Category Archives: Miscellaneous Posts

Miscellaneous Post: Batman v Superman v Captain America

****Spoilers for both Dawn of Justice and Civil War below!***

I love Batman and the Bat-family.

Let me clarify that at the beginning of this little essay.

It’s hard, sometimes, to choose who I like more, out of Bruce, Dick, or Tim, and by extension their associated cohorts (such as Clark Kent, Roy Harper, or Conner Kent).

When I first heard that Ben Affleck was to portray Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel, I was highly skeptical. And I don’t dislike Affleck, like so many people seem to do. I was just… underwhelmed by the casting choice, I suppose.

And then he turned out to be the highlight of the disaster that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

…Let me start from the beginning.

I knew that Man of Steel was going to be terrible from the very first trailer that I ever saw for it. It looked gloomy, with a washed-out color scheme. It looked overly dramatic, and not in a superhero movie sort of way. Then of course came the ultimate stamp of impending doom: it was a Nolan/Goyer-written production. The team that brought you a growling Batman in a city that is clearly Chicago despite the wonderful world-building in their first movie, among further travesties to canon, logic, and the passage of time in the third installment of the Nolanverse trilogy. And it was to be directed by Zack Snyder, the man that brought us a fairly faithful rendition of Watchmen, or so I’m told as I’ve never read it, yet had one of the most horrifically awkward sex scenes ever.

Fast forward to actually seeing Man of Steel, and all of my fears–and then some–were realized: it was boring, barely had any Clark in it, had a stupid-useless death of Pa Kent, hideous dialogue (evolution does not always win!), and more “destruction porn” than you can shake a stick at, if you were prone to shaking sticks at ridiculous, over-the-top things.

So, when I heard that the inevitable sequel to Man of Steel was to have Batman in it, I was less than pleased. We had just suffered through Nolan destroying the character; did Snyder really need a chance to do it, too?

And gradually it became much more than just an extension of a personalityless Superman glowering and a potentially miscast Batman arguing with him. The film was to introduce Wonder Woman. And Lex Luthor. And somehow Aquaman and Cyborg. And then the Flash. Most of whom seemed to have questionable casting choices–Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? A woman I’d never heard of but who is apparently underwhelming for Wonder Woman? Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth?

My fears–or perhaps skepticism is a better word–were realized when the first ten minutes or so of the film were spent on Batman’s origin story. You know, the story that makes up a good chunk of Batman Begins, which came out a mere eleven years ago. The story retold in countless cartoons and books, and previous Batman movies. The story that pretty much EVERYONE going to see the movie is familiar with, and really served no purpose in the overall film, especially considering Batman is not a young man just starting on his quest at the beginning of BvS.

Oh wait, without the retelling of the story, we might not know that Bruce’s mother is named “Martha.” Like the camera doesn’t focus on her gravestone quite obviously when Bruce is moping there.

You know what they could have spent that runtime real estate on? Explaining why Bruce Wayne is living in his guest house, with his mansion burned to the ground. Or perhaps giving Wonder Woman a better introduction; she isn’t even NAMED ON-SCREEN except by a flight attendant. Maybe developing the actual Lex Luthor and not some weird knock-off version of the character? Maybe they could even give Superman–or better yet, Clark–a personality. Or maybe use those precious minutes spliced throughout the film to tie together the next two hours into an actual cohesive narrative, rather than a bunch of unrelated scenes that happened to have Bruce, Superman, or Lex in them?

But no.

Oh, no.

The viewers were not allowed nice things.

The film began with an unnecessary backstory, and ended with an utterly unconvincing death.

Mixed in were too many dream sequences to count, unearned deaths of canonical characters (I didn’t even realize the photographer at the beginning was Jimmy Olsen until later on), an awkward bathtub scene, needless fighting, the ultimate Superman big bad villain shoehorned in for no conceivable reason other than to facilitate that needless and unconvincing death, and a Lex Luthor that has the same haircut as Black Widow.

All of it overlaid by the color gray, a visual representation of the depression the overly-serious film caused. Canonically Batman and Superman are snarky with each other–Batman isn’t always grim, the same way Superman isn’t always the Boy Scout. There can be a level of humor injected into any film, no matter how serious; there has to be to break the tension. It’s a movie, a comic book movie in fact, not a documentary or breaking news.

And I didn’t even yet mention some of the utterly infuriating parts, like where reporter Clark Kent doesn’t know who businessman Bruce Wayne is (despite the fact Bruce owns the Daily Planet). Or how rather than talk with Superman, Batman just wants to kill him, especially when it’s clear that Superman has something important to say about MARTHA. Or how Superman doesn’t use his powers to find his mother, or find the bomb in the courtroom, or save Jimmy, yet when Lois manages to fall from a building, he’s right there.

One of the criteria I use to analyze action movies for this site is “M is for… Motivation.” Most of the time the villains want money, or power, or revenge, while the hero wants revenge, or to save a loved one, or to stop the destruction of a particular region or group of people. One of the biggest problems in BvS is that the characters’ motivations are unclear. Why is Lex building a Kryptonian monster (that, yes, turned out to be Doomsday, but why is he doing that?)? Why was Batman just SO ANGRY with Superman that he saw murder as the only way out, considering they’re barely shown interacting the entire film? Why didn’t Superman do anything to make himself memorable or interesting in his own movie, so that he wasn’t overshadowed by the weirdo villain(s) and his…nemesis? Was Batman even Batmanning at all during Superman’s Supermanning? Do they know each other well enough to hate each other the way they do?

It was all just a mess, and not one where I think, “Well, I should see it again so it’ll make more sense.”

Please, don’t make me sit through the travesty that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice again.

It’s as if the sole purpose of the movie was to get the Justice League started so DC could finally compete with Marvel on the silver screen, a goal for which DC is so woefully unprepared it would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Actually, it’s still pretty funny, transparently shoving a handful of extraneous characters into what should be a Superman movie in order to launch a team. Why not just… do a movie that develops the team? Just do a live action version of the first episode of Justice League, or something similar. The cartoon is proof that it works.

I know that once upon a time, BvS was supposed to open the same day as Captain America 3: Civil War. The powers that be wisely chose to not have that happen. Instead, BvS opened first, to lackluster reviews (my favorite of which makes me laugh out loud at a particular line), and a precipitously dropping box office. Confirming with Box Office Mojo, the total box office haul as of May 12th for BvS is $868,185,193. That’s an impressive total for a movie that hasn’t even been out for two months, right?

Sure, until it’s understood that in less than a week, Cap 3 has grossed $765,868,509.

Wow.

I don’t normally care about box office, considering the way ticket prices are highway robbery and sales don’t at all reflect the quality of a movie, but I thought it an interesting comparison here, with similar movies with presumably nearly identical audiences coming out only a few weeks apart. People aren’t seeing BvS for a second time. I’m going to see Cap 3 again tomorrow.

In almost any category, at least in my opinion, Cap trumps Supes. It’s not fair to discuss casting, because everyone in Cap 3 was already established, but that’s related to one of the strong points in the film–all of the characters exist, and the film develops them even more than they were already. The film successfully juggles 10 existing heroes and a new villain, while introducing two new heroes, and also moving the overall universe’s story, while also having a coherent plot and a villain with clear motivation.

In Cap 3, my heart went out to everyone–Cap, Tony, Bucky, all of the former friends fighting each other. Towards the end, when Tony watches his life flash before his eyes, if you know what I mean… Ouch. He really thinks Cap is going to smash his face in with that shield.

In BvS, I was bored by Supes’s death (especially knowing there’s no way he was going to stay dead for keeps), and still confused by what Doomsday was doing in a movie where the main draw–Batman fighting Superman–was so poorly written that the whole “Martha” thing was just hilariously awful, and awfully hilarious. Why not do a better job writing the actual story, and spend less time shoving a major villain into the last fifteen minutes? Was it just to give Wonder Woman something to do? Didn’t anyone learn from the franchise-ruining catastrophe that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2?

Also, if I were a Superman fan, I’d be pissed that Batman clearly won their fight. Especially considering it was theoretically Superman’s movie.

I seem to be digressing again.

Cap 3 has heart, and agony, and a hell of a lot of humor that is in no way misplaced despite the gravitas of the main storyline. The characters’ motivations are clear, and there aren’t any obfuscating dream sequences or oppressive gloom.

It’s a film that can be watched many times and enjoyed for what it is: a solid superhero movie that delivers on its promises, without raising major questions about simple things like the plot.

It’s actually almost unfair to compare and contrast Dawn of Justice and Civil War, considering the former is the second film in a seemingly forced multi-movie universe, and the latter is the thirteenth film in a giant universe that just keeps expanding. But how does Cap 3 balance all of those characters and history, while BvS can barely keep interest in the handful of characters it has and doesn’t have to worry about continuity across a dozen other films?

All of the special effects and gimmicks in the world can’t compensate for the basic foundation of a film: its story. It needs a cogent plot, well-developed characters, and a reason to care about them, and BvS just doesn’t have enough of any of them.

I love Batman.

But Batman v Superman simply can’t compete with Captain America 3, other than illustrating that being an orphan is the first step to becoming a superhero.

The lack of ability for comparison really is almost embarrassing.

Maybe they should let Affleck direct the rest of the Batman/Superman/Justice League movies. I think everyone can agree he’s a much better director than he is an actor.

Just think of that when remembering that his Bruce Wayne is the highlight of BvS…

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Miscellaneous Post: Action Hero Names

Like many people, I’ve noticed the trend in action films to name the main hero “John.” There’s John McClane, John Matrix, John Rambo, and many others. Yahoo recently compiled a list of the “toughest” action hero names, and I thought I’d weigh in on the list.

Their list is ranked by the sound of the name alone, and not necessarily the character him/herself. It makes it both easier and harder to evaluate the list, because names can be so important that it’s hard to separate them from the character. I can’t think of “John McClane” without remembering him shooting terrorists and killing a helicopter with a car, for example.

They started off with “least intimidating,” which kind of limits the list even though it claims to be “exhaustive”; by the writer’s reckoning, there are only 50 action movies out there, or they just picked the “weakest” names to put at the bottom of the list. Why not have a separate list of weakest names, is my point. Regardless, it’s amusing to see Forest Taft on there, both because the name is weird due to the obvious environmental message, and because thinking of On Deadly Ground makes me laugh. Those fringe jackets… Not sure what it means that Steven Seagal has two characters in the bottom ten–Casey Ryback, no love for you either.

In the other direction, it’s kind of funny to see writers go way overboard to make the character name sound super cool and match his/her actions, such as with Marion Cobretti in Cobra, Max Rockatansky in Mad Max, and Frank Bullitt in Bullit. Dudes, you are trying way too hard. Or you named the characters when you were twelve.

A lot of names on the list are originally from books, like Katniss Everdeen, Lisbeth Salander, Jack Ryan, and Jason Bourne. I doubt the writers of the books were thinking “action movie names” when writing the books. Cool, memorable names, sure, but not necessarily “action movie.” “Katniss” and “Lisbeth” certainly don’t have the one-syllable thing going for them, just the fact that they’re strange female names.

I was surprised to see three “Harrys” on the list; that’s not normally a name associated with coolness or machismo. Especially considering in the last decade and a half it’s become associated with a little wizard boy with a scar on his forehead.

Really, any one-syllable name with a hard “A” sound—Cane, Cage, Rage, Gauge—just sounds cliché-actiony and hard to take seriously. The crowning example of this is the ridiculously terrible—or terribly ridiculous—name of Cypher Raige, the main character in After Earth. How the heck is anyone supposed to take a movie seriously when its main character is named Cypher Raige, even with the extra “I” for flavor? It’s like the naming equivalent of a Rob Liefeld drawing. …meaning cringe-worthily over-the-top, with terrible anatomy, and of course lacking feet.

What makes a name really impressive is the use of it and everyone knows who you’re talking about. Consider Rambo, Ripley, Indy (short for Indiana Jones), Shaft, etc. Sure, two of them are right in the titles of the movies, but still. They’re short, stand out, and are memorable.

It’s hilarious that there are two characters named “Jericho” on the list, but part of that may be a result of the incredible percentage of “J” names. There are 6 Johns, 3 Jacks, 2 Jerichos, and then a JJ, Jason, Jimmy, and James. Out of 50 names, 15 begin with “J.” Most are also one syllable. With the naming trends of recent years, I’m sure there will soon be movies starring heroes named Jace and Jaden.

It’s interesting that the names are for the most part old-fashioned and not “trendy,” though whether that’s due to their overall commonness, the period in which the movies were made, or the general lack of “trendy” names until the last couple decades in unknown. Granted, “Jennifer” and “Steven” were, I suppose, trendy in their time, though I doubt anyone fifty years ago would spell it Genyphyr or Styphyen. The women’s names, with the exception of Katniss, are also all fairly old-fashioned–Lisbeth, Sarah, Evelyn, Lara, and Ellen. Sarah is still pretty common, and I think Evelyn is becoming one of those old-lady-names-that-are-vintage-and-therefore-cool names, but I dunno when “Ellen” is going to top a baby name list anywhere.

I’m trying to think of names that are on the list and are actually cool and not over-the-top trying to make a point, but it’s hard to separate the character from the name. I like Martin Riggs (though I’d like it shorted to Marty Riggs), Korben but spelled Corbin, Jason Bourne, Chance (though it’s kind of reminiscent of the dog in Homeward Bound), and Solo (without the Han part).

WTF kind of name is Snake Plissken? We need action movies with characters that don’t sound like they belong in Mortal Kombat.

I’d like to note a few names that didn’t make the list, such as Major Dutch from Predator, Machete from Machete, or Sean Archer from Face/Off. “Dutch,” “Machete,” and “Archer” are all short and are either easy to remember or have a harsh, masculine sound. Someone in the comments mentions Dalton from Roadhouse, Jack Reacher from Jack Reacher, and Riddick from the Riddick series.

Actually, reading the comments makes it apparent that people didn’t read the text of the article, which says that the names are ranked least-to-most intimidating, hence Forest Taft towards the top and James Bond towards the bottom. Commenters are saying the list isn’t in any sort of order. Come on, people.

Anyway, it’s fun to think about names—I might have a small obsession with the science of baby naming—and how they can affect a person’s perception of a film. While a name might not necessarily make or break a film, it might have a hand in how well it and its characters are remembered. Would people remember “Harry Callahan” if his nickname and the name of the movie weren’t “Dirty Harry”? No way to know.

Miscellaneous Post: Date Night Action Movies

The Hollywood Reporter recently put together a list of good “date night action movies.” Obviously this list is written as a guide for movies a guy can show girls who don’t like action movies, so it’s not quite directed at me (watching The Expendables 2 last night was a ton of fun). However, there are some good picks and some ideas for movies I haven’t yet seen, which is always a plus. I’m always on the lookout for new fun movies.

The list starts off with Kill Bill Volume 1 and Kill Bill Volume 2. I have seen these two films, but only once and quite some time ago. I remember some girls said they walked out when they were in the theaters, and clearly the films are a splatter-fest. So, I would have to say that in order to watch these films with a girl, the girl’s preference for blood has to be known. Tarantino’s films aren’t for everyone. These films weren’t my favs because I prefer more of a “guns a-blazing” sort of action film over a “swords a-clashing” action film. Martial arts movies just aren’t my thing, not that there’s anything wrong with them. Honestly I think a lot of today’s action movies could learn a thing or two from real hand-to-hand fighting and choreography over quick cuts and tight shots that don’t really show what’s happening in the fight. It is, of course, great to see a strong female lead that kicks ass.

The second film listed is the broad category of “the Avengers movies,” more formally known as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” I whole-heartedly agree. I’ve written about the marvel (get it?) that is Iron Man, and with the exception of Iron Man 3, the films continue to deliver good action and stories, interesting characters, and, while there aren’t many strong female characters, there are many attractive men in skimpy outfits. Let’s let the girls objectify the guys for once, shall we? Personally an all-day marathon of Phase One sounds like an absolutely excellent day. The only caveat I have with the inclusion of these films is that I wouldn’t necessarily categorize them as “action movies” in the sense that a movie with Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, or Statham would be. But, for some fun with super heroes to snuggle up with, it doesn’t get much better than the MCU.

I’ve never seen the third movie listed, Point of No Return, but it does look interesting. It’s a little disappointing that there’s a focus on a love story, but considering the theme of the list is “date night,” I suppose that’s not surprising. Perhaps it will be my next “P” movie, and will certainly be included in my “Women in Action” series I want to do.

Who doesn’t love the fourth movie, The Hunger Games? I decided to RedBox the film so I could be part of society, and it was so much better than I had expected. Granted, the film was part of a mini marathon beginning with After Earth, and after that anything would seem like a cinematic masterpiece by comparison. But the story (which I’m sure is wonderfully developed in the books) is thoroughly entertaining, the visuals beautiful, and the characters interesting. Actually the part that dragged it down for me is one thing the article highlights: the love triangle. Nothing kills the pace of a movie faster than a needless drawn out romance. Let’s focus on the dystopia and the not dying, and when that’s all set let’s focus on getting the guy. I did enjoy the forced love story included to increase the ratings for the game. It was all kind of like The Truman Show. The way the books/films have brought archery into the limelight as something awesome is also very cool. Granted, perhaps Hawkeye in the Avengers movies had something to do with that, too.

The next film in the list is True Lies, which I wrote about a few months ago. As I said there, the film was nothing like I had expected it to be, and somehow really is a romantic action movie where the romance is part of and doesn’t detract from the plot. Helen’s transformation is rather inspiring, and the film overall leaves the viewer with a sense of hope and a positive future, even more so than other films that end on a similar note.

As different as True Lies is for the action genre, I’m not sure I’ve seen a film quite in its own category as Léon the Professional. It’s stunning in its simplicity and heart, and the way it makes a hit man the star of the film without being cheesy and trying too hard to redeem him. Particularly of note is the chance to see Natalie Portman actually play an interesting character, instead of being sidelined as the drippy boring-as-paint-drying romantic interest à la Padme or Jane Foster. Also, Gary Oldman is crazy in this film.

The article describes the next film, Colombiana, as both a sequel and a reboot to Léon the Professional, which is kind of impossible. It’s more of a reboot than anything, but considering Zoe Saldana is so much older than Portman, I don’t know if I would even call it that. An homage perhaps is a closer term. I’ve never seen the film, but it does look interesting. Saldana has certainly emerged as an action star, and the world certainly needs more strong female heroes. ….heroines. You know what I mean. Maybe one day there will even be some that wear a complete outfit of pants and a long sleeve shirt. (That last comment is directed at the still in the article, which shows Saldana in a tank top and skimpy shorts.)

I’ve never actually seen Angelina Jolie in anything other than Hackers, so I can’t really say anything about her skills in the next film in the article, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. I do know that movies based on video games don’t really do too well most of the time, because they aren’t generally good films. It’s also sadly hard to take Jolie seriously, but that might just be me. I know she’s starred in several action films, so obviously she can play a convincing strong female character that studios want to put in the lead role.

For some reason, James Bond movies don’t really do anything for me, so I’ve never seen the next film, Casino Royale. It’s really great that the film seems to give female characters actual depth, unlike older Bond films. The article mentions the objectification of Bond in shorts on the beach, and I do remember stills going around showing him off. Like I said before, it’s time we got in some objectification of men for us female fans.

Based on the still alone from the article, the next film, Charlie’s Angels, won’t be for me. I don’t care much for Cameron Diaz or Drew Barrymore, and all three women have their wetsuits half unzipped. If the film really is directed at a female audience, zip up the women and have scantily clad dudes walking around. Then again, it’s unfair to judge a film I haven’t yet seen, but it would be hard to get me to agree to sit down for this one.

I remember the next film, 300, being a big deal when it came out. Unfortunately, I don’t like Zack Snyder, Gerard Butler does nothing for me, and I cannot stand Frank Miller. I feel like I remember there being talk of needless CGI in this film, too, but I could be confusing it with someone else. However, the lure of lots of half-naked guys fighting might be enough to persuade me to see it one day. Then again, they’re all kind of too brawny.

I don’t know if I’ve ever even heard of the next film, The Big Hit. It likely got lost in other films that year I wanted to see, or films with actors I knew better, and never crossed my path. The plot looks interesting enough, and from what I’ve seen with him, films with Lou Diamond Phillips always have a quirky quality. The sign of a good character actor is that you actually remember the actor’s name, instead of always thinking of him as “that guy in such and such movie, and that other one with the thing.” So, if The Big Hit does cross my path, I’ll likely check it out.

I’ve seen film 13, The Fifth Element, several times, and it never ceases to be mildly entertaining yet silly. I’m not shy in my “thing” for Bruce Willis, so that’s a point in the plus column right off the bat. I do like Chris Tucker, too, even if he is kind of a one trick pony. At the big Halloween party I go to every year, there is always at least one girl dressed like Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), though whether that’s out of love for the character or the excuse to wear hardly any clothing, I’ll let you be the judge. I haven’t seen the film in a while so I’m not sure if I would call it an “action movie,” but it is enjoyable nonetheless. Also, put a tally mark down for another film where Gary Oldman plays a crazy bad guy.

Film 14 is an absolute classic across genres, from science fiction to action to special effects. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think Terminator 2: Judgement Day is an awesome movie for any number of reasons. Among other things, it was the beginning of my life-long distrust of Robert Patrick, because he was so good as the T-1000. It was also one of the seemingly few live-action roles for the kid who played Budnick (who apparently was also the voice of Montana Max. Mind. Blown.). But we again have Arnold capitalizing on his size and accent, a strong female character in Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), and all around amazing action sequences. There’s also a heck of a lot of heart, which isn’t something normally found in the sci fic/action/special effects genres. Great movie for any movie night.

With the 15th film, Rush Hour, there’s a mixture of martial arts flick and buddy cop, with the addition of the odd couple element. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan are hilarious together and play off each other nicely, both when they comprehend each other and especially when they don’t. For a fun night of action, it’s a good pick. Actually it’s a film I wouldn’t mind seeing again sometime soon.

Film 16? Classic. Utterly classic. Who doesn’t love Indiana Jones?. Harrison Ford is perfect as the handsome, intelligent, quick-tongued, rugged, adventuring archaeologist. All three films have great rewatch potential, as evidenced by their constant replay on television for the past 20-30 years. The opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark has been parodied countless times, and Indy staring down the idol is probably one of the most recognized frames of movie history. Action, adventure, humor, humanity… the films have it all. …plus a whip being used in a number of creative ways, and who doesn’t like uniqueness?

I’ve never seen film 17, Run Lola Run, and I wish whoever wrote the article gave me a little bit more to work with. It’s always interesting to see the same story from different perspectives, same with “what if?” scenarios as the film seems to explore. Strong women kicking ass is always good to see, so I’ll probably try to catch Lola.

What can be said about film 18, The Matrix that hasn’t been said before? Action? Check. Special effects? Transcended the genre. Objectifiable male lead? …eh, okay, Keanu isn’t really my cup of tea, but he makes it work here. The Matrix blew everyone away in 1999, on the fronts of action, science fiction, special effects, and even religion (I had to watch it for my Religion in Film class in college, along with The Fifth Element, believe it or not). The problem I had the last time I saw it (admittedly that was years ago) was that I had to keep reminding myself that this is the origin of the effects—they’ve been parodied so many times it’s easy to forget where they came from, and what it was like seeing them for the first time. Also, the soundtrack and look of the movie are both great.

The last film, Lethal Weapon, isn’t one I would have on my list of date movies, having just watched it for this site. Maybe if I were a huge Mel Gibson or Danny Glover fan. Part of it may be the age of the actors is a little out of my range, maybe it’s the dated ’80s look, or maybe it’s that damn end credit song getting stuck in my head whenever I think of the movie. But, for some unique characters and fun scenes, Lethal Weapon is a great choice.

It is certainly a comprehensive, diverse list of movies, some of which I absolutely agree with, and others not so much. Take my opinion however you so desire, considering my last three “date night movies” were Don Jon, The Expendables 2, and Homefront, and I enjoyed each of them a lot.

If I had to pick my own fav movies to watch on a “date night,” I would absolutely have to go with Die Hard, which at its center is a romance between McClane and his wife, and see my aforementioned comment about my thing for Willis. I would also choose Commando because it’s amazing, and has at its heart a man struggling to find his daughter. Lastly, On Deadly Ground has its moments of—okay, I can barely type that with a straight face. I don’t know if I can ever make myself watch that again. For an actual third fun movie, Star Trek. It’s one of those great, well-rounded, action/sci-fi/heart/no-forced-romance movies that’s got it going on. Also? Attractive male leads. Cannot go wrong.

Miscellaneous Post: A Comparison of Die Hards

I’ve seen the Die Hard movies numerous times, and McClane McCLane is my hero, so why not compare and contrast all five movies?

I’m analyzing/comparing the films based on the following categories:

Who is McClane McClane?
What is at stake for him?
What’s up with the villain?
Who’s McClane’s side kick?
What’s up with the government?
What’s the action like?
Final thoughts.

Die Hard

Who is McClane McClane?

McClane is a 30-something (33 or so) New York City cop of 11 years visiting his wife in Los Angeles. They are separated enough that McClane doesn’t seem to expect to stay with her, and Holly has her housekeeper set up the guest bedroom. His fight against the terrorists is to save the hostages, including Holly. He’s clever, witty, and mildly annoying to the terrorists until he really makes Hans angry. He expresses a fondness for Roy Rogers. He’s afraid to fly. He smokes.

What is at stake for him?

His opinion of himself, sure. But mainly Holly. Clearly there are issues between the two of them (her using her maiden name, and putting his picture facedown), but his main focus once he takes out a couple of terrorists is to save Holly.

What’s up with the villain?

Hans Gruber is an exceptional thief using the hostages as a way to hide his actual purpose, stealing millions of dollars from the vault. He’s suave, well dressed, and actually extremely likable because he’s so well put together. I also really like listening to his accent. He and McClane have a lot of good chemistry together, even though they’re only in a couple of scenes together.

Who’s McClane’s sidekick?

McClane’s main assistant in this film is Al Powell, LAPD desk jockey who was on his way home when the call came in to check out Nakatomi Plaza. He and McClane communicate entirely by radio, and Al doesn’t even know McClane’s name until Hans says it. The moment when they finally meet is usually the one where if you’re going to get teary-eyed, it’s here. There’s mutual respect and admiration, Al towards McClane because he just saved 30 hostages and took out a terrorist group, and McClane towards Al because Al believed McClane when no one else would and gave him moral support.

You can also count Argyle here, as I did in my complete Die Hard entry. Argyle does help McClane in the beginning, and knocks out Theo the terrorist. McClane later keeps Argyle from being shot when he bursts out of the parking garage.

What’s up with the government?

Every law enforcement person other than Al Powell is depicted as a complete moron. Dwayne Robinson is a jerk. Agents McClaneson and McClaneson of the FBI are useless. One Fed is seen pricking himself on some thorns. The Feds do everything by the book which is what the problem is the whole time, because Hans expects them to run “the terrorist handbook step by step,” thus leading to them cutting the power and releasing the locks on the vault. To quote one of the most fantastic lines in the movie, Hans explains “You want a miracle, Theo? I give you the FBI.”

What’s the action like?

Pretty much non-stop from the second Hans takes over. McClane gets involved in a lot of one-on-one and one-on-two scuffles. There are various explosions, including the one when McClane throws the C4 down the elevator shaft, and then the end when the roof explodes. There’s a lot of gun work as McClane kills all the terrorists one by one.

Final thoughts.

Classic film, of course. It doesn’t get much better than this. The acting is great, the effects are great, the pacing is great. I love it. Tainted a wee bit by the ‘80s (77 cents for gas? McClane wears his gun holster on the airplane?) but it still stands up.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Who is McClane McClane?

McClane is a New York City cop currently transplanted to Los Angeles to live with Holly. To celebrate the holidays he’s in DC a day ahead of her, with her parents and his kids. He seems to be generally upbeat though cynical like he was in the previous film. He still smokes, though comments that he needs to quit. Comments “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” Both Holly and Al imply McClane and technology don’t mix, and he struggles with a fax machine. He’s afraid of flying.

What is at stake for him?

Again, McClane’s main focus here, above the airport, is to save Holly, who is on one of the circling airplanes. Through a phone call, his general concern, and their connection at the end, it is clear that at least tonight they are very much in love.

What’s up with the villain?

Honestly, one of the reasons I think I’ve not liked this movie as much as the others is that I don’t care what’s up with him. Anyway, his name is General Stewart, and he’s hijacked the airport to set free the cocaine dealer Esperanza. The only interesting thing about either character to me is the way Stewart is introduced, doing tai chi while buck naked. Neither villain is particularly memorable, which to me is the main failing of this movie.

Of course there’s also Major Grant, who of course we don’t know is bad until he slits that poor young guy’s throat. He’s the most compelling bad guy, I think because of this twist, and also he and McClane also interact in person, first not liking each other, then Grant stands up for McClane (“I’m an asshole, I’m just your kind of asshole.”).

Who’s McClane’s sidekick?

McClane works most closely with Marv, the seemingly mentally challenged janitor who lives in the basement, and Barnes, one of the higher-ups at the airport. They’re both okay, but McClane winds up doing a lot of stuff on his own like he did in the first movie. It’s just weird when McClane gets an idea, has them give him something, then runs off and does his idea by himself when they could probably help (Marv might have had the key for the lock on the runway grate, and Barnes could have joined McClane when trying to save the London plane).

McClane briefly uses Al Powell again, which was nice to see. Perhaps they work together a lot on LA. They had some good chemistry together on the phone.

What’s up with the government?

Well. Colonel Stewart: bad. Major Grant: bad. And I’m going to include Airport Police captain Carmine Lorenzo here, because he’s an incompetent jerk for the entire movie until the last minute, maybe minute and a half.

What’s the action like?

More than I remember there being, having not watched it in a while. There’s the gun fight in the luggage room, a plane crash, the gunfight in the Annex Skywalk, the gunfight at the church, and then the absolutely fantastic climax scene, where McClane fights Stewart and Grant on the wing of the plane, then he blows it up! Okay, so, yeah, apparently it’s physically impossible for this scene to happen for like five different reasons, but unless you research it, you don’t really know it doesn’t work, so it’s just awesome.

Final thoughts.

This movie gets ragged on a lot for being terrible, but having watched it twice in three days, it’s a lot more enjoyable than I remember it being. The story is tight, the action is good, the good guys are good. The failings are that McClane doesn’t have chemistry with anyone but Holly, who’s on a plane most of the movie, and the villains are almost entirely uninteresting and unmemorable. I really think the lack of a compelling villain is the main problem with this movie.

Also, the film is also tainted a bit by the ‘80s, such as with people smoking in airplanes, faxes being new, phone booths… It’s like another world.

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Who is McClane McClane?

At the start of this movie McClane is a wreck. So much of a wreck, in fact, that he’s not in the first scene the way he is in the first two films. He’s back in New York City, divorced, hung over, suffering from a headache, and “two steps shy of becoming a full blown alcoholic.” He still smokes, but not in a chain like in the previous films. But that might be because he’s literally running around the whole time. He hasn’t been with a woman since he and Holly split. He calls Holly towards the end, but lets her go. He doesn’t seem to have a problem flying in the helicopter at the end.

What is at stake for him?

Nothing personal seems to be at stake for him. It of course finally comes down to him being the terrorist’s target because he killed his brother, so it’s more about saving face than saving someone/thing personal to him yet external to him.

What’s up with the villain?

Simon (Peter Simon Gruber) is Hans Gruber’s brother. At one point McClane says Simon is older, and there were a number of threads on the imdb asking how he knows this, and of course he most likely read their files and saw their birthdates. Simon creates an elaborate game designed to scare, weaken, challenge, and ultimately kill McClane in retaliation for Hans. Simon is clever, doesn’t like to be pushed, and suffers from migraines. We hear him from the first scene, yet don’t see him until 47 minutes into the film. Even with that, he’s so charismatic and has such a sexy accent it’s upsetting to see him die.

Who’s McClane’s sidekick?

Zeus Carver is a Good Samaritan who got caught up in McClane’s “wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time.” He doesn’t trust white people. His motivation for saving McClane wasn’t to save McClane, it was to keep white cops out of Harlem. I think one reason this film is so appealing is because of the chemistry between McClane and Zeus. They argue, they don’t like each other, yet they work well together. McClane clearly cannot work without Zeus, as Zeus solves the puzzles Simon comes up with. Zeus even offers to give up his life to save McClane’s, to which McClane replies that he can’t live with that on his conscience. Zeus even convinces McClane to call Holly again.

What’s up with the government?

Actually, the government isn’t totally inept here. There aren’t any Feds, just McClane’s cop coworkers. And Simon does a good job of distracting all of them. Of course, in the alternate ending that didn’t make it to screen (see here) it’s postulated that the Feds thought McClane had something to do with the robbery and get McClane fired.

What’s the action like?

There are numerous bombs, and some gun fire, but compared to the first two, there isn’t that much going on action-wise. My favorite sequence is the race to get from the first pay phone (St. Ives riddle) to the Wall Street subway station. McClane and Zeus driving in the car is hilarious and tense and awesome. From there there’s a lot of time spent talking and on the school thing and watching the terrorists talk a lot. Then the final helicopter battle, which is pretty interesting yet a little short.

Final thoughts.

This one used to be my favorite Die Hard, which I’m attributing to Zeus and Simon and their individual chemistry and their chemistry with McClane. But the first one really does trump it, considering part of the appeal of Die Hard is its claustrophobic feel and one-against-them-all conflict. However, this third one is extremely entertaining, and I think overall more people enjoy it because it’s got a great cast and great lines.

Live Free Or Die Hard

Who is McClane McClane?

McClane is a 52-year-old senior detective for the NYPD. He lives in Brooklyn and has a mortgage and a 401k. He’s finally bald/shaven, and isn’t seen smoking. He took flying lessons to fight his fear, but skipped some lessons, and he’s still afraid. He’s depicted as completely techno-phobic. He has a poor relationship with his wife and kids, which doesn’t stop him from spying on Lucy. He seems more crazy here; he’s crazy in the other films, but he does that crazy-sounding laugh more, I think.

What is at stake for him?

Nothing personal is at stake for him at all (unless you count his country, which you really can’t) until Gabriel kidnaps Lucy. This puts his personal stakes right in the forefront.

What’s up with the villain?

Thomas Gabriel is a former government employee who “shut down NORAD with a laptop just to prove a point” when they didn’t listen to him. He’s oddly charismatic in a quietly neurotic way. I love the way he stares at people like “How are you really the best I could come up with to help me?” And the way he talks to people cracks me up, like he’s so unable to comprehend what’s wrong with people. “You got her? You sure?” His main helpers are Trey, who I’m pretty sure has a crush on him, based on the way he looks at him, and Mai, his “Asian hooker bitch” as McClane describes her. Trey is part brain and part hands, while Mai is brains and muscle. Oddly, since she’s so small. Like the other villains, he believes he’s infallible, which is of course his downfall.

Who’s McClane’s sidekick?

McClane works closely with Matt Farrell, a computer hacker he’s instructed to bring to Washington, DC. Matt provides the tech know-how that McClane completely lacks. They make a good team, though Matt begins the journey as completely hopeless, but he eventually comes into his own. He and McClane have a touching exchange about heroism and being “that guy.”

Other than Matt, McClane also enlists the help of Matt’s stereotypical computer geek friend, Warlock, and communicates with Agent Bowman of the FBI.

Interestingly enough, Matt is the only main sidekick who’s white, and the only one discounting Marv from Die Harder. I have no idea what this means. Actually, aside from Bowman and Mai, there aren’t any non-whites in this film that I can remember (oh, and Tim Russ playing a Fed briefly—on the commentary Len Wiseman says he’s some sort of Star Wars guy, which made me embarrassed for him, as Russ played Tuvok, a Vulcan on Star Trek: Voyager), while each of the other films has numerous non-white characters (well, in DHWaV, I’m counting Zeus more than I maybe should just because he has such a prominent role in the film).

What’s up with the government?

Well. I’m pretty sure the whole movie is one big PSA for “The American government sucks.” It’s the government’s fault that this all happened, and they do nothing to help. Bowman really just sits around and provides information once in a while, and the other guys don’t do jack except sit around on their hands. If they had spoken up about Woodlawn from the beginning, the whole problem could have been avoided.

What’s the action like?

Though there’s a lot of sitting around/driving, there are also numerous action sequences. There’s the shootout in Matt’s apartment, the helicopter chase scene and tunnel sequence, the fight between McClane and Mai in West Virginia, McClane and the French circus guy in the chilling tower, and then the ludicrous but totally-made-of-win jet/semi sequence at the end.

Final thoughts.

I know people refer to this one as “Die Hard Lite,” but actually, analyzing the action points more toward DHWaV as the lite one, this one just doesn’t have as much profanity. If it had more profanity it wouldn’t be light at all. McClane isn’t as snappy, but he’s also older and tired since he doesn’t sleep for two days. There are a few computer effects in this, but they’re done so well and sparingly that they’re barely noticeable, which is very refreshing in this day and age. The lovely claustrophobic feeling is missing entirely, except for the endless scenes of McClane and Matt driving around.

A Good Day to Die Hard

Who is McClane McClane?

McClane is a cop—he’s seen in street clothes on the shooting range, talking to another cop—who is likely near retirement, or should be soon. He seems tired and somewhat resigned, though whether that’s intentional for the character or a sign of Willis being tired is unknown.

What is at stake for him?

McClane heads to Moscow to learn why his son Jack is in jail. He and Jack haven’t seen each other in years, and apparently the last time they did, it didn’t go well at all. For once the threat isn’t in America, and there isn’t an American hostage, so family is the sole focus here. Once he has Jack and they are working together to save their lives, he has to keep Jack safe and also works on repairing their relationship, similar to the way McClane and Lucy are able to patch things up during the Fire Sale.

What’s up with the villain?

Another Die Hard movie where the villain is almost a non-person; I can’t even remember his name. But then, in a spy movie twist, the guy Jack and McClane are trying to protect, Yuri Kamarov, is actually pulling the strings on the “bad guys.” He and his daughter manipulated various parties in order to free him, and now they have weapons-grade uranium. Well, they would if Jack and McClane didn’t kill them both. The problem is that Yuri isn’t interesting, isn’t well-developed, and has zero chemistry with McClane. It’s also strange that their communication and relationship isn’t developed over the radio/phone the way McClane learns about and communicates with the villains in the other films.

Who’s McClane’s side kick?

Jack, obviously. He and McClane are able to put their father-son dysfunction to the side in order to team up and help each other fill in the other’s missing skills. Jack is a spy, and had been on a mission of three years when McClane showed up and screwed everything up.

What’s up with the government?

Because the film takes place in Russia, the American government doesn’t exactly have a presence. However, after McClane delays Jack, the CIA pulls back from the mission, leaving Jack to try to get to the safe house. The safe house itself gets attacked, and Jack’s partner dies. McClane mentions going to the embassy, but Jack points out the safe house was compromised and the same thing would happen at the embassy.

What’s the action like?

For a movie that’s only 98 minutes long, there’s a lot of action. There’s the assault on the courthouse, the interminable and ridiculous car chase through Moscow, the shootout at the safe house, the shootout at the hotel and McClane and Jack’s following escape down the side of the building, and then of course the final Chernobyl scene. The problem with all of big action sequences is that they are completely over the top and unrealistic, which takes away some of the fun. McClane especially is not immortal, and between being flipped in a car, falling down a building, and thrown through a window, he should barely be able to walk if he doesn’t die right there. I love the guy, but even in Die Hard he barely makes it out alive, and that was 25 years ago.

Final thoughts.

Unlike most action films I’ve reviewed for my site, A Good Day to Die Hard is very short, yet has numerous big action scenes. It also manages to squeeze in a pointless scene or two, specifically the scene with McClane chatting up the cab driver. I fully believed that the scene meant McClane would have to work with him later in the movie, but we never see him again. Yes, because of their conversation McClane knew the highway was always busy, so Yuri’s daughter couldn’t have taken the route, meaning she’s lying, but still. There could have been a short exchange to provide McClane with that information. My other main gripe is the endless handheld camera work. I know it’s an effect used to convey tension and immediacy, but it also forces the viewer to constantly adjust himself in space. It’s also easier to get lost in the film when not constantly reminded that you’re watching through a camera that’s bouncing around. So, while A Good Day to Die Hard has some good points, like McClane and Jack working together (Jack overall is very fun to watch) or the return of the R rating, there are some decisions, such as pacing and cinematography, that I think should have gone a different direction. But I do love the helicopter being part of the climax!

I’ll also point out that A Good Day to Die Hard is the only movie that doesn’t end right after the final scene, with McClane in or near an ambulance or having just received treatment. The film ends oddly happily, as McClane is reunited with both of his children. It’s almost possible to imagine this is the beginning of the final chapter for McClane, and that perhaps he’ll retire and spend time with his family. But isn’t there a Die Hard 6 in the works?

Conclusion

So, the Die Hards overall. They’re very enjoyable for a variety of reasons. But what makes a Die Hard? McClane’s quips, improvisation, and attitude. Action. Liberal use of profanity. Chemistry between McClane and his sidekicks. Compelling and even sexy villains that have good chemistry with McClane, which is possibly the most important facet after action. And helicopters!

Miscellaneous Post: H is for… Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is one of those films that’s an excellent example of “great idea, not so great execution.” Its release also seemed designed to capitalize on Renner’s Marvel/Bourne success, and the current market saturation of fairy tale reimaginings.

I enjoyed the casting; Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are good, and who doesn’t love Famke Jannsen? The concept of witch hunters who are immune—mysteriously, to them—to witchcraft is really interesting, especially combined with the additional mythology about witches that is created, such as the idea of the rot showing on their bodies as they use the dark magic. Talk about two people (Hansel and Gretel) turning their imprisonment—a horrifying, twisting experience—around and making it work for them.

I loved Ben and Edward, and whether or not naming the giant ugly troll “Edward” is a sly kick to the knees of Twilight is unknown. Pihla Viitala was pretty and sweet and I’ve never even heard her name before. It appears that might be because she’s Finnish. I was upset when she wasn’t able to be revived, especially after the healing portrayed earlier in the film.

Though considering Hansel can’t seem to find a town in the middle of the day, making his way back to the healing pool is obviously too much to ask.

Special effects and fight choreography were very good; the fight scenes were a lot of fun to watch. The addition of guns and Tasers into a medieval sort of world somehow worked, possibly because reality is thrown by the wayside by the magic anyway. And making a house out of candy isn’t anywhere near practical. Delicious, yes, practical, no. The diversity of witches obviously took a lot of work, and the climactic fight scene with the entire group of them appeared to feature depictions of witch-like creatures from all over the world, or at least that’s how I’m interpreting it. Could have used more spells that weren’t just energy bolts, like that Curse of Hunger for Crawling Things. That was both gross and clever.

Do trolls actually serve witches, or is that something Edward is told to believe? I don’t recall there being other trolls around.

Some of the dialogue was fun, if a bit predictable: “Whatever you do, don’t eat the fucking candy.” “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” “Who the fuck is Edward?” Though the profanity was a little jarring for some reason, likely the medieval setting.

The film was also gorier than expected, but after the first couple examples it was easy to get used to, even if certain things made me wince (Edward smashing the Sheriff’s head, for example). It just added some grossness in with the action and magic.

My main problem with the film is that it was too short. Frankly it felt like it jumped from halfway through the second act straight into the third, which makes a big difference when it happens only an hour into the movie. The rush opened up a lot of needless plot holes, such as why did the witch let Hansel go and tie him to a tree rather than kill him? He’s just seen riding away and then it cuts to him hanging there, trying very unsuccessfully to look cool in front of Mina. How did Gretel get to their old house? We last see her calling after Edward, and then Hansel finds her in the basement. It’s like a reel was missing and no one bothered to find it.

And for the love of God, Hansel and Gretel didn’t recognize their old town or their old woods? They had to have wandered away from that initial witch’s home, with plenty of time to take in their surroundings. They really didn’t recognize anything at all around their home? Did they never go into town with their parents when they were kids? Did not make any sense. Maybe trauma could have caused memory loss, but they seem to remember everything else about their imprisonment. But why wouldn’t the older townspeople recognize the names ‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’ and realize these are the same people that lived in the house they burned down?

It seems that there’s an extended cut out there that was not what I watched through Redbox. Perhaps some of my concerns are answered in it.

I found the film dark, too, and I don’t mean that metaphorically or atmospherically. I mean as in I wanted to adjust the picture settings on the TV. Even watching it in broad daylight.

BUT, if you’re looking for a crash-and-bash movie with a pretty cast and nice effects/choreography, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters may be a good choice. Especially if you don’t have the time for something longer. It’s fun enough, and seems to have a sequel in the works.

Also, the opening credit sequence is fabulous. Really well done. Just…long, for such a short film.

Miscellaneous Post: I is for Iron Man: Launching a Cinematic Franchise

It’s not a question of whether or not 2008’s Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Obviously, it did.

What’s amazing is that it did it so spectacularly.

And this is coming from someone who had absolutely zero interest in anything Marvel-related at all.

Being a DC fangirl, I paid zero attention to Iron Man when it came out. I scoffed at it. I could not care less. Then Iron Man 2 was just as big a hit. But I still couldn’t care about Iron Man or Marvel or anything of the sort. I was sticking with Batman and Superman, despite various cinematic disasters and “realistic” settings for a guy who dresses in a bat costume, not to mention a bunch of comics in which my favorite characters were getting killed (and let’s not talk about the New 52).

Then, I was on vacation, the weather was drippy and cold, and there was nothing to do all day. Bored of staying inside, I suggested we go to the drive-in, because A) I love the drive-in, and B) the night’s double feature was Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. No, I didn’t care about Marvel, but at least the films would have some good action and would also go together, unlike some drive-ins showing a kiddie movie and something R-rated, or two movies that don’t go together at all (District 9 and The Ugly Truth for example; that was a long night). I didn’t even know anything about the Avengers at the time, or maybe vaguely was aware that there was some sort of Marvel movie thing that was happening, related to those two movies at the drive-in.

Anyway, through the misting drizzle and thin veil of fog, we watched Captain America and then Thor best their adversaries. Sort of. If you’ve seen them you know what I mean.

I still wasn’t that interested in Marvel’s The Avengers but eventually did see it. And loved every second of it. It has pretty much everything a movie-goer could want, and nothing that he wouldn’t (Unexpected Romance, I’m looking at you).

So then I had to backtrack through the other MCU films, starting of course with Iron Man, which Redbox had so conveniently put back into its system. I was, shall we say, impressed. The film was tight with no extra nonsense scenes, not boring or drawn out, shiny without looking fake, fun without trying too hard, and again didn’t slow itself down with romance (which would be out of character for Tony anyway, except of course where Pepper is concerned).

Tony’s childhood is hinted at but not embellished, unlike many superhero origin stories (Batman and Superman, I’m looking at you), so all the audience has to go on is the portrayal of the character before the inciting incident. Clearly Tony is selfish, a womanizer, doesn’t care about money because he has so very much of it, and pretty much is all about the flashy toys his money can buy and his company can build. He even comments about peace being a bad thing because it will put him out of a job. Of course, Tony changes his entire purpose for existing after Afghanistan, throwing himself into becoming a hero and changing the focus of his company, and working to ensure his weapons don’t end up in the hands of the enemy.

It’s amazing that nothing seems forced; the film is entirely about Tony’s growth from within, even if the change is initiated by external factors. There’re no agonizing-to-watch personal demon battles; Tony’s actual personal demon, Obadiah, is fought and ended in a very clean-looking fight.

I’ve described the effects and fighting as “shiny” and “clean” because they truly are. If someone didn’t know better, the computer effects are easy to confuse for practical effects. Too many films do not properly integrate CGI, leading to the effects either popping off the screen unpleasantly or looking flat rather than appearing within a three dimensional space inside the actual film (and yes, motion capture is different than creating a monster or something, but still). Iron Man doesn’t have that problem, which really does put it a step ahead of so many films, be they superhero (Green Lantern), science fiction (Transformers), action-adventure (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), disaster (2012), fantasy (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), or pure action (The Expendables 2). That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy these films (give you a couple guesses as to which ones I truly did not enjoy), but my point is that there is clearly CGI at use in them. Things look fake or cartoony, and certainly if Iron Man is any indication, they don’t have to. I’m not even going to mention the seamless blending of effects in Jurassic Park, a 20-year-old film that runs circles around so many movies today. …okay, I mentioned it. But come on, dinosaurs!

All of this being said, my point is that Iron Man was designed to launch the MCU, as the after-credits scene with Nick Fury illustrates. If the film had flopped, Captain America, Thor, and perhaps even the Hulk wouldn’t have gotten their chances in the spotlight. Chris Evans would have had to stay Johnny Storm his entire Marvel career, and no one wants that. Robert Downey, Jr and Jon Favreau had a lot riding on their shoulders, and with their efforts and their teams’ efforts, the film was a huge success and deservedly so.

Remember, this is coming from a DC Comics person, who did not care less about anything related to Marvel Comics until after that soggy day on vacation coupled with Marvel’s The Avengers eight months later. Now I know more about the characters than people who’ve followed the movies for years. Clint grew up in a circus? Check. Thor uses Allspeak? Check. Loki has three kids? Check. I tell fans this stuff.

Anyway, Downey and Favreau really helped turn a DC fan into a MCU fan, though if we’re comparing DC movies to Marvel movies, there’s not much of a comparison (where is our Flash or Wonder Woman movie, hmm? Why do the Nolanverse films make less and less sense as the trilogy is explored? Are DC and Warner Brothers going to embarrass themselves by copying the MCU concept and then doing a terrible job of it?). I’m sure I’m not the only person who didn’t care a bit for Iron Man or anything Marvel but then was blown away by the movie. The film had to do so to save Marvel, and launch the other heroes and give the Avengers their chance.

It succeeded.

Iron Man 2 kept the momentum going, ensuring an excited audience for Thor and Captain America. Iron Man 2 is darker at times and more serious with respect to Tony’s childhood and current/future health, and it ends with Tony not being accepted into the Avengers Initiative. However, Justin Hammer is a villain fans love to hate because he’s just so horrible, Agent Romanoff has her excellent side role, and Happy has some good lines. The relationships of Tony and his friends—Rhodey and Pepper—are explored in more detail, helping the viewing understand why they stay with such a narcissistic person, and why they keep coming back even after they leave. The film certainly rounds out Tony’s character in ways likely intentionally left out of the first film.

With Nick Fury, Natasha, and Coulson, the audience is further immersed into what will be the Avengers, providing characterization and backstory to get it out of the way and keep Marvel’s The Avengers as lean as possible by not having to go through too many backstories. The means of creating the MCU—individual back story films to clear the way for a truly epic team story—was ingenious. It really is the only way to get it to all work and not have a four hour movie full of explication, or a two hour movie with a bunch of random people. Everyone knows who Batman and Superman are, but Black Widow or Hawkeye are far more vague. Though Hawkeye certainly doesn’t get his fair share in the MCU, or at least hasn’t yet (can there be a SHIELD-focused Hawkeye/Black Widow film please?). The Avengers movie has character introductions to set the tone in case people haven’t seen the other movies, but it knows it doesn’t have to spend too much time on it, thanks to the foundation laid by Iron Man.

As someone who did not care about Iron Man until a year ago, I have to credit the success of the MCU and its future projects to Iron Man setting the example as a superhero movie that isn’t cheesy, isn’t overly complicated, isn’t poorly written, isn’t bogged down with a needless love story, and doesn’t have cartoony special effects.

Good job, Favreau and Downey. Let’s hope the other teams can keep it going through the second Avengers movie and beyond. And maybe it’ll inspire DC to get their act together on a Justice League film and do it properly.