It’s incredibly difficult to assign a grade to SHIELD’s inaugural season. I’m sold on the show now, but I’d given up halfway through until I’d heard it improved and Captain America 2 confirmed something had to be happening. The first half is fairly awful, with boring characters and weak stand-alone plots, like rejected X-Files episodes. Then Winter Soldier forced a change (though clearly in the works all along), and the show becomes episodic and suspenseful, full of great reveals and red herrings. The characters found their places, and the actors meshed. Even the fight choreography got notably better. It attempts Whedon-esque wit throughout, and the quips evoke more chuckles than groans. The addition of some fantastic actors, including Bill Paxton and cameos from Sam Jackson, Patton Oswalt, and Cobie Smulders, also did much to improve the show.
Sometimes I forget how good Shakespearian dialog is. But then Whedon assembled an amazing cast to remind me. I concede that it’s basically just a romantic comedy, with all the usual silliness that entails. But all the Elizabethan dialog and black and whiteness, (though probably pretentious) give it enough feux-sophistication that I give it a pass.
Meta stories (stories referencing their own genre or creation) are tricky. They can derail easily. But with Joss Whedon’s hand guiding the script, Cabin in the Woods understood its roles and expertly poked at them while never failing at riotous entertainment. The film starts off quirky and smart, but not overly amazing, getting by with a wonderful dynamic between the two antagonists (for lack of a better term.) Then after one of most obvious deus ex machinas ever, a fantastic and frantic ending solidified the film’s genius.
Avengers represents everything that is great about the summer blockbuster. It was witty, entertaining, and full of memorable moments. The characters were portrayed exactly as I’d hoped, with a surprising amount of depth given the limited amount of screen time available that comes from having such a large cast. My only real complaint was that the enemy aliens were fairly bland, though to counter that, their big snake ship things were fairly awesome.
Though it remains fun to visit the Firefly universe, this story did little to expand on the characters. Though adequate, the writing never flies above satisfactory. However, the characters read like they would on screen and the story flows naturally. And it should since it was written by the show’s writer/creator. It feels like another lost episode, but unfortunately that episode would’ve been a generic mid-season one.
The unfortunate cancellation of Firefly left many questions unanswered. One of those I thought was best left unanswered was the back-story of Shepherd Book. The movie, Serenity, hinted that he may have had a similar background to the assassin character but never explicitly stated it. This comic answers his story, and though penned by the show’s author and his brother, it was disappointing and cliche. The story revealed itself in an engaging Memento fashion, starting with his role in Serenity, then jumping back in time every few pages to reveal his motivations. This continues all the way to his childhood. The structure and page layouts were great, but I felt as if Book was far more interesting when his past was mysterious and possibly disturbing. Unfortunately, it was neither.