ThePageBoy

Writing, Reviewing and Criticism In The Internet Age

Tag: Avengers

Awards Season – 2012

Right,

Firstly, let’s deal with that whole Mayan thing shall we? To quote Morpheus from the Matrix films ‘WE ARE STILL HERE’ and another apocalypse has been and gone without really throwing this little planet into non-existence. So suck it ancient civilization that hasn’t existed for hundreds and hundreds of years!

That said, there are a few traditions expected around this time of year aside from the omni-present threat of global catastrophe, such as eating so much your stomach resembles a beach ball and for internet critics like me, the end of year round up. So without further ado I present ThePageBoy’s end of year awards for 2012 – light, easily digestible reading suitable for gazing at whilst summoning the will to devour yet another mince pie. ThePageBoy will be back soon, new and improved, so may your Christmas be happy and your new year, however you celebrate it, apocalypse free.

The Minor Awards For Irritation in Cinema:

Franchise that has long overstayed it’s welcome:

The Winner – The Expendables 2

There comes a time when you reach the age that taking part in explosions and acts of daring do start to look a little ridiculous. When, even for the notoriously camp genre that is action movies, you start looking slightly undignified. Now, to most sane people that age would be your late 60’s but that doesn’t stop The Expendables 2 does it!? Neither does horrible acting and dialogue (written by Sylvester Stallone is the very definition of damning by faint praise) and a shameless pandering to the nostalgia dollar that makes everyone involved look cheap. Still will that stop them making a third one? No. Although for the sake of the rapidly diminishing dignity of all concerned I hope they see sense and just…stop.

Worst Re-boot

The Winner – Total Recall

A re-boot is a chance for a fresh new creative team to put their own stamp on product, exploring a new angle or building on the world created in the original. Sadly, when Len Wiseman is involved that doesn’t seem to be an option. An unmitigated flop, the film quickly sank without trace. For those of you who didn’t see it and are wondering what you missed, the answer is nothing. Go watch the original in all of its trashy cinematic charm and remember that Arne is now in danger of losing the credibility films like THAT won for him.

Biggest Career Switch

The Winner – Robert Pattinson

From Twilight. To Cosmopolis. He went from Twilight to working with David Lynch and making films about the dark side of capitalism. In the stroke of a single movie he managed to alienate the Twi-hards and prove that he was capable of turning in a decent performance going beyond his range of looking broody. Sadly, he followed it up with the uniformly awful Bel-Ami, so one can only hope that the next choice he makes is slightly better, though I am not holding out much hope – it might be that brooding whilst covered in glitter is the only think he can do.

Best Career Turn Around

The Winner – Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck is, without a shadow of a doubt, a terrible actor when left to his own devices. Fortunately he’s proven to be a really talented director and writer, even capable of turning in a decent performance when he’s in control of the material question. In the space of a few years he went from Daredevil to Argo. Now THAT is impressive. Gone Baby Gone, The Town and his latest film have put him in line for Oscar nominations .If this keeps up 2013 will be a very very good year for the former Mr Jennifer Lopez.

Most Interesting Ideas

The Cabin In The Woods

I’ve always been a fan of horror, but in recent years it has been nothing short of depressing. Thankfully Joss Whedon came along and managed to revitalize the horror genre with a dash of meta knowledge, a sense of humor and crucially, some fresh ideas. One of the best horror films in years and one of the best films of 2012 hands down.

Most Interesting Mess

The Winner – Holy Motors

Erm…Yeah…

Worst Adaptation

The Winner – What to Expect When Your Expecting

Based on the pregnancy guide of the same name! If this doesn’t tell you just how bad this film is, I’m not sure you read or understood the previous sentence.

Best Adaptation that not enough people saw:

The Winner – We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Based on the stunning novel of the same name I had always thought that this had the potential to be a great film. But I never thought that the job they would do would be this good. It took five years of delicate development and finance negotiations brought this film to the big screen and it was so so worth the wait. Directed by the bright new talent of Lynne Ramsey and starring the indomitable Tilda Swinton it is one of the finest British made films of the last few years, beautiful, well made and horrifying in equal measure. Go see it – and go read the book.

Best Film and Best Adaptation that Everyone saw

Here it is – the big one, the best film of 2012 and it just so happened to be an adaptation making this year a very good one indeed for ThePageBoy. So here it – THE AVENGERS! Both the best action movie and the best adaptation of the entire year the Avengers was an absolute joy to sit through from beginning to end. What was the most fun was watching Joss Whedon and the rest of the Marvel team mange to complete the mad-cap idea of putting comic style continuity into big blockbusters. It was amazing to watch a film with smart ideas, intelligence and a sense of humor pull of a slice of audacious movie making. Roll on the sequel! (And how often do I get to say that!?)

Well that’s the big awards out the way…What did you think of 2012’s cinema?

ThePageBoy

Marvel Month II, or, ‘Why I love Kenneth Branagh’

Right,

Marvel month kicks off properly here, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one who, when thinking about the Marvel Comics films, immediately jumps to a middle-aged Irish-man with a burning desire to be Lawrence Olivier. Ah, Kenneth Branagh – good old Kenny; big Kenny B, a man who has been nominated for an Oscar in five different categories, a man who was married to the wonderful Emma Thompson and decided to have an affair with Helena Bonham-Carter as well as playing the title role in five different films/TV shows. In short, this man is the ultimate classically trained and RADA educated LAD. (not in the misogynistic, horrific rape culture endorsing way, mind you – that wouldn’t be cool..)

Yes, I know that he has got his fair share of dross on his CV but you know something, I don’t care. I think Kenneth Branagh is simply flawless, and yes, that does include his version of Hamlet which is about five days long and earned him the honour of being one of three people who make a punchline in Blackadder. (A shiny penny to the first person to get the other two and no using Wikipedia! That’s cheating!)

So Branagh, (*swoon*) was the man brought onto the juggernaut that is the Avengers franchise to direct Thor. I will admit, however, that at the news I wasn’t delighted. I was distinctly sceptical. Branagh seemed too cerebral a choice, someone reliant on dialogue and character to really handle, what I assumed would be a big noisy blockbuster. Now this attitude, I freely admit, was based on a shocking lack of knowledge about Thor’s comics and a little snobbishness about the kind of work I thought was beneath King Kenny.

Thankfully the film soared over my expectations. It was one of the biggest blockbusters of the year so I won’t waste too much time re-hashing plot, but suffice to say it involves the Gods of Asgard and the war with the Frost Giants, a sibling rivalry between Thor and his brother Loki worthy of the greatest tragedies and, of course, scientists.  In keeping with all Marvel movies there is the inevitable build up towards the Avengers nerd-gasm coming this year but even considered as a separate entity rather than a 120 minute trailer for another film, this is a very solid movie. To a large extent the strength of the movie comes, in my opinion, from Branagh’s direction and the cast. The gods of Asgard are old school in the theatrical sense of the word – these are Gods of wrath, violence and all the worst traits of humanity with the power to destroy the entire world. The relationship between Thor, Odin and Loki has more than an echo of King Lear to it; helped considerably by the thespian legend Sir Anthony Hopkins chewing through the CGI scenery as the Allfather and the hulking presence of Chris Hemsworth as the adolescent and powerful Thor.  Tom Hiddlestone deserves all the credit one can heap on him as Loki and I am delighted beyond words he’s returning as the villain for the Avengers. Idris Elba adds another touch of gravitas as Heimdall, as well as stirring up some cheap publicity by having the gall to be a black actor in an action film!

As the previous paragraph may have given away, I think the films strongest scenes are the ones that focus on the realm of Asgard and the power dynamics of the Gods. Also of note is the sequences where Thor rashly plunges into a fight with the Frost Giants and his final confrontation with Loki really adds to the grand, Shakespearean themes the film is trying to aim for. That said, I’m not a huge fan of the scenes here on Earth, as to keep the films running time down, it feels rushed, (especially the love interest with Natalie Portman) and personally I never get the impression that Thor’s exile on earth is a real struggle to overcome. That being said, the film succeeds for the most part in marrying grand themes of betrayal, power and jealousy with an action packed story.

So, a good movie. But a good adaptation? Well, this is where the whole thing becomes a little more complicated…

As I said in the last column Thor has been around since the early 1960’s in comic form, and his legends have been around for literally thousands years. This is, not just a literary story – Thor is a cultural juggernaut, it surely isn’t possible to fuse Nordic legend into a comic form without being not just crass, but hugely insensitive.

Or so I thought. And then I started reading what I consider to be one of the finest comic runs I have ever read – The Mighty Thor Volume 1 337-382. Written and drawn by Walt Simonsen and lettered by John Workman it is an incredible piece of work. The look of the comic is like nothing else, thanks to Simonsen’s wonderful art style and the sense of scale and grandeur is done so well thanks to the jaw-dropping lettering from Workman. The dialogue too,  is just as good as the film’s and in some respects, much better. This Thor feels even more Shakespearean than the film thanks to the sometimes archaic syntax and tendency of the characters to think or say what is actually happening mid scene! What I love  about this run is the sense of cosmic scale that the creative team has achieved; whilst there are times where the dialogue feels clunky everything is given the time and the space to breathe, all of the action feels like it has a sense of great importance and the characters are given the page space to be given depth and characterised to an astonishing degree. Loki, especially, is shown to be an incredible villain, one who will happily destroy someone’s entire life just for the fun of it.

The problem is, of course, that the film adaptation has to be something unique to the Marvel comic as opposed to a slice of cultural appropriation in the obligatory cape and big hammer get up. To an extent I wouldn’t say this is what the film is; it certainly encouraged me to actually pick up the comics and see what Marvel writers wanted to do and the stories they wanted to tell. In a way, Thor’s problem is one I feel could be repeated by the rest of these films in Marvel Month. Thor is so well-known that, in a way, the adaptation is always going to fall short. We all know the name of Thor and many of us are familiar with the legends and mythologies of Nordic culture – the Norse gods have even named the days of the week.

Many people might think that there are so many different stories that could be told with  these characters and just as with Batman and Superman there will be people who demand different tales be told. The problem is, of course, that it simply isn’t possible to adapt what is a continuing narrative, you can’t adapt Thor in the traditional sense of the word, as the source material is still being generated. However…what you can do it take the original concepts, and they clearly are the original concepts from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and add to the ongoing narrative that is being told. Strictly speaking, this is a transposition of the original mythos, world and characters into a new medium. And it’s done well. Really well. It makes the world of Thor accessible to a huge new market.

The more I think about this, the more exciting I think comic movies are – it adds to the story and the characters in a way that traditional narrative couldn’t. Roll on next week, as Marvel Month continues!

Thanks

ThePageBoy

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Marvel Month I: An Apology, or, ‘I’m not really a big enough geek for this.’

Right,

First off, let me expunge the first reaction you may be having. This isn’t an apology for me beng too busy to update regularly because I’m out doing things that the internet doesn’t approve of; like having friends who aren’t pixels and talking to girls, (joking! A bit…) This post wasn’t even supposed to be an apology – it was intended to be a huge announcement of the first ever theme month.

This was where I was going to be proud to announce the commencement of…MARVEL MONTH! That’s right, a whole month of me assessing the Marvel movies and the source material they came from. A month of superheroics, kick-ass action, bad guys and saving the world. A whole month of geek awesomeness.

And that’s where I hit just a couple of really small snags. The first one came when I was looking for which comic should be the first one to be reviewed. It should have been obvious, it really should have been but all I can say is that I was so grateful for getting past The Da Vinci Code I just wasn’t thinking straight. Then it hit me. The first comic I wanted to read has been going since 1963. That is a really long time. Really – a loooooooooooooong time. So, there’s 49 years of comics to read. I can’t do that, nobody can. Not in a week, where I also need to watch the movie!

Then, I hit upon the obvious and simple solution. I don’t need to read it all, because the people who wrote the movie probably didn’t, and if its been going since 1963 the law of averages says that a big chunck of these comics aren’t going to be worth reading. sorry to be harsh, but that just seems to be the way things are.  If you don’t believe me just try to read some of the Batman that was churned out in the 1960’s and try and tell me seriously that it  meets any definition of the word good.

So, this is where I hit my second snag, and to be honest, this one I don’t see a way through, so here’s why I need to apologise. Again. Here we go…

I am not an expert on comics. I read them for a bit but didn’t have the money or the dedication to keep up the habit. But some people do. Some people must have read every comic, are familiar with the mythology of the comics, the lore, the references, the jokes even. Sorry, but that isn’t me.

Here’s what I can do though, and maybe what I should be doing. I’m going to spend the time looking into each character and find the run that helps shape and define the character and then treat that as the source material. If it isn’t the run you would have chosen or the writer you love then, sorry… But surely the success or failure of the film shouldn’t hinge on me having read Journey into Mystery #92. Maybe I’ll get round to it, but in the meantime this is the best way I’ve found.

The more eagle-eyed and comic loving may have picked up on the one or two clues in this article, the first film in ThePageBoy’s is Thor directed by Kenneth Branagh, after a little research I decided on the jaw dropping run by Walt Simonsen Vol1 #337-382.

Right, I’m off. Got comics to read.

Thanks

ThePageBoy

Oh, don’t worry; there will be more jokes in the next column. Promise.