In our year-end Best of 2018 list — an infallible writ if ever there was one — we awarded the animated romp Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse the #10 slot, along with the following explainer:
Someone recently said of the late Marvel Comics giant: “When Stan Lee made better comics, he made comics better.” Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the latest superhero movie in an industry landscape that sometimes feels like it’s traded originality for IP. But Spider-Verse is gleefully, genuinely, finally a better comic book movie — and it might make comic book movies better.
Spider-Verse pushed a boundary that superhero films haven’t been able to push in a long, long time. It was fresh in the way only a non-franchise movie can be, and it was about as original as possible for a story based on existing characters. The goal with most modern superflicks, conversely, is to tie it all together, linking an ever-expanding franchise by deepening character relationships, furthering multi-film arcs, and reviving heroes and villains in such a way that prompts either “oh shit, it’s him!” or “wait…who’s that?”
Continue reading Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
A lot of what Alan Moore has created is now considered classic. V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, The Killing Joke, his run on Swamp Thing…to say this stuff is at the vanguard of comic-book storytelling is to undermine the fact that this stuff is the vanguard of comic-book storytelling. But it’s important to remember — crucial, actually — that Moore’s never purposefully written a “classic,” meaning his tales are almost exclusively nontraditional narratives that toy with genre and literary consciousness. The writer has a few reasons to despise Hollywood, but the primary point of contention must be that each film adaptation of his comics seems to shove the original tale back into a traditional, classic structure. It happened with From Hell, when Moore’s exploration of evil was spun as a simple murder mystery. It happened with LXG, which discarded crisscrossing episodic adventures in favor of a flat three-act team-up. It happened with V for Vendetta, wherein morally conflicted characters were replaced by obvious Good Guys and Bad Guys. And it happened, to a certain degree, with Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen.
Our Writer Series on Alan Moore typically dives into this abyss between page and screen, sometimes providing side-by-side comparisons of comics panels and film stills in an effort to highlight the divergent artistic choices of Moore and his cinematic adaptors. But Watchmen looks almost exactly the same across both mediums, with Snyder and DP Larry Fong essentially using the graphic novel as their storyboard — reminiscent, a woebegone cynic may claim, of a slacker passing in someone else’s homework:
Continue reading Watchmen (2009)
Not exactly a rock ’em sock ’em hour for Agent Carter in the third episode “Time and Tide”, which is a shame considering the season/series is only slated for eight episodes in total. That’s not a lot of time to gather a head of steam, and while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a solid fifteen episodes before really breaking interesting ground Agent Carter has no such luxury. It’s fortunate, then, that Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy remain so watchable in this otherwise droll episode.
Following the death of the mysterious Brannis at the end of “Bridge and Tunnel”, Peggy is left with a partial symbol and a whole host of questions regarding the theft of Howard Stark’s inventions. The symbol kind of looks like a heart, and so Peggy goes digging. She consults the Book of Symbols on her bedside (sigh) and makes a shocking discov — oh, no, sorry. This doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. Okay. Move along.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.3 – “Time and Tide”
Sometimes, a movie like Chef is just exactly what you need. Jon Favreau’s latest directorial effort seems a far cry from his Iron Man days and is just about as different as it gets from a fall blockbuster, although Robert Downey Jr. does pop up. The closest you get to an action sequence in Chef is a skillful wielding of a carving knife going to town on a smoked pork loin, which itself certainly isn’t an ascetic display. It’s simple, but that’s not to say it’s ever dull.
The casting for Chef caused an early stir – “the dude who kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe directing and starring in a film also starring Iron Man himself, Black Widow herself, and Sid from Ice Age himself?! Chef is going to be so badass!!” – but the fact of the matter is that Chef isn’t the type of movie that has hype or sequels or post-credit cameos by other superpowered chefs from the same franchise. Chef is a tiny, unassuming, been-there-done-that flick about a guy who really just wants to cook some delicious food. Somehow, that’s supposed to be a compliment.
Continue reading Chef (2014)