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There’s something queasy about the bright, digital dullness of Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Matthew Vaughn’s style worked well enough in his (other) 60s throwback pastiche, the singularly interesting if not terribly exciting X-Men: First Class – and it’s a testament to his particular visual sense that the similar era wasn’t nearly as fun or vivid in Singer’s Days of Future Past installment – but here he runs into the same trouble as he did with his previous Mark Millar comic book adaptation, Kick-Ass.  The contrast of extreme violence with the bright, silly worlds created isn’t, for the most part, shocking enough to register as anything other than nihilist geek gore.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Guardians of the Galaxy

August 2, 2014

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

The announcement that Marvel was truly cashing in its credibility chips – even moreso than they did with Thor, for despite that character being well known, introducing a whole intergalactic mythos is a far cry from following the origin of an earth bound superhero – with Guardians of the Galaxy, a little known (and unknown completely to me) property into the Cinematic Universe that has become the Hollywood juggernaut of the last 8 or so years, was a huge surprise to many. Giving a huge budget to little known character that were based in worlds entirely unknown and populating it with B list stars was a ballsy move, especially considering there’s little earth-based grounding to ease the transition. This significant departure from the normal formula is probably why this has been the most anticipated of the Marvel films in a while, if only because there was a huge question mark around how it would be received. Handing over co-writing and directing duties to James Gunn, who cut his teeth at micro-budget schlock studio Troma and whose directorial efforts have thus far been intriguing, if not always successful, idiosyncratic genre exercises. The fact that we get a pretty traditional space opera drenched in the kind of Whedonesque post-modern humour that’s been one of the keys to the success of the Marvel enterprise is almost disappointing in its obviousness. Not to say it isn’t enjoyable – it is actually very much so – but for those of us looking to see what this multi-film franchise could really do, it gives us a clearer idea of just what the limits are, even as it expands beyond what’s come before. Read the rest of this entry »

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Having no insight into the financial reasons behind studios deciding what pictures to make and when, it is from a place of pure conjecture that I posit that X-Men: Days of Future Past was greenlit as a last ditch effort to save a once-beloved and now decently performing property.  Though I believe X-Men: First Class and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Wolverine were financial successes, they also didn’t quite make the splash desired.  If the re-boot/pre-boot/door-to-a-new trilogy didn’t work, then abandon those plans and just fold it into the “classic” line-up and everyone will be pleased.  The cinematic X-Men­ world isn’t as planned or cohesive as its Marvel Studios cousin, but given the number of characters involved it certainly could be something equivalent.  DOFP is an interesting creature because of this, and the fact that it’s not an overwhelming mess is praiseworthy.  Unfortunately it’s got the strange feeling of too-little-too-late, and it’s greatest virtues are it’s pleasurable but pointless fan service.  It sometimes comes across as a belated victory lap to the franchise that started the most profitable trend in Hollywood of the new century. Read the rest of this entry »

Thor: The Dark World

November 18, 2013

Thor-The-Dark-World

I have long approached the Marvel Cinematic Universe project with fascination and a minor degree of excitement about the possibilities of such a venture without being overly impressed with the end products, The Avengers excepted.  Of all the individual character films, I felt the first Thor was the most successful.  It expanded the universe – quite literally – with a deftness and humour that can so often sink a big-budget spectacle when it comes to introducing vast worlds and new mythologies (Green Lantern, anyone?).  Comic book superheroes are arguably most accessible when they’re weighted in the real world, so for instance Spider-man is easily relatable because he’s just a kid in New York City with some amazing powers and the wider audience doesn’t have to stretch too much to go along with it.  Of course we live in a different world than we did 15 years ago, where the nerdy intergalactic aspects of these types of things were shunned by the mainstream as being “ridiculous” and “nerdy” since nowadays all of the old comic book geek stigma is gone.  Still, introducing the 9 realms to a wider audience wasn’t an easy task, but by contrasting the busy, Roger Dean-esque world of Asgard with the bright, clean lines of the New Mexico desert, and by extension the operatic family drama of Odin and his ilk with the fish-out-of-water silliness of a demi-god wandering through small town America with a bunch of scientists, the pill was easy to swallow.  Thor: The Dark World operates on the basis that the heavily lifting has already been done (many people loathe the origin stories and wait for the characters to properly act already established in the sequels), but it turns out the character introduction wasn’t the only reason the fantastical/grounded dichotomy worked.  The new Thor spends most of its time not understanding the careful balance of the first entry, and suffers for a long period for it.   Read the rest of this entry »

Iron Man 3

May 3, 2013

IRON MAN 3

The Marvel Machine rampages on in Iron Man 3, which is already taking in incredible amounts of money because, I think, Marvel is exceptionally good at product management.  It says something about the skill of digital effects companies that you can make a solid action blockbuster product without the specific skill-set of an “action director”, and thus we have reached the point where the talent is brought in for their ability to keep a certain level of quality, not take risks and, most importantly, keep the writing snappy.  Though some of the films have had minor aesthetic differences, they all more or less look the same:  generally bright, inoffensive, with a dash of pop art stylization without going full-blown Ang Lee.  The last two entries, especially, have had one major authorial difference and that’s in the writing.  The Avengers largely kept to Joss Whedon’s not inconsiderable talent for wit, and now Iron Man 3 flows right into Shane Black’s wheelhouse.  The fact that it’s distinctive is down almost solely to the script, and if it doesn’t set it necessarily to a higher standard than other Marvel fare, it’s at least different.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Amazing Spider-Man

August 17, 2012

There have been too many cynical studio cash-ins to count.  If they see a proven franchise sitting in front of them, executives will do whatever they can to milk it for all its worth.  The Amazing Spider-Man is one such property, although instead of milking it for every last cent, the motivation here was simple: keep the rights.  Due to a deal with Disney and Marvel, Sony had to produce a film featuring the Spider-man character before a certain amount of time for them to retain the rights, and here it is.  As a result, there’s a somewhat antiseptic quality to the film.  However, it feels less like a blatant cash-in a la Alien vs Predator than it does a protective measure.  The studio handprints are all over it, but they’re more concerned with protecting the property (and not messing up a new version of a popular franchise) then they do with duping the public into a hastily thrown-together profit squeeze. Read the rest of this entry »

The Dark Knight Rises

August 15, 2012

As one of the biggest films of the year, and certainly one of the most talked about, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bother writing about The Dark Knight Rises a full month after its release.  I was sick to death of critics and bloggers and message board nerds even before I saw it.  Still, it’s out, and I have thoughts, so here we are.  It is a testament to the film that even though I wasn’t a big fan of it (I enjoyed it well enough, but it is rife with problems and is certainly the least of a trilogy that has seen some degree of diminishing returns with each successive installment – yes, Batman Begins is quite easily the best of the three), it is too interesting to ignore.  Read the rest of this entry »