CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER – Power, Pride and Humility

Captain America: The First Avenger finally gives the titular hero a stellar representation on the big screen. While it has its drawbacks, it is a great film, and my favorite Marvel Studios movie (before The Avengers took its place).

Cap has always been my favorite Marvel character. He was a hero worth looking up to when I was a kid. His confidence, character, bravery and humility were always things I tried to emulate. What made it even better was that he started out as a less-than-ordinary man, which gave hope that a skinny kid like me could do those amazing things. I just needed to find that Super Soldier Serum.

The First Avenger is a love letter to the World War II era, a time period of which I am quite fond. It’s because of my fondness for the era that I had some quibbles about the film in places. I know it was not supposed to be like Saving Private Ryan, but I hoped it would have been at least a little like that.

Since his beginning in the comics, the story of Captain America has been a microcosm of the clash of ideologies in World War II – a conflict that shaped the 20th century and beyond. The evils of the Nazi regime can be traced back to the original sin of pride, resulting in hatred, brutality and terrible ideas about one human being’s “superiority” over another. As God has shown many times in the Bible, true power, strength and righteousness come from humility – subservience to others and our Creator.

We’re going in… SPOILERS AHEAD

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ABOUT TIME – That’s What It’s All About

Romantic comedies are hits and misses. I usually don’t enjoy them, though I suppose I’m not the intended audience. My wife very much wanted to see this movie, and the purported sci-fi element intrigued me, so I gave it a chance.

About Time was an above average rom-com. It wore its heart and themes firmly on its sleeve, as most of this genre do, but the time travel piece made it a little more unique and interesting. The movie does what all good time-travel movies do: focus more on the people and relationships than the effects of the time travel itself.

The movie was surprisingly deep. It was not so much about actual romance as it was about relationships in general and, as the title suggests, time we spend with those people we call “family.” It also posed ideas to the audience about how we use our limited time on earth, appreciating every day the Lord has made, and why God allows bad things to happen.

This film grabs the viewer like a nice, warm hug. It is a very sweet movie in a sea of callous, cynical films.

Going more in depth… SPOILERS AHEAD

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SAVING MR. BANKS – Honor Thy Father

I had some expectations going into this movie – perhaps some that could not be easily met.

I consider myself a Disney historian, having studied Walt Disney, the man and the company he built, for over twenty years. I love what Disney does, but I’m not afraid to call things the way I see them.

I had to see this film twice to fully appreciate it. The first viewing was peppered with my grumblings about the historical accuracy of the events depicted. To say that this film was inspired by true events would be entirely accurate. It did play fast-and-loose with the facts.

The second time made me see the film for what it was: an enjoyable piece of cinema inspired by actual events.

Saving Mr. Banks is not a documentary, nor does it claim to be. It is a film, and a wonderful one at that. Much like the film Hitchcock placed the Master of Suspense in a fictionalized account of an actual event, in Hitch’s trademark style, Mr. Banks places Walt Disney, the man, in one of his “Disney” films – a very clever tribute.

When it’s good enough for Richard Sherman, the only person involved in the creation of Mary Poppins who is still living, it’s good enough for me.

Saving Mr. Banks was also a thematically rich movie. This was a story about legacy – how crucial a parent’s behavior is in shaping their children’s outlook on life. It was a movie about a desperate plea for a parent’s redemption, a plea that mirrors our own yearning for redemption, which can only be satisfied by Jesus Christ.

Here we go… SPOILERS AHEAD

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ROBOCOP (2014) – A Soul in the Machine

The original RoboCop is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I was a weary of a remake, despite the possibilities with today’s special effects. However, I like when a new team of filmmakers put their own spin on a classic story (in most cases). It keeps things interesting.

Though it shares the name, characters, and similar premise, this is a different film than the 1987 original, and it’s better for it. The new RoboCop is fun, interesting and gets a little deeper into themes about technology and humanity that its predecessor merely touched upon in favor of biting political satire and over-the-top, cartoony violence.

It was a much more serious movie, but it was also somewhat confused as to what it was. This film tries way too hard to tie itself to the original’s political legacy, making for a very schizophrenic tone.

Going more in depth…SPOILERS AHEAD

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MAN OF STEEL – Best Superman Movie Ever?

Man of Steel is the best Superman feature film ever attempted. Now before you jump down my throat, let me explain.

Superman has always been my favorite superhero (with Captain America being a close second). I loved the Christopher Reeve Superman movies growing up. Reeve was the best part of those movies because he took the part seriously. Anyone else would have looked stupid in that costume. He gave the material soul and depth.

Likewise, director Richard Donner took the material very seriously, and wanted to capture the magic of believing a man could fly. I believe he succeeded for the time period. However, looking back at it with adult eyes, there were a few flaws that are hard to forgive.

Superman: The Movie‘s third act just never sat well with me, even as a kid. I respect Richard Donner’s attempt to make Superman exist in a real world, but it was an inconsistent tone. Maybe it wasn’t his fault because of the circumstances? I mean, Superman could turn the world backwards and just fix everything? How do you create drama or conflict when you have a character that powerful?

SupermanGene Hackman’s Lex Luthor was neither threatening nor menacing. He had no other goal except evilness and villainy. I could almost see him laughing and twirling a mustache, Snidely Whiplash style. He was the worst part of those movies, which is a shame because he’s a great actor.

The sequels (Superman II, III and IV: The Quest for Peace) drove everything into the realm of camp and goofiness, and got progressively worse with each entry. The only thing that makes those films even remotely watchable is Chris Reeve.

Superman Returns tried to revive the franchise, but it ended up making things worse..and weird. It was written and directed by people who didn’t truly understand the character of Superman. They tried to instill strange, uncharacteristic sensibilities into him (night-stalking Lois Lane?) and turned him into a sad sack. And don’t even get me strated on the kid.

Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is a considerable improvement over what has been done in the past, though I think most of the credit should go to David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan. They started with what made Superman great and built upon it, rather than trying to shoehorn other attributes. The film is not without flaws (and there are many), but it’s a good film.

Going more in depth… SPOILERS AHEAD

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