Category Archives: black widow

The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers ~ I think I need to inform folks where I’m coming from on this one. One could say I’ve been waiting for this movie for over forty years easily. I learned to read on comic books, thanks to my cool big sister. First there was Batman, obviously influenced by the 1960s TV show, then I started reading my brother’s Flash and Justice League. I was solidly a DC Comics guy as you can see, and then I discovered the Avengers. It would be quite some time before I became a regular Marvel reader but I knew instantly this was a different kind of comic. Avengers became one of my favorite comics, even today. So much so did I love the Avengers that for almost a decade I regularly reviewed the title online. Yeah, I’m a hardcore Avenger-phile. This movie is a little kid’s dream come true.

In another sense, you could say I’ve been waiting for this movie realistically, and hopefully, since the end credits of Iron Man. Can I express my elation the first time I saw those few seconds when Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury wanted to talk to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man about the ‘Avengers Initiative’? No, I can’t. I am as speechless now as I was in 2008.

Who would have thought Marvel Comics/Marvel Studios could have pulled this off? Not only have they created a cinematic continuity, a movie universe as tight and intriguing as their comics universe, they also changed the way we watch movies. Does anyone (at least anyone who knows) not stay until the final credits any more. This is something that John Hughes used to do for a gag. It’s something the James Bond films used to do to reveal the title of the next installment. Marvel has made it a genre-wide trick of the trade. You stay until the screen has no more light, period.

Speaking of James Bond, the other achievement Marvel has taken on is the building of a successful movie franchise – the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of which The Avengers is the seventh, or the sixth, depending on whether you count Ang Lee’s Hulk or not. I think all of this would have been impossible without Iron Man, and especially Robert Downey Jr. Downey is the secret weapon, the gateway drug, if you will. Without Downey, I doubt that this film would be as mainstream as it is. It’s not just comic book folks who are seeing this movie, it’s everybody. Comics aren’t just for nerds anymore, or at least comic book movies aren’t. This weekend’s box office, threatening to become the biggest opening ever, is proof of that.

Besides Downey as Iron Man, and Jackson as super spy Nick Fury, Chris Evans returns as the title role from Captain America The First Avenger, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, along with Oscar winner Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye from that same film, and Scarlet Johansson returns in her role as the Black Widow from Iron Man 2. Unfortunately, negotiations broke down with The Incredible Hulk‘s Ed Norton, so the role of Doctor Bruce Banner is more than adequately filled by Mark Ruffalo. As much as I like and liked Norton in the role, I like Ruffalo even more. This is a good thing.

Also returning from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks are Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig from Thor, Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Paul Bettany as Jarvis in the Iron Man films, and of course the big bad, Thor’s brother Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston. Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster from Thor is mentioned but unseen. Cobie Smoulders is the perfect Maria Hill and although uncredited and only doing one very funny and wonderful line of dialogue, Lou Ferrigno voices the completely CGI Hulk. It is a stellar cast, top notch all the way, and all of the primaries – the Avengers, Fury, Loki, and the rest shine like stars when on screen. All are skillfully performed.

If I had to find fault, if I absolutely had to find a flaw in the film (other than characters or storylines I would want to see) it would be the lack of character development. But even that’s not a flaw. The four majors have had at least one movie each to explore that before we got to this point. We get sweet spotlights on the two Avengers without movies, Hawkeye and the Black Widow, displaying their talents and personalities, and Nick Fury will have his own film upcoming for us to delve more into his character. So really, on that point I can’t complain. What is really great about this is all of them come to this film fully formed. Especially in the cases of Captain America and Thor, their movies were essentially origin stories, now, here in Avengers we get to see what they can really do. These are not flaws.

I will try not to give away plot points, or any of the Easter eggs found in the film, but I will give director and co-writer Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn all the props possible for creating what is, without a doubt, the best superhero movie ever made, period. Let’s see Whedon have a Wonder Woman script or a “Firefly” sequel turned down in Hollywood now. The man, to borrow the line from Titanic, is the king of the world today. Everything was perfect, from the characters to the dialogue, the special effects, the humor, right down to the two (count ’em, two) after-credits scenes, one of which will be having fanboys and girls squeeing with delight. Marvel’s The Avengers is awesome.

The little kid in me who was mesmerized by his first Avengers comic book more than forty years ago was spellbound in the theatre. From Project Pegasus to the Black Forest to the SHIELD Helicarrier to downtown Manhattan, the Avengers were truly Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the big screen. The first confrontations between the heroes, and the heroes and the villains, are well done and believable, not just slugfest for the fun of slugfest. When Captain America confronts Loki in Germany, I had a lump in my throat, I was like, “It’s the real Captain America.” The scene is that good.

The special effects are stunning. I love the way Thor’s hammer always returns to him, and his effects are perfect. Cap’s superhero costume, which I initially thought would look silly works wonderfully. If there’s anything cooler than the SHIELD Helicarrier, it’s the battle on board the SHIELD Helicarrier. Non-believers will see why Hawkeye is one of the coolest Avengers. The interaction between the characters is priceless, and in the final battle, their teamwork whether all together or in smaller teams is right out of the comics. It’s beautiful.

I will probably see Marvel’s The Avengers again a few more times in the theatre before it comes to Blu-Ray and DVD. Yeah, it’s that good. The 3D effects are good, but let’s keep in mind it still looks amazing in 2D, so you don’t have to sell blood to see it. Highly recommended. A definite must see for comics and non-comics fans alike. This is the movie of 2012.

Avengers Assemble!

Apparently the Superbowl was last night. Some folks were excited about the commercials. Some folks were excited about Madonna. Rumor has it there was even a pretty good football game last night. I didn’t notice, especially seeing how neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor the Dallas Cowboys were involved. But I watched last night’s Super Bowl too, but for none of the above – I watched it for The Avengers!

Yeah, baby! I absolutely can not wait until May fourth! Avengers Assemble!

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The Avengers

The Avengers Assemble in May 2012!

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Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 ~ I’ve been waiting for this for a while now, and it finally opened, a bit late for the previews to have become annoying, and of course even more annoyingly, a week after it opened in the UK and Australia. I really have to wonder why the movie companies insist on staggered releases across the world when the internet exists. Don’t they know the flick has already been spoiled for American audiences?

Iron Man 2 picks up almost immediately as the first film ends, but not in the way one might think. From there it becomes a rollercoaster ride of subplots as if it doesn’t know what its real storyline is.

Of seeming highest priority of possible plots is Mickey Roarke’s Ivan Vanko who wants revenge on Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark for supposedly stealing his father’s design. There’s Tony’s new heart poisoning him just as he’s drinking himself to death and risking his life. There’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts (still the dumbest comic book name ever) trying to run Stark’s company and of course her non-romance with him that doesn’t exist in the comics. And the government, in the face of the strangely cast Garry Shandling, wants the Iron Man ‘weapon.’ Those are just the big ones.

Any one of these could have been the main story, and served it well on its own, but for some reason the script couldn’t make up its mind. Underneath the surface of this Iron Man is bubbling an Avengers prequel, and for those aware of what Avengers is, it is a major undercurrent of this film, perhaps moreso than anything to actually do with Iron Man.

Rumors from overseas seem to be right on this front, that this is more an Avengers movie than an Iron Man movie. Easter eggs abound everywhere, from Captain America’s shield to Thor’s hammer, to the outright appearances out of nowhere of Samuel L. Jackson’s ultra-cool Nick Fury to Scarlet Johansson’s ultra-hot Black Widow (although it’s notable her superheroine name is never mentioned). It makes you wonder why Marvel would risk the Iron Man sequel for a movie that’s not even written yet.

And there are still yet more subplots. They tried to squeeze Tony Stark’s problem with alcoholism in there. Don Cheadle, a great actor, but a poor substitute for Terrence Howard, puts on the War Machine armor. Sam Rockwell does an impressive Robert Downey Jr. impersonation, that I’m not sure is in homage or mocking his Stark, as a decisively younger Justin Hammer.

The big guns of this script are largely disappointments. Downey is simply over the top, as if he doesn’t care anymore. Paltrow struggles as if she doesn’t know what to do with herself on screen. Mickey Roarke is damn good and owns the film when he is onscreen, he’s just not there nearly enough. His character, a merging of two Iron Man foes from the comics, Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo, had enough depth to carry the whole film – but the script would not let it happen.

I did enjoy the film, but that was as a hardcore comics fan. I think it might be too jumpy and frenetic for mainstream audiences, who will also be giving all those Avengers references blank stares. And speaking of Avengers – stay through the end of the credits, or you will regret it. Iron Man 2 is fun and action-packed, but it’s nowhere as good as the original.

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Stung

To the right, one of the first images of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff – The Black Widow.

Iron Man 2 opens May 7th, 2010. I know I’m there.

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