Movie Review- Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers 2 Electric Booagloo

Three years ago, Marvel proved that the movie audience bought into shared universe that they have been building since Iron Man.  Avengers brought an arrogant tech genius in armour, a raging green giant, a World War 2 super soldier, a Norse God, a sexy secret agent and… a guy with a bow and made them into a super team and it worked.  Now with the competition scrambling to match that success, they gather the team together again for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

When the Avengers take out a Hydra base in Eastern Europe, they encounter two super powered siblings, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who were experimented on and given powers (speed and telekinesis/telepathy, respectively).  When Iron Man is shown his greatest fear, he goes ahead with a plan to create an artificial intelligence using Asgardian tech.  Called Ultron, the AI gained sentience and decided that the best way to protect humanity is to force then to evolve.  With the help of the twins, Ultron attacks the Avengers, using Wanda’s power to tear them apart..  But even the twins are unaware to Ultron’s ultimate goal of the extinction of the human race.

The movie is pretty action-packed, with the opening scene being the battle with Hydra.  Joss Whedon handles the multiple characters well, with most of the development being centered on Hawkeye, Black Widow and Banner.  Wanda and Pietro are good additions to the MCU and helps to expand the scope.  There are even parts that fit in with the current season of Agents of SHIELD (though watching that series is not necessary to understanding the movie.)

As someone who is familiar with the comics, it is interesting to see how certain aspects are adapted for the screen.  For instance, in the Avengers comics, Ultron is a robot build by Hank Pym, who sometimes is the superhero Ant-Man (also Giant Man and Yellowjacket, but that’s getting off track.)  In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hank Pym is not in the Avengers (though he will be in the Ant-Man movie, though older and not the title hero) so they put Tony Stark and Bruce Banner in the role as Ultron’s creator.  The twin’s origins are altered too.  In the comics (at least until recently), Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch were mutants, children of Magneto of the X-Men.  Obviously, with movie rights to X-Men held by Fox (which is why Quicksilver as also in Days of Future Past), they changed their origin to the Hydra experiments (which hints from Agents of SHIELD indicating that they might be Inhumans).  As comic book canon can be confusing and cross into several properties, some change is necessary, but as long as the characters are true to  their core concepts, it is acceptable.

Overall, this movie is a solid win for Marvel/Disney.  It is good that more time is given to fleshing out Hawkeye’s character as he hasn’t been given as much screen time as Black Widow has in the Phase 2 movies.  Widow doesn’t get forgotten though.  There as been some online backlash at a perceived mistreatment of here character.  I did not see it as she held her own against the Ultron robots, who were strong enough to give Thor trouble and it is not like she just sat there when she was captured.  My one gripe is that they did not use War Machine and Falcon more (they make appearances).  It will be interesting to see where the s.eries goes as we build up to the Infinity War

My rating:  4.5/5  The new standard in superhero team-up movies

Not the Superman film we deserve, but one that we need- MAN OF STEEL Review

Superman has to be one of the hardest heroes to adapt to film.  Sure the first two films from the Chris Reeve years are classic, but they do not hold up well next to the modern superhero films.  The movies made Superman able to do anything. I mean, besides flight, invulnerability, super breathe and various vision powers, he can turn back time, produce a super-cellophane “S” to trap his foes and even cause amnesia through a “super-kiss.”  He was like a god.  The 2006 movie “Superman Returns” sure didn’t help with the “Jesus” metaphor being totally overt in it.  Superman was just too, well, “super” to relate.

The new movie, THE MAN OF STEEL, tries to show the man in Superman.  It follows Clark Kent as he drifts from town to town, working small jobs while trying to discover who he is and track clues to where he came from.  He ends up in the Canadian Arctic where he finds a space craft from Krypton and meets a plucky reported named Lois Lane.

After saving Lois from the ship’s defenses and dropping her off safely, Clark learns of his heritage, his true name of Kal-El, his planet’s fate and of General Zod, who happens to have survived Krypton’s fate in the Phantom Zone along with a dozen or so of his followers.  Zod knows of Kal-El, and believes he has something that will help him rebuild Krypton.

Lois tracks down Clark as Zod reaches Earth, demanding that Kal is turned over to him.  Donning the familiar red and blue suit, Clark becomes Superman, Earth’s only protection against and army of super powered Kryptonians.

The movies is heavy on the action, which is what the franchise needed.  Warner Bros teased that the fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions could serve as a template for a Superman/Zod battle.  With several scripts that languished in development hell, people were expecting Superman Returns to have more intense action.  Instead, we gat Bryan SInger’s love letter to the Christopher Reeve films that did nothing update the movie mythos.  Man of Steel reboots the franchise, giving us a Superman who is starting out and is still unsure in his abilities.  It gives us that superhuman-on-superhuman fights that we been waiting for.  It gives us a Superman who faces a challenge that he could fail, and forces him to make tough choices that, if handled by a good writer, could affect him in later movies.

This Superman is not perfect.  He can’t be everywhere and save everyone.  He chooses to go after the world engine in the South Pacific while the USAF take on the mothership in Metropolis.  Sure, thousands, if not millions died in Metropolis, but billions would have if the world engine wasn’t stopped.  In the climax he makes a tough decision, similar to one he made in a storyline in 1988.  This is not a smile and wave Superman form the 80’s movie.

The movie is definitely dark.  Christopher Nolan (director of the Dark Knight Trilogy) was a producer of this and his influence shows in the film.  The director, Zack Snyder, is good at making big action sequences that drive the movie.  They take up a big portion of the movie, but, to me, they weren’t overdrawn and helped the movie.  Story-wise, it may have played with the Superman mythos a bit, especially with the Clark-Lois dynamic, but I think it works and make Lois a more competent character.

I believe the Man of Steel is a good starting point to the new DC Cinematic Universe.  I remain hopeful that future films in this project will improve on this and give us a series of movies comparable to the Marvel films.  Some make balk that this isn’t the Superman film they were expecting:  light-hearted, cheesy and safe, but that is not what the Superman franchise needs.  It needs the show the man in the Man of Steel, facing challenges that even his powers might not be able to stop, yet still persevering.

Score: 4/5

Holmes for the Holidays

Well, it was a good Christmas.  I’m alwys glad to see family at this time as it is doubtful I’ll be able to next year.  The fact there was no snow only helped make it a good Christmas.

I saw Sherlock Holmes today with Chantale.  I’ve always thought Robert Downey Junior was a good actor, but ther wasn’t anything I’d want to see him in.  Now with this and Iron Man, and Iron Man 2 this may, he is now one of my favorites.  The movie was well done, with a interesting story.  Jude Law was great as Watson.  Between this and Iron Man, Downey is scoring big playing heroes with substance abuse issues (Iron Man’s being alcohol and Holmes being cocaine, though neither were shown in the movie)  4/5.

Movie Review: Watchmen (or A Clear View of Lower Manhattan)

It has long been seen as being unfilmable;  director Terry Gilliam said it couldn’t be done in 1989.  It was one of the first comic book mini-series (later collected as a graphic novel) that elevated comics from kid-lit to pop culture narratives.  The book is Watchmen, and 24 years after it’s publication, it has been adapted into a movie by 300 director Zach Snyder.

The movie is set in an alternative 1985, with Nixon as a popular five-term president and the Soviet Union strong as poised to start World War III.  Superheroes are real, but they have been outlawed for over 8 years.  They either work for the government, the the Comedian and Dr Manhattan, revealed their identity and used their fame to become successful like Ozymandias, retired to obscurity like Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre or have become outlaws like Rorschach.  It is Rorschach’s who discovers that a murdered man was the Comedian and he suspects a plot to murder superheroes and warns his former team-mates.  They at first dismiss his paranoid ramblings, but as the film progresses, Dr Manhattan is forced off-planet, Ozymandias is attacked and Rorschach is framed for a murder he did not commit.  Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre, thinking Rorschach was on to sometime, spring him and try uncover the plot and its connection to the worlds march to nuclear Armageddon.  The true plot, however, is beyond anything they expect.

The movie comes in at about two hours and totally cuts out the sub story of “The Tales of the Black Freighter,” a comic within the comic that a background character reads.  This story, however, has been lengthened and turned into a animated movie to be released later in March.  With this is an adaptation or Hollis Mason’s (the first Nite Owl as mentioned in the story) autobiography, Behind the Mask, which excerpts from were included in the graphic novel.  Other scenes were filmed for the movie but cut, with Snyder promising a Director’s cut on DVD/BluRay or at least deleted scenes.  Besides this, and a change to the ending (yet the overall result is the same), the movie is as faithful to the original book as they could be.

That, however could be considered this film biggest flaws.  The adherence to the book could turn off those who have not read the Watchmen book.  The movie assumes (much like the book, mind you) we will accept these characters as they are, without getting into the origin other than that this world allows costume heroes.  The exception to this is Dr Manhattan, the only hero that is really super, with actual superpowers (all the other heroes are skilled athletes, some with gadgets and fancy costumes.).  The film is faithful to the books Doctor Manhattan, with actor Billy Crudup voicing him almost emotionless.  He even spends most of the movie naked, with the film not shying away for glimpses of his “lower Manhattan.”  Yes, there is digital, CGI, glowing blue wang.  It’s not front and centre, but it is there.

Is it good?  I say yes.  It not the greatest of superhero movies.  I never thought it was the greatest of superhero stories to begin with.  The movie left me with the same feeling of indifference as the book did.  The change in the ending did not bother me (since I am not a rabid fan, I wasn’t against this, unlike the changes made to Catwoman in that movie) and I though made more sense than the…let’s call it the space squid ending.  I always thought that Alan Moore’s (the author of Watchmen) writing was a bit pretentious, especially his later stuff.  This isn’t so bad, but some may not like this movie

Watchmen is rated 18A in British Columbia, Canada (the equivalent to the U.S. R rating).  It has strong violence (in the book), nudity (again, it’s in the book), language (book), and sex scenes, also in the book, but more…expanded in the film.  Malin Akerman’s body (or that of her body double,) was the perfect antidote to doses of Dreiberg’s butt and Manhattan’s member.

3.5 out of 5