Summer Movie Review
Editor's Note: In which our trusted panel discuss 2011's offerings of superhero films from both Marvel and DC.
So, another summer movie season has come to an end (with a bang, or mercifully, depending on who you ask) after filling the theatres again with huge, action blockbusters of all different shapes and sizes. As has become the norm, comic book movies were all over the place in theatres. We saw four big comic book properties turned into movies and heavily promoted everywhere you looked: Captain America, Thor, X-Men, and Green Lantern. What does this all mean? Well, it means it now falls to us to figure out which ones were worth watching, which ones helped their respective franchises and which probably should have stayed a gleam in some screenwriter's eye. So first up Anth, how do you rank them?
Summer 2011 was a veritable orgy of comic-based movies, of which my faves slide in at: 1st Captain America, 2nd Green Lantern, and a tight 3rd & 4th being X-Men: FC & Thor. Before we get in too deep, let me say I enjoyed ALL of these films and would definitely see them again. I'm not saying First Class and Thor were bad movies, they just don't measure up to the rest /end disclaimer.
In a shocking turn of events, I've got Captain America on top as well, with X-Men: First Class a close second. Then I would put Thor, which is about half of a good movie, and then I will sheepishly (well, ok, not really) admit that I didn't watch Green Lantern after being scared away by the terrible reviews.
Editor's Note: Perhaps he should have been replaced by someone who watched the movie.
With your self-appointed description as cinema aficionado and comic fan, I am appalled by your lack of investment in the transformation of comic books to the big screen. Also, as a guy who loves to tear apart 'bad' movies, I'm amazed you didn't see it just for ammo. Though I'm not surprised you didn't waste the dough or time see it, as each trailer and poster I saw lowered my expectations, and critical reception was tepid - which is probably why I was so pleasantly surprised.
Alright, alright, one day I'll watch it, but before we get to the bottom let's start at the top. We both really enjoyed Captain America as a movie, and as a decent setup to the future Avengers movie. I didn't expect to be as entertained by it as I was, but its wild, over-the-top comic style and flair really hooked me. I mean, it wasn't exactly super intelligent, but it had a 40's tone that it wanted to nail and it did just that. Plus, the cast was all on board (which says a lot when Tommy Lee Jones is involved), Hugo Weaving's portrayal of Red Skull was sufficiently compelling, and a couple of the action set pieces (the train and the plane/airship sequence) were solid. Your take?
Like you said, Captain America was stylish, had great pace and got me invested in all of the characters. I have never felt so attached to the ordinary Janes and Joes making up a Superhero's posse - making the ending really hit the mark. Cap was viscerally satisfying through and through, exactly why I stowed X-Men and Thor in 3rdand 4th. No matter how much depth X-Men tried to offer, or how grandiose Thor tried to be, their uneven pacing was the common denominator here.
Noted, but still, X-Men gets just a slight edge over Thor? Really?
You're damn right, X-Men "just" gets the edge -- despite the Magneto / Xavier dynamic being top notch, they nearly flunked themselves overdoing it. Who put TEARS all over my mutants? I expected a montage to break out titled Training with Charles - seriously how did they get so good so fast?
Sure, but X-Men also had a cool retro feel and was, I felt, well executed. Maybe I give it too much credit for being 'not embarrassing' (especially after the X3 fiasco). I mean, I, too, have an issue with some of the side characters that feel very, very two-dimensional (Cap had this too, but it mattered much less). But when McAvoy, Fassbender and Bacon are involved (which, thankfully, is a lot) the movie kicks into a higher gear.
OK I will admit I did enjoy watching that trio, and Kevin Bacon just owned the screen as a super villain. In the same vein as your X3 comment, I'm probably too critical, expecting more to make up for that mess. If the overdone segments with Xavier training all of his (poorly selected and meagrely developed cast of) mutant recruits was cut short (or condensed into an actual 2-minute montage with X-Men Animated Series theme music?), and if there were far less sappy moments between the two dear friends destined to be enemies, I would harbour less disdain. But the pacing of X-Men faltered too often in the second half. So removing my own pre-disposition to its subject matter (read: I enjoyed all 3 plus Wolverine) I found X-Men: FC's potential to be great but it tripped over its own feet, maybe just by casting too wide a net.
Ok, all that being said, you are really going to have to convince me how Green Lantern is better than both X-Men and Thor. Let's hear it.
The reason I put GL as my #2 is just that I find it an all-round more enjoyable movie than X-Men: FC or Thor. Ryan Reynolds came off as one of the most endearing and (despite being an ace test pilot) places as runner up for 'easiest to identify with' superhero (next to the Cap) in this whole lot. As a sci-fi nerd it was refreshing to get not one but TWO new takes on our intergalactic neighbourhood (in both Thor and GL). The realized worlds were full of life and God-Like entities watching out for us, but Green Lantern had way more fun with it than Thor. Thor got bogged down introducing the Nordic mythos and X-Men paid heavily in attempting to do too much in this prequel, having no assurance of an "X-Men: Sophomores" to bridge plot gaps. But damn, how I'd love to see Xavier on the prowl at those Frosh Week keggers.
I'll be honest and admit that I was intrigued at first by Green Lantern when they announced the cast. Now, I think Ryan Reynolds is a bit out of his element, but any movie that can find a use for Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong is going to get a least a little bit of credit from me. And we definitely agree on Thor. Thor, to me, is in 3rd because only half of the movie was entertaining, the other half was way too self-important and serious. Honestly, I could have watched a whole movie of Thor trying to adjust to the normal world ("I demand sustenance!"), but instead we got scene after ponderous scene of people in weird costumes yelling at each other.
So speaking of weird costumes, clearly, this year's line-up hearkens back to the Golden Age of comics - showing the origins of some classic characters, but apparently it forgets that girls can be superheroes too! Where are our Elektras, our Catwomen? Oh yeah, they didn't do so well did they? (in fact, Elektra was the only movie I ever walked out of). So what this comes down to is our young girls being deprived of a heroine. Who will answer the call? Is Marvel misogynistic or do they just know their audience?
I wouldn't go as far as that! The situation is definitely far more benign. Fundamentally, movie studios will produce whatever they think will make money (hence, Michael Bay and Brett Ratner still have careers). I feel like the only female comic character big enough to hang a movie on is Wonder Woman. And even that has so much weird back-story that an actual movie based on her would be odd (sort of like Thor, but with even less of a sense of humour).
Editor's Note: TV networks declined on picking up David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman television show after viewing the pilot episode.
Are you telling me the movie studios can't factor in to their money-machine a female clad in a skin-tight costume? Maybe add in some superhero values, have a back-story for the ladies? Mystique is the only femme fatale of comic book lore who's crossed to the silver screen and blatantly dealt with her image issues. It may just be that comic books aren't the well to draw from if we're searching for female protagonists, but why not?
Well, a huge percentage of the audience is male, and what they (and I guess by extension, us too) want to see, apparently, is a hero with a nice slice of eye candy on the side. Basically every comic movie follows this template to some degree. When you add in the recent commercial failings of that disastrous looking Wonder Woman TV show and Suckerpunch*, it lends further credence to the notion that an action movie based around women just won't take off. But then again, this past summer saw an all-women raunchy comedy ** make tons of money, so maybe we aren't far off. And don't you think the studios want to think of ways to milk their current franchises before gambling on new ones?
*Editor's Note: While technically not based on a comic, it's still an all-female, action movie from Zack Snyder (who has made 2 comic book based movies already) and is working on a third.
**Editor's Note: Bridesmaids.
Yeah - you're right on the money there, just saying, spending the dough on a new avenue could prove fruitful. I mean the girls growing up on shirtless Vampires and Werewolves are going to want something a little more grown-up soon, maybe that demographic could be seized on its way out of the Twilight Zone?
I don't know if there is a comic character or story resonant enough right now. Maybe that's just how it is going to be for the foreseeable future. I almost feel like we are attempting to tamper with market forces that are beyond our control. Let's just figure out what the end result of all these movies actually is.
I think the deck is stacked in Marvel's favour, we know that Captain America and Thor (plus Iron Man, Hulk and some other guys I've never heard of) are going to star in the Avengers, but how much further will this gravy train take 'em? Avengers VI? Cap and Spider-Man do America? Will each character also continue his unique plotline? We already saw this with Wolverine and X-Men, but the canon starts to get lost in the shuffle. Will we see much more of these guys? I believe the answer, based on recent trailers, is HELL YES.
Editor's Note: The combined gross for Marvel movies in 2011 is over $450 million and counting. Hell yes, indeed.
The fact that Marvel had the foresight to plan a bunch of movies to feed into the Avengers is pretty brilliant (and shows the kind of patience and planning that is rare these days). I don't think we'll see sequels to Thor or Cap but rather if the Avengers is a big smash we'll see sequels to it instead. As for X-Men, it's in an odd position as you said. Do you do sequels to a prequel? I feel like it would be really hard for them to top the first 2 X-Men movies and it starts to make these movies feel redundant and repetitive. As for Green Lantern, I think that is the last of that (despite the fans' desire to see a real Sinestro conflict).* However, your point there about the canon getting confused is a good one. We'll have to see next year when we get to repeat the whole cycle.
Editor's Note: A Green Lantern sequel is still being planned by Warner Bros. studios.
Yup, groundwork is laid, but when will Cap be? Hiyooo! So with that we are out of clever quips and opinions. Next time on Anchor Panel we tackle the SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW MADNESS. We've got Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man rebooted, and Avengers and the Man of Steel (again!). Revel in the rough, aggressive groping of the trailer tease, people, because I'm ready to tune in and so should you be - Same bat time same bat channel!