When I first heard about Marvel’s crazy idea for a multi-film franchise I thought it was one of the silliest ideas I had ever heard. But somehow, without really trying to, I have managed to see all of the prequel films that build up to this film’s main event, so I guess full credit (and box office returns) must go to the producers – the whole thing has been managed rather well.
For those keeping score at home, here is what I thought of the prequels:
Iron Man – excellent.
Iron Man 2 – disappointing.
The Incredible Hulk – not terrible but forgettable, I preferred the Ang Lee version.
Thor – extremely loud and silly, but watchable.
Captain America – even more silly, but took the premise and ran with it to entertaining ends.
Astonishingly, none of these films were aggressively stupid in the way that even the best superhero franchises tend to become after a while. So I had high hopes for The Avengers.
Hopes that turned out to be completely justified! The Avengers tells the story of all these guys finally meeting and eventually (spoiler alert) teaming up. As an adaption it is a great success, I am not sure the plot follows any particular existing story but it adheres much more strongly to conventional comic book structure than the typical film plot. All the explanation of who these characters are and where the came from has been neatly dealt with in previous films so The Avengers can get straight down to business.
The script is clever and Iron Man’s quips are as witty as ever. The story is simple, but appropriate for the material. Personally, I could have stood to see more Hulk (the new guy playing him nails it, but there isn’t enough time to flesh out the changes he is going through), and less Captain America however these are minor quibbles. Almost every detail is perfect.
Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.
Watchmen is a difficult movie to categorize. As an adaption of an existing work, it is excellent. The attention to detail is amazing, the cast all fit well with their characters and an impressive amount of the plot is exactly the same. A for effort.
As a stand-alone work, Watchmen is less of a success. It is very, very long and filled with talky scenes whose purpose only becomes clear later and sometimes not even then. It’s not that it is a terrible movie, just that a viewer not familiar with the source material might easily lose track of what is going on. So much of the plot hinges on the motivations of the characters – the book provides extensive back stories that the film cannot linger on, leaving the story feeling a little flat.
The production values are first rate, with excellent special effects. The actors are all look the part and for the most part are pretty good, except for guy playing Rorschach, who is excellent. Watchmen is an ensemble piece and the fact that none of the characters are played by major stars works to its advantage. The R rating is very well deserved, the film is quite gory in places and there is a lot of nudity. Watchmen may be the first mainstream film to have more male than female nudity, which I guess could be called some sort of landmark.
On the whole, I would recommend Watchman to anyone who enjoyed the book. I would still recommend it to others that enjoy the odd superhero film, but others will probably be bored.
Here endeth the review. The following section contains spoilers and crowing about how smart I am. Discerning readers may want to stop here – you have been warned.
I have just finished rereading the
comic book graphic novel Watchmen. It’s a cracking read, filled with Big Ideas and it uses the comic graphic medium to great advantage – telling the story in a way that really wouldn’t work in a traditional written novel. The artwork is visually stunning with many pages containing no dialog, content to just let the pictures tell the story.
The producers of the upcoming movie will have had some hard choices to make. It is the density of little details that makes Watchmen so interesting, and any film will have to cut a lot out. I find filmed adaptions of novels interesting for their own sake so I have decided to take a stab taking note of what I would change if I were in charge of production (the following paragraphs contain both plot information and uninformed speculation – avert your eyes now if you don’t want to be spoilt and/or bored.)
The city of Los Angeles finds itself protected by an honest-to-god super hero with the unlikely name of John Hancock. Unfortunately, this hero causes more damage to the city than he prevents due to the extreme lack of due-diligence expressed during his slapdash crime fighting activities. One day Hancock saves a mild mannered PR consultant named Ray. In return Ray uses all the tricks of his trade to redeem Hancock’s image in the eyes of the public, over the objections of Hancock himself (who sees little reason to change) and Ray’s increasingly skeptical wife.
From the preceding description (and from the trailer), you may be forgiven for thinking Hancock was another action-comedy comic book spoof. Already you are probably predicting how the hero will try to change his ways, failing at first but learning from his mistakes – eventually overcoming both his own uncertainty and whatever evil villain threatens the city in the third act, helped alone the way by the unwavering trust of a small child. Hancock contains all these elements, but manages to avoid slipping into clichÃ© by having the plot take a major left turn about a third of the way in.
To say more would spoil it, but suffice to say that Hancock manages to become a more interesting movie. I won’t say Hancock is an instant classic – it still has problems, but there are plenty of worse films you could waste your money on.
Recommended if you like this sort of thing.
In the pantheon of super heros, Iron Man is strictly C-list. Batman and Spider Man are the top of the heap, Superman is boring but gets a pass by being there first. Who else? Possibly Wolverine and the Hulk on a good day. Wonder Woman? Maybe. The Silver Surfer? If one was being charitable.
Beneath them are the second stringers: The Flash, Mr Fantastic, the rest of the X-Men. All good people to have on your side, but not your first phone call in the event of villain related shenanigans.
Lower still are the lame heros, unworthy of being called super. Daredevil and Electra, The Punisher, and Iron Man. Although they have their (deluded) fans, these characters are destined to see out their days fighting equally terrible bad guys in their own vapid and desperate movie franchises. Which makes the fact that Iron Man is a fantastic film all the stranger.
Tony Stark is a fantastically wealthy playboy engineering genius, but without the emo angst that makes Bruce Wanye no fun at parties. In fact, Stark is actually a bit of an asshole, and an arms dealer to boot. Circumstances conspire to compel him to change his mind about the arms dealer part, but he remains an asshole even after he invents a really cool suit. This is at least an interesting change from the usual self-sacrificing dullards that usually pollute our screens. The female characters don’t do anything, but they don’t in any of the other films either, so no change there.
All super hero movies take large amounts of time tediously establishing where the hero comes from and how they acquired their fabulous powers. Iron Man follows this mold, but takes the daring approach of actually making the origin story entertaining. The script is witty without resorting to stupid one-liners, and the special effects are great. Later one Iron Man settles down to become more of a standard goody vs baddy battle, but this is not drawn out and the film knows when to roll the credits, which is more than I can say for many hero movies.