When Marvel Studios released Thor in 2011, they entered into a different realm with their productions. Iron Man II and Incredible Hulk had begun laying the groundwork for The Avengers but the tone of those films were very similar. They were scientifically based superheroes, if you want to use that word, operating on a very heightened level of reality. With Thor, Marvel pushed the limit and blurred the lines between fantasy and sci-fi in a way that was very impressive, considering that had it failed to connect, the Avengers as a project may never have come together the way it did.
Thor – The Dark World, the sequel to 2011’s Thor is very much another example of Marvel pushing boundaries with how they want to test the public’s acceptance of genre-bending comic adaptations. Which is why Thor – The Dark World is basically the best Star Wars movie to come out in the last two decades. Looking at parts of it, Thor – The Dark World seems like a space opera in a fantasy setting more than anything else. Truly, it is astounding how fearless they were in putting this whole thing together. Moreso than the first Thor film, The Dark World asks a lot of the audience in terms of world building and genremashing filmmaking.
Of course, The Dark World is as much a sequel to The Avengers as it is the first Thor Film. They have much more leeway to play with themes and story-lines here than they otherwise might. The fallout regarding Loki is paid off here, and the second and third acts of the film are very much Loki-centric. Tom Hiddleston continues to shine as the darker foil to Hemsworth’s Thor, but their chemistry together here cannot be understated. Chris Hemsworth’s role as straight man to Hiddleston’s charming rogue is as just as deserving of praise, if not more. If Marvel has done anything right in their movies at all, it has been casting actors for these roles that play off against each other magnificently. Downey Jr. and Ruffalo, Hemsworth and Hiddleston, etc. All of these actors elevate the material in ways lesser actors could not.
The Dark World is definately a step up from 2011’s Thor, if only because the scope is intensified tenfold. We get more of Asgard here, more witty interplay between our central characters, and action that while not as grand as the climax as the Avengers, is perfectly in line with a sequel of this nature. The only shortfall that I can find with the film is that Christopher Eccleston is mostly wasted in his role as Malekith. Eccleston is a fine actor and his role in G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra had more meat on its bones than he is able to display here. I think much of that may stem from the fact that he is speaking an alien tongue for 90% of the runtime, but also his motivations and reasons for being the central antagonist do not get developed beyond rudimentary exposition dumps.
I think they truly nailed this one. Not many will find fault with this entry. They take risks that pay off well in the end. Those who so strongly opposed Iron Man III‘s narrative twists will not find anything similarly enraging here. This is the Marvel Phase II film that folks have been waiting for.
Seriously, you guys, I might have pee’d myself a little last night watching this movie. It was just the balls. I don’t think I have ever been so enamored with a comic book adaptation so long as I have lived. If Watchmen had made me feel half this tingly maybe it wouldn’t be an afterthought in most people’s memory. I was lucky enough to score VIP screening passes for Scott Pilgrim through a friend who used to work with me up at the store and it was all I could do to not hump her leg while weeping tears of gratitude but then I figured that not doing so would be the bigger sort of thank you, and restrained myself.
For those of you not keeping track at home, Scott Pilgrim is the film adaptation of the book series of the same name that may be the greatest Canadian manga ever concieved. It is the book that gave us such unforgettable panels as this:
Unfortunately that particular scene is not in the film. My soul weeps, but it’s okay, because a lot of the weirder/more hilarious stuff did make it into the film when I feared that it would be excised in the name of rational thought. But this film defies rational thought. It exists to make your brain turn into jello pudding and tell you to giggle like a little girl. It is the kind of movie that doesn’t get made often; the genre-hopping whirlwind of dubya-tee-eff crushed inbetween the dueling breadloafs of coming-of-age drama and romantic comedy to form a totally awesome sandwich of WIN!
Now, despite my gushing I have to say that the film has some flaws that will be more obvious to those who haven’t read the books, mainly that condensing the series down so heavily cuts out a lot of the character moments that made the books so damned amazing. We don’t get inside Scott or Ramona’s head in such a way that we ever really feel the true weight of their relationship or the relationships they left in the past. We just get that Scott is kind of a dork and Ramona is a hot chick with a lot of baggage and everything just sort of goes from there.
For those of us who have read the books, everybody is so damned perfect in their roles it’s not even funny. Kieran Culkin is downright amazing as Scott’s super-gay roomate Wallace Wells and Mark Webber is damned awesome as Stephen Stills aka “the Talent.” Oh, and this film does nothing to stifle my crush on Anna Kendrick, who I’ve totes had a thing for ever since I saw Up In The Air.
If you don’t go see this movie when it comes out, we can’t be friends. If you don’t like the movie, I’m going to kick your (insert cuddly animal friend here). That’s not a threat, that’s a promise. *glare*
Writing a review of Inception isn’t an easy task. It’s a film that’s complex and layered in ways that a single viewing of the film really isn’t enough to gain concrete perspective on everything the film is, everything the film sets out to be, and everything the film accomplishes. It is one of the most amazingly crafted films I have seen in years and the reason that it is such an amazing product comes from the inabilty of anyone watching it to catagorize it into any one particular niche. It’s very much a science fiction film. Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein would have greatly appreciated Inception as a testament to what you can do with the genre. At the same time, it borrows heavily from the Michael Mann heist style neo-noir of Heat with casual effortlessness.
The criss-crossing of established genre boundaries and refusal to hold the audience’s hand makes Inception a sight to behold in a summer of films that aspire to be a whole lot of nothing. I mean, I loved Predators but it was mostly a remake of the original without being a remake. That’s really the bottom line. This summer has been a summer bereft of originality. While there is a bit of familiarity in the style of Inception, and while it owes a great deal to what came before it, it’s a game changer in the way we look at the summer blockbuster in the same way The Matrix was back in ’99. This film is brilliantly taut, it’s an action film that knows how to pace itself and yet deliver on every level at the same time. There is a real element of uncertainty to the film’s narrative because anybody can die at any time and that may not be the end of their life. At what point does the danger of the subconscious cross over into the world of reality? Nolan keeps us on the edge of our seats knowing that death is a possibility for any of these characters. There is a sense of foreboding that follows every character, an intensity that is not often seen in modern cinema. Nolan is the kind of person who would kill of DiCaprio in the middle of a film for the sake of jarring the viewership, and you can feel that as the story progresses.
While the film is visually amazing and outright stunning in certain places, it’s the scriptwork that realy holds it together. The character work and the layered complexity of the dreamscapes and heist plans make for an engaging experience that goes beyond what our eyes are taking in. Not a lot of filmmakers nowadays can pull that sort of craftmanship across the board. Nolan proves himself to be in the caliber of someone like Stanley Kubrick with what he’s given us here. I will say that I think this is a movie that NEEDS to be seen on the big screen. While it’s an amazing story, the visuals cannot be denied. It’s a spectacle. Nolan hasn’t done anything like this before. Everything captured on screen here is a testament to his worldbuilding ability. With all the amazing work that went into all the different elements of Inception, it is going to be a film that people hold in the same regard as 2001 or Blade Runner when they point to good intelligent sci-fi. The resurgence of Sci-Fi as an accepted genre makes me seriously happy. The fact that we get different subsets reaching different audiences without being dismissed as the bastion of nerdfolk gives me hope for the future. That Star Trek and District 9 were so praised and now we get something like Inception shows that sci-fi can be a respected niche again. It just takes the right steady hand to play in that sandbox.
This summer movie season has been almost achingly limp thus far. Nothing has really assaulted me with over-the-head displays of greatness. Iron Man 2 came close, but my expectations weren’t blown out of the water the way they were the first time around. With the introduction of The A-Team, I think the summer movie season may have found it’s footing.
You see, the A-Team felt to me like Star Trek did when it first hit theaters. There were traces of what made the original so much fun with a modern edge thrown in that remedied some of the problems with the first go-around. In the case of Star Trek it was budget, while in A-Team it had more to do with bullets actually hitting what they were fired at.
What makes The A-Team work so well is the chemistry. Neeson, Copley, Cooper and Jackson all feel like they’re old friends, so nothing comes off as forced. Which really is a godsend, because if those guys couldn’t pull off the team dynamic, it would have been enough to sink the movie. The obscenely insane action sequences just would not have worked if the four team members didn’t bring their a-game to the roles.
Also, Patrick Wilson gets to play against his nice-guy type here, which is awesome because I think that dude is underrated beyond belief. I was hoping that Watchmen would have elevated his profile a bit but unfortunately that movie didn’t do anybody any favors.
A lot of the critics have been panning this film and I simply don’t get it. It’s like they’re forcing themselves to hate the movie because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s like all of a sudden every action movie has to be this hyper-realistic Jason Bourne/Casino Royale attempt at grounding everything to reality. But sometimes I want to see a parachuting tank shooting down predator drones. I don’t care that the laws of physics are being defied openly and with reckless abandon. In some instances, such lunacy is warranted, and here it works.
Just go with it, guys. It’s worth it.
Also, I want to lick Jessica Biel’s legs. Those things are proof of God’s existence.
The only problem this movie truly has is the preconceived notions of the audience working against it at every turn. It is quite likely that many will be disappointed at the deviations taken from the standard Robin Hood legend. The origins of characters and their situations have changed and if you’re expecting a rehash …of events that played out in the Erroll Flynn or Kevin Costner versions of the tale, you will be sorely disappointed. This is most definitely a new take on the myth, with a Robin Hood whose politics lean more toward modern libertarianism than the steal-from-the-rich/give-to-the-poor socialist of old. He’s still a crusader against tyranny, as that is too important to the character to remove. Other aspects are re-worked instead. Gone is the Sheriff of Nottingham as the villain, replaced by Mark Strong’s Godfrey, a political saboteur whose quarrel with Robin comes not out of duty to the crown of King John but out of his interference in his political machinations.
This film is essentially an origin story. The Robin Hood we’re accustomed to is borne out of the events in this film. I think that most people, fueled by the modern cinematic desire for expediency, will find it hard to enjoy this version of Robin Hood, as it doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions of the character or the story he’s associated with. But viewed independent of past incarnations, this is a fine film, which is to be expected of Ridley Scott, who does these sort of films exceedingly well.
I hope that people can look past their biases and see the film for what it is, which is a fine period piece with some excellent action pieces and some equally impressive character moments.
I want to come out and say that as far as comics to film translations go, the franchise that seems to have taken the essense of the stories and chracters and adapted them best for the screen has to be the Iron Man series. Every character retains their core in ways that are lost with films like Batman, Superman, and the X-Men films. I think the most telling moment in Iron Man 2 is when Tony Stark is clutching a bottle of champagne, suited up in the armor and scratching the turntables at his birthday party. The film is very comfortable in portraying the character in moments that otherwise would seem awkward. The films embrace the atmosphere that a billionare in a weaponized suit creates. It’s a level of fantasy fulfillment and straightforward production that seems lost in other films. It doesn’t feel very tongue in cheek, it’s just presented at face value and the audience goes with it, because it seems natural.
Which really needs to be the case in a film like Iron Man. It’s like a ride, and you have to be willing to realize that. Iron Man 2 certainly has some setbacks that are evident in most sequels. I however do not see the problem that certain people do, claiming that the film has too many new characters. All the characters introduced in the film do wonders with the time they are given. Sam Rockwell probably does the most with the limited screen time he’s given, making Justin Hammer his own and providing an excellent foil for Tony Stark and the scenes where the two share the screen are absolutely phenomenal. The chemistry between the two actors is amazing. And I think that’s another crux of what makes the film work the way it does; the chemistry that all these actors bring to their roles is as top tier as you can get. Gwenyth Paltrow, who I normally despise, works well with anyone she’s put up against. The same goes for Downey, or Don Cheadle or even Mickey Rourke, who just seethes a sort of dirty despicability. What I like about this film is that it feels like a Marvel book come to life. We get Nick Fury and the Black Widow sharing scenes with Iron Man and War Machine, all these heroes converging on screen in a way we’ve never seen before. In films like The Dark Knight, we got Batman and multiple villains, creating a miniature scale version of this effect, but that was a microcosm while this feels grander in scope.
While some will argue that War Machine and Black Widow don’t get enough time to be fleshed out completely, and therefore giving the producers no reason to use them in the first place, I think the film does a sufficient job in presenting them in such a way that when the inevitable spin-off films happen, they can hit the ground running in ways they previously could not. The origin story is such a boring aspect to most heroes, and most of the time we’re so familiar with them that we get bored when they play out on the screen, or we get angry if they change something in such a way that it betrays the spirit of the source material. I believe that with Iron Man, Marvel is doing an amazing job of world building. They have more room to maneuver than they ever have previously and it’s sad that DC can’t pull off the same feat. I personally would love to see a post-credits scene in Green Lantern where Hal Jordan is tracking a fast moving bogey only to happen upon a red blur that slows down just enough for us to get a glimpse of The Flash. Or maybe he crashes an F-15 into an invisible jet. Who cares, but let us see a larger world.
Like I said, the film is not perfect, and It probably could have used another big action scene to offset the more character driven dialogue pieces. I don’t need action all the time but the first film felt more balanced in this regard. I will admit however that the final set piece in this film trumps the less than stellar Iron Monger fight in the original, even if it is somewhat derivitive of that particular setup.
I’ve read a single negative review for “The Book of Eli” and its main contention was that the movie was a failure because it wasn’t an overtly bleak and pseudo-artistic piece of Oscar-bait like John Hillcoat’s adaptation of “THE ROAD.” Maybe it’s just me, but downplaying a movie because it doesn’t follow the same pattern of another film with similar themes seems like ass-backward logic.When you start judging movies on what you wanted them to be other than what they are, and more importantly, what they set out to do in the first place, you set yourself up for disappointment.
You have to look at “The Book of Eli” more in line with movies like “Mad Max” or “Escape from New York.” It’s all about being immersed in the world that’s presented and going on a journey with the characters inside. And the characters presented here are painted with very broad strokes. This is not a film about subtle nuances. While Eli’s masterful sword strokes are calculated and precise, the rest of the film owes to towering chaos. While Denzel does a great job playing Eli with a soft-spoken demeanor and smoldering intensity of a wandering apocalyptic samurai, Gary Oldman’s villain Carnegie tells us all we need to know about the film; chewing scenery and going big with his performance in such a manner that the character becomes the polar opposite of Eli in every way from intent, to demeanor, to action.
This movie owes a great deal to movies like “The Road Warrior.” It is a pure genre film complete with many of the tropes and schemes therein and it does not deviate too heavily. The action is bloody, the characters are cut from classic stock, and the film does not aspire to be “high art.” However, as with most genre movies, like “Road Warrior” or “Escape from New York,” the film does have an undercurrent of social commentary. I assume everybody knows what the “book” is but if you don’t, spoilers begin here.
The book is the last bible on Earth, all other copies having been destroyed after a conflict supposedly spiraling out of religious conflict. The film chooses to play with the concept of abuse of religion as it relates to creating and amassing power as well as what measure of control religion has over the minds of the desperate. Eli views himself as the righteous man trying to get the book where it can do the most good, whereas Oldman wishes to use it to consolidate his own power. The major thought pattern that I took away from the film is that those who wish to use the word of God in a manner keeping with its teachings often do not know how to do such a thing and there will always be those who wish to exploit religion for their own gain, publicly appearing to be the righteous man and only revealing his true nature to those who he relies on to further his agenda.
Oldman is akin to modern day preachers who use the word of God to spread hatespeech and stroke their own ego. It would not be surprising, had they given any backstory on the character, to find out that he was at one point one of these types before everything went all bleak and ashy.
So while the movie is not a snooty art-picture, it does maintain a level of social-commentary that genre films like these need to stay afloat.
Taking the movie for what it wants to be, it is in very good company. It accomplishes most of what it wants to do, and fully entertains throughout the duration. The only negatives I can attribute to the film come in the form of Mila Kunis, who is simply to pretty and well kept to show up in a film like this, and a somewhat uneven bit of structure to the action beats.
All things considered, it’s still well worth a viewing, and I certainly plan to revisit the film once it hits home video.
RATING : 7/10