You didn’t feel like working today, did you? Wouldn’t it be more fun to talk with your friends about this summer’s comic book movies? It has been a good year for them. Let’s have a lively comment thread for Friday, and let’s just put everything below the fold.
Iron Man was great. You had to get past a bit of comic book physics, but Robert Downey was born to play that role. “Can you act like a narcissistic, womanizing, alcoholic playboy?” Jeff Bridges was excellent, wearing that part like a well-tailored suit, and looking good in his well-tailored suits to boot; we all talk about Heath Ledger, but this is the under-appreciated performance of the summer. Just his bearing made it look like he grew six inches and put on fifty pounds of muscle for the part. And wow, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts? I have nothing good to say about the other female characters in this post, which makes her all the more exceptional. It looked like she was given the direction, “Pretend you’re Willow from Buffy,” and then ran with it to develop a supporting character who was variously tough, shy, nervous, gently caustic, funny, and competent, always competent. She did good work in what someone else could have made a throwaway part or a bit of window-dressing. Sadly, Rhodes was really weak, and only looked worse next to the other performances. I have no idea how much of that was the part and how much was the actor.
Incredible Hulk was also very good. In a term you rarely hear applied to comic book movies, and certainly not one based on a green behemoth, it was subtle. There were obvious shout-outs like cameos from Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno, but it was packed with little things, mostly for folks who know the comics. Did you see a quick reference to Doc Samson? The Leader was pretty obvious a pretty obvious set-up for the sequel, if you know the name. I am an Edward Norton fan, so I would be biased in commenting on his performance. Tim Roth was pretty good in a role that seemed imperfectly crafted. Betsy was mostly a waste, but I don’t know if Liv Tyler could have done anything more with it. (Here we are overlooking comic book biology, rather than physics.)
The Dark Knight was almost as good as everyone said. After being told repeatedly that Heath Ledger was as good as you had heard, even after all the hype, I dialed my expectations up a little too high. I don’t know what would have met them unless the performance raised him from the dead. That said, yes, Joker was excellent. You can argue for Mark Hamill as the best Joker, but here again was an actor living in that role. Solid and believable, down to the most minor physical mannerisms. I like Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, but The Batman voice was a bit much. Please, can you make that a little huskier? I can still make out the dialogue. Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart were good. The plot holes stuck at points, like how you sneak that many explosives into a hospital without anyone noticing, but we forgive for all the good things. Morgan Freeman did not have enough of a part to excel, but Michael Caine was extremely enjoyable with about the same number of lines. (No, she is not worth mentioning.)
Hellboy 2 was light fun. I still need to see the first, which I am told is in a grittier style. This had hints of Men in Black. You can tell that Guillermo del Toro got free reign after Pan’s Labyrinth. Luke Goss was graceful in a highly stylized performance. Ron Perlman did not really have much room to maneuver in his role, so I do not have much to say about it, except that he remained expressive under heavy makeup and prosthetics. I enjoyed Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, but the logic of interspecies romance is fragile. It seems wrong that he was so anthropomorphic, although that is the joke with him. The visuals were excellent, adapting a classic fantasy style to a modern day setting. The tooth fairies were cute. I thought the ending was telegraphed too clearly, more or less obvious from the first. I want to say nice things about Selma Blair as Liz, but the role did not wholly work. Despite being the pyrokinetic, she mostly played as Badass Normal, the competent one in a group of silly men. She was also saddled with the roles of romantic interest, emotional whirlwind, voice of reason, eye candy, and the visual centerpiece whenever anyone said, “Wouldn’t this scene be more awesome/funny if something was on fire?” which spread the role too thinly to do any of them well. I loved her hair.
Hancock: didn’t see it. I’m told that Will Smith has been experimenting with something other than the character he played in most of his summer blockbusters. Good for him.
Bad blogger, no links. Okay, how about this Dark Knight mockery you have probably seen. This is the point where you toss your comments or links to them. It’s Friday, have a rockin’ discussion.