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Posts Tagged ‘Thor’

We lost Stan Lee this week at the age of 95.  Many people first became aware of him from his cameo’s in Marvel movies, but his impact on popular culture goes far beyond that:  For better or worse, make your own mind up; without Stan Lee we probably wouldn’t be seeing all the comic book movies that are dominating cinema screens.  Like many people I first became aware of him from the animated shows of the 1980’s.  These animated show were the start of a push to develop Marvel properties into other media.  Initial results were mixed at best but eventually led to what we now know as the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Stan Lee 1922 2018

But it all started before that, growing up Lee born (Stanley Martin Lieber) loved swashbuckling movies, and dreamt of becoming a novelist.  One of his earliest jobs as a writer came writing obituaries before at the age of 17 a family connection got him a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, the precursor Marvel Comics was at the time a new division of a pulp magazine.

Lee’s first job actually writing in a comic book came with the text fillers for Captain America Comics #3 in 1941.  This was the first time he used the pseudonym Stan Lee, which later became his legal name.  Before long he moved from fillers to writing the backup feature, “‘Headline’ Hunter, Foreign Correspondent”.

His early creations Jack Frost, Father Time, and Destroyer may not be household names now, but things were about to change.  At the age of just 19 Lee was made interim editor, a position that quickly became permanent, one that he remained in for just over thirty years before becoming Publisher.  After the war, were Lee served in first the Signal Corps, and then the Training Film Division, he formed a partnership with artist Jack Kirby, together they created a few characters you may have heard of: the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and the Fantastic Four. x men fantastic four thor iron man black panther hulk ant man

He also created Daredevil with Bill Everett. And with Steve Ditko with, Doctor Strange and his (and Marvel’s most successful character) Spider-Man. Doctor Strange Daredevil Spider-man

As significant as the characters they created, in 1963 gathered them together along with some older character, most notably Captain America to create the  Avengers, a rival to DC’s Justice League (originally Justice League of America). With various reboots, relaunches, spin-offs, alternate universes, and ever changing line-up, The Avengers have been a constant fixture within the comic book world.     The Avengers

In 1981 Lee moved from New York to California in 1981 to develop Marvel’s movie and TV, while the live action of these were forgettable at best, the cartoons introduced a whole new generation to Marvel.  They also provided the springboard of what was to come.  The success of Blade for New Line Cinema, X-Men with Fox Studio’s and Sony’s Spider-Man movies proved there was a market for quality comic book movies that snowballed into the MCU, and who knows where that will take us? Excelsior!

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The beginning of the end is near.  The next movie in the MCU, Avengers: Infinity War is less than a month away.  That will just leave Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel (a prequel to existing films rather than a continuation), and then an as yet untitled Avengers film, with it Phase Three will be over.  And with the end of Phase Three we will potentially see the end of some of the characters.  It has been reported that the following actors intend to hang-up their super hero costumes next year: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers aka Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark aka Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor). Chris Evans Robert Downey Jr Chris Hemsworth

This will leave just Tom Holland (Peter Parker aka Spider-Man), and Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa aka Black Panther) as the only remaining Avengers deemed significant enough to have their own films.  They will be joined by any surviving cast.  They can’t simply recast, this will be conspicuous at best, disastrous at worst.  There is another answer within the existing cast: Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier aka White Wolf), Don Cheadle (Lieutenant James Rhodes aka War Machine).Natalie Portman Sebastian Stan Don Cheadle

In the comic books on which the MCU is based, these characters have all taken on the part of other heroes: Bucky Barnes – Captain America, James Rhodes – Iron Man, Jane Foster – Thor. Bucky Barnes Captain America Don Cheadle Iron Man Jane Foster Thor

There have been many other incarnations of the comic books where existing characters have taken on the mantle of other heroes, they include Sam Wilson aka Falcon as Captain America and Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow as Thor. Sam Wilson Captain America and Natasha Romanoff Thor

You may remember the scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron when the Avengers take it in turns to try and lift Mjolnir, all except  Black Widow, should this tell us something?

Having said all this, they could just introduce some new characters! 

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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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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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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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2011 Films

All the films I saw at the cinema in 2011 ranked in order of preference:
  1. Hugo
  2. Drive
  3. The Guard
  4. Black Swan
  5. Senna
  6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  7. True Grit
  8. We Need to Talk About Kevin
  9. Midnight In Paris
  10. The Skin I live in
  11. The King’s Speech
  12. Moneyball
  13. Stake Land
  14. Kill List
  15. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  16. Another Earth
  17. Melancholia
  18. Warrior
  19. 127 Hours
  20. The Way
  21. Julia’s Eyes
  22. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
  23. Troll Hunter
  24. 50/50
  25. Source Code
  26. Submarine
  27. Super 8
  28. 13 Assassins
  29. A Lonely Place To Die
  30. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
  31. The Adjustment Bureau
  32. X-Men: First Class
  33. Thor
  34. Captain America: The First Avenger
  35. Limitless
  36. My Week With Marilyn
  37. The Inbetweeners Movie
  38. Take Shelter
  39. The Rum Diary
  40. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  41. The Ides Of March
  42. Real Steel
  43. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  44. Fair Game
  45. Never Let Me Go
  46. Blue Valentine
  47. Tree Of Life
  48. The Lincoln Lawyer
  49. The Help
  50. In Time
  51. The Awakening
  52. Sucker Punch
  53. Fast Five
  54. Hanna
  55. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
  56. Wuthering Heights
  57. Contagion
  58. The Fighter
  59. Paul
  60. Animal Kingdom
  61. NEDS
  62. Rabbit Hole
  63. One Day
  64. John Carpenter’s The Ward
  65. Drive Angry
  66. The Beaver
  67. Beginners
  68. Bridesmaids
  69. Red State
  70. Cowboys and Aliens
  71. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  72. The Conspirator
  73. The Art of Getting By
  74. I am Number Four
  75. Fright Night
  76. Henry’s Crime
  77. Blitz
  78. Priest
  79. Red Riding Hood
  80. Oranges and Sunshine
  81. Faster
  82. 1920 The Battle of Warsaw
  83. Win Win
  84. Colombiana
  85. Water for Elephants
  86. Immortals
  87. Battle: Los Angeles
  88. 30 Minutes or Less
  89. Hereafter
  90. Biutiful
  91. The Mechanic
  92. The Thing
  93. The Three Musketeers
  94. Anonymous
  95. Tomorrow, When The War Began
  96. The Debt
  97. Green Lantern
  98. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
  99. Footlose
  100. Justice
  101. Attack the Block
  102. Apollo 18
  103. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  104. Unkown
  105. Scream 4
  106. The Silent House
  107. The Eagle
  108. The Resident
  109. Season of the Witch
  110. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  111. The Hangover: Part II
  112. Sanctum

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