Movies Review

Movie Review – Iron Man 3

A few notes:  I’m a huge Iron Man fanboy, and I’ll try to keep spoilers out of the first paragraph.  Beyond that, you’ve been warned.

My son and I went to see Iron Man 3 last night, and had a lot of fun.  I think, at this point, they are never recapturing the magic of the first movie but I could watch these characters forever.  I wish there was a defter touch with the dialogue – too many times it felt like “here’s a funny line!” being put on display, rather than just having great dialogue all the time.  It sapped some of the emotional pull out of the film that we had in the original Iron Man (and The Avengers).

Now, on to spoilers.  Tony’s in trouble.  He’s not sleeping, he has nightmares when he does, and he even graduates to anxiety attacks.  We flashback to 1999, and get introduced to Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian, and the beginnings of Extremis.  Tony one-night-stands Maya and sends the nerdy Killian on a wild goose chase for a meeting.  Oh, and it’s the same conference where Stark doesn’t remember meeting Yinsen.  This part of the movie is worth it if only for Happy’s long 90s hair.

Flash-forward to now, and Killian approaches Pepper (in her new role with Stark Industries) with the Extremis tech.  She’s impressed, but turns him down – it’s too easily weaponizable and Stark Industries doesn’t do that any more.  Meanwhile, there have been bombings across the country with a specific signature, and when Happy gets caught up in one and severely injured, Tony makes it his duty to seek vengeance on the perpetrators.

The terrorist known as the Mandarin takes credit after each of the bombings, but it’s not what you think,  Let’s just say there’s a reason they weren’t worried about accusations of whitewashing with Sir Ben Kingsley.  Some diehards are NOT going to like that change to the character at ALL but I thought it fit well with the cinematic universe.  Even with aliens and stuff added into the MCU, there was no way the comic book version of the Madarin was going to appear.

The actual Extremis tech actually combines that plotline with one of the follow-up plots from Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man run, with the human repulsor bombs (in this case, if you lose control of Extremis, you go boom like those bombs did).  That allows Tony to do a bit of holographic computer detective work, a staple of the series at this point.

I tweeted last night that the film ends with a note of finality – it’s actually more than a note.  The credits note that “Tony Stark will be back”, it does not say Iron Man will be back.

What I didn’t like:  Well, like I mentioned, the dialogue was lacking.  The…realness of it was gone.  Also, it seemed like Shane Black was afraid of us having an emotion, and several times when a scene seems to be building towards something like that, it would get cut off with an ill-timed joke.  It’s okay for there to be serious moments in a comic book movie, guys, even if it’s not a grimdark one.

I definitely enjoyed the movie, and the action set-pieces work well.  It is not an instant classic or anything like that but it’s a solidly enjoyable action movie.  I miss the heart of the first Iron Man movie, but perhaps that was lightning in a bottle.

Featured Media

Where Comic Books Make Us Uncomfortable

By now, you may have heard of DC’s mass reboot of most of their comic books, and some of the expected backlash.  A new spin, though, is the shall we say gratuitous sexyfication of females that occurred along with it.  You can read this response to what’s happened to Starfire from a 7 year-old comic fan, as told to her mom, an author.  Now none of the ‘boobs and skin’ focus in comics is particularly new, or specific to DC, although these recent changes kind of drive it all home.  As an occasional comic reader, I’ve always rolled my eyes at fact that you have to be a designated ‘kid sister’ type character in a comic to NOT have large projectiles jutting out in front of you, held perfectly in place by  – of course! – a skin tight costume.  Looking at them now as a parent, I’m even more uncomfortable.  I am actually much more likely to avoid the books with female characters, as I don’t want my kids to think this is normal.  Male superheroes can be tall, short, skinny, musclebound whatever.  Why are all females scantily clad and buxom?  It’s like the big companies got caught in a loop of declining sales – make it edgier/sexier – slight improvement – go further! – until they reached a point where it was too much.  The uncanny mountains are a bit too in your face.

I don’t know, now I’m rambling.  I know there are good independent artists doing fine work, and probably one or two of the ‘mainstream’ books that would be OK, but these are the characters I grew up with.  I’d like to share Spider-Man with my son {and later, my daughter} without wincing every time someone like the Black Cat slithers onto the page.

Featured Movies Review

Movie Review – Captain America: The First Avenger

I went to see Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend, and I have to say, it was a TON of fun.  It comes close, to me, to the first Iron Man as far as quality of the movie.  It does lack some small bit of the emotional impact I felt with Iron Man, but Captain America shades more towards adventure and further away from personal intrigue, which is fine.

 The movie centers around Steve Rogers, a scrawny, asthmatic orphan who nevertheless wants to join the Army and fight for his country.  In his last attempt, he catches the ear of Dr. Abraham Erskine, who recruits Rogers for a secret project led by Tommy Lee Jones’s Col. Phillips to make ‘super-soldiers’.

I won’t go too much deeper into the plot so as not to spoil it if you’ve never read the various Captain America origin stories.  Cap ends up leading the charge against the Red Skull and his Nazi off-shoot organization, Hydra.  It’s worthwhile to see Thor before this, as there are a few references that you will ‘get’ that you may not otherwise.  A friend of mine lamented that Red Skull never seemed to threaten Cap, though I’m not sure about that.  They basically are equals in strength and they do have a solid if somewhat short fight in the endgame of the movie.  I could see how that could be underwhelming, but it worked for me, especially with what occurs after.

All in all, I had a lot of fun watching The First Avenger.  Make sure you stay after the movie, AND after the credits for some more scenes, and a trailer for The Avengers.

Featured Review

More on Thor: Come ON, Roger

Roger Ebert is one of the few critics I play attention to.  I don’t always agree with him, but he thinks really hard on even the silliest movie he has the misfortune to see.  That is, most of the time.  He didn’t review Thor officially, but mentioned in his ‘Journal’ today.  I can understand him not being familiar with the source material – neither am I, really, as I never read Thor’s standalone books – and it’s really not necessary for this movie.  Most of what you need to know is laid out for you, and if you don’t get that the ‘Barton’ dude carrying a bow is a reference to Hawkeye, so be it.  You’ll figure it out later.  But check this:

In the arena of movies about comic book superheroes, it is a desolate vastation. Nothing exciting happens, little of interest is said, and the special effects evoke not a place or a time but simply…special effects.

A ‘desolate vastation’??  I might save that for Elektra but Thor wasn’t a bad movie.

Thor to begin with is not an interesting character. The gods of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology share the same problem, which is that what you see is what you get.

This I agree with, but I thought there was enough interest with the byplay between Thor and Odin, and Thor and Loki.  Different strokes.

The land (sphere? state of mind? heaven?) known as Asgard is described in Norse mythology as being near Troy, or perhaps in Asia Minor.

Uh, in the MOVIE, it was explained pretty clearly ‘where’ Asgard is and how it connects to the other realms.  Roger also missed both the scientific description of the Bifrost and Thor’s own description of it, as that confused him too.

Later there’s a meteoric event in which Thor’s hammer hurtles to earth and becomes embedded so firmly that it can’t be pulled lose by a pickup truck or even the federal government.

Again, there’s source material that could help with this, but I thought it was made pretty clear that only someone WORTHY of wielding Mjolnir could lift it.  “Whoever wields this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”  You hear that, you see everyone NOT lifting the hammer, you get it, right?

Thor luckily speaks English and Jane and her friends take him to the local diner, where he eats lots of Pop Tarts and, when he finishes his coffee, smashes the empty cup to the ground. “We don’t do that,” Jane explains as if to a child, and advises him to simply order another cup, after which he apparently absorbs human behavior and the movie drops the Taming of the Thor angle.

Yes, he speaks English.  As a god-like alien whose people have traveled to 9 different planets over thousands of years, he might’ve learned it.  If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes…

The three scientists are thin soup. Jane flirts demurely with Thor, Darcy stands next to her and does nothing very important, and Dr. Sevig regards them gravely and looms slightly above a low-angle camera while looking on with wise concern

This I agree with, but I think both of the ladies are pretty cute, and Dr. Selvig does his job okay.  Always seems out of breath, though, he should see a doctor.

Superhero movies live and die on the quality of their villains. “Thor” has a shabby crew. The Frost Giants spend most of their time being frosty in their subzero sphere of Jotunheim and occasionally freezing their enemies.

Admittedly, the Frost Giants didn’t impress me, not seeming ‘giant’ enough.

Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is dark-haired, skinny, shifty-eyed and sadly lacking in charisma.

The Trickster god, he does a solid job of manipulating everyone, but he’s not a match in a direct fight, so he doesn’t.

These villains lack adequate interest to supply a climactic battle, so the plot provides a Metal Giant, sends him to the New Mexico town, and has him blast fiery rays that blow up gas stations real good but always miss his targets. He is apparently stopped by a sword through his spine, but why does he need a spine since when his mask lifts we can see his head is an empty cavern?

The Destroyer is stabbed by a spear, and doesn’t get killed by it.  Just wrong.  Look, there’s more here that doesn’t make sense but I guess I expect more from Roger Ebert.  I don’t expect you to read years of back issue comics to understand a comic book movie, but that’s not required here.  Just watch the movie.  It’s not the best comic book movie, but it IS a good one.

Featured Review

Movie Review – Thor

I went and saw Thor at the IMAX 3D last night, solid, enjoyable movie.  I was never a fanboy of the Thor comic, mostly only reading it when it came in the big bulk packs that I bought, but I’m glad I went to see this movie.  This is normally where I’d explain who Thor is and give the basic rundown on how he came to be, but I will link the Marvel wiki instead.  I liked the way they are trying to integrate the more fantastical heroes of Marvel with the more real-to-life  ones.  I’ll never understand the power balance between the groups, but then again, the comic writers themselves have that problem too.

Chris Hemsworth has bulked up seriously and definitely looks the part of a god.  The fighting style used for Thor fits as well, big, brutal strikes.  The power of Mjolnir seems well represented, summoning lightning, smashing giants and causing mayhem.  Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) is a decent villain, it’s a not easy to have a baddie that ‘fights’ mostly with words, manipulation and illusions but that is why the biggest fights are against Frost Giants and the Destroyer.

Natalie Portman ably plays Jane Foster, Thor’s earthly love interest who is researching (unbeknownst to her) the end point of the bifrost, the rainbow bridge that connects the various realms together.  She’s a bit of a maverick, and has a tendency to hit Thor with her van.

There’s a good bit of humor (as there should be for a comic book movie in my opinion), though a few of the jokes fall flat.  There are plenty of in-references if you are a comic fan, though I had to look some of them up, having little experience with the more fantastical books in the Marvel lineup.

If you are a comic book fan, see it.  If you are a Branagh fan, see it if only to contrast it to all the Shakespeare-related movies he’s put out.  It’s just a good movie, with a set-up after the credits for the forthcoming Captain America movie that had my more Thor knowledgeable friends buzzing.

Gadgets Media

Iron Man

Uh, wow! AWESOME MOVIE!!! Great dialogue, great actors, characters that react the way real people would, super-great comic action! I can’t wait to see it again, and then again. And then once more. CHEESEBURGER FIRST!