Thor: The Dark World (2013): Thor, Loki, and Jane Foster and the gang are back in the sequel to 2011's Thor. This time, a force that was believed to be dead has returned and of course, thanks to the totally creative and original once-every-thousands-of-years-circumstances circumstances, tries to end the universe! But Thor and only Thor can stop it.
So I kinda just poked fun at the movie's story there obviously but despite that, I actually did enjoy myself. The story plays it 100% safe and doesn't stray from the superhero formula that has been established over the years at all, but it was still fun! It delivers exactly what you would want from a superhero movie nowadays. Fun action, a great girl to admire, and some comedy to balance it all out. Even though here the comedy claimed my second favorite actor in the Thor world of the Avengers, Stellan Skarsgard, or Dr. Erik Selvig, who's delegated to the guy who's just insane but is somehow comical in his insanity. Even though his character wasn't like that at all in the original or in The Avengers. Pacific Rim did this type of comedic relief and nailed it with Charlie Day/Burn Gorman and their crazy scientist characters, but Thor 2 doesn't get it quite so well, mostly because Skarsgard doesn't have the comedic timing that Day and Gorman have. But I digress, as this part is not really important to the story. So.... the girl! Well I guess there are two great girls here. Personally I adore Natalie Portman. She is gorgeous and resilient as ever in this. And Kat Dennings is good too as the other girl. Her role is reduced to the right amount, because a little bit of Dennings does go a long way. And Chris Hemsworth is once again fantastic as Thor. They absolutely nailed that acting choice for Thor. Like almost as great as casting RDJ as Iron man. He looks like he's made out of chiseled marble, he's charming, and he's charismatic. In exactly the way that you would picture Thor being. Like RDJ has become Tony Stark, Hemsworth is really becoming Thor in my eyes.
However it's Thor's "crew" that gets pushed to the side here. Their roles are practically nonexistent, and they get even less time to flesh out their characters than the thirteen dwarves do in The Hobbit. Yes The Hobbit is an hour longer but there's more than twice as many dwarves! And Bilbo! And Gandalf! And yet each individual dwarf gets more time than Thor's company. That's ok though because, since this movie is well within the Avengers universe, this really feels (like Iron Man 3) like another sequel to the Avengers. In this sequel the big question that's answered is Loki's fate. As a result Loki gets a lot of screen time and is why Thor's crew gets pushed to the back burner. Which is great for many fans of this movie series. I know a lot of people love the Loki character of this whole thing, and so they'll be glad to see him back in full force. However this is also my single biggest complaint of the movie. I borderline HATED Loki's character arc. I can't talk about it without doing spoilers, but I'll just say that there were several things here that I didn't buy at all. One great moment with his character surrounded by a lot of not-so-great moments. It makes me sad because this was the one part where the movie started getting out of the safe zone and making things interesting, just to be like LOL JK. Not going in this cool direction! Just going to play it safe. Again. (If you think I just did a spoiler, I didn't. You have no idea what I'm referring to if you haven't seen this.)
So I spent a lot of time talking about characters, but that's because there really isn't a whole lot else to talk about. The effects were great. Probably not Oscar-worthy but still good. Asgard was absolutely beautiful to admire, and the cinematography did a great job to make sure you had plenty of time to admire the world created here. I want some side-by-sides of 2011 Asgard and 2013 Asgard, because I think this one may look significantly better than the first one. The costumes are also fantastic, worthy of a mention obviously, as once again Asgardian clothing is beautiful. That's really it. Oh can I just say that the final boss fight makes no sense at all? Like Iron Man 3 and most of the Marvel movies, they create their rules like your supposed to do but then just say screw it! And throw all logic out the window for the final battle. Still, trivial complaints. I mean this movie is exactly what you'd want from a superhero movie, as I said earlier, and is far better than the 2011 original, but I'm still waiting for those elements that Christopher Nolan found in his Batman movies that really make his movies "immortal" to cross into Marvel's world. The only one that has achieved this thus far was The Avengers, but it got a significant amount of help from the fact that nothing like that had ever been attempted before in movie history. Oh and when you remind yourself of the fact that this is in that same universe, you get a lot of plot holes. Like, where was SHIELD when the universe was about to explode here? Or any of the Avengers? One single Avenger makes a very brief appearance in this one, but in a reference sort of way. Which was more than what happened in Iron Man 3 where the only thing we got was a post-credit scene with Stark and Banner having a conversation when it comes to reminding us that all these superheroes are in the same world. But the post-credits sequence here will keep the comic nerds happy more so than Iron Man 3's did with what we are going to see in The Avengers 2. But I'm going to wait for Captain America 2 because that one looks like it's going to explore what happens to SHIELD after The Avengers. As in, they will be around when whatever is threatening the world in that movie is threatening the world. In short, what Marvel is doing is clever, but there are still a lot of flaws. And as time progresses these flaws are going to get worse if they don't plug them up in upcoming movies. And it makes me slightly worried because I feel like they aren't going to be able to plug up these flaws as instead they are expanding the universe with these Netflix exclusive shows. But we'll see in time. Right now it's just speculation.
So that was a lot of writing and kind of turned into a tangent on this entire Marvel universe. Sorry. But ya if you are going to see this movie, you will enjoy it. Just don't analyze it like I am. If you do it may not be as enjoyable. Mindless action. That's a good way to describe it.
The Critique: a stereotypical popcorn flick. Safe and secure, mindless fun.
The Recommendation: comic fans and action fans alike should find something fun here. Oh and Chris Hemsworth takes his shirt off at one point! That brief clip should satisfy the ladies for this one if they hate action movies. But guys, go see About Time if you're looking for a date movie this weekend. Please.
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
Oscar Talk: Don't really see anything coming out of this one, but there may be a nomination for effects.
Ender's Game (2013): The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth.
So that's the IMDB synopsis. It is one of the longest synopsis I have ever seen for a movie. And see this is the movie's main problem. It is too big for it's own good. This is a classic example of a sci-fi movie that bit off more than it could chew. There's just too many unpolished ideas that don't go anywhere and too many jumps in the convoluted story to really get from point A to point B in a credible fashion. Here's a perfect example: the movie does not even remotely give you the sense of Ender moving up through the ranks. One minute he's a new recruit at battle school then the next he's on the best team within the battle school war games groups then he's commanding his own unit then he's at commanders school being told that he's going to command the entire human fleet! Just like that. Obviously this also creates an awkwardly paced movie with no sense of time whatsoever. A countdown clock is showed at one point but you see it exactly once. But you're supposed to just believe that he's smarter than everyone else he's competing against. Which are the best and brightest that our planet has to offer. I can't forgive this. There could be an entire movie just on the section where he's commanding his own unit, an island of misfit toys, and the turnaround they have. Quick PS by the way I don't feel these are spoilers, because after all the whole premise of the movie is that this is Ender's game against the alien force. Get the name? And I can't even remotely begin to voice and describe my complaints without letting unimportant parts of the story slip. And believe me...the movie views them as unimportant. There's about 15 minutes of movie (if that) with him commanding his own unit.
Let's talk about themes. I've noticed Facebook has been talking a lot about and complementing the fact that the movie nails the main genocide theme that it has throughout the movie. Which is quite true. There was general heartfelt moments (probably the best points of the film) when Ender is questioning the morality of his actions. The problem is that this is not the only theme Orson Scott Card, writer of the novel (of the same name) that this movie is based on, which I have actually read, is trying to convey. Now it is a movie adaption, so I'm definitely expecting many things to be lost here, but that's not the problem. The problem is that they are not lost. There are about seventeen additional themes here that get touched at one point or another: fighting back against bullies, living away from home and feeling homesick, the bond between brothers and sisters, violence in video games, and just the general morality of having kids run the war that they are in, to name a few. Oh that's another thing I should mention....I saw the first possible showing that my theater had of this movie, and it was relatively full. There were a rather significant amount of people that just could not take the fact that the children were talking like adults seriously. And it wasn't just one group or anything. No it was probably about half the room. There's only about one joke in this movie (it is a very dark and serious movie) and yet the room was laughing quite a bit at the characters. That just tells me that this theme of the morality behind using kids to fight our wars was just completely lost on the audience, simply because they just didn't have the time to touch on it in the 114 minute film.
But it's not all bad. The movie is great from a visual standpoint. The fighting sequences are the calling card of the movie, just as they were for the book. While some of the war games games were a little hard to follow and rather chaotic, the later fights are pretty spectacular and gave me chills. This movie is a who's-who for acting talent, and everyone puts in great performances. Even Harrison Ford! The role he was playing actually required some acting, which of course Ford provided. As opposed to the cash-ins that some of his more recent films have been. (I'm looking at you Indiana Jones 4!) However there was almost no character development in anyone. Actually no....there was no character development at all! Ben Kingsley's character is the perfect example. In the book, he's my favorite character, but here he gets next to no screen time. To the point that you can forget that he's even in the movie were it not for a few dramatic stares from him to Ender at various points. However Asa Butterfield (most known for playing Hugo in Martin Scorsese's Hugo) as Ender puts in a fantastic performance, and Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) also put in spectacular performances. I really look forward to seeing what more these three great child actors have to offer in future movies. But still, this movie is just too murky. Fans of the book will be able to follow, but I fear that those who have no idea what the book is about may find themselves getting lost and asking those with them who have read the book what's going on. Which did happen with me. I went with a friend who had never read the book, and while she did enjoy herself being a fan of sci-fi, she did ask me a few times what was going on because a technical aspect of the film was confusing. And obviously outside of the sci-fi fan base I would definitely say stay away. You will not be able to appreciate what this movie is trying to do if you don't appreciate sci-fi.
The Critique: a sci-fi movie that bit off more than it could chew (didn't I say that earlier?)
The Recommendation: a must see for those who like the book and a solid recommendation for those who like sci-fi. For everyone else though, avoid like the plague.
The Verdict: 5.5/10 slightly above average
Oscar Talk: probably a nomination for Best Visual Effects but I say Gravity beats it out still. Like it will everything else (at least in this specific field)