Though I enjoyed Marvel’s first Thor film (my review) well enough, I didn’t like it as much as I did the first Iron Man film or Captain America: The First Avenger and especially not as much as The Avengers (my review). That being said, the high quality of The Avengers and the altogether decent Iron Man 3 (my review) had me excited that Thor: The Dark World would be at least an improvement on its predecessor – and, thankfully, it is.
Thor: The Dark World opens with an introduction to the film’s villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a Dark Elf set to destroy the universe with an evil substance called the Aether. We witness Odin’s father defeat Malekith and hide the Aether, but Malekith and other Dark Elves manage to escape in suspended animation. The film then picks up after the events of The Avengers, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) being imprisoned for his crimes against Earth. Meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, and Tadanobu Asano), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) are fighting to make peace in the Nine Realms. On Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), along with her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), is still searching for a way to make contact with Thor again after their last encounter. Her research leads her to the discovery of some sort of magic portal, through which she is accidentally teleported to another world, where she is infected by the Aether, awakening Malekith and threatening her life. Thor returns to Earth and seeks to find a way to save her life, eventually turning to Loki as his only hope for saving Jane, Asgard, and the universe itself.
Marvel has done an excellent job of casting people perfect for their roles, with the prime example being
Tony Stark as Robert Downey, Jr. Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark. Chris Hemsworth is no exception here, as he really falls into his stride and wields the god of thunder’s hammer perfectly. The return of Hiddleston as Loki is also a welcome addition to the film; Hiddleston’s ability to be simultaneously charming and sinister is put to good use as Thor turns to him for help…can he really be trusted? The character brings a couple of nice twists and plenty of humor (including one particular scene in which he jokingly morphs into a certain Captain who we all know and love), though I fear that the character almost turned into too much of a good thing, similarly to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Now, fear not, he never fully crosses that line, but in true Loki fashion he toes the line carefully, with a few jokes becoming a bit annoying for me because they came all at once. Still, Loki’s presence here was overall a good thing, and it would have been a much less entertaining film without him. Part of the reason why the return of Loki is so satisfying is because it gives him a chance to be brother to Thor again. Thor doesn’t know whether or not he can trust his brother, which in one scene he reveals is hard for him to accept. The two were raised together, and it’s difficult for Thor to accept that the person who he spent so many years with has no good left in him. It’s an interesting dynamic that is explored pretty well, however briefly.
Other faces are back in varying capacities. At least a brief mention should be given to Idris Elba as Heimdall, who is simply lots of fun – and he even gets his moment to shine here! Natalie Portman as Jane does a better job here than she did in the first film…but I still don’t believe that she’s a scientist. Thankfully, her relationship with Thor is a bit more believable this time around, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still think she’s an awkward character. The role of her assistant, Darcy, played by Kat Dennings, contrasts with her role in the first film in the sense that I actually liked her here; rather than simply being the comedic relief for the film, she played a definitive part in defeating the villain in the end, and the moments in which she WAS comedic relief played off better this time around. I like that Stellan Skarsgård is back as Dr. Erik Selvig, though you could say that his role here has been switched with Darcy’s in the first film. You could make the argument that the silliness/eccentricity of the character here (he spends more than half the film not wearing pants) is a result from Loki spending too much time in his head during The Avengers, but the fact of the matter here is that Skarsgård would have been put to better use as someone who could convince us that the science in the film is actually believable, rather than using Jane as the throwaway scientist. Either way, he’s at least moderately entertaining here…just a bit of wasted potential. Anthony Hopkins returns as Odin, but he’s gone from bad father in the first film to bad king in this film, making decisions based less on good judgement and more on pride. He even calls Jane a goat…it just seems odd. Eccleston as Malekith makes an appropriately menacing villain, but there is little explanation as to why he is the way he is or any sort of reason for his actions. Again, it just seems like a wasted opportunity.
The visuals of the film are on the whole better than in the first film, which relied mostly on CGI and often looked pretty cartoony. The CGI that is used in TDW is on the whole much more tasteful and refined, but it otherwise relies more on actual sets rather than on a green screen, which I really appreciate. I also really admire the ties that it makes to The Avengers; like Iron Man 3, the implications of Loki’s war crimes on Earth and the effects that they had on our heroes are explored here, from Loki’s imprisonment to Selvig’s eccentricity to various other small examples. It just helps the film to feel a part of the greater universe that Marvel has compiled, and it’s done without making it seem like TDW relies on the events of The Avengers to make sense.
Since I’m the music guy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brian Tyler’s score for the film. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I first learned that Patrick Doyle wouldn’t be returning to score the sequel, since I generally appreciated his work on the first film, but that disappointment has disappeared since listening to Tyler’s score in full. The energy that he also brought to Iron Man 3 is just as present here without feeling like a rehash, and, while his music is almost entirely his own creation, he doesn’t completely abandon the main theme from Doyle’s score, an act that I appreciate for continuity’s sake. The score is definitely worth picking up and listening to if you’re interested in those sorts of things!
This film leaves us with some interesting questions that I won’t spoil here, but just know that the future of Thor and friends should hopefully be a great ride. On the whole, Thor: The Dark World takes what was good about the first film and improves on it, and it also flips around much of what made the first film, shall we say, less than stellar, to make a film that feels fun, adventurous, and even weighted at times, all in the best of ways.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content
1 Comment | tags: brian tyler, Captain America, Captain America: The First Avenger, chris hemsworth, christopher eccleston, darcy lewis, dark elf, erik selvig, heimdall, idris elba, Iron Man, iron man 3, Jack Sparrow, jaimie alexander, jane foster, Johnny Depp, kat dennings, loki, malekith, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, mcu, natalie portman, nine realms, patrick doyle, Pirates of the Caribbean, ray stevenson, rdj, robert downey jr, sif, Stellan Skarsgård, tadanobu asano, The Avengers, Thor, thor the dark world, tom hiddleston, Tony Stark, zachary levi | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
I was fortunate enough to see an early screening of this film the other day. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know what it was about (aside from what I assumed was a squad of gangsters), and I didn’t know what the critics were saying about it. I only knew who was in it and that I got to see it for free, which was good enough for me. Thankfully, Gangster Squad was quite a fun film.
The story takes placte in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, and everything about it feels authentic, from the clothes to the music to the lack of today’s advanced technology – the last of these being pretty important since this film features some elements of espionage. From the very beginning of the film – as in the first two minutes – we are shown that this is going to be a pretty violent film, which makes sense since we’re dealing with gangsters. The title is derived from a special team of cops, led by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), whose goal is to take down the gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), a former boxer and now the head of organized crime in LA.
In the assembling of the so-called “Gangster Squad,” we’re treated to what I consider to be an Avengers-esque montage in which we’re introduced to each member and their specific talents one by one. There was another scene later that seemed to be a cross between the fight montage from Captain America: The First Avenger and the newspaper headlines sequences from various other films (i.e. Ghostbusters, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, etc.). That’s not to say that they weren’t well-done or original – just familiar.
There are two standout performances in this film. The first comes from Josh Brolin as “Sarge” (as he’s called in the movie); I’d only seen him before in The Goonies and in the 2010 remake of True Grit, so seeing him in the lead role here was a nice, real introduction to him as an actor. His character exuded a strong confidence that fit his position as leader, and his desire to do the right thing no matter what was palpable. Ryan Gosling was even better than Brolin; I’d never seen him in anything before and only knew that he had been in The Notebook, so I didn’t anticipate him being anything special, but I was amazed to see that he was not only competent but also quite good. His character is Sgt. Jerry Wooters, a man who is at first reluctant to join the Gangster Squad, but his fraternization with Cohen’s girlfriend (Emma Stone) and the death of a friend at the hand of some of Cohen’s men convince him to join the fight. Gosling’s character brings some humanity to the field; he’s passionate for both his friends and his girl, and he holds the lives of these people at a higher priority level than he does the arrest of Mickey Cohen. He makes sure to keep Sarge in check so that he’s keeping his own life a priority.
*major spoilers in this paragraph*
My favorite part of this film was that the filmmakers weren’t afraid to let members of the Gangster Squad die; in fact, two of them do. They don’t have a miraculous recovery, but their deaths do not feel superficial…it doesn’t feel like the filmmakers killed them just to kill them. Sometimes, it seems like characters are killed just for the sake of killing them, and other times it seems like characters that should die due to injury are granted ridiculous reprieves. Thankfully, this film is smarter than that.
Overall, Gangster Squad may be violent and have some bad language, but that’s expected from a film like this. It’s a lot of fun, the actors do a great job, Jablonsky’s score is (surprisingly) superb, and the film itself feels neither too long nor too short; at just under two hours, it’s a perfect length for a film like this. The storytelling is pushed along by the action, but it isn’t mindless at all, and, in fact, most of it is quite entertaining. Everything is done really well, from the 1940s setting to the acting by everyone involved – Brolin, Gosling, Penn, Stone, et al. – does a fantastic job in a film that does a fine job of kick-starting this year’s movie lineup.
Upon mulling over it a while longer, I’ve lowered my original rating by a star. Enjoyable, but not fantastic. Suffers from poor storytelling, flat character development, awful dialogue, and a few instances of just bad cinematography. I stand by my evaluation of Gosling especially, who was brilliant, but everyone else, including Brolin to a point, falls short.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
MPAA: R – for strong violence and language
2 Comments | tags: 1940s, avengers, Captain America, Captain America: The First Avenger, Emma Stone, espionage, gangster squad, gangsters, Ghostbusters, goonies, Harry Potter, harry potter and the order of the phoenix, josh brolin, los angeles, mickey cohen, ootp, order of the phoenix, ryan gosling, sean penn, the goonies, the notebook, True Grit | posted in 3, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
I never saw Thor in theaters when it first came out because I wasn’t interested in it. In fact, I didn’t see it until the day before The Avengers was released, and I only watched it then so that I could fully understand the new movie. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.
I’ll start off with what I didn’t like. I didn’t like Darcy. Yes, she had some funny lines, but that seemed to be her only purpose. I think it would have worked perfectly fine if that character didn’t exist…Dr. Selvig and Jane Foster would have been a fine team on their own. I also didn’t care much for Jane Foster. I’ve always thought how weird a movie this was for Natalie Portman to appear in, and it’s that sensation of seeing the actress from Black Swan in a science-fiction film with gods that makes me just dislike the character a little bit. Aside from this being a weird movie for Portman, I felt like the relationship between her character and Thor was rushed and forced. Not enough time went by for them to fall in love with each other, so the emotional goodbye toward the end and Thor’s love for her just seemed irrational to me.
I did like Chris Hemsworth as Thor, though, despite the fact that I don’t like the character all that much. In the same way that Robert Downey, Jr., IS Tony Stark, Hemsworth seems to be Thor; it’s just an instance of perfect casting. I also really enjoyed Tom Hiddleston as Loki. This was the first film I had ever seen Hiddleston (I have since seen him in The Avengers and War Horse), and it was a great first impression. He portrayed a brilliantly conflicted character turned villain, and he improves the character even further in The Avengers. Yes, Hiddleston and Hemsworth are definitely the best parts of this film.
Overall, I enjoyed this film, but it just doesn’t match the quality shown by Iron Man before it or Captain America: The First Avenger after it. I would definitely place it ahead of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, though. It’s a fun film, and it’s different from any of the other Marvel films (the ones leading up to The Avengers, I mean) because it’s the first one to introduce sci-fi elements.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence
6 Comments | tags: Captain America, chris hemsworth, Iron Man, ironman, loki, natalie portman, The Avengers, Thor, tom hiddleston | posted in 3.5, Film Reviews
When I first learned of this film in the year or two before its release, I kind of ignored it; traditionally, I’m not a huge superhero movie fan, with Batman being an exception. But as time went by and the final Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers were released, I had a revelation: five superheroes from five completely different movies (plus two extra heroes who were mixed in) were going to be on the big screen together in the same film AT THE SAME TIME. I realized how incredible that was and instantly became a time bomb, ticking away the time as the release grew closer and closer. And it didn’t disappoint.
The Avengers succeeds in just about every possible way a film can succeed. The characters were likable and believable despite their unbelievable abilities, the villain was fantastic, and the script was fun and smart. Tony Stark is back as Robert Downey, Jr. – wait…strike that, reverse it – with hilarious one-liners, Chris Hemsworth as Thor is a better character than he was in his own movie, Chris Evans returns as a fantastically conflicted Captain America, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is ten times the villain he was in Thor.
I’m not going to delve too far into the movie, but there is one thing that I DO have to talk about: The Hulk. After two previous films based around the character that were mediocre at best, The Avengers finally got our big angry green guy right. Joss Whedon was smart enough to make Banner/Hulk not someone who tries to avoid being angry but instead someone who embraces his anger and has fun with it. There are three extremely satisfying moments with the Hulk: when he first transforms in NYC, when he punches Thor, and when he smashes Loki. Mark Ruffalo also might be my favorite Bruce Banner so far, which is an added bonus. The Hulk just might have been the best character in this film.
So, how good is this film? Let me put it this way – I’ve seen it four times, and I have friends who have seen it more times than that. I could ramble on and on about how great this film was, but I’ll let you see it and decide for yourselves. Everything about this movie is great; if you don’t enjoy it at least a little bit, you must not like fun very much. Go check it out!
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference
7 Comments | tags: black widow, Captain America, chris evans, chris hemsworth, hawkeye, hulk, Iron Man, ironman, jeremy renner, joss whedon, loki, mark ruffalo, rdj, robert downey jr, scarlett johansson, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, tom hiddleston | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
I was fully prepared to listen to Craig Armstrong’s score to the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk and give it a bad review, but things didn’t go according to plan. When I first acquired this soundtrack about a month or so ago, I was pretty unimpressed, listening to it just for the sake of listening to it. Nothing stood out to me, nothing was terribly memorable; it was just pretty lackluster, in my opinion. However, once again, listening to it from the perspective of someone about to write a review on it completely changed my opinion.
First, let me say this: as a whole, this score IS pretty forgettable. But it’s not because it’s a forgettable score, if that makes sense. It’s because there’s not a catchy main theme that stands out. Right now, at this very moment, I could sing to you the theme songs for Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers, but I wouldn’t be able to sing you a single bit of music from The Incredible Hulk, despite the fact that the main theme for the film is heard throughout the score. It’s a shame, really, that the main theme isn’t something iconic or catchy because it’s darned good.
The Incredible Hulk’s score is full of emotion, exploring the inner conflict of Bruce/The Hulk in tracks like “Bruce Can’t Stay” and “I Can’t”, as well as the relationships between various characters in the film. These tracks are rather helpfully given titles that identify the people: “Ross and Blonsky”, “Hulk and Betty”, and “Bruce and Betty”. This score is also filled with action, from the incredibly exciting “Favela Escape” to “Abomination Alley” to “Harlem Brawl”.
Where Armstrong fails is in composing a theme that, like the character, would be instantly recognizable to everyone who heard it. He sacrifices memorability for content, which is of higher quality than the film itself. As I said, it’s a shame, but it’s also a blessing. I’d personally prefer an overall awesome score with a non-memorable melody than an awful score with an awesome theme. What are my favorite tracks, you ask? “Favela Escape”, “Bruce Can’t Stay”, “Bruce Must Do It”, “Are They Dead?”, and “Hulk Smash” stand out to me as particularly awesome.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- “The Arctic” (2:47)
- “Main Title” (2:39)
- “Rocinha Favela” (3:11)
- “A Drop of Blood” (1:35)
- “The Flower” (2:49)
- “Ross’ Team” (1:33)
- “Mr. Blue” (1:03)
- “Favela Escape” (3:35)
- “It Was Banner” (1:32)
- “That Is the Target” (5:34)
- “Bruce Goes Home” (1:25)
- “Ross and Blonsky” (3:15)
- “Return to Culver University” (2:39)
- “The Lab” (1:17)
- “Reunion” (3:37)
- “The Data/The Vial” (1:20)
- “They’re Here” (3:07)
- “Give Him Everything You’ve Got” (6:08)
- “Bruce Can’t Stay” (1:54)
- “First Injection” (1:03)
- “Is It Safe?” (1:07)
- “Hulk Theme” (3:59)
- “Saved from the Flames” (0:53)
- “Grotto” (2:53)
- “Arrival at the Motel” (1:48)
- “I Can’t” (2:15)
- “Abomination Alley” (3:56)
- “Bruce Found” (2:52)
- “Bruce Looks for the Data”(1:05)
- “NYC Cab Ride” (1:17)
- “The Mirror” (1:17)
- “Sterns’ Lab” (4:17)
- “Bruce Darted” (3:00)
- “I Want It, I Need It” (1:36)
- “Blonsky Transforms” (1:16)
- “Bruce Must Do It” (2:11)
- “Harlem Brawl” (3:51)
- “Are They Dead?” (2:40)
- “Hulk Smash” (2:25)
- “Hulk and Betty” (1:50)
- “A Tear” (1:01)
- “Who’s We?” (0:56)
- “The Necklace” (1:44)
- “Bruce and Betty” (5:06)
- “Hulk Theme (End Credits)” (3:59)
Total Length: app. 112 min.
Amazon Album Link
Notes: This album is not available on iTunes, so I have provided the link to the album on Amazon.com above. Also, I own the 2-disc version of this album. For a condensed version available for mp3 download, click here.
3 Comments | tags: Captain America, Craig Armstrong, Iron Man, Marvel, Soundtrack of the Day, soundtrackoftheday, The Avengers, The Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, Thor | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
Really, if I chose any soundtrack other than Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger for today, I don’t know if I could call myself an American.
The score to Captain America is one of my favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helped along by the fact that Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) is also one of my favorite film composers, and nothing quite says “America” like the Cap’s main theme (as far as film themes go, that is).
Most of the Captain America score is pretty excellent, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hear lots of Back to the Future and Night at the Museum throughout. For example, compare the opening seconds of “Hydra Lab” with “George to the Rescue – Pt. 1” from Back to the Future (click titles for YouTube links). Captain America’s “Farewell to Bucky” is the track that sounds especially like some bits of Night at the Museum. Sure, it’s a little disappointing, but the theme itself takes away a lot of that disappointment for me…it’s just too darned American/fun.
I really don’t have too much to say about this one; it is what it is and it does it well. Sure, it borrows freely from Silvestri’s other scores, but it still manages to be one of the better superhero soundtracks that I’ve ever heard…certainly not the best, though. But with a main theme like this and a song composed by famed Disney composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Tangled), called “Star Spangled Man”, how can you go wrong?
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
1. “Captain America Main Titles” 0:56
2. “Frozen Wasteland” 1:53
3. “Schmidt’s Treasure” 3:01
4. “Farewell to Bucky” 2:50
5. “Hydra Lab” 1:54
6. “Training the Supersoldier” 1:08
7. “Schmidt’s Story” 1:59
8. “Vitarays” 4:25
9. “Captain America “We Did It”” 1:59
10. “Kruger Chase” 2:55
11. “Hostage On the Pier” 2:46
12. “General’s Resign” 2:18
13. “Unauthorized Night Flight” 3:13
14. “Troop Liberation” 5:06
15. “Factory Inferno” 5:06
16. “Triumphant Return” 2:16
17. “Invader’s Montage” 2:16
18. “Hydra Train” 3:27
19. “Rain Fire Upon Them” 1:39
20. “Motorcycle Mayhem” 3:05
21. “Invasion” 5:09
22. “Fight on the Flight Deck” 3:30
23. “This is My Choice” 3:26
24. “Passage of Time” 1:35
25. “Captain America” 1:08
26. “Star Spangled Man” 2:53
27. “Captain America March” 2:36
Total Length: app. 74 min.
iTunes Album Link
Leave a comment | tags: 4th of July, Aladdin, Alan Menken, Alan Silvestri, America, American, Back to the Future, backtothefuture, Beauty and the Beast, BTTF, Bucky Barnes, Captain America, Captain America: The First Avenger, chad hopkins, chadadada, chadlikesmovies, Forrest Gump, Fourth of July, Independence Day, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Merica, Night at the Museum, soundtrack, Soundtrack of the Day, soundtrackoftheday, United States of America, USA, Who Framed Roger Rabbit | posted in 3.5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews