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Blue Beetle – Angel Manuel Soto (2023)

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Besides the Marvel comics and franchise, there is also DC Comics. “Blue Beetle” is one such DC.

Quite like “Iron Man” and “Antman“, “Blue Beetle” introduces a super hero. As in both named films, technology makes a common man that super hero. Jaime accidentally finds a artificial blue beetle who takes over his body, turning him into a fighting machine. There is the usual story in which a professor tried to make a device to help humanity while his former companions have other plans trying to use the technology for their own selfish means. Needless to say that the bad guys come after Jaime and also needless to say that there is an evil counterpart to the blue beetle making sure there are some spectacular fighting scenes.

The movie makes a stance for the immigrant Mexican community of the USA. The suppressed and often illegal workers who get squashed by the rich. There are some Mexican usages, sometime poking a bit of fun. The blue beetle becomes the hero of the suppressed.

Action, humor, technology and a lot of collateral damage. Pretty ladies, romance, all the usual ingredients are present. “Blue Beetle” looks as good as a Marvel film too. The film ends with a massive cliffhanger, so I suppose the follow up is already in the making.

Red Notice – Rawson Marshall Thurber (2021)

A thirteen in a dozen action comedy with a very annoying Ryan Reynolds as super thief Nolan Booth, an unconvincing John Hartley and of course there is a pretty lady, “The Bischop” played by Gal Gadot.

The Egyptian queen Cleopatra used to have three priceless eggs. Of two the owners are known, of the third the whereabouts are lost. Booth and “The Bishop” are both after all three eggs as some rich Egyptian is willing to pay a whopping amount of money to be able to give all three eggs at his daughters wedding.

So we get the usual ‘who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, who’s trying to play whom?’ type situations with some attempts at comedy. The movie goes from action and chasing to a more Indiana Jones type hunt for a secret treasure. All not boring, but very unsurprising.

Death Race: Beyond Anarchy – Don Michael Paul (2018)

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I fell for the “Mad Max” type cover for the film on Netflix. “Beyond Anarchy” proves to be the fourth film in a long franchise of “Death Race” movies. It seems that none of the others is available on Netflix in my country.

Indeed a “Mad Max” type story, with a lot of “Running Man” (1987). In a dystopian future, heavy criminals are put behind a massive, walled part of the city. There they built their own economy which heavily leans on a spectacular race in which contestants try to kill each other. The races are professionally filmed and streamed on the dark web. A large part of the income of the city comes from gambling. Outside authorities try to get rid off the leader of that criminal town by driving him to death during one of the races.

The film tries a bit too much to present tough people with ‘heavy’ music (that is not very heavy) and overly ‘tough’ language, nudity and violence. The result is a so-so movie. Alright when you are up for a ‘dystopia’, but certainly not one of the better movies in the style.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Russo (2014)

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A while ago when I was looking around a bit to see what to watch and I came to a Marvel featuring Scarlett Johansson. I figured that was a good reason to watch “Black Widow“. By now it is clear that the Black Widows is in most Marvel films, even this one which is specifically about Captain America.

Steve Rogers still tries to be the good guy with old values. Values that he finds fading in modern life. For the rest the story is quite typical. There is a mysterious and mighty adversary that Captain Marvel and the Black Widow fight together. Then we have the changed roles in which the good guys appear to be the bad guys and everybody is out to get our super hero duo.

Amusing, with a few notches to the past and close to none to the ‘larger story’. Hence: a Marvel shootout.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron – Joss Whedon (2015)

So I have been looking into this “Marvel Cinematic Universe” a little. It seems that not all Marvel productions ‘tap’ into the ‘bigger story’. There is this “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” which appears to have all new characters for example. Other movies that I recently saw seem to be ‘stand alone’ as well. There are different “phases” in the movies/larger story. Some of these “phases” are linked, others not. In any case, it does not seem to be like that all movies together tell one, big story. There are just references to other films, but basically each film has its own story.

So trying to figure out which one I could watch next, I skipped the earlier two “Iron Man” films (2010, 2013) as the first one seemed to have little to do with the “MCU”. I ‘should’ have rewatched both “Thor” films perhaps. But I chose the second “Avengers”. Here at least different ‘super heroes’ get together, so it has to refer to their separate and connecting stories.

We again see Tony Stark / Iron Man making a bad decision for the world. His -by now- friends have to rescue the world twice. Both times “Loki’s Scepter” has to be recovered from the enemy. It was that scepter with which Stark unintentionally unleashed an AI way more advanced than his own Jarvis. This “Ultron” soon sets out to bring peace to the world, but in ‘machine logic’. This is a bit of a weak part of the film as “Ultron” is an AI, but he operates mostly inside an Iron Man type robot. Destroy the robot, destroy AI? Strange thought.

Anyway, a romance rises between Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and the Black Widow. The Hulk again can sometimes control his powers, but usually not. Thor again fights at the sides of the other heroes which we know from the previous “Avengers”, Captain America and Hawkeye (the only character that seems to have had no film of its own).

There is the usual brutal action. Also there are more jokes than in the previous “Avengers”, so this one is more like the first “Iron Man”. With regards the “MCU” the only thing I noticed of the ‘big story’ is that all the way towards the end, Thor tells about the six “Infinity Stones”. One of them, the “Soul Stone” is housed in the Tesseract that we encountered in earlier movies. Loki’s Scepter has one (“Mind Stone”). From there is went to Ultron. In trying to overcome Ultron it appears that also Ultron’s adversary “Vision” has the “Mind Stone”. Nothing much about all that in Thor’s story though, but he does say that the six stone came into existence during the big bang. There are a few references to Vibranium and Wakanda as well, including an amusing reference that man used Vibranium only to make a discus (Captain America’s shield) while it has much more possibilities (just see what the Wakandians do with it).

The whole “MCU” is quite a maze. This Wiki helps a little. I wonder how people have figured it all out. Be that as it may, “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” is another amusing Marvel, but I would like to see a film in which the larger story is more ‘condensed’ and explained rather than vaguely referred to.

Hulk – Ang Lee (2003)

So this was a Marvel film from before Marvel started to create a ‘Marvel comic universe’? Graphic novel to film, like other Marvel films, but with no references to other films then.

Bruce Banner’s father was a scientist who tried to genetically manipulate the human body so that it would restore itself after injury, like some animals grow back severed limbs. Since he was not allowed to experiment on humans, he tried his potion on himself. This he transferred to his son who accidentally ‘activated’ the manipulation. This caused him to turn big, green and incredibly strong when he gets angry. I guess you know the story.

We have a young Eric Bana, an also young Jennifer Connelly and actors such as Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot. The film is largely a drama, but in a few scenes there is action. There is -of course- a military interest in the experiment and Banner is unhappy with his ‘gift’.

Last Action Hero – John McTiernan (1993)

Even though 46 at the time, a young looking Schwarzenegger is the main character in a series of action movies. The teenager Danny is a huge fan and a magic ticket transports him into a movie in which Jack Slater is that main character.

I found this film because it supposedly combined comic book elements with film. There is -indeed- a cartoon cat in two scenes. For the rest the film is a bit of a screwball action film. The story is better than the film itself. Schwarzenegger is actually quite funny, but I am not too fond of kids in major parts.

McTiernan took the opportunity to experiment with filming going from 1950’ies black and white to hip action stunts. Also he opened a can of (then) famous actors towards the end.

Iron Man – Jon Favreau (2008)

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If I am not mistaken, this was the first Marvel film. Nothing of the big story/stories here. Just the story of weapons manufacturer and playboy Tony Stark who finds out that not just the ‘good guys’ have his weapons. He decides his company needs change.

Stark was abducted by terrorists. To escape, he builds an iron suit. Back home he decides to use that idea to make a more advanced version of that suit, which becomes his fighting and flying machine that makes him Iron Man.

Within his own company Stark turns out to have enemies as well, especially when he wants to steer his company into another direction. That adversary builds a similar suit to fight Stark.

“Iron Man” is a more typical action film than the other Marvel films that I saw so far. There is also more humor in it. It is amusing, but tells me little about the ‘Marvelverse’, safe -of course- the birth of Iron Man. But you have to start somewhere.

Captain America: The First Avenger – Joe Johnston (2011)

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Excuses if you do not like the Marvel films. I am getting into it a little. It is not like the films are superb, but I do enjoy the correlation between the films. I read somewhere that the present title makes the start of the Marvel universe. This cannot be entirely true though.

During WWII a scientist found a way to make a super soldier and he was his own first experiment. Hugo Weaving amusingly plays this bad guy called “Schmidt”. Early in the film he retracts the Tesseract (there it is again) in Norway.

A former helper of Schmidt (Erskine) goes over to the Americans and pulls off his trick again and so Captain America is born. Initially he is mostly the mascot of the American army, but he develops into the first super hero. Amusingly, along the way he gets that odd, round shield that he throws around all the time, but which comes back to his hand most of the time. The shield is made of “vibranian” which is so central to the “Black Panther” films. Anyway, we also meet familiar characters such as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Story and action wise, this Marvel is not the greatest. It sure does explain a few elements, but not everything. How did that Tesseract end up in Norway for example? Other internet sources advice to just start with the first Marvel film (“Iron Man” from 2008). I can imagine that some elements were simply added to the stories later and picked up in other films.

There appear to be over 45 Marvel films! I do plan to watch more, but I am not sure for how long. Until that time, excuses to Marvel haters.

The Avengers – Joss Whedon (2012)

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After “Black Widow” I decided to watch the first “Avengers” film for context. Here we have a story in which people try to gather “super heroes” from the Marvel franchise to form a super team. So here you get “Captain America” (is Captain America not the Black Widow’s father?), Tony Stark is I think “Iron Man”, Bruce Banner is “The Hulk” (who strangely sometimes has no control over his ‘hulkness’ and sometimes he does).

The club is gathered because “Loki” (from both Thor films) has plans with the “Tesseract”. “Thor” (both actors are the same as in the Thor films) comes down to try to save humanity and the Tesseract apppears to be an object of Odin.

In any case, there is a lot of fighting, fairly brutal action. An odd mix of mythology and science fiction, but I guess that is just the ‘Marvelverse’. Even more than in “Black Widows” there are references to other Marvel films.