Wow, I haven’t posted anything since February? Okay, I get it, I’m really behind in my reviews, and I did see Thor in theatres… back in probably December… It was great! I loved it. There was maybe a bit too much humour to it for some, but I still loved it.
Now, there were lots of trailers, and lots of clips, I have to say that Marvel knows how to put those together. The trailers left me wanting more and put more questions in my mind as to how things got to where they were, even though the trailer pretty much plays out the same order of events as they happen in the film.
Thor returns to Asgard with the helm/skull of Surtur, a fire demon who according to prophecy will bring about Ragnarok, the Asgardian apocalypse. With Surtur defeated, Thor sets about finding his father Odin, who Loki hypnotized and left on Earth at the end of Thor 2: The Dark World. At least that’s what I think happened, I can’t honestly remember, as it’s been quite a while since I saw that one. All I know is that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) took the throne, impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has figured this out, and once he publicly unmasks Loki, the two brothers set off to find their father, making a side trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sends Thor and Loki to Odin. Nice bits of comedy here, and nice to see Doctor Strange, but the scene really just seemed like an extension of the “after the credits scene” from his own movie. The sons of Odin meet up with Odin in Norway one last time, as he surrenders his life force and moves on, freeing his trapped first born child, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) who breaks Thor’s hammer (as we saw in the trailers) and sends he and Loki through space via the Bifrost, where they become trapped on a planet run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Loki arrived several weeks earlier than Thor and has aligned himself with the Grandmaster, leaving to be captured by a woman known as “Scrapper 142” (Tessa Thompson) to be thrown into the arena to fight for the Grandmaster’s amusement. Thor’s first opponent is the reigning champion, the incredible… Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Fighting and fun, the two heroes eventually bury their differences and escape the planet with Loki and Scrapper 142, who is in fact an Asgardian Valkyrie. Returning to Asgard to stop Hela who has killed and enslaved much of the population, Thor and his team set out to free their people, but can the Prince of Asgard win without his hammer?
Okay, that was a rather long-winded summary, and I left out a lot of key things. The story was great fun, and it was full of great comic-book action. It worked in a lot of great new characters from the comics, and I think it laid some very important groundwork for Avengers Infinity War, and the future of the entire MCU. The scene after the credits leads directly to the opening scene of Infinity War (I know because I saw it the other day).
As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of humour in the film. I personally loved it, but I can see where some fans of comic book movies might be a little put off by it. Thor Ragnarok still had some rather serious plot points and undertones, but I think director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Flight of the Conchords) balanced the humour and the darkness masterfully. I think that is something that Marvel does better than DC does in their movies, and that can be very divisive in the comic book and comic book movie fandoms. I like my heroes to be powerful and fun, not dark and brooding all the time, but that’s just me. To each their own. Check it out, it was fun.
Bottom Line: My favourite Marvel movie was the first Thor for the longest time, but then Doctor Strange came out quickly becoming my favourite, but now….Ragnarok may have put Thor back into first place again….at least until there’s a Doctor Strange 2…
It got a lot right, but also left a lot on the table. Not to say that it got things wrong, but there were a lot of things that they could have done (and quite possibly should have done) but they didn’t. You probably know the story, Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers are back to fight Ultron (voiced by James Spader) an artificial robot intelligence that is planning to takeover the world by killing all the humans (the way Ultron plans to kill us all off is pretty darn creative I will admit!). Ultron was accidentally created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and now he and his team are the only ones who can stop it, but along the way they’ll have to fight the remnants of Hydra (including the fearsome Baron Strucker) and the superpowered twins Wanda (the Scarlet Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Quicksilver played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as well as legions of killer robots.
- The film started off with a bang, and had a nice comic book action fight scene to whet our appetites…then they had an Avengers dinner party at the Tower with heroes galore… We got Falcon from Captain America: Winter Soldier (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle) from the Iron Man franchise, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and of course the Avengers: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and even Stan Lee in his cameo. This scene really wasn’t necessary. It may have killed the energy of the opening and made the film fifteen minutes longer than it needed to be, but it did really make the film feel like a classic comic book to me. The whole party could have been drawn by George Perez and written by Jim Shooter or Roger Stern or John Byrne… In fact, one probably was.
- Once the party was out of the way and the evil robots started attacking, things picked up and the pace only slowed down at one point when the Avengers had to go to ground and regroup. More characters are introduced along the way as Ultron severs the hand of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who will likely become Klaw and a Black Panther villain at some point. Minor Spoiler (but I want to gripe about it so I’m not hiding this one) We also learn that Ultron kills Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). I think that was a giant waste. First, I don’t think they even called him “Baron”, he may have just been “Strucker”. Second, for being the big bad guy who orchestrated the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and whatnot, he really wasn’t in the film that long, and he seemed to go out like a chump! First the Avengers beat him and his goons quite easily, then Ultron kills him. Ah well, c’est la vie, and such is the life (and death) of an arch villain I suppose.
- My first disappointment with Avengers 2 was (spoiler again) that while there was a bit of a crossover with the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, we didn’t get to see Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) on the big screen and reveal he’s still alive to the team. Second, we had the setup, but we didn’t get “that” line. If you’re a comic book fan like me, you know what I’m talking about. How come we didn’t get Thor, beaten and bruised, confronting Ultron and delivering the classic line “Ultron. We would have words with thee.”
Come on! It’s classic. Why wasn’t it in there?
- The plot and cast advanced the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite well I thought, and set up the next batch of movies where the “big” stars may not be around. Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans (and likely the rest of the cast) signed limited contracts, only three or four films, so they need to start planning things without Iron Man and Captain America and such.
Lots of action, lots of fun, and this time the comic book-esque quips were spread out more evenly in the film, as opposed to the first film, where Iron Man seemed to get all the good lines. I will say that I enjoyed the sequel more than the first film, as the first Avengers just didn’t live up to the hype for me.
Bottom Line: they suckered me in with this one, and I freely admitted it to the remaining audience members in the theatre. There was only one “after the credits” scene in this one, but I foolishly stuck around until the very end just in case…Sure, I may know that Zoe Whittaker was the second unit video operator but I also wasted time waiting for a second bonus scene. Maybe there will be something on the DVD, but if you’re going to the theatre, after the first bonus bit, you can safely leave!
Last week, I finally got around to seeing Now You See Me…make your own jokes if you wish. Now You See Me was one of the films I listed months ago in my list of Movies I may want to see this summer… I believe it was the first of the big seasonal blockbusters to be released in theatres, and now it is the first of my listed films I have actually gotten around to seeing. Was I impressed? Did it live up to my expectations? Yes and no. There were a lot of things I liked about the film, but there were one or two notable pieces that prevented Now You See Me from being the perfect puzzle that I wanted.
Four separate magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson,Ilsa Fisher and Dave Franco), each specializing in a different area of “magic” are recruited by a strange figure. Their stock rises, and together they are the Four Horsemen, on top of the performance world. But their mysterious benefactor has not only theatrical success planned, as the Four Horsemen start robbing banks, stealing private funds and distributing the wealth back to their audiences through their magic shows. The first heist is fantastic enough, as a man is transported across the Atlantic to rob the vault of his own bank in France, and that is what brings the Four Horsemen to the attention of both the FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol Agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) as the pair reluctantly work together to lead a team to bring down the magical criminals. Are the thefts being accomplished by “real” magic? Or are they just a series of grand illusions?
If you’ve read some of my past posts, you know I love magic; The Great Magician, The Prestige, and The Illusionist are some great examples of film prestidigitation and certainly worth watching if you haven’t seen them yet. I was quite impressed with the magic tricks in Now You See Me, and with how they treated them. Some of the tricks were revealed by Morgan Freeman who played a magician debunker helping the authorities explain how the robberies were committed; but not everything was explained. The producers claim that most of the tricks were achieved through practical effects (and practiced magic/sleight of hand) but it was clear that several had been done by CGI and other special effects. The bottom line was that there were some pretty neat tricks throughout the movie, bookeneded by the three separate heists the Horsemen were performing. The story moved along well, with the action well paced by director Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2, Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans 2010) and the casting was pretty good. Eisenberg, Harrelson, Ruffalo and Laurent (who is one of my favourite actresses) were by far the best in the cast, as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman had smaller roles. Isla Fisher was good as well, but did nothing that really “wowed” me, and I’ll say that I enjoyed Dave Franco as much as I enjoy James Franco’s performances…actually the younger Franco brother wasn’t that bad, but also didn’t really do anything to blow me away. My biggest complaint about the film was the really unnecessary ending that seemed added in to just “Disney” up the film. There is a slight romantic sub plot that was alright through the film, but I thought the resolution to that plot really took away from several strong characters.
If you watch Now You See Me, be sure to watch the credits because there is an extra scene after the cast listings that clearly sets up for potential sequels. I chose to watch the film on Blu Ray mainly for the increased special features over the DVD release. The extended and deleted scenes were fun, but I think I actually liked the alternate finish better than the one the filmmakers went with. Certainly a fun film overall, but you have to be expecting twists and misdirection going in.