Well as I’m sure we all know, The Avengers is coming out this Friday and people couldn’t be more hyped and once again I decided to give my thoughts on all the films leading up to this as I did last year when Thor and Captain America were being released. The main problem with that post, however, is that I hadn’t actually watched any of those movies in a while so my head was a little clouded with my preconceptions. So I decided to re-watch said films and give an updated opinion on them.
But before I get into this I’m going to have to establish a few things. First is on my ratings and how I’ll be judging comic book movies from now on. I’ll give my traditional 1-10 rating but I’ll also include another category I’d like to call my Comic Movie Rater. At the bottom of the barrel will be 90’s Comic Book Movie level, which includes movies like Spawn, Steel and such. Above that will be Bad, which include films like Batman and Robin and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Above that will be the Ok category which includes films like X-Men, a Good category that includes films like Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, a Great category that includes films like X-Men: First Class and Spider-Man 2 and another category that I like to call Dark Knight Level. What the hell is that last one supposed to mean? Well, essentially it’s a category that is almost exclusively held for Chris Nolan’s comic book films; ones that are able to apply summer blockbuster appeals to said film but have acting, characters and story that are up to par with any Oscar Bait you’ll find. Needless to say you won’t find any films in this post in that category.
The second is a term I have to establish: Shitty Summer Blockbuster Syndrome, (or SSBS). What is this you may ask? Well, it’s a general style and tone that summer blockbusters tend to have which makes it clear that these films are just for fun and not to be taken seriously. While this can make for some good popcorn fun it ultimately guarantees that the film won’t hold up as well in the long term or be regarded as anything truly great beyond being a money maker. Generally these kinds of films include scenes that are uber hammy, with acting, writing and a tone that is beyond clichéd trying and whenever they try mount up tension they fail utterly. They also usually include incredibly hammy villains who try to kill kids and families to show how “evil” they are and usually make a poor attempt at a morality message.
So now that I’ve gotten all of that out of the way let’s begin. Here are my thoughts on the Avenger films and how well they hold up today.
As I’m sure everyone who is reading this knows, Iron Man was the first of these films and was the one to kick start this whole thing, (and no Korsgaard that does not automatically make it good). The plot is simple enough. Billionheir Tony Stark decides use his weapons developing technology to fight evil after being captured by Islamic radicals. In other words it’s an origin story; one purely made so sequels will follow but is considered the best of these films so far. So what’s good and what’s bad about it?
Well for starters, you have Robert Downy Jr. and talk about perfect casting. I mean they could not have gotten a better actor for the part. He has the voice, the personality, the look, and the cocky attitude and even when the lines are terrible he somehow manages to bring class to it. Ultimately, it’s one of those picks that everyone will remember even if they don’t remember the film. The other cast members were also pretty good. During the first half, Jeff Bridges was really good in his role as the supportive mentor, (unfortunately he ruins this during the second half). Terrance Howard was also great in his role, and I wish that they brought him back in the second one and Gwyneth Patrow was also great as Pepper Pots. I also really liked the way they showed him building his suit and how the first model wasn’t the best, (and as any inventor will tell you that is the case with any invention). The special effects and sound editing were also great and I was able to believe about 70% of what was on screen, (and in this day and age that’s a rarity for me). Oh! And it had a great sense of humor as well.
Finally, of all of these films, the buildup to the upcoming Avengers film was the best. It was only their in little bits and pieces, but you better believe that every Marvel fan out their came their pants when they mentioned S.H.I.E.L.D. and saw Nick Fury in an after credits scene.
That said, the film does have its fair share of problems that I can’t look past. Mainly it contains all of the SSBS stuff I mentioned earlier and I mean all of it. From the uber hammy scenes to the ill-advised morality message, (although to be fair this one does do it better than most summer blockbusters). It also contained a number of pop culture references that just piss me off and will probably make the film feel very outdated in a few years. The villains are also incredibly one dimensional and their motivations don’t go beyond wanting money and power. The action scenes are too few in number and not particularly well done and I fell that with a superhero film that’s kind of a necessity. The writing for the supporting characters is also relatively weak and I seriously doubt that if any of them died that anyone would really care outside of the comic fanboys. And I’m just going to say this because we all know it’s true: it’s a Batman Begins rip-off. It follows the exact, and I mean the exact, same formula from the character ending up in some foreign nation, to returning to fight crime, to his mentor betraying him, to a triumphant cliffhanger but did an all-around poorer job of it.
So with all of that said, I honestly found that this film hasn’t aged well at all. The SSBS has only gotten worse with time and just makes the bad things stick out all the more. I admit that all the positive things are still good, but they aren’t any better than they were when I first saw the film and the bad things have only gotten worse. But still, I think that this is a good movie and considering all the other bad origin type comic book films that are out there, (Green Lantern, Thor), this is easily on of the better ones and one of the better comic book films on the market.
Comic Book Movie Rating
Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from here.
The Incredible Hulk
Next on our list is the second Avenger film that happened to come out the same year as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk. And, quite frankly, the number of good things I to say about this film are limited. Ok, so what’s the plot? Well, Dr. Bruce Banner is experimenting with gamma radiation when he is accidentally exposed to it which, in turn, causes him to turn into an enormous green monster known as the Hulk whenever he gets to mad. This in turn leads General “Thunderbolt” Ross to hunt Bruce as he want to use the Hulk as a weapon and eventually employs Emil Blonsky in the hunt which has unexpected, destructive results.
So what’s good about this one? Well the final fight with The Abomination was fantastic and is what untimely makes the film worth watching and there is something that I find so appealing about the uber nerd rage idea the story uses. I also liked the way they took designs, styles, and music from the old show and it’s obvious that the film makers were fans of it. The rest of the film, however, is a bit of a mixed bag.
While I wouldn’t necessarily call the acting in this film bad, it left something to be wanted. The actors really didn’t seem to connect with their roles the way they do in say Iron Man, and you may hate me for saying this but I thought the casting in Ang Lee’s Hulk was a lot better. All the actors involved with that film really seemed invested in their roles and to me came off as perfect picks. A lot of the action scenes that didn’t involve the Abominations just didn’t seem right. Like in one instance where the Hulk throws a car engine at another car and you don’t even see it make contact with said car. It’s just already a mess. I mean what the hell? You also have a lot of the SSBS stuff I’ve mentioned before; the awkward scenes, the hammy villains, and the irritating, stupid sounding dialog.
However, none of this is to the point of where the film is unwatchable but it’s probably the most forgettable and is one that if you don’t see you’re not really missing much. It’s not in the bad category, but considering the fact that it doesn’t look like you’ll need see it in order to get what is going on in The Avengers, I’d give it a pass.
Comic Book Movie Rating
Iron Man 2
If The Dark Knight, X2: X-Men United, and Spider-Man 2 are perfect examples on how you do a superhero sequel, Iron Man 2 is an example on how you don’t do one. To put it simply, this a sequel that seemed to have taken a step back when it should have been taking a step forward. The storyline follows Tony Stark as he battles a new enemy from his family’s past as well as a blood poisoning problem and the government’s attempts to claim the Iron Man suit.
So before I start tearing this sequel a new one, what works in it? The acting, visual effects, and sense of humor are all still good. The action scenes were a vast improvement over the first one and I really enjoyed the music. I enjoyed Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, Sam Rockwell as Hammer and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, (although they never call her that for some reason). Don Cheadle wasn’t as good as Terrance Howard as Rhodey but he still does a good job in the role. Samuel L. Jackson I felt was a bit of a mixed bag in this movie. On one hand, it seems like he’s playing the same role he has been sense Pulp Fiction. On the other hand, it’s Samuel L. Jackson playing a hardass leader. Who better to whip superheroes asses with mental abuse until they do what he says? He’s just one of those actors who can pull off being intimidating, charismatic, and understanding all at once and I’m curious to see how he’ll be used in the future.
Everything else, however, took a nose dive in quality. For starters the plot had a great concept but poor execution. The general idea behind it, and the way it was advertised made it seem like they were going to show the darker side of the Starks; lives that were destroyed by their accomplishments and it seemed like we were going to get a real intense hero/villain relationship between Tony and Ivan. Instead this took a back door to Tony’s antics when he thought he was dying. Honestly, at least half of the movie was dedicated to him acting like a complete jackass. While the first one tried to have some kind of morality message, this one just ignores that idea completely, eliminating any attempt at intelligence. The SSBS was a hell of a lot more noticeable and reached new heights of stupidity with action sequences that felt pointless, even more scenes that just felt really forced, and all kinds of little things like the metal gong sound that you heard whenever metal hit metal just for a comedic effect and is often completely inappropriate for the situation and completely kills any tension the scene may have had. The ending also felt really rushed and I swear at least a sixth of this film was dedicated just to promoting The Avengers, which pisses me off beyond belief whereas the first film gave us just the right amount.
Despite all the bad I have to say, it isn’t a bad movie by any means but it’s one of those sequels that is the definition of “not as good as the first” and like the first one, it’s one that just get worse with repeated viewings. It also started an annoying trend in the Avenger films, (and my biggest reason for hating this franchise), where they became less about making good movies and telling the best story they could and more about promoting and hyping up future movies and this shows no sign of slowing down, with the upcoming Iron Man 3 is supposedly setting the stage for Avengers 2.
But again, this isn’t a bad comic book movie, or even a bad movie. It’s just not as good as the first and one of those sequels that will be, (or already has been), completely forgotten about.
Comic Book Movie Rating
If there was a movie in this franchise that didn’t deserve to earn money or be as popular as it was it would be Thor, and, my God, does this one suck. So what’s the plot? Well, that’s kind of a difficult question to answer considering that the plot is one of the biggest problems with the film. The best I can describe it is that Thor is stripped of his powers sent to earth to learn humility after nearly starting a war with the Frost Giants. And before I turn into the comic book movies’ version of Linkara, let me just get what I like about the movie out of the way.
For starters, the art direction of this film is fantastic. Asgard and Jotunheim both looked fantastic as did the sets and costume designs of all the Asgardains. Anthony Hopkins was great as Odin as was Stellan Skarsgard as Professor Selvig and Idris Elba as Heimdall and Lady Sif and the Warriors Three were all really likeable. Loki was also well acted during the first act of the movie and his actual motives were surprisingly complex. I also liked some of the jokes and a few of the one liners brought a smile to my face.
However, the film fails everywhere else and is something that I could literally rant about for hours. For starters was the way the movie was advertised was just a complete lie. The concept, and the way they promoted it, was that Thor is an arrogant warrior who is banished to earth to become one of its champions. The latter portion of that is a complete lie and I hate it when movies do that. And for a movie that was promoted as an action fess, the action wasn’t well choreographed or edited together.
The next major problem with this film was our lead character of Thor. Mainly, they needed to pick a better actor for the part. I liked Chris Hemsworth in Star Trek and Cabin in the Woods, but here it just seemed like they just decided to go with the biggest, best looking blond guy they could find and give him the part. It’s just one of those acting jobs that you can clearly tell that the guy is playing a role. You don’t see Thor when this guy acts you just see some dude pretending to be Thor and he really hams up the role and was probably the worst actor out of all the Avenger characters.
But then we come to the films biggest problem; the story and how it fails on every, and I mean every, front. For starters we have the actual reasoning behind Thor’s banishment; his retaliation against the Frost Giants against his father’s orders. Am I the only one who thinks Thor was in the right on that one? I mean, they break into Asgard to steal a weapon and Odin knows fully well what will happen if they get that weapon, so why the hell was he so against retaliation. And when it was fairly obvious that war was going to happen, why the hell would he banish his best fighter? It makes no sense. And assuming that Thor was in the wrong, (something that I don’t believe), do you really expect me to believe that he went through all that character development, (little of which we actually see) in 2 days?! He goes from an arrogant warrior who craves battle to a wiser man who knows what not to do in wartime situations after having a few beers with Professor Selvig and giving Natalie Portman astronomy lessons? Are you fucking kidding me!? I mean there is suspending disbelief and then there is just insulting one’s intelligence. The actual story arc doesn’t work at all either. In short, it didn’t feel like a two hour movie so much as it did a cartoon three-parter, written around the special effects and set pieces and that is not the way films should go. It just insults me to think that the screenwriters and executives who green-lit this thought that this would pass for a plot and it’s incredibly obvious that the writing was thrown together just makes something to promote The Avengers. And you know what really pisses me off about this? This one is not skippable! From the way The Avengers looks right now, Loki is the main villain so watching this movie will probably be required to get what is going on with him!
Ok. Rant over. As you can tell, I hate this movie with a passion, and consider it the Avenger films’ low point. I will say that with repeated viewings the good things have gotten better but the bad things have only gotten worse. With, The Incredible Hulk, it’s obvious that they were still testing the waters and Iron Man 2 only failed as a sequel and not as a movie but this one just fails to get the important things right; the story and the protagonist. And if Thor and Loki are going to play as major parts as I think they are then Joss Whedon has one hell of a mess to clean up.
Luckily as time goes on, I’m finding that fewer and fewer people stand by this film and more share my opinion of it. I won’t put this film in the Bad category simply because I don’t think it’s bad enough to place with the likes of Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer but it’s one that really skirt that line and remains my least favorite of the Avenger films as well as Marvel films.
Comic Book Movie Rating
(But Just Barely)
After Thor, I had all but given up on the Avenger films and was fully convinced that The Avengers was going to suck. After all, when you film roster consists of a Batman Begins rip-off, its forgettable sequel, a forgettable Incredible Hulk film, and another with a storyline that episodes of Justice League and Spider-Man, (1990 series), could surpass, it doesn’t inspire much confidence. But then came along Captain America and, good God, this one was a shock but a pleasant one and may be my personal favorite of the Avenger films. The story takes place during WWII where Steve Rogers volunteers to become the world’s first super solider after being deemed unfit for military service and in doing so becomes involved with the U.S. Army’s attempts to stop the Nazi leader known as Red Skull from using a mysterious power source to destroy all of his enemies.
So what works in this film? Why do I like it so much? Well, the story was surprisingly well done, especially concerning the subject matter; the super solider serum, the source or Red Skull’s power and whatnot and to be perfectly honest I went into this fully expecting to hate and be insulted by it the way Thor did. The story ark also worked incredibly well, making the transition from the origin story to the superhero story seamless in ways that most superhero origin films can’t. There was also a great self-satire thing they had going on where Captain America was used as an icon to get people to buy war bonds and it matched the mood, time period and setting of the film perfectly. The connections to the upcoming Avengers film also works surprisingly well as this film acts more like a prequel to the whole thing and manages keeps the connections appropriate.
But the biggest surprise to me was how likeable and fleshed out the supporting cast was. You actually care about what happens to them and when some of them die it makes you sad. You see them all talk to each other and know that they’re friends. You know that they care about one another and are willing to die for one another in the short amount of screen time some of them have, which is a sense that the other Avenger films seemed to have failed to get. The part where this is the most apparent is one of the final sequences where all of Captain America’s friends are grieving over his apparent death and attempting to at least find his body. It’s just an incredibly well acted, well written and well edited scene and is one of the most tear wrenching moments I’ve ever seen in a Marvel film.
The character of Bucky is a friend of Steve’s that you like, Abraham Erskine is a man whose ideologies you can respect and relate to and Howard Stark is an incredibly entertaining and likeable supporting character and the others were good for their own reasons as well. Tommy Lee Jones was also great as the no nonsense colonel and Hugo Weaving was fantastic as Red Skull and was probably the best villain the Avenger films have produced yet.
Unlike all of the other films mentioned here, the action was incredibly well shot and put together and made for some incredibly entertaining action sequences. I had all but given up on finding good action scenes in the Avenger films so this one was a big breath of fresh air in that department.
There are some things that annoy me about this film, however. As usually we have the SSBS and cheese ball factors, (and this film can be incredibly cheesy), which can be distracting. The main difference between this film and the other Avenger films is that this on fully embraces it and is actually able to turn it to its advantage. But on the other hand, it still is really cheesy and can be distracting if you’re not in the right mindset. There were also a lot of crappy green screen effects that were so fake that it wasn’t even funny along with the fights whenever he threw his shield or got into a hand to hand fight with regular soldiers. Their also a few weird plot holes at the end of the film and if you’ve seen the HISHE video of it you probably know all about that. Like Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans may not have been the best pick for Captain America as I don’t really see Captain America when he acts. I just see some dude pretending to be Captain America. While it’s not to the same extent as Chris Hemsworth in Thor, it remains an issue for me. Finally, it is still Captain America. You can only take that ridiculous name, concept, and outfit so far but it will still be distracting.
All around, however, this is the only one of the Avenger films that I can honestly say that I loved. The action was great, the story and concept worked better than I ever dared hope and the characters were likeable and fleshed out. These were things that I had all but given up on in finding in an Avenger film and it is undoubtedly my favorite of the five.
Comic Book Movie Rating
And those are my thoughts on the Avenger movies. Do I like them? Well, except for Thor, yes. The first Iron Man movie, despite being a Batman Begins rip-off, essentially took a B list superhero and brought him into the mainstream in a big way. The second may not have been a good sequel but it was still a good movie and The Incredible Hulk did have a few things that I found appealing. Thor I despise and have no idea how people like it, (seriously it has a 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. How the hell is that possible!?), and I loved Captain America from start to finish.
But I hate this franchise. Why you may ask? Well, I despise their marketing practices. As I mentioned before, Thor and Iron Man 2 were obviously made just to promote The Avengers and build up to it rather than making a good movie and telling a good story. It’s just as obvious when you look at Captain America and Iron Man but in those films they actually made great movies out of the situation. And from what I know about Iron Man 3, this is a practice that they’re going to continue. It also doesn’t help that the majority of the people who direct these films are either no named film makers like Jon Favreau or brunt out directors like Kenneth Branagh and it just so obvious that the marketers are the ones who dictate how the film goes rather than the actual filmmakers and this again is a practice that they’re going to continue, (they kicked the director out who tried to take charge of Thor 2). And that’s what pisses me off about the franchise and will probably keep me from ever being any kind of hardcore fanboy. Now if they were bring in Spider-Man and Wolverine, and then we’ll start talking.
So what do I expect from The Avengers this weekend? Well I’m expecting, NAY! DEMANDING!, that this film be better than all of its predecessors that were made to build up to this one. What I’m not expecting, however, is characterization, writing, acting and plot up to par with The Dark Knight. I’m just expecting an above average summer blockbuster and hopefully that’s what I’ll get. My biggest fear is that it will have a plot on par with The Expendables, (liked that movie but let’s be honest. The plot was bad), and have character interaction on par with Star Trek, (2009), (basically where each character has about seven minutes of dedicated screen time and is quickly forgotten about afterwards), but if Firefly and Serenity proved anything, it’s that Joss Whedon is a much more talented writer then that and cares to much about his characters to allow that to happen. More on this film will hopefully follow this weekend. So until next time, this is The Illusive One signing off.