I know I probably should have gotten this out there on, oh, Friday before everybody went and saw it. I know that. But at the same time, I think this is a film I needed to digest a little bit before I put my thoughts down on it. And by “digest” I mean, see it again. As of this writing I’ve experienced the film in both standard format and 3D. Each of these showings was packed to the brim. The first was on Friday at the first showing of the day at 10 in the morning. The next was a Saturday show at 1 PM. I need to point this out because the biggest surprise about The Avengers is that it even exists in the first place. The amount of planning and preparation that went into developing a crossover of this magnitude is mind boggling. There have been crossover films before this. Godzilla and King Kong fought it out, Freddy and Jason slashed at each other, the list goes on. It’s not that big a deal for cinematic properties to come together. What is unique is the idea of using individual characters and their films as a roadmap to an eventual crossover. In the world of cinema, it’s a miracle that it ever got made. Even more impressive is that Marvel was able to bring the viewing audience around as well. They sold the idea of this being on of the biggest movies ever and the audiences turned up. They invested their time in it. This is a movie that has been on everyone’s minds for close to five years. Ever since the end of Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson walked in the room and told the world that the Marvel universe was going to be a shared experiment. This film is important.
That having been said, is it any good? I’m happy to say that everything you want out of this movie you will receive. Joss Whedon handles it as well as you would expect and we may finally have the shining definition of what it means to bring a comic book to life on screen. The final act is like watching a collection of “hell yeah” splash pages from a Marvel crossover brought to life. The film does not skirt the fact that comic books are writ large and with joyous bombast. The action sequences are everything that Michael Bay wishes he could accomplish. They are loud, they are big and at the same time they have a sense of direction that is managed and easy to follow. You never get confused watching the carnage and for that we should be thankful.
But what I really want to talk about is the character moments. The time between Norse gods fighting men in iron suits. Joss Whedon gives us a movie where the time spent with these character simply talking to each other are as gripping as the action sequences and set pieces. The interplay between these actors is something that holds the film together in a way that without it, the whole experiment would fail. Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo’s respectful banter is a highlight. Hell, anything Mark Ruffalo does is a highlight. I know folks liked Edward Norton but Ruffalo brings something that has always been missing from the big screen portrayal of Banner in the previous incarnations. He manages to portray Banner as a person who is angry at his own anger and yet somehow accepting of it all at the same time and he may very well be the MVP of the film. Downey does his usual great work with Stark, but here he really sells the trans-formative arcs that propel his character forward, and seeing him bounce of Chris Evans’ Captain America is a joy to watch. I will admit that I feel as if Evans didn’t get much to do until the final act when he really gets to shine as a team leader, but in a movie with this many characters to juggle it is a small conceit. Also, Tom Hiddleston needs some awards. All of them, really. Loki was a great villain in Thor, mainly because of Hiddleston’s ability to play the wounded creature. He was a tormented soul and that made him fun to watch. Here we get to see what happens when the soul is tormented for so long that it snaps. He plays the broken soul just as well and he sells it like nobody’s business.
The film is everything it needs to be and then some. There will be those who complain about the run-time or the way characters are handled but in the end this is a big win for Marvel and a bigger win for people who still enjoy the spectacle of seeing a true summer blockbuster on the big screen. I do not doubt that I’ll see it at least one more time in the theater because this is definitely a film that benefits from a big screen. I might even shell out the cash to see it in IMAX. It’s that good.
I enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes film by Guy Ritchie. If you didn’t, you’re not going to like the sequel any better. Many complained that the film missed the point and tone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories completely and while the BBC’s Sherlock series may indeed be an oddly more faithful adaptation despite the updated setting, Guy Ritchie’s sequel to his 2009 film does have elements in place to please the Holmes purists while drawing in the larger audience that hasn’t read the books and only have a passing familiarity with the character.
Firstly, I need to point out that they really went forward with the Holmes/Watson “bromance” this time around. They don’t really keep it in the subtext anymore. It’s just plain text. Holmes’ dismay at Watson’s getting married and their parting of ways leaves him jealous like a scorned lover and the interaction between the two is quite entertaining. Jude Law has never been one of my favorite actors, I can’t seem to recall anything he’s done that has really stayed with me but his turn as Watson is thoroughly enjoyable and his chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. is remarkable. Downey has taken some flack for his portrayal of Holmes but by now everyone should be able to accept that this version of the character will act in a particular way and Downey does it quite well. He pulls off the eccentricities (which have been dialed up quite a bit here) and handles the myriad of disguises perfectly. He’s given us a version of the Holmes character that may not be one hundred percent in line with Doyle’s canon, but something that was extrapolated and molded from that vein.
Next I feel the need to point out that the villain this time around is Professor Moriarity. I think a number of folks were disappointed he didn’t have more of a presence in the first film. Here Moriarity is played by Richard Harris’ spawn Jared with great gusto and an authentic sense of menace. Harris’ Moriarity is the sort of villain that could save a much lesser movie. His performance is absolutely stunning and I would not be surprised if this film wound up getting Harris any number of new roles. He has had some choice performances in the past, and is supposedly equally impressive in his role on TV’s Mad Men, but I do believe this is the largest scale he’s ever worked on and he nails the role dead on.
There are some issues that stumble the film from time to time. Noomi Rapace, so well known for her vivid portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is pretty dull and lifeless for the majority of the film. I’m not sure if it was a language barrier issue or something else entirely but she was pretty much a dull void. An attractive dull void, but still a hiccup in the otherwise stellar casting department which also included Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft who had a tendency to steal whatever scene he was in. Then again, this is Stephen Fry we’re talking about. That’s to be expected. There are also some minor pacing issues and sometimes the film feels a bit slow between action beats, which seems like a horrid complaint to levy against a Sherlock Holmes film because there shouldn’t be that many action beats to begin with. But framed within the context of the film itself, the gaps are pretty apparent.
On the whole, it’s equally as good as its predecessor and I personally enjoyed it a great deal more based solely off of the escalation in Holmes and Watson’s interplay as well as the back and forth between Holmes and Moriarity. It isn’t a perfect film or a great adaptation in any regard but it is one of the better crafted action/mystery films of the year and I doubt many people will find much not to like about it unless they walk in with a pre-established vendetta.
I want to come out and say that as far as comics to film translations go, the franchise that seems to have taken the essense of the stories and chracters and adapted them best for the screen has to be the Iron Man series. Every character retains their core in ways that are lost with films like Batman, Superman, and the X-Men films. I think the most telling moment in Iron Man 2 is when Tony Stark is clutching a bottle of champagne, suited up in the armor and scratching the turntables at his birthday party. The film is very comfortable in portraying the character in moments that otherwise would seem awkward. The films embrace the atmosphere that a billionare in a weaponized suit creates. It’s a level of fantasy fulfillment and straightforward production that seems lost in other films. It doesn’t feel very tongue in cheek, it’s just presented at face value and the audience goes with it, because it seems natural.
Which really needs to be the case in a film like Iron Man. It’s like a ride, and you have to be willing to realize that. Iron Man 2 certainly has some setbacks that are evident in most sequels. I however do not see the problem that certain people do, claiming that the film has too many new characters. All the characters introduced in the film do wonders with the time they are given. Sam Rockwell probably does the most with the limited screen time he’s given, making Justin Hammer his own and providing an excellent foil for Tony Stark and the scenes where the two share the screen are absolutely phenomenal. The chemistry between the two actors is amazing. And I think that’s another crux of what makes the film work the way it does; the chemistry that all these actors bring to their roles is as top tier as you can get. Gwenyth Paltrow, who I normally despise, works well with anyone she’s put up against. The same goes for Downey, or Don Cheadle or even Mickey Rourke, who just seethes a sort of dirty despicability. What I like about this film is that it feels like a Marvel book come to life. We get Nick Fury and the Black Widow sharing scenes with Iron Man and War Machine, all these heroes converging on screen in a way we’ve never seen before. In films like The Dark Knight, we got Batman and multiple villains, creating a miniature scale version of this effect, but that was a microcosm while this feels grander in scope.
While some will argue that War Machine and Black Widow don’t get enough time to be fleshed out completely, and therefore giving the producers no reason to use them in the first place, I think the film does a sufficient job in presenting them in such a way that when the inevitable spin-off films happen, they can hit the ground running in ways they previously could not. The origin story is such a boring aspect to most heroes, and most of the time we’re so familiar with them that we get bored when they play out on the screen, or we get angry if they change something in such a way that it betrays the spirit of the source material. I believe that with Iron Man, Marvel is doing an amazing job of world building. They have more room to maneuver than they ever have previously and it’s sad that DC can’t pull off the same feat. I personally would love to see a post-credits scene in Green Lantern where Hal Jordan is tracking a fast moving bogey only to happen upon a red blur that slows down just enough for us to get a glimpse of The Flash. Or maybe he crashes an F-15 into an invisible jet. Who cares, but let us see a larger world.
Like I said, the film is not perfect, and It probably could have used another big action scene to offset the more character driven dialogue pieces. I don’t need action all the time but the first film felt more balanced in this regard. I will admit however that the final set piece in this film trumps the less than stellar Iron Monger fight in the original, even if it is somewhat derivitive of that particular setup.
The word going around the web the last few days is that Marvel is very keen on Joss Whedon possibly stepping up to the plate to direct the live-action Avengers movie. The reaction to this little tidbit falls on a scale that starts with fanboy nerdgasm and ends with teeth gnashing and caps-locked ranting. Either you think he’s perfect for the job based on his previous ensemble work or you think that he’ll suddenly turn everyone gay and have them speak like hipster high-schoolers.
There’s also been complaints that he’s not a big enough name to anchor Marvel’s flagship film. Who the hell cares? You think the average Joe Schmoe really knows one director from another. I mentioned to a customer at the shop that the guy behind Batman was going to be heading up the new Superman film and he replied; “Christian Bale?” Let’s not assume that everyone knows or even cares about the behind the scenes aspect of film production. I don’t think it was Jon Favreau’s name in the director credit that sold Iron Man to the masses. And with a movie like The Avengers I don’t think it will take much selling at all. You throw a bunch of superheroes into one film and the novelty alone is enough to give it some amazing numbers.
My take on this is that both sides would really benefit from Whedon’s involvement as director. Serenity shows that he can work some amazing big-budget action sequences. And the man practically made his career on ensemble character moments. It’s like this was the film he’s been waiting for his entire career. Plus, he has a working history with Marvel, having done amazing work on the X-Men. And maybe this would be the film to make him a more mainstream name. He could probably garner enough goodwill to put together more projects of his own if he was attached to a film that made more money than God.
Honestly, I think if Whedon is in serious consideration, it’s not a bad idea. It’s actually a pretty good one. But it all really depends on the script anyway, if that thing sucks, it doesn’t matter who is behind the camera as nothing will be able to save it. Gavin Hood is an excellent director but he couldn’t save Wolverine Origins. So meditate on that.
So after a casting search that included choices so bizarre that fanboy heads most likely exploded in a most literal fashion (I’m sure someone had a heart attack after that Will Smith rumor, and if not him then I’m sure the idea of Jim from the Office donning the shield caused someone to suffer a stroke) we have our Captain America, and he’s apparently also the former Human Torch.
I support this casting choice 100%. Evans is a fine young actor who I think is charasmatic and commanding enough to pull of Steve Rogers. But this editorial isn’t just me salivating over a decent casting choice for 1000 words or so. No, this editorial is a serious look at casting choices and their effect on the collective psyche of the pre-existing fanbase. I find the ways that the fans react to casting decisions outright hilarious at times. But in this instance we get a rarity. An actor who once appeared in a Marvel film as one character jumping into another franchise playing another character. OH THE CONFUSION!
Except it really doesn’t matter. Honestly, I think most of the general population has forgotten those Fantastic Four movies anyway. It’s only the people who have a regular and steady attachment to comics who would ever really give a damn. Do you think the average joe schmoe is going to give a damn whether the guy playing Green Lantern was also that sword guy from Wolverine Origins? I don’t think so, any more than they cared that Reynolds was in Blade Trinity before he was Deadpool. Remember that abysmal piece of trash? Yeah, you do. Because you’re a comic book fan and you can’t let it go. But the rest of the world has.
The truth of the matter is that for some reason, we as a community (I’m speaking of the comic collecting hordes) have a personal investment in the adaptations of our favorite characters. In our minds, anybody but the choice we have already picked out in our heads prior to the acknowlegement of a movie’s possibility of existence is considered a complete and utter failure before seeing anything in the way of evidence to support our claims. And so we have people saying that Evans will be a horrible Captain America because of the way he portrayed Johnny Storm. I honestly can’t see the connection. That’s like saying he’ll be horrible in the upcoming Losers adaptaion because of the way he was in Not Another Teen Movie. Or that he’ll reek in Scott Pilgrim because of his work in Sunshine. I don’t see the connection.
I remember people who I worked with in the shop talking about Robert Downey Jr.’s casting as Iron Man a few years back. People were saying that it would be a disaster. That he was a trainwreck of an actor who would never be able to pull it together long enough to make a decent Tony Stark. Fortunately, they later ate their words with a side of fries because I don’t think anyone will deny exactly how amazing Downey was in that role. Looking back on it, it seems as if Iron Man was created all those years ago just as an excuse to have Robert Downey Jr. play him on the big screen.
And who is to say that in a few years time we won’t be saying the same thing about Chris Evans. He’s obviously got some measure of talent to be racking up high-profile roles in multiple films even prior to this announcement. People keep mouthing off about how he’s in too many comic book films. With this and Fantastic Four plus Scott Pilgrim and The Losers; that’s like complaining that John Wayne did too many westerns and war films. Are you going to begrudge an actor taking roles that he genuinely thinks he can do service to based solely on the source material. How many damned Victorian era literature based films has Kiera Knightley done? Are we supposed to give her hell for that? No, we aren’t. We’re supposed to give her hell for looking like she hasn’t eaten since the last lunar cycle. (She’s really skinny, people.)
My point with this little rant is this; give the boy a chance. Don’t tear him apart before you see the film. Because if you pre-judge the whole affair before a trailer even airs, you’re gearing yourself up to hate it regardless of the quality that may be there when it’s all said and done. And I honestly think this kid has what it takes to hold his own in a scene with Downey when it comes time to do an Avengers film and that’s more than I can say for John Krasinski. (Sorry Jim.)
- Wolfman & Perez to make a return to TITANS [BleedingCool]
- Geoff Johns returning to Titans, too. Only tinier. [ComicsAlliance]
- Iron Man 2 to screen in IMAX [JoBlo]
- Marvel Offers Deadpool Variant for stripped DC Books [ComicBookResources]
- Gail Simone re-launching Birds of Prey in April [DCUNiverse]
- Producers eying Jackie Earle Haley for Sinestro? [CHUD]
- Sony puts the kibosh on Spidey 4, reboots franchise [ComicBookResources]
- DC to follow “Blackest Night” with bi-weekly “Brightest Day” [DCUniverse]