Well, with Captain America coming out a couple weeks ago, we come to the end of superhero movies in 2011. Now, I posted a review of Green Lantern so my feelings are well known on that movie, but I didn’t talk about any of the others. So now, I’m going to talk about the movies and discuss their similarities and differences as well as try and sum up my feelings about each. Oh, and spoilers will be there since I don’t want to limit myself in the discussion.
Let’s start with the first movie of the summer, Thor. It’s been some time since I’ve seen Thor (more specifically, I’ve seen a bunch of movies since), but here’s what I can remember about it. Basically, Thor was a god, was arrogant about it, got into trouble in a big way and was forced out of Asgard. After he learns some humility, he becomes worthy of wielding Mjolnir just in time to stop Loki who is angry about being kept in the dark about his Frost Giant heritage. What I really liked about the movie was the look of Asgard. Asgard looked amazing. It seemed somewhat fake at times and too CGI, but it was so pretty that I honestly didn’t care. The story was pretty generic, but held its own and was able to carry the movie along.
As I’ve heard many times, the worst part was the romance between Thor and Jane Foster. It somewhat comes out of nowhere and isn’t really necessary. I don’t think every movie needs a romantic subplot. Just because there are romantic movies doesn’t mean you have to have the subplot in any non-romantic movie. Unfortunately, Thor, Green Lantern and Cap didn’t seem to understand that. Thor probably did the romance worst out of all the movies this summer. In Thor, the characters don’t really have any chemistry with each other, she’s mostly intrigued by him scientifically and he doesn’t care until realizing he needs humility at which point, it’s a little late to start a romance. In comparison, GL was bad, but at least gave them a backstory (even though it was poorly done) and showed sparks flying (even if it was awkward). In Cap, it was there, but mostly in the background and didn’t try to make itself the main plot. In Thor, it takes up too much time and is poorly done.
There isn’t a lot of action, which surprised me to an extent, but what action there is makes up for it. There is mostly the battle at the beginning with the Frost Giants where Thor shows off while his friends are fighting for their lives, the fighting Thor does against S.H.I.E.L.D. and then the battle against the Destroyer and against Loki. The Frost Giant battle is awesome because it is one of those “lots of guys against one guy” battles to show off how powerful Thor is. And it does. You get convinced that Thor might have been able to win if his friends were slightly more powerful or not there to slow him down. And stuff flies everywhere. With the Destroyer, it’s similar in purpose to the Frost Giant battle in that it shows that Thor is back to full strength and able to take out something that was causing mayhem everywhere. With S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s cool because he may not have the power of Thor, but he still has the fighting spirit and training of Thor and as such, is able to beat up on trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (reminding me of Thor against Beta Ray Bill in which he had to fight just using his own strength and not with the hammer he uses so often). The Loki battle is just fun and pyrotechnics, with it being a big battle and the final battle, but it also feels like it’s there just because they had to have Thor fight someone, so why not Loki. I still enjoy him putting the hammer on top of Loki to win.
All in all, I enjoyed Thor a lot. I’ve heard various things about the movie, but the main points I’d like to focus on are the gorgeous creation of Asgard and how much of a team player the creators of the movie are. One thing they had to do was tie Thor into the Avengers. Now, they could have pulled a Cap and had a full movie only ending with something tying it to the other movies, but that wouldn’t have worked as well with Thor. Iron Man, being the first (and arguably best) of the Marvel Movie Universe movies set groundwork for the rest of the movies. Tech is a big component of the movies. With the other movies, the characters all have some scientific origin (although Cap has some mystical parts in there with Red Skull’s plans) and nothing supernatural. With Thor, he’s a god. He’s not some guy who took a serum or was bombarded by radiation or built a suit of armor or was highly trained, he’s a god. As such, you have to explain that. Thor tied itself into the universe by saying that the “magic” he did was not too different that some of the science they do, he happens to be an alien that inspired the myths of gods and he fit into the scifi setting that Iron Man came up with. As such, they had to have time on Earth which led to the romance, but all in all, I really enjoyed Thor. It has its problems, but it was probably my second favorite movie they came out with this year.
Next up, X-Men: First Class. In the movie, we see some origins of Magneto and Professor X, beginning with their childhoods and then into them as young adults. As it turns out, they both gain a common enemy in Sebastian Shaw and they have to team up and bring some new mutants (see what I did there) to defeat Shaw and prevent him from killing everyone. The setting was perfect. Like Cap, it was set in a different time period, specifically the early 60’s during the Cuban Missile Crisis, creating a timeline where Shaw tried to use the crisis for his own advantage and Professor X and Magneto had to reveal the existence of mutants to the world to stop him. While Beast was able to invent some impressive stuff, it felt like the 60’s and that added to the dynamic of the movie and the tension felt during the movie is a direct result of the tension caused by the Cold War setting.
What I hated about the movie was the choice of characters and the execution of those characters. To save time, I’ll only talk about the villains. First, with Shaw. Kevin Bacon did a good job of portraying an evil, somewhat charismatic villain who is trying to rule the world. While Shaw in the comics has those qualities, he also is very different. Shaw in the comics is the head of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, a group working within a sophisticated social club in order to rule the world subtly. Shaw is out in the world as a rich businessman, but really wants to control the way the world works from the shadows. He isn’t a social butterfly when it comes to being a villain. In the movie, he is fine with coming out to the world because he feels so superior that nobody could stop him. Oh, and let’s talk about that. In the comics, Shaw can absorb physical attacks on him, the energy that they produce, and convert it into superior strength and durability. He doesn’t turn into a bomb by absorbing the right thing. Oh, and he can’t absorb non-physical energy that’s hitting him. So, he can absorb punches, bullet impacts and slightly is able to absorb Cyclops optic blasts (his blasts hit with a lot of physical force). He can’t absorb heat or radiation and can’t casually absorb Havok’s plasma blasts (although he could theoretically absorb parts of them to lessen the damage done by the blasts). Also, he can’t expel the energy he gets in a different way (partly because he absorbs physical and then deals out physical). Oh, and Shaw wasn’t around conducting experiments to find mutants during WWII. You know who was? Mister Sinister, who has had Riptide as one of his Marauders (oh, Riptide was the Whirlwind guy in the movie). So really, Shaw was a combination of Shaw (working with Emma, part of the Inner Circle, some similar ambitions, parts of his powers), Bishop (the rest of movie-Shaw’s powers) and Sinister (the cruel demeanor and torturing Magneto during WWII and certain team members, along with some ambitions). I’m sorry, did I say I was going to talk about the villains? I guess that shows for the most part how I feel about the characters in the movie.
What I liked about the movie was getting to see a young Magneto and a young Professor X working together. They’ve done that in the comics a lot, but it was cool to see it in the X-Men movieverse. Also, while I didn’t necessarily like the choices they made, I enjoyed seeing new characters get to spread their wings (in the case of Angel and Banshee, literally) and show what they can do. I like seeing Havok and Banshee and Darwin, and while I didn’t like parts of their portrayals, I liked seeing Azazel and Shaw and Emma. They were also able to make Mystique somewhat interesting, although her being with Charles first was kind of weird, and I don’t really like Mystique normally. Magneto is one of my favorite characters to see in action and it was fun to see a young Magneto learning how to use his powers to make what he wants to happen come to fruition.
In general, I liked the movie. It’s hard to guess that after the Shaw rant (which is only one of many rants), but I was able to watch the movie and enjoy it. I’ve mentioned that when I go to a movie, I often try to enjoy myself and enjoy the movie. I’m hyper critical of certain things and over analyze a lot. I point out flaws and break things apart as much as I can because I want things to be perfect and if they’re not, then I have a problem. When I go to a movie however, I go to enjoy it, only later letting out my inner critic. With X-Men: First Class, I enjoyed the fight scenes, the atmosphere and seeing characters in action while watching the movie and if you go in trying to enjoy yourself, I think you can. All of the flaws that I have after the movie make me have it as my least favorite movie of the year, but I still think that it is better than a lot of movies, I just liked the movies this year enough that this was pushed to least favorite simply by being my fourth favorite, not because I didn’t like it.
For a more complete GL review, you can read my review here. To sum up though, I enjoyed watching Green Lantern. While it was brimming with flaws, I don’t feel that it was really as bad as the critics said. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t find Rot Lop Fan the second time I watched it, specifically looking for him amid the masses of Lanterns, mostly because it means the toy of Rot Lop Fan they made was really weird to do. Mostly though, it did what it was supposed to do and the flaws it had didn’t annoy me as much as X-Men: First Class’s flaws and that made it my third favorite of the year.
Last, but if you’ve been paying attention to the favorite numbering obviously not least, is Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie is about young Steve Rogers wanting to face Nazis in order to protect America, but being too weak to fight in the army, is rejected until he is given the Super Soldier Serum. With the serum, he becomes physically powerful and with his kind heart and good nature that spawned from his weakness, he becomes a great soldier, rescuing people thought unsavable and fighting against unbelievable odds against the Red Skull’s organization, HYDRA.
What made this one of my favorite superhero movies ever (not just this year, but ever) is that the only flaws I have are minor. I had to work really hard to come up with flaws I found in the movie. I think the HYDRA salute wasn’t executed well, but if the soldiers weren’t trained well, then sure, I can live with that. Cap and Peggy Carter’s love story, as I mentioned in Thor, doesn’t feel necessary. It also, though, isn’t a big focus. Sure, at the end, Peggy is really sad about him crashing and seemingly dying, but beyond that, it’s more seen as Peggy believing in Cap after Erskine’s death the way Erskine did and falling for him and Cap finally finding a girl to talk to, not knowing what to actually do when she liked him though. I don’t think the love story was necessary or even Peggy Carter as a character in it, but it wasn’t enough to really annoy me. Other than those, there wasn’t really anything that was a flaw to me.
What did make it so flawless? Let’s see. The plot was pretty simple and was executed well. The more important a character was, the more you learned about them and as such, all the characters that were present in the movie got the right amount of screen time and personality. You didn’t see a lot of Dugan and the Howling Commandos, but you knew all you needed to. Everything you needed to know was explained in the right way, by showing. The action was fun and while there were some fantastic stunts, there wasn’t anything that made you think that Cap couldn’t do it. He did just enough to make himself seem above every generic soldier, but not quite at a point where he couldn’t be affected by them. Everything in the movie was just enough to make it work and never going too far to make things silly.
First Avenger is a really good movie. It really is. It’s easily my favorite of the year. Still, what makes it not my favorite of all time is that it didn’t do anything spectacular. In Mario Kart, all the racers have different attributes which determines how well they drive. This is the case in lots of games (racing or not) that involve multiple varying characters. In Mario Kart, you’ve got the big heavy guys like Bowser and DK and the light guys like Toad and Peach. In any given race, you might want someone more like Bowser or even a slightly less Bowser like Wario or vice versa where you might want Toad or a lesser Toad such as Yoshi. But the generic character, who’s balanced in everything is Mario. First Avenger is Mario. It’s not bad at anything, but it isn’t necessarily great at anything either. It just is. For me, a movie with no major flaws, considering my pickiness, makes Cap my favorite of the year.
So, to sum up:
1) Captain America: The First Avenger because it doesn’t have major flaws and is fun to watch
2) Thor because the movie has fun fight scenes and interesting locations, although the romance can get annoying
3) Green Lantern because it is fun if you are trying to enjoy it, but has a lot of flaws that if you are looking for a good movie, you’ll be disappointed
4) X-Men: First Class because while it is fun to watch, the way they butchered the characters I like pushed it right off of my favorites