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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’

The release of The Dark Knight Rises has got me thinking about comic book movies. With that in mind I give you my five favourite comic book based movies released since I started blogging in February 2009.

The Dark Knight Rises: I’m still holding off on an actual review of this movie but here are a few thoughts: it is the best movie I have seen so far this year. I don’t think it is as good or as complete as The Dark Knight but it is a more than fitting conclusion to what is possibly the best trilogy of all time. The use of Bane and Catwoman (never actually referred to as catwoman) is perfectly handled and end is measured thoughtful and fitting.

Watchmen: Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel set in an alternate version of our reality on the verger of nuclear war circa 1985 has a unusual place in comic book movies. It was met with relatively positive reviews and word of mouth but very quickly had a backlash. The film looks amazing and is faithful to the comic book (except the end that achieves the same end with a tweak to the story) but more importantly, more than twenty years after the publication of its source novel it is still relevant. And like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy it deals with flawed and imperfect heroes and complicated villains.

The Avengers: Possibly jumping up the list as I had low expectations of this movie. I liked most of the movies leading up to The Avengers without loving any of them the way I love The Dark Knight. The big problem is how you bring the disparate group together in a movie with just the right blend of action and comedy. The biggest problem is how to utilise Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man (the funniest, most entertaining character and has the best movie behind him) without marginalising the other avengers. Not only has Joss Whedon done the seemingly impossible but he also made the two least significant characters (Black Widow and Hawkeye) the best.

Kick-Ass: What would happen if an ordinary everyday person decided to become a supper hero? Not billionaire Bruce Wayne, but an ordinary kid. Haven’t we seen this one before, it was called Watchmen and it failed to find the audience it deserved. Kick-Ass has a lot in common with Watchmen but is also very different from it, it is these contradictions that make it so good. It isn’t really a superhero movies and it isn’t a spoof of superhero movies either. It isn’t a comedy and but it is extremely funny at times. It is a coming of age drama, a satire on human nature and modern society and a violent bloody action movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: On the surface Scott Pilgrim is a similar movie to Kick-Ass but it is very different. Lighter in tone but with a very dark side. Less grounded in reality but more directly concerned with everyday issues. Depending on your point of view it is either the very cool and hip (except cool and hip probably aren’t cool or hip terns to use) or a flimsy, flashy over edited mess that is trying too hard. The casting is spot on and the action brilliantly choreographed, the script is cutting and funny but above all it is great fun.

The other comic book movies I have enjoyed in the last three and half years but didn’t quite make the list are: X-Men First Class, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Amazing Spider-Man. The worst comic book movies of the time are Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Jonah Hex.

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I have recently watched Adventureland and (500) Days of Summer for the first time since seeing them at the cinema in 2009. On first viewing I enjoyed both movies slightly favouring Adventureland, but how have they aged? Firstly for those who don’t know them here is a brief synopsis of each:

Adventureland: Following a change in their fanatical circumstances James Brennan’s (Jesse Eisenberg) parents are unable to help pay his rent whilst away at college and fund his long planned European vacation. Instead he is forced to take a summer job, to this end he finds himself working at a rundown theme park. The games are rubbish and the rides ancient but the place does have its charms most notably Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart).

(500) Days of Summer: Set over 500 days but dispensing with a linear narrative instead choosing to jump backwards and forwards to different parts of the relationship between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Through this we gradually build up a picture of who these people are as well as what happened to them.

The big problem with Adventureland on its initial release is that it was very poorly marketed. Directed by Greg Mottola of Superbad fame the trailer and marketing suggest it will be a similar type of film. What we actually get is a far more thoughtful and tender film, the characters have the emotional vulnerability and depth of real people that is lacking in post American Pie movies that would probably be more appropriately labelled teenploitation than teen comedy. An extremely well written movie, it could have been set in any time or place but actually wears its 1980’s setting a well avoiding the usual pitfalls of “period” films with their ironic dialogue and nostalgic nods to the age.

The tone of (500) Days of Summer is perfectly set by the Author’s Note that appears at the start of the film: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely Coincidental …….. Especially you Jenny Beckman……… Bitch. We are reminded that it isn’t a love story, a claim that is not entirely true, but it certainly isn’t a “rom-com” in the traditional sense. This is a good thing, a very good thing as is the skill with witch the none linear narrative is handled. The film also benefits from great dialogue.

Adventureland’s casting is perfect, Jesse Eisenberg’s James is the perfect blend of geek, hopeless romantic with just the tiniest glimmer of cool, think Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous or any one of a number of parts played by Michael Cera. The real star of the film is Kristen Stewart in her first post Twilight movie. The role of an emotionally damaged teenager isn’t a hugely demanding one but she is perfectly cast and shows ability far beyond what her detractors would have you believe she is capable of. Ryan Reynolds, provides good support and there is fantastic comic relief from Bill Hader and the always brilliant Kristen Wiig.

(500) Days of Summer is equally well cast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who at the time was best known to me as the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun) is excellent displaying great range and providing comic moments in his successes and his failures. Zooey Deschanel is only partly successful, she only seems able to play slight variations on the same slightly kooky character but that does work in this film but does nothing to enhance my opinion of her as a actress.

The second viewing has done nothing to change my opinion, I like both of these films but if anything my preference for Adventureland has increased slightly. If you haven’t seen these two movies they are well worth a look. If you have seen them and like them, here are five recommendations: Dazed and Confused (1993), Almost Famous (2000), Cashback (2006), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).

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