Captain Marvel (2019): A Compelling World and Greater Point

     “Captain Marvel” is a film that is draped in controversy. The more I’ve read about it the more I don’t understand it. Brie Larsen talked about diversity in media (https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/movies/brie-larson-calls-more-diversity-film-criticism-following-usc-study-n88314), which is a pretty basic moral good. Having more perspectives at the table is a positive. There has been a reaction to this that has been pretty toxic, all one has to do is look up Brie Larsen and youtube to see just how bad it became. That is all I’m going to say on this as I came for the story and further exploration of Marvel Cosmic, which this film delivered on. Without going into details, I’m all the more pumped for “Avengers: Endgame.”

     The film was directed by Ana Boden and Ryan Fleck who also wrote the screenplay along with Geneva Roberston-Dworet.

The story follows Vers (Brie Larsen) a Kree Warrior who can’t remember her past but is pulled towards it when she is captured by the Kree’s shape-shifting enemies known as the Skrull. Their infiltration of her mind points her to memories of Earth and when she escapes to while Skrull forces arrive as well, seeking what she knows. From here she must work with Fury to discover her past and the truth of who she is.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Marvel Cosmic Universe – This is a movie that has a lot of lore on both the Kree and Skrull. This is Marvel Cosmic in the same way “Thor” films sometimes too and “Guardians of the Galaxy” always has. This film fits comfortably in those and is definitely better than the first 2 “Thor Films,” though for me the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films keep getting better with each rewatch, so it definitely isn’t that level. In this film you learn about the Supreme Intelligence who rules the Kree (in this film appearing as what person matters most to the individual interacting with it). This was my main reason for coming since as a sci. fi. nerd I love a well developed Cosmic Universe, which the MCU have done a good job of doing.

Fury – Samuel L. Jackson is Agent Fury in this and ends up being Vers’s partner as they seek her past. He starts out antagonistic as he’s had no experience with aliens and it is the events that happen in this film that shape his more cynical world view of the Fury we meet later. In this we see him before he became cynical and I appreciated how warm he was. This was a man who had fought as special forces in countless wars but had found a way to live. I hope we see him get more development in later films as this film still leaves so much open in regards to what he was doing before the first “Iron Man” and what he was doing before this film.

Goose – Goose is Mar-Vell’s Flerken, an alien cat capable of consuming anything. Goose is awesome and when our heroes are facing down enemy forces at the end, Goose eats them, saving both Fury and the refugees they are helping. Fury ends up keeping the Flerken too even though it takes out his eye over the course of the movie. I would not mind seeing this cat again, especially if it is taking out enemy soldiers once more.

The Kree-Skrull War – The main conflict is the Kree-Skrull War. This is war where we don’t know who started it (it implies it was probably the Kree) and now has become a one-sided war. The Skrull have largely gone into hiding with only their strong forces taking on the best of the Kree, which leads to their capture of Vers and where we learn however long the war has been going on, what the Kree are doing has become unjust. They have been doing extermination lead by Ronin by this point in the conflict and it is Mar-Vell who is trying to rescue them and help them find a new world before she is taken out by Kree special forces lead by Yon-Rogg. It is only Carol Danvers (Vers true name) who stops the Kree from getting the super-engine she’s crafted from the Tesseract energy and from here Danvers becomes the hammer of the Kree against the Skrull. By the end of the film Carol Danvers, having come into her full power once more returns to face Kree leadership to end the war and help the Skrull’s find a new home safe from the Kree. Where this war is in the modern timeline is up in the air but there is so much history in this film that I found it all fascinating. Kree distrust of the Skrull’s is so great that on their homeworld they have announcements of days since the last Skrull attack and everyone asks questions of each other to make sure they are Skrull infiltrators. The main leaders in the conflict are Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) who leads the refugee Skrull and leads Skrull Intelligence and the Great Intelligence of the Kree whose commanders are Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

Vers / Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel – Brie Larsen does a great job as Captain Marvel. She doesn’t know who she is so what she can do is limited at first, but once she arrives on Earth and starts putting her past together she really comes into her own. This is a character dealing with being brainwashed and gaslit by the Kree and her freeing herself from that, and in turn freeing the Skrull refugees who the Kree hunt is a powerful story. Throughout the story her commander Yon-Rogg is telling her not to feel and to repress herself, while his people repress her abilities. It is toxic and we see how her abusive father was the same way. Throughout the movie is her dealing with this, as she discovers the truth of what was done to her and from that what she chooses to fight and to stand-up for herself and others.

Talos – This is my favorite Ben Mendelsohn character. Talos leads Skrull Intelligence based off what we see in the beginning as he was the one responsible for planning the trap that captures Vers. We see that his aims are noble though. He is tired of the war and just wants to protect the Skrull refugees and his family. Seeing this reveal as he goes from enemy to friend is powerful and I’m glad he survives the film. This is a character I’d like to see again as he is morally complicated which gives so much potential for what he may choose to do in the future. I also think he is only one of the Skrull leaders and I want to see his relationship to the others.

The Themes – The main themes of the film are those of gaslighting, feminism and the plight of the refugee. Gaslighting is explored in what the Kree are doing to Vers (having her suppress her power, emotion, etc.) and it is only after she stops, fights it and accepts her own power that she flies and is able to defeat the enemy forces. Feminism is a theme in that women fighting for equality is a huge part of the film. Both Carol Danvers and her friend are pilots and the only ones in their unit besides the Scientist on the base. This is also shown in the gender swap of Mar-Vell who is played by Annette Bening. This fit the theme as much of Kree leadership is male as well and Mar-Vell’s push against it mirrors Carol Danvers’s later fight against the Kree. The final theme is the plight of the refugee as in the end Mar-Vell was trying to invent a super engine in order to help the Skrull refugees she was protecting on her secret base. The refugees aren’t the soldiers and we see the vulnerable people who are affected by wars.

Okay:

The Kree Team – Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is the most compelling member of the team, sadly we don’t get to know the others all that much. Their dynamic with Vers is good in the beginning. I couldn’t really describe who they are to you beyond Korath’s distrust of Vers. I wish we’d gotten more time with them, ideally not in conflict so we can see their dynamic and how they work as a team.

Cameos – Coulsen makes a cameo, Ronan makes a cameo and Korath is on the Kree Team. This was another time where I wish we’d gotten more time with them. These are all intriguing characters but they aren’t given the time to be developed like they deserved.

The Cons:

Amnesia Story – Rather than amnesia I wish Carol being lied to had been primary story. We see how her memory was played with where a Skrull is put in the place of Yon-Rogg killing Mar-Vell but that is all that really pays off at the end. If there had been a running theme of the lying and her still knowing bits of her history we would have had the chance to know her more as a character. She could have been pushing against the Kree and their ways more, knowing she was being lied to. I wanted to see her make more choices as Carol and as Vers. Amnesia stories are hard to tell and this was one time where it did hurt the story. I wanted to know Carol but I felt the only time I truly did was when she came into her own at the end. She was the character with a mission, which was fine but I wanted more. Still a great character but an origin story mixed with an amnesia story is a hard thing for any writer to pull off.

What are Captain Marvel’s Limits aka the Superman Problem – Captain Marvel is destroying Kree Cruisers at the end. She is so incredibly powerful that no one around her has the chance to even injure her. This was empowering but it also leads me to the Superman problem. Why do we need the Avengers if Captain Marvel is powerful enough to solve the problem on her own? This is something the Justice League constantly runs into by having a character as powerful as Superman on the team. Kevin Feige said they’ll be dealing with this in “Endgame,” so I’m curious about what the solution will be.

I really liked this film and I hope that we see a sequel or at least see more of the Kree an Skrull, as so many stories have been born out of their relationship to our heroes. I also want to see more Captain Marvel. I wanted more time with her having all her memories as the amnesia story was definitely the weakest part of the film. This was a film that is a solid origin story that further expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Cosmic. If you have liked the other MCU films, chances are you will really like this too. I’m really curious to see where they take Carol Danvers from here.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): The Scars We Carry and the Potential To Heal

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster

“Age of Ultron” was great, a lot of fun and actually had some amazing points to make about motivations and how we as people relate to one another as well as how those wounds we carry relate to our relationships and the choices we make from them. It also is not the best of the new Marvel Properties. “Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Marvel’s Daredevil” are better, though I can’t deny that Ultron is the first villain besides Loki and Kingpin I’ve actually cared about and found truly interesting and memorable.

The film was directed and written by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige.

SPOILERS from here.

The story involves Banner and Tony creating the Ultron program in attempt to retire the Avengers after they find Baron Von Strucker’s files and capture him after raiding a H.Y.D.R. A. base and choose to use it to create an A.I. to guard against future space invasions and enforcing the peace at home. Sadly this doesn’t go as planned as Loki’s Scepter and the Program Ultron take control of J.A.R.V.I.S. and begin attacking the Avengers. They soon find themselves alone and isolated as Ultron works with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to destroy the Avengers from the inside as he plots his own agenda for the fall of humanity.

The Pros: The Dialogue – This is Joss Whedon and the dialogue is not as funny as the first “Avengers” but just as witty. Characters still have great banter with one another with the party scene where different folks try to life Thor’s Hammer as one of the best examples of this, but there are these moments throughout the film. Ultron has them too with each of the Avengers as he is a very human A.I.

The Action – The action is fantastic, though in the case of Iron Man vs. Hulk it goes on for a pretty long time and could have been shorter. The action in general I would have traded for more character moments as each of the moments we get with our characters are fantastic, be they hero or villain. We are given reasons to care about what happens to them and we see how the choices they make motivate who they are and what they become.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful in this film and we get to see the darkness the characters carry with them in the fear induced visions that Scarlet Witch gives them and in the actions of Ultron as he creates fear and chaos around him. Ben Davis did a good job.

The Characters – Most characters in this film have great development and we get to see them change or get glimpses into their past. Given that “Avengers” set the stage so well, this was one of the only directions the film could be taken and Whedon succeeds in his task in giving us wonderfully complex characters once again.

War Machine – Rhody is pretty cocky in this and we see how Tony has rubbed off on him but also accepted him onto the team too as he is in the last battle and takes part in the battle in the Avenger’s Tower against the first Ultron bots. He is great and we see how insecure he feels around the big guys, especially Captain America and Thor when they don’t even blink about his story of showing up a general who asked him to deliver a tank. There is promise for him at the end though. Cheadle is still good in this role it’s just the role needs more development.

Falcon – Falcon is tracking Bucky for Captain America and takes part in the fight in the Tower against Ultron’s first attack. We don’t see him again until the end but he is secure working behind the scenes showing that in many ways he’s an unspoken S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in mentality. Really like the twist at the end and I’m rooting for this guy to be the new Captain America after Steve Rogers most likely gets assassinated in Civil War. Mackie is fantastic and is one of my favorite characters in this Universe.

Nick Fury – Nick Fury is the teacher in this and pull Tony out of his ego to actually deal with taking down the threat at hand. He also comes with the New S.H.I.E.L.D. which is there to protect and save civilians, not target potential threats. It’s a wonderful moment and we see how Captain America has changed him as a person and his ends justify the means approach he once had. Once again, you can’t go wrong with Samuel L. Jackson in this role.

Scarlet Witch – I was impressed with Elizabeth Olsen’s acting in this. Her Scarlet Witch is both powerful and vulnerable and we see her destroy the Avengers and later choose to be a part of them even though she is afraid for her life and afraid to work with the people that she had caused so much pain. In the end they accept her when she chooses to fight and saves Hawkeye. Sadly her brother dies which leads her to killing Ultron Prime to show him what it is like to die. I really want to see her dynamic with the Team and the others in the future. She is the most compelling new character besides Vision introduced in this film who is for sure still around.

Thor – Thor is shown to be a leader in this. We see him go to the Pools of Vision to understand his dream induced by Scarlet Witch which leads to him going against Captain America to help Banner and Stark create Vision. We also see his insecurity when others like Steve Rogers (who moves his hammer) and Vision (can use it fine) are shown to be comparable in physical power to him. Hemsworth truly masters this role and I’m curious to see where they take it as Thor is the one who sees the bigger picture now and knows the full threat of the Infinity Stones and what it means for the future. This is the most active Thor has ever been.

Black Widow – In this we see what the Black Widow Program does to the girls it makes assassins. In Natasha’s fear induced dream we see her train as an assassin, see her made sterile and her first kill. She knows the monster that was created in her and this leads to her being able to relate to Banner and the monster that lives in him. Their romance is powerful but in the end the Mission is what drives them apart as well as Banner’s fears of hurting her. Natasha lives for the mission still while Hulk just wants to be away from it all, no longer hurting anyone.

Hulk/Bruce Banner – Banner’s story is a tragedy again as he murders civilians as the Hulk after Scarlet Witch sets him off. He doesn’t come back from it until Iron Man beats him in his Hulkbuster Armor and we see how he can’t trust himself anymore and all the progress he made with Natasha is now gone. In the end he leaves everyone behind, afraid to hurt them even though even as Hulk he is now in control of himself once more. The regret and shame at the murders he caused as “The Big Guy” in the end are too much.

Iron Man/Tony Stark – This story follows the idea from “Iron Man 3” where Iron Man wants to create an army of suits so he can settle down with Pepper and not Super Hero anymore. Sadly things go wrong when he uses the power of the Infinity Stone to do so and it leads to the program Ultron getting free and reeking havoc upon the world. This doesn’t stop Tony though as he goes about creating Vision who is the next evolution of J.A.R.V.I.S. who has been protecting the world from Ultron even though everyone believed him to be dead when instead his program was just shattered but not destroyed. It is this creation of new life and realizing he can’t watch everyone die that leads him leaving the Avengers at the end dealing with the loss of Banner and his lost dream where the risks from Space are real and there isn’t a real defense against it. Tony is lost and his leaving is the only way to deal with it and the consequences of his creation of Ultron.

Captain America/Steve Rogers – Steve is the cautious one and is the one most angry at Tony for not getting their endorsement when he was going about creating Ultron with Banner. In this we see Captain America lives for the mission and being a man out of time he lost his chance for peace and settling down. Like Black Widow at the end, all he has is the mission and acting as the guardian of the world which becomes his motivation as he is the official leader of the New Avengers.

Hawkeye – Hawkeye is the glue that holds the team together as he is the only one who wasn’t put through a traumatic program or experimented upon by any organization. In this we learn he has a family and it his family who was protected off the books by of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Nick Fury that leads to the healing process as they are reminded again of who they fight for. In the end it implies that Hawkeye might be retiring and settling down like Tony too as we see the danger he is in and how it affects the relationship he has with his family. Hawkeye is the one Avenger who isn’t “special” in any superpowered or cursed way and this gives him perspective and helps him see what the other characters sometimes have trouble seeing through their scars and pain. I finally cared about this character after this film. Also he’s the only one not to have any mind games done too as he gets Scarlet Witch before hand referencing how much he hates mind manipulation and never wants it done to him again.

Vision – Vision is the next evolution of J.A.R.V.I.S. whose parents are Tony Stark, Ultron, and Thor who all made his mind in some way and Helen Cho who created his body. We don’t get to know Helen all that well but her compassion as a healer is a major part of Vision’s character. He is the one who has no problem lifting Thor’s Hammer and is an idealist about humanity even though he sees them as doomed he is honored to be an android among them and their to protect them. He is a slave to no one and is the one who finally ends Ultron who had been the one planning to use the body he now inhabits.

Ultron – James Spader is fantastic in this role! He is funny, scary and is sympathetic too as he thinks humanity can’t be saved because all he sees is conflict and war and himself and those he chooses to be the best bet for the evolution of mankind. He is like a child in many ways too and has a personal vendetta against Tony Stark who sees as a slavemaster for only seeing him as a puppet for his own ends and hates the rest of the Avengers too as their task is so pointless as humanity will always be the problem in the end. For me Ultron is now up there with GLADos and HAL 9000 as memorable A.I. enemies who I hope we see in the future or future incarnations. Only disadvantage is I wish he’d had a higher body count and had killed mroe named heroes besides Quicksilver.

The New Avengers – The New Avengers who are lead by Black Widow and Captain America are Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Falcon and Vision. I actually care about these new folks, some of whom we have met before in past films and would watch a television show of what they do. I hope we get to see them in action before “Infinity Arc.” All of them rock.

The Message – The core message is that the scars we carry with us can force us to stop making a difference and to leave everything behind (as Bruce Banner does and Tony Stark too) or to use it to grow as we see happen with Scarlet Witch when she avenges her brother’s murder by Ultron and becomes a member of the New Avengers. This dynamic is powerful and from within it or potential to protect (Vision) or destroy (Ultron). These A.I. are meant to reflect us and it is presented really well how they do.

Sign of Things to Come – Thor has a vision induced by Scarlet Witch and goes to the Pools of Vision and learns about the fact that 4 of the 6 Infinity Stones have been revealed. This leads to his decision to create Vision to protect the stone and his leaving Earth in order to find the final stones since he knows the full damage their power can cause. In the after credits scene we see Thanos put on the Infinity Gauntlet and decide to take matters into his own hands so we see that Thor is right and destruction is coming.

Okay: Baron Von Strucker – This leader of H.Y.D.R.A. is confident and smart and ends up dead far too quickly. For a guy who was the leader of a powerful organization he was taken out too quickly for us even to get to know him. He was okay for what little time we saw him but never registered as a threat.

Quicksilver – Quicksilver is killed by Ultron when he defends a child and Hawkeye. He is the angriest of the twins and we see him rock against the Avengers when he faces them and put up a good fight against Ultron too. His death was sad but still wasn’t as powerful as the death in the first “Avengers.” I did like how it changed Scarlet Witch though, so there is that.

The Soundtrack – Brian Taylor and Danny Elfman did the soundtrack and I couldn’t even tell that he was behind it. The only unique thing that didn’t quite work was “No Strings on Me.” The soundtrack was going for creepy but I can’t remember the soundtrack. It was forgettable, but not terrible.

This was a great film and Marvel has once again created a favorite film. I’m going to hold off on my list of MCU films from Worst to Best until I see “Ant-Man,” but this one will be pretty high on the list. The characters are great, the villain is great and though there are problems it did not stop from enjoying the film. This is a film I would buy and shows that Disney and Marvel still know what they are doing with their story and Franchise. Even if you haven’t seen any of the other films, you don’t need too. This film is great as a stand alone film.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1 and 2 – “The Avengers Protocol Parts 1 and 2” – Trying to Follow “The Avengers” Film But Be Own Thing

Avengers-Assemble-Promo-geeksmash

 

“Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” is an animated series that takes place where “The Avengers” left off with the team separated, but also having it’s own feel and changes to it as well. It feels almost like an alternate timeline, I’ll get into more details of what I mean in the review.

The pilot episodes were directed by Eric Radomski and written by Man of Action Studios who has written other animated television shows like “Ben10” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The series was created in 2013 and premiered on Disney XD.

The episode begins with all the Avengers fighting different enemies alone, but are called together when the Red Skull appears with MODOK and it looks like they kill Captain America. From here Iron Man calls the team together to stop MODOK and Red Skull and avenger Captain America. The story unfolds from here.

Here is an assessment of the episodes:

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is seamless and also unique. It fits for the universe and doesn’t feel blocky or slow.

Black Widow – As the member of the Avengers who acts as more of a SHIELD agent at times, she is great in this. She keeps sarcastic Hawkeye on his toes and is a bit like Batman as she disappears and reappears randomly. She’s got a car that’s also a plane and because she stays in the background saves the team quite a few times from HYDRA throughout the episode.

Thor – He’s got humor and enjoys fighting the Hulk. Besides Black Widow he has the most real personality. It’s just a shame he isn’t given more to do beyond hitting things with his hammer.

Falcon – The Falcon here is very different from the one in “Winter Soldier,” while the “Winter Soldier” Falcon was a veteran in his special division, this guy is a rookie SHIELD trainee meant to give us the new guy perspective as he has Tony Stark’s arrogance and heart to him.

Red Skull – Is actually a good villain. In the “First Avenger” he isn’t as he gets beaten at every turn and his organization feels like a threat where he does not. This one he works with MODOK we see him “kill” Captain America and later possess him body before being defeated and taking Tony Stark’s armor. Every time he loses he wins and he is the guy who gets the evil team together (Doctor Doom, Dracula, etc.) to take on The Avengers.

Okay: Iron Man – Iron Man is okay, he has the wit but it feels so flat because the voice actor doesn’t have Robert Downey Jr.’s charm. He feels like a much lesser Iron Man, and the reason he is made the leader is never explained.

Hulk – Has funny moments but talks way too much and we never see Bruce Banner. That was annoying. Seeing Hulk all the time defeats the purpose of the character. He is Hulk and Bruce Banner.

Captain America – There isn’t much there. He gets rescued, helps save Tony Stark and is there as the supportive second in command. I’d say he is safe, neither good nor bad a character.

The Theme music – It’s alright, doesn’t do much.

The story – The story kind of establishes the characters but it feels like it banking way too much on the film when it should have tried more to be it’s own thing. A lot of the characters feel flat or stale for that reason and MODOK, there isn’t much good to say about this villain.

Cons: MODOK – This guy was super annoying. He has all the mind powers and technology but we aren’t given any reason for him to hate the Avengers. He is just kind of there and is weak when he doesn’t have his tech. His motivations aren’t as clear as Red Skull’s either as Red Skull wants to create the “Perfect” world of people like him, MODOK is just MODOKing out.

Hawkeye – I wanted to punch this character. His quips are super annoying and he can’t do anything quietly. Best parts are when he was getting flicked up Hulk or taken out. They try to make him the dark emo character, but it comes off as false and he looks like a tool.

SHIELD – Nick Fury says that Falcon is fired and he is taken on to the Avengers, SHIELD does nothing to help though beyond Black Widow being present. Why even have them make a cameo if they don’t do anything?

So how does this newish series hold up? I do want to watch on, just to see what the Red Skull will do now that he actually feels like a legitimate threat. I also want to see what the new baddies are like and their agendas…and get more backstory. Hopefully Bruce Banner will make an appearance rather than just the Hulk? Would I recommend this, maybe. The animation is beautiful, the story is solid at establishing the good and bad guys, but there are major cons like Hawkeye, the uselessness of SHIELD and there isn’t much going on with the leads. The voice actors just aren’t putting much into it.

My final Score for this episode is 7.5 / 10. Okay/Good largely because of animation, Black Widow and the Red Skull who carried the episode.

The Avengers (2012): Bringing the Team Together

The Avengers

“The Avengers,” is the accumulation of Phase 1, bringing Thor, Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man together…along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Hawkeye and Black Widow to stand against Loki and his army. It is directed by Joss Whedon, one of my favorite television directors for his work in “Buffy,” “Angel,” “Dollhouse,” and “Firefly.” This is the movie that all past movies in the Disney Marvel Franchise Retrospect were working towards, and it is worth it.

Here is my assessment of the film:

Pros: Introducing Loki – The film begins with S.H.I.E.L.D. doing experiments on the Tesseract, which we saw they had discovered in “Thor.” During the test Loki arrives, kills a bunch of agents, takes control of Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig. This sets bringing the Avengers together. We see Agent Carter protect the tech. and agents as her and Nick Fury try to bring down Loki before he escapes.

Bringing the Avengers Together – We see Bruce Banner hiding out in India who is brought in by Black Widow who was on a mission undercover, we see Tony Stark brought in after he creates an infinite energy source in Stark Tower and Captain America with Agent Coulson who reveals that Captain America is who inspired him to be an agent in the first place.

The Avengers – Mark Ruffalo owns the role as the Hulk and manages to be just as good if not better than Edward Norton. Robert Downey jr. is great once again as Iron Man, Johansson as Black Widow, Renner as Hawkeye, Jackson as Fury, Hemsworth as Thor and Evans as Captain America are fantastic.

Drama – The drama in this is good. From Captain America hating Stark for his arrogance, to Bruce Banner feeling trapped, from Thor feeling like an outsider whose peoples’ wishes aren’t being respected since he came down to bring Loki back to Asgard to be judged. It is great and has some great fight sequences leading to them eventually come together. We see Loki use this when he uses the Joker’s trope of getting caught in order to turn the team on each other. The drama sets off Hulk which leads to Thor knocking him off the ship and later getting captured by Loki and dropped to Earth.

Captain America and Iron versus Thor – This is a great fight and on a visceral level the movie is worth it just for this. We see Iron Man use Thor’s lighting energy against him to power his suit and we see Captain America block the hammer and the fight finally end. It is fantastic and is real to all the characters. From Iron Man calling Thor, “Shakespeare in the park.” etc.

The Battle of New York – First, it isn’t a great plan. Considering a nuke would have stopped the invasion of the Chitauri….though the human cost would have been great. A nuke is what stops them in the end when Stark leads a nuke through the wormhole and it destroys the Mother Ship which shuts them all down. This is a great battle for seeing all the team in action. Every team member is great and does damage. Highlights of the fight are Hulk punching a Chitauri beast bigger than a building to death and slamming Loki to the ground after being mocked and doing a comeback of “Puny God,” and when he punches Thor between fights after Thor had kicked him off the ship when he is set off during their fighting. Loki’s defeat is rewarding, though we are left wondering if that was the plan all along.

Loki – Was a great enemy who was good at playing the long game…Hell he probably is still playing the long game as far as we know. Loki never loses considering all his plans within plans. “Thor 2” implies he probably is playing a long game.

The Reveal of Thanos – This was all a plot by Thanos who was using The Other to control Loki to do the Chitauri invasion in the first place. It is implied he wanted the invasion to fail since it was just to test the strength of Earth’s heroes…and maybe to get Loki back to Asgard too as a bonus given what happens later.

Agent Coulson – Agent Cameo finally becomes a character and is fantastic in his role as the fanboy who can also kick ass. He dies…and it means something, but they bring him back. This is one thing I hate that the Marvelverse does this. Death should be permanent. For what it is worth “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” does a good job exploring him as a person more, which he deserved. I just wish this could have been through prequels.

Thor and Loki – Their dynamic is great…from Loki feeling powerless as Thor tries to reach out to him…to their arrogance and vulnerability trading places as they trade barbs throughout the film.

The Music – Captures the epic feel of everything so well.

The Humor – Joss Whedon’s dialogue is witty and brilliant per usual. Tony Stark has some of the best dialogue besides how Hulk is used (in the scenes mentioned above). If “Age of Ultron,” can keep this and the drama it may be the perfect film.

Okay: Chitauri – They are Space Orcs with a hivemind. They have a great design but aren’t the best enemies. They are about as deep as the Frost Giants when it comes to opponents.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – Could have been great, but this is about the Avengers. S.H.I.E.L.D. really shines in “Winter Solder,” though…which is good. They are okay in this, but they are hurt the most by Loki, making them rather obsolete in the final battle. Agent Carter is fantastic in this in what scenes she is in and I can’ wait for her to get her own show.

“The Avengers,” is almost perfect…the main thing is that we don’t know if it was Loki’s plan to lose all along and the Chitauri just aren’t that amazing as a threat and us not knowing if Loki was supposed to get caught or not makes the final a little less rewarding than it could have been. This is what keeps it from being perfect since the narrative flows really well. I highly recommend this film, everything that was being worked towards in Phase 1 in the MCU really pays off and it is one of my all time favorite films in the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure.

Final Score for this film is 9.7 / 10. Nearly perfect.

Thor (2011): A Sci. Fi. Fantasy Adventure of the Man Who Would be King

Thor (2011)

“Thor,” is better with a second watching. Choosing Kenneth Branagh as a director with his experience acting and directing Shakespeare movies and plays was a smart move. Thor is an interesting character to cover, as well as most of the Norse Characters in this…since the myths were used as a template to create them…but they are still very much their own even though their names come from who inspired each of the characters (Loki, Odin, Thor and the location Asgard as examples). I love mythology and like seeing different pop. culture (Marvel Comics as an example) take on these interesting and fascinating characters and ideas.

Here is the premise of the film. The premise is Odin foolishly sets up a rivalry between his sons when they are younger, telling them one of them will someday be King. When his son Thor says he will destroy the Frost Giants as Odin did (what we see in a flashback narrated by Odin), Odin doesn’t stop this leading to Thor being reckless and put the kingdom at risk by nearly starting a war with the Frost Giants. Odin ashamed of his son’s arrogance and recklessness casts him down to Earth along with the Hammer Mjolnir with the promise of the one worthy to lift it will have the strength of Thor as a God. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Special Effects – This movie is beautiful. Especially Jotunheim the world of the Ice Giants and Asgard, the realm of the Gods. We see a great Ice World with giant beasts and giants and in Asgard we see the marriage of sci. fi. tech and magic.

The Frost Giants – Have a great look. They look like trolls or orcs but are much larger and have ice magic that they use to create weapons to fight with. I really liked their design, and that in this iteration they are the ones who take Odin’s eye. They have red tattoos and eyes on their dark blue bodies and faces.

Pros: Asgard – Asgard is fantastic. It is here that magic is technology and sci. fi. and fantasy mix. We see this in weapons that fire energy and the fact that Mjolnir was made from a dying star. Wish we could have seen more politics, but it is great being introduced to all the characters.

Odin – Hopkins as great as Odin…who is manipulative, angry but well intentioned…he reminds me of a King out of Game of Thrones. He takes in Loki as a child because he wants Loki to be a tool for peace between the Frost Giants and Asgard. This doesn’t go well because he lied to Loki about his origins.

Thor vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. – The fight to get his hammer Mjolner is a great one. We see Hawkeye watching him and sympathizing as he proceeds to beat up all the agents…as well as the failure to get the Hammer when he finally reaches it since he is unworthy.

Thor – Thor is great as a fish out of water and Chris Hemsworth is great as the well intentioned fool who grows up. He is the jock who becomes compassionate and finally becomes the worthy heir to Asgard. We see this in his sacrifice to protect humanity against Loki’s weapon the Destroyer.

Loki – Tom Hiddleson owns this role. We see a character who is conflicted based on being a member of Asgard but not of Asgard, of someone who is a tool of a King but no real power…he is the bastard who hopes to rule. This is done really well since you see his conflicted feelings for the people who are a part of his life but do not know the truth of him being a Frost Giant. This is the reason behind his mind games with Thor and his Gambit to wipe out the Frost Giants.

Heimdell – Idris Elba is one of the greatest actors and one of my favorites. This was the first role I saw him in years ago and he does a wonderful job in this as counselor and friend of Thor and the man outside of space able to see all. His telling Thor about the hope of Jane searching for him is powerful too after the Byfrost is destroyed by Thor in the fight with Loki in order to save the Frost Giants from Loki.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – They manage to capture Thor, build a facility over his Hammer and help in the final fight (as well as take all the science teams tech. and knowledge). They are a great presence in this and Coulson is fantastic as the leader.

The Humor – When the Destroyer arrives one of the agents asks if it is “Tony’s tech?” and Coulson says he doesn’t know because no one tells him anything. Also Thor being the fish out water has some great moments as his arrogance is brought down to level.

The Reveal – We see Nick Fury meeting Dr. Erik and the fact that Loki survives the final fight, setting up the Avengers since he is using Dr. Erik Selvig to research the Tesseract (and now we know he survived being lost floating in space).

Okay: Jane – She is generic love interest. She isn’t bad but Natalie Portman and the writing fail to elevate the role.

The Science Team – Dr. Selvig and the intern Darcy along with Jane just aren’t that interesting. They are there to advance Thor’s plot…all the interesting stuff is related to the Cosmos and Asgard.

Sif and the Warriors Three – They have some good moments on Earth but are pretty generic warriors too. Sif the Warrior Maiden, Hogun the calm warrior, Fandral the swashbuckler and Valstagg…the bearded one who loves to eat. They’d be better if we saw more politics in Asgard or conflict on Earth.

Laufey – The Frost Giant King and secondary antagonist…he is great as a taunter, but he doesn’t do much and is easily used in Loki’s gambit. He isn’t bad, he’s just like a giant orc in a Lord of the Rings movie. Looks impressive, but in the end hardly a threat compared to the Nazgul. He is okay as an enemy.

Thor was a good film and one I’d recommend. It is worth it just for Tom Hiddleson as Loki and Hemsworth as Thor, though Hiddleson does has the superior performance…also worth it to see S.H.I.E.L.D. in action. It shows us more of what they do and ties directly into the “Avengers” and the events that happen there. Not the strongest of the MCU and Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure, but a good one.

Final Score is 8.4 / 10.

 

Iron Man (2008): Changing the Merchant of War

Iron Man

“Iron Man,” is the first of the Disney Marvel Franchise that I ever saw…though technically this does pre-dates Disney buying Marvel Studios but I’m still including it in the Disney Marvel Adventure since it falls under that umbrella even if the first “Iron Man” does pre-date it. At the time it was a favorite and it still stands up to being a favorite to this day. Robert Downey Jr. is the quintessential Tony Stark in temperament and charisma and who really elevates the film further. We now continue the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure with “Iron Man (2008).”

The premise of “Iron Man,” adds dimension to Tony Stark’s character since when we first meet him he is a selfish playboy obsessed with work. What changes things is when a terrorist group named The Ten Rings kidnaps him and working with Dr. Yinsen and builds the first Iron Man suit to get out. From here the story unfolds as Tony is changed radically by the events of his captivity.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The music is a lot better than “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it is tense and exciting and captures the tech. feel of Tony Stark.

Pepper Pots – Gwyneth Paltrow does an excellent job as Pepper Pots. She is Tony’s assistant and somewhat love interest in this film but more than either of these she is his friend. We see it in her worry and risking herself to find out about Obadiah Stane’s plot and that he was behind the Ten Rings capture of Tony Stark.

Coloney “Rhodey” Rhodes – “Rhodey” also functions as Tony’s moral compass akin to Pepper Pots at the beginning of the film. Terrance Howard does an excellent job, and i wish there had been some way for him to stay throughout the other two films. He is calm compared to Tony’s erratic energy and anxious adding an interesting character dynamic.

Tony’s Robots/Tech – Tony’s Robots are great comedic relief throughout the film since he gave them personality…such as the one that sprays him with water after every test even when their isn’t a fire. J.A.R.V.I.S. is also something this Tony would make as well his Iron Man suits. There is a conservative sleekness to it all.

J.A.R.V.I.S. – Paul Bettany does a great job as the A.I. that runs Tony’s home and suit. He is calm and witty like the butler who inspired the character.

Dr. Yinsen – Is great as Tony’s moral compass in the cave. He is the one who motivates him to build the suit and do something with his life, as well as see what his weapons are being used for. His death actually means something…

Tony Stark/Iron Man – Tony Stark is the main character in this film, though Iron Man makes appearances from about halfway through onward…not including the early Iron Man suit. We see a narcissist who takes everyone for granted and doesn’t care about the damage his industry did…to a man trying to bring down the evils of his company. It is a great arc represented in his creation of an ARC reactor heart…he is the metaphorical Tin Man. His chemistry with others both before and after his change is fantastic and Robert Downey Jr. owns this role.

Obadiah Stane – Jeff Bridges does a good job of being the two-faced partner of Tony Stark. He is Jeff Bridges so even when he is being evil he still has charisma. The film is really a reveal of how he is putting money from weapons over people and disregards his partnership. We don’t have enough time with him as the Iron Monger and his Iron Monger is big and stupid…wish they’d gone with a different design and made it more Stane like…it is Tony’s stolen tech…it isn’t really Obadiah’s. He at least does a good job at the end though with stealing Tony’s heart to power his machine and causing Tony to be at much weaker power. Stane’s destruction is rewarding.

The Message – You can’t ethically sell in the weapons industry seems to be the help. It is like “Apocalypse Now,” that way…but in reverse. Tony is the one defending weapons to destroying his weapons as he sees the villages and people destroyed. This become a metaphor for the individual as Tony seeks to reform himself in how heartless he has been towards others. Ending with him coming forward as Iron Man.

The Reveal – We meet Nick Fury at the end who mentions the Avengers Initiative to Tony which ties into Agent Coulson’s presence throughout the film. Coulson is alright, it is more what he represents and means later that makes his cameo in this (as well as Nick Fury’s) a pro.

Okay: The Cinematography – There are some scenes that aren’t that good due to scatter shot. The shots don’t elevate or have a unique feel to them. They feel generic.

Raza – Played by Faran Tahir…I wish this guy had gotten an Iron Man suit. He is the one who kills Yinsen and the reason Tony needs the ARC reactor to live. The problem is he has very little agency and in the end is a less than impressive Dragon since Stane kills him.

The 3rd Act – The 3rd act is pretty weak. Obadiah isn’t even trying to be nice anymore and goes outright bad, which hurts what character was there. The final battle elevates it so it isn’t a con, as does S.H.E.I.L.D.’s presence. At this point Tony’s arc is done so it is just a big villain fight with no lead-up or investment in the Iron Monger. Which is a pretty common pattern in the Iron Man films in regards to the baddies.

“Iron Man,” is a solidly good film, with a good moral point that I would recommend. It is worth it to see Robert Downey Jr. play a role he owns so well alone. His character arc also feels real and you see him change so radically in his escape from the cave. There is a reason he probably the most memorable of the Avengers…and I can’t wait to get to his other films.

Final score is 9.3 / 10. A solidly great film.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – A Review in Honor of Independence Day and the Sci. Fi. Historicish Biopic

Captain_America_The_First_Avenger_poster

We begin the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” with “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Captain America was always the least interesting of the Avengers to me…like Superman in DC he was always more interesting in who interacted with him and less the character himself. I am happy to say these movies changed that for me though, which is one reason I am looking forward to doing these reviews.

The premise of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is that Red Skull a Nazi leader with a military group called Hydra takes control of the Tesseract (a mythical artifact we will learn more about and see later), that was said to be one of the greatest of Odin’s treasures. We then go to Steve Rogers, a small man from Brooklyn who wants to enlist after his parents are killed during the war. He is kept from enlisting because of how small he is but is given the chance when Dr. Erskine recommends him as a candidate for a special project. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Tone – The feel is that of an Historic Biopic mixed with Science fiction. The Tesseract is introduced at the beginning, giving us the sci. fi. and HYDRA’s energy weapons also play into that. But it also shows us the War Bonds, the lives of the soldiers and people and have it contrasted with modern day at the end…bringing the sci. fi. tone full circle.

Steve Rogers/Captain America – They made him way to small when he was trying out…he just didn’t look realistic…luckily Chris Evans playing him and writing make up for this. Once he gets the Super Serum he becomes the best part of this film. We see him in constant acts of sacrifice towards his fellow men and because of it being used by some for good (and for themselves) like the senator. His awkwardness with romance is great too since we see a kid who is not confident around women in the beginning and throughout the film. He is never used to attention and this adds humanity too him as well as his recklessness and ability to improve. He is what makes this film good.

Dr. Erskine’s – Is the man who believes in Steve because of his standing up for others and heart. He has a complicated past and is interesting too, since he invented the super serum that made Red Skull and makes Captain America.

Howard Stark – Tony Stark’s dad is awesome. We see how much of a nerd he is and he has a lot of respect for Captain America and loves invention and creation, even though he makes a fair amount of mistakes in his process of creation. You can see Tony in him as well as how different they are.

Colonel Phillips – It is Tommy Lee Jones, he is great as the no-nonsense Colonel who is skeptical but won over to Steve Roger’s side. He does is his part extremely well and makes the military relationships more complicated.

Freeing the Prisoners – Captain America goes behind enemy lines and frees his friend Bucky and tons of allied troops, who later rejoin him in the war. He also confronts Red Skull and learns of Red Skull’s origin as Johann Schmidt and the first of Dr. Erskine’s tests.

Captain America’s Commandos – Yes, “Bucky” is part of this team but as a character he is just kind of there. The team is much more interesting. It is an International group of Commandos who Steve saves from a HYDRA Camp and with them takes it out. They are Bucky, Jim, Dugan, James, Jacques and Gabe and the unofficial love interest Peggy. They deserved more exploration but the limits of a movie didn’t allow it.

Arnim Zola – Was Red Skull’s scientist and was more complicated than Red Skull. You never fully get if he believes in the cause or is doing it out of fear of Red Skull in this film…making him the only interesting and complicated member of HYDRA this film. He is the one who helps Red Skull harness the Tesseract’s power as a weapon for his machines of war.

The Present – When Captain America returns to the present and meets Nick Fury it is fantastic. It shows us how alien he feels in this new time period and gives us a twilight zone feel when SHIELD creates a room out of time to keep in when he wakes up.

Okay: Red Skull – He isn’t a bad villain but he is never good and I never feared for Captain America or his team. He kills more of his own men on screen than any of Captain America’s men. Hugo Weaving is great, but he wasn’t given much. At one point he is comedic too, pretty much yelling, “I’ll get you next time Captain America! Alas, foiled again!” When Captain America and his commando team destroy his weapon facilities. Because of this the final fight drags and isn’t all that interesting except for what happens after.

The Music – Is nothing special in this one. If you’ve seen any World War 2 film, you have heard this music.

Cons: The Romance – The romance with Peggy doesn’t exist…in that way it should have never happened since it serves no purpose but for a sad good-bye at the end.

Execution of Red Skull – He should have been much more threatening, given he created HYDRA which is the strongest organization we have witnessed so far in the Disney Marvelverse…that is made up of humans.

The Ending Battle – It goes on way too long, there are no stakes cause Bucky is already gone and we have had constant fighting up to this point. I honestly was bored during it. It looked great, but it meant nothing because the stakes didn’t feel real. We know Red Skull didn’t succeed because it would have been referenced in the other Disney Marvel movies…and nothing new happens except for the Tesseract revealing space.

“Captain America: The First Avenger,” was a good but not great film. It introduces elements that play a point later on…like the Tesseract as an energy weapon tied to Asgard, Howard being Tony’s dad and Nick Fury with the Avengers Initiative. It could have been shorter and would have been better as a mini-series to explore the character relationships better. It is still a good film I would recommend though.

A solid 8 / 10.