Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: The Dark World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander Christopher Eccleston

Director: Alan Taylor

Synopsis: As Thor works to restore the peace to the Nine Realms in the wake of the events of The Avengersa new threat emerges in the form of the Dark Elves who are after something called the Aether…

Review: Life certainly isn’t easy for a God, especially not for the ones of the red cape wearing variety. In the same year that saw one red caped wearing God struggle to find his place in the world, and fight a battle that saw an entire city suffer some horrific destruction. We had another one trying to clean up the catastrophic damage that was made by his pesky little brother. But for the latter, namely the God of Thunder, there’s an even bigger problem on the horizon that needs his attention, and above all else, his hammer.

As the climax of Phase One of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe drew to a close, the Avengers had banded together when all seemed lost to help stop Loki and his extra-terrestrial army from subjugating Earth.  Following on from all that wanton mayhem and destruction, and the aftermath of it all is where we find Thor who is now seeking to restore order and peace to the Nine Realms. Yet a new threat is emerging in the form of the Dark Elves led by Malekith who is seeking possession of a powerful artefact known only as the Aether.

Having capped off their first Phase in tremendous style, there was an obvious need to do things a little bit differently to keep interest in the universe alive and to prevent it from becoming stale. By consequence, with the the loss of his powers and how me must learn what it means to be worthy to wield Mjolnir or “Miew Miew” as one character so eloquently puts it, being central to the story. As such the studio clearly decided to change that up a bit and this time there’s no big life lesson Thor has to learn while not being as mighty as he used to be.

thor tdw
The man with the mighty mallet…

He’s the all powerful God of Thunder throughout and well it’s a good thing he is since Asgard comes under attack from the Dark Elves who have a history with the Asgardians, none more so than their leader Malekith, who has a very personal score to settle. The story while it is interesting and fun to watch, it doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of what the MCU had seen up to this point. there’s nothing here that feels fresh. It all feels a bit by the numbers in terms of the direction. No disrespect to director Alan Taylor, who up to this point had overseen some terrific Game of Thrones episodes.  For instance the Avengers just had Joss Whedon’s stamp all over it. Here, while the action is well handled, it does feel like there’s nothing that feels truly special in terms of giving audiences something that they had not seen before.

Given that these films are centered on the titular God of Thunder, the right man was needed for the job, and once again Chris Hemsworth showed he was absolutely the right man to wear the cape and wield the hammer. Equally important to the equation, and another excellent casting choice is of course Tom Hiddleston as Loki who despite committing those terrible atrocities in New York is a character whom you just can’t help but like, even though he’s perhaps the most untrustworthy character in the entire MCU, but you know that as a character he’s someone you almost find yourself rooting for due to his roguish personality.

However, as with the first film, the villain here is a real let down and perhaps maybe the poorest MCU villain to date. Christopher Eccleston is certainly a very fine actor, but as Malekith the script really doesn’t flesh him out to the point where you understand where he’s coming from and he comes across as just extremely generic and not in the least bit memorable. Ultimately, despite for the most part being enjoyable to watch, even at this point in the MCU, it slots in nicely as a sequel to both the first Thor film and The Avengers, but certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd in the ever expanding world of comic book movies, which is something that even an object as powerful as Thor’s magic hammer cannot fix.

There’s more than enough here to enjoy, but a pretty by the numbers story and direction mean that The Dark World is not mighty enough to ensure it lands a place among the plethora of truly memorable superhero flicks.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor (2011)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: When the God of Thunder Thor, the next in line to the throne of Asgard, is exiled on Earth, he must learn the error of his ways and prove himself worthy to retain his power…

Review: Norse Mythology is something that has certainly made an impression on pop culture. As J.R.R Tolkien himself has admitted, his works such as Lord of the Rings had their influences from the Nordic myths and legends. Indeed, Marvel Comics certainly decided to utilise said mythology in some of their comics, and thus the character of Thor came into being, first debuting in 1962. Back when Marvel was establishing the foundations of their cinematic Universe, Thor and the realm in which he dwells became a part of that all encompassing world, and what must have been quite the challenge to adapt for the big screen was pulled off quite spectacularly.

Thanks to some narration style backstory from the King of Asgard Odin (Hopkins) we learn that Thor is due to succeed his father as King, but a sinister threat approaches in the form of the Frost Giants, who threaten to turn Asgard and indeed everywhere into a cold dark place. When Thor decides to take matters into his own hands, his actions have dire consequences and at Odin’s behest, Thor is banished to Earth as a mere mortal and must learn from his mistakes if he is ever to take his place at Asgard again. Despite the grandiose setting, the themes of this film are at their core very Shakespearean, which means Kenneth Branagh is right at home having done a great many Shakespearean plays. Sibling rivalry, squabbling, betrayal and all that, mixed in with of course Norse Gods and magic of course (or is that science we just don’t know yet?) It might sound mad, it all blends brilliantly.

thor
This man definitely didn’t skip leg day…

Being one of the key players of the Avengers, casting the right man to play Thor was essential and Chris Hemsworth was certainly the right man. He carries the brash arrogance and swagger that one might expect from a man who wields a mighty hammer, Mjolnir as his weapon. Yet when he’s banished to Earth, he also shows his humility and compassion particularly for his love interest Jane (Portman). The chemistry between a demi-god and a mere mortal human shouldn’t really work but it does. The casting all round genuinely is flawless, Sir Anthony Hopkins certainly has the imposing presence required to play one of the most powerful beings in all the realms. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is also perfect, whilst he appears initially to be innocent, it doesn’t take long for his mischievous streak to emerge. You really feel the family dynamic between these characters and the  family disagreements  intense to say the least, one scene with Loki and Odin in particular stands out among the rest.

Family feuding aside, Branagh also helms the action scenes tremendously well and they are a visual treat to watch. When Thor is laying it down, he is one badass hero that would be pretty hard to stop. Which again when he’s stripped of his powers, makes him so much more vulnerable. When you have a hero as powerful as Thor is, to see him be stripped of his power and go on an important and significant journey to discover what it really means to have the power he possesses. Like a great many Marvel movies, the film weaves humour so effortlessly, despite all the family drama that’s occurring, there’s plenty of moments to laugh out load. That being said, the story is not perfect as there are some moments that do feel a bit rushed. In addition the Frost Giants, and in particular their leader, whilst menacing, do not stand out as very memorable villains, as that dastardly Loki is the one you want to keep your eye on.

At this point, the MCU was very much in its infancy, and so getting this aspect of its universe right was paramount for its future success. Thankfully the nine realms converged perfectly , everything was weaved together perfectly. the God of Thunder took flight and landed in the MCU, with an almighty crash.

Incorporating this aspect of the universe was undoubtedly a challenge, but Branagh steers this ship so skilfully that Thor’s MCU debut was as mighty as the God of Thunder himself.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode III:Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Revenge f the sith
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Film Review

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewen McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: Set three years after Attack of the Clones,  after Chancellor Palpatine is abducted by the sinister General Greivous, Anakin and Obi-Wan set out on  a mission to rescue him. All the while, feelings of doubt and darkness are creeping into Anakin’s consciousness.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

Review: It was the big selling point of the whole Prequel trilogy when it was first announced that three new films were going to be made. The selling point being the transformation of one character’s turn from good to really REALLY bad. Therefore, after two really poor first chapters that were almost devoid of the action and drama that made the original trilogy the much beloved films they are. Fans must have wondered if there was any hope for this final instalment and thankfully it wasn’t a hat-trick of complete disasters, although it could have gone that way.

Immediately, the film certainly offers A LOT more than the previous two almost put together, with the CGI being much improved, and the action and light sabre scenes in particular being much more efficiently handled. It is engaging and interesting to watch and for a change, there is a coherent plot and story for the viewer to absorb and watch with interest, as we watch one man transform himself into arguably the greatest villain cinema has ever seen. Although the process getting there is a little bumpy and is in some ways a bit rushed, one minute he’s Anakin and then bang it’s “Arise, Lord Vader!” It was an extremely sudden change although it’s clear it had been building in him for a long time.

One of the main problems with the prequel trilogy is a lack of a compelling villain. With Darth Vader it was demonstrated how to make a villain effective across a trilogy but here with three individual villains for each movie, something is missing. General Grievous, while he is arguably the best of the villains in the prequel trilogy with his sinister voice and presence, he is again horrendously underutilised before being abruptly killed off, although the fight leading up to his demise was some of the best scenes we got in the prequels. Indeed there are many action scenes packed throughout the film that certainly provide a lot more enjoyment than the previous two films, with the opening battle scene actually boasting some incredible CGI, or the battle with the Wookies and the Droids on the awesome sounding planet of Kashyyyk.

Yet unfortunately like its predecessors, this film is again bogged down by some poor dialogue/acting/ screen-writing (delete where appropriate.) The most guilty offender here is once again Hayden Christensen. His performance is much better than the previous film, and there are no nonsensical lines about sand or whatever, but there are still some horrifically bad moments that make you wonder how they even ended up in the finished film. In addition, while the final battle between Obi Wan and Anakin/Vader is undeniably cool, it is a little overlong and choreographed to a ridiculous amount of detail. The film isn’t completetely devoid of acting ability, but the likes of Ewan McGregor and Samuel L Jackson are the best of a bad bunch, with Natalie Portman again being a bit stilted in terms of her acting.

Overall the prequel trilogy, even though there are those who defend them rigorously will go down in history as such a missed opportunity. With the advancement in effects, there was a chance to create more excellence, but overall they really missed the mark. Yet for all their faults, they made a lot of money and ensured the franchise survived, although it could have been very different. But Revenge of the Sith is without a doubt the best of the trilogy, a compelling story, much more interesting action sequences and we get to see the birth of one of cinema’s most iconic villains, even if we now know what a stroppy little brat he was in parts before his turn. Thank you very much Mr Lucas (!)

Much improved from Episode 2 with a considerably more interesting plot and some more developed characters, but poor writing, acting and dialogue, once again bogs down this from reaching the soaring heights of the original trilogy. 

b

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Attack of the clones
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – Film Review

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewen McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: Set 10 years after The Phantom Menace, when a separatist movement  threatens to create trouble for the Republic, the Jedi Knights along with Senator Amidala move to ensure the Republic’s survival, but a growing threat is emerging in the form of a clone army…

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

Review: When it came to the creation of these prequels, surely every single Star Wars fan on the face of the planet must have been wondering what brilliance could the creator of this awesome universe throw at us? Our first answer was the horrendously disappointing The Phantom MenaceSo when a sequel came along, audiences possibly hoped that Lucas would realise his mistakes, listen to the feedback, and give us something much more closer to the original trilogy. But yet again, the hopes were dashed with another bloated CGI filled mess, with very little substance to it, and the standard of writing? Improve it did not.

In the first prequel, there was a lot of sitting around and talking, but not enough action to get the excitement going, it became hopelessly tedious with some horrific dialogue, and it’s unfortunate that this poorly written dialogue hasn’t gone away. The plot, of sorts, focuses on the Separatist movement and their plan to leave the Republic, led by the mysterious Count Dooku. Lucas really tries to make this plot really interesting but it doesn’t wash unfortunately, because it wasn’t the big selling point of the prequels, that being Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader. In addition to this less than interesting plot with the Separatists, we have an even less interesting love story between Anakin and Padme, and these scenes are just cringe worthy to the absolute maximum. What makes these scenes even worse is Hayden Christensen’s acting as a grown up Anakin and the delivery of some of his dialogue, is just horrendous. Once again Lucas’s poor script doesn’t help but it doesn’t take away from Christensen’s poor delivery of his lines, and while Natalie Portman isn’t much better, she does have an Academy Award to her name, Christensen does not. Go figure…

The emotion that ran throughout the original trilogy is again severely lacking in this film with the completely uninteresting plot and while interest does grow in the latter stages of the film, once the Jedi finally get off their bums and decide to do something to help. The action scenes in this film do offer more but they’re yet again mired by the ridiculous overuse of CGI which like the previous film is so ridiculously apparent it almost hurts your eyes while you watch. The absence of Star Wars sets sticks out like a sore thumb and Lucas once again tries to overload the viewer with CGI, forgetting that there’s a fine balance between great CGI and great storytelling, which again baffles as he mastered that with the very first film we got in the franchise! There are some decent characters in this film too, but again like with Phantom Menace, they’re barely utilised before we have a chance to explore their potential, namely one Jango Fett, father to the awesome Boba Fett, except here he’s not so awesome, he’s another whiny little brat kid, kind of like how Anakin was in the first movie, and in many ways like Anakin is here.

Also introduced is Count Dooku, played by the late and great Sir Christopher Lee. His performance was decent and his character is explored a bit more and there is a bit more action involved with his character to boost the excitement, but again it’s over before it really has a chance to get going. John Williams’ score remains as awesome as it always has been but the film is once again bogged down by poor writing, even poorer acting from certain individuals, and terrible TERRIBLE romantic dialogue, and more CGI overload that again does nothing to enhance and or improve upon the very weak story that we are presented with here, which was just not what audiences wanted to see. It was yet again a terrific opportunity squandered and resulted in CGI overkill.

Yet again weighed down by a poor script with some appallingly bad dialogue and even worse acting, lessons were not learnt from Episode I and the CGI is just as noticeable and dated as its predecessor, but it somehow manages to be worse, even with less Jar Jar Binks.

D+

 

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

V For Vendetta (2005)

Image is property of Warner Bros, Virtual Studios, Silver Pictures and Anarchos Productions

V for Vendetta – Film Review

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Piggott-Smith

Director: James McTeigue

Synopsis: A freedom fighter, known only as V, is on a mission to bring down a Fascist regime in London by any means necessary.

Review: “Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason, why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.” A powerful quote and one that is central to this thrilling and mysterious film. V, inspired by Guy Fawkes, is a man on a mission to free Britain from a government that has clamped down on individual freedom and free speech, with his ultimate goal being what Guy Fawkes tried to do, destroy the Houses of Parliament. Anyone who steps out of line, is whisked away and never to be seen again. At the same time, the press is strongly regulated to prevent anyone from speaking out.

Whilst on his mission to bring down the government, he encounters Evey (Natalie Portman) a young woman who aids him in his quest to liberate Britain. V is the one who commits a number of acts and speaks out against the government that has a powerful grip on the country.  His actions and intentions spark a mass panic by the government who brand him a terrorist and set out on a mission to stop him at all costs.

As the film is a politically driven one, there is a considerable amount of dialogue in the film. While this could result in the film suffering from a lack of pace, the dialogue is fascinating as we understand the actions that the Government has taken in order to suppress the people and what drives V to become the masked freedom fighter he is. While the majority of the film consists of dialogue, there are some outstanding action scenes as Norsefire’s Secret Police, The Finger, led by the odious Mr Creedy, a man with no morals whatsoever. (Tim Piggott-Smith) seek to stop V’s “terrorism.”

Hugo Weaving, although he initially was not the first choice for the role, was a perfect choice for the role of V. He delivered his lines, some of which are very memorable, perfectly and the audience really understands what his motives are. He is not an evil man; he simply seeks to bring the Norsefire reign of tyranny to a swift end. Natalie Portman delivers a strong performance as Evey whose life is transformed and changed forever by V. John Hurt portrays the menacing leader of the Norsefire Party, Adam Sutler. Piggott-Smith is perfect as the repulsive Mr Creedy, and Stephen Rea delivers a sound performance as Inspector Finch, the man who has been tasked with stopping V, whilst realising the true nature of the Norsefire regime and its past crimes against its own people. The film suffered a little bit with its pacing as it is a dialogue driven film and thus the plot slowed down at times.

Nevertheless, the film was still a very enjoyable and thought provoking story that left its mark on me. Hugo Weaving was superb as V and has some truly unforgettable quotes. While there is not much action, the action scenes that are in the film are excellent.

With sterling work from Weaving and Hammond, visually stunning and a well crafted story that is full of themes and ideas, V for Vendetta particularly in this day and age, is a film that has messages that may ring true today.

a