Posts Tagged ‘ Iron Man 2 ’

Why 2012 Was The Wrong Year for The Amazing Spider-Man

(This is not a review)

Amazing Spider-man Int. Poster

Amazing Spider-man Int. Poster (Photo credit: marvelousRoland)

The official reviews for The Amazing Spider-Man are in. While the film itself isn’t released here in the UK for another week, the general consensus is the Marc Webb directed Amazing Spider-Man is a good film that diminishes itself by rehashing an origin no one really wanted to see. With Marvel’s The Avengers managing to easily pass the $1 billion mark already this year and The Dark Knight Rises expected to do better, was 2012 really the best year for the return of the high school Peter Parker?

Despite popular opinion, Spider-Man 3 (2007) was not the huge disaster it’s often made out to be. Emo-Spidey and underdeveloped villains aside, Spider-Man 3 still managed to be the highest-grossing film of Sam Raimi’s trilogy. It should have been easy to follow suit with a fourth movie. If Internet rumour was correct, Sony would now be the one’s having Anne Hathaway as their anti-hero in their franchise, not Warner Bros. With Hathaway’s Hollywood stock at an all-time high, Sony would have been guaranteed success with Hathaway and Jon Malkovich. Instead, studio interference led to director Raimi dropping out, leaving the project without a director and crew. Sony insisted they had no choice but to reboot with Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire as the lead hero.

A new Spider-Man film should have been easy to sell to anyone. Spider-Man is one of the most relatable and popular superheroes of all time, and is Marvel’s highest-grossing franchise to date. How could it go wrong? Perhaps taking the focus away from the action, and focusing on the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Sony has risked alienating their biggest audience. Children. Children that wear the Spider-Man pyjamas, the Spider-Man face paint and buy the Spider-Man toys. The Avengers catered for everyone and as a result it’s managed to become the third highest-grossing film of all time. Will The Amazing Spider-Man reach similar heights? I doubt it.

I credit The Amazing Spider-Man for deliberately trying not to cater for the superhero action extravaganza audiences. After all, they’ve already been catered for this year with The Avengers, so why bother trying to outdo a group of superheroes when you can tell a more personal and intimate story? That’s where I admire The Amazing Spider-Man’s ambition. It’s trying to be different from your usual superhero flick, or is it? There are some very direct parallels between Webb’s reboot and the Raimi movies. The Lizard for one treads the same water Alfred Molina already crossed with the tortured scientist trying to make the world a better place as the brilliant Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2, while Denis Leary’s Captain Stacey fills the void left by J. Jonah Jameson played by J. K. Simmons.

If The Amazing Spider-Man was never going to be the cinematic revolution many hoped it would be, you would think Sony would know better than to put their reboot between two franchise juggernauts. Providing a film to match Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary in 2012 is a nice sentiment, but it looks as if Sony has paid the price for re-visiting Spider-Man’s origin. Looking at next year’s comic book movie schedule, there’s Iron Man 3 hitting cinemas May 3rd Man of Steel on 14th June and Thor 2 on the 8th of November. That’s a pretty crammed schedule, and adding a fourth superhero film to 2013 risks over-saturating the comic book movie industry, so The Amazing Spider-Man probably wouldn’t have faired much better there either.  Will The Amazing Spider-Man find itself as the first major casualty of an over-saturated market? That’s something that’s long been on the horizon but until now with the exception of Warner Bro’s Green Lantern, we’ve never really noticed it. When was it going to get to a point where people started tiring of comic book movies?

I may be wrong, and The Amazing Spider-Man may go on to hit the $1 billion mark, however it was never going to meet my people’s expectations. If I want dark and gritty, I can wait to see The Dark Knight Rises. If I want a romance film embedded in fantasy, the Twilight finale hits at the end of the year. Raimi nailed with the character in my opinion. Spider-Man is so compelling because he’s a character surrounded by tragedy, by uses it to drive him to achieve good in the world.

When Sony booked the 2012 slot, they should have considered that rehashing a worn- down gritty origin was never going to satisfy fans that have just seen The Avengers. From the moment the first trailer was released, The Amazing Spider-Man has always felt dwarfed. If the plan was to deliver Twilight in spandex, they should have perhaps waited for the vampire franchise to actually finish.

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Are Superhero Films Too Toyetic?

Iron Man

Image by Ridho Nur Imansyah via Flickr

Welcome back to the blog. I haven’t posted anything in a while due to work commitments therefore I thought I’d come back with something a little bit different. I want to highlight and discuss the relationship between the current influx of superhero movies and the toy industry. This idea came to me recently when I was browsing through a local toy store and saw a large amount of shelf space devoted to Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger merchandise.

Granted most comic book movies will have toy lines to appeal to the young children or collectors who’ve seen the films, but when does it get to a point when the movies themselves are constructed with the toy lines in mind? Joel Schumacher‘s Batman & Robin was criticised for being a two hour-long toy commercial, which illustrates how film studios do factor in how the films can generate money from toy merchandise. It didn’t stop there for the Batman franchise, as some would argue his latest in film gadget, The Bat-Pod was purposely created to sell toys.

The Iron Man film franchise can easily be seen as having a vast toyetic approach. Robots vs. robots, the toys basically sell themselves. It was Iron Man 2 however that raised questions over how much planning had been put into the film’s toyetic appeal. The ending of Iron Man 2 was essentially a battle royale for robots. In what was a clustered finale, Iron Man and War Machine unleashed fire upon countless Hammer Drones in a scenario that didn’t really fit in place with the rest of the film, considering how little action was found in Iron Man 2’s first half. Was the action focused ending just a way to make sure the film generates toy sales?

Last month’s super debutant Thor is a little harder to make toyetic. But what the toy companies did do is generate toys based on the weapons in Thor. For instance Hasbro created an electronic hammer and heavily advertised it though television. What child wouldn’t want to be a Norse god? Captain America: The First Avenger is the toyline that most got my attention. It’s obvious Cap’s figures and play sets have been heavily designed with G.I. Joe in mind. That’s a great and clever marketing technique, but to what extent does that ideology cross over into the film? Is Captain America going to be driving a 4×4 and a fighter jet as well as his trademark motorbike throughout the film? Are The First Avenger’s action scenes going to be story devices for advertising toys?

These are just some examples of how some comic book movies have made their marketing intentions clear throughout the films. In some cases the toyetic approach is not a problem, providing the action scenes are well constructed and actually fit into the context of the films. The X-Men franchise (bar X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is probably the best comic book movie franchise that doesn’t over exploit the toyetic approach. That’s where FOX trump over Marvel Studios. Marvel need to make sure they don’t spoil any future movies, buy trying to generate toy sales.

Putting Iron Man Back In Full Gear

Iron Man 2 Tony Stark

Image by Daniel Semper via Flickr

Iron Man 2 had some great moments. Moments like Iron Man and War Machine ripping into a squad of Hammer drones kept the film just above mediocrity. The film devoted half of length setting up next year’s Avengers movie, by throwing in pointless cameos and boring plot drifts. Hopefully now though, with the Avengers movie already in production, Iron Man 3 will be able to redeem Tony Stark and company, giving the trilogy a fitting climax it deserves. And here’s how to do it.

1) Keep it simple:

The first Iron Man film was a fun, energetic movie that brought new life into the superhero franchise. The third movie needs to fast paced, but keeping to as minimal plot lines as possible. Iron Man is a franchise famous for it’s charisma. I don’t expect the Marvel to go dark so why not go back to what made the franchise so famous in the first place.

2) No pointless cameos:

If the Avengers movie is going kick-start its own new trilogy, then Marvel’s single superhero projects should go back to being individual stories. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the shared universe in the film, this can be done with only one or two dropped name references. I don’t want to see Captain America turn up in an Iron Man movie.

3) No more ‘guy in a suit’ villains

Another major thing that bored me about Iron Man 2 was the bland variety of enemies. Despite showing potential in the Monaco Grand Prix scene, Ivan Vanko (Whiplash) was no different than the first films villain Obidiah Stane. They were both bigger versions of the Iron Man suit, included to make The Armoured Avenger look against the odds. With Joss Whedon‘s Avengers movie introducing some of Marvel’s cosmic side into movieverse, depending on how that goes it could open the doors for Iron Man 3 to introduce a more unrealistic villain. The Mandarin. For those who don’t know The Mandarin is a Chinese Born scientific genius. He wields ten magical rings that grant him various powers. Magic vs technology would make for one awesome battle. Seeing Tony Stark fight against something he can’t plan against or calculate would add a whole new dimension to the character.

4) New love interest

Whilst I really enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in the first Iron Man film, her character began to get a little stale in the sequel. Her constant disapproval of Tony Stark as Iron Man is beginning to feel old, and for Pepper to be interesting again, she needs to be more accepting of her boss. He has saved her life three times after all. Perhaps take a leaf out of the recent Invincible Iron Man comic books and have Pepper don a suit of her own. Whilst she’s off doing that, Tony needs a new love interest. Whether it’s an agent of The Mandarin, or just a casual affair, Tony needs a new love interest to keep the character fresh. I don’t want to see Stark pining over Pepper in the third act.

So there are just a few ways to put Iron Man 3 back on track. With Captain America: The First Avenger already looking doomed, and a Thor sequel dependent on if Marvel can come up with another solo adventure worth doing, Iron Man 3 could be Marvel Studios one and only chance at making a trilogy. Let’s just hope it’s better than the last one…

Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier: A movie worth making

Promotional art for Captain America vol. 5, #1...

Image via Wikipedia

This summer will show the world that Marvel are ready to unleash the true potential of their B-List heroes such as Thor and Captain America on screen. Since popular characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men have gone stale, Marvel are turning to their lower roster, and it’s working with fantastic results. Last year’s Iron Man 2 already has a sequel in the works, whilst based on it’s hammering box office return, it won’t be long till we see another solo Thor adventure either. Which gets me thinking about a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger.

A Cap sequel seems to be the most challenging prospect for a superhero movie. Without being a World War 2 period set sequel, or a modern day team up with the Avengers, Captain America could struggle. In a cinematic universe where you have gods summoning down lightning and rich playboys with battle suits. A man with a shield and no superhero powers probably won’t get very far. Obviously Marvel can really emphasize the man out of time aspect from the character, which will always be interesting, but that’s better off staying in the Avengers movies. Enter the Winter Soldier.

Now presumably according to reports, Sebastian Stan, the actor playing Captain America’s sidekick Bucky in the upcoming film has a multiple picture deal. Meaning, unless we see lots of flashbacks from WW2 with Bucky, it’s probably likely he’s going to appear in either a Cap sequel or a solo film. I would much rather have a Bucky/Winter Soldier solo film as opposed to getting another Captain America sequel.

Presumably when we last see Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger, he’s likely to be on his deathbed after suffering the same explosion/fate of his super soldier ally. Rather then be discovered and awoken in the 21st Century, Bucky’s disfigured body is quickly discovered by the Soviet Union looking for the body of Captain America. After the explosion that nearly killed him leaves him with amnesia, the Soviets fit him with a bionic arm and brainwash him to be an assassin under the codename, Winter Soldier.

Now that sounds like film material. Winter Soldier could be Marvel’s answer to The Bourne Identity. Bucky’s continuous torture and brainwashing under the control of the Soviet Union would give the Marvel films something they’ve been lacking so far. Emotional drama. The character’s role as an assassin would be even more compelling. Seeing the Winter Soldier killing victims mindlessly without control would open new doors for Marvel. It would show Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine how it’s done as far as tortured characters go. Viewers would be disgusted with what the Winter Soldier has done, but at the same time they would sympathize with the man trapped inside the cold assassin. Plus the bionic arm could be really interesting if handled well.

To make sure the character doesn’t become a full on villain, the film could draw from what’s in the comics. At various points throughout the film, Bucky’s brainwashing could wear off and he makes several attempts to escape only to be recaptured later on. That’s where the film can continuously shift between the tortured hero and cold assassin sides of the character. Depending on how Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow character is going to be handled on screen, she could even make an appearance as a the Russian spy desperate to help Bucky escape. It would certainly give her a much needed character boost as far as the cinematic universe goes. The film will then finish with the Winter Soldier either killing or sparing his Russian captors and leaving his fate unknown.

Then if Marvel push forward with a Captain America sequel, it could have Cap discovering Bucky’s existence, and then trying to save his former sidekick. I realise we will probably never see a Winter Soldier solo film, but it really could be huge for Marvel. We’ll probably just end up with a reference or a cameo in a future Cap sequel.  Marvel are learning smaller characters can be hits too so maybe if Captain America: The First Avenger proves to be a big hit, it might not be too long until we see the Soviet assassin in some capacity…

Why IMAX is the definitive experience for comic book movies

Real D glasses

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday’s article illustrated my hatred for the 3-D phenomenon. I think unless there is a justified need for the film to be shot in 3-D, movie makers should leave 3-D alone. It hasn’t worked in a big Hollywood blockbuster since Avatar, and that was in 2009. Leave 3-D to animation, IMAX is where the future lies.

I realise shooting films in IMAX is hugely expensive and complicated for film studios. Shooting in IMAX cost up to three times more than an average film, so you can see why it hasn’t caught on as well as 3-D. The quality of special effects has to be perfect for it to work on an IMAX screen, so films such as Thor and Green Lantern would really need to rev up their special effects team for IMAX to work.

Also IMAX cameras are much more time consuming and heavy to work with. An IMAX camera weighs 240 pounds compared to an average 35mm movie camera weighing at 40 pounds. The reels only last 3 minutes and takes twenty to reload therefore it’s an incredible time consuming experience.

But what if film studios took and gamble for once. Christopher Nolan has illustrated the beauty of IMAX in The Dark Knight. Rather than add a countless amount of special effects to his films, Nolan does everything for real. This means that when it comes to viewing the film everything is perfect. You see, if there is a slight error or inconsistency on screen, IMAX will make it instantly visible to the audience, so everything has to be perfect. Unfortunately, there was one glaring error in Nolan’s film, where a cameraman was visible in one the films most pivotal scenes so even Nolan isn’t perfect.

Making everything perfect needs to become a movie making essential however, as it could raise the professionalism of movies to a new high. I lost count of how many inconsistencies there were in Iron Man 2. The professionalism of movie making needs to be raised and IMAX would work wonders with the comic book movie genre. Imagine seeing Green lantern’s energy constructs in glorious high-definition quality. Or Thor’s lighting summoning down in a god like thunderous fashion. It’s pricey but the rewards would be truly thunderous. For a recently established studio such as Marvel Studios, this may be financially risky; it would truly revolutionize comic book movies.

I’m not against combining 3-D with IMAX, but on it’s own, 3-D isn’t justifying itself. I can’t wait to see a certain green giant smashing down in IMAX, if it ever happens. Imagine hearing those iconic words in glorious IMAX sound

HULK SMASH!

Fetch me a Norse! My Thor review

Chris Hemsworth as Thor as depicted in the upc...

Image via Wikipedia

Released: Out now

Certificate: 12A

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgars, Idris Elba

Running Time: 114 minutes

Plot (Possible spoilers): Arrogant Norse god Thor (Hemsworth) is cast out of Asgard by his father Odin (Hopkins), whilst his evil brother (Hidleston) plots to steal his fathers throne. Thor must rediscover himself on Earth in order to return to him homeland and save the day.

If you like your superhero movies fun and linear then Thor is right up your alley. If you’re searching for something a little more wholesome, than you might be disappointed with Marvel’s latest studio flick. What the film is however, is proof Marvel have learned from their mistakes. After Iron Man 2 was nothing more than a complete disappointment, often trying to cram in too many story lines just to set up The Avengers, Thor is the complete opposite. The movie moves through at an unbelievably quick pace and never fails to deliver. Thor is action packed and a tremendous amount of fun, showcasing how the master of Shakespeare Kenneth Branagh was the perfect man for the Norse god of Thunder.

Thor was considered to be Marvel’s most difficult task on the road to next year’s Avengers movie. Get him right and you have this awe inspiring powerful Norse god, with a rich and tremendous back-story. Get him wrong and you have nothing more than an embarrassing showcase of why B-list heroes should be left alone. Marvel has played it safe with Hamlet Kenneth Branagh, as he keeps Thor fresh and exciting all the way through.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, the story revolves around Thor and his relationship with his brother Loki and father Odin. After Loki convinces Thor to disobey his father’s orders, Thor is banished to Earth to learn to error of his ways and return to Asgard to stop his evil brother’s plans. It’s traditional Todorov narrative in its purest form and that’s what makes it so fun and compelling.

The movie begins with a bang in New Mexico showcasing Thor’s arrival on Earth followed by a scene illustrating the intense history between Asgard and Jotunheim (land of the frost giants). The Jotunheim scene leaps at you as if it were the great battle for Middle Earth at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Not very original I’m afraid. Plus the 3-D spoils it.

We then meet the key players in the film, Odin, (played by Antony Hopkins), Thor (played by the Chris Hemsworth) and his dark and mysterious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The relationship between the characters themselves is handled perfectly. You can really tell Shakespearean director Branagh is onboard here. The relationship between Thor and his brother Loki is a complicated one. You can see the characters respect each other, but that is clouded by jealousy, rage and ultimately betrayal. This film is ultimately the platform for Hemsworth to imitate what Iron Man did for Robert Downey Jr. and become a major star. Hemsworth owns the role of Thor, and his transformation from arrogant warrior to selfless hero is handled perfectly. The linear narrative does wonders here. The fish out of water scenes also work perfectly as well, providing some fantastic comedic moments. (Especially one scene where Thor storms into a pet shop a demands a horse). Similar to the scenes involving Clark Kent in the Christopher Reeve Superman films, Hemsworth proves he is good with drama, action and comedy.

It’s Thor’s brother Loki who steals the show however. Hiddleston’s portrayal as the God of Mischief makes for one of the best comic book movie villains of all time. Branagh has done what so many comic book movies fail to do and spend equal time setting up the moves villain. Loki is a complex fellow. After discovering secrets about his origin, he has a fantastic showdown with his father Odin, with emotions of jealousy, rage, love and regret flying all over the place. This could of all gone wrong but Branagh keeps the tension thick, and the drama flowing. It’s so easy to sympathize for Loki, but Hiddleston keeps you hating him as well. His ability to keep the audience guessing is a skill that Hollywood seems to have neglected over the years.  Co-stars Hemsworth and Hiddleston have fantastic chemistry on screen, and make for one of the best hero/villain match ups we’ve seen in a long time.

The rest of the main cast all impress. Hopkins gives a powerful performance as the all father Odin, bringing with him an incredible sense of authority whenever he’s on screen. Unlike her role in Black Swan, Natalie Portman keeps it simple but effective as scientist Jane Foster. She oozes of innocence and woos Thor at an incredibly quick pace (which some critics have pointed out) but considering all she does for him while he’s on Earth, it’s pretty believable. Fresh off the controversy surrounding his casting, Idris Elba does a wonderful job as Heimdall, protector of the Bifrost Bridge (a bridge which links all the realms together). Heimdall’s incredible physique puts even Thor to shame

It’s the supporting cast that let the film down a bit however. Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano and Josh Dallas rarely get given any sort of character development as Thor’s friends, the Warriors Three. The relationship between Thor and Asgard’s female warrior Sif (Jaimie Alaxendar) is never really explored and her character is left in the ambiguous wilderness. The same can be said for Kat Dennings as her character Darcy Lewis, a friend and colleague of Jane Foster (Portman), fails to deliver the sort of comedy we predicted from the film’s trailer. I can’t help but think this film would have been at least half a star better if all of the characters were handled perfectly.

The 3-D effect has been criticised (with the exception of Avatar) for not really taking off in cinemas yet and sadly the same applies to Thor. The opening scenes were left blurry and I didn’t really see what the 3-D effect gave to the film. If anything, it was a minor inconvenience.  The special effects were passable but let the film down in some scenes, especially the scene involving Thor and The Destroyer. I could forgive this however as they didn’t distract from the incredible action (and yes there is a lot of action) and drama nevertheless. There’s also one really pointless cameo from Jeremy Renner as the archer avenger Hawkeye where he shows up for almost no reason.

Verdict: Kenneth Branagh has done an incredible job with Thor, creating a standalone film that oozes with charisma. Hemsworth and Hiddleston emerge from this as true stars, and I can only hope we see more of their relationship in next year’s Avengers movie. Move over Iron Man, there’s a new hero in town, at least until Captain America: The First Avenger hits in July.

No pressure for Chris Evans..

****

Franchise Overkill?

Comic Civil War

I was watching a video over at comic book movie recently and it had Chris Evans (The man playing Captain America in this year’s Marvel Studios film Captain America: The First Avenger) talk about his picture deal with Marvel. According to Evans, he has signed a six-picture deal, which means he’ll do three Cap movies and three Avengers flicks.

Now obviously this is dependent on whether the Cap film flops when it is released in July, if it does it could cause a major reshuffle in plans for the Avengers movie. If the Cap movie does relatively well, we are likely to see Chris Evans as Cap at least six times in the next ten to twelve years.

Add that to Iron Man 3 (directed by Shane Black) scheduled for 2013 and at least one Thor sequel; you have the three major players in the Avengers franchise having nine individual movies in 11 years time. I’m all for the Iron Man franchise, as I believe the series will flourish once more now the Avengers is up and running. But Thor and Cap trilogies are pushing it.

A movie based on a character that was invented for American propaganda is unlikely to make it past one outing in my opinion. Even Marvel has realised the Cap franchise is a risky property by changing the name of the film in some European countries. If the movie bombs and Marvel still pushes ahead with Cap sequels, you’re lively to see either two things. One of them being a completely unmotivated, unconvincing Chris Evans probably realising he’s made the biggest mistake of his life, or a new cheaper actor in the role of Steve Rogers. Marvel have shown their not afraid to drop their big names (Ed Norton anyone?), and I wouldn’t be surprised if Evans was next in their line of fire if the Cap movie bombs.

Thor is slightly different however. I think of Thor as very similar to the original Christopher Reeve Superman franchise. Like Reeve, Chris Hemsworth sells the fish of water aspect of his character beautifully, but there’s only so far that can go. The Superman franchise showed us that the humour of being an outsider wears of quickly, and in Superman Return‘s case, actually becomes embarrassing. Plus I don’t think Thor has the strength in characters like Iron Man or Spider-Man. We can’t just have Thor vs. his brother Loki in every solo film (especially since Loki is rumoured to be the villain in the Avengers). But where else could you go with Thor? If I were Marvel I’d hold off Thor sequels and keep the character exclusive to the Avengers franchise, just to keep Thor fresh.

I think Marvel need to be very careful with bombarding comic book movies on audiences. Whilst comic book movies have a much loyal fan base, I doubt many movie goers will be rushing to see rumoured upcoming projects such as The Black Widow, War Machine, Namor: The Sub Mariner, Luke Cage and a Nick Fury/Shield movie.

Marvel should learn from Fox’s mistakes and take time with their movies. Comic book movies are at an all time high, but if you push too many films down the throats of audiences they’re bound to get bored eventually.