This is going to be short, because I can’t say much about it without spoiling it and I don’t want to do that. I was fortunate enough to go into the movie unspoiled and I wouldn’t want to ruin that for anyone else.
I really liked this movie for a couple of reasons. First, speaking of not having it spoiled, I was surprised to learn that the trailers hadn’t already shown me the whole movie. The trailers are only the first act and I loved getting to the point where I’d seen everything in them and knew that there was still another hour or so of movie left to explore.
Second, the film’s got a ton of heart. Will Smith shows once again that we shouldn’t underestimate him as an actor and I liked Jason Bateman’s character a lot more than I thought I would. I like Bateman as an actor, but I don’t trust PR guys, so I was afraid that his character would be overly slick if not downright sleazy. Not at all. Everyone you’re supposed to like, you really like. You root hard for Hancock and that’s what carries the movie. I absolutely loved his character.
Even though I really liked everything about the movie though, I didn’t love the film itself. I was confused by that for a while until my brother-in-law/movie-pal Dave put his finger right on what was missing. It’s a superhero movie and superheroes are only as good as their villains. Hancock has his enemies, but they’re not very interesting ones. They’re okay, and there’s potential for them to be really awesome – especially if there’s a sequel – but they’re not as developed as Hancock and the rest of the main cast are. So, what’s there… I loved. I just wish the movie could’ve given me a little bit more.
Four out of five whale tosses.
Bonus non-review: One Missed Call (2008)
I didn’t finish the US version of One Missed Call. The special effects were crap, but even worse than that was the complete stupidity of all the main characters.
It’s about this circle of college friends who know that a couple of their friends have died after receiving mysterious phone calls from future versions of themselves. The main character Beth (in the middle of that picture above) has even heard one of the messages and tries to convince the police to do something about it. One of the detectives on the case (Margaret Cho) doesn’t believe her, but the other one, Detective Andrews (Edward Burns from 27 Dresses), does because his sister also just died under similar circumstances.
So, when Beth’s friend Taylor (holding the phone in the picture) gets one of the phone calls, she and Beth immediately go to Detective Andrews and solicit his help, right? Of course not. They destroy the phone (and any evidence or clues it contains), hoping that that will rid them of the curse.
Eventually Andrews finds out anyway because he uncovers a lead on his own. But instead of going to check it out, he decides to swing by Beth’s place first to let her know what he’s learned. And of course she demands to go with him on his investigation. And of course he lets her.
And when the investigation leads them to a locked door on a private residence, Andrews tells Beth he can’t just break in because “I’m a cop.”
“I’m not,” Beth smiles. And Andrews gives her a piece of lock-picking paper to try to open the door credit card-style.
Only Beth can’t do it, so Andrews does it for her anyway.
And that’s when I turned it off.
It’s too bad too because I was kind of into the mystery about what was causing the phone calls and why the victims all had pieces of red hard candy in their mouths. But I just couldn’t sit through any more.
If anyone’s seen it and can explain the mystery to me, I’d be grateful.
Hancock: My history with Will Smith movies is that I enjoy them for the two hours I’m there and then pretty much forget about them afterwards. I don’t expect this one will be any different.
I might’ve had higher hopes if they hadn’t already spoiled his character development in the trailer. I think it would’ve been a bolder choice to have him stay a butthole the entire movie, but maybe they pull off the change really well.
Kabluey: (Limited release) I expect I’ll like this costumed hero a lot more than Hancock. Plus: Teri Garr.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: C’mon, it’s Hellboy. I’d see it even if it didn’t look the most awesomely imaginative fantasy film since Return of the King. Which it totally does. Journey to the Center of the Earth: Despite my liking both Jules Verne’s imagination and Brendan Fraser’s screen presence, I’m having a hard time getting excited about this one at all. They’ve changed two of the main characters into kids (”…making [the Icelandic guide] Hans into Hannah was just an obvious choice,” says director Eric Brevig) and seem more focused on playing with the 3D technology than on telling a great story (”…The rest of it [aside from adapting a couple of iconic moments from the book] was me coming up with pieces of business that I thought would just play wonderfully in 3-D as well as 2-D”). This is probably a DVD rental for me.
July 18 The Dark Knight: As much as my brain tells me that this is going to be awesome because the first one was and Christopher Nolan can Do No Wrong, my heart’s just not in it. I’m getting a little more excited the more we see of Two-Face, but I’m so tired of the Joker being played as just another psychotic killer. This is absolutely NOT a criticism of Heath Ledger whom I love as an actor and I expect is brilliant with the part he was given, but just once I’d like to see the Joker in the movies hatch a scheme involving an oversized mallet and a giant jack-in-the-box.
Transsiberian:(NY and LA only) The trailer looks uninspired, but I love trains and snow enough that I’m hoping those elements will carry me through even if the plot is lousy. But maybe it won’t be. Maybe it’s just a lousy trailer.
Space Chimps: Talking apes in a space adventure. What could be nicer?
Step Brothers: This is such a toss up as to whether or not I’m going to like it. John C. Reilly is great, but I can’t usually take much of Will Ferrell. All the ads I’ve seen for it have made me laugh though, so on the list it goes. The X-Files: I Want to Believe: This has the potential to be my favorite movie of the summer. I love and miss Mulder and Scully like you wouldn’t believe. Unfortunately, it also has the potential to be the biggest disappointment. My hopes for it are way too high.
Chewie and a Jawa doing the Flashdance is awesome. Leia and Amidala grooving to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is a bit lame, but made better once the Gamorrean guard joins in. Make sure you stick around to the end though for Vader, some Stormtroopers, and “Thriller.”
Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery has a cool feature called “Made Me Quit” (the most recent one is here) in which he talks about the final straws that got him to stop reading comics series he was no longer enjoying.
I thought about that feature a lot as I was reading the most recent issue of Fantastic Four.
When I started regularly reading comics in high school, I was a fan of the characters. Who was writing or drawing a comic were secondary considerations to who the comic was about. As long as it had a member of Alpha Flight in it, I bought it. After a while I got into the X-Men and I had to have all the comics about them too. I still have some of that in me. Any comic that features Alpha Flight (or Wonder Woman, Shang Chi, Black Canary, etc.) is going to at least get my attention.
But after a while I started realizing that just because a comic had my favorite characters in it that didn’t mean it was good. I should’ve learned that lesson as soon as John Byrne left Alpha Flight, but I didn’t. Eventually I figured it out though, and I started buying comics based on who created them.
I should’ve known better than that too. I mean, I loved John Byrne’s Alpha Flight and Next Men, but I didn’t care at all for his work on Wonder Woman. I loved Denny O’Neil’s first thirty issues of Azrael, but after that it became apparent that he’d told the story he started out to tell and was keeping the series going anyway. I guess I’m a slow learner.
But I finally learned too that just because I love Brian K. Vaughan’s The Hood or Y: The Last Man doesn’t mean I’m also going to love his Ex Machina. Or just because Bill Willingham rules the universe on Fables doesn’t mean that I’m going to dig the way he writes Batman comics. In fact, I can’t think of a single writer or visual artist where I’ve loved absolutely every single thing he or she has ever created. Nor can I think of a single writer or visual artist where he or she has loved absolutely every single thing they’ve ever created. Art just doesn’t work that way.
So these days, I’m more into “runs.” I’m looking for that combination of creators who absolutely get the characters they’re working with. That happens all the time in independent, creator-owned comics, but it’s rare in the work-for-hire superhero world. Every once in a while though you’ll get Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on The Fantastic Four. Or Stan Lee on Spider-Man. Or Jim Shooter and then Paul Levitz on Legion of Super-Heroes.Or Walt Simonson on Thor. Or Chris Claremont on X-Men (at least during the first go-’round). Or Frank Miller on Daredevil. Or Neal Adams on Batman. Or David Michelinie and Bob Layton on Iron Man. Or Mark Waid on The Flash. Or Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting on Captain America. Or Greg Pak on Hulk. Or Jeff Parker on Agents of Atlas and X-Men: First Class. Or Gail Simone on Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman.
That’s a long list, but there are so many others I could mention. Those are the great superhero comics and they’re the standard I’m trying to use these days. I’m trying imperfectly, because dang it I do like Alpha Flight and Black Canary, but I’m trying. I even passed up a recent issue of Marvel Adventures Iron Man because it made Alpha Flight look stupid and amateurish. I wouldn’t have cared a few years ago. I’d have had to have it anyway just because it was them. These days, I try to have standards.
Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Fantastic Four doesn’t meet those standards. This most recent issue has a few examples of why that is, which is why it’s my last issue of the series until a new team comes on. And that’s kind of ironic, because Millar’s Civil War was at least part of the reason I started reading Fantastic Four in the first place. I’d always sort of liked the Thing and the Invisible Woman, but it was Millar’s horribly out-of-character writing of Reed Richards in Civil War that made me curious about checking out FF to see how the Invisible Woman would respond to him.
When Dwayne McDuffie took over the book after Civil War, I stuck with it and was glad I did because McDuffie’s an idea machine and filled the series with lots of cool, crazy adventures. The Michael Turner covers were a drawback, but I could deal with those to get at McDuffie’s stories.
Millar and Hitch though are doing some things that I really hate. Their story has a cool idea at its core though. A think tank of scientists has constructed a duplicate of Earth so that when the real version is inevitably destroyed humanity has a place to go to. Of course the scientists can’t help but make a few “improvements” as long as they’re starting from scratch, so they build in some rules and safeguards to make sure that they’ll have ultimate power in the new world. It’s an interesting twist on the old take-over-the-world scheme and it would be really snazzy if Millar and Hitch weren’t taking so doggone long to unfold it.
Their dragging it out isn’t even one of my big problems with it though. Millar’s writing always seems to be winking at the audience and saying, “Yes, I know superheroes are dumb kid stuff, but I’ll make it all realistic for you and we can pretend it’s grown-up. But we all really know it’s not.”
His use of the term “costume” to describe superheroes is an example of that. Any time I hear that or “cape” or “tights” to describe superheroes, I hear a writer who’s really not comfortable in the genre. He’s not embracing it, so he’s got to poke a little fun at one of the tropes – the superhero costume.
But you know what? Superheroes are dumb kid stuff. That doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy it. I think we should. But then, I also like The Wiggles. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with grown-ups liking some kid stuff. And I don’t even have a problem with superhero comics that cover some heavy themes. But damn it, Millar, if you can’t call a superhero a superhero with a straight face, you should find something else to write about.
I’d cut Millar some slack if this was somehow in character for Johnny Storm to speak derogatorily of his profession, but as irreverent a character as he is, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who’s embarrassed by what he does.
He is in Millar’s Fantastic Four though. Last issue, he tried to tell a cute supervillain that he’s not really a crimefighter. And while technically he’s not (the Fantastic Four are really a family of adventurers, not vigilantes), he’s certainly done more than his share of fighting crime over the years and I don’t understand his quibbling over the semantics in the middle of a fight.
Of course, I also don’t get why he’d rather sleep with a cute supervillain and let her go in the morning than put her behind bars, but Millar has him doing that too.
Okay, wait, I do get why he’d rather do that. I just don’t buy that he actually would. Especially the letting her go in the morning part.
Enough about Johnny. The rest of my problem has to do with what happens when the Nu-World scientists’ secret weapon gets loose on the real Earth. Again, the weapon is a cool idea. It’s a giant robot called Conserve and Protect; CAP for short, and it’s even painted to look like Captain America. But it’s an idea that’s presented in as dull and boring a manner as possible.
When the Fantastic Four (minus Reed Richards, who’s off planet at the time) are called in to battle the robot, they go in expecting to join forty of the biggest hitting superheroes in the Marvel Universe. When they don’t see any of the others, they and their think tank liaison call in to check up. “Where are they?” they ask.
“What are you talking about?” comes the response. “They got there about eight minutes ago.”
So, the Fantastic Four look around and see this:
Look who’s there lying unconscious. There are some lightweights, but you also have Storm, Ares, Iron Man, the Vision, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel, and the freaking Sentinel. I don’t care how tough CAP is supposed to be, it should’ve taken a lot longer than eight minutes to put down any one of that group. And even – just to give Millar the benefit of the doubt – if CAP could take them all out so fast and so easily, why the heck didn’t we get to see it? I certainly would rather have seen three pages of that fight than three pages of Johnny Storm getting yelled at by his manager for missing band practice. I mean, honestly.
But then again, when the heroes regain consciousness and resume the fight, this incomprehensible mess is what we get:
I can’t tell what’s going on there, but I’m starting to figure out why we don’t get more pages of fighting. There’s no choreography; it’s just a bunch of superheroes flying around, some of whom are unconvincingly attacking the robot. We get one other panel of the fight beside this one and it’s just as bad. Millar and Hitch are faking it and they’re not even faking it well.
And then on the next page, they quit even trying to fake it and just have some guys in a room describe the rest of the fight.
That’s Mr. Fantastic on the speaker by the way. Fresh back from outer space and rarin’ to go. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. The giant robot has kicked the butt of every single Marvel hero there is off panel, but now we’re supposed to get excited because Mr. Fantastic is on the way.
If there was ever a third one, I would really make sure that we at least sign a contract that there is no more. No prequels and no sequels: nothing. If that happens, then there is a third one we have planned, and the seeds are planted in this film…
The idea for me is to bring back the Nazis characters, but bring them back in a way they would operate now. Meaning, what public face would the Nazis have in 2009/2010? How rich would they be? How in charge could they be? It’s not this group of freakies that hide in the sewers, but people that are incredibly rich.
I’m a huge fan of Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas. (Okay, I know it’s really Marvel’s Agents of Atlas, but I still think of it as Parker’s.) Where else are you going to find a talking gorilla, a killer robot, a spaceman, an undersea queen, and the goddess of Love fighting evil spy organizations? Nowhere, that’s where.
SF Signal really liked Gene Wolf’s time traveling pirate story, Pirate Freedom. I’ve already got it on my Amazon Wish List, but this review makes me want to add it again.
“She’s just CGIed that way”
Those real-life versions of Homer Simpson and Mario were just creepy, but… okay, this one’s creepy too, but in a sort of hot way.
Wolverine: First Class
As much as I’m enjoying Jeff Parker’s (there’s that name again) X-Men: First Class, my Wolverine ennui runs deep enough that I wasn’t even tempted to try Wolverine: First Class. I figured I’d buy the Alpha Flight issue when it came out, but that would be it.