Sunday, 25 March 2018

Indefinite Avengers

After watching the various trailers for Avengers: Infinity War, it seems to me there are good reasons to hope that Anthony and Joe Russo will direct this (penultimate?) Avengers sequel with the same tone of generally quite serious drama that they brought to their two Captain America pictures in the vast sprawling multi-verse of Marvel’s superhero-cinema franchise (MCU). Although moments of humour appeared in Winter Soldier and Civil War, both movies offered a largely sober variation of Marvel themes. Counter-balancing the outright comedy and/ or inane jokiness that's spoilt (like Thor: Ragnarok), or even ruined (see Deadpool), other Marvel movie adventures, especially since the company was acquired by Disney, is the main challenge for Infinity War.

This is a curse upon many faithful genre adaptations of Marvel adaptations. Comic-book movies as epic and varied as Ang Lee’s Hulk, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, or Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice have all proved that comics can be taken seriously and turned into screen drama. This also demonstrates that mannered approaches like parody and superhero spoofs by other directors merely owe a debt to the men-in-tights legacy of Adam West’s (agreeably?) farcical Batman: The Movie and TV series of the 1960s. The point here is that comicbook-derivative comedy has been done, and lazily repeated, so often that it’s about time for some more radically impressive and melancholic/ darker forms of cinematic adventures for classic superheroes.         

As a cosmic villain who represents death, the arrival of Thanos on Earth should launch a killing spree, not simply a threat of defeat in combat for the established teams of heroes. One of the problems with Civil War is that none of the main characters died, and that weakened the impact of its drama. Thanos is the bad guy who spoils everybody’s fun. If he’s not going to kill any heroes, he is likely to fail as a dangerous or effective opponent for the most powerful Avengers. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor have all enjoyed a trilogy of cinema outings each, and so perhaps their characters, along with Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk should be ‘retired’ from the current Avengers roster. In a worst-case scenario, Thanos could kill all of them in his efforts to acquire infinite powers, and this would leave a newer team of Avengers primed and eager for vengeance in the next movie. Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel should lead the Vision, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Valkyrie, plus Ant-Man and the Wasp, as the (final?) Avengers line-up. To be honest, I don’t really care much about War Machine. He was always just ‘Iron Man lite’, anyway. And, likewise Cap's buddy Bucky Barnes. Even when Bucky is reformed/ re-purposed from Winter Soldier to White Wolf, he’s only a super-soldier knock-off.   

Alternatively, for starters, I’d like to see Thor get his hammer back. Perhaps Doc Strange could put the broken metal together and restore its magic? Thor without Mjolhir is like Dr Who without a Tardis, or James Bond without a gadget-car. Infinity War appears likely to establish that, without his ‘signature’ shield, Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America. So, basically, he has become Nomad (an alternative identity for Rogers from the comics). It follows that the god of thunder really does need a hammer because, along with his red cape, it’s a traditional and fundamental part of his character in Marvel comics lore. Thor’s hammer is canonical, his new axe is not. If Mjolhir is gone forever, Marvel might as well get rid of Thor... and so I return to my suggestion that killing off all the original Avengers (the main quartet of Cap, Shellhead, Goldilocks, and Hulk, in particular) might be such a great idea for Infinity War. It would fulfil hypnotised Stark’s premonition from Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and sets up the next response team to do some proper avenging, directed by the Russo brothers, in the still-untitled concluding Avengers movie.

Monday, 12 March 2018


Watched the MYTHICA series of movies. The first two were directed by Anne Black, and they both offer Tolkien-inspired fantasy tropes, with a serious tone that elevates the material from low-budget familiarity to a level where characters emerge from the shadows of genre clichés. 

The later pictures by other (male) directors, tend to lapse into 1980s styled genre adventures that are charming with plenty of witty fun stuff going on. Enemies of the heroes range from giant monsters like dragons and ogres, to scenery-chewing villains like pirates or zombies. 

Sometimes,  cheesy qualities of the later movies lack the mythical import of Black's more traditionalist, yet wholly original, efforts. Melanie Stone is nearly great as the magic, ultimately tragic, heroine Merak.

A fight to the death at the end of the world!

Mythica: A Quest For Heroes (2014)
Mythica: The Darkspore (2015)
Mythica: The Necromancer (2015)
Mythica: The Iron Crown (2016)
Mythica: The Dragon Slayer (aka: Mythica: The Godslayer, 2016)

Friday, 2 March 2018

Thor 3

Thor: Ragnarok is not all that bad, but the movie has plenty of shitty bits in its stew of genre clichés. Right from the start, it makes feeble jokes about superhero cinema and pokes fun at its main characters, especially the god of thunder, who is ridiculed and belittled throughout, and not just by the villains. I was dubious after seeing that trailer with its ridiculous sitcom line: “He’s a friend from work,” which suggested the producers had simply abandoned any pretence that Thor might talk like he usually does in Marvel comics. Here the Asgardian heir chats and banters with his bromance co-stars, Loki and Hulk/ Bruce Banner, and even begs for mercy from his enemy’s barber (Stan Lee’s ill-advised cameo). Thor loses his magic hammer in the obvious castration metaphor, and acts just like a 1980s’ fantasy movie barbarian in this adventure’s gladiatorial sequence rather than the formidable caped superhero of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor (2011), which now seems even more cod-Shakespearean, in its tone and style, than it ever did before, if compared to the sadly crappy humour of this second, very disappointing, sequel.

Jeff Goldblum’s space villain Grandmaster is played as a campy glam-rock showman, reduced to the cosmic equivalent of hosting TV circus routines. Cate Blanchett hides behind her equally campy smirks while Hela effortlessly slays the supporting players - Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun, in her unfortunately pantomimed conquest of Asgard. This movie’s version of the Hulk talks far too frequently and lapses into a comic-book sidekick role largely at odds with the monstrous city-wrecker as depicted in Avengers movies. It is a betrayal of the character seen at his very best in Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). Karl Urban is wasted as conflicted executioner Skurge, and Tessa Thompson is clearly too Californian to play Norse warrior Valkyrie.

Hulk wipes the floor with Thor, while previous victim of such indignity, Loki, cheers. Director Taika Waititi’s voice for farcical stone-man Korg is quite appalling to hear in a $180 million budget production that could afford Sam Neill and Matt Damon for its throwaway exposition in an Asgardian theatre scene. Almost lost in witless references to, and repeats of, Marvel movies’ comedy classics, and grotesque displays of Z-grade talent-show acting, the best sequence in this knockabout buddy-movie's regrettably dismal failure of space-opera imagination is the flashback to valkyries on winged horses, flying into combat against Hela. Looking like something created by Zack Snyder, this battle boasts a magnificent artistry, and mythic grandeur, a cosmos away from all the stupid gags at the expense of Thor. 

As a result of its archly contrived comedy content, Thor: Ragnarok probably qualifies as just a spoof movie. It contributes nothing of interest or value to the franchise.