Marvelous March – Week 3

Logan

This movie is what can happen when you pry the reins of the X-Men from Bryan Singer’s perverted, slimy fingers. This might be one of the best Marvel movies outside of the MCU, in all honesty. It is so different from everything else in the Fox line-up. Gone are cheesy action scenes, overblown dialogue, and relationships that lack any depth or meaning. This movie is visceral, both in tone and in action, and it was kind of mind-blowing to watch. I didn’t expect the level of violence, for one, and was continually shocked, but not even in a bad way. I think I was surprised largely that they were getting away with it in a Marvel movie

The setting takes Logan, aka Wolverine, to a nearish future where mutants are no longer born. Most of them have been hunted down and killed or dispersed into the wind. An evil corporation, because of course, has begun genetically engineering new mutants to use as weapons from the harvested DNA of older mutants. In short, Logan learns that he has a daughter, and the crux of the movie is getting Laura to someplace safe.

What I liked:

  • You can basically get me with any father/daughter style relationship in a movie. It’s my kryptonite, and it was bad even before I had a daughter. Now that I have one, simply mentioning a father/daughter dynamic gets my tear ducts revving. This one is good, but not in ways I might have expected. Logan is never a real father figure in any way, and only becomes so at the very end of the movie. The redemption arc is quite good, and the acting between Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen is way better than it has any right to be.
  • The acting in this movie is leagues above what you might get out of almost any other Marvel movie, and I think the direction is a large part of this. Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman are recognizable as their characters, but what they are delivering in this movie is fresh and exciting to watch.
  • I loved the journey-across-America style of storytelling, replete with American (albeit Dystopian American) imagery all over the place Not in the flashy sense of flags waving on very doorstep but rather in the connections with people who feel authentically American (both good and bad).
  • The writing of this movie is pretty clever. How do you make a superhero movie about a man who doesn’t age, but still use the actor who is clearly aging? The idea they come up with is that Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton is poisoning him, and maybe always has been. Unfortunately, this only works at surface level because the more I thought about it, the more I disliked the very notion of his healing power dampening in such a way. I do have to give respect for the effort.

I really loved this one. It’s hard to watch at times because it is easily the most violent superhero movie out there, vying only with Deadpool in its gruesome combat (and Deadpool is too campy to take seriously, where Logan is as serious a movie as I think I’ve ever seen). I think this is a film that could have worked independent of its superhero tropes. It has a The Road style quality to it, and in fact seems to be paying homage to that book and movie in its execution. We’ll never see this type of movie in the MCU, but I hope that the people behind this get a chance to play around with someone else’s story because they’ve sent Wolverine off in style.

The Incredible Hulk

Well this did not hold up like I remembered. I understand now why people have a hard time placing it in the MCU, though technically it is. The movie is kind of a mess – like it was trying to be a set up film for things to come but did it all wrong, to the point that it’s largely been ret-conned by subsequent movies. It’s also an incredibly boring movie. My memory, even after just watching it, is that it is 80% made up of Edward Norton running. Just long shots of him running through various scenery, which works maybe once but not for an entire film.

What I liked:

  • I think Tim Roth is decent as Abomination. He has a sinister quality to him that feels right in any villain role.
  • Thunderbolt Ross. I like William Hurt, and I like him in his other appearances in the MCU. My only complaint about his casting is that it basically means we will never see the Red Hulk because Hurt is too old. Obviously the actual character would be completely CGI, but I feel like it would still be hard to have an older actor in that role.

That’s about it. I can’t stand Liv Tyler, but that’s a personal thing. The CGI in this film is decent, but it’s also kind of gross. I don’t like looking at the Hulk. This Hulk also bears no resemblance to Edward Norton, which is something they definitely fixed in the later movies. It’s weird to say this, but I think I actually preferred the earlier Ang Lee Hulk to this film. Don’t get me wrong, I will never watch either one again, but at least the former was weird and fascinating in its way. The Incredible Hulk is just kind of boring. The end credit scene also makes no sense, as Ross has nothing to do with the Avengers, and Tony Stark wasn’t really the recruitment arm. Just…just a mess overall.

Thor

Ah, Thor. Thor is probably my favorite character in the MCU. It’s a close race, and on any given day I might pick Danvers or Spidey, but there is a tie to Norse myth and being a big strong white dude that makes Thor resonate with me in a personal way. I also think Hemsworth is incredibly good in this role. I enjoyed this initial Thor movie quite a bit when it came out. It blends humor and mythology and solid action together well, but on a re-watch I did have some trouble with it. For one, it’s a little jarring to me what they’ve done to Hemsworth’s appearance over all the films. He has some serious dye job going on in this one that isn’t really the case in any other movie that I can remember.

What I liked:

  • I like Natalie Portman a lot in this movie. She has such an earnest portrayal of Jane Foster that it’s hard not to. I’m incredibly curious how they’re going to turn her into The Mighty Thor in Love and Thunder because she’s pretty diminutive, and in the comics she transforms quite literally into a muscled badass.
  • This movie and Iron Man 2 are the real launching points for what the MCU became. It is very fun to look at the small things that you know will move forward into bigger things.
  • Hemsworth is so charming in this one that it’s distracting. Every time he’s on screen I am reminded of that “that damned smile” meme.
  • The scene on Jotunheim is fantastic in its depiction of a Thor unleashed. I love the range of abilities he showcases, from the lightning to using Mjolnir as a giant fan blade to whir ice into giant faces.
  • The Destroyer looks great, even though he seems to go down too easily. Comics Destroyer has some serious power, the likes of which might be tricky even for Thor to deal with.

Not much more to say about this one. It’s great as an origin film, but not something I’d want to watch on repeat, like I can say for some of the others. I think MCU Thor really doesn’t find his footing until the Ragnarok/Infinity Saga stuff, where he truly shines.

Avengers

Yes. Oh yeah. That hits the spot. Avengers is the good stuff, so smooth and satisfying, easily digestible, not overly complicated, great action, great acting. It’s hard to believe that Joss Whedon’s hand is all over this, given what a shithead he’s turned out to be. This is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this month, though I already knew it would be because I’ve watched it half a dozen times.

What I liked:

  • Every performance in this movie is almost perfect. They all play off of each other so well, and the humor and wit holds up one hundred percent.
  • The Hulk – After watching the other two Hulk movies fairly recently, seeing Ruffalo Hulk again was like getting into a nice snuggly bed after a long day trudging through the snow. He looks so much better, and Ruffalo is all around a better Banner as well.
  • “The Battle for New York” remains one of the best action sequences in films. It’s enjoyable to watch from end to end. The way the Avengers work together, mixing powers on occasion, and Tony’s sacrifice….it’s all just ::chef’s kiss::
  • I love this movie.

My only gripes with this film, and they are petty, are few. Though she only says it twice, the lines about Natasha having red in her ledger never sat well with me. It sounds so forced and odd. Secondly, Cap’s suit looks dumb. I’m sorry, but it does. I get the need to try to replicate some kind of comic book style duds, but he looks ridiculous, like he’s still part of the propaganda machine in 1944. They did much better in First Avenger, and in every subsequent Cap film, with his costuming. Lastly, it’s clear that the vision for this particular film’s trajectory is pretty different from what eventually came. Thanos is in it yes, but the power of the Tesseract and Loki’s staff feel very different from what is eventually shown from the infinity stones. It also doesn’t really make sense that Thanos would send Loki, whom he barely knows, to Earth to deliver him the space stone, even giving him the mind stone to play with, when he was so eager to invade Earth in Endgame. It suggests a hands-off role, which Thanos did not display in any way during the Infinity Saga. None of this detracts from the enjoyment of the film, thankfully, and the last gripe only exists because I know how this thing ends.

This movie concludes my phase 1, timeline-style, viewing of the MCU films. Phase 2 has some potential hiccups, with Thor: The Dark World in there making people snarky. I suspect I will enjoy most of these things though. Age of Ultron is even seeing a renaissance among the fan base. I remember not liking it, but we’ll see how it feels after Endgame.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This is the worst superhero movie I have seen in this current run. It’s worse than the Hulks, worse than the Fantastic 4 (2015) movie, possibly even worse than Dark Phoenix (though if you made me choose, I’d have to really think about it). I say this having enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man debut, though I only ever saw it once and have no idea if it holds up. I accidentally watched the first ten minutes of it because I clicked on the wrong movie, and it seemed kind of bad so I may re-watch it in its entirety to see if I was suffering from Spider-Man-tinted goggles.

This movie is one of the best examples I can think for how something with so many good individual pieces can fail so utterly when those pieces are combined. Garfield isn’t a bad Spider-Man (even if he’s a terrible Peter Parker), and the rest of the cast in this movie, when they appear in other movies, are excellent. The script isn’t that bad, outside of the truly boundless leaps in disbelief required regarding some of the “science” that is flung around. It’s a passable comic book story, completely ruined by bad dialogue and performances that one could hardly believe came out of these otherwise good actors. What they did to Jamie Foxx as Electro in this movie is downright criminal. Dane DeHann, who I think has solid acting chops, is completely out of his element as Harry Osborn and looks like a clown throughout. I can’t even think about Paul Giamatti. I just can’t. The only bright spot in any of the performances is Emma Stone, who is basically just playing herself but is charming enough to pull it off.

What I liked:

  • Most of the action scenes are solid, remarkably so considering how badly directed this is. Spider-Man is shown using a nice range of his abilities. One detail in particular caught my eye, and I’m not sure other Spider-Man movies have done this. Spidey climbs his webs. This is probably hard to miss unless you’re looking for it, but I think it’s important to the logic behind his web-slinging. Most games don’t even get this right, though I’ve seen at least one recently that does. This level of detail is pretty surprising given how little thought was put into most of the rest of the film.
  • The end of the movie is a setup for a Sinister Six movie, which I’d have been pretty excited about if this one hadn’t been so god-awful. Obviously Spider-Man movies have had some difficulty incorporating multiple villains within one film, and this one is certainly no exception (though it wouldn’t have mattered), but the idea of six villains in one movie is exciting to me regardless.

That’s probably it. This movie is very hard to watch. The dialogue, again, is so corny and cringe-inducing that I actually found myself looking away from the screen a lot. The romance angle is too heavy, like the movie wants to be a rom-com and not a superhero flick. Electro’s power set is…it’s just ridiculous and silly. There’s no Spider-Man, and very few superheroes in or out of comics, that could have beaten him. He has the ability to turn into electricity, and yet somehow Gwen Stacy hits him with a car and knocks him unconscious. It’s so stupid, and not in a fun way like Ghost Rider. I have to stop now before I start hating Spider-Man, who I love, because of this garbage.

Comics Round-Up

  • Thor (2018) – This run of the God of Thunder follows the retirement of Jane Foster as The Mighty Thor. Mjolnir has been cast into the sun, along with the Mangog, and Thor is kind of back into his old groove but longing for that hammer. Most of this volume is a lead up to and a continuation of the War of the Realms saga, which spans the entire Marvel Universe. This is an enjoyable run of Thor story. He’s no longer the doubting, beaten down god he was in The Mighty Thor run, and he’s really starting to get his stride back despite his lack of a superweapon. Watching him destroy hammer after hammer is enjoyable. What I really like about this entire Jason Aaron run is the far-flung future Thor and his attempts to stave off the end of the universe. That stuff gets very interesting.
  • Captain America (2013) – I picked up a collected volume at the library which is unfortunately the fourth volume in a series that I haven’t read, but I felt like having something physical. This was written around 2013, and it sees Cap dealing with a group known as the Discordants, who are doing exactly that to the world. What’s remarkable about this run is that it so completely predicts the current political climate of the United States, right down to riots on the steps of the Capitol building. It was eerie to read this after witnessing the idiocy of January in Washington D.C. Unlike Cap, we unfortunately don’t have a sinister plot to unveil. We just have lots of stupid people.
  • War of the Realms – So this is one of those Marvel events that pulls in various different series, almost all of the characters, and that people either love or hate. It’s also the kind of thing they make movie franchises about. The Infinity Saga was a similarly large comics event. I think at this point there is a cycle. The Marvel teams gets together and decides, hey what’s our next big thing? This is one of the most recent big things (the Empyre saga is the next I believe) and it’s all about the dark elf Malekith invading every other realm on the World Tree. This is a very Thor-centric saga, and indeed he seems to be the main protagonist of the entire story (though a case could be made for Jane Foster, certainly). I like this run simply because I love me some Norse myth and this is a deep cut into that. Finding all the tangential stuff related to this in the other comic runs will also be fun.

I went into a comic shop the other day and purchased what might be the first physical, current comics that I’ve ever bought. This seemed like the time to do it, and honestly, after sitting down and turning the pages on these things, I think this might be a new habit. It’s a very enjoyable experience.

  • Thor (2020-) #12 – So I bought this in the middle of a run that sees Donald Blake, the man who used to transform into Thor, returned and now a homicidal maniac with an overdose of power. It’s kind of wild.
  • Captain Marvel (2019-) #25 – Again, I bought this in the middle of a series and was a bit out of the story, but it’s also pretty wild as it sees Carol flung into some distant future where the son of Namor and the Sorceress, a man called Ove, has her hostage in an attempt to kill her and use the energy to travel to her own present. Yeah.
  • Magnificent Ms Marvel (2021-) #17 – Yes, this is also in the middle of a series. It’s hard not to dive in somewhere out of place at this point. This series gets to the heart of a question that I’ve had myself in the past – how is it okay for all of these children to be running around as superheroes? Kamala is on the run, which she often seems to be, and refuses to step down from superhero-ing. I think I’m going to like this storyline. The use of her powers so far has been kind of hilarious.

Marvel’s Avengers Extinction Key

Reading through Extinction Key while playing through Marvel’s Avengers, the game, was a good combination. This is a book that takes place in the game’s world, but prior to the events of the game. The Avengers are established, though it seems as though they’re somewhat freshly established, and Tony is trying to set up a West Coast Avengers so that the group can handle threats nation-wide. The book introduces Monica Rappacini and George Tarleton, the main antagonists of the game story, but who aren’t as pivotal to this one.

Instead, the opening of the book goes back into ancient times, where a pantheon of villains sought to gain the power that would enable them to enslave the world. They were known as the Zodiac, with each styled after some particular constellation up there in the sky. Fast-forward to the modern day and the Avengers find themselves contending with a modern Zodiac – different people but similar ideals. These are big villains, much bigger in fact than anything we’ve seen in the game. One of the biggest criticisms of the game is actually that it’s just robot fights seemingly without end. Players do get to fight Taskmaster and Abomination, but that’s it. Though the Zodiac is new to Marvel (I think), they seem to be on par with some of the universe’s heavy hitters – especially as the novel progresses and they become stronger.

I was surprised at how easy this book was to read. It’s well-written, well-plotted, and while I’m not sure comic book stories transition to the non-illustrated page quite as well as they do to drawn panels, I enjoyed this book and read through it fairly quick. I honestly wish this would have been the game, though it lacks the sheer number of enemies that AIM manages to field due to the aforementioned robotic nature of the game’s foils. This story felt more epic and getting to fight more boss battles, with real supervillains, would have been a hundred times more enjoyable than fighting various sized robots over and over. The game may eventually get there, but that hinges on its continued developer support – something fans have been questioning lately.

This is the second Marvel book that I’ve read so far, and I have two more on the shelf that are Asgard related. I’m impressed with the writing quality, overall. They hired people who know what they’re doing, and the stories are not perfect by any stretch, but they’re engaging and readable and help with the Marvel immersion that I’m going for.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

I actually did not intend to replay this game. I had gotten the platinum trophy in 2018 when I played through it on the ps4, loved the game so much but felt very satisfied with where I’d left it, and was simply hoping for the sequel sometime in the next decade. Then I played through Miles Morales, which I also completely 100% loved, and this little niggling voice in my head was telling me that I needed to upgrade the old one, see how it felt and looked on the new system. I did, started up a NG+ game, and then just played through the entire thing. I did it fast this time, not bothering with any side content at all and simply experiencing the story. I did up the difficulty, which didn’t change things too much. What did I come away with? I still love this game.

A few things:

  • I was skeptical of Peter’s new face when they announced the remaster, but having played through it again I think I am in favor of the decision. I never really liked Peter’s look in the 2018 version, but you didn’t see him too much so it didn’t mess up my enjoyment of the game. Maybe I just like Tom Holland a lot because I enjoyed seeing this budget-looking Tom Holland in my favorite Spider-Man game.
  • I’ve been messing around with various older Spider-Man games, and it’s incredible just how much better this one feels than anything that came before it. It feels good to be the web-slinger, natural, whereas in some of the others I’ve been dipping into it often feels frustrating. For instance, people thought that physics based web-swinging was amazing back when Spider-Man 2 came out, but I would strongly argue in favor of the hybrid approach they have with this Spider-Man. You’re never going to be able to replicate physics to a satisfying degree when dealing with a super powered demi-god, so why not opt to simply make traversal feel good?
  • I have the platinum trophy in this game, but my profile is stained with a mere 82% completion due to the DLC. I tried to play the DLC, was excited for it in fact due to it being more of this game. The story isn’t bad, and introduces another long-time villain in Hammerhead, but some of the extra content stuff is so frustrating that I had to quit. I am tempted to try and go back to finish that stuff up, but boy did I hate it.

As I said, I played through Miles Morales in January and loved it. It’s shorter, but on par, and I will likely be jumping back into that for some platinum completion before the month’s end. There are even rumors that Spider-Man 2 will be hitting later this year, which would be amazing. I’ve read some hints at its Venom storyline and its exciting. I do hope they give some parity to Miles and Peter. I’d honestly like a game that starred them both.

I mentioned that I have been playing some older Spider-Man titles, and the reason for that is that I am hoping to do a deep dive into all the Spider-Man games that I can get my hands on. It’s more difficult than I thought. The PS3/360 era titles are frustrating to emulate and don’t seem very prevalent in the second hand industry (at least not at reasonable prices). Older stuff is easier to emulate and thankfully easy to find. Here’s a short preliminary list of what I plan on looking at:

  • Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
  • Spider-Man: Edge of Time
  • Spider-Man 2
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • Ultimate Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
  • Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge

And maybe more. Which brings me to a final note. I don’t think this month is going to be the end of my Marvelous March. I may make it two months. That’s how much I’m enjoying this deep dive into all things Marvel. I don’t feel tired of any of it yet, and it almost feels like I’m catching up on the 20 odd years between now and when I was into comics as a child. It is, of course, making me even more of a nerd than I already am, but I’m embracing it now in a way I haven’t before. So, like, Excelsior, or something?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Shannon says:

    I might need to re-watch Logan. I remember be extremely impressed when I saw it on release. Glad to hear it holds up well.

    Like

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