Category Archives: Marvel

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Review

guardians_of_the_galaxy_vol_two_new_poster3Don’t miss The 602 Club episode!

Listen_on_Apple_Podcasts_sRGB_US

Marvel is a machine. It’s been pumping out hits (with the occasional miss) since Iron Man in 2008. This summer is no exception as the ever popular Guardians of the Galaxy are back in Vol. 2. The first movie was cotton candy, summer fun, so the question is, can this second film find more depth than the first? Luckily, it does.

Family 

Guardians of the Galaxy was about a group of misfits finding family together and Volume 2 is a continuation of that theme. The concept of the the Guardians as family is challenged in this movie as both Peter and Gamora have to deal with prior or blood relatives. Peter finally comes face to face with his father and as Luke found out in The Empire Strikes Back, knowing who your father is, is not always the best thing. Peter’s story mirrors much of Luke’s as he must choose between ruling the galaxy with his father or saving it as a Guardian. He also finds that he may always have had what he was looking for right in front of him.

Peter’s dad is a Celestial, basically a god, who has lived for millions of years and in that time learned to create worlds. Being alone for so long, he found a way to create a physical form and travel the stars, looking for companionship and love. This is how he met Peter’s mother. Ego, the name of Peter’s dad, decides to turn his back on love and embrace a “higher” calling, to expand the universe, remaking worlds in his image.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2-kurt-russell-chris-prattEgo has spent millennia trying to create progeny that can assist him in his quest to remake the galaxy and Peter is the first child to share his abilities. He’s no longer alone, but it’s not truly family that he is after, it’s just power. He’s come to see himself as above all other life, since he’s immortal, at least as long as his essence is kept alive at the core of the planet he’s constructed. He has divorced himself from the family of beings in the galaxy, placing himself on a higher plane because of his immortality, which enables him to rationalize exterminating whomever and whatever, since comparatively they are inferior. It’s a reminder that the moment people being to see themselves as better than others, it usually leads to marginalization or at it’s worst, extermination.

Gamora and Nebula finally get something to do in this film! They get the opportunity to deal with what has driven them apart and left them at each others throats for so long. They come to terms with the ways in which Thanos drove a wedge between them, used them and realize that they are actually on the same side. Forgiveness is given and it’s a beautiful scene in the movie. It was great to see them really give these actors a storyline to dig into.

The Movie

This movie is not as slickly put together as the first, it does not seem to flow quite as well as the original, but it has more depth and that makes up for it. It’s nice to have the characters go deeper into themselves. It’s still a little cliche, but it feels stronger and more resonant as a film. Because of these things it’s rated 4 out of 5 Baby Groot dances.

PS

Don’t forget to review and rate The 602 Club on Apple Podcasts for your chance to win some incredible, exclusive Guardians of the Galaxy swag (pictured here)! guardians

Doctor Strange – Review

doctor_strange_imax_posterThis review contains Spoilers.

Listen to The 602 Club episode here!

link-badge-itunes
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us many types of heroes. There are men in super suits, a boy bitten by a radioactive spider, a man irradiated by gamma rays, a being brought to life by an infinity stone, a norse god, a former Soviet super spy and a guy that’s really good with a bow, plus a girl that’s been made, in-human. Yet in all of this there has been something missing, something that’s a little esoteric and outside reality and this year Marvel fills that void with it’s newest hero, Doctor Strange.

Perfect Fit

Doctor Stephen Strange is the quintessential man of the 21st century. He’s a materialist that believes there is nothing outside his five senses that he or science cannot explain. He’s arrogant and a complete narcissist, incapable of having anything in his life be more important than himself and to top it off he takes no accountability for the actions that lead him to loosing everything; because paying attention to your phone on a windy road while it’s raining is someone else’s fault. The beauty of the film is how he will be confronted by his beliefs and way of life and find it lacking.

All There is

The dominate view in the modern, scientific world is that there is nothing beyond the five senses that cannot or will not be explained by science. The idea of a soul or anything beyond the material is rejected. Strange is firmly in this camp until he finds himself broken from the accident, unable to heal himself though his intellect and medicine. At the end of his rope, he finds hope in another way. The Ancient One literally opens his mind to whole new realms, dimensions, plains of existence and shows just how little he truly know about the nature of reality. Watching him learn how just how inadequate he is brings to mind Isaiah 55: 8-9,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Strange must unlearn what he has learned about the universe, in fact Mordo who first finds him and brings him to The Ancient One tells him, “Forget everything that you think you know.”

maxresdefault

Letting Go

During his training, Strange struggles to let go of his feelings of inadequacy because of his disfigured hands, leading him to have difficulty with even the simplest magic. The Ancient One tells him that to find the power he must surrender control before he can gain it back. The idea is ridiculous to him and his “modern” sensibilities, but it mirrors Jesus’ words in Matthew 10, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Who’s Number One

One of the most important moments in the film is an interaction with Strange and The Ancient One. Strange has begun to excel in his magical studies but his arrogance as a doctor transfers itself to arrogance as a sorcerer until he is challenged to think differently.

The Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.

Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?

The Ancient One: It’s not about you.

It’s an incredible scene that speaks to the biblical idea seen from the beginning of time, that it’s not about us it’s about something much bigger. Watching Strange learn his lesson as he confronts Dormammu, who he has lock in an eternal time loop to save earth, is perfect. Strange is willing to spend beyond eternity, dying over and over again, if that’s what it takes to ensure the safety of the planet. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Strange has finally been able to let go of his arrogance and narcism, realizing that there are more important things that just himself.

The Movie

With all of the praise for the themes, one would assume that the rest of the movie is just as good, but it’s only partially the case. Sadly, the villain suffers the “Marvel Syndrome” which is, a villain that’s not all that interesting or dynamic. And unfortunately this also the case with our main protagonist. Doctor Strange is an arrogant jerk, very similar to Tony Stark and his turn in the movie, while thematically well done is not as impactful as it should be. In the end it seems to easy and the turn lacks any sense of depth that one would expect. The movie gets lost in the kaleidoscope visuals, forgetting that the real story is the characters, leaving the viewer feeling cheated. Doctor Strange feels less like it’s title would suggest and more like another formulaic Marvel origin story.

Luckily Benedict Cumberbatch was cast and immediately has the charisma needed to carry the movie, without him, the lack of depth would be detrimental. All together, the cast is solid with Tilda Swinton, as The Ancient One, the true stand out, even though she does live  beyond this film (which is a loss to the series). The music is good, Michael Giacchino has created one of the more memorable themes in the MCU. All together the movie is thematically wonderful yet suffers from rushed character development and more focus on empty CGI spectacle than heart. Doctor Strange is rate 3.5 out of 5 levitating capes. 

 

X-Men: Apocalypse – Review

cf7kkqeuuaeqameFind The 602 Club review here!

link-badge-itunes

It’s already been a summer of superheroes with Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War, many people may have forgotten that there was a new X-Men movie as well. Following up Bryan Singer’s Days of Future Past, the team finds itself in the middle of the 80s and an ancient power has awoken which could mean the end of the world as we know it. X-Men: Apocalypse is just as much about it’s characters as it is about spectacle. Singer knows we come to see them and watch them grow and the film does not disappoint.

Magneto’s Struggle

Eric’s story line is one of the most poignant. After the events of Days of Future Past, he has retired to Poland, works in a steel mill, married a woman (he told her who he was the first night they met) and they have a child. He’s happy in the small life he created until an accident at the mill forces him to use his powers to save a fellow worker. Word gets out who he is and before he and his family can escape, the local police capture his daughter, who is killed in a showdown. Enraged, Eric lashes out at the men, killing them all, leaving him screaming to the heavens, “Is this all I am?”. He cannot seem to escape the darkness within. It’s a clear reminder that there is something inside all of us that we cannot control, that is dark and evil and by ourselves we are powerless to control it. In the movie, it’s Charles, Raven and Quicksilver that help bring Eric back to the light, it’s part of the answer, to realize we cannot do it alone, dimly reflecting the truth of,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

Better Together

Apocalypse, also known as En Sabah Nur, believes himself to be a god among men. He believes that his power instills in him the right to rule. The gifts that he was born with have been used to benefit himself alone. On the opposite side you have the X-Men who learn to harness their power and use it for others and the betterment of the world around them. It’s a beautiful picture of what the Apostle Paul talks about in Corinthians when he discusses spiritual gifts,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)

The X-Men series has always been about coming together and Apocalypse is no different. in the fight against En Sabah Nur neither Magneto or Charles is strong enough to destroy him, it takes, Scott Summers, Jean Grey working in concert with everyone else to save the world. Thinking about the film brought the next part of the Corinthian passage to mind,

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20 ESV)

Each member of the team has a gift, that when combined with the others makes them even stronger. The gifts are meant to be used for the welfare of all of humanity and cannot hoard for ourselves, because we need each other. Each person brings strengths and weaknesses to the table and united we form a more perfect union. apocalypse-180759

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this movie. I love the new cast they have playing the younger versions of the people we know from the previous films and Quicksilver is still one of the best things in superhero films. The rest of the character work has me excited for what comes next in the series as hopefully we move to the 90s. Side note, this is how you make a joke about a Star Wars film. This film is rated 3.75 out of 5.

Captain America: Civil War – Review

Captain-America-Civil-War-FAN-MADE-Poster-captain-america-38467259-1382-2048.pngListen to The 602 Club Episode here!

link-badge-itunes

After the events of The Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron and the beginning of Civil War itself, the Avengers team find themselves under fire for their unchecked use of power and civilian casualties. As the team divides amongst itself on the best way to solve this problem, a malevolent force works to tear them apart from the inside out. Civil War is a great superhero movie that asks big questions and still has the heart of the first two Captain America movies. It is a worthy successor to the series.

The Truth is Not Relative

The most powerful scene in the movie comes at Peggy Carter’s funeral. Her niece Sharon Carter gives the eulogy and recounts a conversation she had with her aunt. Peggy told Sharon, “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, YOU move’.” Rarely has a comic book movie been more resonant to the times in which we live. The world is upside down and it’s screaming at us that wrong is right every single day. Peggy Carter’s message is a clarion call to us, we must plant ourselves in the truth, like a tree and not be shaken. It’s a clear picture of Psalm 1,

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1 ESV)

Steve Rogers is a wonderful model for this. His morality and virtue are not shaped my popular opinion or politics, but by something much more foundational and unchanging, knowing that there is right and wrong and that they are not something to be compromised.

Freedom to Choose 

Captain-America-Civil-War-645x370There is also another side to the coin. Captain America sees the inherent danger of taking choice away from the Avengers and making them pawns of a political body. He is fearful that they will be asked to stay out of situations they should be in and forced to act in ways they ought not because of prevailing political sentiment. There is a good correlation with the Jedi in the prequels, that allowed themselves to become agents of a government and not what is right. In the end the Jedi became compromised, realizing too late that they’ve been in service to the wrong master all along.

The choice to do what is right cannot be left to a committee and popular opinion, Steve knows this and willingly lives out that principle. In fact, this is the very reason Steve is fighting for Bucky. Bucky is someone who has had choice forcibly removed, enslaved to the will of an evil organization and been made to do terrible things. He is a microcosm of the question facing the Avengers team. Captain America shows his quality once again as he interposes himself between Iron Man and the Winter Soldier, protecting both: Tony from acting on revenge and Bucky from something that is not his fault.

Conclusion

Captain America: Civil War is a fantastic movie and honestly the Avengers movie we all hoped Age of Ultron would be. While I do have some minor quibbles, I feel Spider-man is shoehorned into the film and would have rather had his time devoted to other characters like Agent 13 or Black Panther, it does not detract too much from the enjoyment of the film. This is rated four shields out of five.

Ant-Man Review

BF_Payoff_1-Sht_v8_Lg-1309x1940Ant-Man is the next film in the ever expanding cavalcade of characters in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. The film tells the story of white collar convict Scott Lang as he tries to get his life back on track so that he can be the man his daughter thinks he is. Little does he realize that his cat-burgling ways will be the very thing he’ll need to help Hank Pym save the world.

The Second Time Around

One of the strongest things about Ant-Man is the idea of redemption. Scott wants to change, but like so many of us, when our backs are against the wall we retreat to the things that we know instead of doing the hard work to change. So often we are unaware of how our unwillingness to evolve affects those around us. It’s a symbiotic relationship, our actions have an impact on the world and the people around us. Hank Pym remains Scott of this vividly when he says, Second chances don’t come around all that often. I suggest you take a really close look at it. This is your chance to earn that look in your daughter’s eyes, to become the hero that she already thinks you are.” It’s a brilliant reminder that our lives are not lived in a vacuum, our misbehavior will resonate through our sphere of influence in ways seen and unforeseen.

The path to change is difficult and for so many of us, we become so entrenched in our waywardness that we begin to believe we’ll never escape the black hole we’ve created. Again the movie here reminds us that redemption is not a lone ranger sport. Hank believes in Scott and supports him. “Scott, I’ve been watching you for a while, now.” he says, “You’re different. Now, don’t let anyone tell you that you have nothing to offer.” For change to happen we need and advocate, a champion, someone to remind us who we can be. Hebrews speaks directly to this when it says,

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

There is someone out there who understands us completely, redemption is not through work but though rest in the work of someone greater.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

BF-09314_R2.0Hank again reminds Scott of another important truth about making the world a better place when he says, “It’s not about saving our world. It’s about saving theirs.” There is a good reason for us to do hard things now, to make difficult choices, for ourselves and for the world; because what we do or don’t do will affect the world we leave our children. What will their environment be like? What will their economy, schools and society at large be like? We cannot live egomaniacal lives and expect the next generation not to suffer. We must be willing to sacrifice monetary pleasure for a more sustainable future. It’s about what we leave behind.

Conclusion

Ant-Man is a lot of fun. There is noting revolutionary in it, it will probably not blow you away but it is saved by the great performances of Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilley. Each one makes you care about the character they play and bring you into a story that otherwise is par for the Marvel course. This film is rate 3 and a half mini sheep.

Check out The 602 Club discussion.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-HR-3In 2012 Marvel did something with it’s heroes that had not yet been seen from either of the two major comic companies, it put its biggest superhero team on screen, together. It had one of the biggest opening weekends in box office history and is now considered a classic. The question became, “Can you ever top this?” The Age of Ultron is now upon us and as the sequel to The Avengers, it has very big shoes to fill. Luckily it does have some intriguing themes.

Mad Scientists

There is an interesting conversation that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have about being mad scientists. Tony is already responsible for creating the Ultron program that has run amuck after he tried to bring it to artificial life. Tony believes that merging the construct that Ultron was creating for himself with Jarvis, he will be able to create Ultron’s doom.

It raises some very interesting questions. As Tony and Bruce work, they are meddling in things they don’t completely understand, their motive is pure but their methods are flawed. They are taking terrible risks. The alien technology they are trying to use has barely been studied and the consequences of their actions has already created one “Murder-bot”. You’d think they would have seen The Terminator and Skynet and learned something. Tony willing does not tell the rest of the team about his creative activities feeling there is no time to discuss it in committee. He also does not want to be told yet again that he should not be meddling in things he doesn’t understand. Tony and Bruce have not seemed to consider that just because one can do a thing does not mean one should.

These men want peace. They want to proactively protect the world. Captain America reminds Stark that every single time someone has acted preemptively, innocent people have ended up in the crosshairs. There must be responsibly in creation and Tony cannot see the line of how his will to protect could actually create the world’s greatest weapon. There is often a good chance that one will become the thing they hate if they are not careful. Ultron is very much a mirror for Iron Man, it is one of the strongest themes in the film, the hubris of thinking you can control everything through technological creation. History shows us that humanity is it’s own worst enemy, creating it’s own doom from which we desperately need salvation.

Why We Fight

This is really well done in the movie. The ideas of why these heroes do what they do. They are on the side of life and will do whatever it takes to protect it. That means that they do fight to kill and take out the threat. Vision reminds the heroes that even though Ultron is a unique creature, its aim is total annihilation of the world, therefore there is only one choice. Honestly it’s the best reason I’ve seen in a comic book movie for taking out the villain for good. As a hero you are protecting life by making sure the destruction planned by the bad guys can never happen again. Now of course there are people the heroes will go up against where these measures will not be needed, but something like Ultron or Zod, these are treats that have to be eliminated.

The Movie 

GDgeek_2015-May-03While the movie has some good themes, it feels extremely busy with not enough narrative focus. It is as if it’s trying to serve too many masters. the film is trying to finish the second phase of the Marvel franchise, set up the third phase, as well as tell a compelling story. There is so little explanation for the things happening on screen and if you blink you’ll miss the small amount that was there. From the enhanced twins, to Thor’s sight bath, so much is glossed over and never fully fleshed out; partly because it’s feels like it’s just set up for the next action scene. The action is good and there is a moment near the end of the movie that looks like splash pages from Avengers comics which is a lot of fun. Yet, it’s nothing revolutionary and it might just be because theirs so much action to digest that it begins to wash over you like a raging waterfall.

There are new characters in the movie, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision. Vision and Scarlet Witch are the two most interesting, with Vision stealing some scenes from the likes of Thor. Quicksilver, who’s character was seen in Days of Future Past (albeit with a different actor) and who’s scene was the stand out in that film gets nothing like that here. It’s as if they realized there was not topping that so why bother trying.

The rest of the main characters play off each other with ease. It’s a well oiled machine at this point. Unfortunately there are some things that get short shrift, like the romance between The Hulk and Black Widow. This really deserves it’s own movie as does Black Widow herself. The humor and banter, a Joss Whedon trademark are well represented with Captain America’s line about Iron Man watching his language getting huge laughs. It was also nice to see Hawkeye get something more to do than be mind-controlled. Renner gives some of the best lines in the film, bringing a humanity and levity to the craziness. He seems to be speaking as much to the audience as Scarlet Witch when he talks about a flying city, evil robots and he’s got a bow and arrow and how none of this makes any sense. It’s a nice wink to us in the seats.

Conclusion

This is a competent Marvel movie. All the actors and action are good, it’s the story that bogs down the film with the weight of all that’s it’s trying to accomplish that left me underwhelmed. It feels formulaic, as the plot is much the same as the original Avengers – team ends up fighting amongst itself, gets beat down, gets a pep talk from Fury, saves the day. One of the pitfalls of Marvel’s cinematic universe is that there is not always enough distinction between the films. I one of the things that made Winter Solider so good, it continued on the Captain America story while feeling fresh and new. Here’s hoping that Anthony and Joe Russo can bring that same sensibility from their work with Cap to Avengers: Infinity War part one and two. Age of Ultron is rated 3 out of 5 Captain America shields.

The 602 Club 24: The Dr. No of the Marvel Franchise

tsc-024-th-squareIron Man.

Some movies spend years languishing in development hell and Iron Man was one of the longest. From 1990 to 2005 it bounced around from studio to studio; it wasn’t until 2006 that Marvel acquired back the rights and decided to use it as the launching pad for it’s own studio as well as a cinematic universe that the film would finally materialize.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by Jose Munoz, Andi VanderKolk and Daniel Proulx to talk about Iron Man. We discuss the long production history of the film, our first thoughts, realism in comic book movies, The cast, the villain, story, music, direction and ask if it still holds up.