Monday, October 13, 2008

Mavel: A Light in the Dark?

While I'm doubtlessly setting myself up for disappointment, I'm starting to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Apparently, the alternate opening to The Incredible Hulk as seen in the upcoming dvd shows Captain America, frozen in ice. Furthermore, the writers of Iron Man are talking about the Hulk as the villain for the Avengers movie coming 2011. ( To call this good news would be an understatement, as Marvel Studios does not appear to have produced Iron Man and Incredible Hulk as one hit wonders but in fact as the opening salvos in a series of productions that will redefine what comic book movies are.

(Spolier Alert) For those unfamiliar with the plot of the original story arc of the Avengers, Captain America gets thawed after years frozen in the arctic just in time to unite and lead the fledgling Avengers, who count among their ranks the Norse God Thor. Thor's mortal enemy and half-brother Loki is constantly scheming against everybody's favorite blond hammer wielding musclehead, and at this point he decides to pit the most physically powerful being he can find against Thor, everybody's favorite wandering hero, the Hulk. This would, I think, make for a fantastic way to do the Avengers movie, start it with Cap's thawing and immediately form a team with the already introduced Thor, Iron Man and perhaps others. Loki sets Hulk against Thor, worldwide delicious chaos, death and destruction ensue.

Whereas independent studios had mixed luck with their various Marvel heroes, Marvel Studios has largely stayed true to what has made these characters great for decades. Yes, the first two Spider-Man movies as well as Bryan Singer's X-Men were great movies and largely faithful adaptations, but I don't think I need to remind you of certain travesties against the sanity of every true comic book geek on the planet (ahem, Brett Ratner). True, Marvel Studios has only had two cracks at transferring its own heroes to the silver screen, but the studio's batting average is remarkably higher than anyone else, so for the moment I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Just how right does Marvel seem to be getting it? Inane, hard to spot references like the ones that abounded in Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk are a big part of what makes comics so incredibly enjoyable, and like so much else Marvel was able to translate them to the big screen in a way few if any other studios have managed. I am very much looking forward to sifting through both dvds time and again in order to pinpoint all of the references that I'm sure I missed, looking for clues of what to expect from Marvel's next few projects. Needless to say, my faith in Hollywood lingers with the promises of Marvel Studios. The web, as it were, is being woven masterfully, and I can't wait to get caught in it.


Bryan said...

You bring up several points in your post so I will do my best to relate to most if not all.

Overwhelmingly, however, your post is filled with a palpable if not melodramatic dissatisfaction that James Bond is no longer the James Bond you 'used to know,' as if regurgitation of very basic elements would be appealing after 22 films. Interestingly, though, you cite Die Another Day as the movie where you begun to lose faith and as the point with which you judge Casino Royale and this most recent offering.

I say interesting because Die Another Day is probably the movie that tries its best to exploit the old formula of Bond, showing exactly how exaggerated and ridiculous a modern-day Bond movie turns out. These past two bonds have done away with wacky villains who are so over-the-top it begins as if I'm watching a video-game cut sequence. Also stripped are the nearly BMW infomercials that serve as the always tech-savvy Q's weight in the series. By and large, those elements are preposterous. If you cite the new Batman movies as such masterpieces, then why does your beloved Bond have to adhere to such ridiculous characterizations that are little more than plot elements to be checked off at the end of a film?

Ten minute display of new technology mostly involving a BMW or some sort of uber watch? Check. Air-headed blond woman who wears a bikini at some point of the movie and falls for a pun about James Bond's sex appeal? Check. Villain who rants and raves about his entire plan while Bond is hooked up to some sort of pre-meditated easily escapable death trap? Check.

I mean, come on.

The old Bond's certainly have their place in history, but if you think that their formula is so timeless that it should be repeated again and again, upwards of 22 times, then you'll forever be mistaken.

The fact remains that Bond has been rebooted. You should have seen this when they cast Daniel Craig into the roll, and you should have experienced it when they made Casino Royale. They're capitalizing on the feelings of the Jason Bourne movies, where there's an actual sense that Bond is an agent, rather than a stand-up comedian turned free-lance babe magnet.

I thought the movie did fine. It was the shortest of the Bond movies, had awesome set pieces, great action sequences and wasted no time with the previous Bond bullshit. The camera work was deliberately interesting, contrasting Bond's efficiency (good self referential line about this by the bond girl), with a sense that Bond has his own style of doing things.

And if you want to judge the opening titles, I'll debate you on that. They were quite interesting, with a great post-cards in space feeling, while keeping a sort of dream-like color scheme. I mean, if you liked the Spiderman 2 intro titles, then I honestly don't know what to tell you.

Anyway, my main point is that you're trying to hold onto the possibility of a movie that will never show up, at least not in the same vein as these reboots. If you're looking for a traditional bond with the villian, the girls, and the one liners that would make Mr. Freeze cringe, then go rent the first 18 or so. Otherwise, Bond is a tad bit more interesting now.

Bryan said...

I appreciate your input, although I would appreciate it more if you could actually post the comment to the post you're actually talking about.

As it were, I can see where you're coming from. I am in deed nastalgic for the glory days of the 007 franchise because quite frankly, I prefer variety in my films. Making the Bonds into carbon copies of other spy thrillers just doesn't appeal to me, and as for your checklist, isn't it possible that those are the elements that have have kept Bond not only viable and enjoyable but more importantly unique and individualistic for forty years?

That Daniel Craig's Bond is an attempt at rebooting the franchise after the admitted disaster of Die Another Day is not something that had escaped my grasp. But just because a film is a reboot does not make it good, does not make the direction it is going in viable and it does not make the direction it had been going in bad.

Truth be told, I miss the megalomaniacs and the gadgets, and as for the Bond girls, they are perhaps even more annoying and anti-feminist than ever before, manipulative and manipulated, always needing Bond's rescuing and apparently mountainous fatherly appeal as he acts now not just as lover but as mentor and confidante, something the new Bond seems woefully inadequate at.

At least we understood what the monologing masterminds were after, something of Solace I still haven't figured out. As for the gadgets, I found them, for the most part, to be an immense amount of fun, deliberately meant not to be taken seriously, providing the fantasy element this more 'realistic' attempt at Bond has completely forgotten. The reason this is Bond and not Bourne is because there is a place for all such feelings in film, the ridiculous and the realistic, the fun and the gritty.

It seems to me that Bond has traded in the checklists of old as you put them for another, this time more 'gritty' and 'realistic' action that spins around a senseless plot and characters shuffled through the paces. Bond has lost the sheer fun that he used to have, replaced by film makers and audiences who would rather jump on a bandwagon of what is 'in' at the moment than stick to elements that can in fact be done well and need not be replaced by new ones that are any character but 007.

As for the opening titles, the music had no feel of the Bond fantasy whatsoever, it instead seemed like just another music video that swooshed and waxed and waned and didn't make any sense. There was a total lack of connection between the titles and the movie itself, it was just there to look pretty and sound, well, I'm not sure what it sounded like.

The one-liners, girls, gadgets and villains are not impossible to do well, as those first 18 demonstrated. Die Another Day lost control of the elements, a sign of creative control far more than the times. Notice how you call Bond more interesting, yet in your entire entry you never touched on the fun and adventure that is the true essence of the Bond films. You were more interested by this version of Bond, but did you enjoy yourself more?