Tag Archives: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – A Movie Review


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GotG2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not perfect.

But it is damn close.

Marvel Studios continues its run of fun, thrilling and engaging movies with this sequel to the surprise hit of the late summer of 2014. With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel took a risk and put B and C List characters with little to no name recognition front-and-center in a film and it worked better than anyone could have anticipated.

Could lightening strike twice with this second volume?

It is a very near miss. The original film has almost no missteps. The sequel has but one.

There is a little too much going on. It is not that the movie is impossible to follow or that there are so many characters, the audience does not care about them. It is not that more means less. It is simply that Vol. 2 feels like too much of a good thing, like it is about to burst its seams.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels a bit bloated but, to be clear, it is bloated with more good things so is that really a bad thing? This is a minor quibble, to be sure, but the movie perhaps could have been edited a little tighter.

Thought I do not know what I would recommend cutting out.

The whole engaging gang from the first installment is back and it is terrific to spend another couple hours with Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bausita (Drax) and the voices of Vin Diesel (Baby Groot) and Bradley Cooper (Rocket), not to mention the always worth watching Michael Rooker (Yondu) and the savagely fun Karen Gillen (Nebula). Much like the creators of last summer’s Star Trek Beyond, writer/director James Gunn makes a decision that serves his movie very, very well: he splits up the team.

Peter, Gamora and Drax go off on their own A story adventure (connecting with new character Mantis played by Pom Clementieff and with Kurt Russell – more below) leaving Rocket and Groot on their own to hook up with Yondu on a B story of their own.

It does not matter that much if you know all the characters by name. By the end of the film, you’ll know them as family. That is the key here: the Guardians function as a family and this movie brings that theme home.

Gamora’s sister Nebula is back. A new character (played with gusto by welcome addition Kurt Russell who seems to be having as much fun as anyone) who may or may not be Peter’s father is introduced. Rocket learns he wants to be a part of something (like a family) and Baby Groot begins to grow up. Could Gamora and Peter even acknowledge what has gone unacknowledged between them?

There is tremendous fun to be had in all of this and a surprising amount of character development for a summer action movie. That might be the greatest trick that Gunn pulls off. Though Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sometimes plays like a television show in terms of its plot structure, the proceedings supremely bananas but in the most pleasant way imaginable.

Chris Pratt was born to play this role and he steals focus in every scene – well, almost every scene. Kurt Russell gives Star Lord a run for his money. But it is Pratt’s movie and he carries it very, very well. He has said he would play this character for 10 more movies and I say “more power to him.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not afraid to break new ground and, while it cannot possibly hope to match the shock that was the original film, it does at least one thing better than most Marvel movies: it gives the audience a concluding battle to care about and an antagonist who is out for something more than destruction for destruction’s sake. It also manages to give audiences the most aptly named protagonist, perhaps of all time.

The soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy was spectacular and an integral part of that film. It was so influential that Vol. 2 is a play on the title of the mixtape Peter received at the end of the first movie. Therefore, the soundtrack of the second installment was hotly anticipated. Rest assured, it does not disappoint. From Fleetwood Mac to Cat Stevens to The Electric Light Orchestra, this one works. Track-for-track, Gunn turns the volume up to 11 on the tunes and on the emotions of the audience.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is terrific fun. It is the perfect summer movie and an almost perfect sequel. That it is bigger than its predecessor is obvious. That is it better is debatable.

But it is very damn good.

Be sure to stay in your seats for the FIVE beginning, mid and post credit sequences!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 receives FOUR AND A HALF MIXTAPES out of a possible FIVE.

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Link’n’Blogs – 5.5.17 – What You Need to Know for GotG Vol. 2


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Are you ready for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? You should get there if you are not! The film (which many are, of course, calling “the best Marvel movie yet!” opens today. Click the banner below! NO SPOILERS HERE!

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Ant-Man A Movie Review

Ant-Man


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For the duration of this review, I am going to try to resist making any kind of size pun. We’ll see how successful I am.

Last summer, Marvel Studios seemed to learn with the late summer blockbuster success of Guardians of the Galaxy which followed the blockbuster success late spring of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that releasing a smaller movie following a big one might be a very good way to continue to build the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Next summer they will try it again with Captain America: Civil War in May and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in August. Will they strike the same kind of gold this summer with Ant-Man? Maybe not as much gold as they minted with GotG, but surely enough.

Ant-Man is the second Marvel Studios release this summer following the blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron. As such, it has existed in the shadow of that extravaganza and that has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s been a blessing in that expectations for Ant-Man are nothing like the expectations for Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s been a curse in that people seeing Marvel Studios’ movies have come to expect a grandiose, intricately connected film that references Captain America and the Avengers and Tony Stark and plays into the tapestry of that universe.

Ant-Man doesn’t set up that way. With a sharp focus on two primary characters, Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, Ant-Man is more a passing-of-the-torch legacy story than anything else. The trick here is that, before the movie, there was no torch to pass. That Douglas’ Hank Pym was hero-ing around in the Ant-Man suit in the 1970s and 1980s was a revelation. Before this movie began, one might have thought Bruce Banner’s Hulk or Tony Stark’s Iron Man were the “first” superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not so fast. As it turns out, SHIELD had been associated with at least two heroes prior to Banner’s experiments and Stark’s suit, prior to Nick Fury becoming the Director. Those two heroes are Ant-Man and… well, no spoilers here.

Michael Douglas is wonderful as Hank Pym, an aging scientist desperate to see his creation – the Pym Particle – not used for evil. Douglas balances the right amount of gravitas with a certain sprinkling of twinkle in his eye to make Pym far more than a secondary character and a simple plot device. Douglas shines in his scenes with Paul Rudd and also has great chemistry with the underused Evangeline Lilly, who plays Hope Van Dyne, his somewhat estranged daughter. Much like Robert Redford who was in last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Douglas plays the entire movie straight with no knowing winks to the audience or no air of superiority over the material. This is a credit to Douglas as he spends a lot of time shoveling exposition and talking about things like communicating with ants. He’s a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The opening sequence of the film is, in-and-of-itself, proof of that.

Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne isn’t served nearly as well. Though she is very good in the movie, Ant-Man continues a somewhat troubling trend for Marvel Studios’ films, namely that they don’t know what to do with a strong female character. Much has been written about this and I won’t delve too deeply into it here. Suffice it to say that, while Lilly is a welcome addition to the movie, has great rapport with Rudd and is a nice addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she is all but superfluous to the goings on here. One can easily envision a version of this movie without her character appearing at all from strictly a plot perspective, and that’s a shame, Marvel Studios has to do better with its women.

What Marvel Studios has done with its casting is truly remarkable. They have found almost perfect actors to inhabit their lead roles. Ant-Man is no exception. Paul Rudd makes a fine superhero, at least a fine superhero of the Ant-Man variety. The characterization written here (and Rudd did a polish on the script) is completely in the actor’s wheelhouse. Witty, intelligent and down-on-his-luck, Rudd’s Scott Lang is a modern-day Robin Hood trying to listen to the angels of his better nature to work his way back into his daughter’s life. Rudd makes the scenes with his daughter work. The audience never questions the relationship. He also displays the appropriate amount of “WTF?” as he learns about the Ant-Man suit, about the ability to communicate with insects and about Hank Pym’s plan.

His plan, simply, is a heist and Ant-Man is very much a well executed heist movie. It hits all the heist-movie plot points, including pulling together a rag-tag band of professionals to assist in the final gambit. Of these, Michael Pena’s Luis really stands out and has the most heroic moment of the film – if not of any Marvel film. Watch for it near the end of the movie. Give me more Pena, please. Find a way, Marvel. You’re smart folks.

Ant-Man is at its best when it plays as an action-comedy. Rudd is, primarily, a comedic actor and seeing Douglas run through some of the same paces reminded me of his Romancing the Stone and War of the Roses days. There are laugh-out-loud moments to be found here and the action, especially the sometimes jaw-dropping “micro-world” action, is very much up-to-snuff.

As I wind down the review, I note that I’ve not mentioned Ant-Man’s antagonist in the movie one time. The reliable Corey Stoll plays Darren Cross, a former protegee of Hank Pym’s, who is ready to unleash terror on the world… yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. White guy, corporate power broker wants to make some money in despicable ways. We’ve seen this before and, while the two-dimensional Cross, who eventually puts on a “Yellow-Jacket” suit with very similar powers to the Ant-Man suit, is fine as a villain, he is absolutely no more than that. Hey, Marvel, while you’re fixing your problem with women in your movies, take a look at your villains, too. Giving Stoll some interesting character ticks doesn’t make him a fully developed character.

Peyton Reed directs the film and he had the unenviable task of replacing genre fan guru Edgar Wright, who had developed the movie over a number of years. Wright has a unique voice. Marvel Studios is obviously looking for a more “house” voice and Wright apparently chafed against those constraints. Reed stepped in with little prep time and with a lot of Wright’s material at his disposal. He manages to be true to Wright – there is some really crazy stuff happening here and some moments and lines that are so bizarre they must be left over from Wright’s development – while slotting Ant-Man nicely into the pantheon of Marvel Studios’ films. That’s something of an impressive high-wire act.

Though there is A LOT at stake in the movie (Hank Pym reminds Lang and the audience of that any number of times), director Reed keeps the audience centered on what’s really going on: Scott Lang taking a shot at redemption and trying to become a better parent. That these very themes also spill over to Hank Pym’s character arc is very nice symmetry, indeed.

ANT-MAN receives FOUR AND A HALF SUGAR CUBES out of a possible five.

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Jurassic World – A Movie Review

Jurassic World Poster


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Did the world need another iteration of Jurassic Park? Did audiences need to see more terrified people running away from more ridiculous dinosaurs? Did movie-goers want to watch another set of children running from rampaging beasts? Did we need an additional wise-cracking Chris Pratt action hero?

As it has turned out, we did.

How do we know? Jurassic World is now the third highest grossing movie of all time. It lags behind only Titanic and Avatar as a money-maker and, while it’s not likely to catch either of those James Cameron juggernauts, the fact that the fourth movie in a dormant franchise can reach these heights is very impressive indeed. No other sequel has come close to making this kind of money. But is the movie any good?

It is some good. It might even be mostly good. It is not great.

Jurassic World shares the DNA (forgive the pun) of the first film in the franchise, Steven Spielberg’s rightly beloved Jurassic Park. This movie, in fact, serves as a more direct sequel to that one than even Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park did. The massive failures of planning for the first amusement park worked out, the dinosaurs better tamed and controlled, and the infrastructure of the facilities refined to almost perfection, Jurassic World is an interactive wonderland with a high-tech rides, dino-petting zoos and luxury hotels on site.  No longer run by Wayne Knight and Samuel L. Jackson from a dark computer bunker, Jurassic World is maintained from a NORAD-like control center peopled by dozens of high-tech nerds under the direction of Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, a Jurassic World power-player who can barely be bothered to look away from her cell phone when her two nephews arrive for a weekend visit. It should also be pointed out that all of these computer geeks are terrible at their jobs. Jurassic World exists because its vision of humanity is that people are dumber than the dinos and even armed with technology and weaponry, they will be lucky to survive their interactions with creatures from the Jurassic Era.

Sound familiar?

It should. Jurassic World doesn’t actually try to cover much new ground. It is almost beat-for-beat a copy of Jurassic Park and knowingly so. It’s homages to the original film are nice to see, but remind the audience that Spielberg and Michael Crichton did this a whole lot better with a whole lot less money 25 years ago.

What’s the same? We have a profit hungry CEO. We have kids in danger. We have dinosaurs on the loose. We have company employees with secret agendas. We have Velociraptors. We have our returning hero (Sam Neill? No – the Tyrannosaurus Rex).

What’s different? No much, just take all the original components and set the dials to “11.”

  • Why have one employee working to subvert the amusement park when you can have 2? Vincent D’Onofrio (so very good in Netflix’s Daredevil) comes off as a one-note, mustache-twirling villain and BD Wong takes a wholly odd turn to the dark side not at all suggested by his original appearance in the series 25 years back.
  • Why have Velociraptors that are one the loose and wild when you can put them in captivity and train them to be heroes? Hello, Terminator II.
  • Why have “real” dinosaurs when you can have genetically spliced together super-dinosaurs like Indominus Rex?
  • Why have an island where fewer than a dozen people can be terrorized by rampaging dinos when you can have an island of tens of thousands at the mercy of said rampage?
  • Why have anyone in authority with the slightest sense or ability to learn from past mistakes?

Okay, so sequels are designed to give the audience the same beats of the original film but with, you know, more. I get it and Jurassic World does, too.

This doesn’t mean it doesn’t try to also give us something new. The closest the original films came to Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady was Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm in terms of the wise-cracking hero and, though Pratt is pretty much held in check throughout the film and not as engaging as he was in last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s very watchable here. Affable and comedic, Pratt is making a career out of these types of characters and there’s nothing wrong with that. While the script doesn’t give him much to work with, Pratt makes the most of the role. My guess is the recently announced sequel will take of Owen’s training wheels and we’ll get the full Pratt.

Bryce Dallas Howard has a much less rewarding role as Claire, the Julie McCoy of Jurassic World. As things fall apart around her, Claire is taught the true meaning of Christmas as she realizes she’s placed her nephews in mortal danger, placed the guests in Jurassic World at similar risk, placed herself at the hands of the corporate monster. It’s too bad so many people had to die for her to learn the lesson John Hammond learned two decades earlier. Howard is good, but it’s hard to overcome the ridiculous sight of her running around Jurassic World in high heels. As a role model for women and as a woman action hero, Claire Dearing is given a few moments, but she leaves something to be desired.

The audience is expected to understand that Pratt’s Grady and Howard’s Dearing have some sort of history because of a throwaway line about a date that went awry but that shared past means absolutely nothing in the larger context of the film and is pretty lazy screenwriting. When the fit hits the shan, it matters very little whether these two characters are meeting for the first time or are star-crossed lovers, what matters is that they can run from dinosaurs, scream really loud and look cool doing so. Pratt and Howard acquit themselves well on these counts.

The movie is meant to be a thrill ride and director Colin Trevorrow delivers. The computer graphics are top-notch, the tension is engaging and the dinosaurs (especially the ones that Spielberg and company didn’t have the tech to deliver in the earlier films) are very cool. The questionable decision to revisit the original movie at various points throughout Jurassic World – both in terms of plot, locations and set pieces – actually takes away from this film. It makes the audience familiar with the first movie wish they were actually watching it.

There is a dubious flirtation with themes here – don’t mess with Mother Nature, don’t trust the para-military, don’t prostitute yourself to the almighty dollar, etc. – but they are so obvious and so broadly written that they seem like they came from a piece of creative writing from a high school freshman. That’s okay because that’s not why we’re coming to Jurassic World.

We’re coming to be entertained. We’re coming to be amazed. We’re coming to see dinosaurs eat some people.

Well, as Maximus once said at a similar gathering: “are you not entertained?”

I am, thank you. Just enough.

JURASSIC WORLD receives THREE AND A HALF MOTORCYCLE RIDING CHRIS PRATTS out of a possible FIVE.

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And Now There Comes Civil War – What Marvel Is Doing Is Truly Remarkable

Has there ever been a series of interlocking movies like what Marvel Studios is creating with their Marvel movies? There have been long movie series (the Bond movies, Star Trek movies, the Star Wars saga), there have been series that have rebooted themselves (the Planet of the Apes movies), there have been movies based on other media (the Harry Potter movies, the Twilight movies) but there is really nothing even resembling Marvel’s interlocking, but relatively stand alone, films.

Next up for the studio is Ant-Man, featuring a lesser known character in the Marvel Universe. This movie is in the unenviable position of following this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and last summer’s surprise smash (a movie whose tone seems close to Ant-Man‘s) Guardians of the Galaxy. So what does Marvel do to remind the movie going public that this all fits together? It does this:

ant-man-avengers-posters-marvel

You may not know Ant-Man, but you know these other guys. Come see our movie.

Marvel even makes efforts to tie in the television show Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD in a remarkably important way. MINOR AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON SPOILER HERE: Did you wonder from where the Avengers were getting the information on HYDRA strongholds they were cleaning out, where they were told Loki’s scepter was being held and where Nick Fury dug up the helicarrier that the Avengers used to rescue, remarkably, the population of Sokovia in the movie? All of this happened during the second season of the show, all of it the results of the work of Agent Phil Coulson (played by Clark Gregg), a character all the superheroes calling themselves The Avengers think is dead. Only those watching the show would have known this in watching the movie and that fact made them feel they have inside knowledge while not detracting from the movie in the slightest. Nice move, Marvel. Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill even appeared on the show in April and she’s clearly talking in Avengers Tower to a shadowed Coulson.

agents-of-shield

Finally, Marvel makes it clear that the action in their movies is continuous and what they are going to do in Captain America: Civil War reads more like Avengers: Civil War than it does a Captain America movie:

Captain America: Civil War picks up where Avengers: Age of Ultron left off, as Steve Rogers leads the new team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability and a governing body to determine when to enlist the services of the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain.

Civil War Logo

There is nothing else like this in the history of cinema, right? I certainly can’t think of anything.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron – A SPOILER FREE Movie Review

Age of Ultron PosterHow does Joss Whedon, writer and director of 2012’s Avengers top his own creation? How does he capture the imagination of the world-wide movie going public and reel them back in for two and a half more hours of Avengers action? How does he out-do what seemed incredibly difficult to do in the first place? These are questions Whedon must have asked himself when he sat down to break story ideas for the sequel that would eventually become Avengers: Age of Ultron. It takes something of a mad scientist to accept this kind of challenge. I, for one, am very glad he did.

I won’t be alone in that assessment.

First things first: it’s eventually going to be very difficult for Marvel Studios to receive both solid reviews and big money for their movies. I thought that the bubble was going to burst with last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy (boy, was I wrong!). Some think it pops with July’s Ant-Man. But there are indications sneaking in at the corners of the reactions to Age of Ultron that some opinions are about to turn and that being great (like Age of Ultron is) is not going to be enough.

People don’t like the New England Patriots. They win too much.

People are going to begin decrying Marvel movies for the same reason. It starts here.

The Junior Senator, as we left Age of Ultron (my second viewing, his first), suggested that some comments he’d read about the film indicated that some people had their narratives already set in their minds and that those narratives were very similar: the movie has too much going on, there are too many characters, the action is too crowded.

Don’t you believe it. When you see Age of Ultron and, if you’re reading this review, you’re likely going to see it, pause for one second and see if you can keep all the characters straight. Forget the big ones from the last Avengers, I’m talking about the ones who weren’t in the last movie. Can you keep War Machine straight from Ultron? Do you confuse Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch? Are you not able to discern between… wait, I won’t name any other new characters because this is a spoiler free review. Suffice it to say that, while there are many new characters and there is a lot going on in Age of Ultron, movie goers can keep it all straight. To suggest anything else is lazy thinking.

I admit that Age of Ultron is a very different movie than Avengers and, as Whedon is a child of The Godfather and Star Wars, perhaps that is to be expected. Modern audiences have grown up thinking the second chapter of a movie series has to unspool with more gravitas than the first. The Godfather II is far darker than The Godfather. It has a far more complex narrative structure, too. Some might argue it’s a better film. The Empire Strikes Back turns away from the almost sunny tone of Star Wars. It tells a far more “adult” tale and the characters suffer significant loss before it’s over. The end is something of a cliffhanger, indicating all is not right in the universe. Just as his contemporary Christopher Nolan put together a bleaker and far deeper Batman sequel in The Dark Knight, Joss Whedon understands that Age of Ultron has to take the characters and tone of Avengers and do something different and more complex with them in the sequel. He succeeds in this goal so well that one of my first reactions to Age of Ultron was loss. I wanted it to be more fun. Avengers was fun and, while Age of Ultron has fun moments, the stakes to the main characters (if not to the world overall) are so much higher in this film that I left the theater a bit wistful… much like the reaction I had to Lando and Chewbacca flying off from the Rebel Armada at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Don’t get me wrong: that’s a very, very good thing!

There is so much to like in this movie. The action of Avengers, which was both exciting and verging on overpowering, is superseded by what occurs in Age of Ultron and Whedon has a more sure hand with it. Rather than roll the last act (big good vs. big bad’s minions) as one, long fight sequence, Whedon intersperses the explosions and slow motion battle with honest-to–goodness character moments that work. They work because the audience cares about the characters, some of them introduced earlier in the movie. While there are plenty of incredible set pieces on hand, they are balanced throughout the course of the movie by smaller and more intimate moments.

The cast is wonderful – so comfortable in their roles and so believable in them, too. It’s difficult to single any of them out as either the weak link of the ensemble or the stand out. Robert Downey, jr. once told us onscreen that he is Iron Man, and it’s impossible to argue the point; I don’t know where Downey ends and Tony Stark begins. Chris Evans takes Captain America – a character who could be painfully one note – and makes him somehow nobly tragic. Thor, as played by Chris Hemsworth, is quite amusing. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is the everyperson eye into the team. They are all damn good in the roles and very fun to watch.

Scarlet Johanssen as the Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk deserve special mention, not because they are any better than their co-stars, but because the script does call for a little more from them. The scenes they share are almost poignant and they are every bit the match for them. It might be difficult to find deeper, emotional moments in a green-screen spectacle, but these two manage to do it and make it look easy.

A review of Age of Ultron would not be complete without a mention of James Spader as the artificial intelligence called Ultron, bent of revenging himself against the Avengers and, of course, destroying humanity. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen the film twice and, on the second viewing, I really watched Ultron carefully. It’s an incredible movie creation, to be sure, but I had read that Spader did the motion capture work himself and one can really tell it’s Spader bringing the character to life. It’s not just the actor’s voice (which is perfect by-the-way), it’s the physicality of the role. Spader doesn’t voice the character. He plays the character and he stands toe-to-toe with the likes of Downey, jr., Evans and Hemsworth who’ve played their respective characters time-and-again. Spader makes Ultron a special villain. That’s more than half the battle in a movie like this.

Age of Ultron has a lot going for it before it starts. It has a built-in audience. It has a tremendous cast. It has special effects wizards on hand. It also has a very smart and snappy script. More on the smart in a moment. Whedon’s Avengers are so quippy, they sometimes sound as though they’ve been written by Aaron Sorkin and have stepped directly off the set of The West Wing. This is fine by me and it serves the movie well when Ultron trades barbs with the team. At one point, after a particularly amusing comment by Ultron, Iron Man says “he beat me to that one by one second.” Part of the fun here is the verbal jousting among the characters. It amuses throughout the movie and, if some of the references are a bit off the beaten path (“Banksy” anyone?), that’s okay. It’s a Joss Whedon script. We should know what we’re in for.

It must be challenging to surprise us with these movies at this point. It must be difficult to develop a story that keeps our attention. No longer can these movies rely solely on their amazing special effects (which Age of Ultron has in spades). They have to do something more, they have to tell these heroic tales with a different spin, they have to – dare I write it – inspire their audiences to think.

There is a lot to think about in Age of Ultron. There are questions raised of trust and of heroism, of parenting and of friendship, of science and of faith. Blithely dismissing the possibility that such issues could be raised in superhero fare is a mistake. Between the robots and the superheroes and the explosions and the quips, there are some pretty serious questions being posed. Good on Joss Whedon for doing so.

Age of Ultron has an almost two and a half hour running time, but it feels light on its feet and, when it’s over, it promises us that “The Avengers Will Return.” I will be there when they do.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON receives FOUR AND A HALF “I Bet You Didn’t See That Comings” out of a possible FIVE.

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COUNTDOWN TO STAR WARS EPISODE SEVEN – 231 DAYS

star-wars-force-awakens

Counting down the 231 days until The Force Awakens on December 18, 2015.

In the days leading up to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, And There Came A Day will present links, images, videos, art, memories, laughs, theories and thoughts leading up to the big day… which happens to be on my birthday!  ENJOY and may the Force be with you, always… or at least until 12.18.15!

NO, THAT’S NOT TRUE… THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!

Honoring Avengers Age of Ultron opening today comes this article from Entertainment Weekly about a very strange Star Wars homage that seems to run through the Marvel movies. Minor, minor spoiler alert: I can report (as I am just back from a screening of Age of Ultron as I write this Countdown) that the streak of amputations continues in this film as well!

image from Entertainment Weekly.

image from Entertainment Weekly.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars Long-Ago Faraway Galaxy have a lot in common. Both contain dashing heroes with cool powers. Both are owned by Disney, much like your childhood and your future. And both feature copious sequences where someone gets a hand chopped off. This curious recurring motif is actually an elaborate homage, according to Marvel Studios’ head honcho Kevin Feige.

As Feige revealed in an interview with Cinema Blend, every Marvel Studios movie in the post-Avengers Phase 2 era features a scene where somebody loses a hand. According to Feige, this wasn’t initially intentional; the first hand chopped off was Guy Pearce’s in Iron Man 3, during the part of Iron Man 3 you totally forgot about where everyone starts glowing and all the Iron Men do Iron Man stuff. Then Thor’s hand got chopped off in Thor: The Dark World, until it turned out it was all a hallucination.

The most specific homage was arguably Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Bucky loses an arm and gets it replaced with a Skywalker-brand robo-appendage. And in Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora hacks off both of Groot’s arms, although they eventually grow back, because nothing ever really dies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Besides Rene Russo.)

Feige implies that even talking about this homage is a spoiler for Ant-Man. Intriguingly, Feige also claims that the Star Wars homage was intended, at least in part, to establish Phase 2 as Marvel’s Empire Strikes Back. So, Ewoks in Phase 3? 

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