Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’

THOR

2011/05/10

 

http://thor.marvel.com/

USA 2011  Directed by: Kenneth Branagh  Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne  Produced by: Kevin Feige  Cinematography by: Haris Zambarloukos  Editing by: Paul Rubell  Music by: Patrick Doyle  Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo

I never saw the appeal of Thor as a comic-book hero. Actually, if picky, I’d say Thor is not even a superhero by any means. He’s a Nordic mythical deity cast to Earth by his father Odin. And, with his red cape, ironclad armor and a little gold, winged helmet housing a set of goldilocks, he’s borderline a Halloween mascot.

“Thor” the movie is an attempt to make the character less kitsch – red cape, ironclad armor, and long flowing goldilocks for all the females to swoon over. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) took a lot of time working out for the ladies. Outside his armor he’s a pin-up for Levi’s commercials…at times where it would barely hold on to his tight derrière. His piercing blue eyes could raise your body temperature to tip the mercury.

But, “Thor” is a superhero comic-book adaptation. And it’s mostly for boys. What bright idea was it to make it into a romantic comedy? Sure, there were moments of clashing and flying fists and bodies. Of course there was a ton of CG effects that required a small nation of computer animators. But for the most part, the story somewhat circled around Thor and his love interest, Jane Foster, played sappily by the recent Oscar doll, Natalie Portman. However, the fault doesn’t lie with the actors, considering there are a few more big-screen heavyweights aside from Portman – Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Stellan Skarsgård (Jane’s senior yet timid colleague), and cameos by Jeremy Renner and Sam Jackson. It’s just that all the crucial stakes raised by the characters weren’t…all that crucial.

Thor’s an arrogant god born with invulnerability. Because of his hard head that put his realm in danger of going back to war with its nemesis, the frost giants, Thor is stripped of his powers by his father and cast to Earth as punishment. There, he meets Jane, by accident, and struggles to regain his senses and worth for his triumphant return. But then, the film segues to Jane and Thor getting acquainted for a really long time, leaving all the action and plots to the curb. Somehow, Thor (a daft god) finds Jane (a geeky, squeaky astrophysicist) really interesting. But, unlike other sensible action movies where at least the distressed dame would be the cause for the hero to go berserk and blow things up, Jane was just there to have coffee talk with Thor. And for the final battle, she isn’t even really in harm’s way; accept maybe stubbornly tiptoeing into crossfire.

Throughout the film, one character stood out sincerely, Kat Denning’s sexy, pouty Darcy – Jane’s intern, who found Thor, Jane, and the entire scenario to be a farce. It made a lot of sense on paper to point Kenneth Branagh to the director’s chair…for the amalgamation of theatrical period-costumed figures with modern-day countryside simpletons. But the delivery missed the target by a long shot. “Thor” was handled with little sensitivity to the comic-book genre and over-saturated melodrama that left it out by the backdoor like a wet dog. So despite the thunderous disputes and whirlwind high-school crush, Branagh hammered the last nail in Thor’s coffin.

IRON MAN 2

2010/05/03

http://ironmanmovie.marvel.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: John Favreau Written by: Justin Theroux  Graphic Novel: Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby  Produced by: Kevin Feige  Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique  Editing: Dan Lebental, Richard Pearson   Music: John Debney  Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Paul Bettany, Gary Shandling, Christiane Amanpour, Stan Lee

For many years, DC has had a stronghold on converting their comic books to cinema. And, they were quite good at bring out follow-ups – SUPERMAN, BATMAN…uh, that’s about it. For over two decades, Marvel had tried to do the same but failed again and again. But in recent years, that curse had been broken. Every title that got the green light had been converted into a franchise: SPIDER-MAN, X-MEN, and FANTASTIC FOUR. They were even able to succeed at spin-offs like WOLVERINE (slashing out of the X-MEN series).

IRON MAN 1 was a bit of a surprise. Under the helm of Jon Favreau (an obscure choice since he’s known for his comedic roles and writings), it was a hit by any standard. And, with Sam Jackson cutting in at the end as agent Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (another comic book title), you knew that Marvel has got something big planned – Fury wanted to recruit Tony Stark (Iron Man) to join some elite organization (another order of spin-offs, please).

Now, IRON MAN 2 had a lot to ride on. The formula was there, and so needed the twist, and the additional fireworks. Here’s where I give credit to Hollywood for doing something that no other can and doing it right. The story is rock solid. It didn’t take itself too seriously. All the dialogs were kept at a very human-speak level. Where Robert Downey Jr. had only the squeals of Gwenyth Paltrow to keep him in check, IRON MAN 2 had Sam Rockwell (playing an opposing arms dealer) to bounce off all his wits and rants with – without overshadowing him. Both their performances were tickling to watch. And, to put Gwenyth in her corner, Scarlett Johansson comes in as agent Romanoff of S.H.I.E.LD. to assess Tony Stark’s character. I don’t know how much she trained for her role or whether she had a twin who’s a stunt double, but her moves were so well choreographed that she had some of the best fight scenes in the whole movie. And topping it off with her derrière sparing sessions in the skirt, she deserves a spin-off all on her own.

Mickey Rourke gives half an effort playing a Russian mad scientist (Ivan Vanko) that’s duplicated Tony Stark’s technology, and seeks bitter vengeance on Stark. There seemed a window for more depth to Rourke’s character. But, with Rockwell stealing all the scenes, not much is left to write.

The only irk I had was the replacement of Terrence Howard (Col. Rhodey) with Don Cheadle. With Howard’s internal, silent subtlety, he was much more convincing as the friend that curbs Downey Jr.’s egomaniacal flamboyance. And, the contrast gave better comedy. No matter, there’s always Sam Rockwell to pick up the pieces. So, with mind-blowing visual effects, a hearty soundtrack, beautiful cars and jets, and a truckload of good dialog, I just might have to go see it again.

P.S. Something happens in the end that pinpoints to surefire continuity…or, yes, thank you, another spin-off.