Doctor Strange

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2017

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Produced by Kevin Feige

Written by Jon Spaihts/Scott Derrickson/C, Robert Cargill

Based on “Doctor Strange” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Fourteen movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and for me the question is not if/when Marvel Studios will make a bad movie. It’s if they are even capable of doing so. Oh, know that 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” has its detractors and I can hear Van Allen Plexico over there in the fourth row yelling; “What about Iron Man 3, you nitwit?”  But far as I’m concerned, Marvel Studios have consistently knocked it out of the park which each and every one of their movies.

Why do I love the Marvel movies so much as opposed to the dreadfully depressing and dreary DC Extended Universe movies? First of all, they’re quite simply fun. They’ve got characters that enjoy being superheroes and having fantastic adventures. Unlike the superheroes in DC movies that are morose, miserable and appear to be embarrassed and ashamed to be superheroes. It also helps that Marvel has a definite plan for their Cinematic Universe, a structure that allows for the solo movies to develop character and the individual superheroes to work, live and breathe in their own respective corners of the MCU before coming together in an “Avengers” movie.

And the various MCU superheroes do have their own arenas of interest so that their solo movies are reflective of who they are. So the Iron Man movies are technological thrillers. Captain America movies are political/espionage adventures. Thor movies are high fantasy/sword-and super-science epics. And with DOCTOR STRANGE we get to explore an all new dimension of the MCU in more ways than one: magic.

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a world famous neurosurgeon who has the genius and skill to back up his ego. Until he gets involved in a car accident that leaves him with nerve damage so severe that he can’t even hold a scalpel. Even though he could continue to be a healer by working strictly as a consultant that isn’t good enough for him and he spends his fortune on experimental treatments trying to heal his hands. When that fails, his quest leads him to the mystic land of Kamar-Taj and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who is the current Sorcerer Supreme. Despite Strange being an arrogant ass, The Ancient One is persuaded by her chief disciple and a master sorcerer in his own right, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to take on Strange as a student.

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With the teaching of The Ancient One and assisted by Mordo and Wong (Benedict Wong) a Master of The Mystic Arts who is also the guardian of Kamar-Taj’s magical relics and books, Strange shows an astonishing aptitude for magic, quickly becoming adept at astral projection and creating magical portals to travel great distances and even between dimensions. He’s going to need these newfound abilities to combat the rogue master sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen)

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Kaecilius has stolen a forbidden spell from The Book of The Vishanti capable of opening up a portal to the Dark Dimension, domain of the dread Dormammu. Within the Dark Dimension, time does not exist and one can live forever. It’s very simple: Kaecilius brings Dormammu to Earth so he can add it to his domain and Kaecilius gets to live forever. It’s up to Stephen Strange, barely in control of his powers to defeat Kaecilius and Dormammu and save the world.

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Okay, that’s like the barest plot synopsis and on the surface it seems as if it’s not that much different from your typical origin story but such is not the case. Since we’re dealing with magic here there’s an entirely different vibe at work here. I liked how martial arts were integrated into the use of offensive and defensive magical shields and weapons so that there’s truly a distinctive look to the fight scenes.

And even the look of the magical energies depicted in DOCTOR STRANGE is refreshingly different. I was afraid we’d get scene after scene of two sorcerers standing ten feet from each other, throwing bolts of energy while grimacing as if trying to pass a kidney stone. Thank Odin, no. Magic here is used to change and warp reality, to disorient your opponent and use the very landscape to attack him. When I say that the fight scenes in DOCTOR STRANGE are trippy, I shit you not. By now you’ve probably heard that they’re a lot like scenes from “Inception.” True. If you’re watching “Inception” while on acid. There’s a fight scene between Strange, Mordo and Kaecilius in New York that’s like M.C. Escher on industrial strength crack. And there’s one deliriously deranged scene where The Ancient One shows Strange the nature of the multiverse that comes awfully close to reproducing some the bizarre imaginings of classic Doctor Strange artist Steve Ditko on screen.

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Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong didn’t have to be as good as they are in their roles. But I certainly appreciate that they are. They walk that fine line with giving performances that have respect, seriousness and gravitas but at the same time you can see they’re having fun as well. Especially Mr. Cumberbatch. While watching him work I was reminded of that Joss Whedon quote: “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” Cumberbatch and Swinton give Stephen Strange and The Ancient One their dark moments and Mordo really gets his soul chewed up in the third act and even Wong has his trials and tribulations but thank Umar we don’t have to suffer through two hours of depressing characters torturing us with their manufactured angst. The actors know their characters can’t have dark without light and play them accordingly.

That doesn’t mean I loved every part of DOCTOR STRANGE. Rachel McAdams has a slight role that seems little more than a set-up for a bigger role in later movies or even the Netflix Marvel series (go Google “Night Nurse” and you’ll see what I mean) Stephen Strange finds Kamar-Taj way too easily. And while I can go with Strange having an aptitude for magic (after all, he does eventually inherit the title of Sorcerer Supreme) it’s really a stretch that he’s able to hold his own with guys who have been studying the mystic arts far longer than he has.

Still, I’m a forgiving sort when a movie is entertaining me and providing as much fun and enjoyment as DOCTOR STRANGE does. It’s a fine addition to the MCU and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing him return.

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115 minutes

Rated PG-13

 

 

Captain America: Civil War

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2016

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely

Based on “Captain America” created by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon

If you had asked me a couple of days ago what my favorite Marvel movie is, I’d have said with no hesitation at all; “The Avengers.” But that was before I saw CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. I am now prepared to not only proclaim that not only is CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies but also that it just may be the best superhero movie made to date, period.

I might have said this before in my reviews of “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” but it bears repeating, I think. One of the strengths of the MCU is that movies featuring characters in their solo movies take their time to explore the worlds in which these characters operate. So Iron Man movies are about technology and ways they can be used or misused for good or evil. Thor movies are full of mythology, fantasy and cosmic adventures. And Captain America movies are about political struggles, the role of government intelligence agencies in modern warfare which is so different from the way Steve Rogers knew war back in World War II. And morals are always at the forefront of a Captain America movie. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Captain America movies are so popular now because Steve Rogers embodies a way of life and adherence to core beliefs and morals that we as a country and people have gotten away from but desperately long to get back to. But not Cap. He’s The Last Stand-Up Guy and he’s not ashamed of it either.

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Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is engaged in a covert mission in Lagos. His job is to keep a biological weapon out of the hands of Crossbones/Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo.) Cap has brought along as backup The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) The Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and The Scarlet Witch/ Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen.)

They do manage to secure the biological weapon but during the intense fighting, Wanda accidentally destroys an office building which kills a dozen citizens of the isolationist African country Wakanda. This brings King T’Chaka (John Kani) and his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to spearhead what comes to be known as The Sokovia Accords. U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) presents The Sokovia Accords to The Avengers. If they agree to it and sign it, a United Nations panel will control their activities and supervise The Avengers.

Steve thinks it’s a lousy idea and is surprised that Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is all for it. Tony is obviously still dealing with PTSD brought on by not just the Chitauri Invasion of New York but the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as well. Unbeknownst to his friends, Tony’s many chickens have all come home to roost in a big way and that is why he insists that The Avengers sign and abide by The Sokovia Accords.

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The situation grows even more hostile and volatile when the representatives of over a hundred countries meet an a conference in Vienna to ratify The Sokovia Accords. The conference is bombed and all the evidence points to James Buchanan Barnes/Bucky/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) as the bomber. This situation divides The Avengers even more as Steve believes that Bucky shouldn’t be held responsible for crimes he committed while in a brainwashed state as The Winter Solider.

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The Black Widow, War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle ) The Vision (Paul Bettany) and Spider-Man/Peter Parker take Stark’s side while The Falcon, The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) side with Captain America. The battle lines are drawn but there two wild cards in the deck; T’Challa has inherited not only the kingship of Wakanda but the heritage of The Black Panther as well. His agenda does not exactly line up with either Captain America’s or Iron Man’s as he is driven by pure vengeance to exact punishment on the murderer of his father.

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And in the background, quietly and methodically working on a plan to destroy The Avengers is a man named Zemo…not the one you’re thinking of. But he is no less dangerous. One of the jaw-dropping moments in this movie that is full of them is watching how Zemo manipulates every other character.

I’m not gonna pussyfoot around on this one; CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is such a finely crafted piece of superhero cinema I honestly am in awe of what the directors, writers and cast have done here. The movie works as both a Captain America solo movie and as an Avengers movie as well, which in itself is no small feat. There’s an exceptionally large cast of characters packed in here but everybody gets a chance to shine. I appreciated how the movie slowed down for such treats as the conversation The Vision and Wanda have while they bond over cooking dinner. I loved the scene where Rhodey and Sam are arguing their points of views about The Sokovia Accords. Remember that these are two black men who have both served in the U.S. military. But they have very different ideas about the role The Avengers should play in the world. And while we’re on the subject, when was the last time you saw a superhero movie that had three black superheroes in prominent roles?

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The discussions the characters have about The Sokovia Accords, their responsibility in how they use their powers and their views on how the public sees them now is something that I found fascinating. The world governments are starting to think that maybe superheroes really aren’t all that nice to have around since they seem to attract death and destruction (something that The Vision himself points out in one of the movie’s best scenes.)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR manages to give us the superhero action we crave (the Free-For-All Brawl at the airport is now the greatest superhero fight scene EVER.) while giving us plenty of deeper emotional stuff such as The Avengers having to deal with the consequences of their actions. The world has united in their demand that The Avengers simply not level cities and then go home in time for Corn Flakes and watching Captain Kangaroo.

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And I have been waiting all my life to see The Black Panther on a movie screen and now I have. Chadwick Boseman (along with Paul Rudd) walks away with the MVP award. And you all know how I feel about Chris Evans. The guy IS Captain America. ‘Nuff Said. And let me just say that I have never been a big Spider-Man fan but after seeing Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his smokin’ hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) I wouldn’t mind going to see the next Spider-Man movie.

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Bottom Line: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is spectacular entertainment from start to finish. I judge superhero movies by this: do they make me feel the same sense of excitement and wonder that I got from reading the comic books when I was 12 years old? Do they put me in touch with those feelings I got on a Saturday afternoon when I pulled out a stack of of my favorite comics books and read them for hours on end? CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR does indeed make me feel that way. Most movie series decrease in imagination, excitement and pure fun. Not this one. Each succeeding Captain America movie has been better than the one before and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is no exception.

 

 

Captain America: Civil War Guest Review by Sean E. Ali

I know what you’re thinking…”But..but…Derrick! Where’s your review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR?” Well, it’s hard to review a movie I haven’t seen yet. And I won’t be seeing CIVIL WAR until this Tuesday or Wednesday. I very rarely go see movies the day or weekend they open. I’m long past the age where it was exciting to go see a movie with a crowd. I much prefer going during the week and catching a matinee where the theater is a whole lot emptier and quieter.

But thankfully, Sean E. Ali has caught the movie reviewing bug and based on the numbers his previous reviews of “Batman V Superman” and “Keanu” have been racking up, you guys have been enjoying them greatly. So here he is again with his review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Enjoy!

From the “Life During Wartime” File…

Don’t want CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR spoiled at all?

Then run away, run away now!

After that, I blame Derrick Ferguson for this epic novella that you’ll be reading from this point on…

…he’s got me in the habit of writing one of these whether I want to or not now…

…but feel free to read or ignore until I dig up the next “Moment of Utter Coolness”…

Now, let’s begin…

Here’s why Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR will work out better than Warner Brothers/DC’s “Batman V Superman”…

…patience.

Sure it was also a superior storyline, better characterization, the right mix of seriousness, light moments and action (in other words all of the things missing from “Batman V Superman”), but it was all because Marvel played a long slow hand over tossing all their chips on the table in the hopes of grabbing a big pot with little effort.

The game, as they have played it to date, has been a successful one. Marvel Studios have released 13 films and for the most part, those films have garnered generally positive reactions from the audience and the critics. And yes, I hear you “Iron Man 3” haters screaming but I’m one of those folks who dug the film despite its shortcomings and it’s possible CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is the best of their releases since “The Avengers.”

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Now of course the film isn’t absolutely perfect…

…okay I’m just saying that for you nit pickers later, I could care less about the flaws; this film blows everything else out the water in its genre.

Except for disguises. Seriously whenever Steve Rogers goes underground, the authorities should just start grabbing athletically built blond guys wearing windbreakers, baseball caps and dark glasses…

C’mon, you know I’m right!

Seriously, throw me a friggin’ bone here, Marvel, hair coloring, wigs, those old school Groucho Marx glasses mustache combos…

Call Tom Cruise and get Ethan Hunt in with the tearaway facemasks already!

Now this is the part where SPOILERS may come up so be ALERT

If you want to go watch it first then debate the points later, feel free to run to the theater, buy a big bag of popcorn (butter in between, please) and enjoy the show.

Don’t worry about me, I’m sure I can occupy my time until you get back…

Just don’t call me a SPOILER because you weren’t ALERT

So go ahead…

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Siri?

Put on my waiting for folks to get back playlist…

Shoo-be-do-be-doo-be-shoo-be-do-scooby-doo…

Frapadapadapdap….

Y’know, in the old days on those ancient BBS circuits, you used to have to type out “SPOILER SPACE” when you didn’t want folks to immediately see something that might have been spoiler like in nature…

You’d think we’d have just gone with SPOILER ALERT then, but we didn’t…

…kind of silly how I just sort of drifted onto that train of thought…

I’m sorry, what was the question?

Shoo-be-do-be-doo-be-shoo-be-do-scooby-doo…

Frapadapadapdap….

And, you’re back!

The film rocked, right?!

Or did you even go see it before I wasted my time above…?

Well whichever, too late run, because here we go…

The film opens with a flashback in 1991 where we see your Winter Soldier and mine having a bunch of random words read to him from a book while he does the default animal scream bit. These words are apparently some kind of trigger reset (or gibberish he’s just really sick of hearing when he asked for Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of GO THE F*CK TO SLEEP) because he’s about to go on a mission. The job involves running a car off a lonely road and into a tree. In what is possibly a nod to current events on “Agents of SHIELD”, the Soldier removes several packages with blue fluid in them, he looks properly slowly faced and we bring up the title credits…

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…in the present day, the Avengers are on a covert tracking mission in Lagos. The team assembled is Cap, Black Widow, the Falcon and Scarlet Witch (I’m guessing War Machine was off doing military stuff and Vision was trying on cardigans… just go see the flick for that part) they are looking for a group of terrorists who have been hitting police stations across the land lead by Crossbones, the guy who fought Falcon and was the second in command of Cap’s commando group in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. An anticipated attack happens, our heroes spring into action, a great scene showing the teamwork this new batch of Avengers have picked up since they got together in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, the Falcon and Black Widow have a pretty decent chase scene and then…

…well let’s just say things kind of blew up in a bad way and leave it there.

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In the aftermath of their latest adventure, the public is starting to question whether or not having superheroes roaming the world willy nilly is such a good idea. The Avengers it seems have been doing a fairly decent job of saving the world, but not so good at collateral damage or public relations damage control. As we’ve already seen in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, the team isn’t looked upon favorably in a few places. Tony Stark alone is associated with weapons of war that he once manufactured that are still in use by military forces and other less legitimate groups across the globe. The fact that they bounce around the world leaving a lot of smoking craters in their wake, answerable to no one has folks on edge. With what happens in Lagos being the latest incident of a bad thing happening while doing a good thing. The governments of the world are no longer able to turn a blind eye to the issue as the latest… mistake kills members of a delegation from Wakanda, a reclusive African nation that has recently made gestures indicating their willingness to participate on a larger world stage.

Meanwhile, after a brief bit of backstory in an interlude on the holodeck (no we didn’t leave this film for a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” flick, but if we did, Tony Stark invented the holodeck and you’re welcome Captain Picard.) Tony Stark, who is going through a personal crisis or two which he pushes away by hiding behind his work and passing out endowments to fund research for pretty much every student at MIT, is confronted by consequences of the Avengers recent battle against Ultron on a very direct, very personal level while waiting on an elevator. The encounter added with Tony’s own guilt over creating Ultron in the first place, along with his own private troubles and the Avengers latest public disaster leaves him in the right frame of mind for…

…the Sokovia Accords, which is a White Pages phonebook sized way for the rest of the world to say: “Please, oh please, Avengers, could you not blow anything up the next time you save the world? Please and thank you, love, the United Nations.” The Accords would put the Avengers under the header of sanctioned international peacekeeping force, which would be called into a situation only if requested. So basically Interpol but with flashy code names and better toys.

Tony’s hot to get everyone on board so they can put this whole thing in the rear view and shift the burden of responsibility from his team to the world’s governments (“Hey sorry we blew up Bolivia, guys, but remember, YOU called US when Porcupine and the Eel held up that Mom and Pop deli instead of a cop…). He believes that this will give the team sanction to operate with a system of accountability that would foster trust and win back the public. Part of that is driven by his own guilt and Tony shows up to Avengers HQ thinking this is going to be a slam dunk once the rest of the team hears it. Tony’s pitch sells War Machine, Vision, and surprisingly Black Widow, while Scarlet Witch is on the fence and Sam’s not sure either. He just didn’t count on one thing…

…Steve Rogers, Captain America himself, is not on board for this. Given the events of the last film he was in, Steve digs in as the opposing voice, to Tony’s slam dunk proposition. Cap’s fearing that their own interests and agendas could corrupt these governments like the World Council that backed S.H.I.E.L.D only to be duped by HYDRA in purpose. Plus the whole superhero thing is all about being able to respond to a world class threat without going through a ton of red tape. Granted the battles of the Avengers both as a group and on their individual capers have occasionally brought their fair share of collateral damage but as Steve tells Tony, he feels the safest hands to determine where they go to prevent even greater loss of life are their own.

Their debate is ended by an unexpected interlude as Steve is called away on a personal duty where he gets a sort of affirmation that his point of view, while unpopular with some of his peers, is the correct course of action. As this scene closes, The Widow shows up and lets Steve know she’s on her way to sign the Accords as the Avengers representative along with Tony. She asks Steve to join them and he turns her down. Sam sticks with his partner and the lines are quietly drawn…

At the signing, we meet up with a few folks, but the biggest deal of the day is the contingent from Wakanda, fronted by King T’Chaka and his son T’Challa. T’Chaka is there in the spirit of good faith with the hope that this will signal a new chapter in peaceful cooperation with the world at large and the Avengers who want to protect that world…

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…since this is a Marvel flick, we don’t get that peace. The meeting has barely begun when there is an explosion hat kills several members in attendance. The culprit is identified shortly after the event: the Winter Soldier, or as Captain America knows him, James Buchanan (“Bucky”) Barnes his one time best friend. The Avengers, now led by Iron Man, are tasked with bringing the Soldier in. Cap and the Falcon are also trying to get to the Soldier to determine if he really were responsible. And as the two head towards each other on an inevitable collision course, a third party has joined the hunt, a man dressed in black who is determined to beat them both and kill the Soldier…

…and in the background is another player that most Captain America comic book fans will recognize by his family name…

…Zemo.

Which is a good place to end the spoiler stuff.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is a nicely done piece for this genre. It’s a well told and highly enjoyable story. The characters have clear motivations, introduces newcomers to the MCU: The Black Panther and the most amazingly accurate portrayals of Peter Parker and Spider-Man I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching (or ignoring when the too damn fine for words Marisa Tormei was on the screen playing Aunt May like Mary Jane Watson.) And the story was much deeper than the usual “let’s team up and beat the crap out of those guys” Marvel films. The hard core DC fans who said that Marvel is just big dumb fun apparently have missed the last Captain America film and will probably miss this one to avoid being proved wrong.

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If you’ve been on this ride for the last eight years you’ve watched these characters grow into the people they are now so the Tony Stark we met way back in “Iron Man” is still with us, but he’s been seasoned by his experiences. Plus Robert Downey Jr. sells the role because, let’s face it, Tony’s path mirrors his own life including the search for redemption part. Chris Evans is pitch perfect, as always, as Captain America who is still a man out a different time who has run out of time as he becomes an outlaw to save his friend. Since it’s a Captain America film, we get his supporting cast more than anyone else’s so Anthony Mackie is there as the Falcon for the bulk of the game and Sebastian Stan mixes in nicely as he plays Bucky getting slowly back to the guy we first met in initial Captain America movie. The rest of the gang does their part well, especially Jeremy Renner has finally become a fully realized character as Clint “Hawkeye” Barton over his other appearances in the role to date.

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is “Captain America 3”, “Iron Man 4”, and a prequel to both “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man” without getting bogged down with all the extra heroes. The way the film was directed gives me confidence for this team since they will be doing the next big pair of “Avengers” movies where the character count is expected to be higher. The film also tackles the very thing detractors of the Marvel films say they don’t cover and that “Batman V Superman” didn’t really cover: the consequences of their actions so far.

The CIVIL WAR theme was subtly played out on a few levels, outside of the main conflict. you had Tony Stark wrestling with his conscience, Steve Rogers with his loyalty to his friends old and new and his remaining true to his ideals, sure those are a given just below the battle of authority versus autonomy or the oversimplified version: security versus freedom in a post 9/11 and post-Patriot Act world. Tony wants something he built to not be headed on the road to destruction and ruin and the Avengers are part of his legacy to build a better world. Steve’s need to do what he feels is right to stand up for the little guy against those who would try to dominate and bully them is at the core of his character. But both men are suffering from knee jerk overreactions, which force knee jerk overreaches in their respective philosophies. They’re both right to a degree and they’re both wrong to a degree with an answer somewhere in between. But, as it goes with most overreactions, everyone’s going from the gut with emotions hot where there should be cooler heads. Time out isn’t really an option when you’re dealing with people who could literally level a city faster than a DC movie.

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But dig a little deeper because I’m fairly sure that even the writers and the Russos didn’t notice all the other things set into motion that the actors brought out in their parts of the conflict. You had Natasha Romanov’s conflicted nature literally making her a double agent by way of stream of consciousness as she struggled to decide what side she wanted to stand on. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is long overdue for a solo film and, as she shows here, we’d be lucky to get one while she’s still on the clock. Natasha is literally our insider audience watching the same show we are and being equally conflicted about what team to stand on as she sees the extremes her friends go through defending their positions. As I said earlier, Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton steps up and stands by Cap even if it cost him his family while he fights to keep the government overreach away from that side of his life. While it wasn’t covered until later, Hawkeye’s motivation is simple enough: Stark’s betrayed them and Rogers hasn’t. Spider-Man is introduced as a kid struggling with his power and responsibility suddenly thrust upon him as is T’Challa who is the same position with a radically different scale to deal with. One represents youthful idealism overwhelmed but determined to do his best, the other is youthful pragmatism tempered by a wariness that comes from isolation. Both are pushed into this conflict through tragedy, both are trying to work out exactly what they’re supposed to do now that they’ve lost the the respective role models that shaped their lives. Bucky struggles to become the man he was when he was one of Captain America’s Howling Commandos, but before the film ends is faced with his past as an assassin returning to haunt him and the knowledge that even despite his situation, his redemption may never balance the scales enough in the eyes of those affected by his actions…

Even the characters without a conflict like War Machine, who, in a way, pays the highest price in this affair physically, or Sam Wilson’s Falcon who finds out that the price for loyalty is sometimes tragedy even when it involves superheroes, are on opposite sides because of their respective experiences in their lives. Both men are military, both have seen active combat, both are pilots, both understand the chain of command and its purpose for maintain discipline and order in the ranks, and both think their partners in crimefighting have the correct view. If there is a reason for the separation that I can find, it’s where we meet Sam in his introduction to the MCU as opposed to Rhodey when he came on the scene at the very beginning. Rhodey’s active military, he’s a combat pilot, a high level officer and already at the beck and call of the U.S. Government. If anyone’s a poster boy for a registration program, this is the guy. Sam Wilson, on the other hand, is a former medic, as well as a soldier. When he shows up in “Winter Soldier” he’s mustered out of the service and is a vet helping other vets deal with things like PTSD. He’s part of the family, but no longer interested in going into a forward area because of the political agendas of politicians who will never and, in most cases have never, had to deal with the reality of armed combat and the unique version of hell that truly is. So while they don’t fight with the same passion as the leads, they have in their previous appearances logical reasons for taking specific sides other than being the sidekick.

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But if you really squint a little, you can see (or maybe “create” is a better word) real world associations all over the place. When Tony is confronted over the Avengers actions in their fight with Ultron, I felt like that was not only a quiet nod to the upcoming “Luke Cage” series on Netflix, but also a Black Lives Matter moment. The fight in Lagos not only set up the foundation for the film, but it could be quietly interpreted as a statement on US foreign policy with regard to foreign wars. Specifically with how the US deals with African and Middle Eastern conflicts right down to their not giving losses of life and collateral damage there the same priority as the loss of a fictional European nation blown up by a robot…

…and oddly enough was also a sort of Blue Lives Matter moment.

There are other reaches in there, and your mileage may vary based on your creativity and ability to imagine things not actually in evidence, but CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is a damn sight more subtle and intellectual than you’d like to believe…

…if you convince yourself of that.

You have all these disparate elements flying around and you are able to track them all, and appreciate them all. You’ve been with these guys for the bulk of their runs so all the groundwork has been laid. By the time we get down to the final act there’s a twist takes the whole idea of conflict down to its most basic level. The plot changes the whys and wherefores for Bucky, Iron Man and Captain America which takes everything we’ve already seen to this point and flips it on its head and makes it personal for all three…

…and then there’s still another twist that takes this film from the usual superhero flick is contained in a final serious spoiler that you should ignore if you really don’t want to know…

Ready? Then here we go…

…well maybe I won’t after all, that might be a little too much.

No really, watch the film through to the end and you’ll realize pretty quickly, despite the resolutions of various plot lines it all boils down to a final truth you’ll figure out with Zemo’s last lines in the film.

So should you see CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR?

If you don’t I might have to find you and smack you upside the head before grabbing you by the earlobe and walking you into a seat myself.

If you’re a fan you’re probably already on your way. If you’re a fan of the Distinguished Competition and trying to hold out to make a point that “Batman V Superman” was better…

…just go already, friend, you’re not fooling anyone.

Don’t worry though, DC finally did something bright by bringing in Ben Affleck as an Executive Producer on the “Justice League” movie so you folks should have plenty to cheer about in a year or two…

…until then, why don’t you come on in the theater this weekend and see how it’s done…

…I’m looking over at you Zack Snyder and David Goyer.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is everything “Batman V Superman” should’ve been…

…and it’s everything you expect from Marvel…

…and it changes everything, for real, for the next phase of the MCU because every character that went in does not come out of the film unchanged.

Plus it’s a heck of an adventure.

I think I’ll walk down the street and see it again right now…

I’ll even save you a seat.

Enjoy the show with my compliments.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

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2015

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Kevin Feige

Based on “The Avengers” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

The best recommendation I think I can give AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is that by the time the final credits were through rolling, my face hurt. But it was a good hurt. I’m being totally honest with you when I say that for about 85% of the movie I had the biggest grin on my face. The times I didn’t were during the appropriate and genuine moments of emotional crises suffered by the heroes. And those were welcome and necessary moments. Because Joss Whedon gets The Avengers. And he knows that without those scenes where they bicker, fight and squabble like a family, we won’t give a damn when they assemble to go into battle to save the world.

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And this time around, saving the world has a personal angle to it as Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is responsible for the menace threatening it. Yep, Tony’s been playing Dr. Frankenstein and has created an artificial intelligence named Ultron. Working in conjuction with Doc Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) Tony designed Ultron (James Spader) to be a worldwide defense program. It’s obvious to the rest of the team: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) that Tony is still feeling the PTS of the Chitauri Invasion of New York. It could well be that his manic desire to protect The Earth from future invasions may be clouding his judgment just a wee bit.

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Such an understatement. Ultron achieves sentience and sets out on his own agenda to save The Earth. An agenda he feels that can only be accomplished by eradicating humanity. Ultron recruits two “enhanced humans” to his cause. The twins Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Formerly experimental subjects of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) they eagerly join with Ultron for reasons of their own that concern Tony Stark.

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That’s the bare bones of the plot and that’s really all you need to know. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is so much fun because it’s exactly what I look for in a superhero movie and Joss Whedon knows how to make one, that’s for sure. The action sequences are nothing less than spectacular and even though they’re extremely busy, it’s always very clear which Avenger is doing what and why. I especially liked the different and inventive ways Whedon came up with for Captain America and Thor to work together using their signature weapons of shield and hammer. Each and every one of the fight scenes is big enough to have easily been the conclusion of any other superhero movie. Trust me on this. Right from the raid on Strucker’s Hydra base that starts the movie, Whedon cranks it up to eleven and keeps it there for the entire running time.

But it’s not all wall to wall action. Whedon knows how to slow down the action to allow the human, emotional moments to take over and they’re just as suspenseful as the action sequences and in some cases, a complete and total surprise. There are revelations concerning Hawkeye, the Black Widow and The Hulk that I really didn’t see coming. And in the case of Hawkeye, those of you who like me, complained that he didn’t have enough to do in “The Avengers” will be delighted to hear that he gets more than enough to do this time around.

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James Spader as Ultron does some interesting things with his characterization that has subtle echoes of Downey’s characterization of Tony Stark which only makes sense to me. Chris Evans can no longer be billed: Chris Evans as Captain America. From now on he gets billed: Chris Evans is Captain America. While he still is presented as a man out of time, it’s his values and morals from that time that always gives the team its drive and sense of purpose. It provides a nice balance to Tony Stark’s Australia-sized ego and single-minded focus on what he thinks his best for the world.

As the new kids, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen hold their own with the more experienced ensemble cast and carry their roles admirably. I really enjoyed Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and preferred him to the Quicksilver in the “Days of Future Past” X-Men movie. That version was too frivolous and smart-alecky for my taste while Taylor-Johnson had the intensity and pissed-off attitude I like in my Pietro.

It’s a big, complicated story with a lot of characters and a lot of cameos featuring faces you’ll recognize from the standalone movies featuring Thor, Iron Man and Captain America but you’ll never be lost or feel like the story doesn’t once know where it’s going. And the best thing about it is that it’s a superhero movie that makes you feel good. The Avengers never lose sight of the fact that they’re supposed to be the good guys and even when they stumble, they pick themselves up and jump right back into the fray. It’s downright refreshing to see superheroes who worry first about getting civilians out of harm’s way before going into combat with the bad guy (in a marvelous massive melee combat scene I’m convinced is a homage to the final shootout in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch”)

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON gave me the same feeling I had as a kid when I first discovered the comic book and I treasure that feeling. It shows that superhero movies can be visually eye-popping and have astoundingly jaw-dropping fights and still not lose sight of what makes these characters work: they are men and women of godlike power who truly care about protecting the world and the people who inhabit it.  By all means, go see it and have fun.

PG-13

141 Minutes

Thor: The Dark World

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2013

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Alan Taylor

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat

Based on “Thor” created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

“Malekith” and “Algrim/Kurse” created by Walt Simonson

Out of all the Marvel superheroes who have starred in movies I think it’s safe to say that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has the largest and most diverse supporting cast. On Asgard there’s his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) The Warriors Three: Voluminous Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) Fandral The Dashing (Zachary Levi) and Hogun The Grim (Tadanobu Asano) the warrior maid Sif (Jaimie Alexander) The all-seeing guardian of The Bifrost and The Rainbow Bridge, Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Thor’s adoptive brother, the ever scheming, always manipulative trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Then on Earth we’ve got the love of Thor’s life and brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) who in this adventure has an intern of her own, Ian (Jonathan Howard)

That’s a lot of characters for one movie and we haven’t even gotten to the bad guys yet: Malekith, king of The Dark Elves of Svartalfheim (Christopher Eccleston) and his right hand elf Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who is transformed into Kurse, a terrifying creature of immense power capable of going toe-to-toe with Thor. But you know what? The screenplay is very well put together so that each and every one of these characters has something to do and each has their own part to advance the story. Even when a character is off screen for an extended period of time, there’s a logical explanation for where they are and what they’re doing and why we’re not seeing them. Each and every one of them also gets their own scene where they get a chance to shine. It’s a credit to the skill and generosity of the director, Alan Taylor that he manages that with slowing down the plot or making THOR: THE DARK WORLD feel cramped with unnecessary scenes.

After the events of “The Avengers” Thor, The Warriors Three and Sif have been busy restoring peace and order to The Nine Realms. Loki is being held in the dungeons below Odin’s throne room. Odin is well pleased that his once arrogant and knuckle-headed son has grown up and is seriously contemplating turning over the throne of Asgard to him.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jane Foster is in London pissed off because Thor hasn’t come back to Earth for her as he said he would. She’s been neglecting her research but Darcy Lewis pulls her back in by taking Jane to an abandoned warehouse where objects are appearing and disappearing into invisible pocket wormholes. Jane finds out where these objects go and that leads her to being infected by The Aether, a weapon of hideous power capable of destroying the universe. Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim and his army of Dark Elves are awakened by The Aether’s release and go in search of it, the intention being to…well, destroy the universe, what else?

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But by now, Heimdall has alerted Thor that there’s something wrong with Jane and so Thor brings her to Asgard to try and remove The Aether from her and that brings Malekith and his Dark Elves to attack Asgard itself and from then on its hammer time.

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For those of you who complained that there wasn’t enough of Asgard in “Thor” this movie is for you. Most of the action takes place there with occasional side trips to Earth to check up on how the mortals are doing as they gradually come to realize that the Nine Realms are aligning themselves in a rare Convergence that will link the realms. Keep your eyes on Kat Dennings during the Earth scenes as she provides most of the humor and does it with flair and a wicked delivery that strikes exactly the right tone for the situation her character is in.

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Chris Hemsworth gives us a Thor in this one who has learned how to care for others and put their needs ahead of his own and so he’s a much more heroic character here than he was in the first movie. Anthony Hopkins is his usual magnificent self as All-Father Odin while Rene Russo has a kickass fight scene that makes me wish Mrs. Odin had way more screen time.

But it’s Tom Hiddleston who walks off with the acting honors in this one, of course. The relationship between Odin, Thor and Loki is a complicated one and the three actors get the most mileage out of it, giving it a near Shakespearean level of emotion. Hiddleston and Hemsworth especially shine during their scenes together when Thor and Loki have to team up to take on Malekith and they not only make quite the formidable team in battle but they honestly confront their feelings about each other and their relationship to their father.

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD is visually quite magnificent and if you know your Kirby and your Simonson you’ll be able to see their influences on Asgardian architecture, clothing, armor and weaponry. I liked the story a lot as it expanded and enriched Thor’s universe and as I said earlier, didn’t leave any of these characters out of the adventure. Even Mjolnir gets a nice bit of characterization as we see just how seriously the enchanted hammer takes its command that it must always return to Thor’s hand. There’s a lot of really great fight scenes and some tragedy that is truly gut wrenching but there’s also just enough humor so that we know to take it all seriously but not too serious that we can’t relax and have fun. I’d love to sit down Zack Snyder and his “Man of Steel” screenwriters to watch THOR: THE DARK WORLD because this is the way to make a superhero movie. Stop reading this review and go see THOR: THE DARK WORLD right now.

PG-13

112 minutes

The Avengers

2012

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Zak Penn, Joss Whedon

Based on the Marvel comic book “The Avengers” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

My love affair with THE AVENGERS goes back to 1968.  That’s when I bought Avengers Annual #2 which featured Captain America going back in time with teammates Hawkeye, Goliath, The Wasp and The Black Panther and through a cosmic mixup find themselves doing battle with Giant-Man, The Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk.

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I was hooked and from that year to this one, The Avengers have always been my favorite superhero team.  Way back then my friends and I fantasized about seeing The Avengers in a live-action movie but until a few years ago I never really believed it could be done.  It has.  After five previous Marvel superhero movies it’s all led up to this.  And it’s been done with such fresh intelligence, unique wit, humor, creative consistency and downright fun that as far as I’m concerned THE AVENGERS is the best and greatest superhero movie ever made.  With this movie, the bar for superhero movies has been raised so incredibly high that I don’t think it’ll be topped anytime soon.  At least not until “Avengers 2”

The meat of the plot is actually quite simple.  After being thrown off the destroyed Rainbow Bridge by his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) during his attempt to conquer Asgard, The God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) found himself in a hostile dimension.  He has made a deal with the leader of the warrior alien race known as the Chitauri.  If Loki retrieves the ancient artifact known as the Tesseract he’ll be given command of a Chitauri army to conquer The Earth.  Loki manages to remotely use the Tesseract to open a portal by which he returns to Earth.  Loki steals the Tessarct from the S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility where it is being studied by Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard)  Loki escapes, destroying the facility in the process while turning Dr. Selvig, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and half a dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into his mind-controlled lackeys.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to reactivate “The Avengers Initiative” to combat this threat.  He sends Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) heads to New York to bring in Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.).  When Loki is discovered to be in Germany, it seems like the perfect assignment for Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) to capture him but that plan goes wrong when Thor shows up, intending to capture his brother himself, recover the Tessaract and take them both back to Asgard. And he’s got an outrageously big hammer to back up his intentions.

Surprisingly, Loki allows himself to be taken captive and imprisoned on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier.  Fury attempts to talk this wildly diverse group into becoming a team while Banner and Stark try to find the Tesseract and the true depths of Loki’s scheming soon become obvious to all.  Divided and disheartened, The Avengers must learn how to work together as a team to save the world from Loki and the overwhelming onslaught of the Chitauri hordes pouring out of a interdimensional  portal above Stark Tower.

That’s the bare bones of the plot but there’s so much meat on the bones that it flat-out astonishes me how much Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn gets in there without the movie feeling rushed or over-bloated.  There are some great character moments aboard the Helicarrier and the scene of The Avengers bickering among themselves had me chuckling even though it’s a deadly serious scene.  But as a long-time Avengers fan, I’ve seen this scene played out in I don’t know how many issues of the comic book and it feels absolutely right in here.

We get astounding superhero battles such as Iron Man vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Thor while the actual alien attack on New York is jaw-dropping in its scale and level of sheer spectacle.  It’s also where we get to see The Avengers finally working together as a team and it’s one of the best moments in superhero movie history.

The acting is dead on-point with Mark Ruffalo being the stand-out.  I expected everyone else to be good as they’ve played these characters before and they know the tone they’re supposed to take.  But Mark Ruffalo comes in cold and nails Bruce Banner with an ease that is truly impressive.  He’s just as good as Eric Bana and Edward Norton and I could even see the progression in both The Hulk and Bruce Banner through Ruffalo’s performance.  They both have come a long way and Ruffalo as Banner reflects this.  Nothing he does invalidates or violates the Bana or Norton performances and actually builds on them.  And both Banner and The Hulk get some of the best lines/scenes in the movie.  Including the one between The Hulk and Loki that had the audience I saw the movie with laughing, cheering, clapping and high-fiving for at least five minutes.

Jeremy Renner makes for a far better Clint Barton than I thought he would be.  This incarnation of Hawkeye as well as The Black Widow are darker versions of the traditional characters but I didn’t mind.  These characters I’ve always admired and loved since they don’t have superpowers.  Even Captain America has the Super-Solider Formula going for him but Hawkeye and The Black Widow are superbly trained humans who through virtue of guts, heart and their outstanding skills prove why they’re worthy to be Avengers.

So should you see THE AVENGERS?  What a silly question. of course you have. As for me I’ve seen THE AVENGERS and it’s the Avengers movie I’ve been waiting since 1968 to see and it was worth the wait.

143 minutes

PG-13

The Incredible Hulk

2008

Universal Studios/Marvel Entertainment

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Produced by Avi Arad and Gale Anne Hurd

Screenplay by Edward Norton (uncredited) and Zak Penn

Based on the comic book “The Incredible Hulk” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

For those of you who haven’t heard my yelling in the wilderness before now, allow me to yell some more: I thoroughly enjoyed the Ang Lee directed “Hulk” and still think it’s one of the best superhero movies made.  For years fanboys whined that superhero movies weren’t treated with the respect or dignity the characters deserved.  Well, they got a movie with an intelligent script, an A-list director, a top notch cast, photographed with style and imagination and what did they do?  BMW’ed that there wasn’t enough “Hulk Smash!”  They certainly can’t say that about THE INCREDIBLE HULK as there’s enough action in this one to make up for any lack of action in the first.  And it’s well directed action that serves the needs of the story and just isn’t put in there for “Hulk Smash!” value.  I enjoyed THE INCREDIBLE HULK for a lot of reasons I like “Hulk” They both share intelligent scripts, a top-notch cast and it’s photographed with style and imagination.  I don’t know if Louis Leterrier can be considered an A-list director but if he keeps on making movies this good, he will be.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK hits the ground running by giving us a condensed, reworked version of The Hulk’s origin.  In this one, General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) enlists the genius of radiation expert Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) to revive a World War II era experiment: The Super-Soldier Project.  The idea is to physically enhance human beings to the pinnacle of peak human perfection.  If you’ve seen “Captain America” then you know how that worked out.  Ross thinks that Bruce can speed up the process.  Well, Doc Bruce Banner gets belted by gamma rays, turns into The Hulk and in the process injures not only Ross but his daughter Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) the love of Bruce’s life.  Now, when Bruce gets angry or outraged a startling metamorphosis occurs and he changes into a seven-foot tall, thousand pound, green skinned powerhouse driven by rage.  Bruce goes on the run, hiding from Ross and the United States Army while trying to find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.

We pick up Bruce working in a bottling plant in Rio de Janeiro.  He’s studying martial arts to help him control his anger.  He’s working on a cure for his condition with the help of the mysterious Mr. Blue who he communicates with via laptop and satellite uplink.  Ross finds Bruce due to a set of circumstances involving a cut finger, a soda bottle and the second funniest cameo Stan Lee has done in these Marvel movies.  Ross sends a team of Special Forces commandos to capture Banner.  They’re led by Blonsky (Tim Roth) a Russian born British black ops type of guy who’s past his prime.

The team finds Banner and they make the mistake of making him mad so you can guess what happens after that.  But Blonsky wants another crack at capturing Bruce and The Hulk and willingly volunteers to take the Super-Soldier serum himself so that he can have a fighting chance against The Hulk.  In the meantime, Bruce and Betty have reunited and decide to go toNew Yorkand seek out Mr. Blue themselves.  That plan is complicated by Ross, Blonsky and The Army showing up and in one of the movie’s really amazing battle sequences Bruce Hulks out and takes on the Army and Blonsky.  Blonsky’s able to actually hold his own for a while against The Hulk before the big green guy shows exactly why there’s ‘The Incredible’ in front of his name.

The fight leaves every bone in Blonsky’s body shattered but in a few hours he’s totally and completely healed.  This gets Blonsky to thinking: if he’s like this just from having taken the serum, what’ll happen if he gets a dose of gamma rays like Bruce Banner?  The answer leads to a simply fantastic showdown inNew York’sHarlem between The Hulk and Blonsky who has been transformed into a gamma powered Abomination.  But will Bruce be able to find a lasting cure?  Will he and Betty ever be able to have a normal life?

The really fun thing about THE INCREDIBLE HULK is that it follows the old school formula of storytelling that Marvel did so well way back in the 60’s/70’s: a healthy dose of plain ol’ superheroics with just enough soap opera elements to give the characters and the story the illusion of being something more than just the opportunity to have guys with bulging muscles whomping the piss outta each other.  But it’s done so well and with such respect for the source material that like “Iron Man” and “Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer” it’s elevated out of just being just another superhero movie and is A Good Movie, period.

I liked Edward Norton a lot in this movie.  He’s one of the best actors working today and his Bruce Banner really isn’t that far from the way Eric Bana played Banner in the 2003 movie.  Norton’s Banner is less repressed and more proactive but five years on the run from the government will make a man come out of his shell real fast.  I liked how even General Ross had to admit that Banner isn’t to be underestimated and not just because he can turn into The Hulk.  This is a Bruce Banner who in his own way can be as dangerous as his monstrous alter ego.  And speaking of General Ross, William Hurt did a far better job of playing ol’ ‘Thunderbolt’ than I thought he would.  It’s almost a shame he had to follow Sam Elliot’s definitive performance as General Ross because I think if William Hurt had done it first, we all might be saying that his version of Ross is the definitive one as William Hurt is just that good.  And saying Tim Roth is a terrific actor is as obvious as saying water is wet.  It’s just a given that in any role, Tim Roth is going to do his usual excellent job.  The only acting disappointment in the movie was Liv Tyler.  Not that she’s terrible as Betty Ross.  Far from it.  She’s quite good.  Just not as good as Jennifer Connelly.

The CGI Hulk in this one is an improvement over the 2003 version.  He’s way more muscular and it looked to my eyes as if the CGI guys tried to find a medium between the gray and green versions of The Hulk in that there are some scenes where he looks greener and others where he looks grayer.  In any case it’s a more natural looking green and this Hulk is a truly terrifying creature.  I’ve always considered The Hulk’s arch enemy to be the entire United States Army and in the comics The Hulk had some truly epic battles with them and so he does in this movie.  And the final fight between The Hulk and Blonsky/The Abomination is jaw-droppingly awesome in its sheer savagery.

So should you see THE INCREDIBLE HULK?  Chances are you probably already have. I’m not even going to get into which is better, this one or the 2003 “Hulk” I like and enjoy each of them for what they are.  Both are extremely well made movies with valid interpretations of the source material.  There’s a whole lot of references and nods to the comic book, the TV show starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as well as the animated ‘Hulk’ series from the 80’s and 90’s that will give long time fans a chuckle and there’s more than enough action and character drama to ensure a good time at the movies will be had by all.  Enjoy.

114 minutes

Rated PG-13