The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Loki's Back!


.... because, let's face it, Tom Hiddleston's Loki is likely the biggest draw and Marvel Studios knows it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I just returned from "Thor: The Dark World" and while it is not a perfect movie by any means, I had a perfectly good time viewing it, in spite of the full bladder I held in throughout most of the flick (I need to learn not to drink that large soft drink an hour before I sit down in the theater). As much as I enjoyed the first "Thor", it was mostly an okay movie saved by by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. It had a lot of problems with pacing, essential scenes being left on the cutting room floor, Jane Foster and her sidekicks feeling like pointless add-ons just to name a few. Most of that is corrected in this installment, now with "Game of Thrones"' own Alan Taylor at the helm.

For starters, the polished and clean Asgard is gone. Whereas last time the set was so clean, you could eat off every inch of it, this time Asgard felt like a real place where these people lived and worked instead of a sterile sound stage. It was nice seeing more of the city, it all really came to life... and thank god because it made the Viking Funeral sequence more powerful because of it.

Jane Foster... didn't annoy me as much this time. She didn't feel as forced. I know, I'm shocked. I could have done with less of Darcy and her intern, but they did get some laughs out of me. I still would have traded them for more of Sif and the Warriors Three... but it is my understanding that Jaimie Alexander broke her back at one point during filming which is why Sif disappears from the story about halfway through the movie. But they introduced the notion of Sif being jealous of Thor's infatuation with Jane, and I hope they play that up more in the next movie.

Once again Chris Hemsworth owns the role of Thor. I don't think I need to say that he continues to be majestic in the role, because while not everybody has seen the first "Thor", everybody on Midgar has seen "The Avengers". Thor has learned the lessons of the first movie, and is humble and honorable while still appropriately proud.

I don't believe I am mistaken when I say that Tom Hiddleston as Loki is, by this point, as essential to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark (and don't think Marvel doesn't know it now). I first saw the signs at the 2011 New York Comic Con when, during the Avengers movie panel (which I was in the room for), 90% of the questions from the audience were directed at Hiddleston (while Chris Evans, Clark Gregg, Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smulders), to Loki becoming a sex symbol when "The Avengers" came out (something I never saw coming in my 20+ years reading the character in comics) to his in-character appearance at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con when I swear the thousands of people in that room would have kneeled. His scenes (most of them with Hemsworth) are among the best in the movie, and as usual, you can tell that Hiddleston relishes the role... and he fooled me at a key moment, like any good trickster should.

Rene Russo as Frigga was the surprise for me, I won't say too much, but I appreciated her role here since she is, for all intents and purposes, what set the story into motion.

Unfortunately, Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the Accursed is, without a doubt, the most underdeveloped villain in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. As I understand it, a lot of his material wound up on the cutting room floor (which also happened to Loki in the first movie... but didn't cripple the character), so Malekith comes off less than a character and more as an obstacle to be overcome. He is the film's weakest link, but not a crippling one because, well, is there anyone in the world who is going to see this movie to see Malekith? I know that "Doctor Who" is huge in the nerd community, and the fact that one of the Doctors was in this movie barely seemed to register with any geek I know. He wasn't horrible, nor was he great. Malekith was.... adequate.

The action was mostly good, but the final battle against Malekith was a bit lackluster. Again, not horrible, but... acceptable. I was more excited by the fleeting glimpses we got at the other realms than Thor defeating Malekith. I thought the assault on Asgard as well as the battles on Svartalfheim were better than the Battle of London.

My overall grade for the movie would have to be a B+. I liked it a lot, I had a great time, and it was great fun. And, quite frankly, I needed to have a great time with the Marvel Cinematic Universe after being let down by the imbecilic "Agents of SHIELD". At the end, we were promised that Thor would return, and I look forward to seeing his next cinematic adventures in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and beyond.

16 comments:

  1. Pretty much my thoughts. I thought the fusion of drama and comedy was more unbalanced this time around. The final fight scene was particularly hurt by all the forced comedic scenes.

    I just hope Loki is used often, but wisely. Don't want to have too much of a good thing.

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    1. "I just hope Loki is used often, but wisely. Don't want to have too much of a good thing."

      Agreed, that's what got us crap like "Agents of SHIELD".

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  2. I should tell you that Marvel has been recently going into the Netflix business. Daredevil's back by the way.

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    1. Thank you, Movie-Brat. Thank you for lifting the rock I live under where I see and hear nothing because you should tell me the big news that has been all over the place. There is no way I could have already known.

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    2. Well you're welcome. XD

      (Don't take it the wrong way.)

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  3. "and he fooled me at a key moment, like any good trickster should."

    The great thing they're doing with Loki is that you don't know if anything he says is true or just part of his trickery. Everything could be a lie or that there is just enough truth to convince you he's genuine. He is a trickster through and through.

    I also like that he's not a mastermind, there's no large elaborate plans, just manipulating situations to his advantage. That does seem to work best for the MCU writing style, which is very much a 'play it by ear' approach with an overall idea of where things are going. So having a grand plan would be undermined by the fact that the writers aren't planning anything specific out in advance.

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  4. Hiddleston mentioned the possibility of this being his last film for a while. I personally agree that Loki should be given a break until after Avengers 2 has passed. As perfect as he is, overexposure could hurt certain characters like him.

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    1. They signed him on for five more movies after "Thor" came out. Hiddleston only said this might be his last one to sell that "death" scene.

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    2. Oooh. So he's got at least two more to go? Wonder which ones they'll be.

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  5. Saw this last weekend, and just want to say that wow, you were right about Malekith. Soooo generic!

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  6. A bit late but I saw this as a triple feature with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and About Time, films I strongly recommend by the way. I enjoyed it but it has its share of problems. Malekith's one of them for similar reasons and it's a shame too because I love the design.

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  7. Just saw this film, I laughed so hard at so many scenes it. Though the after credits scene made me go "what" a few times since they introduced a new character.
    I have similar thoughts on Malekith. Honestly, I think that they realized he might have that reaction since I don't think he was in any of the trailers. Thankfully the rest of the cast was good enough to compensate for it.

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  8. I guess Loki will appear Thor 3, whenever it comes out. Which is only right, given how this film ended. I hope Tom Hiddleston was telling the truth when he said that he wasn't in Age of Ultron though. Ultron really needs to stand on his own in that film - he's my favourite Avengers baddie so I have high expectations!

    As for Thor: The Dark World itself, I don't know, I didn't think it was that great. Thor is an important character since he's a founding member of the Avengers, but I can live without multiple films starring him. It was nice to see this one for Christopher Eccleston (even if his character was unfortunately bland), but it just didn't feel very riveting for me. Maybe The Avengers has spoiled me and I'd prefer to see team-up films from now on, or maybe it's that the Asgard corner of the Marvel universe has never interested me...

    I'll keep an open mind for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, anyway, and for the Marvel films that follow it. Got to say though that I'm more interested in the next two X-Men films.

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    1. "Got to say though that I'm more interested in the next two X-Men films."

      Days of Future Past will hopefully be good. But Apocalypse? He is the most boring character in all of comics.

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  9. Age of Apocalypse was the first mainstream comic book story I ever read, and I loved its take on the parallel universe, dystopian future subject. I enjoyed the other appearances by the Big A which I managed to read in the 90s, like The Twelve. Apocalypse was a decent villain in X-Men:TAS too and his arc in X-Men Evolution was great. I've heard people clamouring to see Thanos and Darkseid on the big screen, but for me Apocalypse is the 'dark lord' of the comics, rather than the other two, and he's a character I've been hoping to see on the big screen. Maybe we might get Mr. Sinister out of this deal too! I just hope they don't ruin Apocalypse by changing him too much. In any case, I think he'll be a far more exciting adversary than the Sentinels. The all-powerful, immortal first mutant who brainwashes several of the good guys into being his Horsemen? Great stuff.

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    1. Let me get this out of the way. I think X-Men: TAS is crap. And now...

      The thing about Apocalypse is, pretty much every plan he's ever tried to enact (with the possible exception of his first appearance) has been complete crap. He's got a killer rep, but you have to look beneath the surface: is he actually an interesting character? Has he really done anything too villainous? His greatest success has been in an alternate reality, for crying out loud... what's our Poccy ever done? And sadly the answer is: not much. We're told frequently that his power is immense... but again, when is that evidenced? He doesn't fight hand-to-hand too often. His powers are entirely generic: shape-changing, getting bigger, super-strong, fire energy blasts.

      Just as an exercise, stack Apocalypse up against Magneto: Mags has interesting, innovative powers; a deep, nuanced backstory; a philosophical stance that you can actually relate to, even support; and actual character development on his side. Poccy has none of those things, with the arguable exception of a mildly interesting back story. It's just not enough. When Apocalypse is due to appear, I roll my eyes and think, "Oh crap, three months of bellowing about 'Survival of the fittest!' and world-shattering events, at the end of which absolutely nothing will be different."

      Which, frankly, is Apocalypse's other problem as a character- his rep is such that every appearance has to be a MEGA HUGE EVENT, after which the X-Men's lives "will never be the same!" And then the story comes and goes, and the status quo is exactly the same, except Cyclops is dead for three months or Wolverine is evil but will probably be good again in the other five books he appears in this month. You can do a one-off issue with Magneto, you can do a story investigating Mystique's past, or Sebastian Shaw's motivations for what he does. You try to do anything less than an ultra-big life-altering story with Apocalypse, it ain't happening. He's the summer blockbuster of X-Men villains... and like most summer blockbusters, the first one was pretty fun but most of the sequels have sucked, and sucked hard.

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