Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reviews - Thor and Captain America

I like superhero movies.

Much like monster movies, they allow the imagination to bolt unhindered through the fields of modern reality.  Unlike monster and horror movies, they are more accepted by society, so lately they've been taking the place of summer blockbusters of decades past.  Recently I've seen both Thor and Captain America, thanks to netflix and my nephew, who scored a stash of DVD's from big lots.  And by scored, I mean he works there and rented me some DVD's.  :-)

Thor was pretty good.  It was quite long however.  I hadn't really seen an origin story for Thor before this, so it was sort of new for me.  It departed from the comic book version of events in that, Thor was never actually Donald Blake, who in the comic books was a doctor with a bad leg.  In the movie, Thor was just mistaken for Donald Blake because he needed some clothes and Donald Blake was Natalie Portman's ex boyfriend, and Natalie played the love interest in this movie.  I am not really sure how Doctor Donald Blake looked, since he never actually appeared in the movie, but the idea that he was physically large enough for his clothes to fit a god of thunder is almost laughable.  But, at least they didn't try to fit a laughing warrior-god like Thor into the physically incapable alter ego of a skinny physician, which would have been even more laughable.

So here's the basic rundown of the movie.  And again, those of you that read my blog often know that I try not to give too much away unless I really hate the movie, and I liked Thor.  Thor is Odin's son.  Him and his half-brother, Loki, are hanging out in Valhalla, waiting for Odin to step aside so one of them can be crowned king, and frost giants sneak into the armory and try to steal some big old crystalline ice-maker gizmo.  It's basically a frost-giant superweapon that Odin took from them when he defeated them in battle.  Ever since, Odin and the frost giants have had an uneasy truce.  So Thor gets all pissed at the frosty giants and heads over there to kick some giant ass, and thus breaks the truce.  Which royally pisses off Odin, and Odin takes Thor's power away, dumps it into Thor's hammer and kicks Thor and his hammer back to Midgard, which is their name for earth.  And that's just the beginning of the story.

Those of you who know Thor are aware that Loki is his arch-nemesis, and that part of Thor's story holds true here.  Thor seemed to drag in spots, but only because there was so much of the movie to be told.  Lots of things happened.  I think it was well over two hours long.  Fair bit of action, though, and sets good old meade-chugging Thor up to hang out with the Avengers and smash things alongside Hulk in between hitting on the hotties.

Honestly, I think if you're going to have a superhero you really need to have some good drawbacks to the guy or he just doesn't seem right in the head.  Thor is impetuous and loves the ale.  Hulk smashes just about everything.  Iron man is a womanizing philanderer.  Not so for the star of our next review...

Captain America's story has been told and told again over the years.  I am pretty sure I saw some actor play Captain America in a TV movie in the 70's, again in the 80's, and probably in the 90's.  I think they took a break in the 2000's to let people forget how many times his origin story has been told and retold.  I think that's the biggest problem with telling superhero stories.  In order for the younger audiences to understand how the heroes came to be, you have to tell their origins.  Personally, I think retelling the same story over and over is basically what Hollywood has been doing for years, so I can't really get behind that as far as superhero movies go.  Hopefully now that all the major heroes of the Avengers movie have been dealt with, we can actually move on to telling some of the stories of the avengers tackling their major villains.

A quick recap, and I've heard the story so many times I am sure I am not giving anything away.  Captain America was a skinny geeky fellow who wanted very badly to fight against the nazi's during world war 2.  Unfortunately, he had so many things wrong with him physically that he was denied entry into the armed forces by the doctors.  As those who were alive at the time can remember, being ranked as 4F means you flunked all your physicals and wouldn't ever make it through basic training without dying, so letting you into the army would have been senseless.  Of course, nowadays I think they just take everyone regardless of physical or mental condition, since they need a lot of cannon fodder.  In any case, while trying for the umpteenth time to get in, Steve Rogers (captain america's real name) runs into a scientist who is working on a super-soldier serum for the americans.  The scientist is german, and used to work in germany, but hates the nazis even more than most americans, and defected over to the Allies to help them out.  So steve, despite being such a flimsy excuse for a soldier, manages to get himself through the tough part of the qualifications and becomes the first US super-soldier.  Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, he also ends up being the last.  And I say the first US super-soldier because, as just about everyone knows, the first actual super-soldier was the Red Skull, who the german doctor tried his serum on first, to disastrous results.  The Red Skull is Captain America's nemesis.

Captain America was also a good movie to watch, lots of action and all, although the middle part seemed a bit ridiculous to me.  I can see in retrospect why they put it in, because the Captain America name needed to be famous, but it seemed rather silly to me.  In any case, my biggest issue with Captain America isn't the movie but his personality defects.

As I said before, most superheroes need to have some big drawbacks or personality flaws to seem realistic.  The Hulk is pure rage, Iron Man likes the ladies, and so on.  Captain America, despite being a skinny geek who is picked on by bullies his entire youth, who says he hates bullies and that's why he wants to join the army, to kick some nazi ass, nevertheless ends up being completely UN-geek-like.  Let me explain.

I myself hate bullies.  I can't tolerate them.  As an adult, I understand them.  I realize their small minds can't handle being afraid, so they overact the tough guy routine to compensate for their shortcomings, whatever they may be.  Sometimes the bullies have feelings towards other men, so they become gay-bashers.  Sometimes they are afraid everyone can see what an inept moron they are, so they pick on smart people to compensate.  In any case, I was picked on as a youth because I was smart.  As a result, I really hate bullies, much like Captain America claims.  So I can understand the part of Captain America who eventually gets the ability to fight back.  What I don't get is his absolute lack of two things.

He has almost no drawbacks, or vices, that I can see.  He doesn't drink much, he doesn't date much, he doesn't smoke, drink, gamble or really enjoy the wanton violence that a true geek would probably revel in in his vengeance against the bullies that he has hated for so long.  He's also not particularly smart, which is also confusing, most geeky kids have at least some level of intelligence or creativity to make up for the fact that they are physically incapable.  Sure, he seems to be able to play chess and have a modicum of wisdom, which makes him a decent commander of men, but he's not overtly intelligent nor creative aside from a penchant for drawing, which wasn't really dealt with much in the movie.

The Captain America movie was pretty good, but in the end, it's hard to really like Captain America himself.  You can't really drink with him, he doesn't like a good brawl, double dating is just out, and beating him in a game of chess doesn't seem like that much of an accomplishment.  I suppose in the end, all he really is, is a symbol of freedom or something to that effect, but if you took Joe Average and made him a superhero, is that really the kind of symbol you want?  Or I suppose there's the counter argument, where the best symbol is one who doesn't have vices, which is probably how we pick presidents.  In any case, I liked the movie, but the hero, well, I doubt I'd spend much time hanging out with him.  I suppose it's probably for the best the way the movie ended up, in the sense that now Captain America has no friends or acquaintances to hang out with, because honestly, once you get past the whole stars and stripes, USA-forever spiel, what more is there?

Ah well.  I am awaiting more substantial fare at any rate.  I haven't really seen the Avengers origin story before, in comics or otherwise.  I was always more of an X-Man fan, and they've already done most of those stories.  So seeing the Avengers put together might be fun.  Also, there's always um, whatsername's origin story.  The one Scarlett Johanneson plays in the Avengers movie.  Black Widow, I think?  I just saw Scarlett in eight-legged freaks again last night, and she was scrumptious as ever.  Watching her in an origin story might be fun!  Hawkeye, I think is the other guy on the avengers, and frankly, his origin story doesn't sound that great, and I don't particularly like the actor who plays him.

Hopefully we'll get past all these origin stories and get to the meat and potatoes of the superhero tales, and show them battling the super-villains soon!

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