Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movies: Thor

I finally went to see "Thor" this weekend, kicking off another big summer of comic book movies (next up is X-Men: First Class, with Green Lantern and Captain America to follow).

The quick review; Thor was fun. Be warned, for from here on in, spoilers will follow.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, the actor who does have some directorial experience, but mostly for Shakespearean adaptations (As you Like It, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing) and not for huge summer blockbusters.

(Two things here; the Branagh version of "Much Ado About Nothing" is one of my all time favorite movies, and if you are at all amused by sarcasm and whip-crack verbal exchanges, I highly recommend it. Secondly, on the topic of blockbusters, the Blockbuster video store in my neighborhood is going out of business. I worked there for 4 years when I was in college, and both of my sisters worked there after me, two years a pop. Internet/Netflix, this is on your shoulders, and while I do not mourn the late fees and the dusty shelves, there is something valuable in having a wisened clerk tell you that your choice is in fact an awful movie.)

Back to Branagh, he did a good job mixing the glories of Asgard with the humble American New Mexico, while at the same time, borrowing from "Iron Man" actor-turned-director Jon Favreau, and making the movie a light hearted action romp. Thematically, it is very close to the 2008 "Iron Man", in that a bad boy learns a valuable lesson about responsibility and mans up in time to save the day. (Also, SHIELD shows up to meddle a little bit.)

I'm amazed that the writing made as much sense as it did, considering this is the writing crew:

Writing credits

Ashley Miller (screenplay) (as Ashley Edward Miller) &
Zack Stentz (screenplay) and
Don Payne (screenplay)

J. Michael Straczynski (story) and
Mark Protosevich (story)

Stan Lee (comic book) &
Larry Lieber (comic book) &
Jack Kirby (comic book)

That is a lot of cooks for one broth, but they did okay. The movie also borrowed a bit from the great Walt Simonson run in the 80's, (like the Casket of Ancient Winters, amongst other things), so he should get a nod, too.

On to the casting. Chris Hemsworth as Thor was a far better pick than a)I expected, and b)the actor that played Thor in his first appearance in film. He does a good job of being both fierce and war-happy, and then softening up both to turn into a well rounded hero. He does a good job. Nathalie Portman plays Jane Foster, no longer a nurse, but now an astro-physicist. She's very good at playing a cute love interest, but it's not her finest role, and she plays it a little bit softer than she could have.

The star of the movie, for me at least, was Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who does an excellent job of playing the god of thunder's less-loved brother. He's very expressive on screen, often wearing an expression of pained resignation mixed in with just enough insincerity that makes you almost feel for him while at the same time knowing that you shouldn't and he's just faking you out. It's very subtle and it works wonderfully. Loki is the choice role of this film, and my favorite part of the script is that while Loki possesses the powers of an Asgardian and the skill of a wizard, he is at his most destructive when he is simply lying to people. The script is written so even the viewer is not certain when he's telling the truth or not, and that makes his inevitable betrayals even more devious, as the view now has to hate him for fooling him as well. It is really quite fun to watch.

The rest of Asgard is filled with great characters, and seeing Heimdall, Sif, the Warriors Three and Odin is really a treat for the fans of the comic, and shows you how a comic movie can be full of character without having them get in the way (I'm looking at you, Spider-Man 3).

All in all, "Thor" was good times, lived up to the trailer, and was worth seeing in the theaters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quick Links: May 17th

"Beast Wars" was often hit or miss for me. But when it was good, it was great.
Shout is offering the complete series for 50$. That's some good value for robots fighting. Ah Dinobot, you were so brave.
Comics Alliance has the new Tin Tin live action movie posters.

I am oddly enthused to see this movie.
Spinoff Online (and many other places) are reporting that the Wonder Woman pilot wasn't picked up. They submit that TV might be giving up on geeks (as Smallville also just wrapped up for good). I would prefer to think that Wonder Woman just wasn't that good a pilot, especially since the superhero movies have set the bar so high in terms of production value.
"Thor" seems to be doing well. I should get out to go see it, I guess.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 2011: Spider-Man

I dropped all the Spider-Man books from my pull list following the "One More Day" storyline. That's a long, and completely separate story.

This year was the first year I have ever been able to participate in Free Comic Book Day. I always managed to be busy or out of town prior, so I was pretty excited. It was fun, and the atmosphere in the shops was really good. I see why it warrants all the hoopla.

I picked up a couple of free comics, and the first that I read was "Amazing Spider-Man" by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos. I figured that it would be a good test to see if Spider-Man was going to be a book I could look into picking up again or not.

Other reviewers seemed to like this book well enough, and I've never had any major issues with either Dan Slott (who I liked from his "Avengers: Initiative" work) and Humberto Ramos (who's "Crimson" is still something I like to re-read from time to time) both usually do good work, so I had a sense of enthusiasm getting into this issue. Maybe even hoping that things had turned around for the Spider-Man book, and I could hop back into it. I have just finished reading an Essential Spider-Man book, and it served to whet my appetite for more web-slinging action.

But this book? Meh.

Okay, I'll say, it's not terrible. It looks okay, and it's paced okay.

However, that's it. It's full of just being "okay", and it should have been, in my opinion, great enough to serve as a flagship for the entire Marvel line of comics.

Spoilers follow, be warned. Not in any great detail, but you know, this is the internet. I'm just doing my part.

  • Spider-Man fights the Mandrill, and he fights Spider-Woman because the Mandrill has possessed her.
The Mandrill fought them both not too long ago in "New Avengers". This seems like a cheap rehash of another book I already own. Also, "The Mandrill"? Really, Marvel? Not Doc Ock, or a Goblin, or any other of the web-spinner's iconic foes for this book, the one you're giving away to try and win new readers, but instead, the terminally silly Mandrill? For shame.

  • Spider-Man has lost his spider-sense.
Not really sure why. It's never really explained, at least not to my satisfaction. Spider-Man's powers going on the fritz is sort of a standard Spidey plot. I think that it's a bit lazy on the part of Dan Slott to trot out this old, "tried and true" trope for Spider-Man. It doesn't feel fresh, it doesn't feel innovative. I'm just going to assume he got hit by a pumpkin bomb full of strange gas, and that's what caused it. Sounds about right.

  • The Master of Kung-Fu, Shang Chi, teaches Spider-Man kung fu in order to help him compensate for the loss of his spider sense.
This little plot point, I like. It was sort of jammed into the story, but really, you'd think a guy like Peter Parker who is constantly getting his butt whupped would take a class at the Y or something. I mean, he pals around with Captain America and with Iron Fist all the time. This was a cool little idea that I liked a lot.

  • They call his new style "spider fu".
Yeah. They call it that.


Was this book arduous to read? No, in general it was okay, but I think that as a Free Comic Book Day offering, it was a failure, as this book did nothing to make me want to shell out four bucks a pop for more.