Because sometimes we eat so fast we forget to digest our food.
I am a pretty big fanboy. I have done my fair share of speculation on new and upcoming comic movies ranging from Amazing Spider-man 2 and Superman vs. Batman all the way to unannounced future projects, but one thing that we should never forget is to really reflect on the movies that we just had. We watch Man of Steel and fight online about the ending for a week before something else takes over. We discuss Jim Carrey’s comments about Kick-Ass 2 more than we discuss the merit of the actual film. So let us all take a break from future what ifs and casting catastrophes and take a look at the four major superhero films of 2013. WARNING: Obviously these reviews contain spoilers so please do not read a movie’s review if you have not seen it and wish to remain in the dark.
The movie that lied to us all and got away with it. I cannot think of a better example of purposeful false advertising for a movie in … ever. When I think Ironman 3 I immediately think of what Shane Black and the writers did with the Mandarin. It was a total departure from the comicbook source material and a slap in the face, followed by a kick in the groin with an atomic wedgie topped on the end for good measure. Any superfan of the comics most likely pulled their hair out after seeing this movie (I know I did). But then, after thinking and realizing the world had not ended, it was clear that I had simply been tricked. I was deceived and blinded by my own assumption that a character had to follow the basic origin story put out years prior. No this Mandarin was not anything like the ten ringed sorcerer, but rather he was parody used inside a movie to send a message. It woke the audience up and helped bring home a major theme of the story, which was to not believe everything one sees reported in the media.
Once I calmed down and looked back at the movie it was clear that the acting was fantastic, the story was one of the best written I had seen in a comicbook movie ever and I had fallen for the charade just as Shane Black and his team had planned. Ironman 3 may not have been the best movie of the summer, but it helped to change the way I view superhero movies and more importantly it gave audiences a taste of things to come. A look into the future where the basic origins have been used and new ones come with no background or prior knowledge. Suddenly the genre is a new and equal playing field where anything is possible.
But the best thing about Ironman 3? The fact that it was a successful third film in a series. It took the mess that was Ironman 2 and improved it. It lifted the franchise back up and successfully jumpstarted Phase 2 for Marvel after the Avengers. The reason that this is such a big deal is that usually, typically, the third film is where series start to taper off and characters get overdone and story becomes repetitive. In this 4th adventure for Tony Stark it felt the exact opposite. This felt like his best and most personal story yet with reinvigorated details for the entire cast of characters. Ultimately, yes, the film did commit a major source material crime and for some people they cannot see past that, but as a movie, as a story, Ironman has never been better.
Man of Steel
The rebirth of the first true American superhero. This was the movie that put Superman back on the market and started a new cinematic universe for DC. However it was also one of the most hotly debated movies of the summer with some pretty surprising twists and shocking departures from canon. In this movie we have a much more alien-focused story with shaky background on side characters. Lois meets Superman before he puts on a cape and knows his secret identity before he even works at the Daily Planet. What? Most of all, Superman KILLS Zod at the end of the movie!! What is going on here!? Yes I have heard it all, I have read it all. I am a huge Superman fan and I will defend that this movie was still wonderful. Let me explain.
First, let’s take a look at what the movie did right. They cast a perfect new Superman. I felt like Cavill was truly the Man of Steel. The guy did a great job. It also provided the most realistic explanation and background a Superman story has done yet. This movie took the time to delve into the alien origins, avoided kryptonite, and brought so much action that no one could be left wanting more. Now some people claimed the action took over the film and that there was not enough story. I disagree, although the flashbacks were spotty and all over the place by the second viewing of the film I really did feel an emotional connection to the new Superman on top of being astounded at how amazing he looked fighting the bad guys.
But let me get down to the real issues. That is what this article is really about. What did we learn from this movie? Departures from the canon, like in Ironman 3, if done in a creative way that does not take away from the story, but rather adds to it, are a good idea! As an audience we are supposed to love and respect Lois Lane as one of the best investigative journalists around, so it makes sense that she cracks the Superman case first! This was a good move and it DID show character on Lois’ part. Yes it will change their relationship in the future, but it is more believable than some of the garbage storylines the comics try to feed us.
Now the big finale: Murder. Killing Zod was not only necessary, but it was a good way to end the movie. The decision for Superman to kill Zod was obviously debated in and out of the studio. “Superman does not kill.” We have heard it, we know it. But wait, what about realism? What about the very thing that everyone wants Nolan around for? If this universe is supposed to be more realistic and less campy doesn’t it have to tackle real, hard, difficult issues? Superman is a hero and no, he wouldn’t go around heat visioning people’s heads off, but when pushed to the absolute limit with no other options why not have Superman make the hardest decision of his life and kill Zod? Look at it this way: Let’s take the “Super” out of the equation. You have a crazed maniac who is shouting at the top of his lungs that he vows to kill people until he is stopped. He pulls out a gun and points it at a family, a mother, father and their child. A police officer is on the scene. A real hero. What does he do? Probably, because the gun is already drawn he draws his own weapon and shots the bastard before any damage is caused. For arguments sake let’s say he is the most honorable and noble cop ever. He tries to talk the man down first. He says, “Sir please don’t do this, those people have done nothing to harm you.” The man, being crazy (like Zod) screams that he will not stop and that the cop will have to kill him. He fires a couple random shots into the crowd luckily missing civilians. He then focuses and takes aim on the family and their child. At this point yes the officer shoots and kills the shooter to protect the innocent. I understand that this is a horrible situation, but it happens every day. Police officers and soldiers have to make that difficult choice. They kill because it is their job to protect the innocent. Now there will always be people that disagree with this and I am not condoning violence or trying to promote any political standpoint. What I am saying is that putting the Man of Steel into that unwinnable circumstance made him vulnerable. That is the biggest critique Superman gets is that he is too powerful, he can do anything, nothing can hurt him. Wrong. Killing Zod hurt Superman, but it also strengthened him in a way. It showed the audience another one of his weaknesses. He struggled that whole movie physically and emotionally. It was a well done movie that spoke to solid issues and I dare say it was the best movie of the summer.
You know it is bad when a quick scene after the credits is better than the entire preceding film. That being said X-Men Days of Future Past is going to be incredible and take the X-Men to a new level cinematically, but how did this summer’s Wolverine do? Okay, so this movie wasn’t the greatest and it certainly was not my favorite X-Men movie, but just like there are bad people in our lives that teach us how NOT to act, there are bad movies that help show us what we want, what we don’t and what just shouldn’t happen.
What we want. Huge Jackedman, I mean Hugh Jackman was fantastic in this movie. He owns Wolverine. I hold nothing against his performance. However, these movies work best with an ensemble cast. Multiple powers, mutants and subgroups of society are supposed to be represented when we are getting an X-Men story. When we instead focus on just one, lone solitary hero the audience is left wanting more, even when Wolverine is that hero. This movie was a great example of why we need the supporting cast in X-Men movies. Additionally the focus on Logan’s pain from his previous actions was great. I understand that in the past Wolverine lost his memory, but considering everything he has gone through even since becoming an X-Man it was nice to see that it was sticking with him. A Wolverine that struggles with his own immortality is a more interesting and deeper character. These ideas were present, but not totally explored within the movie. Oh and also blood. Good job with actually showing a little for once. It baffles me how Wolverine goes around tearing people apart with those claws and they never have any red on them.
What we don’t want. A hero that abandons his girl. I loved how the movie opened with the allusion to Jean Grey and the Phoenix, but I hated that halfway through the movie Logan was already hooking up with another lady-friend. He either is still hung up and cares, or he doesn’t. I thought it was great to have him tell Jean to go at the end as a symbol of him finding closure (And a hint that Phoenix might return angrier), but did he really need to sleep with and save this other girl in order to do that? Why not just play the hero and save and protect her without going all old school action movie archetype and bedding her too? I thought superheroes were supposed to be noble and help show us how to behave? Yes, Wolverine is a savage man-beast who kicks all kinds of ass, but he is supposed to have a heart.
Giant robots and ninjas. This sounds cool for a Saturday morning cartoon, but come on these movies are supposed to be getting serious so that they can be viewed by wider audiences and understood and enjoyed more. These things just shouldn't happen in a live action film. Wolverine fighting a giant silver samurai robot along with a pack of about fifty ninjas sounds like a fantastic twenty minute animated adventure, but there is a reason we have to put at least some realism in these movies. In the end I will always see Wolverine, but this one left me wanting more with just too many things feeling like they got cut off or were under developed.
The last big superhero movie of the summer and they saved all the bloody violence and curses for the end. For months people have been internet-shouting at each other over Jim Carrey, gun laws, and hyper violence in movies. All relevant, but how did Kick-Ass 2 live up to the original? How does it sit on its own as a superhero movie? Even though this one has not digested quite as long as the other I still say, pretty great actually.
Kick-Ass 2 took what made the first film great and used it again in new and exciting ways. The sequel still offers amazing fight choreography and humor with a very honest, if not slightly exaggerated, approach at the teenage lifestyle. Even though the film is full of horrid language and horrific violence there are messages of peace, justice and overcoming horrible tragedy spread throughout. (I particularly liked the Colonel Stars and Stripes inspired “Dress like a hero. Talk like a hero” bit). The movie has a ton of heart, the problem is that the heart is still beating and you have to get through a lot of blood to find it.
However, this movie was far from perfect. There were major departures from the graphic novel and serious attempts were made to feminize Hit-Girl. While I liked the idea on the surface of looking deeper at her character I thought some of her “girl drama” scenes ran long and took the main attention too far from the plot. Another major problem this movie suffered from was properly mourning the death of its characters. While death and revenge is discussed at length in the movie the deaths from the first movie serve as driving forces in this sequel, but the two major deaths felt rushed and were not properly handled on screen.
Lastly, I thought that the realism of the movie was a bit confusing. The universe is obviously supposed to be a bit of a stretch with costumed vigilantes running around, but there are multiple references to the “real world” in the movie. That is part of the fun with these movies. They touch on superheroes in a way that is much more literal than others, this being said two giant mobs of regular citizens would not fight to the death in a giant warehouse simply because some punk with money told them to. As soon as that fight started we should have seen multiple people from both sides ducking for cover and running away. The average person would not be able to handle that kind of violence despite any mask or adrenaline that would be pumping. Upon seeing real, human death most of them would have peed and ran.
All things considered I still believed that this movie did what it set out to, which was entertain. I thought the story was interesting and it functioned well as a true sequel and not just a repetition of the first movies events with a different villain. The movie felt original and had its heartfelt moments, but could have been polished more. Perhaps the whole point of the movie was simply that it is not supposed to be.
So there you have it MoviePilot. Call me wrong, call me stupid, or hey agree with me, but let us at least think some more on what we just had before we rush forward to what else we want to tear apart.