Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back with a vengeance and a look at summer superhero films

Time to get off my ass and update this blog again. It's been almost exactly a year since the last update. I have a new computer, I'm hard at work on the first WarioWare Tooned episode since 2007, and I've got gigs reviewing movies at and games at to boot. I also finished up a winter retail job, and am about to make a big effort to start some sort of media internship. Wish me luck.

Being the geek I am, and with the types of posts I've made before, you're probably expecting something about cartoons, games, or film. And you're getting the last one. I'm going to give my pre-release thoughts on the three big superhero movies opening this summer, two in particular are the big finales to some established franchises and have been hyped up for years.

Let's get the smallest one (relatively speaking) out of the way: The controversial Spider-Man reboot. You know what? I'm looking forward to this. I definitely enjoyed Sam Raimi's original trilogy (I'll even defend the third one, which I genuinely enjoyed for the most part), but their camp factor is undeniable. This looks to be a more Christopher Nolan-y take on the story, and I welcome the change. Also happy on their choice for the lead with Andrew Garfield - I liked him in The Social Network, and he looks the part way more than Tobey Maguire ever did. At the same time, I do hope that Spider-Man makes the occasional joke in the midst of battle like he did in the comics and cartoons to balance things out, and that bit in the car in the latest trailer has me crossing my fingers in that regard. I do wonder how they'll make certain elements (The spider bite, Uncle Ben's death) seem fresh, but I think this could be pretty cool and will walk in optimistic, unless it's another Green Lantern on Rotten Tomatoes.

Oh, was there another Marvel movie I forgot about? I'm kidding, of course - the movies themselves have been hyping this one up. To run down the list of the films whose characters will be making the big teamup and my thoughts:

Iron Man is the best. No contest. If it wasn't for a certain Dark Knight, it would be my favorite superhero movie. Everything about it just worked. The Hulk reboot had its fans, but it's the single one of all these I just didn't like, due to a generally uninteresting plot and cast. Iron Man 2 was a definite letdown when compared to the original, but I still enjoyed it. Thor was surprisingly fun and funny when it needed to be, and I liked the more fantasy-oriented take it had compared to everything else. Captain America was one of the biggest surprises of last year for me. It still didn't match Iron Man, but every time I see it, I like it more and more - and I really liked it to begin with!

So what do I want out of this movie? More than anything, I want each character to have their own meaningful plot going on. Bruce Banner is easy to guess - he'll still be trying to control his transformation. Judging by the end of his movie (My full review here), Thor will likely have found a way back to Earth to spend some quality time with Jane (That's the Natalie Portman character for those who don't remember - Wonder if she'll make a cameo) and be sidetracked by Loki's return, and the other two are the ones I'm curious about. I think what I want out of this film the most character-wise is to see Captain America adjusting to waking up in modern times. There are already hints of a sequel to his original flick flying about, but I really don't want that - his story has a huge opportunity to be wrapped up perfectly here, and not stretched out to sustain an entire film on its own. So where is Tony Stark going to fit in? I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't have his own real subplot, because being unfamiliar with the comics, I'm hard-pressed to think of what other problems he could face, personal or otherwise. Obviously, Iron Man 3 has already been confirmed, but I'm really wondering what they're going to use after two films and this thrown in as well.

Really, this is all going to come down to the character interaction if they want this to work - and honestly, I think that for all the action we know it'll have, this could be where the movie truly shines. The idea of two egotistical wiseasses of different manners like Stark and Thor going off on each other could be hilarious, and after remarking what a good job Cap's film did of making him a likable everyman, I want to see his patriotic ideals conflict with those two's brash nature. Bruce Banner I could care less about - he was boring to me in his own movie, and while I have nothing against Edward Norton or new guy Mark Ruffalo, I don't think an actor change will make him more interesting. Maybe he's more fleshed-out in the comics, but I have a feeling he's really going to be upstaged by the other three (or in Hulk mode for most of the action anyway). I honestly know nothing about Black Widow or Hawkeye, so I don't expect either of them to blow me away personality-wise. And finally, I really hope they give Sam Jackson's Nick Fury something substantial to do - he's basically been a walking Avengers teaser in all his brief appearances, but I hope he gets to show some personality or badassness here.

I think that at worst, the movie will be good the same way Iron Man 2 was. I feel like there's been too much pressure and buildup for them to royally screw it up, and seeing how solid the track record has been, how much people seem to love director Joss Whedon, and how cool the trailers have been looking, I think it's gonna be a great ride. And as controversial as this may sound (And I know it won't happen), I'd like to see them close the book on these characters after this - all the movies have had little references and teases at this, so it feels like a natural point to end. But seeing how Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 are apparently in pre-production, and Captain America 2 sounds like it's not too far off, that will not be the case.

Okay, let's get to the elephant in the room:

No doubt about it - this is gonna be the big one. The anticipation and excitement surrounding this is just enormous - and why shouldn't it be? Batman Begins was great, and I am not ashamed to say that The Dark Knight would probably make my all-time top 5 favorite films. Nobody was prepared for the level that Christopher Nolan would take with the second chapter, and every little thing about it just worked. I have no qualms calling it a masterpiece of filmmaking. Nearly four years later, the pressure on Nolan and his cast and crew must have been enormous filming this thing, and a lot is still shrouded in secrecy. We don't know what Bane's agenda is, we don't quite know how Catwoman will tie into the plot, and in my opinion, the biggest question of all: Is Bruce Wayne going to walk away from this at the end?

Nolan has publicly said he always intended these movies to be a trilogy with a definite start, middle, and end, and I feel that any ending with Batman alive or still in action would still feel pretty open. And I don't want that, because chances are Warner Bros. will try and continue this story with or without Nolan and company's involvement. Chances are it wouldn't be the same. And here's the biggest thing about this idea in my mind: I do cry at movies sometimes. The ending to last year's Warrior got me a little misty-eyed. Where The Wild Things Are left me sniffing. And Big Fish always leaves me bawling. If Nolan and co. do end this movie with the death of Batman - and if they do it just right - it could be catapulted into one of the best endings of all time for me. And really, it's still going to be hard to top this.

I must be entirely truthful and admit that the one thing that is leaving me a little worried about this time around is the amount of characters apparently being crammed in. My reason for concern here stems from none other than Nolan's last film, Inception. Now before anyone gets mad, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I thought Inception was great. I loved its originality, visuals, and action. But I couldn't help but feel let down in terms of its character development. The main character of Cobb (DiCaprio for those who can't remember) was the only one who got fleshed out at all, and though I certainly enjoyed his tragic backstory as it was gradually revealed, I was left wishing that the others got at least some sort of similar treatment. Can you tell me anything about Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy's characters? Or even their names? Dark Knight had meaning and soul to all of its characters in some regard - we got a better idea of why Bruce Wayne dons his cape, the utter insanity and lack of goals Joker had, and the tragedy of Harvey Dent's rise and fall. Hell, even Rachel, easily the most hated character in Begins, managed to pack an emotional punch in the end - Four years later, I STILL remember the unified gasp in my theater when she went boom. I really do hope that the same dynamics return for this, at least for the central characters from the comic. I want to know what Bane is trying to do, I don't want him to be an anarchist that just reminds people of Joker, I want to see more of Catwoman's goals in robbing or whatever she ends up doing, and I want to know Bruce's reason for apparently retiring Batman and then coming back.

At worst, this movie's not going to be as good as either previous entry. At best, it could somehow match Dark Knight. My guess is that it's going to land in-between both entries in terms of personal preference. I don't know if they can catch the lightning in the bottle that was Dark Knight a second time, but it looks like they're trying, and dammit, I'm gonna be there opening day, and I hope I'm blown away again.

So there you have it. I've been meaning to write this post for a long, long time, and seeing how close we're getting to these three, the time felt right. Hopefully I'll find other stuff to post about in the meantime. Thanks for reading.

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