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
Note: This will be as spoiler-free as I can possibly make it. If there’s something I just can’t avoid, I will warn you before you read on.
To say that Iron Man 3 was an anticipated film would be an incredible understatement. Marvel’s first follow-up to last year’s incredible The Avengers (my review), this film had quite the expectation to live up to. Did it? For the most part, I think so.
Iron Man 3 picks up presumably a few months after the events of The Avengers, with Tony and Pepper back home in Malibu, but something’s different…Tony can’t sleep. Haunted by the alien invasion in New York and determined to protect “the one thing [he] can’t live without,” Pepper, Tony spends all of his time designing and building new Iron Man suits and fighting off panic attacks. To put things in perspective, the suit in The Avengers was Mark VII, while his newest suit in this film is the Mark XLII (that’s 42, for those not versed in Roman numerals). When a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) hits Tony close to home, he must overcome his personal struggles in order to protect the woman he loves and to stop the imminent threat of The Mandarin. Along the way, we are introduced to blasts from Tony’s past, including Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen and Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian.
Much like Christopher Nolan’s final film in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (my review), this is an Iron Man film with more Tony Stark than Iron Man (in fact, there are quite a few comparisons that could be made to The Dark Knight Rises, but I’ll save those for another time) – but don’t worry, there are still plenty of great moments with the suit. I personally really enjoyed seeing more of
Tony Stark as Robert Downey, Jr. Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, as we see a more humanized version of the character. He is a real person who struggles with real people problems just like you and me, bringing an interesting contrast between Tony Stark as Tony Stark and Tony Stark as Iron Man and a lot more to the table than just RDJ flying around in a suit behind a mask. He has a scene or two with Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes in which both men are without their suits and are forced to rely on their own abilities and instincts to solve their problems rather than rely on their armor. RDJ’s likability in the role shines brightly throughout the film, with another side of the character coming out with the introduction of a new character, a boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins). Harley’s father left him seven years previously, and his mother works at night, so he is often alone. When Tony Stark steps into his life, he’s dragged into Tony’s mission. Stark treats Harley like an adult, which, though it sometimes means he makes snarky or “rude” comments (including a quip about how leaving is what fathers do and that he should man up and suck it up), it shows that Stark respects Harley enough to speak with him honestly and as an equal. The banter between these two characters works incredibly well, with their time onscreen together being some of the best moments of the film. Guy Pearce does an admirable job in his role, though I don’t want to delve too much into his character…spoilers and all that.
Almost every film comes with its disappointments, and Iron Man 3 is no exception. The funniest film of the three, I actually thought that the writers tried to bring too much humor to the table, with some of it feeling forced or unnecessary. I don’t want an Iron Man film that is taken 100% seriously, but I do think that the film as a whole could have survived with fewer attempts at getting a laugh. For reasons that I won’t list here, I was very disappointed with Ben Kingsley’s character, The Mandarin, and, while I thought that Guy Pearce did a decent job as a sort of supplemental villain, a better Mandarin would have been preferred. Lastly, Gwyneth Paltrow, though she does a fine job as a dramatic actress, is not an action star and should not have ever been given the opportunity. That being said, the chemistry between her and Downey, Jr. is palpable and never feels canned, instead flowing rather naturally between the two actors in a great way.
I didn’t fully flesh out my complaints due to spoilers, but, as I said, I enjoyed the film for the most part; in any case, it was a huge improvement over the awful Iron Man 2, so we should all rejoice for that. Six years after the release of the first Iron Man film, Robert Downey, Jr. continues to slip as effortlessly into the role now as he did then, and it manages to be a worthy followup to The Avengers. With decent performances all around and an enjoyable score from Brian Tyler, Iron Man 3 pleases for the most part and leaves me hoping that we see plenty more of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in the future.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content
2 Comments | tags: aldrich killian, ben kingsley, brian tyler, Christopher Nolan, colonel rhodes, don cheadle, guy pearce, gwyneth paltrow, harley, Iron Man, iron man 2, iron man 3, jr., mark vii, mark xlii, Marvel, maya hansen, New York, NYC, pepper potts, rdj, rebecca hall, rhodey, robert downey, The Avengers, the dark knight rises, the mandarin, Tony Stark, ty simpkins | posted in 3.5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
Ramin Djawadi’s score to the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 2008’s Iron Man, proved to the world that Marvel was attempting to accomplish something…well…different. Just as they have separated themselves from the traditional superhero movie, they have separated themselves from the typical superhero film score. Where John Williams’ score to the original Superman film, starring Christopher Reeve, is filled with a literally soaring main theme, loud and triumphant, Ramin Djawadi’s score to Iron Man is decidedly more modern, rock-based and very fitting of the rock star personality of the titular character.
Heavy guitar is featured throughout, being used in nearly every track, from “Driving With the Top Down” to “Merchant of Death” to “Gulmira”. The use of such an unorthodox instrument (as far as film scores go) emphasizes the nature of the character: wild, impulsive, and expressive. It drives the score in the more action-oriented scenes, showing that the Iron Man character is not someone to be taken lightly like Superman might be with his soaring hero theme; Iron Man is real, he is in-your-face, and he’s not messing around.
All of that being said, the score is not without its quiet moments. “Vacation’s Over” does not feature any heavy guitar at all, focusing instead on the traditional movie orchestra, which provides a sort of return to the civilized world in comparison to the more primitive, or less controlled, sound of the guitar. Very appropriate, considering the fact that it’s heard at the scene in the film when Stark is rescued and returns to the United States. Other more reserved tracks include “Extra Dry, Extra Olives”, a tentative piece that lightly builds on the budding relationship between Tony and Pepper, and “Are Those Bullet Holes?”, perfectly representing a moment that shows how much Pepper really cares for Tony and how she is concerned for his well-being.
Overall, Ramin Djawadi has created something truly different and unique in his score for Iron Man: music that perfectly embodies the character that it was written for while remaining entertaining enough for both rock and film score fans to enjoy it. I regret that it doesn’t have much of a theme associated with the character (Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” doesn’t count), but that doesn’t stop this score from being quite enjoyable and special.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
- “Driving With the Top Down” 3:10
- “Iron Man (2008 Version)” – John O’Brien & Rick Boston 1:05
- “Merchant of Death” 2:15
- “Trinkets to Kill a Prince” 3:08
- “Mark I” 3:54
- “Fireman” 2:09
- “Vacation’s Over” 3:35
- “Golden Egg” 4:13
- “DamnKid” – DJ Boborobo 1:13
- “Mark II” 2:47
- “Extra Dry, Extra Olives” 1:44
- “Iron Man” 3:30
- “Gulmira” 4:06
- “Are Those Bullet Holes?” 2:00
- “Section 16” 2:34
- “Iron Monger” 4:45
- “Arc Reaktor” 3:56
- “Institutionalized” – Suicidal Tendencies 3:49
- “Iron Man” – Jack Urbont 0:20
Total Length: app. 55 min.
iTunes Album Link
Leave a comment | tags: chadlikesmovies, Iron Man, John Williams, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ramin Djawadi, Soundtrack of the Day, soundtrackoftheday, Superman, Tony Stark | posted in 3, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
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