You can tell RoboCop made by someone who understands how to make an action movie – the editing is superb and the camerawork both muscular and dextrous. Outside of Samuel L. Jackson’s tabloid television host, Pat Novak, there’s almost none of the demented genius of the original – though there are more than a few homages to it.
You tell him, Tony!
Earlier this week, Joss Whedon, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark gregg and Tom Hiddleston took part in a Global Fan Chat to answer fan questions about The Avengers [opening May4, 2012]. Here is a transcript of that chat. Enjoy.
It has begun!
Marvel Entertainment’s effort to replicate a world where several superheroes exist in the same continuum for the big screen has gotten underway. Led by writer/director Joss Whedon, Avengers began filming today – bringing together the stars of the Iron Man films, Captain America: First Avenger, Thor, and mixing in yet another version of The Incredible Hulk and adding Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton, among others, into the mix.
After the jump, check out the Disney press release for details on cast, crew and plot summary.
Disneynature’s third annual nature documentary, African Cats, is both more of the same and a bit different from the usual Disney nature documentary. Its flaws are glaringly obvious, but it its differences strengthen it. The parallel stories told involve two African cats: a lion cub dubbed Mara and a cheetah they call Sita.
Morean Baccarin [V, Firefly] is among the actors shortlisted to play Nick Fury’s ‘sidekick’ – the word used by Samuel L. Jackson to describe the character on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Others on the list include: Jessica Lucas [Cloverfield], Cobie Smulders [How I Met your Mother] and Mary Elizabeth Winstead [Scott Pilgrim vs. The World].
Initial speculation was that the character for which they are testing was The Wasp/Janet Van Dyne, but with Jackson’s revelation it seems more likely that the character could be Contessa Valentina De Fontaine, fury’s long-time confident and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. operative.
Whatever the case, given that Baccarin has worked with Avengers’ director Joss Whedon before, she might have an edge in the casting process.
In a summer during the early-to-mid sixties, I surreptitiously acquired a copy of a specific issue of Playboy – not for the pictures, though those were nice, but for an essay on The Great Comic Book Heroes, by Jules Feiffer. It was about comic characters from the Golden Age of Comics [approximately 1939-1946 – your mileage may vary]. That led to my acquiring, with a hard-earned seven bucks, for Feiffer’s book of the same title on the subject. Included in the book was an eight-page, full-color Spirit story from the Philadelphia Record Sunday Comics Supplement, dated July 20, 1941. It was about a tale told to a tourist couple by an Egyptian beggar, twice in two days – first as a prophecy, and then as a fait accompli. It was incredible – it had action, wit, humor [even then I knew wit was not the same thing as humor] and amazing art. Well before the Kitchen Sink reprints of the seventies, I was hooked!
In the summer of 1987, the ABC network broadcast the ninety-minute pilot for a projected series based on Will Eisner’s legendary masked hero, The Spirit. It was bright and colorful and really seemed, to me at least, to capture the peculiar mix of whimsy and drama that marked the comic as a unique and brilliant work. Eisner, on the other hand, said it was so bad that “it made my toes curl.”
Today, I saw Frank Miller’s movie adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. As a critic, I realize that its thin story is told choppily [Frank, buddy, have you never heard of dissolves, transitions and such? And, really Frank! Plaster of Paris? What the hell were you thinking???] and the acting varies from poor to really poor. I get that it’s supposed to be a black comedy; I get that it’s Eisner’s characters and situations as filtered Miller’s sensibilities; I even get that The Octopus [Samuel L. Jackson] is supposed to an evil, human version of Wile E. Coyote/Yosemite Sam, while The Spirit is The Roadrunner/Bugs Bunny.
Somehow, though, I don’t think blending Sin City, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones was really the way to go here. The Spirit is not a character for whom bleached out colors [except, of course, for that blood red tie] really work. Neither should the character be set in such a static, blocky manner. The comics were always more fluid than all but the best films – and certainly more so than any of the comics of the period [and most of the best of today, as well]. And juking The Spirit’s origin in such a manner – turning a tough, determined man into a superhero, when he was really [to quote Douglas Adams, “Just this guy, y’know?”]. The spirit of The Spirit has been pretty much bleached out of the movie.
The Spirit is pretty much a disaster no matter how you look at it – and yet, I enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because of the hard edge Dan Lauria gives Commissioner Dolan, or the resignation Sarah Paulson gives Dr. Ellen Dolan, who knows she’ll never have The Spirit’s heart – at least not exclusively. Part of it is the cinematography. Miller may be a long way from being a film director, but he can compose a shot like nobody’s business! Also, the world of Central City may be CG but it has more heft than Sin City. Plus, there are moments when Eisner’s character peeks through the chaos […and this is for Muffin!”].
Even with the movie’s compositional beauty, a couple decent [not brilliant] performances [Sorry Mr. Gabriel Macht. I know The Spirit, and he’s not a monotoned refugee from a Philip Chandler novel] and amazing CG, I can understand how most critics will give The Spirit the equivalent of an ‘F’. I can’t do that. But tempering my love for the character with what little of that remains here – and combining that with an objective overview of everything that’s wrong with it – I can’t give The Spirit a positive grade [as much as it pains me].
Final Grade: D+
Doug Liman’s Jumper is an adaptation of a far superior novel by Steven Gould. It is a total travesty in terms of story and character – and will probably do well with the ADD crowd. Pity.