unpopular opinion: Captain America II is just kind of an OK movie

~~~WARNING: RAMPANT SPOILERS~~~

captain-america-winter-soldier-poster-evans-610x872Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier Rides Again or whatever the movie is called. There was wit, there was action, there were some very necessary Cap-as-a-man-out-of-time moments. I think this movie contains my favorite 30 seconds of Nick Fury ever, and small touches like Natasha wearing an arrow necklace (Black Widow + Hawkeye = OTP) really added depth to the Marvel story as a whole. The action was impeccable—the elevator! Bucky and Steve mano-a-mano! Every scene with a car!

But while I liked all of the individual pieces of the movie, as a whole they didn’t add up. I enjoyed the heartbreaking scene with old lady Peggy, but narratively it didn’t need to be there. (Maybe it would have been a good post-credit sequence?) The first third of the movie dragged for me, until the actual Plot showed up and there was a clear reason for the movie to be happening.

Mostly, the surprising/not-surprising twists annoyed and bored me. (I wasn’t kidding about the spoilers, guys, stop now.) We all know they’re not going to actually kill Nick Fury. He’s a spy. He’s the spy. Even his death lies. And we all know Robert Redford is the bad guy the instant he strolls on screen. The people I saw the movie with argued that those things weren’t supposed to surprise the audience, they were just supposed to surprise the characters. OK. That’s a perfectly valuable narrative device—except that for the entire movie the audience knows that the Winter Solder is Bucky Barnes and is waiting for Steve to figure it out and react to it. You can’t hang all of the major points of the movie on the same narrative device. You just can’t.

On that topic, I was also disappointed in how little Bucky Barnes actually meant to the story. That assassin could have been anyone and the only thing that would have changed was the final “I won’t fight you” fight scene. There was so much going on, and I think the Bucky story suffered in the grand scheme of events, which is a shame because there was so much potential there.

As an entry in the Marvel universe, the movie is overall satisfactory, and I’ll definitely rewatch it and enjoy it. However, I’ll be rewatching it the same way I watch, say, Watchmen—because aesthetically I enjoy all of the individual scenes, characters, and jokes, but not because I enjoy it as a movie event. Which is a shame.

The Guardians of the Galaxy trailer looks amazeballs, though. Bring it, Marvel.

surely they could have come up with a better title than “pacific rim”

Ok guys, so Pacific Rim.

It is not a perfect movie.

It is not a particularly surprising movie.

But damn is it a lot of fun.

If the idea of watching (basically) Godzilla fight against (basically) Optimus Prime does not interest you, you should just check out now. But if that sounds like your cup of tea, definitely go see this.

Aside from the pure badassery, there are a lot of little things that make this movie great:

  • the main female lead is Japanese for no pressing reason (she very easily could have been a white character—frankly very easily could have been a man also) and her gender is NEVER brought up as a reason why she shouldn’t fight
  • everyone is casually bilingual, which is cool
  • there is not an annoying love story jimmied into a perfectly decent action story which is basically one of my pet peeves
  • one of the supporting actors was Clifton Collins, Jr from the FP, playing an awesome rockabilly Latino nerd
  • one of the other supporting actors is the guy who played Owen on Torchwood (too lazy to look up) in a much better role than Owen on Torchwood
  • Ron Fucking Perlman

My main gripe with the movie is that there are two young, blond, square-jawed white men who look exactly the same except one of them is supposedly Australian. It was hard figuring out who was who unless one of them was talking. Even the giant robots were easier to tell apart.

BUT ASIDE FROM THAT.

Go see this.

John Carter OF MARS

So, last weekend I went to see JOHN CARTER. Not many people did. It’s getting mediocre reviews and nobody really seems to know what it’s about. HOWEVER. It was totally worth it. If you want a beautiful, exciting sci-fi adventure story with a dash of steampunkery and a dash of Victoriana, you should go see it too. (I realize that I just described my dream movie, so I may be a little biased, but seriously. You should go.)

Also, Taylor Kitsch spends most of the movie shirtless.

The movie is not perfect. It gets a bit exposition-heavy, it takes a little while for all the different stories to wind together into the main narrative, the Big Bads are not as complex or interesting as one might hope. But the rest of the film is entertaining enough that I am willing to overlook some misses. The movie is just—fun. It is fun the way a pulpy book movie should be. It’s not dark and heavy and trying to be anything it’s not. It’s the story of a Hero with a capital H and a beautiful Science Princess Warrior and saving the world and an oversized six-legged dog who is cuter than he has any right to be. Overall it’s a great ride, an exciting journey that I’m excited to experience again and again.

So why is it doing so poorly in theaters? This article from the New York Times gives some very interesting background on the behind-the-scenes workings of the film’s production. After some false starts, it was finally produced by Disney and directed by long-time JC fan Andrew Stanton (you may have heard of two of his other films, Wall-E and Finding Nemo). What I find most fascinating is that Stanton had a heavy hand in how the movie was marketed, which is in my (humble) opinion the movie’s main misstep. I was only at JC because some friends of mine were like NO WE ARE GOING TRUST USSSSS. (Note to self: trust friends.) The previews made JC look like another Rock (sorry Dwayne Johnson) vehicle, or something akin to 300 or Clash of Titans or any other movie that is just half-dressed men swinging swords at each other. Which… isn’t completely accurate. Yes, there’s shirtless sword- and gun-fighting, but there’s a lot more, too. A few shots of Princess Dejah Thoris kicking ass with her sword or the steampunky machines that fly with solar power would have helped, or even just some shots of the cities to show how rich and gorgeous Mars/Barsoom is. You can tell watching the film that there is tons material supporting it (like, maybe, ten books), and that doesn’t come through in the previews. It’s just a desert.

Anyway, the marketing has been marketed and there’s not much to be done about that now. The upshot is, this movie is so much cooler than the previews make it look and you should totally give it a chance. Trust me. TRUST JOHN CARTER. Dejah Thoris trusts John Carter. You should too.

Frankly, lots of people don't wear shirts in this movie. Important facts brought to you by gracetopia.

Captain America, hells yeah

Purely by chance, I ended up at the midnight showing of Captain America in downtown Boston last night.

Purely by chance, so did my younger brother. Perhaps we are related, after all.

Before I start my review, I will sum up my knowledge of Captain America so that you understand where I am coming from: 1) he is patriotic 2) he has a shield 3) he has a sidekick name Bucky—which I only know thanks to recent trips to Target’s action figures aisle. So yes, I come from a world of darkness.

And into the light. Because Captain America was COOL.

It was funny. It was pretty. It was dramatic. It worked. It worked as both a movie and a comic book movie.

It starts, of course, with the origin story. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny, chronically ill Brooklyn-ite who wants to join the army. He wants to join the army so badly he’s tried 5 times. But then he meets Dr. Abraham Erksine (Stanley Tucci), who sees in Steve the qualities that make not a soldier, but a hero. This is exactly what Dr. Erksine is looking for, because has the serum to make the hero into a supersoldier.

Meanwhile Agent Smith crazy Nazi Dr. Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is trying to harness the power of the gods to take over the world, not for Hitler but for his own “scientific” organization called Hydra.

Because that always works.

This is one of those movies where there’s so much cool stuff happening I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s not really a question of plot—it’s a very formulaic superhero plot, you won’t really be shocked by anything. But there’s just so many cool things going on. Like a chorus line Captain America. *zips lips*

Suffice to say that after a brief stint as a media consultant, Steve Rogers aka Captain America charges into Nazi territory to save the world. And he kicks ass, and he takes names.

The movie was put together superbly, from the actors to the costume design to the general milieu. Tommy Lee Jones plays Tommy Lee Jones, which he does quite well. Chris Evans is both an excellent scrawny Steve and an excellent ripped Cap. The 1940s sets and costumes and atmosphere were dead on and oh-so-pretty. I love a good 40s setting.

And there are so many little things in this movie, from an Indiana Jones reference to a quick nod to Dr. Arnim Zola’s future as a robot. (<—why I go to these things with the comic geek BF) Everyone freaked out when Bucky picked up the shield. I think a true Cap geek would find a lot of little hidden treasures.

So, yes, I love the movie. A few minor plot quibbles (“so wait, how did she know—nevermind…”) but it was an awesome ride and the time flew by.

Finally, one kind of major point: Captain America is the first of the comic book movies that has made me want to read the related comics. X-Men, well, I already loved the X-Men. Thor, eh. Batman, eh. But in Captain America there was a whole montage sequence that showed Cap and his team going on dozens of missions—and I want to know what they are. His team looks like fun, and I love the character and setting. I want more.

However, having read the new Captain America issue #1 that came out last week or whenever… I was unimpressed. Marvel, if you’re going to make an awesome movie, you should make sure you’re supporting it with an awesome book.

Because, yeah, awesome move. Go see it.

EDIT: and it probably goes without saying for a Marvel movie but stay through the credits.

so much dracula, so much boob

I watched like 8 hours of Dracula yesterday. Because I am AWESOME.

Also, because I bought a Christopher Lee fourpack at Target last week and it was dying to be watched. I mean, come on, the 4th one was called Dracula: A.D. 1972. That could not set on my shelf unwatched for long.

And really, I think these four Dracula movies can be summed up with one word:

BOOBS

The first one (Horror of Dracula) was a pretty ordinary Dracula, style-wise. I mean, they pretty much took the plot, put it in a blender, and poured the smoothie onto film. For instance, Harker was engaged to be married to someone named Lucy Holmwood, who is (I think) the sister of Mina and Arthur Holmwood (although those two may be married, I’m not really sure). But, yeah. There was blood, garlic, Peter Cushing as Van Helsing—pretty ordinary Dracula.

But then.

We move into Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (tagline: “You just can’t keep a good man down!”) which was a lovely little film that begins with a girl hanging upside down, covered in blood, and showing about as much boob as was legal at that time. From then on, the movies just turn into a boobfest. Never any nipple, but… yeah. So much tit action.

There was a point, near the beginning of the third movie (Taste the Blood of Dracula), when I thought, “ah, we’ve returned to a simpler, boob-free time,” but then OH NO! our heroes visit a brothel.

And then, well yeah, the 4th movie is set in the ’70s. That’s really all you need to know.

They were pretty fantastic, not gonna lie.

I love my life.