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Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Monday, May 9th, 2022

So far I have watched all the Marvelous Cinematical Unabomber motion pictures and related Disney+ streaming television works, and I have enjoyed the majority of them. But fuck all that. What’s important here is that DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is the first movie Sam Raimi has directed since OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL nine years ago. I liked it quite a bit more than that last one, but my feeling about it is kind of similar: it’s just fun to see him working on a giant canvas, putting his spookablastian spin on this other thing, even though I’d much rather see him working with his own creations.

MCU movie #28 with Raimi’s fingerprints all over it is not as good as, say, an original western with Raimi’s fingerprints all over it, let alone an original comic-book-inspired character he made up, but it is, at times, thrilling. MULTIVERSE opens mid-battle as ex-surgeon-turned-ex-Sorcerer-Supreme Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy in the dragon costume in THE HOBBIT) and a teenage girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez, SHADOW WOLVES) are super-leaping across chunks of debris floating in space while a tendril-covered demon blocks access to a pedestal holding a magic book called the Book of Vishanti. It’s the good counterpart to the evil Darkhold, which in this context suddenly I realize is the MCU equivalent of the Necronomicon. They’re leap-frogging and parkouring and the camera is deftly moving around them in impossible ways, a natural evolution of all the groundbreaking web-slinging sequences in Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man 3

Monday, January 31st, 2022

SPIDER-MAN 3 is Sam Raimi’s most financially successful movie to date, having raked in $894 million at the worldwide box office. That’s about 41 ARMY OF DARKNESSes. But it’s also his first (and only?) infamous movie. Looking back at the reviews surprised me – they were more positive than I remembered. But it almost immediately became one of those movies that the conventional wisdom decides is bad, and that reputation has stuck. Remember how I showed you all those articles declaring SPIDER-MAN 2 the best super hero movie ever? Well, a list on Comic Basics ranks part 3 as the #4 “Worst Superhero Movie That Hollywood has Ever Puked Up,” Goliath ranked it #5 “Most Terrible Superhero Film,” the much more thorough Comic Vine calculated it as #53 “Worst Superhero Movie,” but that means they consider it worse than GREEN LANTERN. In recent years, C-Net, Business Insider, comicbook.com, Complex and Gizmodo all included it on lists of the worst superhero/comic book movies. If it’s ever mentioned positively, it’s in the context of defending it,with the understanding that it’s an uphill battle (for example Sandy Schaefer’s 2020 Screen Rant piece “Is Spider-Man 3 Actually Bad? Why Marvel Fans Hate It So Much.”)

Of course, you know how I am. I always kinda liked it. In my review at the time I said it was “more flawed than Part 1 or Part 2. But not by much,” and concluded, “This movie is worse than the other two in some ways and better in other ways. Lots of interesting characters, great action scenes, good emotional climax, some sloppy writing and a weird tangent for the history books.“

Watching it now, I still like what I always liked, and not a single one of the things I used to dislike bothers me anymore. In fact, what seemed like its big weakness at the time – the hurried, three-villained plot – now makes it feel refreshingly different from other comic book movies, and honestly more faithful to these stories as they once existed in their original medium. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

“He had an uneventful childhood. He played baseball with the other kids on the block, became fascinated with the antics of what later became his heroes – The Three Stooges, read Spiderman comic books, thought Jerry Lewis was hilarious and the Little Rascals even more so. What influenced Raimi to become the ‘horror meister’ of slash and gore films is not found in his past.”

Dead Auteur: How a 20-year-old ex-college student carved out his horror niche in Hollywood by Sue Uram, Cinefantastique, August 1992

 

Immediately following Raimi’s very serious director period, his career changed drastically again. After so many stabs at the mainstream, he finally made the leap to genuine blockbuster filmmaking, bringing one of the most famous characters in the history of American pop culture to the big screen for the first time. This is not the use-Intro-Vision-to-stretch-the-budget-enough-to-try-to-compete-in-summer of DARKMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS, or the work-with-huge-stars-but-scare-off-boring-people-by-doing-something-different-with-them of THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. I’m talking a super hero event movie with ten times the budget of DARKMAN, working with Sony Digital Imageworks to pioneer effects techniques that nobody was even sure would be possible, and finally sharing his talents with pretty much the widest audience possible for a movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Contains explicit spoilers. Reader discretion advised.


SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME is a gimmicky MCU multiverse extravaganza, pulling out all the stops, all the comical riffs and all the ideas from the brainstorming session to achieve a rough live action equivalent to in my opinion the best Spider-Man picture by far, INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. It inevitably lacks the newness and artistic precision of the animated version (not to mention the multi-culturalism) but it is its own type of ambitious fan-pleasing accomplishment. If you haven’t heard, it treats the two previous Spider-Man movie series – Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 1-3 (2002-2007) and Mark Webb’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1-2 (2012-2014) – as alternate dimensions, and pulls those two Spider-Men and five of their villains into the Marvel Corporate Unification to bounce off the current Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland, voice of “Eddie,” LOCKE) and his adult wizard friend Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, WAR HORSE), compare web-shooters, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Believe it or not, I kinda consider myself kind of a Shang-Chi guy. As in, I dig that comic book character, before there was a movie. That’s definitely overstating it, because I don’t know that much more about his history than the next guy, but I’m attached to him because of my fascination with the period that created him, just a couple years before I was born, when American pop culture was catching on to the existence of kung fu and kung fu movies, and trying to cash in.

Shortly after Luke Cage debuted in June 1972 as a super hero response to SHAFT (both SUPER FLY and the coinage of the term “Blaxploitation” happened a few months later), Shang-Chi was conceived as the Marvel Comics version of the hit TV show Kung Fu, and he debuted in the midst of ENTER THE DRAGON mania. He showed up one month in Special Marvel Edition, and two issues later it was retitled The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. I can’t resist titles like that – that’s why I also know about the DC character Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter (as seen in BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON) and why I was introduced to Shang-Chi by buying back issues of The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

That’s a ‘70s Marvel Magazine, the type you know is gonna include a full page ad for a “complete audiovisual home study course in dynamic KUNG FU & KARATE” for less than 16¢ a lesson with a 10 day no risk money back guarantee. But it’s mainly black-and-white comics about martial arts characters including Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and The Sons of the Tiger interspersed with crude martial arts-related articles. In issue #1, writer J. David Warner visits the Fred Hamilton All-Dojo Martial Arts Tournament, reviews THE CHINESE MECHANIC starring Barry Chan, and has a news column previewing upcoming Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest releases, as well as western movies with co-stars from Asian cinema, like YAKUZA, STONER and PAPER TIGER. It also mentions WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES, GOYOKIN, and Ken Russell “preparing for production” of a martial arts movie called KARATE IS A THING OF THE SPIRIT. (If that had gotten off the ground I’d probly obsess over it the way people do THE DEVILS.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Widow

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Poor Scarlett Johansson. After 8 movies appearing as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff in a supporting or cameo role, across 11 years (lengthened by global catastrophe related delays), her Marvel super spy character finally gets to star in her own movie… and it’s only okay. I mean I enjoyed watching it and I’ll say some nice things about it, but I can’t deny it lacks the kick of most Marvel movies without being different enough from them to feel like its own thing. Maybe this would’ve been cool if it was the one they made early on with plans to improve on the formula in subsequent adventures, but instead they made it after the character has been killed off and Johansson is presumably ready to move on with her life. If this is all she gets in the end I almost wish Emily Blunt had stuck with the role (she was cast but couldn’t get out of GULLIVER’S TRAVELS!) so Scarlett would’ve had more time to do her more adventurous roles like UNDER THE SKIN, LUCY, MARRIAGE STORY, JOJO RABBIT and hell, I’ll even say GHOST IN THE SHELL. More problematic, but more interesting.

The good news for people who like Marvel but get overwhelmed keeping track of all the shit is that this one is low on continuity and tie-ins. It references the basic Black Widow backstory and I don’t remember what that’s all about, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything important. It takes place however many movies ago when she’s been set up and is on the run, so that eliminates most “what does this mean for the larger Marvel universe?” concerns. (It also makes me realize how much more attached I am to Star Wars than the MCU: Star Wars makes me say, “Ah, this must be not long after Order 66, interesting,” and the MCU makes me say, “It’s after CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – who gives a shit?” I treat Marvel more like the serials Star Wars was emulating – on to the next chapter, no time to look back. But I’m sure there’s a whole generation who feel differently.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME continues the charming “teen comedy, but in the Marvel Universe” vibe of 2017’s SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, but instead of situating it on the outskirts of the MCU it’s more in the middle this time. It’s pretty much an epilogue to the whole story that culminated in AVENGERS: ENDGAME, or a bridge to the next one. It starts by making light of the fictional tragedies of that movie (a hilariously awful teen-made video tribute to fallen heroes) and pretty much addressing everything I wondered about after ENDGAME (AVENGERS that is, not HIGHLANDER) pertaining to a world where half of all teens are five years younger than their ID says.

And then it’s kind of like it should be called SPIDER-MAN IS… IRON MAN 4. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE) is on a school trip to Europe, and his mind is on a plan to tell M.J. (Zendaya, SUPER BUDDIES) he has a crush on her, though she seems to be spending her time with Brad (Remy Hii, CRAZY RICH ASIANS), who is somebody’s little brother who grew big and handsome while the rest of them were dusted. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dark Phoenix

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Man, I guess they’re considered kinda antiquated now, society has moved on, but I still love the X-MEN movies. Here is the only super hero series to span the entire post-BLADE era until now. Their first movie was eight years before IRON MAN started the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Put another way, it was only three years after BATMAN & ROBIN seemed like it might’ve ended Hollywood’s affair with comic book movies.

You super heroes now a days don’t know how easy you have it. The X-Men come from a time when the filmmakers felt they had to give them black leather outfits and make a disparaging joke about yellow spandex if they wanted audiences to take them seriously. And I’m pretty sure they were right. But seven movies and five spin-offs later (not including next year’s NEW MUTANTS) they’ve fought the government, giant robots and an ancient god-like tyrant, solved the Cuban Missile crisis, traveled through time, died and come back to life, gone to space, and yes, even wore yellow uniforms. From “maybe we better call them by their first names” to nobody batting an eye at a six-member space mission team with 50% blue representation. That’s progress.

Through much of that the movies retained members of a brilliant ensemble centered on the obvious but perfect (famous bald man Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier) and the counter-intuitive but ingenious (Australian stage actor Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Shakespearian Ian McKellan as Magneto). Though this final chapter is the new timeline younger cast of FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE, it ends storylines begun 19 year ago. (read the rest of this shit…)

Avengers: Endgame

Monday, April 29th, 2019

THIS IS AN ALL SPOILER REVIEW. Duh.

It’s hard to review a movie like AVENGERS: ENDGAME. I don’t think there’s much point in reading about it before you’ve seen it, or in seeing it if you haven’t seen most of the IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA and AVENGERS movies, at the very least. This is a giant event movie but it’s not working on the traditional level of a movie. It’s more of a movie/comic book crossover/TV series hybrid. Some mad king becomes a show runner and spends all his nation’s capital trying to make the biggest season finale in history.

So I’m assuming you’ve seen it, and we’ll discuss some stuff about it. And the review will be as long and all-over-the-place as the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Captain Marvel

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Marvel has been on a roll for a while now. I guess it’s inevitable that when you release extra colorful and ambitious movies like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THOR: RAGNAROK, BLACK PANTHER, and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR all within two or three years then some of the other stuff you put out is gonna seem less impressive. Like, DOCTOR STRANGE was pretty good fun and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP has plenty of laughs and now we have CAPTAIN MARVEL, a perfectly fine movie I enjoyed watching similar to how I enjoyed watching the first THOR. Like that one it’s a pretty cool, well-cast new character who comes to our world from sort of an iffy fantastical one, has some pretty cool, sometimes funny fish-out-of-water interactions with humans, and fights some bad guys from her world in a small town without many people around.

Not bad, but how are you gonna get ’em back on THOR once they’ve seen RAGNAROK? We take the cool characters for granted now and we expect better style, better jokes, better spectacle. At least that’s how I feel. It’s worth mentioning that most of the women I’ve talked to about it liked CAPTAIN MARVEL better than most of the men I’ve talked to, so there may be things we’re not appreciating. (read the rest of this shit…)