Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part 1

I've been a bit MIA because of school and work and just general craziness, but I'm back and I'm here to talk a little about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm not claiming to be any sort of Marvel expert (I leave that to my older brother) but I do have some thoughts, so I'm gonna share those in a series of posts as I watch the movies/shows through again chronologically... So spoiler alert, since I'm giving short summaries of each movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger
Not counting flashbacks and such, this is where the series starts chronologically (it could be argued that the whole movie is just one long flashback, but I'm gonna put it here anyway). World War II and some scrawny kid named Steve Rogers wants to kill some Nazis. However, he's kinda not qualified, because of his long list of medical problems. Meanwhile, a German scientist, Schmidt, is trying to use a weird blue cube (called the Tesseract) that has some origin in Norse mythology to create weapons for the war. Back to America, Steve gets picked as a subject for the Super Soldier Serum experiment. Bibbity bobbity boo. Suddenly, Steve is strong, tall, muscular and basically had the body I wish I had. He even has suddenly gained the interest of the beautiful Agent Peggy Carter with his new pecs.

Fast forward through some embarrassing stage performances, Steve has been named Captain America (for publicity sake) and with the help of Agent Carter, Howard Stark, Bucky, and a select group of soldiers help take down Hydra bases, fighting the evil Red Skull along the way. After a SWEET fight scene, Red Skull accidentally kills himself (or so it appears) by touching the Tesseract. In a last ditch effort to save everyone from the explosives in the plane, Cap crashes the plane in the Arctic Ocean while having a super sad goodbye with Agent Carter. Fast forward 70ish years, and Cap has been found in the Arctic and he's been revived by SHIELD. Yikes. What now? Well, the Avengers.

Random Trivia/Connections:
·         Howard Stark is obviously Tony Stark’s father, having previously been featured (though by different actor) in Iron Man 2.
·         Jenna Coleman, better known for playing Clara Oswald in Doctor Who, briefly appears in this movie as Bucky’s date at the expo. Gotta say that Bucky has good taste in women. Personally, I have a little head canon connecting Doctor Who and Captain America here, but to avoid minor Doctor Who spoilers, I won’t post it here (message me and I’ll be happy to share it though).
·         Captain America had been hinted at for a bit. A prototype of his shield had been seen in Iron Man (when Tony is taking off his suit) and in Iron Man 2 (when Agent Coulson was talking to Tony).
·         Tony held the Stark Expo in Iron Man 2, obviously based off what his father did here.
·         Howard Stark shows a flying car here that closely resembles Lola, Phil Coulson’s flying car from Agents of SHIELD.
            I’ve heard some criticisms of this movie, especially in comparison to The Winter Soldier (odd that a sequel is better liked than the original), but I’ve gotta give some credit to this movie. As far as I’m concerned, it did a great job of setting up Cap’s character and bringing him into our time period. His heartfelt goodbye to Peggy is beautiful and it fits his character well, that he puts humanity ahead of his own “happily ever after” with Peggy. (Spoiler alert) I am very glad that he got to reunite with her in Winter Soldier.

Agent Carter
Last year ABC started a series about Agent Peggy Carter, originally introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger. I don’t have a lot to say on this, but that’s mostly because I haven’t had a chance to watch it. If anyone knows a place online that I can watch it (preferably legally and preferably for free) please let me know.

Iron Man
Billionaire playboy. Not one of my favorite superheroes, but he’s had some character development over the years and I can’t exactly be too upset that he’s the one who got this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe started. This was the first movie in production order for the Cinematic Universe, telling the origin story of Tony Stark, who became Iron Man.

Tony Stark inherited the empire of his father, Howard Stark. While demonstrating some of their weapons in the Middle East, he’s captured. Made out of necessity, Tony Stark made the original Iron Man suit to escape capture of terrorists. Clunky and likely awkward, it’s a far cry from the Iron Man suit we see in later movies, but he didn’t exactly have a lot to work with. After returning home from the Middle East, Tony is preoccupied with perfecting his Arc Reactor to provide clean energy and making a new Iron Man suit.

Throughout all of this, Tony’s assistant, Pepper Potts, stumbles upon some evidence on the computer of Tony’s right-hand man, Obadiah Stane, showing her that he has been selling weapons to terrorists and he set Tony up to get captured. With his own suit, Obadiah and Tony end up fighting, but with Pepper’s help, Tony is able to stop him. In the aftermath, despite Agent Coulson’s recommendation, Tony outs himself in front of a room of reporters as this “Iron Man”.

Random Trivia/Connections:
·         As mentioned before, Captain America was foreshadowed here, when we get a glimpse of Cap’s shield (or at least a prototype of it) when Tony took off his suit. It would be a few more years until we got Captain America: The First Avenger.
·         Also, as mentioned above, Howard Stark, Tony’s father, is seen in Captain America: The First Avenger, working with the US army.
·         The actor for Rhodey changed between Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Maybe someone more versed with Iron Man can tell me why, but I thought it was worth noting. Ever since Iron Man 2, we’ve had the same Rhodey.
            I’m not the biggest fan of Iron Man, but watching this the other month made him grow on me. I definitely disapprove of his morals, but I find his character development interesting. He changes his values in a way, but keeps the same snarky, obnoxious personality… but with a more humanitarian outlook. I enjoyed his relationship with Pepper, which was one of my favorite things about Iron Man 2 (but more on that later).

Alright, that’s all for the Marvel Cinematic Universe for now. Next time I write about the MCU, it’ll be Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, andThor (which all chronologically take place within a week of each other).

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Review of the Series Premiere of DC's Legends of Tomorrow

 Last month, DC's latest TV series, Legends of Tomorrow, premiered. This new series, which is a spin-off from both Arrow and The Flash, has the distinction of being the first TV show in the Arrowverse to feature a large team.

Title Card for Legends of Tomorrow
The premise is that Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a Time Master who is from East London of 2166, has traveled to our time to assemble a team to stop an immortal villain, Vandal Savage, from conquering the entire Earth in his time. What makes this team unique is that it consists of both heroes and villains. As Hunter gathers his team, he informs them that in the future, they are not just considered heroes, but legends (which inspires the name of the show).

Rip Hunter, played by Arthur Darvill
The roster of Hunter's team includes: “The Atom”, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh); “The White Canary”, Sara Lance ( Caty Lotz); “Hawkgirl”, Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee); “Hawkman”, Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel); “Captain Cold”, Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller); “Heat Wave”, Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell); and “Firestorm”, who is composed of Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh).

Unlike Arrow and the Flash, the Pilot of Legends consisted of two parts. While both episodes do serve to introduce the cast and are definitely serial, each does consist of a distinct story line, and could easily function as a stand-alone episode.

With the exception of Rip Hunter, all of the characters have been previously introduced in either Arrow or The Flash. For me, having already had time to get to know some of the characters, such as Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, Martin Stein and Leonard Snart, I began the series more invested in them than I might be otherwise.

However, while one of the strength of this series is bringing in characters that have already been established and are fan favorites, having so many characters featured is also one of the weaknesses. While Rip Hunter is obviously the leader of this team, each of the other characters seems to be vying for attention. The problems is, most of these characters would make a good lead character on their own, and the result seems to be that each of them gets a little attention, but none of them gets enough; the result being that the pilot episodes feel bogged down with all the characters.

While the series does follow most of the themes set up in the original trailer for the series (see my previous post about the trailer if you need a refresher) a couple of important elements were missing. For one, the team was introduced to Rip Hunter by the Arrow and the Flash in the trailer, while the Flash is completely absent from the pilot episodes, and Green Arrow, who has little more than a cameo appearance, knows nothing of Rip Hunter.

The Arrow and the Flash as they appeared in the first trailer
The trailer also has Martin Stein referring to himself as “half a hero,” at least implying that while he was on the team, his other half as Firestorm was not (though Firestorm does appear in at least one of the action scenes).

I can easily forgive the fact that Hawkman is absent from the trailer, as this does little to change the set up. And everything else, from Captain Cold mocking the suggestion that he could be thought of as a hero to the main mission of stopping Vandal Savage from taking over the world at some future time to the team being considered “Legends,” are all there.

I was pleased with most of the special effects, which were up to par with those seen in Arrow and The Flash. The one exception to this was with the Atom. His regular flying and fight scenes were up to standard, though I found most of the scenes showing him changing size to be low quality and unrealistic looking compared to the other special effects.

The chmistry between Hawkman (played by Falk Hentschel) and 

Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) is further explored in the Pilot 
I did enjoy the chemistry between Hawkgirl and Hawkman, which continued smoothly from their introduction to one another in this season's Arrow/Flash cross-over. I also found Martin Stein, Captain Cold and Heat Wave to be very true to their characters as they had been established on The Flash. I especially like the way that villains Captain Cold and Heat Wave initially clash with the heroes of the team, and I hope that this is carried out longer, rather than being too quickly resolved.

Villains Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell)
add an interesting dynamic to the team.
I was uncertain about how true to form White Canary's characterization was. She seemed different than the way I remembered her when she was a recurring character in the second season of Arrow, though I will grant that her death and subsequent resurrection may have had quite some effect on her personality.

White Canary (Caty Lotz) seems different than she was in Arrow,
though she has been through a lot.
I found myself disappointed, however, in how the Atom was characterized. For the most part, the humorous, happy-go-lucky billionaire scientist/inventor seemed to be missing. Granted, he has gone through his own drama, having been missing and presumed dead for six months. But if he was able to remain optimistic after the murder of his fiance (as was depicted in Arrow), I don't believe his six month imprisonment by Damien Darhk would do that much more to get him down.

The Atom (Brandon Routh) seems to have lost much
of his humor and cheerful attitude we saw in Arrow.
Without giving them away, I will say that there were a couple of plot twists (one in each episode of the Pilot) that I did not see coming. While the first one I think would have been better served by being built up for at least a few episodes, I found myself both shocked and impressed with the second one. Despite having mixed feelings about it, I do see it as something that definitely has the potential to strengthen the series.

I do have to admit that the Pilot episodes of Legends of Tomorrow did not have me hooked in the same way that the pilots of Arrow and The Flash did. And I think part of it may be that it was so hyped up and had so much build up in the current seasons of Arrow and The Flash that it may have set the bar higher than they could realistically reach.

The Legends team definitely holds a lot of potential
I will definitely still be following this series, and I have hopes that the quality improves as we see the team get more established and as the characters begin to gel. This series definitely has a lot of potential, and although it didn't deliver quite as well as they could have with the Pilot, I have hope that the series will get better as the season goes on.