Superhero binge

So I've been fortunate that my pregnant wife has wanted me to rent movies a lot lately, for something to do -- so in between the things I get for her, I've been able to sneak in superhero films (hey, it was rent 3 for the price of 2 at the store!). I finally got to watch Green Lantern, Thor, Green Hornet, X-Men First Class and Captain America.

I've already blogged about Thor and Green Lantern, so let me share some thoughts on the other films:

I loved X-Men First Class, and it was indeed first class as a film. Magneto and Professor X are a formidable pair in all of the X-Men movies, and the young actors that play them when they were friends live up to their predecessors. I can somehow picture the gentleman playing Magneto as a future James Bond, for that matter. Classy but dangerous.

I found the action sequences extremely well done, especially Azazel, Magneto and Sebastian Shaw. I didn't mind that Moira MacTaggart wasn't Scottish simply because she and Professor X worked well together. I liked how Mystique shifting alliances between the Prof and Magneto was the emotional heart of the film, as she stood on the line between their two philosophies. Professor X stands for integration, and it almost seems like he envies normal humanity. Magneto is "mutant and proud" in Mystique's phrase, and helps her embrace her true self.

I usually have mixed feelings about X-men movies -- I grew up with the comics and don't like most of the decisions the rest of the series has made to "movie" the franchise. Halle Berry is a horrible Storm in my head, because Storm is an ebony African goddess and Halle Berry is Halle Berry, and very American. Cyclops in my head is a stern leader, and the guy playing him is a likeable pretty boy. Not really Cyke material. They messed up the chronology of characters (Angel is one of the original X-Men but in the movies he's a teenager, for example) and that bugs me. However, if I distance myself from the comics (like pretending it's an alternate universe) the movies are enjoyable to watch, and Magneto and Prof X are worth the price of admission on their own. I rather enjoy Hugh Jackman's Wolverine as well, and Mystique is visually cooler in the films than she ever was in the comics.

However, with First Class I didn't nitpick so much mainly because the film "predates" X-Men chronology. It's before the team existed, and so kind of has freedom to be its own thing. Other than the fact that Havok is in the 60s and his brother Cyclops would be in the 90s and 2000s, there wasn't much that jumped out as me as a problem for continuity other than the fact that Magneto was supposed to help build Cerebro according to the other films and that didn't happen, it was the Beast. I do like how the Stryker family gets established in this movie so the son shows up in Wolverine and X2.

Captain America: I was impressed stylistically but bored plot-wise. It's a beautifully rendered film but it felt like a montage instead of a story, as it shows so many clips of battles without the battles themselves. I felt like there were hints of interesting adventures with the Howling Commandos, and all that potential got skimmed over as they crammed as much as they could into the one movie.

The pace seems rushed as a result, instead of having a satisfactory emotional arc. The Skull looked cool and didn't do very much, in my opinion. I like that they tied it in with Asgard, setting up the Avengers movie, but it was flat emotionally because it's just a placeholder until Avengers starts. Thor, on the other hand, told its own complete story, and so it was emotionally more gripping.

I'm disappointed that they picked the Human Torch to play Cap, but I'm not disappointed with his performance, if that makes sense. Weird that he's in two Marvel franchises, but well played in this specific film, though maybe not my "ideal" of what Cap would be like. He seems too boyish and in my head Cap is the confident leader of the Avengers -- this guy isn't going to be able to motivate Thor or Iron Man the way they're currently conceived.

Green Hornet was fun -- I felt like I was watching a buddy comedy that had action-film level cinematography and effects. That was a fun combo -- the villian Chudofsky being very mild and saying "What, you don't think I'm scary?" as if he actually has performance anxiety as the villain was hilarious, and Rogen's "Look at us, man, we're wasting our potential, Kato. You more than me, a little" ramblings are hysterical paired with the very dryly funny Kato "I'm too fast for TV." I have no complaints because whatever came across as "cheesy" suited the comedy movie tone that this "comic book movie" managed to maintain throughout the film.

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i am looking forward to

seeing Green Hornet (since i first saw the ad) but havent found anyone to watch it with. Also I sort of agree with your comment on Captain America however I did like the ending very dramatic.

Thinking about this...

You know, of this group of movies, I've only seen Captain America.

I enjoyed Captain America more than you did. I'm not sure why. Part of it, I'm sure is that I liked The Rocketeer (by the same director, and also adapted from a comic, and set in the same period).

So part of it is probably that I like director's filmmaking style.

I'd agree though that basically the film skims over Captain America's WW2 adventures. In many ways, it's basically an origin story that answers the question of how he becomes Captain America and leaves his own time. That makes the war less important and the whole process of joining up more important. For me at least, the emotional core of it was him wanting to serve, being derailed from it, choosing to do it anyway, and then losing it all.

In many ways, I'd love to see a sequel set in WW2 that focused on being there instead of being a backdrop to getting stuck in an iceberg, but I had a good time with this one anyway.

I liked that too

Oh by far my favourite part of the movie was the first half, where Steve Rogers keeps trying to join the army and gets rejected until Erskine chooses him for the super soldier program. That's the best section, and it has an emotional core and character development. The best moments in the rest of the film are where Steve addresses that arc -- "I always dreamed of being on the front lines. I just never thought I'd be wearing tights." "A lab rat or a dancing monkey, these are your only options?"

I just feel like the montages in between interfered with that emotional core and made me bored, because they didn't contribute to the story itself. More of WW2 would be great, because it's a rich tapestry.

I think some of the edge is out of the film too because I go in knowing he survives to our era, that's a given from comics so he never seems in genuine peril. That makes the rest of his character arc as Steve to the Captain more important because then there is a heart to the story, but that makes the montages even more of a detraction.

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