Thursday, May 17, 2012
Posted by Gerry at 3:22 PM
Monday, May 14, 2012
Monday, May 7, 2012
I was probably one of the only people that wasn't too excited about the movie at any point. I liked Iron Man. I didn't like Iron Man 2. I liked Thor. I liked Captain America. I'm one of the only people who actually liked both Hulk movies. But I didn't LOVE any of them. So the idea of putting all these characters in one giant movie, seemed to me like it could only end in Awesome or Crap. There would be no middle ground, and in my mind, it would be much harder to pull off Awesome. Then Joss Whedon was announced as director, and I'm not really a big fan of his, so the equation didn't change either way for me. Another big worry was that we were just seeing too much before the movie opened. If there's one thing that I am nostalgic for (and I hate nostalgia) it's the days when you didn't know every single detail of a movie before a single frame has even been shot. I miss going to the movies and not knowing what I'm about to see, at all. I can't be certain, but I'm sure no one knew who Luke's father was until that scene came up (although, "Darth Vader?" How did we NOT see that coming?). Imagine the Internets blowing up with spoilers telling the world "Rosebud was his sled!!" But today, it seems like spoilers are how movies are marketed. It's almost like the old essay writing tip about telling them what your going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. The last part might be what I'm doing now, so I guess I'm participating in the cultural essay about The Avengers. But I'm getting ahead of myself. so I'll bury the lead at the end of this paragraph and say, yes, I liked the movie. A lot.
And what's not to like? Unless you come to this movie expecting The Godfather with capes, you know what this is. It's big. . . no, huge. . . no, enormous. . . no, I don't think there's a word for this, yet. Blockbuster movies were pretty much invented by Spielberg's Jaws and have just gotten bigger and bigger and, lately, dumber and dumber (Thank you, Michael Bay). But this is gigantic and not dumb. What it is, is fun, pure and simple. And the strategy of having the solo films lead up to this is part of the reason why it works so well. Sure, you don't need to have seen any of the previous movies to enjoy this, at all. You could easily come into this blind (if that's even possible) and totally be on board. But, if you did see even some of the previous movies, you have an understanding of the characters that will give this movie a depth that the big action would seem to contradict. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking high drama here. It's not Masterpiece Theater, but it is good storytelling. And it's Comics, with a capital C. It's what those of us that love the medium of comics, not just superhero comics, but all sequential, serialized comics, love. It's like each movie was one issue in this comic book series, and this was the big climax to this particular story arc. More than any set of sequels, I think that the Marvel movies capture that idea, without being obvious about it. It just sort of flows in that way, organically, and I'm not sure if it was done intentionally that way, or if it's just that Marvel approached it this way because it's the only way they know. Either way, that's the crowning achievement here and I hope it gets recognized as such. And I hope it brings readers back to comics.
So, what exactly was great about the movie? The action was fantastic, for sure. The effects were everything they needed to be and more. The banter was excellent. There was enough going on with every character to keep them on your mind. But the clear winner here is Hulk, though. As I said, I liked both Hulk movies. They were different takes on the character, and I'm OK with that. But I'd love to see this Hulk get his own movie now. He was scary and lovable and funny and menacing and the strongest there is. And Ruffalo gave us a Banner that I could totally believe as a tortured genius with a guilt trip, without being a whinny old man. And you know who else should get a movie? Black Widow. Badass, brave, almost to the point of stupidity, and bearing the guilt of a cloudy past, Scarlett Johansson gave her a depth that I didn't think would be there in this testosterone fest. For that, I think we can all agree, Whedon is to be thanked, given his record with female characters. I want to see more complex female heroes like this in the future. The potential for more is there with the addition of Maria Hill to the mix, who will hopefully be further developed as well.
I could go on, but I'd really rather not spoil anything. There's a lot of comic book movies coming. I don't like to compare too much, so I can't say this will be the best one or not. The fact is, the other movies that are coming are doing very different things. The Amazing Spider-Man looks like it's something I'm going to like as well, but it's a beginning. The Dark Knight Rises is going to be grim and gritty and it's a clear ending. But as far as Summer Blockbuster movies, this is not just winning the Season, it's (hopefully) redefining what the blockbuster movie is going to be from now on. It's certainly opening a lot of doors for more comic book movies, but that's not necessarily a good thing. I just hope the makers of future superhero movies take note of the details here, and not just the broad strokes. This took careful planning to pull off and it shows. Man, I want to see this movie again now, which says a lot, because I don't normally want to do that.
Friday, May 4, 2012
La Femme Nikita, but it possibly goes back even further. In recent years, the girls have gotten younger, with Hit Girl being the youngest I can think of. But there are common elements, even if they all don't share them. There's an older man who trains the young girl. There is often some sort of amnesia that may or may not be the result of brainwashing. The young girl is usually operating on instinct. And, of course, there's vengeance. While all these things have become cliched, I still picked up Epic Kill by Raffaele Ienco, because, well, why not? I guess the twist in this story is that the revenge the girl is seeking is against a man who is now the President of the USA. Nothing groundbreaking here, really, but the book was entertaining. The action moved along well. Although there wasn't much character development, that's OK since I wasn't really expecting there to be much. But I suspect that Ienco, who is writing and drawing the book, is well aware of the archetype he's working with, because in the back, there were several pages of pinups where he drew his main character, Song, as various other female assassins from comics and movies. So this could turn out to be a fun exploration of the concept, if it's not taken too seriously.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
Ready Player One is Ernest Cline's first book. The story kicks off with the death of James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates type who had no heirs. Instead, his will is a contest, open to the whole world, for control of his fortune and, more importantly, the OASIS. We follow Wade/Parzival as he becomes a "gunter" or egg hunter, looking for the Easter egg of Halliday's fortune. Along the way, he makes friends and enemies, including an evil corporation who wants to control the OASIS for obvious reasons. There are good times to be had in this book, but I am not sure who it was written for, or why exactly.
The 80's references sometimes come on too strong to be believable for this to be 2044. Trends are cyclical, for sure, but when they come up again over the years, they are usually watered down and re-interpreted in the context of the current time. But the kids in Ready Player One could easily be pulled directly out of the 80's, since they know the references so well. There is a reason for that in the narrative, but it seems the author's nostalgia is the main driving force at times, particularly when the characters have to play through specific 80's movies inside the OASIS as part of their hunt for Halliday's egg. Those scenes play out like a narration of the movie, with little added in terms of the book's narrative. So on that level, it would seem that the intended audience would be people my age, who grew up in the 80's and get a kick out of the nostalgia porn. But then the book is written almost like a young adult novel, rather than something for an older crowd, and this might actually be on purpose. It's almost like it's written for that adolescent living inside us Gen Xers that never grew up. If that's the case, this might be a genius book. But for me, the last half of the book, where we get to see our heroes outside of the OASIS and the 80's references aren't as heavy, was the stronger part of the book.
All in all, I don't think this was meant as anything other than fun, so I can't seriously knock any of it. I'm notoriously predisposed to dislike nostalgia but I still had fun with this book for what it was, even if there were sections I felt could have been trimmed down somewhat or replaced by something else. It would be interesting to see if this book is popular enough to be turned into a movie, and it might actually work better visually, anyway.
Friday, April 20, 2012