Wednesday, October 6, 2010

(Guest Writer) Upcoming Film: The Avengers

Unofficial tagline: "Party in the U.S.A. has a whole new meaning.
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I realize this is supposed to be a preview of The Avengers, but you'll have to be patient for my expectations, because there's a lot of lead-up.  I won't get to The Avengers itself for a little while.  

So, many of you may have realized that there has been a large upheaval of comic book movies in the past 10 years, especially in the past 4 or 5.  Marvel and DC have been going absolutely crazy lately.  They bust out superhero movies so often it's like having Christmas twice a year (if you’re into that sort of thing).  The only problem is that since they're getting rushed into production and release so quickly, it's as though the hero doesn't have time to put on his suit, and he dashes boldly into the fray, then realizing that he forgot his mask, hammer, flight-stabilizer, side-kick, underwear, etc.  My point is that comic-book franchises are cranking out movies so quickly they aren't getting the greatest products.

Of the two big franchises in particular, one is doing this: Marvel.  They started out with Spider-Man and X-Men, which were their big boys (and girls; no sexism allowed here).   They have since gone on to The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc.  And then DC brought out Batman Begins, their big gun. This superhero franchise has been incredibly successful, due to its excellent cast and stellar directing.  Eventually Marvel got around to their most literal big gun in Iron Man. Director Jon Favreau took the reins along with the ravishingly handsome Robert Downey Jr., who played the title character as a narcissistic yet lovable Tony Stark.  The approach to the movie was excellent.  It almost seemed to satirize other superhero movies (funny, seeing as how Marvel had come out with basically all of them up to that point).  Iron Man was very popular, and I, being a huge fan of the series, as well as the now-no-longer-washed-up Downey Jr., was very pleased with the movie.  After the releases of The Dark Knight and Iron Man, both comic book franchises had their poster boys.  

Cooler with a Norse god holding it.
Around the same time as Iron Man came The Incredible Hulk, directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Edward Norton as the man-with-anger-management-issues, Bruce Banner. Viewers were somewhat stunned by the appearance of none other than Tony Stark himself at the end of the movie.  Here’s what most people (or at least really bored people) thought about: “How on earth could Iron Man and The Hulk work together in a movie?”  Cue Iron Man 2. By this point everyone was pretty sure that an Avengers movie was in the process.  First we had Agent Coulson from Iron Man, who had such a pitiful yet important role.  He works for S.H.I.E.L.D., the agency that formed The Avengers in the original series.  Now we have a new character thrown into the mix.  Samuel L Jack... I mean Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson makes an appearance, along with Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow.  We see a prototype of Captain America's shield in Tony's basement, and if you were loyal enough to stay after the credits, you see agent Coulson's re-assignment (which we hear of earlier in the movie) in New Mexico, where S.H.I.E.L.D. has found Thor's hammer.  

Rewind.  First Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D., then Iron Man and the Hulk; then Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. led by Nick Fury mixed with the Black Widow, Captain America and Thor.  And did I mention that in one of the final scenes of the movie Fury and Stark are talking about Stark's possible recruitment for The Avengers Initiative?  So we are basically set for our Avengers movie.  

Filming has begun on both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.  Thor will be played by the mighty Chris Hemsworth, and Captain America will be played by the now-incredibly-buff Chris Evans.  There has been some worry in the casting choices for these characters, but I'm pretty happy with both right now.  Let's look at each individually, starting with Thor. Thor will be directed by Shakespeare-lover Kenneth Branagh.  Branagh had never read or known much about the series beforehand, but he became interested quickly when presented with the material.  His experience with Shakespeare will be a huge help.  There are a lot of Shakespearean lines in Thor, and no one can make them work as well as Branagh.  Not much is known about the plot as of yet, except that Thor is cast out of Asgard to earth, where he becomes a great superhero.  He will have a woman's touch on screen, with the talented Natalie Portman playing Jane Foster.  The also-talented Anthony Hopkins will play Odin, and Tom Hiddleston will play Thor's evil brother Loki.  Of all of the Avengers set-up movies, this is the one I worry about most.  They have by far the weakest cast, with Hemsworth being almost a complete nobody before this big role.  In my opinion, if Hemsworth can't command attention on-screen and pull of those Shakespeare lines well, people will lose a lot of interest with the not-so-mighty Thor.  But from the Comic-Con preview, Thor is looking like it will be a good film and will also have some stunning visual effects.

Just call me Agent Elrond V Smith
Captain America: The First Avenger is being directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo, The Wolfman) and will star the Human Tor...Chris Evans.  Shoot I did that again.  Evans got big for this role.  His biceps are the size of watermelons.  You think I'm kidding, but it’s totes legit (yup, “totes legit”).  Watermelons.  He won't star alongside any big names, really.  Unless, of course, you think that Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tommy Lee Jones are any good.  See what I did there? I played with your mind.  Evans has quite the cast backing him.  Jackson will be Nick Fury, of course.  Weaving will play the infamous Red Skull (the big baddie of the Captain America franchise), and Jones will be playing Colonel Chester Phillips.  A young papa Stark might make an appearance in the form of Dominic Cooper.  The story is set back to Captain America's origins, where he's just the lame Steve Rodgers, who is unfit for military service.  He decides to let the government experiment on him, though, and turn him into Captain America. (I tried this, and it's actually really easy.  Just take a ton of steroids and do a bunch of push-ups every day.)  At first Captain America is just a publicity stunt for America.  But reality hits and Steve must defend his country and take down Hydra, the evil organization that wants to rule the world.  Hydra is led by Weaving’s Red Skull.  I'm actually kind of excited to see this, because although Chris Evans doesn't really have the skillz to top Downey Jr., this movie might still bring out Evans' funny side, while still having a semi-quality film.  I'm not expecting too much greatness out of either of those movies, but I want them to be solid and quality.  

So we have our Avengers.  Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr.  Captain America is Chris Evans.  Thor is Chris Hemsworth.  Nick Fury is Samuel L. Jackson.   Black Widow is Scarlett Johansson. War Machine is Don Cheadle.  At Comic-Con they released a couple more names.  Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) will be playing Hawkeye, probably more as a minor character, and Edward Norton has been replaced by Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island, The Last Castle, 13 Going On 30).  Norton pretty much gave Marvel the finger, saying he didn’t think the movie could be pulled off and would rather work on a Batman film. Now, The Incredible Hulk really wasn't great, despite the fact that an acting great (Norton) was starring.  I think he would have been a great asset for The Avengers even with that hampering him down, but Mark Ruffalo is a solid choice for Bruce Banner.  He has even agreed to skip full-on CGI and pull an Andy Serkis (Gollum, for all you non-Lord of the Rings geeks), adding his own movement and then having the CGI Hulk layered over his motions.  

Now check this: during the pre-production stages of Iron Man 2, Marvel hinted to John Favreau, the director, that if he put in a lot of Avengers stuff, he would probably be the first choice for the Avengers job.  Not only did he put in a TON of Avengers junk, but Marvel also rushed production of the movie, and filming actually started before the script was even completed.  So is anyone complaining about how Iron Man 2 didn't have a great plot and had little character development?  Blame Marvel.  I do.  Now get this, Marvel didn't only not hire him as director, but they never even considered him as a choice, and decided to go with the blockbuster-newbie Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog).  I'm still not happy about Favreau, but after reading an interview with Whedon a little while ago, I feel like he knows how big this is.  Whedon is one of the best story-writers in all of Hollywood.  You'll know him from Buffy of course and maybe from Firefly too.  He hasn't done a lot of directing with big movies with a lot of hype, but I feel like if anyone is going to work their butt off to make this Avengers movie not only a money-maker, but also a quality movie, it's Joss Whedon.  I had my doubts at first, but he made it clear he knows how big this movie is, and he is working on making it so that each major character gets their role in the movie.  There are a lot of characters that need the spotlight, and fans won't want to see their heroes just playing backup dancer while some guy in a big blue suit gets all the attention.  

One last thing: Some of you may be wondering about a few heroes who didn't make it into The Avengers.  The X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four all missed the cut.  The last one is much easier to answer than the others, with the basic fact being that Chris Evans can't be in two places at once.  Also, let's face it, the Fantastic Four movies sucked hardcore.  A reboot is in the works as of now, and I hope it can do the comic justice.  X-Men is out for multiple reasons, one being the fact that the cast would more than double, and also because of different owners, etc. It’s basically all stuff about money that has nothing to do with the actual movies themselves.  Then there's Spider-Man.  Basically it's just that the franchise died, they're rebooting it, and no one wants to see Tobey Maguire ruin other people's superhero movie.  Did y'all see Spider-Man 3?  I almost cried when I did.  

Well that's it for your Avengers preview, folks.  The Avengers is set to come out in May of 2012, with filming starting early in 2011.  It's a little ways off, and I may write again if we get enough crazy news about the film, but you can look for me to be seeing that movie opening night, and ready to write a review.  I have high hopes, despite the many places I see for disaster to possibly strike.
Robert Downey Jr. can see into your soul.

You stay classy, YAMB fans.

Guest writer: Zack Koop

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