Tag Archives: Marvel

Brief Review of Avengers: Infinity War

We watched Avengers: Infinity War today (it appeared on Netflix last week). I don’t want to recap the plot and offer a bunch of spoilers. What’s the point of that? Three quarters of those who want to see it have already seen it. I’d just like to take a moment for a few thoughts.

  1. I still like comic book movies, but nonstop fantasy fighting gets old. Watch the Ip Man movies about the founder of Wing Chun and something of a superhero in his own right for several good, made-for-movie fights. The second season of Iron Fist had good fights too.
  2. The more power you give someone, the more difficult it is to watch him fight.
    Frank: “I can stop any attack with a mere thought.”
    Bubba: “And I’m going to shoot you in the head!”
    Frank: “Ha ha! You’ll never get –” [BANG]
    Budda: “Didn’t see that coming, didya punk!”
    [Spoiler] Did we see Thanos beat up the Hulk at the beginning? How is he breaking a sweat with these other guys? I hear that answer from the back. Convenience is correct.
  3. [Spoiler] I’ve haven’t read many comic books, and I know there are some bad ones out there, even among the good heroes. Still I am glad to learn the plot of Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t come from the comics. The story of Thanos and his quest to save the universe from itself begins in the books at the place the movie ends, not after a massive failed attempt to stop him but after his success quest to obtain all six infinity stones without the Avengers knowing about it. That’s a lot better than the story we’re given in this movie because of one overused formula.
  4. At the very beginning we see a character say he has one of the great-and-powerful stones and he would give it up to save the life of someone else. That formula is used twice more and a third time in reverse. Did we focus group other rationales to advance the plot and them all unbelievable? That gets as old as the hour-long battles and is probably the weakest part of this movie.
  5. The parody How It Should Have Ended proved its genius again.
  6. The last thing I’ll say is long movies like this make me want to take a hike in the real world. I’m not sure my new shoes are the right thing for hiking though. Maybe I could find alternatives.

The Almost Christian Theme of Luke Cage 2

Isn’t it hard to hear the truth come from a hateful, abusive mouth? It can sound like a lie just from the context of who speaks it.

In the first few episodes of Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage season two, the most Christian things spoken came from Luke’s abusive father, James Lucas.  We had heard in the first season how Rev. Lucas mistreated his wife, committed adultery, and favored the son of the other woman over Luke. He was a minister of self-righteousness, who beat people with the Bible and knew nothing of its power.

At the beginning of the second season, we heard him practicing a sermon that asks whether Cage serves the Lord or himself. When he runs into Luke on the street, he just wants to tie a leash around his neck, demanding the respect due a father though he has undermined that relationship for many years. Luke tells his girlfriend Claire he cannot reconcile with his father because he blamed Luke for his mother’s illness and death. He didn’t believe Luke was innocent of the crime that sent him to prison. He seemed to hate his great strength now. Luke has too many wounds to heal to return.

This sets up a character theme for these men–forgiveness. I just wish it had gone another step further.

When the violence escalates, Luke and the Rev come together out of necessity and finally share their sins. The Rev owns up to at least some of his past and Luke does his part as well. They forgive each other, but the Christian language disappears. Their forgiveness stays on a human level. Even with a prayer for safety at the beginning of a night of hiding, talk of faith seems to be watered down so as not upset the science-fiction. The Rev speaks of “science, magic, God” as if to blur each those things together.

It would have been so easy to have the Rev see the truth that sets us free in that Bible he professes to love and put a few words of real redemption in his mouth.

(Image of Luke Cage from IMDb.com)

The Fist of Iron and Clay

Marvel’s latest Netflix series Iron Fist has its moments. There’s a fight with a hatchet-wielding gang that’s reminiscent of the hallway battle in Daredevil’s first season only a step less exciting. I don’t know if that’s because it reminded me of the earlier scene or the hatchet fight was less dramatic. But it may be that this fight would have been better in a better context. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

I don’t want to write a negative review of Iron Fist. I want to love it, but somewhere in the middle I began wondering if the story could be told differently, and by the end I thought it was relying on clichés. How many master warriors or chosen heroes say they need to complete their training? Just about all of them nowadays. Did a gunslinger ever say, “I need to get back to the Broken Hand Ranch to complete my training”? This is the story of a man who has been given the mantle of The Iron Fist, living weapon, protector of a holy city against an eternal enemy.

Before I finished the series, my wife and I watched Jackie Chan’s 1994 action-comedy The Legend of Drunken Master. It’s hilarious overall and increasingly intense. The finale was amazing, somewhat comical, and exhausting. When Chan’s character confronts the strongest henchmen, a tall man who relies on kicking, you wonder if Chan can really win. I know Iron Fist is a completely different show with different skill sets, but it didn’t have fighting anyway close to this.

In many Kung Fu movies, someone confronts the hero with his gang, and they begin fighting two on one, then four on one, then eight or sixteen. A formula like that would have been perfect for a gauntlet run Danny undertakes in the series’ first half. He does start against two, but then he moves to a one-on-one of a very different nature and then another one-on-one with a type of weapons master. That last one is pretty good, but could we not bring in eight or more guys in the middle of that fight to increase the intensity?

Another common scene in Kung Fu movies is when the master happens into a gang of thugs who won’t let him go without a fight. He takes them down without breaking a sweat. Danny sweats through every fight. Maybe the writers considered similar ideas and left them in rehearsal. Perhaps they considered them cliché.

Continue reading The Fist of Iron and Clay

Bulletproof Luke Cage in 2016

The Luke Cage stories of 1972 Marvel comics are not what you see in the new Netflix series. The new writers deliver a more mature story than their source material, Sam Knowles says, in many ways.

One clear improvement is apparent to anyone who happens to see cover art from the old comics. Luke was known as a ‘hero for hire.’ He used his abilities as a way to earn a living, which in the real world makes some sense, but what other superhero does this? The mercenaries are usually the bad guys. The good guys are heroes for the sake of justice. Knowles states,

Luke’s identity as a self-proclaimed ‘hero for hire’ sets him up in opposition to white superheroes, whose racial privilege enables the narrative of ‘superhero-ness’ to be about altruism. As a result, others look down on Luke’s attitude–most obviously Dr Noah Burstein [the scientist who gave Luke his power]: “I’ve heard how you’ve helped neighborhood merchants against Syndicate protection men. For a fee / Bit disillusioning from a so-called hero, isn’t it?”

Luke Cage and the Evolution of the Superhero Narrative

The Netflix story explicitly drops this idea early on. In the beginning, Luke doesn’t want to get involved at all. His father figure, ‘Pop’ Hunter, urges him to use his gifts to help others and later suggests he hire himself out, but Luke refuses. Though he struggles with whether his efforts to help amount to kicking the criminal hornets’ nest, he continues to help those he can because it’s the right thing to do. He loves the people of Harlem.  Continue reading Bulletproof Luke Cage in 2016

The Cross in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came to a close this month on an interesting Christological note. I’ve been a fan of the show since the beginning and never had the complaints I read from others that it was too slow, didn’t have enough super powers, and whatever else. It’s a good show, and it didn’t get canceled like Agent Carter did (which is another good show, great show even, and it stinks that it’s cancelled.) The most recent season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses on a vision one of the agents has of someone’s death, and central to that vision is a cross pendant.

I doubt I can keep from spoilers.

The season opens with the vision. A ship in space, the arc of the earth through the cockpit windshield, the cross pendant and necklace suspended in air, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on a sleeve. No face or identifiers of who, if anyone, might be in that aircraft. We learn after a few shows that an Inhuman (a substitutionary word for “mutant” with its own extraterrestrial history) has the ability to foresee details of a death when he touches someone. This ability brings him into contact with Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet), the Inhuman agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is working on putting together an Inhuman tactical team, and when they touch each other, they see the vision of the cross on a ship in space.

“I’ve seen the future,” she tells her team, “and one of us is going to die.”  Continue reading The Cross in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Could Skywalker be an Avenger?

Marvel’s creator Stan Lee says the people behind the Marvel cinematic universe want to make successful movies. If that means they think an ultimate fan-fic mashup like Star Wars and Avengers together will make a great movie, well . . .

“I created the Avengers by taking many of our characters and making a team out of them,” Lee tells The Big Issue. “We can have as many characters join the Avengers as we want to for future movies. That might be fun, all of a sudden Luke Skywalker is an Avenger!”

Heh. I mean, if we’re talking  fan fiction here, why not something like this?

And in news that’s not even remotely possible to be related, superhero sit-coms are coming.

Which of Marvel’s Avengers Is the Best?

Here’s a good example of this blog’s need for a politics category. Here’s a post ranking all the Avengers according to their value to the team. For example, The Wasp comes in at #3. “If Captain America epitomizes the Avengers, Janet Van Dyne is still its heart and soul. She was a founding member, has led the team through some of its most difficult moments, and has the unequivocal respect of gods, robots, and the most powerful beings in the cosmos. Marvel actually put it best when it said if the Avengers were asked to rank themselves, The Wasp would likely be #1.”

The Incredible Hulk, More Werewolf than Hero

I wish I could say I thought of this myself, and maybe I did (along with you), but I never articulated it, so I can’t take credit even on my own blog.

The typical scenario Dr. Bruce Banner finds himself in, at least on film, is being the victim of gang abuse. Wrong place, wrong time or maybe he chose to stand up to someone who responded with a gaggle of thugs. They beat on him or kick him down an elevator shaft, and he hulks out.

That’s the rage-monster-as-hero idea, but Banner/Hulk is more complicated than that, as these guys point out in the middle of a long list of interesting details on Marvel’s The Avengers. If you’ve seen the movie, note #13-14. Joss Whedon sees the big guy as the beast Banner is trying to contain.

I saw a wag, making cracks about this movie, laugh at how convenient it is that Banner can control his power just when the story calls for it, but he’s missing the point. Whedon’s Hulk isn’t one who can’t be summoned; he’s one who can only barely be contained. In this movie, Banner knew he was holding a very dangerous hair trigger. He isn’t telling us, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” He’s telling us, “Let’s keep things under control, because when I get pushed over the edge, very bad things can happen.”

Epic stuff

I just had to share this video. It’s something a few of us have been searching for for some time. The theme song from the old 1950s/60s TV series, Tales of The Vikings.

A cheesy series? From all I can remember, yes (note the comment that says only three episodes may still exist. So we may never know for sure).

But let it be set down for the historical record—if anyone wonders what it was that first sparked author Lars Walker’s interest in Vikings, it was this series. I actually only caught it in re-runs, but it caught me good and hard in return. I realized, in a blaze of enlightenment, that nothing in this world was so cool and romantic as Vikings, and that Vikings were my birthright.

While we’re on the subject of rousing entertainment, I finally made it to the theater to see The Avengers this weekend. My reaction: Holy moly.

I didn’t love it as much as, say, The Lord of the Rings movies. But I don’t think I’ve ever had such a pure entertainment experience in a theater. It was way, way longer than I think any movie should be, but I didn’t care. I hit the light button on my watch at one point, and realized I’d been in my seat for a full two hours. I couldn’t believe it had been that long.

Highly recommended.

It occurs to me that the whole comic book thing, and the ancillary stuff (like movies; comic books don’t actually sell that big anymore) is almost a form of myth. Having cut ourselves loose from our cultural tethers, we’re reverting to simpler, more elemental kinds of literature. Instead of epic poems, we have epic movies.

This is not a good thing.

Unless I get a movie deal for my books, of course.

There Is No God, But… Cool!

M. Leary has an interesting article (probably more interesting if you have already seen the movie, which I have not) on the few references to gods and deity in Marvel’s The Avengers.

Not one to sit on his duff when justice can be served, Captain America begins preparing to do his thing. “Wait,” Black Widow says. “You might wanna sit this one out, Cap. These guys are basically gods.” To which, the Captain replies, “There’s only one God, ma’am. And I don’t think he dresses like that.” And out of the plane Captain leaps, his fall to earth surely cushioned by his ideological purity.

Leary makes the valid point that whenever you pull God into the conversation, you can’t just side-step him. Somehow, a simple reference draws in a world of meaning.

What Our Superheroes Say About Us

Steven Greydanus discusses this summer’s superhero movies.

Perhaps Captain America offers the best depiction of what makes for a good hero: being a good person in the first place. … Like others of his generation, Steve’s character was tempered in the forge of the Great Depression as well as the shadow of world war. Next year’s Avengers movie will throw this Greatest Generation warrior into the mix with the Tony Stark generation. What will that show us about ourselves and the world we live in? I’m almost afraid to find out.

Movie review: Thor

I think it’s generally agreed that I’m the conservative blogsphere’s go-to guy for all matters Norse, so I felt a sort of civic duty to see the movie Thor this weekend, and to let you know what I thought of it.

Briefly put, it’s pretty good. Considered on its own terms, as a fantasy/comic book/special effects actioner, it succeeds extremely well. It doesn’t scale the heights of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, but I’d rank it somewhere near the top. Kenneth Branagh’s direction elevates the script (not a bad one at all), and the cast is uniformly excellent. Chris Hemsworth, in the title role, will doubtless break many female hearts, and he ought to become a big star if there’s any justice in Midgard.

Thor is the son and heir of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the high god of Asgard. Asgard, in this version (more or less based on the Marvel comic books) is explained in S.M.D. (Standard Movie Doubletalk) as one of nine dimensions, or alternate universes, or something. The “gods” are able to travel to the other “worlds” by means of the bridge of Bifrost, explained as a sort of organized wormhole (Bifrost, the rainbow in Norse mythology, is pronounced “Bye-frost” in the movie, although the proper pronunciation is “beef-roast”). Long ago the gods prevented their great enemies, the Jotuns or Frost Giants (who in the movie do not resemble in any way the big, bearded oafs of the myths), from conquering Midgard (Earth). Because of their memories of this war, humans came to regard them as divine beings.

As the story begins, Thor is about to be officially named Odin’s heir in a great ceremony in Asgard. In the midst of this, Jotun spies make an incursion into Asgard. Thor, enraged, leads a punitive expedition into Jotunheim, killing a number of the frost giants. Odin, who loves peace, appears to rescue Thor and his friends when they’re about to be overwhelmed by numbers. He berates Thor for his impetuousness and banishes him to earth (he lands in New Mexico), also sending his mighty weapon, the hammer Mjolnir, down with him. Continue reading Movie review: Thor

Upcoming: The weekend, and a Thor movie

I approach another weekend with some anticipation. I suppose I’ve gotten spoiled, but the last three weekends have all held good surprises for me. Three weeks ago I did the radio show with Mitch Berg and James Lileks. Two weekends ago my car broke down, which wasn’t pleasant in itself, but it allowed me to spend a blessed time with my former boss, and to get (on top of the unwelcome work) my car’s four-wheel drive fixed at a very reasonable price, so that I’ll be ready for the next snowstorm (which is surely coming). And last weekend I got ushered into the wonderful world of the Amazon Kindle.

God may well have decided I’ve had enough treats for a while. But there’s no harm in hoping.

Transposing my thoughts to lower case gods, here’s the trailer for the upcoming Thor movie:

Now I’ll admit it looks kind of cool. I may even go to see it.

But I’m an amateur Viking scholar, so I can’t help but be bugged by some things. The particular thing that troubles me most is the image of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) talking seriously about peace.

That’s no Odin I’ve ever met in the sagas. Continue reading Upcoming: The weekend, and a Thor movie