Tag Archives: comic book movies

A Guide to Guardians of the Galaxy

4 Aug

I’ve expressed before that I do have a bias against comic book movies. So when I heard about the Guardians of the Galaxy movie a few months back I immediately diagnosed it as another desperate attempt to milk a forgotten comic book franchise. On the surface it looks like an Avengers rip off just with more corny gags. As more trailers came out I decided it was probably one of those movies that’s bad, but still entertaining, if you turn off parts of your brain. When I received a coupon good for Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX 3D for free I remembered a quote from Roger Ebert “It’s hard to explain the fun to be found in seeing the right kind of bad movie.” (especially if its free). Since two bad movies came out this week, both wildly popular I thought I’d compare them and show the differences between a movie that is so bad it’s good (Guardians of the Galaxy) and a movie that’s just plain awfully bad (Sharknado 2). But you know what? I actually really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and not because it was entertainingly bad, it’s a legitimately fun movie. So fuck Sharknado and its race to the bottom. I’m not going to waste time and energy analyzing Syfy’s recent attempt to reach the stupidest place on TV. Let’s see why Guardians of the Galaxy is the perfect end to the summer blockbuster season.

GoG

Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic book movie but to me its way more science fiction. Not that hard science fiction but more in the tone of an edgy cartoon with space ships and Star Trek type aliens. Its also an adventure movie and a comedy. Most movies who try to blend this many genres fail but this time it works great. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t take itself too seriously so there’s no opening narration, drawn out origin stories, or long exposition scenes. It just kind of throws you in the deep end of this universe and takes off from there. This approach benefits the two types of audience members seeing this movie. If you’re someone who read the comic books you already know the setting and the cultures of the different characters and their backgrounds so you don’t need that information regurgitated again. If you are like me and have no idea what the deal is with Guardians of the Galaxy it forces you to pay attention to the characters and the action on the screen. This gets you more invested in the story than any information dump via voice over or flashbacks ever could.

Rocket the Raccoon

The ensemble cast creates a wacky comradery that’s very entertaining to watch. Chris Pratt whose known for being on Parks and Rec plays the main character Peter Quill codename Star Lord “It’s cool to have a codename, its not that weird”. I think that Peter Quill is so cocky and comfortable being inappropriate that you can’t play this character unless you’re naturally like that. Having never watched Parks and Rec I can still tell that Pratt is an authentic Quill, not counting the 60 pounds the filmmakers made him lose to get the role. Zoe Saldana is the go to girl if you’re making a sci-fi movie, this time playing the green skinned Gamora she’s right at home. The very strange walking, talking tree, Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel who I loathe, luckily all he ever says is “I am Groot”. Not since Matt Damon in Team America have I heard a better three syllable catch phrase. Rocket the Raccoon, the best one in the bunch is voiced by Bradley Cooper. The previews make the raccoon seem too over the top and silly but it works in the movie. It’s some of Bradley Cooper’s best work, I was really impressed, he should voice more animated characters. Then there’s Drax who doesn’t understand metaphors. These five round out the ragtag group of ne’re-do-wells that make up The Guardians of the Galaxy.

There’s two ways to approach the plot of this movie. The first is that there’s a big bad blue guy who I know is bad because he says so and we see him kill one person. He wants to destroy planet Nova for some reason and he’s working for an even bigger badder guy named Thanos. I know maybe four things about comics and one of them is that Thanos is bad. I don’t know why he’s bad or what he’s done or wants to do, this movie could’ve explained that but nope. Anyway it throws a bunch of comic book tropes at us about a collector, and a power crystal, and I wasn’t really paying attention. Because the second way to approach the plot is to appreciate how it is basically just setting up scenarios for our heroes to fight their way out of. This movie is about action, snappy dialog, and humor. Paying too much attention to the story reveals all the holes and you’ll miss the excitement.

Gog2

The real reason I loved this movie is because it’s chock full of delicious nutritious eye candy. Every shot is so richly detailed there’s; space ships, lasers, console displays, rocket thrusters, nebulae, tech, aliens, robots, shields, cybernetics and it keeps going. There’s also this retro style, like if science fiction of the 70’s and 80’s had better visual effects. Even the costumes, makeup, and hair is retro futuristic, you get to see Merle from Walking Dead as a gold toothed, aqua, space pirate and a quasi-futuristic Glenn Close (how’d they get her in this movie, oh right, gobs of money). The soundtrack of nostalgic pop songs you remember from the 80’s provides a wacky contrast to the spacey spectacle on the screen. It’s not perfect but this movie is so much fun and embraces the corny moments and Pratt falls (pun intended) knowing full well what it’s doing. See this movie for all the right reasons and be happy.

 

Carl Wells

X-Men Past and Present Movie Review

31 May

You’re probably expecting me to rant about how much I hate comic book movies just on principal. Then go into nit-picking detail about how parts of X-Men Days of Future Past make no sense. Assuming I have a bias against all comicbook movies is fair, because I do. Except, Surprise I actually like the X-Men movie franchise. I proudly admit to never reading a single comicbook (too busy reading real books) but I loved the ueber 90’s X-Men cartoon. That’s what introduced me to the characters and the themes of X-Men, so while I’m most definitely not an expert, I know more about the X-Men world than some.

Xmen 2000

The first two X-men movies were directed by Bryan Singer and they gave me almost everything I wanted out of an X-Men movie. After that Brett Ratner came along and took a big douchey piss all over the only comicbook movies I liked with X-Men The Last Stand. Seriously, how could someone screw up so much? The first two movies made bank, were loved by fans, and spoon fed a perfect set-up for how the third X-Men should go. Instead our favorite characters die needlessly or lose their powers and the Phoenix we expected was grounded and subverted, then killed. The Last Stand ruined the X-Men name so much they stooped to doing prequels under the rebranded “Wolverine” title. Those movies were pointless and awful too, even for people who appreciate Wolverine as a main character. I respect Hugh Jackman and all but five Wolverine movies was too much, Logan is a much better side character. That’s why when X-Men First Class came out I delighted in how it wasn’t about Wolverine. That was one of many things X-Men First Class finally got right. I liked how the X-Men tied into historical events. The recasting was spot on with James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon was outstanding. First Class had flaws but it turned the franchise in the right direction.

Bryan Singer returns to direct X-Men Days of Future Past. If anyone can save this franchise it’ll be the director who built it. The title is the dumbest part of this movie, “But Carl that’s what the comic is called.” Well, then it has a dumb title too. Bryan Singer further breaks X-Men’s film continuity and gets away with it. For example there’s flashbacks containing scenes from the first three movies. That means Days of Future Past acknowledges that those movies are valid parts of the whole story and thus accepted canon. Then why does Magneto have his powers back? Hell. Why is Professor X even alive? Answer: Continuity Schmontinuity, I’m just happy to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart onscreen. The X-men film continuity was already wrecked anyway, it’s almost a defining feature of the series. It would be strange if Days of Future Past didn’t have its own continuity quirks.

Xmen days of future past

Unfortunately this movie is Wolverine’s perspective again, this time in two time periods. The first; a post-war future where a squad of X-Men fight and evade the sentinels trying to exterminate them. To people who’ve only watched the movies, some of these new mutants are unfamiliar and we’re spared their origin stories (thank God). I really enjoyed seeing them all use their powers to work together as a team and fight the upgraded sentinels. There’s this girl Blink who creates these wormhole portals to teleport people, those portals look so cool in 3D. Looking through them you see different angles, vanishing points, one character in 2 different locations, they look amazing. However Blink doesn’t seem to notice she’s the best weapon against the unstoppable sentinels. A sentinel reaches an arm through a portal, and it closes, severing the arm. All Blink has to do is create portals around the sentinels then close them around their waste or neck, poof, dead. Well that’s too easy so they resort to having Kitty Pryde use her power to go back in time a couple days to avoid defeat.

That’s where Wolverine, repowered Magneto, and resurrected Professor X come in. They decide to send Wolverine back to the 70’s to stop the war before it begins. It’s nice to see how the young characters contrast their future selves. Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is angrier at humanity. While Professor X is walking around with lots of hair on his face. Speaking of hair, Peter Dinklage is rocking some epic 70’s hair and porn moustache. He’s the target of Mystique who’s gone rogue, shape-shifting all over the place, only showing her true self when she’s about to kick some ass. Her legs are her main weapon and of all the ways to die, being killed by Jennifer Lawrence’s legs aren’t a bad way to go. The 70’s are just more fun, there’s pop culture references like Star Trek and making fun of Nixon and his tape recorder. There’s a super speed mutant named “Quicksilver” who steals every scene he’s in. It’s nostalgic going back to the school for gifted students and hearing the door to Cerebro unlock with a “Welcome Professor”. But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in the 70’s there’s plenty of fighting and the climax of the 70’s storyline coincides with the climax of the future storyline and is very well edited to maximize the action.

X-Men Days of Future Past might be the best movie I’ve seen all year and could be my favorite film in the X-Men franchise . There’s always something people can gripe about, like how it left out an important character, or realizing that Kitty Pryde would’ve had to sit motionless for days on end to keep Logan in the past that long. I’m sure fans of the comics have loads of issues with it. Nevertheless, the movie’s 131 minute run time is so entertaining it’s easy to overlook these little snags. Best of all, it negates Brett Ratner’s abysmal X-Men 3 like it never happened and I know we all can appreciate that.

 

Carl Wells

How Bad Wasn’t Thor 2?

14 Nov

I know I know I put Thor 2 on my Fuck it list. But as my 5th grade D.A.R.E. officer told me, peer pressure is an awful thing. It seemed like too many people were talking about what a big deal Thor 2 was and I kinda wanted to find out first hand what all the fuss was about.

IMG_2673When I was extended an invitation to join some friends at the local googla-plex theater (which also serves 32oz beer) I accepted. I’m weak, what can I say? Especially when beer is involved, Mmmm, didn’t that D.A.R.E. officer also warn how peers use alcohol to pressure you into things you wouldn’t otherwise do?…Ahhh must’ve not been important.

Besides, it is good to sometimes test your ability to judge a movie as “bad” based solely on the preview, by going out to genuinely see it. That way you can reaffirm that you still can predict which movies are bad without actually having seen them.

Thor: The Dark World was over the top, silly, and stupid, but they knew it, and used it to their advantage just enough to keep it from being boring.

thor 2 movie poster

Trying to go over the story and worrying about spoiling it is just an exercise in futility. Because I’ve realized something, the people who keep seeing these comic book movies, just want to be dazzled. The plot doesn’t matter if you got big men and beautiful women in a mostly CG environment with an operatic score and lots of destruction, that’s the movie. Even if I revealed the whole story and all its secrets and gaps and twists and logic flaws it wouldn’t change the mind of anyone. Nobody is seeing these movies to think about them. This has all been said before but what I’ve realized is that comic book movies function more like rock concerts. People go to see the living embodiment of something they already loved  in its simpler form. So have the people audiences expect to see, be loud, exciting, include tons of eye candy, with an encore and you got a hit.

Thor: The Dark World truly is an embarrassment of riches, every shot looks like it cost a billion dollars. There’s this stuff called “Aether” that makes planets go dark or something, it’s like floating cranberry juice flowing in and out and through itself. If someone could just go ahead and make that a screensaver, that would be great. This Aether infuses into Natalie Portman’s body and anytime someone touches her the Aether creates a crimson explosion knocking everyone down. Except Thor, he can touch her because???? The whole show is absurdly engrossing to look at. My favorite parts of the first Thor were in Asgard. Thor 2 spends much more time there and it was fun seeing more of that world and even better watching it attacked by ships that look like flying black blades who’ve also got weapons that create miniature black holes but they’re no match for a hammer. Anthony Hopkins as Odin remains conscious unlike the first Thor. However Odin is supposed to be this powerful being, let’s see him kick some ass instead of just ordering people around.

Thor 2

I’m aware everybody loves Tom Hiddleston but Loki is just not a threatening presence. Instead of the Villain I see him more as a whining emo man-boy, crying cause daddy didn’t hug him. In Norse mythology Loki isn’t a bad guy, he’s a trickster who sometimes plays pranks on his fellow gods and sometimes helps them, usually out of trouble he himself caused. Norse mythology also includes a little known tidbit about the Frost Giants (Movie Loki technically is a Frost Giant). The Frost Giants were created by the god Ymir’s feet having sex with each other. Seriously. Portray that origin story Hollywood, I dare you! Luckily this movie’s main villain isn’t Loki, it’s some sort of albino space elf who thinks the universe it too bright and wants to bring darkness everywhere, probably because he can’t go into daylight without being sunburned. The space elf goes to London at the end of the movie and so much wild shit gets thrown at the audience in the final battle, it is hard to decipher what’s actually going on. But there is a lot of visually exciting stuff, like worm holes, gravity shifts, space ships, monsters, lightening, shape shifting, and the flying cranberry juice Aether.

They knew this was going to be a dumb movie before they made it and just decided to make the best dumb movie they could. This gives Thor a comedic flavor. I mean who would really design costumes with shoulder pads bigger than football uniforms and put horns on everything if they didn’t want me to laugh at it? I thought the movie was really funny both intentionally and unintentionally. Nevertheless it is the umpteenthth movie in the Marvel film factory and we all know the drill at this point. It might be kind of fun to watch as a guilty pleasure but ultimately doesn’t distinguish itself from other comic book movies and the main story has no resonance or staying power and is easily forgotten the next day.

There was an encore / teaser in the credits that had Benecio Del Toro in some crazy get-up. If anyone knows what the Hell that was about please tell me.

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion about Man of Steel

17 Jun

Battle of Algiers used cinema verite techniques to build up the atmosphere and bring the events of the film to more personal level for the audience. But everyone involved with the film thought, “We really aren’t making the most out of this format. We can really go further.”

Flash forward to Denmark circa 1995, a film collective gets together and tries to create a cinematic movement that will finally be able to use cinema to its fullest ability. But even after their ten-year run that launched/fostered the careers of Lars Von Tier, Harmony Korine and Anthony Dod Mantle, they realized that what they were doing with the medium was still falling short of its potential.

Then in 2002 director Doug Liman and cinematographer Oliver Wood were saddled with an action heavy script and an A-list star who’s most physically active role to-date had been walking around a golf course with Will Smith. They knew they were going to really have to reinvent the wheel to justify their bid for a new product placement franchise. And re-invent they did. They were able to shoot scenes in such a way that they were able to convince people a drama kid could take out a guy with a machine gun using nothing more than a magazine. Even with the mountains of success, they still realize that it wasn’t enough.

Then the mix of Zack Snyder, a billion and one videos posted to YouTube, and the most iconic superhero of all-time, and we finally get the most realistic handheld camera work in the history of cinema. It was just such a pleasure to watch as a man flying across the sky and sliding across pavement and up the side of buildings in the gritty way that cinema verite really aspired to be all those years ago. Finally, everyone can bask in the full potential of movies.

Man-o_Steel_SWOP

That the was the longest most hyperbolic introduction to any Man of Steel review you will read. The movie was a good film, and as Carl correctly predicted there were some cheesy and unnecessary pop songs, it was a tight film that looked pretty good. I can’t remember a second of slow motion footage in an action sequence, and there were plenty of action sequences in the film. As far as comic book movies go, it was of the highest quality. But my stupid opinion about the film goes beyond the confusing choice to give the movie the raw handheld look, I just wonder how long this formula will continue to work for comic book films.  And I can’t even add “spoiler alert” to this because it is in every single blockbuster tentpole film, the equations can vary for the first 40-ish minutes of the movie, but it always ALWAYS ends with the good guy and the bad guy in hand-to-hand close proximity combat at the center of massive amounts of collateral damage.

These films have become the equivalent to the dumb action movies from the eighties and nineties with just tighter fitting clothes. I equate comic book movies to the Doritos of the cinema world. There’s an old suburban legend that Doritos have been so carefully engineered that the taste is supposed to vanish in a matter of seconds after it is registered on the brain, therefore making it so easy to eat an entire bag in one sitting by ourselves. This is what these comic book movies are they keep upping the ante, the effects get bigger, the characters and villains more outlandish and unbelievable, but the story just stays the same. And you can’t just have one, Iron Man 3 broke all kinds of records and Man of Steel is on the same path. There are going to be comic books every summer every year for as long as I can imagine. All I’m asking is can’t there be a different ending to one of them?

When I was growing up, I loved it when people asked what my favorite movie was. I’d think about it and mull over the movies that I’d seen, and I’d finally come to the conclusion that my favorite movie was the last movie I’d seen. Just because that was the way my kid brain worked. I loved going to the movies, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized there was more to films than just the latest thing, and that films were not necessarily better the flashier and more polished they were. As I grew up and narrowed down the films I’d seen I was able to finally name a favorite film just about the same time that comic book movies really began to take off. Can you imagine trying to pick a favorite comic book movie? Well, you’ve got a pretty solid Batman sequel that is slightly ahead over of everything else, but after that. . . their all the same fucking movie. And that’s even before Warner Brothers began to emulate Disney with their plans for a Justice League film.  The Dark Knight is the only comic book film that is coming to mind where the climax isn’t this battle of mass destruction and instead this small battle philosophical battle between hero and villain. I get it, endings are hard, and having a lot of stuff explode is a good way to make people think they’ve got a good ending, when really all it was was a loud ending.

I know that I’m not saying anything new here, Steve and Steve have recently both been claimed the sky is falling when it comes to making movies. I can see a Heaven’s Gate of comic book movies coming right around the corner, but the sad thing is that this film will probably bomb because it tries to do something that is different. I would have loved to see The Avengers by Robert Altman, Fantastic Four by Soderberg, a Wes Anderson version of Aquaman, or a French New-Wave homage to Superman, but I favorite-movied myself right out of the studios key demographic. They have no interest in making movies for me anymore, or really any interest in making any type of movie that is different at this point.

-C. Charles