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Thor-2_2709663b

Thor is still ultimately about these two fellas.

A little over two years ago, I wrote a positive review for Thor fueled mostly by very pleasant surprise that they dared so much, let alone accomplished anything by it. Thor is probably one of the weaker stand-alone Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, but it was elevated by one of the better casts and a functional emotional story of a type for which I have a confirmed soft spot. What held it back was its smallness, its breeziness, and a certain lack of conviction that kept it from fully owning its cosmic scale.

Thor: The Dark World succeeds its predecessor in every way it faltered. Not only a bigger and better film in terms of spectacle, it maintains the emotional narrative and strong sense of familial drama that drove the first film and has helped make Loki (Tom Hiddleston) the best Marvel villain and one of the greatest film baddies of this era. Rather than breaking from its lesser roots, The Dark World returns to them and builds on them, crafting a science-fiction fantasy film that is the envy of all other science fiction fantasy films (though there aren’t many of them) since probably the last good Star Wars. It is so audaciously, apologetically a movie of ridiculously huge ideas and creatures and characters, that anyone who grew up on Final Fantasy and Masters of the Universe, let alone the comics, will feel like it was made for them.

There’s also that it’s one of the funniest, funnest movies of 2013. Thor: The Dark World in no way felt like a movie that should be as out-and-out entertaining as it is, going in, but I laughed my ass off. It may even be funnier than The Avengers. One might have fairly expected a greater degree of verisimilitude with Alan Taylor directing (he did a lot with limited resources on Game of Thrones) but I don’t know that anyone expected him to have such a sharp ear for the comedic inside the dramatic, or the cosmic. I would not have envied the job of trying to make some of the stuff in The Dark World work on the straight, let alone trying to make it amusing without undermining it. Here, that is the accomplishment. It also paves the way for the crazier, bigger world of the MCU’s next phase of development, a world wherein we’ll be connecting the grounded (ish) realities of the¬†Phase 1 films and The Avengers with things like talking trees, Space Jim Jarmusch, and fucking Rocket Raccoon. Because yes, sportsfans, part of Thor: The Dark World‘s purpose is to prepare audiences for that big step upward and outward, to a place where we can receive Guardians of the Galaxy with only the good kind of head-scratching.

The Marvel films make it an exciting time for moviegoers and superhero fans. Thor: The Dark World makes it an exciting time for fantasy fans, and even the ones who don’t care about Thor or Marvel should really give this a look.

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Prisoners_2013_1

Roger Deakins, eat your heart out.

Prisoners feels like the closest thing to a genuine Alan Moore movie that I’ve ever seen. It may seem cheapening to the work screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski did (stellar work, by the way) to say that, but I mean it as an utmost compliment. While Prisoners will make its way into the world on its strengths as a thriller featuring great performances, unpredictability, and moral ambiguity, there are layers within layers of symbolism, allegory, and inquiry being performed within what appears to be an eccentric, but straightforward kidnapping film. Alan Moore is a touchstone for me because of his penchant for layering symbolism in his narratives, attaching occult elements or bits of weird history into his stories. From Hell, the graphic novel, is what immediately comes to mind as I think back on this film.

I can’t think of a recent mystery thriller more surprising than Prisoners. This will probably be one of the things that leaves the biggest impression on audiences. Because the film takes its time (it’s 153 minutes long) and is very selective about what it shows and tells, it’s very difficult to predict the twists and turns. There’s a flirtation and subsequent abandoning of the conventions of the genre. It starts out feeling more formulaic, only to steadily layer uncertainty even on the level of its structure, which rolls out into the narrative and characterizations.

Prisoners is a very intelligent film. A lot of its merit will be lost on people who go into it only willing to engage with the surface. That said, it’s laudable that the movie works entirely on that surface level. It’s not perfect. There is a bit of bloat here, and there are scenes and moments that are not easily clarified in the context of the story nor its thematic significance. This can be confusing and unsatisfying as some of the lingering questions after the film aren’t the good kind.

This is a film you DON’T want spoiled. Do not read this review if you care about that and/or you’re planning to see the film. Read the rest of this entry »

Thor is ultimately about these two fellas right here.

There was no way a Marvel superhero movie about a technological super-being version of a Norse God was going to work was there? With all that spectacle edging into the pretty grounded version of the superhero universe established by Iron Man (and its sequel) or The Incredible Hulk, it was all destined to fall apart wasn’t it? Too many ridiculous hats and just too goddamn much power in the hands of a guy who ultimately has to work with other, arguably less powerful, individuals in order to stop some titanic threat in a later movie we know is happening. Just no way Thor was ever going to be made to fit with all that shit.

Or was there? Read the rest of this entry »

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