Posts Tagged ‘superman’

Marvel’s The Avengers Review

I went to see this highly anticipated summer blockbuster movie on opening weekend with incredibly high expectations. I’m no comic book geek, but I’ve always favored the cast of Marvel characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk) over the DC brand (Batman, Aquaman and Superman). To prequel this movie, Marvel made numerous others as a lead-in over a period of a few years. They all led into The Avengers and usually, when something is this hyped and anticipated, disappointment is inevitable. Believe me, this movie actually exceeded expectations and was in no way, shape or form a let-down.

The movie opens with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), head of S.H.I.E.L.D. arriving at a secret facility that houses the Tesseract, the mysterious energy source last seen being lost at sea in “Captain America, the First Avenger”. The facility is in full evacuation mode as the Tesseract has somehow activated itself and is causing some serious concerns on-site. As it happens, demigod Loki (Tom Hiddelston in an amazing performance) opens a space portal and enters the facility, kills a shitload of people, steals the Tesseract and uses his awesomely badass scepter to put Agent Clint Barton a.k.a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and top scientist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) under a mind-control spell. They make a dramatic escape and leave the facility in ruins, with Fury desperate to recover the Tesseract and righteously uber-pissed.

The super-secret and defunct Avengers Initiative is dusted off and re-instated. Black Widow (the deliciously black leather-clad Scarlett Johansson) is contacted first and extracts herself from a situation that is right out of a James Bond scenario. It’s badass as all hell and very intense. It’s also a preview of the next two hours’ worth of intensity. She is sent to Calcutta to enlist the in-hiding Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk (played with incredibly under-stated sarcasm and intelligence by Mark Ruffalo). Banner has not had a Hulking-out incident in over a year and seems to be able to control himself. Don’t get used to the un-Hulked Banner because he’s got some serious face time coming.

Genius billionaire playboy Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr in a tour-de-force performance) and his lady squeeze Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are in Stark Tower, located in lovely downtown Manhattan, quibbling good-naturedly like a couple of kids and are interrupted by Agent Phil Coulson who fills them in on the situation and gives Stark Selvig’s research in hopes of getting him to join up. Stark rebuffs the advance as he was initially rejected for the Avengers Initiative as his psychological profile doesn’t fit the mold. Stark realizes the seriousness of the situation and quickly agrees to help out with a push from Potts. What kind of Avengers initiative would it be without Iron Man anyway?

Fury himself recruits Captain America (Chris Evans) for the team. Cap is at loose ends after being thawed out after 70 years of being frozen in the Arctic or wherever it was. Bottom line on that….it was fucking cold. Anyway, Cap is still adjusting to life in the present and is an outsider for the most part, looking for his niche in today’s world. He quickly agrees to join The Avengers as he’s a true patriot. Captain America has always been my favorite superhero and Evans plays him exactly like I envisioned. He’s who I want to be when I grow up.

Loki has a plan to rule the Earth and needs the Tesseract to aid his cause. The Other, a super badguy from another race in outer space (hey, that rhymes!!) promises Loki an army of space assholes called the Chitauri to help him conquer the human race in exchange for the Tesseract. Talk about a dick move. Can’t do his own dirty work so he enlists a batshit crazy demigod to do it for him.

Loki is located by some sweet facial recognition software in Stuttgart, Germany by S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s simply there to cause a distraction so Barton can steal iridium, which is needed to stabilize the Tesseract’s powers. Quickly captured by Cap, Iron Man and Black Widow, Loki is abducted by his half-brother Thor (the side of beef named Chris Hemsworth). Thor attempts to figure out Loki’s plan and is quickly engaged in battle by both Cap and Iron Man. As they beat the ever-loving shit out of each other and lay waste to what was probably a protected forest area, they settle down after the testosterone levels go down and take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s awesome flying aircraft carrier and imprison him in a cage-thing made to hold the Hulk.

As The Avengers bicker and talk shit to each other for a while (the interplay amongst The Avengers is often hilarious), they realize the Tesseract was being used as the basis for some superweapons by S.H.I.E.L.D. (I’m getting sick of typing that) and they disagree about what to do about their situation. As this is going on, the still-controlled Hawkeye and others controlled by Loki invade the carrier and blow up a big part of it, and manage to piss Banner off enough that he Hulks out and rips apart even more of the ship. Then a bunch of fun shit happens….Loki escapes but tricks Thor into the prison cell and ejects it from the ship in hopes of killing him, Hulk falls out of the ship and crashes to Earth, Black Widow knocks Hawkeye out and breaks the mind-control mastery, and Iron Man and Cap realize that Loki has a grander plan in mind.

Loki’s plan is to use the Tesseract in a device that Selvig has built on top of Stark Tower to open a giant portal in the sky (protected by the energy from the Tesseract) and unleash that army of space assholes to begin the conquering of Earth. As the Chitauri flow in, (some foot soldiers, some riding alien sleds with sweet laser weapons and these bigass monster-things that fly/glide like nothing you can believe encased in armor) the Avengers reassemble in Manhattan to engage in an epic battle for supremacy of both Earth and who can make the biggest swath of destruction while battling the invasion. I gotta think Hulk won that honor. For the record, this is where the Hulk absolutely STEALS the movie with two laugh-out-loud scenes. The Hulk subdues Loki in one of them. If I had a DVR button at the movie, I would have rewound that scene 5 or 6 times. It was that great.

As the battle rages, the jerkoffs who run S.H.I.E.L.D. ignore Fury’s confidence in The Avengers to win the battle (they have figured out a way to close the portal using Loki’s phallic scepter) and unleash a fighter jet who blasts a nuke at Manhattan to end the battle their way. This was even a bigger dick move than when The Other got Loki to grab the Tesseract for him. At least The Other is just a space alien asshole….these are humans who have to live on Earth. Iron Man leaves the battle to intercept the nuke and using the last bit of his suit’s energy, guides it through the portal where it explodes all over the alien mothership and renders the invading aliens as useless as mint-flavored suppositories. The depleted Iron Man falls back through the portal, plummeting to a certain future as scrap metal, but is saved by the Hulk. Finally, all is well. Well, except for Manhattan, what with all the dead aliens of various sizes littering the streets and the damage to all the buildings that are going to keep building contractors in NYC busy for decades. Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard for Loki to be held accountable for his actions. Sucks for him.

The Avengers go their separate ways. Opinion is divided amongst the people of Earth as to the good The Avengers have done. The clueless jerkoff faction whine and bitch about the damage done in saving their worthless asses from being ruled by an Asgardian demigod who has a real attitude problem. Some gratitude. The other faction revel in the success of The Avengers and feel safe that they are protected by them from the inevitable problems on the horizon. These people have a damned clue about what happened.

There are two post-credit scenes to stick around for as well. These are a staple of Marvel movies these days and are worth the wait. Besides, the lines for the bathrooms thin out a bit if you wait for the lights to come up. At around 2 hours and 20 minutes, you’ll need to take a whiz when it’s done, believe me, especially if you down a 32 oz Dt. Mt. Dew on the way to see it.

Four stars aren’t enough for this flick. I give it eleventy billion stars and a cherry on top. I’m going to see it again and quite possibly will squeeze in a 3-D viewing as well. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a movie this much. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the superhero genre, the performances and computer-generated stuff (THE HULK!!) are worth the price of admission. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Recently I read an article by Ken Parille at The Comics Journal that took a critical look at the design of male vs female costumes in the collective Marvel and DC universe. In short instead of focusing on the objectified female characters and their scanty costumes it focuses rather on the abstract, often grotesque figures of the male characters and how their costumes serve to cover them. There are a number of points in this piece that I disagree with but the overall concept is one definitely worth considering and sent my imagination spinning.

The pretentious artistic explanation behind this is that the easiest and clearest way to expose the absurdity of any widely accepted cultural norm or other social construct is to show its opposite. The more accurate and honest explanation is that while reading the article, though thoughtful and serious it is, the first silly thought that came to mind while reading it was seeing male superheros wearing one of their female counterparts costumes.

All fanboys please direct your hate mail here: matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

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Remember that pinnacle moment in Mad Men where Don Draper takes out a full page ad to bid good riddance to Lucky Strike in an effort to save face in the public eye? This is going to come off a bit like that, but every word is true in the case of disgruntled Orlando Magic Center Dwight Howard: we don’t need you in a Bulls uniform to win a championship. This year. What we need is a healthy Derrick Rose leading the stampede and keeping the other eleven guys involved as he’s gotten us accustomed to seeing. He is a once-in-a-generation leader, a scoring point guard with jump-out-of-the-gym hops who still distributes the ball evenly and efficiently, keeping the guys involved and ultimately creating an on-floor chemistry that leaks into the locker room and permeates their personal lives. These guys are in it to win it. Together. And Derrick is our leader, our most valuable, our hometown hero.

So, why has the topic of trading for the best center in the league become more than just hypothetical hyperbole? Why would we want a player so arrogantly naive he thinks he’s allowed to make lists of teams he’d like to play for? I was happy to see that we were not on his list of potential suitors. We don’t need him. Seriously. No you guys, I’m serious.

In Bill Simmons’ seminal The Book of Basketball, Isiah Thomas reveals that the most important element of winning in basketball is that “it’s not about basketball.” Sounds ridiculous, right? I mean, of course it’s about basketball. The most talented roster wins, right? The team with the best players will win the most championships, right? Wrong. I suppose if that were true, even though his Heat trumped team defense with superstar prowess last summer, LeBron would have at least ring by now, wouldn’t he? The point Chicago’s own Zeke (and Rick Barry of all people, among others) goes on to make through his stories in The Book of Basketball is that championships are won by teams with the best…wait for it…team chemistry. The San Antonio dynasty that is somehow still intact 13 years after their first championship run together thrives on this very principle: high character guys sacrificing their ego for the sake of winning. Because, despite what you’ve heard, let’s face it:  winning is everything.

High character winners are exactly what the Bulls brass has assembled mostly through the draft but also key free agent acquisitions from Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz. MVP Derrick Rose won multiple state championships at Simeon and played in the NCAA Championship in his lone season at Memphis. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng played under legendary (and Chicagoan) Coach K at Duke. Joakim Noah won unheard-of-nowadays-back-to-back ‘chips at Florida. Rip Hamilton won it all at UConn and got a ring in Detroit. What did Dwight Howard accomplish in college? Oh wait, that’s right…

The point I’m getting at and one that all Bulls fans should embrace is that we don’t need Dwight Howard or any other big name malcontent coming to town and screwing up the fragile chemistry that has powered us to the best record in all of basketball land in this shortened season. We have all the pieces in place to win–now.

Dwight Howard will never be an NBA Champion. We’ve built something the old fashioned way here, and he thinks he’s Superman. Hey Dwight: Shaquille O’Neal already took that nickname! And copycat bullshit is something we don’t, and will never, welcome here in Chicago.

It’s not just about basketball. It never is. It’s bigger than that. Bigger than Superman.