BARRY PEARL'S SOAPBOX

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Or Three Days of the Falcon: A Review by Barry Pearl

For a regular review, once again, you may go to Rotten Tomatoes. This is a review from a student of comics, mostly, 1961- 1977 who will not discuss spoilers, but will try to place this within the frame of the current Marvel Movie Universe.

This movie, of course fits right into the Marvel Universe. But, unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, it expands and helps define the movie version of it. It also changes things on the TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and makes it better.

The Blu-ray images and sound look very good, a 4.7 out of a 5 rating.

Captain America Winter Soldier
Captain America: The First Avenger (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Virtually all the Marvel movies, (made now by three separate companies), have used the material from the 1960s and early 1970s comics. Daredevil, X-Men, and Wolverine have wandered into the early 1980s. We had not seen anything from the last 30 years. Until now.

Created just before WW II, Captain America is an anachronism, a relic of a previous time. His costume was the American flag, something the country needed when he was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby .But Cap’s great appeal began to ebb after the war, as did the appeal of many super-heroes and most were gone by 1950. Cap had a short revival in the mid 1950s.

In the late 1950s DC comics began to revive their superhero line by taking old concepts and giving them a totally clean slate, with new characters having the old powers, totally forgetting their past continuity. When the publisher of Marvel comics, never an innovator, Martin Goodman saw that superheroes were successful again he started putting out new super-hero comics.

When Marvel’s editor and writer Stan Lee began to introduce new characters he was careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The old comics had not sold, so he, and his co-writers and artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck innovated change. There were no more sidekicks. Stan wanted teenage readers to identify with the actual hero, not their partner, so he created teenage heroes including Spiderman and the X-Men.

When they reintroduced Cap in Avengers #4 (1964) Lee and Kirby had a choice to make. They could have made him a totally new modern character, as they did with Johnny’s Storm’s Human Torch. This would have created a conundrum. The country was being torn apart over the Vietnam War, so how can you make a character so patriotic, so wrapped in the flag, relevant? (In comics relevant means “able to sell comics. “) So, by freezing “the original” Cap in the 1940s and reviving him in the 1960s, they made character himself an anachronism. He became someone who felt out of his own time, someone looking for his own place, someone haunted by his past. And there was no Bucky: he had died at the hands of Baron Zemo, a Nazi under orders from the Red Skull!

While writer Stan seemed to feel strongly about this, apparently Jack Kirby didn’t. Kirby was the co-writer/plotter and artist on the series. To Kirby, Cap was the same hero he had always been, there was no self doubt. In fact, Kirby didn’t want to kill Bucky. It is only after Kirby leaves, Lee partners with Gene Colan to put Cap on a motorcycle and have him take off across America on journey of self-discovery.

When this movie opens, you can see a great deal of doubt from Steve Rogers. This is the 1960s Cap who once said “Perhaps I should have battled less and questioned more.”

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the movie, it was real sit-back, eat-the-popcorn, and enjoy-the-movie sort of thing. One where you hope you don’t have to go to the bathroom and miss something. The first thing that struck me about this movie is that it was very adult. Yes, this is a superhero action movie which that it exist in a different universe, where the rules of physics, medicine and rules of common sense are often forgotten (or avoided). But they mixed in a spy thriller plot line, with espionage, counterspies, and Robert Redford, who added class to the whole thing. And look for a cameo from Gary Shandling. There is also a voiceover by Gary Sinese.

Nick Fury, originally Sgt. Fury, a veteran of WWII, was established as a super-secret agent and head of S.H.I.E.L.D. His first villains were a typical group of bad guys, named Hydra, a criminal organization that was run corporate bookkeeper. It was writer/artist Jim Steranko who elevated Hydra to the super-villain category, giving them a Nazi past.

Ed Brubaker, the current writer of Captain America, said that he did not like any of the stories or the character development after 1980. He was right: it was awful. So, a few years ago, he eliminated 30 years of continuity and picked up the story lines from 1980. Brubaker brought back a brainwashed Bucky and called him the Winter Soldier. This would be the first modern plot put into a Marvel movie. In my era, death was usually fatal. This added suspense and intrigue to the stories. In today’s comics, death is curable.

So I wonder how this would fit it. And it fit in very nicely, much better than I ever would’ve suspected. It didn’t work well for me in comic books. Captain America has had 70 years of continuity and you cannot just throw out 30 years and have it make sense. However, this is just the third movie with Captain America and only the second one to deal with his personal profile. So Bucky’s coming back, as a Hydra agent, “the Winter Soldier” after just three years of the movies pretty much worked. This movie is only 50% that storyline. With the Iron Curtain long gone, Hydra has been established as Marvel’s plotting and evil Cold War nemesis. It totally borrows from the issues of Secret Warriors involving the Marvel Universe in a Spy vs. Spy situation, S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Hydra. And the head of Hydra, the Nazi Baron Strucker, appears. He also survived these last 70 years and looks great!!!!

Secret Warriors

ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) did the special effects. Both they and Marvel are now owned by Disney. Most scenes looked great and grand, except some of the Falcon’s flying sequences looked awkward.

For fans of the Marvel MOVIE Universe, who know nothing of the comics but enjoy the movies, there are a lot of reoccurring characters including the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). One thing that helps hold this Universe together is the consistency of the casting. With the exception of “Rhodey” in Iron Man and the three Hulks we have had, even the small parts keep the original actors. Of course Stan Lee makes a cameo and he has been in more Marvel movies than anyone. Comic book fans would recognize the references to Dr. Strange, Jasper Sitwell, and the introduction of the Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver.

Sadly, I found the disc “extras” a waste of time. They break down the “behind the scenes” stuff into three segments, one ten-minute one and two others less than three minutes. Here, they just show you how they did the stunts. The blooper reel is also just about three minutes and its fun, but short.

It was easy to bring back the Torch and the SUB-MARINER. I had to find a good way to bring back Captain America. I couldn’t think of a way to do it. (with) THE AVENGERS I had a bunch of other characters for him to play against and react to and. . .Captain America really needs other people to, to talk to and to be contrasted with ‘cause by himself he, he doesn’t have quite as colorful a personality as some of our other characters. wasn’t as sure of Captain America. Captain America we had. . .Over the years, you know, he was probably the first, one of the first characters MARVEL ever did and after the war he lost popularity and they dropped the book. Then they brought him back a few years later, dropped the book I wanted to wait until I could get just the right story. It was even difficult to bring back a patriotic character because the, the country wasn’t in the mood for that kind of patriotism at the time we brought back Captain America. They, they weren’t interested in the Army. Nobody wanted us to be at war, certainly, and there was a lot of disenchantment with the government and with the establishment, and Captain America was so much an establishment character.

Well, what I did. . .was give him a problem. He felt he was out of sync with the time he lived in. He felt he was an anachronism. He realized that he was thinking like somebody in the late ’30s and early ’40s, but here he was living in the ‘60s, and he felt he’d never quite be on the same wavelength as the people. . .You know he had been, frozen in a glacier for about 20 years or something and consequently he would agonize about the fact that he didn’t feel he fit in. I remember, I think there was one line I wrote that I liked very much where he said “Maybe he should have battled less and questioned more,” and I think that was the philosophy we tried to give him but he couldn’t really change his nature.

Stan Lee, 2000 interview

Amazing Spider-Man 2: Review by Barry Pearl

This is a review from a student of comics, mostly from 1961-1977, who will not discuss spoilers, but will try to place this within the frame of the Marvel Movie Universe. For a regular review you can go to Rotten Tomatoes. This is also a review of the features of the disc.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Combo Pack)

Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not the worst superhero movie of this modern era. The Spirit was. This doesn’t really even come close to being that bad, but it does rival Superman Returns, and in my opinion, Man of Steel. And like Man of Steel, they have changed the title character so much I don’t recognize him. This is just not a good movie. If you haven’t seen it in the theater and you’re compelled to see it wait till it comes on cable.

I realize that continuity after 50 years is a very difficult and unfair burden for writers to have to endure. I bought Amazing Fantasy #15 on the stands all those years ago. And I bought the next 175 issues of Amaazing Spider-Man. I certainly don’t expect the character to be quite the same. But while the first Spider-Man series got things basically right, the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man completely eradicated all the things that I had enjoyed about Spider-Man.

Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man, always got it right. He developed, or re-developed, Iron Man and the Hulk when they were not very successful. He was able to see, keep and build on the essence of the character. He recognized the essential things about their personality that we felt were compelling, and developed fresh new worlds around them. He introduced new supporting characters and emphasized their motivations. And he created situations where the characters would conflict or bond and sometimes both! Somehow you felt he kept intact their inner qualities that had made the characters interesting and compelling.

Not so here. The first thing that strikes me here is that we have people 30 years old playing 18-year olds. Their look, actions and dialogue don’t fit. The opening scene is Peter Parker graduating high school. But here, Gwen Stacy is the valedictorian, not Peter. Peter should have been the valedictorian–that was part of the structure. By the way, Peter actually met Gwen in college. Instead of being shy and aloof, he is an overconfident show off who has none of the reserve or the doubts of the original Peter. He has none of the qualities that I related to. Change the environment, add new characters, but keep the original person! Here, in high school he already has a permanent great relationship with a gorgeous woman. In any age, 1964 or 2014, Parker should be having trouble dealing with woman.

Aunt May should be older. So much of what makes up Peter Parker is his guilt over Uncle’s Ben’s death (forgotten here, by the way) and motivation for helping his aunt. With the death of his uncle, the Parkers were destined to live near poverty. Not so here, they have a much better house than shown in the first three movies. Here, a younger Sally Fields is working to help him, which allows the character to be cavalier about money…and responsibility.

Electro is the major villain (one of three) in the piece. But they dehumanize him so much that you cannot relate to him whatsoever. Spider-Man was not Superman or the Fantastic Four. He fought down to earth super-villains and gangsters, not larger-than-life bad guys.

Speaking of being overdone, they bring back the Green Goblin and he, too, is a character so much larger than life you cannot relate to him. The original Goblin was not a super-villain, but a gangster who had incredible gadgets. Not so here.

The Goblin does the most famous (infamous?) act in Spider-Man’s history and that is so overdone and stretched out. In fact, Gwen was so annoying at the end I was looking forward to it. Gwen, at age 18, can operate the entire electrical grid of New York City and no one else can. Oh, and Harry takes over Oscorp at age twenty.

The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes; they have added an additional 5 minutes to the DVDs. They used very quick editing to add to the tension, but it destroyed any chance of characterization, zipping around so fast. I was actually bored after 10 minutes.

So the movie was completely empty. Sally Field playing Aunt May is completely miscast or underused. The director in his commentary says that he wanted her to be Peter’s mentor; but they don’t give her the opportunity to do that.

The special effects were wonderful and almost always look great. There were times when Spider-Man did look animated. The Blu-ray disc has great images and a powerful soundtrack. There is a 100-minute behind the scenes feature which divided into seven chapters. There is nothing really new here; you’ve seen this sort of thing before. There are 25 minutes of outtakes. There’s a scene with Peter Parker meeting his now dead father, which is an alternative ending to the movie. Here the father gets to say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The rest of the deleted scenes are narrated by the director who tells why they were not used.

Those who buy the DVD will be a little bit shortchanged. The “Behind the Scenes” is not on the disk, and instead of having 25 minutes of outtakes there are only 9 minutes. While the visuals on the DVD are excellent, the Dolby Digital soundtrack is not very good. The DTS soundtrack on the Blu-ray is so much better.

Before the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Review by Barry Pearl

Rather than ending I think the movie begins with the Humane Society disclaimer:

“All animals were harmed during the production of this movie!!!”

I’ve never been able to get people (usually girlfriends) who aren’t already disposed towards sci-fi to like it. And even if they like one picture, they seldom go back to see another.

While some sci-fi can be just fun, the movies that resonate down through the years usually have some moral or sociological depth to them: Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the original Planet of the Apes. Others, including Alien and Aliens, don’t have that sub-text, but are still great movies in spite of the fact.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a fun movie that, to some, may give the impression of containing a political sub-text, but I found none. This is a darn good adventure film for the dedicated sci-fi enthusiast, ‘though I doubt that it will convert many (if any) others to the genre.

The film opens ten years after the last film ended, leaving the apes with dominion over mankind and the planet. A montage reveals that 90% of the human race has been wiped out due to a plague. They even have the real President talking about it, so I guess 90% of the world didn’t have Obamacare!

I’ve heard some people suggest that gun control is an underlying issue here, but I don’t see it. 90% of the population is gone and humans need to protect themselves from attacking, talking apes. Gun control is a silly sub-text to tack onto this movie.

The real star is not Andy Serkis as ‘head’ ape Caesar, but the special effects. They are fantastic, and made as much of an impression on me as when I first saw Jurassic Park. You’ll believe that these apes are real. That’s important because the movie-makers have really humanized them, and they care about their friends and families to the same degree that homo sapiens do. Yet despite that, a war between the two species breaks out.

I hate to say this, but the more apocalyptic Earth movies I see, the less excited I am by many of the action sequences and scenes of total destruction, some of which can be quite boring. You kind of know what is going to happen right from the start. And I’m also tired of the little seeds that are planted to prepare us for the sequel.

However, putting those quibbles aside, it’s a fun movie. Oh, and don’t waste your time with 3D, it’s too dark that way. You’ll see more of the incredible details the regular way.

Before the Dawn comic
Before the Dawn panel

Supreme Court to Decide whether to Hear Kirby Case

The Supreme Case is expected to decide on May 15 whether or not to hear a petition filed in March by the Kirby estate appealing lower courts’ rulings in favor of Marvel and Disney. For details see Deadline Hollywood.

(Thanks for spotting this story to our friendly neighborhood lawyer Vinnie Vegas, who is never seen at the same time as Daredevil!)

Daredevil Defense

1969 Spider-Man Fan Film

Here’s a 1969 Spider-Man film, perhaps the earliest ever, produced by writer Donald F. Glut. Glut later penned the bestselling novelization of Empire Strikes Back along with many other books, comic books, screenplays, and cartoon and children’s TV scripts. This film was shot during his days as an amateur filmmaker associated with Forrest J Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, and was one of a series of superhero adaptations Glut made, including Captain Marvel, Superman, the Human Torch, the Spirit, Spy Smasher, Batman, Rocket Man, and Atom Man. Posted on YouTube, the film appears to come from a 2-DVD set of Glut’s amateur films called I Was A Teenage Moviemaker released by Epoch Cinema in 2006. For more about Glut, visit his official website at http://www.donaldfglut.com/.

I notice that Dr. Lightning seems to combine aspects of Doctor Doom with Electro and others.

Thor: The Dark World Review by Barry Pearl

The first part of this review of the new movie Thor: The Dark World is unusual and short simply because there are so many surprises and I don’t want to give anything away. (I saved the spoilers for the end, so if you want to be surprised, don’t read below the spoiler alert!) I saw the movie at an IMAX 3D theatre.

Simply, if you liked the first Thor movie and The Avengers, as I did, you will like the second Thor movie. It is not outstandingly different; it has most of the same characters doing much of the same things. This is NOT the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby version of Thor, this is the Walt Simonson’s Thor, right down to the “super-villain”, Malekith.

Journey into Mystery 83

Journey into Mystery 88 page 2

from Journey into Mystery 88 page 2

Thor 337

What holds the movie together is not the plot: the alignment of the universe that occurs every 5,000 years (called the Convergence) causes havoc on the various aligned worlds. Because of this convergence, of all people, Jane Foster, contracts the “Aether”, which is basically a magic substance that gives her great powers but will eventually kill her. Bad guy Malekith wants the Aether and the power that goes with it, and therefore wants Jane.

The best part of the movie is the cast. In order to save Jane and the universe, Thor must team up with Loki to go into the realm of Makekith. This is the highlight of the movie. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) teams with Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and their performances are just wonderful. We are supposed to hate Loki, yet here, again, Hiddleston makes the character multi-layered and compelling to watch. We may “boo” and “hiss” at Loki, but we also, at various parts, feel real sympathy for him.

Kirby Loki

Loki by Jack Kirby

Loki post-Kirby

Loki post-Kirby

We see less of the Warriors Three, Sif and Odin in this movie and more of Thor’s mom played by Rene Russo. We also see Frigga’s complex relationship with Loki. I know from reading the comics that Thor will wind up with Sif, not Jane Foster, and that rivalry is shown but not developed because of a real life occurrence. The beautiful Jaimie Alexander injured her back on the set and was out, recovering, for a month, which, I suspect, cut down on her screen time.

Sif

The movie was beautiful to watch but the 3D was a total distraction. Watch it in a regular theatre. And stay until the very end of the credits, there are two extras that are buried in them, one at the very end. By the way, there is a lot of “Dark” out there: Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek (Into the Dark), Spider-Man (Turn Off the Dark) and Batman (The Dark Knight). We need flashlights!

SUPER-SPOILERS

It does bother me that death is not fatal in comics these days and now in the movies. In a great, heroic, scene we see Loki die. This was sad for two reasons: he was shown being heroic and the fact that Hiddleston was so important to these movies. But we later learn that this is not the case when he impersonates Odin. But where is Odin? Frigga, Thor’s mother dies, but why is her death seemingly permanent? The Collector, introduced in Avengers #28 (1966) is featured during the closing credits presenting another mystery. He really has no role in this movie. But like Thanos in the Avengers movie, Marvel feels that they need to open up story arcs rather than close them at the end of these movies.

Avengers 119

Gravity: A Short Review

This movie is misnamed. It takes place in Outer Space and should be called Lack of Gravity!

Simply, this is the most interesting and compelling visual storytelling I have seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie is nothing like 2001, except for the fact that dialogue is not an essential part of the movie and its visual design tells the story. Quest for Fire was bit liked that too.

Gravity

The movie opens with a nearly 20 minute uninterrupted, incredibly beautiful, carefully detailed, sequence of astronauts, including George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, orbiting the Earth and conducting a spacewalk. Everything you need to know about the characters, the plot and the setting is filled in here. This scene alone should win the film a dozen Oscars.

Then all mayhem breaks loose.

That’s it from me; I won’t tell you the rest. You gotta see this movie! I saw it in IMAX surround sound with 3D and you should too. It draws you in and keeps you involved. And the movie knows when to stop, it’s only 90 minutes.

George Clooney playing an astronaut on his last mission, is perfect for this role. He is likable and you root for him from the beginning. Sandra Bullock lucks out and gets a role where she can be taken seriously and she effectively stretches into this role. Literally at times.

Marvel Treasury Edition 2001 A Space Odyssey
This is a four star movie.

Don’t yield, back S.H.I.E.L.D.!

I was not at all surprised to discover that Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. fell 30% in the ratings. I am disappointed that I didn’t post this last week and therefore would look very smart for predicting this. They made so many mistakes in their presentation that I knew this would not remain a hit. And when Samuel L. Jackson appeared in the second episode, I was crushed, I knew that unless thing was changed, the show would continue to tumble in the ratings.

First, they overpromoted this and nothing could live up to the hype. It would have been good promotion for a movie, a one shot, where you could sit down, once, and watch and get good ratings, but no weekly TV show could live up to this. It’s not the Avengers movie, nor can it be.

But the biggest mistake is the general format. Agent Coulson, played by Mark Gregg, heads an unknown Government agency that tracks down criminals. He leads a young cast who fight among themselves, but we know will ban together, when necessary and crack the case. Each young member is quirky in their own way. They use over the top, modern technology that certainly is imaginative and impressive.

You see, what they gave us was a “remake” of the most successful show on TV and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s competition: NCIS…with a little bit of X-Files thrown in.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cast

On NCIS, TV’s highest rated show, it’s Mark Harmon who leads a group of younger agents who are very much like the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. You have the beautiful woman who can beat people up (Cote de Pablo); you have the young computer genius that uses “modern” technology. He uses it in a way no one understands but is able to get instant results and he never really tells us how (Sean Murray). Pauley Perrette’s Abby would fit perfectly into S.H.I.E.L.D. She plays a strange, but very lovable, Goth-influenced scientist who miraculously uses technology to track down all sorts of things that solve cases. NCIS uses familiar tech in an unusual ways, S.H.I.E.L.D. uses unfamiliar tech in usual ways.

Of course there is David McCallum, my favorite Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ironically, this is the series that S.H.I.E.L.D., the original comic book, was based on. Here, McCallum plays a doctor and he too has a young assistant.

Oh, while NCIS is not a “secret” crime fighting organization, but most people never heard of them until the TV show went on the air. Of course they are also known by their initials.

To get the “younger” TV viewers, the audience that advertisers pay the most to get, S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed to clone most of the NCIS format and just put in ridiculously younger people. Sean Murray was about 25 years old when he “joined” NCIS as a junior agent, fresh out of college and with a complete high-tech education. There was no need for a leap of faith by the viewer that he knew technology, but needed to learn how to be an agent and that was part of the storytelling.

The new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are not old enough to be experienced nor educated enough to handle their assignments. There is a tremendous leap of faith here. On NCIS there is a nice mixture, with the older agents teaching the younger ones. On S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson, for some reason, will be the teacher of an entire group, not just a few individuals. Yet they will be relied upon to solve planet threatening problems.

It also appears that on S.H.I.E.L.D. there is going to be long drawn out story arcs, not so much individual, standalone episodes. This means if you don’t hook viewers in early they are not going to be on the train for a long ride, and 1/3 of them got off last week. As with the X-Factor part, of course, many of the threats will be of a sci-fi nature and their plot points will not be fully resolved.

So why did they put a clone on against the original?

I don’t know. But if the ratings continue to drop, and they will, there will be some changes made to cast, the stories and the scheduling. And they better do it quick.

Originally, Nick Fury was head of S.H.I.E.L.D., now, Agent Coulson was in charge. At the conclusion of the second episode, Coulson argues with his superior, Nick Fury, and he is threatened. This is so is common in every cop show. So it took only two episodes for the storyline and “banter” to fall into traditional TV formula, just one that uses high-tech.

Believe or not the best “avenue” for S.H.I.E.L.D. would have been more in the vein of Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica, than NCIS. Both of those shows had their “daily” lives take place on a starship, S.H.I.E.L.D. would have taken placed on the Helicarrier, which would also be more in line with the comic. There would have been nothing like in on TV. Also, the stories would have been a bit more science fiction, which would have been closer to the movies.

On one hand that may have been too expensive, on the other hand the Helicarrier and such are already built or created by computer and would not have to have been done from scratch.

Variety writes:

ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” took a tumble Tuesday in its second week, losing about a third of its young-adult audience and finishing behind CBS’ tough “NCIS” in key demos.

Looking at the numbers, “NCIS” (3.4 rating/11 share in adults 18-49, 19.3 million viewers overall) retained nearly all of its season premiere audience as auds were glued to the episode in which Cote de Pablo’s character exited. In the same hour, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (3.1/10 in 18-49, 8.4 million viewers overall) was down a little more than 30% from its premiere and placed third in its tough hour in 18-49 and 25-54.

Whatever Happened to Peggy Carter?

Just to fill you in on the backstory…

Superhero comics were a product of the Great Depression era and their popularity had waned by the early 1950s. Only characters from the DC Universe–Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–remained on the newsstands, with Batman on his last legs.

The original Captain America, published by Timely Comics (now Marvel), was cancelled in 1950. He was brought back for a handful of issues in 1954, but then went under again.

Spurred by the success of DC’s Justice League, Marvel re-entered the super-hero field in 1961 with the Fantastic Four. Then Marvel introduced most of the heroes we know today, including Iron man, The Hulk, Ant-Man, and Thor. In 1963 the new heroes were combined into a group called the Avengers, and with issue #4 re-introduced Captain America. As he did with the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Stan Lee, writer and editor, erased the blackboard of previous continuity and treated Cap as a new, not established character. Marvel’s new Captain America had his past redone. Yes, he had been given the super solider serum, but unlike Timely’s original model, this Cap would not make it to 1950. While saving the world in 1944, the story goes, he was caught in an explosion over the ocean and frozen in a Capisicle for 20 years, then found and defrosted by the Avengers in 1963.

Tales of Suspense Captain America origin

The complete story of these events are best told by Roy Thomas and John Buscema in Avengers #56, 1966.

Since only 20 years had gone by, Cap was able to reunite with old friends, including Nick Fury and his former girlfriend, Peggy Carter. Peggy, now two decades older, thought that Cap was long-dead. Soon Cap would meet her sister, Sharon Carter, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and a romance began. This begins in Tales of Suspense #7 in 1966, and Sharon would be known for years only as SHIELD Agent 13. (Remember when Barbara Feldon was known only as Agent 99?) Sharon’s resemblance to her sister is so great it causes Steve Rogers to reminisce about the woman he met and lost during WWII (Peggy). She was then a French resistance fighter who got amnesia, ending their brief romance.

Tales of Suspense 86 page 5

Not always a regular in the comic, during the first few years Sharon is usually the very strong damsel in distress, sent out on various SHIELD missions (against MODOK, Batrok, the Red Skull etc.) with Cap invariably turning up to rescue her.

It takes until 1973, in issue 161, for the relationship between Sharon and Peggy to be more fully explained.

Peggy and Cap

50 years later:

There is a newer Marvel Universe and it is on our movie screens. To make Cap current, the story has him frozen for 70 years and waking up in the year 2011. Although aging in comics is a funny and inconsistent concept, Cap’s WWII buddies and girlfriend would be too old to be the supporting characters they once were. Samuel L. Jackson is the new Nick Fury. This Fury was not around in 1940 and Marvel cements him firmly in their current universe.

So whatever happened to Peggy Carter? Marvel answers that in a new 15 minute film on the Iron Man III disc.

In the 15 minute short, director Luis Esposito fills us in. It’s 1945, one year after Captain America has disappeared and WWII is over. Peggy Carter, played by Haley Atwell, is working for a top secret government spy agency, but only doing menial work and being treated very badly. When the “guys’ all go out for drinks, she is not invited. And good thing too! Alone in the dark office, she is handed an important mission designed for three or four people, but she goes it alone (and without permission).

After her success, Howard Stark (sitting next to Dum Dum Dugan, played by Neal McDonough) invites her to help run his new organization: SHIELD!

Captain America in Sgt. Fury

This is a fun, inexpensive, 15 minute short with no special effects. While there is nothing surprising in the plot here, the whole thing works because of Hayley Atwell. She is just terrific. In the Captain America movie her character was often a bit restrained by the storyline, but on her own she does a memorable and wonderful job. And it finds a proper place for a great Marvel character that could have been lost in time.

If Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD takes off, there is a rumor that this could be turned into a series.

I already reviewed the movie, so let discuss the other aspects of the DVD/Blu Ray.

  • The picture and sound are perfect; both get a 5 on a 1 to 5 rating. The 3D effects were okay, nothing special. This was obviously not made to be a 3D movie.
  • The DVD extras show how the airplane sequence was done. To my surprise it was NOT mostly computer generated effects, but they actually had people jumping out of the airplane. This was done by the same person who did it in the opening of the movie Moonraker, 30 years ago!
  • The gag real is short and barely okay, but you can see that the actors knew they were doing a gag reel.
  • The deleted scenes actually show a storyline that was left out and is great fun to watch.
  • A 10 minute behind the scenes look at the movie.
  • There is an interesting commentary that strays a bit from the customary ‘here is how we did this scene’ and talks about the concepts of the movie.

TOS new MODOK

Man of Steel Review by Barry Pearl

Man of Steel: A Review

[And see the update below...]

I write these reviews not for the casual fan, but for the comic book enthusiasts who probably have seen all the previous movies and want to know not just how good this movie may be but how it stacks up to the previous editions of the characters, including the ones in the comics.

I write these first paragraphs a few days before Man of Steel opens to express my expectations for the movie. I have seen all of Superman’s live-action movies, from his first two serials in the 1940s, Superman vs. The Mole Men which served as the pilot of the TV show in 1951, to the five Christopher Reeve movies (if you include Superman II The Donner Edition) and the awful Superman Returns (as a stalker).

I have viewed so many of the live-action (and animated) Kryptonian sequences explaining how and why Superman came to Earth in both the movies and the TV shows, including Lois and Clark and Smallville. I loved so much of the 1978 movie: the casting, the story, the effects and the attitude. I guess I could have done without the Otis character and would have preferred a stronger Lois Lane, but I would give that movie 3.5 stars out of 4. I know now that for the theatrical release of Superman II, they fired the director, Richard Donner, who had shot more than half of it concurrently with Superman, and made the second movie sillier with less impact. I gave that 2.5 stars. Just a few years ago, Warner’s released Superman II The Donner Edition, a wonderful 3.5 star movie that continues in tone and substance where the first one left off.

Superman and Superman II display Kal-El’s Kryptonian origins, the Phantom Zone and General Zod. Are we going to get anything new in Man of Steel? Will there be any originality in Man of Steel?

“This is no fantasy… no careless product of wild imagination” are Jor-El’s first words in the 1978 movie and you can see that this is where Man of Steel wants to be. And, as a comic book fan, for the most part it surprises me and succeeds.

As a comic book reader I have to adjust to the fact that there will always be a new Superman, and not the one I grew up with, not my 1960s comic book Superman. He will no longer fight for “truth, justice and the American way.” Thankfully, I can always find my Superman in the DVD’s of the TV show, the Blue-Rays of the Reeve movies and in those old comic books.

On a comic book scale of one to four stars, I give this movie 3 stars. For people not interested in comics, it’s probably closer to 2.5. This is a very different Superman, devoid of bright colors, humor and joy, which is replaced by action, violence and uninsightful dialogue. The movie is dark; even the skies are cloudy throughout the movie.

This is certainly not the Krypton of 1978. Instead it is a darker work, not made of crystal. Not just Superman’s father, Jor-El, knows that the planet will blow up, the entire population knows. In his earlier incarnations, Jor-El (here played well by Russell Crowe) argued with the elders of Krypton. Now his main antagonist is General Zod, played superbly and creepily by Michael Shannon.

To be honest, I would not have minded if a Superman movie opened with a rocket landing on Earth, dispensing with all of the Kryptonian backstory. Until the 1978 movie, Clark knew little of his past, other than he came from Krypton in a rocket. Now the TV shows and movies keep giving us a longer and longer backstory. Once again Jor-El interacts with his son as if he were still alive. Death in comics and in comic book movies is no longer fatal.

I did find that the 1980 Superman II movie did influence this production in several ways. In both movies, General Zod and his crew survive Krypton’s explosion by being placed into the Phantom Zone. Jor El has a long afterlife, being able to talk to his son long after he (Jor-El) dies. In Superman II, a woman named Ursa and a big guy called Non are Zod’s allies and they fight Superman in Metropolis. Here, Faoura-Ul (AntjeTraue) and a masked nameless guy have basically the same role. Kevin Costner as Pa Kent tells young Clark, as Glenn Ford did, “You were put here for a reason.” However, here Clark Kent has a harder time finding that reason than Jeff East (young Clark Kent) did in the 1978 flick.

Here and in the TV show Smallville, Lois does NOT meet Clark for the first time at the Daily Planet as she had in virtually every other version.

The movie intends on building a new foundation for ongoing stories and does its best to get in the major plot points and introduce the characters. Here, for me, is the biggest failure of the 2.5-hour movie. Characters, including Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), Colonel Nathan Hardy (Christopher Meloni), Lana Lang, and Pete Ross are not given enough screen time or decent dialogue to develop their characters. Their characters are basically replaceable and not integral to the story. One assumes that they will be developed in the probable sequels yet to come. I understand many people complained that in Superman Returns there was not enough action. Here the fight scenes go on forever and there is too much of that.

Henry Cavill plays his super-straight, humorless character well. He looks like Superman and in some scenes, he looks like Christopher Reeve. The character is played a little too straight, a little too insecure for me, but by the end of the movie I was getting used to it. Amy Adams is just always good. She quickly becomes Superman’s protector and partner and it doesn’t take her 50 years to catch onto his identity. Yet, again, I wish more of her personality came through. The same can be said for the perfectly cast General Zod, Michael Shannon. Better dialogue would have helped. Yet I enjoyed it when he explained his motivations for trying to kill all life on Earth.

The John Williams score of the first movie (and adapted for the next few) was wonderful. It was at times dramatic, at times poetic, and gave us the perfect theme, the perfect opening march to the movie. Not so here. The music by Hans Zimmer was just loud and constant. I really wanted to shut it off at points. It’s true that he had no opening sequences, or for that matter slower sequences, like John Williams did, but he had opportunities that he missed.

I saw the movie in Imax and we deliberately went to the non 3D showing. This movie was primarily shot with a bumpy hand held camera and not in 3D. The 3D was added later. I am not thrilled with wearing the glasses and the post production 3D effects are not always great, so we just went to the big-screen showing.

But once again, the sound was overwhelmingly loud.

The theatre was about three-quarters filled for the afternoon show. There seemed to ba a bigger crowd for the late afternoon showing.

Small Spoilers

There was no Superboy in this Smallville, Kansas. We know it is Smallville because of the signs on the buses, water towers and Sears store. In flashbacks that featured Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane) we see the growth of the alien boy into the man of steel. There a few changes here too. Ma Kent does not make his costume; it is given to him by Jor-El. And, in a major flaw of the movie, Pa Kent tells Clark that he might have to let people die rather than reveal his identity. This is not the Pa Kent I knew, or wanted to know, and a major shift in the character.

There is now a “Marvelization” of the DC characters. While this started on Smallville, it gets deeper here. On Smallville, Pa Kent dies, Clark thinks, because of something he unintentionally does. And Clark, like Peter Parker after the death of his uncle, is tormented by it. Here, in a ridiculous and unneeded scene, Clark does something INTENTIONALLY that causes the death of Pa Kent. This is just wrong and a very bad fit for the movie. It becomes unreal and, frankly, the whole set up of that sequence makes NO sense whatsoever.

There was a Marvel Comics, Spider-Man influence in Batman Begins also. Young Bruce feels guilt about the death of his parents because they left the theater because of him and then were killed by a burglar.

As the super-beings destroy the city, the crowds appear and disappear on a regular basis. Also, we know in New York that it took 13 years to rebuild the World Trade center. Here, the damage is far more extensive, but I bet it will be repaired by the next movie.

Oh, before I forget: There were a few trucks that had “Lexcorp” signs on them, but there was no sign of Luthor in the movie.

As the buildings collapse, thousands of people must have died. We saw what that looked like on September 11, 2001. Here there are no bodies, no injuries, and we are relieved when one young girl is rescued. As in the Watchmen, thousands die and there are NO repercussions and no sadness.

You see, my Superman never would have done what Henry Cavill’s Superman does at the end of this movie, but shouldn’t have. The George Reeve’s Superman did it once and the early Superman did it a few times.

This is not my Superman. But he’ll have to do until the next one comes along.

Update: Major Spoiler Alert

Screenwriter David S. Goyer discusses the end of Man of Steel

One of the lessons that Chris and I learned from Batman was that if you’re going to revitalize an iconic figure like that, you have to be prepared to slay some sacred cows and you have to be prepared to weather the slings and arrows of some people. You have to respect the canon, but constantly question the canon. If you don’t reinvent these characters — and they are constantly being reinvented in the comic books — then they become stagnant and they cease being relevant. We were feeling — and I think a lot of people were feeling — that Superman was ceasing to be relevant.

Killing Zod was a big thing and that was something that Chris Nolan originally said there’s no way you can do this. That was a change. Originally, Zod got sucked into the Phantom Zone along with the others. I just felt it was unsatisfying and so did Zack. We started questioning and talked to some of the people at DC Comics and said, “Do you think there’s ever a way that Superman would kill someone.” At first they said, “No way. No way.” We said, “But what if he didn’t have a choice?” Originally, Chris didn’t even want to let us try to write it. Zack and I said, “We think we can figure out a way that you’ll buy it.” I came up with this idea of the heat vision and these people about to die. I wrote the scene and I gave it to Chris and he said, “OK, you convinced me. I buy it.”

I think it makes some people feel uncomfortable; other people say, “Right on.” That was the point. Hopefully what we’ve done with the end of the film is we’ve gotten people–the mainstream audience, not the geek audience–to question [the character]. Hopefully we’ve redefined Superman.