Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ranking the Spider-Man Films

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, Spider-Man is locked in a three-way tie with Batman and Superman as my favorite superhero of all-time.  I just have always loved the relatable nature of Peter Parker as a character, and for me, the superheroic action is merely the icing on the cake.  With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hitting theaters this Friday, I figured now might be as good a time as any to revisit all of the previous Spider-Man films and see how I feel they still stand as, not just films themselves, but also as good interpretations of the character.

The reason for doing this is because a little bit of time can often change the way you initially felt about a movie upon release.  Whether it be a breath of fresh air because the film just wasn't a train wreck like its predecessor, or a sense of disappointment marring your good critical senses because the movie didn't meet all of your expectations, whatever it is, I have often found that it takes a good two to three years for me to really decide what I truly feel about a film.  Now, at the same time, first impressions are highly important, because it is that first impression that often showcases how you will forever approach that film.  The things you disliked and loved will still always be there, but over time you may have been able to come to terms with the things that didn't work and see the film for what it is, rather than for what it is not.

I am not going to lie and say that the Spider-Man films haven't missed a few golden opportunities, but as a whole, I would say that the Spider-Man films made over the past 12 years have been some of the more consistently entertaining superhero films ever made.  So, with that all said, onto the films themselves.


4.  Spider-Man 3
Boy, what a way to start this list.  Spider-Man 3 will forever be up there with fellow superhero films like Batman & Robin for being one of the most disappointing superhero films of all-time, and yet people that often try to call it one of the worst are letting their disappointment cloud their judgment.  The truth is, there is a lot that Spider-Man 3 does right.  Tonally, it is consistent with the first two films in the original Spider-Man trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi.  There is a clever balance between cartoonish comedy and comic book melodrama to create a living, breathing version of the comic, which is both cartoonishly funny and melodramatic as well.  So why is this film last place on the list of Spider-Man movies?  Well, it's simply because, as a film, it is the weakest of the lot.

What hurt Spider-Man 3 is the main reason I am worried for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there were just too many villains and characters, and not enough time to develop them to where they felt organic to the story.  Many characters, like Venom and Gwen Stacy, felt more like fan service than a natural progression of the story that started back with 2002's Spider-Man.  In many ways, if the rumors of the studio forcing Sam Raimi to include Venom are true, then I don't blame Sam Raimi.  I think Sam Raimi's original intentions for this third film are hidden in there, in particular the way he handles the character of Sandman, and the way he handles Harry Osborn's descent into darkness.  Where the film doesn't work is whenever dealing with the symbiote storyline.  This was such a huge story in the comics, it should have been its own film, and not pigeonholed into this one simply to appease fans.

The truth is, Spider-Man 3 is by no means as bad as what I remember upon first seeing it.  In all honesty, it is still a very fun, entertaining movie that's just a little too cheesy at times to be as good as the first two.  I think in order for Sam Raimi to try and make the darkness of the symbiote storyline to work with his more Silver Aged vision of Spider-Man, he resorted to a lot of over-the-top comedy, such as emo Peter Parker dancing in the streets, to try and lighten things up.  Even still, while I am with many fans who will always dream of what this third film in the original trilogy could have been, what we did get is not a train wreck or a travesty, nor does it disrespect the character of Spider-Man, on the contrary, Sam Raimi's love of the character is as apparent as ever in this film.  Spider-Man 3 is an imperfect entertainment that does what it's supposed to do, entertain, even if it doesn't all feel as tight and cohesive as the other three films later on this list.

Grade:  B

3.  The Amazing Spider-Man
I gave this film an A+ when it first came out, primarily because I was so desperate for a good Spider-Man film after Spider-Man 3, but in all honesty, I am not sure the film deserves a perfect score.  This was the too soon reboot to the film series that had only started ten years earlier, purely because the studio opted to restart with a new cast and crew, rather than pursuing the long in development fourth film starring Tobey Maguire.  While I still think there were plenty of stories left to tell with Sam Raimi and company without pulling the plug, The Amazing Spider-Man is a great film, but not perfect.

The greatest thing about this reboot was Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.  He is every bit as good at the character as Tobey Maguire was, with much more of the sarcastic humor of the comic book character than Maguire and Raimi ever brought to him.  Then there is the pairing of Garfield and real-life girlfriend, Emma Stone, portraying his movie love, Gwen Stacy.  They had super perfect chemistry together, and it made their relationship innocent and believable.  The only real misstep this film took was in its villain, the Lizard.  Not only was the Lizard done with very shoddy CGI work, the film also failed to really transform Dr. Curt Connors into a three-dimensional character that we care about, so that we're feeling the horror of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation.  We're told that he's in desperate need of manufacturing this cure, but we never really are laid out all of the reasons as to why Dr. Connors is desiring this cure for himself, and not just for his boss, Norman Osborn.  There is a very tragic character hidden within Dr. Connors that just never came through in the film.

Of course, weak villain aside, everything else about this reboot went off without a hitch.  They got the tone just right, managing to differentiate itself just enough from the previous three movies to be its own thing, while also being familiar enough to not alienate fans.  Plus, the mystery involving Peter's parents and their death, was a very nice touch to tie into Spider-Man's origin story, helping to further make this new series of films stand on its own two feet to where it's not simply retreading the ground of the Tobey Maguire-Sam Raimi movies.  As I said, while The Amazing Spider-Man is an imperfect film, the things it does get right, are so perfectly done, that they make the Spider-Man fan inside of me fill with excitement just thinking about the great moments this film offers, such as the stunning bridge sequence where Spider-Man rescues a kid from a burning car.

Grade:  A-

2.  Spider-Man 2
This is where it started to get really difficult for me to figure out which Spider-Man film I liked the most, because the first two Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire, are both perfect representations of the character.  Ultimately, this is the way I decided to go, with Spider-Man 2, funnily enough, in the number two slot.

Spider-Man 2 just did everything right.  It was appropriately funny, emotional, and action packed, with a strong sense of thematic identity that perhaps no other Spider-Man film has ever had.  The whole film basically boils down to the idea that has always permeated with Spider-Man, "With great power, comes great responsibility."  If you keep that classic phrase in your head the whole time watching this particular film, you will see how almost every single scene in the story plays into that theme.  Peter is constantly questioning whether or not he actually wants to be Spider-Man, creating psychosomatic barriers in his mind, disabling his powers when he does not want to be Spider-Man.  This is really deep stuff here, for a superhero movie, no less.  Then there is actor Alfred Molina as the truly sympathetic villain, Doctor Octopus.  Driven mad by his own genius, he is the quintessential mad scientist who plunges off the deep end after the death of his wife, refusing to accept responsibility (note that word once again) for her death, until Peter manages to teach Doc Ock the same exact lesson he had to learn so long ago with the death of his Uncle Ben, "With great power, comes great responsibility," a lesson that Peter must relearn through the course of this film as well.

Ultimately, Spider-Man 2 only very narrowly misses the top spot as the best Spider-Man film to date.  What, with the still awe inspiring train sequence, and the, "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," stroll, this film is a perfect Spider-Man film.  Alas, there are two of them, though.

Grade:  A+

1.  Spider-Man
This is it, the best Spider-Man film ever made is still the first one that they ever did.  Forget the fact that he does not use actual web shooters and has organic webbing, this film is the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creation brought to life in terms of tone and spirit.  There is something so charmingly simplistic about this film, that it's still my personal favorite of the Spider-Man films after all these years.  While it does not have the emotional or psychological depth of Spider-Man 2, it more than makes up for it in the entertainment quotient.

I remember seeing this film on opening night on May 3, 2002.  It was a packed theater, my Dad had bought advance tickets for me and my brothers to see it.  We had gone to a little place by the local movie theater, that is no longer there, called the Philly Connection, for dinner.  Me being picky, I had a grilled cheese, fries, and a chocolate milkshake.  It was there we also ran into the pastor of our church, where we talked about what we were about to see, so on and so forth.  I am not really sure why I remember this night in so much detail, perhaps it's because what followed is one of the most seminal nights of moviegoing in my life.

There is no denying the impact that Spider-Man had on me as a filmgoer.  As a matter of fact, many of the visual ideas that Sam Raimi employed in this film and its sequel, I find myself often doing in my own work as a filmmaker subconsciously.  This was the first major blockbuster I remember just obsessing over.  Months before the movie came out, I was scouring the internet, watching every trailer, reading every interview in magazines like Wizard, and buying the toys released in Christmas of 2001 to prepare for the experience of that following May.  As a matter of fact, my obsession over this film extended to the point of me seeing it two more times in theaters (the first time I ever saw a movie more than once in a movie theater).  

I can remember seeing it the very next Saturday on my birthday, eating out at a Mexican restaurant, getting tons of Spider-Man toys, and then role-playing Spider-Man on the trampoline with my two best friends. I vividly remember getting one of those silly string web shooters as a gift and firing it at everybody till they got tired of me.  

Then, I saw the movie a third time, coercing my brother to take me to see it one more time before it left theaters.  I think he was already tired of it at that point, but I sure wasn't.  I even went and bought the comic book adaptation of the movie's screenplay after that, so that I could continue to relive the movie till it came out on DVD, where I rewatched it over and over again.  Coincidentally, this was the first DVD I ever got.  

I remember going to K Mart to buy the movie when it finally come out about six months later.  I had grabbed the VHS version, and my Mom told me I should get the DVD instead.  Of course, I replied, "But I don't have a DVD player in my room."  After all, at that time, the only DVD player in the house was in the living room.  Alas what I didn't know then was that I was getting a DVD player for Christmas from my Aunt and Grandmother.  Of course, enough reminiscing, the fact of the matter is, 12 years later, this is still one of the most quintessential blockbusters of all-time, standing alongside the likes of Star Wars and Jurassic Park for me.

While my nostalgia for Spider-Man may have something to do with my deep found love for this film, it still is a phenomenal film that manages to stand on its own.  There is a sense of fun and carefree innocence to this film that so many superhero films today lack.  The story feels timeless, the characters are all relatable and likable, by and large thanks to the spot on casting, and the action and comedy set pieces all work and never fail to entertain.  

Tobey Maguire is still the best Peter Parker, until someone else can prove otherwise (though I must concede Andrew Garfield is the better Spider-Man), and Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson as Aunt May and Uncle Ben were just so perfect, it was almost an insurmountable hill to climb when Sally Field and Martin Sheen played the parts in The Amazing Spider-Man.  Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe managed to bring a no-holds barred sensibility to the Green Goblin, the likes of his villainous performance not replicated and bested until Heath Ledger's Joker.  Plus, I can't forget J.K. Simmons as the definitive J. Jonah Jameson.  He is the voice I hear when I read the character in the comic books, and whenever that day does come where a new Spider-Man movie has to recast this role, that new actor is gonna face a lot of scrutiny purely because of the shadow that J.K. Simmons has cast on the character.

Grade:  A+

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Han, Luke, and Leia, Will Officially Return for "Star Wars: Episode VII"

Finally, after almost a good solid year of speculation as to who will and who wont be in the new Star Wars film, Disney and Lucasfilm managed to put any and all rumors to rest as they announced the cast and released a photo showing the first read through of the finished script in London today.

New Cast Members
Top Row:  John Boyega, Daisy Ridely, Adam Driver
Bottom Row:  Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydown, Domhnall Gleeson

Star of Attack the Block, John Boyega, nabbed the leading male role, while relative unknown, Daisy Ridley, nabbed the female lead.  Both are young, 20-something British actors, with very little on their respective resumes.  Other new additions to the Star Wars universe are Girls-star, Adam Driver, Llewyn Davis himself, Oscar Isaac, Harry Potter's Bill Weasley, Domhnall Gleeson, Gollum actor, Andy Serkis, and the legend, Max von Sydow.  Rounding out the cast are the expected returns of Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher, as Luke, Han, and Leia, respectively.  As well, we got confirmation on the returns of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2, and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.  What is most intriguing about the cast list is that it's very reminiscent of the casts for the other two Star Wars trilogies when they first started out.

What's hard for people to remember is that when A New Hope came out in 1977, Harrison Ford was not a household name, the same goes for The Phantom Menace in 1999 in regards to Ewan McGreggor and Natalie Portman.  Both of the Star Wars trilogies, and now this one it seems, have cast up-and-comers in the leading roles, filling out the rest of the cast with respected character actors and a few stars.  I absolutely love that director, J.J. Abrams, and producer, Kathleen Kennedy, are maintaining a similar approach with these new films, because it can really draw you out of a story like this when the star power outweighs the character that's being portrayed.

Truthfully, many of these names had already been rumored for many weeks now, with only a few exceptions.  It's been known for a long time that Adam Driver was gonna be in this film.  While we still have no clue as to what characters these new actors will be playing, it was reported months ago that Driver was going to be playing one of the main villains for this new trilogy.  Personally, I was extremely shocked by the presence of Max von Sydow, a man who can play evil real good.  Another villain perhaps?  Then, there was the surprising inclusion of Andy Serkis, the motion capture acting extroardinaire, who created Gollum for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Caeser in the new Planet of the Apes movies.  It's safe to assume that he's probably doing mo-cap work here, but he's also shown up a good bit over the years in character roles and not computer generated, so we'll see.  Really, the two biggest surprises for me were Daisy Ridley and the omission of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.

It's been long rumored that Billy Dee would reprise his role in these new films, and he was not announced.  While I don't think Lando is as necessary a presence for these new films as Han, Luke, and Leia, he was an important player in the original trilogy, so it's a little sad not to see him in there.  Maybe he'll pop up in the future sequels.  However, Daisy Ridley is the real story today.  In the course of one minute, she has gone from being a relative unknown, to being probably the most googled actress in the world right now, because everyone wants to know who she is.

Personally, I can't help but wonder if this was the role that Oscar winner, and 12 Years a Slave star, Lupita Nyong'o, was rumored to have been in line for.  It fits the same age range, so I can't help but think that it is.  I had heard a rumor a few months back that the reason Disney and Lucasfilm were taking so long is that they didn't know if they wanted the male lead to be white or black, and I'm assuming once they settled on Boyega, Nyong'o was out because they felt they needed to be more diverse, and thus we have Ridley in the part.  This is all speculation, but that's what I think went down, and with the race of these characters being so up in the air, their being offspring of any of the three actors from the original trilogy seems highly unlikely.

I heard a rumor about three or four months ago, that the original draft of the script, written by Michael Arndt, was more in lines with the Expanded Universe stories detailed in countless novels, comic books, and video games, all made since the end of the original trilogy in 1983, following Han and Leia's children.  After Arndt departed, and Abrams and The Empire Strikes Back screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan, started over, the focus shifted more toward the original trio of Han, Luke, and Leia.

Now, while none of this has been confirmed, the word at the time was that Abrams wanted the first film of this new trilogy to focus primarily on Han, Luke, and Leia, leaving the newer cast members to take over the lead in the next two sequels.  Following a rumor from earlier today, citing that Han Solo will play a huge role in Episode VII, I think that this is still the case.  However, I do find it a little frightening that Han is being played up as having a big, integral role.  Is he going to die?  That's been a lot of the speculation happening online today.  It has long been known that Harrison Ford felt that Han should have died in Return of the Jedi, could he finally be getting his wish?  I hope not, but if Han does die, it had better be heroic and awesome, otherwise I don't know if I could ever forgive J.J. Abrams for it.

On the flip side, while I am happy that Han, Luke, and Leia, are back, I am perhaps more intrigued now about who these new characters will be.   After the expected bombshell last Friday, where Lucasfilm announced their new story department that expunged every Star Wars story over the past thirty-seven years from official canon, aside from the six films and The Clone Wars TV show, there is nothing to give clues as to what these characters will be.

As I mentioned when this new trilogy was first announced, it would be extremely problematic for the filmmakers to try and make a new set of films with so much of the post-Return of the Jedi timeline already written in novels and comics, and this was the solution that I think needed to happen in order for these new films to be better films on their own right.  While there are many fans upset that loved those stories, the bottom line is, too much has happened and people who haven't read those books or comics would be lost in these new films, so it was the right call.  Sure, I loved Jacen and Jaina Solo as much as the next Star Wars fan, but I mean, if they followed all of those books and comics, Chewie would be dead and the Skywalker family legacy has spiraled into tragedy following Jacen's turn to the dark side and Jaina having to kill him.  These are family friendly films, no matter how much fans want to kid themselves into thinking otherwise.

Of course, as Lucasfilm said last Friday, while these stories and characters no longer exist, it does not mean that they cannot serve as inspiration for the new films, much as to how George Lucas borrowed the planet Coruscant from Timothy Zahn's novel, Heir to the Empire, for The Phantom Menace, because he loved the idea of a citywide planet.  Could we still see Jacen or Jaina Solo?  Is Daisy Ridley their version of Jaina?  Looking at pictures of her, I could definitely buy her as the daughter of Han and Leia (assuming Han and Leia are married).  If they were still to go with Jacen as her brother, Domhnall Gleeson could definitely fit the bill, but so could Oscar Isaac.  There and again, we may not have a single new character that continues the Skywalker bloodline in these new movies, but I find that unlikely.

The Star Wars films have always been about the Skywalker family, and the passing down of that legacy of the Force from one generation to the next, and I don't think that we'll see anything different here.  While I think Daisy Ridley is the most likely candidate to be a Skywalker, there's nothing that says John Boyega can't be Luke's son.  It's long been believed amongst fans that the lead role would be Luke's child.  If Luke's wife was black, then Boyega could definitely be Luke's son.  Just throwing that possibility out there.  As well, it's been rumored for a good while now that the female lead would be a descendant of Obi-Wan Kenobi and not a Skywalker.  While I am not sure how I feel about that, especially considering how opposed Obi-Wan was to Jedi having romantic attachments (otherwise he would have succumbed to his feelings for Duchess Satine in The Clone Wars), I think the only way they could get away with that idea is if she was like Obi-Wan's great niece or something like that and not his daughter or granddaughter.

Really, I'm just spinning my wheels now hypothesizing.  With the Expanded Universe expunged, the only clues as to what may or may not be in this new film are in the previous six films and The Clone Wars TV show and what has been previously announced.  We know this film will take place 30 years after Return of the Jedi and that they're filming in Abu Dabhi, featuring a trio of new heroic leads, but that's about it.  What I can say is that I am super excited for this film, and unlike the prequels, we don't know how this new trilogy will go.  These are not adaptations, these are original screenplays that can go wherever the filmmakers feel the story needs to go, and that is extremely exciting in this day and age where almost every other major franchise is based off of a book, comic book, or video game, where they are adapting material for the screen, rather than creating it.

The real story today, though, is the announcement of the cast, which I think is exceptionally well rounded with established stars, character actors, and newcomers.  This is a strong, extremely talented cast, with many of the actors involved having proven themselves both dramatically and comedically before, making it hard to guess what type of characters they'll play.  Boyega could easily be the next Han Solo-type character, given his previous work, the same with Oscar Isaac.  Domhnall Gleeson could be a great source of comedic relief, or be a very virtuous, Luke Skywalker-type (or potential son).  Similarly, Andy Serkis could be an additional source of comedy, or he could be an uber-creepy bad guy, or a sage Jedi (Yoda ghost?).  This cast is so multi-talented, there is no way for me to guess their roles until more is revealed about the story, but there and again, do I really want to know?  Wouldn't it be grand if we can make it to December 18, 2015, without knowing much more than we already know?  Maybe that's impossible to do in today's media heavy, spoiler-filled age, but for right now I can dream of the possibilities.

The first script read with the Episode VII cast

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I Want in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier having been the last Marvel film that will directly tie into the next Avengers movie till Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters in just a little over a year, I decided now would be as good a time as any to say the things I most want to see, hear, or experience in the next adventure featuring the Avengers.

With the movie already shooting, most of what I want more than likely wont happen, but that doesn't mean that if writer/director Joss Whedon and Marvel don't deliver on these five points below that I wont probably fall head over heels for Age of Ultron.  In a way, this is more a wish list of some geeky, fanboy things that me, being a comic book fan, would love to experience in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Regardless as to whether my wishes come true, you can bet on one thing, Age of Ultron is gonna be off the chain.  Joss Whedon has said multiple times that even before he agreed to do the first Avengers, he knew that the sequel had to have Ultron as the villain, so if he delivers anything half as awesome as what he did the first go around, we're all going to be giddy with Avenger excitement again come May 1st 2015.

However, enough chit chat.  On with the things that I most want in Avengers: Age of Ultron.


Hank Pym, Creator of Ultron

While Joss Whedon has said that Ant-Man wont be in Age of Ultron, it would be odd for Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man and creator of the titular android, not to be involved in some way shape or form in the creation of the big baddie.  Really, it is head scratching for me as to why Pym isn't included, with Michael Douglas set to play the character in the Ant-Man film coming out two months after Age of Ultron.  If Pym is as old as Douglas, and has already been a superhero and retired, prior to the Avengers arriving on the scene, why the reluctance to include Pym, the rightful creator?  Perhaps Marvel and Whedon feel it might make things too overcrowded to try and introduce audiences to Hank Pym and say who he is and why we should care that he's created this android, rather than simply having Tony Stark or Bruce Banner build Ultron instead, however I can still hope that Douglas will wind up in the movie and be Ultron's maker.

"Avengers Assemble!"

Throughout Avengers history in the comic books, they have had the same rallying battle cry.  From Stan Lee to modern day, whenever an Avenger (very often Captain America raising his shield) yells, "Avengers assemble,"  the Avengers all rally together and go on the offensive.  While the first film, being the origin of the Avengers, didn't ever find a good place for this classic line to be said,  I desperately want to see it and hear it in Age of Ultron.  Nothing would make me feel more like a five-year-old kid again than if Cap holds his shield up in the air and summons the Avengers, yelling, "Avengers assemble!"

Agent Phil Coulson Lives

Agent Coulson's death in The Avengers was one of the biggest gut punches of that entire film emotionally, giving the Avengers something to actually fight for, and in many ways being the defining moment that made them put aside petty differences and team up to avenge their fallen friend.  As anyone who has been watching the TV show, Agents of SHIELD, knows, is that Agent Coulson was brought back to life by Nick Fury in the wake of his demise in The Avengers, forming a mystery that has still yet to be settled as to why Fury did this.  The one thing that the show has not done yet, though, is address what happens when the Avengers find out that their friend is alive and kicking.  While Coulson has his own show, and Joss Whedon has said that Coulson is not going to appear in Age of Ultron, how much of that is a smoke screen trying to keep something a secret and how much of that is truth?  I personally would love to see Thor, Iron Man, and especially Captain America, not only discover that Coulson is still alive, but actually interact with him, asking him what happened and such.  Perhaps they'll save this stuff for a special guest appearance on the show some point in the future, but Age of Ultron seems as good a place as any for the Avengers to get closure on Coulson's death and resurrection.

A More In-Control Hulk

At this point, after two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring the Hulk, with both of them focusing on how Bruce Banner is trying to control his transformations, I think it's pretty safe to say he's mastered the transformations to where he can do it on will and change back whenever he desires.  While both Bruce Banner and the Hulk can be unpredictable, the Hulk we saw at the end of The Avengers was a heroic Hulk, not the mindless bringer of destruction that tore through the helicarrier, suggesting that Banner had finally figured out how to channel himself through the Hulk's actions. I want to see that expanded upon in Age of Ultron.  I don't want Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner to try and avoid turning into the Hulk anymore, he knows that when he does it he can help people and be a hero, so I think his storyline needs to reflect that change.  While Banner will never be fully in control of the Hulk, perhaps he'll have more control this time.

Explanation for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's Powers

Here's the big one.  We already know that in addition to featuring the returning cast members from the first film, Age of Ultron will be adding three new eventual Avengers in the form of the Vision (an android built by Ultron), and the brother sister pair of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.  Here's where things get tricky.

While Vision is a cut and dry case, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are both mutants, and not only are they mutants, they are the son and daughter of X-Men nemesis, Magneto.  While I don't feel it's necessary for Magneto to even be mentioned, I do feel it's necessary for Scarlet Witch's hex powers and Quicksilver's speed powers to have been genetic mutations.  The reason this is a problem, is 20th Century Fox currently leases the film rights from Marvel for the X-Men characters and therefore currently own the rights to Magneto and the word mutant.  The reason Marvel Studios is getting to use Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver is because they are in the gray area where they were both Avengers and X-Men, allowing both Fox and Marvel to use them, but Marvel can never say the word mutant or mention Magneto, and Fox can never mention the characters are in the Avengers.  It's a tricky legal situation, so if Marvel cannot use the word mutant to describe Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's powers via genetic mutation, how will they explain the powers?

My theory stems from the post-credits scene for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Hydra baddie, Baron Strucker, is holding Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver prisoner and says it's, "the age of miracles."  I think that they'll simply say that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were  both born with their powers.  To me, that's what that line from Baron Strucker made me think.  While I can be wrong, I think this would be the easiest way to explain their powers without saying the word mutant.  Not to mention the fact that it would appease fans who don't want some false new origin created for the characters.


And those are the things I want and wish for in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  What do you want?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Movie Review: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

Captain America is finally back in the most awesome Marvel film since The Avengers.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is everything that a fan could have hoped for with Marvel tackling this source material, and yet it is so different than any of the other films that Marvel has ever made.  There is a more down to Earth, realistic aesthetic to this film.  While there is still tons of sci-fi/fantasy concepts on display here, they're done in a nice real world way that keeps the film grounded in its political thriller aspirations.  However, where this film really manages to distinguish itself is in the fact that this might be the most intimate Marvel film made thus far.

Set almost entirely in Washington D.C. this go around, the film picks up roughly a year after the events of The Avengers.  Still a man out of time, Cap finds himself working for SHIELD, doing special ops missions with Black Widow, all the while finding it harder and harder to distinguish the right from the wrong in today's morally neutral society.  Of course, Cap's moral compass puts him at odds with some of SHIELD's more gray area ideas, but when a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier arrives and starts wreaking havoc, a whole big conspiracy involving SHIELD, and just about everything else in Cap's world, starts to unravel.

When I mentioned earlier how intimate this film feels, it's because it truly is a character piece and is more about Steve Rogers' action/reaction to all of the events that unfold in this film.  While there is a large spanning conspiracy that unfurls and bucket-loads of action that represent Captain America in a far more acrobatic way than we've ever seen him before, everything that occurs in this film, occurs not because they wanted action or explosions, but because it is driven by the characters' actions.

Once again, Chris Evans proves he's the right man to wield Cap's shield, with Scarlett Johansson really starting to make the Black Widow more and more her own.  Originally just a piece of eye candy in Iron Man 2, Black Widow's character evolved in The Avengers, and here in The Winter Soldier, Johansson and the folks at Marvel finally deliver the Black Widow of the comics.  There is a cold, cerebral quality to her that contrasts with her desire to do good and to be more human.  Sure, she doesn't have a Russian accent, but who cares when the core personality of the character is there.  Rounding out the superb cast is Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, and the gravitas-lending Robert Redford as a mysterious government man who helps run SHIELD, to say anymore might give away a few good surprises for moviegoers.

That is really the most exciting thing about this film, it's that there are constantly twists and turns, and you never really know where the film is heading next.  Directors Anthony and Joe Russo really surprise here with a very taut directorial style that still manages to have life seeping through the cracks due to their natural affinity for comedy, injecting a nice sense of humor into some very dark moments to keep the ten year old boys relaxed and still having fun even when some intense stuff is happening.

The Winter Soldier is a villain to be reckoned with and is almost like Jaws in the way that whenever he is onscreen, he is wreaking as much havoc and destruction as possible.  You never quite know when the Winter Soldier will show up, and there is something so mysterious about the way he's represented that makes him genuinely terrifying whenever he comes out of nowhere.  However, when more and more is revealed about the Winter Soldier and his origins, just like everything else in the movie for Captain America, things aren't so right and wrong and Cap must fight in that gray area himself in an emotionally powerful final fist fight with his enemy.

Overall, Marvel has delivered one of their finest films with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It is intense, funny, emotional, and gives your brain a nice workout because it's also very smart and full of nice twists and turns.  Not to mention, it's an action movie, things go boom, punches are thrown, and people fly and shoot stuff.  The fact that there's an emotionally charged story underneath all of the awesome action is merely icing on the cake.

Marvel fanboys are going to love this one, with Marvel fitting in more villains and characters from the comics into this one film than perhaps any other superhero film before it, and it all works organically, these additional characters only show up when it is required to tell the story and not just to be a fan service.  Bottom line is, just buckle up and enjoy the ride of this one.  It's rare to get a film like this in April, so definitely relish in its awesomeness, and also, as always with Marvel, stay till the very tail end of the credits if you want the whole experience that this film has to offer.

I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier an A+!