Monday, April 14, 2014


Marvel gets it. DC doesn’t. Comic book movies need to be fun. I mean, it’s a guy in tights defying the laws of physics, thrilling action scenes, and generally 20,000 innocent bystanders getting killed in the crossfire of all the mayhem and destruction. If you can’t have a good time with all of this, then what’s the point?

MAN OF STEEL was terrible. You’re supposed to want to BE Superman while watching the movie. Wouldn’t it be cool to fly and beat the shit out of anybody, and see anyone naked you wish? Yes, that’s juvenile but how old were we when we bought the comic books and fell in love with the character?   I don’t want to know that Superman is a tortured soul. A hot chick like Lois Lane would sleep with him in a second. Waa waa, he’s from another planet.

But Captain America is my kind of superdude. Yes, he’s got a nagging conscience but he’s 95 years old. We all have baggage. And it’s never enough to distract him from single-handedly beating the living crap out of a small army. You can feel good about human beings being flung into walls and crushed to death because they’re all wearing dark uniforms and it’s all in the service of the Good Old USA. I must confess, there were a few violent encounters with bad guys where I said, “Huh? You let him live? Why? Use your shield. Let’s see if you can swat the guy all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.” Chris Evans is likeable, earnest, and among women moviegoers, I bet there’s not a dry seat in the theater.

Even more fun for me was Scarlett Johansson as whatever-the-word for Catwoman is in Russian. She’s Jewish and she’s badass. Take that Nazis and sinister secret organizations planning on dominating the world (think: Time-Warner Cable).

And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson, always good for some rollicking scene stealing. Even as he was saying, “Don’t trust anybody” I was ordering a Capital One card.

Anthony Mackie is Will Smith without the desperate need for an Oscar. Robert Redford has decided it’s time to appear in a movie that anyone will go see. It’s inspired stunt casting for the 20% of Marvel Universe fans who know who he is.

And then there’s Cobie Smulders. Spectacularly gorgeous as always and wisely not asked to be funny. When left to saying lines like, “heat shield in place” and “seven minutes to launch” she’s fine. The best thing about her performance is that she has amazing skin.

The story is a big conspiracy/explosion/car chase fest. THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR meets any Michael Bay film. But it moves at a nice clip, has enough Marvel lore to keep fans happy, and best of all, doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are funny lines throughout.

Naturally, the movie builds to a giant CGI-apalooza complete with thrills and spills and people taking punches that would kill a rhinoceros. But the suspense builds, the threat makes sense, and you get caught up in the film enough that you don’t ask the obvious question: Where the hell are the rest of the Avengers?

CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 is worth seeing. If Superman wants to brood over something, brood over how much better the Marvel filmmakers are than yours.


Jim S said...

It's funny that you joked that Robert Redford finally decided to be in a movie that people will see. That's actually the pitch Robert Downey Jr. gave Gwynth Paltrow in the first Iron Man.

As someone who, prior to Iron Man, had done a lot of indie films. (They were the only one who would hire him), I suspect Downey Jr. was actually glad to be playing in the big leagues again. The romance of the Indie film actor had probably worn off.

What I like about the Marvel films is that they are fun, they are well made and there is thought that goes into them. Popular entertainment doesn't have to be mindless. You can still have bright colors and explosions and still be smart.

I wish the rest of Hollywood would realize that.

Pat Reeder said...

I haven't seen this film because I never see any films based on comic books. But I just wanted to toss in that on last night's "Family Guy," there was a very dark cutaway gag involving Superman: Clark Kent walks up to three crying women in the Daily Planet office and asks Lois Lane what's wrong. She says, "We all have breast cancer! The doctor said it's as if we'd all be undergoing five hours of X-rays on our breasts every day!" Clark says, "Gosh, that's terrible! Just like all the other women I've ever known!"

So, now you know why Superman is depressed.

Hamid said...

I'm so glad you liked this, Ken. I think it's the best Marvel movie so far and, as you say, tons more fun than the dreary painted-all-in-gray Man of Steel.

But talking of Man of Steel, if you enjoyed Scarlett as a Jewish badass, the MOS sequel has cast gorgeous Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I'll be there opening day.

Kate said...

My main complaint about the movie was in fact about where the other Avengers were. All that computer hacking and NO ONE thought to call Stark? Or at least JARVIS?

Constance Reader said...

"Where the hell are the rest of the Avengers?"

That was what I thought at the end of Iron Man 3. And all during Thor 2. So of course, I was thinking that during Cap 2. Then someone explained to me that that the three crises are roughly simultaneous, so everyone's a little busy with their own problems, but unfortunately none of the movies bother to point that out. The episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." that aired the week after Cap 2 opened touches on it slightly.

Mike said...

She’s Jewish
No, I would have placed Romanoff on the other side of the pogroms.

RockGolf said...

Why didn't anyone try to contact the other Avengers? Well, the Hulk is a fugitive, Thor doesn't exactly have a Facebook page, and Iron Man? Well, a) Rogers couldn't be certain that Stark wasn't in on the conspiracy, b) any attempt to contact Stark (whom we last saw on the West Coast) would have tracked and traced.

Marvel has become the new Pixar, seemingly unable in the Avenger-related Disney releases to make a bad film.

I'd personally call Winter soldier a better film than Dark Knight.

gottacook said...

Some of the earlier Marvel films (pre-Disney) like Spider-Man 2 were quite good too. Alfred Molina as Doc Octopus was the absolute best casting of a villain I can imagine. Is it true they're going to make another run at Fantastic Four? How about Not Brand Echh: The Movie?

Rob said...

Agree that Cap 2 was a fine, fun film. Not as good as Avengers but not very far off.

And of course, we at least got to see what Robin was busy doing while waiting for the Mother to die.

@Hamid: Gal is definitely hot but I'm sorry, she doesn't quite have all the assets to fill Wonder Woman'

Covarr said...

"Marvel gets it. DC doesn’t."
I'll agree with you about recent live action film efforts. The Dark Knight Rises wast stupid, and Man of Steel was awful, while Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Winter Soldier were all very good.

On the other hand, DC's direct-to-DVD animated films have consistently been good since forever. Movies like Justice League: War, Superman Unbound, and Batman: Under the Red Hood were all absolutely stellar.

Johnny Walker said...

Hilarious! And very true, too. I really enjoyed Captain America 2, whereas I'm getting sick of tortured, dark, brooding superheroes. Thank goodness it's changing!

Hamid said...

Rob, that's a minor quibble. Though I'd have been equally happy had they cast another Jewish babe in the role, Alison Brie. She'd fill those shoes more than adequately.

Paul said...

I'm not sure if you're aware, but Spiderman, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four have been licensed to different companies and are Disney/Marvel is unable to use them as long as that's the case. Therefore, the films that they produce, while using Marvel characters, are not strictly "Marvel" movies.
The main reason for bringing this up is to preserve the quality of the actual Marvel movies. There have been (and might still be) some of the others that are of... questionable quality. While Marvel, thus far, has kept the quality relatively high.

Paul said...

AAARRGGHH! Delete the "are" after "different companies and." When will I ever learn to preview before publishing?

dgwphotography said...

I thought it was a fun story, but I would have enjoyed it much more without the shaky cam. I had such a headache at the end.

Alfred Day said...

As I died in the wool, lifelong DC fan I must take exception.

Of course that exception is with Warner Bros, and their inability to remember that super heroes are supposed to be fun.

With you, Ken, I couldn't agree more.

gottacook said...

Paul - No, I had no idea that there was a subset of Marvel characters that Disney can't make movies of.

This whole discussion is on kind of an abstract level for me - the most recent superhero movie I actually paid to see in a theater was Batman Returns in 1992 - although I did see the most recent Spider-Man movie on a sibling's very modern home video setup.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

"and among women moviegoers, I bet there’s not a dry seat in the theater."

By far the dirtiest joke today. And the best one.

Jeff said...

Agreed! : )

Charles H. Bryan said...

"I bet there’s not a dry seat in the theater." I'm not saying that I didn't laugh when I read that line, but I am saying that I then realized that that's just one more reason to stay home and wait for the Blu-Ray. Ken, please, some of your readers are dedicated germophobes.

Greg S. said...

I always find the criticism of "why don't they call in the rest of the Avengers" to be a pretty weak one. Why doesn't every cop in the city come and help the one cop who's in a gunfight? Because people can't be everywhere all the time. And if they stopped to show scenes of him calling all his allies and finding out that they are busy, that would kill the pacing.

RockGolf said...

@Greg S: That's what drives me crazy about nearly every TV Cop Show. The main characters find out about a bomb about to go off or a killing that will take place in 15 minutes on the other side of town.

Do they call the precinct on that side of town who are two minutes away? NO!!! They rush to their cars, and wildly drive with sirens blazing, endangering everyone en route, to save things at the last possible instant.

Max Clarke said...

Did not see the latest Superman. Too dark. As a general rule, beings with greater awareness are happier. Not the same as I.Q. Think of the great mystics and the bodhisattvas. Their compassion and cheerfulness are legendary.

The Superman movies with Christopher Reeve were corny frequently, but they did have a sense of humor.

To rework an old expression about angels, Superman flies because he takes himself lightly.

Anonymous said...

Cobie Smulders is once again reduced to being the hot chick whose lines consist of telling the viewer what they already know, just like in The Avengers. Too bad - we know she can't really do comedy very well, but at least give her more to do. - Jeff Clem

Jeffro said...

"Covarr said..." said:

"On the other hand, DC's direct-to-DVD animated films have consistently been good since forever. Movies like Justice League: War, Superman Unbound, and Batman: Under the Red Hood were all absolutely stellar."

Totally agree, and these animated feature still tend to be more imaginative. And I don't mind that they're lest adult-oriented than the live action movies. Best of all, most of them can be seen on Instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.


Jeff said...

The DC direct-to-disc releases are just cartoons, aren't they?

DBA said...

Mike, I'm not sure if you're being snarky or literal, but I'm assuming Ken was referring to the fact that Scarlett Johansson is Jewish, not necessarily the character.

Wayne said...

Two baseball questions.
1. Who was Ken Levine’s favorite all-time player? Fantasy roster?
2. What were your impressions of Celebrating Our Great American Pastime baseball exhibit at the Reagan Library.
I thought it was huge. Since it’s from private collector, it has stuff you won’t see in the Hall of Fame like Pete Rose and Barry Bonds. First baseballs card from 1869 and a Honus Wager. Lots on Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. Also as you might expect from actor who played Grover Cleveland Alexander, baseball movies. And it’s free of politics.

Michael Shriro said...

"Wayne said...
Two baseball questions.
1. Who was Ken Levine’s favorite all-time player?"

I'm thinking it's Sandy Koufax. If not, it's certainly a Dodger.

Allan V said...

Ironically, when I was a kid (I'm now in my late 40's), DC was syrupy-sweet; its comics tended to have nice, neat endings with no personal problems. Back then, it was Marvel that was showcasing serious issues, such as Tony Stark's alcoholism.

I have to agree with Ken's review --- like so many movies, Man of Steel took itself so seriously. I have enough "reality" in my personal life; I go to movies to get away and relax for a couple hours.

Oliver said...

It's interesting that the directors were chosen based on their Community episodes. There was quite a bit of controversy when it was announced they were choosing TV directors.

thirteen said...

Regarding the wet seat remark, I remember a ca. 1973 Rolling Stone article about David Cassidy's then-recent appearance at Madison Square Garden. One of the maintenance men was quoted as complaining about all the sticky seats the fans had left behind.

As for Marvel vs. DC: Avengers was rock 'n' roll, and Man of Steel was high Mass. Guess which one was more fun?

Finally, they've already made Not Brand Ecch: The Movie, but they called it Superman Returns.

A. Dent said...

To be fair to DC

Batman does not work as a fun character. Bruce Wayne is not Tony Stark. STiil, the tried it not once but twice and it killed the franchise for nearly a decade.

DC cracked the code back in 89 with Tim Burtons Batman. It took Marvel 20 Years to get it right, the Jon Favreau who insisted on casting Robert Downey, Jr. Marvel, of course, looked for someone younger

"The Dark Knight returns" is not only one of the best animated films of all times, it is one of the best movies I saw in years.
For an fan of the originl graphic novel it i sjust mind blowing.

Avengers is my favourite comic- book movie, But the best movie based on a comic book is "The Dark Knight"

I was always a DC guy, just because of Batman, so I don't care Marvel messes around with the characters (as if I would notice) but I know a lot of people who really hate Iron man 3 with eery fibre of theire body.

Kaleberg said...

We saw Winter Soldier in 3D on an iMax screen and absolutely loved it. If nothing else, we loved the ellipsis. "It's protected by three 12' fences topped with barbed wire, and it's inside a 12" steel vault" Next line: "OK, what have we got."

We're big Marvel fans. DC never really built up a real universe. It was like the Oz books, relatively flat. Marvel was a Mexican soap opera where every back story had a back story. They probably have 50 years of plot just sitting there.

Anonymous said...

A surprising amount of interest in Scarlett Johansson's ethnic background. For the benefit of the curious:

"Scarlett Johansson was born in New York City.[7] Her father, Karsten Johansson, is a Danish-born architect originally from Copenhagen,[8] and her paternal grandfather, Ejner Johansson, was a screenwriter and director. Her mother, Melanie Sloan, a producer, comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish family from the Bronx."


So, for the record, Scarlett is 50% Danish and 50% Ashkenazi.

Aaron Jacobs

Anonymous said...

Unknown said...

Captain America received a significant upgrade from his last movie. The Winter Soldier is as good, if not better, than the first.