Shang-Chi Is Marvel Doing It Right

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is very good. This is what Marvel needs to do through their next phase of movies to keep people interested. Less Black Widow and more Shang Chi. The formula can still work. Is it tiring? A bit. But if you dress it up right with an influx of new ideas, world dynamics and characters? You’ll be making happy movie goers from nerds to normal people.

Something Marvel has done a mostly bang-up job on is taking comic book movies and placing them over top existing genres: heist movies, political dramas, spy thrillers, fantasy, etc. Now we’ve got a kung fu movie with a kung fu super hero.

Taking that a step further, he isn’t magically kung fu or enhanced kung fu like Captain America. He has no mega powers, inherently. He’s just an exceptionally well trained, disciplined and excellent individual. That’s rad as heck because it makes the character much more believable, real and personable.

Simu Liu plays the titular character and this rules pretty hard because he is Canadian! There hasn’t been a whole lot of Canadian’s appearing in these movies so I’m pumped to have one in a new leading man. I think there have only been 5 in big roles and they’ve all been ladies: Evangeline Lilly (Wasp), Cobie Smulders (Agent Hill), Emily Van Camp (Agent 13), Rachel McAdams (Dr Stange’s love interest) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis).

It’s a big deal in Canada when a Canadian gets any level of success at anything besides hockey, so having the new leading man in a Marvel movie be Canadian is pretty rad. Plus he’s decked out in red too so I’m going to tell myself that’s because Canada and not because its red and gold like the Chinese flag.

Awkwafina comes in as the fish out of water character that gets the world explained to her and she does a solid job. She’s more comic relief but she doesn’t undercut too many scenes that it becomes annoying and her role is taken seriously. Her chemistry with Shang is great too.

Meng’er Zhang comes in as Xialing, Shang’s sister, and is a realized slight foil to her brother. Basically what if Shang had stayed behind all those years and continued to live with their father this could have been his reality and future.

Which brings us to the best performance in the film; Wenwu portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. This is as much his movie as it is Shang’s. If more Marvel villains were of this quality we would finally be able to get passed those dreadfully boring memes and Hot Takes about bad villains. Killmonger never hit with me that well from Black Panther. I think because he disappears for 45 minutes without any presence and then the third act of that movie sucks and thus brings down his overall grade. But to me this was the villain performance of the MCU in the non-Thanos category.

And he isn’t even a villain. He’s an antagonist and that’s a distinction that does so much for this movie. He’s working to his goal, for reasons that make sense to him and honestly kind of make sense (if he wasn’t the bad guy and thus you know he’s in the wrong) and you feel for his story. You fully understand the what, why, when, where, who and how of his character.

It’s a family centered plot at the core. Finding love, making changes as a family man, heartbreak and revenge, and then trying to recover and put the pieces back together. It’s way better than another world-ending extinction catastrophe level event. Those are so passé.

The movie wastes no time to get going. You get your intro, you get your Present Day scene and then you’re right into it. No fake out or dragging out things for no reason. It pops and the movie is going.

Pace and tone does so much for a good story, and the story holds for most of the movie. The first half is better, and even the first 80% is great. But you have to get your big CGI ending for some reason where two monsters do the graveyard smash. 

I would rather that have been saved for the next movie and having a looming, unresolved threat from this movie. That scene and climax can have more impact that way.

It also was lame because you could tell this was all done in pre-viz where they probably had this scripted out before they finished the script, which then makes the plot in service of action and not the other way around. Your action should be in service of the plot.

Other than that, I quite liked the movie. I’m glad these movies seem to be passed the point where they need to slap you in the face with a “The hero isn’t a White Guy scene”. I’m not a moron. I can see it’s a Chinese-Canadian fella. I can see it’s a Chinese lady too. You don’t need some scene where they go “Don’t forget, I’m not The White Man!” It’s insulting and petty when movies do that. I appreciate this movie skipping that scene and treating the audience with respect.

There’s also no reference to The Snap or Thanos. The movie isn’t totally divorced from the MCU, but where it does tie back in doesn’t feel cheap and distracting. Instead it feels logical.

The power of the 10 Rings also makes way more sense in this movie. In the comics are basically 10 baby infinity stones that each have their own power and personality… sort of. Now they are a mix of Dr Strange glow hands, Iron Man blasters and Cap’s shield. Sounds overstuffed, but it isn’t. They’re unique.

This movie is great, and it’s just barely not too long to the point it becomes boring at points. There’s a bit of snipping you could do to tighten this up that would really make it next level for me. Mainly the comic relief cameo that gets more screen time than it needs. That’ll be phone checking time on re-watches.

I want to know how this guy works into the larger Marvel world more than I want to know how The Eternals will or how the TV shows (I haven’t watched) are going to tie into things. Give me more Shang Chi! Don’t make me wait until 2025.

This is most of the world’s introduction to this character, and Marvel aced it.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

2016 Summer of Movies: Is It The Greatest Comic Movie Of All Time?

Captain America: Civil War 5/5

I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just say this:

This is easily a contender for the best comic book based movie of all time.

How the Russo brothers directed a movie that had like 10 movies inside it, and upwards of 15 significant characters, and it doesn’t feel like a mess is one of hell of an accomplishment.

This isn’t sparring. This is fighting. This is characters ideologically opposed and motivated. And it all works.

I already feel like this is the best Spider-Man we’ve ever seen and he’s only in it as much as Hawkeye plus a post-credits scene.

I wondered thoughts before the movie that I thought would be kayfabe breaking in the film, but they explained those away in ways that actually make sense and get you to buy in.

For instance, if you’ve followed Tony Stark through the films then you understand his decision making, so you buy it. If you’ve followed Captain America, you understand why he opposes this, so you buy it. You understand why the teams are split as they are.

I’ve seen some flak tossed towards the villain Zemo in the film, but he isn’t the villain. He’s a villain. To be honest, who you define as the Big Bad in the movie is up to your viewing experience.

The first act works to establish the film. The second act with airport scene is the greatest, peak-est, lit-est, straight fire comic book scene of all time. The third act dials things back down in scale, but keeps the stakes high just as you think they were going away.

There is some really creative action sequences and inspired action scenes. The humour is perfect. And it even gets dark and intense, without feeling jarring and gross.

I’m going to see this multiple times. Its so excellent.

I will literally answer all your questions.

nod

Previously:

To Come:

  • Keanu (April 29)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows (June 3)
  • Popstar: Never Stop Singing (June 3)
  • Warcraft (June 10)
  • Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)
  • The Secret Life of Pets (July 8)
  • Star Trek Beyond (July 15)
  • Jason Bourne (July 29)
  • Suicide Squad (August 5)
  • Sausage Party (August 12)

Maybe’s of the Summer

  • Money Master (May 13)
  • Neighbours 2 (May 20)
  • The Nice Guys (May 20)
  • Now You See Me 2 (June 10)
  • The Legend of Tarzan (July 1)
  • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (July 8)
  • Ghostbusters (July 15)

Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

These are my best “get off your butt and go see them please!” movies of 2014.


10. Big Hero 6 
– It is not a comic book movie. It uses the name of a comic book but it is super loosely related. Its really just a Disney property. It was fun to watch and it gave you feels. I need to watch more Disney animation movies. They’re always awesome.


9. Birdman 
– Michael Keaton was really good in this sorta-biopic of himself. But Ed Norton steals the show. Emma Stone rocks in it. It has a good story. Its nice to watch a movie that just has actors doing their acting thing without all sorts of ish going nuts. I really enjoy movies when they just have great actors doing great acting.


8. 22 Jumpstreet 
– I need a comedy and this was the best comedy I saw this year. It avoided turning into a giant turd, huge accomplishment. I’m usually bothered when movies make nods to the sequel, like a lot, but here they were legitimately funny and not hamfisted like Dumb and Dumber To or the Pirates sequels. It was funny and fun and I like Jonah Hill.


7. John Wick 
– I find Keanu Reeves kind of laughable as an actor. He’s really good at being clueless and I find he needs to lean on other actors in his movies to get to a high level. Well, here he kills it primarily on his own. Suspense, thrill, action. Fun stuff.


6. The Lego Movie 
– EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU’RE PART OF A TEAM! EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! WHEN WE’RE LIVING OUR DREAM!

This movie is awesome.


5. Guardians of the Galaxy 
– I love how hammy this movie is, but still somehow keeps it serious. Ronan playing it straight is a great juxtaposition to our group of alien misfits. This is a movie that really should have only been “okay” but everything clicks. I’m always impressed when a movie manages to fit everyone in without cutting anyone short.


4. Nightcrawler 
– I’m fascinated by sociopaths. This movie stars a sociopath and follows that descent as it gets worse and worse. So neat to see all the moral issues and qualms others have that surround Gyllenhaal. It makes me wonder just how close this is to real life, and considering some of the crazy stories I’ve heard it doesn’t seem very far off.


3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 
– The best Apes movie I’ve ever seen. The way the apes talk but its all in their own language. I really liked how it depicted society post-apocalypse, which is something I love to see. I like seeing different “end of the world” scenarios. I think this movie is legitimately worth of an Oscar nomination for best picture (especially since they’re opening the voting to 10 films). Caesar rules.


2. Snowpiercer 
– Post-apocalypse. The world sucks. Everyone lives on this train. Poor people vs rich people. Revolution lead by Captain America! And instead of messing up dudes with a shield, he ruins their day with an ax! AN AX! HE STRAIGHT UP PUNKS PEOPLE WITH AN AX! Furthermore, the concept is just so cool and well executed. You gotta see it.


1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
– This is probably the best Marvel movie ever made. Non-Joss Whedon Black Widow is best Black Widow. I love this kind of action where it is punches and kicks (Cap definitely doesn’t skip leg day) as it has so much more impact than Iron Man blasting dudes. It was so well directed and written. I can watch this movie on repeat.

How losing X-Men and Spider Man was best for Marvel and comic book movies

So I was doing some brain thinking about Guardians of the Galaxy and Thanos and Avengers 3 and stuff. Then I came back to more brain thinking about “Ah man, Spiderman and Wolverine gotta be in the Avengers man! I want Marvel to get those movie rights back so bad!”

Then I went all wait a second. Would we really even have Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, a shitty TV show, upcoming Netflix series’, the Avengers and Guardians if Marvel still had the rights to Spiderman and Xmen (Their 2 biggest franchises, especially pre-2008)? Or even Fantastic Four? And I came up with, “No”.

If they had those big franchises, they could have easily ridden things out with those. Would they have gotten to the Avengers universe, more or less, as we know it regardless? Probably, but it more likely would have been on the back burner and they would have trickled out more in the way that we’re now getting into Dr Strange and Ant Man and Guardians now. Continue reading

Ranking the Modern Marvel Movies, 7-1

Into the best of the best. And quite honestly these movies are more or less interchangeable at the top.

7. X-men: Days of Future Past

Plot holes, shmot holes. It was so great as a turbonerd to see the entire cast, except Nightcrawler, all together. It also replaces all the poo taste left in your mouth from X3 and Origins: Wolverine. Hitting the rest button in such a way is really risky, but they did it in a very satisfying and interesting way while still leaving the door open for both sets of X-casts. I love timeline stories. Enjoyed how it made Wolverine less of THE super hero and more of a dude and put a lot of focus on the rest of the cast. The great layering of social commentary that is so important to Xmen was handled well and the scale/scope was really given its due.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

One of the best parts of this movie is that it is very accessible. It as easy to understand  for comic nerds and regular mutants alike. Its going to be silly, its going to be convenient, but its going to be fun. The music is perfect. Everyone in the movie does a good job at doing their own thing and hitting their notes. Arguably the best performance comes from Michael Rooker as Yondu. It’s your standard McGuffin plot where the baddy wants it and the good guys are all “No, stop! Bad!” but it’s done in such a hammy and campy yet excellent way of adjusting the standard underdog story formula. Lee Pace nails Ronan the Accuser. In a movie so hammy and campy, the way he plays it straight and simple is an excellent contrast. The camera work and visual design is well done and original, while still holding some familiarity in style for Star Wars and Star Trek nerds. The movie feels up your feels, and it sets up the Marvel space universe so that Nova and Ms Marvel can get their due. Standing ovation for Marvel Studios.

5. X2

For one whole year we had the gold standard for comic book movies. Now, we just have the benchmark for every Xmen film for eternity to aspire towards. I don’t think I can pick anything out in this movie that wasn’t excellent. Nightcrawler’s implementation was perfect. Still might be Hugh Jackman’s best Wolverine performance to date. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart could not have possibly done any better in their roles. And Brian Singer was able to nail the subtext/social commentary while balancing it with the action and avoiding some annoying and preachy movie with special effects. The expanded cast of mutants was great to see and even though many had only a scene or two, it was worth it and not at all cluttered. What a joy to watch.

4. Iron Man

This and Batman Begins are the holy grail of super hero origin stories. Just nailed it. One of the best parts is that the relationship with the villain is established early in the movie versus “meeting” them halfway through. This film launched Marvel into the universe they are in now and has launched Tony Stark as a character much the same way that Jack Sparrow became as big/bigger than the films. There is excellent chemistry between characters and they trade witticisms like real people versus comedy characters. Iron Man is as perfectly cast as any movie on this list. Robert Downey Jr nails the rockstar flippancy of Tony Stark, as well as the character arc from playboy to responsible playboy. Lastly, Iron Man is basically the only Avengers era movie where the hero kills and it isn’t cheap. That is an accomplishment in super hero fiction.  Jeff Bridges was an excellent cigar munching fatcat. The ending serves as an excellent contrast of motives. Best of all? They got the suit right. Nothing could have saved this if the suit was wrong. A++

3. Spider Man 2

Stop smashing your keyboard that this is not #1. From here up, its literally a case of 1a, 1b ad 1c. This stole the mantle from X2 as the gold standard and took almost a decade to topple/be met. It has every element from the comics that makes Spider Man so great. The angst, variety of emotions, goofiness, melodrama, romance, and intensity and has it all spun (like a web!) together expertly. Every scene is a perfect compliment to every other scene and fully reached and surpassed the potential that anyone could have forseen for the super hero “genre” of movies. The only thing, and this is minor, is that Kirsten Dunst still just isn’t up to par with the rest of the movie but she still holds her own well. Toby McGuire perfectly captured Peter Parker in this movie in a way I’m unconvinced Andrew Garfield ever will. I haven’t even touched on Doc Oc yet, which was masterfully done. The train scene, pictured, is my favourite scene from any Spider Man movie. The perfect Spider Man movie.

2. The Avengers

The fact that this movie didn’t crash and burn is unbelievable. Just think about the task at hand here, then realize that they pulled it off and the only crap scenes in the entire movie are when awkward dialogue about “red in my ledger” is brought up. The rest? Flawless, especially the smaller character dynamics that only someone familiar with the cartoons/comics would recognize. Such as the various bromances, who has animosity with who, character pairings, etc. It hits so well on so many little things. Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk steals the show and satiates a lot of the hunger for a solo Hulk film. I never understood a lot of the hype behind Joss Whedon but with this film I got it. The little things are done as well as the big things and the character interaction all seems so natural. Its long, but it never feels as long as it really is and everything in the movie, and other bits from other films, come around in a nice full circle here to make a completely satisfying and exhilarating experience.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

One of the things that is so impressive about this movie is how different it feels compared to The Avengers, Thor: TDW and Iron Man 3. There is a lot more plot and considering how heavy it is into espionage and thriller, versus CGI action movie, it had to be that way. You’ve got double and triple crosses, Nazi’s, a boatload of assassins and politics. You’re also taking a guy who’s only powers are incredible fitness, a shield and punching dudes really really hard and taking him so far and away from the ground-level hero that you’d expect the execution to fall apart. Except it doesn’t. The action is a great blend of CGI action (Falcon) and dude-punch-dude (Cap/Widow). Evans delivers Captain America so well, and the rest of the cast supports him and the movie in their unique way. Lastly, it established Cap as a moral compass globally and not just as America man fighting for America and the American Way for all of America’s interests of protecting and promoting America.

Marvel movies 29-19

Marvel movies 18-8