mayoraasei: (Kaoru)
Probably nothing speaks louder (at least to the studios) than money, so you can see how the movies have ranked in terms of grosses at Box Office Mojo.

Initially this was a MCU only ranking, but as the DCEU franchise grows, I've also added that in. Rottentomatoes and Metacritic are both critic-based scores. IMDB and Cinemascore are indicative of general audience response, which tend to be less-discerning and skewed towards the positive as - well, most people come back to a franchise because they already like it.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Rotten Tomatos Tomatometer

Metacritic Metascore
94% Iron Man
92% The Avengers
91% Guardians of the Galaxy
90% Captain America: Civil War
90% Doctor Strange
89% Captain America: The Winter Soldier
81% Guardians of the Galaxy 2
81% Ant-Man
80% Captain America: The First Avenger
79% Iron Man 3
77% Thor
75% Avengers: Age of Ultron
72% Iron Man 2
67% The Incredible Hulk
66% Thor: The Dark World
79 Iron Man
76 Guardians of the Galaxy
75 Captain America: Civil War
72 Doctor Strange
70 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
69 The Avengers
67 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
66 Captain America: The First Avenger
66 Avengers: Age of Ultron
64 Ant-Man
62 Iron Man 3
61 The Incredible Hulk
57 Iron Man 2
57 Thor
54 Thor: The Dark World

IMDB User Ratings

8.1 The Avengers
8.1 Guardians of the Galaxy
8.1 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
7.9 Captain America: Civil War
7.9 Iron Man
7.8 Avengers: Age of Ultron
7.8 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7.6 Doctor Strange
7.4 Ant-Man
7.2 Iron Man 3
7.1 Thor: The Dark World
7.0 Thor
7.0 Iron Man 2
6.9 Captain America: The First Avenger
6.8 The Incredible Hulk
A+ The Avengers
A Ant-Man
A Avengers: Age of Ultron
A Captain America: Civil War
A Captain America: Winter Soldier
A Doctor Strange
A Guardians of the Galaxy
A Guardians of the Galaxy 2
A Iron Man
A Iron Man 2
A Iron Man 3
A- Captain America: The First Avenger
A- Thor: The Dark World
A- The Incredible Hulk
B+ Thor

DC Extended Universe

Rotten Tomatos Tomatometer

Metacritic Metascore
93% Wonder Woman
55% Man of Steel
27% Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
26% Suicide Squad
76 Wonder Woman
55 Man of Steel
44 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
40 Suicide Squad

IMDB User Ratings

8.2 Wonder Woman
7.1 Man of Steel
6.8 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
6.6 Suicide Squad
A Wonder Woman
A- Man of Steel
B+ Suicide Squad
B Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Last updated June 2017: Wonder Woman is newly released and scores may shift.
Last updated May 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy is new in theatres, so scores (particularly IMDB) may shift.
Last updated Nov 2016: note Doctor Strange has only just been released so these are very preliminary scores.
Last Update Aug 2016: Hulk removed as it does not appear to count in the MCU. Cinemascore added.
mayoraasei: (Reflective)
In a movie that draws heavily from Oriental philosophy/ideology, and in fact has multiple parallels to the Dreamworks panda story, it's only appropriate to use Master Oogway's icon to represent it.

I actually ended up watching this movie twice, more out of circumstance than because I felt particularly compelled to, the first time in 2D and the second time in 3D. I don't know if it's because 3D glasses never fit me very well but although the visuals were indeed a tad more impressive in 3D (it would be much better on IMAX, I'd imagine), you miss out on the nuances of the actors' expressions, in particular Tilda Swinton.

I think people have already said all that's needed to be said about this movie. It's a par performance by Marvel, upping the bar for imagination and visual representation, and barely clearing it from a plot and character point of view.

Unlike his incredibly popular turn as Mr Holmes in Sherlock and (for me at least) a riveting presence as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange is just...par. I mean, from where I stand, there's definitely humour in the familiar caricature of awkwardly narcissist surgeons, but whether it's the slightly distracting almost-American accent (he sounds much better than RDJ sprouting British, so there's that) or the failings of the story, Strange is unfortunately not as charismatic as Tony Stark or Thor, not as funny as Peter Quill, not as morally straight as Steve Rogers, and not as personable as Scott Lang. Marvel's leading men had always led the story, the plot there only as an embellishment to display their best qualities. It's not as though Benedict hadn't pulled his weight, and it certainly isn't that he is incapable of doing great or lovable, but unfortunately Strange is neither, and that is this movie's greatest misstep.

There were some great acting from everyone involved, which unfortunately only further highlighted the thinness of the plot. Rachel McAdams did what she could with 15 minutes of screen time for a warm and compassionate ED doctor (where do you find one of those these days? LOL), and was a lot less grating than the last token girlfriend *cough*Nat Portman*cough*. Mads Mikkelsen also did what he could with a largely 2-dimensional villain in Kaecilius.

I think my greatest frustration is that the stems of the plot are there, but the story wasn't allowed to develop into a rich canopy. To draw on the Kungfu Panda analogy - if a cartoon could make you shed a tear at a doddery turtle's ascent to the stars, there's no reason it couldn't have done the same here. Similarly Kaecilius and Mordo were both short-changed in terms of their character (well, in terms of character even Stephen Strange was short-changed, so I suppose all that's not surprising). The betrayal these 2 students felt, and in particular in the case of Mordo, if the movie had given a little back story to explain why he was so fiercely adherent to the idea of "rules", then Marvel would have created one of their best antiheroes next to Loki, but alas.

There was a lot of controversy about the casting of Tilda Swinton. It's ironic to call it "not whitewashing when the character was white to start with" when the original character was Asian and much of the movie's imagery and even some of its philosophy draws on Asian culture. To her credit, Tilda Swinton makes the Ancient One great, but I have no doubt there are equally capable actors of Asian descent that could have done this. That said, her portrayal of the Ancient One with a mischievous twinkle and fleeting moments of vulnerability certainly made her the most interesting character in this movie.

She also has the best quote - "We never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them." - neatly foreshadowing perhaps not only her students' downfall but also her own.

I am very fond of Benedict (and also of Rachel and Chiwetel), so I do want to see more of them, but while this has been a stunning visual experience, I really hope the story gets much better by the second time round.

As an aside, I've seen a few sites talk about when Doctor Strange was set, and one of the makers came out and said that the movie started in 2016. Without arguing over how long Strange would take to master sorcery - just from a medical point of view, the guy was in a car accident (it's amazing how he managed to get out of it without brain injury when his face is all smashed, but hey, creative license). Then we see him wake up with external fixators, then he flips through 3 hand X-rays, representing a progression in time - the first one when the ex-fix's were in, the second when they were out, and the 3rd when more pins were removed. Following that, at least one major surgery was depicted, followed by a period of rehab. The impression you get from the movie is that he had more surgeries (likely with rehab in between) before everyone had given him up and he had to search out Pangborn.

In the "leanest" case scenario, we're talking about: accident - ex-fix - ex-fix out - pins out - rehab - surgery - rehab. This is a process that would have taken at very minimum 3-4 months, though if I were to factor in other surgeries and in real life terms, I'd be estimating a year or even two. This does still give enough time for Strange to arrive at the same chronology as Thor: Ragnarok by 2017. To be honest I think it doesn't really affect the Marvel continuity if he had been around earlier because he would have been immersed in training, and may not even have heard about Sokovia or whatever.
mayoraasei: (Gundam 00)
Starring the amazing opposed to The Amazing Spiderman.

It's only just opened so I'll start with the non-spoilerific version:

It's not hard to see why it's scoring above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has its flaws - I'm not a fan of the shakycam, and if you had time to think about it, parts of the plot do seem forced and crowded, and it certainly counts somewhat on the audience to already be invested in the characters.

My biggest trepidation going into the movie was how it would handle the conflict. Would it lean too much towards Cap because he's the main character, or too sympathetic towards Iron Man because of RDJ's star power? Would the justifications be forced? Fortunately, the movie does an impressive job of giving each key character a consistent, logical and sympathisable reasons for choosing the side that they do, and while the events leading up to the two big showdowns are a bit contrived, the complexity of emotions and loyalties (as well as some highlight quirky moments) certainly make those flaws easier to overlook.

Unfortunately, I feel you have to already be invested in this universe, not necessarily as a diehard fan, but having at least watched and appreciated the character arcs throughout the Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-man and Avengers franchises. Then, does it make sense that Tony would take an accusation so personally, that Steve would question the judgement of those governed by ulterior agendas, that Natasha would choose the most utilitarian route.

Without those movies, it's hard to grasp how much Tony's parents and their sudden deaths had shaped his behaviour prior to him maturing into Iron Man, and how desperately he needed closure. Without those movies, it would also be hard to grasp why Captain America is drifting further and further away from the role of a "model" soldier, and why he would put so much on the line to protect a criminal. I've said before that while Steve is a soldier and understands the misfortunes of war, Tony fights for very personal and sometimes very egocentric reasons, and it's never been more painfully obvious than here. He fights because he wants to be a hero, he wants to do good things, he wants to save people, and he doesn't have Steve's capacity to take it in his stride when his mistakes have a name and a face and an erased future. The story gives them time to explore what they believe in and what their bottom line is, but they bring into the argument a respect for each that by the time Tony says that iconic line, "But so was I [your friend]", you believe him, and by the time you see that iconic 3-way fight, it hurts to watch them.

The characters new to the roster include Black Panther, Spiderman and Ant-man (where do the hyphens and capitals go, anyway?) and they are a delight in an otherwise heavy, unrelenting chase. This is practically an origins story for Black Panther, and despite being only on the sideline he manages to have a complete character arc in one movie. The bug bros (as opposed to the science bros? XDDD) similarly had an amazing introduction into the greater MCU, both with their wide-eyed fanboyism, and Spiderman finding time between his excessive chatterboxing to fight cool.

I don't think I spoil anything by saying that the villain is Baron Zemo. I think reviews are quite divided on him: not "the Mandarin" divided, but there's a camp that say he's the usual boring Marvel villain, while another says he's the next best thing after Loki. Personally I think I agree with the latter - he has one of the better motivations in the stream of drab villains after money (Obediah Stane, Darren Cross), power (Ronan, Red Skull), petty revenge (Whiplash, Aldrich Killian) and whatever the heck was Ultron. His role was relatively light, but (without any spoilers) his story bears strong parallels to what several other characters in this movie experience, no one could fault him for doing what he did or the way he's decided to execute it (even though from a plot perspective, his plan was a bit too contrived). I mean, couldn't he have just emailed the video to Tony?

It's a movie I think that will have people take away different things. Is it complex and profound? Not really, it's certainly less about politics this time around and more about character-centric things like personal beliefs and family and modus operandi. But it is a beautifully constructed ensemble piece, where each character gets a moment to shine, and several of the major ones get a fully fleshed character arc.

And for me, I think it will stay one of my favourite MCU movies to date, even if it ends on an oddly disheartening note.

ant man

27 Jul 2015 01:16 am
mayoraasei: (Gundam 00)
Of course I've watched Age of Ultron a while ago (twice, in fact, cos Dad wanted to watch it too haha) but the movie was a bit like a bowl of ice-cream in summer - felt delicious while eating, but afterwards felt like you had a lot of nothing.

Antman is a bit like Guardians of the Galaxy. I think canonically he's actually a fairly big presence, but the basis and name seemed ridiculous, which is probably why he took so long to get to the big screen.

Let's start with the broad strokes - the movie is quite well-done, within the limitations. It's a heist movie as promised. It's much smaller in scale than the other heroes, which I think is a good thing. Like most superhero movies, the story is rather simple and linear, though what makes it stand out is probably the multiple central and side characters.

Antman decided to take the second iteration of the character, Scott Lang - a man recently released from jail for corporate theft. Unable to get a job because of the record and desperate to negotiate visits to his young daughter, he gets drawn into a heist to secure enough money to do so. This causes him to cross paths with Hank Pym, the original Antman, who values Scott's unorthodox resume in his own plans to topple a wayward corporation.

That both Scott and Hank were in this film together was a stroke of genius. Apart from being absolutely unique in the last dozen Marvel films to have two superheroes sharing the same mantle, there is an unforced parallel between Hank and Hope, and Scott and Cassie. Family relationships are a sadly neglected subject in the superhero world. The best of it had been in the Thor movies, which was unfortunately bogged down by all the other terrible stuff that was going on. There were some nice parent-child moments in Guardians, but more about the absence of it. The nice part about Antman was the uneasy relationship between Hank and Hope, which brings out my next point.

Hank is the most grumpy old fart next to Yondu LOL

He actually turned out to be my favourite character. I like how flawed he is, despite being in the mentor role. I like that he's arrogant, obstinate, bad-tempered, unforgiving, hamfisted...he's highly intelligent but you would not necessarily call him wise. I like that he keeps a grudge for decades to the point he'd rather employ a thief than enlist the help of anyone involved with Stark. I like that he's awkward with his daughter, that he wants the best for her but didn't know how to tell her that, that he wants to mend the relationship but just makes things worse each time. I like that he's a proud man who's used to achieving great things but the events in the film forces him, bit by tiny bit, to concede that age is catching up and he's no longer quite the capable man he used to be. I also like how even the climax highlighted how single-minded Hank is - that in a way he would destroy something to protect it. Michael Douglas brings a presence to the movie that Anthony Hopkins did to Thor and Robert de Niro did to Winter Soldier, but he seems to - or perhaps the script allows him to - put more heart into it than the former two.

Scott is a likeable character, though unfortunately debuts after Peter Quill and probably overlaps too much with him. They're both criminals who still have a sense of justice, enacted by two people known more or less for comedy or "boy next door" type roles. The difference though is Scott has more justice than scoundrel compared with Quill, and I don't know if it's intentional, seems a much cooler and reserved sort of guy than a lot of the other superheroes. He's someone who lingers and watches on the side before taking a dive, but he's also someone who dives in with relish and works hard at something when he's accepted the task. He's an engineer sort of guy - not the hot-headed type who tries to wing it by ear, but the type that has the minutiae worked out and has multiple backup plans that he can draw from and improvise with on the spot. That said, I'm not sure he can hold a franchise together, and I feel the movie would not have been quite as good if Hank had not been there.

A lot of people have waxed lyrical about Hope and the step forward for representation of women in superhero movies. I'm not too sure Evangeline Lilly was quite on spot for all of her scenes, but Hope managed to distinguish herself from the Black Widow, despite both being excellent fighters and capable sharp-tongued women. I think, after revisiting Winter Soldier, the difference is that Hope doesn't have Black Widow's past - and so she's less aware of herself (e.g. she would never use her sexuality like Black Widow could as a weapon), less cold-blooded but also less vulnerable.

The three of them are probably far more relatable and "normal" characters than others of their ilk.

The movie's strength was its humour, with excellent timing, especially of juxtapositions, and it was a shame this never came through in the promos. The pacing never made you feel like it dragged, despite its small scale, and it prodded the 4th wall at some good places. The villain was again Marvel's weakness, and to be honest there could have been something better from the Darren Cross's (I don't think I'm spoiling anything - it's revealed pretty quickly that he's the villain) interaction with Hank Pym. The imperfect mentor and the frustrated student trying to prove something to his Master - it had been done reasonably well in Kungfu Panda. There were hints of it, and the two actors certainly tried to make something of it, but there wasn't enough to make you care for Cross, which was a real shame.

In all, a decent standalone movie that introduces you to a surprisingly pleasant group - but I'm not too sure about how they would go about making this a franchise. That said, I'm certainly looking forward to Scott's appearance in Civil War, and I'd love to see cameos from Hank and Hope somewhere down the line too.

Certainly was nice to hear the Winter Soldier jig whirring away in the background during that post-cred scene. Speaking of post-creds, they're probably the two most fulfilling post-creds in a while, and worth staying for.
mayoraasei: (Gintama)
The title is an example of abbreviations gone wild, but also of my increasingly short memory span. I completely forgot I watched How to Train Your Dragon 2, so I thought I'd bring it up while discussing Guardians of the Galaxy.

HTTYD 2 was nice, in the same way that Iron Man 3 was nice. A sense of a job well-done but not really as amazing as you'd prefer your fond memory of it to be, and altogether 30 minutes too long.

It's been a while ago now, but the main thing that bothered me at the time was Hiccup's development - or lack thereof. He's hit a wall in his development and hasn't really learned to be anything better than he was. In the first movie it was about him and Toothless overcoming their flaws (a softie in the midst of Vikings, a dragon without a tail fin) and making the best of their assets. The second movie was...well, I have no idea. Hiccup is still the same awkward kind soul, but the struggle isn't there. He's like Thor in Thor 2, or Po in Kung Fu Panda 2, or Kira in Gundam Seed Destiny. He's had his character arc and the writers have no idea what to do with him again.

Guardians of the Galaxy, on the other hand, is the dark horse of the northern summer season. To pull the words from another site, Marvel has successfully bookended the summer with two critically acclaimed and commercially proven movies, the first being Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Everything about GotG, from the concept to the concept art to the eventual trailers, was an unknown and a possible disaster in the making. Fans were excited and anxious in equal measures. Sure, the comic crowd who knew Rocket Racoon and Groot loved them before they started speaking, but how will the mainstream audience perceive them? And how are they going to be portrayed?

One of the film's greatest successes happen to be these two characters, and possibly the greater success arising out of that is you don't actually consciously think of them as two animated avatars. You don't watch Rocket and think, "Gee, that's a cute fluffy puppet". They're ridiculous concepts, but so rich in their characterisation that you forget their comical sources.

I've seen one negative review of GotG so far and it was in Chinese. I guess a lot of its humour translates quite poorly across languages (and cultures). For the English-speaking audience, though, the humour is well-timed and perfect-pitched, weaving through a story that was surprising in its tenderness, owing in no small part to its five main characters. I was going to say Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana did a really good job, but I think every one of the five has been amazing. A motley crew of marginalised antiheroes, each with a chip on their shoulder, thrown together. They protect the galaxy not because they're heroes, or that they have to, but because they want to. There's something raw and intuitive about their motivation, compared to the Avengers' more lofty moral grounds.

I know I'm asking a lot, but the price of freedom is high, always has been. But it's a price I'm willing to pay! If I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not. -- Steve Rogers

When I look around, you know what I see? Losers. I mean people who lost stuff. And man, we all have, a lot. But now life's given us a chance. To give a shit. And I am not gonna stand by and watch as billions of lives are being wiped out. -- Peter Quill

All rallying speeches are the same to some extent, but they're also excellent reflections on the characters who speak them. Rogers is always going to be the straight-up perfect American soldier, who would live and die for freedom. Quill has the heart of gold wrapped in a weasly exterior and steeped in Tony Stark's sarcasm-sauce.

The appeal of GotG is not the conceit of them being antiheroes, but that they are all fundamentally good people ruined by misfortune, now finally given the chance to be the person they want to be. This certainly gives them a layer of complexity that is not afforded by the likes of Thor or Steve Rogers.
mayoraasei: (Gintama)
I actually garbled a lot about this after watching it yesterday, so I'm in a bit of a word-drought regarding it.

I think people are fairly divided as to which was the best Marvel "Phase One" pre-Avengers movies - while the majority seem to favour Iron Man, a large number are divided between Captain America and Thor - which is a good thing, really. It is after all a huge franchise, and you can't appeal to everyone at once - so the next best thing is to appeal to different people with different franchises.

Personally I thought Captain America was a weaker outing for Marvel. Something about him just didn't quite connect with me, and while the underlying message echos with anyone who had ever been bullied, the rushed and perfunctory 3rd act left behind a generally sour taste. Added to that, while all of the characters were cheerfully likeable, none of them were all that memorable.

The Winter Soldier is a much more...heroic movie, in the sense that all major characters had a moment to shine. You don't remember Steve Rogers for dancing around the stage in tights and leather boots, but you will remember him for silently analysing the crowd who joins him in the elvator, before he laconically wonders aloud, "Before we get started, does anybody want to get out?"

I don't think the movie passes the Bechdel's test, but as someone had pointed out, at least 4 important hanging-by-the-thread rescues were engineered by the strong female cast. For once, there's more than just Black Widow kicking ass, too, even if she does the bulk of it. The Black Widow actually gets a bit more beefed out in her role. Scarlett Johansson's particular shade of carrot is still disagreeing with me, but she's no longer the token female ninja warrior, and saves Steve's ass in more ways than just physical combat.

In a sense, The Winter Soldier is almost an ensemble movie, though not quite. Whereas Thor was very much self-dependent, a lot of the plot in The Winter Soldier could not have happened if it was just Steve Rogers alone. Steve is a much more reactionary character than his superhero peers, though that is not exactly surprising given his role and his inherent inclination to trust people.

My only disappointment is that I feel I still don't have a grip on Steve's character. He's selfless, yes, but he also has very personal attachments. It won't be the first or second time he's run after Bucky into danger. But at the same time he's also the person who can detachedly tell his comrades that he was going to 1) crash his ship, 2) shut off the space portal with Iron Man still stuck outside or 3) bomb the ship he's still on. I feel there's some sort of conflict in this, that in crisis he can make these noble, difficult and somewhat emotionless decisions - and yet he seems very much driven by compassion and emotion.

However, whereas the first movie like a awkward tie-in with The Avengers and hence leaving a bad taste behind, the gigantic SPOILER that happens at the end of this one capped it for me. It was brave and promises new directions and new battles and new stakes. The problem with success is that once you find it, you become terrified of changing, and you reach a state of stasis that inevitably degenerates into tedium and disappointment.

The fact that Marvel was keen to ruin one of the most convenient and in a way stabilising existences in their universe was encouraging to see. I think the issue with Marvel and in particular their formula of a villain lasting only one movie ends up with some poorly developed villains but also movies that don't have any sense of stake. You know your heroes will survive.

I hope in the near future (though when I say near, that will still be at least 2 movies away) the stakes become higher and it would be great to see one or two heroes being written off the roster. It's not a thriller unless no one is sure that everyone will still be there at the end.

Edit August 2014:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier blu-ray proves that this is a film that still performs on rewatching. Even after transitioning to the small screen, the iconic action sequences - the Lemurian Star, the car chase, the elevator scene and the other car chase - are still gripping and intense. The Nick Fury car chase sequence loses some of its majesty (though I'm not sure that's the correct adjective) but still keeps you on the edge of the seat throughout the whole ten minutes.

Action aside, the story has enough nuances to still feel fresh on repeat. A good artist does not pass judgement; he merely raises debate. There's something patronising about impressing a message into a movie that will be screened across the world in different languages and cultures, and most mainstream movies avoid that for commercial reasons more than anything else.

Nevertheless, the ethical dilemma raised in the movie is still thought-provoking the second time around. The concept is not new - I'm sure I've seen it in any number of Japanese and Hollywood dystopian settings - and it's frightening because of its familiarity and imminency. What if, you could eliminant threats before they happen? What would you sacrifice for security? Freedom? Privacy? The presumption of innocence? Can you really reduce an individual down to a mathematical equation of probability?

On second viewing, I think my disappointment lies with the titular Winter Soldier. As the directors said on commentary, the hero is often only as good as the villain. Tony Stark has managed thus far with terrible villains because he's actually his own worst enemy. Thor was only interesting because Loki was fascinating. Everyone is an enemy to each other in ensemble movies like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy so the point is moot.

I think the Winter Soldier could have been more, yet at the same time I don't think they could have fit any more without slowing the pace down too much. I hope this is addressed in the next movie because it would make up for what's lacking in this movie - the dynamic between Cap and Winter Soldier, the tragedy and disbelief and the see-sawing between trust and mistrust that made the Thor-Loki dynamic so magnetic. The Winter Soldier was a terrifying menace, and Sebastian Stan did bring a hint of vulnerability in the rare moments that his character was exposed, but there was not much more.

That said, the Steve-Bucky bromance is probably the least convincing of all I've seen. Oddly, the Steve/Sam dynamic is the most natural brothers-in-arms of the lot. Tony/Rhodey always has a sense of vague insincerity in that Rhodey has a conflicting obligation to the army, and he seems more exasperated with Tony than friendly.
mayoraasei: (Gintama)
8 ICU admissions, 2 trauma calls and 1 cardiac was All Hallow's Eve and clearly something was on the rove.

It's never a good idea to watch anything after an extremely long and exhausting night shift...but then again, there is probably no better judge of quality than whether a movie is still enjoyable for someone who's too tired for patience or humour.

A lot of reviews said the movie was incredibly funny, but though it did make me smile a few times it wasn't as comical as people made it out to be.

Once again, Loki is the highlight of the film. Every time I watch something with him, I fall more and more in love with this character. As Chris (Hemsworth) and Tom himself have pointed out, Loki is loveable because underneath all that charm and mischief, there is a raging storm of jealousy and grief and anger and indignation, yet underneath all that, he is driven by a deep yearning for a place of belonging, a family, a home, a clan to call his own.

Most characters in these high budget blockbusters get called well-developed with two layers...a villain with three conflicting sides that all form an integral part of almost cheating. Now play that off against Thor, who forms the core of his negative feelings as well as positive connections, you get a very watchable onscreen dynamic, even without all the "bromance" calls.

The two central characters (...sorry Jane, but Loki definitely seems to wrangle more weight) and the family dynamics carry the emotional weight of the film...though when I say weight it wasn't very heavy even with the film's one emotional turning point. Oh, the scene was very well-done, but it was (probably appropriately) overshadowed by the fallout from such an event. Last film the family dynamic was chiefly focused on Odin's growing frustration and Frigga's milder exasperation with Thor's arrogant antics. It's nice to get a bit of Loki versus the parents in this movie...which almost parallels that of Thor's in the first: the son they still love and clearly had better expectations of, caught up by his own obsession with power and authority and an arrogance he doesn't even realise he has.

As likeable as Loki is, he needs Thor to play off against and vice versa. Thor is unfortunately a much more two-dimensional character. He is - as Tom calls it - the sun to Loki's moon, and like the sun it shines with the same drearily immutable brightness everyday. He is more mature now; the sight of him smiling, quietly lost in thought, at the banquet table is a far cry from the boy-man at the beginning of the first movie. It's hard to say whether the events of The Avengers touched him - certainly not as much as it's freaked Tony Stark out - but he's a guy seasoned by battle, and now seasoned by life. But he comes alive when Loki enters the scene. It's nice to see him hold his own against Loki this time, to surprise the God of Trickery with his own tricks.

Jane unfortunately becomes fodder. She spends two-third of the film being the damsel in distress, and it's not quite redeemed by her achievements in averting Malekith's efforts in the final scene. Speaking of Malekith, he was probably the most maligned villain next to the Mandarin. It was very hard to care for a character whose motivations were never explained, especially when you've preceded him with the incredibly nuanced Loki. In fact, a lot of the side characters are maligned. I found Darcy to be really annoying this time around. Her perkiness seemed shoehorned in and jarred against the rest of the tone. The fatherly Erik Selvig similarly was reduced to a delirious old man who was introduced running around Stone Henge buck naked...and it was never explained.

It was an enjoyable film, and personally I think it's a bit more cohesive than the first one (though people's mileage vary). The climax actually feels like a climax, and the stakes are better matched to a movie that encompasses multiple realms. That said, strip away the family dynamics between Odin, Frigga, Thor and Loki, you get an flaccid film with a weak plot and pointless villain and pathetic heroine. it for the messed up Odin family.

Random aside: to me, Tony Stark and Loki are likeable for similar reasons. They're both outwardly charming, mischievous...almost anarchist characters. But both of them hide this incredible vulnerability that are so perfectly portrayed by their respective actors. Both are very lonely people who don't know how to form solid relationships, and while superheroes are inherently lonely, they're both very bothered and driven by their loneliness. You can argue that Stark became Iron Man because he became so aware of his loneliness that he wanted to do everything in his power to protect the bits of warmth that he knows. Loki is just given an extra layer of a misplaced revenge story.

iron man 3

6 May 2013 05:06 am
mayoraasei: (Geek)

Watched Iron Man 3 a couple of days ago, and in some ways it's better than I expected. It's somewhat like the feel of The Avengers, in that despite its multiple imperfections, it's a far more enjoyable product than the sum of its parts.

There's no arguing that the Iron Man franchise is the international money horse of the Disney/Marvel-owned cinema universe (in distinction from the Sony-owned Spiderman who due to these factors is unable to join the Avengers on their foray despite being a key member of the team). One can argue that without the success of the first Iron Man, there would be no Marvel cinema universe...and perhaps there would be no rekindling of RDJ's career.

It's worthy to note that RDJ's contract with Marvel actually ends with this movie, so he is not contractually obliged to continue his stint as Tony Stark, though he clearly is very fond of the character.

Assuming that this is RDJ's final outing (as unlikely as it seems at this point), I think it makes a good final installment of a trilogy - or perhaps in all, Tony's 5th official appearance.

I was a bit hesitant about the news of Shane Black directing. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was critically acclaimed, but I thought the flavour was too macabre and cynical for Marvel. The feeling of KKBB is like a dark fairytale, like maybe the original Grimm tales, full of gore and betrayal and happy endings at a Pyrrhic price.

In that respect, I was wrong. And as Shane Black and RDJ promised, the third movie stripped down the superfluous action and got closer to Stark's vulnerabilities. The script reads tighter than IM2, though the awkward ad-libbing is still obvious in some scenes. It doesn't quite reduce Stark to the level of helplessness in IM1, but it puts him in a tight spot for most of the movie and allows for an easy flow of an abundance of well-choreographed action scenes.

It was also nice to see a continuation of The Avengers storyline. Several of the pre-Avengers movies were accused of being too light on its own plot and too heavy on hinting to the combined movie. IM3 is fortunate in that it's the first movie to follow The Avengers and it doesn't need to carry the mantle of building up the Avengers' second outing. All it needs to do is acknowledge that Manhattan had happened, and it does so nicely by extending Tony's range of emotions and hence actually requiring RDJ to do some of his excellent acting.

In fact, as the story flows, we forget to wonder why Iron Man didn't call for help from the Avengers. For Tony Stark, his fight has always been personal. When Captain America stood on the Helicarrier and accused him of fighting only for himself...there was no argument. Tony is not a soldier or a mercenary, he's a self-made vigilante who would never drag other people into his personal battles.

One thing Shane Black excels at is creating some very dimensional characters. Despite a large number of new characters introduced into the cast, many of them are quite memorable, and yet the old characters are still further developed.

Pepper Potts manages to be amazing in this movie. She's not the helpless damsel-in-distress she's always been, but a totally kick-ass woman in her own right. Gwyneth Paltrow has been saying for a while (since completing filming) that she wanted to leave the franchise, but apart from replacing her I don't see them writing Pepper out of the picture. This version of Tony is far too attached to her, and he'll just have a major meltdown if anything happens.


Now, onto the flaws, and there's a few. Firstly, the trailers are pretty misleading, though that in itself is not necessarily a flaw. But the trailer gave the impression that the Mandarin was the major villain in this movie...when in actual fact, he's not, and that is a pity.

Sir Ben Kingsley is an amazing actor, who can turn from a threatening dictatorial presence to a doddering old junkie in the next, so it seems an enormous pity that the plot wastes his talent in revealing the Mandarin as nothing but a mannequin. In the comics, the Mandarin is Iron Man's greatest nemesis. He is to Tony Stark what Loki is to Thor (though obviously...different in many ways). I do hope he makes a reappearance at some point...and that brings me to the second point.

Aldritch Killian is too weak as a villain. Oh, physically he is almost invincible, sort of like a conveniently more destructible version of the Wolverine. But as far as villains go, Iron Man has had a run of three poor villains. The first was motivated by greed, the second by revenge, and this guy by...what? Both? Tony Stark still stands as the most visible superhero within the Marvel cinematic universe. He is a weapon-maker who spouts ideals of peace and green-love and all things, that would to a cynical eye look, hypocritical. It is time that he meets someone who can match, not only his cleverness and strength, but who can also shred his flimsy ideology to the rubbish it's worth. People adore him because he wins...but what happens when he loses, will his ideology still look so appealing then? That would be very interesting to explore and I think it should take someone like the Mandarin to test his mettle.

Thirdly, while the action scenes are very fun to watch, there's a lot of flaws abound. The logic of the suits and of the Extremis virus haven't been planned that well, and the abilities of each armour unit and each Extremis host vary wildly from scene to scene, from battle to battle. The thing about video games is that it doesn't just have to look cool, there has to be rules and the rules have to be enforced. IM3's most visible flaw is that no one's bothered to think of the rules and as a result there is a movie filled with enemies that would be indestructible up until the moment they're dispatched with one simple blast.

Aldritch Killian and the Mandarin were not the only ones who were slighted in their development. I expected more of Rebecca Hall's character...but she didn't last long. And despite her being pretty spunky and Pepper being actually cool, the movie still failed the Bechdel test.

It was a very enjoyable movie, and it amended at least one flaw of the previous Iron Man movies, which was that the climax here actually deserved to be called a climax. What it would benefit from is actually finding some villains with good ideological conviction. Other than that, the logic of the suits and the powers of the Extremis hosts could have done with some more thought...because it does get distracting eventually.
mayoraasei: (Geek)
Yes, you did read "the amazing" twice (well, thrice, now).

The great thing about having low expectations for something is that the probability of being pleasant surprised increases.

Does The Amazing Spiderman rank up there with the two behemoths of superhero movies released on either side of it? Of course not, but I don't think it ever tries to be.

I don't remember much of Sam Raimi's Spiderman trilogy, only that I didn't like much of Tobey Maguire. After thinking about this for a long time (and rewatching a few old Spiderman clips) I realised that he reminded me of a less stunned Frodo, and he was too pretty for the everyteen role.

Garfield passed much more easily as a teen, not just by virtue of a messy mop of hair and a boyish face, but he just hits the notes much better. He's much more convincing being the awkward teen, being brash, being vindictive, being sulky, being thoughtless, revelling in his new found prowess and striking out in misdirected sentiments. On the other hand, Maguire has such a cautious nerdy face that watching him play an outgoing kid is like watching Kame trying to flirt with a girl (oi). If there was a flaw, Garfield's version of Peter Parker was just a little too self-assured and very smart-ass when he's in the suit, which I suppose is why I've seen some reviewers call his version a douchebag. Then again, I thought that was supposed to be his character trait (as opposed to Tony Stark, who's resting mode is effusive sarcastic narcissism).

Reading through the Wikipedia description of Spiderman, it seems this movie stuck truer to its origins. Spiderman gained mainly physical prowess - improved senses, greatly increased strength and agility, and the ability to stick to objects. The web had always been an exogenous invention of his own.

What it lacked in The Avengers' knack for momentousness and The Dark Knight Rises' sense for multilayered drama, it made up for by being a much more personable and personal film. It owes a lot to its actors, who held together the very loose script. Peter's journey from socially awkward to sulky self-pity to anguished recklessness, and to finally, slowly, come to his own realisation of how he must wield his powers - in the way the script leapt from one teenage emotion to another, in anyone else's hands it would have been disjointed and discursive.

Unlike Maguire, Garfield has the amazing ability of not making you want to slap him senseless when he cries (not to mention his irresistibly broad grin). Emma Stone (loved her in Easy A) was equally at ease with her role, the nervous interactions between Peter and Gwen some of the funniest and most (cringingly) realistic in the movie. I also loved the interactions between Peter and Aunt May, the scenes easily brought out the best in both actors.

The plot is quite messy in many ways, one flaw being The Lizard being a rather unspectacular villain. However, I liked how it handled Peter's reaction to Uncle Ben's senseless death. He didn't immediately springboard into a defender of the good and innocent: he remained just a kid, enraged and embittered and using his abilities in all the wrong ways to search for a personal justice. I liked how it was Captain Stacy's words that prodded him, and I liked how defensive he became about his motives - the best sign of admission. I wish that thread (his hunt for the robber) was tied up though, because it felt too important a thread to leave hanging and yet - surely - does not have the longevity to carry into a sequel.

It's a much darker film than the previous Spiderman (or as I recall them), but I think it fits the character well. He reminds me of Hamlet, if you take the high culture out of Hamlet - just a kid who had too much crap happen in too short a space of time, and the way he reacts is not at all surprising. It doesn't define Peter as the moral good, because he's still learning for himself what he should be.

I may not necessarily rewatch this movie (though I might, because Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy are so unnecessarily adorable, damn it), but I would definitely watch a sequel with the same actors.

And there'll be a lot of extremely happy fans if Sony and Disney shook hands and put Spiderman in The Avengers 2.
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Things you need to know before watching The Avengers (film universe events)

******** Contains spoilers to previous movies ********

Captain America, or Steve Rogers, is a war hero from WWII. He was given the super soldier serum by Tony Stark's father which enhanced all his human capacities without giving him any superpowers. The Captain's shield is made from vibranium and is extremely resistant to kinetic forces. In his final mission in the war, Captain America crashed near the arctic and was frozen for 70 years. How he retained his youth is not yet explained.......

Thor is the son of Odin All-Father, the king of Asgard, a realm that exists in parallel to Earth. His hammer, Mjollnir, can only be lifted by someone worthy of it. During his brief banishment to Earth, he fell in love with Jane Foster and became good friends with her mentor, Erik Selvig.

Loki was raised as Thor's brother, but Loki later discovers that he's actually the surviving child of Asgard's mortal enemies, the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. Eager to please Odin and prove himself the more worthy child, Loki attempts to destroy Jotunheim, and when rejected by Odin, chooses to fall into the abyss of his own creation and vanished from Asgard.

Tony Stark is Iron Man and requires no introduction beyond "uhh...genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist?" Suffice to say that he's also a drama queen who craves applause who would and did build a tower with his own name plastered across the top.

The Arc Reactor is a clean energy source created by Tony's father but perfected by Tony. He has a miniature version in his chest to prevent shrapnel from reaching his heart.

Inside the nervy scientist Bruce Banner lies the alter-ego Hulk, a giant green monster that arose from a failed super soldier serum experiment. Hulk's main identity is anger and is almost uncontrollable when unleashed.

Hawkeye's name is Clint Barton whose main prowess is with bow and arrow. Black Widow is Natasha Romanov. Both are spies and assassins under SHIELD. For a while Black Widow was undercover as Tony Stark's secretary.

SHIELD is the secret security subdivision that first advanced the Avengers Initiative, uniting a group of superheroes in preparation for overwhelming threats. Nick Fury is the organisation's badass eccentric director. Agent Phil Coulson is the field agent SHIELD sent to recruit Stark and to investigate various phenomena in previous movies.

The Tesseract (or Cosmic Cube, though I'm not sure if that name is ever used in the movies) is an unlimited power source first discovered by Captain America's enemy, the Red Skull, and was lost when Captain America crashed his plane. Erik Selvig was called upon to work on harnessing the power of the Tesseract at the end of Thor.

Ugh...after writing all that I realised how much there was going on. While The Avengers follows directly on the heels of Captain America, most characters and plot-points are actually laid down in Iron Man and Thor.
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Building expectations is sometimes like building a house. The longer you spend on it, the farther it may strays from its original concept so that in the end you're inevitably disappointed.

It is therefore with much credit to Joss Whedon that this movie managed not to disappoint. As people have said time and again, Marvel has had a streak of good insight in picking the right directors. Here, they found someone who was aware of all the fallibilities of a comic book movie with too many characters and knew how to avoid them.

I feel that whatever I say has been said in another review. Whedon was responsible for both the direction and the screenplay. As a writer, he is much more interested in character than action, has a unique strength in creating interesting ensembles, is well aware of how comic conventions work, and is a huge fanboy himself of all things comic.

But if anyone was worried (and plenty were) that the movie would consist of 2.5 hours of talking, Whedon clearly has enough humility and self-awareness to call upon others to assist him.

The end result is something that surpasses all Marvel movies to-date in its riveting and well-choreographed climax, has much more humour than Nolan's Batman, and an admirable feat of allowing every hero their moment to shine.

Let's start with the negative points first: even at 2.5 hours, there's really not enough time to explain things to people who hadn't done their homework. This is especially true in the case of Hawkeye who so far had only one 15 second cameo in Thor and his particular subplot doesn't give us much time to learn about who he is before throwing us in the deep end. In fact, the first time "Barton" was mentioned it took me a few minutes to realise who it referred to.

Similarly, there are things one can nitpick about the other characters: both Thor and Captain America spend most of their time looking tremendously sullen. It's a few hours later that I remembered Thor had the most amazing playful grin in his own movie. And that while Steve Rogers is a man full of good old-fashioned military values, he was also adorably thick/slow.

There are moments when these quirks show through, but if you're not waiting for them it's easy to miss, and the characters become much less dimensional.

The way that the control spell broke was also a little bit of a cop-out, but hey, maybe it just works like that.

Now, onto the good things )
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Squeak?)
I would have gone and watched this movie anyway even if all the trailers continued to be as boring unrevealing as the initial ones. But the lastest trailer just made me squeeeek the heck out XD

One day I may actually read the comics (nah).

Avengers trailer #1 (teaser)

Avengers trailer #2 (Superbowl)

* I love the song in the first trailer
* I love how the 3rd trailer balances out the action instead of being Iron Man-centric

None of Marvel's movies have been very good so far in terms of plot or, in particular, climaxes...Iron Man 2 probably the worst offender with Thor coming close in second =_=++

But their characterisation have so far been quite well-written (or well-casted). As much as I found Thor bull-headed, he was probably far more likeable than he otherwise would have been ==; The only one I didn't care much for was Captain America, but that's because he's written as a flawless hero in his own movie, so a clash with a reluctant and very flawed hero like Tony Stark would be interesting. It seems to be Thor vs Captain America and Iron Man in that forest confrontation, but judging by the character clash later on, I'm hoping it will be a three way fight instead XD

I think Tony Stark just about pissed everyone important off in the trailers XD I finally spotted the scene where Loki shoves him (unsuited) out the window of his tower (*first trailer, probably soon after the snark in the 2nd trailer).

I hope there's a good end for Loki. I like Loki. But I think I like Tom Hiddleston more because he's just so damn pleasant and positive and British LOL. I could probably say the same for all the other guys, Hemsworth and RDJ and Evans are just so funny and personable in interviews I'm looking forward to the promotional material as much as I am to the actual movie.

I still find Hawkeye and Black Widow redundant. Perhaps that's related to me finding Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson so clashingly sour in interviews >_>

mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Squeak?)
What with Captain America coming up in a few days and faced with the daunting task of mountaineering the peak of box office records that is Harry Potter...

You know, I don't think Captain America ever has the trouble that Jack Sparrow has. I can't imagine anyone bellowing "Hey you scallywag, AMERICA", for a start.

Speaking of releases and such, Captain America - apart from test screenings with critics - already had a pre-release screening with an audience of American soldiers, presumably the hardest to please second to diehard Cap fans, given that Captain America was a military-based construct and the whole story sits a lot closer to the military than Iron Man does. The response has supposedly been positive, and from the critics side they're saying it's on par with Iron Man which is probably promising, especially considering how much Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are opposing poles in personality and life.

Captain America will be screening at San Diego Comic-Con tomorrow ahead of release, so it'll be interesting to see the response from the nerd corner after it safely courted the soldiers.

...I am still probably not going to watch it in theatres though, even for the 1 minute of 0.5 second flash montages that's supposed to be a preview trailer for The Avengers. Even for that 0.8 seconds of Tony Stark patronising a god (Thor), which I'm sure he's always dreamt of putting on his "Things to accomplish in life before I die of palladium poisoning" (since he's no longer dying from that I guess the list is scrapped).

And on that line of thought about Captains and superheroes, Captain Planet sort of bubbled out of my pond of nostalgia and like some creepy psychic butterfly vortex, this came up today: Captain Planet to be adapted into a movie




Anyway I don't care who they cast as the man captain himself since he's like final power-up or something and I hope they keep it that way, because most of the time it's the Planeteers that's actually interesting and relevant and proactive and significantly unique enough to set it aside from the swarm of superhero movies set to beset us in the near future.

I really hope that any Cap Planet movie will focus on the Planeteers. AND THEY BETTER CAST A MULTIRACIAL CAST. That would be a great change, with more "coloured" people in the main group than any other superhero movie.

The fact they've signed on the production team for Transformers may not be a great sign. At least at the moment Michael Bay isn't attached.
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Finally watched the two Iron Man movies properly. Cynical self-deprecating idiots who are too immature to wear the badge of superhero honour with self-important righteousness is right up my alley (not that that made any sense XD)

So apparently Marvel has a habit of forcing audience to stay for the credits.

At the end of Iron Man 2, Agent Coulson gets out of his car (having taken leave from Tony Stark in the middle of the movie) and sees Mewmew Mjollnir embedded in a rock. He pulls out a phone and reports, "Found it, sir."

The exact same scene appears in Thor shortly before Coulson confiscates all of Jane's research and Thor crashes Coulson's swirly construction. It would have helped if they explained Coulson's background a bit more for non-Marvel fans ==;;;; For most of the movie I thought Coulson was a bad guy (it did not help that in classic cannon fodder villain tradition he almost got blown to smithereens by the big Iron Man lookalike). And that he tried to recruit Thor by talking down to him.

Watching Iron Man makes me feel like I must have a mecca fangirl hidden in me somewhere. The coolest scenes (apart from the massively pwning laser beams and the endless arsenal of explosives) are the bits where he tests and constructs new hardware. That, and the movies' always got a sense of humour about it all.

And Tony Stark reminds me of Tony Di Nozzo, but...I guess though they could both manage to be annoying, at least Stark is less inappropriate. Funny that, both being playboys. Must be a Hollywood thing LOL


22 Apr 2011 09:25 pm
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
On a spur of the moment I dragged a friend to watch Thor with me, in spite of superhero movies totally being not up my alley, even though I did enjoy Iron Man...possibly on RDJ's goofiness.

A very long time ago, in the days when I could still gobble up a book like a very starved...bookworm, I read a brick-sized book based on Norse mythology and concluded that they've somehow managed to be more screwed up than the Greek myths.

And halfway between then and now I read The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul and suffice to say that since then I've always had an impression of Thor as being a slightly idiotic trigger-happy thug.

Thor kinda reinforces that image, although it is clearly a story of maturation and might have been enjoyable if only it hadn't been so damn predictable every step of the way. It gets a bit boring when the audience is always one step of the movie: he's going to turn evil isn't he...the hammer is going to come isn't it...he's going to let go now...

That said, it is a visually STUNNING movie, apart from the giant metal guardian and quite possibly a lot of the animations, which could tone down the comic convention somewhat. But the landscape of Asgard, the great metal pipes jutting like stalagmites into the purple sky, the glittering rainbow bridge...

It is basically a giant 3D RPG experience, equipped with a cheat key XD

Plot just kind of...proceeded without much regard to climatic or emotional highlight. Somehow the romance happened, somehow he changed, somehow people and things turned out the way they did.

I never thought that "show and don't tell" could be an advice applied to movies, but this one clearly should heed it. Jumps in character development might be acceptable in games, but not so much in movies.

Still, it managed to be an enjoyable movie, and I think Chris Hemsworth really deserves kudos for making such a...block-headed character likeable. Not that there was all that much acting involved, all he had to do was split a grin. There is something about Thor's air that's very pup-like...albeit at 2 metres tall and with giant abs >>;

About halfway through the movie I realised I was supposed to like Loki, and I can't exactly remember where from. Probably comes from Odin and Thor being such thick-headed idiots who personify the alpha male (i.e. like gods of modern rugby players) it's nice to have someone who derives endless amusement at their expense. Aiiee...I remember I was so taken by Mephistopheles (Faust) as well XDDD

PS: Stayed after credits ( really was after credits...the whole damned credits) to watch The Avengers leadup. I stayed for your sake, Iron Man!!!! No1curr. It was Samuel L Jackson, that's who it was LOL. I really don't think I can sit through Captain America ==; Seriously I half-suspect I went to see Thor simply because I want to watch The Avengers and THAT is only because I watched Iron Man and thought "WOW, I can actually understand you, Sherlock!" .............*Facepalm self*

The movie completely satiated my inner blue-eye fetish *dreamy*


mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)

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