Today on the Lstrblg...
Media Consumed: Black Widow
My wife is tired of superhero movies. And I think I’m beginning to agree with her. This proposition confounds and horrifies my inner child. As a boy, I read Starlog (along with Mad at the supermarket newsstand while waiting for my mom to finish shopping), which always had lengthy, breathless columns about comic book-based films that probably would never be filmed or — if they were filmed — would be terribly disappointing.
Hollywood doesn’t get comics, we’d say.
Then my generation would grow up and make comic book movies. Many of them really good while still faithful to the source materials. You need to hand it to Marvel Studios, they know their product, and do a damn fine job of giving the Platonic ideal of the source material.
Still, I kinda wish they stopped for a while — not just pandemic-stop, actually stop –after Avengers: Endgame, which did everything a saga-wrapping, zillion-character film should do.
Now they are doing the thing — and it is a good thing — of making different genre movies. Black Widow is a spy film, subcategory: agent on-the-run. Think Jason Bourne or those Bond movies where 007 goes off book, but still manages to get all the Q gadgets. As such, it isn’t a terrible movie.
What it is is too long. Black Widow’s run time is listed as 2 hours, 13 minutes. It could have easily been, say, 100 or even 90 minutes. I’m sure there is now a formula for modern flicks that say 2hrs-ish is ideal. Still, I don’t think that they have figured out that, with a few well-constructed action set pieces on a regular interval, nobody walks out of the theater–or goes back to the menu on Apple TV– thinking they’ve lost something.
I won’t spoil anything, but Black Widow effectively takes a beating that should have killed her a dozen times over. I mean, I get it. John McClane should have died two dozen times in the most recent Die Hard, which I finally did watch (it is what I do on the elliptical). But it was instantly forgettable, so I don’t have a take on it.
Also, I was fine with the movie’s take on Taskmaster. Yes, it altered the character significantly, but did a great job of tying it back to the main character. Well done, movie.
Media Consumed: Shang Chi, Something Something Subtitle
If Black Widow was the superhero spy film, then Shang Chi is obviously the first Marvel martial arts flick. It has almost exactly the same run time — here, 2hrs and 12 min — and suffers the same pacing issues. The action is better executed and has a lighter tone, despite some heavy themes, which is on-brand for Marvel comic book movies.
There are a couple of great fight sequences. The bus fight and the bamboo scaffolding fights are nigh-upon Jackie Chanesque.
Ultimately, it is a fine action flick, but it fails to ratchet up the tension sufficiently, which is really weird considering they essentially went with a Cthulhu-like soul-sucking cosmic horror as the main villain. Sounds pretty high stakes. Ends with a mediocre kaiju fight. One of the two should have been Fin Fang Foom, but perhaps asking too much for even Marvel at this point.
The father/son stuff also felt insufficiently developed, which is also really weird considering all the effort they went to building the father’s backstory. On paper, it sounds great: Boy gets mystical rings. Boy builds millennia-old hidden empire. Boy manipulates world events. Boy meets Girl. Boy fights Girl. Boy gives up immortality for Girl. Girl gives up mystic kung-fu for Boy. Girl gets killed by random gang for some reason. Boy (Dad) goes back to crime. Trains Son. Son murders guy who kills Girl (Mom). Dad tricked into thinking evil alien entity is Mom. Son fights Dad. Dad sacrifices himself to save Son. Son saves World.
Oh, wait, on paper it sounds silly, but it is, after all a superhero movie. It is still a far richer bad guy motivation (The dad, not the Cthulhu) than most of these films. So, why didn’t it work? I think both problems (i.e., the tension and the father/son conflict) were hamstrung by editing and the overall sloppy pacing. I dunno, I just watch these things.
The main guy is fine; the sister underdeveloped
Media Consumed: Doom Patrol binge
My wife, who hates superhero things, and I binge watched all three seasons of Doom Patrol. The third season’s plot, overall, was less impactful than the first two, but we both really enjoyed the show. The cast is amazing, particularly April Bowlby who plays stretchy-girl (not a huge DC fan, sorry). The show embraces weirdness over action, and we are there for it.
Also, Brendan Frasier voicing a robot played by a guy doing a Herman Munster impression is worth it, even just for the swearing.
Media Consumed: Ghosts (UK)
I haven’t seen the US remake, but the UK series Ghosts is fairly perfect. It is funny and charming and equal measure.