Avengers Assemble (3D)

Posted on May 3, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This has taken me a couple of days to sit down and write for two reasons: 1) revision sucks. 2) I needed to calm down a bit so that the whole review wasn’t just the word “awesome” in 72 pt font.

We all know I’m a Marvel geek. And that I’ve been looking forward to this film pretty much since the dawn of time. I first wrote about it back in 2010 when it was just a glint in a studio execs eye, but since then we’ve had a pretty much relentless build up in Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America.

Despite my undying love for Stan Lee and all that springs from his page, I did start to lose the faith a bit as the much awaited climax drew closer. Captain America suffered with a slightly ploddy script, (although it’s not a bad film and benefits from a second watch) and although I seem to anger everyone I know when I say this, I found Thor undeveloped and was a bit skeptical about the central role Loki had to play in the final film.

I needn’t have worried. Not even the 3D could put me off this film. In fact, it was a rare case of non gimmicky use that wasn’t too distracting (or maybe I’m getting tolerant in my old age).  Avengers is simply a brilliant bit of comic book fantasy that gets everything just right.  As I’d hoped, mixing the characters together allowed the shortcomings of some to be made up by others. Thor didn’t seem so two dimensional when they played his fish out of water against Captain America’s child of the wrong time.  And the budding bromance between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner was a thing of beauty.

There were so many fantastic geek out moments (I was about one “glaiven” short of a full Professor Frink).  Joss Whedon plays to his strengths and delivers just what the fans want to see. The big montage of all our heroes “suiting up” for their first proper battle scored a whole load of nerd points.  As did each new moment of our collection of demigods, suped up mortals, ginormous green rage monsters and billionaire genius playboy philanthropists meeting for the first time. The crossing over of characters, themes and even tech from the individual movies is really well handled, managing to amalgamate the work of several different writers and directors in an impressively seamless way.

Alongside the big four, we also have some important supporting characters. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been given ever increasing amounts of screen time with each new movie, and his dry wit and dead pan demeanour have turned him in to one of my favourite characters. Samuel L Jackson finally got to make it out of the stingers too and get some real work, making a suitably shifty Nick Fury.  In Iron Man 2, I found Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) little more than some black PVC doing an inexplicable amount of lunging, but she found some depth in Avengers and became not only an interesting character but one who could hold her own against the more developed favourites. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye also managed to fit in nicely, without falling in to the X Men pit of too many heroes. The chemistry between him and Black Widow was well cultivated and  understated enough that it set up for future inevitable plotlines without shoving it down your throat.

The story is everything you want, fast paced, full of action and equipped with witty one liners to keep things moving. It’s about as close as I think anyone has come to making a film that watches like reading a comic book feels. The final showdown is just fantastic, and I loved the way we swung through the action to focus on different characters and individual battles. It’s kind of like a cross between the sentinels fight in Matrix Revs and Pelennor fields from ROTK. Which is just as cool as it sounds. And has someone who has (shamefully) still not actually seen any of the Hulk films, it was pretty fantastic to see the big guy up on screen doing what he does best.

Even if you’re not a Marvel geek you need to see this film. You just do.  It’s definitely one of the big events of the cinematic year, and Whedon has turned out a proper Blockbuster which has just about everything you could want in a movie. And Robert Downey Jr. 😉

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Iron Man 2

Posted on April 29, 2010. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

What’s this? Me going to the cinema on the day of a film’s release?! Must be something special….

When I go back and read my original review of Iron Man I am shocked by how ambivalent I was towards it.  Seeing it for the second time prompted a whole post about second impressions, and a few more watches down the line I am a die hard Iron Man fanatic.

Today is my sister’s birthday, and having finally succeeded in converting her to the Iron Man church, what better way to celebrate than seeing a movie we’ve both been eagerly anticipating.

On with the review.

While it took me a while to warm up to the first Iron Man, the same cannot be said of this film. I absolutely loved it. And by the sounds of the people in the cinema around me, so did everyone else.

The plot is fast-paced and engaging.  It might not have many twists in the tail but it isn’t predictable either.   The script is also just as sharp and snappy as the first film, with all the RDJ signatures that make the character so popular.  There are genuine laugh-out-loud moments (just ask the guy sitting behind me) and a whole host of fantastically quotable lines that will no doubt be appearing on this blog in the future.

The whole character of Tony Stark is so wrapped up in Robert Downey Jr’s personality that it’s very hard to picture him any other way.  But who would want to when he does it so well?  The sequel also brings on board the unstoppable Mickey Rourke and a fantastic performance from Sam Rockwell.  Both actors are perfect in their roles; I’m really hoping to see more of Rockwell in future films.  Gwyneth Paltrow continues to shine as Pepper Potts, a role that really seems to suit her, and she provides a great foil for RDJ.  If I had to pick one person out as being less interesting it would be Scarlett Johansson, but I think that is more because she is surrounded by huge competition on all sides and playing a less interesting character.  It’s nice to have Samuel L Jackson back too, after his one liner in the first movie stinger.

Speaking of trivia, there are a couple of nice nods to comic book geekdom to make those of us sad clever enough to spot them.  In the first film we had S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury, but the hints are more subtle here.  Look out for an iconic piece of equipment belonging to an all-American hero, and don’t forget to wait until after the credits before you leave your seat.

Other thoughts: the soundtrack (provided in no small part by legends AC/DC) is epic.  Both the use of pop music (absolutely loved the Another One Bites the Dust/It Takes 2 mash up) and the original score by John Debney are brilliant.

The special effects are also great.  I really want a computer where I can pick things up and move them around with my hands.  I mean, that’s just cool.  Some of the handheld camera work in the opening scenes is a little shaky, but that’s what you get with that style of filming and it works most of the time, although it’s a little distracting in the court scene.

I also don’t understand why they replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle as Rhodey.  Howard was great in the first films and seemed to have a great rapport with RDJ.  Not that Cheadle doesn’t, but it seems a strange thing to do.  I wondered if there would be any reference to the change of face in the script and got my answer in Rhodey’s opening line:

“I’m here, it’s me, get used to it.”

Iron Man 2 is an awesome film.  Like Spiderman before it I can see the films running for a good while yet (hooray!)  Even while the movie was still running I was thinking “I really want to see that bit again.”  It ranges from explosive action (and I mean explosive) to big laughs and even manages to have some really sweet moments.  What more could you ask for on a Thursday afternoon?

Go out and see it now.  And take me. ‘Cos I need to see it again.

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