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Quote Review: Mulan (1998)

“Just because I look like a man doesn’t mean I have to smell like one.”

Mulan is hardly Disney’s most compelling release, but its entertainment value holds up even after nearly 15 years.  A few clever edits, transitions in animation and one awe-inducing action scene barely nudge the film over merely average territory.

 
 

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Theater Feature: The Avengers (2012)

This past weekend brought the ultimate wet dream for comic book fans as The Avengers hit theaters, meeting with a pleasant amount of praise along the way.  Factor in that it’s the latest in a long line of films from the past 3 years to set an opening weekend record and it’s bluntly obvious just about anyone remotely interested has already seen it.  At this point it’s literally pointless to ask-then-answer whether the film is good or not, so I’ll be taking a less conventional approach with this review.  In case you haven’t seen The Avengers, be warned this review will be FULL OF SPOILERS.  If you just want my quick thoughts on the film without having too much ruined, all you need to know is that The Avengers is a damn good time and perfect for a theatrical viewing.  Also, if you’re going to watch it in 3D, then be sure you catch it in IMAX, since this is far from the 3D quality seen in the first 15 minutes of Hugo.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Like I said, the film is a great time and one of the few that can warrant more than one theatrical viewing, if your wallet/bank account is feeling overly generous.  While a lot of this has to do with the well done action scenes, I actually found myself most invested when the characters were simply talking to each other.  Literally everyone has wonderful chemistry, whether the playfulness between Bruce and Tony or the family problem feuds between Loki and Thor.  Call me crazy, but I actually wanted to hear more of the big argument scene around the halfway mark.  Perhaps it’s a testament to the writing and/or characters, or maybe I’m so used to watching dramas and wish every argument could be a film itself (much like 12 Angry Men).  But I digress.

Another reason the film works so well is the humor, which definitely derives from the writing.  Just about any scene involving Tony Stark or the Hulk is comedic gold and if you disagree then your laughing strings are beyond withered.

One question I’m surprised hasn’t been asked more frequently is who everyone’s favorite Avenger is.  Tony Stark is his usual, brilliant, egocentric self; Thor is rash but good-hearted; Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce/Hulk is a great combination of thought and comedy; Captain America is the typical (but terrific) relatable, all around good guy; and Black Widow and Hawkeye are the determined, somewhat dryly humorous agents.  It’s truly a clash of awesomeness, which is a testament to this film’s build up and execution.  The last Avenger movie I saw leading up to this was Captain America–while it was still in theaters, so quite a few months separated my attachment from The Avengers.  But much like Fast Five, that didn’t matter; the characters were enjoyable and likable, so connecting wasn’t much of an issue.

If it sounds like The Avengers is the perfect summertime action film, that’s because it is.  But of course, like its predecessors (whether spiritual or not), it isn’t without a few problems.  Many of these might be nitpicks, but they exist.  First off, there’s a rumor that about 2 hours of footage was cut, which definitely show.  For a 140-minute movie, The Avengers really flies by, and even on my first viewing I had a feeling of where certain scenes were likely cut.  It’s a shame studios won’t give us everything up-front; films like Das Boot and each Lord of the Rings have cuts going for about 4 hours or more, each far superior to the theatrical version.  I suppose it’s just one more way to gip us when the movie comes out on DVD/Blu-ray (then we’ll have a longer cut for a gigantic box set that’ll make Harry Potter roll in his grave).

There were also a few small, unanswered questions I had throughout.  One of the biggest ones was what happened to Peggy from Captain America?  Sure, she probably got old and passed away, but I thought she’d at least get closure.  What also surprised me is that we never see Captain America ask about her, but we get confirmation that Thor’s love interest was flown out.  Speaking of which, what about Bruce Banner’s love interest?  We never even get a hint about her in this film.  I guess Gods really do get everything while humans get screwed over.  Sure, I’m not much for romantic subplots, but they should at least be resolved if included, instead of simply being cast aside.  Hopefully these are things that Thor 2, Captain America 2 and the next Hulk film will answer.

Also, I’m not sure if I’m alone on this, but did anyone else feel a bit of sympathy for Loki?  Yes, the film does do one hell of a job portraying how ruthless he can be, but I always got the impression he had some reluctance and was constantly trying to set it aside.

Despite my questions and quibbles, The Avengers does still stand as a fine way to start the summer off.  It might be easy to say that it’s all downhill from here for the season and superhero films, but I’d categorize the film as almost-amazing rather than flat-out awesome.  The Avengers certainly doesn’t hold a torch to The Dark Knight and I’d be surprised if The Dark Knight Rises happens to be inferior, but we are talking about very different films.  Ultimately, I’m in agreement and on the bandwagon: The Avengers is just a great film.

 

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