Category Archives: jeremy renner

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.

The Big Picture: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Thor

Thor ~ This Marvel Comics film is one of conflicts and contrasts, most of them terrific. If you loved the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics, and even the Lee and John Buscema comics, you will be swept up in a world conjured by those stories. Some of the themes and explanations have changed, but unlike a lot of things the DC Comics have done, these changes are for story logic.

There’s a rough beginning where astrophysicist Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (an odd job change for her character but it works in the context) is looking for an anomaly and ends up hitting Thor with her car. When we’re hooked, we’re hit with the real beginning. The wonderfully cast Anthony Hopkins as Odin clues us in to the origins of the Norse gods as beings of superior science and technology, which we perceive as gods and magic. We meet the family, his sons Thor, about to ascend the throne, and his darker brother Loki.

More great casting comes with their friends the Warriors Three. I love Josh Dallas who is the de facto substitute for Cary Elwes in parts the original is too old and chunky for. The main roles of Loki and Thor are also perfect cast. Tom Hiddleston has the correct slinkiness and sneakiness in his voice and physical stature. And nobody else could ever have played Thor better than Chris Hemsworth in my opinion.

There is one bit of casting that seems to have caused a controversy in some dark corners of our world, and that is Idris Elba as Heimdall. Some racists have made a big fuss about the character being African-American. Now if these were truly Norse gods, one could make the argument that the Norse would perceive their gods as like themselves, as in white skin. But it should be noted in the context of the movie, the Asgardians are not Norse, they may not even be human, and can be of whatever race. Just because the Norse thought Heimdall was white doesn’t mean he is. Add to this Elba’s amazing performance, and I have no problems at all.

It’s just like Lawrence Fishbourne being cast as Perry White in The Man of Steel. There’s nothing that says he isn’t, or can’t be. I think there are a small handful of characters who are definitely of one race or another. Established African-American characters can’t really be white. For instance you just couldn’t do it with the Black Panther or Black Lightning (and not just because of the names), but Blade could very well be portrayed as white. Of course you will get an argument from me on Wonder Woman. Sorry, Beyonce, but Wonder Woman is Greek. But enough on this sidetrack, suffice it to say, Idris Elba’s Heimdall is one of the highpoints of the flick.

Once Odin’s explanation of the universe is over we move to a very special occasion – Thor becoming his replacement as king of Asgard. The ceremony is ruined by a break-in by some Frost Giants trying to steal back the Casket of Ancient Winters. Thor wants to attack the Frost Giants and start a war, and his father disagrees, seeing this as a bad kingly decision. Like a good spoiled brat prince, Thor gets his brother and his friends together, and off they go to Jotunheim to rumble with the Frost Giants.

This is Lee/Kirby/Buscema made live on the big screen. This sequence is among the best of the flick. I love it and can watch it over and over again. I know the story of Thor is him on Earth, but man oh man, what I wouldn’t give for a Thor in Asgard chilling and killing with his friends movie. Note should be made of the movie Asgard. The realm Eternal is a glorious place, not necessarily that of the comics, but a beautiful vision of futuristic and mythic society. Comparisons could be made to the cityscapes of the first Star Wars trilogy (one of the few things I liked about those movies). And take note, DC Comics, the awe inspired by Asgard is what viewers should have felt when they saw Oa in the Green Lantern film.

After attacking the Frost Giants, Odin has had it with his spoiled brat of a son, and banishes him to Earth to learn humility, just like in the comics, and we come full circle in our movie story. Following a weird light anomaly in the sky, Jane Foster – along with her scientist friend Erik played by Stellan Skarsgard and her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) – whacks our exiled thunder god with her car. Some great fish out of water scenes follow, and we soon learn that the first anomaly Jane detected was Thor’s hammer falling from the sky as shown in the post-credits scene in Iron Man 2. Nice continuity there, Marvel.

Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is a bit of an anomaly herself, going from nurse in the comics to astrophysicist here. The job change needed for both story logic and because Thor’s human alter-ego of Dr. Donald Blake doesn’t really exist in this tale, although the name does pop up as an Easter egg for comics fans. Jane really only exists here as a romantic foil for Thor. Her mentor has all the keys and her intern does all the work. I would have rather had Jane have all the answers and the intern be her sounding board. Skarsgard wasn’t really needed here. Please give me strong women in the movies made from the comics, if not the comics, ya know? Jane Foster could have been that character.

There are great scenes at the hammer drop site of folks trying to lift it, including one with creator Stan Lee. While Thor plays fish out of water on Earth, and SHIELD takes over the hammer site, Loki takes over the throne of Asgard. Loki also sets his sights on bringing all the realms to their knees, and sends the Destroyer to, what else, destroy Thor. Also, Avengers fans, don’t miss the fifteen second cameo by Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye the Marksman. When the Warriors Three come to Earth, it’s total coolness, though I wish more had been made of it. The same goes with the battle with the Destroyer. When the only real complaint one can have is that I wish there was more of it, that’s a good thing. When is Thor 2 again? And, geekgasm, how about a Lady Sif and the Warriors Three movie?

Things are beginning to resemble a Thor comic at this point, and that’s a good thing – because it works. Director Kenneth Branagh has succeeded in repeating the magic with which Jon Favreau brought Iron Man to the big screen. He brings what made the comics special to the screen. Thor is near perfect. Along with the original Iron Man and Captain America which followed Thor in July, it’s a perfect trinity of Marvel’s greatest characters.

This bodes well for 2012’s Avengers movie. And speaking of which, don’t forget, as with all Marvel movies, don’t forget to watch the post-credits sequence with more foreshadowing of the Avengers film. Thor is easily one of the top ten, perhaps top five, superhero movies of all time, do not miss.

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