|I'd still like to see a cartoon in this exact style (Turtles Forever doesn't count).|
As I mentioned a bit on Twitter, that first issue of TMNT seems even stranger, more potent and more subversive now then it did the last time I read it, and the time before that, and the time before that. I never read it without having some pre-conceived notions of what the characters were like (based on the original cartoon show and the toy line), and it's probably impossible to do so now, as you'd have to be someone familiar with comic books, but completely unfamiliar with any iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When I read it in, I don't know, 199X, it was a shock at how different those characters were. Since then, I've seen many more seasons of the cartoon, watched new versions of the cartoon, watched the first two live-action movies, read the later Mirage and Archie Comics, played some video games, ate the breakfast cereal and read the daily newspaper comic strip. Then, it seemed more shocking still.
Now Turtle-Mania has come and gone again, with a new series of the cartoon, an computer-animated movie, a rebooted comic strip...the concept and characters keep acquiring familiarity, picking up conceptions like a cartoon snowball rolling down hill, and the bigger that snowball gets, the stranger and more shocking that first issue is going to read.
The revisitation of the comic was, of course, prompted by the fact that the fifth feature film to feature the characters opens this week. But let's spends some time talking about last weekend's big based-on-comics movie, shall we...?
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
|Super-comics are for objectifying women, movies based on super-comics are for objectifying men.|
I had pretty high expectations, so I was a little worried. These expectations were entirely related to that first trailer, which was a really, really good trailer, and one I watched over and over again over the course of several months just because I liked the trailer itself as a bit of filmmaking (I think it's my second favorite trailer of the 21st century, following Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Or maybe my third favorite; The Life Aquatic really had a hell of a trailer too, didn't it...?)
I was a little surprised that some of what was in the trailer wasn't in the movie, unless that stuff happened during one of the two or three times I went to the bathroom.
Like this image, for example:
The trailers might have been a little too thorough, though, as there was almost nothing in the movie that surprised me, between the trailer, the predictability of almost everything and the story beats and characterizations borrowed from the comics (Groot's Golden Retriever-like, eager-to-please expressions aside).
Good movie, though. High-fives all-around. My only concerns were nit-picky ones, for the most part, and I'll mention them in a few more paragraphs.
I only read a handful of reviews of the movie by professional film critics, but it seems to have been a very well-received one.
The only negative one I read was from The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek, and while I ultimately enjoyed and liked the movie a lot more thanher, that's an extremely well-written, well-reasoned, well-argued review. I thinks she's right about everything she writes...I just liked it more than her (By the way, that's the review that got some weirdos up in arms enough to call the critic a "harlot"...? I'm not surprised that there are a bunch of anonymous assholes among comic book and superhero fandom online, of course, I'm just kinda surprised that was all stoked by such a review. But whatever, haters gonna hate, and crazies gonna crazy, I guess; I am kind of impressed someone called Zacharek a "harlot," just because all of the online sexism I run across, I rarely hear such quaint, old-timey insults. I hope to see more use of the word "harlot," and maybe "harridan," "trollop" and "slattern" in the future, and less "bitch," "slut" and "C-word." Oh, I like "virago" too).
I thought Keith Phipps' review at The Dissolve maybe over-praised the film, while Sean O'Neal's at The AV Club was the one that probably best reflected my own assessment of the film.
As for comics people writing about it, I really enjoyed Abhay Khosla's take, although I didn't really agree with much of it. His second paragraph was pretty hilarious, though. Because as exaggerated as it might sound, it is actually 100% true. It's kind of strange how big a deal the soundtrack was to the movie, as that's pretty basic, non-superhero filmmaking. It's pretty Quentin Tarantino, and where did he get it? Martin Scorcese? I don't know; I'm not a film guy anymore.
Joe McCulloch's may actually be the best all-around review I read, from comics person or professional film critic. It's smart, well-written, funny, incisive and to the point.
I would also highly recommend this Comics Alliance post by Andrew Wheeler, about Marvel Studios' movies in general. And not just because it put the delightful thought of a Taken/Planet of the Apes crossover in my head.
Wheeler asserts that a large part of the reason Marvel succeeds as well as it does at the superhero movies is because that is all Marvel Studios does; it's their entire raison d' etre, whereas Warner Bros and the other studios make all sorts of different kinds of movies, and notes that the fact that Spider-Man and The X-Men were already spoken for meant Marvel Studios had to get pretty creative with which characters they could make movies out of...to their benefit and, I think, to the benefit of the film-going experience in general. (Additionally, I think Marvel Studios approached their "Cinematic Universe" with a long-term, world-building plan, whereas obviously the guys making, say, Green Lantern and Dark Knight Rises weren't really worrying what Superman and Aquaman were up to while Ryan Reynolds was in space or Batman was screaming unintelligibly about detonators).
He also asserts that Marvel is ironically doomed by its own successes, as they've kept a strict two movies-per-year schedule for a while. I honestly didn't notice or know that, but it explains why they didn't make another Hulk movie after the character proved so popular after Avengers; a Hulk movie seemed like a slam-dunk to me at that point, but Marvel just plain didn't have room, as more Captain America, Iron Man and even Thor proved sure-er things, and were hogging the available slots in their schedule.
This also, I think, helps explain the lack of a Black Widow movie. Me, I always thought the major problem with a Black Widow movie is that as a superhero, she's not really all that super; she's just a James Bond-style cinematic super-spy, and unless they put her up against some really Marvel-out villains (M.O.D.O.K. and AIM, for example), there didn't seem like there would be enough to differentiate Black Widow from, I don't know, Salt, to bother with. When you factor in the choice between doing Black Widow and, say, Ant-Man or Dr. Strange well, yeah, why bother with Black Widow...? She worked pretty well in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Regarding the lack of a female superhero movie, I've got to say, I never had much hope for Marvel in that respect. They simply don't have any really great female characters who aren't also X-Men (and thus at another studio), and pretty much all of the Marvel heroines I can think of who could conceivably headline their own comic book are derivative of male heroes: She-Hulk (if they won't make a Hulk movie...and, anyway, She-Hulk seems like a better TV show than a movie), Spider-Woman (Sony, but still), Valkyrie, Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, etc. I don't think we'll see another attempt at an Elektra movie any time soon. The Wasp is tightly tied to Ant-Man/Hank Pym. I guess Scarlet Witch is in the next movie, but...I don't know, so much of her comics story has been tied to her father, brother and husbandroid, I can't really imagine a Scarlet Witch movie. Tigra seems too weird. Hellcat too much like Catwoman.
So I don't know, yo. If you asked me which Marvel superheroine should get her own movie, I would come up blank. Maybe the ensemble Sif and The Warriors Three, in which Thor's four buddies and Kat Dennings team up to take on Loki wihtout the boring Thor and Natalie Portman to get in the way, the movie I wish was on Marvel's schedule...? Or Elsa Bloodstone. That would work.
Really though, I think Marvel Studios's next step toward diversity needs to be to give a black superhero his own film, and that means Black Panther, whose film or films can dovetail in and out of any future Avengers movies easily.
Now, let's talk Guardians of The Galaxy, shall we?
So when I was putting together this who-created-who post about the characters appearing in the film, I noticed that while the movie was more an adaptation of the Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning and company conception of the team and characters (are they the guys who came up with the "I am Groot" gag, or was that Keith Giffen, or who...?), the characters themselves were mostly plucked from the late 1960s and 1970s, after that initial, furious storm of character creation that defined Marvel at the outset. I was therefore amused to see so many Kirby contributions—Groot, The Celestials, Ronan. Kirby is so fundamental to the Marvel Universe that even when you set out to make a film inspired by a 21st century remix of various, Starlin-era creations, you can't help but get a bunch of Kirby in there.
I was quite dismayed when I realized this was going to be another Marvel movie about some abstract, barely-defined magical maguffin, like the Thor movies, the last of which was a spectacularly incoherent film, plot-wise. I'm assuming that because this one was specifically referred to as an "Infinity Stone" (not gem, but stone; gems are for girls), then the reason for all these maguffins is that each is actually one of the six Infinity
So in a few more years maybe we'll get a big, huge Infinity Gauntlet story teaming up The Avengers and The Guardians and whoever else they introduce by then...? (Hopefully The Defenders and The Champions).
So here's my question. I missed all the Infinity business, not really reading any Marvel Comics until the '00s (and enjoying the 1970s material in the Essentials). Each gem is supposed to have a particular power, right? So which gem was the one in Guardians, the purple gem? Was it the explodey gem...?
And, finally, can we talk about that surprise cameo? My reaction was along the lines of, "What? It's Howard the Duck. Wait, why?!" I guess I was expecting something to tease the next Avengers movie or Ant-Man and, in that respect, I suppose it's cool they deflated expectations with this one, which didn't lead into the next film like the others in the past have, but was rather a gag use of the end-credits stinger.
I wish the scene lasted at least a few seconds longer, because by the time it registered what I was seeing, it was over, and I didn't notice if he was wearing pants or not. Was he? Now that Disney owns Marvel, I would hope they would let Howard The Duck go pants-less.
I liked that the movie had a sense of humor, and was actually even more of a comedy than Avengers was (Avengers being another movie I was relieved to see was a comedy, because if they played most of that shit straight, it would have been a real slog). The Footloose bit was good. I liked the fact that Rocket didn't seem to have any idea what a raccoon was (and was it just me, or was this the best performance of Bradley Cooper's career?). Dave Bautista was surprisingly funny, too. I especially dug the bit about no metaphor being able to go over his head.
Oh, and I liked that the climactic space battle took place in broad daylight in the sky above a planet. Star Wars is the go-to space movie to compare all others against, and setting the spaceship fights somewhere other than the star-fields of outer space really helped differentiate the climax from those other movies (The dimly lit interior of Ronan's ship, on the other hand, was pretty generic, as were his army of guys, of whom I can't remember any visual details. They were black in color and had guns. Not very interesting visuals; <i>Star Wars</i> wins for interesting-looking bad guy laser beam fodder).
I was a little bummed when it ended, because now there isn't a fun movie I'm looking forward to on the horizon.