Search This Blog

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Best Movies From "The Avengers"

1) Iron Man (dir. Jon Favreau) (2008)
RATING: 3.5 stars

I almost literally had to be dragged kicking and screaming to see Iron Man. When I was in college my friend Jeff wanted to see Iron Man and took me to go see it with him. I refused based on principle. The trailers made it look stupid and Robert Downey Jr. hadn't done anything good in years. Boy was I wrong. Part of it was that my expectations were very low before I went to see the movie and part of it was that Favreau, Downey Jr, and company did a great job with the film.

Not only is Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) just a fun character in general (and the role Robert Downey Jr. was born to play) but the story was mainly centered on him and his character growth and development. Part of the problem with superhero movies (as we'll see later in the post) is that they can be very paint-by-numbers; they can be very generic. There's a good guy, a special event happens to him, we meet the bad guy, the good guy and bad guy fight, and good guy wins. The end. Iron Man is not like that. Well it is, but it is more. We see Tony Stark grow and mature and develop. The story mainly centers around Tony Stark and any character we get to know is because of Tony Stark.

What also helped Iron Man was that the villain, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), is a compatriot of Tony's and his "evilness" comes from the fact that he wants to take over Stark Enterprises (well, that and become an Iron Man also). His character stems from his relationship with Tony Stark and because of that it makes the movie better rather than just a random villain terrorizing the city.

You always have to suspend your disbelief for superhero films but the best ones are the ones grounded in reality. And despite the giant robot man, this story is believable and when you combine that with the great acting of Downey Jr. and Bridges and company, you get a damn good superhero flick.

2) The Incredible Hulk (dir. Louis Leterrier) (2008)
RATING: 3.5 stars

2008 was a great summer for superhero films. In early May Iron Man was released which was a surprising success. In Mid-July, The Dark Knight came out and changed the landscape forever for superhero films. And in Mid-June, The Incredible Hulk came out. People tend to forget how good 2008's The Incredible Hulk really is. It didn't help that it was the third best superhero movie during its summer release and fans had a bad taste in their mouth after 2003's Ang Lee / Eric Bana's version of The Hulk. But Edward Norton's version of The Hulk was vastly superior to not only every other Hulk movie / TV show but most super hero movies in general.

For starters, the movie didn't waste any time focusing on how Dr. Bruce Banner (Norton) became The Hulk. As the opening credits rolled we saw a montage of how Dr. Banner's work went out of control and forced him to become this green creature. This let the entire film explore what it was like to have this thing inside of you instead of wasting at least half an hour introducing characters and actually seeing the botched experiment.

Unlike most superhero movies, The Incredible Hulk has a small cast which works in favor so the audience gets to see true character development. We explore not only Bruce Banner's struggle with dealing with The Hulk, but actually his relationship with the love interest Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and we actually get to spend actual, quality time with the film's main antagonist, Emil Blonksy (Tim Roth). It also helps that the small cast includes some great, Oscar-nominated actors like Norton and William Hurt and (still a great actor sans an nomination) Roth.

3) Captain America: The First Avenger (dir. Joe Johnston) (2011)
RATING: 2.5 stars

Captain America is the definition of a paint-by-numbers superhero movie. Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) (Chris Evans) is not well developed, Evans can't act very well (although he does look like he should be a superhero), the film doesn't even TRY to develop the main villain Johann Schmidt / Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) which is a huge waste of Weaving's talents, and the action sequences are "meh" at best.

If this movie had come out 15 years ago, before Spider-Man II and The Dark Knight were released, and when people thought Michael Bay movies were the norm for action flicks, then Captain America would be a really good movie. But superhero movies aren't the same nowadays as they were a decade ago. We expert and should expect more from our films.

Captain America: The First Avenger was a blatant attempt to make money and to promote The Avengers. The plot used in the film does help set up the plot for The Avengers but really that's the only thing it is good for.

4) Thor (dir.Kenneth Branagh) (2011)
RATING: 2.5 stars

Thor was really doomed from the start. First of all, Thor is not a superhero, he is a demi-god. By his very existence and definition he is better than mere mortals. Now Superman was also not human but there was also a distinction between human and alien/superhero with Superman. At least Clark Kent tried to be human. Thor does not.

The second thing that worked against Thor was that the title character came from outer space / a distant galaxy. This is a problem, because like I said earlier, superhero movies need to be ground in reality to be effective and being an alien / from outer space is incongruous with good superhero films and this notion of reality.

Look at how terrible Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal was when you found out there actually were aliens. It's believable that the holy grail exists but it just isn't believable that aliens do (Obviously the Indiana Jones franchise are not superhero films but they follow a very similar mold). Look at how terrible The Green Lantern was. Hal Jordan's power came from an alien ring and he can fly into space and meet with his magical outer space friends. Thor is more like the alien superhero movies than it is like the "reality" superhero movies such as Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, or Iron Man which makes it harder for the movie to be good.

Lastly, the main villain in Thor was a weird robot creature thing. Sure, the true villain was Loki but most of what Thor was fighting were just agents of Loki. Thor follows the same vein of Captain America where the characters are underdeveloped, the actions sequences are weak, and it was made solely for The Avengers film so it doesn't stand well alone.

5) Iron Man 2 (dir. Jon Favreau) (2010)
RATING: 2 stars

Not only were we expecting big things because of how good the original Iron Man was but the characters in the sequel were not developed well, Mickey Rourke as the main villain was just too weird and out there to be truly effective (it's nice when you have a crazy, eccentric bad guy ala The Joker in The Dark Knight but the way Rourke's character was written and portrayed just fell flat), and the plot was thin. Again, this felt more like an excuse to make money slash set up The Avengers than actually create a good superhero film.

The one bright spot of the film was Sam Rockwell who played Justin Hammer. Rockwell is just a great actor who's charisma always pops on screen and stole every scene he was in in Iron Man 2.

 If you would like to comment on this post, please visit our facebook page