Category Archives: superhero

Captain Marvel vs. The League of Evil Whining Man-babies– oh, and a review

Wherein there are minor spoilers.  Really, I don’t know how you can do it otherwise….

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In the toxic fever-swamp that is sci-fi/comic book fandom these days, it only takes one innocent remark to set off a tsunami of stupid.  So it was with Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel, when she expressed a wish for more diversity in movie reviews.  This rather innocuous remark triggered a host of crying man-babies, mostly from the right of fandom, talking about how Larson was against men and how the film should be boycotted and how it was going to tank at the box-office and take the MCU and Marvel and Disney and maybe the planet with it.  To a large extent these are the same trolls that then intentionally set out to sabotage the Rotten Tomatoes ratings for the film as a way to poison the well, long before any of them had ever seen the movie.

Ha, ha, ha.

Even with an anticipated drop-off for the second weekend, Captain Marvel should easily make its money back in the very near future, considering that, as of today, Box Office Mojo shows it with a world-wide total earnings of about $550 million.   So much for that.

The sad thing is that this sort of whining political stupidity has become something of the new normal in fandom.  Between the Sad Puppies and Gamergate and the wholly unhinged reaction in some quarters to the The Last Jedi, blah, blah, blah, fans who just want to connect with good, enjoyable content have to negotiate a festering landscape populated by entirely unreasonable trolls who see left-wing, anti-man conspiracies everywhere.  These goombahs, of course, are merely a specific thread of the greater alt-right narrative distorting our public discourse and popular culture at the moment.  You wish you could just ignore them, but that’s rather like trying to ignore someone flicking a cigarette lighter in a room filled with flammable gas.  At some point you need to yell, “Knock it off!”, if only for your personal survival.

Whew– enough of that.  I would like to say a few words about the movie itself.  Somewhat at the risk of setting off more swamp-gas flares, but you can’t let the trolls silence you, either.

So, the 4-1-1, the bottom line, the skinny– Captain Marvel is a good movie.  Not a great movie, not Infinity War, or War and Peace, or Citizen Kane.  It’s a good, mid-rank Marvel movie that accomplishes the main thing it sets out to do– establish the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and help us understand why she’s going to be very, very important in Avengers: End Game  (yeah, new trailer, yippee! Ahem.).

It does so by starting out pretty much in media res, with Carol (called ‘Vers’) already on the Kree homeworld of Hala, already a part of the the Kree Starforce, but troubled by dreams of a possible former life she doesn’t remember.  From there she ends up the captive of a group of Skrulls, perpetual enemies of the Kree, and is taken to Earth, where she attempts to track down the Skrull infiltrators, while connecting with early editions of Nick Fury and Shield, who help her begin to piece together her past.  This leads her to a rather startling discovery that causes her to question what she has been told, and who she can trust.

On the whole, this story line works, but the first time I saw the film I thought its first half was off in terms of tone.  Danvers is not nearly as much a fish out of water on the primitive Earth of 1995 as I thought she should have been, and her relationship with Fury is a little too easygoing for a pair of people, one of whom is a spy and the other an ‘alien’ warrior, who have just met.  I was a little concerned that the movie wasn’t going to fulfill the minimum necessary requirements to make Carol the hero she needs to be for the final confrontation with Thanos in End Game.

But then there came a rather nifty mid-film twist, Carol gets her lost history filled in, and she realizes that she has been lied to and manipulated for the six years she has been gone from Earth.  This sets up a really satisfying climactic confrontation  in which Carol realizes her full power, and makes her the hero she needs to be.  By the way, do not skip out on the mid and post-credit scenes.  The mid-credit snippet is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

So, a slow start, but the film picks up and finishes pretty strong.  It doesn’t hit every note I would have preferred, and I would have handled the first half differently, but they aren’t paying little old (emphasis on the ‘old’) me to direct these films.  Which is, admittedly, probably a good thing.  Captain Marvel is not Infinity War, but neither is it Thor: The Dark World.  Which I still liked, but it did have issues.  Not all MCU movies are created equal, and I’m just fine with that.

There is one aspect of the film, however, that positively disappointed me– the way Fury loses his eye.  Lame.  Sorry, I was expecting more.

But, on the whole, go see the film.  It’s good, and it’s really about as solid a prologue for End Game as we could hope for.  I am really looking forward to seeing Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in that film, in ensemble with all the other great characters of the MCU, as they bring this story line to a thundering conclusion.  We live in glorious times, despite the trolls.

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justice League- a review. Sort of.

SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

Really, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t even go one word further if you want to remain unspoiled.  My usual review style is to talk about plot points in details, and this will be no exception.

So– Justice League — I’d almost say you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last year to not know about this film, but it does occur to me that superhero films are just not on some people’s radar, so the quickest of recaps– Justice League is DC’s latest entry in their Extended Cinematic Universe, their attempt to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  League is the fifth film in the series, recounting the origin of the team uniting Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash and Aquaman.  Ok, ’nuff said.

In the run up to the film’s debut critical opinion began to be increasingly negative.  Just before it opened, Rotten Tomatoes came out with a rating of 40%, a dismal consensus.  Some reviewers said positive things about the movie, but many more were negative and deprecatory.  Suffice to say that I had very low expectations going into the theater yesterday.

On the whole, however, I am pleased to report that on the whole the movie is not quite the absolute disaster that 40% rating would lead you to believe.  It is not a great film; it is a film with issues; but it is not the muddled shit-pile of Suicide Squad or the even more muddled Batman v. Superman.  On some levels it was pretty good, while on others it leaves you scratching your head wondering why the hell did they do that?, and on yet others feeling like they should just get on with it.

First, the pros–

  1. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.  I wish they had just come out with the next Wonder Woman movie.  Gadot commands the screen in any scene she’s in; at her first appearance in League, where she foils a bombing by right-wing fanatics (led, in a dangerous bit of typecasting, by Roose Bolton), my impulse was to stand up and cheer.  My admiration goes beyond the fact that she is stunningly beautiful; Gadot gets the character, and brings her to life.
  2. Ezra Miller as the Flash.  He brings a fresh approach to the character, as a nerdy youngster none to sure of his own capabilities, with fears to overcome and enough pain in his own history on which to lay the foundations of a hero.
  3. Jeremy Irons as Alfred.  He’s not on screen much, but when he is brings dry wit to some otherwise rather absurd goings-on.

Well, that was over quick.  Now, the cons–

  1. Jason Momoa is irritating as Aquaman/Arthur Curry.  His underwater biker routine gets tiresome real quick.
  2. Someone else has said that Ben Affleck (Batman) looks as if he would like to be somewhere other than in this film, and that seems a fair assessment.  He gives perhaps the flattest performance of the ensemble.
  3. Yeah, I know, the villain was named “Steppenwolf” in the comic, but for someone of my generation the name really conjures up a way different image.  Threw me out of the picture every time.
  4. Not only that, but Steppenwolf is just not that threatening a villain.  Not sure what it is, but we have had a glut lately of villains with horns (Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, etc.), so maybe the headgear was too cliche (?).  Whatever the reason, I didn’t get a sense of visceral danger from the guy, despite how many Amazons and Atlanteans he smashes.
  5. On top of that, I thought this was supposed to be a build-up to a confrontation between the League and Darkseid, paralleling the coming confrontation between the Avengers and Thanos in the MCU.  As best I can recall, however, Steppenwolf makes one passing reference to Darkseid, and then, nothing.  This is one area where I still had expectations to be disappointed.
  6. I miss Hal Jordan.  Maybe they just couldn’t squeeze him into the ensemble this time around.
  7. For the most part, the action sequences are kinda, well, meh.  Formulaic maybe too generous.  Once or twice, I had the sense that I was watching a Michael Bay film.  That’s so not a good thing.
  8. Superman’s resurrection sequence is, well, creepy, a quality that was even called out by the Flash in the film itself.
  9. Clark’s reunion with Lois Lane is half sweet and half schmaltz, and I’m not entirely which is which in the scene.  Plus, after he flies her to Smallville for private time, where did they get his clothes?  Ma Kent had moved out and everything….
  10. Oh, and while you’re resurrecting Clark, you leave the mother box that resurrected him, and which the villain has been frantically seeking, out in the open where he can grab it? That’s one for CinemaSins.

If I were to sum up the negative aspects of the film, I’d say that League is a film with far too many color-by-the-numbers elements, some uninspired or even repulsive performances, and which is dragged down even further by the fact that its basic premises were established for it by Batman v. Superman.  It has to try to reconcile some really dumb and incoherent plot points that BvS perpetrated, chief among which, in my opinion, was killing off Superman so early in the franchise.  To League’s credit, it almost pulls it off here and there, but then it commits its own acts of incoherence (e.g., see # 10 above).  It feels as if the people who created the overall story arc really, really didn’t think everything through beforehand and are now stuck in various thematic corners.  And, while I have a high tolerance for grim and gritty, the way the DC films have been going about it just drags your soul down and leaves you gasping for some Guardians of the Galaxy humor.

On the whole, I give League a middling, 2.5 out of 5 Mother Boxes rating.  Considering that I would give BvS one and Suicide Squad one and a half, that’s some improvement, but not much.  It would be nice if the guys running the DCECU could have an opportunity to really, really rethink their approach to their material, but by now, five films in, with more in the pipeline, it’s probably too late.

Well, in any case, here’s to the next Wonder Woman film.  We have to wait until November, 2019, though.  A reason to live.

Later.

Two films looming huge on my horizon, I mean, HUGE!….

Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy—

I mean, holy frack, just this little peek left me alternately giggling and gibbering with delight.  If all else fails, I have at least one reason to live until May next year.

On a completely different note–

This movie wasn’t even on my radar until I spotted its trailer on IMDB.  Oh, my God, what a grim looking tale, perhaps worse, on a personal scale,than the imagined alternate future in Days of Future Past.  Here’s the premise from Wikipedia

Set in 2024, Logan and Professor Charles Xavier must cope with the loss of the X-Men at the hands of a corporation led by Nathaniel Essex. With Logan’s healing abilities slowly fading and Xavier’s Alzheimer’s hampering his memory, Logan must defeat Essex with the help of a young girl named Laura Kinney, a female clone of Wolverine.

There could be some weeping involved here.  Just saying.  Oh, and whoever put this trailer to Johnny Cash’s Hurt— genius.

According to the Wikipedia article this should be Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine, not surprising as he’s been playing the character for about fifteen years.  Not sure anybody can take over after Jackman, but then I said the same thing about the Joker after Heath Ledger, and then Jared Leto came along.

All the same, it looks as if Marvel/Disney is ringing down the curtain on this incarnation of the X-Men, and Wolverine.  An era is passing.  I have no idea what comes after this, particularly as there are so many different alternate versions of the team in the comics, and, of course, Disney has shown it is not bound by previously established canon with the new Star Wars movies.  However, at the very least, they have my attention.

 

A quick emergence from my cave to squint at the sun…

And we’ve been having entirely too much of that sunshine stuff here in Seattle lately. I have a mind to the tell the Sun to knock it off.

A quick note, just in case anyone wondered if I had been kidnapped by aliens (I wouldn’t mind, if they looked like Gwenyth Paltrow)– other matters continue to pull me away from the blog, but progress is being made on Princess of Fire. I think I’m re-engaging with Kathy in a way I haven’t been able to the last few months. She’s starting to deal with the Deep Serious that’s about to land on her and the people she cares about, and the pace is picking up as I get excited about what I am writing.

On another matter, which I may talk about at more length in a near-future post– I have made a decision to resume the effort to seek traditional publication, in a small way. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that self-publishers are not eligible for SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) membership. As irritating as that is in one way, in another I totally understanding the logic. SFWA doesn’t want the slush pile to come knocking on their door….

This re-entry into the pursuit of trad publishing doesn’t mean my novels will be leaving Amazon– I plan to try my hand at short stories. And the first might be based on an idea I got from Chuck Wendig’s challenge from last week, which I started to write, and then realized I might be able to do something more with. Mixing and matching sub-genres is fun, and the two I got out of the random selection was “dystopia” and “superhero”.

I can do something with that.

More later, when it’s not my bed-time. Good night.

Okay, what the BLEEEEP just happened?

Agents of Shield episode 117, which is not available online yet, ended just minutes ago here on the West Coast. It was heavily promoted as a tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I guess it was, kinda–

***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS

I mean, the story mentions Hydra and everything, but it seemed to be more about the villain of the moment, called the Clairvoyant, whom the team has been chasing around for weeks. Something about the episode felt tacked on, as if someone were trying desperately to tie it all together, as if they had too many Christmas packages to wrap and not enough paper.

And, yeah, surprises are good, and doing the unexpected is really good, but I felt jerked around by the story, which kept us guessing about the true identity of the villain, and exactly who was Hydra and who wasn’t, all the way through. The final twist at the very end of the episode didn’t feel very right, either, although I can’t say I was upset by who turned out to be the traitor in the team– I never liked that guy much anyway.

I think my main problem is certain dissatisfaction with the concept of Hydra in the first place– evil that can lie in wait for decades before springing– aha!– and taking over everything. It’s a comic book version of evil that doesn’t much resemble real life– and, as much as I liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I have to admit it shared this problem (if you tell me that, hey, this is all from comic books, well, I want my comic books to be realistic. So there). Real evil almost always shows its hand– it is about selfishness and power and self-gratification, and generally doesn’t take the long view of anything. Most evil, in fact, is committed by people who are telling themselves they’re doing the right thing. Self-delusion is a major component of evil, so cold-blooded and rational villains often strike me as fake and unreal. This is, in fact, a problem I’ve had with S. M. Stirling’s Draka.

I’ve complained in comments on other folks’ blogs that Agents of Shield has felt too safe. It’s obvious that Joss is making a bid to turn that around. This once, though, I am not sure I am buying it.

There is one bright spot, though– the next episode has Amy Acker in it. Hallelujah.

Movie review– “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night–

With this film the grand movie story-arc of Marvel marches on, with an important chapter in the sub-story of Captain America (Steve Rogers).

Wait a second–

***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS

There, I feel better.

This installment is a fast-paced action piece, in which the information comes fast and furious and you need to pay attention to what is going on or you’ll miss some important point. The basic plot is that Captain America, still working for SHIELD, continues to try to find his place in a future with which he still has not quite come to grips. Going out on a mission, ostensibly to rescue hostages on a SHIELD seagoing rocket launch platform, he discovers that fellow operative Natasha Romanoff has another agenda, to retrieve information from the ship’s computers. He confronts Nick Fury, head of SHIELD, who reveals a secret project to build new heli-carriers that are intended to eliminate terrorist threats.

It turns out, however, that not everything is kosher at SHIELD, and these heli-carriers are in danger of being re-purposed by SHIELD’s old adversary, HYDRA. Cap is also unexpectedly confronted by a piece of his past. At this point the elephant dung hits the turbine blades, and the action roller-coaster is screaming down its first curve.

That should give you a flavor of what this movie is about; despite my spoiler warning I don’t really want to give away too much. There are some nice twists and turns in the film, and a couple of serious points– how the mechanisms designed to protect people are vulnerable to being misused to oppress them, and the fact that some politicos might see advantages to themselves in the willingness of people give up their liberties in return for security– themes that are entirely too relevant in our real world.

The film does mostly take itself seriously, but there are some enjoyable lighter moments (one of the running gags is how everyone seems to be trying to get Steve a date). The interactions between Steve, Natasha, Nick Fury, and Sam Wilson (the Falcon) are sharp, and a refreshing aspect of the characters is that not everyone gets along perfectly– Rogers and Fury particularly don’t see eye-to-eye.

On the whole the movie is one more solid brick in the cinematic house Marvel is building. I give it four out of five shields (I am trying to re-calibrate my ratings to leave some room for the potentially perfect film. More Goodreads, less Amazon). If I have to criticize something about the film, it is exactly the fact that the information sometimes comes at you very quickly. The writers could have slowed it down a little and only added a couple of minutes to the running time.

Note: DO NOT leave the theater before the end of the credits. As has become typical with Marvel films, there are additional scenes midway through the credits and at the end. The middle scene is particularly interesting, although neither match the utter greatness of the shawarma scene at the end of The Avengers. God bless you, Joss Whedon.