So, I recently came out of my art-film kick and decided to watch some good, old-fashioned (or rather, new-fashioned) blockbuster action films. I’ve seen so much hubbub about The Avengers, and the complete Marvel series, as well as The Dark Night Rises. I also decided to catch up on the X-Men series. I basically have been out of the blockbuster scene (excluding Harry Potter, of course) since 2005, so I had a lot to do. I had lot to do. Well, let’s dig in, shall we?

The Avengers was the first I watched, and I must admit that all the hubbub about Robert Downey Jr.’s role as the Iron Man held up. It inspired me to then go on to Iron Man 1 + 2. But let’s stay on Avengers for a moment. It just blams right in with this S.H.I.E.L.D. agency and a Stargate-reminiscent portal to another dimension where demi-gods are at large and have a beef with mortals. OK, I guess I missed something – or I wasn’t maybe a fan of comics as a kid.

Iron Man, in a similar vein to the latest reboot of the Batman series, does a wonderful job of creating a really nice back-story that draws the viewer in. We are right there with Bruce Wayne as he flees society to find himself, and becomes a martial arts master, then uses his wealth and skills battling the human evils that lurk indeed with all of us, but of course personified in the extremism of the Bourgeois vs. Proletariat power struggle. And as Mr. Stark finds the humanist in himself, and uses his billions and his brains to again help the common man.

But, wait – The Dark Night Rises is basically the same as Batman Begins and The Dark Night, right? Equilibrium of the weak and the power-hungry through some sort of technological device that levels the playing field. And it seems in each installment that the city is cut off from the mainland for some reason, and the prisoners are let out onto the street and Marshall Law takes effect. Plus it just takes a long time to get this stuff going, and the mysticism is somewhat lost. Not to mention the two things that just turned me off in a big way: the fact that the Joker was only so beloved because he died before the film came out; and the fact that Bane’s voice is just terrible. Really, just terrible. Plus Bruce Wayne is kind of a dick. I’d rather that Ra’s al Ghul succeed with his idealistic plan, and let the world equal itself out.

Ok, on to the new Hulk movie. I saw the original reboot in 2003, and it again did a wonderful job of explaining where he came from, and I could really empathise with Bruce as he underwent this massive psychological and physical changes. Plus, the action was just awesome. But many simply didn’t like the film, so they again quasi-rebooted it with absolutely the wrong actor: Edward Norton. He’s just too intelligent, soft, calm and collected to be the Hulk. His track record of absolutely wonderful films (American History X, Fight Club, Death to Smoochey, The Valley, Red Dragon) will not, however, be overshadowed by this clear money-maker. I mean, the dude earns regularly considerably less than his A-List buddies and donates tons to charity on a regular basis – so, the dude needs to eat, too.

Spiderman (although a bit older, and not necessarily in this new wave of recent action/comic movies) was actually a real treat (the first one, at least). They took a no-name actor and did a cool back-story, and bad-ass bad guys, and geared up for sequels very nicely. But again, people just didn’t want it. I personally am OK always with only one comic film per superhero – leave the serialisation for the pimple-faced geniuses who see the light of day just long enough to stand in line for a comic-book-signing.

I’m still not all the way through the X-Men series, but it’s so far much more fulfilling, as far as an action movie goes.  It’s intelligent (genetic mutation is the basis of life!) and with great action scenes, and is really carried by two real level-headed and experienced actors: Sir Patrick Stewart and the Prestige himself, Hugh Jackman.  And none of the other actors ruined it with their egos.  Nice work!

I haven’t got to Thor or Captain America yet. But if The Avengers is any kind of preview, then I think I’ll pass. It just seems like around 2006 these block-buster action comic superhero movies are just too full of themselves and long and drawn-out. The saving grace is of course Robert Downey Jr. in all of this, but that’s perhaps only because he is wonderful in every movie he makes. I guess I’ll go back to art-films. Here’s a good one with Mr. Jr. and Neo: A Scanner Darkly

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