My friends and I went to see The Avengers movie on Sunday. It was all I could have hoped for.
The packed house gave the film the rare dynamic of having the audience laugh and applause along with the action. As you might expect, The Hulk got the most laughs. I’ve decided the Hulk is better on a team. Those Hulk movies were so grim and dour, though it probably didn’t help to have a seemingly suicidal Nick Nolte and his killer poodles in that first Hulk film. The crowd was so large that our group had to sit half a theater apart from each other, because we ate at Pappadeaux’s before and ended up arriving a little too late. The theater was hot from too many people packed in one room, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Adding to the scene was the fact I ended up sitting next to a New Yorker and his teenage son. The son gave his own narration throughout the film. He was a little slow, so I wasn’t annoyed like I normally might have been.
When I say comments, let me give a couple of examples. For instance, on a couple of occasions when Captain America was sneaking up on something or skulking down a corridor, the kid would blurt out, “What are you doing, Captain America?”
Then when Thor and Loki had their first encounter and Thor was listing Loki’s various crimes against Asgard and Earth, at a pause, the kid said quite loudly, “Destroy Him!” The father kept shushing the kid, so it really only added to the moment. I’ll say this, too. When the villain in the credits appeared, that kid knew all about the guy. He knew who/what the villain worshipped and which Marvel Comics group he was associated with. I’d rather hear comments from that person than the one who keeps asking who Hawkeye is.
Things I Liked about the Avengers
- The characterization of Captain America. Cap was exactly as you’d expect. He was old-fashioned without beating people over the head with it.
- The Hulk’s interaction with Loki was classic comics fun.
- The Hulk smashing everything. That was good.
- Mark Ruffalo was good as Bruce Banner. I’ve never been a big Mark Ruffalo fan, but I thought he did an excellent job as Banner. He seemed disheveled and aged prematurely, but he seemed to have matured from his solo movies (where he was played by Eric Bana and Edward Norton, of course).
- The Black Widow’s interaction with Loki. Excellent stuff.
- Loki. Tom Hiddleston had a lot more to work with here, but he was a lot more entertaining than in the Thor movie. You got the idea he was really evil, instead of simply whining about his parentage like he did in Thor. You also got the idea Loki really loves being rotten, despite the bitterness. Hiddleston conveyed the mad glee of Loki a couple of times, without cackling and all that nonsense.
- The introduction of next movie’s villain. If that’s who we get, I’ll like it. It’s not one I would have assumed, but it has my whole-hearted approval. For spoilers purposes, I’ll say no more.
- Robert Downey Jr was good, as always. Iron-Man was a key member without overwhelming the scene.
- The subtlety of Loki’s manipulation on the heli-carrier. As the team argues with one another, we see the gem on Loki’s staff glowing. Most other comic book movies, they would practically have had a flashing pointer saying, “Loki is causing them to fight, folks.” That being said, one in our group didn’t pick up on what was happening and simply thought the Avengers were all being jerks to one another.
- I enjoyed the small touches that continued stories from earlier films, such as the inclusion of Pepper Potts and the mention that Jane Foster had been taken to safety. I wondered aloud whether The Avengers producers had to pay Natalie Portman for her image. Or are those kind of tidbits included in the original contract? I’d appreciate anyone who knows giving me the answer.
Things I Didn’t Like about the Avengers
- Jeremy Renner didn’t don the Hawkeye mask even once. Did the production team just not find a good time to have that happen, or was this the Stallone-in-Judge Dredd thing where the star doesn’t want to lose face time. Surely not.
- Too much CGI. This almost goes without saying. The Chitauri foot soldiers reminded me of the Marro from Heroscape, but I liked their use of flying chariots and those large insectoid looking ships looked cool on screen. Still, it was a little too much confusion. While it’s good to show the confusion of battle, it doesn’t make for the best watching experience.
- Some of the action was over-edited. For instance, Thor vs Loki looks like black/red versus green/gold at times. You couldn’t see what was happening, which is an annoying trend in action scenes. That doesn’t give a sense of action, but simple confusion. Pull away and show us what’s happening, directors. (My friends tell me it’s the editors’ faults, not the directors, but you know what I mean.)
All in all, The Avengers was a good movie watching experience and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s amazing what happens when the script is written by someone who enjoys the original source material and understands why people love this stuff. It’s been my observation that superhero movies which capture the essence of a comic book have been successful, while those that have tried to deviate from the formula have failed miserably. For instance, when the Spider-Man movies did well, I’m convinced Fantastic Four executives told themselves, “That was a hit because it had a romance. We have to have romantic tension in our movies.” So Dr. Doom becomes a romantic rival of Reed Richards, which is completely freaking awful. It completely ruins the character. Instead, they should have realized the first two Spider-Man movies essentially retold the early stories of Spider-Man, which hooked readers nearly 50 years ago and has kept people coming back ever since.
The Avengers movie was, in essence, a distillation of what always made the Avengers great. It was the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe combined with the finest, most skilled members in the Marvel Universe. These were ill-fitting parts, but they combined to make an unstoppable team.
I’m starting to get excited about the Avengers movie coming out this weekend. When I was a kid, I read reprints of the old 1960s Avengers comics, so I grew up reading about the original appearance of Ultron and The Vision and their big showdown with the Squadron Sinister (kind of an evil Squadron Supreme). I also had a really cool reprint where the powerful Avengers were pitted against the low-powered Avengers. Hawkeye beat Iron Man, Cap beat Thor, and that kind of stuff.
Anyway, I’m excited about the upcoming Avengers movie. Seeing the commercial on television the other day, I started looking at the buzz surrounding its release. Then a friend of mine made my day by sending me the following link.
Avengers 1978 TV Movie
One of the funniest things I’ve seen on Youtube in a while was this trailer from the imaginary 1978 Avengers film–together for the first time! With heavy reliance on the old Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno Hulk tv series, this was a classic team-up. I’m not sure where the Captain America or Iron Man footage came from, but it was good. I like the swarthy looking Tony Stark, while Paul Lynde at Loki was inspired casting. With the plastic shield and the sun-goggles, has Captain America ever looked worse? The music was perfect.
Real Avengers Release
The critics are giving the movie at 96% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while fans are coming in at a whopping 97% on early viewings. I would expect as much from the fan boys watching pre-screenings, but getting over 19 out of 20 critics to say they liked a superhero movie is no small feat. I hope all this means we get a great show, because comic book films have tailed off in recent years.
I wasn’t exactly sure when I saw the real Avengers trailer. I’m not real interested in seeing CGI-Hulk fight CGI-monsters, though.
I for one am still not sold on computer graphics imaging, though it’s given us a lot of cool movies we’d never have seen otherwise. It’s just that CGI characters still don’t look right to me. Gravity doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on them. CGI characters appear to float on the air. I know they have some kind of programs that simulate gravity, but something still isn’t quite right. I guess when they do get things perfect, the Age of the Actor could come to an end.
The Age of Computer Designers
That always strikes me as a funny thought. Imagine a time when computer graphics “actors” replace live-action actors, because they are just as real looking, they never age, and they’re a lot cheaper (still not true). If actors got replaced by CGI counterparts, we might see the return of John Wayne or the Marilyn Monroe. Maybe voice actors or computer graphics designers would become the new stars in Hollywood.
The idea that CGI designers would become the big stars is best of all. Since TMZ and all the print tabloids would need Hollywood personalities to follow around, maybe the CGI designers would become huge cult figures with papparazzi chasing them around. They’d date models and celebrities and have outrageous lifestyles. We’d get to hear them curse out their daughter over the cellphone or see their bootleg Youtube video where they eat a hamburger while they’re drunk on the floor of a Las Vegas hotel room. Of course, the CGI Lindsay Lohan would still be outrageous.
I like stupid mashups. I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of coming up with silly ideas that will never turn into anything. So I’ve come up with the “7 Odd Paranormal Romance Film Ideas“.
Actually, I don’t know if all of these could be turned into romances, but I think most of them are close enough that the studio executives could probably tweak them into a romance story.
I mean, it’s pretty easy to turn anything into a romance.
Just put a random attractive young female into any story with an unlikely dorky guy whom attractive young females shouldn’t be interested in…and you have a romance. Or put a mysterious boy into a story with a sullen girl whom no one gets (because she’s so deep)…and you’ve got a romance.
Also, I meant to have “10 Paranormal Romance Movie Ideas” or whatnot, but I ran out of goofy pop thoughts to write about. If anyone ever reads this stuff, maybe someone else can complete the list.
- The Brains Trilogy – A cute new boy moves to town with his mysterious family. One special girl notices him in class. She notices how his eyes sometimes turn from a dazzling, almost neon blue to the darkest black when he gets angry. She’s fascinated by him, but he seems ambivalent about her. They grow closer, only for her to learn his secret…the cute boy and his family are brain-eating zombies.
- Underworld Hunger Games – To prove their power and majesty, the corrupt politicians in the capital force all the provinces to send a handful of their young to take place in yearly bloodsport. This might sound somewhat familiar right now, but each province is home to a different type of movie monster…vampires, werewolves, lagoon monsters, undead golems, even leprechauns. But when the cute vampire teen and the Frankensteinesque monster she pretends to love are forced to fight to the death, what happens?
- Vampire Road Trip – It’s spring break and a group of college students head to the hottest beach spot south of the border. When mysterious locals follow the guys out of Senor Frog’s one night, they suspect the Mexican drug cartels might be looking for Americans to hold for ransom. But it turns out these are Mexican vampires looking for fresh young blood from beer-soaked gringos. Luckily, that mysterious hottie the guys were lusting after earlier–you know, the one from the hotel–is actually the world’s hottest vampire hunter.
- All Hallows Eve – This ensemble piece is about a series of loosely intertwined stories about cool young witches, warlocks, vampires, and werewolves attending the biggest Hallooween party in the US…The All Hallows Eve Celebration. SEE as the woman organizing the celebration has to step out to deal with the imminent death of her warlock father. WATCH as the quirky young comic artist (a werewolf) gets trapped in an elevator with one of the backup singers at the party (herself a banshee) and develops romantic feelings. LAUGH as the hip young ghoul shows the fading beauty around Transylvania and teaches the princess-who-was how to let her hair down again. THRILL as the rich young ladies man and heir to a legacy (a vampire legacy, no less) leaves the big event to meet the mysterious woman with whom he had a such a memorable conversation with at last year’s party. But what about that mother of one (who happens to be a witch) and where does she fit into this intricate, interlocking story?
- Helldorado – A group of young urban professional vampires head to Vegas for a bachelor party, but the groom-to-be brings along his wife’s loser brother…who’s a werewolf. The Munsters meet The Hangover in the most hilarious comedy of the year.
- It’s Alive! Academy – Another year at the Frankenwarts School for Mad Science is here. That means another class of young prodigies must begin to master the arts of undead resurrection, while learning a bit about romance, friendship, and the mysterious cabal of mad scientists who want to ruin all the fun. Each new story gets just a little darker. By the time this 7 and a half chapter story ends, why, you might see blood on one of the cadavers.
- Bitchin’ – An unnoticed high school student and Supernatural tv show fan decides to become a vampire hunter one day. The student’s misadventures get posted online, he gets a love interest (the romance), then dons a goofy ninja costume and starts calling himself “Bitchin”. Bitchin starts a Twitter account so he can start taking cases. On his first real for-hire mission, he comes across a gang of werewolf drug dealers and gets captured–only to be rescued by a vampire with a revenge motive and his 11-year old daughter (whom he’s trained to be a vigilante). When the vampire dies, the hapless monster hunter and the vampire-girl team up to finish off the werewolves…or something like that.
On Second Thought
Alright, those are really bad, but are they much worse than the biggest hits we get bombarded with year by year? Add some CGI and a random member (each) of the cast of Twilight and The Hangover, and you’ve got yourself a blockbuster. Hell, get Tim Burton and his crew and you’ll have an artsy blockbuster.
Nightfall: Not a Romance
One that didn’t make the cut was a story I call “Nightfall”. In this story, a local high school girl meets a mysterious new guy in her school. At first, he seems to keep her at an arm’s length. Then he seems tormented by his growing passion for her. Then he rescues her once or twice and plays hooky from school several times. Then she meets his family and they’re described in great detail, but don’t do a whole lot.
Eventually, she comes to realize he’s a 100-year old vampire…and that he’s in love with her. She’s completely turned off by this, since that means he was dating when her great-grandmother was in high school and that’s just tons of creepy.
She asks him why the hell an ancient vampire would hang out in high school to meet girls and he tells her it’s because a small town high school where everyone knows everyone else is the perfect place to hide…that you could never hide as a face in the crowd in Seattle or something.
You know, when a teenager is seen walking around during school hours in a big city, people immediately come and take them away. That would never work.
Of course, the girl doesn’t buy any of this. She realizes the cute guy is just plain crazy and spurns his advances. That’s when the poetry and angst and glitter stops and things turn violent.
Anyway, enough brainstorming for the night. I’m gonna pop a pill and go to bed. My only hope is, in 3 to 5 years, one of these movie ideas makes it to the big screen. Even if some screenwriter lifts the idea from somebody who posted the same thought last year (or just came up with it themselves), I can always convince myself they read this blog post and turned it into the next big thing.
The Hunger Games novel was about survival and starvation and a corrupt central government…and a love triangle, of course. But while the book delved into all that serious commentary on the world that surrounds us, some movie critics squawked that the film didn’t have much social commentary at all. Maybe they were right, but maybe they weren’t looking closely enough.
Cinema is such a visual medium. Fights and tactics are portrayed so much better on the silver screen than in books, so that’s only natural.
Science fiction may be the best genre for making social commentary. Scifi stories take us out of the topical news and partisan politics of our time and transforms those arguments into something slightly unrecognizable. In its unrecognized form, we as the reader (or viewer) can sometimes open our minds and lower our shields to see issues for how they really are. Name any good science fiction and I’d suggest it offers some reflections on the society its author/director/screenplay writer lived in.
But we all know Hollywood tends to take stories and simplify them into something everyone can understand. Studios go for the least common denominator, knowing if everyone can relate, more people are likely to buy a ticket. In a nation where starvation is something most of us don’t know and survival is a concept only we only know as some vague social concept (surviving childhood, for example), maybe the Hunger Games speaks to us about other truths.
So let me present my alternative theory about The Hunger Games movie…The Hunger Games is about high school.
Panem is the High School You Attended
The Hunger Games Wiki describes District 12 as the “one of the poorest, most ridiculed” districts in the nation of Panem. If you consider Panem to be a symbol of any public high school across the nation, then you start to see that each of the districts represent a high school clique or type of high school student.
- Clearly, District 12 is the kid that gets picked on and ridiculed all the time. It’s seldom District 12 ever gets to fight back. Their school experiences are etched in their memories, so they go on to write a screenplay that makes jocks look like neanderthals. So in the end, they’re real successful and everybody ends up liking them.
- Districts 1, 2, and 4 are the jocks. Their “Career Tributes” are definitely the football team of Panem. They’re bigger, stronger, and their parents probably have some money. Finnick Odair is a perfect example of the jock type.
- District 3 is the geeky kid. Despite coming from a well-to-do background, he’s been terrorized enough to know he better keep a low profile in the halls.
- District 5 is another nerdy kid. These people may be smaller than people from other districts. Their representative, Foxface, is described by Katniss as the smartest. Still, she has no damned common sense (no spoiler).
- District 8 is the tough kid in school. District 8 doesn’t take anything off of anybody and ends up beating the hell out of one of the school bullies, thus giving all the high school proles the warm fuzzies. Of course, they end up suspended, in detention, or otherwise in big trouble for sticking up for themselves.
- District 10 represents the Ag kids that nobody pays attention to.
- District 11 is the kid that has his lunch money stolen.
- District 13 is the mysterious loner with a certain aura of coolness about them. Everybody knows this person is heading for big trouble. In fact, half the people in school already think this person is dead.
- The Capital represents the teachers and administrations…and possibly that small clique of students who walk around the school with impunity because they have the favor of the teaching staff and administrators. These are the kids who get voted onto the cheerleading squad, even though no one likes them. These are the kids who are made class president, again without any constituency. These are the kids voted to the National Honor Society, for God knows what reason.
Anyway, that’s my interpretation. Tell me if I’m wrong on this thing. I can see others might have other explanations, but that’s how I see things. But if The Hunger Games are high school, what does that make Twilight…junior high, maybe?
I watched The Protector last night with a couple of friends. It’s a 2005 Thai movie starring Tony Jaa and was called “Tom-Yum-Goong” in Thailand. It seems to have a different name in every other country, but I can’t remember all those off the top of my head.
Tony Jaa is best known for his breakout film, Ong-Bak, which was famous for using no CGI or wire – a real novelty with these kind of films these days. We expected to watch the film in Thai with English sub-titles, but the version we watched had only English as a language option, so I’m assuming it was overdubbed.
One thing I liked about The Protector was it knew exactly what it was about and didn’t make excuses for not being anything else. It was a good old-fashioned action movie with lots of broken bones and vile villains. No subtleties here.
Also, The Protector didn’t use a lot of CGI or a wires, though some scenes were enhanced with CGI techniques.
Most of the action was done from a distance so you could see what was happening. The director used nothing more exotic than martial arts, acrobatics, choreography, and probably a little pain. Hopefully, no humans were harmed in the making of this film.
The Protector’s Plot
The plot was crazy by American standards. Tony Jaa plays Kham, a young Muay Thai fighter with the traditional duty of protecting elephants. Apparently, in the old days, a Thai ruler was invincible if he found the perfect elephant. So when Kham’s father is murdered by a number of toughs who wants to take the young man’s elephants (mother and baby) away, you know Kham with go to the lengths of the Earth to find his animal friends and get his revenge. It turns out the lengths of the Earth are Sydney, Australia, where the martial artists loses no time getting into trouble and learning about the scene.
The scene in Sydney is full of corruption, since both the Southeast Asian and Australian cops working in and around Sydney’s Thai town are corrupt – almost as corrupt as the gangster who took Korn.
I have to admit it, every time Tony Jaa cried out, “Bring back Korn,” I couldn’t help but think about the nu metal masters, Korn. That’s very provincial, I know, but I guarantee most Americans would think the same. In the movie, Korn is the young elephant whom Kham has a particular connection with.
The Protector Fight Scenes
The Protector has a ton of fight scenes, including an excellent 10-minute (or more) fight with no cuts that takes place going up a circular stairwell. Tony Jaa is a freak of nature when it comes to quickness and agility. The villains reminded me of a video game, since several had their own unique styles of fighting. The dream sequences were definitely CGI. In fact, Kham seems to dream in video game cut scenes.
The acting was no worse than your average action movie acting. The cinematography was excellent by those same standards. There were plenty of attractive Southeast Asian woman if you like eye-candy. Once again, the villains were suitably nasty – you wanted to see them get their comeuppance.
All in all, The Protector was a nice addition to the action film canon. If you enjoy broken bones and acrobatic performances, you’ll enjoy The Protector. Lovers of action scense should know about Muay Thai (movie) master, Tony Jaa.