Saturday, 8 May 2010

Avengers Assemble!

This is gonna be kinda a double whammy type affair, a quick review of Iron Man 2 and then we get to talking about where all the current crop of Marvel movies seem to be headed: The Avengers.

First, Iron Man 2.

With this sequel, Faverau clearly took the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mantra to heart and thanks to the winning formula, Iron Man 2 is a major victory for the comic book movie genre. Robert Downey Jnr's Tony Stark steals the shows as he did in the first movie, shooting off wryly-delivered one liners one after one another. He spends more time outside of the suit than in it, and with a superhero movie, one would think this would doom it to failure. But Tony Stark is one of Marvel's most complex characters, and Downey Jnr. is one of Hollywood's most complex character actors, allowing him to turn an otherwise difficult to approach leading role into a roaring success. Robert Downey Jnr IS Tony Stark up on that screen, and has given the world a definitive portrayal. Much like anybody else trying to play the Joker now after Heath Ledger's legendary performance, it just ain't gonna work.

Speaking of Batman movies, Iron Man 2 works in exactly the opposite manner. Both are furnished with at least an adequate amount of plot, but whereas Batman movies are all about the villian, both Iron Man movies thus far have kept the focus with its central character. I've always said Batman is always the least interesting thing about a Batman movie however, and here is where the comparison ends. The villians of Iron Man 2 are far from uninteresting. Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko AKA Whiplash is played with the right amount of taciturn silence and leering, a cruel cold silent juxtaposition to both Tony Stark and Vanko's own partner in crime, which leads us to the most interesting choice the writers have made with Iron Man 2.

Justin Hammer. Anybody who follows the Iron Man comics will know that Hammer is responsible for some of Stark's biggest failures and upsets in both his professional and social life. He drives him to alcoholism and constantly prods Stark towards the paranoia which would ultimately spawn Stark's championing of the Superhero Registration Act, which in turn leads to the Marvel Civil War and the final deaths of many Marvel characters including the original Captain America, Steve Rodgers. That's an awful lot of villiany to heap on one actor's shoulders. Enter Sam Rockwell. Playing Hammer as a sort of Stark wannabe, his more corporate foil is in line with the comics and Rockwell does this exceedingly well. His words near to the end of the movie (not giving anything away here, so don't worry) telling Pepper Potts (and the audience) that he will return and we will see him get revenge. Foreboding stuff.

Elsewhere, the 50's romantic comedy type relationship between Stark and his assistant Pepper Potts is played again to perfection, Gwyeneth Paltrow playing off of both Stark's narcissism and his internal emotional struggle throughout the film well. She is both surrogate mother and love interest to Stark and we see why a woman like her is the perfect match from him: she needs someone to take care of and he in turn needs somebody to take care of him, to ground him.

On to War Machine. Tentatively stepping into the role played by Terance Howard in the first movie, Don Cheadle plays Lt. Col. Cody Rhoades with the right amount of desperation: due to the events of the film, he truly has his back against the wall and has to choose between his friend and his country. It is a great personal journey the audience see him take; even when the film has managed to show you said journey and still have time for everything else, especially Stark's ego. Last but not least, alongside Cheadle in the ranks of the supporting cast, we get (the incredibly gorgeous!) Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanova AKA Black Widow, Nick Fury's (Samuel L. Jackson) right hand woman and the person keeping an eye on Stark. I don't really have to say much here except SCARLETT JOHANSSON IN A LEATHER BODYSUIT. You get the picture, if you don't, Google it. You won't regret it.

Overall, this is how it should be done. When I say that of course, I mean this is how Iron Man movies should be done, not all superhero and comic book movies. I think every franchise needs a different approach. The very underated Daredevil movie is another case of the franchise being done in the right way, suprisingly enough in the case of Ben Affleck as Matt Murdoch, with the right cast. Iron Man 2 pushes all the right buttons and delivers everything you could want from an Iron Man movie. And of course, it wins extra geek points for helping to set up...The Avengers!

So, here come the spoilers. If you haven't seen Iron Man, Iron Man 2 or The Hulk (the good one, with Ed Norton, not the sucky Ang Lee one) stop reading now. If you have, or can't be bothered and just want to know why the hell I'm getting so excited, feel free to keep reading. Even though if you're in the latter, you're missing out on how superhero movies should be done. Seriously. Go watch!

So, for the uninitated, the Avengers are Marvel's dream team, a crack team of superheroes who fight the bad guys team up style. Every hero in the Marvel Universe has probably been either on the squad or an auxillary member (see Spider-Man) at some point, but the core three are usually Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. Complete those three with Ant Man and you get the original Avengers, complete them with Wolverine, you get the New Avengers, e.t.c, e.t.c, you get the idea here. Of course, the core three represent the three standard superhero types, Iron Man as the technologically aided hero, Captain America as the costumed 'normal' hero (about as close to normal as Marvel gets anyways) and Thor as the magical hero. Alright, picture painted. Onwards with my pressing topic.

At the end of Iron Man in a post credits scene, Nick Fury, head of secretive special forces group S.H.I.E.L.D. (portrayed in his Ultimates incarnation by Samuel L. Jackson which, considering they based the character design on Jackson himself when they first created Fury in the Ultimates timeline, is the ONLY choice for the role) appears to Tony Stark wanting to talk about something calling The Avengers Initiative. Cue 90% of the audience not knowing what the hell he's yammering on about and the other 10% (of which I was a member) climaxing on the spot and launching into crazed chatter about the possibility of a full blown Avengers movie.

So a few months later, the Hulk happens. In the movie, Neil Blonsky (played by Tim Roth) is tasked to track the Hulk down and capture him and in order to be any match for him, is injected with an serum developed during World War Two that turns men into super soldiers. This is the same serum that turned lowly army puke Steve Rodgers into Captain America. Unfortunately, Rodgers is the only successful test subject in history and this fact, combined with the fact that Blonsky takes too much, turns him into the movie's villian, Abomination. Now at the end of that movie, Tony Stark makes an appearence to General Ross (the man who heads up the Army's Hulk Buster task force) to see if he's interested because S.H.I.E.L.D are putting together a special team.

On to Iron Man 2. When Fury visits Stark somewhere in the latter half of the film, we see that Stark is uninterested in the Avengers idea still (Best line of the movie in fact: "I'm not interested in joining your super secret boy band.") This puzzled me a little as it contradicts the ending of The Hulk, but then at the end of Iron Man 2, when Fury is debriefing Tony, I noticed one of the screens in the scene bringing you a live new update from Culver University where a monster has just ran riot and destroyed army vehicles. This is a scene from The Incredible Hulk, which places the ending of Iron Man 2 at around halfway through the events of the Hulk movie. Thank my eagle eye for that one.

Okay, so we get to post credits of Iron Man 2. Earlier in the movie, as Stark is creating Vibranium (which Captain America's shield is made from kiddies!) Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D (god, that's a bitch to type) mentions that he has 'pressing business' in New Mexico. Now, in the post credits scene, we see Coulson arrive at a massive crater in the New Mexican desert, and as the camera pans back we see something in the center. Mjolnir. The Hammer Of The Gods. Weapon of the mighty Thor.

Ex-fucking-splosive. Movie critic Bob Chipman compared this scene to dropping a lightsaber into a post credits scene in The Godfather Part II. The Marvel universe is finally colliding and to see it bought to life is something tangiably exciting and our generation are the ones to experience it. Think about it. This is how movies could be from now on, with crossing over and continuity just like comic books.

So what do we know about the upcoming Thor and Captain America movies? Well, Thor is being played by Chris Hemsworth and the film is being headed up by Kenneth Brannagh. An interesting choice of director, I think he has the ability to give Thor's solo tale that edge of darkness it needs. Story wise, Thor is a warrior god who has become arrogant and is cast down to Earth from Asgard by his father Odin (being played by Anthony fucking Hopkins. Win.) to teach him a lesson in humility. However, Thor's half brother Loki takes advantage of his main enemy's absence and begin to gather up an army to conquer both Earth and Asgard. Cue Lord Of The Rings style epic fantasy battles.

Captain America is being portrayed by Chris Evans and the movie is being directed by Joe Johnston, who did a terrific job with The Wolfman. As for Evans, there was a slight outcry that he already portrayed the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies, but if this means the Four will also see a reboot, I'm all for it. Those films sucked. The big piece of casting news with the Cap movie is that of Hugo Weaving, who was the best thing about the Matrix trilogy and played a brilliant Detective Abeline in The Wolfman. He's been cast as Cap's arch nemesis, the Nazi scientist known as The Red Skull. Picture perfect choice. The Cap movie is entitled 'Captain America: The First Avenger" and will be set during World War II. We will see the character's origin story and his battle with The Red Skull and the Nazis alongside sidekick Bucky Barnes, a younger Nick Fury and his Howlin' Commandos and a possible cameo from Wolverine. He and Bucky will then be frozen in the North Atlantic where they will be discovered 60 odd years later, Cap by the good ol' U.S.A and Bucky by more nefarious forces (in the comics, it was the Russians who brainwashed him to become the Winter Soldier, one of Cap's recurring foes. The 'Commie' idea is outdated now though, so this could change, as it did in Iron Man.)

Phew, explanations over. So kiddies, now, it's speculation time! In the build up to the Avengers, there's a whole bunch of possibilities to consider. Hugh Jackman is slated to be making an appearence in both the upcoming Captain America movie and the Avengers movie, reprising his role as Wolverine. Sweet. Of course, there's the incoming Spider-Man reboot to consider. Yep, they're starting Spider-Man all over again, with a new director, new Peter Parker and placing Spidey firmly back in high school, much like his Ultimate incarnation. Past Spider-Man films haven't tied into the recent ones, but with this reboot, could we see Spidey make a cameo in the Avengers movie? A definate possibility. Bucky Barnes making an appearence as his brainwashed evil alter ego The Winter Soldier in the Avengers as a villian is also a possibility. Then there's also the chance of Hawkeye, a constant Avengers member in the comics, making his first appearence in the Avengers movie. For those not in the know, Hawkeye is a guy who is basically a REALLLLLLLLY good shot with any projectile weapon you give him. He usually uses a bow and arrow. And if Hawkeye is in, chances are so is his constant companion and love interest Black Canary. She's basically a hot chick in a catsuit who does kung fu and zips about on wires. We do already have Black Widow in that role, but you can never have enough hot chicks in leather bodysuits. There is also still a bit of a question mark as to whether the Hulk will actually be a member or not. His inability to do anything besides go mental and destroy things would really work against the idea of teamwork, but hey, it could happen.

Alright, that was a long ass post, I hope you enjoyed, until next time,

Captain Mark ;)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Don't be silly, you can't ever run out of time!

So part two held up the high expectations of part one. We're talking Doctor Who here by the way. If we're ever NOT talking Doctor Who, I'll let you know :P

Anyways, flipping the rules on their head for an episode at least is something Moffat does well and in that we get the most tension filled scene we've seen thus far, Amy having to fool the Angels into believing she indeed has her sight, walking blindly through masses of them. Nail biting stuff. The only thing I wasn't too sure about was Amy throwing herself at the Doctor in her room at the end of the episode. Seemed a little out of character for her, I get the sexy factor (as anyone who's read this before will know, I really get the sexy factor with Amy) but just throwing herself at the Doctor like that. I hope this is explained at some point, by some strange scientific Doctor ramble, or more preferably by Amy herself as an extreme case of cold feet.

Also, nice to see that the Angels aren't indeed completely infailable. And identifying the cracks in the universe as something even they are scared of was a neat way of putting an intimidating emphasis on what seems to be this season's overreaching plot arc.

Speaking of overreaching plot arcs, it seems River will 'kill' the Doctor in the future? With the way she gushes on and on about him, I can't see how anybody else could be 'the greatest man I've ever known.' Maybe Captain Jack. Considering he can die without consequence. But does this mean the mighty Matt Smith has only signed on for a single season?! We'll have to wait and see I guess.

Next time I review Iron Man 2 (if I go see it Wednesday) and talk about the excitingness of the upcoming Thor, Captain America and eventually, Avengers movies!


Captain Mark