Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – A Solid Return to the Basics of “Spider-Man”

      Sony sharing custody of Spider-Man was the best thing that could have happened to the character. After they tied to go “Dark Knight” with Spidey and failed miserably as they ended up focusing more on franchise management rather than story…it is good that they let the studio who knows story shape their character’s future. This is film that isn’t great, but it is good and it is one I’d highly recommend. The villain and support characters are wonderful and there is a lot of good setup for future films. Before I get into spoilers, if you like the MCU or are a fan of Spider-Man, chances are you will enjoy this film as I did.

The film was directed by Jon Watts, who co-wrote it with 5 other people (hello Sony and Marvel Studios) and produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal.

After the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” Peter Parker is given a new suit by Tony Stark but soon finds himself left behind. As he finds himself pulled into thefts of alien technology around the city he must take on the mysterious Vulture while dealing with Tony Stark wanting him to stay out of it as he tries to juggle being Spider-Man and his complex social life at school and taking on the threat of the Vulture.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World of the MCU – The MCU is a world full of consequences. SHIELD was disbanded, the Avengers fell apart, some characters have died for good (though none of the biggies yet sadly) and each of the films plays into one another while still standing strong on their own. Spider-Man is one of my favorite comic book heroes, along with Batman when I was growing up and I’m glad he is in this Universe that is so rich and full of lore that now his amazing lore can once again be apart of as well.

Vulture – Michael Keaton is one of the best MCU villains to date. This is a guy who wants to look after his family after he loses out on a government contract to clean up New York after the events of the “Avengers.” You can understand his chip on his shoulder and he has a twisted sense of honor as even after he learns Spidey’s identity, he keeps it secret. His character manages to be both empathetic and threatening making him so very human…I’m glad that Marvel didn’t kill him off and can’t wait to see him in future Spidey films.

With Great Power – One of the key traits of Spider-Man is that, “With great power comes great responsibility” and this film illustrates it really well. The main arc is Spidey wanting to join the Avengers but he continues to mess up even as he tries to do good. So many of the problems that he has to fix are ones he created and his arc is the constant struggle with this as his social and super hero life collapse around him and he has to own up for his mistakes. It is his character and what defines him and the main arc that drives the story. Tom Holland really is wonderful in this role. This is a return to the basics of the character, which we needed after all the conspiracy Oscorp crap in the “Amazing Spider-Man” films.

Changes and Avoiding Past Pitfalls – There are things in here that I really liked that exist because the writers avoided doing what had been done before. We don’t have an Uncle Ben origin story death, there is not a Goblin to be seen, Peter doesn’t mope and the finale isn’t Spider-Man saving the love interest from the baddy who wants to destroy the city. These changes were masterful and in doing so let them do knew things like his friends Ned and Michelle, Ned who finds out he is Spider-Man and Michelle who ends up being a wonderful re-imagining of M.J. Seriously, Zendaya is the best part of this film outside of Vulture.

The Cons: The Point of Aunt May – Everybody creeps on Aunt May and I hate it. If the character is a guy he will comment on how hot she is and that is all she exists as. It is objectifying and annoying as she is Peter’s guardian and mentor and they could have done so much more with that. She has one scene where she comforts him but she almost wasn’t needed in this film as Tony Stark functions as a surrogate guardian.

The Uncle Ben Shaped Hole – Aunt May has been through a lot but we never know what happened to Uncle Ben or if he is even still alive in this version of the lore. I’m glad we didn’t get his death again but he should have at least been mentioned or dealt with as he is such a huge essential part of what drives Peter Parker and his becoming Spider-Man.

This is a solidly good film and one that I will probably go back and watch as I am a fan of Spider-Man. I hope we see more done with the characters and villains that are setup throughout the film as Spider-Man has one of the best rogues galleries outside of Batman and I can’t wait to see how the reveals done in this film payoff later as Marvel and Sony further develop one of the best characters to come out of Marvel Comics in the amazing world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Score:  8.2 / 10 Solidly good.

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Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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     Now that I have watched “Ant-Man” it is time for the Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far! I originally was going to rate them from least to greatest and include all of them but that struck me a bit as overkill, better to focus on the truly great ones so that those ones will recieve more attention, since Marvel doesn’t exactly need help for getting people to talk about these films.

     For what I look for in a film is mostly bittersweet. I am drawn to loss and joy and how they relate as well as having a narrative that makes sense and doesn’t have too many climaxes. I value story structure unless it is suberveted or done in a unique way the way the Coens or Tarantino does it…given that there aren’t really any directors with that level of uniqueness in what they do in these films, I’ll be ignoring that. Disney is conservative and cautious and that is something pretty universal in these films, even the ones that take risks like “Avengers,” “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

  So without further ado, here are my Top 5 from least to greatest.:

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5. Iron Man (2008)

     It was a tough toss up between “Iron Man” and “Ant-Man” but in the end I decided on “Iron Man” because Tony Stark is just the more compelling character. Ant-Man’s universe is fascinating but Scott Lang is kind of boring and bland while Tony is in conflict with everyone. He is always changing, growing and adapting and it makes his origin story compelling. His story also shows us the Military Industrial Complex as it is his weapons that are used to capture him when he is in Afghanistan and it’s decision to stop making and selling weapons that leads to the conflict with his mentor. Robert Downey Jr. completely owns this role as well and Jeff Bridges isn’t half bad as Stain he just isn’t given much to do, which is a problem for a lot of Marvel villains actually and why I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the first.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/iron-man-2008-changing-the-merchant-of-war/

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4. Iron Man 3 (2013)

   I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the original because it isn’t as much about Iron Man the hero as it is about Tony Stark and him facing the consequences of his ego and selfish actions. We see countless people die from a man he cared nothing about and we see his ego put Pepper at risk when the Mandarin attacks his home. The film also subverts comic book tropes too as the Mandarin is not who you suspect and the baddie is one of the more memorable villains to come out of these films. Definitely would recommend it as it completes Tony’s arc and sets up the next phase of the Marvel Universe really well.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/iron-man-3-consequences-from-the-past/

The Avengers

3. The Avengers (2012)

   Joss Whedon pulled off magic when he made this film. “The Avengers” is a film that should not work. How does a man out of time (Captain America) 2 secret agents (Widow and Hawkeye) a God (Thor) a sci. fi. industrialist (Iron Man) and a mutant (Hulk/Bruce Banner) work in a film? On paper it shouldn’t but it does because of how well Disney and Marvel built their universe and it is a lot of fun! Loki is the best villain the films (Kingpin is probably best overall if we count the Netflix show) and seeing the witty banter and fantastic action in a very tight story is really wonderful. “Age of Ultron” could not capture this magic, and I’ll be surprised if any Avengers film does post this. This is something rare and wonderful and in many ways was the perfect storm.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/the-avengers-2012-bringing-the-team-together/

Guardians of the Galaxy

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

     “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a masterpiece. If you are looking for a fun adventure with great comedy that has no real heroes, this is the film for you. I didn’t know who these guys were until the film but I care far more about Groot, Starlord, Gamora and Rocket than I do about the Avengers. All of them are flawed and like Tony Stark they end up causing a lot of their own problems in the course of getting by. The weakest part of this film is the problem that Marvel has overall where Rhonin is boring and Thanos does nothing. Besides that, this adventure is awesome and there are so many great and colorful characters. I highly recommend it. This film made Chris Pratt the most wanted action star for a reason.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/guardians-of-the-galaxy-2014-a-masterpiece-of-sci-fi-action-and-comedy-gold/

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  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

First place goes to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This was the film that got me to care about Captain America and is easily one of the best political thrillers to be made. There are consequences, the world changes and there is loss throughout the film. This is Marvel and Disney at their best as the villain is even made compelling and given reasons for the things he does and the choices he makes. Every character deals with their past or lack of past and the difficulty of those situations force them to grow. The action is of course really great too and Anthony Mackie as Falcon is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film has yet to be beat by MCU and still easily holds it’s place at Number 1 on my list.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/captain-america-the-winter-soldier-an-amazing-spy-thriller-that-changes-the-marvel-universe/

Now that you’ve seen my list I’d be curious to hear about yours. It is pretty cool that we live in an era where comics are the new medium to tell great stories on the screen.

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

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“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

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“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.

Iron Man 2 (2010): Stark Mortality and time with S.H.I.E.L.D.

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“Iron Man 2,” was better than how I remembered it. It has more problems than the other films, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. It like the first one is directed by Jon Favreau who also plays Tony’s bodyguard Happy…it also makes S.H.I.E.L.D. a major part of the Universe beyond just references, which “Thor,” continued.

The story picks up with Tony Stark being poisoned by Palladium Core and Ivan Vanko seeing him on television in Russia and deciding to seek revenge for his father being kept out of the money earned by the original Core. From here the story unfolds as Tony comes in conflict with Pepper and Rhody.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Tony Stark/Iron Man – We see Stark dealing his mortality and acting out after the government brings him in for a hearing…from parties where it takes Rhody taking up the War Machine suit to stop him. He is eventually cut off from everyone after he defeats Vanko/Whiplash in a fight in a arena of Grand Prix. We see his conflict with his distant father who he has been becoming throughout the film…it ends up being his father who cared all along and created a new element that Tony uses to replace the Palladium.

Pepper Pots – Is great in this film. She is the CEO of Stark Industries and the only thing keeping it afloat during Tony’s process of self destruction. Her biggest con is she doesn’t recognize when Tony comes around after everything that she’s been through so Tony dying and what that means in relation to her is never fully addressed. Gwyneth Paltrow does well again.

Black Widow – Is fantastic! We see her defeat H.A.M.M.E.R. thugs and act as a one man army as well as play the role of aid to both Tony and Pepper Pots. There is a reason she is one of the Avengers. Scarlett Johansson is great.

Agent Coulson – Has a small cameo before he goes to New Mexico where Thor’s Hammer landed, but he is done taking Tony Stark’s crap and has a great moment standing up for him.

Nick Fury – Advises Tony, but keeps him from the Avengers at the end. Is a major player in this one and proof of S.H.I.E.L.D’s new hands on approach. He is the one who gets Tony to listen closer to what his father’s videos are telling him and to find a solution to his mortal predicament.

The Music – Is once again fantastic. I must say I like the “Iron Man Trilogy,” soundtracks.

Special Effects – The Special Effects are good and add to the action.

The Reveal – Thor’s Hammer is New Mexico at the end, tying this movie into the one that came next…”Thor.” It is pretty neat reveal.

Why can’t Iron Man have any great villains? This movie captures that problem quite well…

Okay: Justin Hammer – He is an arrogant tool who is nervous and cocky at the same time. He is used by Whiplash for most of the film and doesn’t stand up to him until it is too late. The guy is a tool and not that great of an antagonist, but at least he brought Whiplash on who did a lot of damage…so I won’t put him as a con.

Whiplash – Ivan Vanko had a lot of potential and Mickey Rourke does as much as he can with what he is given…but he just isn’t complex. He is out for revenge against the child of the man he should want revenge against in regards to his father. He also is not able to connect to any human beings and only has his bird as a companion. So much wasted potential, but not a con. His electric whips are actually kind of neat and he is powerful enough that Tony and Rhody are needed to stop him.

Happy – He’s just kind of there and doesn’t get much characterization. He isn’t bad, but he isn’t good either.

The Narrative – So much is going on…Whiplash’s revenge plot, Hammer’s plot, The Government’s plot and Tony’s self destruction as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. Lack of focus is really what brings this story down. It should have been focused on Whiplash and S.H.I.E.L.D. and Tony’s self destruction. Not much else is needed and the rest just clutters it all.

Lack of focus is really what brings this movie down and keeps it from being unforgettable. A lot of interesting ideas and characters are introduced, but most aren’t explored fully. Tony Stark’s mortality get’s handled decently at least…as does Pepper and S.H.I.E.L.D. It is the worst of Phase 1 for sure though.

My final score for this film is 7.3 / 10.

Above average action flick with some great characters and ideas that aren’t fully developed.

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.

 

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.