Viewing entries in
Comic Book Movie

Avengers: Endgame

Comment

Avengers: Endgame

Those of us who didn’t grow up reading the source material, who can’t recite chapter and verse the labyrinthine backstory for the dozens of characters integrated into the MCU, can sometimes feel like outsiders. As one of those outsiders, my first instinct is to focus on these films’ over-reliance on Earth-in-Peril (and more increasingly, Universe-in-peril) scenarios, the deadening effects of pixelpalooza CGI battles, and the constant hype machine always building towards the next movie.

While the criticisms are valid – especially in the weaker MCU entries like Avengers: Age of Ultron – they cause me too often to overlook the moments of emotional resonance that these movies contain, and the connection that their most loyal fans have to the characters. With Avengers: Endgame, the grand finale and culmination of over 20 Marvel movies spanning more than a decade, it’s impossible to overlook the emotional resonance. Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and sibling directing team Anthony & Joe Russo made a film rich with human drama.

Read more…

Comment

Deadpool 2

Comment

Deadpool 2

I hate that I’m starting to repeat myself when it comes to comic book movies. The critique is a fair one, though, so you’ll have to forgive me as I copy and paste my biggest complaint about Avengers: Infinity War and apply it to Deadpool 2. Writing about Infinity War, I parroted the increasingly familiar refrain from many critics that any sense of dramatic stakes in these movies is undercut when, in the interest of protecting the franchise cash cow, the filmmakers hit the reset button to ensure a next installment. That’s what (predictably) happens at the end of Deadpool 2, and in a mid-credits sequence, no less. This franchise relies on its use of snark and sardonic meta style to laugh at these conventions – and itself – so hard that we can’t help but forgive it. The problem is that after just one sequel, the nihilistic and self-referential humor has started to wear a little thin.

Read more…

Comment

Avengers: Infinity War

1 Comment

Avengers: Infinity War

Ten years ago, Marvel Studios launched its “cinematic universe,” using crossovers and tie-ins to connect every property under its umbrella. The strategy has shaken the entire entertainment industry. Any extended universe of characters – from rival DC’s effort at playing catch-up, to Universal Studios’ so far disastrous “Dark Universe” – is a naked attempt at copying Marvel’s lucrative success. To celebrate their decade of dominance, Marvel changed the “i” and “o” in the word “studios” to the number 10 in the Marvel logo at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th feature film release in the MCU.

It’s become harder and harder to think about each of these movies on its own merits, because Marvel’s apparent plan is to work its audiences into a constant frenzy of anticipation for what’s coming next.

Read more…

1 Comment

Black Panther

3 Comments

Black Panther

If you suffer from the condition known as Superhero Fatigue Syndrome, as I often do, you might be hesitant to see the latest Marvel movie, Black Panther. There’s no reason to be hesitant. In fact, Black Panther works as an antidote to the feeling that you’ve grown tired of just about anything based on a comic book or that is incorporated into Marvel’s sprawling, at times unwieldy, Cinematic Universe. Black Panther might just be the best Marvel movie yet.

Read more...

3 Comments

Wonder Woman

Comment

Wonder Woman

It’s not my intent to damn Wonder Woman with too much faint praise by measuring it favorably against the abysmal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After all, saying this movie is leagues better than that one is akin to lauding really good fast food over something you found in the dumpster because, well, at least it isn’t actual garbage. The comparison needs to be made, though, because both exist in DC’s attempt at a Marvel-style cinematic universe, and the character made her debut in that earlier film. Wonder Woman is a well-crafted action spectacle with its greatest strength (both the title character and the actress playing her) right at the center. The elements orbiting that center, though, keep it from being transcendent.

Read more...

Comment

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

1 Comment

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The most enjoyable thing about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is exemplified in its very first action sequence. An alien race called The Sovereign have hired the guardians – Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Racoon, and Groot – to protect some highly powerful and very valuable batteries from a giant space slug. An epic battle ensues as a backdrop to the opening credits. There’s plenty of razzle-dazzle special effects work and camera trickery in this sequence, to be sure, but the real focus isn’t the fight at all. Groot, the 12-foot tall extraterrestrial tree-creature, sacrificed himself in the first Guardians film, and regenerated as a tiny seedling now known as Baby Groot. Obviously, he’s not much help in this fight. Instead, director James Gunn has him avoiding danger by showing off some hilarious dance moves to Electric Light Orchestra’s classic hit Mr. Blue Sky.

It’s a clever, goofy way of launching directly into the oddball sense of humor that made the original movie from 2014 so entertaining.

Read more...

1 Comment

Logan

2 Comments

Logan

Since the beginning of the comic book movie’s modern era, arguably starting with Richard Donner’s Superman in 1978, the genre has fought for legitimacy. Critics and audiences alike would dismiss the majority of them as kid’s stuff – they’re fun and entertaining, sure, but not to be taken too seriously. The makers of these movies started challenging that philosophy in earnest when the number of comic book movies released per year ramped up, starting with Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was one major step forward. The superhero’s capacity for emotional and moral complexity got deeper even as the body count and onscreen carnage got bloodier and more overwhelming.

Director James Mangold’s Logan feels like a leap forward. There is an emotional resonance here that’s more profound than any comic book movie I’ve ever seen. It’s made more affecting because there are real stakes in Logan. Mangold – who co-wrote as well as directed – breaks through the usual pitfall of these sorts of movies by having his characters change in ways that can’t easily be reset for a next installment. Logan is a brilliant example of the heights that comic book movies are capable.

Read more...

 

2 Comments

Ever dance with Jared Leto in the pale moonlight?: Suicide Squad

2 Comments

Ever dance with Jared Leto in the pale moonlight?: Suicide Squad

It’s not easy to overlook the many flaws of the new DC comic book adaptation Suicide Squad (and trust me, I won’t), but I have to admit that I did enjoy it more than I expected. The sole reason for that unexpected enjoyment is the cast. The producers of Suicide Squad put together a collection of actors who are not only charismatic individually, but whose chemistry as a team is about the only thing that makes the movie watchable at all. Without Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, and the rest, Suicide Squad would be an unredeemable mess of a movie. Grotesquely nihilistic, with a script that can most charitably be described as cobbled together, a possible subtitle for the film could have been The Plot that Wasn’t There.

Read more...

2 Comments

Captain America: Civil War

Comment

Captain America: Civil War

I never really got into comic books as a kid, so their stylistic elements in big screen adaptations aren’t a part of my artistic appreciation as an adult. It means quite a lot, then, that there is a sequence in Captain America: Civil War that even novices like me can realize comes from a powerful connection to the source material: the splash page.  Put simply, a splash page is one big drawing that takes up a full page (or two) of any single comic. It’s meant to really catch the reader’s attention, a sort of aesthetic exclamation point in the middle of the story.

The directing team of brothers Anthony and Joe Russo create at least one moment that is on par with the grandeur of the splash page. In fact, the visual design of the whole film evinces a deep respect and love for their movie’s funny book origin, and its uniquely cinematic qualities. The script, by writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, offers up a fairly straightforward central conflict while successfully bringing together multiple subplots that are all in service of the larger story.

Read more...

Comment

The Forgetful Film Critic v Zack Snyder: Critique of Justice

2 Comments

The Forgetful Film Critic v Zack Snyder: Critique of Justice

Well, it was as bad as I expected. Whenever I make the decision to write about a movie (being extremely selective in what I review is the ultimate perk of writing as a hobby), I do my absolute best to avoid the critical response around a film before I have a chance to see it myself. I don’t want to be swayed by anyone else’s opinion but my own. I want to react to the movie with an open, unbiased mind. That was near impossible with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I saw it on opening night, but I was still inundated by headlines on social media, not to mention every website starting with “www” having an opinion about how terrible the film was. The internet even graced me with the Sad Affleck meme. That was particularly delicious, in a “worst angels of our nature” sort of way.

When I sat down in the theater, waiting for the lights to dim, I steeled myself against all I had seen that day. I’m willing to give any movie a fair shake and Batman v Superman was no different. I did my duty as a critic to leave any preconceived notions I had at the ticket counter, so it’s without any reservation that I write these words: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an utter mess. There are a few elements worthy of praise, to be sure, but they are so few and far between that they are essentially inconsequential to the overall effect.

BvS suffers from kitchen sink syndrome. In an effort to wow the audience, as well as get their own cinematic universe kick-started, DC Comics and screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer packed any and everything they could think of into an interminable two-and-a-half-hour assault on the senses. Hell, there’s even a literal kitchen sink. Used as a weapon during the titular hero-on-hero battle royale. Actually, if memory serves, it was a bathroom sink. So the movie gets one half credit for avoiding complete cliché.

Read more...

2 Comments

Deadpool: The hilarity of The Marx Brothers, the splatter of Grindhouse

2 Comments

Deadpool: The hilarity of The Marx Brothers, the splatter of Grindhouse

There’s been a huge amount of hype by both the media and fans surrounding the fact that Deadpool is the first R rated comic book movie. That’s kind of weird, because it’s not true. Even Marvel – the comic book publisher that aims 95% of their movie adaptations at the youth market with the family friendlier PG-13 rating – has dabbled in R rated film versions of their properties. Both the Blade franchise and the Punisher movies are Marvel joints, and both went for the adult’s only rating. Deadpool definitely feels different, though.

The Blade and Punisher movies came before what’s known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe approach to gargantuan budget, franchise filmmaking, which was kicked into high gear by Marvel Studios with Iron Man in 2008. Deadpool is part of the X-Men Cinematic Universe, though, a separate entity that 20th Century Fox controls.  That means you’ll never see Deadpool in an Avengers movie, or Iron Man in an X-Men movie, but you get the point. The idea for both is that the myriad characters from all the different movies interact with each other and cross over into interconnected storylines, just like the comic book versions have been doing since the 1940s. So far all of these movies have had the teenager safe PG-13 rating. Now, Deadpool crashes the party with enough foul-mouthed dialogue and graphic violence to make Quentin Tarantino blush.

Ok, not really, but it is a major departure from the strategy up to now. It makes sense. I’d venture a guess that the millions of dollars spent by fans at comic cons and on these movies every year come more from the mid-20s to early-40s crowd than from the under-20 set. The big question is, did the talent behind Deadpool pull off such a different approach successfully? The answer is a strong, if slightly qualified, yes.

Read more...

2 Comments