Tag Archives: Marvel

Logan

So, another X-Men continuity movie[1]. Logan is set in 2029, which is somehow only 12 years from now. I think there are maybe two or three things I can say about this movie, without getting into territory I’d rather avoid. I mean, it’s basically impossible to review anything without spoilers[2], so I always try to limit myself to what you’d know within 5 minutes (or 1-2 chapters) anyway, but sometimes it’s more than that, and this is one of those times.

The first thing is, this is a movie that doesn’t fuck around. Wolverine has always killed people, which is unusual enough for a comic book setting, but he’s never killed people the way he would kill people, you know what I mean? Here, he definitely does. Which is useful as a calibration tool for the rest of the movie, is my point. The second thing, I’ve already said in one of the footnotes anyway, so if you are trying to avoid spoilers more than I am (which maybe you should!), you can miss that easily. The third thing is that the movie is about something. I think it’s been a while since the theme of a film has shone strongly enough for me to care about mentioning it. (Or maybe they’re always so obvious as to not be worth mentioning?)

Anyway, this is a movie about responsibility. It is the lens through which nearly every character views things. Like, I don’t know if everyone is right about what responsibility has or has not accrued to them, nor whether everyone is right about how they do or do not discharge that responsibility. But it permeates every decision, and it’s a strong theme for a strong movie. Which reminds me of a fourth thing I can definitely say, which is that the three lead roles are acted exceptionally well. Nobody will look at this movie when the 2017 retrospective awards season comes along, but I think maybe they will have made a mistake, when they do not.

[1] As opposed to the rest of Marvel continuity, since the Disney people made a deal with the Sony people to share Spider-Man, so now there are only two such continuities extant.
[2] I picked the poster that most reminded me of The Last of Us, because the movie put me in mind of that. Which is a spoiler if you’ve played that game or know of it, but explaining that the correlation is by no means perfect, or even necessarily strong, would itself be a spoiler. This is hard, is all I’m saying.

Doctor Strange

mv5bnjgwnzaznjk1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzq2nji1ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_I know that Doctor Strange occasionally crosses over with other characters in the Marvel universe. I mean, maybe someday he’ll be at the heart of a big crossover event, but as of 15 years of Ultimate comics and 20 years of mainstream comics, he has only ever been at the fringes. And this is a thing that makes a lot of sense! Except for the artifact of history that Stan Lee decided to build a stable of shared characters in the early 1960s to compete with what DC had been doing, there’s no way anyone would say Strange fits into Marvel. Different genre than anything else they publish, and an entirely different style to boot. The only thing that comes close is Thor, and that’s only because they both share a love of stilted declamations.

Do I have a point, here? Maybe. See, as promised in a blink and you missed it scene in The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios has dropped a Doctor Strange film onto an unsuspecting[1] public. And sure enough, there is no apparent connection between it and any other movie they’ve made, at first glance[2]. But this is fine, because unlike some Netflix series I could name, Avengers Tower is prominent in the midtown skyline. Even better, both the characters with names and dialogue and the pedestrians in the background are becoming more comfortable with the bizarre turns of events that occur with increasing regularity in their world, just as befits a maturing familiarity with superheroes. I would not have thought to be so appreciative of a touch like that, but I don’t think I would have thought to expect such a touch in advance, and yet here we are. Normalcy. I dig it.

Anyway, all that’s about the world and setting. The actual movie, though? See, Stephen Strange is the best neurosurgeon in the world, but after a series of unfortunate events related (mostly) to his personality, he finds himself seeking alternative answers about his place in the world. It took Stan Lee and Steve Ditko maybe three pages to establish all of this before turning Strange from a doctor into a sorcerer, and it took the movie a good 45 minutes. Now, don’t get me wrong, Lee has never written under the auspices of “show, don’t tell”. Man loves to tell approximately as much (and as floridly) as PT Barnum did. But at the same time, 45 minutes is a lot of celluloid to squeeze out of three pages. Maybe there is some kind of middle ground? Like, I would never say they should have skipped the origin story entirely, because who has heard of Doctor Strange?

The good news is, that’s the only bad thing I have to say about the movie. It is a feast for the eyes, and moreso in 3D (unless that kind of thing makes you ill), and if the plot is a little bit bog-standard good v evil for modern Marvel, to be fair fantasy and spellcraft kind of lends itself to that. And even so, it’s far more nuanced than you might think from what I’ve said. Not-apparently-a-Baron Mordo in particular is fully realized in a way that never would have been predictable based on his turn in that same initial Lee/Ditko comic I mentioned before.

Tl;dr go see it, they’re not out of juice yet.

[1] I mean, if you discount years of announcements and months of previews. Look, nobody asked you.
[2] At second glance, this is completely untrue, but only because the writers made an effort to relevance that I cannot decide if I appreciate or oppose. That is in full on spoiler territory, however, so I shall say no more.

X-Men: Apocalypse

MV5BMjQxMjY5MzU1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgyNjY0NzE@._V1_SX690_CR0,0,690,999_AL_I saw the new X-Men movie a week or two ago, and I liked it, but what with being busy and behind on internets and seriously really busy what with houses that don’t clean themselves and weddings that don’t plan themselves and jobs and the whole being an adult thing, I’ve maybe lost track of anything I might have said about it.

Apocalypse, as you will learn in the opening moments of the flick, is set in a tenuous 1985 between the recent First Class and Days of Future Past and the original X-Men movie that due to timeline manipulations may not even exist anymore. See, there’s this Egyptian guy who I haven’t gotten to in my readings of the source material[1], and now that he’s awake again, he wants to rule the world as is his wont.

And then, you know, mutanty things happen. It seems like there should be more to say, about themes or some such? Maybe I waited too long, maybe I expect more than is necessary from a perfectly fine X-Men slugfest. Either way, I’m seeing a movie tonight that I will perhaps review more timelily, and this is what you get.

Final thought: Psylocke, another character who I have not gotten to in comics, seemed kind of shoehorned in just for the purposes of costume fan service. Which is kind of lame.

[1] Unless I have? But if this dude is based on the Living Pharaoh, he is much, much cooler in this movie than in the comics he was drawn from.

Captain America: Civil War

MV5BMjI3ODEwMTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg3MDczNzE@._V1__SX1859_SY891_I saw the latest Captain America movie on Friday morning, with the intention of getting a spoiler-free review up quickly. It was going to reflect on the difficulty of setting up a scenario in which the good guys could get into serious fights over matters of policy and morality without turning some portion of themselves into bad guys, and then acknowledge that I felt like it was done quite well, such that I empathized most strongly with the apparent wrong side of the debate in reality while also admitting that of course in context I would pick the apparent right side. Then it was going to slyly approve of the many characters brought into the conflict, the various ways this was done, and how plausible each such character’s position was. Not to mention how great it is to have a movie series with enough depth as to be able to do that without stretching to 4 or 5 hours, because we know these people from more than what was shown on this particular screen today.

Also, I might have praised the venue, with its history of awesome pre-show perks and (although I missed it) a secret menu whereby you order something they used to serve with a previous Cap movie by whispering “Hail Hydra” to your server.

But right after the movie I had to pick up an engagement ring that I had been waiting on for rather a while, and then later in the afternoon my oldest friend (from the age of 12!) died from complications due to cancer, and then on Saturday I was at a renaissance fair getting engaged, and by now everyone who would read this has seen the thing themselves, so I guess I won’t bother to write a review after all.

If I’m wrong, though, it was really pretty good, and you should go ahead and see it.

Deadpool

MV5BMjM3MjEwODA3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzI4MzM1NzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Full disclosure: I am still years away from reading anything about Deadpool, and what I know about him could fit on someone’s palm as their cheat notes. He’s super violent, aware that he’s a character (or some other form of fourth-wall-breaking thing if not that), and he thinks he’s hilarious. I don’t even know if he’s actually hilarious, although the evidence points to yes.

Because, yep, I saw Deadpool (the movie) on Thursday night, with a delightful plate of chimichangas[1] in front of me, and here’s the deal. I’ve loved far more of the Marvel movies that have come out this century than not, and can only rate them correctly with distance. I therefore won’t say more than that this is definitely good. What I can say unreservedly is that it is by far and away the funniest superhero movie I’ve ever seen. If you ever wondered what a superpowered fight would really look like, or wished they didn’t censor themselves so heavily, or wanted the characters to be noticing the same dumbass discrepancies you do? This right here is your movie.

If you don’t like comics, I doubt this would bring you around, though. But also, while I’m dealing in irrelevancies: man, Ryan Reynolds has been a in a lot of comic book movies. (I bet this is the one he’s remembered for.)

[1] New knowledge: he likes chimichangas I guess?

Ultimate End

510TQ731k4LWell, I am straight up disappointed by the ultimate final novel in Marvel’s Ultimate continuity. See, the other times there have been big crossover events, I’ve read all of the affiliated books (in publication order, natch) because they were crossed over in, y’know, the same publication line. Whereas Secret Wars is a crossover among multiple Marvel continuities, none of which I am current on other than this one.

Which means that I was reading a sideline on the main story, without any context for what was supposed to be going on. I’m not saying there wasn’t any emotional impact; Bendis knows his job. But when I don’t know why things are happening[1], it’s hard to get involved enough to really get it. So, that was lame.

Bright side: I’m only 37 years behind on catching up with the other continuities so I can reread this with the proper context! So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

[1] Example: An army of Thors flying around enforcing God’s will. Um… what? Why? Who? So, yep. Also, the entire final issue was predicated on something a character learned in a different book. Sigh.

Fantastic Four (2015)

MV5BMTQ4MzY2ODI5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDYyNDAwNTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_It’s kind of astonishing, how different of a viewer I am today than I was ten years ago when Fantastic Four came out. I mean, am I more sophisticated as a viewer of movies? Probably not at all. But as a viewer of comic book movies… well, that is definitely another thing. I’ve read like 3500 comics from the ’60s and ’70s, and another 800ish in the Ultimate Marvel series in the modern era. I have definitely formed a lot of opinions and learned a lot of knowledge over those ten years, is what I’m saying.

Now a Fantastic Four reboot has come along, and I actually feel qualified to talk about it this time. (That review in the link above? It is rough and unpolished like nobody’s business.) Unfortunately… man. Sure, they’re no Marvel Studios, but 20th Century Fox is good at making X-Men movies. They were even pretty okay at making Fantastic Four movies, last time. But this? It was pretty enough and it wasn’t actively awful, but it is not what I would call a good movie.

They did a lot of things right. The Storm family dynamic was great, and the friendship between Ben Grimm and Reed Richards, if it was not entirely earned without another significant chunk of footage, was nevertheless well-acted and felt entirely real. Victor Von Doom was delightfully self-interested. Really, every character was great. But the plot was just so awful. Origin story: mostly good, except for the part that was insulting and either a) also made no sense or b) was more insulting than I think. Supervillain arc: utterly wasted and with no understanding for the character. Middle act between these two ends of the movie: okay, that part was pretty good. But not nearly good enough to make up for the failures.

I should say, there were scenes from the previews that did not actually occur in the film. So maybe the director’s complaints about studio edits ruining his vision have merit? All I know is, I did not care for whomever’s vision actually made it to the screen.

Ant-Man

MV5BMTc3NzgxNTM0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDI5MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Saturday was a day of two movies. Hooray! The second one was, finally, Ant-Man. To get it out of the way: it was a) definitely relevant to the overall story progression of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and b) good enough in its own right. Also, to get the other thing out of the way, it’s about a guy who can shrink to the size of about a flea or a bit smaller, and also he can talk to ants, and he uses these powers to be highly stealthy, mobile, and also to be unexpectedly strong[1], and then he has to deal with a supervillain tailor-made for said powers. Like you do.

There. Now to the meat of it. See, in comics, there are two people who have been Ant-Man. (Well, that I know of.) The first of them, Hank Pym, is one of Marvel’s first characters. The second, Scott Lang, I have not actually gotten to yet. The movie is about, well, technically both of them, but the point here is that it’s mostly about the one I don’t know. Which means, virtually no preconceptions! Paul Rudd was damaged and charming, and the character was entirely likeable. The plot was heisty and heroic and if it was often predictable, it made up for it by never being boring.

My complaints about Hank Pym are spoilers, but the fact that I have complaints can be put down to the fact that he’s a known jerk of a character. (Unlike Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, who is objectively as much of a jerk on paper, but people always seem to like him anyway. This has nothing to do with anything, I’m just complaining about it.)

Anyway, pretty good movie. Worth seeing, especially if you’ve been watching the other ones. Spoiler thing about Hank Pym in the comments.

[1] Something something physics: space between atoms is reduced, increasing density and therefore retaining the same strength in a much smaller package; you know, comic book science.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

MV5BMjMxMTIyNzQxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQ1ODk1NDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Last Friday, I made a joke about putting up the wrong review, secure in the knowledge that the correct review, about the blockbuster sequel that was kicking off the summer season, would be following that first review by only an hour or two. So, that was six days ago.

Yep. I really am that busy, apparently.

Anyway, though, Avengers. Did you see it yet? No? I guess that’s not numerically surprising, it has not made the bank it was expecting. And there have been all kinds of complaints, from anti-feminist to muddled and confusing to unnecessary antagonists. Some of that is fair, and some of it is not. I come neither to defend Caesar nor to bury him, just to say that, you know, I still liked it?

Obviously I’m a total Marvel fanboy. But I don’t think that’s it. It got me in the door, sure, but the things that I liked were along the lines of, “It’s really awesome that Whedon managed to provide a character arc for every person onscreen, even though there were like ten of them.” I completely get why someone would turn that around and complain about how overstuffed the thing is, it just wasn’t my experience. Or, “I appreciate how Ultron’s[1] motivations are thumbnailed so quickly, so we can get on to the plot and character development that succeeds his existence.” Which was turned into a question by a person that I wouldn’t have expected to hear it from, about why nobody bothered to explain why Ultron is trying to <spoiler elided>.

And more things like that. Basically, it’s possible that even though I’m actively looking for details about these characters, my decade long immersion in the characters they’re based upon is giving me an unfair advantage over the uninitiated viewing audience. So, I cannot say if this movie is for you. (Well, I can, for three or four specific values of “you”, but mostly I cannot.) I can say that the director’s cut is probably a visibly better movie than this was, and that this movie, despite a couple of missteps, was still a really excellent chapter in what is probably the most ambitious long-form piece of storytelling Hollywood has ever attempted.

There are worse epitaphs.

[1] He’s the guy whose Age it is, right? Age of Ultron? Right? Also, while I’m here: Spader nailed that character. I’m not surprised, but I am pleased.