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Posts Tagged ‘joss whedon’

A superhero film usually limits itself to it’s hero and it’s villain or perhaps two or three heroes or a few more villains.  With the limited time frame of a film, it becomes fairly difficult for a film to maneuver the more characters it adds as evidenced by films like the ‘X-Men’ series which showed off a plethora of films although not always the best showcase for all it’s characters.  And so comes the Avengers, a unique endgame that Marvel Studios has been brewing and setting up since Iron Man, combining some of Marvel’s biggest heroes into one film.  The end result isn’t always perfect with a fairly predictable narrative and a flimsy first half, but many will adore the geeky, fun moments that are big on thrills and entertainment value while still retaining heart and character.

The Avengers follows a group of remarkable characters from previous Marvel films including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  Thor’s exiled brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has returned to Earth to find an energy source that could power a gateway between Earth and another realm in an act of war.  Together, the heroes must do their best to put their egos aside and work amongst one another to try and figure out a way to stop Loki before it is too late.

The Avengers does run into a few problems throughout it’s duration due to it’s scope and positioning and doesn’t necessarily elevate the genre to any new heights.  The first is in it’s actual plot structure, which is fairly predictable.  Both as a positive and a negative, the way the plot progresses is reminiscent of a typical comic book hero story which makes the film feel very much rooted in it’s comic book lore but also doesn’t make very many deviations from the standard formula.  The end result is a lack of surprises in where the story actually goes and by the halfway point of the film, most audience members will be able to accurately predict how the film will end and where the characters will end up.  Also, due to the nature of the film being positioned as a tentpole film after all the other Marvel films to date, the first half of the film is most likely going to confuse newcomers and still be somewhat slow even for veterans as the film tries to introduce, reintroduce, and explain concepts without seeming too mundane yet still falls victim to the complicated puzzle it needs to fit together.

That being said, the core film of Avengers is good and entertaining to combine the best of all it’s characters.  On one level, there are good action set pieces that are not just full of explosions and destruction but includes smart opportunities to show off character and create memorable moments.  During these scenes, fans, especially, will enjoy seeing their favorite characters shown off in different ways and with a fairly good sense of distance and chronology, Avengers uses these action moments to create some exciting moments by combining and distancing the heroes in interesting and fun ways.  This positive point leads into another – the actual attention to character and heart.  Not only are nearly all of the characters given a good amount of screentime but each are given something to work with that allows them to (at least) be a little more than just a one-sided character.  Playing with the egos and big personalities of these distinct characters and mixing in their backgrounds create an interesting rhythm that is fascinating to see play out, helped much by all the actors who not only reprise their roles well but at times, adds much more to them whether it is Hiddleston’s much more bombastic Loki to Downey’s snark and clever quips clashing well with Evans straight shooter personality.  These characteristics and growth help to not only flesh out the characters but gives some more emotional weight and thoughtfulness amongst all the fierce action scenes.  Finally, the script itself is full of fun nods and some good humor to round out the package that are full of geeky, fun moments for fans and not tire out the audience with constant explosions and noise.

The Avengers has all the trappings of a big summer blockbuster movie from the good to the bad while retaining it’s character both in it’s comic book roots to the chemistry and fascination of seeing such larger-than-life characters mashed up here as well. Newcomers to this Marvel universe should be aware (although some enjoyment is still present) that there is a bit of a learning curve in understanding the plot and proceedings of the first half along with other weaker elements from a fairly unsurprising narrative arc to a slow build-up.  However, what Whedon and the rest of the crew accomplished must be commended – they created a summer movie of huge action, superhero set pieces with a good heart and care still taken in actually creating some empathy and growth in it’s characters while giving fans a healthy dose of humor and fun.  It’s a movie really for the fans of the series and although that may mean it might not exactly be cinema perfection, it sure as hell means that viewers will get more than their money’s worth of entertainment and some interesting proceedings.  

Director: Joss Whedon
Running Time: 142 Minutes
Rated: PG-13

The Wie muses: *** ½ out of *****

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The Cabin in the Woods – Balancing Homage & Parody

I’m not going to lie – I’m a complete a wuss when it comes to horror films, but even I realize that the majority of horror films run on the same hamster wheel with the overt sexual overtones before ending up falling into the cliche death rundown.  The best horror films realize this and either run in a completely different direction or pokes fun at these tried-and-true ideas.  The Cabin in the Woods falls in the latter category and although may at first seem like a run-of-the-mill parody horror film of sorts, the end result is much more of a loving tribute and complete package in developing a fascinating plot and some great characters.

The Cabin in the Woods follows a group of college students: Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Dana (Kristen Conolly), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Holden (Jesse Williams) who all join together for a trip up to a secluded cabin for a weekend getaway.  Unknown to them, they have been chosen as part of a mysterious ritual of sorts under the supervision of Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford).  When they finally reach the cabin, they all start to not only act mysteriously but find a mysterious cellar where their lives dramatically change.

The weaknesses that hold back the film are largely in not being able to completely live up to it’s ambitious premise whether due to it’s budget or narrative turns.  Although it may not seem like it at first (no real spoilers, promise), the film is very ambitious in it’s scope and twists but unfortunately, some of the aesthetics and plot do not give the premise enough justice.  For instance, the special effects seem lacking at times.  Although the objects of horror are pretty frightening, there are obvious points in which the film’s budget seems to have been shortchanged and resulted in some less-than-stellar moments.  Perhaps using the ‘more is less’ mentality could have helped immensely in certain parts, especially near the climax and ending.  Along the same route, the same could be said about the narrative arc.  The reasoning and the reveals on one side don’t feel too off although certain points don’t fare as well such as in the way the film ends.

However, it really is in it’s ambitious undertaking and successful care in how it both plays with and honors the horror genre that makes the film an utterly fun and entertaining watch.  The core of why it works comes in it’s core ideas and writing.  The film knows from the very outset that it isn’t taking itself seriously and swiftly showcasing the puppetmasters rather than hide them until a big reveal.  Of course, other horror films have done this as well but few have approached the topic so boldly in really making fun of while still honoring tried-and-true horror conventions.  A hilarious but candid scene showcases the victims crowding together until suddenly, one of them exclaims they have to split up due to some tinkering from the masterminds (This spoiler was in the trailers so my apologies if this is new information to you!)  The film literally shows the two voyeurs exclaiming at how everyone is put together and makes an effort to separate the group.  These antics continue to varying effect, but it’s a fun take that both makes light of and honors the old stereotypes.  Along with this are the characterizations of all the main characters, which continues this concept of honoring and playing with the horror genre.  Characters regularly address and comment on some of the absurdities of their actions yet keep a straight face and convincingly draws the audience into their antics.  This isn’t to even undermine the actual horror part of the film which as much fun as the film has, has some great scares too.  The best performances come from Jenkins and Whitford as the two ‘game’ masters that play the parts with jest and gravity at once and play a large part into making the film such an entertaining watch.  And finally, the concepts and twists themselves keep the audience on their toes.  Going from a typical horror genre to a sudden perspective from the masterminds with jovial jazz music back to the horror stricken group is played just enough without growing too distant or out there.  Yes, the film loses this a bit by the end of the film but is at it’s best when there is a well-groomed surprise in store behind every corner, all the while without taking itself quite too seriously.

The Cabin in the Woods delivers one of more unique horror films to recent memory by feeling free to acknowledge the genre freely and openly in a unique and fun world.  The special effects may not always be able to match the plot’s ambition and the narrative doesn’t always feel pack an effective punch, especially in it’s ending, but the creative twists that the film takes with it’s pokes and homage to the horror genre are both fun and endearing.  Anyone who loves horror movies (or moves in general) or feels that the genre has gone stale really needs to take a moment and watch this fascinating piece.

Director: Drew Goddard
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Rated: R

The Wie muses: *** ½ out of *****

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