Monday, May 28, 2012

The Round-Up#51 (Special Superhero Edition)

Film Review: The Avengers (2012): I am a fan of comic books and the wondrous storytelling contained within their pages. But my taste has always leaned more toward DC Comics than Marvel. When it comes to feature film adaptations of comic books, DC, again, trumps Marvel (Daredevil, The Punisher, anyone?) Although Marvel Studios have been trying to improve the quality of their film output this past decade, with stellar films like Spider-Man and its sequel and the fantastic Captain America, still, most feature films based on Marvel Comics can't escape being hokey and cartoonish. I don't know why, exactly.

With The Avengers, Marvel tries to remedy all that by bringing us a movie that combines many of their most famous characters into one super-mega package. The result: Well, let's just say that watching the film was a pleasant, forgettable experience. Nothing more.

Under the helm of Joss Whedon (the uber TV writer/producer, known for creating such hit TV shows as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and it's spin-off, Angel), The Avengers is an energetic, fast-paced romp through comic book shenanigans, with a soupcon of effective characterization occasionally thrown in for good measure. And it works, for the most part, with the heroes (especially Captain America and The Hulk, who are the most fleshed out characters here) all getting their turn to shine. But the film is strangely repetitive, without the innovative plot mechanisms and visual flair Whedon is known for. It seems that, with a huge cast, a gigantic budget, and an array of characters whose storylines are plotted out by studio heads for maximum profitability, has restricted Whedon from doing more with the material.

But, in the end, as far as summer blockbusters go, this is one of the better ones;  a true crowd pleaser, even if it is all just a little too silly.

Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger: Hands down, the best feature film based on Marvel Comics since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, Captain America manages a near impossible feat: take a character that oozes jingoism and silliness, and make it human, appealing, and entertaining.

Thanks to Joe Johnston's directorial flourishes (he is one of the best filmmakers working in Hollywood who can recreate the golden age of the 30's and 40's through an art-decoish/pulp-style filter), and an effective script, this is a tremendously entertaining, stylish comic book movie, filled with kinetic set-pieces, gorgeous period detail, and endearing performances (even the usually unimpressive Chris Evans manages to shine as Captain America).

If you are a fan of golden age superheroes, this is a must. And for a feature film based on Marvel Comics, this is surprisingly classy, high-quality work.

Extra! Batman: The Stone King by Alan Grant: This edition's Extra! selection is the novel Batman: The Stone King by Alan Grant, a Justice League of America adventure that offers an extremely fast-paced and entertaining story, even if it's somewhat dark, which, combined with the writer's style (which is admirably somewhere between a comic book and a pulp novel), make this a hugely entertaining book.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves!

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