Small scale spies, also, superheros
Last night I watched a few movies from the Spies area of my blu-ray collection and continued in my MCU+ series of marvel movies. I saw:
The American (2010)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
If the spy movies from last year (Kingsman, UNCLE, and Mission Impossible) fit in a nice grouping, and the Daniel Craig Bond movies group nicely, then the spy movies from around four years ago (some a little earlier) group just as nicely with common tones. Those films are Haywire, The American, Hanna, and The Limits of Conrol. They may not all deal with spies in an exact sense but they fit perfectly in the spy genre.
Haywire comes from Soderbergh at a time when he was working with non-traditional actors as leads and in this film he surounded MMA fighter Gina Carano with and overflowing handful of top actors in Micahel Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum (in one of his earlier respectable roles), Bill Paxton, and Antonio Banderas. The areas where Carano might not have been the strongest actor are made up for in the performances of the actors around her and her stunt work.
Gina Carano's character has a fighting style that isn't seen in film in female characters. She hits hard, breaks through bariers, twists and breaks bones, takes viscious hits without being beaten, and runs. She runs all movie long in a way that looks fast. She has similar film running style to Tom Cruise or Will Smith with arms swinging high, and quick feet. It's not really the best way to run fast in real life but it looks great, giving a look of focus and intense energy. The best runners in the world look relaxed when they run and distance runners keep their arms close to their bodies. Sprinters go slack in the face to regulate all of their energy moving forward and not towards giving an awesome expression. They don't waste motion, they keep their momentum forward and use their stride to create efficiant and fast motion. There is an art in running fast, but there's also an art in looking like you're running fast so in film, no one runs to run fast, they run to look awesome.
My other thought from this movie was noticing the soundtrack is similar to Oceans 11. The man who did the soundtrack did the Ocean's movies and only a small handful of other big movies but Soderbergh utilizes funk style instrumentation to give the films a jolt of energy. This soundtrack is a little less happy and playful but has the same energy for action.
George Clooney goes to Europe to work in the spy business but he isn't the killer or the one who extracts information, he is the gunsmith. Yes, he does have to be a killer to perform his role as gunsmith but that is mostly a side effect of self-preservation and his attempts to leave the espianage life-style. He is brought to a small Italian town to build a rifle for a hitman, a European woman, where he uses parts he finds mixed with bullets he brought with him.
It's an interesting idea that a hitman would need to smuggle in a gun and the most foolproof way to do that, and to not have their gun traced, is to build the gun on location. It's fun to see Clooney's character test the rifle, demonstrate it, and try to stay incognito in his downtime as a noticable foreigner in a small town.
This movie is beautiful in HD and the filmmaker delights the view with details in the landscape and archetecture. It's not a fast movie, but it's easy to watch the color and beauty of Italy.
Avengers Age of Utran
This didn't get the greatest reviews as most of the positive ones were a bit backhanded. It's a nice action movie with some great aspects to it but it has some faults. I'm not sure I agree with the same faults others found, I was glad Black Widow has the story point of being sterilized as that seemed to be a function of the state run sterilization programs that have been all over the world. The US had an ugly and more recent than expected history of sterilizing women for various reasons that were not voluntary, and China used sterilization as part of the one child policy that was just lifted. The issue made by critics was that it was just a vehicle to make Black Widow seem like a victim much like the history of rape and violence against women in comics to be used as a motivating factor for the male characters. Here, Black Widow is the one motivated by this, but she is not defined by it.
I do have an issue with her relationship with Hulk/Banner. Although I like the idea that she is given the extra "power" of calming Hulk down and this is used as a plot point because when she is incapacitated Hulk needs be corralled in another way (Hulk Buster), the two characters don't seem to fit together. It might be that Mark Ruffalo always seems a little creepy to me as a romantic figure when he's acting, but I think it's mostly that Black Widow is an interesting character and Hulk is not. Hulk is only liked by small children who lose control of their emotions and throw tantrums who wish they had the strength to fully Hulk out so that they can make the adults around them can understand their frustrations.
There are a few other small ticks against this movie but there are some big plusses to it. It's fun to see so many characters in one movie, to see them contribute in the action and to see the action at such a large scale. It's a special effects blockbuster but it has some fun to go with the explosions. Vision is great to see as a superpowerful character who is baby-like how it soaks up information but computerlike in how it utilizes it.
I feel like the next Avenger-style movie, Civil War, will gain by losing the Hulk, and Hulk will gain by changing scenery and perhaps dealing with more than "I'm very destructive."