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The Crow (1994)

Again as part of my project to get relatively caught up with the superhero film genre (and regularly sharing about it with several friends who share the same interest), I watched The Crow during breaks at work on the iPad via Amazon Prime.

I won’t bother retelling the plot in any depth. I’ll just note briefly that Bruce Lee’s son Brandon plays the protagonist, Eric Draven, who through some mysterious supernatural force rises from the grave with powers to avenge his and his fiancé’s brutal murder at the hands of hoodlums under the employ of the city’s crime lord. Eric, who as such becomes The Crow, heals virtually instantly from any wound, has tactile telepathy, and can move and fight with supernatural skill that is basically ninja-like. He can also see things through the eyes of a crow that is evidently a spirit animal for him.

This is a favorite film of my friends Matt and Brian, so I was hopeful that I would enjoy it. And sure enough, I did basically find it fun to watch–although I would add that it did not strike quite as strong a chord with me as for them.

The Crow is a simple tale, and a rather modest film. It aims for the Moon not the stars. And I think it helps that it avoids avoids overreaching as such.

Brandon Lee’s performance is a bit amateurish but he is charismatic; and there is in fact something oddly believable and endearing about how unpolished his acting is. At the end of the day, he was very convincing and managed to “own” the role, I would say.

The supporting cast was pretty strong. It was amusing to see the cinematic wink of casting Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame as Eric’s police officer ally.

It is a convention in both comic books and superhero films for villains often to be overdrawn in their sheer delight of evil. There’s a point at which it becomes a bit ridiculous, though–and this film’s villains arguably cross the line into that territory. The incestuous sibling crime lord pair Top Dollar and Bai Ling, and all but one of their underlings (Grange), are pretty over-the-top. Based on Bai Ling’s use of the Dark Arts, I wondered if Top Dollar and Bai Ling might have been devil worshippers (and having a shared father, hmm; also the association of Devil’s Night). If that were so it would make the Crow all the more interesting as their nemesis come to mete out karmic payback. A ghost taking on the minions of Satan is actually a fairly neat concept.

I think what prevents me from greatly liking this film is that it is clearly geared towards a Goth crowd–and I feel no affinity with that world at all. The Gothic aspects of Batman kind of leave me a little cold as well. (Interesting that I mostly enjoyed Van Helsing (2004)–maybe one of the few who did?–but that was despite the Gothic ambience.)

So in sum, The Crow is, for me, not a bad little flick. It ends up somewhere in the middle of the pack for my ‘most enjoyed’ list of films for the American Superhero Film genre.

The Crow (1994)

If you had the chance to go to Mars, would you take it?

npr:

newshour:

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Michael McDonnell is prepared to spend seven months in a space station the size of a small kitchen with three other people, no toilet and no shower. He’s prepared to part ways with his wife, Michelle, despite one difficult detail about the trip: If chosen to go to Mars, he would never return.

Learn more.

The Mars One mission has chosen its 100 finalists. Imagine how crazy it would be to get the call that you’d been selected to go… –Tajha

If you had the chance to go to Mars, would you take it?

Daredevil

Thanks to Matt, now with having watched Daredevil I have only a handful of films to go* and before long I will be up to date with all the superhero films that I would like to see.

First, I should say that prior to watching this film I knew nothing of Daredevil, i.e., don’t know him from the comic books. This is my first exposure to the character. Also, I watched the Director’s Cut which is reportedly markedly better than version released for the theaters in 2003.

I really liked this film. A lot in fact. I think it is seriously underrated. One might be surprised where I rate it on the list of the superhero films that I have seen. (See below.)

The main litmus test for whether I enjoy a film is how much I care about what happens to the characters. I cared about Daredevil’s protagonists. And I found the story to be a captivating one. The tale quickly drew me in and held my interest throughout.

Ben Affleck did an excellent job, I thought. He made me like Matt Murdock and care about what happens to him. Matt Murdock’s story, and what moved and motivated him, mattered to me. Affleck makes Matt Murphy very likable and relatable.

The romantic chemistry between Ben Affleck/Matt Murdock and Jennifer Garner/Electra Natchios worked for the love story aspect. Jennifer Garner gave us a character that is simultaneously lovely and gritty, in equal measures. The supporting characters provided good fun, especially John Favreau as Matt’s law partner “Foggy.” The courtroom scenes were enjoyable.

The fights scenes surpassed my expectations. They were made much more entertaining and novel by having revealed for us Daredevil’s strange world of sensory experience. In some cases we literally “see” what Daredevil “sees,” and otherwise as such it is set up for us to imagine. I bought into Daredevil’s supernormal sensory powers. And the fact that he has some key vulnerabilities definitely added to the suspense for me when he was fighting. (Addendum: Take a look at this video to add some real life plausibility to some of the things Daredevil does.)

The story held together well, and came together in a pretty coherent and satisfying way. The love story and crime fighting story arced, interwove, and merged well.

I particularly liked the symbolism of Daredevil vis-à-vis the church. And the fact that Matt Murdock is a defense attorney who strives to rescue the innocent by day as he metes out street justice for the wicked at night. Both are interesting ways of framing the antihero. As Matt sometimes has to ask himself, “Am I (really) the good guy?”

About my only criticism of this picture is that the villains were a tad more cartoonish than perhaps should ideally have been. I mean, this is a superhero film so we expect them to be a bit outlandish or extravagant. And I think Michael Duncan Clark as Kingpin was good. His physical stature alone makes him “larger than life.” But even with him the director had him kind of ham it up a bit. And Collin Farrell’s portrayal of Bullseye as “(tw)itching to kill”, let’s call it, was so overdrawn that I nearly felt embarrassed for him. But the fight scenes with both of them were extremely well executed regardless.

Okay, anyway, without further ado, where does Daredevil fall on my list of superhero films in order of my most enjoyed ? I know many will disagree vehemently with some of this ordering if they compare it with their own list. But here it is:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. The Avengers
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. Iron Man
  6. Hellboy
  7. The Wolverine
  8. Thor
  9. X2: X-Men United
  10. Daredevil
  11. Spider-Man
  12. Iron Man 2
  13. Thor: The Dark World
  14. Man of Steel
  15. X-Men
  16. Superman (1978)
  17. The Dark Knight Rises
  18. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  19. Batman Begins
  20. The Dark Knight
  21. Superman Returns
  22. The Amazing Spider-Man
  23. Batman (1989)
  24. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  25. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  26. X-Men: The Last Stand
  27. Iron Man 3
  28. The Fantastic Four (2005)
  29. Spider-Man 2
  30. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  31. Spider-Man 3
  32. Green Lantern
  33. The Incredible Hulk
  34. The Phantom
  35. The Crow
  36. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  37. Mystery Men
  38. The Punisher
  39. Hulk
  40. Judge Dredd
  41. Batman Forever
  42. Batman and Robin
  43. Batman Returns
  44. Superman II
  45. Superman III
  46. Catwoman
  47. Blade
  48. Darkman
  49. Superman and the Mole Men
  50. Batman (1966)
  51. The Mask

Now granted, this high placement for Daredevil to some degree reflects the pleasure of just having discovered a new character in the superhero arena that I like very much. But even now I’m pretty sure that Matt Murdock/Daredevil will remain one of my favorite characters as time goes on.

And please be aware that this list is not a ranking of which film is “better” than another. Rather it is my personal, idiosyncratic ranking of the ones for which I find myself caring most about the characters and the story. Although how much I care about the story does depend substantially on craftsmanship on the part of the filmmakers.

* Namely: Watchmen, X-Men: First Class, and Elektra. There are other superhero movies I haven’t seen (here is the Wikipedia list), but I don’t have much interest in them unless someone sways me.

Daredevil