Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Watcher - Summer retrospective

Today is the final day of Summer and with an exciting month ahead for comics with the launch of DC’s ‘New 52’, movies are going to take a back seat for a little while. But before the detox begins, lets pause for a moment to look back this year’s comic book films. It certainly has certainly been one hell of a ride filled with magic, mystery and retro style galore.

Kicking it all off in fine style was Kenneth Brannagh’s ‘Thor‘. The first of two Avenger’s movies from Marvel Studios this Summer, Thor had me grinning from ear to ear, having reawakened a long AWOL childlike sense of fun within me. Here was a comic book film that embraced the colour and the magic of the source material whilst still proving to be dramatic and weighty. Kenneth Brannagh, a long time favourite of mine proved to be an excellent choice, one who set the bar very high, with stunning effects, winning performances and honest humour. It has recently been announced that Brannagh will not be returning for Thor 2, but hopefully this means he can finally get on with making series three of Wallander.

‘Green Lantern’ faced a similar challenge to ‘Thor‘, introducing a less well known character to audiences, helping the studio to build a new franchise etc, but it felt like there needed to be a stronger hand at the creative rudder. I personally had great fun and find myself a little puzzled by the backlash. One advantage may have been that I went in with little knowledge of the comics and therefore no expectations. I even thought the CGI worked! One niggle would be the ‘multiple bad guy’ syndrome that did resulted in an overall lack of focus.

‘X-Men: First Class’ sounded like a terrible idea on paper - a prequel that was also a reboot? Superhero film in an already crowded marketplace? Forget about it. But it worked and probably gave us the Superhero film of the Summer. Classy, dark and yet colourful and schlocky? You bet your mutant loving ass! With Matthew Vaughan and Bryan singer back on board the future looks very, very exciting. This film also gave us an undeniable new star in Michael Fassbender, who attacked the role of Magneto with such conviction that you might even have left the theatre asking ‘Ian McWho?’

Finishing Marvel Studio’s final one-two punch in the lead up to next year’s ‘Avengers’ was ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, a rather ironic title considering his relative tardiness in reaching the screen. I’ve heard a lot of praise for this film, and by and large I agree. The performances are top notch, the effects superb, and the story makes sense, but on the whole I wasn’t so much overwhelmed with excitement as simply "whelmed". I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’ll always prefer Chris Evans as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies. He wasn’t terrible as such, but the character of Steve Rogers is a little too virtuous for my liking, but that’s just me - I like my heroes nice and flawed.

Of course, we also had 'Cowboys And Aliens', directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) who is boldly striking out on his own here without the comfort of Marvel Studios and it’s a move that has largely paid off. A long time coming, and with a genius concept this was a breath of fresh air after all of the superheroics. It is however a shame that original leading man Robert Downy Jr. bailed - his presence might have upped the humour content slightly and Daniel Craig - while a superb actor - isn’t quite the same.

So that’s it - Summer’s over and like a kid in a sweetshop, we’ve gorged ourselves silly. But cheer up - now we get to watch proper films like ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ and feel all clever, or maybe go for a run or read some actual comics! But I do find myself already contemplating next year - with Marvel Studios and DC bringing out the big guns with ‘Avengers’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, 2012 is shaping up to be on hell of a year already.

Robert Barton-Ancliffe is also looking ahead to the 'Man Of Steel' in 2013

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