Archive for super heroes

Review: Thor: The Dark World

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

thor-the-dark-world

The latest in the never-ending march of the Marvel Studios films was released in the UK last Wednesday after what seemed like an age since the first trailers and leaked posters. And it’s landed with a clap of thunder.

A lot of familiar faces are back from the first Thor film as well as Avengers Assemble including Chris Hemsworth & Tom Hiddleston as the titular God and his tricksy half-Brother Loki, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings & Stellan Skarsgård return as the group of scientists who are always on the lookout for the return of the extra-terrestrial Norse deities. The other Asgaardians are also back in the shape of Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo as Odin and Frigga, Thor and Loki’s parents; Idris Elba as the gatekeeper, Heimdall and the Warriors Four; Sif, Fandral, Volstagg & Hogun played by Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson & Tadanobu Asano respectively.

In fact, the only notable new face is one you probably wouldn’t recognise at first glance as he is hidden under quite a lot of make up and speaks the majority of his lines in Elvish & with quite a deep voice modulation: Christopher Eccleston plays the Dark Elf leader, Malekith, whose race ruled the universe under a dark veil before the Asgaardians defeated them and brought light back the Nine Realms. All sound a bit sword-and-sandals and less super hero-y? That’s because Kenneth Branagh has been replaced by Alan Taylor as director. Taylor has most recently directed the ultimate fantasy TV series, Game of Thrones, which may explain the change in setting and tone.

In fact, the opening 30 minutes or so of Thor: The Dark World are a bit bleak and low on energy, even though Thor and his band of warriors are off battling evil across the Nine Realms while Jane Foster (Portman) and Darcy Lewis (Dennings) are trying to find both Thor and their professor, Erik Selvig, who has gone AWOL.

It’s only when things have gone really bad and Thor releases Loki from his cell in the dungeons (for his crimes against the universe in Avengers Assemble) that the film really picks up speed. Tom Hiddleston really does steal the entire film from everyone; the interplay between his character and Thor, who is limited by the character’s emotional range, is really funny but also highlights the fact that it’s easier to write for a slimy villain than for a benevolent character.

However, there are some comedy Thor moments, such as him having to ask for directions while in the Tube in London (where all the plot set on Earth is based). Though the directions he is given by the commuter are probably more laughable, if you know London! The majority of the laughs come from Loki though; as the God of Mischief he is the one able to let go and have real fun with his character, especially in the scene where he shape-shifts both himself and Thor a number of times. Darcy is there for comedic effect as well, but I found her injections somewhat forced and her character grated on me very quickly.

It was good to see both Natalie Portman and Idris Elba having more to do in their roles this time round as both their stars have risen since the first film. Elba has even become so famous outside the UK that they let Heimdall take his helmet off! He also has one of the more bad-ass action sequences as he single-handedly takes down a cloaked Elvish ship with nothing but his bare hands and a couple of daggers.

The action sequences are what make this film as the plot can be a little hard to keep up with if you aren’t ‘au fait’ with the Nordic character and place names, not to mention the plot about dimensions aligning and Malekith’s plan to bring darkness to the universe again using ‘The Aether’, a strange, almost sentient, fluid that infects a host body and wields untold power. The final fight sequence leaves you breathless but, thanks to the fact Taylor has kept the film under two hours, doesn’t drag on and on like quite a few of the big super hero films of late – even if it does span dimensions.

All in all the plot is a bit all-over-the-place (but this is a sci-fi/fantasy film after all); the costume, set and world designs are spell-binding and the action sequences are thrilling and tense. This is a worthy sequel, not better than the original, but different enough that it doesn’t matter. Who knows how far the character can be taken, but judging by the two post-credit sequences he will be back in at least the next Avengers film.

P.S. The first of the two post-credit scenes stars Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, who is tasked with looking after The Aether. He will be a main villain in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film due for release next year.  This film will be a mix of live action and animation with characters like Rocket Racoon (whose name speaks for itself) and Groot, a living tree. This has worried me since I heard about it as the whole universe started off based in semi-realism and seems to be heading in a very cartoonish direction. I will try to reserve judgement until a trailer is posted – but things are starting to look and sound a bit weird.

Roll on Captain America: Winter Soldier.

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Review: Kick-Ass 2

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Kick-Ass 2 poster

When Kick-Ass came out in 2010 it stood out. It was a film based on a little known graphic novel about a boy who wanted to be a superhero, but who discovers he’s woefully unprepared and was also beaten to the punch by a young girl and her father. In the course of the film he inspires a bunch of copycat heroes to don masks and fight crime. Sound a bit familiar? Well this film did it with the worst language and most horrific violence yet seen in a comic book movie, and this is what set it apart from the Marvel and Dark Knight films that were dominating the box office at the time. It was invigorating and not for the faint hearted.

Kick-Ass 2 picks up with our heroes two years on and Hit Girl/Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) has joined the same high school as Kick-Ass/Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) after her Dad’s death in the last film. She is being looked after by her Dad’s old partner from the police, Marcus (Morris Chestnut) who is trying to give her back her childhood by making her act like a normal 15-year-old girl. Mindy is finding it very difficult to make friends and stop acting like Hit Girl, especially as Dave is into the idea of bringing Kick-Ass back as her sidekick after two years off.

The majority of the first half of the film concentrates on Mindy’s shift from Hit Girl to teenage girl and is a little slow going. There are some funny scenes after she gets shunned by the ‘cool’ girls in which she hits them with a ‘sick stick’, the effects of which need no explanation.

Meanwhile Chris D’Amico, Red Mist from the last film (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has become obsessed with the fact that Kick-Ass killed his father with a bazooka and vows to become the world’s first super villain, The Motherfucker. The reason you haven’t seen much of him in the trailers and TV spots is because there isn’t a line where he doesn’t swear like a trooper. Oh, and his costume is, essentially, a gimp suit he found in his Mum’s wardrobe! He is assembling a team of super villains with names like The Tumor (Andy Nyman), Genghis Carnage (Tom Wu), Black Death (Daniel Kaluuya) and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) in response to Kick-Ass joining a group of super heroes including Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Battle Guy (Dave’s friend from school Marty – Clark Duke), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) – the eventual love interest for Kick-Ass and their leader, Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).

Colonel Stars and Stripes seemed to have been set up to be quite a major character in the initial spots and trailers. However, possibly because of Jim Carrey’s recent shunning of the film because of the gratuitous violence, the character seems to have been cut out quite heavily, which is a shame, but I suppose is understandable from the filmmaker’s point of view. Strange career choice there, Jim, and it’s a shame because this is possibly the most enjoyable role he’s played in a while.

Just like the first film, Kick-Ass 2 is a bright, vibrant, fun, shocking, breath of fresh air of a movie. It is slower paced and has long sequences that revolve around the development of the characters, but it still packs in some amazing action set pieces a lot of which centre on Hit Girl or the woman mountain that is Mother Russia, whose big finishing move is to break people’s necks with her legs. The climactic fight between these two is gruesome to say the least! The story is brought to an, almost, definite close but leaves the door slightly ajar to spin-off into Hit Girl movies or even further Kick-Ass ones. It would be a shame if these characters never got an outing again, so fingers crossed for some more in the future.