Film Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Release Date: May 10th, 2018 (Los Angeles Premiere)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Based on: characters created by George Lucas
Music by: John Powell, John Williams (original Han Solo and Star Wars themes)
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau (voice), Warwick Davis, Linda Hunt (voice), Clint Howard, Anthony Daniels, Ray Park, Sam Witwer (voice)

Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 135 Minutes

Review:

“I hate you.” – Lando Calrissian, “I know.” – Han Solo

*Warning: there will be spoilers… and probably some ranting!

At one point, Star Wars was the biggest pop culture thing in my life. Over the years, a lot has changed: ownership of the franchise, the fan base and most importantly, the canon. I’m told that decades worth of novels and comic books on my shelves are irrelevant now. I would have been able to adjust to that if the new additions to Star Wars were better than the stories given to us by dozens (if not hundreds) of authors that have been enriching the mythos for over 40 years. But so far, Disney has done nothing but drop the ball. Granted, I did like Rogue One but that’s just one film out of the four that Disney has done and I still have my fair share of issues with it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t a bad film but it isn’t a very good one either. Frankly, other than a few sequences, it was kind of boring and unexciting. But then there were the politics in it, which is something I usually stay away from talking about but if this film is going to beat its audience over the head with its fucking nonsense, just as the other Disney Star Wars films have, I have to speak up.

When Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas, most people were ecstatic. People were espousing things like, “Finally, George Lucas is gone, we can forget about those terrible prequels!” and “Disney will fix the franchise!” Yeah, they fixed it, alright. If by “fix” you mean “neuter”.

Kathleen Kennedy and Disney have already run this franchise into the ground and it happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. Their first attempt at Star Wars isn’t even three years old yet but based off of the audience’s response to this film and its incredibly lackluster opening weekend, I think that the public’s opinion is abundantly clear.

There is already Star Wars fatigue and it came so damn quickly. Had these movies been great or at least, very good, people would still be enthused. And if Disney wasn’t milking the franchise to piggyback off of known characters like Han Solo, Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi for their spinoff films, maybe they could actually move the franchise forward.

In regards to the movie Solo, as this is a review of it, let me talk about the positives.

First of all, I really liked the train robbery sequence. That was the highlight of the film and one of the best, if not the best sequence in the Disney Star Wars films. It was creatively done, well thought out, well executed and just a good time.

Second, I liked the tone of the film. The atmosphere was dark and brooding, which enhanced the story, the peril the characters found themselves in and the life they were living, which is one of crime… even if Solo is considered to be a hero.

I also liked Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. There are certain moments in the film where Glover is talking and you literally hear Billy Dee Williams’ voice. He definitely prepped for this role and really studied Billy Dee Williams. He is kind of the antithesis to Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo but I’ll get to his performance in a minute.

I thought that Paul Bettany as the villain was a strong positive. He didn’t have the sort of weight that a traditional Star Wars movie villain should have but he nailed the part, hands down. But I’ll get into the villain problem in a minute, as well.

The other big highlight of the film was the conclusion. I liked the Darth Maul cameo and am genuinely interested in what it means for Star Wars going forward but I hope it is to tie into the Obi-Wan movie and not a sequel to this film, which they should not make. I also liked the reveal of who the Marauders were and that whole sequence on the beach between them, Beckett, Solo, Chewie and Qi’ra.

I thought that the pace of the film and its progression were good, even if a lot of the stuff wasn’t as interesting as the filmmakers probably thought it was.

But on to the negatives.

I like Alden Ehrenreich as an actor but I didn’t like him trying to play Han Solo. The character is so distinctly Harrison Ford and Ehrenreich tried to nail it but fell short. I thought his comedic timing was off, his mannerisms didn’t work and “the cool” felt forced. The thing is, he could have just been his own character and this film would have worked better. He didn’t have to be Han Solo, this could have been a Star Wars heist movie with all new characters, punctuated by its main player that was more of an homage to the Han Solo archetype and not Solo himself. This would have served Ehrenreich’s talents better and opened the door to a new thread in the grand Star Wars universe.

Next up is Emilia Clarke. I don’t know what it is about her but I just don’t like her. Granted, I’m probably the only person on Earth that can’t get into Game of Thrones but that’s also not just her fault, it’s that whole thing. Anyway, Clarke is just an incredibly one-dimensional and boring actress. She makes me feel absolutely nothing. She’s no different in this. Her character felt soulless and just made me yearn for her death and for Han to hurry up and go meet Leia.

Then there is the Woody Harrelson problem. For the record, I love Harrelson. I always have, ever since I was a young kid watching Cheers with my mum and granmum when it was still broadcasting. The problem with Harrelson is that he is such a distinct actor that it is sort of distracting in a film like Star Wars. All I ever see is Harrelson, which most of the time is a good thing, but in a Star Wars picture, it just pulls me out of the movie. I think that the original Star Wars films were so magical due to George Lucas finding the right kind of talent from a pool of unknown actors. He did use a few well-known actors but their parts were perfectly tailored and fit them. But really, we’re just talking about Peter Cushing, who was primarily a low budget horror actor, and Alec Guinness, who had a long filmography but was never as recognizable or as famous as Woody Harrelson has become.

Earlier I mentioned the villain problem about the movie, even though I praised Bettany’s performance. You see, his baddie here was just some low level crime boss. Okay, maybe he’s a high level crime boss but him being the big bad would have been like Return of the Jedi expanding the Jabba the Hutt stuff to two hours and cutting out the second and much bigger half of the film. The Jabba stuff is solid but a gangster is not the type of villain that really brings a high threat level in the Star Wars universe. Frankly, Solo felt like it should have happened in an episode of Clone Wars or Rebels and not on the big screen for over two hours.

The biggest blight on all of Star Wars history though has to be Lando’s droid Che Droidvera a.k.a. L3-37. The droid was a wisecracking feminist revolutionary because robots apparently have gender in Star Wars now and are fighting for equal rights or something. Basically, this was Disney’s attempts at bringing gender politics into a Star Wars film in a cutesy and funny way. It’s not that I’m against feminism or equal rights, but this was absolute retardation of the highest caliber. I don’t bitch and moan about SJWs because sometimes those bitching about SJWs can come off as terrible as SJWs themselves but Jesus Jeff Goldblum Christ, man! Is this what Star Wars is now? A political and social platform for Hollywood holier-than-thous to sneak their messages into mindless entertainment used for escapism? You know, escapism: where people want to escape the real world for two hours because of real world problems and issues?

Then again, we’re dealing with people whose only counterargument is to point and call those who disagree with them “racist woman hating alt-right Nazis.”

See what I’m saying, though? In a world where people espouse politics and aren’t even minutely rational about it, you sometimes need to escape. But when that escape is inundated with that same irrational political bullshit, you look for another form of escapism. Hence, why this movie isn’t the success that Disney was absolutely sure it would be.

People just didn’t have the interest in this movie like they did with the old school Star Wars films before it.

Reason being, The Last Jedi mostly sucked and it pushed its politics on the people. People responded by telling Solo to “go fuck itself” when they didn’t rush out and buy tickets opening weekend. In fact, this is the first Star Wars movie I didn’t see within the first few hours of its release. I waited over a week and really, that wasn’t even over politics it was over The Last Jedi just sucking as a whole, politics aside.

Last week, I started organizing and cataloging my comic book collection. I came across my massive collection of Star Wars Dark Horse stuff from the ’90s and ’00s. I flipped through a lot of them, re-familiarizing myself with the stories. It really just reinforced my sentiment that the Expanded Universe, that has been washed away with the Disney tide, was so much better than what we have now.

Those Clone Wars tales with Quinlan Vos and all that Knights of the Old Republic era stuff were great Star Wars stories. Jacen and Jaina Solo were infinitely better characters than Kylo Ren and Rey. Well, at least Disney kept Thrawn relevant but Mara Jade is bantha fodder.

Solo: A Star Wars Story just doesn’t work. But hey, at least I got to see Lando, even if it wasn’t Billy Dee Williams and it wasn’t in The Force Awakens where Lando and Han should have had a reunion.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Disney Star Wars films.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.

Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Also known as: Iron Man Three (original title), Caged Heat (fake working title)
Release Date: April 12th, 2013 (Munich premiere)
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany (voice), Ty Simpkins, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Dale Dickey, Corey Hawkins, Mark Ruffalo (cameo), Bill Maher (cameo), Joan Rivers (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 130 Minutes

Review:

“A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound… Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention. Which is why they’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.” – The Mandarin

Iron Man 3 is the third and final Iron Man movie. Granted, one could make the argument that Captain America: Civil War is also Iron Man 4. And he does continue to appear in other films that are a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this is the last true solo Iron Man picture.

This is also the first film in the Iron Man pocket of the MCU to not be directed by Jon Favreau. Although, he does still appear on screen as his character Happy Hogan. He would also appear after this film too.

This chapter mostly deals with Tony Stark having to deal with his past demons and facing the consequences of certain decisions he made long before he was Iron Man. Also, it deals with anxiety and PTSD, brought on by Tony’s involvement in the big battle at the end of The Avengers. It takes these things pretty seriously and doesn’t pussyfoot around them. Tony Stark is very troubled and even though he’s matured and grown as a person, the past is still there to haunt him and stand in his way where he needs to move forward.

Sure, Tony’s personality and snarky sense of humor is still very present but you now start to see it as more of a defense mechanism against his own fears and insecurities. You also get to see him come out of his shell and embrace those he truly cares for: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and the young kid that becomes his sidekick in this film. Tony’s personal defense is let down and he stops trying to be the coolest guy in the room and shows the world that he’s a human being and not just some super powerful godlike figure.

This is the most personal Iron Man story and it succeeds because it doesn’t show Tony bullshitting his way through every situation. For one, he can’t bullshit his way out of this. Two, he’s exhausted and emotional like he never has been before. Three, the stakes have never been higher and he’s never been challenged to the core like he is here.

The film is pretty well written in regards to Tony Stark the character.

Some of the other writing is a bit shaky, especially in regards to the handling of the villain, The Mandarin. However, even though I was originally annoyed by how this part of the movie played out, it really doesn’t matter to the bigger scheme of the picture’s narrative.

A real threat existed, regardless. That threat had to be neutralized. But being a big fan of the comic and awaiting the eventual arrival of the Mandarin on the big screen, it was a real disappointment when the character’s true identity was revealed.

Granted, I still loved Ben Kingsley’s performance on both sides of the Mandarin’s coin. His comedic charm makes up for the shocking twist to some degree. And in retrospect, I enjoy it much more, five years removed from my first time seeing this movie.

I generally like Guy Pearce and was excited to see him in this but as the villain, he was pretty vanilla. He had a cool backstory and they tried to humanize him but it ultimately didn’t work out and he wasn’t as tragic of a figure as he could have been.

Another positive though, is that we get to see Tony Stark duke it out with bad guys without the advantages of having his full armor suit. I liked this approach, it showed Tony as truly heroic and not a guy hiding behind his gadgets. It showed his intelligence, his creativity and his ability to persevere when the deck is stacked against him.

Iron Man 3 is a better movie than what a lot of its detractors would have you think and when this came out, the naysayers took to the Internet in droves. I think it also plays better know within the context of the larger MCU.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Iron ManIron Man 2The AvengersCaptain America: Civil War.

Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

Release Date: April 11th, 2012 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany (voice), Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton, Ashley Johnson

Marvel Studios, Paramount, Walt Disney Studios, 143 Minutes, 173 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“The Tesseract has awakened. It is on a little world. A human world. They would wield its power, but our ally knows its workings as they never will. He is ready to lead. And our force, our Chitauri, will follow. The world will be his. The universe yours. And the humans, what can they do but burn?” – The Other

There was a time when this was the big culmination of all of Marvel’s achievements in their cinematic universe. I don’t think any of us realized how small the universe was then. It felt grand but now, in 2018, things have grown to a monstrous size, to the point where it’s hard to imagine how the upcoming Avengers movie is even going to work. I mean, this had six heroes in it, plus a few more characters. The next Avengers movie has to balance roughly sixty characters. It’s gotten insane.

Anyway, this was the first time we saw a big group of these characters crossover.

In this film, we see Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Mark Ruffalo replacing Ed Norton as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. We also get Sam Jackson returning as Nick Fury, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, all important SHIELD characters and support for the Avengers team.

On the villain side, Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and he has an army of Chitauri aliens gifted to him by The Other, who is a minion of Thanos.

The story does a decent job of uniting these heroes against a common and very large threat. The first act of the film is very good and I enjoyed it. The final act is also better than decent, even if the aliens are generic and unexciting. The middle act is what really soured me on this picture and it brings down all of the other parts that are actually good.

The middle of the film is pretty much just the heroes hanging out and gabbing on the SHIELD Helicarrier. Some shit pops off and we get to see the Avengers go into action… to fix a damaged propeller. The fact that a gazillion dollar SHIELD helicarrier doesn’t have some sort of emergency protocol for a failed or destroyed propeller is a gross mismanagement of government funds. You’re going to build a vehicle that costs more than the entire GDP of most countries and you don’t have emergency parachutes or balloons to guide the vehicle down to Earth? Good thing Iron Man was there to fly in circles and Captain America knew how to flip a switch.

Joss Whedon helmed this picture though and I’ve never been a fan, even though he is like Jesus to nerds. Does he know how to handle an ensemble cast? For the most part, but his experience is mostly in the realm of cheesy teen TV drama or the severely overrated Firefly.

While the last act of the film gets things back on track and exciting, I hate the Chitauri aliens. They’re drab, boring and ride around on some flying Sea-Doos shooting shit lasers. Then there are the giant flying worm creatures that didn’t do a damn thing other than chase Iron Man and crash into shit. What were they supposed to be doing? Couldn’t they have had aliens on their armored hulls and been more like weaponized battleships? Kinda like living Star Destroyers? I mean, a six year-old could have made them more interesting. In the end, the aliens should have been the Skrulls or even the Kree. I know that Marvel lost the movie right to the Skrulls, at least at the time, but damn, give us something more imaginative and cool.

The Avengers has its problems and I’m spending more time pointing them out than anything else but it is still an enjoyable film. It’s not as good as the best solo hero movies but it is hard to balance an ensemble and to focus on developing and enriching characters when there are so many. But that’s why the solo films are better movies, as these big team-up pictures are just spectacles or special events, the Royal Rumble of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But making this work was a giant undertaking and a tough challenge. It’s more positive than negative and the real highlight is seeing these characters exist in the same space at the same time.

Plus, it has Harry Dean Stanton in it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Phase One films from the Marvel Cinematic UniverseIron Man 1 and 2The Incredible HulkThor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Film Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Release Date: April 26th, 2010 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Theroux
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice), Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, Gary Shandling, John Slattery, Kate Mara, Olivia Munn (cameo)

Fairview Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 125 Minutes

Review:

“If you try to escape, or play any sort of games with me, I will taze you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet.” – Agent Coulson

I remember that when I first saw Iron Man 2, I was disappointed. I really hadn’t watched it since it came out but it was nice revisiting it and I was surprised to discover that it was better than I remembered it. Maybe it’s because Marvel movies are a dime a dozen now but this had more of a plot and more character development than most of the massive team-up movies we get today.

This film also introduces us to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who would become a major player in the Avengers franchise, and it recasts James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine with Don Cheadle, who brought more charisma than Terrence Howard and also has much more chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. We also get more of Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury, Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, small roles for John Slattery and Kate Mara, a cameo by Olivia Munn and others, as well as the addition of Gary Shandling and the return of Leslie Bibb.

The main additions to the film are the villains though. We get Sam Rockwell, recent Oscar winner, as Justin Hammer, a rival of Tony Stark. We also get Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, who is a combination of Iron Man villains the Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash. I liked both men in their roles and thought they had a solid chemistry when they shared scenes together. Whiplash’s backstory was interesting and I actually would have liked to have seen him return. Well, I’d like to see Hammer return too and since he doesn’t die, his return isn’t impossible.

The film isn’t as good or as refined as the original but it expands on the Iron Man pocket of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe that hadn’t reached its apex by 2010. It is a better film than The Incredible Hulk and seeing it now, I like it better than all of the other Phase One Marvel films after the first Iron Man. Although, I am planning to revisit Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger over the next week.

I think that Jon Favreau did a great job directing the first two Iron Man movies. It was a hard task but he accomplished what he set out to do, which was to build a good foundation for the future of the MCU. The entire franchise was born out of Favreau’s vision for Iron Man and I think it was a good vision and a great starting point.

The climax was long but it was much bigger than the simple fight that capped off the first film. Iron Man had his work cut out for him but now having allies made for a much richer finale. I just wish that the actual fight between Iron Man and War Machine against Whiplash wouldn’t have ended so quickly. I felt like Rourke’s character deserved a few more minutes of being a total badass. Then again, he bit off more than he could chew in engaging two men in Iron Man suits.

Iron Man 2 is a better movie than what I thought it was at first glance, back in 2010. Ultimately, it is a fun, larger than life, popcorn flick. It’s a damn good one at that, though. We now live in a world where there’s a half dozen superhero movies per year and that might be a low estimate. Iron Man 2 is better than what has become the standard, as the genre becomes more and more watered down with each comic book movie and television show.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Iron ManIron Man 3Captain America: Civil War.

Film Review: Iron Man (2008)

Release Date: April 14th, 2008 (Sydney premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice), Samuel L. Jackson (cameo), Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, Tom Morello (cameo), Ghostface Killah (scene cut), Peter Billingsley (cameo)

Fairview Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

“[reading the newspaper] Iron Man. That’s kind of catchy. It’s got a nice ring to it. I mean it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s a gold titanium alloy, but it’s kind of provocative, the imagery anyway.” – Tony Stark

I decided that it’s time to go back and rewatch the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning, as the world patiently waits for the release of Avengers: Infinity War in less than three months. It’s been a really long time since I’ve watched the Phase One films, so I figured I’d start with the first, a film that I can’t believe is a decade old already. Man, time flies.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched the Phase One stuff in so long, but I truly forgot how great the original Iron Man is. It’s definitely the best of the Iron Man films and much better than most of the Phase Two and Phase Three movies. It was smaller, simpler and actually told a story instead of being a dozen big action sequences strung together by a fragile plot thread.

This is the origin story of Iron Man and really Tony Stark, even though some of the sequels to this flesh out his backstory more. This doesn’t get too bogged down in the origin stuff though, as it does a great job of focusing on the main story and moving forward. Plus, that post credits scene sets up what’s to come with the formation of the Avengers and a hint at something much larger than just Stark’s world. In fact, Nick Fury even states that Stark isn’t the first superhero, alluding to Captain America and possibly even Captain Marvel, who ten years later, still hasn’t gotten her movie.

Iron Man is just so well acted, well constructed and Jon Favreau did a fine job directing it, even though he got to play a role in it and other Iron Man-related films after this one.

This is small in comparison to the Marvel films that would come later but I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s a bit more grounded in reality, emotion and something actually genuine.

Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark but we all know that by this point. It’s like he was born to play the role and everything else before this, as great as many of his films were, was just preparation for this role, the biggest thing he’s ever been a part of.

Jeff Bridges was fantastic as the first ever Marvel Cinematic Universe villain. He was a powerful and charismatic choice and still, better than most of the other villains that have come and gone. Granted, other than less than a handful of characters, Marvel has had an issue with managing their bad guys in these pictures.

This was a perfect start to the larger Avengers universe. I think we knew how good this was, at the time, but seeing it now, with so many other Marvel movies having come out after it, helps put into perspective how good this motion picture was.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Iron Man 2Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War.

Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Release Date: April 13th, 2015 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler, Danny Elfman
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 141 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Avengers: Age of Ultron further solidified the main takeaway that I had after seeing The Avengers three years ago. A film this big, with a multitude of characters strong enough to carry their own film, is not necessarily a good formula. This wasn’t a bad movie, but like the first film featuring all the Avengers, it ranks below most of the solo films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Yes, I did enjoy the movie but nowhere near as much as the recent films that preceded this one: Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Solider. I even enjoyed Thor: The Dark World more than this. The fact of the matter is, this film is just too busy.

In its busyness, Avengers: Age of Ultron lacks a good balance between the characters. There seems to be more focus on Black Widow and the Hulk, which is fine, as neither seem to be getting their own film anytime soon, but it makes things somewhat lopsided and there’s just a bunch of dudes in superhero garb one-lining each other to death from start-to-finish. And while Tony Stark witticisms are funny and the camaraderie of all these actors is generally pretty great, it has gotten to the point where it is starting to feel like a caricature of itself. The joke is wearing thin and it seems less organic now. The banter has gotten too predictable and thus, somewhat mundane. Much of it seemed forced and the back-and-forth between them over their radios during big battles, didn’t come off as natural. It felt like actors reading lines to a room full of strangers and a green screen.

Ultron, the main villain of the story, was created way too quickly, conveniently and easily. I feel like he should have been something brewing in Stark’s lab for a very long time. Something in the shadows that had been watching this whole time. Maybe there should have been seeds planted throughout other movies. I mean, the studio had to know they were going to do a film with Ultron, right? Right?!

The execution of Ultron was half-assed and the character, in this film, just didn’t feel like the unbeatable and nearly omnipotent Ultron of the comic books. Additionally, his personality was bizarre. While he was a cold and calculated killing machine, ready to wipe humanity away, he subjected himself to his own witticisms and his own weird sense of humor. Also, his powers were pretty limited compared to his comic book version, which they did because it is harder to write a story where the heroes are essentially fighting a god. That is a pretty weak cop out. Isn’t Thor a god? And then you have the Scarlet Witch, Hulk and Vision, so…

In a nutshell, Ultron came across as a bulked up General Grievous. But at least Grievous had four lightsabers. Ultron just had an army of flying robots that have been used to death since the second Iron Man film, which was eight Marvel movies ago.

And what was the point of Baron Strucker? He should have been just some random unimportant Hydra commander. He was made to look extremely weak and then just brushed aside and murdered off-screen. It was a waste of an iconic character that had potential and probably should have been used as a major villain on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, his eye piece looked retarded.

Yay, Nick Fury shows up! And then he just talks a bunch.

The CGI at certain points in this film was just ridiculous. In the opening scene, everything felt too sped up and the movements of the Avengers came off as pretty cartoony. Call me old fashioned but what’s wrong with using some practical effects? It isn’t a bunch of Avatar creatures fighting a Tolkien dragon, it’s a bunch of human beings in costumes. So they all move like Jedi on cocaine now? And what’s the point of Quicksilver, if every other character comes off as almost that fast? The opening scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron just reminded me of that awful snow mountain sequence from last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Speaking of Quicksilver and while I’m at it, the Scarlet Witch, both of them had horrible accents. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t. I guess that’s okay though, since Black Widow, a Russian character, sounds like she is from New York City. Also, Joss Whedon recently poked fun at how X-Men: Days of Future Past handled their version of Quicksilver. Whedon’s a boring jackass, as his version was one-dimensional, uninteresting and didn’t have a single moment nearly as notable as the amazing prison break scene from last year’s X-Men film.

Oh yeah, and Quicksilver dies. You see, there had been a rumor around for awhile that an Avenger would be killed off in this film. A rumor that was pretty much confirmed. But what Whedon did was go the easy route. The guy who loves killing likable characters, didn’t have the balls to commit this round. Maybe that was Marvel’s call, maybe it was Whedon’s, no one will ever really know but it was a pointless and shallow end to a pointless and shallow character.

The plot was nothing special. You can take away almost everything you need from the trailers. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the set up. Essentially, bad guy is born, bad guy fucks shit up, good guys fight him and then win. There are no surprises, no big twists, nothing great and unexpected. It is a pretty straightforward story and predictable. But at least they weren’t standing around talking on a Helicarrier for a third of the film like the last one. And at least the big enemy wasn’t a giant propeller or generic aliens on flying jet skis.

And the big evil plan? Ultron lifts some eastern European city into the sky with underground boosters, in an attempt to drop it back down to Earth like a meteor. And people think Whedon is a genius? Ultron was mentally handicapped for a super computer but at least they explained that the giant rock wasn’t crumbling as it was being lifted due to some magic magnetic field. Never mind that this super strong magnetic field wasn’t stopping small pieces from crumbling off the edges during the very lengthy sequence. And I wasn’t sure how the city lifting didn’t turn the city itself into a crumbled mess pretty instantaneously. Were the buildings protected by the magnetic field too? And when Thor saved people falling off the floating city, why did he drop them off on the floating city destined to crash and not the fucking ground below?

And with the giant floating rock, was Whedon inspired by Superman Returns. Visually, this idea felt like a reverse of the major villainous plot from that film.

Then there was the ongoing joke of the film, that started with the first dialogue exchange. Stark says “shit” and Cap points out his potty mouth, to which every five minutes someone has to poke fun at Cap about how lame he is. Because if you forgot, he’s from the World War II era and must be an old coot.

And why did Black Widow have a tactical outfit that lit up like a character from Tron? How the fuck is she supposed to sneak up on bad guys and take them out stealthily if you can see her body outline glowing in the dark? Then again, neon Scarlett Johansson boobies would probably distract anyone long enough for her to get in a punch.

As far as positives, I like the seed planted for the upcoming Black Panther film. I also like how the arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis, is Klaw. They even went as far as to make him lose an arm in the film. I also liked how they made the Hulk v. Iron Man in Hulkbuster armor battle happen. I thought it would be handled poorly and was a bullshit attempt at fan service but how they made it work in the film was pretty awesome. Granted, I don’t understand why people were standing around gawking during the fight but that’s Hollywood for ya.

I also like that Hawkeye actually had a presence in this movie and wasn’t just some Loki zombie for 90 percent of the film. The look into his life and the fleshing out of his character was good. I liked the casting of Linda Cardellini as his wife.

I liked the tension between Captain America and Iron Man, which is a nice set up to what will happen in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.

I like that the Infinity Stones were finally explained and that Thanos acquires the Infinity Gauntlet in the mid-credits scene. Although that scene was bizarre and it seemed like Thanos was breaking the fourth wall. I don’t like that there wasn’t a post-credits scene.

However, the greatest thing about this film was Vision (I’ve always hated calling him “The Vision”). Paul Bettany, who has been the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. since the first Iron Man film in 2008, was brought to life in the form of Vision. Bettany was the perfect choice and not just because his voice was Tony Stark’s assistant over the years, he just had a very serious yet calming presence that made him perfect for the part.

I’m fairly excited for where this series can go but I am more optimistic about the future than the present, as the next set of Avengers films will not be helmed by Joss Whedon. To be frank, I don’t understand the insane amount of fans that guy has.

Well, next up is Ant-Man. I’m hoping its smaller scale, pun intended, is a refreshing experience because this film was too large for its own good.

But what the hell do I know? Billions of fan boys will love this without question because Marvel can apparently do no wrong and Joss Whedon has a golden penis.