Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor 2Released: November 8, 2013. Directed by: Alan Taylor, James Gunn (post-credits scene). Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston. Runtime: 112 min.

When considering the story of “Thor: The Dark World,” it’s much better than 2011’s “Thor.” All I remember from that installment is snippets and sort-of the ending, and I remember it never really being clear who was the villain or not until after about an hour in. Otherwise, it’s forgettable – but Kenneth Branagh did a decent job at introducing the characters. This first sequel is able to get right into the story with a prologue, and there’s a trailer for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” before the movie starts. (At my theatre, there’s a scene that indicates the movie’s starting – and I thought at first it was the beginning of the movie, but I clued in within a minute… I’m gullible, what can I say?!)

The main villain of the story is Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who wanted to turn the world dark back in the Dark ages. This sparked a war between the Asgardians and his Kursed dark elves, and the Asgardians won, burying the Aether (the tool that would enable Malekith to make the world dark) where it would be difficult to find. Skip to the present after the events of “The Avengers,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is restoring order to the nine realms. He still longs to see Jane Austen (Natalie Portman) once again. Meanwhile, we find Jane back in London, who eventually picks up readings that might be a passageway to Asgard. It’s pretty cool, they find this sort-of vacuum thing in an abandoned building where they throw it down a staircase and comes down from above. The writers have fun with this. Anyway, this all leads to Thor and Jane being reunited, Malekith resurfacing, and Thor setting off on a perilous journey to save the earth.

I think Chris Hemsworth allows Thor to be the most charming Avenger, even if I’m more fond of the sarcastic wit RDJ brings to Iron Man. I like the comic relief in these Marvel blockbuster movies, and Kat Dennings is the main source – and Stellan Skarsgård gets some of the biggest laughs, after being relieved from Loki’s mind manipulations. Speaking of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), his role is a bit more complicated this time around because he is the unpredictable wild card here. He is also the main source of comic relief on Asgard. Natalie Portman is still as beautiful as ever and remains one of my favourite actresses working today – and I love it when she reminds me of that. She embraces the heartbreak of being away from Thor from so long, and also the awkwardness of not being able to tell people. One more comment on the cast: It’s great to see Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“The Bourne Identity,” “TV’s Lost”) as Malekith’s main henchman, as a tough-as-nails Kursed dark elf.

Some of the wars that happen are a cool change of pace from the first film because more take place in the nine realms rather than on Earth, with the exclusion of the final battle, which is both entertaining and a bit distracting, and you’ll see what I mean when you see it. The distracting part makes it a bit goofier than I might have enjoyed – but it’s still entertaining. I like the Cambridge University setting, because if that was really true damage to the school, I’m sure students will be happy to have a few weeks off from repairs! The other landscapes are really awesome, and there are some really cool weapons used by the Dark Elves I’d like to use. Especially in a video game. Please?

With all the comic relief and simple story, the film has a lighter tone than one’s average comic book adaptation. It still has a good cast and the brotherhood relationship between Thor and Loki is an interesting one because they want to trust each other but they really can’t because Loki is always up to no good, or so it seems. Thor is a noble character who puts the world’s needs, and Jane’s needs before his own. But he doesn’t really have to worry about himself because he has that awesome hammer. This is an entertaining ride, so hop on if it sounds like your type of movie, and if you like humour in your action films. It’s a summer blockbuster treat for the winter months!

Score75/100

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3Iron Man 3

Release Date: May 3, 2013

Director: Shane Black

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Runtime: 130 min

When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

Iron Man 3 is the strongest of the trilogy. It might disappoint the fan-boys and girls, but for casual movie-goers just wanting a taste of the super hero niche genre; it’s rather satisfying. The first of the trilogy was good, but the second was a disappointment. Most fan-boys (and fan-girls) could just forget about Iron Man 2, and see this merely as a follow-up to universally beloved (for the most part) The Avengers. The fans will at least be satisfied with the movie’s great little Easter eggs.

Shane Black, genre newcomer, breathes some fresh air into the trilogy. He takes the directing duties over from Jon Favreau (but he still plays the lovable Happy Hogan). It’s really one of those situations where when a new guy comes in, it ends up benefiting mostly everyone. His humour and wit is present in the movie, and he finds a great cast to match the lines. They fit like a glove. Or almost like an iron suit. Many might appreciate the flairs of humour, but others, most notably fan-boys and fan-girls, won’t enjoy the inconsistencies of the movie’s overall mood.

Sometimes it’s dark and gloomy when characters are in mortal danger, especially when Stark’s Malibu home falls into the water. It’s doom and gloom one minute, somewhat hysterical and silly dialogue the next. Both Black and RDJ can hardly help themselves. The plot flows well, but the mood is unpredictable. One minute, the egotistical Stark is having an anxiety attack (because of the events in New York City, that occur in The Avengers), and the next, he’s exuberantly confident again and cracking joke after joke. However, it does remind us that Stark – genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, mostly invincible in his iron suit – can still be vulnerable and is quite human.

This instalment is better than the second. It’s smarter with its humour, and that could be thanks to Black. The action sequences are great and fast-paced, and it’s a real adrenaline rush that will go best with some poppin’ corn and a Pepsi. It’s still a great ensemble cast, where RDJ is great as ever, as is Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. Ben Kingsley is outstanding (like he is in every role he takes on) and Guy Pearce rocks his role. Great twists and turns of the movie are really enjoyable, and usually unpredictable. The enemies posing a potential threat to the well-being of Stark are much better than Rourke and Rockwell of the second.

The Mandarin is handled with effective care, even if the way they portray him is disappointing to avid comic book readers. If you want a movie that stays faithful to the source material, you won’t find it here. The portrayal of the character is good, as he is a worthy opposition for Stark, but, even for someone who only reads Archie comics, the character could feel like a wasted opportunity with the direction they choose. It is a shame that the Marvel universe might not get its chance at an Supporting Actor Oscar this year. The Mandarin isn’t nearly as great as The Joker of The Dark Knight, but it’d be nice if Kingsley at least nabs that Oscar nomination. The Mandarin is the terrorist mastermind of the Marvel universe. Did I say terrorist? I meant ‘teacher’. (If he were a teacher with actual credentials, he’d be fired in a hurry!) James Badge Dale is also one of the movie’s biggest surprises, besides the twists, in a role best fit for Robert Patrick, and it is great to see the actor in a big summer movie like this.

The mood of this movie feels inconsistent throughout, and the direction the producers choose for the Mandarin could be disappointing to many; but this is better than the second, and it’s my favourite of the trilogy. The casting is great, and Black is a good fit. The action sequences are compelling, and there’s a reason that Iron Man is arguably the most popular of the Avengers squad (Hulk could be, if a decent Hulk movie could be made).

80/100

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2Iron Man 2

Release Date: May 7, 2010

Director: Jon Favreau

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Runtime: 124 min

After a great introduction to the Tony Stark/Iron Man character, the first sequel doesn’t impress and it’s overwhelmingly average. The movie doesn’t soar as high as Iron Man can really go. It isn’t a bad addition to Marvel’s collection of movies, it’s just not as great as it could be.

Stark is dying because his arc reactor is spilling poison into his body at this point. The world knows he’s Iron Man. He’s practically the only super hero in the world to ever reveal his identity. I guess that’s what one person gets when they’re 20% (filled with) poison, and 80% ego. That “you can take the man out of the suit, but you can’t take the suit out of the man” character conflict phases Stark. He’s also, of course, facing some ole comic book villains.

Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is much too reserved, and the fantastic actor goes really underused and he hardly has a chance to shine. Mickey Rourke is good as Ivan Vanko. The electric whips he uses are mighty cool. The movie’s finale is great, but everything leading up to the satisfying end; is usually good, rarely boring, fairly silly, and a lot underwhelming.

69/100

Iron Man (2008)

Iron ManIron Man

Release Date: May 2, 2008

Director: Jon Favreau

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges

Runtime: 126 min

Iron Man is a good movie that introduces a second-tier super hero to mainstream audiences. It changes Iron Man from a hero that is only known by avid comic book readers, to one of the more popular of the Marvel universe. Robert Downey Jr. portrays the textbook narcissist extremely well. The action sequences are effective and the plot is easy to follow. Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane is awesome, but I’m not sure how likely it is for Stane to become a household name.  Jon Favreau brings some fine direction to the picture. The beginning is rather slow. Though, after it gets past fifty minutes, things heat up. It’s worth the wait. It truly does ease itself into a comfortable pace, and it’s good entertainment from then on.

76/100

The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers

Release Date: May 4, 2012

Director: Joss Whedon

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans

Runtime: 143 min

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) make The Avengers. This film is pretty sweet.

The Avengers assemble to face off against the god of mischief himself, Loki (portrayed by Tom Hiddleston).

What does The Avengers have? Awesome visual effects; great characters; great direction; not the best plot. I can’t think of any other villains that they could have fought against, well villains of these superheroes. Magneto or a Batman villain could have worked, but of course that goes out of their section of villains. I just wasn’t feeling the alien invasion thing. Though, the action was incredible – and it prevented the viewer from becoming bored. The gags were really funny, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk added charisma to the film. The film casts a big box office shadow for upcoming super hero films like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, so hopefully those don’t disappoint (I know those have came out, but I wrote this review a while back).

The only flaw of the film for me was the villain of the film, but the ensemble that is the Avengers is really great and the action sequences are really well done.

I really like the ensemble here, I’ve seen a minority of the films that led up to this (I’ve seen Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, but still have to see Iron Man 2 – I couldn’t get into the first – and The Incredible Hulk).

My expectations were high, from hearing all of the awesome things about it, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  And I also viewed the film in 2D and not 3D, in which it was made for, so that may have taken away from my enjoyment. Granted, the film is still better than one’s average super hero film and was still really enjoyable and not overly flawed.

90/100