Angela Bassett, Anthony Mackie, Benedict Cumberbatch, Black Panther, Captain America The Winter Soldier, Cate Blanchett, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, DC Comics, Doomwatch, Forest Whitaker, Gal Godot, Gerry Davis, Jeff Goldblum, Kit Pedler, Lupita Nyong'o, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel Comics, Michael Powell, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Simon Oates, Thor Ragnarok, Tom Hiddleston, Wonder Woman
A collection of ongoing, shorter form coverage of largely comic book related film reviews (and one classic UK television episode review as a bonus), these all originally appeared on the Third Eye Cinema Facebook page, mostly over the past few months (but with one dating all the way back to 2014…)
Finally sat down to watch Thor: The Comedy (aka Ragnarok).
Mixed bag to be sure, but a thousand times better than the asinine “crowd pleaser” trailers made it appear.
Pluses: the Doctor Strange crossover scene, which nearly saves the movie in and of itself; Jeff Goldblum’s distracted, almost likeable orgiast of a dictator (who spouts right wing neologisms like referring to slaves as “prisoners with jobs”) and the always estimable Mark Ruffalo as a needily nebbishy Bruce Banner.
Also, Hela was always a favorite character, and her imperiousness was entertainingly satisfying. Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh pipes in a weird score that in its more dancey electronic moments sounds like Doctor Detroit all over again…for better or worse, but I kind of liked it. And for a tired old Zeppelin track, the overused “immigrant song” (played in its near entirety TWICE) sounded pretty good blasting through those Dolby speakers.
The problems: legion. Biggest being the intrinsic mistake of turning a po-faced mythological comic into a slapstick family comedy (albeit with a few weird asides like the “Devils anus” and the “don’t touch anything” bit).
But the lame “contest of champions” (a reference to an awful early 80’s miniseries, yes, run by the Grandmaster), with its gumby Hulk and kids humor (and a particularly autism spectrum child identification tantrum throwing Hulk) taking up so much of the running time?
The overweight domestic as the Grandmaster’s sidekick, particularly when they attempt a half-arsed “action role” for her at the end? The pointless Executioner side story, with his unimpressive gun toting “act of heroism”? And what kind of Asgard is this, anyway? They’re supposed to be gods and warriors, not helpless refugees, cowering and hiding! Who the hell wrote this?
This Cate Blanchett person as Hela? Winking imperiousness aside, that butch voice and rather arch performance had me questioning if it weren’t played by a drag queen…and knowing that she could have easily been swapped out for one, with little noticeable change!
And all. That. Terrible. CG gumby bullshit. Was even a minute of this actually filmed, with real people and any set beyond a green screened empty warehouse?
Tag in the stupid comedy, and you have an extremely mixed bag…but still thousands of times better than the trailers suggested…or worse, the abominable letdown that was Guardians 2 (not to mention anything DC ever released on celluloid…)
Addendum: reply to a reader comment on the film’s overhyped reputation and agreeing on the poor choice to make it a comedy film:
The original Guardians and Deadpool were excellent “outsider” efforts whose humor felt unforced and who had good underlying themes (particularly Guardians, which was about how you choose and make your own family, in the end – blood relations be damned).
Guardians 2 was a horrible attempt to up the family friendliness (the CG “baby muppets” thing was just plain annoying), with an awful soundtrack (where the original was clever and quite winning) and starf**king (look who his dad is!) that entirely missed the point of what made the original film work…and then they applied the same misguided brush to Thor.
A few strong points as noted above, and certainly not as abysmal as the trailers made it seem…but whew!
Finally got out to see Black Panther…and for once, it almost lived up to the (over)hype.
Nice mix of (reasonably accurate) comic book history (Killmonger, Klaw and the Man-Ape all made appearance and acted more or less as they did back in the pages of Jungle Action in the 70s…big boo hiss to Disney for crediting Stan and Jack, when EVERYTHING they pulled from was actually Don McGregor and Billy Graham!!!), Tom Cruise-era Mission Impossible sub-Bondian schmutters and out and out fantasy business (Wakanda seemed a bit more Ka-Zar/Pellucidarian than usual, but hey…minor quibble).
The leads were likeable, the “strong ladies” for a MAJOR change weren’t obnoxious and in your face about their faux-feminist ball-crushing and supposed sex appeal (cough the filmic “black widow”), but actually believably strong (and again, likeable) characters in and of themselves, and even M’Baku the Man-Ape (who I doubted they’d use given the un-PC nature of the character) not only showed up, but acquitted himself as a fully fleshed out character, as enemy and (wholly honorable) ally in turn.
Now, admittedly, we’re not talking “pure cinema” here, or any “work of art” for the ages. These comic book movies are overreliant on CG and designed to appeal to a mass audience…hence the rather open ended presentation of Killmonger’s Huey Newtonesque stance…which was spoken against more than supported by the rest of the film (particularly the excellent closing speech at the appropriately displaced to Europe (cough Trump cough) UN.
But again, there are reasons that someone would hold that stance (which should be obvious to those who have eyes to see and a knowledge of even recent history), and it was good to see them given a fair airing…though it was better to see them shot down with reality in the end, as the product of, and perpetuation of, hate (becoming the very thing you despise, the abyss gazing back into you…which I’m seeing even from intelligent folks in that community of late).
Very good, extremely timely, and yet not the politicized animal many have been making it into…while simultaneously airing those grievances and stances, and coming to mostly the right conclusion in the end.
Just don’t mind all the crap CG gumby business.
Notes on the ever-lowering bar of modern culture (and specifically cinema):
I just saw a news scroll saying Gal Godot got some bizarre award for “challenging gender stereotypes” at some half assed awards show last night.
Challenging viewers comprehension of her uber-thick accent?
Challenging long held standards of acting ability?
Maybe the film, for challenging even the standards set by the prior television series (and hell, even the Cathy Lee Crosby TV movie) in sheer abysmalness and CG-heavy ineptitude?
I mean seriously…how do you fuck up Etta Candy? And was it too topical in Trumps America to retain the usual WWII setting? Fighting NAZIS is now too controversial?
Low bar acting, Chuck Dixon-level “pulled this one right outta my ass for you!” characters (“Dr. poison?” Seriously?)…
Look, I was looking forward to this one as much as anyone – we love all 3 seasons of the show and have watched the entire run more times than I care to remember; my wife only recently admitted the obvious decline in even the Marvel films (Guardians 2? Thor the comedy?) and just stopped dragging us to each and every one released since the whole cycle kicked off with Fox in the late 90’s.
Grew up on the stuff, was a huge collector, know all the lore (still waiting for a real Nubia, even in print – 3 appearances in the mid 70’s and poof?), always enjoyed the character even in bad eras of Egg Fu goofiness, sub-Emma Peel powerlessness and “I’m just the secretary” Justice League/Society status (seriously).
But as attractive as she is? Godot can’t speak comprehensible English, at least while mumbling buried in swathes of sound effects, bad scoring and explosions…and from her stone faced one note performance, can’t fucking ACT, either…and she wasn’t even the problem.
Wonder Woman the movie just plain sucked.
Get over it, it’s not some anti-Trump #metoo witch hunt statement…just a shit movie.
It is perhaps unsurprising that an episode all about contemporary sociopolitic and the rise of Trump appears unavailable to share.
Just saw classic BBC series Doomwatch‘s final episode…which strangely went unaired back then too…
Season 3 EP. 12 “sex and violence” is all about the Puritan revival of right wing housewife self appointed watchdogs like Mary Whitehouse (later responsible for jailing video store owners under the “video nasties” act of 1984)…but the kicker doesn’t come till the end.
After the team psychologist gets to the bottom of conservative terror of adult sexuality and fear of freedom (cf Devo’s “freedom (from) choice (is what you want)” and Jack Nicholson’s final speech in Easy Rider), the rich funder (SuperPAC in today’s parlance) of any number of far right extremist groups winds up in a private chat with team head Quist…and his words could, and should, have come directly from the mouth of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan – about being an opportunist, taking advantage of a nation’s repression and anger to his sole benefit…because he can, and why not, if the dim bulb populace are willing to surrender to him their personal power.
The Whitehouse analogue rants about how the nation needs to be run by businessmen…and one with a strong will, who cannot be moved (!), and the episode ends with a warning that in 1933, Germans democratically chose to put a man in power whose stated aims were the removal of democracy and the freedom of the individual in favor of the empowerment of and freedom of the state, removing autonomous decision making and making people’s choices FOR them, telling them what to think and how to act.
A quick summation like this can’t possibly provide the kick in the teeth Red State America needs right now…but that’s only the more reason to air this episode, somewhere they’d be most likely to sit through it.
Just got back from The Winter Soldier.
Very solid entry. Missing the nostalgia and grandeur of the first Captain America, but replaces this with a far more relevant message: the warnings against the whole Patriot Act/NSA institutionalized fascism and paranoia thing wrecking our once-great nation were so clearly spelled out, even the densest of viewers can’t claim to have missed it.
I was not a fan of the titular character, nor the awful handheld shakycam the directors (two no-name brothers) chose to overuse.
That said, Anthony Mackie was GREAT as the Falcon (and far more likeable than his comic forbear), Samuel L. tones it down a few notches (for a welcome change) and even Scarlet Johansen is less irritating than usual.
Chris Evans, once again, steals the show, and gets some great lines about what it really means to be a patriot and make a stand for freedom…which is the direct opposite of what the right wing is trying to make everyone believe it is nowadays.
Further, that he’s willing to stand alone, if need be, and at any cost, to ensure liberty and justice for all of us (and not just the rich and powerful ‘elites’).
Marvel may be returning to the side of the angels after all these years…no ‘Civil War’ here, to be sure. And I for one welcome this return to sanity with open arms.