Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Small Bites: Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, and Punisher: War Zone

Captain America: The First Avenger
As a person who still reads Captain America comics on a monthly basis, and has sat through the awful 1990 adaptation, I may have had slightly higher expectations for the latest version of film than the average person. Fortunately this film did not disappoint on any level. Outside of the original Iron Man, I would argue that this is the best of the solo Avenger films. Captain America: The First Avenger stays true to the comics while still managing to create an engaging cinematic experience. Even the changes they make to the story, including what happen to James “Bucky” Barnes, worked. Some may argue that the film has more story than action but it is important that director Joe Johnston took his time to ensure all the pieces in the film were fully developed. Unlike Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger feels like an actual and not just a two hour commercial for the upcoming Avengers film.

It is always nice to see Kenneth Branagh in the directors chair, but it is even better when he nails the subject matter. Personally I think this is Branagh’s best directorial effort since Hamlet. I really enjoyed how he evokes a Shakespearian-style tragedy to the overall proceedings. Chris Hemsworth is the perfect choice to play Thor as he accentuates both the character’s larger than life ego and his short comings nicely. I also really enjoyed Tom Hiddleston take on Thor’s conniving sibling Loki. Some of the supporting cast, most notably Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard, are wasted in the film. I also did not buy Skarsgard’s protective father type character to Portman’s Jane, it came off as creepy instead of caring. The last act of the film turns into your typical action film overall I thought Branagh did a good job in making an entertaining superhero film.

Green Lantern
In a year that saw four major comic book inspired films released within months of each other, Green Lantern is by far the dullest of the bunch. If you have seen the animated film Green Lantern: First Flight than you have pretty much seen this film…just done way better. Granted I have never been a huge Green Lantern fan, but I have read enough of the comics to understand the character and his motivations. Unfortunately this film is an origin story that feels like it is merely going through the motions so that it can set up the sequel, which is the film that we all wanted to see in the first place. Ryan Reynolds is decent as Hal Jordan and Mark Strong makes a great Sinestro. However the script and the special effects do nothing to elevate the film from being a sleep inducing mess.

Punisher: War Zone
This may come off as a backhanded compliment, but Lexi Alexander’s film Punisher: War Zone is by far the best of the three Punisher films. It is the closest Marvel will ever get to having a commercially accessible Punisher film. If you really think about it, the Punisher is a psychotic hero who takes pleasure in disposing of his enemies in the most violent way possible. Alexander grasps this perfectly as she crafts a film that is both violent and morbidly entertaining. She understands that both the Punisher and his enemies, in this case Jigsaw (Dominic West), are essentially cartoonish characters in their own way. Ray Stevenson is solid as the Punisher and tries his best to bring some depth to the role. Of course, being a Punisher film, the movie is rather forgettable an hour or so after viewing. This is ultimately due to the fact that the Punisher is rather one note even by comic book standards.


  1. Phips3:42 pm

    I agree about Cpt America..aside from Iron Man it was the best Avengers film. However, I also really liked Iron Man 2. I thought Mickey Rourke was great and RDJ was again as well...

    I was pleasantly surprised by Thor..I expected it to suck. But it was good. Thor and Loki were acted the best and yes, Portman was completely wasted...

  2. The climaxes of these kind of films are always a bit of a let down but love the use of humour in the Iron Man's and Thor.

  3. Glad you liked Thor. I rewatched it this past weekend and still enjoyed it. Hemsworth really was a great choice for the role.

    Captain America was underwhelming to me. It felt like a totally generic Marvel movie and while the focus on Steve Rogers early struggle was nice, Red Skull was a total disappointment.

  4. I'm digging these capsule reviews. I've seen all four of these films... none of which I'd recommend.

    Well, maybe Captain America.

  5. @Phips – I had problems with Iron Man 2 when I saw it in theatres. The film has gone down even further for me upon repeat viewing.

    @ptuner1010 – I agree that the climax is rarely satisfying in these type of films. It is always tough to go from a balance of action and story for 2/3 of the film to straight action in the last act.

    @Castor – The casting for both Thor and Captain America were good. Hemsworth was far better than Evans in capturing the essence of the character.

    @Duke – I have a mix of traditional reviews (i.e. long form) and capsule reviews coming down the pipe. It is always good to change things up from a writing standpoint.

  6. I agree that Captain America was the second best of the Avengers films and Iron Man was the best. I felt Thor and Green Lantern were equal to each other in that they were basically the same film - Thor just got there first.

    Both are about heroes that have had a secondary popularity at their companies to better liked characters such as Spider-Man and Batman. Both characters are far more “cosmic” in their approach – Thor as a god (or in the movie as an alien from an advanced race) and Green Lantern as a member of an intergalactic corps of peace keepers. Both have tools they employ – Thor his hammer and Green Lantern his ring. Both movies show the characters having to become worthy of wielding those tools. Both used their endings to set up sequels.

    Thor did have the better villain, but also had the less believable transition to being worthy.

  7. @Chip Lary – While I agree that both Thor and Green Lantern have similar character/story traits, I found the Green Lantern film to be rather lifeless. I actually wished they had just ignored doing an origin film altogether and just jumped into a story that was more thrilling. They could have always touched on his origin briefly (say 15 minutes) in this scenario.

  8. I completely agree with you on Captain America. I was astounded about how well the film was able to connect to the Avengers storyline without taking away from the actual standalone portion of the film.

    I was not as high on Thor as you were. I agree that Branagh was an inspired choice for director and he did wonders with the portions of the film set in Asgard. Unfortunately, I felt the writing for the Earth portions of the film ruined it.

  9. @Ryan – I can see how the Earth segments would disappoint you. I found most of the supporting characters in that segment of the film to be sorely underused.


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