2015 Summer Reviews- Superhero Movies

I haven’t had the time to write full reviews of summer movies like I have wanted to. In fact I’ve had to drop some reviews because I got so behind in the fast paced (well weekly) releases of the new next big movie. With that said the following is a special edition of Random Reviews covering what I have missed. I hope to have more in the upcoming weeks as I catch up on movies.

Avengers: The Age of Ultron
When Tony Stark jumpstarts a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as they battle to save the planet from destruction at the hands of the villainous Ultron.

Age of Ultron isn’t as good as the original Avengers movie. I’ve been trying to figure out a more professional way to say it but it just isn’t. Would it ever be though? 2012’s The Avengers is as close as you can get to perfect when it comes to being a mainstream superhero movie that it’s impossible to match. Despite this pretty damning introduction how did the movie actually turn out?

Well it’s certainly more flawed than the first one, most noticeably when it comes to the action. While there are some stand out action scenes (Hulk vs Iron Man comes to mind) I can’t say any of them blew me away like the Battle of New York. Maybe it’s a case of seeing this already but there was no big “They’re all a team and it’s amazing” moment. The bigger issue, at least to me, is how overly bloated the whole thing is. Whedon has made it known how difficult the production was but that doesn’t change things. Plot lines like geneticist Helen Cho appear and disappear until needed for a scene in the end or Thor getting a vision of the future. While seeing Idris Elba is great and all what does it actually add to the film? Things like this feel a bit sloppy creatively.

Which is a shame because there is quite a bit to like. Most obvious, at least to me, is the pacing of the movie. Unlike the last movie Age of Ultorn moved at a good pace without feeling rushed. This is helped by James Spader’s portrayal as Ultron. Just being creepy ass James Spader he makes for a fun supervillain. We also get more background on the non-main heroes which I dug. While fairly dull seeing Hawkeye as just a dude with a family he wants to protect was oddly endearing to me. Like finally a superhero that has their life together. And with Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks no less. Then there’s Black Widow’s background. Yes she deserves more than just “Hulk’s love interest” and yes equating being sterilized to being a monster was kind of f**ked and a misfire. The overall background though? I dig it. Using the Red Room stuff from Agent Carter not only unifies the universe but makes for a good backstory in general. Now if only they could get on a true Hawkeye or Black Widow movie.

Remember 2010’s Iron Man 2? After the massive success of it’s 2008 predecessor Iron Man 2 had the unenviable task of being as goodas the first movie. While the movie wasn’t as good as the first it was used more to set the table for future movies and have some fun fight scenes. It was a connecting point to further the Marvel Cinematic Universe more than anything else. That’s what Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to be. Is it is a good as the original? No. But I do think it was made for an above average tentpole movie to open up the summer. As a movie to open up new doors and setting the pace for future releases I think it more than succeeded.

Rating- B

Fantastic Four
FANTASTIC FOUR, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centers on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. (C) Fox

From day one I have thought this movie would be bad and I wasn’t alone. Perhaps it was the talk of reshoots late in the game. Maybe the stories of director Josh Trank being difficult to work with. Could just be that the trailer, while better than expected, wasn’t exactly the most action packed. Well the film has come and gone and, no surprise, it wasn’t good. With a dismal 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and an epically bad opening weekend it is even being called The Room of superhero movies by the Washington Post. Was it really that bad though? Well, it was pretty bad.

For starters there’s how slowly the movie moves. Given we don’t need it to be Fast & Furious but for at least 40 minutes nothing of note happens. Oh plot points are made and characters are introduced but they feel thrown out there as opposed to being a part of the story. Instead the film seems to bank on the hope that the audience knows the source material and that will be enough to make the audience care. The other major fault is that the film feels so serious. Again the movie doesn’t have to be a laugh riot but we’re talking about a world where a guy becomes the Rock Biter from Neverending Story not Schindler’s List. The closest we get to levity is Johnny Storm (Michael B. Johnson) and that’s because it’s one of his 4 character traits (the others being cars, being rebellious and pissing of nerds). Everyone else is just kind of miserable and being really bad friends.

What keeps this from all time bad, at least for me, is the acting. At no point did I think any of the lead four were giving a bad performance. They had the chemistry of bricks but they are decent for the most part. Then there’s Victor von Doom/Dr. Doom. I know I’m in the minority but I dug the character. At least he was supposed to be a dick as opposed to everyone else who just are. He also shows off his powers which, well, I’m still not quite sure what they are but he makes explode and that was fun. Speaking of powers they are probably the best part of the movie. They are first introduced in this great scene that is pure Society-style body horror. This is weird, different, and most of all interesting. I just wish the rest of the movie could have this kind of intrigue.

Fantastic Four was bad. In fact, it was worse than the first two Fox made in the 2000’s. It was a joyless, boring affair with poor characters and very little action. That said, I can’t say it is the worst superhero I’ve ever seen. I didn’t feel like I was totally wasting my time like Elektra nor did they screw up the characters as badly as X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Fantastic Four was just a really bad movie that should have been way better given who was involved.

For the record, stretchy arms still looks pretty stupid.

Rating- D

antman poster
The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. — (C) Marvel

Like Fantastic Four Marvel’s Ant-Man had a similarly turbulant production. After director Edgar Wright left Marvel over creative differences (after 6 years of work no less) I was hesitant about the movie. Sure the trailer was fun but between considering how much of an afterthought this movie felt and the behind the scene changes (mainly Peyton Reed as the director) I was a bit worried.

Luckily things turned out for the best. The biggest difference this and Fantastic Four is that it had a sense of fun to it. Instead of going for a tired, gritty feel like FF they took a page from Guardians of the Galaxy and took a more light hearted approach. The film also benefits from being smaller in scope. For the most part Marvel films are about the world (and sometimes the entire universe) being in danger. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s a bit refreshing to have the threat be more an insane douchebag more than anything else. The fight scenes definitely helped. Due to the shrinking powers of the heroes and villains it took relatively silly settings exciting. I particularly liked a fight between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket inside of a briefcase.

If there is a flaw to the movie it’s how familiar it felt at times. I realize you have to do an origin story but I can’t say it hit any unique beats. The guy who has done bad things but will do good for his family is hardly original nor is the “I have to stop him from selling weapons to the bad guys” bit. If it weren’t for the script by Adam McKay and Edgar Wright’s ideas it could have been a bore. As it is Ant-Man is a fun, if cliche at times, superhero movie.

Rating- B+

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