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AWESOME! This is what you get when you mix fine acting talent with outstanding material.
Most Superhero comic book movies seem to share a problem in tone. Most films try to cope with wild concepts by emphasizing darkness, even over-emphasizing it. One dimensional, brooding characters, black leather and anger rule the day. Here, it leans towards dark because of the subject matter but everything mixes so well. Maybe it's the character or maybe it's because they wanted genuinely real dialogue but the movie feels real and believable even though the concepts are still wild. It's truly better than most comic-book movies have ever delivered. All the dramatic beats really click. Steve Rogers is indeed troubled but he leans on his moral conviction and does not fold under modern pressure. He is so well written and displays true character establishment and development over the course of the previous two films that we've seen him in. (SPOILER: we even get to see a truly touching bed ridden moment dealing with the longing and missed opportunity between Steve and Peggy from the first film.) That leaves an undertow of lonely romantic longings and other implications of loss and grief over being thrown out of his time period.
What's also rare for any popcorn movie is that just about every scene packs real emotional weight. This is what you get when you mix fine acting talent with outstanding material. They make it shine and give you a remarkable movie no matter the genre no matter the source material. Oh yeah, did I mention that Cap kicks loads of butt too? That you could tell from the flood of action clips seen leading up to the movie. What was a pleasant surprise was that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a complete, wonderful and very well done movie.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Impactful Violence But Hollow and Falls Apart
Please make no mistake, this movie falls apart and the actions represented are absurd. Still, it has its moments and it doesn't shy away from the violence. Most of the non-action plays out like a high school written screen play that somehow got huge funding and the involvement of a stellar cast. The initial attack does have some plausibility and the emotional impact of seeing the White House and the Capital attacked really does register. So, there is satisfying action and some emotional involvement in the story. The negative is just about everything else.
It all plays out like blatantly trying to cram "Die Hard" together with "Under Siege" and what results is a hollow knock off version far less compelling then what they were trying to copy.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Grand-Scale Storytelling Mixed With Superb Action
Fox can breath easy again because I think it's safe to say the even the extreme fanboys will be putting down their pitchforks and torches and smile after seeing this amazing film. I know for a fact that general audiences are going to love this movie. I know some fans can be irrational and hold on to their hate because they expect certain things they read in their books but I can't seeing anyone being that irrational when faced with a result that delivers what First Class manages to deliver. It honestly is a genre-defining movie on a level with any comic based film that has come before it. Everything in this movie is exceedingly better than what Fox delivered in their last two efforts with this franchise. Going back to the beginning and re-hiring the guy that brought us those films was a splendid idea. The acting here is superb and the dialogue is rich. Every character feels absolutely believable no matter what abilities they have on display. No cartoonish villains or cheese in sight, every side of the issue is presented by people who believe they are the ones who are in the right and the underlying message of tolerance and bigotry only add to the depth of this film. If not a genre-defining movie than maybe it redefines the comic book genre. It restores the sense of epic adventure and grand-scale storytelling that we saw in X2. In fact, it perfectly complements that great film and probably surpasses it.
This film is to X2 what Godfather 2 was to the Godfather. Seriously, First Class is an exceptional "flashback" look that links the best of the X-Men trilogy to the past. Instead of DeNiro playing young Vito Corleone we get James McAvoy as young Charles Xavier. Marlon Brando and Patrick Stewart made their respective characters popular but both were more fleshed out by incredible younger talent. I'm not placing the X-Men film itself on a par with the Godfather but both have become legendary in their particular genre. I am, however, saying McAvoy has a bright future as a complex and talented actor. Just like the young cast of Godfather 2 was legendary, the young cast of First Class has many great days and projects ahead of them.
Love this entire cast but Michael Fassbender delivers the best performance with an amazing presence and command of the screen. Everyone was extraordinary. What many expected indeed happens. By that I mean every scene that Fassbender and McAvoy are in together absolutely sing. It won't surprise anyone to know that Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Jennifer Lawrence are superb in supporting roles but Nicholas Hoult did stunning work as the Beast and deserves some love as well. January Jones and Rose Byrne are hot as can be but aren't just simple eye candy. Sure, the story is compelling and the action is amazing but the performances elevate this movie far above a common summer flick.
Movie of the year so far...