Tag: Chris Hemsworth

Avengers: Infinity War (Movie) Review 1

Avengers: Infinity War (Movie) Review

After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios moved into Phase Three of their ever-expanding cinematic universe, fragmenting the relationships between Earth’s mightiest heroes all while growing its roster of powerful and relatable characters in the process. However, developing in the background for nearly a decade’s worth of heroic adventures lies the reveal and location of the six Infinity Stones. No matter how brief or lengthy their appearance, each of these stones has impacted this fictional universe in numerous ways. Now true believers worldwide finally get to see this lengthy quest for power conclude in the catastrophic showdown known as Avengers: Infinity War.

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12 Strong (2018) Review: Pointless Propaganda

12 Strong (2018) Review: Pointless Propaganda

If you’re going to make a film based on a true life tale of military heroism, then you’d better cram in as many pointless explosions as possible and hire Thor, General Zod, and Ant-Man’s best friend to headline. That’s the sort of thinking that goes through the head of producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Con Air, Pirates Of The Caribbean), a guy whose cocaine-induced fever dreams fuelled the action movie industry in the 80s and 90s, and who is a Hollywood man-child who will never grow up. With 12 Strong, he’s trying to make a classy war picture, but he just can’t help himself. So it feels more like a Michael Bay (a filmmaker who exists because Bruckheimer made it so) fantasy than anything resembling reality. It’s a trashy movie made by trashy people and the saddest part is that it’ll make all its money from actual war veterans and their families. That’s how propaganda works, Bruckheimer style.

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Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong (2018) – image provided by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

The story to 12 Strong is about the first major military operation and victory of the never-ending war in Afghanistan. With 9/11 still fresh in everyone’s minds, the military sent a covert team of 12 G.I. Joes to meet up with an Afghan rebel general and take out the first Taliban warlord. The terrain was unfamiliar, the local soldiers untrained men and children. The US soldiers had never seen combat before, but were legends on the training grounds, and as no one in the military had ever fought like this before, the reasoning went, it  might as well be them. Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, and a bunch of unrecognizable LA tough guy actor types star as the soldiers. Navid Negahban plays the local amateur general who sends them into battle on horseback against tanks and rocket launchers. The real story was crazy enough, but this blockbuster retelling doubles down on the macho fantasy to make something so insane that it’s almost fun. The key word is “almost.”

12 Strong falls into a new subgenre of American war movies that kicked off with the obscenely successful Clint Eastwood picture American Sniper. Essentially the mucho dolares made on that movie created a new market of blockbuster propaganda pictures that along with Call Of Duty serve as the new school version of army recruitment videos. These movies make serving in the military feel like a way to live out your childhood Rambo fantasies. Morality is never questioned. Americans are always right. The brown people are always wrong. Terrifying combat is fetishized through stylized action movie fantasy. It would be easy to laugh these movies off if they didn’t work so well for so many people.

This one is slightly better than previous entries in the genre like American Sniper, Michael Bay’s 13 Hours, and Lone Survivor. By having the American soldiers team up with a gang of Afghan rebels, the movie actually makes an attempt to humanize the non-American characters. Sadly, that’s a new development. Admittedly 12 Strong does so through vaguely offensive means that turn the Afghan rebels into magical folk heroes who rant about having the hearts of warriors and need to learn how to be true war heroes from the Americans. That’s still condescending, but, sadly, condescension is a big step forward in this ra-ra Americana genre that exists primarily to serve as an act of cinematic flag waving and to blow stuff up real good.

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12 Strong (2018) – image provided by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Admittedly, with Jerry Bruckheimer in charge and a no-name first-time director (Nicolai Fuglsig) at his bidding, the action is at least pretty good. Everything is stylized to the extreme. Every moment of violence is shot from as many angles as possible and edited like a music video. Drone cameras swoop over everything for scale. Every explosion is at least twice as big as it should be and every gun has unlimited rounds of ammunition, which all looks good on the big screen and gets the blood pumping. That’s good in genre terms, even if it’s undeniably manipulative and in bad taste in terms of how it represents the actual men who fought and died in the actual story.

Sadly, the characterization doesn’t really do those men justice either. No one really feels like a fully developed human being. They all feel like action heroes and are played by larger than life actors to hammer home that bizarre vision. Chris Hemsworth is robbed of all the charisma that he just showed off in Thor Ragnarok, pouting and glowering his way through a two-dimensional role while struggling to get his mouth around an American accent that he never quite masters. The great Michael Shannon gives the first lazy and detached performance of his career. It’s a shame, but at the same time he likely clocked the movie as crap from the moment he signed on and only stuck around for a well-deserved paycheck. Only Michael Pena gets to show any of his skill and charm, yet even he is wasted by disappearing for the bulk of 12 Strong when the action kicks off. The saddest part is seeing a photo of the actual soldiers at the end. While I’m sure they were flattered to all be played by pretty boy Hollywood types, the contrast between their actual appearance and Bruckheimer’s movie star fantasy is laughable.

12 Strong (Movie) Review: Pointless Propaganda 1
Thad Luckinbill, Michael Peña, Michael Shannon, Geoff Stults, Navid Negahban, Chris Hemsworth, Fahim Fazli, Austin Hébert, and Jack Kesy in 12 Strong (2018) – image provided by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

So what we have in 12 Strong is a movie that works perfectly well as a braindead action flick, yet feels offensive for that very reason, since it trivializes the actual struggles and triumphs of being a soldier in order to sell more popcorn. It’s kind of amazing that this new strain of Hollywood war propaganda continues to succeed at all. Yet given how dependent the US economy is on keeping their war machine alive, it kind of makes sense. Years from now, audiences will look back on these trashy war blockbusters and giggle at the excesses, just as we do now with the old WW2 propaganda pictures that made Hollywood truckloads of cash decades ago. For now, anyone capable of thinking while things explode in a movie theatre just has to shake their head and wait for everyone else to catch up.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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Thor Ragnarok Review - Thor Gets Good 1

Thor Ragnarok Review – Thor Gets Good

Despite the glorious success of the MCU over the last nine years, there has always been one franchise that’s been a bit of a slog. Sure, shove Thor into an Avengers ensemble and the guy will rattle off some good one-liners and throw down in a few fight scenes, but when it comes to his solo outings, Thor has consistently been a bit of a let-down. There are a few reasons why.

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In The Heart Of The Sea (Movie) Review 1

In The Heart Of The Sea (Movie) Review

Chris Hemsworth Vs. A Whale. Now that’s how you sell a movie. Can the man who plays Thor bring down the biggest creature on the planet? Even though it’s all done through CGI trickery, that’s a battle for the ages. In The Heart Of The Sea delivers on that promise as well. Hemsworth and his gun show take on a whale in some pretty gosh darn amazing 3D imagery that definitely takes advantage of the added dimension and scale of the cinema screen. It’s a rollicking, romp of an action movie. In fact, if it were possible to see only the hour or so of action/spectacle/suspense/ocean tragedy, In The Heart Of The Sea would actually be an easy movie to recommend. Unfortunately, there’s a story involved and it’s not a very good one. Even worse, that story is told by Ron Howard, which means the crap is shoved into the audience’s face with thudding obviousness.

intheheartoftheseainsert3The film is based on a bestseller by Nathaniel Philbrick about The Essex, a whaling vessel taken down in the middle of the ocean that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. To ensure no one is confused and understand that Moby Dick is a very important book, Ron Howard actually has Ben Whishaw play Melville in a wrap-around narrative. He talks one of the few remaining Essex survivors (Brendan Gleeson) into telling him the tale, allowing Howard to underscore any and all themes in the story through tedious dialogue inserts between the two men. The proper narrative stars Chris Hemsworth as a humble hunk who should be captaining a whaling ship, but is forced to work under a rich jerk played by Benjamin Walker thanks to nepotism. Their constant feuding leads the ship astray, and desperate to return home with sweet whale oil, they head into uncharted waters. There, a white whale demolishes the ship, leaving the men to struggle their way back to land on tiny boats, forced to do horrible things to survive.

Now, that’s not a bad tale for a big ol’ action movie. In fact, whenever Ron Howard stops spoonfeeding themes and messages to the audience for a few minutes, the flick can even be rather fun. The CGI whaling sequences are an undeniable rush. Shot in 3D with the finest and most expensive special effects available, Howard creates some truly harrowing sequences. It’s pure eye-and-ear-candy. In fact, if one were to chop out those sequences in isolation and sync them up with moving seats, they’d make for a hell of a theme park ride (water splashing optional). The survival horror sequences near the end pack a punch, too, and are well-played by the pained cast, despite their horrendous dialogue. There’s probably about 40 minutes to an hour worth of satisfying blockbusting within In The Heart Of The Sea. Unfortunately, the rest of the running time is utter nonsense.

The wrap-around narrative with Whishaw and Gleeson is a total bust and brings out all of Howard’s worst instincts as a filmmaker. He’s a middlebrow guy, which is fine. The trouble is that he has artistic aspirations and doesn’t trust his audience to pick up on anything that he doesn’t shove down their throats. Even the implied themes of deadly human greed for whale oil being replaced by natural oil in the 20th century is spoken aloud by characters who shouldn’t be able to predict such things. It’s absolutely embarrassing. Likewise, none of the characters have any depth beyond their stock character types. Cillian Murphy is set up as a main character, then essentially forgotten for an hour, Benjamin Walker might be the most boring villain in Hollywood claptrap in recent memory, Tom “Soon To Be Spiderman” Holland does nothing but stare on in horror, and even the dependably strong Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson can’t overcome the garbage shoved into their mouths. Chris Hemsworth likely fares best since he’s a genuine movie star doing movie star things, but even then he is stuck with a distracting Boston accent that he can’t quite pull off. Yep, action scenes aside, the movie is absolutely awful.

However, those big set pieces are undeniably great. As frustratingly dull as Ron Howard’s filmmaking instincts might be, they are always commercial so he was given a massive budget to pull off some stunning sequences. He handles all those so well that they are certainly worth seeing on a big screen. When the movie hits its peaks, it’s a showcase for some of the finest technical showmanship Hollywood has to offer these days. That’s good stuff. Everything else is barrel-scraping crap though. So whether or not you should see it depends on your tolerance for garbage. It’s a shame there’s no way to hit the fast forward button in a theatre. That would make this whole mess worthwhile.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Movie) Review 2

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Movie) Review

The Avengers was an unprecedented bit of superhero derring-do. No one had ever done a superhero team up on the big screen before and the epic blockbuster represented the cathartic pay off for five movies of set up. That made for a wild ride of crowd-pleasing that Avengers: Age Of Ultron simply can’t hope to match despite being a very well made and accomplished superhero blockbuster. Not only have we been here before, but writer/director Joss Whedon has to provide character arcs for no less than six protagonists, introduce four major new characters, and provide cameos for a handful of others. Plus, his movie has to be fairly self-contained, since all of the dollops of universe building in Marvel’s Phase 2 have been setting up Civil War and Infinity Wars rather than this Avengers picture. The fact that he even made a watchable movie while juggling all of those elements is amazing and he did more than that. He made a damn fine bit of superhero blockbusting. Age Of Ultron just isn’t quite the event of The Avengers and that’ll be enough to make some fanboys call it a failure, which it isn’t.

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Things kick off with the Avengers back together again in the midst of a wild heist to steal back Loki’s pokey stick from the last movie. There are some big glorious action scenes and Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver are introduced. Then things slow down for a bit so that the Avengers can hang out and have a party. All sorts of wise-cracks are made and cameos pop up. Then the party is rudely interrupted when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s secret AI invention Ultron appears fully formed for a big speech about how he plans on destroying earth’s mightiest heroes to create a utopia. Ultron then blows a bunch of stuff up and jams a wedge in the middle of the Avengers. So now they’ll have to make friends again and find a way to join forces once more to stop a threat that just might end the whole gosh darned world. Plus Iron Man finally busts out his Hulk Buster armor for some Hulk-busting, Black Widow develops a crush on Bruce Banner, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver learn to harness their powers for good, Nick Fury returns from hiding, War Machine finally makes a mark on the team, The Vision is introduced, and a bunch of other stuff happens.

More than anything else, Avengers: Age Of Ultron posed an insane writing challenge for Joss Whedon that he somehow managed to meet. With the easy n’ satisfying “get the team together” structure of the last movie no longer an option, he’s got to juggle a massive swab of characters and plots while also delivering big blockbuster action scenes every 15-20 minutes. The movie could have easily been gobbledygook (and indeed there are times when it’s hard to keep things straight, like Thor’s subplot that goes absolutely nowhere), yet for the most part Age Of Ultron feels effortless. The best sequences are the ones when The Avengers simply hang out and Whedon gives them all crackling dialogue that plays off their personalities and is an absolute pleasure to watch. These moments are asides, which there theoretically should be no room for in a film of this scale, but Whedon finds a way to sneak ‘em in constantly without losing his rushing sense of narrative momentum. The film touches on themes like the perils of AI, what it means to be a hero in this wacky modern world, and questions the need for their even to be an Avengers. So Whedon’s script has some thoughts on its mind, there just isn’t much room for those thoughts to be explored thanks to all of the colorful characters and pretty explosions competing for attentions.

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All of the returning cast members fit their roles like a glove. Whedon gives them all just enough to do to satisfy the fans and actors and thankfully they clearly still all enjoy each other. Robert Downey Jr. of course steals the show, but you know that already. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is charming enough to make you yearn for a solo picture that might never arrive, while Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson’s characters continue to be expanded to the point that their solo movies would be welcome as well. The new characters are all fairly welcome additions. James Spader’s Ultron is an amusingly smarmy and sarcastic evil robot in a way that only Spader could muster and despite limited screentime he’s one of the best villains in a Marvel movie to date (though to be fair, there’s very little competition for that title). Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are endearing Russian accented and morally mysterious additions to the team, even though their characters are only really introduced here with plenty of room for expansion elsewhere. Ditto, Paul Bettany’s Vision, who looks and sounds right, but ultimately only shows up to be a ringer in the climax. There’s just not enough screentime to go around for the new characters to feel fully fleshed out while all the old stalwarts are getting showcased. Thankfully, Whedon’s good enough at pithy dialogue and quirky characterization that their brief appearances make enough of a mark for audiences to not really realize some characters have been short changed until the credits roll.

Now that Marvel Studios is an institution and it’s easy to take for granted that an Avengers movie can be as good as Age Of Ultron.

Once again, the MCU formula is starting to feel increasingly familiar. Whedon might come up with a clever twist on the “stuff falling onto a major city” cliché Marvel climax, but it’s ultimately not that different from what we’ve all seen so many times before. These movies are starting to become a little overstuffed and predictable, but that doesn’t by any means suggest they are bad. The trouble is that you can only be the new guy on the scene for so long. Now Marvel Studios is an institution and it’s easy to take for granted that an Avengers movie can be as good as Age Of Ultron after last summer delivered to unexpectedly brilliant additions to the universe with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Inevitably, these movies are going to get stale, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to enjoy along the way.

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For one thing, it’s astounding how unashamedly nerdy this superhero epic is after years of Marvel and DC movies that have tried to curb off the fantasy edges of comic book mythology for mainstream acceptance. Capes are flaunted, laser beams are fired out of heads, magic is wielded through dancing hands, and gloriously silly dialogue about fate and the universe is dropped without irony. Age Of Ultron feels like a flat out geeky Marvel Comics romp in a manner that few of the Marvel movies have been willing to embrace thus far. Five to ten years ago, it would be unthinkable that such a movie would arrive on screens in such a grand scale. Now it’s an exciting reality, but one that will come with a cost. As the MCU becomes increasingly, nerdily fantasy based, the universal appeal of the franchise will slide a bit with it. That’s the risk the studio is taking by pushing this series into flat out cosmic adventure mode. It’ll be fun to see that happen, but we’ll all also have to start to accept that these things won’t be for everyone anymore. The nerds must take it all back and hopefully a few bros will be willing to come along for the ride.

Blackhat (Movie) Review 1

Blackhat (Movie) Review

There was a time when super cool hackers were the villains of every big dumb action movie because it seemed like a moderately hip thing to do. Then there was a time when everyone actually started using computers and realized how utterly ridiculous those dumb hacker plots were and it all went away. Then Edward Snowden happened. Now Enemy Of The State’s most outlandish element is the idea that Will Smith could father sane children. So, it was inevitable that there would be a return to cyber thrillers and now we have the first one in Blackhat. The movie also marks the return of the once great Michael Mann (Heat, Manhunter) to the director’s chair after six years and stars none other than Thor (his human name is Chris Hemsworth). So, hey! Maybe this one will be good. Maybe it won’t be another one of those movies where characters spend most of the screen time standing around a laptop explaining the plot to each other. Maybe the time is right for someone to make one of these movies feel frighteningly real. Or maybe it will just be a boring trudge through all the usual hacker thriller clichés with only the use of smart phones to distinguish it from 90s techno thriller nonsense. Actually, who am I kidding? Blackhat will definitely be that last one.

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Chris Hemsworth stars as a hacker who is like totally the best at hacking and stuff and even super dangerous. He’s locked up in prison for a variety of cybercrimes, like some sort of Hannibal Lector who knows C++. Trouble starts a brewin’ when an even more evil hacker robs a bunch of money because of the stock market and stuff. The US government’s cybercrime team (led by Viola Davis and her ridiculous wig) gets super scared because this new hacker guy’s really good. They need help. Luckily one of Davis’ lackeys was college roommates with Hemsworth and notices that the new cyberterrorist is using Hemsworth’s old code. So, a deal is cut and Hemsworth is released under the stipulation that the former evil cyberterrorist will help bring down the newer, eviler cyberterrorist. From there, it’s time for a series of scenes of people standing around laptops talking about how dramatic and suspenseful everything is supposed to be. Eventually there are guns and things blow up and that’s all shot and executed very well because Michael Mann knows how to do such things. But by then it’s hard to care. The movie’s dragged on for ages and oh my God, is this thing actually going to stretch past the two-hour mark? Answer: yes it is. End of plot summary.

The big problem with Blackhat is the problem that no filmmaker has ever managed to fully overcome: the challenge of making a group of people starring at a computer screen seem remotely exciting. It doesn’t matter how many shots are cut together or how wacky the camera angles get, that’s just some inherently un-cinematic stuff. Michael Mann is of course a consummate visual stylist whose influence has been so profound that his movies don’t look that distinct anymore. So, he does everything he can to make the endless typing/hacking scenes exciting, but it’s a fool’s errand (even when he resorts to Matrix-style “follow the electronic information” digital tracking shots). Admittedly, Mann does put a little more effort into ensuring that the hacking and techno-babble is more plausible than usual. But unfortunately screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl (whose previous biggest credit is, I’m not joking, the additional editor on I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry) delivered a story so inert and characters so indistinct that there’s nothing Mann can do. Sure, he has Hemsworth and co. speak in quiet measured tones so that we think we’re supposed to take it all quite seriously and everyone is dressed very fashionably, but none of that changes the fact that Blackhat is a big dumb thriller masquerading as art and failing to even offer much in the way of pop entertainment.

The movie does look rather pretty though and since that’s why most of Mann’s fans primarily adore in his work, there will likely be apologists. However, it will take a particularly strong Michael Mann apologist to excuse such absurdity as a 6+ foot Hemsworth with a Thor-sized body somehow sneaking around the streets and airports of Indonesia undetected because he’s wearing sunglasses. That’s just stupid action movie contrivance and you can’t pull that sort of thing off in a movie trying so desperately to be taken seriously. Now, it should be noted that there are a couple of good action scenes squeezed into the movie and Mann’s remarkable talent for staging cinematic action has not diluted in the slightest. The trouble is that in a movie as inane, tiresome, and forgettable as Blackhat, those big set pieces only serve as a reminder of all the better movies that exist that you could be watching instead. Blackhat is far from the worst movie ever made, but it is the worst movie that Michael Mann’s ever made. Given how long he takes between projects, it’s hard to watch Mann stumble like this knowing there will be a long wait before his inevitable recovery. The best approach is simply not to see Blackhat at all. No good will come of it and at least you’ll never have the memories to scrape out of your brain.

 

Thor: The Dark World (Movie) Review 2

Thor: The Dark World (Movie) Review

Of all the Marvel heroes comprising The Avengers, Thor was always going to be the trickiest to translate to the screen. After all, the Norse god with formal speech and a celestial backstory doesn’t exactly pack the same simplistic punch as his “explained in their names” buddies Iron Man or Captain America. The last time Thor got a movie, director Kenneth Branagh got around those weaknesses by poking fun at them through camp humor. It worked well enough for audiences to ignore the fact that the plot was a remake of the 80s Masters Of The Universe movie, and now that it’s sequel time, much has changed and much has stayed the same. The film remains laced with winking referential humor as is a Marvel movie staple and this time it’s also filled with massive CGI action that wasn’t in the budget of Thor 1. In the end, Thor: The Dark World is meaningless pulp that essentially throws a bunch of stuff at the screen and leaves the heroes in roughly the same place they were when it began. However, Marvel Studios has turned into such an impressive entertainment factory that it works. The film is more amusing than last week’s Ender’s Game despite the fact that it offers none of the intelligence or meaning. As far as cinematic cotton candy goes, you could do much worse.

The plot is a bunch of incidental gobbledygook designed to facilitate as much CGI action and brotherly bickering as possible. We start with a prologue setting the stage for a Dark Elf (Christopher Eccleston unrecognizable under prosthetics) who has beef with those Asgard folks and wants to plunge the universe into all-consuming darkness. To do so, he needs a weapon called The Aether and a special time to attack when all the realms of the universe align. Guess what time in the space charts this movie takes place? Back on Earth, Natalie Portman’s Thor-loving astrophysicist is struggling to date London dudes who aren’t Norse gods, semi-working with her intern Kat Dennings (who now has her own intern because that’s HILARIOUS), and listening to her scientist crazy boss Stellan Skarsgard babble about planets aligning. She also discovers some sort of inter-dimensional portal in a derelict building (don’t ask) that inexplicably transports her right to where the Aether is hidden and infects her with the universe-shattering weapon.

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Back on Asgard, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has created a land of peace and is reluctantly planning to take over the kingdom from his father (Anthony Hopkins). Loki (a never-better Tom Hiddleston) has been imprisoned and is all bitter about it, desperate for revenge. All Thor can think about is Natalie Portman though, so when he finds out that she’s been infected with an apocalyptic weapon he races to her aid. She comes to Asgard, making Thor’s Xena-lite warrior love interest (Jaimie Alexander) jealous and causing Eccleston’s Elf to show up and declare war. Battles ensue and eventually it becomes clear that not only will the final battle to decide the fate of the universe conveniently have to happen on earth, Thor will have to team up with Loki to pull it off. So yeah, it’s a lot of convoluted nonsense overstuffed with characters (I haven’t even mentioned Thor’s battling buddies The Warriors Three, who also suck up screen time even though you can tell the team of writers didn’t really want to use them). The good news is that the plot doesn’t matter that much. It’s just material used to stitch together scenes in which Hemsworth and Hiddleston can ham it up once more and the filmmakers can make big things go boom.

thor2insert3One of the more telling aspects of the film is the fact that directing duties were passed from Branagh to Alan Tyler. For better or worse, Branagh was a filmmaker with a distinct style who left his campy touch on the original. Tyler, on the other hand, hasn’t made a movie in ten years, instead directing-for-hire on television shows like The Sopranos and Game Of Thrones. Now, Tyler certainly has talent, and he’s done great work for television. However, he’s a director who is hired to work within a house style at all times. Marvel has become such a massive movie factory that at this point, they don’t need a filmmaker with a point of view to guide their projects. They’ve got a collection of comic book artists and the best effects team in the biz to design the massive action sequences as well as a staff of writers headed by Joss Whedon to nail the tongue-in-cheek tone. More than any other production before now, Thor: The Dark World feels very much like a Marvel Studios movie over any particular filmmaker’s vision. Obviously, that’s not ideal. However, in this case, that’s perfectly fine since no one knows how to make a Marvel movie better than Marvel Studios.

Thor: The Dark World hits all the beats you’d want out of a Thor movie and then leaves before tedium can set in. Hemsworth doesn’t have as many comedic opportunities as last time, but still does the stomping superhero routine with ease. Natalie Portman brings a pretty face, sarcastic spunk, and a light touch to her damsel in distress routine. Skarsgard gets big laughs as an idiot scientist in his underwear. Anthony Hopkins poses and shouts, as he’s wont to do (though sadly he isn’t hilariously given a new eye patch for every scene this time).  Then, of course, there’s Tom Hiddleston who clearly has a blast returning to the role of Loki that he’s completely made his own. Hiddleston is one of the secret MVPs of the entire Marvel Universe whose dry British wit, delightful evil grin, and classically trained acting chops are always a joy to behold. He is the star villain of this universe and the sequel gives him plenty of opportunities to steal the show. On the sidelines, the Warriors Three are still underdeveloped and underused while Kat Dennings’ wisecracking 20something routine is quickly turning into the Jar-Jar Binks of the Marvel Universe. However, with so much stuff going on and so many characters competing for attention, at least she’s less of a distraction than last time.

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Ultimately Thor: The Dark World is a more consistently entertaining experience than the original, even if Branagh’s campy mockery is missed. The action is more visceral and executed on an Avengers-style scale. The dialogue zips and quips. The plot fires along without the overlong set-up and periods of tedium from the original. The stars shine and the explosions shine brighter. It is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Marvel movie and the studio knows how to give the fans what they want. Like the original Thor, this is still on the low end of the spectrum of Marvel movies. They’ve yet to give Thor a classic solo film like Iron Man or even Captain America and given the difficulty of the subject matter, they probably never will. Making a Thor movie this breezily entertaining is difficult enough and we should all be grateful that the studio has yet to deliver a Thor-sized disaster. It may all be meaningless fluff, but no one is better at providing meaningless fluff to the masses than Marvel Studios. It’s still an excellent popcorn-crunching crowd pleaser that’ll tide over fans until the next Marvel movie epic.  Expecting anything more would be greedy. The flick could and should have been so much worse, and if this is as bad as Marvel movies get, then it’s a damn good time to be a fan of superhero movies.

 

The Avengers (Movie) Review 3

The Avengers (Movie) Review

Since the first screening occurred, word hit the Internet that Marvel Studio’s epic The Avengers is one hell of a superhero romp and I am absolutely thrilled to be able to tell you fine folks that the early hype is justified. When the fledging comic book movie factory announced plans to unleash for a five-movie odyssey climaxing with this iconic mash-up, it was met with a healthy amount of fanboy skepticism. After all, countless comic book movies have been ruined by an excessive cast of costumed characters and making that the climatic goal of the company’s post-Iron Man superhero onslaught seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Well people, they did it. With a feature length introduction to each character already in the books, this sucker hits the ground running and with self-confessed uber geek Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Cabin In The Woods, etc) calling the shots, it’s dripping with fan service. Despite a hefty running time, this movie races by at a breakneck pace sure to keep even the most ADD-afflicted or drug-addled attention spans entertained.

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