Posts tagged #avengers

Josh's Thoughts on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A few weeks ago, ABC debuted the new Avengers spin-off TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which focuses on a new set of characters, minus agent Phil Coulson, and takes place in the Marvel cinematic universe. The show has been hyped up for a couple years now, but does it live up to the hype?

The Look…
Before the show premiered, I thought about what the show would look like. I mean, we all knew it was going to be about a bunch of guys and gals running around in suits and skin-tight leather, but would it offer the same cinematic quality? Based solely on the premiere, I would say, no. The look of that first show kind of took me out of it with how “TV-like” it looked. One shouldn’t expect Avengers-quality lighting and direction, but the pilot looked like an under-budget, Syfy, made-for-TV movie to me. It all struck me as odd, since the guy who wrote and directed The Avengers wrote and directed S.H.I.E.L.D. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed last week’s episode (the second episode) more. The look was the same, but the direction was much better in my opinion.

The Avengers?
When asked about the idea of having main actors from the movie franchise appearing on the show, creator and director, Joss Whedon, said that he wanted the show to stand on its own, and be judged by the quality of its characters - not because everybody, and I’m paraphrasing here, “wanted to see Iron Man this week.” I can understand that. And I’ll admit that I like the characters in S.H.I.E.L.D. (even though they follow the typical Joss Whedon characterizations which have followed him around his entire career and through every show he creates), but the lack of at least one Avengers actor in the pilot kind of brought it down a notch for me. I don’t think that’s because of the new cast being uninteresting or unable to stand on their own; it’s because I found it hard to connect the dots between the pilot and the movies. It just didn’t “feel” the same. Having one of the Avengers introduce me to these new folks would have made the transition a bit easier and seamless for me.

“But the Avengers have a presence in the show, idiot! They talk about them all the time!”
Sure, there are tee-tiny clips of the Avengers in the opening of the episode, but none of them are featured. And it seems that the show, even in its second episode, knows that it’s hard to connect the two worlds by the way it constantly beats references to them over your head all the time. (“See how I just talked about Thor’s hammer? Yeah, this is an Avengers show! You like how I briefly mentioned Black Widow? See? Avengers show!”) The way that we are constantly reminded by the characters that the show is related to the events post-Avengers seems really forced, when all we would really need is for Cap to show up and say, “Hey, ‘err body!” I understand this is easier said than done, given the schedules of those actors and the money it would take to get them there, but a visual connection is always more powerful than an auditory one.

“What about Coulson then, you moron?!”
Coulson is a beloved character in the film franchise, there’s no doubt about that. I like Coulson, but in all honesty, he’s just a stereotypical “FBI-type” in a suit who supposedly died in The Avengers. For most people, THE guys in THE suits would probably make for a more lasting impression. Let’s not forget about that, by the way. Personally, I find the plot point of the mystery behind his return interesting - I just wonder if it confuses people. Maybe not, but whenever he showed up in the pilot, I just remember thinking, “Are people going to get this?” The way they hint at it on the show is kind of cryptic, so I was worried it might be confusing for some.

Nick Fury!
My concerns with the above mentioned aspect of the show was partly alleviated when, at the very tail end of the second episode, **SPOILERS** Nick Fury shows up. I still would have preferred it to be one of the Avengers themselves, but Nick Fury will do for now – though I wish he had been in the first episode to help people who have the same concerns and are a lot less patient.

And THAT’S my main concern with the show. Right now, I’m enjoying it. I’ll probably enjoy it for however long it runs, but what about other people? I don’t want it to get cancelled, but if I’m having these concerns, a dedicated fan of the Marvel cinematic universe, I can only imagine what all the other less-patient people are saying about it. If these concerns grow, viewers will be lost, the ratings will go down and S.H.I.E.L.D will soon get canned. My advice to anyone who’s having the same issues about the series and is considering giving up on it: Give it some time. We’re only two episodes in at this point (3, in a few days) and hopefully these concerns will fade soon.


The Avengers Impressions

Tomorrow (Sept 25th), The Avengers arrives on Blu-ray to the delight of  millions of people. In light of this...and in light of the fact that we never did one...I thought now would be a great time to offer my informal review/impressions of the wildly successful superhero ensemble movie directed by TV's Joss Whedon.

Warning: Past this point there be spoilers.

Of all the films I saw this summer, all of them were enjoyable, quality entertainment. And given that they were so different from each other in terms of story, tone, and style, it's not really possible to compare them. But, I can say that out of all of them, I enjoyed The Avengers the most. Here's why.

The Fun
I've always been a fan of movies and TV shows that have a sense of fun about them. Perhaps it's because I cut my media watching teeth (that's a weird image, if you think about it) on properties like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future. While each of those had their heavy moments, they also had a general air of fun about them. Old Jedi masters hitting droids with sticks, archeologists cracking wise while cracking whip, and time-traveling teenage guys kissing their teenage moms without vomiting. I've noticed that this sense of fun often comes at the expense of some realism. Just think about it. Were these characters really in these situations, their more realistic responses would probably be less fun to watch (indeed, if someone really traveled through time and kissed his mom, would he not at least get sick to his stomach if not full on ralph right there).

This summer we had two major superhero movies (sorry Spiderman, you're too soon of a reboot in my eyes). Both I found to be excellent and enjoyable, but only one I found to have that sense of fun. The other, while a fine film, is not a motion picture I would describe as "fun." ("It was such a fun moment when Bane was beating the mess out of Batman in the sewer. And the part when the military wouldn't let Blake save those kids...awesome!" Yeah, that doesn't sound right.) And note that in describing it people often talk about its sense of realism.

There is a time for everything. I'm glad TDKR is the film that it is. The 'realistic' take on Batman has made for a great trilogy of films. But I'm also very glad that Marvel continues to imbue its films with a sense of fun.

Much of the credit for the fun in The Avengers in particular is due to writer/director Joss Whedon. While he has been known to avoid fun like the plague at times (the 6th season of Buffy, the last two seasons of Angel, etc.), by in large he's a guy who knows how, and is inclined, to include levity into what he produces. Fortunately, he was true to form with this film. From dialogue (his responsibility as a writer), to pacing and delivery (his responsibility as a director), The Avengers is a movie that will make you smile.

Of course, a lot of credit must also go to the actors (and the CG artists for The Hulk). The script gives each one of our leads a chance to shine in the fun department, but it is up to the actors and actresses to realize that potential. And they deliver in spades. From deadpan moments ("He's adopted"), to subtle ones (Steve slipping Fury a ten), to more direct ones ("Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"), to slapstick (The Hulk), it all works wonderfully.

After the film premiered and from its opening weekend made insane amounts of money, The Avengers related images started popping on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. One of my favorites was of the four principle actors (Downey Jr., Evans, Hemsworth, and Ruffalo) pointing intimidatingly at the camera. The fan-added caption was, "Your move, Batman." You know, why am I describing it to you? This is the stinking Internet. Here's the picture.

It made me smile that a fun movie was doing so well, and that there were others out there who felt the same. (I'm assuming people liked that photo for that reason. But I guess it could be that they were fueled by Batman or DC hate.)

The Story
Sometime ago there was a 'meme' going around where you take film and succinctly and without passion describe its plot. I think it was popular because even great films sound incredibly boring and/or stupid when described that way. ("A farm boy joins forces with an old man, a smuggler, and his large dog in order to destroy a large weapon." Or take the sequel: "A farm boy turned war hero unwittingly kisses his sister, who later kisses a smuggler. The boy then has a fight with his dad." Or take the third installment: "Gold bikini." Ok, that last one still sounds fun to a lot of folks).

Let's do that with The Avengers:
A group of people (a strong man, a rich guy with a robot suit, a long-haired alien, an angry man, a bow hunter, and a spy) working for the government must stop arguing and come together to stop the long-haired alien's adopted brother from using a stolen block to destroy a city and maybe conquer Earth with a borrowed army of ugly monster aliens.

Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? Boy, that was fun.

But I think the 'meme' also points out something very interesting about the films/shows/novels that we enjoy. While the general story certainly matters, the magic is usually found in the details—characters, dialogue, nuances in plot, pacing, visual and audio design (except in novels of course). The Avengers typifies this very well. It's the interactions between characters, the memorable bits of dialogue, the iconic design of our heroes, the stirring music of Alan Silvestri, the individual journeys of the characters, etc. that make all the difference.

A little bit on that last point. Most of the main characters have their own mini-growth arcs. Steve Rogers is assimilating into the 21st century. Tony Stark has to conquer his ego and learn how to work well with others. Bruce Banner has to demonstrate to himself that he really can control the Hulk. Black Widow has to let go of the guilt of her past. Hawkeye has to stop being controlled by Loki (ok, that one is more of a major plot point). Nick Fury has to finally and fully put his faith where his heart knows he should (i.e., The Avengers) regardless of personal consequences. And that man over there has to beat his Galaga addiction. It's those things that take what is otherwise a fairly straightforward story into something more engaging.

The Style
I think in many of my reviews, I'll have a section like this where I give my take on some of the nuts and bolts features of any film.

-  Story: Already talked about it.
-  Dialogue: On the whole, very good I felt. All the characters were given their proper 'voice,' and the words flow naturally most of the time.
-  Acting: Everyone nailed it.
-  Editing and Pacing: Everything was good here, I thought. It wasn't rushed, nor did it drag anywhere for me. The action scenes were kinetic, but not spastic. The 'tender' moments were given the screen time they needed.
-  Music: I'm a huge Alan Silvestri fan. I think he's one of the best composers working today. Though this wasn't my favorite score of his (the BTTF scores still hold that spot), I thought it was good. There weren't any cues that jumped out at me during the initial viewing (the way, say, The Asteroid Field did in ESB), but the main theme is very nice. It's simple, especially in comparison to the great movies themes of the past, but it is effective. You just can't beat a good french horn lead.
-  3D: This was a post-production 3D conversion, rather than being shot in 3D (like TRON: Legacy). Conversions are a mixed bag. One might even call them a box of chocolates. You know....cause you never...know.....what you're gonna get. Ahem, anyway, converting a 2D movie to a 3D movie is a little bit of science and a whole lot of art. It takes talented people to do such work. I've been fortunate, in that I've seen four 2D to 3D converted films (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom Menace, and The Avengers), and they've all been done well. I saw The Avengers in IMAX 3D, so I had a very good look at it. There were a few places where I could tell it was a conversion (at the time I only suspected it, as I did not then know whether it was shot in 3D or converted). But on the whole, it was very well done. My wife is afraid of heights, and the fight on the carrier with Iron Man, Cap, and some goons made her very uncomfortable. So...mission accomplished I guess.

What I Didn't Like
This is The Inner Dorkdom, where we like things. But that doesn't mean we think everything we like is perfect. There were a few things about the film I either didn't like, or thought could have been done in a way that would have been more least for me.

I start with the villains. Loki already had a film wherein he was introduced and explored. As a result, although there are a few gaps, we as an audience already understand his motivations pretty well. (Although I was a bit surprised by the menacing off-kilter demeanor he shows here, as it was a change from the more cool and calculating vibe he gave in Thor.) So I'm not talking so much about him as I am the other villains. The vulturri, or the hibachi, or the cardigans, or whatever they were called. We know little about them, other than they want the Tesseract, and are willing to make a deal with Loki to get it. (Incidentally, here's a bit of 'fridge logic' I had: Ok, so Loki comes through a wormhole to Earth to get the Tesseract. The impression I got was that the wormhole was created by the Tesseract. So, why couldn't the krelshie come through and get it themselves? Why did they need Loki to do it? Maybe I just missed it.) We figure these aliens are bad news, as they support Loki's desire to conquer Earth. But beyond that, they are a total stinkin' mystery. The teaser at the end of the film suggests they'll get their exposition in the next Avengers film. But I wonder if a bit more of that in this film would have made it that much more satisfying.

Second, the "let's bicker in the woods" scene. Don't get me wrong, I found the scene enjoyable, and it setup the idea that these heroes won't just come together and be like all BFFs and stuff. But the logic of it seemed a bit strained to me. Why would Stark go after Thor? According to him he, unlike everyone else, did his homework. You'd think that would include at least some info on Thor. So why would he fight him, especially if that meant leaving Loki unguarded? On my second viewing I noticed Stark's justification: it doesn't matter if Thor is good, if he takes Loki there's no clue where the Tesseract is. No offense to anyone, but this seems a bit weak to me. Why would Stark think Thor would just take Loki and leave the people of Earth in the lurch? In his earlier time on Earth, the Norse god demonstrated a strong concern for Earthlings, so for him to take Loki and leave wouldn't make sense. But on a positive note, I can't help but wonder if this scene was also setting up certain ways these three can work together, ways that aren't paid off in this film but might in future installments (Thor can charge up Tony's suit, Thor's hammer + Cap's shield = impressive shockblast).

Third, the "let's all bicker on the boat" scene. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for the scene. And by in large I thought it was pretty good. Steve would be annoyed by Tony's showboating attitude. Tony would be annoyed by Steve's boy scout attitude. Bruce would be on edge about the whole 'you made a cage for me' thing. Nick would be flustered at these guys attributing to him bad motives and/or the worse judgment in the history of mankind, apparently. But there were a couple of moments where it felt a little forced to me. The standout one for me was when Thor, who'd been pretty level headed up until this point, chimed in with something to the effect of, "You humans are so puny." Whaa? Where'd that come from?

Fourth, the politics of the whole "we were making weapons with the Tesseract" subplot. I thought the buildup, i.e., the hinting that S.H.I.E.L.D. was up to something fishy, could have been executed better. In particular, it felt a bit forced and stumbling. For example, why would Banner have thought Loki's "a warm light" comment was meant for Stark? I'll grant that Banner could have surmised that Loki had learned some things about S.H.I.E.L.D. activity, like them trying to use the Tesseract to make clean energy, from Hawkeye and Selvig. Banner might even have speculated that they told him that Stark, who wasn't working with them, was involved in clean energy research. But why would Banner think that Loki was trying to tell Stark something? That is, unless it was to get him to turn on S.H.I.E.L.D., in which case he'd clearly be baiting him (which appears to be exactly what he was doing) and they'd be wise not to bite. Then, aside from the buildup, there's the unanimity of their opposition to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s research, and the way they express it. Steve lived before the atom bomb, so I don't see it as a foregone conclusion that he'd be on the anti-nuke train that's popular in some circles in 2012. Tony having a problem with it is totally believable and expected, but the way he objected didn't add up. He said sarcastically that the whole 'have weapons of mass destruction as a form of deterrent' thing has worked out so well in the past. Granted it hasn't been absolutely flawless...but, yeah Mr. Stark, it actually has worked well in the past. The Cold War ended without a single nuclear strike. I would think that a guy whose business used to be weapons would know that. Again, I'm not saying he'd be in favor of what S.H.I.E.L.D. had done. It just seems to me he'd have a better objection. And finally, after the ambush on the carrier, when Steve is trying to 'rally the troops,' he comments that Nick Fury has the same blood on his hands that Loki does. Now, I'm no expert on Captain Steve Rogers. But it seems to me that a man from the 1940's wouldn't look at things that way. Nick Fury had not killed those 80 people in two days, Loki had. Certainly Fury's actions were a link in the chain of events they found themselves in, but he didn't kill those people. Back in Steve's day personal individual responsibility was something people emphasized. And they weren't post-modern in their thinking either. So although I can definitely see Steve acknowledging that Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s actions contributed to the choices Loki had made, I can't see him blaming Loki's atrocities on anyone else but Loki.

And lastly, there's the matter of Bruce's inconsistent, in my view, ability to control The Hulk. From the first time we see him, the focus is on not making him angry (we wouldn't like him if he were angry). Folks seem to be preoccupied with walking that fine line with him. And he doesn't shy away from reminding us how dangerous and unpredictable "the other guy" can be. Then the attack on the carrier goes down, and sure enough, Dr. Banner loses it and the Hulk nearly kills Black Widow. Then, as the battle in New York starts up, suddenly all that is different. Bruce tells them that his secret is that he's always angry, and then, at will, transforms into the Hulk and takes orders from Cap just like the rest of them. In the words of the great philosopher Goofy, "som'th'n wrong here." It looks to me like there's a missing step in there. Perhaps the answer would have been found in a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.

But these things weren't enough to in any way ruin the movie for me. As I say, it was my favorite film of the summer, and I look forward to more movies set in the Marvel universe.

Feel free to comment!

 - Nic


Posted on September 24, 2012 .

Joss will return for the second assembly is reporting that Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed this summer's The Avengers, will be returning to fulfill the same roles in the sequel, currently with appropriate title of The Avengers 2.

Check out for more info.

So, do you think this is a good move? Talk about it in our forums.

 My mother knowest I weareth her drapes.

 - Nic

Posted on August 8, 2012 .

!!! How Much Scarlett Johansson Is Too Much? Well, That's A SillyQuestion (Avengers Rumor) !!!

James Cameron and Peter Jackson are recutting The Avengers to make it 18 hours long (just kidding... sort of) !!!

It looks as thought we may see a longer cut of the Avengers coming down the road. There has been a rumor circulating that Joss Whedon is planning on restoring his original 3+ hour long version of the film for the eventual Blu-Ray release. Director's cuts aren't that uncommon in the home video market and it seems as though every release has at least two versions of a film on the disk (I'm looking at you Blade Runner). I for one don't mind this trend. I love extra footage and sometime it can take a muddled mess of a movie (rhyme much) and make it an incredible film (Example: Kingdom of Heaven). Sometimes these different cuts represent the director's original intent or "Artistic Vision", sometimes they are done to satisfy a fan base, and sometimes the studios needs a reason to hit you up for more money (because we know that the studios are flat broke from all the Internet pirates out there).

Rarely does one of these director's/extended cuts actually make it into a theater after the film's initial run is over. But, this is apparently what's happening to the Avengers.

Take this with a heaping scoop of the white stuff (salt... what did you think I meant?).

Nothing is confirmed at this point, but the inside story is that Marvel and Disney, in an effort to push the Avengers past the Cameron bunch, will rerelease the movie in theaters later this summer as a director's cut. I saw the Avengers twice in theaters (no small feat considering that I have a newborn and a 5 year old), but I might have to pony up the cash to see it again if this rumor turns out to be true. I've already got my preorder in for the Blu-Ray so my sheep mentality is intact. Check out the original story at the link below. What say Ye? Doth thou mother knoweth thou intendth to seeth the filmth againth? My autocorrect just went nuts. Ha, Ha, take that Apple!

Todd "Excelsior" B.

[Superhero Authority]

Yep, never to much of that, no siree!

Dr. Comiclove Or How I Stopped Worrying And Enjoyed My Comics

I Love Comics (and a little about The Avengers)

I’m a visual person. I love movies because they are visual. I love TV because it is visual. And most importantly I love comics because they are visual. I have been a fan of comics since I first picked up Marvel’s G.I. Joe #1. With that one issue I was hooked. There was no going back. From that point on my collection could only get bigger with each new issue I bought and each new character I was introduced to. For the record, I have no preference as to which comic company that I pledge my loyalty to. I love DC Comics just as much as I love Marvel, Image, or any independent publisher (and we can debate the value of each until Barry Allen comes home, Oh wait… he is back, oh well). As long as the stories and art are good I will read them. Do I have my favorite characters, writers, and artists? Sure I do, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy something new and exciting. In a sense, in the comic book world, you can call me Switzerland.

I use to be very much a single issue to single issue person. When a new comic hit the stands I was there, in the comic shop every week, to pick it up. As you can imagine this can get very expensive. Between the regular ongoing series, the mini-series, the variant and incentive covers, and the spin-offs you could tally up a mound of debt just to fuel your habit. This lead me to back off the single issue train. I began to get the trade paperbacks and then I moved to the hard cover collections. It certainly reduces the cost associated with comic collection and it also alleviates any space concerns one might have. Am I saying that you shouldn’t support your local comic shop? Absolutely not!!! Comic shops are some of the best and most reliable places to buy any form of comics, hard covers, single issues, or trade paperbacks alike. They also provide fandom with a community in which people can talk about all things comic related or just find others who share the same tastes as you do. We all should support our local comic shops as much as possible.

For me the single issue collecting had to end. I had other obligations that took precedence over having every issue and cover of a particular series. Hard covers were the next best thing and could become collectible in their own right. I am also a fan of the oversized collection. To have the artwork in my favorite comics that much more visible and bold was a revelation to my eyes. I never new that comics could look this good. It was like going from VHS tapes to Blu-Ray. It made that big of a difference to me. I could see my favorite artists like never before and wanted as much as I could find. DC and Marvel were more than happy to provide the content (for a fee of course). While DC does a good job with their current output and high profile legacy work, some of the smaller stuff gets the shaft sometimes. Unfortunately, DC once again falls behind Marvel, as they have in the movie department, when it comes to collecting their comics in book form. Marvel’s omnibus editions are the top of the heap in terms of quality and quanity.

Recently I was able to get a few of these omnibuses (or omnibi) and I have been enjoying page after page of these massive editions that Marvel has the good graces to place in my hands. I am seeing comics that I read when they first saw print in an entirely new light. While not all of the art holds up with the improved quality of the paper, Marvel has gone above and beyond to make these editions not only represent the original content but also enhance the reading experience. Marvel doesn’t recolor the actual comics in the collection they just make sure that the art matches the higher quality of the materials used (Note: there is art in the collections that has been recolored but it is used as bonus material only). I could not be happier with these purchases and would highly recommend them to anyone who is a fan of Marvel and their comics. Live, Eat, Purchase, it’s the American way.

Moving on, I was able to catch The Avengers a second time. This is one heck of a movie and it keeps getting better each and every time I see it. The small details that you pick up here and there are astounding and make it that much more enjoyable with repeat viewings. As a professed geek, I am extremely happy that the world finally knows the value of the Marvel characters and these stories without the need to make huge changes to their original intent. Sometimes the first decisions by the creators are truly the best decisions. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go now! If you have seen it GO AGAIN! We owe it to the world to knock Titanic out of its position on the box office charts. I think that we are going to do an entire podcast on The Avengers alone so I won/t spoil anything here. So certainly stay tuned

Same Thor time, Same Thor channel.

Supreme Comic Geek (official designation)