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo