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Geeks on Film

Brian Hibbs

I’ll get back to print in the next day or so, but I wanted to dive into a few things-on-film for a moment.

 

(I quite imagine there will be SPOILERS here, so be careful, kiddo!)

 

THOR: Saw an advance screening on Saturday morning (10 am, what an odd time for a preview screening!), and yeah, pretty decent film. My reaction could possibly be the result of low expectations — I mean, seriously, did anyone ever think there could possibly be a Thor movie based on the comic, prior to 3-5 years ago? Let alone a good one?

 

It largely kept my attention, and it has some astonishing design on display — I particularly liked their interpretation of the Rainbow bridge — but while it won’t win an Oscar or anything, it will keep you chewing through your popcorn just fine. I’ll call it an easy GOOD.

 

It has problems, to be sure. For the first thing, I couldn’t figure out Loki or his motivations AT ALL. Loki *should* be the master trickster and manipulator, but as on display here he was far more capricious than clever, actually telling his family about his betrayals, rather than playing it off. Plus the denouement was a PHYSICAL FIGHT between Loki and Thor which is… well, that’s just stupid, isn’t it?

 

I also think that most of the earth-based stuff really didn’t work — part of that stemming from the SHIELD-centric nature of the earth stuff, part of that from giving Jane Foster a comedy-intended sidekick — but mostly going off the Odin arc.

 

Odin, as we all know, sends Thor to earth to learn humility. In the comic, Odin does so by binding Thor to a mortal man, where here he just depowers Thor entirely. The thing of it is, when Thor eventually regains his powers, I can’t see HOW he learned humility? There’s a thing that happens that I think is meant to be “ultimate humility”, but it really isn’t. Let’s try this for a strained metaphor: it’s like I take you to a batting cage, but put you in handcuffs. Yes, sure, you will then learn “I need to use my arms in order to hit a ball”, but you still aren’t even a single step closer to learn HOW to hit a ball.

 

Then there’s the whole Big Kiss at the end, and, again, I was thinking “where the hell did THAT come from?” — it’s not like there’s ANY reason for Thor to be majorly into Jane like that was presented on the screen. And, anyway, he should have a thing for Lady Sif, shouldn’t he?

 

I mean, I guess if felt to me like the movie was still getting rewritten up to the very moment they shot it, or something. Or maybe a bunch of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor, or something? If you know the story that already exists, in terms of Loki’s motivations, Odin’s or Jane’s actions, whatever, then you see that they “got to where they should be”, but what’s ACTUALLY UP ON THE SCREEN doesn’t really support any of that happening.

 

I also thought it a smidge unusual that there was much taken from THE ULTIMATES, rather than Stan & Jack proper — particularly  that interrogation sequence, and the implication that Thor is just nuts (except that the audience, in this case, KNOWS he’s who he says he is, so it kinda doesn’t work), and the look of “Hawkeye” (who I don’t think is actually called that in the film — just “Barton”)

 

But despite all of that, I still liked it fine — and seven year old Ben who I was with proclaimed it EXCELLENT! which is maybe all that matters?

 

Last note: because of the preview nature, and wanting to sit in our 4-person group, rather than scattering in the theater, we ended up in the first row, which is normally just fine, but in this case, made the 3-D nearly unwatchable. It was 100% fine in any dialogue scene, but once things switched to heavy action, with shaky zooming cameras and all of that usual modern film trickery, it was nearly impossible to tell at all what was going on. I imagine it was better if you were in the “sweet spot” of the middle of the theater, but, based on my experience, I absolutely suggest trying to find a non-3-D showing.

 

 

BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: Not any particular episode, really, but this whole new season has been pretty batshit insane, so far. Absolutely embracing the Morrison-thought that every Batman story is true, we’ve had utter insanity like adaptations of the Bat-Manga, Bat-Boy and Rubin, and Scooby Doo team-ups; we’ve had a joker-POV episode (including changing the opening titles to be “The Joker: The Vile and the Villainous”) where, among other things, he entirely explodes Kamandi’s future; we’ve had mummy-Batman, and Aqua-Batman, and a really really fucked up episode where Batman becomes a Vampire and kills all of the JLA; hell we’ve even had an episode with (cowboy) Vigilante breaking out a git-tar and singing about the legend of the blue and the gray.

 

This show is OFF THE CHARTS CRAZY, and in an utterly great way. I’m horrifically disturbed it hasn’t been picked up for more, because this is everything you want in a Batman cartoon (that isn’t TAS) — this is KITCHEN SINK BATMAN. I truly hope they put out a complete series boxed set at some point, because this is just way too good of a show to not preserve. I love this show, and will give it an overall EXCELLENT rating.

 

 

A GAME OF THRONES: I love love love love love the books (even if I’m afeared JJM is going to croak before he finishes all seven), which I would liken to the same kind of thril you get from WALKING DEAD — that is, NO CHARACTER, even the leads, ARE NOT SAFE, and the most crazy fucked up shit happens to these people. I was pretty nervous about the show, but, so far (I’ve seen the first two), I’m thinking its doing a really good of adaptation of the books.  Adaptations are always hard, and usually butchered, but they got the gist pretty close here.

 

If you’ve seen the show, but not read the books, then I really urge you to pick up the books; and if you’ve done neither, then, yeah, pick up the books. EXCELLENT stuff there.

 

I’ll give the show a VERY GOOD, mostly because I don’t care for how they framed a few shots (the finding of the direwolves was pretty weak), and I’m largely unsure if the actress playing Daenerys has half of the chops needed to make it work — her thread in the novels is my favorite, and so far my lest favorite in the TV show. Peter Dinklage is AWESOME as Tyrion, though.

 

 

ACTION #900: I’m putting this in the “television” column mostly because of the crazy coverage the news media put on this. When I read the comic (before the story of Superman’s citizenship broke) I thought “Man, is that a poorly phrased way of putting that” because OF COURSE Superman isn’t a US Citizen — he’s a citizen of the world, and always has been.

 

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, anyone? Here: from wikiquotes:

*****
Superman: Madam Chairman, I don’t represent any one particular country, but I’d like to address the delegates.
U.N. Chairwoman: Well, in that case, you will need a sponsor. [ALL delegates raise their hands] I believe that will do. Please.

*****

Superman is not an American, per se, and hasn’t been for at least 24 years (and I’m certain I’ve read 60s era comics espousing the same principle, so probably more like 40+ years)

 

Either way, “Superman” couldn’t possibly be a citizen of anything — it’s an assumed name!

 

Anyway, what did YOU think?

 

-B

9 Responses to “ Geeks on Film ”

  1. Yeah, I was at that Thor screening. [And will discuss it here with an attempt to be as unspoilery as Brian.] I wrestled with the issue of where the movie falls on the spectrum of “spoon feeding all plot points” versus “Expecting me to connect too many dots.” I felt it leaned a little too far toward not enough visible connections, but the guy I saw it with (far less familiar with comics) thought it was fine. I don’t wanna spoil, but since you mention the kiss, I’ll say this:

    You’re right that I didn’t feel an undying love between Thor and Jane, but I took that kiss scene as “You’re cool. I would totally like a second date.” I think that much was earned in the film.

    On humility: I would say that Thor engages in some actions, some choices, as shit is really hitting the fan, that are more considered and mature than his earlier behavior, which got him banished. It’s like … I could make a point by point argument with you that some evidence of “growth” is there, but would have to concede that it’s much more inferred than presented, and probably not enough to appease Odin’s initial wrath. However, it’s worth saying that the movie resolves in a crisis, rather than, say, Odin methodically reviewing a performance evaluation of Thor’s time on Earth and saying, “Kudos, young man, we’re transferring you back to the head office.” So it’s more, perhaps, that unforeseen circumstances interfered with Operation: Exile, than that Thor scored straight A’s.

    You’re dead right on Loki; what was up with that?

  2. Hmm, I’ve always tended to think of Superman as a basically American character. Isn’t that the whole point – that he lands in wholesome middle America and grows up with middle American values?

  3. It’s also opened in Europe.

    The beginning reminded me of the opening of the “Fellowship of the ring”, and I never really warmed up to the look of the Frost Giants. As for Loki, I had low expectations going in, considering that it seems to me that there’s something inherently wrong with the character, which has lead to the creators recently recasting him as a woman, and a little boy. Nevertheless, the Warriors Three really struck me as underdeveloped, with Lady Sif particularly sidelined, breaking only marginally from the comic relief of Volstagg, Hogun and Fandrall.

    Introducing the Casket of Ancient winters as a McGuffin, and waving it around a couple of times only for a completely different object to play a part of the artifact influential to ending the present conflict seemed like a less than ideal choice too. As for the rest, I felt the New Mexico setting serviceable, if yet again, underused (at least compared to some effort that lead to Broxton, Oklahoma in current comics). I warmed up much better to JMS’ other idea, regarding Mjolnir’s condition, which I felt was nicely used and developed for film.

    I was glad with the way the movie dealt with Thor’s civilian identity, as influenced by Simonson and Millar. I agree with the review that the take introduced in “the Ultimates” made for more ambiguity regarding Thor’s origins, but then again, the Asgard scenes felts strongest all around.

    I felt that Chris Hemsworth was believable as Thor, and most of the other roles felt serviceable. Natalie Portman seemed a bit too sincere while playing the character, and thus came across as a bit naive and one-dimensional, but otherwise, I had no problems with the acting.

    As for the wider Marvel universe trappings, they were thankfully subdued and did not interfere with the movie’s pretty wholesome take on the core of what makes Marvel’s “Thor” distinctive. Even if, following “the Avengers”, the company doesn’t return to Thor in this particular incarnation, I feel that the broadest strokes of the comic book version still got transferred to the big screen.

  4. Superman’s also about the immigrant story (among other things). He’s also about the 50s. And America. And Jesus and Moses. But he’s also about The Future. And Inclusion. Superman is utterly without pretense. New Krypton and the feral child archetype? oh yes.

    Superman got propositioned by Capt. Atom to work for the U.S. Military in a story written by Geoff Johns in Superman/Batman Secret Files and Origins 2003? 2004? As of Luthor’s presidency, Superman looked to be “on the market.”

    Superman renouncing U.S. citizenship is theatre. that’s all that is.

  5. “I mean, seriously, did anyone ever think there could possibly be a Thor movie based on the comic, prior to 3-5 years ago? Let alone a good one?”

    Hell, yes! The whole Don Blake thing is an absolute kickass concept for a super-hero trilogy. I mean, imagine revealing in the third film that Blake is nothing but a construct creating by Odin to teach Thor humility and having Blake team up with Loki to fight for his own existence? You could even largely leave the Asgardian stuff for the second movie and have the first one feature The Wrecking Crew and be all about the “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy” thing.

    Mike

  6. Speaking of the Morrison influence on Brave and the Bold some new episode descriptions have come out for the end of the month and this one immediately jumps out.

    Friday, June 3rd, 2011 at 6:30pm (ET) – “#58 Time Out for Vengeance!” — New!
    The JLI travel to the past to try and stop a force that wants to wipe out all the incarnations of Batman throughout time (Cave-Batman, Pirate Batman).

    Time Masters / Return of Bruce Wayne anyone?

  7. I’m not sure the movie ever actually says that Thor’s specifically meant to be learning humility, so much as maturity in general. But I think he pretty clearly does learn humility in the course of the story, albeit that the big turning point is more about heroism in a general sense.

  8. NO CHARACTER … ARE NOT SAFE ?

  9. They took the Man Out of His Element formula and tacked it onto Thor. By trying to keep Thor grounded in road-level reality, in order to keep the tone in line with the upcoming Avengers movie, the presentation was restrained and lackluster. The costumes looked like something out of the first season of Power Rangers. Personally, I think they should have used more cloth and less rubber. That said, the movie was passably good. Nothing I’d ever watch again, but it wasn’t terrible, which is always a strong possibility with committee-created films like this.

    They should have saved Natalie Portman for her own Marvel superheroine role. But let her earn the easy paycheck. She deserved it.

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