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Posts Tagged j. michael straczynski

Marvel Movies Project: Thor

Movie poster for Thor (2011).

With the exception of the two Fantastic Four movies (and I suppose Spider-Man 3), all the Marvel movies so far have been Earth-based. Thor (2011) reaches further into the “universe” part of the Marvel Universe than any other film, taking us to Asgard, the realm of the gods of Norse myth, to introduce us to our next future Avenger: Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

The plot of the movie in a nutshell: stripped of his powers and banished to Earth by his father Odin, Thor must learn humility in order to be worthy once again of possessing his immense strength and the mystical hammer Mjolnir. While on Earth, he meets and falls in love with astrophysicist Jane Foster and befriends her two associates, Dr. Selvig and Darcy. He also faces challenges in the forms of his mischievous brother Loki, who wants to rule Asgard himself, and agents of SHIELD, who want to know who he is and where he came from.

I like this movie a lot. For one thing, it’s hilarious. Thor’s fish-out-of-water adventures on Earth are comedy gold, from the early slapstick stuff — Darcy tasing him, the hospital sedating him, Jane running over him with the car … twice — to his first encounters with Earth culture: the diner, Facebook, the pet store. “Know this, Son of Coul” may be one of my favourite movie lines, and this is certainly one of my favourite shots from any Marvel movie:

Lady Sif and the Warriors Three arrive in New Mexico.

Thor is a charming lead character. He’s totally sure of himself: on Asgard, this leads to some problems with overconfidence, but on Earth it means just doing whatever weird thing comes to mind without embarrassment. When Jane corrects his behaviour, he re-adjusts without taking her comments personally. He’s brave and chivalrous, he cares deeply and unreservedly about his family and friends — even Loki, who’s given him every reason to be quite pissed off — and by the end of the movie, he’s learned to be a noble and self-sacrificing leader. It must be said that Chris Hemsworth is also easy on the eyes … well, it’s no great mystery why the ladies love Thor.

Thor winks.

But Thor is lady-friendly in other ways too, and I don’t mean Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba (although …): it features not one, not two, but four fairly prominent and impressive female characters: Natalie Portman as Jane the astrophysicist, Jaimie Alexander as warrior Sif, Rene Russo as Asgard’s queen Frigga, and Kat Dennings as Darcy, Jane’s research assistant. Okay, so research assistant may not sound as exciting as warrior or astrophysicist, but Darcy is notable for another reason: as this post from Social Justice League on Thor as a feminist movie points out, the wisecracking sidekick in a movie like this would most often be a man. Kudos to Thor for including Darcy, and to Kat Dennings for making her very entertaining.

Also notable in Thor: a lot more Avengers setup. Aside from the introduction of Thor himself, this movie brings a few other important pieces for the puzzle: Agent Coulson is back in his most prominent role yet, Hawkeye makes a brief appearance, and Dr. Selvig, as teased in the post-credits scene with Nick Fury, will also show up in The Avengers. Finally, Loki’s fall from grace (and Asgard, haaaaaa) ends up being the incident that gets the whole Avengers ball rolling.

I will finish this post with a comics recommendation. J. Michael Straczynski gets a story credit on this film. Best known to me as the creator of Babylon 5 and probably my favourite Amazing Spider-Man writer, Straczynski also wrote some very good Thor comics from 2007-2009. This movie isn’t based on those comics — in the comics, Asgard is in Oklahoma and Loki has taken over Sif’s body — but I think it has a similar tone. If you liked the movie, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the comics. His run has been collected in three volumes, which you should probably check out.

(PS: I don’t know who made that winking Thor GIF, but thanks!)

Marvel Movies Project: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Movie poster for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007).

Well, this is something of a milestone in the Marvel Movies Project: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) is the first one of these movies I had never seen before. I’m not sure why I didn’t go see it at the time, but it’s possible my disappointment with Spider-Man 3, released just a month earlier, had something to do with it.

We rejoin the FF an unspecified amount of time after the first film. The people all seem much the same, but relationships have progressed: Reed and Sue are trying (repeatedly) to get married, Ben and Alicia have become a serious couple, and Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny have settled into the routine of being the Fantastic Four and saving the world on a regular basis. They are truly a team now; even Johnny, once the rebel of the bunch, is committed to the group identity.

When Johnny overhears Reed and Sue talking about giving up the superhero life after their wedding to try to raise a family, he takes it hard. There isn’t much by way of character development in this movie, but Johnny has the closest thing to a character arc as we see some cracks in his bravado and get indications that the Torch may actually be growing up. Although this is somewhat interesting, the downside is that it makes him a bit less funny. His humour was Fantastic Four‘s main asset and Rise of the Silver Surfer suffers from a lack of it.

The film’s plot sees the Fantastic Four recruited by the government to help deal with the threat posed by the mysterious Silver Surfer, who is flying around the planet creating bizarre weather and giant craters and also making Johnny’s molecules unstable, causing him to swap powers hilariously with other team members when he touches them. The team eventually discovers that, despite all the chaos he causes, the Surfer is not himself the threat: he is merely the herald of Galactus, the devourer of worlds, who is on his way to consume planet Earth.

In the movie, Galactus is portrayed as a sort of giant cloud-like thing. Comic book readers may be familiar with him in a rather different form. Apparently, the filmmakers made him this way to preserve the impact of revealing Galactus’ true appearance for a future Silver Surfer spinoff movie, which of course never happened — at least, not yet. J. Michael Straczynski had written a script at one point, but it was abandoned, and as far as I can tell there’s nothing concrete in the works in terms of a Silver Surfer movie right now. However, we know from reading the Marvel Movies Project post about Daredevil that Fox declined to trade the rights to the Surfer and Galactus back to Marvel in exchange for keeping the rights to Daredevil, so it seems a future Silver Surfer movie shouldn’t be ruled out.

Anyway, the Surfer, who never tried to stop Galactus before but wants to this time because Sue reminds him of his one true love, turns out to be an ally against Galactus. Unfortunately, Victor von Doom does not: after shocking the FF by being still alive, Doom completes the evil comeback by stealing the surfboard which is the source of much of the Surfer’s power. The only way the Fantastic Four can defeat Doom is by taking advantage of Johnny’s unstable molecules and giving him all their combined powers. With that boost, Johnny takes Victor down, thus paradoxically demonstrating the power of teamwork through solo action. The Surfer gets his board back and defeats Galactus, and Sue and Reed finally have their wedding.

I didn’t dislike this movie, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as I did the first one. The humour is not as strong and the team doesn’t have quite the same dysfunctional energy that made them so fun to watch the first time around.

It seems this was the last big screen go-round for this particular Fantastic Four team; Chris Evans has obviously moved on to bigger and way better Marvel pursuits, and Fox’s so far castless upcoming Fantastic Four franchise reboot is scheduled to be released on March 6, 2015. That one’s been in the news lately: last week it was reported that Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has completed a “polish” of the film’s script. Mark Millar, who is working on the reboot as a consultant, has been hyping the project:

“What I wasn’t expecting actually was just how funny and likeable he could make this as well as getting the more awesome moments on screen — I use awesome in the traditional British sense and not the California sense awesome, you know? The Ridley Scott moments, and the Fantastic Four really are jaw-dropping in the same way you feel when you saw Alien for the first time. There’s some moments in this — not to be specific — that are actually gonna be phenomenal on screen and stuff you haven’t seen in a superhero movie before.”

He probably doesn’t mean the Fantastic Four reboot is going to be a terrifying space horror movie featuring a pointy-toothed alien monster and creatures bursting from the FF’s chests, but that’s all I can imagine now.