Thor: The Dark World
The Pitch: Meet The Parents.
The Review: It’s a luxurious position to be in, but when you’ve gone from being an organisation that could barely get one of its comic properties made less than twenty years ago to being a studio bankrolled by one of the biggest organisations in the world it’s also a double-edged sword. With each success comes a higher expectation: Iron Man Three proved that The Avengers wasn’t just a flash in the pan, but it could only take one failure to derail the Marvel Universe train which has stops mapped out for another three to five years already. It could also be a risk that familiarity might breed apathy rather than contentment, with dedicated Thor fans a lock for his adventures but fans of the other characters maybe needing more to tempt them back for subsequent adventures. Where Marvel appears to be attempting to strike a specific balance is in keeping familiar elements to reassure audiences, but also introducing new aspects to keep the series fresh and alive.
It’s the familiar elements of this instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that undoubtedly work best. The Avengers worked as a sequel to a number of the first phase Marvel movies, Thor included, and now the situation is reversed as a number of characters make their third film appearance. Chief among them are the demigod of thunder, the swagger still intact but Chris Hemsworth’s Thor now finally showing some maturity. That doesn’t save him from a slap or two from his Earth-bound sweetheart Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) when the two are reunited and Thor has to explain where he’s been and why he didn’t call. The two are brought together when a threat from before the dawn of the universe, lord of the Elves Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is revived and poses a threat so big, Thor’s only option is to turn to disgraced brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to find the answer to defeating this new threat. Meanwhile, Jane has to get to grips with the culture clash of meeting Thor’s disapproving parents, especially the All-Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).
Everyone from the original gets a moment here, with second tier players from last time of the likes of Kat Dennings, Idris Elba and Rene Russo all given more to do this time around. That does make proceedings a touch congested, especially when attempting to service the plot at the same time. Marvel’s willingness to keep shaking things up has seen a revolving door of directors across their franchises, and Alan Taylor has been imported from Game Of Thrones because presumably some Disney executive can’t distinguish between that literary fantasy and Norse legend. Game Of Thrones often relies on lots of short interplay between a large roster of characters, some getting very little screen time, and so that plays to Taylor’s strengths, but the big battle episodes of the HBO series are actually being picked up by British director Neil Marshall, and it’s not always clear what’s going on in some of Thor’s exceptionally brown battle sequences. His strengths do come to the fore at some of the darker, more poignant moments, but his Asgard never quite has the epic feel that Kenneth Branagh’s did in the original.
What there is a lot of is humour, with Joss Whedon contributing to the script, and this Thor sequel isn’t afraid to throw in some big laughs, playing up the backstory of the universe it’s set in and even mixing humour into the epic final battle, once again showcasing London’s easily destroyed monuments. Thor: The Dark World works well as spectacle and comedy, but you can’t help wishing for a little more threat, not only because Loki is sidelined for much of the film after his Avengers antics but also because Elvish dialogue and a heavy prosthetic smother Christopher Eccleston’s performance more effectively than a crowd rush at a Doctor Who convention. His performance could have also done with some of the ninth Doctor’s impish cheekiness and robust threat, but when the Thor / Loki double act is allowed into high gear, there’s just about enough moments to make up for the lack of a decent antagonist. Thor: The Dark World is a serviceable entry in the Marvel universe, but is more intriguing at times for the promise it holds for the future than what’s actually on screen.
Why see it at the cinema? It’s not short on spectacle, and it’s up there with The Avengers and Iron Man 3 in terms of zingers and general comedy. Plenty to enjoy on a large screen with a large audience.
Should I stay through the credits? Having its cake and eating it, there’s not only a sequence in the middle of the credits, but also one at the very end. For those just wanting to see where the story goes next, you can leave in the middle (probably to Google what you’ve just seen, as only comic book aficionados will make any sense of it first time round); for the true completist, stay to the end.
What about the rating? Rated 12A for moderate fantasy violence. You have to love the BBFC’s Insight section, which includes the likes of the following:There are also mild sex references, such as a man saying he found out his ex-girlfriend was “sleeping with other dudes”.
My cinema experience: Took Mrs Evangelist to see this at the Cineworld in Bury St Edmunds. She didn’t thank me for having to sit through all the credits for the second time this year at a Marvel movie; I think I might have to catch the Captain America 2 credits on my own next year.
The Score: 7/10
October’s always an interesting month for me, not least because I normally enter it with a little bit of cinema fatigue. Not being tired of the films themselves, you understand – that ain’t ever gonna happen, sister – but because each September I spend eleven days effectively living in a cinema for the Cambridge FIlm Festival. This year I saw thirty four films, two programmes of shorts, wrote seven reviews for another website (Take One), did four Q & A hostings and two interviews for radio show Bums On Seats as well as appearing on both Bums specials during the festival, which finished last Sunday. And I’m still trying to write up my own adventure at the festival. Let’s just say I’ve slept very well this week.
But that always leaves me with a bit of a quandary: a lot of the films I see at the festival are advance screenings of films which then go on general release subsequently. However, there’s still so much new stuff on release as well that I can also happily make a selection of films as well. So this month I present the best of both worlds: you can either take my views on six films I have seen, where I can offer you an opinion on the film itself, or you can take the trailer only option, where I’m as in the dark as you and we’re judging on just the trailer. Take your pick.
Films I’ve already seen at the Cambridge Film Festival
Camp 14: Total Control Zone
The harrowing story of an escapee from the North Korean regime, my memory of this is a bit hazy – mainly because it was shown at the 2012 Festival – but I’m sure the version I saw was subtitled and not dubbed with someone attempting to talk so slowly it sounds like they’re reciting Coldplay lyrics. Hopefully if it is the dubbed version in distribution it won’t be too much of a distraction, as this was an effective combination of haunting animation and one man’s attempts to get his life back. The Actual Score: 8/10
The Crash Reel
Along with A Story Of Children And Film, the best documentary I saw at this year’s festival. I was a fan of Lucy Walker’s previous work, but was completely unprepared for the power of the story of snowboarder Kevin Pearce and his and his family’s attempts to come to terms with a traumatic brain injury. It’s a rare documentary that can actually leave you with a knot in the pit of your stomach, but The Crash Reel paints a desperate picture of young sports stars putting themselves in real danger for our entertainment. The Actual Score: 9/10
The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology
The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology is a follow up to The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema. When I went to see it at the Cambridge Film Festival with a Q & A, the audience was asked how many had seen the previous film, and there were almost no hands. I’d be interested to see how many people will return to it off the back of this; there’s some interesting ideas at work and the ties between the film clips and the theorising are solid, but it takes a strong constitution to be lectured at for two hours and ten minutes without a break. You may be longing for the days of an intermission. The Actual Score: 7/10
Sunshine On Leith
This was the first of two surprise films at this year’s festival, and generated reactions from excited to “Worst. Film. Ever.” on Twitter following the screening. There’s three things for me: if you’re opposed to The Proclaimers on general principle, this isn’t going to do much to change your mind; dramatically it’s a wash-out as LITERALLY NOTHING HAPPENS for the first 50 minutes; and a week later, I’m still singing the songs. But I once came within a whisker of doing “500 Miles” at karaoke once, so I’m not the best judge. The Actual Score: 6/10
Playing as part of the FrightFest strand at the Festival, Machete Kills is the movie equivalent of one of those pre-teen American beauty pageant contestants – it’s bright, flashy, oddly fascinating and every time you look away it will attempt something even more ludicrous in an attempt to get your attention. It also features an actual grown up beauty pageant contestant as a main character, and Charlie Sheen as the U.S. President. And Lady Gaga. In two different roles. You get the idea. The Actual Score: 6/10
The first of the musical documentary strand I saw at this year’s festival. In fact, of the thirty-four films I saw this year, thirteen were documentaries. I can now talk intelligently about everything from 1920’s French cinema history to the threat to albinos in Tanzania, and that all came from one Wednesday afternoon. This one was about the influence of a backwater American town on a significant proportion of American music. Hashtag educational. The Actual Score: 7/10
Films I haven’t seen yet
Confession time: started writing this earlier. Seen the film since. Theme comprehensively out of the window. Anyway, McAvoy turns in a career best performance, but Mrs Evangelist suggested the trailer’s a bit misleading in that this goes very dark towards the end. Actually, it goes a bit dark at the start and then gets almost pitch black, but the 18 rating should give you a hefty clue. The
Predicted Actual Score: 8/10
How I Live Now
I’m fascinated by Saoirse Ronan, mainly for the fact that she manages to nail a variety of accents and in real life has an Irish accent so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. In twenty years or so I’m expecting the annual Best Actress competitions to be a battle between her, Chloe Moretz, various Breslins and probably Meryl Streep. Streep will probably still win. Legend. The Predicted Score: 7/10
Some of my favourite directors have managed to put together fantastic runs of quality, and Paul Greengrass’s Bourne sandwich, with a United 93 filling, would be the equal of most of them. It’s a shame it all came to an end with the crushingly disappointing Green Zone. If ever I was hoping for a return to form, then this would be it, so let’s hope Tom Hanks is also on similar form. The Predicted Score: 8/10
It’s Harrison Ford. In space. It’s not Star Wars, but hey, what is? Oh, that’s right, Star Wars. Slightly concerned that Harrison Ford’s now too old and curmudgeonly to be Han Solo, but I will be cheerfully proven wrong in about two years. The Predicted Score: 6/10
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Long time readers will know that I’m a fan of the Jackass series. Less long time readers might be heading for the exit now, but I stand by the fact that the three Jackass movies have made me laugh more than just about anything else I’ve seen in the cinema in their respective years. How the same concept will work with a more narrative structure remains to be seen, but the trailer still made me chuckle heartily. The real key is the level of laughs that have been held back from the promo. The Predicted Score: 7/10
Thor: The Dark World
I always look forward to a trip to the cinema with Mrs Evangelist, and if nothing else the Marvel movies have given me a cast iron guarantee of fun for all the family. Confirmation on watching this trailer before Filth today that Mrs E will be up for the latest dose of Disney-branded myth making. Marvelous. (Sorry.) I’m preparing for some form of geekgasm, based on the director of Game Of Thrones directing the Ninth Doctor, very little of which is alluded to in this promo. The Predicted Score: 8/10