The Avengers: Go See It!

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I’m writing on three hours of sleep, so this post could totally suck. You have been warned.

So I had an interesting night. Every now and then, the Campus Activities Board at Austin College pays for an entire room at a movie theater at a midnight release when a really popular movie comes out so the students who are willing to neglect their studies and come out early enough get a movie for free while being cramped by annoying freshman. Last night, CAB paid for tickets for The Avengers release. My roommate Neelam and I figured it was our last opportunity to take advantage of it before we graduate, so we went. Long story. For various reasons we had to sit through the Lucky One. Can you say awkward? I come out of The High School Musical generation (not proud of that). I should not have to see a MILF reaching into Zac Efron’s pants. Since this is a movie review blog, I will give this movie a score. How about, in honor of the title, I give it a 1?

However, I am writing to talk about The Avengers, which somehow was worth watching Zac Efron thrusting. I don’t love superhero movies. I’ll see them, but they’re not at the top of my list. So when I saw the trailer, I wasn’t excited. Yawn, okay, now they’re a team. Yada yada yada. Boy, was I wrong.  I am so glad I saw this movie, because it was awesome. Well written. Great cast. Action that doesn’t melt your mind. And Joss Whedon’s signature hilarious beats throughout. I liked Marc Ruffalo much better than Eric Bana as The Hulk. And when did Scarlet Johansson get to be such a bad ass? I’ve always enjoyed her acting skills, but I didn’t know she packed such a punch. More importantly, this movie is not just escapist. It brings up issues and themes very relevant to modern society. The obvious one that is in pretty much every hero movie is the question, what makes a hero? This comes up many times in the movie, especially when Captain America challenges Iron Man, saying he’s not a hero. Just a narcissist playing with toys. And quite obviously, considering the nature of the idea of The Avengers, many conflicts about the idea of teamwork are brought up. And also the ethics of creating weapons of mass destruction even if it is for defense.

My regular readers know I love complaining about bad movies, but I’m even more delighted to find good ones, especially if my expectations are completely debunked. However, the Avengers is not without its flaws. The main one that comes to mind regards the Hulk. Halfway through the movie, Bruce Banner loses control (as is inevitable with The Hulk, especially if you put him in giant hovercraft) and turns into the green mean fighting machine. In this scene, Whedon portrays the Hulk as a wild beast out of control. He does not know ally from enemy. He cannot think, cannot be controlled. Then, move to the climax of the movie when the Avengers are all fighting the bad guys together. Banner unleashes the Hulk to fight. However, suddenly, the Hulk seems to have a brain. Yes, he’s fighting savagely, but also he can discriminate between friend and foe. He listens to Captain America’s orders. What happened? This represents a huge disconnect with The Hulk’s character.

Also, towards the beginning of the film, after Loki attacks Shield, there is a scene in which he’s talking to a cloaked man. It becomes pretty clear that this ring wraith combined with Hannibal Lector is really in control and a much bigger bad ass than Loki. But we never see him later in the film. It seems like Whedon was trying to allow for a sequel set up, but if that’s true, there should be a scene after the climactic fight with Loki where the audience sees the other bad dude and is reminded, “Hey, the Avengers defeated Loki, but now they need to fight this guy,” if this movie brings in enough money, which I’m sure it will.

For a great ride and a lot of fun, I give this movie a 7.

Crap, now I have to watch all the prequels.

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The Hunger Games: a Commentary on Book to Film Adaptations

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Yes, I read the books. Yes, I enjoyed them. Yes, for those two weeks of my life I wanted Gale to be a real person and sweep me off my feet… Just kidding. Or so you hope, right?

I really did read the books. So I think this is a good opportunity to talk generally about adaptations from books to screen. A lot of people would be surprised about how many movies actually started out as novels. When a movie is originally a book, the movie always has to walk a fine line between the pressures of quality and faithfulness to the original book. But I believe faithfulness does not mean a movie will be good necessarily. If you use a book as a script and film every single thing in it, the movie would suck. Movies and books are completely different mediums. Both need different elements, different tactics. Thus, when a book goes on the big screen, changes have to be made out of necessity.

Once you accept the idea that changes have to be made, you have to ask, what changes are okay? I think the best guide is the main central plot, and most importantly, the important themes. If the director and screen writer change the theme, they have completely deviated from the original author’s intent. And that is in my opinion not okay. Small details that have no influence on the actual story can be changed. That shouldn’t be cried over. I know a lot of people shed tears over the disappearance of Tom Bombadil from the Fellowship of the Ring, but that needed to happen to make the movie better because all Tom does is talk. No really significant piece of action happens in that scene. However, I’m sure director Gary Ross would have been stoned if he changed Katniss into a dependent floozy who always needs a man in her life—Wait a second…

Keeping those parameters in mind, The Hunger Games actually is a pretty good adaptation. The only things that are changed are not essential to the story. The central plot and the important themes remained intact. That is what a fan should look for. Not that everything is the same, only the important things.

Now, did I think it was a quality movie? It was much better than I expected. I was kind of prepared for something close to Twilight. (And actually I saw the Breaking Dawn Part 2 trailer, and sadly I was the only person in the theater who laughed at it. Maybe I offended some very angsty preteens, but anyway…). To my delight, the movie rose above my expectations. It wasn’t the best movie ever made, but it wasn’t the worst either. And it was definitely entertaining. My one complaint (I’m sure you Squids all know by now that I always have one) is about the action. Actors moved so fast that they would become blurry and I couldn’t follow what was going on. Maybe the director did this on purpose to create the feelings of confusion and uncertainty the characters would be feeling, but he could have toned it down a little bit and it still would have come across without making me want to barf.

For a solid adaptation and an entertaining ride, I give The Hunger Games a 6 out of 10.