Friday, January 28, 2022

Black Panther (a movie review post)


MCU #18

It was a little bit difficult returning to Black Panther what with the death of Chadwick Boseman. It just made me sad. You can look back at my previous "review" here, which was less a review and more of a discussion of the cultural impact of the movie.

Four years later: What is the cultural impact? It's a little difficult to say. We've had the death of Boseman and a pandemic, which may or may not have affected the way people go to movies for all time. That's also difficult to say. We have had both Shang-chi and Eternals since the release of Panther. Would we have had those without the overwhelming success of Panther? Eternals, maybe; Shang-chi, certainly not. It's true that my prediction about the movie may have been lofty, but it's still too early to tell. And the death of Boseman and the pandemic have certainly changed things. I'll know more when the next Panther movie comes out at the end of the year.

I'm again not going to really review this movie, but I will talk about some things that stood out to me this time.

1. Why is Martin Freeman given such a prominent role? Don't get me wrong, I like Freeman, but I don't understand, exactly, how or why he ended up with the role he has in this movie. He gets to be the hero of the "space battle," and I'm not really sure why.
2. Speaking of the "space battle," I realized that Black Panther has the classic Star Wars finale:
-- Jedi Battle (in this case between Panther and Killmonger)
-- space battle (where Ross has a dogfight and shoots down the weapons supply ships)
-- ground battle (where the... you know, where everyone else fights)
I was a little bit surprised when I had this realization. I mean, this is such a Star Wars thing that one of the Star Wars CCGs adopted this as their playing format. Now I'm wondering if any other movies have used this format. Does it pre-date Star Wars? I've never really contemplated this before and am vaguely curious. Probably not curious enough to do any research about it, though.
3. Monarchy. For such an advanced society, why is Wakanda still stuck in a hereditary monarchy model? And, on top of that...
4. Leadership by combat? I mean, that is the absolute worst. I'm actually having a hard time, now, with the idea that T'Chaka was able to hold onto his kingship into his old age. Or maybe that trial-by-combat thing was only once, unless challenged by a blood heir, but still...
We saw how that worked out.

I'm kind of hoping that the next Panther movie will introduce some governmental reforms, but I'm kinda doubting it.

Don't get me wrong, I get that it made for a good movie. Lots of tension and action and all of that stuff but, as a working model of government, Wakanda needs some help.

All of that said, the movie still holds up. It was great fun to watch. I love Boseman. And am sad. I love Serkis' Klaue. He is possibly the most fun villain the MCU has had. The scene where he runs out of the club yelling, "That was awesome!" is kind of priceless. Forest Whitaker is in a second role with Disney in which he sacrifices himself. Well, the cast is stellar all around.

Of course, now I have to work it into the rankings which is a thing that keeps getting harder and harder to do. Not to mention needing to come up with a way to slam Norton. But here goes...

The rankings!

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
6. Iron Man
7. Black Panther
8. Doctor Strange
9. Ant-Man
10. Thor: Ragnarok
11. Thor: The Dark World
12. Thor
13. Guardians of the Galaxy
14. Avengers: Age of Ultron
15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
16. Iron Man 3
17. Iron Man 2
18. Incredible Hulk (Norton's ego is stronger even than vibranium.)

(You may notice that the #3 spot is no longer a tie. I feel that Captain America is slightly stronger as a movie despite my love for Spider-Man. That said, if I could put the Sony Spider-Man movies on here, Spider-Man would make the top three, for sure. Man, I need to watch that one again.)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Thor: Ragnarok (a movie review post)


MCU #17

It appears that I somehow missed reviewing this one the first time it came out. How did that even happen? I have no idea. It's not the first one I missed doing but, by this point, I thought I was getting all of them (until Black Widow, but we'll get there when we get there).

Ragnarok is my favorite of the current Thor movies. There are a couple of things I find interesting about this:
1. The Thor movies have gotten better as they've gone on. Generally speaking, this is a thing with the MCU movies, Iron Man being the exception.
2. The Thor movies, with the possible exception of Ant-Man, are the most comedic of the MCU movies, which is surprising because they are also the most tragic. But maybe that's why they have all the comedy. You need that comedic relief to keep from falling apart during the movies.

With a new Thor movie on the near horizon, I guess we'll find out if these things hold true.

I'm going to kind of nutshell my review of this one, because I have something else of interest, at least to me, to talk about. Related but not specifically about the quality of the movie.

Ragnarok is great. A lot of fun. It has one of the best openings of all of the MCU movies, with Thor's soliloquy about being captured and stuff, then the whole spinning on the chain as Surtur tries to... what? threaten him? Intimidate him. It's a great and unexpected opening.

Anthony Hopkins has his best moment in any of the movies as he plays Loki playing Odin.

I'm not sure there could have been a better Hela than Cate Blanchett. There could have been different Helas, but I don't think better. She was magnificent.

Karl Urban was unsurprisingly great as Skurge. I wish he was going to be back for more, but I doubt Skurge is a character we'll see again.

All of the regular cast was as spectacular as you should have come to expect at this point. And, hey, Hulk makes a significant appearance, too.

Speaking of Hulk, when we watched Civil War, someone tossed out the idle question, "Why aren't Thor and Hulk in this?" To which I responded, sort of jokingly but not really, "Because then it would be an Avengers movie and not Captain America." Ragnarok is where we find out where Thor and Hulk were during Civil War. Also, you have to have Hulk and Thor be somewhere else for it to be a real fight for everyone else.

Something else of interest:
I was talking with my buddy Squid the other day about a big crossover event in Marvel back in the 90s that he is currently reading, and I was remembering when those issues were originally coming out and how it seemed like it was a big deal and how it was going to change the Marvel Universe and all of that. At the time, that story seemed important and significant. And, yet, the state of the Marvel Universe is much the same today as it was back in the 90s. Or the 80s. Or the 60s. Sure, there are more characters, but, other than morphing the universe to keep up with society, the state of the characters is much the same as it has always been.

And that's fine, you know. It's really what the readers want. They want to have big events with huge climaxes and, yet, for everything to remain the same at the end of it. So Captain America can't stay assassinated. Superman can't stay dead. Wolverine must get his adamantium back. The character has to stay the character.

But this isn't true for the MCU. At all. Nothing will, or even can, stay status quo. The characters are too tied to the actors, and there just isn't the mass of material to allow for the MCU to revert to the way things were. It seems to be a living universe, and I like that. Tony Stark is dead. As is Steve Rogers. I don't expect to see them come back.

Thor seems to be the series that has shown the most change. Frigga died. Odin died. Thor lost his eye. And his hammer. The Warriors Three are dead. Asgard is destroyed. It's a lot. And I expect things to stay that way. Changes will be ongoing with new characters in as old characters fade out. It's dynamic. I like it.
That's all. Just my interesting thought about a fundamental difference between the Marvel Universe and the MCU.

Now I suppose we should do some ratings (because I know people can't wait to know how I slam Edward Norton this week):

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
6. Iron Man
7. Doctor Strange
8. Ant-Man
9. Thor: Ragnarok
10. Thor: The Dark World
11. Thor
12. Guardians of the Galaxy
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
14. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
15. Iron Man 3
16. Iron Man 2
17. Incredible Hulk (Norton's ego could be the Grandmaster's champion. No one can defeat it. Well, except Disney, I guess.)

Friday, January 14, 2022

Spider-Man: Homecoming (a movie review post)


MCU #16

Should I mention again that Spider-Man is my favorite super hero of all time? Yeah, I probably should. I say that for this reason: My standards for any kind of Spider-Man adaptation are really high. I mean, I may think pretty much all of the Batman movies to date are pretty dumb, but I am also not invested in Batman so, you know, who cares? Don't get me wrong, Batman is... Well, he used to be fine as character: I don't know anymore. I have the feeling that Batman is no longer also "the detective," he's certainly not in the movies, which takes away a lot from the character. Look, what I'm saying is that they can screw Batman up as much as they want to (which they seem intent on doing), and it's no big deal. Spider-Man is a different story.

That said, so far, Spider-Man has been handled wonderfully.  Across the board, not just in the MCU.

But let's talk about Homecoming...

I think Marvel did a brilliant job with Homecoming. Spider-Man presented some problems considering that there had already been five Spider-Man movies, two of which were origin stories. Of course, none of those versions were MCU, so... what? Do you do another origin story, one specifically for the MCU?

Obviously, they chose not to. As I noted in my last review of Homecoming, summing it up with "I got bit by a radioactive spider" was a great way of bypassing the whole thing.

And so as not to rehash my previous review, the cast were all great. Holland is perfect, completely relatable as a nervous teenager. Which is the origin of Spidey's patter, by the way, nervous chatter.

I think the thing I would most say about Homecoming is that it is actually a different take on Spider-Man, not just from the previous movies but from the comics as well. It's a different take while actually remaining true to the character and to the personality of the character. Spider-Man as Iron Man's protégé is, actually, an interesting way to approach the story and fits well into the MCU. And it allows for it to be believable that Peter is still in high school. And high school Spider-Man is a very interesting Spider-Man and not one that has ever had much focus. Even in the comics, Peter moves on to college pretty quickly.

Plus there are all the ramifications of Tony Stark taking a high school student out of the country to help capture Captain America, putting him in incredible danger, that I have never bothered to talk about before.

And which I am going to continue to not talk about other than to say that this is part of what causes the tension in this movie. Tony dragged Peter off to... wherever... and Peter got hurt and it freaked Tony out, as it should have. So Tony clamps down on Peter, giving him "training wheels," and Peter bristles under what he feels like is being treated like a child. Which is valid. And it takes Ned to point out to Peter that he is, actually, just a kid. Not that either of them pay any attention to that in the end.

I suppose all I can really say is that I love this movie. It's not even mostly the Spider-Man bias. They really handled all of this so well. Giving Peter a father figure in Tony Stark was amazing (yeah, I did it), and it works. It works because Peter becomes the son Tony never had. There is a lot of emotion wrapped up in the relationship, and the scene at the ferry when Peter yells something like, "Well, if you were really here...!" at the Iron Man armor and, then, Tony steps out of it, are the kinds of things that make this movie not just work but rise to the top.
And now I want to watch it again! And I just watched it!

I just have one question... When is Donald Glover going to finally become The Prowler?!?!

Okay, let's get this stuff ranked:

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
6. Iron Man
7. Doctor Strange
8. Ant-Man
9. Thor: The Dark World
10. Thor
11. Guardians of the Galaxy
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
14. Iron Man 3
15. Iron Man 2
16. Incredible Hulk (Spider-Man once knocked out the Hulk but not even Hulk could knock out Norton's ego)

Note: I'm listing this as a tie with Cap, but I may change my mind later. I'm stuck between which one I think is the better movie and which one I just like more. Because, you know, Spider-Man.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Matrix: Resurrections (a movie review post)


It was not without some amount of trepidation that I approached this movie. The original Matrix movie was, inarguably, brilliant, but the two sequels proved to be... well, disasters. And that's being kind. But this movie came with a not so unspoken promise of... redemption. Did I think it would deliver? No, not really, but I did hope in the possibility.

Which was a vain hope, as it turned out.

Yes, this review will contain spoilers. It's not worth your time, and you should know why.

The movie does open with some amount of promise, which just makes everything else worse. The duplication of the opening scene of the first movie is intriguing. So is finding Neo -- excuse me, Thomas Anderson -- is a game developer and that The Matrix is a video game that he created. These are interesting questions. What does all this mean for the "reality" of the other movies?

As it turns out, nothing. It all just turns out to be the set up for Neo re-taking the red pill so he can get back to the real world again.

Then there's a long-ass fight scene that was so long I got bored.

Which all leads us to the "real" point of the movie (and I think we're more than an hour in, by this time): to get Trinity out of the matrix in the same way she got Neo out in the original movie. The only difference is that we get to watch it from the outside rather than the inside. But it's still just the same story over again. Except with zombies. Which they call the swarm.

Every little piece of the movie that could have been interesting, they avoid dealing with. For instance, Morpheus is somehow now an Agent. He doesn't know it at first but the Agent in question somehow quickly realizes he's really Morpheus. Hmm... well, that's interesting! Do they delve into that at all? No... We just now have an Agent who can leave the matrix in a... nano-metal body? I don't know what to call it. It doesn't really matter. It's just an excuse for some cool special effects.

And there are robots on the side of the humans, but do they give that any kind of focus? No... It's just, "oh, yeah, they joined us after the third movie because of your sacrifice."

There's the whole character of The Analyst and his supposed understanding of humans, which makes him unique among the robots, but, again, it's just something that's stated and they don't explain or delve at all. There are ramifications here, man!

Not mention Agent Smith, who is now played by Jonathan Groff and is also playing both sides of the field, sometimes fighting against Neo and sometimes with him. The only explanation given to that is that The Analyst has had Smith under his control, somewhat like he's had Neo under his control, and he won't go back to that. So, fine. But what the fuck was he doing under The Analyst's control to begin with.

There are all of these things just dropped throughout the movie, like the people bombs in the final fight scene, and not a single one of them are explored. Neo and Trinity look old to other "people" in the matrix. Why? It can't even maintain a cool factor because they move on from it so quickly that it doesn't have any meaning. None of it does.

In the end, that's the downfall of the movie. None of it has any meaning. It's just The Matrix over again with a bit of 2 and 3 rolled into it so that we don't forget that those two movies exist. Even the brief glimmers of self-awareness that the movie has are squashed. Meaningless.

The actors are all fine. Completely adequate. No one stands out. Maybe Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. A little. It felt like he was going to bring some fun to the character of Morpheus, then all of that ended when he left the matrix. 

I don't know... the whole movie is kind of... meh. It's not bad; it's just not good. It definitely doesn't rise anywhere near to the level of the first one. It's more watchable than 2 and 3, for sure, but not that much more watchable. Probably not enough for me to ever go back and watch it again. If I had paid money to see it (rather than watching it on HBO), I probably would have been upset. It's just another Warner Bros. failure.