Spider-man and his Amazing Friends

OK, I promise I will publish something related to the aims of my blog at some time in the near future…

But according to play.com have advertised the first series of Spider-man and his Amazing Friends on DVD.  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, you probably didn’t grow up in the 80’s.  Spider-man and his Amazing Friends was the stepping stone that most kids took into marvel comics back then.  It has a huge nostalgia value like the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon or Dogtanion and the Three Muskerhounds.  Marvel never released the TV series for purchase and there has been a campaign running for years to get it released.  I guess we will now see if it arrives through my door on the 25th of August.


I Am Iron Man.

So those of you who read my blog regularly may be starting to realise that I am a bit of a fan of Marvel comics.  I would say that it is a bit of a throw over from childhood but that would denigrate the whole comic book experience.  Some of the best social commentary of the last century has been done through the medium of comic books.  The writers and artists who produce much of the Marvel Universe have used this vehicle to produce some magnificent insightful into the human condition.  Some may say that comic books are for kids but they have obviously been reading the Beano.  Perhaps it is time to put aside the milk and move on to solid food.

Whilst I advocate the Marvel Universe on a regular basis, it does sometimes appear a little inconsistent in its quality.  There is no greater example of this than the way in which some of the greatest comic book characters have been translated onto the big screen.  Until recently all attempts were thwarted by the inability to portray super powers in a convincing manner.  We can probably all remember the Spider-man films of the 1980s and the cringe worthy wall climbing escapades worthy of Adam West and Burt Ward.  However, the world changed when technology caught up with the imaginative possibilities of living in a world of the super human.  Finally Spider-man was able to bounce around and swing from walls believably in a live action film where previously this was only possible in cartoons.  However, in spite of this there have been many cinematic let downs.  My previous post about The Hulk is a prime example of something that offers much promise and fails to deliver.  Who can forget the horrific plastic fantastic portrayal of Ben Grimm?  Modern Marvel movies tend to inhabit the extremes of the quality spectrum.  Either we are in for a cinematic treat or a huge disappointment.

It was this in mind that I went to see Iron Man last night.  There were several considerations that made me uneasy about the experience.  Firstly, Robert Downey Jnr had been cast as Tony Stark.  Now Robert Downey Jnr has a list of credits as long as your arm and everything I have seen him in was good… but the last I heard of him in recent times was that he had been thrown off the set of Ally McBeal and into jail for his recreational drug use.  Would he have the screen presence to present Tony Stark in a credible way?  Would he be able to convince us of the depth of character that is needed to portray a personal transformation?  To add to this concern, when characters have been translated from the page to screen we have seen some visual disasters.  Would Iron Man become another foray into the world of dodgy costume design and bad CGI?  My main concern about anything cinematic is always the depth of story.  Will the film speak to us about anything important?  Will it change the way we view ourselves or the world around us?  In short, would the film live up to the great expectations that should come with any Marvel outing?  Of course there was the most important question of all, would Black Sabbath feature in the sound track?  Of course they would!!

I have to say I was greatly impressed by how good the film was.  Robert Downey Jnr gave a great performance as Stark.  His outlandish playboy lifestyle was shown in a truly extravagant manner.  His moral transformation was believable and showed a depth of character develop throughout.  It was obvious that on many levels he had been cast for his looks, being a dead ringer for Stark.  It was good to see that the effects used to bring his alter ego to life were well thought out and allowed him to develop the character without being taken into a purely computer generated world.  One of the best things about the film was the way in which the suit was developed from a rudimentary escape plan to a high tech, hotrod red vehicle for Starks crusade against the illegal arms trade.

The film was great and it would seem that Robert Downey Jnr as Tony Stark is set to become a greater fixture in the Marvel world as individual stories of the films, as with the comics, become intertwined with each other.  He is already credited as appearing in the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie.  S.H.I.E.L.D. appeared in the film and there were allusions to an Avengers movie after the credits in a cameo scene by Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury.  It looks like we are set for even more of Marvel’s big budget, big screen blockbusters staring all our favourite characters.

On a personal note: Oh the shame that my wife had never heard of Stark Industries or Iron Man!

Hulk Smash!!

The trailer for the new Incredible Hulk movie is out and worryingly I am looking forward to it.  I have to say that the 2003 Ang Lee film left me feeling more than a little let down.  The promises in the press left the film with a lot to live up to.  The rhetoric of ‘amazing CGI’ that perfectly depicts Eric Bana as the Jolly Green Giant contributed to greatly to a truly flat experience when sitting in a cinema staring at an extra from Doom.  To be honest I wasn’t even that convinced by Bana’s ability to convey ‘the inner conflict that goes on inside all of us’. 

With this in mind it was with much trepidation that I saw the trailer for The Incredible Hulk.  I was prepared for another disappointment in the somewhat inconsistent Marvel movie universe.  I have to say, 21 days before the film is released that I was quite impressed by the 3 minutes of footage as it flashed across the cinema screen.  Edward Norton looks to have been a good choice for Banner.  His ability as a character actor is clear from roles as diverse as the dark and brooding Fight Club to the coming of age romantic comedy of a priest in Keeping the Faith.  His internal monologue is always fantastic and he is good at conveying the inner turmoil through subtly facial expressions.  Finally perhaps we will see the real struggle within Bruce Banner brought to life on the big screen.  It will be interesting to see how the CGI has improved over the course of the last 5 years to allow the other elements of this narrative to speak of the human condition.