Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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Superhero Squad’s Latest (And Last?) Release Is More Kid Friendly Comic Based Fun

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Comic books today aren’t meant for younger readers.  Being a grown up comic book geek, I’ve seen the content in comic books change dramatically over the years.  Perhaps it’s a product of the time, but even the movies on which the comics are based are anything but kid friendly.  Thankfully, Marvel has crated a line of comics that is kid friendly.  And in accordance, there’s even a comics based cartoon called The Superhero Squad Show that is great for young comics fans.

The Superhero Squad Show is great for kids because while it has all the great adventures that have made the characters great over the ages, the general content of those adventures is entirely kid friendly.  It doesn’t have any harsh language, sexuality, etc.  Add in bright, vivid, hand drawn animation, and audiences get another positive in an era when so many “cartoons” are really just a bunch of CG based visuals.   On top of the great artwork and the kid friendly content is a fun comedy element that both kids and parents alike will love, including constantly breaking down the fourth wall.  There are even pop culture references tossed in throughout the show that parents will love, including a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in what seems to be the series finale.

Yes, Season Two Volume Four seems to be the finale volume from this family and kid friendly comic based series.  All research done on the show seems to point out that the show has ended.  If that’s the case, then it has been wrapped up nicely in this volume.  Volume Four picks up where Volume three left off.  Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, and Ms. Marvel are trying to bring the rest of the squaddies back after being captured.  But it’s not as easy as it seems, as they have to face Baron Mordo, when he breaks into the Squad’s base and captures Captain America.  Eventually, the evil Baron is beaten, and Mr. Fantastic gets the base’s satellite dish fixed and brings back the rest of the squad.

Once the whole team’s reassembled, everything eventually leads up to the final confrontation between the Dark Surfer and the squaddies.  And who would have thought, even Dr. Doom inadvertently helps out, though only for his own benefit.  When both Dr. Doom and the squaddies face off against the Dark Surfer, the Squad is able to get each of the stones away from the Surfer’s duplicates and defeat him…or so they think.  Everything comes down to one final battle between Iron man and Dr. Doom over the Infinity Sword.  The conflict leads them to accidentally destroy the sword.  It’s that destruction that finishes off the Surfer once and for all, and returns him to the form of the Silver Surfer.  And while Surfer admits guilt for what he’d done and the Squad still backs him, knowing he was under a spell, he is still taken away by Ronan (voiced by Michael Dorn).  The squad goes back to Earth, where everything is finally back to normal, and the Scarlet Witch is even accepted as a member of the squad.

The Superhero Squad Show is a great kid friendly introduction to the world of comics.  Given, it may upset some hardcore fan boys as it has no link to the comics in general.  But in an age when so many comics are anything but kid friendly, this seemingly final volume from The Superhero Squad Show makes for one more great introduction for young fans to the world of comics.  It’s action packed without being too edgy.  It has lots of bright hand drawn colors, which is equally appealing.  And the comedy and pop culture references are enough for young and old comics fans alike.  Season two Volume Four is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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The Avengers gets an “A” for effort

Marvel’s The Avengers is a good start to the Summer movie season this year.  The build up for the movie has been nearly as immense as that for the finale of DC’s current Batman franchise.  And the end result definitely lives up to all the hype.  It’s translated to the big screen as if it were actually a live action comic book.  Some comic books over history haven’t translated to the big screen so well.  But this one did.  However, for all the greatness that was this highly anticiapted seasonal opener, it wasn’t without its flaws.

Anticipation has been growing over the newest of Marvel’s comics-to-film franchise, The Avengers.  From toys to promos to everything in between, The Avengers have been everywhere.  And it’s paid off with over $200 million in its opening weekend.  This movie is everything that a Summer blockbuster should be.  It has all the requisite explosions and action that audiences look for in their attempts to escape the mundacity of the every day world.  Thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn, they’ve somehow managed to bring the action from the pages of the famed comic series and make it feel like audiences are actually seeing the comic book itself on the big screen, without going the Joel Schumacher route a la DC’s Batman & Robin and Batman Forever.  The chemistry between the cast was obvious too.  It was funny to see Tony Stark and Dr. Banner interacting.  The banter between the two was worth its share of laughs in and of itself.  The same applies even more so when the full Avengers team is together in one room.  The one-liners from each team member make for plenty of laughs throughout.

For all the laughs and great action, The Avengers is not without its faults.  The sexual innundo that is typical of Tony Stark is there.  And one can’t help but wonder if his subtle joke about Banner potentially using marijuana to stay calm was entirely necessary.  What’s more, do audiences really need preachiness about military buildup?  Audiences are bombarded with such stories every day on the news.  Having the Avengers quarreling with Director Fury over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s real intentions takes a certain amount of escapism from the movie.  It’s not the first movie to go that route, either.  What’s more, that the movie is an ensemble piece, it does tend to drag on a little bit too long.  Whether it’s telling backstory of each member of the Avengers team, or from other areas, Whedon and Penn could have found a way to shave off twenty to thirty minutes from this roughly two and a half hour movie.  Keeping that in consideration, one can only hope that when the already anticipated Avengers 2 makes its debut, whomever writes and helms that movie will have taken the good and bad from this one to make a sequel that defies common logic of sequels.