Man of Many Suits

I personally am not big on superheroes as a movie genre. I prefer sci-fi heroines that kick butt. But sometimes I do find a superhero story I really enjoy. I love X-Men and its allegory of life lived outside the norm. And though I hated the Avengers, I liked several of the character. Captain American, Hawkeye, and, of course, Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr brings the character life and makes most of the Iron Man movies enjoyable. Iron Man 3 is a great addition to the franchise.

In the latest installment of the Marvel saga, Tony Stark has to use his brains again against two nefarious foes. When a terrorist known as The Mandarin is behind worldwide explosions and terrorist messages. When one puts his friend in a coma, Tony Stark tells The Mandarin je was not afraid and invites him to challenge Tony personally. The fight is brought to his house which is destroying, and Tony is left adrift with just one suit. He must use his wit and brain to repair the broken suit and go against the terrorist.

iron-man-3-tony-stark-robert-downey-jrThe movie is at its best when Tony is doing his “tricks and one liners.” Without his suit, Tony must rely on his wit to conquer goals and to deal with the people around him. He partners with a young boy, and it’s hard to say who wins when they slam each other. As Tony goes MacGyver to get his damaged suite working, it is so to see how this geniuses’ brain works. The character gets real depth dealing with his issues on his own without Pepper, his suit, or his money.

The biggest detractor is the startling gender inequality. Polly Purebred-excuse me, Pepper Potts-spends half of the movie half naked and screaming. There is a moment when Pepper is powerful and comes to her man’s aid. But Tony must “fix” her and let her go back to the damsel in distress negating any equality her previous actions.  I make fun of Black Widow’s outfit but her kick ass factor is at least one step in the right direction for feminism. Pepper is not.

Comic fans will be unhappy with parts of the film especially The Mandarin. As a movie goes, I enjoyed the villain and his twist. He could have easily been a Bane rip off, but Ben Kingsley makes The Mandarin multi-faceted, giving humor to the film as well as misdirecting Tony from other threats.   This works well for the movie, even though it breaks from comic cannon.

Iron Man 3 has the typical plot holes of a super hero movie (Are the suits designed only for Tony or not? Make up your mind!), this installment of Marvel’s Phase 2 focuses on the character making Tony human and relatable. As always, Downey Jr is amazing and truly makes the movie and the character. Iron Man 3 is not to be missed.

Whedon’s Talent Pales on the Big Screen

Joss Whedon is best known for his TV projects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin off Angel, Firefly and the ill-fated Dollhouse. Each TV show pushed the limits of reality as well as told moral stories in new and intriguing ways. His big screen work has been minimal with his best work in the screenplays of Toy Story and Atlantis and culminating in his last two big screen productions Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. Neither of these lives up to the Whedon reputation.

Vacation, I’ve got to Get Away

Cabin in the Woods, Blu-ray & DVD

Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

This is possibly one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen. I was hoping that the Whedon half not responsible for Cloverfield would balance out the movie. But I was very wrong. The problem with this movie starts with the trailers.

From watching the trailer, I had a very different movie in mind. The trailer portrayed people being psychologically tested at their vacation cabin. The movie itself even hints at this with people in lab coats at a testing center and the two way mirror in the cabin. The movie abruptly curves away from that idea. Suddenly, the vacationers are being attacked by monster so they can be sacrificed to a god. The people in the test chamber are releasing the beings as the victims unknowingly call them out and take bets on what monsters they will choose. The sacrifice only counts if the victims choose their method of slaughter of their own free will. This begs the questions: What the hell are all the people there for? Just to house the beasts?

The movie becomes a more bizarre version of The Hunger Games as those in the control chamber cause an avalanche so the victims can’t escape. (It seems that that their free will can only go so far.) Zombies, mermaids, slashers, and a variety of mythological monster are released on the victims as well as the center itself leading to a blood bath that knows neither end nor reality. The twist? The people we are rooting for escaping can only save the world if they are killed.

In what is supposed to be poking fun at stock horror characters, each character is based on a movie stereotype: the jock, the slut, and the stoner. But any humor or sarcasm that was written in the screenplay was lost when portrayed by the actors. Chris Hemsworth does a horrible job, and I wonder how he went on to play Thor. Whedon alumni Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Tom Lenk are the only actors that really put in a good performance. And it seems Kristin Connolly thinks she is Felicia Day but does a horrible job imitating the actresses.

The film does not know how to contain itself. It knows no limits to what is believable or what people want to see. Stealing evil creatures from other movies seems less like homage than a lazy stealing of other people’s ideas. Like Cloverfield, Cabin lacks a focus that keeps the viewer intrigued.

After watching the film, I totally understand why it took two years for the film to get a distributor. Sloppily thrown together, the characters never develop and the plot never makes much sense. Instead it seemed like I was watching Mystery Science Theater with out Mike, Servo or Crowe.

How Many Superheroes Does it Take to Save the World?

The Avengers, Blu-Ray & DVD

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon

I can hear you now, “What? You don’t like The Avengers? Are you crazy?” It’s possible that I am, but this movie was not a great move, superhero or otherwise. The characters are one sided and stereotyped, the plot is stilted, and the writing is weak.

The plot is easily divided into three sections: putting the team together, the team fights with each other, and the team beats up the bad guys. It’s this final third of the movie that finally has good kicking evil’s butt. I had no fun watching the team squabble with each other and try to beat each other up. You’re all superheroes; no one’s going to win. It seems they forgot they had to work together to beat up the bad guy. But when this happens, the movie is everything it could be: gorgeous fight sequences, teamwork, and defeating evil. Each team member comes alive as they use their unique talents to win and the movie should have focused more on this.

It also suffers from one dimensional characters. The characters are stereotyped to a fault because there is no time for character development in this mess. Hawkeye and Black Widow have the most depth out of all the characters.  But if Hawkeye hadn’t been hijacked by Loki, the two would have been reduced to stereotypes. The Hulk is a giant nerd, Iron Man shows nothing but sarcasm, and Captain America is so anal I wanted someone to remove the stick from his butt. I have seen the movies that focus on these characters alone: the characters are all well developed with a variety of emotions and desires. But Whedon has pared them down to one note characters that you don’t even like. (I loved Captain the America the best out all the movies but hated his character in The Avengers).

Whedon, the king of witty comebacks (see any episode of Buffy) looses his magic here. Dialogue is childish and very rarely funny, even when it was meant to be. For such simple character and plot delineation, the movie was often time confusing. Why are the characters where they are? What is the point to this other than looking cool? That is the movie’s fatal flaw: looking cool without substance.

I think that is overall my issue with the movie. Whedon has written for Marvel and can write good comic book issues. But a movie is not a comic book, and this translation into live action leaves me wanting more.  With this current reincarnation of Batman and the X-Men franchise, I have become accustomed to much more depth in my comic based movies. I expect characters I care about, deep storyline, and real life parallels; Avenger falls short on all of that.

It looks good, there is a lot of butt kicking, but the story is at a loss.

“You’re a Thundering Loonie!”

From badly accented demi-gods to pot heads, the latest of Whedon’s work is sub par. When not writing for Disney, his work on the big screen falters, and he cannot recapture that magic from Buffy. Many of his big screen works are simplified ideas of characters and themes. Long live the Whedon TV show!