Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Dulce et decorum est…

When I was in Grade 11, we did this poem by Wilfred Owen, named as the title above. He had mused about the truth behind the words that had mainly been used to recruit soldiers for the First World War in Britain.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

You ask me, how does this relate to the movie that I saw? Well… Read on. I’m going to try and keep this spoiler free but…

We all know what a super hero film looks like right? There are the heroes, mainly male, pretty, buff and quircky. There is the villain, clearly evil, mislead, doomed to fail in the end. There are fights, there are periods of highs, periods of lows, humour, some bitter sweet sadness, bitter sweet pleasure and ultimately, VICTORY!

And of course then there is the hook that’s supposed to drag you back to the cinemas for the next one.

Before the first Avengers (and Thor…) I had pretty much given up on Super Hero movies. They were… nice. But, they weren’t necessarily special. I usally left the cinemas none the wiser, none the happier but strangely satisfied because I had watched another one. The Avengers (the first one) had rekindled my love for these comic books heroes. I think the whole world was pretty much in agreement that it was one of the best movies of the year, possibly the past couple of years because – let’s face it – entertainment had become… someone unentertaining. In the world of slow motion hobbits, trekking across New Zealand with a constant mope on their faces, Avengers had put the oomph back into action/sci-fi movies. It’s momentum had carried on through Iron Man 3 and had even given birth to a somewhat mutated and disfigured child called Agents of Shield (I’ve been told it gets better, but the original five episodes was so bad that I’d have gone to the back and shot it if I could).

Even the X-Men films had gotten better.

Somewhat.

And, through all of this – I had… hope.

The first Avengers had flowed in a way that felt natural. And, as Joss Whedon had carried on writing and direction the second film, I had hoped that he would be able to pull it through.

Alas. I was mistaken.

The movie felt forced, the humor overdone and half-baked at best. What’s more, I left the film with the distinct feeling that I had seen more of Hawk Eye (whom I don’t really like) than Tony Stark (Hello Baby) and Thor (Yeah, you to…) combined. I don’t like them for their bodies of course, it’s the characters that I like. The rest are… Like lettuce in a salad. Green, slightly moist but generally the stuff you least like to see in your salad.

I also, somehow felt slightly out of the loop. I guess the idea would’ve been to have watched Agents of Shield. And, Captain America. For whom I don’t have a lot of time either. But. I didn’t. So I was left feeling as if I had joined a conversation that everybody expect me to follow but nobody really bothered to explain to me. What’s more, the whole movie felt like a setup.

I get the feeling that Marvel can’t really keep up with the Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. Pay Checks. And, it was said after Iron Man 3 that RDJ won’t even star in another Marvel movie. I had been quite surprised to see the whole crew on board again because original rumors had said that both Thor and Tony Stark might not make an appearance in the next film…

But they did, if only to give way to the new Avengers.

Yes. That’s what the movie came down to me. It was a Setup. They used this platform to create history and characters for their new (because come on, they WILL make more) series or movie. They just don’t have to pay the bigger actors to play in it.

I’m not saying that the movie was all bad. I enjoyed most of it. Even though they misrepresented the South African Police force and made them look VERY efficient… But, I also sat in it and thought:

Dulce et decorum est.

It is sweet and fitting.

The underlying message of the Avengers was that it is sweet and fitting to die being a hero. To save the innocent. To die for one’s country. For the world. It felt… like patriotism. It felt like propaganda. And somehow, it is something that I didn’t expect from a Whedon film. There were quite a lot of things in the film that I actually didn’t expect from him.

The movie wasn’t bad.

I’ll say it again.

It wasn’t bad. But it was somewhat disappointing, if you are like me and you like to analyse characters and patterns and flow. I am not satisfied with the ordinary. I am not satisfied with the usual and I had gone there expecting more and I didn’t get it. The only true shining light through the whole movie was James Spader as Ultron. And, he is brilliant. Even as a CGI android, he is truly amazing.

But, he shouldn’t have been the only one.

Banner had shown in the previous movie, but had been reduced to… something else in this one. Romanov’s character had been cut down to a cliche. I’ll speak of these aspects in other posts.

The truth will remain that I had expected more. I had expected a lot more.

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Movie Review: The Hobbit’s Treachery

One of the last posts that I did before I went on my incredibly long sabbatical from blogging was commenting on my disgust with The Hobbit movie. At that time it was the first movie and I still mentioned that I preferred watching Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise rather than the slow reeled 1/3rd of my beloved childhood book. My recollection on that article is rather vague (it was still on NerdTrek.com) but I DO remember comparing it to a Hallmark movie.

Two more movies later, my feelings of disgust have not changed. In fact, it’s become worse.

I’m not going to rant and rave about how I’ve been a fan of the series for decades but it bears mentioning that I read them for the first time when I was about eleven. The Hobbit was a delight, a book given to me by a woman who at the time was a substitute parent who encouraged my love for fantasy rather than judging it. So, I was pretty invested in the series and very sceptical when the first Lord of the Rings movies came out. In those years however, despite my doubts, I wasn’t disappointed because they were fantastic. There was something truly magical about them, about the effort that was put into bringing to live such a massive work of fantasy. It felt real, it felt authentic. It felt daunting and spectacular.

And it didn’t feel cheap.

The Hobbit did. More to the point, The Hobbit felt as if it cheated me.

Image credited to nebezial, deviantart.com

I’ve been sort of badgered into watching the series by the same super human individual who managed to drag me to all Twilight movies. The first movie actually had me quite excited – that was until I heard they were going to make a trilogy out of it. I went back to my wee little book, looked at the pages and wondered how on earth they were going to extract almost 8 hours of material out of it. Turns out all they needed was cheap comedy, silly, plastic looking elves, hallmark like close ups (and CONSTANT close ups) and very slow, very dramatic statements that were delivered by a ten second pause before and after each delivery of the line. I don’t know what went wrong with The Hobbit’s cameras but it was a disaster in my eyes. While looking at Bilbo’s pore ridden face throughout the movie I kept wishing that the camera would simply zoom out. Just… Show me more than the world an inch from Bilbo’s face. I like Ian McKellan but even I don’t feel the need to count Gandalf’s beard hairs. It felt cheap, it was frustrating and it was infuriatingly slow. As I sat there last night, watching the movie under protest with very little hope of it being good, I realised that it was a trap. It wasn’t even a well-executed trap. The movies had simply been made to trick myself and other fantasy loving fans out of our well earned money. The changes that they made to the story line like Legolas’s near superpower like ability to just save every moment of every day, was unnecessary. Yes, I liked seeing a ginger elf girl saving the day as much as anybody but did she forward the plot? No.

Did the last movie have a plot? No.

The Battle of the Five Armies was one long, slow, badly done fighting scene. And, because they refused to zoom away from the character’s facial hair, it was frustrating as well. Not even the 3D made up for it. I don’t know whether it’s just the fact that I need to wear the 3D glasses over my own, but I’ve never really seen much of a difference. It certainly doesn’t justify the overcharged price that we have to pay for the honour of shoving a plastic pair of glasses onto our faces.

The Hobbit was completely the opposite of The Lord of The Rings. There was nothing spectacular about it and gave me less pleasure than the Classic Movie channel. Heck, I’ve had more fun watching B – rated movies.

Or Xena Warrior Princess – at least they knew how to sometimes flaunt the scenery.

It might’ve been a movie doomed to fail. The directors, writers, screen writers or who ever tried to lace a darkness into the pages of The Hobbit’s tale that was unnecessary. We know how the story ends, trying to tie up loose ends that wasn’t unravelled to begin with was a futile task. And, the cheap idiocy like Radagast the Brown’s persona made me nothing more than furious. The Istari was always meant to be majestic, to be frightening and powerful. A wizard being pulled along by a bunch of hare on a sleigh was only one step short of Ronald McDonald. Where I had respected Peter Jackson for renewing the love for JRR Tolkien’s series, I now want to put that same bird poo they laced into Radagast’s hair onto his toast for exploiting it.

Because that’s what the Hobbit was. It was exploitation of fans of the series. It was an exploitation of those expecting the wonder of The Lord of the Rings.

And I fell for it.

Reviewing Redemption – a look at two sequel movies.

My Other Half and I watched quite a lot of movies last weekend and among them, two stood out. Both of these I approached with more than a bucket full of caution. The sequels of the past three years had really disappointed me. In both the genre’s and I wasn’t quite willing to deal with another disappointment. As it turned out, I was surprised.

X-Men Origins: First Class

Like most kids my age, I have been watching the X-Men cartoons ever since our country managed to get its hands on its first decent cable channel. Admittably, I never saw the later shows like X-Men evolution and anything after that, but the classic comic was enough for me. Like all kids, I had my favourite characters (specifically Storm and The Beast) and liked the idea that somewhere out there, there was a haven for people who were a little bit different than others.

I was very excited about the X-Men movies and wasn’t really disappointed with the first two. But then came X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine to a lesser extent and my faith in the show died. The movies were terrible. I can’t even begin to voice my displeasure in them because if I do – this blog will become R rated and I might just get banned for not warning my readers. But, it’s fair to say that I didn’t like them. I therefor approached this new addition to the franchise with caution and didn’t really expect a lot. Which is why, I suspect, I was pleasantly surprised.

I liked X-Men Origins: First Class. The beginning was a little bit rushed, but once all the characters settled in together, the story flowed well. I liked the interaction between the two main characters – Professor X played by James McAvoy and Magneto played by Michael Fassbender. There was something deeply touching about their friendship, what they shared in their isolation brought on by their power and how the ignorance of their youth shaped them to be the men that they are when they are older. The action was good, the special effects not disappointing and the supporting cast well put together. I also haven’t seen Kevin Bacon in a movie since Hollow Man so it was nice to see him around as well.

On IMDB they scored this movie an 8 (in comparison to Wolverine’s 2) and I have to agree. It was well worth the time and effort to watch.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Let me get something out of the way first. I like Johnny Depp. I really do. If I ever get the chance to have his children, I will embrace it with both hands. It’s therefore crucial that you understand that – when I say I didn’t like one of his movies, it means that there was really something wrong with it.

That was how I felt over the second and third Pirates movies. Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were two of the worst written movies I have ever watched in my life. They were so bad that I even found myself unwilling to watch the first movie again. I eventually broke and watched The Curse of the Black Pearl earlier in the year and it reminded me how good it was, and how bad the others were. I didn’t think that the writers would shame themselves into attempting a fourth movie but apparently I had underestimated the tenacity of Hollywood ambition.

On Stranger Tides started showing here about a month ago and I found myself in two minds about whether or not I was going to waste my time and money watching it. I eventually broke under peer pressure when my best friend and riding companion dragged myself and Other Half to the cinema. Her faith in Johnny was still strong and she was very determined to watch this movie.

I went with a lot of reserve and found that – although it wasn’t great, it was most certainly better than the previous two. The humour, the character and the rhythm of the movie was a lot more like the first one. It wasn’t as exciting or as ‘new’ as it could’ve been but it certainly wasn’t bad. I’m a sucker for swashbuckling sword fights. The more ‘ca-ching’ of metal on metal that I hear, the happier I get.

So, Jack Sparrow managed to redeem himself and the ending they gave us was the ending I needed in the third movie. Jack got his ship back, all was well in the pirate world and… he didn’t get hit by another girl. 😉

I wouldn’t give it more than a 6 out of 10 score wise, but it wasn’t torture to watch from beginning to end.