Tag Archive | Robert Downey Jr.

Bidula’s Last Word – The Avengers

Paramount did everything right.

They plotted The Avengers out to be the greatest comic book movie of all-time, and they made every single step carefully yet confidently. In an era where it seems that the studios are simply throwing crap at the screen and hoping it will stick for a few weeks, it is truly refreshing to know that, at the very least, Paramount is willing to make a long-term investment in good blockbuster cinema long enough to see it pay off.
From the word go, I knew this was going to work. When Iron Man came out and Robert Downey Jr. just dominated the screen, I felt a change in the wind. I felt that, down the road, awesome was coming – awesome which, at the time, was a whispered rumor of an Avengers movie.
The first statement I made was that they would have to do all the major players in their own movies first because there would be no way to squeeze all those origin stories into one movie. At least not for the big three (Thor, Cap, and Tony). Slowly, dots were connected. A mention of Stark Industries here, a cameo by Tony there, an Agent Coulson here, a Nick Fury there… everything leading up to this point.

Of course, it had massive potential to bomb. The performance of the Avengers movie to collective geekdom would either sound a triumphant call that Hollywood could make a comeback or could condemn it for generations to come.

The scope of it was unprecedented. It would be the first of its kind. A cast of characters drawn from separate films into the same story, uniting as they always should.

And, it was flawlessly executed.

Joss Whedon is a complete genius. His writing and directing only serves to the goal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has his own vision in this movie, but he smartly remains within the parameters of the established films before it. Every character has their own unique voice that we have seen before.

No one acts out of character. They are all written perfectly as defined by their original movie. Tony Stark is still a wise-ass genius, Steve Rogers is still an idealist somewhat trapped in the past, Thor is still… well… Thor. You immediately feel that this is the ideal intersection of all the films which came before and time is not wasted in things like introductions or origin stories. This movie is the penultimate sequel. It is the one that all the others have been slowly working towards and the story takes full advantage of that by thrusting you right into the middle of the action.

You see the in-fighting – the conflict from so many extreme personalities in the same room – but you also see the unity within the group and, for once, Hollywood doesn’t smash it all together and hope it makes sense. Things feel natural in a way that they never have in that sort of group-of-misfits-bands-together situation. This is a huge credit to Whedon as a writer/director. He put all the puzzle pieces together and did everything right.

There are so many amazing points to this movie, but I don’t feel I can talk about them. I don’t want to spoil one second of anything for you and it’s far too in-depth to give a synopsis. A few talking points:

– Agent Maria Hill shows up, big shout-out to the geeks who’ve been following since Civil War.
– Mark Ruffalo’s Banner/Hulk stands up almost better than if Ed Norton had been left with the role.
– You get to see the best of every hero in the fight scenes. Not one signature move or gadget is left out.
– Mentions of or cameos by most of the more main characters in the previous films. It’s the little details that get me.
– Hulk vs. Loki

And, for the love of God, if you have any geek cred or comic book knowledge, stay for the scene at the end… It’s a HUGE setup for Avengers 2 and if that movie is HALF as awesome as this one was, we are going to be some very happy nerds. Let’s just say that A2 will probably involve a very fancy glove and I ain’t talking the reanimated corpse of Michael Jackson.

Bidula’s Last Word – 11/10. It broke my rating system. This movie exceeded every possible expectation I ever had. You must see this movie. But, if you haven’t, do the homework and watch the others, too. It’ll be worth your time.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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Some Assembly Required

Thank you, Paramount Pictures.

Thank you for helping childhood dreams to come true in such incredibly awesome ways.

It’s not very often an entire studio gets that kind of praise from me. It’s not very often that said praise is pre-emptive to the completed project. But, if things keep going the way they are, that praise will be fully deserved. For the task of taking such a mammoth project and getting to the half-way point, they deserve a lot of credit. Most studios would have given up by now. Most studios would have had a true bomb by now. But, something in the cards is right with Paramount. They’re allowing their directors the freedom to do what they want while discussing with the intellectual property managers as to how exactly things need to go down to accomplish the end goal.

I know some of you may be skeptical. This is natural. Open yourself up to the clues around you and tell me it’s not going to be incredible.

Seeing Iron Man 2 made clear that Marvel Studios, with the help of Paramount, is really in this thing for the long haul.

The Avengers movie is going to happen and it’s going to be done well.

If you haven’t seen any of the Paramount/Marvel movies (Iron Man 1 & 2 or the Ed Norton Incredible Hulk) and you’re a comic book fan of any magnitude, shame on you. The Iron Man movies are both absolutely fantastic (Bidula’s Last Word on IM2 – 9/10) and The Incredible Hulk was a much better attempt than Ang Lee’s Y2K disaster.
Once, a friend and I were discussing what it would take to make a proper Avengers movie. I said they could never do it because it would take far too much effort and pliability on behalf of too many people. I told him, if they were to do it, the whole project would have to be under the same banner and be many movies long. I said that it would probably take five to seven years to actually accomplish. I also established three conditions which would make the perfect Avengers movie possible. They seemed unattainable at first.

1. Solid actors and directors would have to be signed to multiple movies and committed to the end project.
Done. Every single character who will make an appearance in the Avengers movie will be the same actor who portrayed them in their individual movies (except for whats-his-name that used to play War Machine but got Don Cheadle’d). Sam Jackson signed a ridiculous contract to appear in nine (count ‘em, nine) movies up to and through The Avengers (5/4/2012, mark your calendars) reprising his role as Nick Fury.
Other than Sammy J, Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr. are in. Ed Norton is in (as Banner/Hulk). Scarlett Johannson (Black Widow) is in. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are in (as Captain America and Thor, respectively).
And, for the behind the scenes staff of the Big Show? Producer: Jon Favreau. And, this one’s for the fanboys… Director: Joss Whedon. Paramount knows what they’re doing.

2. Schedule the movies for release in an order that makes sense to the nerds on the street while making sure it makes sense to the general audiences at the same time.
Done. Iron Man lead up to the Hulk lead up to Iron Man 2 which leads into Thor which will, more than likely, lead in to Captain America: The First Avenger. They’re also exposing more of S.H.I.E.L.D. and what they are as things move along.
The tempo at which they’re introducing new characters and sub-plots are perfectly suited for movie viewers and will (hopefully) allow them to follow the new continuity with the knowledge of a passable comics fan if not the outright fervor of a full-scale nerd.
That’s right, folks. Hollywood is turning you all into comic book geeks. Mwa ha ha.

3. Do right by the fans.
Done. At least, in this reader’s opinion. Sure, it’s not the same stuff verbatim, but you have to respect the fact that they’re crafting a whole new universe on film and that they’re dedicated to the idea that the Avengers films are, indeed, their own universe. They’re trying to keep them as close to 616 as possible without needing to make a 3+ hour movie. Some details you just have to lose.
Look at this: A StarkTech logo on a cryo-tube full of the super-soldier serum that made Captain America in the Hulk movie. That’s two different shout outs in one plot-relevant easter egg. Expertly done. Also, the other Cap shout out in Iron Man 2 was pretty damn funny. I won’t spoil it for you.
Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. being used as sort of a binding agent through everything is also great. It keeps the movies flowing toward that ultimate goal without stifling the individual movies with cross-contamination. Yes, Tony Stark did appear in the after-credits of the Incredible Hulk and yes, M****** (or T**** H*****) did appear in the after-credits of Iron Man 2, but it’s not overbearing. It’s just oil to keep that big machine moving toward the finish line.

I am not here to guarantee the success of the Avengers movie, but things are certainly looking up. They’re taking their time and they’re doing it right the whole way around.

For once, I am optimistic about what Hollywood’s got cooking.

Here’s hoping they don’t fuck it all up in a few months.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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Bidula’s Last Word: Sherlock Holmes

Initially, I had planned to brush up on my Arthur Conan Doyle before heading out to the theater to see Sherlock Holmes. I have read a few Holmes tales here and there, as well as Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen whose first story arch is mired heavily in the Holmes Mythos.

Turns out that this was actually more than enough knowledge to appreciate this movie.

Sherlock Holmes is, for all intents and purposes, set up for beginners. Though it isn’t an origin story, as you’re left to assume that many of Holmes and Watson’s adventures have occurred, it resembles other franchise-invigorating new offerings. Though it’s not technically a reboot, as there have been many versions of the Holmes franchise made into film (mostly made for TV), this certainly gives new life to an old and very popular work and sets the scene for a possible series of sequels.

Holmes is portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., now in the second titular franchise role of his grand comeback, with all the sarcasm and wit that one would expect of a super-genius. His performance and the way he plays off of his supporting cast is possibly the most entertaining aspect of the film. If it were anyone else in this role, I’m convinced the movie wouldn’t have been half as fun.
Watson in this offering is played by Jude Law (looking rather un-Jude Law-like) who, along with Guy Ritchie’s direction, brought a fresh look to a character who is classically portrayed as nothing more than a bumbling and easily amazed sidekick. Of course, Watson would still be nothing without Holmes, and vice-versa, but he stands much stronger as a character in this film. He often challenges Holmes and is shown as just as much Holmes’ keeper as Holmes’ friend and partner.
Also along for the ride is Rachael McAdams as Irene Adler, Holmes’ long-time flame and femme fatale. McAdams, though looking quite the part in Victorian garb, could have been easily replaced by any actress. Her performance was lackluster, but was bolstered only by her banter with Downey Jr. I think this would be the effect on any actress in the same scenes, however. I can only thank the director for casting her in the main American role of the Holmes series, as I’m sure her attempt at a Victorian British accent would have been horrifying.
Mark Strong rounds out the main cast as Lord Blackwood; an Alastair Crowley-inspired villain who uses science masked with the occult to achieve his ultimate ends. He has a very sinister way about him and seems to be an ideal casting choice for this sort of role. He sells the “magic” he produces as much as the character itself.

I am very thankful that Guy Ritchie strayed from the prototypical Holmes in this film. No swooping pipe (he uses a standard straight black model), no ridiculous hat, no giant magnifying glass, nothing to make you think that anything about this story is stereotypical of the previous depictions of Sir Doyle’s work. This, like many other big-hero movies, is striving to seem more realistic. Also, unlike many depictions of the detective before this, they clue you in on Holmes’ substance abuse, frequently showing quick cuts of him drinking strange fluid from a non-descript bottle, referenced by Watson in one scene with the line, “Do you realize that you’re drinking something that’s used for eye surgery?” with Holmes offering a dismissive wave afterward.
Very interesting were the slow-motion scenes describing how, exactly, Holmes will dismantle an assailant. This is the most notable Guy Ritchie fingerprint, but is used quite well in this film.

Though the technological aspect is made nearly believable, you’ll still have to suspend your ultimate disbelief in the end to make the entire plot work. Things like “chemical weapon” and “wireless switch” being uttered in the Victorian Era seem more a nod to the modern crowd than a bow to the ever-pressing spirit of industry and pseudo-science typically associated with the time period.

The movie is fun, plain and simple. It’s not Oscar-quality, by any means, but like most Guy Ritchie flicks, it’s fun to watch and you’ll get a few good chuckles in at the expense of some of the lesser characters. For Holmes fans, there’s a tease for a sequel throughout the movie in the form of one shadow-shrouded Napoleon of Crime whose face is never seen. It seems they’ve taken the Joker route and saved the biggest baddie for the second movie. My hat’s off to you. Having this new Holmes universe established before you really throw us into the mythology is smart. It gives time to the average audience to read and possibly catch up on what to expect from the sequel.

The only other observation I have is this: The TV show House, of which I’m a devout viewer, was modeled from Sherlock Holmes. House is Holmes (get it? Get it?) and Wilson is Watson. Never before has this been more evident than watching this movie. At times, the movie plays like a two-hour Victorian Era episode of House with more expensive actors playing the parts. Downey Jr. must have done some of his research by watching Hugh Laurie berate and analyze week after week to get that cynical edge he needed to fully pull off Holmes.
Seriously, if you’ve ever doubted the similarities or if this would be your first experience with Holmes coming off watching House, then you’re going to see it. From the scruffy, scrawny figures to the issues with substance abuse, it’s all in here.

Still, it’s a good watch. Worth the cost of a ticket to see it in the theater. It feels like a long time since I’ve said that.

Bidula’s Last Word: 7.5/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

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