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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Spider-Man: Homecoming

9 Jul

I myself do not have particularly deep feelings about Spider-Man. I have enjoyed or not enjoyed the previous films to about the degree that most people have. I, on the other hand, have EVERY feeling about Spider-Man because watching the first Sam Raimi movie in high school was my gateway into superhero stuff (unless you count The Incredibles and I don’t since it’s not a comic book property). I’ve seen at least a little bit of pretty much every Spider-Man adaptation, including a really bad animated one that aired on MTV and had Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Spidey. Yes, this is real. Anyway, my favorite adaptations up to this point were the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and a semi-obscure 2009 animated series called Spectacular Spider-Man. Both of these were attempts to modernize the story and incorporate various elements that weren’t present in the original comics: Ultimate has him working as a web designer (haha yes I know) for the Daily Bugle and he and Mary Jane Watson are high school BFFs, and Spectacular keeps the classic photography job but includes Gwen and Harry as his BFFs. I pretty much judge every adaptation against these two. Homecoming is, I’m happy to say, a very very good Spider-Man adaptation. It’s probably my third-favorite, and that’s mostly because it doesn’t really have Gwen or Mary Jane, who are my two favorite parts of the stories. But it’s still a damn good movie.

The problems with the previous Spider-Man movies is that they have largely not understood two basic, important points of Spider-Man: unlike Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman, Peter Parker and Spider-Man are not separate entities, and the strength of Spider-Man as a character comes from his relationships and interactions with the people around him.

The first two attempts at Spider-Man movies were both deeply flawed adaptations that miss critical parts of the story. The Raimi movies, at least the first two, have pretty good villains: they’re campy, sure, but the charm of Spider-Man is its inherent campiness. The Green Goblin and Doc Ock are given backstories, they’re played by good actors who are having a blast hamming it up, and, in the latter’s case, the film seems to sympathize with him at least to some degree. The problem with these movies is Spider-Man. Not only is Peter far too broody, but so is Spider-Man himself; I can’t recall him cracking a single joke, and the entire point of Spider-Man is that he makes stupid jokes in the middle of fights! It leans way too heavily on Peter’s angst about Uncle Ben and being a good person and forgets to make him funny. The Amazing duology started out pretty decent, with a Spider-Man who makes jokes and a Peter who, while a bit hipstery and smug, at least knew how to smile. The problem with that first movie is that the Lizard is a half-formed idea of a villain that doesn’t make any sense and his plan is total bullshit. (There is actually a short arc in the Spectacular animated series that uses the Lizard – it’s really well-done and makes way more sense, so I’m not saying that the Lizard as a character is inherently unadaptable.) The less said about Amazing 2, the better. The great thing about Homecoming is that it understands that a good Spider-Man story needs both a quippy, likeable Spider-Man and a bombastic villain. Tom Holland is charming and believable as a kid who’s pretty much in over his head, but who just wants to help people and use his powers to do awesome things. They added in a short montage of him doing dumb little heroic things like giving an old lady directions and stopping a bike thief, which is important because Spider-Man is supposed to be a hero for the little guy first and foremost. Michael Keaton as the Vulture is legitimately menacing and also chews the scenery all over the place. They’ve written this version of the character as a blue-collar worker who stumbles into alien technology after the Chitauri incident and, along with some of his colleagues, decides to use it to build himself some weapons to rob banks and commit other crimes. There’s also a spoiler about his character which I won’t mention, but it was a pretty good touch and I felt silly for not guessing it.

The previous movies also leaned far too heavily on his relationships with his love interests, to the detriment of his relationships with Uncle Ben, Aunt May, or literally any other people. The first Amazing movie at least had the decency to give Gwen sort of a character arc, motivation, and a hero moment outside of Peter, but still, it was largely about Peter’s love life. In the best versions of the story, Peter has friends and loved ones. The conflict comes from his wanting to protect them from the villains who are trying to hurt him while still trying to show them how much he cares. This new movie gives him a best friend in Ned (Jacob Batalon), a fellow nerd who he builds the Death Star Lego set with and who is the first person to learn his secret. It also doesn’t forget that Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is an essential part of Peter’s life, and while she’s not in a lot of scenes, she’s in enough to give the viewer a real sense of how much she and Peter love and support each other. Zendaya is also here as a girl who mostly exists on the fringes of the story, mostly to provide snarky commentary. She’s basically Marvel’s cop-out because her name is “Michelle” but at the end she says “my friends call me MJ.” I guess maybe they thought nobody in 2017 would be named Mary Jane? I expected to be a lot angrier about this than I actually am, and it’s probably because Zendaya is a scene stealer and I’m just happy to have her here at all.

There is a romance subplot in this story – they’ve borrowed one of Peter’s second string short-term girlfriends, Liz Allan (Laura Harrier), who is introduced as the ideal girl that nerdy Peter doesn’t have a chance with. I was worried about how they would handle this, especially after the Raimi movies where poor MJ is basically reduced to a pretty idea of a character and nothing else, but Liz is a character with her own personality and ambitions. Not only that, but she’s captain of the school’s academic decathlon team rather than being a cheerleader. She and Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) are both members, which is a fun update to the classic story where Flash is the quarterback and Liz is his arm candy. But back to Liz; after her initial introduction, her screentime is meant to remind you that she is a person just like Peter is, and Peter’s feelings do not make her into some unattainable goddess. I doubt she’ll be back in the next movie, but I was satisfied with her treatment in this one.

This is not a perfect movie, however. The single greatest flaw in this movie is that Marvel apparently has some kind of Stark quota now, where Tony has to be in X amount of screentime in every movie that he can possibly be squeezed into. I have pretty well run out of patience with Tony Stark (and I am, particularly after our Fourth of July Captain America movie marathon, eager to see Tony destroyed elaborately – more on this in a second), and in this movie he is trying and failing to be a parental figure to a kid who is a thousand times kinder and better than he is. I still haven’t forgiven Tony for recruiting a fifteen-year-old child into a superhero battle where he had no business being. He did his best to rub it in in this movie, too, lecturing Peter on his behavior while conveniently side-stepping the point that if it wasn’t for him, none of the stuff with Vulture would have happened. He’s in something like twenty minutes of the movie, all told, but it’s twenty minutes too long. Because here’s the thing. The Sokovia Accords were bullshit. I have only seen Civil War a handful of times but every time I do I get even angrier about the Sokovia Accords (which seem increasingly more pointed and directed less at the problem and more at the convenient scapegoat of, as I said on Twitter during aforementioned Fourth of July rewatch, a magical [Roma-Jewish] refugee girl – but Kermit meme). But considering that Tony was the biggest advocate of the Accords, and that he literally endangered Peter’s life in their name, the fact remains that this movie could have been called Spider-Man Comes Home To Violate The Sokovia Accords. They’re bullshit, but the fact that Tony went out of his way to institute legislation insisting that all superheroes (not just the Avengers proper, all superheroes or even just enhanced people, as seen repeatedly in SHIELD) be monitored by a governing body and then said “but hey, kid, you just go be neighborhood Spider-Man, you do you” is also bullshit. I don’t want harm to befall Peter. Peter’s just trying his best. But Tony Stark plays favorites and only remembers things when it’s convenient; even when he’s mad at Peter he doesn’t so much as mention the Accords or the fact that not only is Spider-Man violating them but that by the end of this particular film he’s likely responsible for at least as much property damage, if not incidental civilian injury and loss of life, as (for example) Scarlet Witch in Lagos. (We didn’t hear about any of the loss of life, but – you guys. At one point Spider-Man is on an airplane that flew by and sliced the top off of the Coney Island Parachute Jump. That ride isn’t operational; it’s, according to Wikipedia, “250 feet (76 m) tall and weighing 170 tons (150 tonnes).” Based on approximations of when their Homecoming dance was [likely a Saturday evening in September] there’s literally no way that when the top came off of it didn’t fall on people, possibly at least twelve. I’m not blaming Peter for these people being injured or killed. But but Kermit meme.)

My other biggest complaint is that the AI in the suit that Tony gave Peter apparently didn’t have a name, which is ridiculous because Tony names everything, and then when Peter names it the name he picks is Karen. The problem with this is that there’s already a pretty prominent Karen in the MCU: Karen Page. Marvel has a real problem with repeating names anyway (James “Bucky” Barnes/James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Hope Van Dyne/Hope Shlottman/Hope Mackenzie, Peter Parker/Peter Quill/Pietro Maximoff, Robert Gonzales/Roberto “Robbie” Reyes, etc.) and this is just another piece of evidence that someone needs to get them a baby name book. Bucky and Rhodey can’t be changed at this point, but “Karen” isn’t even really a mythology gag. The only Karen in the Spider-mythos is from the 1999 animated series Spider-Man Unlimited, which is so obscure that even I hadn’t heard of it until yesterday, and if we wanted a mythology gag, why not “Gwen” or “Glory” or “Carlie” or even “Felicia”? Or his mother’s name, Mary? It’s just frustrating to see them reusing names that aren’t even particularly common ones.

Overall, though, this is the single best Spider-Man movie to date and a great addition to the MCU. I would say it’s one of the more joyful superhero movies that I’ve seen in the last few years. I’m very happy with it. And though my strongest feelings were overly elaborate rage-induced calculations based on how terrible Tony Stark is, I very much enjoyed it as well.

–your fangirl heroines.

what20light20through20yonder20science

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Spoiler Alert Saturday :: my thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron

2 May

Bulleting for… convenience, I don’t know.

  • Much hero.  Very conflict.  Many argue.  Wow.
  • So.  Not a perfect film.  Lots of people are discussing all the ways this is a thing.  I’m not going to go in that ring, because I am not good at doing that nine times of ten and other people are doing it better and also I’m trying this thing where, unless it’s something that I absolutely need to rage about (i.e. it involves… women in refrigerators, True Blood‘s last two seasons, or the friendzone), I am going to try to discuss mostly the positive aspects of things on the internet.  This is for my own mental health, because impassioned negativity makes my anxiety flare up like hell.  (This seems as good a post to put this in as any, I guess.)
  • So let’s talk positives.  I continue to think watching Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) fight is one of the most beautiful things.  Or watching her do most things.  I will admit to making funny noises and compulsively sipping my soda when she dropped out of the plane on the motorcycle (despite having seen that twenty times) and when she had her batons out.  (Giving her batons?  It was a very good idea.)
  • And I do think Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) and Tasha are cute.  I am not 100% into the narrative treatment of the storyline, but in general I am comfortable with them as a concept and whatnot.  I think it makes quite a lot of sense in its way.  (More sense than other romantic options for her, in my opinion.)
  • I turned to my mom at one point, toward the beginning even, and just said to her, “Tony Stark is the sweetest summer child.”  Tony’s (Robert Downey Jr.) plan was the worst plan ever, essentially, Ultron was the worst plan ever, and not sharing Ultron with anyone but Bruce prior to him going haywire was the worst plan ever, and thinking it would work was incredibly naive, and I kept almost giggling because have you learned nothing.  (This is not positive or negative, it just is and I needed to say it.)
  • I actually did rather like Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) and her abilities are pretty cool in their ex machina quality.  I had virtually no opinion of Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) except that it was hilarious that his suiting up for battle involved white tennis shoes.
  • CLINT BARTON’S FARM.
  • I also extremely enjoy that Clint’s (Jeremy Renner) primary function in the MCU seems to be inspiring women with previous dubious alliances to fight for the side of good.
  • Look at Maria (Cobie Smulders) go.  Look at her being functional.  Look at her making fun of the testosterone.
  • Gratuitous shirtless Thor (Chris Hemsworth) scene.
  • And Kerry Condon was the voice of Tony’s lady program, that’s exciting.
  • Is this new Avengers line-up comprised of Steve (Chris Evans), two girls, two awesome black guys (Don Cheadle’s Rhodey/War Machine and Anthony Mackie’s Sam/Falcon), and a sentient digital consciousness with a cape (Paul Bettany’s Vision)?  It seems like it.
  • Oh, and hooooly crap, Tuesday is going to be a thing.

–your fangirl heroine.

so there's that

Spoiler Alert Saturday :: my thoughts on Iron Man 3

4 May

…are best summed up in the phrase “yes, all right!”

This is to say that I did really like this movie, and straightforwardly so.  It had

  • Excellent ladies (because Pepper [Gwyneth Paltrow] rocks always, yes, and Maya [Rebecca Hall] definitely interested me — I mean, lady scientists always, yes, and on top of/because of that she sort of pinged me with a few stray Bennett feelings I think?).
  • Re: the above, Bechdel test pass!
  • Emotional darkness, but not too much that it felt overwhelming.
  • Politics, but not too much that it felt overwhelming.
  • Interesting points about the showmanship of politics.
  • A good helping of snark (mostly Tony [Robert Downey Jr.] of course, but everyone snarked a little).
  • A good helping of noir (because seriously, the fact that it was Shane Black who also did Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang directing had me noticing this everywhere, and really, it was… a little bit the same movie [narration, tone, Christmas, the life-dangling-by-threads, the decoys in the less-good department] but I’m not complaining, I love that movie and also I love noir).
  • Some science bros after the credits (hiii, Mark Ruffalo with glasses).
  • Guy Pearce being sleazy, which is definitely his m.o. of late, isn’t it?
  • Science in general!!!  I have said it before and I will say it again, while I am not particularly science-minded myself, gosh I love when fictional people talk about/do science.  Especially of the neuro- variety, so I was very pleased here.  Also, while I stand firm in my theory that 3D digital screen readouts are never used in situations where nothing bad is happening, I appreciate that Tony Stark uses them in the context not of doing bad but of investigating bad, so.
  • A little boy (Harley, played by Ty Simpkins) who didn’t feel cloying to me.
  • Rhodey (Don Cheadle) being pretty cool and badass too.
  • Mostly, though, PEPPER.  Who has always been a badass in her way, but (specific spoiler I guess) well, there are few things I love more than badass ladies rising literally from the ashes to do badass things.  So.

–your fangirl heroine.

i do not have a gentle heart

Superlative Sunday :: the 2013 MTV Movie Awards and how I feel about them

14 Apr

I did not watch the MTV Movie Awards.  (I don’t think I’ve watched them since I was about twelve.)  I have no wry commentary on the attendees or presentation.  The results are all online, though, so here goes nothing.

Movie of the Year: The Avengers.  A win that delights me, surprising no one.
Best Musical Moment: the “No Diggity” scene in Pitch Perfect.  Well, all right, that’s fine I guess?  All of the nominees were at least good scenes, and hey, Anne Hathaway already got an Oscar, I don’t think she cares about also getting an MTV Movie Award.
MTV Generation Award: Jaime Foxx.  Ooookay?
Best Villain: Tom Hiddleston as Loki, The Avengers.  As I’ve said before, I don’t really care too much about Loki one way or the other, but it’s a very solid performance?
Best Shirtless Performance: Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, Breaking Dawn – Part 2.  Oh yeah, that’s why I don’t watch the MTV Movie Awards.  This is actually a category.  I’m a little sad now.
Breakthrough Performance: Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy, Pitch Perfect.  She was definitely a scene-stealer, so.
Comedic Genius Award: Will Ferrell.  I personally haven’t given a damn about Will Ferrell in years, but I guess his comedy is to some tastes, so.
Best Kiss: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook.  Well, you guys remember my feelings about this movie.  I’m leaving it at that.
MTV Trailblazer Award: Emma Watson.  Okay, I like her, awards for her are good things.
Best Fight: the battle with the Chitauri in The Avengers.  To which I say hell yes (I also point out that this was the only fight amongst the nominees that a woman participated in, so I support the win even just on principle).
Best WTF Moment: the end sequence of Django Unchained.  I’m not sure if it was WTF in the way that any of the other nominated scenes were, but it’s a good scene and a good movie, so I can’t complain.
Best Male Performance: Bradley Cooper as Pat, Silver Linings Playbook.  See above re: the movie.
Best Female Performance: Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, Silver Linings Playbook.  See above and also see my discussion of the Oscars re: her performance.
Best Scared-as-S**t Performance: (If you’re going to use naughty language in the title of your award, at least be on a channel where you don’t have to put ** in your naughty word.  I know that’s nothing they can help on the one hand, but on the other it just looks silly.)  Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi.  I’ve still not seen this and probably won’t, but at least they didn’t give it to Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, because excuse me, I take offense to her excellent work in this film, even just in a scene it seems like, being reduced to the label “scared-as-s**t.”  (Besides, the only time you can be brave is when you’re afraid.  So.)
Best On-Screen Duo: Mark Wahlberg and an animated bear, Ted.  Which… no.  The reason the MTV Movie Awards are so wonky to me is that you put things like Ted up next to things like Django Unchained; hell, I even am bothered by putting Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr.’s Bruce and Tony pair against an animated bear and his raunchy friend.  It just seems wrong.

–your fangirl heroine.

come again

Film Friday :: 2012 in film (2 opinions, 4 predictable favorites, 4 awesome people)

29 Dec

Opinions
2. I don’t care, I’m going to actively promote evil queen Charlize Theron to everyone.
I mean, I liked Snow White and the Hunstman pretty decently well overall, as you may remember.  It’s that kind of ridiculous dark thing I generally appreciate.  But the more I think about it, the more I go: wow, wow, but evil queen Charlize Theron is actually the best thing ever.  I haven’t seen a lot of Charlize Theron movies, or I’ve only halfway seen them, or I wasn’t really paying attention, but wow, maybe it’s just that I sort of dig on evil queens, but I enjoyed the hell out of this particular performance.

1. There were a lot of movies this year that I objectively recognize were good but just… didn’t really care about overall.
The Dark Knight Rises.  Skyfall.  Looper.  Friends With Kids even.  For different reasons each time, but also largely for one overarching reason: I have such a hard time caring about the movie when I don’t care about the characters and/or don’t necessarily appreciate how they were being used.  It’s not that I didn’t like these movies.  To whatever extent, I did. But I wasn’t thinking about them too much afterward, I wasn’t analyzing everything about them happily, I didn’t feel compelled to jump into discussions about them.  I actually kind of fear being asked to join discussions about The Dark Knight Rises, because there really isn’t anything insightful I can say about it.

Predictable favorites
4.
Brave
I just rewatched this movie the other night.  And ugh it makes me so happy.  I don’t really need to repeat myself, but it did so many things right and I adored it for that.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
See but this would also have been a predictable disappointment, because I do not recall the last time I was this nervous about a movie.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is such a big part of my adolescence that the film had some monumentally-sized shoes to fill in my eyes.  But not only did it fill those shoes, it was actually a really really good movie that did a lot of the things that I thank Brave (and actually the next two movies I’m about to discuss) for.  Yes, Charlie (Logan Lerman) has a crush on Sam (Emma Watson).  But that is not the point of the movie, the point of the movie is friendship.  It’s a love story, but it’s a platonic love story about these young people who care so deeply for each other, and that makes me so absolutely happy.

2. The Avengers
You can see where this is going, no?  I talked about how this movie was almost immediate fulfillment of a wish I expressed: a movie about platonic relationships.  Because aside from Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), there is absolutely no romance in this movie.  (I mean, if you’re too desperate for Avengers romance, you can basically look… anywhere on tumblr or the rest of the internet and find every possible permutation of romantic relationships between every character who has ever appeared for half a scene in the MCU.)  This is a movie about a bunch of people, extraordinary people for whatever reason, who by all rights should not get along, but still manage to forge a beautiful team and do some world-saving.  And this is a movie where the good guys never ever go “oh yeah, and here’s our token lady team member,” they just appreciate her skills like they appreciate (or sometimes don’t appreciate) anyone else’s skills and go about their day.  This is a movie where things felt high-risk and where things felt real even if it was about superheroes and space aliens and where characters were interesting to me.  This is a movie where I actually got invested in really just about everyone.

1. The Cabin in the Woods
This is the height of predictable.  This is also not the only list (or sublist I guess) that this movie will be heading up in the near future.  This movie, though.  This movie has romantic relationships and makeouts and whatnot, Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchinson), Dana (Kristen Connolly) and Holden (Jesse Williams), and this is largely because it’s integral to the genre critique and the extreme meta factor.  But you know what I love?  I love the handling of the “Marty and I were sweeties in our freshman hall” bit, insofar as it’s refuted with a “we made out once” and not turned into some source of tension (one of the pieces of Cabin meta I’ve found online talks about this; I don’t remember which one, but one of them, all of which are in my Cabin in the Woods tag so go find it if you’re curious I guess) I love that even while Dana and Marty (Fran Kranz) were running around destroying everything, even while they were clinging to each other and being sweet to each other as the world combusted, they didn’t actually have romantic subplottiness.  It’s so easy to pull that “last boy last girl shove ’em together” stuff, and that has definitely happened in the genre before.  And mind you, I actually do kind of ship Dana and Marty.  But I like that it didn’t have to be made canon.

Awesome people
4. Rooney Mara(The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
It almost seems like this movie came out last year, since it was so close to the year’s beginning.  But nope, this was a 2012 movie indeed.  And I just.  I love her.  Between this movie (because while I adore Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth, I am not in love with her) and the fact that this was the year I finally finished the book trilogy, 2012 was the year I actually fell in love with Lisbeth Salander.  I think she’s great, and I think she’s fascinating.  She’s a badass, she’s a techie savant, she’s unapologetically bisexual, she’s unapologetically everything actually.  She’s just great.

3. Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks)
I really loved this movie.  Probably because of all of its meta.  But I love Zoe Kazan because she’s adorable and I found the evolution of Ruby in the story to be pretty interesting, and I love her because this was her movie.  She came up with it, she wrote it, she made happen what she needed to make happen.  And that’s super-super-cool.

2. Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods)
We’re into the predictable again.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I get inordinately proud when watching this movie with other people and they express fondness for him, be it the couple sitting in front of me  the third time I saw it in theaters talking about how he was the most awesome one in the movie or be it my friend proclaiming that not only was he awesome, he was pretty cute.  I am bordering-on-creepy-proud of my Fran and how well people reacted to him in this movie.  I am so happy that he was the star of everyone’s hearts.

1. Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers)
I definitely mentioned before that I’ve actually always kind of had a Scarlett Johansson thing.  This used to be for reasons that I couldn’t quite articulate, because it wasn’t because of a particular movie or because I’d read something cool with her or anything.  It just sort of was.  But after The Avengers (and her growing real-life fantastic reactions to people talking to her about it) I feel completely justified in this for the first time.  Because I’m sorry, Entertainment Weekly, but Loki being the one character from this movie that you pulled out specially to mention in your end-of-the-year whatnot?  Noooope.  I am ambivalent toward Loki, actually; I don’t hate him, but neither do I fall all over him going “aw poor baby.”  However, Black Widow has become at least to some of my friends one of my real life things, like British accents or cupcakes or dragons.  Because Black Widow is fantastic and wonderful, and I and the world needed a character like her in this (and really any) movie so much.  She is my rational, kickass, imperfect, literal-minded, well-developed darling, and I am so glad she exists.

–your fangirl heroine.

gussy up

Spoiler Alert Saturday :: my thoughts on The Avengers

5 May

Tā mā de.

In the best of ways.

As with Cabin in the Woods (which I maybe watched again this afternoon, yes) I will not actually spoil this one.  Not at all.  But I will give some basically spoilerfree highlights.

  • Dear Joss Whedon, I know you don’t like being “that guy who kills everyone” in the way that some people seem to say it.  I know other people kill lots of people, too.  But I applaud the way that you have been willing to kill people in your work in the past not because nobody else kills people (though fictional murder could stand to happen more, in my opinion) but because it makes things, as I have said before, high stakes.  It makes my heart beat a little faster when characters are in risky situations.  It makes me care a little more, because you make people care about people, then you dangle them in these scenes where they could die.  The point is not that people sometimes do die, the point is just that they could, and that makes it more interesting and better.  It gets my adrenaline up.  So thank you, dear sir.
  • Now this is the snarky Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that I dig on.  Iron Man 2 Tony Stark was a little… off, somehow.  I don’t have a familiarity with… well, any Marvel comics.  I know.  I’m awful that way.  But this Tony Stark was, while a little bit of a d-bag, helpful and arrogant but not too arrogant and he grew into his intentions and he was sarcastic but amazingly so.  You always need someone to quip while being useful, and he provided that part of the team in a perfect fashion.
  • And this is the Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) that I find interesting.  I, like everyone else, really didn’t like the Eric Bana Hulk.  (This could be because I saw it at a drive-in and could only halfway hear it out the car window, but I somehow doubt it.)  I could take or leave the Edward Norton Incredible Hulk.  Mark Ruffalo’s was just a guy who knew sciency stuff really damn well and, whoops, rage monster.  He had a dry sense of humor that didn’t come through a lot but was very necessary when it did.  He was a man on a journey, a man who was trying despite the rage monster within to do the right thing.  His struggle was hard.  But he worked with it.
  • I am all right with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).  I think that Captain America is a stand-up guy, and now that he’s taken out of time and removed from optimism a bit, I like him even more.  I like that he wound up the one who tried to serve as the glue for the bunch.  He tried to be a leader, to take care of the team in whatever way he could.  And watching every other character fanboy over him was the most adorable thing I have possibly ever seen.  Except for maybe watching him get all giddy about recognizing Tony’s Wizard of Oz reference.  He was so excited, he finally picked up on something, he finally belonged a little bit, or he was trying.  He was trying so hard to make sense of this life, no matter how improbably and crappy it often was.  And he was doing this because it was what he thought was right.  Not because someone else told him to.  Because he knew it inside.
  • Yes, and I am good with Thor (Chris Hemsworth).  I think I’m going to go ahead and put him on my “I want you to read audio books or bedtime stories to me” list, but that’s neither here nor there.  He truly tries to have good intentions, to make sense of people.  Even if he doesn’t always understand them, he cares about them.  Not because he has to, but because he wants to.  It’s not his world, but he’ll look after it.  No questions or qualms.
  • And I am kind of more than good with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).  I didn’t really have Black Widow feelings a la Iron Man 2, though I didn’t not have feelings.  (Somewhat because I have always sort of had a Scarlett Johansson thing a little, but.)  I definitely have Black Widow feelings now.  No questions about it.  That first scene, the one that was pre-released somewhat, the interrogation… oh yes, all right.  She is just.  She is a badass, and she is not by nature an emotional person, or one who thinks of things the way that others do, regarding sense of humor or turns of phrase or attitudes about things, but she’s not cold.  She’s often detached, yes, but by the end, she is loyal to these people, she will do what she can and must for them and for the world.  What is said to her at one point in the film doesn’t have the effect on her that she lets them momentarily believe that it does (and lord I loved that little “thank you” headtilt thing) but it does have an effect on her.  It helps her come to the conclusion about what is right to do, not for everyone, but for her as a person.
  • And I am pretty good with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner).  Hawkeye was the least-seen of the Avengers in previous films, so it was easy to not have a sense of him in particular.  And you don’t get a sense of him for a while, for reasons; then it works, there’s some him+Natasha friend time (more on this in a minute) and some OH DEAR kind of feelsy dialogue, and I recognize that he is just a good kind of dude.  He is a solid, solid man.  Reliable, badass, and he and Natasha do these things not because they have powers or enhancements, but because they are just really good at what they do.  They are trained, they are skilled, and it is what they think is right.
  • And okay, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  He is so talented at being the kind of bad guy that he was written as.  The particular traits.  The smug, the supercilious, the desperate-for-something.  Yeah, solid.
  • And Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).  Doin’ your S.H.I.E.L.D. thing like badasses.  Super points for Coulson’s previously alluded to fanboy moment and Hill’s… I don’t know, existence.  Just because I sometimes irrationally latch onto ladies who are making operations operate properly and shooting guns and being badasses quietly.
  • And not-surprise bonus Enver Gjokaj and Ashley Johnson!  Hi you.
  • Dear Joss Whedon, I know that this is a hypocritical statement somewhat, because many of your works include many of my big important “ships.”  You can craft romantic relationships that tug at my heartstrings so damn hard.  But you also craft absolutely rutting beautiful platonic relationships.  And this is a movie that is, in part, about platonic relationships.  The Avengers are not friends at the beginning, save Clint and Natasha.  The Avengers might not even really qualify as friends in the simplest sense by the end.  But this is a movie about the dynamic between people that includes absolutely no romance at all (unless you count the bitty Tony and Pepper [Gwyneth Paltrow], which was pre-established anyway and hardly present, yet still managed to have a moment of poignancy and a lot of banter) and that is awesome.  They are teammates.  They are able to relate to each other without there being weird, unnecessary sexual tension gŏ se.  This is particularly relevant with Natasha, because the tendency with women in action movies is to make there be some romantic plot regarding them, and… nope.  That is not what Natasha does, that is not what anyone does with Natasha, there is not so much as an approving sideeye as she walks past.  She gets her business done efficiently and awesomely and actually save those interrogatees at the beginning, no one makes a deal of her being a lady whatsoever.  And Clint and Natasha are allowed to be friends, friends who care about each other, friends who are teammates.  And that is it.  Also, Tony and Bruce seeming to bro down at the end a bit.  And anyway, Joss Whedon, I thank you for making a movie about platonic relationships that is so wonderful.
  • Dear Joss Whedon, I think one of your greatest gifts is one for making the supernatural, otherworldly, or otherwise beyond the realm of possibility seem so absolutely brilliantly human.  All of these characters were in one way or another dealing with situations that are never going to be dealt with by regular human beings.  But it always seemed like something that could be related to.  Just like, for example, Buffy uses demons in high school as metaphor, this is using a struggle with supervillains and the existence and limitation of superpowers as metaphor: this is a bunch of people struggling to do the right thing, struggling because of a variety of reasons (arrogance, rage, a fear of the self, a detachment from the world, a rough past), but they go on actual understandable journeys to learn and fight through it.  They fight otherworldly monsters, yes, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too detached.  Also, it doesn’t seem too heavy-handed a metaphor.  And that is something that you do so well, Joss Whedon.  You make superpeople seem human.  You make super-situations seem like ones that we can understand.  You make us give a damn about characters no matter what.
  • Also.  The second after-credits scene.  After it ended, one of the people who had stayed behind who was behind us exclaimed “well, that was stupid.”  To which I say no.  That, dear Joss Whedon, was you leaving no stone unturned.  And it was such a perfect moment.  It was sort of like, well, most of the comics that work off your series’: it wasn’t necessary to be able to understand the canon at large, no, you could have walked out of the movie completely satisfied without it, but it just added a very special, neat little something.  It added a little more shading to the picture.  It just made so much sense.  It was just so, again, human.
  • Basically, dear Joss Whedon, thank you.

–your fangirl heroine.

Spoiler Alert Saturday :: my thoughts on Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

7 Jan

Disclaimer: I have not read most of the original Sherlock Holmes stories.  I read a couple for school, and I did like them an awful lot, but I haven’t read most of them.  So my awareness of how loyal the movies are to the original stories is fairly dim.  But here’s a very short list of thoughts.

  • Okay, they were trying to make it seem… potentially slashy, right?  (The TVTropes page for Sherlock in general lists at least three different tropes that involve ambiguous/implied homosexuality.  And there were so many longing looks between Sherlock [Robert Downey Jr.] and Watson [Jude Law] and stuff.  I’m not a slasher, really, and I never got that from reading the books, and not really from the BBC Sherlock, but here… damn.)
  • I wish Mary (Kelly Reilly) got more time.  I understand that she’s meant to be the awkward third wheel wife, and the stick in the mud, and the 😐 face of everything, but they gave her a couple of moments where she got to wear the most delicious smirk.  On the train, when those guys were trying to kill them, and she decided that one guy needed to be thrown out of the train car; handing the ledger over to the Inspector.  I was imagining in those moments that she was much more awesome than she’s allowed to show.  But it’s a bromance story, so she isn’t actually that relevant.  She’s a walking plot point, that’s all.
  • Women, part 2: Simza (Noomi Rapace).  First things first, the secretive gypsy girl?  Totally someone I tend to latch onto.  Second, her clothes.  Were clearly not the point of anything, but one of the reasons I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes movies is the aesthetic.  And that was rockin’.  (And by the time they got to the ball, I was sort of jaw-dropped.  Wow.)  And Noomi Rapace is pretty rad, in general.
  • Women, part 3: Irene (Rachel McAdams).  I have a lot of weird thoughts about this Irene.  She never seemed cunning enough to me.  And I do know that Sherlock shouldn’t be kissing Irene on the mouth and pining after her tuberculosis handkerchief wistfully.  That didn’t feel right; that felt seriously Hollywood.  But she died pretty quickly, and I guess… that’s that.
  • Death, part 2: Moriarty (Jared Harris) and Sherlock went off that ledge.  I understand it was theoretically into water, so Sherlock surviving is movie-viable, but really… it’s unlikely.  I also understand that they’re trying to maintain the franchise, and that’s understandable.  It’s not entirely pure Sherlock, but it’s definitely entertaining on some level, so… okay.
  • But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock.  Why couldn’t Guy Ritchie?
  • Moriarty, part 2: damn, he was psychotic.  When he started singing opera while torturing, I was having 1890s Nathan Wallace thoughts.  I own that.  But Moriarty is the best kind of villain.  The brainy kind.
  • It was an aesthetically pleasing film.  I like the 1890s in film.  Interesting stuff, that.

–your fangirl heroine.