Here's why you should buy the 3D version of Infinity War even if you don't like 3D.

Film Find above the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War but showing the comparison between the regular and IMAX presentations. Turns out, A:IW was shot entirely in digital IMAX so the film I saw yesterday was cropped across the top and bottom, which will account for why, just sometimes, the shots were incredibly busy.

IMAX's YouTube channel has a dozen or so videos celebrating the fact and you might also notice that it's not the first to include IMAX scenes. Most of the recent installments have mixed the two aspect ratios so that IMAX visitors have a slightly more epic experience.

What's less known is that those IMAX versions are available for the home on the 3D releases.  Although the standard 2D releases have the regular versions with cropping were necessary, the 3D disc always contains the IMAX version with the shifting between regular and IMAX shots.  Doctor Strange has about three different ratios.

The list seems to be:

Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther

Of course, you do need to have a 3D blu-ray player and 3D television to see any of this and they're both being phased out.  But you don't have to watch it in 3D.  On my television at least you can turn off the 3D and watch the film without and although you obviously don't get the scale, you can at least see all of the available visual information.

My guess is the 3D release of A:IW will also contain the IMAX version with the full image - unless they decide that's also going to be the 2D version as well if you want to see the whole film, that's the version you're going to have to purchase.

We Need To Talk About Thanos.

Film It's been a while since the last "We Need To Talk About [insert MARVEL related character who has nothing to do with the Lynne Ramsey film] but with the MCU equivalent of The Three Doctors having had the biggest opening weekend of all time and actually visited a cinema myself to see the thing and had some thoughts, here we are: some commentary on Avengers: Infinity War to add to the digital fatberg already clogging up the atlantic's transcommunication cable.

None of the following is original.  But after knocking out that bland review of a Ken Burns documentary yesterday, I'm in the mood to write again which hasn't been the case for the past few weeks.  A whole visit to London and other business have passed and all I've really wanted to do was double bill some films and catch up on a mountain of television.  But if nothing else, the first half of the MCU's two part series finale has made me want to sit in front of a keyboard, so thanks Kevin Feige et al.

The following will of course include many spoilers, so do not under any circumstances read any further if you haven't seen the film - which is essentially unreviewable so this isn't going to be that.  I've already tried watching a couple of the kinds of YouTube reviewers who utilise their dvd collection as the backdrop pointlessly offering a spoiler-free review as though their core audience isn't going to be going to see the film anyway.  Just warn up front then say what you like.  It's OK.

(1)  The film is unreviewable

Reviews of the film for general audiences have been amazingly bobbins in places.  I'm not going to single out any in particular, you've seen them, but the gist is that A:IW doesn't work as a stand alone film because none of the main characters are properly introduced and nothing is explained which means that the emotional beats have no resonance and there aren't any stakes.  Oh and that's half a story which makes it insubstantial.

Let's all say this in unison (!).  It's an installment in probably the biggest film franchise of all time, in which anyone going to the cinema to see it will have enjoyed its antecedents a couple if not a dozen times.  Seeing A:IW as your first MARVEL film is like sitting down for the finale of a television season and hoping that everything which has happened that season will be explained to you.  If this kind of film isn't your sort of thing, this isn't going to change your mind.  It's not supposed to.

It's refreshing to have a film like this which doesn't pander.  Pandering is why we've had to watch Batman's parents killed or the destruction of Krypton over and over again.  If you can't appreciate that the film is ignoring character exposition on purpose rather than through omission, I don't know what you're expecting.  But I also honestly don't understand why someone couldn't enjoy this on some level, unless they're determined not to even before they enter the cinema.

(2)  Structure

The big question beforehand was how the Russo brothers would be able to balance the various elements, all of those characters and contain them within this running time.  Captain America: Civil War demonstrated their nimbleness in achieving that balance whilst simultaneously delivering something which is a valid finale to Cap's trilogy and sewing up some hanging questions from the Iron Man series so I wasn't that concerned.  But how would they achieve the balance between the mix of tones?

The clever solution is to make Thanos an antagonistic protagonist.  Without the necessary close reading (remind me with the blu-ray is released) my guess is that all of the key turning points in the story happen at various stages in Thanos's quest, probably in finding each of the different stones and that in those terms, since Thanos achieves his goal, the film's plot technically resolves itself.  Half the population of the universe disappears, a notion he views as heroic, and he's able to retire just as he wished having made some necessary sacrifices.

The mix of tones works surprisingly well.  I saw one review which suggested that some of heroes act "out of character" because they've been brought in from the work of other creatives but I didn't detect that at all.  James Gunn is particularly listed as an executive producer and apparently he did write all of the Guardian's dialogue.  Due to the familial connection this does function as part of the wider Guardians story more than any of the other characters.

But my understanding is all of the other key creatives were consulted too, probably because they'd have to deal with the fallout in their own films.  The Wakanda scenes are very much within Ryan Cooglar's vision and however much of a downer the climax of Ragnarok is now, this Thor has his DNA in Taika Waititi's effort rather than anything which happened in the earlier films.  The rest of the heroes have already had multiple creatives but the Russos still acknowledge their debt to how Joss Whedon conceived some of the characters, especially Banner.

(3)  Unfortunate Events

Due to his non-appearance in the publicity my assumption was that Hawkeye would buy it in the opening scene.  Little did I expect they'd actually murder one of the franchise's most popular assets despite it being the classic move when you want to show how high the stakes are.  That said, god bless Hiddleston for showing up for all of the publicity as though Loki was going to have a major role in the film rather than a cameo.

My feelings about Gamora are a bit more complex.  Despite the blood splatter, like everyone who's dusted at the climax, I don't believe she'll stay dead.  Damseling and fridging her as a way of utilising some of Quill's toxic masculinity to kibosh the otherwise excellent plan to beat Thanos feels discordant within everything else the franchise has been doing over the years.  Such things have mostly been avoided.  If it happens here, it has to be for a reason.

Plus I can't imagine what Guardians 3 looks like without her - again it isn't typical for anything that happens in an Avengers film, like killing a major character, to have much of an effect on one of the satellite trilogies.  She will be resurrected.  Either because Quill steals the Gauntlet for himself or because reality and time become much more fluid in the sequel.  Like The Key To Time, the Infinity Gauntlet isn't just going to sit on Thanos's mantlepiece.

(4)  Effects on the wider MCU

Although some other franchises have demonstrated that global events would not necessarily have the consequences you might expect within a shared universe (Torchwood's Miracle Day) (eyeroll.gif) it's inconceivable, unless they whole thing is erased from history in the sequel, to envisage half the population of the Earth disappearing not to be reflected in the various other corners of the 'verse in some way, albeit through wry asides.

Agents of SHIELD has already said that they will be referencing Infinity War, but their time travel storyline was no doubt conceived to explain why they wouldn't be involved in the events of the film up front even if the film franchise itself doesn't seem to care either way.  E4's broadcasts are a bit behind but given that the Earth is supposed to be a rocky husk in the future anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the tv show itself manages to justify The Avengers not being involved in that.

The film doesn't turn events global until the end. Before then, barring the skirming in New York, most of the key action happens off world or behind the cloaking device in Wakanda.  The Defenders, Runaways, Cloak and Dagger, Inhumans et al wouldn't necessarily even be aware of the war being fought.  They do now and you can bet that even though I know the film/TV divide makes it impossible, I wish they'd have cameos in the sequel.

(5)  What's going to be in the sequel then?

Hawkeye, Antman and the Wasp and Captain Marvel for starters.  They were all either seen on set (both films were shot together) or mentioned as having been there and it'll be important to have some flesh blood in the sequel.  All of the original core Avengers survive at the close of business: Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Cap and Black Widow.  They're getting the band back together, oh yes.

A percentage of the film no doubt be about the consequences of this, the MCU's contribution to the "rapture" genre.  Despite having the time stone, the characters aren't wiped from chronological existence.  Everyone remembers who they were and that loss.  Perhaps we'll see Tony turn up at Aunt May's door to commiserate.  There will be tears.

What's the goal?  To retrieve the Infinity Glove so they can put right what once went wrong.  In other words, it'll be the inverse of this film with Thanos properly as the antagonist again defending his achievement.  But I'm hoping for something weirder involving multiple realities, featuring cameos that look forward to whatever new characters the MCU's considering.

BUT this would also be an excellent, if unlikely, opportunity to merge the MCU and the X-verse in a similar way to how the recent Secret Wars absorbed the the Ultimates universe into 616.  Who wouldn't want the post-credits sequence to be Deadpool being chased into the Avengers campus by Wolverine or some such.  You have to imagine Jackman would return for that.

April Showers.

About New month, new blog bar. It's ...

Aunt May

The Vietnam War.

TV Despite having joined the human race a year or two before the end of the US involvement in the war in Vietnam, my knowledge of the period and of the conflict has inevitably been through pop culture, music, film and television.  The first time I probably heard some of the key strategic locations was through the authentically non-PC Robin Williams improv that made it into Good Morning Vietnam or more significantly its soundtrack album which I listened to enough that I can still quote my way through the snatches of routines running between Martha and the Vandellas and The Searchers (which is certainly the first time I heard the "slut" word but that's by the by).  Along with the titles you might expect, it's an entirely one-sided, Westernised "education", of madness piled upon madness, of tens of thousands dying to promote ideologies and defend geography.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's The Vietnam War doesn't disprove that point but seeks to make it in a much more even handed way, including voices "from the ground up" of witnesses to the conflict from all side, from veterans not just of the US army but the Viet Cong and the North and South Vietnamese forces.  Civilians are here too, from the streets of Hanoi and Saigon, the families of those in combat and anti-war protesters in the US.  Oh and the politicians: as Burns says gleefully in the making of documentary included on the dvd, "We have tapes!" with both Presidents Johnson and Nixon represented by phone calls and infamously by meetings in the Oval Office.  Although there have been criticisms from those more knowledgeable than me that some voices are muted or ignored, others over amplified, this certainly feels like the richest televisual exploration of the war we've seen so far.

Crucially what many of us might assume to be the start of the war, when US troops first set foot on Vietnamese soil doesn't happen until a few hours in.  The series begins methodically with the initial occupation of the country by the French and how their colonial stifling of the country's natural development (even during and after the occupation of their country by the Nazis) led to emergence of the people who would eventually cause the splitting of the country in two and the conquest for re-unification.  From there, the series follows a hard chronological pathway, pausing now and then to magnify the key moments in the conflict (from Hamburger Hill to Hanoi Jane) in both countries while grasping the whole sweep of history, with the voices of witnesses as the connecting tissue, some skirmishes even described from either side of the line both in Vietnam and Washington.

Notably, although some historians were consulted through preview screenings in relation to how facts are portrayed none of them appear on screen.  A BBC version of this documentary would probably have included a couple of Phds as talking heads but the material instead is connected together through Peter Coyote's sober reading of Geoffrey C. Ward's script.  Somehow The Vietnam War manages to have a point of view - that the conflict was a disastrous mess with heroism and horror on all sides -- without significant editorialising in the voice over.  Again that's the difference from the BBC approach; we tend to favour a presenter led format which just sometimes can be a distraction from the narrative being reviewed.

From an outsider perspective, despite the comprehensive aims of the series there do seem to be omissions.  Although there's some talk of how Vietnam's economy became reliant on the US forces for providing resources and entertainment, with the exception of a single medic who became famous for criticising the war while she was on active duty, there's nothing of the voices of those outside the combat zone, who worked in ordinance and the effort of supplying the army and the fringes, those working for the US army but didn't pick up a weapon, the Adrian Cronauers.  Largely ignored too is how pop culture reacted to the war and the effect that had on public opinion before and since.  Often we're told that the public were turning against the war with the suggestion this was purely caused by the nightly news.  The reality is always more complex than that.

But most damagingly, despite the aim to bring voices from all sides to the screen, the bias is still expositionally in favour of those from the US.  American witnesses are given extensive back story, from birthplaces and family details to why they signed up either through volunteering or conscription.  Vietnamese participants on the other hand are barely provided with an historic footprint, no sense of where they came from, what led them to fight.  There are fragments, of a family split across factional lines and having to choose whether to stay in Saigon know a sibling is about to return home as part of the invading army.  But the emotional weight overall is definitely with the programme's country of origin.

The use of archive material is exhilarating but often confusing.  The section about the massacre at Kent State University benefits from footage unseen since it was shot during the protest, the bloodbath and the aftermath and we're absolutely clear of the timeline and what we're watching.  But during Vietnam skirmishes, which mix colour and monochrome footage, we're often unsure if the material we're seeing represents the military action being described or illustrative examples of the kinds of things which happened.  The credits also include a disclaimer indicating that some of the footage may be been restaged after the fact and it's often distracting to hear the description of an event and not knowing if the images are of that same event.

None of which should draw away from what is an impressive achievement.  As with similar exercises, The World at War springs to mind, it's impossible that I can now look at the film and television about the conflict without a new perspective and an appreciation for how authentic or not those filmmakers have been in presenting the conflict.  If nothing else, it demonstrates just how narrow in subject films about Vietnam have been, focusing on the military at the expense of civilians.   Now that we live again in a time when a pointless war in East Asia feels inevitable to promote ideologies and defend geography, this is the kind of document feels very relevant even if those involved are unlikely to ever watch it.

THE VIETNAM WAR is currently airing on PBS America (Freeview 94, Freesat 155, Virgin 276 and Sky 534). A complete boxed set is also available. Review copy supplied.