Tag: Iron Man

Far From Home is far above its competition [Heavy Spoilers!]

Far From Home is far above its competition [Heavy Spoilers!]

I have great things to say about Spider-Man: Far From Home; Marvel’s first Cinematic Universe film following the bombastic conclusion to their Infinity Stone saga.

When the first teaser trailer came out, I was skeptical. It dropped before Endgame and felt like the worst example of draining tension out of character deaths.

Then the trailer after Endgame made me confident by suggesting the movie would address repercussions of Tony Stark’s death.

Far From Home is steeped in Tony Stark, using the grief Spider-Man feels literally seeing his face in memorials everywhere to bridge us into the future. I was worried about the studio’s ability to hold my interest following its magnum opus, but that won’t be a problem if all upcoming MCU films are as fun and smart as this.

Unlike most of the MCU films I review, the stuff I love about Far From Home leans heavily into spoilers, so I’m going to hide specifics under a read more.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, just know I highly recommend it.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

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We’re through the Endgame

We’re through the Endgame

For days, all I’ve heard about Avengers: Endgame is that it is perfect. There was not a single bad thing said about the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

That couldn’t be true.

This movie is three-hours long. It simultaneously culminates two-dozen films, sequelizes a massive blockbuster and ends stories for characters we’ve known over 10 years.

There was no way it could balance that and still come out perfect — even if everyone seemed to agree otherwise.

Without spoiling me, by the way. Thanks y’all!

But I had an open mind. The family watched Infinity War last night, then Dad and I did a deep dive into the One Marvelous Scene series on YouTube to prepare.

I even wore my finest Marvel socks for the occasion:

Three hours later, we left the theatre. Then came chores. Almost three more hours later, I sat down to write.

I still don’t understand how it was actually perfect. Better than I was led to believe.

Because this movie isn’t just a beautiful, all-encompassing endpoint for a decade-long story. It also makes every other MCU movie feel more important in hindsight.

I mean every movie.

I don’t care about Thor: The Dark World. But this movie genuinely made me care about it.

Endgame even improved characters.

Pepper Potts never really did it for me, in part because I hate Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop pseudoscience.

But the way she plays into Tony Stark’s arc made me care about Pepper Potts beyond her cute version in the Nickelodeon cartoon.

In fact, the arcs given to each of the original six Avengers are about as fitting as I could ever hope to create (without spoiling them — yet).

Granted there is one thing about the movie I’m not a huge fan of in concept. Like Infinity War, Endgame starts with no context and uses the assumed familiarity of long-time fans to set up obviously telegraphed emotional ploys. Both dramatic and comedic.

The opening scene is Hawkeye spending time with his family on house arrest, paralleling Ant Man & The Wasp. I cringed in anticipation, as they make it obvious we’re about to watch the snap’s effect on this previously-unseen Avenger.

But the scene’s obvious dramatic intent didn’t make it less effective.

The moment is escalated by becoming Clint’s jarring driving force for the story, and informing his growing connection to Black Widow.

There are a dozen scenes in the movie that I could take a similar fine-toothed comb to because they’re blatant emotional ploys. But they’re effective and well-deserved story beats for MCU fans, as obvious as they are.

There are also references to jokes and cameos from other Marvel movies that are obvious callbacks, but emphasize the fleshed-out relationships between characters as far-flung as Thor and Rocket Raccoon, or Captain America and Spider-Man.

Hell, even things like “girl power” scenes that have gotten the studio crap from brainless fans in the past have seemingly been cranked up just to rub it in people’s faces.

But even this moment, which may have gotten an eye-roll out of me in a less well-crafted film, was arguably one of my favorite scenes. Because it emphasized how the MCU has developed some fantastic characters, who all got time to shine in the…

Big CGI Fight Scene™ between two armies. A scene that actually epitomized my feelings toward Endgame.

Again, in literally any other movie I would feel numb watching a mindless clash between mostly faceless mobs that includes moments of character fan service and callbacks.

But Marvel has elevated that mindless action to such a high degree for their decade-long viewers that it creates transcendent filmmaking.

In his One Marvelous Scene video, Nando v. Movies read a quote from this A.V. club article that perfectly captures my thoughts on how the MCU reverses action movie conventions. It’s worth a read.

When that army battle ended, my heart was racing so hard that I got worried.

Then five seconds later, the movie left me crying at three different scenes that wrapped up multiple stories supremely well.

All in a movie where I laughed out loud, and got to appreciate unexpectedly beautiful character dynamics like Iron Man and Nebula.

But on top of all that, this movie genuinely made me excited for a post-Endgame Marvel.

I thought once the core six were gone, I’d feel more apathetic because characters like Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel or Black Panther strike me as better ensemble heroes.

But torches were passed. And certain movies staring certain characters with certain plots sound amazing as a result.

There isn’t much I can do from here besides gush and spoil things.

So I’m going to do that. In the meantime, go watch Avengers: Endgame.

Believe the hype. This movie is, truly, a Marvel to behold.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

Continue reading “We’re through the Endgame”

Captain Marvel is an excellent, if flawed, lynchpin for the MCU

Captain Marvel is an excellent, if flawed, lynchpin for the MCU

So, guess who just saw Captain Marvel? The movie which Meninism Magazine voted worst blight on masculinity since Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.

I kid. Any relation to real-life absurdist magazines or misogynistic straw polls is purely coincidental.

It’s just hilarious to me how reactionary the hate for this movie has been leading up to its release.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not here to make political statements.

I’m here to review a Marvel movie.

As a general disclaimer, I wasn’t excited for Captain Marvel like I was for Infinity War.

Not because of the aforementioned testosterone backlash — though I’ll admit some of the film’s advertising seemed a little too determined to prod that tiger.

I just happen to know next to nothing about Carol Danvers, so it was going to take a lot to convince me she is the Avenger’s one true hope.

Luckily, the experience was more fun than I expected and proved the heroine’s place in this narrative.

Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as “Vers,” an amnesiac member of the Kree Empire’s armada of intergalactic warrior-heroes locked in conflict with a shapeshifting race of alien terrorists called the Skrull.

Vers has visions of a human life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, and winds up on Earth before her untrustworthy narrative is resolved.

There she must sort out her fractured past, flush out the invading alien threat and have buddy cop adventures with Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury — over ten years before he starts the Avenger’s Initiative in 2008’s Iron Man.

The movie starts strong by putting the clichéd complexities of an “amnesiac protagonist” on the back burner for an in media res emphasis of the living world in Marvel’s deep space, similar to Guardians of the Galaxy.

But when things got to Earth, I became concerned.

The burst of mid-90s nostalgia pandering — complete with a Blockbuster video and Stan Lee cameo rehearsing for his appearance in 1995’s Mallrats — is fun and gives Larson a quirky “fish out of water” bit reminiscent of Wonder Woman.

I imagine it’s not uncommon to levy comparisons to DC’s female-led superhero film, but I think the better comparison is with Solo: A Star Wars Story.

My least favorite part of that origin story was the way it condensed every bit of information you know about the character’s past into the span of a week. It was blatantly referential rather than clever and story-driven, weakening Han Solo as a character.

When Captain Marvel introduces Nick Fury, dropping bits and pieces of recognizable information for MCU veterans to say,

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I was afraid the film would fall into the same trappings of timeline condensation.

However, it handles itself far more tactfully, and instead ties huge loose ends of a decade-long story into succinct bows. It’s, dare I say, a marvel how well Captain Marvel stands as the “inciting incident” for the rest of the MCU.

The final product is not my favorite Marvel film as an overall experience. But the wonderful cast helps solidify the movie’s place.

Jackson is a stellar second lead. His interactions with Larson, Carol’s best friend Maria (played by Lashana Lynch in a performance that stood out despite a late entrance) and the kitty Goose were solid cinematic glue.

I have to give extra props to the effects department for selling a de-aged Jackson so well over almost two hours.

The alien races’ full-makeup and costumes also worked, with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) each nailing their roles as Kree and Skrull commanders respectively.

Thanks to them, the “alien war” serving as Captain Marvel‘s crux was far more interesting than I expected based on YouTube think pieces setting up certain Avengers as confederates due to the Skrull’s infamy in comics.

The movie also benefitted from being smaller in scale than I expected.

Everything was very interpersonal, only briefly referencing “world threatening” stakes that most superhero movies rely on. As an added bonus, this made the effects more contained, befitting plot and action where needed.

But of course, there’s the lead. Brie Larson is charming and wonderful as the kick-ass, witty, and snarky hero who growls at aliens and doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone.

I had a few smaller gripes with her character, such as the only injury she ever suffered being a bloody nose (mostly to contribute to her mysterious past) and the forced reliance on amnesia tropes as a whole.

Though that’s more on the screenplay than her performance.

It’s also worth mentioning one of my Dad’s complaints with the film: She very quickly accepts a sudden shift in perspective on [Spoilers]. That, in turn, feeds my own issue that after the character development, her powers seemed incredibly vast considering their somewhat modest origins.

That said, an action set piece at the end of the movie makes great use of visuals to show her strength and definitely sold Captain Marvel as a powerful ally in the upcoming second fight against Thanos.

The film’s score also offered some distinct positives. It relied more heavily on variations of the main theme than a glut of pop songs (like Guardians), and there was a stand out moment where Western vibes took over the melody during a one-on-one confrontation in the desert.

So that, in a nutshell, is Captain Marvel.

A solid enough Marvel flick that perhaps falters most in its primary storyline’s reliance on amnesiac origin story clichés, but makes up for it with beyond excellent world building, special effects befitting a more personal adventure (that really only got wonky once or twice) and a top-notch cast.

All playing second fiddle to the cutest cat ever committed to film.

After Captain Marvel, I’m very ready for Endgame to hurry up and hit theaters, because if the mid-credit stinger was any indication, it should be a wild ride.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

The Umbrella Academy precipitates to the top

The Umbrella Academy precipitates to the top

I don’t talk about seasons of television very often when reviewing things. More self-contained projects like movies tend to be easier to watch and digest, in my experience.

But it has been a while since I’ve seen a binge-watchable show that hit me quite as hard as The Umbrella Academy.

So much so that I forewent writing anything last night to finishing the series. Then felt enough of a high that I went out of my way to Tweet Netflix directly after midnight:

Still haven’t gotten a reply, but hopeful nonetheless.

I can’t promise this will be an entirely spoiler-free review. I won’t give away grandiose plot details, but character arcs or smaller cliffhangers from individual episodes might slip through. I don’t have a lot of experience writing about binge-worthy television yet, so not sure if that’s standard procedure.

If you just want the brief review I gave to my old advisor Mitch Ziegler today after judging a write-off competition: Go watch the show.

It’s a quirky, interesting take on the superhero genre from Dark Horse Comics, which has a style more reminiscent of The Addams Family than Iron Man.

I was clambering for more as soon as it ended, which is about as big a compliment to the ten-episode Netflix original I can offer.

More spoiler-y, deeper thoughts ahead.

When you succeed in making Ellen Page the relatively “normal” girl in your ensemble, you know you’ve succeeded in creating a fascinatingly strange world.

The show (and comic, though there are some plot differences) creates a world where 43 children were miraculously conceived and birthed one day in 1989. Seven of whom were adopted by a man who combines superhero family patriarch of Professor Xavier from the X-Men and strange eccentricities of Count Olaf from the A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

It’s never really elaborated on whether the other 36 children have superpowers, but they really don’t matter.

The Umbrella Academy quickly veers away from the cliché serialized superhero gathering the premise almost preassumes to focus on those seven children once they’ve grown up. All in some way broken by their odd abilities and idiosyncrasies wrought by a calloused, distant father.

Every character becomes a great case study on their own, while also bouncing off one another well.

Except perhaps for Ben (Justin Min), who died prior to the series and comes into play as a foil for Klaus (Robert Sheehan), whose powers allow him to see and speak to the dead.

Klaus’ character is actually a fantastic generalization for the series.

During the first episode, I found him repugnant. To stave off the screams of the dead he’s haunted by, Klaus has become a near-useless junkie. Most of that episode features him bumming around the Academy half-naked, stealing their now-deceased father’s antiques to sell for drugs.

It’s an archetype which is played up to the point of nausea. A lot of the first episode is somewhat nauseating, with seven stereotypically quirky characters (the shamed Hollywood actress, the stoic leader, the hardened Nightwing-esque vigilante, etc.) being introduced alongside a whole host of plot points.

But as the show gets past that first bout of exposition, all the characters warm up.

Klaus, for instance, has a phenomenal scene with his brother Five (just “Number Five.” I promise it isn’t that weird) trying to get information out of a prosthetics lab. It plays the extreme bluntness of someone numb to the world in a very funny way.

Then Klaus goes through a harrowing experience which leads to him sobering up, and in the process he became my favorite character.

Or he would have, if Aidan Gallagher didn’t absolutely blow everyone else out of the water as Number Five.

Five can teleport to different points in space, and eventually learns how to teleport through time as well. In the process, he gets himself stuck in a desolate future.

When he returns to the past, the time travel reverts him back into a 13-year-old boy, just with all the experiences of a near 60-year-old man.

Gallagher brings a fantastic dry wit to the character, and his 50+ years of combat experience combined with teleportation makes every action scene with Five a visual marvel.

For someone who has only had roles on Nickelodeon sitcoms before, I was shocked by how hard he hit the ground running. Even while talking to a mannequin.

All of that said and I still haven’t touched on four of the siblings — one of which is portrayed by Ellen Page, who deservedly gets the lead credit as a straight man character who glues her wacky family together and has one of the better overall arcs.

Then there are the villains, Hazel and Cha-Cha (Cameron Britton and Mary Blige), who are at once intimidating antagonists and compelling, sympathetic characters.

While I adored The Umbrella Academy‘s characters, the show had a lot more to offer.

It’s an incredibly dark, surreal take on a superhero story. Think of the semi-dysfunctional but ultimately loving family dynamic of The Incredibles set in a My Chemical Romance music video — a sensible comparison.

The killer soundtrack is well-utilized, with songs ranging from Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to They Might Be Giants’ “Istanbul,” alongside The Sex Pistols, Radiohead and more. Plus some solid standalone tracks.

A lot of the visual effects also stand up quite well in a world glut with high-budget superhero stories. Most everything in the set design feels practical, and the display of powers — teleportation, conjuring ghosts, etc. — occurs infrequently enough to feel rich and well-produced.

Only in the last episode is there a traditionally high-octane effects show that is over-the-top, but fittingly so with how much it was built up.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else I could say about this show without my little review devolving into relentless gushing. If I had one substantial complaint, I would have liked to see more of the children flashback scenes. The older character studies are great, but a series featuring the cocky kids stopping crimes would be really fun.

Despite that, The Umbrella Academy is a very solidly acted, well-produced series with enough of a dark, cynical sensability to keep even the most exhausted of superhero media fans engaged.

I’ll just be here waiting for season 2 to come out. If you’ve heeded my advice, hopefully you’ll be right there too.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb.

A post-Stan Lee world

A post-Stan Lee world

I don’t know that I had anything planned to talk about today amid a storm of homework I’ve been putting off. But once I saw this news come through, I knew there was really only one thing I could do: Pay tribute.

Within the last hour or so, rumors began to trickle around Twitter that the great Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee had died today at 95 years old.

Having seen a few celebrity death hoaxes in the past, I didn’t want to succumb to the emotions that came with that statement at first.

But once I saw the Associated Press confirm it, I has to accept the truth.

Since then I’ve honestly been walking around seemingly like a shell of my former self. Hell, I haven’t felt inspired to write a tribute in death for a celebrity since Carrie Fisher passed away, so you know this one must have hit hard.

How do you quantify the life of a man that has affected culture so much? How do you live in a world that, in its innate cold-nature’s cruelty to our mortality, will just keep moving forward in time without him?

Obviously this isn’t a “surprise” beyond the fact that it’s happening somewhat unexpectedly right now. The internet has been talking about Stan Lee’s inevitable passing for years, lamenting the possibility of the older man disappearing now that he has become a ubiquitous part of our movie-going culture if nothing else.

In fact, take a look at any of the stories that have already come out about Lee’s passing and you can tell they’ve been written and on the back burner for a long time, ready to update once the day came.

Personally I really like the piece Variety put out. It captures a lot of the good and the bad of Stan Lee’s life in a degree far better than I could as an arguably fledgling comic book fan.

To be honest, that’s kind of the craziest thing about my feelings toward Stan Lee’s death right now. I’m not even a huge comic book fan — so I can’t imagine how terrible other people must feel.

While a much younger Jason had a vague appreciation for certain comic book animated shows like Teen Titans or Batman the Animated Series (both DC properties I know, but that’s beside the point), it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe boom began with 2008’s Iron Man that I started to steep myself in the world of comics.

Also, I guess you could count “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” from the mid-2000s as part of my early exposure to Stan Lee. But I feel like that old show is a topic for another day.

I’ve seen almost every movie put out by the studio since their cinematic universe project began (outside of, say, Iron Man and Thor 2). Having grown into my own as an aspiring writer alongside its release schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate the way they create such an extensively connected story, one that makes me more and more excited for each entry to see where it can go next.

Sure, I know the films are somewhat formulaic and arguably predictable for anyone who knows the comics… But like I said, I don’t really. Only since the movies have grown in popularity have I personally started to research different famous comic book arcs and find YouTube channels dedicated to comic book stuff so I can educate myself on the matter, like NerdSync or Nando v. Movies.

Both of whom have also become regular parts of my life through binging their podcasts on my long commutes to-and-from CSUF.

So the Marvel movies have really been my gateway into comics. And all of them have one unifying thread.

A creative giant who has a cameo in all of them.

From what I’ve read there are a few more Stan Lee cameos pre-recorded for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 at least, but they’ll certainly be more bittersweet than ever before.

Though not any more bittersweet than never seeing him cameo again after, even if Avengers 4 seems like as poetic an end point as they come.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. A man who will truly live in forever in his creations.

Excelsior.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.