Why I wanna wait another few years for the next Avengers Movie!

To say that The Avengers movie was a success would be a gross understatement. The ensemble cast super-hero extravaganza proved to be one of the biggest success stories for the comic-book to silver screen adaptation genre. To the extent that other studios have begun working full steam to replicate the success with their comic book properties

Studio heads at Disney obviously intend to milk this cash cow to the fullest, especially since there is so much more material in the Marvel Universe to fuel another movie. Official news of the sequel has already been confirmed and has fans of the movie and the comic books on an excitement high. But as an avid fan of the Marvel Universe (I have read tonnes of the comics and watched a LOT of the animated series), I am willing to wait for another 3-4 years for the sequel to hit the screens. Here’s why…

It’s no secret that the first Avengers movie was a carefully planned super-project by the studio heads. Inkling of the movie began with the post credit scene in the first Iron Man movie way back in 2008. This trend of giving away hints continued with each new Marvel Superhero motion picture in the following months; The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America and most recently Thor. Apart from building up the (absolutely justified) hype, these post credit-scenes and the movies themselves served the important purpose of getting movie audiences familiar with the vast and myriad Marvel universe. Imagine watching (or reading) the final installment in the Harry Potter saga without ANY knowledge of the back-stories of the various characters. You’d walk out of the movie hall with an unmistakable feeling of “What The Eff!”. Simply put we need some more super hero movies from the Marvel Universe (backed by Disney of course) to establish some more back-story and get a better insight into the Marvel universe.

If you stuck around (of course you did!) for the post credits scene of The Avengers, you definitely caught a glimpse of the sinister being grinning as the screen switched to black. The being in question is the celestial villain (not always) Thanos who is touted to be the villain in the sequel. Marvel fans will tell you that the most memorable and popular comic book story arc associated with Thanos is The Infinity Gauntlet, which is an epic story on its own. However TIG is one in a series of six story arcs in the Infinity Saga that spans across multiple realities and involves almost every single Marvel Superhero and Villain (and there are a LOT!). And the entire saga takes place AFTER Thanos has been resurrected from his death. There are other story arcs prior to his demise. So you see, movie audiences would need some sort of back story to get a feel of the true nature of the (supposedly) new baddie for the upcoming sequel. 

A rushed sequel would most likely also suffer from the usual shortcomings. Almost always sequels have very little fresh appeal for the audiences and seem almost formulaic in their plot and story. The adage “If it ain’t broke why fix it” tends to get used a lot when scripting sequels resulting in half-baked clones of the first movie. The writers for the next Avengers movie should patiently skim through the various story arcs, pertaining to their characters, available in the Marvel universe. This may also require stand-alone movies with hints scattered throughout the flick or a simple post-credits scene. Introducing new characters, minor or major, is always a good move, but they’d need to pick the right mix to ensure they don’t affect the familiarity established with the audiences by the first movie and the preceding movie tie-ins.

Also, if the head honchos at Disney are smart, they’ll realize the benefit of spacing out their comic book blockbusters. Apart from piquing the audience interest and building a stronger fan-following, the gaps would keep the franchise fresh. Striking the iron while it’s hot may not be the best option. The Avengers has garnered very high praise and has cemented its place in the hearts of movie audiences globally ensuring a firm fan-base for a sequel no matter how long the wait.

Having said that, I have to admit I am highly anxious to see how this franchise moves forward on the silver screen as well as how other comic-verses are brought to the big-screen. For now, I’ll keep a keen watch for the upcoming sequels and new movies for other superheros in the coming months.

Prometheus: Movie Review OR "Of Greek Gods And Ridley Scott"

When Ridley Scott announced his return to the genre that was pretty much defined by him, SciFi fans world over were beyond delighted. After all, this is the man who gave us two of the most magnificent Science-Fiction masterpieces in the history of cinema, Alien and Blade Runner. And this excitement was further elevated exponentially with the prospect of the new project being a prequel of sorts to one (Alien) of those masterpieces. 

Named after the Greek god who stole fire from the other Gods and gave it to man to make him an equal, Prometheus the movie deals with mankind’s quest to search for an answer to the question “Who created us and why?”. Prometheus marks Scott’s return to Science Fiction after almost three decades. But you couldn’t tell that after watching the movie, for the celebrated director STILL knows how to make an engaging SciFi flick.

The thing about Scott’s vision in his sci-fi movies is the level of authenticity he manages to showcase. His futuristic universe seems very believable and you start thinking “Gosh this could really happen!”. In fact many elements used in Alien and Blade Runner, which were pure science fiction at the time are very much part of the real world today.

The build up to the release has been phenomenal. The promos for the flick started pouring in as early as December last year. Apart from the standard theatrical trailers, the marketing campaign featured many viral videos,a faux TED talk and even a fully functioning Weyland Industries website.However, one of the faults I found with the viral campaigning was that there was way too much information pertaining to the plot given away in the full length trailers. Or maybe I figured it out cause I’m just THAT smart!

In many ways Prometheus serves as a reboot/prequel to the original SciFi horror classic, Alien (NOT Aliens! That’s a completely different flick albeit a worthy sequel directed by James Cameron). However you do not necessarily need to have watched the previous movie to understand what’s going on (although you’ll be glad that you did!) 

In terms of connections and eater eggs with relation to Scott’s first foray into the SciFi genre, Alien, the avid fan will have a ball of time spotting them. Right from the title sequence to the Space Jockey, Scott has ensured that the plot of Prometheus is very much set in the same universe as Alien. But he is firm in his assertion that the movie does not directly tie-in into the 1979 classic. And this is quite evident after you’ve watched the movie and the climax sequences. This is a good thing, since it leaves room for potentially a new set of sequels further exploring the new perspective offered by this storyline. 

The suspense and thrill aspect of the movie are in the same league as the original Alien and one scene in particular is a stunning testament to the true brilliance of Scott as a director and Rapace as an actor. Nightmares are made of stuff like this! Although do not expect the same thrill-a-minute scenes like the other flicks. The shocks are in place at the correct junctures in the movie and are again kept relevant to the plot and seemingly underplayed in the trailers seen thus far.

The story raises many religious and deep philosophical quesitons while offering minimal answers. This, in my view, is a conscious effort by the film maker enabling the audience to formulate their own responses to the queries posed. Although the ones that are presented in the movie are gems in their own right. The conversation between Logan Marshall Green and Micheal Fassbender’s characters, after their rather disappointing discovery, was one such revelation. When asked why did human’s create androids such as himself, David (Fassbender) receives a rather callous and nonchalant response  from Holloway (Marshall-Green) – “We made you because we could!”

For someone who has always been intrigued at the possibility of an extra-terrestrial hand in the creation of life on earth, the basic premise of this movie appealed to me greatly. Although I was a little disappointed that the true intent or absolute origin of life was not theorized or even hypothesized to the fullest extent. But then like I mentioned, the director has left many questions open for audience interpretation. 

Prometheus offers die-hard fans of the Alien franchise a brand new perspective and a more thought-provoking origin story which stands alone on its own plot and back-story. And which has the possibility of spawning its own set of independent sequels which would make for great viewing. If you like good science-fiction and admire debating and understanding open endings and interpretations, then Prometheus will surely be a feast for your senses.

Here’s the latest trailer for you to get all pepped up for the flick.

The Hobbit

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest. The primary reason for me reading this book was because I’m eagerly awaiting the Peter Jackson feature film adaptation releasing this December. That and of course I was curious about the prequel setting to one of my most adored stories of all time, The Lord of the Rings. Granted that I have only seen the movie and not read the books, but I still find the fantasy world woven by J.R.R Tolkien absolutely magnificent and spell-binding.

So how would I rate this epic tale of how it all started? Firstly, you must realize that comparing The Hobbit with The Lord Of The Rings is nothing short of stupid. The Hobbit was written and conceived before the LOTR series. As such the narrative isn’t as expansive or layered as the latter. The Hobbit is a simple story that doesn’t require multiple perspectives or parallel timelines to be explained. It is the story of the simple Hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ journey with a dozen dwarves (and the wizard Gandalf) on a quest to find and retrieve a collosal amount of treasure stolen and guarded by the infamous dragon, Smaug. The book essentially chronicles this journey from start till end and details the various people, creatures and adventures the group (and Bilbo in particular) encounter.

It’s a pretty simple read and flows without any major hiccups or deviations. What stands out is the language used by Tolkien, which adds a flair of mild humor even in situations that deal with life and death. The words paint a very vivid picture of the landscapes the fellowship traverses and bring the story to life in a manner that stands out. Although I did find the battle sequences slightly underplayed. But then, that could be quite intentional considering that the book is aimed at young readers in particular.

I will say this, the section which deals with Gollum will strike a tad extra appealing if you have read (or in my case seen) the Lord Of The Rings, since readers will grin and smirk at the scenes that pan out at that point. But like I mentioned before, don’t keep LOTR as the benchmark for content and narrative when reading this book. You’ll be disappointed.

As an independent read, this is truly a great book. Simple read with minimal complications in terms of story plot and narrative. Plenty of adventures and perils to keep your interest piqued at various points throughout the story. And a rather feel good ending. A definite must read for anyone who enjoys the genre.

View all my reviews

The Hunger Games – Hungry For No More

Hollywood has always been kind to best-sellers. Not out of generosity, but because they usually are bankable investments. And when you are dealing with a trilogy (or quadrilogy or septalogy), the big studios can smell the moolah a mile away! So it was inevitable that the latest best-selling phenomenon, The Hunger Games Trilogy, by acclaimed author Suzanne Collins, would be picked up for a feature film adaptation. And this amateur blogger decided to check out the first in the proposed trilogy (or a quadrology if they decide to go the Twilight and Harry Potter way) franchise.

Set in a dystopian future, the story is about teenager Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and how she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games. The eponymous game are a long standing tradition established after a failed uprising by 13 colonies against their own government. Every year each colony must send two “tributes” (one male, one female, both children) to the main Capitol to compete in a two week long fight/survive/deceive/kill unto death match. The surviving tribute is crowned victor and is subject to adulation and a host of other benefits that extend to his/her families back in the outlying colonies. Apart from serving  as a form of (sadistic) prolonged punishment and a reminder of the forgiving nature of the government (to the crowned victor), the games are in fact a spectacular extravaganza for the residents of the overtly Utopian Capitol. Being telecast in a fashion similar to any global red-carpet event, the Hunger Games is an annual event that is telecast all over the Capitol, and the participating colonies, providing a form of visceral entertainment to audiences everywhere. 

The basic plot is as simple as this – Survivor meets Twilight. That’s the best way to summarize the premise of this movie (and book). Although not a novel concept (think The Running Man starring Schwarzenegger, also based on a book), the backstory behind the whole death match is pretty quirky (and a little off-beat IMHO), but since this is supposed to be a SciFi, it’s all good. The death match in question is brutal, as participants use weapons ranging from swords, arrows and spears to make-shift bombs, bricks and even poison berries and killer wasps! The Twilight similarities kick in a little about midway into the movie as it is revealed that the participating male from Katniss’s colony has harbored a life long crush on the fair damsel. Ummm.. Jacob anyone? This three way love story was no surprise to me as the book, and series, are geared towards the young adult population. And let’s face it, that demographic just LOVES a juicy love triangle!

The movie can be divided into three distinct portions; The first being the usual introduction to main characters and basic plot and back stories. Here is where we learn about the backgrounds of Katniss and her family, her exceptional hunting abilities and puppy love with a fellow colony teenager. We are also given a brief background about the Hunger Games and the entire selection process. You have to be very attentive to grasp the intricacies of the process as it tends to be confusing. The second portion deals with the grooming and training of the selected contestants once they reach the Captiol. We get to see the other contestants and begin to gauge and get a feel of who’s gonna be a badass and who’s gonna be an ally to our beloved Katniss. The final (and rightfully the largest) section is the actual competition itself. And this is where I have my biggest complaint with the movie. In a setting which involves young adults and kids battling each other to death for rations, weapons and survival equipment, in a jungle arena, there is very little sense of danger or tension. Perhaps it’s the way the camera keeps jutting around like a six year old on a sugar rush, or the lack of a cohesive background score or well choreographed action sequences. Whatever maybe the cause, the end result is quite dry and lifeless and thus did not engage me one bit.

Performances are definitely not what define this movie, well not from the protagonist and lead cast at least. Jennifer Lawrence is good but not spectacular. Even Stanly Tucci was not his thespian self as the master of ceremonies. But the one actor that brings that extra sparkle to every scene he graces is Woody Herrleson. As the inebriated mentor to Katniss and her male counterpart from their colony, Woody is brilliant. His comic timing and carefree attitude resonate under all that messed up hair (which is most definitely a piece since the dude has very little head crop). I’d probably watch the remaining movies in the franchise, simply for him.

Let me be honest. I haven’t read the Suzanne Collins book, on which the movie is based. But being an avid reader I have SOME idea of how different a story can be when it is read through the pages penned by the author and when it is watched through a screenplay on the big screen. I seriously doubt the book would have been a best seller if it had the same lack of character development and vague story-telling. For a movie that revolves around a fight unto death match between the protagonist and 23 other kids, there is very little intensity and tension during the action scenes. Even the climactic battle between the last two rival survivors lacks any punch. Sorry, but if you do not bring a little edge of the seat action and thrill to a story which obviously deals in that genre, the movie is a waste!

Unless you are die-hard fan of the books and absolutely HAVE to watch the movie adaptation, I’d advise you to steer clear of this flick at the talkies and catch it at home when it premieres  a few months from now, or go for a matinee in a few weeks from now.

Overall rating, an average **1/2 

All About Eve

The Book of Genesis of The Bible, states that the first man and woman created by God, were Adam & Eve. Blessed were these immortal creations and they led a happy and free life in the garden of Eden. Their only restriction, never to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But the couple succumbed to temptation.

The temptation came first to Eve, the woman, who managed to persuade her male companion. For their sin, the two were banished from the Heavens and cursed with hard labor and pain. Some believe, that the punishment for this Original Sin should be borne by all of Eve’s daughters and her daughter’s daughters and so on. Meaning, the woman is to be given no importance and should be subjected to all kinds of hardships.

Ask any woman and you’re bound to get a long list of the various physical traumas they endure throughout their mortal lives. But the sons of Adam, i.e. the men decided that was not enough punishment for the women folk. So it came to be that the woman in almost every civilization was to be given no post of any importance and be subjected to humiliation and inferiority complex time and again. Thus began the mental trauma that every daughter of Eve has been enduring since times immemorial.

Some of you may argue that this is all in the past. After all, today’s woman walks shoulder to shoulder with her fellow man, excels in almost every profession, industry, endeavor as much as any man and has thus come a long way since the days of the Bible. Are you certain?

Take something as trivial as arranged marriages in the Indian society. Although now a crime, the groom’s family still insists on some form of ‘dowry’ from the bride to be and her family. Why? Well after all, the groom is a man, the bread-winner, the king of the castle. This despite the fact that the bride in question is as educated, well-read and probably has the same salary as the groom in question. But still, her gender has already decided her importance in her in-laws house-hold.

India and many other nations in this part of the hemisphere consider the birth of a girl-child a liability. To the extent that until recently female infanticide was an epidemic and governments were forced to take drastic actions to curb this practice. And if you’re thinking this is a belief in rural parts, you’d be surprised! Most urban families staunchly believe that a male child is a must to carry on the family name.

For the longest time, the Catholic churches shunned the very idea of a woman priest. The same is true for the temples, mosques, synagogues of other religions. Although today women priests are becoming more common. But even with all the progress and acceptance I doubt I’ll ever see a female pope in my lifetime.

Even the entertainment industry is no exception to this practice. Compare the price tags of male and female actors and a stark difference is obvious. The same is true for the life of either gender of actors. You won’t find too many forty something female actors romancing young hunks, but the opposite is almost always common! As recent as last week, when the Oscars were announced, in the 82 year history of the Academy awards, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman director to win the coveted award!

Closer home, a battle is raging to pass a bill that would guarantee the reservation of seats in the Parliament and State legislatures for women. Opponents of this have valid justifications but the fact remain that of the 539 seats in the Lok Sabha, a paltry 44 are occupied by the fairer sex. Obviously somewhere we aren’t taking the steps to ensure equal opportunity.

So what is that I wish to say. Well in a nutshell, women are still treated a second-class citizens in our society. Whether or not that is correct and should anything be done is a choice I leave to you, the reader.
But just remember this the next time you try to snub a woman – the individual who carried you nine months in her womb, gave birth to you, fed you, let her personal life take a back-seat and treated you as if you were the most important person in the world, was a woman. Would you like it if she was treated as a nobody? Answer this truthfully and you’ll have made your choice!

Wishing all the Eves around the world, a Happy Woman’s Day!