Summer Superhero Scorecard

Aug 4, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Adam Drew This, Brian Wrote This, Film Reviews

Adam and Brian take on the Summer 2011 superhero movies.  Artist vs. Writer!  Good-hearted joe vs. wise-ass cynic!  Spoiler alert:  We agree across the board, but Adam’s inner child is so much more forgiving than Brian’s inner curmudgeon.

I review films pretty much at whim over at Badmouth.net.  Fear not, I’ll be posting occasional links to those half-baked missives here on LitSketch.  But with four major superhero films, not one of them a direct sequel, lined up for summer, Adam and I wanted to give our respective senses of aesthetic a chance to crash futilely against one another.  Posted below are our quick takes on the comic-book madness.  Note the links to my full reviews at Badmouth, you lovers of complete paragraphs. Also note these little logo-mash designs Adam dashed off.

The films are offered in the order in which they debuted.

Thor

Brian’s Rating (0-5 stars): 3
The Story: Exactly the minimum required.
The Action: Pretty damned good.  Nice effects, nice Asgard/Svartalfheim.  I enjoyed the violence.
The Cast: Solid.  Hemsworth’s charming, spirited Thor carries the movie past all its flaws.
Faithfulness: Pretty good–captures the feel of the Kirby and Simonson runs.
Best Moment: Thor swaggering down the New Mexico street like the god he was.
Worst Moment: Comatose Odin magically wishing Thor out of trouble.
Full Review: @Badmouth

Adam’s Rating (0-5 stars): 4.5 stars
The Story: A sweet distillation of 50 years of continuity into an action packed easy to follow adventure.
The Action: They spent a lot of money!  I was not expecting to see the frost giants so fully realized.  THE DESTROYER!  How cool is that guy?
The Cast: Perfect.  (Thor is Captain Kirk’s DAD!  His girlfriend is Luke Skywalker’s MOM!)
Faithfulness: I love how they made Asgard really over the top like the original artist, Jack Kirby drew it…equal parts hi-tech and fantasy.
Best Moment: Thor defeats a giant beast by flying through its head!  OUCH!
Worst Moment: I wouldn’t say “worst”, but the final confrontation between Loki and Thor was mostly physical combat, which is a little out of character for Loki…he’s the trickster, so I wanted more of a psychological attack…

X-Men: First Class

Brian’s Rating (0-5 stars): 4
The Story: More solid, smart, fleshed out than most comic movies ever try to be. Dense with plot!
The Action: Low-key throughout, fitting the more thoughtful style, then ludicrously ‘splodey for the finish.
The Cast: Excellent, except for January Jones (who couldn’t have made this underwritten version of Emma Frost work, anyway).
Faithfulness: Brilliantly steals from throughout 40 years of continuity, remains faithful in spirit.
Best Moment: Erik Lenser, Nazi Hunter!
Worst Moment: Tie: A lame Emma Frost, and having a story in which mutant hatred stands in for racism involve pointlessly killing/corrupting the only two heroes who aren’t white.
Full Review: @Badmouth

Adam’s Rating (0-5 stars): 5 STARS!!!!
The Story: How clever, how great!  Tying the X-men into the Cuban Missile Crisis…potentially REALLY bad…works perfectly.
The Action: Great set pieces, but the most effective scenes were the more subtle uses of power in “everyday” life…really clever uses of super powers.
The Cast: Awesome!  They don’t exactly look like they will age into the characters in the other X-Men movies (I’m looking at you, Professor X and Magneto)…but I don’t really care…
Faithfulness: In a way, not faithful at all…not in continuity or design.  However, COMPLETELY faithful to the spirit of the X-Men!  I wish many of the comics had such clear portrayals of the characters’ personalities and motivations.
Best Moment: ALL OF IT!  I was loving it so much I just kept thinking…”Don’t jump the shark!  Don’t jump the shark!”  There is a scene at the end that I should have seen coming, should have known was in this story, and yet, when it happened, totally floored me.  Love it…
Worst Moment: I am not crazy about the White Queen turning into diamond.  I don’t like it in the comic either…but it is one of her powers, so I can’t really complain.  (It is a nice visual way to show she has her “psychic barrier” up…but it looks a little lame…)

Green Lantern

Brian’s Rating (0-5 stars): 2
The Story: Passionless jumble of character shortcuts and unrelatable space technobabble.
The Action: Glossy, fast, sometimes forgettable, sometimes whimsically inspired (giant green fists!),
The Cast: Glossy, fast, sometimes forgettable, sometimes computer-generated.
Faithfulness: Big-picture fealty to more recent, hyperwonky takes on GL’s 50-year history.
Best Moment: GL’s final blow to Parallax — a callback to classic GL action.
Worst Moment: Every moment with Parallax or the Guardians.
Full Review: at Badmouth.net

Adam’s Rating (0-5 stars): 3 1/2 stars…better than I had feared.
The Story: The story is a little all over the place…mashing a lot of story lines from the comics together…but it still makes sense.
The Action: The action is a weird mix of the mundane and the cosmic…sometimes to me, the powers vary too much for me to take the bad guys as a serious threat.
The Cast: The cast good…but some of the celebrities that show up for minor parts threw me out of the scenes.  Ryan Reynolds is cool…but I think Nathan Fillion is better.  (Nathan is doing the voice of Hal Jordan for the Green Lantern: Emerald Knights animated movie that is also out now!)
Faithfulness: It is very faithful to the core concepts…I was surprised how much of recent continuity was reflected in the ideas.  There is a bonus scene half way through the credits that is cool…maybe unmotivated, but cool…
Best Moment: The best moment was Hal Jordan waking up and meeting fellow Green Lantern, Tomar Re, who is voiced by Geoffry Rush.  It is a cool kind of Luke Skywalker meets Ben Kenobi moment.
Worst Moment: That damn mask.  In the very same scene, Hal Jordan gets a mask as part of his Green Lantern uniform.  It is so form fitting, it does not hide his identity AT ALL.  For the rest of the movie, everyone recognizes him and makes fun of the mask.  I don’t know why they had it.

Bonus GL review from Adam’s lovely wife, Jeni

I’m sad that the funny things didn’t resonate.  Nothing made me smile or laugh like I did in Iron Man.  I think they are similar characters…bad boys that try.  While I liked Ryan Reynolds and the Hal Jordan character, I didn’t love him like Tony Stark.  It left me feeling kind of meh…

Tim Robbins’ son, Hector Hammond, in the movie looked as old as he did.  He just looked like Eric Stoltz in Mask.  His character didn’t add anything to the story.

While I didn’t love it, I’d say it’s not a waste of money if you go.

Adam: Jeni remembered a lot of Green Lantern stuff from the animated Green Lantern movie, First Flight.  I may be biased, since I worked on the animated one, but I thought it introduced the Lanterns in a cool way and made a good case for Hal’s imagination making him a better lantern.  (That is, the regular lanterns just make geometric shapes, while Hal would make more whimsical constructs like golf clubs, boxing gloves, fly swatters, etc.)  The animated one has ZERO romance, which the live action one has a bit of…I was envious of the bar scene with the slow dancing because that kind of subtle intimate stuff is REALLY hard to do in animation …

Captain America: The First Avenger

Brian’s Rating (0-5 stars): 4 stars
The Story: Everything Steve Rogers was great.  Cap as a USO dork was … logical, but it ran too long.  We all came to your superhero movie — you don’t need to try this hard to make us believe in the superhero.  The Red Skull stuff was too removed from Cap’s story, you know?
The Action: Johnston brilliantly gives us a war movie with relatively little bloodshed and gore, yet lots of cool action — perfect for the kids this movie should appeal to.
The Cast: Really strong. Evans and Weaving are great as the opposing forces, though it’s a shame they get so little screen time together. Many rock-solid supporting characters, but Hayley Atwell was such a kick-ass delight that it’s a shame her character, presumably, won’t show up for sequels.
Faithfulness: Except for giving the Hydra-Nazis Star Wars weapons, faithful to all the key elements of Cap’s origin.
Best Moment: The grenade.  These filmmakers got Steve Rogers, and knew how to make us get him, quickly and absolutely.
Worst Moment: The execution of the ending, which seemed rushed, with the transition to the present confusing and slapdash.
Full Review: @Badmouth.net

Adam’s Rating (0-5 stars): 4.5
The Story: A heartfelt and funny introduction to the wimpy Steve Rogers who becomes the first and only American super soldier, Captain America!
The Action: The fighting with real stuntmen risking their lives for our entertainment is the best.  Some of the CGI is a little too big and fast for its own good.
The Cast: Chris Evans is so much super hero, not only is he Captain America, he was also the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies.  Everyone feels just right…Tommy Lee Jones is a crusty general,   Hugo Weaving is the evil Red Skull,  and the Howling Commandos are sweet.  I also loved Bucky, Peggy and Howard Stark.
Faithfulness: I am so happy it is a period piece and Cap’s origin is tied into World War 2.  Bonus points for including the Howling Commandos.
Best Moment: It is hard to pick just one moment…(Making Chris Evan look scrawny was simply amazing.  After a few scenes, I forgot he isn’t really that small.)
…but the whole scene where Steve is turned into a super soldier is pretty awesome.  It ties into Iron Man, lays the groundwork for S.H.I.E.L.D. , and is funny, tragic, and awe inspiring all within seconds.  My favorite bit is just after the transformation…Cap is chasing an assassin who uses a small boy as a shield.  The villain throws the small boy into the river and takes off running.  The audience feels Cap’s plight as he must choose to get the assassin or save the boy…he quickly decides to save the boy and is about to dive in when he sees the boy treading water.  The kid calls up, “I can swim!  Go get him!”
Worst Moment: I don’t really have a worst moment…but the Hydra forces had such high tech gear, it took away from the World War 2 vibe a bit.  And I know why they kept him on the radio while he flew the plane down…he has to say good-bye to his would be girlfriend.  I just miss the image of Cap on a missile, tearing it apart until it crashes.  (My wife hated the boomerang shield stuff.  “What is he?  A magnet?”  I told her, you gotta have it…70+ years of comics says so…Trick shots with the shield are kinda his thing.  I thought they pulled it off.)

The Final Tally

By the numbers, Adam ranked X-Men tops, Thor & Cap tied, then GL. While Brian gave X-Men and Cap matching 4 stars, he always ranked Cap first:  Cap, X-Men, Thor, the other one.  Along with his comments on Cap, for those of you still reading this far down, Adam sent this note:

I forget what I rated the other super hero movies, but with the benefit of hindsight, this is my ranking…

4th place…Green Lantern
3rd place…Thor
2nd place…Captain America
1st place…X-men: First Class!

Now then…I agree that First Class made a mistake by killing Darwyn, the only black X-Man.  It was the wrong choice, especially since this was a period piece that reveled in being retro … but didn’t mention Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, or the Civil Rights movement.  (We’ve all heard the idea with this film that Xavier was a Martin Luther King Jr.-type leader and Magneto was a Malcolm X-type leader.  It might have been really great for Xavier and Magneto to see these great real leaders on the tv and debate which one had the right approach to gaining equality for their people…)  So, I agree, killing Darwyn was a mistake because they didn’t just kill Darwyn.  They killed the only representative of a real-life group of people that had to fight and make more sacrifices for equality than the X-men ever did.

However, it wasn’t enough to de-rail me from enjoying the rest of the movie.  I kinda went, “that’s odd”, but then got swept up in the emotional beat of, “That Kevin Bacon guy killed our friend! We gotta stop that guy!”

So, that was a mistake in an otherwise pretty awesome movie.  Still my favorite of the Summer of ’11.

Let the countdown to the Summer of ’12 begin!

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[Apologies to anyone with an actual design sense for
Brian’s egregious misuse of HTML text boxes. Remember,
the other guy’s the artist! And he’s busy drawin’ stuff!]

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