Walt Disney Co. via Everett Collection
Six years and nine movies in, Marvel has already payed tribute to several film genres with its cinematic universe. We've seen fish-out-of-water stories, political thrillers, pulpy throwbacks, and even a corporate super-villainy grace our screens, but there's still loads of genres that have yet to receive the superhero treatment. We've decided to take a look at the possible genres that Marvel's next batch of standalone superhero films could hone in on.
Iron Man 4Addiction drama
Iron Man 2 saw Tony Stark dip a toe in the well of self-destruction, but what if the character went all the way down the rabbit hole in his next outing? The comic book version of Iron Man has endured a long suffering battle with alcohol, and it would be great to see a superhero film realistically delve into the demons of addiction. We don't necessarily want Requiem for a Dream: Iron Man Edition or anything, but a comic book film with a frank arc about addiction could take Marvel's storytelling to the next level. Dream director: Danny Boyle.
Let’s be real. Hawkeye probably doesn’t get the call to "Assemble!" all that often. When Galactus comes tearing through the Milky Way, the first thought pinging through the minds of the more supernaturally-endowed members of the Avengers probably isn’t, "Hey let’s call that guy with the arrows!" A everpresent theme in the recent Hawkeye comics is that Cliff Barton also feels inadequate when standing shoulder to shoulder with his Avengers cohorts. So let’s take that stew of unfulfillment and inadequacy brewing inside the purple archer and refocus it into a genre where those feeling thrive: the indie drama. Think Frances Ha with terrorists, or Greenberg with ninjas. Honestly, when you think about it, Hawkeye is basically Hannah Horvath: a young adult living in Brooklyn, only first coming to realize that he is not as great as he's always thought. Dream director: Rian Johnson
Thor 3 Survivor's tale
Survival films had a monster 2013, with yarns like Gravity and All is Lost becoming critical and commercial successes. What if the next Thor standalone hopped on this trend before it flickered out. Picture this: after a night of a few too many jars of mead, Thor accidentally bifrosts himself into a uncharted section of the nine realms. With no way home, Thor has to survive an alien wilderness full of terrifying hell-beasts, and a caustic elements. It would be the ultimate story of man against nature, or more accurately, demi-god against nature. The best part would be that they couldn't shoehorn a Jane Foster romantic sub-plot anywhere. Dream director: Joe Carnahan
Black WidowCold War thriller
Countless vials of ink have been used up in order to tell the origin of Black Widow in comic books, but nary a drop of celluloid has been set toward the past of Black Widow's big screen counterpart. Doing an '80s period piece about the Soviet spy-turned-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent's ascension to goodness could be an awesome way to give the character a proper back story. Look at all the good going back to the '60s did for the X-men franchise with X-Men: First Class. Doing a quieter espionage film featuring Natasha Romanov defecting from the hemorrhaging Soviet Union would do much to diversify Marvel's portfolio and give cinema goers a break from rampant city destruction which is quickly becoming an overused play in Marvel's cinematic handbook. Dream Director: Joe Wright
The Incredible Hulk 2Gladiator/prison break film
The Hulk is a tricky character to script an entire film around, and there's a reason why Bruce Banner in The Avengers as a part of an ensemble, whereas he mostly floundered in his standalone outings. For a Hulk movie, it would be cool if Marvel took some inspiration from the Planet Hulk comic book storyline and told a story where aliens captured the Hulk and made him fight in gladiatorial style combat against the universe's most destructive entities. For one thing, it would give the Hulk an otherworldly challenge unlike anything he would face on Earth, but it would also give Marvel a chance to bridge their mainline cinematic universe with their more cosmic offerings. Maybe someone like Gamora from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy could make an appearance? The film could then end with an extended prison break sequence as the Hulk smashes his way back home again. Dream Director: Ridley Scott
Captain America 3Conspiracy thriller/occult romp
Captain America: The First Avenger did the whole Spielberg thing already, but if the Captain America comics has taught us anything, it's that you can't keep a good Nazi down. The Red Skull has always been permanent fixture in Captain America's long running mythos, and it would seem like a such a sin if he didn't rear his ugly mug in at least one adventure set in the modern world. After Cap is finished with the political thrills of The Winter Soldier, why not embrace the pulp once more with a country-spanning adventure, full of secrets being uncovered, ancient organizations being foiled, and Nazis being clanged in the head with shields? Dream director: Brad Bird
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.