With 2006 behind us having given us a 14 disc Superman collector’s DVD set, Pirates of the Carribean 2, Superman Returns, and Peter Parker outing himself to the world, 2007 kind of started off with a whimper offering us THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN in a straight to DVD release. Things were looking bleak.
Fortunately, in the straight to DVD market, we weren’t left floundering about. Marvel’s next release of the year came several months later in the form of DR. STRANGE.
I was never a big fan of Dr. Strange in the comic books. That is not to say that I didn’t like the character, just that I only knew him from guest appearances here and there. In fact, the most exposure I ever had to Strange was in the short lived Defenders reboot in the late nineties. In the title, he, The Silver Surfer, Namor, and the Hulk were bound by a curse to not be able to break up the team. In the end, they brought out the darkest side of themselves and set up rule on the Earth to ultimately defeat the being that was behind the curse. (I think that’s why they did that.)
Having little knowledge of the Dr. Strange mythology, I sat down to watch the DVD with little or no expectations and as the credits came up on my television screen, I was glad that I had picked up the DVD. DR. STRANGE gave us a true hero’s journey complete with a great final confrontation and room for a sequel. Things were looking up in the straight to DVD market and DC was getting ready to throw their hat into the ring with SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY.
You can read my complete review of SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY here. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it. While Doomsday wasn’t really the centerpiece of the story, the movie itself was good. It was a smart move on the part of the promotional team to use the words “inspired by” rather than “based on” the best selling graphic novel of all time. For, while the Death and Return of Superman took place, very little else resembled the story from the comics. However, it was a Superman movie, and it was good enough (to me) to watch more than once.
In the theatres, things went a little better than they did on the DVD shelf. Not at first, but they got there.
The first comic book adaptation of the year was GHOST RIDER. Ghost Rider is another character I was never really into. Unlike Dr. Strange, though, I really never liked the character. Visually he’s interesting and he makes a good guest appearance, but I never thought he was strong enough to carry his own book. To carry his own film, he was gonna need more than Nicolas Cage. A lot of work went into the Ghost Rider film. It’s easy to forget that sometimes when something falls flat. However, if you dig on the net a little, or watch the special features on the DVD, you’ll learn that the effects guys worked hard to make fire effects that wouldn’t look fake, stunt people worked hard and dangerously to accomplish some great stunts, and the heart of the director was in the right place.
Sadly, Ghost Rider couldn’t do what Blade accomplished so well in his first outing on the big screen. I saw this movie in a packed theatre. If nothing else, the promotion machine for the film did it’s job. People bought into the visuals and funny bits from the trailers that flooded movie theatres and televisions.
Honestly, Nic Cage wasn’t bad in the movie. I don’t generally like him in much, but I enjoyed his role in this film and it gave me the great moment of “You’re walking all over Karen.” The problem came down to trying to make Ghost Rider too funny. There didn’t seem to be enough trust in the character as he’s written in comics, and anytime a movie maker chooses not to do that, the movie itself suffers.
I left the theatre not feeling like I’d wasted money on the movie, but disappointed that it wasn’t what I knew it could have been…the surprise hit of the year. However, my disappointment wouldn’t last long.
While on television, Heroes was rushing to learn to stop an exploding man and Smallville was (again, in my opinion) stumbling it’s way toward one of the best season finales the show has ever had, Leonidas and his 300 were defending Greece against an onslaught of Persians. I had never read 300. In fact, (I’m a bit embarassed to admit) I didn’t know that Frank Miller’s graphic novel was a fantastic interpretation of an actual historical event.
What I did know, though, was that Frank Miller’s unique stylized art was wonderfully reproduced in moving picture form. That alone was enough to bring me to theatre to see this film. When the movie was over, I walked out of the theatre hoping someone would oppress me just so I could KICK THEIR…ahem…so I could rise up and defeat them.
Everything about 300 was amazing. I wasn’t bothered at all by the slow motion to quick motion fight scenes. I reveled in David Wenham’s portrayal of Dilios and his ability to tell the story of 300 and make us feel like he was truly standing before 10,000 Greeks getting them pumped for the battle ahead. In fact, I was totally caught up in all of the characters. I hated who I was supposed to hate, loved who I was supposed to love, and found myself profoundly sad for and proud of the men who gave their lives in the name of stopping tyrrany in it’s tracks. Suddenly, as far as movies went, 2007 was looking up.
However, we still had a long way to go. People were buzzing over Venom, preparing for The Surfer’s rise, arguing over flames on Optimus, bemoaning the fact that John McClane was going to be PG-13, anticipating Harry’s induction into the Order of the Phoenix, and awaiting the return of Jack Sparrow. Yes, 2007 was a long way from over.