Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 Trend: Sucky Comic Book Films

2011 produced multiple films made out of comic books. Only one showed any real creativity: The Green Hornet. And while Thor was at least mildly amusing, the bulk were the paint-by-number copies we've seen over and over and hoped had died off with the two Fantastic Four films. Sadly, Green Lantern, Captain America and X-Men First Class made clear that the generic, cookie cutter storyline would be used in film after film. If it looks especially familiar, it should, it's the origin issue in comic books though they pretend it's a great deal more in films.

The Avengers is supposed to be the big comic book film for 2012 and there's a lot of hopes for it. For one thing, it's thought that the story will move quickly since most of the characters (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor) have already had their own films in recent years.

But though that may allow the film to not get mired in backstory, there are still serious issues.

Mark Ruffalo is one of them. The actor's talent or charisma is not in question; however, this will be the Hulk's third live action film appeareance in the last nine years and Ruffalo will be the third actor to play him (first was Eric Bana, then Edward Norton), signifying the part's forever an open casting call.

Joss Whedon's directing and wrote the screenplay. He's many, many years away from his cultural impact high of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and all of his projects in the last decade crashed and burned. The Avengers is an expensive film and will need to make $300 million worldwide to be considered a hit. Nothing indicates Whedon's able to deliver that.

Maybe he'll surprise everyone?

Maybe so but the line up doesn't indicate he will. Alongside Hulk and Thor, Captain America and Iron Man will be . . . Black Widow.


The film's called The Avengers. If you think The Avengers comic books, you tend to think of two female characters. There's Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, a founding member of The Avengers. She can shrink to the size of a wasp, fly, shoot off stinger blasts, as well as (and this would be interesting on the big screen) increase to giant size with super strength. Imagine Wasp fighting along side Hulk in a battle.

scarlet witch

Then there is the Scarlet Witch (above), daughter of Magneto. Wanda Maximoff. Imagine the visual possibilities with the Witch's mystical powers. Scarlet Witch? That's cinematic. Not to mention a better choice when you're also introducing Hawkeye due to the long history between the two.

Instead they go with Black Widow who would probably be a good spy thriller character if played by a good actress and not presented cheesy.

Good actress?

With Sofia Coppola extracting a performance (Lost In Translation) and Bill Murray for a co-star, Scarlett Johansson seemed like a promising actress. That was 2003 and the hits and bombs that followed (mainly bombs) made her come off like a basic calbe copy of Jessica Alba. The many, many bombs (The Island, The Nanny Diaries and The Spirit among them) do not bode well for The Avengers. Nor does her only significant hit since Lost In Translation: Iron Man 2.

"Blink and you miss her" describes not only her brief action sequence in the last third of the film, it also describes her bland, fade into the woodworks persona. When Gwenyth Paltrow is out dazzling you (while Paltrow's in a dressed down role, no less), you're not quite the sex bomb you thought you were. That matters because Johansson was playing, in Iron Man 2, the same role she'll be playing in The Avengers.

Though they will forever recast the Hulk, they can't get a competent actress to play Black Widow?

Of course not, Joss isn't interested in anything but cheese which is why, in the two minute trailer, you get men cracking wise and Black Widow doesn't utter one line. You also see the male characters in battle but you get Johannson pressing her crotch into a man's face while she kills him (yes, it does imply: kills him with her vagina). It's cheesy, Freudian and subpar.

With Joss at the helm, there may have never been a chance at a real action epic (he tends to go cerebral) but at least another actress (playing another female character or even Black Widow) might have been something other than 'sidekick.'

And that's before you even get into the trailer raising the angst between reactionary Captain America and ribald Iron Man, leaving you with the fear that Joss will spend forever 'exploring' feelings.
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