Rutger Hauer RIP

utger Hauer has died at the age of 75 and it’s a damned pity. Hauer in another reality would be laden with Oscars, BAFTA’s and be lauded as one of the greatest actors, and leading men of his generation. Instead he forged a solid career but never got the acclaim, or often the roles, he deserved.

Like most people outwith of The Netherlands, I first saw Hauer in Blade Runner and was blown away by him and one scene in particular.

It was when I was older that I discovered his earlier work with Paul Verhoeven, with Turkish Delight

And the still extraordinary Soldier of Orange. Apart from Blade Runner this is the best film he ever made and contains this amazing scene of Nazi homoeroticism.

Then there’s the glorious joy of Ladyhawke

And the barking mad insanity of Flesh and Blood.

The ceeeping dread of The Hitcher. His opening scene is just fucking scary as anything.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker should have cemented his reputation as a true great of acting.

But instead genre fare came his way with the 1990’s being somewhat of a barren wasteland creatively, unless you count his mysterious Guinness ads from the time as a high, which compared to some of the crap he was in, they certainly were.

And yes, I’ll admit these ads shaped my dress sense for the late 80’s with lots of collarless shirts and long black coats.

In 2005 a couple of cameos in big Hollywood films came coming with Sin City and Batman Begins. These should have kick started a revival but sadly no, and Hauer stayed working constantly with his last role of real note being the title character of Hobo With A Shotgun.

Hauer leaves behind a huge CV. Most of it isn’t worth paying attention to but dear god, some of the highlights shine and there’s so many highlights. He’ll be missed for what he did and what he could have done as well.

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What I thought of Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home acts as a coda to Avengers: Endgame and the first decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole while throwing out seeds for the next phase of the MCU. It is also a film that  messes with the characters of Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and not for the best either.

From here on in lie SPOILERS. You’ve been warned.

The film takes place shortly after Endgame where the world is still reacting to the death of Tony Stark (less so the Black Widow) and the return of half the life in the universe after five years.  The problem lies with the return of people who’ve been essentially dead for half a decade suddenly returned to life to deal with the people who survived. A Spidey film could have been the perfect place to deal with the angst of this through Peter Parker; a comic character who is angst himself but instead we get a few gags as Peter and his pals (who all happened to be main or secondary cast members who died during the Snap) go on a jolly to Europe.

I get the idea to give Peter and co a break as a plot tool to show how the world (well, Europe) has changed but while on holiday Peter is contacted by Nick Fury who has hooked up with Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhall having enormous fun), a self-proclaimed hero from another reality who snuck through chasing four elementals after the Snap. At this point Peter is mourning Tony Stark and is vulnerable to another role model entering his life to dish out helpful lessons in life.

The problem is that the very essence of Spider-Man/Peter Parker is that he’s learned his main lesson in life that great power comes with great responsibility due to his selfishness causing Uncle Ben (the man who raised him as his own son) being murdered. Now we don’t need to see Ben die yet again on screen but in every version of Spidey out there this is the core of who he is, even the Ultimate version written by Brian Bendis on which this version is largely based. Up to now things have worked with Peter desperate for a father figure in Tony Stark and carrying on his lesson learned from Ben’s death but here Peter is a lovesick arsehole doing silly things to prove himself to MJ and Mysterio who he barely knows.

Nobody is fleshed out. Nobody has sensible motivations.  Mysterio is yet another bitter villain who just wants revenge on Tony Stark, or on his legacy,  while Peter and MJ’s relationship feels rushed and unearned even though Tom Holland and Zendaya work their arses off to make the best of what they’re working with.

Far From Home isn’t a bad film. It’s a summer blockbuster that is fun and entertaining but the script is a road accident as it feels like it took a desperately quick rewrite after Endgame to take that film into account, not to mention work so it sets up Phase 4. Plot overtakes story and characterisationas these films are made on a production line. That’s one reason why most recent MCU films use a load of green screen work which makes scenes look cheap and rushed. However ignoring the character of Uncle Ben changes Spidey. It takes the guilt and self-loathing (in those Ditko/Lee strips Peter not only hates himself but is often a pretty unlikeable bit of work) out of Peter Parker and replaces it with a whining stupidity that ends up with Peter giving Mysterio the key to Stark’s technology because Peter here is an idiot.

Which is a shame. Tom Holland is a perfect cross between the John Romita and Ultimate era Spidey. He’s a good actor who will clearly be the new cornerstone of the MCU in the decade to come and will hopefully have better to work with in the future but Far From Home feels rushed and more interested in the overall arc of the MCU than telling a great Spidey story.

The endless futile entitlement of fandom

This week saw pitiful cries of entitlement about Game of Thrones, and the casting of the new Batman. In the case of Game of Thrones, fans started a petition asking for ‘competent writers’ for a proposed remake of the last season. As of the moment I write this there’s over a million people who’ve signed it which is not a shock but these people basically want the programme to pan out as they want it to, so when they say ‘competent’ what they really mean is ‘someone I like writing something I like’.

The next bit of fan entitlement is the casting of Robert Pattinson as the new Batman. Shrill cries of outrage followed as fans cried a torrent of tears and anger that one of the star of the Twilight film should be cast. Some calmer voices pointed out that was a decade ago and he’s been carving a career as a pretty good actor since but no, outrage!

Back in 1988 when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the then forthcoming Tim Burton film fans were outraged and yes, a petition circulated round pre-digital fan circles.

There’s nothing new about fan entitlement. It is an old thing but it doesn’t stop people from complaining, or indeed, desperately doubling back once they’ve realised that Thing X isn’t actually as bad as it was or that complaining about Thing X makes them a bit of a cock.

So in around 18 months many of these people signing petitions will be praising Robert Pattison and wishing there was another series as good as Game of Thrones.All of this will be forgotten as these people move onto their next target and the cycle carries on throughout the generations…

What I thought of Avengers: Endgame

In 2007 I read in Empire magazine that a film version of Iron Man was on it’s way from the newly formed Marvel Studios along with a new Hulk film. Future plans included a Thor and Captain America film as Marvel expanded into film media with what characters they’d left having sold the film rights to all the crown jewels like Spider-Man and X-Men during the 1990’s when the company was on the verge of going out of business.

Iron Man, Thor and Captain America (along with Hawkeye and the Black Widow who made appearances in those early Marvel films) were characters from comics who’d had the odd good run, but the majority of the comics featuring these characters were landfill comics. Basically these were destined for dealer’s 50p boxes with the odd issue/run standing out. Add into the mix Robert Downey Jnr who was in 2007 desperately piecing back something of a career after his drugs and alcohol problems of the 90’s left him popping up in films like the underrated A Scanner Darkly, or Zodiac, or the rather wonderful Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.He was never really a megastar, and you most certainly didn’t pin the hopes of a virgin movie studio upon him.

But we’re now in 2019, Downey Jnr is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. Iron Man is as recognised a superhero as Batman or Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest moneymaking machine in film history, hence why Disney bought the company. Endgame is the end of a number of story arcs that started with Iron Man in 2008 as well as setting up some of what comes next so what maybe plotholes could actually be setting up future films, or TV series.

So, the film. From here on in lie SPOILERS.

The film starts right after the events of Infinity War, with the remaining Avengers trying to work out what to do next now that half the life in the universe has been wiped out. Meanwhile in space Tony Stark is near death’s door as he and Nebula try to return to Earth from Titan in the damaged ship of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Saved by Captain Marvel who returns the ship to Earth, Tony is bitter, angry and cynical after his defeat at the hands of Thanos plus seeing the likes of Spider-Man die in front of him has left him jaded. Leaving the Avengers to retreat and set up a family, the remaining team decide to find Thanos and use the infinity stones to reverse what he did. Upon finding Thanos they find he’s used the stones to destroy them leaving no way of changing things back to what they were, so Thor kills Thanos and the film jumps five years into the future.

Time has past. The world is trying to cope but we’re told economies around the world are in collapse while people try desperately to live normal lives while trying to cope with overwhelming grief. This first hour or so is not what you’d expect from a billion dollar blockbuster. There’s genuine big ideas as well as how grief affects people and how the phrase ‘moving on’ is easier said than done. There’s also hints that actually, Thanos may have been a lunatic but the oceans are becoming cleaner and well, life is going on. The film however doesn’t dwell on this for too long which isn’t too much of a shock but I hope in future films we see how this world has changed.

After Scott Lang frees himself from the Quantum Realm (another reality) he was left in at the end of Ant Man and the Wasp, he meets up with the Avengers to propose a ‘time heist’ to steal the Infinity Stones throughout time to make a new Infinity Gauntlet to turn back what Thanos did. Tony Stark is initially reluctant having now settled down with Pepper and having a child but rejoins the team after a sort-of reconciliation with Captain America.

The film then flips tone as firstly the original team is reformed, and then embark on a heist to steal the infinity stones throughout time which means the Russo brothers and scriptwriters Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus can do a tour of past MCU films, specifically the first Avengers film and Thor: The Dark World. This section allows the three core Avengers some personal moments so Tony meets his father, Thor meets his mother, and Cap looks longingly at Peggy Carter. Meanwhile the Black Widow sacrifices herself to get the Soul Stone which means all the stones are returned to the current day so the Hulk can use the stones to change things back as the Hulk is the only one of them powerful enough to use the stones.

The Hulk does indeed bring back everyone but not without being badly hurt in the process, then Thanos from 2014 (there’s lots of time travel stuff here) comes from the past to the present to get the stones, while destroying Avengers Mansion, and the Avengers. A big fight breaks out with Thanos and the core Avengers of Thor, Iron Man and Captain America who nearly beat Thanos, but his armies are pouring down on the Earth and all is lost…until all of the characters lost in the last film, come back along with the Wakandan tribes, sorcerers, Asgardians, and pretty much every film Marvel Comics bit of intellectual property barring the TV shows in a huge fight which everyone expected and just about stays on the right side of being a tedious cut scene from a computer game.  The gauntlet is in the hands of Thanos and just as we expect all to be lost, Tony Stark has stolen the gems from under him and clicks his fingers to wipe out Thanos and his armies.Tony dies, everyone is sad and we have a funeral to end Tony Stark’s arc and to maybe set up the future of the MCU.

Thor goes off with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Hawkeye returns to his family, Hulk is still around, but it’s Captain America who has the best ending as returning the stones back in time he decides to stay with Peggy to have the life he thought he could never have and the film ends…

Endgame is a titanic film. To think that in 2008 the first Iron Man film we’d end up at this with a film which isn’t just on track to be the biggest of all time, but is an astonishing piece of modern culture that cuts across every social, class and cultural divide you can imagine. I find it hard to imagine where Marvel go from here, and yes, sequels to Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and Doctor Strange will ease the way in the future, but it took 11 years and 22 films to get here  using mainly the lower tier A list, not to mention B and C list Marvel Comics characters to forge what they’ve done here.

Of course Disney/Marvel now own the Fantastic Four and X Men characters which if done right would give the boost to keep it going for years, if not decades to come. We’re talking of a sausage factory here. Getting back to this level of popular culture? I don’t know. Plans for the future are still vague though a few TV series are announced for the new Disney channel but you can’t just throw Galactus or the Kree/Skrull war (which is where I think they’ll go) in two or three years for the next Avengers film without building up as effective a set of villains like Loki or Thanos so someone like Doctor Doom seems essential.

For now though Endgame is a triumph. It gives the audience what it wants, as well as what it didn’t know it wanted. It manages to hold together everything, and even for the first hour managed to challenge expectations massively but mainly it happens to massively entertain, even seriously provide some moving scenes for the 3 hour running time. To tie together 22 films to a coherent ending, not to mention acting as a new start for the next decade of Marvel is a task. My only real complaint is that I wish this massive piece of pop culture resulted in more people reading comics let alone actually knowing the names of the men and women who created these characters who make billions for Disney.

So, if you’re a fan of the films and/or comics go and see Endgame. If this is the peak for Marvel then it is a bloody good peak to hit.

 

Your Avengers: Endgame reading and viewing list

My review is on the way, but here’s a mildly spoilery out of context reading and viewing list for Avengers: Endgame.

First up, Children of Men.

Once you’ve seen the first hour this will make sense. As will the next one which is On The Beach.

I’m talking more of tone than plot here and a big lump of the film’s tone in that first hour seems ripped from the 1970’s BBC series Survivors written by Terry Nation.

But this is a film based off comics, so the main one is Secret Wars.

And of course all of Jim Starlin’s work, especially his Thanos series from 2003, and the climax to the original Thanos saga in the 1970’s.

Also, JLA/Avengers is a perfect one for the tone of the last hour.

Other Avengers books to check out are the Hickman run on New Avengers especially.

Also Peter David’s run on the Hulk is essential as the MCU’s arc for the character since the 2008 film owes much to his run.

Plenty of folk will be recommending Back to the Future as a film to help with the second hour of the film, but Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Chronocops to me is a better example, and comic related. As is Alan Moore and Alan Davis’s Captain Britain stories which introduced the concept of an ordered multiverse into the Marvel Universe.

Finally of course, what MCU films can you watch in a speed binge before watching Endgame? Well, Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, Ant Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War.

So there you go. This isn’t exhaustive or definitive but it is purely to help where influences may, or may not have come from.

Avoiding Avengers: Endgame spoilers

Avengers: Endgame is finally out and I get to see it this afternoon but negotiating the landscape of the internet to avoid spoilers is easier said than done. All spoiler-free reviews say its best to go in knowing little, and unlike Infinity War there’s not an ending ripped from the comics that’s obvious.and it’s just nice to enter a film not knowing everything that’s going to happen because trailers and spoilers have spelled things out for you.

Anyhow, review over the weekend…

Giant Monsters Attack!

There’s a new Godzilla film next month. Fuck your Star Wars. Fuck your Avengers. Fuck your Harry Potter-esque Young Adult bollocks. I want giant monsters twatting the fuckity out of everything for over two hours.

But for many this isn’t an instant hit with folk, but perhaps some history would help. Here’s a nice wee documentary from the 90’s going into the Golden Age of giant monsters. Watch, enjoy and then learn to love the monster.