First Review: Marvel’s The Avengers

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th April 2012.

It’s finally time for The Avengers fans to assemble. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios, now a subsidiary of The Walk Disney Company, has slowly built towards this ultimate team-up movie. Brief scenes, often occurring after the credit have rolled, in The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and both Iron Man entries have pieced together the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D., a peacekeeping organisation led by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Can the silver screen contain all of these larger than life characters and satisfy casual and diehard fans of the Marvel franchise? The answer is yes, yes, yes.

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening of The Avengers. All I had to do was hand my mobile phone over to a security guard, sign a confidentiality contract and be scanned by metal detectors before I entered the screening room. Disney is obviously very aware that a pirated copy of this film could cost them millions in revenue. Not that I minded. It meant that I got to enjoy a movie without interruptions from annoying flashing mobile screens.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers brings Earth’s mightiest heroes together in response to an attack on humanity by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother. Thor (Aussie Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, replacing Ed Norton) have little reason to trust or like each other and it’s this friction which allows Whedon to work magic with his trademark witty dialogue exchanges and put downs. There are many laugh out loud moments to enjoy.

Surprisingly, every major character gets their fair share of screen time. Even lesser known heroes Hawkeye and Black Widow, only briefly introduced in Thor and Iron Man 2 respectively, get time to shine. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is appropriately smarmy and a worthy opponent for the team. With the vast majority of characters well established in their own feature films, only Jackson’s Nick Fury seems a little thinly drawn.

I saw the 2D version and there were only a few noticeable 3D moments. I’m not a major proponent of cinema 3D (I much prefer the brighter home 3D) so you’re definitely not missing out on anything by avoiding the surcharge.

The action sequences are well captured and the CGI is convincing. Loki’s attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. flying helicarrier is breathtakingly good. The final showdown in New York City is a little reminiscent of a similar sequence in Transformers: Dark of the Moon but again Whedon’s humorous banter between the heroes saves the scene. The Hulk smashing things up also helps.

Forget The Dark Knight Rises or The Amazing Spider-Man, there is only one superhero film to see this year and The Avengers is it. Fans of Whedon’s Serenity will be pleased with a little nod to the cult favourite (think Wash). Make sure you stay after the credits for the now standard Marvel Universe credit cookie.

Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 12:54  Leave a Comment  
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Movie Stingers and Credit Cookies

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th May 2011.

Projectionists must hate me. I’m the sucker that stays in the cinema until the very end of the credits. I know they want to get in there and clean up but watching every name involved in making the film is my way of saying thank you. I also like to check out which countries and locations were used as shooting locations. And I feel so much better knowing that no animals were harmed in the making of the picture.

I’m kidding. I’m actually on the lookout for what is known as a movie stinger, tag, credit cookie or movie coda. That is, an extra little scene at the end of the credits.

Current superhero movie factory, Marvel Studios, has been adding a stinger to its recent crop of pictures, each one slowly building towards The Avengers movie which will unite Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor. At the end of Iron Man (2008), Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Tony Stark then makes a cameo at the end of The Incredible Hulk (2008), although this is just before the credits. The credits of Iron Man 2 (2010) conclude with Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. discovering Thor’s hammer in the desert. I won’t spoil the tag at the end of Thor but it is certainly worth waiting for.

Each entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise also features a stinger. The original, released in 2003, ends with Jack the Monkey stealing an Aztec medallion and becoming a cursed undead primate. Dead Man’s Chest (2006) concludes with the island dog being worshipped by the natives as a god. At World’s End (2007) features a stinger which shows Will being united with Elizabeth and his son, ten years into the future. The latest, On Stranger Tides (2011), also has a tag, but after a whopping 141 minutes of Piratey goodness or tosh (depending on your taste) you’ll need to sit out a bum numbing 8 minutes of credits to get to the good stuff.

The recent A-Team movie (2010) hilariously brings together the new Face and Murdock (Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley) with their original TV series counterparts, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz in a post-credit stinger. I had to leave the cinema in a hurry for that one to return the large frozen coke I borrowed but I did catch the tag on blu-ray.

This year’s Fast and Furious 5, or Fast 5, also features a post-credit sequence which hints that there will another sequel. I don’t need a stinger to tell me that. $23 million at the Australian box office is a pretty good indication that another instalment is in the works. As a kid, I loved the Famous 5. I don’t remember them having cars though…

Stingers are by no means a new thing. My favourite stingers are from eighties flops. The Super Mario Bros. disaster from 1993 features two Japanese businessmen discussing a video game starring Mario’s enemies, Iggy and Spike. OK, so that’s not very funny but it’s Flying High compared to the rest of the film. The Masters of the Universe (1987) feature film stars renown Shakespearean actor Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. Post-credits, a defeated Skeletor (Frank Langella) pops out of the waters surrounding Castle Numbskull to declare, “I’ll be back.” I’m still waiting.

So stick around after the credits have rolled. You never know what extra morsel the filmmakers may have left for you.

 

 

 


The Sixth Sense (1999) features a creepy repeat of the spooky voice on tape saying, “I don’t wanna die” right at the end of the credits to scare anyone left in the cinema.

Supanova: a day of geeky goodness

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd June 2010.

Ever wondered where former television and film actors go when their careers begin to slow down, or even come to a complete stop? They hit the convention circuit and this past weekend in Sydney, the Supanova pop culture expo exploded into Sydney’s Olympic Park.

An annual event, Supanova attracts fans of all ages and interests. Covering almost all aspects of geekdom, from television and movies to anime (Japanese animation), comics, wrestling and gaming, this convention is the perfect place to grab an autograph from your favourite actor, locate that elusive comic for your collection and spend, spend, spend at the numerous stores, laden with toys, t-shirts and collectibles.

Of course, if you fancy wandering around dressed up as a superhero, a Japanese cartoon character or a Stormtrooper, you certainly would not be out of place at Supanova. In fact, attending in costume is encouraged and hundreds of fans came out in their best costumes to participate in the National Cosplay (costume play) Championships. I’m still wondering how the guy in the homemade rubber Alien suit went to the bathroom or caught the train home.

This year’s special guests included Lou Ferrigno, Michael Winslow, Eliza Dushku and Charisma Carpenter. Who exactly are these celebrities, you may ask?

Mr Ferrigno came to fame in the seventies as the original Incredible Hulk. After 5 years painted green and running around in his trousers smashing things up on TV, Lou’s star fell and he now is a personal trainer and a regular on the international fan convention circuit. Despite being profoundly deaf, he is a fascinating speaker and still in great shape.

Remember the guy from the Police Academy movies that made all of the funny sounds? That’s Michael Winslow. Still highly amusing, his act hasn’t changed since his movie franchise ground to a halt in 1994.

Eliza Dushku and Charisma Carpenter are both alumni from the Whedonverse, a series of television shows created by Joss Whedon, which includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dollhouse. Both actresses were extremely popular with the attendees, despite being “between jobs”.

All guest stars participated in Q & A sessions, where fans got to field questions about almost anything. I attended the majority of these sessions and found all of the celebrities to be most professional, despite the odd inappropriate question. Most interesting were the more aged guests, such as Lou Ferrigno, who had many entertaining stories from a lengthy career as a minor celebrity.

The majority of the celebrities’ time over the weekend was spent giving autographs. When I say, giving, I actually mean selling. Whilst resting “between jobs” or in the twilight of their careers, the convention circuit is a reliable source of income for all but the highest echelon of performers.

For the sum of $30 per autograph, fans can get the signature of their favourite guests on a headshot photograph or an item of their choice. For $40, you can have a professional photo with them too. For the mega fan who wants to skip the queues, a VIP ticket for $800 will get you in the front row of the talks and guaranteed photos and autographs.

The Supanova experience is certainly not a cheap day out but for those of us who like to bath in geeky goodness, it is an annual pilgrimage. Now if only I could get a minor role in a Star Wars movie or something, I could make a living with a permanent marker on the convention circuit.