Thursday, November 14, 2013

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Anyone else getting a strange Star Wars vibe from this poster?
Thor: The Dark World follows the adventures of Thor, the God of Thunder, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from the dark elves and their vengeful leader Malekith who wish to plunge the universe back into darkness. Can Thor, his brother Loki, and his companions but an end to this menace and save the universe, or will the darkness consume them?

I'll be the first one to admit this, but 2011's Thor was my least favorite of Marvel's "Phase One" movies. While I loved Tom Hiddleston's performance as Loki and thought Kenneth Branagh's directing was interesting, I found Thor to be rather lackluster when compared to the likes of Iron Man or Captain America: The First Avenger

Thankfully, Thor: The Dark World manages to keep the elements that worked in the original and improved on the ones that didn't. 

Like in the previous film, Asgard and the other set-pieces look absolutely gorgeous. Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I would love to visit Asgard and experience the "magical technology" the Asgardians possess. Also, the home world of the dark elves looks absolutely bleak and lifeless, fitting the attitude of its inhabitants and what happened to them ages ago during their war with the Asgardians. 

The actions scenes and cinematography have definitely taken a step up from the previous film. While the first film's action beats and cinematography weren't terrible, they weren't great either. Luckily, that isn't the case here. Almost every action scene is entertaining to watch and the cinematography is rather clean, easy to follow, and visually interesting. 

The acting was great as well. Like before, Tom Hiddleston is amazing in his role as Loki. While he is clearly a villain and has no qualms about doing horrible things, you can't help but love the mischievous bastard. However, there are a few scenes that reveal that he might still have a sliver of goodness buried within him. Chris Hemsworth also does a fantastic job as our titular character. Unlike the first film, it is obvious that Thor has grown as a character and Hemsworth plays this rather well. Also, he is wonderful in his scenes with Hiddleston, making their relationship rather believable.

However, the film is not without its faults. Like the previous movie, the character of Jane Foster is only present because the plot says she has to be present. I have no problem with Natalie Portman's performance, but the character is rather pointless and only seems to be there so Thor can have a love interest and some connection to Earth. The same goes for Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her male intern (whose name escapes me at the moment). Nothing against the actors (I actually rather like Kat Dennings and I find her adorable), but their characters could be erased from the moment and I have a feeling no one would ever notice. 

The film also has some problems with mood. For the most part, the film is rather serious and sticks to a darker mood. However, there are a number of comedic scenes as well (most of which focus on Stellen Skarsgard's character from the first film and The Avengers). Now, most of these scenes do a good job at releasing the tension at the right moment so the audience doesn't become overwhelmed by all the seriousness. Unfortunately, there are too many of these scenes and they occasionally ruin the tone of the scene. 

With that being said, I still found Thor: The Dark World to be an enjoyable (if somewhat problematic) superhero film. The action scenes were great, the visuals were well-done, and the characters (for the most part) were interesting and the actors did a good job. If you like the Marvel movies, enjoy a good mixture of science fiction and fantasy, and just want to have a fun time at the movies, I'd recommend you give Thor: The Dark World a chance. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game (2013)

Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game takes place in the near future after a hostile alien race called the Formics have attacked Earth. Thankfully, humanity was saved by an International Fleet Commander named Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley). Fearing a second attack, Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military have gather the best young minds at the illustrious Battle School, hoping to find the next Mazer and put an end to this conflict once and for all. Graff believes a shy, but brilliant young boy named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) might be the person they are looking for. Will Ender be able to step up to the plate and lead the forces of humanity to victory, or will he crack under the pressure and fail?

Not being the biggest fan of Gavin Hood (who most people know as the director of X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and finding most of the trailers rather underwhelming, I went into Ender's Game with rather low expectations. While the film wasn't perfect, I found Ender's Game to be an enjoyable film.

The cinematography was very well done. While it didn't blow me away, I feel like the camera-work and Hood's directing kept the film interesting to watch. The set-design and special effects work really helped int this department as well. The look of the Battle School and the Battle Room match what I imagined when reading the book and I loved the design of the Formics (especially the Queen).

The performances were great as well. Both Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford gave excellent performances, with Ford easily stealing every scene he's in. Ben Kingsley and Hailee Steinfeld also do a great job, giving solid performances and showing their talents as actors. While some of the actors in the smaller roles were not outstanding, I would hesitate to call anyone's performance in the film bad.

The only real problem I had with the film is its pacing. There are moments in the film where scenes move at lightning speed to the detriment of the scene itself. However, other scenes are a decent pace that keeps the story moving without being too fast or slow. The movie keeps bouncing back and forth between these two and it can be somewhat jarring at times.

With that being said, I still found Ender's Game to be an enjoyable movie. The acting, cinematography, and music are good and make up for the erratic pacing. If you like science-fiction movies and were a fan of Card's novel, you will probably find something to like in the film.