Showing posts with label Marvel Cinematic Universe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvel Cinematic Universe. Show all posts

Hawkeye: The Unexpected Star of Avengers: Age of Ultron

*Contains minor spoilers*

In a movie that's full of popular superheroes and teasers about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's exciting future, one of the biggest surprises in Avengers: Age of Ultron is just how much love Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, received. Director-writer Joss Whedon certainly made Hawkeye an impressive archer in the first movie, but this follow-up does an excellent job humanizing the marksman.
How could just one man with a bow and arrows hope to make a difference when his teammates can shatter mountains with their fists, run as fast as cars, fly above ordinary people, and effortlessly humiliate armed enemies with nothing but their bare hands? The character may get ripped on for being just "a dude with a bow," but this movie proved he's an essential part of the team. He may not have fancy powers or armor, but the movie's heartfelt and humorous approach to the hero turned him into one of the standout characters -- and that's saying a lot since this is a movie that's absolutely loaded with spectacle.

Who is Hawkeye and why should you care about him? That's a question the first movie failed to answer. The Avengers showed he has phenomenal aim and some cool trick arrows, but aside from that, he was just Black Widow's friend and the guy who was unlucky enough to get brainwashed by Loki. By the time Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in theaters, he was the only current Avenger to not receive a proper amount of insight. Thankfully, Whedon fixed that by subverting just about everyone's expectations of the movie. Sure, it still has a fast pace and almost always finds a way to throw action and comedy in there, but the look at Hawkeye's personality and his life takes us out of all of the seemingly surreal craziness and makes things far more relatable. Suddenly, we get to see what it's truly like to be a "normal" human on a team full of powerhouses and geniuses.
While Clint may not be the one making the big calls or providing tactical insight, he does prove to be the heart of the team. When everything hits the fan, it's Hawkeye who's able to inspire Scarlet Witch, an incredibly important character to the story and possibly the future of their universe. Someone like Captain America or Black Widow could have given her an inspirational speech, but Clint's words of wisdom were both hilarious and uplifting. He's able to point out just how absurd the situation is, but despite that, nothing will stop him from doing everything he can to save humanity from Ultron. If a man with such a simple weapon can stand against this insanity, why can't Scarlet Witch find the courage to fight using her stunning powers? It was just the kind of talk she needed to get her back out there and battle Ultron's forces.

Hawkeye's role technically isn't "important" compared to Captain America or Iron Man when it comes to the bigger picture, but his arc gave us all such a better emotional connection to the character and it made him infinitely more likable. It's cool he can shoot an arrow absurdly well and has a variety of pretty awesome trick arrows, but now when we see him in Captain America: Civil War, we'll know the guy firing those arrows isn't just some generic fellow who occasionally cracks a joke or two.

Avengers: Age of Ultron review

Hey internet,

This week I was fortunate enough to see Avengers: Age of Ultron a few days before it opens here in the United States. (I'm sure international readers are saying, "Better late than never, Gregg.") Not only was I lucky enough to watch an early screening of Joss Whedon's ridiculously anticipated sequel to The Avengers, but I was also lucky enough to review it for Comic Vine! So, here's the spoiler-free review:
http://www.comicvine.com/reviews/avengers-age-of-ultron/1900-4072/


Daredevil is the comic book show I've been waiting for

*Don't worry, there's no big spoilers in here.*

Marvel and Netflix's first limited series, Daredevil, is finally here and man, it was so worth the wait. Before I get into why I think it's all kinds of terrific, I want to make one thing crystal clear: this article isn't a jab at the other comic book shows. I'm absolutely loving The Flash; Arrow's quality jumps around yet it still has my attention; The Walking Dead's latest season showed a lot of promise; Constantine was solid; Nick's TMNT is a total joy. I hear Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has made significant improvements, but I'm way too behind and don't see myself catching up with it in the near future. Sorry, S.H.I.E.L.D. fans. "But Gregg, what about Gotham, Powers, and iZombie?" Hey, random reader, I'm trying to get to why I really enjoyed Daredevil, but sure, I'll quickly answer that. Gotham: wasn't a fan, sorry. Powers: has potential, but rarely leaves me hooked. So, I'm left feeling down the middle. iZombie: sorry, haven't checked it out yet. Now, let's get to why Daredevil made such a strong impression, okay?
Daredevil wasn't kidding when he said Hell's Kitchen is his city.
There were a lot of concerns about Daredevil's tone and I'd say understandably so. The Marvel Cinematic Universe can sometimes be a pretty lighthearted place -- Marvel Studios obviously aims to make sure its projects can be enjoyed by a wide variety of viewers. Even when stories take serious or more compelling turns, the minds behind these films try to make sure you have a good amount of fun throughout the adventure. Sometimes the emphasis on comedy can be a little too much, but for the most part, the trips into the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been a pretty good time. However, seeing as this is on Netflix and going for a more "street level" approach, there were understandable concerns this limited series would be overly dark and gritty just because it now has the freedom to bring more mature content. Thankfully, that wasn't the case and I think the minds behind this series did an excellent job delivering a tone that's serious and gripping while also having just the right amount of darkness and levity.

The show is not too dramatic and the occasional bits of comedy most definitely don't get in the way of the more serious story and it doesn't ever feel out of place, either. (Unless you dislike Foggy, but that doesn't apply to me.) What's really great is this show doesn't let loose simply because it can. It shows a lot of restraint with its graphic content, making those especially savage moments even more effective when they do drop. Just because they can curse or show gruesome violence doesn't mean they're constantly throwing it in our faces and I think that's to be commended. We get a proper look at just how ugly the situation in Hell's Kitchen has become (the very first episode includes human trafficking, after all) and we feel the weight behind these situations, yet surprisingly gory displays of violence aren't common and when characters do curse, it feels natural instead of just some attempt to be edgier. They aren't saying "shit" every other sentence just because they can and when they do have disturbing elements, they're handled appropriately instead of aiming just for shock value. When there's a very unsettling story about a twisted father, it's used to enhance Matt Murdock's story; it's not there just to stun. The show has plenty of darker elements, a ton of drama, and a whole lot of violence, yet it's not a depressing experience that feels like it's taking itself way too seriously. It brings the kind of content you'd never see in one of Marvel Studios' movies, yet it doesn't feel like it's a different world, either. We're just exploring a whole new part of the one we already know pretty well. Avengers Tower may be right around the corner, but this show is exploring conflicts that are simply under the powerful team's radar.

Photo by Barry Wetcher.
Daredevil's overall story has plenty of familiar elements. The hero trying to save his city; he questions whether he should kill his enemies and whether he should reveal his secret to the ones closest to him; the media and authorities think he's a problem; there's the power hungry villain; so on and so on. Despite this, the show doesn't feel uninspired or repetitive because it focuses on humanizing and building its characters. Foggy isn't just there for laughs. Murdock's moral dilemmas aren't handled in a way that make me go, "Yeah, Arrow already covered this, man." Karen Page isn't just a potential love interest. Ben Urich isn't just in the story to give us exposition. This may be Daredevil's story, but the show did a mighty fine job making me feel emotionally connected to each of these characters and that's what truly matters. Sure, this is a show about a superhero and it ends in a very standard way, but what helps it standout is just how character-driven each and every episode is. Best of all? The relationship elements aren't cringeworthy! They could have had a seriously annoying and predictable love triangle or dragged out some of the relationships, yet they were able to dance around this and handled these stories in a reasonable way. You kind of go into these shows expecting some frustrating romance drama and thankfully, Daredevil didn't give us that. These storylines are still present, but they aren't front and center and they sure aren't cheesy, either. This show got me invested in these characters and the fact it's so well-acted certainly doesn't hurt.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of interesting heroes, but overall, the villains haven't exactly been one of the universe's biggest strengths. Luckily for us, that isn't the case in Daredevil. They could have gone with cliche crime lords and one-dimensional baddies, but instead of being lazy with its antagonists and focusing mostly on the good guys, the show gave its foes a great amount of insight. Some may not enjoy the show's take on Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, but I view it as the big guy's origin story. Instead of him just acting like a tough guy and enjoying a cigar, we're given a far more complex and fleshed out foe. The actor, Vincent D'Onofrio, does an awesome job handling the surprisingly awkward character's mannerisms. This isn't the Kingpin you'd expect, but he's still able to command respect and absolutely reminds us he's a brutal, brutal man. The other villains don't receive as much insight -- which is to be expected -- but they still get more than enough of the spotlight at one point or another. After watching the first episode, I was concerned the handling of the villains would be really generic. Well, this is me happily eating my words.

Photo by Barry Wetcher
The show obviously has a few reminders that this takes place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the big battle in The Avengers is discussed a handful of times and there's a joke about the iconic heroes' abilities), but the show also did a pretty satisfying job building up the hype for future Netflix shows. I didn't spot any Luke Cage or Jessica Jones easter eggs, but there's a few really neat ones for Iron Fist's world. There's a whole lot of love given to Daredevil's mythos, too. From a potential nod to Elektra to even something little like Gladiator's symbol, there's a whole lot of fan service in here. I mean, they even have a freaking Stilt-Man easter egg. How awesome is that?

I can be a pretty big snob when it comes to action. For example, I was told by many that Captain America: The Winter Soldier had brilliant and stunning action sequences. I saw it the day after I watched The Raid 2 and I couldn't help but feel like the action was just pretty good. Certainly the best choreography we've seen from a Marvel Studios movie, but it wasn't as intense as it was built up to be. So, you can bet I was feeling a little skeptical about how Daredevil's agility and hand-to-hand encounters would be handled. Thankfully, a majority of it is solid and there's more than a few moments that were legitimate jaw-droppers. There's an extended and astonishing shot that'll remind you of Oldboy and they frequently manage to use slow motion at just the right moments. Okay, sometimes you can tell when there's a stunt double or you may question why someone is such a terrible shot, but overall, the action sequences are massively entertaining and oh-so-visceral. Daredevil isn't as agile as you may expect him to be, but they remind us every now and again that the dude is a brawler and nimble. He endures some crazy stuff and there's dozens upon dozens of harsh punches. And when the show does unleash some stronger displays of violence, they're definitely memorable.
From left to right: Dr. Evil, the latest voice of Wonder Woman, Cyclops, Gwen Stacy, Fulton Reed. 
Daredevil offered basically everything I wanted from it. It had an excellent focus on character, cool and sometimes even creative action sequences, and it did a great job balancing comedy and a grittier tone. The cast certainly delivered with their performances and the story even manages to avoid all of the cliche relationship drama that seems to be a mandatory ingredient in some shows! Now, it's obviously not flawless. You'd want to give up attempting to count the amount of times anyone says "city," some story elements drag a bit, and I was left wanting more from the ending. But if you put my complaints on one scale and my praise on another one, it's pretty clear I think this is a damn good show. Daredevil's emotional, gripping, and brings just the right amount of fun. We're talking about a comic book show that embraces the source material, offers thrilling action, and has a smart script and solid performances. What more could you want? My expectations are raised for the next four Netflix shows.

Oh, and now that we know they're cool with making the action more brutal and occasionally even over-the-top, Gareth Evans needs to direct the Iron Fist show. Make that happen, Netflix and Marvel!

Marvel's The Avengers Review

Marvel's The Avengers Review

Marvel's The Avengers is a movie we've been anxiously waiting to see for years now.  If you're a comic book fan, the dream of watching this A-list team together on the big screen could be over a decade old.  What really hit home was when Nick Fury came out of nowhere and blew our minds with that post-credits scene in Iron Man back in 2008. It was the collective fanboy jaw-drop heard around the world.  The Avengers was a reality that was continually teased in the other Marvel Studios movies, and now, it's finally here.  Does it live up to the Galactus-sized hype or fail harder than the Red Skull's attempt at world domination?  I'm beyond thrilled to say it not only meets the expectations, but also completely smashes them.  Marvel Studios has managed to create a ridiculously fun superhero movie that'll make both fanboys and casual fans want to see it over and over again.

The story here is absolutely big enough to justify the gathering of the team and manages to keep you engaged the whole time as it takes elements from both the classic Avengers stories and the second volume of Mark Millar's The Ultimates.  The mischievous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is looking to conquer Earth, and to do so, he's aligned himself with an alien army (I won't spoil who they are).  With the tesseract (cosmic cube), Thor's "brother" is a cosmic force that would require a miracle to stop. Luckily for us humans, Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) has this little thing called The Avengers Initiative on file.  And yes, this movie positively lays out the groundwork for a follow-up.
A film like this is insanely difficult to pull off.  The chore of juggling so many characters isn't easy and we've seen it play a role in obliterating comic book movies before (you know what you did, X-Men: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3).  Thankfully, director Joss Whedon ( The Cabin in the Woods, Firefly) was the perfect man for the job. "In Whedon we trust" is a common phrase by Whedonites.  If you weren't  saying it before, I'm damn sure you will be after seeing this film.  The roster is packed and Whedon is able to give the varied characters the respect they deserve. Each hero (and villain) is given a good amount of screen time for depth and they definitely have their fair share of incredibly bad-ass moments.  I've always said that Whedon's greatest talent is his ability to craft top-notch banter, and Marvel's The Avengers is proof of this. These characters are all so drastically different when it comes to their personalities, so when they go at it verbally, the result is pure gold most of the time. There are countless laughs to enjoy in this one.

Regarding the rest of the talent, no one really falls short.  We've already seen most of these actors in their respective roles before and they do every bit as well, if not slightly better due to the sharp writing giving them more to work with.  Robert Downey Jr. continues to bring the laughs as the sarcastic Tony Stark, Chris Evans pulls off the confidence Captain America requires, Tom Hiddleston continues to make Loki the most interesting Marvel Studios villain to date, so on and so on.  If they're not exactly like their comic book counter-part, then they're certainly close enough to make you feel as though they've been stripped from the panels.
The action in this movie will make you feel like a kid again and leave you completely in awe.  We get just about every hero versus hero combination we've been dying to see and the final act is absolute perfection. War breaks out in New York and every Avenger is right in the middle of it.  This battle has a beautifully organic flow, moving from one character to the next as they continue to amaze us with what I can firmly call the best action sequence I've seen in a long time.  It has too many top-notch crowd-pleasing moments to count.

Hulk is without question the highlight of this movie.  He's the physical powerhouse he needs to be, and Mark Ruffalo does a fine job as Banner.  The CGI holds up the entire ride and it's amazing how this literally looks like a 'roided-out Ruffalo.  To go into detail would totally spoil his moments, but let's just say there's plenty of smashing and even more laughs to be had.  Hulk gets the amount of battles he deserves, and I can confidently say these will be the scenes you'll be talking about when you walk out of the theater.  It would be madness to not give this version of Hulk a solo movie, so they better make that happen in 2015.


Marvel's The Avengers will be heavily debated as the best comic book movie, but it's definitely not perfect (then again, what movie truly is?).  The first few acts are the low points as they go through the mandatory steps of establishing the overall plot and bringing the characters together.  It simply didn't feel as big or superb as the movie needs to be. The resolution also felt pretty standard and wrapped up a little too easily.  That said, these are minor criticisms and ultimately won't matter all that much because the rest will blow you away.

Marvel's The Avengers is sporting Hulk's strength and raised the bar for comic book movies.  So, unless you severely loathe the genre, there is no reason at all to not rush out and see it as soon as possible.  When the movie comes to end (sit through the credits for two extra scenes!), you'll want to go through the must-see experience all over again.  

A+