“Those who do evil to others- the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists- you will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me the Punisher.”
-Frank Castle/The Punisher
“Those who do evil to others- the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists- you will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me the Punisher.”
-Frank Castle/The Punisher
To kick off Mighty Marvel Movie Month, I watched the very first movie based off a Marvel Comics character. However, unlike DC, who released the rights to their A-list characters to respected filmmakers right off the bat, Marvel handed over character rights to a respected filmmaker (George Lucas), but the character itself was a bizarre choice: An anthropomorphic, cigar-smoking, ill-tempered duck named, well, Howard the Duck.
For those of you who don’t know, Howard the Duck made his comic book debut in Adventure Into Fear #19 (December 1973) and became something of a cult character thanks to his strange, existentialist sense of humour, appearing semi-regularly until finally getting his own series, and (Thanks in part to the movie) eventually fading back into obscurity until his cameo appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Having admittedly been born after the character’s heyday, I’ve never personally been a huge fan of this fucking weird character. If I wanted to read about a combination of Daffy Duck and Sartre, I would… Probably be too far gone at that point. Whatever, give me Spider-Man or Deadpool any day. Absurdism can bite me.
Around the height of Howard’s popularity, George Lucas, in between writing jobs in The Temple of Doom and Willow , decided to try to adapt him to the big screen, as this was a point in time when George still cared about storytelling. So, he got his American Graffiti co-writer to direct, and casted some good, young talent to star, including Tim Robbins and Lea Thompson. The movie opened on August 1, 1986 and, long story short, bombed at the box office and is considered one of the worst films ever made. And yeah, it’s pretty fucking bad, you guys.
So, what’s the plot? Well, unbeknownst to humanity, there exists a parallel universe known as Duckworld, in which anthropomorphic ducks are the dominant species. In this world, there lives a washed-up wiseass named Howard (Voiced by Chip Zien). If you thought that Jar-Jar Binks was the most annoying thing George Lucas has ever put to screen well, you’d still be right, but Howard the Duck is up there.
Anyways, out of goddamn nowhere, a portal opens up and Howard is flung out of Duckworld and into our world. Cleveland, specifically. More specifically, the 80’s.
In Cleveland, he meets an aspiring rock star (Lea Thompson), the oh-so appealing and not at all bone-crushingly stupid love interest, who is the third most annoying character, after Howard and a pre-Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins, who is the “Jar-Jar Binks” of this movie. A movie that has a fucking talking duck has someone even more annoying than said talking duck. Let that thought sink in, why don’t you?
George Lucas didn’t write this script (Shocking, I know), but honestly? I think the movie would’ve been much better off if he had hijacked it like he did the Star Wars prequels.
You heard me. I would’ve preferred the writer who wrote Anakin and Padme’s god awful romance. I feel unclean just typing that.
This entire movie’s dialogue is just about completely comprised of in-jokes, eye-rollingly bad innuendo, and all the duck-related puns you could ever want, and then some. I almost would’ve rather the writers had just written an existentialist movie, like the comic book, if only because I love me some absurdist philosophy, but I guess that wouldn’t have made that much money, and it’s not like this movie bombed at the box office or anything.
On top of being irritating as all get out, Howard doesn’t look very good. I’ll give this movie some credit, though. At least it didn’t go the Smurfs route of having a CGI character in a live-action world. That said, even if they had gone that lazy, lazy route, it probably could’ve turned out better than this monstrosity.
There isn’t a good performance to be found among the human actors, although I think they could be forgiven for not caring. Lea Thompson sucks, although I think anybody would suck if they were asked to read lines like “This is Earth, I think.” Tim Robbins was… Just, so fucking weird, man. Thank god things worked out for him.
Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s principal) is the antagonist, and he’s terrible as well. Although, it could just be that I don’t think that Jeffrey Jones could ever play a character creepier than Jeffrey Jones already is.
The only way that this movie could’ve ended up enjoyable is if it had just decided to revel in its own unapologetic campy strangeness, and to an extent, it tries to do just that, but, damn, in terms of visuals, this movie is pretty dreary! For such an idiotic movie, it’s very dark (Visually, not in terms of content) and very unpleasant (In terms of imagery). You’re more likely to be disturbed than amused, honestly, and for a movie in which a talking duck has an electric guitar solo, the more disturbing scenes really don’t fit.
Apparently, this movie has picked up a tiny cult following, and that completely baffles me. It’s not, say, Batman & Robin bad, and I wouldn’t even place it in the twenty worst movies I’ve ever seen. Shit, I’ll even admit to chuckling at a couple of the less atrocious lines (And some of the more atrocious ones, if only out of sheer exasperation). On the whole, though, it’s just god awful, and I came out of this experience a worse person because of it.
Overall: What could I possibly say about Howard the Duck that hasn’t already been said a million times? Don’t subject yourselves to it, you guys.
For the past week or so, I had been suffering through the worst case of artistic blue balls that I’ve had since I started to write somewhat consistently. Nothing I was drafting, aside from my pretty damn good critique of Boyhood (Humility is not one of my more prominent qualities) was amounting to much more than a mediocre rough draft in my notepad, and the only things I was posting semi-consistently were frigging quotes, which, again, I really shouldn’t be using to replace original content.
So, I decided to retreat to my mind palace and figure out just what exactly the hell I was going to do next. None of the movies coming out interest me in particular, Game of Thrones isn’t till April, DeathMatches take too long to set up…. I guess the new Avengers movie is coming out soon, so I could do some Marvel-related thing, but what, exactly? It’s a little early to do a Top 10 Marvel Whatever list, and think everybody and their moose have made a Top 10 superhero list…
And then, it hit me like Suge Knight. A stroke of genius unlike the world has ever seen before. What is it, you ask? Well, for the next month or so, until the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I will review every single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that I haven’t already reviewed.
…At least, that was my original idea.
See, there aren’t quite that much Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as it can sometimes feel like, and I’ve already reviewed a fair bit of them. So, the next logical step?
Review every single movie starring Marvel characters, obviously, be they MCU or not.
Before starting, for those of you about to claim hat I’m ripping off CineMassacre’s Monster Madness and Nostalgia Critic’s Disneycember (Albeit, with the written word)… You’re right. I thought it was a cool idea, and I decided to do something similar with something I really care about, specifically, a bunch of costumed Ubermensch saving the world from the greatest threats humanity’s ever seen.
The only problem with this? There are a goddamn ton of these movies, and there are only so many days until Avengers 2, with so many hours of free time at my disposal. So, I won’t see movies that I have already reviewed (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Future Past, etc.). Not only that, but I’m only reviewing movies that had a theatrical wide release (No animated movies, no serials, etc.) as well as only movies that are based off of characters from the main Marvel comics imprint. That means no Kick-Ass (Which is published by Icon) or Men in Black (Aircel Comics). If this upsets you, then a) you get upset at strange things, and b) bite me. It still adds up to 32 movies, what more do you want from me!?
My first review, being of the first ever movie based off of a Marvel character, should be out within the next day or two, and, surprisingly enough, this film does not start one of Marvel’s ticket characters, but instead stars an obscure hero known as… Wait, what does that say? Howard the-
…. Oh no.
7:30 AM: Wakes up.
7:31 AM: Wow, I haven’t written an original post in like, a week! I should probably get right on that!
11:00: Well, the extra three and a half hours I spent sleeping were sure to have sparked some sort of creative idea in my brain! I basically just have to put pen to paper, and I’m bound to come up with something solid!
11:00-11:15: Doodles a stick figure picture of Iron Man fighting RoboCop.
11:15: Alright, Rollins, enough screwing around! It’s time to put your gigantic intellect to work! Start writing…NOW!!!
11:15-12:00: Stares blankly at paper.
12:00: Okay, you’re obviously working too hard. Take fifteen minutes. Maybe get something to eat. Then, you’ll be a goddamn creative genius.
12:00- 2:00: Wanders down to the kitchen, eats everything in the general vicinity, decides to binge-watch Red vs. Blue.
2:00: No, no, you goddamn idiot! You have a responsibility to uphold to the three people who follow you semi-regularly! Look, here’s a half-finished draft that you shelved months ago! Maybe you can work something out of –
2:00-5:00: Watches back episodes of Game Grumps.
5: 00: God, I hate you.
5:00-7:30: Watches Batman Begins for no particular reason.
7:30: Okay, look, you’ve wasted twelve hours on frivolous bullshit, but we can still get a rough draft done if you put your mind to it. So, what’s it gonna be? Are you gonna review Batman Begins? Talk about that potential Legend of Zelda TV show? Maybe do another DeathMa-
7:30-12:30: Watches The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises for no particular reason.
12:30: Fuck it. Quote of the Day it is.
“Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t”.
Oskar Schindler, Schindler’s List
“That’s when you know you’ve found someone special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and enjoy the silence.”
-Mia Wallace, Pulp Fiction
“So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”
-Marge Gunderson, Fargo
It’s been nearly a month since the Oscars, and by now, regular people have already moved on with their lives, because they are well-adjusted human beings. However, because I’m the furthest possible thing from well-adjusted, I’m still beaming over Birdman winning Best Picture, even though it’s been awhile since the freaking ceremony, and the Oscars don’t mean a damn thing anyway.
As I’ve been skimming through some post-Oscars reaction stuff (In Mid-March? I repeat, what the hell is wrong with me!?!?) I’ve noticed that a lot of people (Forgive me, I couldn’t give you an exact percentage, because I don’t have THAT much free time) seem to be upset that Birdman won, the major complaint being that, while Birdman is a great movie (I wholeheartedly agree), it doesn’t hold a candle to the once-a-generation marvel that is Boyhood, the slice-of-life movie by Richard Linklater.
That, I have a little trouble believing.
See, despite all the hype surrounding it, and all the terrific reviews that the film has gotten ever since its premier at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, I still don’t see it as much more than just a good movie that, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up that well under actual scrutiny (Not “Oh, it took twelve years to make?!?!?! PRAISE LINKLATER!!!!”)
So, in the interest of putting this movie to rest, I’ve decided to go a bit beyond my actual review of it and give a few reasons why I think that, while certainly not the worst movie you’ll ever see, it doesn’t hold up. As one of the few people on Planet Earth who’s sat through the movie four times (Once for my review, once with my parents, once with my brother and once in preparation for this post).
Before really getting into it, I should point out, for the umpteenth time, that this is just my opinion. If someone was really moved by Boyhood, or thought that it really was the best movie of this century so far. If you think that, terrific. I just don’t see what the big deal is.
1. Nostalgia doesn’t make a movie good, nor does it hold up very well over time.
This is kind of a minor point, but this movie does lean a little bit too much on getting that warm, nostalgic feeling from the audience. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this, but nostalgia does not make a movie good. Not only that, but it also serves to date the movie, so future generations may not connect to it as much as our generation apparently does. As somebody who grew up in around the same time period that the movie was set in, I don’t mind as much as I probably should, but still, the lingering shots of old Apple computers and nods to Harry Potter and the fucking Star Wars prequels aren’t going to help the movie in the years to come.
Again, not a huge complaint, but not something that sits well, either.
2. The “12-Year” gimmick: Cool technical accomplishment, not a great indicator of quality.
According to most people, the biggest thing this movie has going for it is the fact that it was filmed over twelve years, and while I see a little bit of merit to that argument (Specifically, that Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette managed to keep their characters interesting for one week of filming once every year), I don’t know if that really makes the film that much better. This may be the first time a non-documentary film takes this approach, but we’ve still seen people grow up before our eyes on screen before. There’s actually an entire genre of television dedicated to it. You may recognize it, it’s called “sitcoms”.
I know, I’m uncultured, but it’s true, isn’t it? During, shit, I dunno, Full House, we actually saw those characters grow up before our eyes and develop as human beings.
So, yeah, as far as I’m concerned, while it was a clever decision, and it was mostly executed alright, it doesn’t really elevate the film all that much. Besides, I don’t really think that most of the credit for the whole “twelve years” concept should go to Richard Linklater, but whoever was in charge of editing all that goddamn footage into a coherent movie. Really, what was so impressive about Linklater’s direction? Seriously.
3. The main character isn’t very interesting.
It’s not always necessary for movies to have particularly interesting protagonists. The science fiction, fantasy and action genres can attest to that. The reason that those genres have so many blank slate protagonists is so the audience can insert themselves into the role. Someone with a very basic personality like Neo in the first Matrix (A very basic character) is a whole lot more fun to watch than he would be if he was given more than the most basic of motivations to do what he does, because if that were the case, the movie may still be enjoyable, but Neo would be a lot harder to step into the shoes of, if that makes any sense.
Mason Evans, Jr is this kind of protagonist, and it doesn’t particularly work in the movie. This character is not particularly interesting, and for a movie like this, he really should be.
See, Boyhood is the very definition of a slice-of-life movie. These kinds of movies live and die off of the character being engaging to watch. Especially when the movie is nearly three hours long. His character arc is: Small child quietly observes everything, pre-teen quietly observes everything, whiny teenager who observes everything while also occasionally waxing bullshit philosophical. This does not exactly make for emotional investment. Seeing him grow up before your eyes doesn’t make up for his nondescript personality. I’ve known people for twelve years in real life, and I’m still indifferent towards them. Why the hell should I feel any different about this bland, boring character?
4. The wrong character was the protagonist.
So, yeah, Mason isn’t that compelling of a character. However, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette’s characters were very intriguing. Besides the fact that the performances were great, these characters are genuinely excellent and likable. Ethan Hawke is trying to stay genuine even as he’s being forced into the conventional life that he didn’t want with Patricia Arquette. Do we get more of that? No! We do get more of Mason falling out with his high school girlfriend, though! How fucking riveting! Patricia Arquette’s character also has potential! She seems attracted to unstable or even dangerous partners! She’s desperately trying to get a foothold on her life! Do we see more of that? Noooope! What the fuck do we get ?! Mason hanging out with a bunch of skeeves, breaking wooden boards, obviously! Fucking ENTHRALLING!!! Clearly, this movie is the goddamn Citizen Kane of our age!!!
5. At a certain point, the writing just becomes super terrible.
You may have noticed, but I’m kind of a stickler for good writing in any medium. And, being a teenager, I would say I’m a pretty good judge o realistic teenage dialogue. And, folks, this ain’t it.
The first third or so of Boyhood is actually pretty great, but I feel like, right when Mason hits junior high, Linklater, the same guy who wrote Dazed and Confused, mind you, completely forgets how to write dialogue for teenagers.
I defy anybody who likes this movie (Which includes me, mind you) to defend these lines as realistic an actual teenager, or, hell, an actual person, would say.
“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
“Hey, welcome to the suck.”
“You know Jim, you’re not my dad.”
So, yeah, maybe we should think twice before elevating Richard Linklater to God status?
if those lines didn’t convince you…
“You know that goth girl that wears a lot of Hot Topic? Well, she and I used to be best friends but we aren’t anymore because she thinks I’m a preppy, but I still like her. Anyway, she cut herself, and now she’s in the hospital, so I’m going to go visit her. Have you read the Twilight books?”
So, after reading through my “About Me” page, I decided I kind of hated it. So, I revamped it. Here’s the link.
Also, after long debate, I decided to launch a couple of probes into the scary world of social media.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
My Twitter handle is @KRollinsPKtM
Do with this information what you will. I’d highly appreciate any follows, though.
“As you wish.”
-Boba Fett, The Empire Strikes back