Posts Tagged ‘X-Men’
It is fair to say that Quentin Tarantino’s films are usually a calculated mix of Old and New. From infusing the heist genre with the Greek tragedy in Reservoir Dogs, to reintroducing America’s hegemony to pulp-level neo-exploitation with Pulp Fiction, to re-contextualizing the Japanese revenge tale with Kill Bill, to creating new history with Inglourious Basterds, the eccentric director is perhaps the best at paying homage to films of yesteryear while simultaneously producing creatively original yarns that intriguingly reflect their modern contexts. With Django Unchained, Tarantino continues this pattern. But saying that is a lot easier than proving it, so let’s go ahead and take a closer look.
The movie’s combination of the classic Western with the classic medieval romance is how it incorporates this New/Old complementation. And before you begin to wonder how Westerns can be considered new (besides in comparison to the medieval era), think of how modernized the genre has become in recent years. For instance, The Dark Knight is a Western dressed in super hero ornamentation, and Machete is a Western that simply uses a Latino protagonist and an exploitation-style aesthetic.
The genre has lived on by continually finding new masks to wear while riding the same wave of traditional masculine values it helped to establish. I say “help” because just as certain American values have subsisted since the heyday of Westerns, there are also values which still carry a European residue from long before then. Such values spring from as far back as medieval poetry, which celebrated the “ideal” man as a rescuer of the “ideal” woman and vanquisher of evil, often doing so singlehandedly and to the additional benefit of his people. Indeed, it is by looking closely at the main protagonist, Django, that we can decipher exactly how these two genres are mixed together, as well as how they reflect the context of today.
Director: Joss Whedon
Screenwriters: Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Length: 2h 23m
Synopsis: It’s all been leading up to this. Colonel Nick Fury (Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. has begun to call into action the Avengers initiative after Asgardian god Loki (Hiddleston) teleports to Earth to steal a cosmic cube of unlimited power called the Tesseract. The adopted brother of Thor (Hemsworth) plans to use the cube to wield a celestial army afforded to him by the bloodthirsty alien order known as the Other so he can overtake our world, but naturally the likes of Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Captain America (Evans), Black Widow (Johansson), the Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor, and Hawkeye (Renner) have different plans. But our heroes are not very good at working together as it turns out, with their frictions causing them to battle each other before the gravity of Loki’s plot forces them to focus their attention. Will the suspension of their grievances come too late to win the day?
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Length: 2h 12m
Synopsis: It is 1963 and the world is still largely unaware of the presence of mutants. This is not to say that they are few in number, but most are still very much in the closet. There are a few, however, that are not shy about their abilities. Sebastian Shaw (Bacon), an ex-Nazi who ran the concentration camp where Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender) was separated from his family, is a mutant who is trying to manipulate the American and Soviet governments into nuclear war. Meanwhile, mutants Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Lehnsherr are attempting to recruit a special team of fellow gifted individuals to stop Shaw before it’s too late. But while Xavier is determined to avoid violent methods whenever possible, Erik is looking to get revenge on his former captor by any means necessary. How their battle concludes will not only affect how mutants will be looked at for years to come – as friends or foes – but whether humans will continue to outnumber mutants across the world.
Back at the beginning of Summer we gave a preview of three films that were to come out that have something in common. What these films share is a focus on a tight-knit group of ex-military soldiers who work towards a shared goal of some kind. With The Losers it was about getting revenge, with The A-Team it was about living up to one’s duties as a patriot, and with The Expendables it was about serving the human condition. As you may have noticed, the motivations of the groups got progressively nobler, from serving selfish incentives to fulfilling an intangible obligation to heroic morals; namely the moral that the strong have to protect the weak. The three movies, and by extension the three groups in these movies, may share a similar basic premise, and may interact within their respective contexts in a similar way, but their differing motivations distinguish them from each other more so than we may have anticipated. Likewise, they also shared more in common than we previously thought. What exactly, though, can we learn from comparing them further?
With Iron Man 2 opening this weekend, marking the biggest comic book movie since 2008′s The Dark Knight, we thought it would be appropriate to consider what the best castings have been since the genre began. There have been a lot of cases where the actor/actress fit the role like a glove. Some choices seemed obvious at the time, while others worked out unexpectedly well. A perfect example is Michael Keaton as the caped crusader in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, a casting which few supported before the film’s release but which many now consider the best casting of the character to date. But not even that sweet surprise made the Movie-Thoughts Top 5 Best Comic Book Castings. See which actors we thought fit their comic book characters best, and then send us your Top 5! Later we’ll tally the totals and see how close we came to the fan consensus.
And the Top 5 are…
5. Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark/Iron Man
Downey Jr. wasn’t so much a casting of a super hero as a casting of a super ego, but nevertheless his quick-witted line delivery and narcissistic on-screen persona transfer perfectly to a character we’re meant to believe is bizarrely brilliant and grossly spoiled (at least before his capture). Once the narcissism was exchanged for just an inordinate amount of pride and confidence, the heroic nature of the character was able to shine through and RDJ flowed from the former to the latter flawlessly.
4. Christopher Reeve – Clark Kent/Superman
As good as Brandon Routh was as his replacement in 2006′s Superman Returns, Christopher Reeve has been immortalized in the iconic role of the Man of Steel for good reason. Not only was he able to look the part, which is harder to achieve than you might think, but he was able to expertly play both the awkwardness of Clark Kent and the self assuredness of his alter ego. Those who know Superman know that that alter ego is not a psychological rock, and when it came time to display the requisite humility and vulnerability the character sometimes shows he was able to pull it off without missing a beat. Mr. Reeve helped prove to us that even the impenetrable are not invulnerable.
3. Patrick Stewart – Professor Xavier
Not only is Mr. Stewart perhaps the best known bald actor thanks to his role as Star Trek‘s Capt. Jean-Luke Picard, which helps match the look of the character, but all else about him as an actor fit this role perfectly. The low but friendly timber of his voice, the air of wisdom and sincerity, and the hyper-disciplined demeanor all amalgamated to Stewart actually being Professor Xavier. The role called for someone who could convince us that he is the ultimate confidant who always knew what’s best, and he pulled it off with flying colors. Imagining anyone fitting this role better seems impossible.
2. TIE: Jack Nicholson/ Heath Ledger – The Joker
Admittedly, we’re cheating with this one, but we just could not decide who fit the role better based on the versions of the character that they played. Nicholson as The Joker in 1989′s Batman fits perfectly because the character as it was envisioned for the film drew inspiration from earlier Batman comics, when the character was more goofy and aloof. During this period the villain took a primarily sociopathic persona but was not nearly the intellectual foe that he later became. Ledger’s Joker, as it was written, was clearly based on the more sinister version displayed in the comic series decades after the earlier version. During this era, which still continues, the character proves to be frightfully brilliant in his scheming to battle Batman and Gotham City, manipulating various peripheral characters to exact his will. Nicholson’s devilish grin and menacing stare made him look the part to a “T”, and his maniacal laugh effectively made him The Joker. Ledger’s actual look relied more on makeup, but his healthier physique allowed him to be a more competent combatant with Batman in physical terms and not just psychological. Much of his success with the character was due to his outstanding performance, but that everything about him fell exactly in line with the version he was portraying makes this a one in a million cast.
1. Hugh Jackman – Logan/Wolverine
The character of Logan/Wolverine in the X-Men movies, we would claim, is based from the version portrayed in the comics of his own series. For unlike his portrayal in the series that involves the entire X-Men crew, there he has considerably more depth and foundation (as one would expect). Jackman’s physical stature and hair styling made him believable from a purely aesthetic standpoint, but his ability to range from all requisite mindsets (tenacious, tortured, paternal, romantic, etc.) allowed him to convey all aspects of the character as needed. The arch of the character in the films is thanks in large part to the writing, but we here find it downright unfeasible that anyone possesses the mix of physical likeness and acting skill to pull off the role of Wolverine better than Hugh Jackman.
We don’t doubt that our Top 5 list is controversial, and we’re hardly married to it, but we feel it certainly captures five of the best castings of any comic book character yet seen on the silver screen. Based on the submissions you all send in to us we’ll likely feel inclined to make a revision or two, but until then we stand by what you see. When you narrow down your own Top 5 lists, try to keep in mind that it’s not about ranking your favorite movie/comic characters but the quality of the casting of those characters and how the actor/actress fits so well in their respective roles.
Here is a list of roles that we hated to leave out but had to (in no particular order): Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, Ian McKellen as Magneto, Danny DeVito as The Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.
Perhaps some of these roles will make your list. We’re interested to see, so let us know!
This upcoming summer movie season there are three movies that will be about a group of well trained special ops-type fighters who don’t “play by the rules,” starting with this weekend’s The Losers. This film, inspired by the comic book series of the same name, deals with a group of individual CIA black ops operatives who band together to find and kill whoever betrayed them and left them for dead. The other two films similar to this are The A-Team and The Expendables. The former is, if you don’t know already, based off of the TV series of the same name that first aired in 1983 about four ex-military men who were framed for a crime they didn’t commit and go about trying to clear their names, and the latter deals with a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow the vicious dictator of the small South American country of Vilena.
Well what’s so interesting about the fact that these films are releasing within a couple months of each other? Everyone one knows that Hollywood is a copycat town, right? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, studios like to hang their hats on proven formulas and trends, but that some trends appear at all is often reflective of the cultural mood of our country. Over the past few years there has been a heavy influx of films dealing with individual heroes, many of them being of the “super” variety. But aside from Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man, there were John McClain, Rambo, Indiana Jones, and James Bond. Obviously, none of these rogue stand-alone men did everything by themselves (Batman had Alfred, Iron Man had Pepper Pots, James Bond had MI6, etc.), but by and large they did all of the most difficult and dangerous things by themselves. Americans love heroes that are individualistic and autonomous. They’ve loved them like that for decades and will continue to love them for decades more. What seems so peculiar about The Losers, The A-Team, and The Expendables being released in one summer season, then, is that the team concept stands out so sharply from this crowd of actioners.
These three movies are hardly pioneering new ground, of course, as the X-Men trilogy made the point during the middle of the first super hero wave of the new century that working as a team for a common goal is the real and only way to make progress. However the three films in question seem to have their sights set a lot lower than achieving social understanding and ridding the world of prejudice. In the case of The Losers, for example, the goal is simply to get revenge on the group’s would-be assassinators. So, because the scope is miniscule and the benefits gained from the group’s success are specific to just them, the individualistic sense is still ever-present. And, the same might be said of The A-Team as well. Because the goal in The Expendables is to overthrow a dictatorship it can be argued that the benefits of the heroes victory would not be exclusive to just them but would also include the entire citizenship of Vilena. So, you could say the sense of individual empowerment would at least not be the same variety found in the other two films. However, it is interesting to point out that The Expendables are a group made up of mercenaries, who are a breed of people not known for their team mentalities.
What do you all make of this? Is the concept of working as a team against evil going to become the new wave in action movies, or is it just a phase? Do you expect to see these films come close to enjoying the type of success that Iron Man 2 will no doubt garner? Which type of hero do you emulate the most? Which do you enjoy watching the most? Voice your opinions and let it be known what you think a true hero really is.
We’ll revisit this topic once all three films have been released (which will be mid-August) and ask you these same questions again. Then we’ll compare your responses to try and come to some sort of conclusion. Till then, just enjoy the movies!
Director Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) said Sunday that he is speaking with 20th Century Fox about doing another X-Men movie.
“I’m still looking to possibly returning to the X-Men franchise. I’ve been talking to Fox about it,” Singer said at a talk at South Korea’s Pusan International Film Festival. “I love Hugh Jackman. I love the cast,” he said, referring to the Australian actor who plays Wolverine. - Hollywood Reporter
Singer added that directing sci-fi or fantasy films was particularly interesting to him because they allow for certain commentaries about social issues and the human condition to shine through.
Singer would have directed the third X-Men film (X-Men: The Last Stand) instead of Brett Ratner but opted to direct Superman Returns for Warner Brothers.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
Quick Opinion: It will be interesting to see if 20th Century Fox wants Singer back to direct another X-Men chapter, because although the first two X-Men films were very successful Superman Returns was considered a financial flop by Warner Brothers (grossing just over $200 million but also costing $200 million). Singer’s newest release, Valkyrie (2008), was only slightly more successful, grossing just over $83 million while costing $75 million. Given this recent history 20th Century Fox might be less inclined to hand the reigns back over to Singer, even though this past summer’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t fare much better than his last two films (grossing $180 million while costing $150 million) and was less than well-received by critics.
Scheduling will no doubt be an issue as well, as Singer is currently working on pre-production for Excalibur (set to release 2012) and is also attached to Jack the Giant Killer (set to release 2011). Fox may not want to wait for Singer to be available.
What do you all think?