Order! Order!

This was probably the most anticipation I’ve felt coming into a summer movie season ever. With Dark Night Rises, Marvel’s The Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-Man all hitting theaters within months of each other, it was a tough summer to wait for.  Now that I’ve seen them all, it’s time for judgment. SPOILER ALERT! If you have not seen any of these movies yet and still plan to, best not read on. I don’t plan on going into tremendous detail, but I am going to give stuff away.

But first, a word on how I watch movies. I see maybe six movies a year in theaters. Because of that, I only go to movies I’m pretty sure I’m going to like. I believe actors and directors have the right to re-imagine a character taken from somewhere else.  I have the right to hate it, but I’ll watch with an open mind. I am a very forgiving audience, for the most part, although advancing age has made me  easier to bore I am becoming a bit more discerning with experience. As a general rule, if I walk out of the theater feeling entertained, I’m happy. This summer, I have been consistently ecstatic.

It was tough for me to pick a favorite on this list. Competition was very, very strong. But at the end the day, my favorite was The Avengers, and for only one reason. Joss Whedon came closer to the comics with his movie than Christopher Nolan did with Dark Knight Rises. Joss captured so many of the little touches that made Marvel Comics new and different so long ago.  One of the best of those was the ancient Marvel axiom that says when superheroes meet for the first time, there’s a fight. And what a collection of fights we have! Thor and Iron Man square off. Captain America gets involved in that one,  to spectacular effect. Cap and Tony face off out of costume. Thor and Hulk go a few rounds.  Black Widow demonstrates what a sane person does when facing the Hulk, as only the Widow can.  Hawkeye gets to shoot at everybody.  And at no time do the fights feel contrived. They flow naturally from the story, logical outcomes for the situations.

Another thing that makes The Avengers shine is the fact that everyone mattered. There isn’t a single member of the team you win the final battle without. If Hawkeye isn’t on overwatch they get overwhelmed on the ground. Without Cap calling the shots the battle is lost, and there are huge civilian losses. Without the Black Widow you don’t close the gate, and without Iron Man, Thor  and Hulk on the front lines you’ve lost before the battle starts. And of course, it is Iron Man who strikes the decisive blow.

The Dark Knight Rises comes second for me. This is not to suggest it was a bad movie. On the contrary, Christopher Nolan can rightfully call this trilogy a masterpiece, with this movie a fitting final offering. The story is internally consistent and compelling. His characters are complex, well realized and well played. Anne Hathaway did a magnificent job with Catwoman. Tom Hardy was a compelling and frightening Bane. I think Michael Caine could have phoned in Alfred and still been good, but since he didn’t he is excellent. Bale’s Batman is convincing, and Bruce Wayne deepened as a character.

If  it had really been Batman, it would have been perfect. But it wasn’t. Why do I say this? The Batman out of the comics is flatly incapable of doing the things he does in this movie. Oh, not the fights or the gadgets or the escapes. That stuff was on target.

Bruce Wayne would never give up. There would never be an eight year hiatus. There certainly never would have been an arranged death, at least, not so he could retire. As a tactical move and part of a larger plan, absolutely. But not to retire. As long as it was possible for him to do so, Batman would continue. It’s the central fact of his character.

Finally, we come to The Amazing Spider-Man. I liked this movie. I will confess to a slight bias, here. Spider-Man is probably my favorite character in all of comics.  It is a major tribute to the other two films that I am putting this movie in third, because I think Marc Webb put together a good story. He even gave me the villain I wanted to see in the Lizard. We  get to see Spidey cracking some jokes, which I missed in Tobey Maguire’s performance. The story stays close to the Ultimate Spider-Man story and thus true to it’s source material. The action looked great. The scenes where he learns about his powers are priceless. I will never forget watching him accidentally tear the bathroom apart by trying to brush his teeth.

I’m torn on the issue of web-shooters. Part of me enjoys the nostalgia. But Peter didn’t invent webbing in this movie. Oscorp did. Did I miss the scene where Peter learned to make his own? I saw him build web-shooters, but I don’t remember seeing him make web fluid, or biofiber, in this case. So where’s it coming from? Simple. He steals it from Oscorp.

Wait! Peter Parker does what? He steals with hardly a second’s thought? This is a man who agonized for like six issues over whether it was okay to sell a gold notebook he . . .okay, acquired . . . from  a building  turned to solid gold by the Beyonder in Secret Wars II. (He finally did, only to get hosed by the fence he had to sell it to.)

Please, tell me I’m wrong. Call me a fool and tell me where you saw Peter make his own webbing. Give me a reason to go back to the theater. I’ll thank you, because otherwise he’s a thief, and that doesn’t work anywhere near as well for me.

Now that it’s over, (it is over, right?I haven’t forgotten anything?) I will look back at this summer movie season as a great one. I left a lot of theaters ( . . . okay, three theaters.) very happy. Feel differently or disagree with my rankings?Tell me why.


One Response to Order! Order!

  1. Ronny says:

    I enjoyed all three of these movies as well and would agree with Avengers being the best. It has a real comic book feel, specifically the banter between the members. The fights were fun and, for the most part, coherent. Above that I would say that it is the best use of the Hulk in any movie or TV show.

    The Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spider Man were both excellent, though each has slight flaws. I was not as bothered by the eight year absence of Batman if only because it seemed in many ways nothing but a dramatic ploy to kick off the movie. My problem with the movie had more to do with the plots focus. At 165 minutes the movie is too long. And, if we do have this length it should be used to explore further understanding of the main characters.

    Yet, we are not presented with any understanding of Catwoman prior to the movie. Her background is shrouded and opaque. The same with Bane. We get a bit in the well prison, but it is not very informative (it actually informs another character, though we are mislead as to the identity during the scenes). I’m not sure if we needed such exposition. Both characters work well without it. The problem is that the bloated film length is actually used to introduce meaningless characters. What did Matthew Modine’s Deputy Commissioner add to the movie? Who is Selina Kyle’s friend, played by Juno Temple. She has been listed as “Jen” and “Street Smart Gotham Girl.” But her relationship with Selina is entirely ambiguous. I’m simply unsure what some of these extra characters actually added to the plot, beyond extending the movie beyond standard bathroom break requirements.

    One other point. The geographic cohesion of the movie is problematic at times. The city is locked down, the bridges barred. Yet there is some deep prison pit where Bruce is taken and I have no clue where it is in relation to Gotham. Nor is any information told as to how Bruce gets back from there. It is simply assumed that us silly viewers will focus on the great set pieces and ignore such logic jumps.

    I enjoyed Spidey quite a lot, though it also had some flaws, but I will wait to comment on Peter Parker (my favorite as well) a little more fully in a separate reply or maybe post.

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