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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Review - Iron Man 3

Movie Title
Iron Man 3 
Action, Sequel, Comic Adaptation

Guest Reviewer: Aaron Chong with JM's Annotations 
In Iron Man 3, when Tony Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

To start things off, there will be no spoilers in this review until indicated at the end, so do not hesitate to read it for now.

Well, there's a little bit more than that but then, I'm sure all the other movie sites, TV programs, magazines would have already informed you of the story.
One of the best aspects of the entire Iron Man franchise, Robert Downey Jr (RDJ) again brings his A-game. What can I say about him? He is probably the best casting in history. ‘Nuff said. RDJ yet again brings a nearly flawless performance and really also makes his co-workers look good. In this film, RDJ really gets a chance to do some real acting as situations required him to respond in much more different ways then what comes naturally to him. RDJ shows his range as an actor more than he has in any other Marvel movies to date.
The other actors in this movie performed well and did what was expected of them. Don Cheadle (Jim Rhodes), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan, ex-Directorreturn and yet again perform amicably for the short period they appeared in the film, while new comers, Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin), Guy Pierce (Aldrich Killian), Ty Simpkins (the kid) and Rebecca Hall (Who plays Maya Hansen, a scientist with whom Tony had a 1-night stand many years ago and whose scientific discoveries are being used by the bad guys) did very well. Everyone worked well together and, as usual, Marvel does brilliantly in their casting department.
Shane Black is both the co-writer and the director of this film. Shane Black takes over from Jon Favreau as director, having previously worked with RDJ in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I found this film paced very strangely. I understand that it was a directing choice but the quick pacing in the first act and the awkward transitions between scenes made me feel like I was dropped into the middle of an already on-going movie. It then slows down in the second act and scenes started to drag while still making awkward quick transitions to the next scenes. It was like the movie was trying to introduce so many characters and it was taking 30 minutes to set up the scene of the movie.

On the writing side, Shane Black is famed for his one-liners and it shows in this movie and in the trailers. It was probably the darkest yet funniest Iron Man movie. However, these funny moments came at a very wrong time at times such as during emotional scenes. There were also very strange decisions made, such as switching the War Machine into the Iron Patriot for no real reason. That really made me think this writer/director was trying to make this his own movie instead of one which follows the comics. If you are not a fan of the Marvel comic books, the Iron Patriot was actually a villain pretending to be a hero, Norman Osborn (Yes, THAT Norman Osborn from Spider Man who is also known as the Green Goblin - Spidey's greatest foe).

Now, there is a turning point in this movie that many people will be talking about. We can’t really move on from here without spoilers, so spoiler alert. (In case you are one of the only 2 people left in the world who haven’t seen this movie...)
(Spoilers alert: The next few sections will contain spoilers for Iron Man 3 and possibly a few other past comic book movies.)
Well, let’s dive right into it. The turning point as referenced above is the shameless destruction of the Mandarin character. If you know anything about the Iron Man comic books, you will know that the Mandarin is easily the biggest Iron Man villain. Also, the awesomeness of Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin in the trailers solidified my trust in Marvel even if he wasn’t Asian.
However, this was not the case. In one of the worst twists I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie, since Spider Man 3 made Sandman uncle Ben’s killer, Iron Man 3 joked off the existence of the Mandarin. Now, to all non-comic book readers but fans of the films who do not realize how big of a sucker punch this is, go back to the first and second Iron Man movies. In the first movie, when Tony was taken by the terrorists and filmed for a hostage tape, the banner on the background is that of the 10 rings. This sign appears again throughout both films.
This builds up to the villain who planned everything since the first movie, the Mandarin. Every time the Mandarin spoke in Iron Man 3, this sign would appear. The Mandarin is famous for his 10 rings which are basically alien and gives him 10 different powers. If you watch carefully in the trailers and the movie, you will see that Ben Kingsley is wearing 10 rings throughout his time as the Mandarin. Ben Kingsley and his outrageous style of speech was a huge drawing factor for this film. If you know the importance of this character in the Iron Man universe, and if you can appreciate that every Iron Man movie has been building up to the Mandarin, and if you have been looking forward to seeing what could have been the best villain portrayal since Loki (yes, I did leave out Bane on purpose), you will understand the let-down us fans experienced when that huge twist was revealed.
If you still find it hard to understand, here’s the short version. Imagine ‘The Dark Knight’ movie in the interrogation scene with Batman and the Joker. Batman is going, “Where’s Rachel!?” Now imagine all of a sudden, Joker wipes off his make-up and he goes, “I was just a drug addict, loser actor and there is no such thing as the Joker and the real ‘Joker’ is actually some other random guy with no white face and none of the craziness but just breaths fire.”

Now I know what some of you are saying. “The Mandarin was in the movie. He was Guy Pierce”. To those people I say, no he’s not. Guy Pierce displayed none of the characteristics of the Mandarin other than the fact that he had 1 of the Mandarin’s 10 powers which was heat (which every henchman had as well). They tried to pull a ‘Batman Begins’ on us but it didn’t work. Is the idea of the 10 rings too silly to be in the movie? It would have been, but just a while ago in the Avengers Iron Man was flying around with a Norse god fighting aliens coming out of a portal made by a human in about a day. Maybe the rings could have fallen from one of the space aliens? Anyway, I think 10 alien rings giving a man powers is more realistic than a man breathing lava from his mouth, which is what they went with.
Moving on from the fan boy aspect of things, I had a problem with the conveniences in the movie, put simply:

·  Tony conveniently having so many suits ready to fight at the end.
·  Extremis (Hmmm, actually, from the comics Extremis is actually the new tech that Stark had incorporated  
   into his Armors to allow them to fly to him. Should be the same thing here in the movie too) at first being 
   difficult to beat and then just a shot to the head works.
· Pepper being annoying with wanting Tony to stop being Iron Man and flirting with who just so happens to be 
          the villain.
· Rhodey not being able to fit in the suit cause its wired to Tony but Killian being able to fit in the suit.
· Killian deciding to give Pepper Extremis (see above) instead of just killing her, leading to his own downfall.

These things take me out of the movie.

The last thing I had a gripe about is the ending of the movie. The whole movie spoke of the journey Stark had to take in discovering what made him Iron Man. This was remarkably summed up by the last line, “I am Iron Man” indicating there is an element of destiny in the film and that others can wear the suit, like Rhodey, but Tony Stark is the only one who is the hero, Iron Man. It is the man who makes the suit, not the suit that makes the man. 

This was nearly remarkably shown in the end fight where he changed suits several times in a fight against ‘Not Mandarin’, symbolising the important thing is the man inside the suit and how he used the suit. Sending the suit to cover up ‘Not Mandarin’ and blowing it up provided a brilliant ending which sums up the entire story. THEN they go and ruin it all. Turns out ‘Not Mandarin’ survived and Pepper Potts appears and uses the suit to kill ‘Not Mandarin’. 
Speaking of Aldrich Killian (Pearce), I was really happy to see the introduction of AIM into the Marvel Movie universe. Its potential could lead to so many great movies! 

After learning the lesson that it’s the man who makes the suit and not the suit that makes the hero, someone else uses the suit to save the day... Now this ending completely contradicts the entire premise of the movie and causes us to unlearn the lesson earlier taught and learn a new lesson, which is, ‘Pepper Potts is bad ass’…
Don’t even get me started on how it was so easy to remove the arc reactor in his chest after the whole second movie was about him dying because of it…

I realize I may be in a minority group but there were many aspects to this movie which I did not like. I realize I should not expect a movie as good as the Avengers but I expected them to at least reach the quality of the first Iron Man and in my opinion, it did not. Every time I think of it, it hurts me more. Build up was great but no pay off and now it has made me worry about phase 2 of Marvel's Movies and Avengers 2. Therefore, despite the great acting, I have to give it 6.5/10. Bring on the hate…

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comic Review - Jimmy Olsen 133-135

Jimmy Olsen #133-135
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Jack Kirby
Vince Colletta

Jack Kirby's 4th World saga begins with Jimmy Olsen #133 where the Newsboy Legion was introduced (or re-introduced).

Jimmy was sent by the Daily Planet (that had just been bought over by a tycoon Morgan Edge) to investigate something called the Wild Area, together with the Newsboy Legion in their Morgan Edge sponsored Whiz Wagon - a state-of-the-art vehicle that's very much like a cross between James Bond's & Men In Black's super cars.

Clark Kent (aka Superman), always looking out for Jimmy's well-being, is suspicious of Edge's motives and digs deeper into the case Jimmy's investigating.

Jimmy & the Newsboy Legion arrive and are confronted by the secret group who dwell there - the Outsiders (not to be confused with Batman's own strike team with the same name.)

There's a scuffle between the Wild Area Outsiders and Jimmy manages to defeat their leader. suddenly, Jimmy finds himself becoming the Outsiders' leader. Superman arrives just in time for the Outsiders to share why there are there - the Zoomway and the Mountain of Judgment.

It's later revealed to readers that the Mountain of Judgment is actually a souped-up giant missile carrier which is the mobile home of another youth tribe called the Hairies (Yeah, I know, but this was written in the early 70s).

Readers also learn that Morgan Edge is secretly working under Darkseid's instruction, hence why he sponsored the creation of Newsboy Legion's Whiz Wagon, because is was planted with a bomb
designed to destroy the Mountain of Judgment. The question is...WHY?

Superman, Jimmy Olsen, and the Newsboy Legion leave the Mountain of Judgment and head to a secret government cloning base called the DNA Project. Apparently, the Hairies were the product of DNA Project's genetic engineering.

Meanwhile, 2 of Darkseid's minions, Simyan and Mokkari, are also doing their own cloning and they have cloned a giant Kryptonite-laced Jimmy! 

While the giant Jimmy clone threatens the DNA Project, one of the clones within the DNA Project, urges the Newsboy Legion to let him out to do the duty he was designed for - to protect the DNA Project. He's the Golden Guardian!


Honestly, as far as old school* goes, I was never a fan of Kirby's art. I actually liked Steve Ditko's Spiderman and Dr Strange a lot more. However, as I grew older, I begin to see the brilliance of Kirby's work in books like Fantastic Four and the start of my appreciation of his creative talent.

* 60s - 70s.

His art is not for everyone. I do know of a few people who detest his work. Then again, artistic taste is very subjective. But, regardless of your taste, it is essential reading for all comic geeks.

There's a modern version of Kirby's art style. I have since grown very fond of his work - Ron Frenz. I wonder what he's doing these days as I don't see a lot of his work in recent years.

Jack Kirby's 4th World!
These 4 words alone conjure up images of epic stories & they contain so much meaning behind them that papers have been & were written to expound them. It's one of those EPIC Sagas that span dozens of issues across multiple titles and several years- a concept that was totally unheard of at the time and rare even by today's standards.

The 4th world is where Kirby introduces such key concepts and characters into the DC Universe such as the New Gods, which include Darkseid, Metron and Orion, among others.

Kirby, as any comic fan would know, is a giant in the comic book industry, He had, along with Stan Lee, created most of the Marvel Universe as we know it. Among their creations include the Avengers, X-Men, Hulk, Thor, etc.

This was a period in which Kirby had left Marvel to their Distinguished Competitor and was given full creative reign to tell his stories unfettered.

Wow - I didn't know the Guardian goes so far back. I always thought he was created in the late 80s after John Byrne rebooted the Superman franchise.

Anyway, there are many 1sts in these 3 issues. I'm amped to read the issues following these as they introduce the Forever People, Mr Miracle & Big Barda & the New Gods.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Comic Review - (Marvel NOW) Avengers 4-6

(Marvel Now) Avengers Vol 5 4-6
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Jonathan Hickman
Adam Kubert

Issues 4-6 delves into the individual stories of the new members, namely Hyperion, Smasher & Captain Universe respectively. This was designed to give readers an opportunity to know who these new members are.

Issue 4 tells of how Hyperion was saved from his dying universe (the Squadron Supreme universe) by AIM and was held captive until he was saved by the Avengers.

Issue 5 shows how a farm-girl from Iowa chanced upon an alien artifact that transforms her into the Smasher and how she was inducted into the Shi'ar Imperial Guard after displaying her qualities, making Earth proud as she's the 1st human to ever be a member.

Here is an image by John Byrne (the BEST X-Men artist ever!) of his babies fighting the Shi'ar Imperial Guard.

Issue 6 has Shang-Chi (aka Master of Kung-Fu) use his Zen-like skills to help Captain Universe uncover who the person /host really is underneath the mask & power and why the Uni-Power (a universal force that selects a sentient host to wield the power of Captain Universe to address a threat) chose Tamara Devoux, a woman who has lost her memories when she entered into a coma, to become the current Captain Universe.
Meanwhile, "Darkveil", a humanoid "Adam" (for a moment, I thought that was the Marvel NOW version of Adam Warlock. I'd really like to see the Marvel NOW version) that was created by Ex Nihilo** on Mars and brought back to Earth by the Avengers, is actually Nightmask, and he is warning the Avengers of the coming of The White Event (see below for the significance of this event and this is 1 of the many reasons why I love Hickman's work). I can't wait to read the next issue!

** see (Marvel Now) Avengers Vol 5 1-3

Kubert is a competent artist who delivers consistently solid work but he's not in the same class as Jerome Opena. Still, having said that, his work does not distract readers from the story but is in fact quite good.

However, it's just not good enough for me to tell the difference between his work and his brother Andy's.

The White Event - well, if you know what this is, then you are showing your age.

Back in the 80's when the then Editor-In-Chief & rising star Jim Shooter, wanted to capitalise on Marvel's success and had created a brand new line of Marvel Comics under the New Universe imprint. It was supposed to be paranormal events happening to the real world as we know it. The imprint had 8 titles, of which, Nightmask was 1.

Wow - that really got me going. I can't wait to see how Hickman will incorporate the New Universe and its characters into the world of Marvel Now. THIS, is what comic books are all about! I love it. Highly recommended.