Adventures in Marvel Movie-going

I have never been a comics fan. First and foremost, I find the the physical act of reading them really difficult. I suspect they’re too visually busy for me, causing me to get distracted easily and have problems following the narrative thread, but I’m not really sure, as I don’t have the same problem with newspaper-style comics, even the more visually experimental ones like the later Calvin & Hobbes strips. On top of that, I haven’t been overly impressed with the writing of most comics I’ve attempted (which is, to be fair, not many, thanks to the aforementioned problem reading them). To me, they read like something halfway between a novel and a film, but with neither the depth of a novel or the immersiveness of a film. (Sorry, fans, I’ll turn in my geek card now.) On top of that, I don’t like the typical plots of traditional comics – superheroes gifted their powers by some bizarre accident involving radiation (or whatever) are inherently less interesting to me than someone who’s developed their natural abilities to the highest level via hard work and dedication. And supervillains with grandiose plans to destroy the world are even worse. So yeah, nothing against those of you who do like them, but comics so far have just not been for me.

Comic book movies haven’t been that much better, in general. Spider-man and Spider-man 2: yawn. Batman Begins: yawn. The Dark Knight: better, but only when Heath Ledger was onscreen. The Dark Knight Rises: on my list to watch someday on account of Tom Hardy, but not very high on my list. Supermannever watched in any form, unless you count this Smallville humor vid. X-men: on my list to try, but again, not exactly high on the list.

Marvel’s recent oeuvre, on the other hand, has started to pique my interest a bit more. It’s managed to produce not one, but two entire movies based on comic books that I really liked. I’m not sure how long this will continue, considering that the contracts on its biggest stars are running out, but for now, I’m enjoying it.

My adventures in Marvel movie-going, so far:

Iron Man

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I gave this film a shot despite my usual aversion to comic book films because of the great reviews, but it was unfortunately still firmly in the “meh” camp for me. I find Tony Stark too unlikable to want to watch an entire movie about him. I haven’t seen Iron Man 2 yet, though I have considered giving it a shot for the Black Widow and Pepper stuff, as I’m a much bigger fan of them.

My rating:2 Stars (2 / 5)

Captain America: The First Avenger

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Kind of inconsistent. The parts that played like a period film with better tech were actually pretty good, and it was also helped by the fact that I liked Steve, Bucky, Peggy, and the Howling Commandos about a billion times more than Tony Stark, but I didn’t like the Red Skull stuff at all. All the boring monologuing is exactly what I hate about supervillain storylines, and seriously, like the Nazis weren’t horrible enough on their own? I wish it had less Red Skull and more of Peggy and the Howling Commandos kicking ass and taking names across Europe. I could happily have watched an entire movie about that and instead it was reduced to a montage.

Oh well, I guess that’s what fanfiction is for.

My rating:3 Stars (3 / 5)

Thor

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The actual plot was not very interesting, but it squeaked by on the charisma of its cast, especially Tom Hiddleston, who acted the shit out of Loki and needs a feature movie of his own asap (preferably yesterday). I also liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, but Natalie Portman kind of seemed like she was phoning it in as Jane Foster. Thor: The Dark World is still on my to-watch list.

My rating:3 Stars (3 / 5)

The Avengers

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Yay, a comic book movie I genuinely and sincerely liked! The whole aliens-attacking-New-York thing is not a plot that I enjoy – it’s SO overdone – but it was relatively well done as disaster-strikes-New-York plots go, and I absolutely loved the ensemble cast and their interactions with each other. Although I think Joss writes some of the Avengers better than others (kind of shaky on Cap and Thor, good on Iron Man and Black Widow), overall the film did a really good job of highlighting each character’s individual personality and skills, and how they worked together to become (eventually) a great team. Even Tony Stark was tolerable! Along with many great character moments, there was also lots of great dialogue (of course, it is Joss, after all) and of course the special effects and action scenes were top-notch.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Iron Man 3

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Thought I’d give it a shot because I wanted to learn more about the Extremis stuff and Tony’s PTSD situation, but it mostly confirmed that I’m just not a big fan of Tony Stark.

My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite comic book movie to date, and one that I think most non-comics fans would enjoy.

If, like me, you tend to find superpowers kind of silly and boring, it helps that Captain America’s superpowers are less in-your-face than somebody like Spider-man or the Hulk, since they mostly involve enhanced speed and strength. For the most part, Cap’s fighting style and abilities aren’t any more implausible than those of ostensibly human action heroes like Jason Bourne. (The main exception being his tendency to hurl himself out of planes and off tall buildings without a parachute.) 

If, also like me, you tend to find a lot of supervillains over-the-top evil, and therefore ridiculous and off-putting, the villain in this film is not only not a monstrous cackling supervillain with grandiose plans to destroy the world, he’s 100% human, and he sincerely believes he’s doing the right thing.

The plot touches on a lot of extremely relevant and timely questions about privacy, thought-policing, and government power in this era of the Patriot Act and the NSA.

And, in a decade that’s seen a lot of films and tv shows about people giving in to their worst impulses, it’s a movie primarily about people trying to be good.

The action sequences were kickass awesome, of course (including some of the best hand-to-hand combat scenes I’ve ever seen), but there was also plenty of great character work. I was already a fan of Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) from Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, but I liked them both even better here and thought both characters and actors had great rapport. I really enjoyed watching them working together as a team. (By the way, speaking of characters who need a movie of their own, when are we getting a Black Widow movie?) I also loved Sam Wilson (Falcon), who is, like Natasha, not a superhero, but simply an unusually talented and well-trained human.

The standout performance, however, was that of Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, who managed to be simultaneously scary as hell and heart-breaking, despite spending most of the movie wearing a literal muzzle and speaking a grand total of something like 33 words.

Source: julierjames

Unsurprisingly, my Steve/Bucky feels went absolutely through the fucking roof. They hit exactly the same tragically-separated-childhood-friends sweet spot that Remus Lupin and Sirius Black did in the Potterverse, and if you measure based on quantity of fanfiction produced and consumed, Remus/Sirius is my all-time OTP of OTPs. So yeah, if anybody needs me, I’ll be over at Archive of Our Own, lost in the shipper tags.

I enjoyed this meta post about the trope-busting roles given to Natasha and Sam in the film, as well as this more self-indulgent post about Steve and Bucky. Especially this line:

Going by the reactions I’ve seen from film critics and my non-fan friends, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an entertaining popcorn flick that probably should’ve had more dialogue and fewer action sequences. But if you go by Captain America fandom, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS FILM WAS AGONY AND LIFE IS A WORTHLESS HELLSCAPE UNTIL STEVE AND BUCKY CAN BE TOGETHER AGAIN.

Needless to say, I fall into the latter camp.

Amen, sister.

Another recap I enjoyed.

My rating:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Guardians of the Galaxy

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To be honest, I expected to like this film a lot more than I actually did. A lot of my friends were raving about it, but while I thought the characters themselves were a pretty fun bunch and there were lots of good lines, the plot really couldn’t keep my interest, and I kept catching myself pausing it and going off and doing other stuff to the point that I eventually just gave up and stopped watching. I’ll probably give it another shot some day, but given what a big role they’re supposed to play in Avengers: Infinity Wars, it worried me a little how boring I found Thanos and the Infinity Stone stuff.

See also my reviews of Agent Carter and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Marvel Cinematic Universe: […]

  2. […] I mentioned in my Marvel movies review, I don’t read comics to any significant degree, so these recs will focus on the Marvel […]

  3. […] I also liked because the emotional speech by Cinderella’s dying mother (Hayley Atwell, aka Marvel‘s Agent Carter) as she urges her daughter to “have courage and be kind” gives the […]

  4. […] absolutely loved the character of Peggy Carter in the Captain America films, and was delighted to hear that she was getting her own show. It took me awhile to finally sit down […]

  5. […] creators in question and since I skipped the wading pool and dove straight into the deep end with Marvel (thanks, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), that left me with some interesting dilemmas. I […]

  6. […] Age of Ultron continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s string of really watchable and entertaining superhero films, but had more serious problems […]

  7. […] I’ve become more attuned to since being bowled over by Sebastian Stan’s work in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both Hardy and Theron are equally impressive […]

  8. […] formulaic and predictable (even down to some of the lines of dialogue), but entertaining. Like many Marvel films, it is at its best during its humorous moments and action sequences. I especially enjoyed the final […]

  9. […] Stan fans on my Tumblr dashboard (of which I have many, thanks to my current obsession with the Captain America films, where he plays Bucky Barnes) started sharing a new viral trailer for his upcoming film, The […]

  10. […] the other hand, Sebastian Stan (of the Captain America films) and Nick Westrate (of TURN: Washington’s Spies) were both underutilized as […]

  11. […] anxiety of proving itself.” Some recent comments by Anthony and Joe Russo, the director of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, have sparked a lot of conversation in the Marvel […]

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