The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug: TF Indonesia Feature: Richard Armitage

A TOTAL FILM INDONESIA FEATURE: RICHARD ARMITAGE

Front cover

Total Film Indonesia Issue 49 The Hobbit Covers

This is a folding cover. So Bilbo’s picture can be folded inside so that you get double The Hobbit covers. Last year we did Gandalf & Bilbo. This year, we decided to do Thorin and Bilbo because everyone in the office really liked Thorin’s pose (but Bilbo is a must). More info on Total Film Indonesia #49.

————————————————————

Long Live The King

This actor faces many dangers and finds plenty of inspiration to play his kingly role. How far would Richard Armitage go to breathe life into Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug?

WORDS AMANDA AAYUSYA PORTRAIT SARAH DUNN

Richard Armitag (only) feature on Total Film Indonesia issue #49.

Richard Armitage (only) feature on Total Film Indonesia issue #49. Do not use without permission.

At more than six feet tall (according to his IMDb page, he’s 1.89 meters tall), Richard Armitage is as far from a regular dwarf’s height as possible. And with his calm and courteous attitude, he’s also far from villainy as possible. However, for some reason we can’t quite fathom, he has never been cast as a straight-up protagonist before being hired by Peter Jackson to play dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield. Just look at his Guy de Gisborn in the Robin Hood TV series, Lucas North in Spooks and Heinz Kruger in Captain America: The First Avenger (for those of you who didn’t notice him, he’s that guy who shot Stanley Tucci’s Abraham Erskine after Steve Rogers got buffed up by the super soldier serum).

Continue reading

Star Trek Into Darkness: TF (Indonesia) Interview: Benedict Cumberbatch

THE TOTAL FILM (INDONESIA) INTERVIEW: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH

Scientist. Dragon. Spy. Name the role and he’ll be on a roll (brilliantly, too). As one of the most talented British actor of today, Benedict Cumberatch has stolen a million hearts as Sherlock Holmes. Now he’ll steal a lot more as the main villain in Star Trek Into Darkness. But he denies, “I don’t feel like a villain…

tfi-42-cover-iron-man-3 tf-42-interview-cumberbatch

PORTRAIT BRIAN BOWEN SMITH

KHAAAAAAN! Khan? Not quite. John Harrison? Debatable. You’ll have to forgive us if even until now we still can’t believe the name of the character Benedict Cumberbatch plays in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi extravaganza Star Trek Into Darkness, a sequel to the franchise’s 2009 reboot Star Trek, is actually called John Harrison. Considering this is a movie by the master of twisted turns such as Abrams, we reserve the right to remain skeptical until we sit inside a cinema and directly watch the film.

But what we’ll never be skeptical about is the actor acting the villain. Cumberbatch, with acting blood in his veins, is not just any actor. If he’s got a legion of female admirers (and perhaps a few male ones too), we are entirely unsurprised. His eyes and cheekbones can really cut through the heart of many… and who doesn’t like a charming, intelligent Brit man with plenty of wit? Which is why it comes as a surprise that this London-born thesp (born 19 July 1976) built the earlier part of his career out of playing prats, like that pompous windbag Patrick Watts in Starter For 10 and molester Paul Marshall in Atonement. Even now, his new roles are still leaning towards the evil: recently Islington in BBC 4 Radio Extra’s Neverwhere, Smaug the dragon and The Necromancer in The Hobbit, and of course ‘John Harrison’.

When we first saw him in BBC’s Sherlock, we almost couldn’t believe that this detective was fleshed out by the same man who brought scientist Stephen Hawking in Hawking (2004). The transition from a smart and sympathetic figure like Hawking to an arrogant investigator with little to no moral conscience, though, does prove one thing: that despite having an army of fans as widespread as NATO’s military units (maybe even beyond), Cumberbatch has given evidence that he is a quality actor rich in experience, range and particular charisma.

Watching him act is a one of a kind experience (when we watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, where he assisted Gary Oldman that hit Tom Hardy and making small talk with Colin Firth, our row was shamelessly noisy, doling out praises), and John Harrison – or whoever his name is – appears set to be his most entertaining role ever since Sherlock Holmes. It is ironic, then, that his actor parents (Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham) wanted their son to be a lawyer. What would cinema be without Cumberbatch? Although, from the way he evades STID spoilers, we’re very sure he’d make a good lawyer too… Continue reading

Exclusive Interview With The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey in Total Film Indonesia

RISE OF THE GUV’NOR

Think you’ve seen David Morrissey somewhere but don’t quite know exactly where it was? It’s not just you. But if you see him now, you know you’d have to be careful. Where The Governor is, heads will roll…

WORDS AMANDA AAYUSYA

Last October, Total Film Indonesia found itself in a bind. The phone number given to TFI to call one of the biggest names of the third season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, David Morrissey, was not working. Only after dialing repeatedly, did we manage to get connected. Even then, we were asked to wait for a few more minutes for David’s arrival. All we could think about was: screw the phone bills – as long as we get to talk to The Governor. Or, should we say, the guv’nor?

Well, we’re not only totally crazy about the show. We admit to being obsessed with TWD the way zombies are obsessed with eating human flesh – the series is dramatic, intense and stunningly star-studded – but Morrissey is a bit of our hero as well. We’ve seen him in Basic Instinct 2, Derailed, The Other Boleyn Girl, Centurion, Blitz… and recently he was in Hollow Crown, BBC’s Shakespeare mini-series, in the Richard II part of the show along with Patrick Stewart, James Purefoy and 007’s new gadget man, Ben Whishaw. And our inner geek also recalled his outing with Tenth Doctor David Tennant in The Next Doctor, a Christmas special of Doctor Who.

He’s that kind of actor – you may not immediately remember his name, but his face is certainly recognizable. Like David Straithairn or Elias Koteas, he’s a character actor with a comprehensive CV. And his chops are undeniable – he’s done stage, TV and films. All medias covered. Now, thanks to the zombie extravaganza The Walking Dead, he’s going to be even more recognizable, face- and name-wise. Here’s a food for thought: now that he’s in a popular American hit show, would he be willing to go back to England and do Who? When we finally got to speak to David, we put the question to the guv’nor…

Let’s talk The Walking Dead, your first ever zombie gig. Is there a difference between playing in a zombie series and the other things you’ve done in your career so far?
Yeah, I’ve not encountered many zombies in my acting life so far. They’re very real. I think one of the wonderful things about being in the series is Greg Nicotero, who is the head of the special effects that do such a brilliant job, that you really don’t have to that much of your imagination to imagine what it would be like to be confronted by these terrible things. And the guys who play them, I’m told, come at 4 in the morning and then have them go into make-up and stand under the terrible Georgian heat. They are wonderful people who work very hard to bring these characters to life. So, yeah, it’s a challenge but it’s also wonderful to do. I think it’s an amazing creation done by an amazing team.

Continue reading

Exclusive interview with The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies in Total Film Indonesia

Back in August, I had the privilege of having a phone interview with Sarah Wayne Callies who plays Lori Grimes in AMC’s The Walking Dead. She was a very nice lady who answered questions very clearly and professionally. In our interview, she addressed character deaths that might happen on the show, including her own. She also had some very interesting insight on a lot of aspects on the show. It was truly a pleasure to be talking with her and discussing TWD (as well as zombies and aliens) with her.

*

FEARLESS FEMME

Exclusive interview with Total Film Indonesia: Sarah Wayne Callies on character death, strong women and aliens…

WORDS AMANDA AAYUSYA

Lori Grimes, the leading lady portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies in AMC’s The Walking Dead, is one of those love-her-or-hate-her types. After cheating on his husband (Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes) with his best pal (Jon Bernthal) in Season 1 and getting pregnant without knowing who the father of the baby is in Season 2, probably not a lot of people would cry to see her go after a zombie bite. But hang on – The Walking Dead would truly lose one of its biggest intrigues without her. Can the show survive if she was really gone? Callies herself told us what she knew and what she wanted for her character in this exclusive interview with Total Film Indonesia. Apparently, she is not afraid of dying…

WARNING: The following interview contains spoilers from The Walking Dead. Please read with caution.

How far do the actors in The Walking Dead know about what’s going to happen to their characters?
We talk to the writers at the beginning of each season and we get the broad strokes so we can start making decisions and prepare things appropriately. There are certain details that they keep from everybody. For the second season, Frank gave us the first seven episodes about a month before we started shooting so we can start working on our lines and what’s happening but they kept back the 8th episode so none of us knew about Sophia dying until about a week before we shot that. And it does vary. We’ve had people on the show who were called and told they were going to die and they don’t. And then there are people who’d not been told they were going to die and they die. And that’s just kind of how it works.

Continue reading

Is it just me… or is George Lazenby actually an OK Bond? (Bond 50 Edition)

Ah, George Lazenby. Whenever I hear the song of my favorite Scandinavian singer Sondre Lerche, Like Lazenby, I am always reminded of everybody’s favorite black sheep of the Bond family. It had been years, when the Lerche song was released in 2009, since I saw the Aussie’s first and only Bond outing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I told myself to watch this film again but never got round to doing it until last week when, in preparation to create a Bond special that we’re planning for our magazine, I bought the movie on DVD. And it surprised me to realize that hey, Lazenby wasn’t that bad.

Hear me out. First of all we have to remember that James Bond is not exactly a difficult character to play. All he has to do is show up, find out who’s messing around with the world at any given time, check back with M and catch the bad guy while traveling to exotic locations and romancing the ladies. It’s not like he’s the brain of MI6 operations who has to deal with a suspected treason by someone who is an upper echelon of an esteemed agency and conduct an investigation in secret like George Smiley. Bond movies essentially are boy fantasies – the cool gadgets, the swanky cars, the dashing suits and the impossibly gorgeous ladies. If Le Carre is the thriller of the so-called espionage genre, Fleming is the romance of the genre.

There is no need to hire someone like Gary Oldman to play this bloke. Of course it does help if your Bond can act too, but we don’t need an Oscar winner in this role. In fact, given the amount of action set pieces the movies have and the crazy stunts the character is given to do, it’s better to have a physical actor as Bond. It just so happened that the first Bond actor Albert Broccoli got was Sean Connery, who by the time he took on Bond in Dr. No, had already had a considerable amount of acting experience. Lazenby’s ‘mistake’, if we could put the blame on him, is that he was the one Broccoli gave the role to after Connery got even better at acting and was already established for playing Bond. In my opinion, it was a case of ‘being in the right place on the wrong time’. Perhaps if he were to play Bond after Roger Moore…

But looking at the movie itself, I could find nothing exactly wrong with Lazenby’s acting. He was said to be a bad actor by some of the hoity toity critics of the time but, looking back, I find most movies in the past were acted in a certain way. I’m a child of the ’80s and a product of ’90s. I wasn’t born yet when Connery, Lazenby and Moore started their Bond tenure. So when I looked back to Bond in my formative years (after discovering him in mid ’90s through Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye) I wasn’t fussed about how Lazenby acted. I looked at the film, found out the story and decided that, well, it was good enough for me.

Today OHMSS even seems like the best Bond film so far in terms of story. It is ridiculously compelling: Bond wanted to go after his archenemy Blofeld but was denied by his superior, so he turned to a criminal boss with connections that could help him. He met the woman who fascinated him so much that he genuinely wanted to marry her and settle down. And after he took down the villain with their help and finally married her, she was killed on their way to their honeymoon in a vengeful drive-by shooting. Sure, a more capable actor would’ve delivered Bond’s words to the policeman at the of the film in a more poignant and emotional way. But even with the way Lazenby said it, I could already feel the pain. Imagine that happening to you on the day of your wedding. You don’t need a better actor to convey just how insanely heartbreaking that was; it was horrible enough the way it was.

Lazenby’s lines were a little silly but most Bond lines were silly before Daniel Craig revolutionized the role and made his cold expressions work for him. Perhaps he was rather stiff in certain scenes but that didn’t diminish the fact that he cut a handsome figure, be it in a suit, kilt or ski gear. Some of his Australian accent seeped through the dialogue but Connery, too, had a brogue. And if his expressions in certain scenes weren’t emotional enough, you can say the same of about two dozens actors in Hollywood working today who play lesser roles than James Bond.

Some of the resentment towards this man probably also stemmed from the fact that Lazenby renounced the role after his alleged bad experience making the movie. He could’ve probably played in more Bond movies if he wasn’t in a hurry to end his ties to the studio. If it’s true what is said about how he claimed the producers treated him like he was an idiot then perhaps the fault goes both ways. (I imagine some producers and filmmakers could be utter snobs and creative differences are a common occurrence in the industry. Surely this happens even to the best of them.)

This, however, has no bearing on the fact that Lazenby didn’t make OHMSS an awful film. In fact, many fans will agree with me that OHMSS is actually one of the best Bond films. Certainly if people are still remembering the film today, be it because they like Diana Rigg’s amazing performance as Tracy Draco or because they want to remember how bad Lazenby is like me, then Lazenby had already done his job in keeping this movie alive throughout the years.

It is my opinion that there is no good or bad Bond, although there are good and bad Bond films. Whoever plays Bond, he is there to make sure the movie works. Lazenby, whether you hate him or love him, had done just that. In my eyes, he has done Her Majesty and the 007 institution a decent – if unappreciated – service.

Total Recall (2012): Film Review

AH, IT’S THAT TIME of the year again. That time for movie critics and purist fans to lambast The Remakes Nobody Wants Or Needs.

This summer, that title falls to Len Wiseman’s re-imagining of Paul Verhoeven’s Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring movie, based on a Philip K. Dick short called We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, entitled ‘creatively’ Total Recall.

On one hand, I can see where the derision comes from. Verhoeven’s Total Recall is a classic that many people still like to watch. Just like the problem with The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony Pictures does love to raise people’s hackles by making money out of recycling classic stuff. But on the other hand, it’s ridiculous to say that a remake wasn’t necessary. Filmmakers are rarely able to get a pitch perfect portrayal of Philip K. Dick concepts, so as long as the note is still off-key, everybody is welcome to try to polish them to flawless perfection on screen. And I’m glad Len Wiseman took the chance but, really, this so-called remake is not that bad.

There were homages all over the place to the original Total Recall. This is not surprising; Wiseman claimed that he was a fan of the original film. But he chose to set the story on Earth, instead of Mars, and made it as if the event in his film happened for real in the life of his main character, Quaid. These things make the story less fantastical but equally thrilling as the original. I like the ambiguity provided by the original, but the ‘this is real’ sensibility of the story gives the remake added depth.

Neither film came close to interpreting accurately what Dick wrote in his short story. This, too, is unsurprising but if I have to choose which one is closer to the original, I would perhaps pick this 2012 version over the 1990 version. Quaid’s adventure involving Rekall is closer to Quail’s journey with REKAL (although I thought Rekall was severely underused in Wiseman’s movie) and Dick’s concept of dystopian society was more clearly emphasized in this one, without anyone having to travel to another planet (really, nothing says ‘dystopia’ more than a post-apocalyptic Earth). And if the ‘not going to Mars’ factor is the one that worries people most about the story, I would encourage them to stop fretting. Wiseman has, against all odds, created a very cool concept to replace Mars and make the story work through his designs.

And that – the design – is the strength of this remake. Wiseman and his team created a look for their universe that doesn’t only feel plausible, but also cool. Take the hover cars for example. They are ten times more doable for manufacturers to produce in a few decades’ time than the cars seen in Minority Report. The sprawling cityscape of the Colony, with its interconnected buildings, river down the middle and multicultural elements, is also a marvel to look at that. And if that’s not enough, there’s The Fall – it’s Wiseman’s ace in substituting Mars for Earth, which definitely screams ‘science fiction’.

The biggest miss of the movie is the cast. Individually, these actors bring a lot of credibility to their character. Colin Farrell’s Quaid was good enough, Kate Beckinsale’s Lori was a proper badass and Jessica Biel’s Melina was decent. There should be no complaints, except neither of them had any chemistry with each other. I could hardly believe that Lori had a grudge against Quaid and that Melina and Quaid had something romantic going on. Either they were too focused on doing the action scenes rather than making their interactions real, or they were just really a mismatched group of people. There is no doubt that Wiseman had a very good ensemble on his hands; it just seems like he didn’t know what to do with them and would rather focus on designing cool hover cars and other high tech transport systems.

So this film – this remake – is both a hit and a miss. As an adaptation, it works. As a remake, it’s not bad. But as an individual piece of cinema, it’s an incomplete one. It’s probably not going to change the face of genre cinema, nor will it lose the derision of the purists and skeptics, but perhaps it’ll do its job in introducing the Dick/sci-fi concepts to the modern mainstream audience. It’s worth seeing in the cinema but you probably won’t be interested in collecting the DVD.

THE VERDICT
Len Wiseman’s vision of a futuristic dystopian society works in this remake that no one wants. Sadly, while the highest profile project of his career is not hateful, it certainly won’t be loved.

*

The Indonesian version of this review will appear in Total Film Indonesia Issue #35, out in September 2012.

HBO Asia’s Game Of Thrones Writing Competition and Prize

Last April, a few weeks after I officially joined Total Film Indonesia magazine as features editor (after having been their contributor for two years), I was assigned to write the article of HBO’s Game Of Thrones Season 2. And gladly I did that because I love the series, I am familiar with the works of George R. R. martin and this whole thing is like a walk in the part for me.

 

The article included  exclusive interviews with Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark, and Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow – an opportunity given to us by HBO Asia, who kindly let us submit questions during a press junket. (We didn’t go there ourselves due to time constraints but I’m happy enough to get an exclusive so I wasn’t complaining.) So I wrote those six pages of articles, with the two interviews, included the quiz, and submitted it before the deadline and I was done. Then The Avengers happened and my life was consumed by  it and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and everything else became irrelevant.

Several days ago, my phone rang with a call from HBO Asia’s rep in Indonesia. After exchanging pleasantries, the rep then told me, “We’d like to invite you for lunch on Thursday because your article has been nominated as a winner for the Game Of Thrones S2 writing competition.” My first reaction was, “A writing competition? What competition?” (Long story short – it wasn’t that they didn’t tell us about it. They did tell us about it but the wrong person who represented us during the announcement forgot to inform the rest of us of the competition.) Despite my puzzlement, I confirmed my attendance to the lunch event anyway.

So earlier today I went there and what happened was that our magazine became the winner of HBO Asia’s Game Of Thrones S2 writing competition for magazine category. They awarded us with none other than the A Game Of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition). And, naturally, it was pure awesomeness.

I’ve heard rumors of a Game Of Thrones board game before but since games – board ones or otherwise – never interested me, I didn’t bother looking for information on it. But now that I’ve found out about its existence and held it in my hands, I have to admit that it looks mighty cool. And complicated. There doesn’t seem to be a way I can play this without my head spinning so I will just show you a few pictures of how it looks like without explaining the details.

  

Reading the back of the box [right], the gist I got was that the game is about making our way to the Iron Throne during a war between the families of Westeros. (I think as players, we represent the Houses?) But I could be wrong because I only had time to skim through the whole thing before writing this report. Seeing the pieces inside the box [middle] I felt slightly intimidated by their number – there are two boards, paper fortresses, flat pieces, character cards and lord knows what else. Don’t get me wrong – it looks fun, but also complicated.

My colleagues and I in TFI‘s editorial team will be playing this game soon (maybe after our deadline at the end of this month). On the meantime, I have to read the guidelines… and maybe find some kind of A Game Of Thrones: The Board Game 101 on the Internet. (In case you’re wondering, I’m hoping to play as House Targaryen in this game.)

Before I sign off, I want to thank HBO Asia for the prize (and the lunch and the conversation!) They really are good at building relations with their business partners. Thumbs up.

Brave: Film Review

TWELVE FILMS LATER, Pixar finally has what its partner, Disney, has owned for years – a princess. That being said, Pixar is still Pixar and not Disney, so the princess doesn’t get a handsome prince on a white horse that slays monsters for her and becomes her true love. In fact, that’s the one thing Pixar’s princess Merida (voiced by the charming Scot Kelly Macdonald) is not ready for. As a result of her reluctance to marry, she fights with her mother who is intimidating like a bear. Literally.

In what becomes the movie’s central comedic element, said mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), then transforms into a real bear and caused a whole fur of problems for the family. Although in some moments, Brave is terrifyingly dark – especially in 3D; it’s so dark behind the 3D lenses that the many of the animated details are lost – the entire story concocted by Brenda Chapman & Co. are actually hilariously absurd and fantastically entertaining that tears will run down your cheeks as you laugh endlessly for 90 or so minutes. Plus, the voice actors are great – when else can we get an entire movie spoken in Scottish accent?

Mind you, this is no Toy Story or Up, but the contemporary humor is fresh a la Ratatouille. If this makes Brave less ‘Pixar’ for some people, look for Finding Nemo elements in Merida and Mom’s fun and action-packed mother daughter adventure. The fantasy factor is also strong enough to match WALL-E’s level of science fiction goodness, although there’s no masked propaganda in this one.

Bonus eye candy is the charming short animated movie La Luna that precedes the movie. This is one attractive Pixar package that, like it or not, has redeemed them from the sin of Cars 2.

THE VERDICT
This is Finding Nemo princess-style – Pixar continues to wow with a female heroine, Scottish actors and crazy humor that makes up one complete entertainment package. 

*

The Indonesian version of this review will appear in Total Film Indonesia Issue #33, out in July 2012.

The Avengers: Film Review

The Avengers

One big happy superhero family

EARTH IS UNDER SIEGE. The culprit: an ambitious god with a truckload of daddy issues, leading an alien army from a universe far away. Who’re you gonna call? Definitely not the Ghostbusters.

First of all, you should call Nick Fury, the one-eyed director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who bears an uncanny resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson. Then you better hope he still has a couple of cell phone numbers on his phone. For example, Tony Stark’s – that is, “genius playboy billionaire philanthropist” – number and Steve Roger’s, who is – wait. Steve doesn’t have a cell phone. He just woke up from a 70-year hyper-sleep on ice and doesn’t really know how to work one out yet. So who else can he call? Bruce Banner who’s on a self-imposed exile in India? Natasha Romanoff who’s under cover in Russia? Or that guy who likes to perch himself on high surfaces, watches you like a hawk-eyed stalker? Or maybe Fury should start a sacrificial ritual and hope that thunder god Thor would deign Midgardians with his presence. The point is, everyone he’s got who can fight off this alien army is separated all over the globe. And they don’t get along. At least at first.

Bringing them together is a massive undertaking for Fury, but  it’s an even bigger responsibility for Joss Whedon, the Nick Fury of the  Marvel Studios’ latest superhero venture, The Avengers. Imagine – he has to put together 10 famous names from 5 previous films that were worked on by a dozen of other filmmakers in order to A. save  Earth from idiotic superhero films (yes, Green Lantern, we’re looking at you); and B. smash the summer box office.

So, did he manage? Yes. In fact, HELL YES. Not only that, Whedon may have created a new benchmark for comic book superhero movies. (Do excuse us, Nolan.)

Family affair

That The Avengers is a crossover film has already put it on a league of its own, although that doesn’t mean it is without a few complications. On one side, The Avengers already has a tried-and-true fan base from previous films (Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor, Captain America). Whedon himself  also comes with a loyal fan base that follows him from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Firefly and other cult projects. So if the cinemas are brimming with Marvel fans and Whedonites, it’s no surprise, and this way the movie is ensured against box office failure. On the other, Whedon still has to find a red thread that binds the six Avengers together without pissing off these people. And therein lies the challenge.

As it turns out, however, we need not worry – for this director who came into the project without a blockbuster hit in his resumé has done the impossible and emerged as the victor. First, he did it by putting his ego aside. Whedon reportedly consulted with Thor director Kenneth Branagh and Iron Man director Jon Favreau in order to align his Marvel world with its previous incarnations. Second, he imbued the script with his brand of Whedonesque genius. This means getting Robert Downey Jr. to mock Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston for doing a round of “Shakespeare in the park – doth mother know you weareth her drapes?” It also means Hemsworth got to say “he’s adopted” when Scarlett Johansson pointed out how many people Hiddleston had killed. All Whedon, all genius.

And how he wove the strands of tales that had previously existed through his heroes is an admirable feat. From RDJ’s Tony and Chris Evans’ Cap bickering like a kid and his uncle over career choices to Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk solving their differences through fists of fury, as well as Black Widow and Hawkeye’s palpable sense of unresolved sexual tension, Whedon made them all work against the backdrop of the imposing S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier and office politics. He’s a like a teacher without a pet – zooming in equally on each of the characters and giving them all an equal chance to shine. And if Fury has to wait until someone’s life is taken away until everyone finally comes together, this is also a testament to Whedon’s bravery for taking risks in order to build a solid story about how 6 individuals could slowly become a team. That, or this is simply a 6-person dysfunctional family. Either way, Whedon has found a way to make the audience root for them. So if any studio wanted to produce their own crossover film, Whedon’s The Avengers is now clearly the standard to follow.

Go green

What’s great about The Avengers is that Whedon presents them the way Marvel comic writers and artists present Earth’s mightiest heroes on paper – colorful, action-packed and using frames that replace comic book panels. To enjoy the Avengers’ kick-ass journey is to read a Marvel comic crossover event – pick one, any one – with fanboy-level focus and enthusiasm. This proves that not everyone has to take the dark and serious path to make a critically acclaimed and universally popular comic book movie. Sometimes, keeping the fantasy elements alive and bringing on an alien army to wreak havoc on Earth is what it takes to win the box office race.

Even The Avengers’ villain Loki is a proper comic villain, with huge ego and even more gigantic penchant for melodrama. He’s not Joker or Lex Luthor, but he’s like a disturbing green fly (with golden horns) that can withstand the most extreme ways of extermination. In other words, highly annoying. His and his writers’ is the direction we should be applauding the loudest.

Speaking of green, it’s about time that Bruce Banner and the Hulk gets a proper screen treatment. It’s safe to say that this is the Hulk that should’ve been around all along. We absolutely cannot resist pumping our fist in the air when we saw that Ruffalo nailed both of his characters. Needless to say, the next thing to anticipate is the next solo Hulk movie – it should be the definitive one.

Considering all of this, how appropriate is it that the climax of the film is determined by green versus green? Loki versus Hulk. Green god versus green rage monster. And the winner is… SMASH.

THE VERDICT
Whedon’s vision and humor serves this epic crossover event without losing its characters’ personalities. Thanks to bromance and Hulk smash, Marvel’s domination soars to new skies.

TALKING POINT
The US military – who apparently likes to lend a helping hand in creating action movies containing military action – allegedly refused to assist with the Avengers production. They thought S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Chitauris were unrealistic enough to merit their services. And yet they helped Battleship. Irony, much?

*

The Indonesian version of this review has appeared in Total Film Indonesia Issue #31, out in May 2012.

Q&A with Seth Grahame-Smith in Total Film Indonesia

For Total Film Indonesia issue 33 (cover: The Amazing Spider-Man) I did a feature on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I also had the opportunity to interview Benjamin Walker, the star of the Timur Bekmambetov movie, as well as the author of the ALVH book, Seth Grahame-Smith.

We talked about the differences between ALVH book and  movie, the process of writing the book and his other projects. I also asked him about the Pride And Prejudice And Zombies movie that has been on hold since FOREVER.

Read the complete Q&A with Seth Grahame-Smith here.