Thursday, July 28, 2011

Superhero Movie Roundup for Summer 2011

I like superheroes. I like movies. Here's what I thought of the big four superhero movies that came out this year. I'll write about them in order from my least favorite to my favorite.

Green Lantern - What a disappointment. While I didn't think that it was absolute dreck like some people and reviewers did, it ultimately didn't work. I was really looking forward to this one, and judging by how many hits I got on my old post where I speculated what they should do for this movie, a lot of other superhero fans were probably excited about this one as well.

Basically, it went wrong for two big reasons and a lot of little reasons. The first big reason was that the effects, to put it bluntly, sucked. Every time an effect came on the screen, I was aware that I was looking at CGI. The scenes on the Green Lantern homeworld of Oa were the most egregious. I felt like I was looking at a video game the whole time. Also, shouldn't the homeworld of the Green LANTERNS be a brightly lit place (as it's often depicted in the comics) than something that looks completely devoid of life? I wonder if it was a budgetary issue. If that's the case, they should have scaled back and had one of the other Green Lanterns (like Sinestro) come to Earth to give Hal Jordan his training. That would have cost less, set up an important character for a sequel, and given the audience something to look forward to seeing in another film (as sequels can sometimes have larger budgets).

The other problem was that it was too slavish to the source material. When adapting a comic, just like with a novel, the important thing is to figure out the heart of the story and then try and build on as many things from the source that would work in a movie. They tried to fit far too much into this one, and ultimately it wound up feeling rushed. They should have aimed smaller.

As for the little problems, there were plot holes that were too big to ignore. Also, while I was originally pleased with the casting of Ryan Reynolds, I'm just not sure that he has the charisma to carry a movie like this.

X-Men: First Class - I didn't love this one, but I didn't have any major complaints about it either. It worked well as both a prequel to the original series of films and as a film in its own right. While I was skeptical of setting it during the Cold War, the makers of the film really used that to their advantage and made it feel like I was seeing something different from what I had seen in other superhero movies. There was also some pretty snappy dialogue here and there, which always helps a film like this. It also got the lousy taste out of my mouth from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. (How do you mess up a movie about Wolverine, dammit?)

Thor - This one was a lot of fun. While it wasn't the kind of film that I'd recommend to a person who normally wouldn't watch this sort of a thing, I found myself to be entertained from beginning to end. I thought they did a great job with casting the lead character, and there were a lot of fun moments for people who are both comics and Norse Mythology geeks. (But be warned, it's definitely more concerned with the comics mythology than the original Norse myths.) I imagine that this will be one of those movies that I'll watch often during those times I just want to relax and be entertained.

Captain America: The First Avenger - I absolutely loved this one, and I hope to catch it in the theaters at least one more time. For me, it worked in every way that Green Lantern didn't. The folks who made this movie really figured out what works about the character and only made changes when it made sense to do so for the sake of the film.

For starters, and ironically enough when considering my original thoughts about Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern, I had doubts that Chris Evans would be the right guy to pull this off. I suppose he was okay in the Fantastic Four movies. At least, he wasn't the reason why they sucked. (They sucked for many reasons, the main one being that they ruined one of the greatest villains of all time - Dr. Doom.) When I started to see the previews, I began to think differently though.

The reason why Evans worked so well is that he was able to convincingly pull off the lines that only a guy like Steve Rogers would say. He's idealistic and without an ounce of cynicism, and not just anybody can do lines like that. (Christopher Reeve sure did a hell of a job in the original Superman movies.) When he said that his main reason for wanting to fight in World War II was because he didn't like "bullies", it was completely believable.

Also, in contrast to Green Lantern yet again, the effects were great. I never thought for a moment that I was looking at a special effect when they made Chris Evans look short and scrawny - and CGI was how they pulled it off. Basically, CGI was used only when practical effects weren't able to get the job done, just as it should be.

Were there a lot of changes to the original comics? Yes. The biggest involves his sidekick, Bucky. But the change made for a better film, and the audience could care more about their relationship than if they tried to remain true to the source. Also, the whole bit about how he starts off simply being a propaganda tool for selling war bonds was never in the comics. It works though, and when they retell Cap's origin yet again, I think that they should include that part into the comics mythology.

Is the movie on a par with the Christopher Nolan Batman films, or even the first Iron Man? Not quite. Should people who normally don't care for superhero films check this one out? I'm not so sure. The ones who appreciate idealism and can turn off their cynicism for a couple of hours certainly should give it a try.

1 comment:

Devin Kates said...

I recently watched the last two films in your list. Both got me pumped for the avengers movie coming out in '12!
Avengers have always been one of my favorite superhero series for some reason. I thought the Cap was the best of these 4 as well. Favorite line: "Let the F├╝hrer dig for trinkets in the desert" -Johann Schmidt (Raiders of the Lost Ark reference)