Categories
3D action movie adaptation (literature) adventure comic adaptation Drama female hero male hero Marvel Cinematic Universe Marvel CU movie series mythology Superhero team-up

Are We a Team Yet?

The Avengers (2012) by Joss Whedon

In Captain America: The First Avenger, the main villain Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) retrieves an ancient artifact from a guarded crypt in Norway. The powers of this artifact, from now on known as the Tesseract, are not revealed but it seems to be an unlimited power source. Schmidt uses it to power his weapons, he also dies at the end of the movie from touching it. We see it fall into the ocean and being later retrieved by a search party looking for Captain America.

Present day: the Tesseract resides in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility that is in the process of being evacuated because this ancient power source has somehow been turned on.

This is the beginning of Marvel’s The Avengers.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back from the dead and collaborates with others to take over Earth. He’s given a mythical scepter together with instructions to take the Tesseract. So he does, he also takes Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as his mind-controlled slaves. Despite the fact that the Avengers Initiative has been scrapped, Fury (Samuel L.Jackson) still brings Banner (now Mark Ruffalo), Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and Rogers (Chris Evans) together to get the Tesseract back.

However, when they capture Loki, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) appears and wants to bring his brother home. A fight between the heroes ensues but is solved when Thor agrees to join the group and have Loki imprisoned on a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Only, it seems that that was Loki’s plan all along…

This is the movie in which Marvel first assembles its first Avengers team and it is a truly magnificent movie. Of course, younger me undermines me once again in this post. Nothing of what I formerly said about The Avengers holds true (except that I still very much respect and love Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man), especially not what I said about Whedon. Eight years is a long time and I’ve come to love the franchise, or maybe I just came to understand it.

The Avengers is also the end of Phase I in the MCU, it combines all the solo movies, all the singular heroes, puts them together in a group that is bigger than its components (yes, bigger even than Tony Stark’s ego). And I think the size of it is what you take away from it. The plot, the fights, everything gets a wider scope. We’re introduced to the big bad guy (Thanos) without being told who he is (comic book fans know, of course, the rest of us is like: is that guy pink?).

This is the first time, Loki is resurrected. He hasn’t been the most remarkable bad guy in Thor, I would even suggest that Thor doesn’t have what you’d call a bad guy. Loki is family, and at the level he operates in Thor it seems more like a family squabble than having an opponent to defeat. Thor’s origin is a lot more about himself than about setting up Loki as a bad guy. Maybe that’s why he operates on a far more familiar level than anyone else could in The Avengers. He’s become a worthy opponent, even if we already know that there are bigger villains behind him. In my other review, I wrote that he’s bad at being bad and I stand with that. He always tries to be the tough guy but then he’s beaten senseless by the Hulk. He lacks the authority of a truly evil villain, he’s mischievous (God of Mischief, after all) and his story from here on out confirms that.

The Avengers, on the other hand, are true good guys but at this point, they’re still individuals, not a team. They struggle with each other, with not being the biggest hero in the room anymore. With having a God in their midst, a guy that was on trading cards in the 1940s, one that could obliterate them all if he lost his temper, and one that just wants to be the one calling the shots. And then there’s Black Widow, the wild card, one that we don’t know much about (and after this outing it seem ridiculous that we don’t have a Black Widow movie but the makers at Marvel are still resisting at this point). I’m reluctant to calling Hawkeye a team member here, probably because he’s Loki’s puppet for most of the movie which makes him kind of the weakest link. But he holds his own in the final battle and that makes him part of the Avengers.

It doesn’t help that Loki’s scepter is throwing a wedge into any kind of amiable conversation at this point, but the team comes together slowly and only when they’re challenged to. The group forms for the big fight in New York, Banner takes a big step by not running away again after he loses his temper on the helicarrier. But the Avengers isn’t a fully formed group, nothing too tight. And maybe they never really will be. The fact that they fight well together, that they’re friendly in the future never really seems to signify that they’re friends. Considering that Civil War is right around the corner, the Avengers team-up seems very fragile at this point. It doesn’t help that the man (Nick Fury) who brings them together and the organization (S.H.I.E.L.D.) behind him have their own agenda.

The counsel behind S.H.I.E.L.D. seems really deviant at this point, outlines of people on screens that only Fury is allowed to talk to, people who scrapped the Avengers Initiative and instead set their money on having Tesseract-powered weapons – just like Hydra did in the 40s. And ultimately deciding to nuke New York. It doesn’t bode well and is possibly the set-up for the big Hydra-reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

And this is just one more point to prove that The Avengers brings all the strings together and puts new ones out into the second phase of the MCU. The Avengers makes us hungry for more, just like the heroes are hungry in the end credit scene. It says: this is only the beginning – and what a beginning it was!

Next: Iron Man 3 (the movie I truly hate)

Categories
action movie auteur comic adaptation dick flick female hero male hero mythology

Marvel’s The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) by Joss Whedon

It’s funny but I don’t know why I watched this. I didn’t want to, I actually wasn’t the least bit tempted after I saw the trailer. And then I stood infront of the movie theater yesterday and I could have watched Spiderman or W./E. but instead I watched The Avengers. I am still a little astounded by this turn of events… but, well, so I watched it.

I guess I had forgotten that it was directed and written by Joss Whedon but when I saw that it had been done by Whedon I was a little bit peeved. I mean, Whedon gave us one of the best female action tv heroes of the nineties, then he tried to give us fabulous shows like Firefly and Dollhouse and for no apparent reason failed… they were very good shows. And now he gives us The Avengers and my surprise is that it is mostly a make-no-prisoners-dick-flick. Sure, he tried to integrate The Female into this film but with all the phallic imagery (the same as when I wrote about Thor) and male heroes and male villains it kinda got… c**k-blocked.

What we saw of female hero-ship was mostly Scarlett Johansson looking verrry goood (men got over-the-shoulder-shots, Scarlett got full-ass-shots) in catsuit. The same could be said about what little we saw of Gwyneth Paltrow (those cut-offs, dayam!). There was only one female character who seemed almost too much of a character and that was Agent Hill (Colbie Smulders). And this is probably the difference between Whedon and any other director – he actually thinks female characters are important. Other than that, well, Captain America (Chris Evans) seems a little creepy, I never liked Mark Ruffalo, though his Banner was okay, I guees. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still the coolest superhero Marvel has (I love Stark, and I love Downey playing him), and the Loki-guy (Tom Hiddleston) is so hilarious… he’s such a bad villain, and I mean bad not in evil but just plain bad, almost trashy, because he so isn’t evil enough but still he gets the upper hand sometimes – and he’s so pretty.

Mainly this movie is a pissing contest – hell, that lengthy fight between Iron Man and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)! See me still rolling my eyes as I think about it. When it was over, I actually asked the characters to rezip their pants, because really… really…

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t detest it, it was entertainment. Some things were fun, others were totally geeky. But at the end of the day, this is not the kind of movie I want to watch anymore. And not because I think myself too old or too mature (or whatever) to geek out over an action movie – I am not above geekdom, at all – I am just not willing to pay 13 Euros to watch men being heroes and women being eyecandy. Given, the women in this film weren’t just eyecandy but they weren’t quite the heroes the men were… or maybe I just don’t get the whole world domination/war theme that sells us that there actually are heroes in something as pointless as war.

I know, I always promise myself: no more dick flicks, but then I end up seeing some anyways… I don’t know. I should have watched Madonna’s W./E...

Categories
auteur awareness Comedy coming-of-age Drama lesbianism Teenager women

The Kids Are All Right

I fought with myself before coming here and telling you what I am thinking about it. I am still not sure if I have lost or won now that I am doing it. This might yet turn into a rant but I will try to remain calm.

So, these are the kids that are (presumably) alright. Joni and Laser (Mia Warsikowka, Josh Hutcherson) (and no, Laser is so not a cool name!) have lesbian moms (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) and are alright with that, still they (especially Laser) want to meet their biological father and consequently they do. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) seems a nice enough guy, he owns a restaurant and a vegetable garden and a motorbike.

Still, the moms are not happy when they find out that the kids have met the sperm donor and want to meet him for themselves. This results in one of them having an affair with him. Things are being worked out in the end… so, yeah, happy ending… sorta.

I may still be traumatized from the pairing of Moore and Ruffalo in Blindness (which I absolutely hated, it’s on my list of the 10 worst movies ever!) but maybe this movie eventually added a new trauma that just coincidentally starred them, too.

But let me begin with saying that I like Lisa Cholodenko’s movies. High Art is one of my favorite lesbian movies, and I love Laurel Canyon because it is incredibly beautiful and stars Frances McDormand in leather pants (yeah, I know I am easy). So I was willing enough to love The Kids are All Right and in part I do and in part I just hate it.

I start with the part I hate, okay. Sexuality is complicated, is something Moore’s character says when Laser asks his moms why they are watching gay (read: gay male) porn and no doubt it is. It is also fluid and broad and multi-faceted etc. And maybe my definitions here are too narrow, but why (in a movie I would call lesbian themed if not outright lesbian) do I have to watch gay (read: gay male) and straigth sex but am not allowed to watch lesbian sex? It’s not that I am fixated on sex scenes, I don’t especially need them, though I enjoy a good love/sex scene like everybody else. Still, what little there is of sexual action between the two female leads is hidden, it is comicalized, it is disturbingly immature. Jules and Nic were supposed to have been together for about 20 years yet when they try to have sex it looks like they have never done it before… funny or just neurotic?

Another thing I hate is the character of Paul. Man, self-centered, arrogant, disregarding everybody else’s happiness, have I mentioned self-centered… he tries to be cool, he tries to be a little new age, open-minded but he’s just… male. The worst stereotypical male. What I hate most about him is that he thinks he is right to start an affair with Jules. That it is not wrong, that it is actually his right to satisfy her sexually because a) it cannot be called adultery if the pre-existing relationship it same-sex and b) it cannot be called sex when it is between two women and he’s only doing Jules a favor. Gag! I am interpreting here but that’s how this guy feels…

In these respects this portrait of modern family simply sucks. It is affirming the status quo, it serves to the mainstream rather than to the minority it pretends to represent. Again, I wonder if I am thinking too much in labels and should try to see the lesbian as part of an all-encompassing narrative instead of just her own narrative. But then, gay cinema does exist because mainstream was never interested enough in us, or did represent us just in the worst possible stereotypes. And do we really need a lesbian Brokeback Mountain when the same criticism holds true for The Kids Are All Right?

Yeah, I have thought about this a little…

Okay, I promised you some good: the movie is light-hearted (most of the time), it is funny, it is charming, the actors are really good (especially Annette Bening, she’s… brilliant), everything looks very pretty. I laughed a lot – up to a certain point. I mean, you just have to look at Jules’ outfit when she first enters Paul’s garden and you have to wonder if maybe she thought he owned his personal rain forest… There is a lot to enjoy, real emotions, shyness, self-consciousness in the kids, insecurities, jealousies in the adults. It’s really great… if you are straight and don’t have to think about gay stereotypes you will like it… if you are not and you do, well, get angry, argue, criticize, ’cause that’s good, too.