Billy Soistmann

Archive for the ‘Comic Books’ Category

Review: Iron Man 2

In 2010, Action, Comedy, Comic Books, Jon Favreau, Paramount, Reviews on May 6, 2010 at 3:30 PM

I’ll be honest. Iron Man 2 surprised me. After such a brilliant start, I was worried that the sequel would either fall flat or try too hard. However, the movie delivers exactly as a summer blockbuster should. Although I have always been adamant that a great film should have something deeper to say, the true purpose of a film is to tell a story, whether it is entertaining, sad, or scary.

Iron Man 2 has no proverb it is trying to get across. No insight into the human condition. What it is is pure entertainment. Now, I hesitate to say this because normally I would attack a film that attempts solely to entertain. But, there is a difference between mindless entertainment and an enjoyable movie such as this one.

This sequel to 2008’s Iron Man is an action-packed tale of how Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) attempts to deal with the ramifications of being Iron Man, as well as a life-threatening medical condition, a competing weapons contractor (Sam Rockwell), and a very bitter Russian physicist (Mickey Rourke).

The film opens in Russia as a very angry Mickey Rourke begins building some kind a weapon and continues into an amazing shot (which you can see embedded below) of Iron Man jumping from a plane into the grand opening of his Stark Expo. The kinetic energy in this sequence really sets the mood for the rest of the movie.

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As the film progresses, there are several great action set pieces as well as a lot comedy. Sam Rockwell delivers a hilarious performance as the wannabe Tony Stark. Overall, the acting was good. Downey Jr. is fantastic, as usual, and director Jon Favreau also has a sizable part. Mickey Rourke is a great villain, although sometimes that accent was just ridiculous. Paltrow is good as the straight-laced Pepper Potts, but Scarlett Johannson, on the other hand, delivers an cringe-worthy performance as Stark’s new secretary with a secret.

The main problem this movie has is its plot. At times, the film could have been paced much more smoothly. Especially in the second half, I felt as if the story became too rushed. However, these issues never reach the level of the atrocity that was Spider-Man 3. The film remains coherent, and interesting, throughout.

The bigger error, however, comes from the science. In Iron Man, if you believed that a device as powerful and tiny as Stark’s arc reactor was possible, the rest of the movie made sense, at least from a technical point-of-view. Unfortunately, the sequel throws this out the window. This isn’t a huge deal, but does detract from the believability of the story, which, frankly, matters little considering the movie’s superhero roots.

So, where exactly does this film succeed? It doesn’t have a fantastic story, but the plot is interesting, the characters are great, and it’s just so much fun. This movie is a blast and, although it wasn’t on par with the first film, Iron Man 2 is a great way to start off the summer movie season.

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The Future of the X-Men Film Franchise

In 20th Century Fox, Bryan Singer, Comic Books, Comic Books & Superheroes, Coming Soon, Features, News, X-Men on March 18, 2010 at 6:39 PM

Today, in an interview with the LA Times, Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) talked about his return to the X-Men franchise. Before we get into the new stuff, let’s take a look back at the beginnings of the X-Men.

After receiving critical acclaim for The Usual Suspects in 1995, director Bryan Singer was approached by Fox to helm the upcoming X-Men film adaptation. Not being a big fan of comic books, he initially turned them down. However, he eventually came around and developed a story idea with his friend Tom DeSanto.

In 2000, the world saw a different kind of comic book film with X-Men. By grounding the film in the real world and just adding science-fiction elements, Singer elevated the genre into soaring new heights and kicked off the modern comic book film.

The director returned for the sequel, X2: X-Men United, which was met with even more critical acclaim. However, Singer then left to pursue a reboot of Superman, with the end result being the lackluster Superman Returns.

Meanwhile, Brett Ratner directed X-Men: The Last Stand, which suffered from being too much of an action picture without any real substance. Even after adapting The Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the greatest storylines in the X-Men mythos, the film was a disappointment.

The latest X-Men movie was even worse. In May, 2008, Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine proved to be wasted potential. The film failed on every level and, sadly, wasted one of the best characters in comics. However, the film did well at the box office and a sequel is already in the works.

Cut to December last year. Bryan Singer was returning to the X-Men. Atomic Popcorn reported that he had signed on to direct, X-Men: First Class, a prequel that would tell the story of how the team was started by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), who would later become Magneto. This was great news – the skilled director could definitely pull the franchise up out of its current state.

Although a lot of the interview focused on the original film, Singer and producer Shuler Donner, also talked about the future of the franchise. So what can we expect to see coming from the X-Men universe?

Wolverine 2: Due to the success of the first “origins” story, a sequel immediately started development. It is set in Japan and follows Wolverine on more of his adventures. Although Singer said he had lunch with Hugh Jackman (who really came to own the character after being a last-minute replacement Wolverine), but there is no evidence that he will be directing the sequel, especially due to his busy schedule (he already signed with Warner Bros. to direct Jack the Giant Killer). I really hope he doesn’t. His style does not mesh at all with the first “Wolverine” film.

First Class: As mentioned previously, First Class, is the story of how the X-Men came to be. It is based on a 2006 series written by Jeff Parker. The movie will not be just about seeing younger incarnations of the familiar mutants, however, with Singer saying, “Just doing younger mutants is not enough. The story needs to be more than that. I love the relationship between Magneto and Xavier, these two men who have diametrically opposite points of view but still manage to be friends — to a point. They are the ultimate frenemies.” This is extremely good news. That friendship is a lot of what made the first two films work so well. With two fantastic actors (hopefully Stewart and McKellen reprise their roles), this could prove to be a great film.

X-Men 4: This is the unknown at this point. After the disappointing “Last Stand,” Fox focused on origin stories, originally planning both Wolverine and Magneto origin stories. We saw what happened with Wolverine, but the Magneto film was cancelled. There is definitely a fourth movie in the works, but it is at the very early stages of development right now and Singer expressed his wish to hold off on it for right now.

The X-Men franchise is alive and well, and now, with Singer’s return, things are looking up for the series.

Want to Make it Big as a Hollywood Director? Just Be More Like Chris Nolan

In Batman, Buzz, Christopher Nolan, Comic Books, Coming Soon, News, Warner Brothers on February 9, 2010 at 6:30 PM

The interwebs were abuzz this morning after Deadline Hollywood broke the news that Christopher Nolan, acclaimed director of Memento and The Dark Knight is officially on board with a Batman sequel, and has also agreed to oversee the Superman movie that is also in the works at Warner Bros.

Nolan’s return to the franchise, although definitely not unanticipated, was not a sure thing and this story should comfort all of us who love the character. Most likely, the script is getting under way now with David S. Goyer, who recently left his position on ABC’s FlashForward, and Jonathan Nolan writing.

The even bigger news is that of Nolan’s involvement in the Superman reboot. He has agreed to mentor those working on the film, and has not been attached as director, which is very unlikely to happen. I think the guidance he could give on adapting the comics will prove to be very beneficial for the film. However, I do not want a Nolan Superman. While Bruce Wayne is a troubled soul taking justice into his own hands, Clark Kent is a more up-standing citizen and I feel the approach should be entirely different.

In any case, I have my doubts about the Superman reboot, but Nolan’s involvement is bound to help it.

I also would like to point out how Chris Nolan has become more of a classic film director. He started with a small movie, and has now worked his way up the ladder and become an integral part of Warner Bros. He even gave them first dibs on his sci-fi thriller Inception, due in theaters July 16th. If more directors could establish this kind of healthy creative relationship with a studio, everyone would benefit.

Review: The Dark Knight

In Action, Batman, Christopher Nolan, Comic Books, Comic Books & Superheroes, Drama, Remakes & Sequels, Reviews, The Forum, Warner Brothers on September 12, 2008 at 8:23 AM

(This is an article I wrote earlier in the year for another publication. I have estimated a date and added it here late so please excuse any time discrepancies.)

After leaving the theater over 74 million people were amazed. This sequel was even better than anticipated. Unheard of!

On June 15, 2005, Batman debuted on the big screen for the first time in about eight years. Batman Begins was a great re-introduction to Batman and far surpassed any previous Batman film. Exactly 1,029 days later, its sequel, The Dark Knight, was released. Months of anticipation and hype, which were even more fueled by Heath Ledger’s death on January 22, made it seem impossible that The Dark Knight could live up to its expectations. In the months since, critical acclaim and word-of-mouth catapulted The Dark Knight to 27 on the box office chart (adjusted for inflation) at $525,904,700.

While Batman Begins is a fantastic movie about how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, The Dark Knight focuses on the criminal underbelly of Gotham and how Batman and the police department strive to fight it. In this way, The Dark Knight becomes a much deeper movie than Batman Begins because it raises questions of what is right, and “how far is too far?” Other thought-provoking dilemma the film explores are “Should Batman fight crime?” and “Is the world better off without him?”

In an interview with David Halbfinger of The New York Times, the director and co-writer, Christopher Nolan said, “As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman’s presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, [it] attracts lunacy. When you’re dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead?” This leads to the Joker.

“I love that dynamic between The Joker and Batman,” says Christian Bale (Batman) in an interview with SuperHeroHype.com, “He completes him in a sense that he finally has a really worthy challenge, a worthy opponent that challenges him in a way that nobody else ever has.”

Originally portrayed by Cesar Romero in 1966, the role of the Joker was then passed on to Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). In July 2006, Heath Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in The Dark Knight. To prepare for the role, he spent a month living in an apartment in London where he developed the character. Eventually, he settled on an anarchic interpretation that fit the feel of Batman Begins. Even though Heath Ledger’s iconic voice and laugh for the Joker are excellent, the most impressive aspect of the performance is that in every scene, the Joker’s body language and small nuances in his face tell you more about his character than any amount of dialogue can. The most frightening aspect of the character is that all he cares about is “seeing the world burn.” He couldn’t care less about money or power. Most criminals want something, so they can be negotiated with, however, the Joker cannot be dissuaded. After filming concluded, Heath Ledger tragically died from a prescription drug overdose on January 22, 2008.

“The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film – he’s got no story arc, he’s just a force of nature tearing through,” says Christopher Nolan, in an interview with The LA Times, “Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film.”

In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart, has recently been elected District Attorney and is starting to crack down on crime in Gotham. Dubbed “The White Knight,” he contrasts with Batman, because while Batman, “The Dark Knight,” fights crime by his own rules, Dent attempts to fight crime through the court system. Dent’s presence causes Batman to question his motives and ask himself whether or not he should be fighting crime in this way. However, what makes Dent a centerpiece of the film is what he does in response to the Joker, not the affect he has on Batman.

The Dark Knight is definitely the best film of the summer, not only because it is a great superhero movie, but also because it is a very complex morality tale. We eagerly anticipate what is next for the record-shattering “Dark Knight.” Is there a posthumous Oscar in store for Heath Ledger? What conflicts and villains await our hero? Can Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film surpass the first two? Only time will reveal all… and eager fans will certainly be in line.