IRON MAN (2008) Re-Review

It all started so innocently.

I’m not sure if many of the young fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe today can truly understand the ways in which Iron Man was a surprise. Every indicator was aligned against it at the time. Marvel Studios was a non-entity at the time, and Marvel Comics had only recently found success on the big screen. Ten years ago the DC characters – specifically the decades-spanning iterations of Batman and Superman – were the titans of comic book adaptations. Spider-Man and the X-Men had done well, but they were Marvel’s two biggest properties. Blade had been a surprise success (kicking off the modern age of comic book movies in its own weird way), but few outside hardcore fandom realized he was a Marvel Universe character.

And then a new studio made a movie about a C-list hero starring a washed-up old partyboy… and everything changed.

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JESSICA JONES S2: LADY BIRD, But With Punching

This review spoils the entirety of season two of Jessica Jones. It’s also almost exclusively about plot/theme, and largely ignores performance, cinematography, etc.

The first season of Jessica Jones is the best work that Marvel TV has done. That’s a low, low bar, but it’s actually an excellent season of television, one that works even without the tyranny of the low expectations of The Defenders. The season had all the elements needed to make magic: a great character who is deeply flawed, a terrific villain played by a perfectly cast actor, and a moral arc that spoke to both character and theme. A little long, as all Netflix shows are, JESSICA JONES nonetheless kicked a tremendous amount of ass.

Season two thus has a higher bar to clear. And it’s doing so without the cushion of a storyline and villain that’s already been hashed out in comic book form; season two’s Big Bad is an invention of the show, more or less. But Jessica Jones’ behind the camera team is up to the task, and once we take into account the Law of Netflix (“Henceforth let it be known that all series shall be, at minimum, two episodes too long and thus introduce a lethargic meandering at some point in the season”), we see that they made a new season that matches up to the first.

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BLACK PANTHER: Tradition in Turmoil

“Tradition!”

So sang Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, and his cry also echoes across the plains of Wakanda in Black Panther, a movie so rich with complex themes that pulling out one or two of them for discussion is daunting and feels like a disservice to the whole. But the tension between tradition and modernity is one of the driving forces behind the film, and in the space between these two forces is where director Ryan Coogler finds a way to the future.

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Review: THOR RAGNAROK

This is all spoilers.

Thor: Ragnarok is one of the most unusual blockbusters in recent years because it answers a question that has been haunting the edges of Hollywood’s latest round of overinflated, unasked for franchises: how do you finish out a trilogy of films about which nobody gives a single shit?

We can sit here and argue the relative merits of Thor and Thor: The Dark World all day long, but I think that we have to agree that these films are probably the least of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe works, and that out of all the MCU movies they’re the most like the sort of forced franchise that the public can’t really get worked up about (see the currently collapsing Dark Universe for an example of the forced franchise phenomenon reaching the end of its life cycle). Out of the initial wave of MCU characters, Thor had the most intriguing and offbeat source material, and yet it somehow never quite worked onscreen. Loki popped more than Thor or any of the Asgardian side characters. The movies made some money but never captured the popular imagination in a meaningful way; in comic book terms they’re the issues in a crossover event that you buy out of a weird materialistic sense of obligation.

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