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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Banner’

Thor and The Hulk are difficult characters within the Marvel universe. They are big brash characters that should be cinematic, and in some ways they are, but in others they are just a little dull and limited. The great success of Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 3 (2013) is that we see more of Tony Stark than of Iron Man. The biggest failure of Iron Man 2 (2010) is its reliance on Iron Man and not Tony Stark. And that is possibly why The Hulk has never really worked in his own movie, the various filmmakers have never found a balance between Banner and The Hulk.Thor and The Hulk

When the first Thor film came out two years ago I wasn’t really interested. I have never read any Thor comic books and knew nothing of the character. I was also sceptical of how a fantasy character would fit into the Marvel universe as seen in Iron Man. I went to see it out of curiosity and to see what Kenneth Branagh was doing with a film so far from what you would expect for him. The result was a total surprise. It fulfilled every expectation for an action adventure movie, but I never expected it to be so funny and such good fun. Tom Hiddleston who I had never heard of at the time was brilliant. Natalie Portman is sensational in everything she does. Stellan Skarsgård was surprisingly funny. Kat Dennings isn’t the best actress in the world but she is always adorable and her character is always hilarious. All the same is true of Thor: The Dark World, it also gives Idris Elba and Rene Russo a little more to do. All things considered it isn’t as good as the first movie, but it is still great fun and ticks all the boxes you expect it to tick.Thor The Dark World

The Hulk had the most memorable moment of The Avengers but until that point he had never really made his mark in movies. Despite its reputation, the Ang Lee movie from 2003 wasn’t bad. Eric Bana wasn’t a bad Bruce Banner. But it was just that, not bad, no better. The next movie, The Incredible Hulk (2008) was better and Edward Norton was actually really good. But the character never truly worked until The Avengers (2012). Mark Ruffalo is the perfect Bruce Banner, his banter with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark was brilliant, but more importantly the plot actually found a way to use The Hulk including the movies aforementioned best moment with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.The Hulk

The success of The Hulk in The Avengers is partly down to the time constraints of an ensemble movie, but Thor has hade it work Twice. As mentioned at the top, there is no getting away from the fact Thor is a limited character. In the first movie he was a fish out of water, in the avengers he was one of a collective, in the second Thor movie a lot of the plot is developed without Thor (Chris Hemsworth). This is a brave move, but one that pays of thanks to such a strong supporting cast. This is what The Hulk needs, if he is going to have his own movie again. That, however looks unlikely at the moment. While I am sure Marvel haven’t given up on the big green fella he doesn’t appear to be in Marvels plans at the moment beyond The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Other forthcoming Marvels movies are: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015) and possibly a Nick Fury movie after that. While I wouldn’t mind seing another Hulk movie I would be more interested in seeing move of Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS

Ultimately they are two characters that have a lot to offer but with limited cinematic appeal, one has been perfectly handled and scripted to overcome the limitations, the other that is yet to live up to its potential. As the first phase of The Avengers got under way, I don’t think anyone expected the immediate future of the franchise to be dominated by Iron Man/Tony Stark, but that is what happened. This is all down to great scripts and the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. In Mark Ruffalo, they have the perfect actor, if they are going to give the hulk another go they just need to find a great script.

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Anyone who has heard or read anything about the new Avengers movie will have come across comments about which characters can or can not be in the movie because of licensing agreements with other studios. For example Spider-Man is licensed to Columbia/Sony. With expiring deals, lawsuits and mergers there will come a time more characters become available. This has got me thinking about how much the Marvel universes should overlap.

There have probably been more Marvel based movies than you think in recent years. So far, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor have all had there own movies and have all featured together in The Avengers alongside Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Nick Fury who haven’t had their own movie but have made previous appearances in other movies. Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Elektra have appeared together as well as an ill advised (in other words crap) Elektra spin-off. There have been four X-Men movies and a Wolverine origin story. Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Blade, Frank Castle/The Punisher, and Ghost Rider have all appeared in their own movie(s).

The world in which Tony Stark/Iron Man exists appears to be just like our own, other than the advanced technology, mostly in vented by Stark.  A similar thing could be said of Bruce Banner, he and those around him (usually trying to capture him) are the only things out of the ordinary.  Thor on the other hand is pure fantasy, introducing Asgard and the nine realms.  Thor’s power is mystical and he is prevented from wielded it by an enchantment.  But even this has a real world setting.  As with Masters of the Universe (1987) the action takes place on earth, an earth who has no knowledge of other words.  Similar is true of Blade, although the world is full of vampires, most people are blissfully unaware of them.  Fantastic Four could have been an interesting movie, as we see ordinary people becoming supper heroes.  That only leaves X-Men, that develops across the movies where people become aware of mutants.  

Of the movies mentioned above, characters who have appeared in them who have been members (in comic books) of The Avengers in one form or another include: War Machine (from Iron Man 2), Spider Man, Wolverine, Storm, Venom (Spider Man 3 played by the brilliant Topher Grace), Victor Creed/Sabretooth and Daredevil. As well as Fantastic 4 members: Benjamin Jacob Grimm/Thing and Susan Richards (née Storm)/Invisible Woman, (I am led to believe the Avengers has included a Human Torch but this character was a different Human Torch and not Johnny Storm). Red Hulk (has not appeared in any of the movies to date but his alter ego General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross aka Betty Ross’ father appeared in Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) played by Sam Elliott and William Hurt respectively).

So this is how I see it: Blade doesn’t fit into The Avengers universe and vice versa, the same goes for Ghost Rider. As a regular human, Frank Castle/The Punisher could work in the Avengers universe but does the team need another angry loaner who doesn’t play well with others? Then you have the issue of who to play him. The two hulk movies and The Avengers have seen three different actors (Eric Bana, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo) as Bruce Banner, each has got progressively better. The opposite true of The Punisher, with Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson they have got progressively worse. Although Wolverine, Sabretooth and Storm have all been Avengers in the comic books, a world where mutants like the X-Men exist doesn’t really need The Avengers. The Fantastic Four could exist alongside The Avengers and as mentioned above, at least two of them have been members in the comic books, the problem? I have never read any Fantastic 4 comic books but have seen the two film versions, there are too lightweight, and not good enough to fit into The Avengers. That leaves two credible characters who could be future members: Daredevil and Spider-Man who is going through his own soon to be released reboot. Under the right circumstances either could work.

To add to the potential confusion there are a few actor crossovers: Jon Favreau (the director of the Iron Man movies) plays Tony Stark’s friend/chauffeur/bodyguard Happy Hogan in the iron man movies as well as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, Matt Murdock’s friend and legal partner. Chris Evans plays Johnny Storm / Human Torch in Fantastic Four and Steve Rogers / Captain America.

Realistically given the team dynamic a second Avengers movie probably couldn’t accept more than one or two extra members. Given who we have so far, the a second female member wouldn’t be a bad idea. This means dipping into an untapped character, the online version of Empire magazine ran a piece recently suggesting this. The characters and casting they suggested are: Wasp/Janet van Dyne (Stana Katic), Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers (Yvonne Strahovski), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maxim off (Marion Cotillard), Firestar/Angelica “Angel” Jones (Jessica Chastain), Mockingbird/Barbara “Bobbi” Morse (Greta Gerwig), Moondragon/Heather Douglas (Noomi Rapace), Tigra/Greer Grant Nelson (Michelle Rodriguez), She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters (Gina Carano), Squirrel Girl/Doreen Green (Ellen Page). I posted a similar thing just over two years ago, I also suggested Michelle Rodriguez as Tigra/Greer Grant as well as She-Hulk/Jennifer Susan Walters and Huntress/Mockingbird Barbara “Bobbi” Morse (not the same casting though,  I do love the idea of Gina Carano as She-Hulk).

In summary there is crossover potential, even beyond my suggestions providing they keep the X Men and Avengers universes apart. Having said all that, it’s a nice problem to have like a coach with more players than spaces on his team. Look at DC, Given the disastrous attempts to bring their super heroes (other than Batman) to the screen in recent years they certainly don’t have the same problem. And if they did can you see Superman in Christopher Nolan Bat-universe?

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Already the most talked about movie of the year so far, the one thing we don’t need is another review of The Avengers. Therefore I am going to try and avoid reviewing the movie other than to say I have seen it, and I loved it. So what follows are just a ramblings and thoughts on the franchise and where it is going. To begin with, lets get one thing straight, the new UK title Marvel Avengers Assemble is a bit of a mouthful and is frankly crap so from this moment on I will refer to the movie as The Avengers.

Making a movie of The Avengers must have seemed like a good idea, but how do you bring together a disparate group of characters in a coherent story? By starting with a series of movies involving the individual characters gives a strong base and also solves the problem of protracted introductions of multiple characters. The problem, it builds expectations of the fans and risks alienating the uninitiated. The greatest challenge is probably containing Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark / Iron Man who could run away with the whole movie, but there is even more to it than that. How do you use Bruce Banner and The Hulk within the team? To add to this problem Mark Ruffalo is the third Bruce Banner in less than a decade, do you introduce him again or go with an assumed back story? Then you have Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who have made fleeting appearances but have not had their own movies, they also seem to lack any supper abilities. Slotting the two fish out of water character, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) into the mix also has its challenges. If you can solve all these problems you then need a suitable villain. The X-Men movies accomplish this by using multiple villains to pair off against the heroes, this works for them but The Avengers are a very different group to The X-Men. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was a great choice, having already been introduced in Thor we already know his back story. He is also an interesting villain with a typically comic book agenda.

Where do you start a project like this? The director. It would have been easy to pick one of the successful directors of the earlier films: Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger), Kenneth Branagh (Thor), but the avengers needs to be its own movie not an Iron Man or Thor sequel. My interest certainly increased when Joss Whedon’s name was attached to the project. To put it simply, Whedon just gets it. Treating the group as a dysfunctional family whose personalities get in the way whenever they are put in a room together. This clash is what makes the movie funny, but it is also the basis that makes the team work as just that, a team. The key to the success is the relationships, as a group of individuals they are defined by the way they interact. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are like bickering siblings, but Iron Man and Captain America are a proficient team. The biggest beneficiary of the Whedon effect is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who is promoted from little more than eye candy in Iron Man 2. She is funny and sexy and is a surprisingly deep character. There has to be some mileage in giving Black Widow an origin movie of her own or possible one shared with Hawkeye. Given his background of ass kicking female characters (Buffy/River/Echo), Joss Whedon would be the perfect director to take it on.

One of the first things I noticed about the film was the unusually narrow aspect ratio (1.85:1), the fact that I completely forgot this within a few minutes suggests it wasn’t important and the chosen format worked. I have read that Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey chose the ratio to help frame the unusually tall characters like The Hulk along side normal and short characters. It has also been mentioned that Joss Whedon favoured this ratio of the more normal wider ratios with his climatic Manhattan, sequence in mind.

Given the least back-story I wondered where Clint Barton / Hawkeye would fit in to the story. He is actually really important to the plot and along with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow give the team and the movie a grounding. It all helps in the meteoric rise of Jeremy Renner, I had little idea who he was a few years ago, I vaguely remember him in 28 Weeks Later and S.W.A.T. and have no recollection of him in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His breakthrough performance came in The Hurt Locker where he received a much deserved Oscar nomination. Clearly Hollywood was just as impressed as I was, he has found his way into three big franchises. As well as Hawkeye in The Avengers he also landed a part in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol that is rumoured as a future replacement for Tom Cruise as the main star of the franchise. Later this year he will appear in The Bourne Legacy, possibly the first part of a new trilogy.

With a positive response from critics and a strong box-office this will not be the only time we see the Avengers assemble, but here dose the franchise go from here? Avengers 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Thor 2, The Hulk 3 (or rebooted)? Probably all of the above. As mentioned above I would also like to see a Black Widow and/or a Hawkeye prequel/origin. There is also space for a Nick Fury stand alone movie. Not to mention all the other Marvel Characters who could appear. The most obvious would be Spider-Man, this probably isn’t possible at them moment as Sony currently own the rights (along with Ghost Rider). A similar problem exists with Fox who hold: The X-Men, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four. This isn’t a bad thing as I am happy to see the Avengers and X-Men universes kept apart.

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