Superhero Triad

It would seem that everyone and their curly-haired brother have been out the last few days seeing THE DARK KNIGHT. Alas, I have not been able to swing that yet. However, the studios did send me screener copies of three other Super-Hero movies this summer, which I have managed to see.

Since quite a few people have already seen those movies as well (a combined global gross of 1.3 billion or so), I thought that instead of my usual full breakdown I would offer scaled-down reviews, focusing on one tangential point I found interesting, which you are more than welcome to use as your own at parties throughout the rest of the summer.




What’s it about?

Playboy genius (and major arms dealer) has an epiphany about the weapons he sells after being kidnapped by the Taliban. Vowing to no longer be in the business of death, he creates Iron Man, the greatest killing machine of all. (And it can fly!)

Hancock is as powerful as Superman, except lonely, depressed and alcoholic. A train wreck (figuratively and literally), Hancock’s life is going nowhere, but maybe a plucky marketing guru can help him turn things around.

Long ago there was an unstoppable Golden Army that fought for the Elf King and slaughtered the humans. They’re back, unless Hellboy can stop them, but why should he save a world that doesn’t want him?

How’s it about it?

Terrific. Virtually every note is done right. Comic book fans will be more than pleased, but you don’t have to know a thing about Iron Man to be happy.

Pretty good. Pre-movie buzz was awful, but you can’t let that stop you. A much darker film than the trailers, and certainly some problems, but most adults will enjoy.

Better than the first, which I loved . Guillermo del Toro is the dude who made PAN’S LABYRINTH, and has been tapped to make the Hobbit.

What’s so great?

Pitch-perfect casting, a great sense of wonder. A message (more or less) that doesn’t get in the way of the film. The Iron Man suit, and the chemistry between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts.

A fascinating angle for a superhero story. What if you didn’t know about your past? What if you couldn’t handle being so different? What could anyone do to stop you?

The Troll Market. The movie is worth seeing just for that. The puppet story at the beginning. Hellboy’s sense of humor always rocks. An Elemental god. Del Toro’s mind is an international treasure.

What’s not so great?

Nothing. Maybe the music could have been better, but I’m stretching just to say that. A first-rate movie.

You could see where there were arguments over the script. The first version was dark, and they tried to lighten it up. Personally I would have split Hancock into two movies, with the first tale lighter fare than going darker. Because they tried to cram it all into 90 minutes, some of the fascinating backstory got lost, and to me that was the most intriguing part.

Not as much Hellboy as I would like. His sense of humor cracks me up. Also, the movie starts right in, assuming you know EVERYTHING about the first film. If you didn't, it would be hard to follow for the first twenty minutes or so. The Elf-Human war was fascinating, but it almost overwhelmed Hellboy. I wish that’d been it’s own movie.

How was the Star?

Tony Stark is the part Robert Downey Jr. was born to play. (Baby!) Though they don’t get into the alcoholism (next film), Downey was more than believable as the fly by the seat of his pants Stark

Will Smith has gotten to the point where can do no wrong. He’s the most bankable actor in Hollywood, and deservedly so. Smith makes Hancock a real bum, yet our love for him ensures we won’t turn on the big guy.

Ron Perlman is one of the unknown gems of the acting world, and even though we don’t get to see him (in the Hellboy costume), we get to hear him, which is a treat.

Who else is great?

Jeff Daniels and Terrence Howard are well-cast, but Gwyneth Paltrow steals every scene. She’s so Gal Friday it’s not even funny.

Jason Bateman is approaching Christopher Walken territory, as far as reliable awesome in a movie. You put him in, you get the Funny! (Charlize Theron doesn't get to do as much, but she's great too.)

David Hyde Pierce does great voice work as Abe (as always) and Selma Blair takes a step up, giving me hope for her yet. But the real supporting cast are the creatures, and nowhere more than the Troll Market! I'm not kidding. Someday i will watch that scene on slow-motion, just to catch everything going on. I can't wait to askCarnivus how accurate it is.

Signature Moment

When Iron Man gets the second generation suit flying for the first time, and rockets out of his house. Good times.

I can't give away the ACTUAL signature moment (it involves a refrigerator), but there is another moment where two prisoners (who must not get out much) threaten Hancock. I'm still wincing.


What can I say about the movie so people think I'm smart and cool?

IRON MAN plays itself off as a slap against the Bush Administration and general right-wing war-mongering. The weapons Tony Stark sells are (shock!) being used against U.S. troops. Fair enough, but if you look beyond the obvious satire, the film actually comes off far more like TRANSFORMERS, as a "rah-rah" for the U.S. Military. If you're still not convinced: some of the filming was done at Edwards Air Force Base. 'Nuff said.

The original script was called TONIGHT HE COMES, about a fallen super hero, and was supposedly scathingly dark. One can understand why they "Family'd" it up, but I'd have liked to see the first interpretation.

Also, Dave Chappelle was originally up for the part until Will Smith expressed interest. That would have been quite the Hancock. Definitely Rated R.

The Elemental god that Hellboy faces is reminiscent of Miyazaki's Forest God in PRINCESS MONONOKE. Hellboy is faced with destroying something that is the last of its kind (like he is), and his reluctance speaks volumes to the greater depths the series is capable of.

Also, the crazy German ectoplasm dude is voiced by Peter Griffin!

Best Line

Soldier: Is it true that you went twelve-for-twelve with the Maxim Girls last year? Tony Stark: That is an excellent question. Yes and no. March and I had a scheduling conflict but fortunately the Christmas cover was twins.

Woman in Crowd: I can smell alcohol on your breath! Hancock: That's cause I've been drinking bitch!

Hellboy: You’re in love. Have a beer. Abe Sapien: [Hellboy hands him a beer] Oh, my body's a temple. Hellboy: Now it's an amusement park. Hellboy: [reading a CD's track listing] "Can't Smile Without You"? Yep, I'm gonna need a beer, too!

Okay, one more:

Hellboy: [as he's wrapping an infant in his tail] Your first piece of tail.

Suspension of Disbelief

(0 - 10, with 0 being absolutely real.)

8. Everything is far-fetched, but it is based on science, not magic.

9. The only way I'm not going up to 10 is that super powers would explain Will Smith's career.

10, with a possible upgrade to 8.4, depending on how real that Troll Market is.

Genre Grade

(putting all three movies in the Super Hero genre)

A. Without a Doubt. A.

B-/C+. The execution wasn't as good as could be hoped, and I wish the movie had been longer, but a very intriguing concept, and I'm much more excited about HANCOCK 2 than I am about say, another X-Men or Spider-Man.

If I'm judging pure Super Hero, I suppose B+. If I were allowed to switch off and grade HELLBOY 2 in a fantasy/superhero hybrid genre, then I'm somewhere between A- and A. This isn't LOTR, but it sure is fun.

Sex, Drugs + Rock & Roll?

IRON MAN earns its PG-13 rating, but there is nothing beyond the pale. I would let any teenager see it, and maybe a year or two earlier if they were mature.

Do not be fooled by the previews! HANCOCK bills as summer family fare, but it's not. Twice the MPAA rated HANCOCK as an "R," and it took major trimming to get the PG-13 rating. I'm not saying this is Tarrantino, but HANCOCK is much closer to an R than a PG.

The biggest issue here isn't the language or violence, but that the creatures will seem pretty scary to the younger set. Still, Junior High should be fine.

Pantheon Percentile (0-99, with the grade being the % of movies EVER MADE that this movie is better than)

95. A classic, and hopefully the start of a franchise every bit as great at Spidey and Bats.

Not out of the ballpark, but very watchable. I'd see it again, especially if TBS doesn't' neuter it. 68.

A delight. Not every gets the mad genius of Guillermo del Toro, but those of us who do thank the gods of chaos he's around. 85.

One last great thought about each:

IRON MAN - I first loved the Iron Man comic because he shot fire out of his hands. I've always wanted to do that. As I matured, I found the story-lines sophisticated, both with Tony's drinking and his infirmities. I never imagined that it would translate to a largely unaware public, though. I'm gratified to see that a good story well told will still pack them in. And RobertDowney Jr., God bless him, he can't seem to stay out of his own way. But boy, is that man talented. Sort of like Tony. If Downey has to play alcoholics who mess up their lives to stay sober, so be it. Here's hoping both he and Tony Stark make full recoveries.

HANCOCK - We've seen super heroes at home (The Tick, The Incredibles), and comics have for years been mining the fertile ground of "what happens when the mask comes off." However, I don't know if a movie has ever jumped in so deeply to these dark waters. What if you were the only one of your kind? What if you knew nothing of your past, and you couldn't relate to anyone? Though they tried to go funny, I appreciated the "Stranger in a Strange Land" take, and the fact that Smith is an African American only added to the poignancy. There were several times during the film that I saw some parallels to trying to be black and successful in our world. Don't get me wrong; Will Smith has a great life by allaccounts, but that doesn't take away his experience, or anyone else's. While HANCOCK was the least well executed film of the three, I'm very excited about where they go from here.

HELLBOY 2 - I simply love Ron Perlman and the comic timing he brings to the role. The movies work more as funny than scary. That said, there is some real darkness coming. The three things that make Hellboy stand out are: his invincibility, his desire to be accepted, and his prophetic role in the end times. The first thing was done away with in this film: Hellboy can die. That's okay, but I was enjoying the satirical take on a super hero who was invincible. More interesting, though, is how much Hellboy wants the public to like him. He hides behind his gruff exterior, but he's a big softy. A big softy with horns, a giant hand atai l. Oh, and he's a red demon. Predictably, the public is not so impressed, and Hellboy is crushed. then there's the end-times thing, that the first movie only hinted at. In part 2 we're explicitly told thatHellboy's fate is to doom mankind. Now the saving the whole world thing gets real interesting, and even ironic. Once the Hobbit films are over, I hopedel Toro comes back and makes one bang of an ending to this rewarding series. And I hope you've seen the first two films by then, and cannot wait for the third. (Troll Market!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FYI: David Hyde Pierce didn't do Abe's voice for HB2. They actually got the actor who played Abe to do the voice this time. And yeah, he sounds more than a bit like DHP.