*This review is strictly based on the movie as I have never read the comic books.
It would be easy to categorize a superhero movie based on a comic book as all action and no heart. But without that heart, it is nothing but a series of fights between the heroes and the villains.
The Eternals hit theaters a few weeks ago. This latest film adaptation from Marvel Comics tells the story of a group of otherwordly beings whose job it is to protect and nuture humanity. The big bad are deviants, creatures who are not selective about who and what they kill. After thousands of years, these alien superheroes have blended into the world around them, looking no different than you or I.
When their leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek) is killed by a deviant, Sersi (Gemma Chan) takes her place and does her best to bring the team back together. But when the secret about the true nature of their mission is revealed, it creates conflict between Sersi, Ikarus (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), and the rest of the Eternals.
The film clocks in about 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully, it does not feel that long. What I think makes it well done is that the narrative is not just about physical entaglments between the antagonists and the protaganists. There is heart, there is humor, and the message about what it is to be human is threaded throughout the story.
Much has been naturally made about the diversity of the cast. Personally, I think it’s a long time coming. Though I loved Avengers: Endgame, the reality is that the majority of the lead characters are white and male. One could argue that the one scene that all of the female superheroes come together is merely lip service instead of naturally giving these women the spotlight beyond the traditional female narratives.
Including an LGBTQ character, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and a deaf character, Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), was a nice addition. It proved that this world can be open to a wider range of types of people, if only given the chance.
A parent’s love for their child is a powerful thing. Sometimes, this leads to actions that might be considered odd or out of the box.
In the 2015 film, Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man with a past and a record. He is also a father who adores his daughter. Given a super suit that allow him to change his size, Scott joins his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to save the world against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Joining Scott on his path to superhero-dom is Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).
This movie is so much fun. I can’t comment on the transfer from the page to screen because I have never read the comic book. The best thing is that it does not take itself too seriously, which allows the audience to have fun in a fully engrossing and entertaining manner. The actors have amazing chemistry, the special effects are nicely balanced with the narrative, and Lilly’s character stands on her own two feet without being limited to the relationships she has with the male characters.
Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.
I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. They also exist outside of the big IPs.
In the 1996 film, The Phantom, the title character (Billy Zane) is the latest line of superheros. Four hundred years ago, his ancestor witnessed his father’s murder on their ship. When he finally returns to dry land, he swears that he will become a version of Robin Hood. This legacy is passed down from father son until we get to what was then the present day. The current Phantom’s latest is nemesis Xander Drax (Treat Williams). There is also the love interest in the form of his ex, Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) and the wannabe love interest/baddie Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Like The Shadow (1994), it is a live action version of an old time radio show. As narratives go, it is rather generic. While the action is decent, there is nothing that makes it stand out in the genre.
My heart hurts. Tears are welling up in my eyes. He was one of the actors who could jump from genre to genre, from character to character. The transition was seamless. His future as an performer was full of possibilities.
But cancer had other plans.
May his memory be a blessing and may he live forever on the silver screen.
P.S. The fact that he was constantly working throughout the four years of his battle with cancer tells me at least everything I need to know about who the man was.
Disclaimer: I know nothing of the cannon Aquaman from the comic books, this review is strictly based on the movie.
When a character is torn between two worlds, he or she must make a choice. It is that choice that defines who they are.
In the new movie, Aquaman, (based on the comic book character of the same name) Aquaman/Arthur Reed (Jason Mamoa) is caught between two worlds. His father, Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) is an ordinary man who manages a lighthouse. His mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) a Queen of Atlantis. While they are in love and happy to have a life together, the reality is that there are opposing forces to their love.
As an adult, Aquaman/Arthur Reed knows that he is born of two worlds. While he plays the super hero game, he is not ready to accept that he is a Prince of Atlantis. Then Mera (Amber Heard) comes to him and begs for his help. Mera is a member of another royal family of the sea and engaged to Orm (Patrick Wilson), Aquaman/Arthur Reed’s younger half-brother. Orm not only has his eye on the throne, but he is angry about the destruction of his world by pollution.
Can Orm be stopped and more importantly, can Aquaman/Arthur Reed find his place in the world?
I am not particularly a fan of super hero movies based on comic books, but I loved this movie. Jason Mamoa was tailor made for this role. I appreciated that the female leads (Mera and Atlanna) are bad ass and far from the sexualized, 2D romantic partner/damsel in distress female characters that often appear in comic books. I also appreciated the message about pollution and doing our part to ensure that we do not destroy our environment.
Though, I have to admit that the choice of hair color for Mera for me, as a redhead, is a little questionable. While I understand that Mera is a redhead in the comic books, I would have preferred a more natural red instead of a red color that looks like it came from a kool aid container.
Comic books are sometimes dismissed as violent, sexual, immature and not fit for the eyes of its young readers. But comic book can also reach its readers in a way that few genres can. Today the comic book genre lost one of its brightest stars and iconic creators, Stan Lee.
Mr. Lee was born in 1922 to Jewish immigrants who were originally from Romania. In his teens, he started working at Timely Comics, which would decades later become Marvel Comics. After fighting for his country in World War II, Mr. Lee returned creating comic books. Instead of introducing readers to variations of the same characters they had seen previously, he started creating characters that were not just misfits, but also fully fleshed out as human beings.
Readers fell in love with immortal characters such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four and X-Men. While they were reading about superheroes who were going on out of this world adventures, they were also hopefully opening their minds to those were being disenfranchised because they were different. In a very subtle manner, the Feminist Movement, the Civil rights movement and other movements whose goal of enfranchisement of those who rights have been taken away or non-existent benefited from the characters whose stories are told within these comic books.
In the words of our mutual ancestors, may the memory of Stan Lee be a blessing not just to his loved ones, but to the millions of fans who have adored his creations over the years.
One of the hallmarks of the hard-fought for gender parity, especially in Hollywood, is that the idea of a female superhero headlining a film is no longer an anomaly. But, then like any superhero film, the question of quality, especially when compared to the source material, has to be asked.
In the 2005 film, Elektra (based upon the comic book character of the same name), the titular heroine, played by Jennifer Garner survives a near death experience. Breaking with the rest of the world, Elektra’s sole focus is her job as an assassin. Her latest assignment is protected a single father and his young daughter from a group of supernatural assassins. Can she protect her charges and perhaps regain her humanity in the process? Or will she forever run from the world?
At the time, I knew nothing about the MCU or the characters that inhabited that world. I suppose the film is ok, but when it is compared to other films within the MCU, it doesn’t quite hold up.
*Warning: this review contains mild spoilers. Read at your own risk.
A sequel of a sequel of a superhero movie walks a fine line. It has to be entertaining, but it also has to extend the narrative and the character arc in a way that feels right to both the universe and the characters.
Two weeks ago, Thor: Ragnarok hit theaters. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is no longer of this world. His previously unknown first child, Hela (Cate Blanchett), otherwise known as the Goddess of Death has returned from exile to return Asgard to the way it was before her exile. But to do this, she has to make sure that her brothers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are out-of-the-way. They find themselves in another world where Thor is a gladiator and fighting against The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). This world is ruled by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who might be crazy. With the help of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor, Loki and The Hulk might be able to defeat Hela and save Asgard.
If there was a proper way to do a second sequel, especially for a movie which is based on a comic book, this film is the blueprint. It is funny, entertaining and takes the narrative and characters in new directions without feeling stale or overproduced. And of course, the two female characters, played by Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett are amazing. They contribute to the narrative, both standing on their own two feet and neither relying on the stereotypical female caricatures that exist in the genre.