The Avengers Review

Well, it’s finally here. The Avengers. After several years of the (mostly excellent) lead-up background movies, they’ve all come together to save the world.

I’m going to try and make this post relatively un-detailed. So no spoilers. I stumbled upon an article yesterday that ended up giving away a huge spoiler. WITHOUT WARNING. It ruined my morning. Especially since I hadn’t even really been looking at pictures or any other articles about the movie since I wanted to be surprised. Anyways, enough whining.

I went to the midnight showing, an excellent decision. A few costumes, but mainly plastic masks or shields, and a lot of Marvel related t-shirts on attendees. The previews: The Expendables 2 (I don’t really care about this one but the theater I was in lost it when Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme showed up), The Amazing Spiderman (yeah, it looks awesome, but despite loving the earlier movies (or maybe because of) I just can’t seem to get excited about this one), Frankenweenie (Tim Burton’s early short film about a boy who brings his dog back to life extended to feature length), and Brave (very excited about this one- Pixar’s first female heroine and it looks like it’s going to be a really beautiful film). Um, there were more than this I think but I was kind of tired and honestly? I wasn’t there for the previews.

And then the movie finally started! Yay! It followed the fairly generic formula for ensemble action movies: introduce villain/world threatening problem, round up separate heroes, highlight problems amongst heroes, somehow they band together and then epic battle(s) ensue followed by heroes saving the world. And that’s what happened. In the most perfect way possible.

A problem for movies with large ensembles means that characters don’t get a lot of time to be fleshed out that well. Film makers tend to resort to broad characterizations to help audiences keep track of who’s who. Fortunately, Marvel has eliminated that problem with the origin movies. So we already know who everyone is pretty much. Hawkeye and Black Widow deserve to get their own movies after this though- their relationship, and their separate characters, are amazing. I mean seriously, Black Widow? Girl’s got nothing except her body and her guns and she could handle any one of those superheroes no problem. Oh, and her scene with Loki? My jaw hit the floor. Also, I love Agent Coulson. So much.

The one-liners and banter in this movie are incredible and I’m going to have to see this movie again simply because I missed half the movie laughing. The fight scenes are wonderful (I’m running out of synonyms for amazing here…) and result in total geek outs, especially when you see who’s fighting who. Loki is the best villain that we’ve seen so far in these movies and Tom Hiddleston brings a level of creepy/crazy to this movie that we never saw in Thor. Of course, I might just be biased because I love Viking mythology so much.

The movie absolutely lived up to my expectations. I think Joss Whedon successfully annihilated any doubts people might have had that he couldn’t handle directing this movie.  And best of all, a sequel was clearly hinted at in the end credits and I have heard rumors of a Thor sequel and a Captain America sequel as well. Awesome. Also, if you go to see the movie, be sure to stay to the end, the very end, of the credits. You should probably know that already, but seriously. Stay.

Oh and I’ve heard about the Agent Coulson shorts that are on the Thor and Captain America Blu-Ray’s, but if you don’t have Blu-Ray like me, you can see them both here.

Ok, I lied. I’m putting a spoiler in here. Highlight below if you want to read it. But don’t read it if you haven’t seen the movie. Don’t. You’re only ruining it for yourself if you do.

Joss Whedon, why must you always kill the best character?!?!? You did it with Walsh in Serenity and now you did it with Agent Coulson. I understand his death was the necessary catalyst to solidify the separate heroes into The Avengers but still. I loved him and now’s he dead. No more unflappable responses to ridiculous situations, no more lovely dry humor. *sob*

Ok, spoiler finished. Just wanted to get it out of my system.

Advertisements

Don’t You Love It…

Don’t you love when you’ve been waiting to see a movie and you really want it to be good and it turns out to be just as good as you were hoping? I got to watch two movies this past week that were every bit as good as I wanted them to be.

HANNA

I’ve been wanting to see Hanna since it first came out. I’m fairly certain I read Roger Ebert’s review which mentioned the fairy tale aspects of it and I was hooked. But I was never able to make it to the theater and I was unable to watch it until someone happened to donate a copy to the library where I work. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I was pretty sure I was going to like it. And I did!

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has lived near the Arctic Circle almost her entire life. Her father, Erik Heller (played by Eric Bana), has taught Hanna how to fight, how to hunt, how to survive. She speaks at least 5 languages and was taught by her father with nothing but an encyclopedia and a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Their simple cottage is in a snow covered forest where they live completely alone. Soon Hanna begins to insist to her father that she’s ready. We’re not told exactly what she is ready for but soon Hanna flips a switch to tell Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) where she is. Her father leaves after they work out her back story and where they will meet up (Wilhem Grimm’s house in Berlin!) and soon armed men come to take her away. Hanna wakes up in a fancy prison cell, freaks everyone out with her ruthless killing skills and then escapes thinking she has killed Marissa. Except she hasn’t. And now Marissa is determined to find Erik and Hanna and get rid of them.

I loved the fairy tale elements in this story. Hanna comes from “the forest” (her description) and Marissa is called a witch. The whole movie has a certain dreaminess to it that contrasts well with the violence that was found in many of the Grimm tales. This isn’t a Disney story where everyone has a happy ending. Also, the music (done by The Chemical Brothers) is really good. If you ever get the chance to watch this one, take it.

THOR

I finally got to see Thor. So happy. I would have felt terribly cheated if I hadn’t been able to see it before The Avengers comes out!

As I’ve mentioned before, I was initially a bit nervous about seeing Thor. I love Norse mythology and I could tell from the previews that Thor the movie was not going to be too similar to Thor the Norse god. But I set that aside and just enjoyed the movie. And I loved it!

When we first meet Thor he is being shown the weapon of the Frost Giants that his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has captured. Odin tells Thor and his brother Loki that both are the sons of kings but only one can rule Asgard and take Odin’s place. Fast forward a few years and clearly Thor has been chosen to succeed his father. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is now tall, blond and handsome. He also seems to be more than a bit arrogant of his prowess with his trusty giant killing hammer Mjollnir. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seems to be ok with this turn of events however and Thor and Loki seem to be friends as well as brothers. So anyways, today just happens to be the day Odin is officially naming Thor as his successor. But oh no! Frost Giants break in and try to steal their weapon. They are destroyed by a handy invention of Odin’s fortunately before they can run off with it. Odin is relieved, Thor angry. Thor wants revenge and shows off his hot temper. Did I mention this attempt at theft happened right before Odin could announce Thor as his successor? Thor gets mad at Odin’s perceived softness and sneaks off with his friends to kill some giants on his own (introducing us to the Rainbow Bridge and Heimdall as well). Odin finds out and exiles Thor to Earth where he runs into pretty astro-physicist Jane (Natalie Portman). Hearing that Odin sent Mjollnir to Earth after him, Thor runs off to grab it and try to return it to Asgard. S.H.I.E.L.D got there first though and after a brief introduction to Hawkeye, Thor fails and is interrogated by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Meanwhile, Loki has pulled a coup at home while Odin is in some sort of coma. He comes to Earth, tells Thor Odin is dead, and that Thor can never come back. Thor accepts and attempts to live on Earth until his friends come to tell him how awful Loki is. Odin wakes up, Thor defeats Loki, and Thor becomes the god he should be. Loki gets sucked down to the world of the Frost Giants supposedly, but we’ll see him again in The Avengers.

I loved this movie because Chris Hemsworth was fantastic as Thor. And I loved Loki too. Loki’s a trickster god and reading the mythology, you’re always wondering “Loki, what are you doing?!?” And that’s kinda how I felt here too. Loki seemed to be trying to take over Asgard because it would cause problems. And that’s what Loki likes to do. And Thor and Odin are always just like “oh Loki! Enough now. Let’s go drink some mead.” And everything’s forgiven. Which is kinda what happens here. Only Loki chose to leave Asgard, nobody forced him to. So, loved Thor. Thor and Loki were great, can’t wait to see them again, and I really hope we get to see a scene like this again:

The Avengers

The Super Bowl was on a few days ago. Did I care? Not really. I went to a party for it though. Because the house was big with nice TVs and there were friends there. I’m still not entirely sure who won. (It was the Giants, right? The team without pretty boy Brady?)

Anyways, this caught my eye during the commercials:

I only saw a glimpse of it and didn’t hear any of it then (due to the aforementioned friends), but I checked it later. Pretty exciting! I’m not particularly a fan of comic books, and something tells me that it is probably better that way. Comic book characters usually have long back stories with numerous opponents and villains. How could all that story be smushed into a satisfying 2ish hour movie? Or even a trilogy? I don’t think it could. So being a fan of just the movies (which I am for the most part) means that I don’t have to worry about things like: Which villains will they choose?!?! How will they make it work?!!?

Back to The Avengers. Marvel has been preparing for this for a long time. And preparing well. The Avengers group is made up of Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Brought together by Nick Fury, director of S. H. I. E. L. D., The Avengers movie will have the heroes saving the world from the villainous plots of Loki.

Like I said, Marvel has been planning this one for a while. Each hero has been given their own origin movie, except for Hawkeye and Black Widow. The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton (replaced with Mark Ruffalo for this film) came out in 2008, as did Iron Man where we first met Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 came out in 2010 (where we first saw the Black Widow), followed closely the next year by Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. I have seen all of these movies at this point except for Thor, which I’m bit nervous about because I’m scared it will be so different from the actual mythology that I’ll have a hard time just enjoying the movie.

I’m not sure when Marvel first decided to do The Avengers movie, but if I remember correctly, Iron Man was the first time we saw Nick Fury in an after-credits clip. I suppose the success of the origin movies only ensured the production of this one.

The official details: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark, Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk/Bruce Banner, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Tom Hiddleston is the villain Loki. Directed by Joss Whedon (yay!), The Avengers comes out on May 4th. I’ll leave you with the official trailer.

Mythology of the Vikings

I’ve been reading a lot of Norse mythology recently. I’ve always loved myths and the Vikings are one of my favorite people groups. Their history and culture has always fascinated me.

Norse mythology is some crazy stuff. I mean, most myths are pretty crazy but the Norse ones seem to go above and beyond.

First off, the first two creatures in existence were a giant, Ymir, and a cow. The giant survived by drinking milk from the cow and the cow survived by licking ice. The first giants and gods came from Ymir through various ways. Some sprang out of his armpits and others were from his leg (fathered by the other leg!). From these offspring came the giants and the gods.

The giants and the gods hated each other. Except when they were inter-marrying and having babies. Which happened quite frequently.

Odin was one of the original gods and he and his brothers killed Ymir and then used his body to create the earth. Odin was the Allfather and was known for his wisdom. He had one eye and frequently disguised himself to travel through the world of men.

His most well-known son is probably Thor, who would take periodic trips to the realm of the giants and kill as many as possible with his hammer Mjolnir.

Freya was a popular goddess, known for her beauty and rather loose with her, um, favors. Her beautiful necklace Brisingamen was acquired after spending four nights with the four dwarves who made it.

And Loki! Son of a giant, yet Odin’s blood brother. He was a popular companion for the gods due to his cleverness but was always causing trouble. He was always fixing the problems he created though, mainly after some threats from Odin. He ends up turning on the gods at Ragnarok, fully unleashing his bitterness on them for his punishments after some of his more dangerous and unsavory pranks.

Everything ends at Ragnarok. I’m not really sure how that all works. All the gods die except for a handful, who then help create a new era. The gods knew they were going to be destroyed, they just wanted to be as well prepared for it as possible.

A quick note on places: Yggdrasil was the great tree that held all the worlds. There was an eagle at the top and a serpent at the bottom. A squirrel ran between the two relaying their insults to each other. The gods lived in Asgard, the giants in Jotunheim. As humans, we live in Midgard. There are 9 worlds total, each apportioned to a different race.

There’s a lot about Norse mythology I don’t understand. This might be because we don’t really have a complete account of it. Some sources have suggested that Thor was actually a more important god than Odin but somehow what we have now is all about Odin.

If you’re curious to read more about the Vikings and their mythology, I recommend Kevin Crossley-Holland’s adaptations. They are interesting and provide a bit of scholarly background.

If you’re looking for someone a bit younger or if you just want some interesting pictures the D’Aulaire’s version is well worth reading.