Guess what we’re doing here on Starman Cinema? Talking about the cinema! That’s right, movie talk again!
The summer of 2014 was packed with adaptions of Marvel comic books, a couple even based off specific storylines, and well I saw them all! Here are my thoughts on all them and well some points of comparison will come of course, as well as SPOILERS! MEGA SPOILERS!
Only read this if you have seen all four films. Let’s start!
Steve Rogers uncovers a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and enlisting the help of Sam Wilson and Natasha Romanov AKA Black Widow while facing off against the mysterious assassin in the intelligence community known as The Winter Soldier.
The newest edition to the Spider-Man film series and sequel of the 2012 reboot/restart/resomething about your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler as Peter Parker tries balance his life with family and loved ones while being the protector New York needs in Spider-Man.
In the future, life sucks for all of mutant kind, even humans but the X-Men have managed to survive and plan to send Wolverine back to 1973 to prevent the event that caused their grim future.
Light years from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill and a ragtag teams of galactic misfits finds themselves the prime targets of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser.
Now that we got that out of the way, the summer did have everything for everyone. Superheroes, adventures, romance, explosions, emotions, and a whole lot of other things. This slate of films were more successful than not, and yes that means I’m looking at you Amazing Spider-Man 2.
I’m a very hopeful and optimistic guy, but seeing and hearing how overcrowded this movie was with characters and storylines had me worried but as the long time Spider-Man fan that I am, I remained hopeful in my optimism as I sat down in the theater on opening day.
Man alive, my worst hopes came true. World building is prevalent in all the films we’re talking about here, but there’s something the rest do that Amazing 2 doesn’t do so well and that’s focus on the centralized story its trying to tell as well, rather than finding a good balance of both. This feels like a filler movie in between the previous film and getting to where it wants to go now with ASM3, Sinister Six, and a possible Venom film. Its their decision to do that, but trying to get it going right now this quick feels a bit like overkill to get it all done now, but you can at least put some more effort into your setup by also telling a story for now.
I get they want their own universe set up of Spider-Man since Sony doesn’t want to give up that sweet Spider-Man print license money to Marvel and Marvel Studios, but they also want to take a cue from Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe. Personally TV works better for that, but film franchises have shown to successfully build their own worldly universe and characters. But Sony it seems just wants to get to it now, same as DC, but they need to take their time, though the going right in can work based on the quality of what’s being written and given to us.
Though its other problems is a terrible villain in Electro played by Jamie Foxx as basically Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever, showing that if you were on In Living Color and you play a villain in a big budget comic book film adaptation, you’re playing a stalker villain. Its embarrassing really to see the take they go with for Electro as it just doesn’t work at all. I meaning taking a pathetic man and suddenly making him one the most powerful and unstable things in the world is pretty fair for comics, but more so Spider-Man with some its villains but this was just poor.
Foxx is someone who can dependably give great performances an I thought him as Electro could do some good, but it was not the case. Electro is one the many problems like again how there are too many characters to the point where several top name Spider-Man characters are brought in but aren’t given much to do, the plotholes that come up, and something as stupid as Peter only managing to be Spider-Man because his father coded it to be with Parker DNA. Thus ruining, in terms of this film franchise, what makes Peter Parker so wonderful, that Spider-Man could be anybody. You can be that change in the world that Spider-Man is and do great good without plot lines all over the place and sudden tonal shifts. One moment it’ll get something so right where it slowed down and focused itself, but then they smashcut to say Rhino, who has absolutely nothing to do with this movie but be Sinister Six set up and bookend the movie.
You know for as much Spider-Man 3 had a lot going on, it centralized itself, it focused on what it was doing and could keep a good balance of all that was going on. It wasn’t nearly the major mess of a film Amazing 2 is. Though I’ll give this movie credit, its less convoluted than the Clone Saga.
I’m listing off why the movie is a big mess, this is the one Spider-Man movie that really gets the character of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, minus the stalking-ish bit whatever and shit. The best scene of the whole film is Spider-Man saving a little kid from being bullied and THAT, that brief moment shows me they get Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield has shown he truly is a fan of the character and it shows here with his performance which honestly puts him over Tobey Maguire in the role, despite the previous series now proving superior over the current one.
Speaking of Garfield, his chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is spectacular, thanks to no part of their actual off-screen relationship, is great. I truly love them together and buy them as a cute and charming couple whenever they are on together. They help hold the film together apart and together. Stone gets the character of Gwen and is wonderful. Her death scene is well translated form the comics and is a true great moment of emotion from the movie itself. Its well played out and shot.
Dane DeHann as Harry Osborn is very good and also works well with Garfield’s Peter as I honestly believe their friendship and like him more as Harry, than I did when he suddenly had to become the Green Goblin for the sake of more Sinister Six setup and to further this movie by another 20 minutes, though given the other tonal swifts of the film, not so surprised. But yet that lead to the great Gwen death scene so take the good with the bad here I guess.
Sally Fields is good too and well the action sequences are pretty exciting and well shot. I think this is where I leave Amazing Spider-Man 2.
You know after starting out very strong the X-Men franchise starting petering out due to the headache inducing mess that is X-Men: The Last Stand and then with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It was brought back to life with X-Men: First Class, given some medicine with The Wolverine, but then got the very necessary life saving surgery it needed with its best installment in the franchise yet, Days of Future Past.
Being based off the very memorable and great storyline of the same name from the 1980s, Bryan Singer returned to the franchise and it was a welcomed return as this film does what many fans did, give a huge middle finger to Brett Ratner and his film. The film has the timeline reset in a way where the events of X2 and LAst Stand never happened. That’s sad given how amazing X2 still is today, but hey if it makes us forget about Last Stand and a hopeful chance they can adapt the Phoenix storyline down the road in a successful way, a sacrifice is then necessary.
Now I was upset to hear that Kitty Pryde wasn’t the one being set back several years in the past in favor of the franchise’s beloved Wolverine, but it did make sense given he’s lived the longest out of them all and given Kitty’s age, sending her mind or anyone elses back that far in time, would ruin them and Wolverine can handle that. That’s logical. Same with how 1973 Xavier is walking and Hank isn’t in Beast mode all the time with their experimental drugs.
The movie and book plot to differ in ways but it honestly works here for the story it tells. As excited as I was for the story itself being adapted, I was more excited by the prospect of the original X-Men cast being back and even more so by the cast of First Class.
X-Men: First Class is a personal favorite film of mine and I was happy to hear there was gonna be more of them. The setup is done nicely and is perfectly executed throughout the film thanks to how bold and confident Singer is in his direction which is a big part as to why the first two films of the franchise were so damn good. Of course Singer gets good performances from those he’s been with before, but his work with the First Class crew is outstanding.
Where First Class had great acting all around for the most part, it was a big showcase of Michael Fassbender as Magneto who steals the show and put him on the map, but for DOFP, its a switch for James McAvoy. Now he’s already a name actor but was an excellent young Xavier in First Class and becoming an older, yet still the younger Xavier and he owns his scenes. The broken, former shell of himself, McAvoy plays that so well and delivers an honest powerhouse performance that is one of this year’s best. Though again any scene in the X-Men films are the ones including both Magneto and Xavier, the argument on the plane being a great highlight for me.
We never get to see the original film and FC cast together aside from a great and powerful scene between McAvoy and Parick Stewart, trying to get McXavier going in the good fight, but yeah, he’s the real star.
The whole cast is great as they know these characters and though we don’t get much of our newbies in Bishop, Blink, and Sunfire, its still good to see them when they are on. I’m more excited actually for the whole Rogue subplot to be added in the director’s cut next year.
The movie also gave us what might be the best scene of the year so far in how exciting, quick witted, zippy, and fun Evan Peters’ Quicksilver was in the escape of Magneto from the Pentagon. Its so full of energy, love, and dedication to pull this off. Its also just full on fun and something I’m gonna re-watch the hell out of when I get this badboy on Blu-Ray.
The performances all around do help and even an improvement of villains from Bolivar Trask who is far more compelling in performance from Peter Dinklage and motivation and the movie itself keeps a consistent tone. The time traveling is also great and hey guess what? They stick to their time travel rules to the letter. Any issues really stem from messed up continuity thanks to Last Stand.
World building also happens here with our new status quo and as well as the post credits. Apocalypse is something I’m very excited about now given how much I loved this film and gave me back hope for the X-Men films.
Days of Future Past was the medicine the X-Men franchise needed, it was treated properly by its doctor where as Amazing Spider-Man 2 was given the worst treatment at that shady free clinic down from the strip club. Both these represent the good and bad side of the of the coin in keeping a long standing franchise relevant.
But what about something new? Fresh? Something you never heard of, but then heard it and thought it would never work but behold, it went to your face and slapped you silly with how great it was? That’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
It really is still strange thinking Marvel actually made a movie out of the Guardians of the Galaxy. This book and it works! This is a wonderful, funny, exciting, adventurous, heartfelt thrill ride. I been a fan since the 2008 relaunch by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with the current crew of the Brian Michael Bendis run right now, as well as elements of past big Marvel storylines, it just works.
We’re not given all these big, long, deep origin stories, we do get an origin for Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord but the movie sets all the characters up so well with their backstory, motivation, and arcs so well, it just felt natural. The writing was well done by director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman who both give us a fun, exciting, thrilling, hilarious, adventurous space opera. Much in the vain of say, Star Wars: A New Hope.
This reminded me the first time I did see the first Star Wars with how excited and enthralled I was at this new world and these memorable characters. It just hooked me in from the beginning.
This went well past all my expectations and is one the best efforts Marvel has made with its cinematic universe. I seriously doubted how this good work but James Gunn does so well with outrageous ideas, which adapting Guardians to film is definitely an outrageous idea. Gunn gets it right with everyone and I think its just wonderful. Now this is more standalone than some the other MCU films but it does tie in a bit with the Power Stone being the main crux of the film and the thing that brings all our characters together, good and bad. But also Perlman deserves so much of the credit herself given she what a knockout she is with the world here.
The tone and fun of the books is here and the movie does make changes with its characters like Rocket being experimented on rather than being the last of his kind, Ronan being much more a religious zealot, and not to mention just keeping Drax’s long and convoluted origin just simplified for the sake of those that haven’t read GOTG comics and keeping their brains intact.
Everything just works. Chris Pratt is perfect as Star-Lord running the gambit of emotions and range, Zoe Saldana being very effective with Gamora and her backstory and motivation for wanting to change, Dave Bautista who just outright stole the show with Drax’s nobility, honor, and literalness, and of course everyone’s favorite new team of Rocket Raccoon and Groot voiced respectively by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Every single one of them stand out, every one of them gets a shining moment, they also get to be the straightman for the fast paced humor of this film that has made it one the more enjoyable films in recent memory.
I hear the villains aren’t as interesting, and compared to our heroes yes, but I still really like them. Lee Pace is just a mean son of a bitch and angry one with Ronan. He’s just angry and nowhere toying with our heroes for the fuck of it. Sometimes, villains don’t need to be Joker, Dr. Doom, or Loki. Now given the changes they made from the source material, Ronan is a very interesting character to read, but again sometimes, you just need a purely straight up evil dude and Pace delivers that in spades.
Karen Gillian was very good in Nebula as the right hand to Ronan and her fight with Gamora is really good as they both have something to prove to daddy Thanos. Djimon Hounsou as Korath is just the leader of Ronan’s Kree army but hey again he serves the role fine with being his head hunter. They work just as well in their own way.
The movie has supporting roles that keep things going with Michael Rooker’s Yondu and his awesome whistle controlled arrow and Benicio del Toro’s The Collector being an oddball space Liberace. This movie even introduces the Nova Corps. The goddamn Nova Corps is in a Marvel movie with Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and Peter Serafinowicz are members of it. Its just fantastic to see that happen. The movie is full of people who need to be there. No role feels wasted.
Action is on par, effects are explosive, I really have nothing bad to say about this film at all. They didn’t even do that romantic storyline between Star-Lord and Gamora. The soundtrack, this is the first time in a while I wanted to go and buy the soundtrack of a film cause the music used here is a character in of itself. Guardians is everything exciting films and what I expect from the high caliber of Marvel Studios films.
Which brings us to what I think is the best of the films we’re talking about and upon several re-watchings, is my favorite Marvel Studios film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
This films is majorly based on the Ed Brubaker run of Captain America, but mostly the Winter Soldier storyline drawn by Steve Epting that successfully brought Bucky Barnes back to life and created the character of the Winter Soldier. Marvel took this, gave it to directors from Arrested Development and Community and made a 1970s era conspiracy spy thriller.
This is pure great filmmaking. Anthony and Joe Russo take the best Captain America run ever and adapt it well. Their direction is excellent, tense, atmospheric, and fantastic. I was blown away by their direction from their experience on Arrested Development and Community. Their use of more practical and real effect in the majority of its action scenes is spectacular in how they look on film. They really do just stand out as some the best in recent memory and the Russo’s really take a great approach here by taking the same as Brubaker did with the comics in making it a spy thriller.
This is the best spy/political thriller, action, and comic book/superhero film in a while. This is greatly in part to its 70s influences, Three Days of the Condor, Parallax View, All the President’s Men, etc. The political intrigue is amazing here. The genre blending just feels natural.While the movie is that, it also is a great lynchpin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Compartmentalization is the key that sets this film apart and it works in the movies favor as this is absolute just not one the best films Marvel Studios have put forward, its one the best films period I seen. The film does have set up for characters in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron and it impacted the second half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first season and that greatly improved the show because of what happens in this film. It is an important film for Marvel in that regard. This built up further an existing world while being centered on the story its telling in the moment. See Spider-Man? Its possible!
Chris Evans is Captain America. He truly is this character and its a huge part as to why I believe this to be an outstanding film. He’s now playing the role as Steve is adjusting to life in modern times while still serving his country to the best of his ability but when the twist comes the film also brings in one great thin about Cap in that he’s not blindly loyal. He’s not 100% behind America, he’s more a believer of the American dream. He questions Fury’s decision about the Hellicarriers and its great to see that come to life here as its a great part of his character and the way Evans portrays it is great to see. He’s trying to fit in, while still holding on to the one thing that makes him what he is no matter the decade, a soldier.
Samuel L. Jackson is once again just spot on as Nick Fury, despite the minor problem of he’s part in the Marvel fake out death in this film, Scarlett Johansson gets her biggest role as Black Widow here and I loved her in every part she was in being a great foil for Steve.
The one that came back is most important is Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes and the titular Winter Soldier. The film spends the right amount of time with him in developing him as a threat, explaining what had happened to him, and with making the character memorable. Stan does a great job here despite not having that much dialogue really, he’s an enigma that way as he was in the comics before all the information about him came spilling out. His fights with Steve are standout themselves and their emotional connection in their scenes truly shines through thanks to them working together so well and of course the direction of the Russo brothers.
There are two main newcomers with one being Robert Redford, who was in plenty of the films listed above that inspired this film and being doing a great job in that role, just fitting in so well to the MCU and making me geek the fuck out at the fact Robert Redford is in a Marvel comics film.
But more importantly is Anthony Mackie who excels as Sam Wilson/Falcon. Falcon is Cap’s best friend from the books and was never a sidekick, but his equal and that also shines brightly here. Their connection builds fast and strong. How they make Falcon fly makes sense here and Mackie himself bring a lot of charm and drama to the role, finding an excellent balance that makes you love him right away.
Even Crossbones shows up and that’s awesome. The movie adapts all the characters fantastically and makes the changes needed to make it work, like Arnim Zola’s appearance while not exactly how he was from the books, made sense here and truly worked not just for the character but the big plot twist of the film that made everything work.
Tis movie takes more risks than plenty of other superhero films do today and really just feels more like great filmmaking as a whole than it does as blockbuster filmmaking.
There you have it, a mostly successful summer of Marvel Comics films. I obviously think more worked than didn’t but there is something about each film to enjoy. World building as I said is all over the place and it varies from success and while Spider-Man left me disheartened by its botched attempt, I still am curious for the next installment. X-Men gave me life and hope again for its film future with excitement and some great pathos. And Guardians and Cap only further added to my love of Marvel Studios’ Cinematic Universe. Can’t wait to see what the House of Ideas has for us next year.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A+
- Guardians of the Galaxy: A
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: A
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2: C+