Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I love comic book movies. What? You didn’t know? Where have you been hiding for the past year or so? Anyone that’s read Film Phage for a length of time knows that I positively gush whenever a comic book movie is released. Especially when they come out of the Marvel Studios lot. Sure, the Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four (OK, maybe not them… until their reboot in 2015) franchises excite me, as they feature some of my favourite characters, but it’s Marvel Studios that are storming ahead right now. Speaking of storms… it’s about time we heard from our favourite Norse god. One that wields a massive hammer, speaks in a semi-olde world tone… and enjoys taking his top off for at least one scene in every film. Yes, it’s the return of Thor in Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

As is common across all of Marvel’s “Phase Two” films up to present, Thor: The Dark World, like Iron Man 3, picks up after the events of The Avengers. This will be something that we also see happen in next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but probably not Guardians of the Galaxy. Essentially, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to Asgard with his somewhat devious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) after the latter tried to take over Earth (naughty, naughty!). So we see Loki sent to the dungeons whilst Thor attempts to deal with the latest threat to the “Nine Realms”… Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith is a dark elf determined to bring about the end of all worlds by ushering in a return to the darkness that prevailed in the universe before… erm… the universe by capturing the Aether. Ok, there’s a lot of oddness in the plot, but this is Thor – anything can happen! He’s a goddamn god… for god’s sake. God! Add into the mix Thor’s ongoing love for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and we have ourselves a plot!

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World arguably boasts the strongest ensemble cast of any of the individual Marvel Studios movies. With the likes of Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Portman, as well as Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as Friga and Idris Elba as Heimdall. The cast is strong, and this film really showcases that. Each character has more room to breathe and develop. The first film, like so many origin stories, placed a lot of effort into developing who Thor was and how he would become the hero we know in this film. Now that that’s out of the way, Thor: The Dark World can show the Thor world we all needed to see… and it bloody well works!

This is a more fully-realised film than the original Thor. The Asgardian universe feels more fleshed out, the action is more frenetic and the set pieces are far bigger. I mean, who thought that the final showdown in Thor was impressive? It was just Thor versus a set of armour in a small town in the US. This was hardly the super showdown we would want! Thankfully, no battle in Thor: The Dark World is as dull… especially not the final battle between Thor and Malekith. Why did I like it so much? Well, not just because it was set in good old London, but because it was simply entertaining.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Entertainment is high on Marvel’s agenda it would seem. For despite the subtitle of “The Dark World”, Thor isn’t a dark affair. Like April’s Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World features good slabs of humour in the mix. Not all of it hit the mark for me… not in a way that some critics would have you believe any way. This isn’t a comedy film. It has humorous elements (especially in the final battle), but they never distract from what’s actually going on in the film. This is a very good thing.]

I really have to come back to an earlier point to sum up why Thor: The Dark World worked so well: the cast. Chris Hemsworth has really grown into the role in a way that I’d now find it hard to replace him, just as I do with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. I’m eager to see whether Chris Evans‘ turn in next year’s Captain America sequel will do the same for him, as for me, he’s currently the weakest link in the “core” group of heroes. But it doesn’t end there. Tom Hiddleston epitomises what’s so great about Marvel’s casting choices; he’s simply fantastic. Hiddleston clearly loves playing Loki and his chemsitry with Hemsworth is at an all-time high. We need more of this in the future. Please Marvel, please. I could volley the same sort of compliments to the main cast, but I’ll avoid getting carried away. Needless to say – it’s a great effort from Alan Taylor on directing this entry into Marvel’s canon. Just give us more Thor!

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Oh, and a sidenote? That mid-credits “stinger” teaser scene? Thank you Marvel. That’s much appreciated! Just as Thanos’ appearance at the end of The Avengers confused many non-hardcore comic fans, I feel that this one will totally throw you off the scent. But if you’re a comic book fan… and particularly are keen to hear a bit more of the Thanos mythos… it’s worth waiting around for.

Thor: The Dark World is another roaring success for Marvel Studios. Whilst it probably won’t attract the sort of audience that Robert Downey Jr. is capable of pulling with Iran Man films, it certain ranks as one of the best movies out of the studio. Sure, it has a bonkers plot, and Christopher Eccleston is criminally underused, but it’s a great piece of superhero action. Arguably, some might say, the comic book movie of 2013. So now… all eyes are on 2014… where we can expect Captain America: The Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes, 2014 looks like a tasty fight!

So, why see Thor: The Dark World? Well, see if you tick any one of these boxes: 1) You like comic book movies, 2) you like lightning, 3) you like Chris Hemsworth‘s massive pecs, or 4) you just like bloody good films. If you’re ticking more than one of those boxes, then why aren’t you at the cinema already? Or at least googling “Chris Hemsworth topless” to know why the ladies love this Austrailian! Oh… you’ve already done that haven’t you? Cheeky!

Phage Factor:

4 Star

 

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Believe The Hype?

Philosiraptor says...You read the film was announced, heard who was cast, read the phenomenal previews, saw the trailer and couldn’t wait for ‘your’ film to drop. You’re there first day of release in your seat, popcorn in hand, and two hours later you want to grab the remaining corn kernels, hunt down the director and force them up his/her nostrils to the point it tickles their brain until they apologise for that abomination you just wasted your life on. We’ve all been there. We’ve all bought into the hype of a movie. Why do we do this, and should we continue to buy into Hollywood’s hype machine?

Getting press for your latest upcoming film is something of a no-brainer; publicity’s needed to bring in the customers after all. And nowadays the companies behind your favourite products have capacity to seep into every crevice of your life and expose you to “what’s to come”. But widespread awareness and hype does not a great film make.

Indeed, the same is true for most multimedia, with video games pulling in enormous sales on a yearly basis, especially thanks to blockbuster franchises such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Both of which have famously fallen foul of having so much hype surrounding them that they could never live up to expectations. Mass Effect 3 in particular brought in tens of thousands of disgruntled fans who bemoaned the ending of their cherished franchise: not because it was over, but because of how poor it was. Imagine that cardboard box at the end of Se7en didn’t contain a head, but a tube of Pringles that magically carried Freeman, Pitt and Spacey to the moon for a party with Bugs Bunny – that’s how misjudged and down-right weird it was for many. In light of this, the people behind the franchise went as far as amending the ending to suit the public’s demands 4 months post-release. A movie however, is an entirely different beast.

Sarcastic WonkaOne of the most hyped films of 2012 has without doubt been Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus: the long in development spiritual predecessor to 1979’s Alien (I know – it’s aged fantastically for a 30+ year old movie, as has Sigorney Weaver). Every magazine, website and newspaper boy was extolling how great this film was going to be. It was like knowing about the second coming of Christ in some circles. Then when the reviews came out… they were mixed; although it scored a respectable 7/10 with critics and audiences alike, it fell short of many people’s expectations. This was pegged as a “Film of the Year” contender, but it’s clearly not going to get that title any time soon. I mean, sure, we all liked Michael Fassbender acting as an android with scary realism, and liked learning a little about the mythology of the Alien franchise, but the writing sure was haphazard in places; see HISHE‘s YouTube clip below for a brilliant send up. I’d sure like a rewrite on that ending, as opposed to the deliberate sequel-bating that’s so rife right now… but I think I’ll save that rant Opinion article for another day.

Looking for another prime example? How about Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace? Possibly one of the most eagerly-anticipated films ever considering people have been asking “I wonder what happened before Part IV” since it aired in 1977. As I’m sure the majority of you have seen this film it goes without saying that it didn’t live up to the hype… damn you Jar-Jar Binks. And STILL, after we were all bitten by this Ebola-carrying abomination, we still went back again for Episode II, and AGAIN for Episode III. Why? Because we were all promised “this one’s guaranteed to be better” by every publication under the sun. Don’t even get me started on Indy vs. Aliens (commonly called Indiana Jones IV)…

So should we believe the hype, considering how cruelly we’ve been misled by the press in the past? Or do we look to the examples of where the hype was realised, as with Avengers Assemble and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Do we think that Django Unchained, The Hobbit et al., are going to live up to our expectations? Though I must admit, the thought of stretching The Hobbit (a single book) into THREE films probably damages the hype for me. Personally, I think “hype” is great for public awareness of a movie, but shouldn’t be used to gauge quality. We all like to get excited about the latest installment in our favourite franchise / film from our favourite director, but manage your expectations. My advice? Watch a trailer and see the film for yourself… or let The Phage tell you what to think… then watch it.

What do you guys think: is the hype surrounding these massive potential blockbusters merited? Or would you rather go in to a movie blind and be totally surprised by what you see – a bit like walking blind into a dark-room orgy. Sure, it might be fun… but you could come out wishing you were forcing popcorn kernels up your nose, as opposed to forcing **** in your ****, whilst your **** ****s. And no-one likes that.

A Superhero Movie Too Far?

Batman slaps Robin

If we don’t talk about it, we won’t jinx it!!

Batman 1999 v 2012

Batman ’99 vs Batman ’12: Pretty accurate portrayal of the public’s view of a comic book movie. From frumpy to bad ass.

If you mentioned that you liked comics back in 2000, people would assume one of two things: a) you’re a small child, or b) you’re probably a bit of a social pariah and that you should probably avoid a). Then a movie came along that changed everything: X-Men. It featured a relatively unknown cast of actors, spare a couple of big names such as Captain Picard and Gandalf (before he was Gandalf), and told the tale of a group of genetic mutants who had fantastic powers. And boy did it resonate with audiences. Sure, there was the brilliant Blade in 1998, which could be argued as the “first” big movie, but it wasn’t that much of a hit! The success of X-Men and Spider-Man two years later opened the floodgates to a slew of superhero movies from major and minor characters alike, culminating this year in the juggernauts of the box office that are Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises. But now the question is: what next? And more importantly, how much longer can Hollywood’s latest fetish survive before it implodes? Too big to fail you say? Now where have we heard that before…?

Humble Beginnings

Undoubtedly, we’re right now riding the wave that is the Golden Age of comic book adaptations. Marvel Studios’ success with their tales of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor, and Warner / DC’s success with Nolan‘s Batman universe have cumulatively brought in over $5,400,000,000 (you need the noughts just to realise how many McDonald’s cheeseburgers that could buy you), with the split being $3.7 billion to Marvel and $1.7 billion to Warner (so far; the Bat is still flying). But crikey Batman, how the golly did we get to such jeeperiffic figures? They’re just comics!

The secret to their success, I believe, is two-fold. On one hand you have a collection of stories that are on-the-whole believable, or at least plausible for the most part, which is something I’ll come to later. And on the other hand you can’t help but notice that they’re somewhat a symptom of the times: gloom. It’s the same perfect storm that results in fast food sales soaring during times of economic hardship; this manifests in the need for escapism and heroes at the box office. Sure, some of the first big hits came pre-2008 meltdown, but all the gargantuan films: the Dark Knights and Iron Man(s) came post-2008. Hell, if you were being really analytical, you could even say the threat of global terrorism following 2001 also fed the public’s need for heroes. That’s a controversial point, but I think it’s valid. So… so long as the world is still at risk of going bankrupt or blowing itself up, the superhero can do no wrong right? I mean, the public tolerated Nic Cage‘s antics as Ghost Rider (twice!), Superman‘s lacklustre return and watched the Blade, Spider-Man and X-Men franchises tie themselves in knots; yet all was forgiven when the latter two returned recently. Not sure we’re going to see Wesley Snipes stopping people “ice skating up a hill” any time soon though. Unless the IRS lets him… Or Twilight takes a hard left turn in its final bow later this year.

Blade: Breaking Twilight

But can the studios sustain this enormous momentum, or is something looming on the horizon that could bring the whole house of cards crashing down?

There’s a Storm Coming…

The Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy: The Four Horsemen (and a Tree) of the Comic Book Apocalypse?

As I mentioned in my round-up of Comic-Con 2012, Marvel made some peculiar announcements this year, namely by choosing The Guardians of the Galaxy as a flagship film franchise. For those unfamiliar with this group, they’re essentially a cosmic group of heroes who fly around in space, preventing intergalactic tyranny. Sounds like a typical sci-fi film right? And there-in lies the problem. The most successful comic book movies have more-or-less had some semblance of reality, whether its being bitten by a spider, having genetic mutations, or building a high-tech suit of armour. Thor, who for all intents and purposes is classed as a “God” was explained through comparing magic and science and saying they’re the same thing (hokey, but it worked). So he’s essentially just a scientific freak who wears chainmail. And is ripped. But I haven’t got to the outworldy part yet… is the public willing to accept a living tree, some aliens and a talking raccoon (cumulatively known as The Guardians of the Galaxy) as superheroes? I know Disney are involved nowadays, but a talking raccoon and tree? Last I remember, the TV series The Raccoons ended in 1991… maybe that’ll have a resurgence? God I hope not.

And in the non-Marvel Studios stable, we hear rumblings that Warner is looking to open Pandora’s box and unleash all manner of oddities on the cinema-going public, now that their baby bat has flown the nest. The Metal Men? Lobo? Really? It’s a case of a studio reaching the “terrible 2’s”, seeing what Marvel has and saying “I want, I want”. Add this to the in-production reboots of failed franchises such as Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Green Lantern and you’re risking meltdown with the public, being the fickle beings they are, not caring any more.

What’s my opinion? Hell, I love the comic book genre, and was one of those little kids that read about Spider-Man and X-Men and religiously watched the cartoons on Saturday mornings. And I’ll no doubt watch every movie that comes out, even the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‘s, Elektra‘s and The Punisher‘s of this world. The only fear I have is that we’ll return to that pre-2000 mindset, where only us nostalgic fans remain… in our rooms… talking of the now mythical Golden Age of comic book movies. But then again, people have been predicting this bubble will burst for years now, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Possibly a tree that isn’t a superhero.

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