Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Thor: The Dark World

Come to daddy. The worst thing about Thor: The Dark World is the greasy hair. Apparently, despite their civilization lasting since the dawn of time, they haven’t figured out how to make shampoo because everyone looks like they haven’t washed their coifs in weeks.

That aside, the second follow-up to The Avengers succeeds in being probably my favorite sequel produced by Marvel so far. (We’ll have to see how the second Captain America comes out as the trailer is pretty freakin’ great.)

So first things first. I saw the new film in 3D so I could see the exclusive Cap preview. Is it necessary to see Thor 2 in 3D? Not at all. If I see it again (and I just may), I will be going with the standard option. The 3D does your standard mediocre conversion job, much like Iron Man 3. (Though this is certainly better than the awful job that was done on the first Thor.)

On to the most important things: how is the movie itself? I’m giving it the same grade as Iron Man 3, but I think I like this film a smidge better. The main differences are that while I had my problems with the last Iron Man film to be sure, Shane Black’s dialogue was fantastic. While there are some great moments of dialogue in Thor, it is certainly not at the same level. However, I enjoyed the story more (it didn’t seem like as much of a retread of the previous film as the pattern the Iron Man films have followed) and overall I liked the tone of the film more despite some puzzling, but not devastating, choices with the editing.

The film borrows heavily from Walt Simonson’s run on the character for its main plot involving a race of dark elves from before our universe began. They sought to return the universe to the darkness that they knew and were put down by Bor, father of Odin. If there’s a flaw in the film’s storytelling it is this bit; while the motivations of the elves in many ways mimic those of General Zod from this summer’s Man of Steel in destroying what is to try to bring back a facsimile of what was, less attention is paid to giving the elves or their leader, Malekith, much exposition as to their motivation. It’s forgivable to me because in classic myth there is rarely clear-cut motivation. Characters of these archetypes are usually simply good or evil. Creators/keepers of the status quo or destroyers. And that’s the case with comics as well. I adore Simonson’s run as possibly the best use of the character in his long and storied history, but I don’t remember Malekith being particularly deep on the page either. I just remember his looking like a black and blue version of Frank Gorshin on Star Trek. What’s clear is that they’re bad guys, just like other one-dimensional villains that have run the gamut from the great Star Wars stormtroopers to the hilarious drug-peddling ninjas in Miami Connection. Faceless lackies meant to be menacing.

Marvel adapts the plot to fit with the more cosmic-oriented Asgard of the film universe. This is just fine with me because I have always found the myth-based and cosmic lines of Marvel to be in largely similar in their use of confusing, logic-challenged wonkiness in service of big ideas and cool concepts. The elves are going to use a floating liquid called the “Aether” to remake the universe. How does that work? Hell if I know. But I don’t particularly care because the fact is, it does. Let’s take the maguffin at face value.
And the film delves far more into the myth and history of this particular version of Asgard than the first film which was largely an Earth-based origin story. It does a pretty good job balancing the action of the marauding elves with the family drama of the Asgardian royals and the subplots involving Jane Foster and her superscience pals from the first film.

Unsurprisingly Loki gets a pretty major role following his previous popular turns and his relationship with Thor remains prickly and emotional. Most of the actors and characters that I enjoyed from the original film return intact with Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo both in fine form as Thor’s parents. I’m one of the few defenders of Natalie Portman as Foster, feeling there’s a detectable chemistry between her and Thor. (Odd how some people seem to see it and some people don’t.) I’m also one of the people that actually really enjoyed Kat Dennings and Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd and I, for one, loved how they were used in the film. I hate to drag other people’s opinions into my review, but I’ve seen complaining about the amount of ‘comic relief’ in the film. Some of it from the same people complaining about Man of Steel being too serious. All I can say is that the comedy worked great for me and I laughed throughout the film, never finding it to be too much for the heft of the story to bear. With the “wibbly wobbly timey wimpy” stuff in play, I don’t have any problem with being tongue in cheek. That was a big part of what I thought made The Avengers work so well. This isn’t on the same level, but it works. It doesn’t surprise me that Whedon came in to help on a few scenes.

The only characters that really get short changed are the Warriors Three. They do get their moments, but mostly they are fleeting. Here’s hoping they get further exposure in the next film.

I would have welcomed the return of Kenneth Branagh as director, but for a first feature, Dark World is a hell of a ‘debut’ for TV vet Alan Taylor. The film ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, true to its comic book roots. I can’t wait for the third chapter in the franchise and look forward to the big lunk’s return in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

(Four damns given out of five)

Kent’s Movie Diary: Ramblings on Nostalgia

pursuit-algiers-poster

10/20/13- Only two Basil Rathbone films left and I’ll have seen all the Sherlocks. Apparently, according to a commentary on the set, Pursuit to Algiers is considered the low point of the series, but I actually quite enjoyed it. I can see why some people don’t; the fact that it’s somewhat padded with musical numbers (though they’re actually fairly well written into the story since one of the characters is a singer) and the fact that about halfway to two-thirds of the way into the film, Sherlock stops having to try to solve a mystery as the bad guys pretty much announce themselves and the rest of the film is a cat and mouse game of one-upsmanship as he proves to be the more resourceful. Plus, Nigel Bruce’s blustery Watson gets very few of the quiet moments of dignity he’s afforded in many of the films to keep him from being a total cartoon. Personally I liked the red herrings that were thrown about as well as the twist at the end. Plus I enjoyed the way they wrote a reference to one of the Holmes stories that would never find its way to the screen: The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

Pure of Heart, says his prayers, blah blah.10/30/13- Boom! Halloween awesomeness! I’ve seen a couple of good old fashioned Halloween classics over the last week at the Drafthouse. First, The Wolfman. You know, the original with Lon Cheney Jr. that repeats the “Even a man that’s pure in heart…” nursery rhyme three times in the first half hour, just in case someone happened to be in the bathroom. It’s one of my favorite of the Universal Horror films. I missed the opportunity to see Creature of the Black Lagoon in 3D which saddened me greatly and I wasn’t able to hit Bride of Frankenstein (another of my favorites), but at least I got one in. I’d always wanted to see one of the classics on the big screen and even though it was digital projection instead of a print, how can you go wrong? It has the distinction of being later than most of the films (though certainly much earlier than Creature, which was the studio’s classic horror death rattle.) Despite this, it fits in well with the earlier films given its mix of ‘modern’ and stylized atmosphere. There are people walking around in 40s attire, yet the buildings are all old, there are cobblestones, the Hollywood Gypsy is in full effect and there are as many horses as cars. At the time it may have seemed archaic, but given all the time that’s elapsed since its release, what was once current fashion melts together with the old-timey touches to create a now timeless current of eras past.

I admit that it’s weird how my mind will associate things from the forties to the mid-sixties as having this timeless feeling while most things after that tend to have to work much harder to impress me. The black and white picture and the pre-cultural revolution fashion seems to help sell what would make me roll my eyes if it starred people with shaggy hair and some stupid striped bell-bottoms. I wasn’t born until the late 70s, so it’s not nostalgia. Not unless one can experience nostalgia for things they never experienced and can never truly be a part of. I sometimes wonder if, to quote The Beach Boys, I just wasn’t born for these times. In some ways our current technological advances make this thought as

My precious....

My precious….

possible as it ever has been. I have been amassing a pretty decent record collection lately thanks to avenues like ebay and Amazon supplementing my local record store (which has delivered some pretty choice nuggets, proving the internet isn’t the end-all be-all.) Yeah, vinyl. And vinyl sales are up 17% over the past two years, so obviously I’m not the only one buying them. Most of my absolute favorite songs were recorded pre-1962. Yet I don’t think I exclusively fetishize the past since I still obviously love a lot of modern pop culture. I preordered the blu rays for a lot of films this summer. I just preordered the new album by Five Iron Frenzy (which can be argued is as much misplaced hope for a fourth wave of ska as it is 90s nostalgia) and I have a pretty good selection of modern music mixed in, even if they’re on a defunct format. Just because I hate 90% of the radio and a lot of what’s popular on TV, doesn’t mean I’m completely devoid of modernity. (“He said, ruining his own argument.”) I may be the wrong person to judge this, but I find myself better off than the people that fetishize the “now” to the exclusion of all else, refusing to learn from history and thinking that everything they do is new and unprecedented. (Even to the point they think the reason things that have been tried before and failed, failed only because they weren’t involved.)

Diaryghostbusters_ver2_xlgSome actual childhood nostalgia came into play last night, however. And it’s entirely justified as Ghostbusters hasn’t just been my favorite film since I was approximately eight years old, but I truly believe it is one of the greatest comedies of all time. It displays a masterclass of comedic timing, chemistry and intelligent writing. Plus, the structure of the film and it’s build-up from a trio getting scared out of a library to a quartet facing down a Godzilla-proportioned confectionary mascot is flawless. It also is one of the greatest performances of Bill Murray’s career, which is saying something. The presentation was a quote-along in which patrons were encouraged to say their favorite lines along with the characters in the film. Usually there are subtitles presented, but it seems Sony/Columbia is completely nutty and would not allow the words to be put either on screen or in any kind of handout. We did get treated to glow sticks (to be used when Ecto-1 was running through the streets with the siren going), slime balls and marshmallows. I’ve only gotten to see the film on the big screen twice and they’ve both been very recent. I guess I’m making up for lost time.