Sunday, November 6, 2016
It's safe to say that Doctor Strange as a Marvel character has never been much in my wheelhouse. As a kid, the comics always held a certain visual appeal, but I felt like the character was all mustache and cape, dealing with, yeah, world-threatening dilemmas, but always in that vague way of magical characters that didn't hold the immediate familiarity of "oh, Joker's going to kill all those people" or "Magneto is up to his old tricks." I was pretty well into college before I embraced the abstraction of world-ending calamities on a metaphysical scale, mostly by way of Jack Kirby's 70's-era work and Grant Morrison's JLA. But I still never drifted back to Doctor Strange over at Marvel. I'd enjoy his guest appearances everywhere from Spider-Man to The Illuminati-type stuff, but didn't think it was something that needed to be in my monthly "buy" pile.
Really, the only Doctor Strange comics I ever purchased were back when the character was double-billing in Strange Tales with Cloak & Dagger, which I was picking up because I dug Cloak and Dagger. Figuring out what the hell was going on with Stephen Strange, MD, wasn't particularly something I was losing sleep over.
But, the Marvel movies are, for me, an ideal way to engage with the Marvel U in a non-invested sort of way with stuff I was vaguely interested in, but didn't care to get too immersed in. Starting with Iron Man and including everything from Thor and The Avengers to the current incarnation of Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics, I prefer how these packages are presented in movie-form.*
Doctor Strange (2016) is - yes - another Marvel origin story. This is both a reality and problem for Marvel as it rolls out it's ever-broadening line of characters in television and film, as the origins of these characters are, in fact, of great importance to establishing the characters and their motivations for films to come. If not for Iron Man and Captain America as origin stories, how interesting would Civil War have been, really? Or, hell, Winter Soldier? DC Entertainment is finding out the hard way via Suicide Squad's terrible story problems that even an ensemble piece needs a bit more fleshing out.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
I want to say that I loved Luke Cage. Because for a full 6 episodes, I was ready to stand up and say "this is the best Marvel TV series to date, even better than Jessica Jones or Season 1 of Agent Carter". But, man, the back half of this series feels rough. It's still watchable, but as early as the beginning of the seventh episode, the wheels start coming off, and it's only in fits and spurts that the show reclaims the excellence of those first six episodes, seems to remember its mission statement, and doesn't feel like it's a throwback to 1990's-era superhero movies. I have a few hypotheses as to what may have occurred, but that doesn't save the overall project anymore than headcannons or fan theories (neither of which this blogger recommends you indulge in). What matters is what winds up on the screen.
What does retain it's consistency, as surely as the cells in Luke Cage's body bounce back from a bad day, is the strong character put forth in Luke Cage, the grounded, human force of a man trying every day to do right. In Luke Cage we get that rarest of characters which are slowly climbing their way back from two decades of think-pieces to the contrary, the good guy who doesn't need to be called an anti-hero to work in a modern context. For Marvel, and maybe for the mass audiences, up to this point we've relied on our sepia-toned notions and the uncomplicated moral battle of the Allied fight against the Axis to gain access to the point of view of our upright hero in Steve Rogers - AKA: Captain America. But in Luke Cage we get a modern man who has known the compromise all his life and despite what's past, he's moving forward in a world that broils and churns with moral compromise as the "smart" move, the only way to get things done. And we have a hero who isn't living in a hypothetical world of cops and robbers, but in a world that reflects a lot of our own, with Trayvon Martins and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I re-watched Captain America: Civil War because I bought the BluRay.
In general, I like this movie quite a bit. But I've written on it twice this year, so that seems like plenty.
The image above appears on a t-shirt my mother purchased for me. She's generous to a fault, but she usually is on the side of "you have plenty of Super-America Man stuff" which is usually followed by an unprompted "Poor Jamie" and a look of pity tossed Jamie's way.
But... My mom bought me this. I wear it all the time because - yeah, I like it fine on its own, but sometimes it really is the thought that counts.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Randy suggested I take a look at the trailers that came out during Comic-Con, and while I haven't looked at every one of them, and some of them I have no opinion on in general (like the new Harry Potter), I guess I can do this fairly quickly and painlessly.
I've already been asked how accurate this is to the original comics, but as one always has to say with DC comics and characters, in particular, the specifics aren't that important. Especially trying to bring the character to the big screen in 2017 versus what the characters were like in their 1941 original first appearance.
The question needs to be: how did they handle the origin in general (do the producers understand the character well enough to understand the importance and resonance of the most important details of the character), and what did they do to demonstrate that the character is not a new character masquerading as the titular character?
I am not expecting the poly-sexual, bdsm subliminal antics of the original comics to ever make the big screen (we can make arguments about Season 1 of the Lynda Carter show some other time). This is the Wonder Woman of the Greg Rucka era, who still carries the lasso, but is like to pick up a sword and shield. To avoid comparisons to her contemporary creation, Captain America, the origin story has been transported to WWI instead of WWII, a change which I feel doesn't exactly make sense for a downed aviator to find Themyscira by accident (the range on those flyers was not putting them out over the mid-Atlantic, and aircraft carriers barely existed at the time).
But, ignoring the logistics of aviation history, I have to say I'm as excited by this trailer as I likely am to be about anything spinning out of DC/WB's theatrical efforts. Gadot isn't my first choice, but she seems fine in the part. The action looks like it's not softened in the slightest and the Amazons are living up to their potential from the comics if this trailer is to be believed.
Like Captain America, the action is likely to move to the modern era for any sequels, which kind of begs the question "why set it in WWI when it's going to draw so many comparisons to Captain America?" It's not like we've lacked for military conflict in the past 20 years.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
In some ways, all I want to write about here is how much I like Gwyneth Paltrow in movies and how at odds that is with what little I know about her from what we all get to hear about her real life. Pepper Potts I want to hang with. But Paltrow? It's hard to say.
When I went to see Iron Man III (2013), I was laboring under the misconception it was about Pepper Potts as much as it would be about Tony Stark, but, alas, that was not to be. It was just a few moments that they chose to use in the trailers.
While I really like all three Iron Man movies, gigantic flaws and plotholes and all (and Iron Man 2 has plotholes you could navigate in a steamliner), there's just no comparing what goes down in this movie - scale-wise - with, really, any of the Captain America movies or even Thor. Or Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a personal story for Tony, and that focus gives it a certain sense of a 90's actioner to it except in two or three big-scale sequences (like saving everyone who fell out of an airplane). The consequences of the story seem entirely tied to Tony, and that makes the movie all the more personal while also really making it seem consequence-free in a lot of ways that, say, The Winter Soldier felt like it mattered to everyone on Earth.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
With a Monday afternoon off for Memorial Day, Jamie and I weighed whether we'd be seeing X-Men: Apocalypse versus anything else. Jamie, a solid fan of Cap and luke-warm on X-folk, pushed for Cap as she wanted to see it again on the big screen, and as I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the last go-round, I was more than happy to agree. We'll catch X-Men soon enough, and I have a post brewing as to 'why' when we're kinda not huge X-nerds in 2016.
There isn't much to say that I didn't already say, except that on a second viewing, when I wasn't just trying to keep up with the rocket-propelled trajectory of the movie, a lot of things that felt like bullet-point plot points as they went along suddenly felt much more organic. Cap's arguments for non-compliance not only held up better on a second-viewing, but the death of Peggy, which I took as mostly an emotional beat in the first viewing, I now could see how that scene was really about Sharon quoting Peggy and giving Steve the resolve he needed in his moment of crisis. The best person from the point in his life where he found his true self was speaking to him via her niece.
And, speaking of that niece, there's a lot more goo-goo eye stuff going on between Sharon and Steve - and, in fact, her very cooperation with Steve suddenly doesn't seem so much like a "doing a pal a solid" as her clearly breaking protocols for this guy. They just don't actually say anything before that first kiss, and so it is a bit less jarring once you catch the interplay a bit better.
But the race to save Bucky feels far more grounded on a second viewing as well. Steve's intentions felt more clear, and his insistence on saving Bucky somehow feels less like "well, because he's the good guy" and because of that shared history, even as he seems to know Bucky may actually be guilty and may actually kill him this time.
Anyway, I highly recommend catching the movie again. I watch all the Marvel movies more than once not just because - hey, sometimes I pick up things I missed before - but it's fun stuff to see again, especially in the theater. It's really amazing how well Marvel has managed these movies, film after film, finding just the right talent for each role and directors to fit the film.
More on what I'm getting out of these movies in a future post.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
I don't believe Steve Rogers has secretly been pulling the wool over our eyes or Marvel's hero who just raked in a billion dollars at the box office has actually been an Agent of Hydra all along or whatever it is Tom Brevoort, Marvel's personal Salacious Crumb, said to the New York Times.
Yes, Captain America was designed by two Jewish guys to punch Hitler in the face, and, yes, of course, if Marvel were actually turning him into a villain longterm, it'd be kinda gross. But, y'know, comics. I'm pretty sure it's some usual sci-fi comics monkeyshines, Cosmic Cube business or time travel or whatnot, and by tale's end, we'll all be back to normal.
What I'm irritated about is that I can't actually remember the last time I read a good Steve Rogers story about Steve Rogers being Steve Rogers. Don't worry - it's not limited to Steve Rogers - I'm pretty sure DC hasn't had Superman as Superman in an in-continuity comic in at least four years, and before that we had Superman walking America (Grounded Part 1 = garbage, Grounded Part 2 = pretty darn good), Superman not being Superman for a year in the comics because New Krypton, Superman with no powers... And, if I never felt like the New 52 Superman was Superman, well, it seems like DC is set to confirm that suspicion).
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Let''s be honest - if you're trying to look at Marvel movies as individual installments - you're utterly missing the point. I suspect you're the sort of person who, while selecting a computer, asks the sales associate what gauge typewriter ribbon this contraption will require. The strength of the Marvel U is the serial nature and continuity, something more traditional critics seem to balk at, continually expect to flounder, but then engage with once they get down to brass tacks in their discussion of the semi-annual Marvel release. Captain America: Civil War (2016) is the culmination of the past decade's worth of Marvel studios box office success, tight narrative management, and editorial vision of a shared universe reflecting the best aspects of more than 50 years of Marvel comics.
I should point out right here that I still have not seen Batman v. Superman, so I'll do my best not to make any comparisons between this film and one I haven't seen. It's not fair to either.
My relationship with the original Civil War comics from Marvel is not a great one. I loved the art in the main series, but I didn't entirely buy either Cap or Tony suddenly coming to their respective positions, and due to events in recent Captain America comics - Steve had unmasked on camera and said his name directly into a microphone as a sign of strength while confronting terrorists (it was just post 9/11) - I didn't really think it made sense for him to be the standard bearer in the comics for being anti-government management. After all, Steve has been roughly a government op for SHIELD since his return in the 64' era and getting his own title.
At the series' conclusion, it felt like they took dozens and dozens of comics, from the mini-series to the associated mini-series, to the in-continuity issue tie-in's, to tell a story which only really needed about 5-7 issues to tell. And, at the conclusion of that series, I dropped Marvel as a line, except for, I think, Black Panther - which I only stuck with for a while longer, and then Cap. They were headed into doing the same thing over again with another storyline (that Skrull dealy-o), and I just raised my hands and said "I can't afford this, and you need to do this better".
Thus, I was a bit skeptical when Marvel selected Civil War as the basis for its next storyline for Cap following Winter Soldier. If I was cheered a bit, it was that I felt Winter Soldier was an entirely new story using pieces of the comics (which I'd enjoyed terrifically), maintaining the central conflicts and many of the characters while telling an entirely different story.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Friday, April 15, 2016
If you think my movie watching has slowed to a trickle, you'd be right. We're still neck deep in TV and baseball right now. I haven't even watched my BluRay of The Force Awakens quite yet, but I did lose all of last night watching the disk of bonus material (totally great, btw).
We also blitzed our way through Daredevil Season 2, or as close to a blitz as you're going to get out of us. We basically finished the series in about 2.5 weeks, which is really fast for us, even for a 13-episode series.
Last night's post should give you an idea of the regard in which I hold the source material of Daredevil comics produced by Frank Miller in the early 1980's. But, to be truthful, I haven't read them in over a decade. That's all right. The show only references them loosely, doing what Marvel has done so well so often over the past decade: keeping the origins largely intact, remembering who the characters are at their core (and not in the squishy "well, which canon? who are you to say this isn't Superman?" way DC has done), and boiling down stories to work better in the medium in which they're appearing.
Daredevil Season 1 carried the burden of the origin and establishing their corner of New York not just for Daredevil, but - as it turned out - for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. In all honesty, I thought both Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones Season 1 could have been tighter. They seemed to be 8 or 9 episode shows spread out over 13, and that meant a lot of filler.
I think those of us who watched Daredevil S2 can agree, if this season had an issue, it wasn't that not that we were hoping it'd pick up the pace a bit.
Monday, April 4, 2016
This movie came out some time ago and everyone else has already seen it. So, what to say?
I guess I really, really can't believe this movie got made at all. It's kind of a shock to know Fox was willing to go this bananas not just with a superhero movie, but a feature film in general. The past few years, really since Guardians of the Galaxy was a hit, I've been feeling pretty good about the uptick in exploring diversity of content under the Marvel and DC banners. Part of why I've not bought the idea of "superhero fatigue" is, well, absolutely gigantic box office when most of these movies arrive, but because all of us longtime comics readers know that the comics themselves are no two alike, on a good day. There's a reason DC and Marvel each own stables of thousands of characters and it's not just because the artists like drawing different suits.
We're now well past the point of me going to see "superhero" movies about characters I've never really read, and seeing pics of Bumbershoot Scratchnsniff dressed up as Dr. Strange online this weekend will get me right back to the theater to check out that dude.
To be honest, I've always thought of Deadpool from the comics as one of those things that people tell me is funny, but when I look at it, it felt like a collection of tired jokes Gen-X'ers told each other (Ha! Bea Arthur! HA!), and some lightweight racism (the word is "chimichanga"! Ha ha ha! Sigh.) increasingly mixed in with internet memes and pop culture references. It was like a less surreal Ambush Bug.* I got that some folks liked it, and that's great! It's terrific to see a mix of comedy and action working that consistently. And, I suspect, this sort of thing would have been hilarious to me as a 20-year-old dude.
So, I hadn't planned to see the movie, but about a week after it came out, The Admiral and I were pouring some wine (he's had a lot of practice at it at this point), and he says to me, "Have you seen this movie Deadpool?"
And I said, oh so cautiously, "Ah. You know. Not yet."
He looked around and then said "I took myself to see it on Wednesday. That movie is hilarious."
So, if The Admiral liked it, how bad could it be? I mean, the man won't let you drop the f-bomb in his actual presence, but up on the screen, everything's fair game, and he does have a ridiculously good sense of humor, so, we checked it out.
I dunno. I found it really fun. It was kind of what I needed this weekend. It's a big, splatterfest R-Rated murder revenge picture, and it's not like I don't have a place in my heart for those sorts of movies from time to time. And it is genuinely funny. Someone finally wrote a movie that fits Ryan Reynolds' snappy delivery and jittery-kid antics, threw a CGI mask over his face, gave him Colossus as a straight man, and I basically had no complaints.
Well done, makers of Deadpool. And god bless ya for hiring Gina Carano. I don't know who she was supposed to be, but that was fun.
*Keith Giffen's 1980's wise-cracking, 4th-wall breaking character who was a thorn in the side of the DCU, but who never had, really, an ounce of popularity
Friday, March 11, 2016
Of course I'm excited about Captain America: Civil War. It's a new Marvel movie, so I'll go see it. Plus, it's a Captain America movie, which means I'll see it opening weekend. Plus, it has The Falcon, Black Panther, Black Widow, Iron Man, War Machine and more. So, I'm seeing it opening day at 7:30. Tickets are secured.
I was not, of course, a fan of the actual Marvel Civil War comics, and I am concerned I'd have the same issues with this movie. If Marvel wants to pretend it has any attachment to the real world, yes: superheroes kinda sorta seem like they need to be regulated folks under the supervision of some sort of legal authority. Otherwise, it's "person with an agenda and a mask on the street with lethal force at their disposal". What made the Marvel Civil War comics all the more ridiculous was that Cap, who was a working government agent with no secret ID at the time of the series' release came down on the side of anarchic superheroes avoiding legal repercussion.
We live in a country of laws, sir.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Tuesday evening saw the conclusion of Season 2 of Marvel's Agent Carter, a short-run ABC television program. ABC is, of course, a Disney company, and Marvel is also owned by Disney.
The show is a spin-off from the Captain America movies and a lodestone pointing to the mid-20th Century origins of the Marvel comic characters and the fictional origins of the doings of the Marvel Universe films. If you're not keeping up (and both ratings and anecdotal evidence suggests you're not), Agent Carter follows the post-WWII, post-Captain America: The First Avenger doings of Special Agent Peggy Carter of the Strategic Science Reserve - the forebear of SHIELD.
You may remember Peggy as the uniformed sidekick to Tommy Lee Jones as Steve Rogers transformed into Captain America, who stayed on the radio with him as he piloted the Red Skull's plane into the Arctic. Yes, yes, I was quite smitten with Agent Carter back during the first go-round, and I was a bit disappointed that - as we then jumped to the 21st Century, that was the last we were going to see of Peggy. The film had written Peggy as pointing a new way forward for female characters in Marvel movies, and, Peggy was based on a character from the comics, who - in turn - reflected the sort of bad-assery women were displaying in all sorts of very, very real covert and resistance-fighting roles during WWII.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
I'm about two months behind everyone else finishing the Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones, a spiritual sibling of the much celebrated Daredevil, and as far from the TV-logic and twee shenanigans of Agents of SHIELD as you're likely to get.
I'm going to throw this out there, and I'll ask you to stick with me: Jessica Jones may be, to live-action superhero media, what Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were to comics in 1986.
Way back in the late-90's/ early-00's, I was reading a lot of this new kid, Brian Michael Bendis, who had some indie success with Goldfish, Torso and other gritty crime books (and Torso is still an amazing read, the based-on-real-events story of famed lawman Elliot Ness trying to find a serial killer in Cleveland after putting Capone behind bars). He followed this by teaming with Oeming on Powers, a "cops in a world with capes" comic with a decidedly Rated-R bent, and I followed that series for years. Around 2001/2002, Bendis and Gaydos brought Alias to Marvel and minted their new MAX imprint - a line of comics with a hard "R" rating, but absolutely within the Marvel Universe. Something even DC blanched at, separating Vertigo from DCU proper circa 1994.
This was about fifteen years after the atom-bomb of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns exploded in the comics world and, in the aftermath, the idea that comics could reach an adult audience was left behind in the radiation and sand burnt to glass. Bendis was part of the generation who came into the field when a few things were happening. (A) Reaching an audience older than 17 was now possible - which meant the very real-world problems facing actual humans could be discussed in comics, even with a superheroic bent, which (B) meant that the comics companies were setting up imprints to deal with this idea, keeping their mainline branding safe for the parents associations who would show up and breathe fire and throw comics retailers in jail from time-to-time for not carefully shelving their wares. And, of course, (C) Marvel was dealing with bankruptcy. I have very little positive to say about 2001-era Marvel honcho Bill Jemas, but he was certainly willing to try new things, and all of that risk-taking has indirectly led to the Marvel we think of today.
Alias showed up in this market as a sort of indie-within-the-Big-2 title. It was something to see a character who smoked and drank and had sex with Luke Cage (which she does in the first few pages of the series - so I feel spoiler free), and met Carol Danvers for coffee. It was a detective series. There was something in her background we'd get to sooner or later, some dark reason she'd quit heroing, but at the outset, it seemed to just be a series about a failed superhero making ends meet and seeing real human foibles and crime in the underbelly of the Marvel U.
So... the TV show.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Friday, December 11, 2015
I believe I'm now legally obligated to see this movie. I'm not even sure I'm happy it exists, but I suppose I'll be catching a matinee at some point.
I kind of feel the way about X-Men movies the way I do about X-Men comics. It's how I got into comics, but I kind of lost interest at some point, but I'd be sad if they went away. Also, too much Wolverine.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Thursday, November 26, 2015
The kids will never understand that this felt like gigantic exposure for these characters at the time.
The kids will never understand that this felt like gigantic exposure for these characters at the time.