Category Archives: idris elba
Thor The Dark World ~ Any Marvel movie at this point is an event, not just a promised blockbuster, but a legitimate mainstream event. Everyone wants to see the next big Marvel movie, and with the news this past week of Netflix’s picking up five different Marvel Comics projects as live action additions to their streaming own line-up that includes “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “Arrested Development,” the next Marvel movie is big, and that movie is Thor The Dark World, a movie so big, it opened alone this weekend.
One thing I was happy to see, that even though the Marvel superheroes are now part of everyday pop culture and even your grandmom is aware of Thor, the powers that be aren’t afraid to mine the source material for ideas rather than going off on a weird Hollywood tangent. One of the best Thor runs in the comics, other than the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby originals, would be the Walt Simonson run in the 1980s. Simonson did so much in his short run. He brought the character back to his roots, removed Don Blake from the equation, turned our hero into a frog, froze the planet, brought on both Surtur and the Midgard Serpent – and he also created Malekith and Kurse.
These two new characters were among the most powerful and dangerous the god of thunder had ever fought in the comics, making them more than adequate fodder for movie villains. I was more than pleased with former Doctor Christopher Eccleston as Malekith and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from HBO’s “Oz” as Kurse, but I just wish they had had more to do and less make-up, as they’re both terrific actors. In both cases, Kurse more so, the make up hindered their performances.
Sadly, what I said about source material goes by the wayside quite quickly. In the comics, Malekith releases Surtur and opens the Cask of Ancient Winters amongst other evils, but here, it is a mysterious aether that is the MacGuffin and magical weapon of choice. I really got the sense, especially when seeing that a different group of folks wrote the screenplay than wrote the story, that this was a plot from something else that had been transplanted into this Thor movie – sort of like how 1987’s Masters of the Universe flick was a rewritten abandoned New Gods script.
Nevertheless, I like Thor The Dark World quite a bit. The cast was back in full force, and Chris Hemsworth seemed more comfortable in the title role this time, Natalie Portman was not as annoying, and as always Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki. I did think Anthony Hopkins looked a bit tired, and I was glad to see Idris Elba getting more screen time as Heimdall. I like Kat Dennings more every time I see her, sigh, I guess I’ll have to break down and watch that “2 Broke Girls” show. I was also delighted to see Chris O’Dowd, as well as (spoilers) Chris Evans.
I really enjoyed the movie, despite it sorta taking a lighter, more Avengers tone than the first Kenneth Branaugh directed film. I liked the new language of the Dark Elves, I liked their spaceships, and their weapons, especially the space warp bombs. It was a bit of a distraction to have guns going ‘pew-pew’ and I freely admit to saying out loud at one point, “Coruscant is under attack, where’re the Jedis?” Now, that said, the first movie made a concerted effort to explain that Asgard was not magic, but technology so advanced it appeared to be magic, so this does fit the Marvel Cinematic continuity.
Thor The Dark World was really cool, I’d see it again, and I’ll definitely get it for home viewing when it comes out. I didn’t think it needed much improvement, but female friends we ran into after the flick, as well as The Bride, all commented on the same thing regarding Chris Hemsworth. More bare chest. And butt, more butt. On that note, don’t forget to stay for the after credits stingers, this time there are two.
Prometheus ~ First things first, get any notion out of your head that this flick has anything to do with the Alien series. It may, but waiting for those bits that connect it, or even expecting them, will lessen your enjoyment of this otherwise fairly good scifi horror. It’s Ridley Scott, it’s terror in space, but Alien it is not.
Motivated by ancient cave drawings, a space mission in the future travels to a distant planet described in those drawings. The assumption is this is where to find the origin of man, our creators, who the scientists in charge call The Engineers. Yes, it’s vague, and attempts are made to explain it along the way, but in the end it gets us to the planet, and starts the action moving.
The Prometheus and its crew land on the planet, explore an abandoned complex full of dead Engineers and one by one get picked off by various horrors from within and without in Alien-like suspense. Ghosts, monsters, mystery goo, infections, its all here. There is also the obligatory robot we don’t know whether to trust or not. Paranoia is the name of the game, and Scott does it well.
Now for the cringeworthy spoiler alert and reason you might not want to see this flick. After being quite suddenly impregnated, Noomi Rapace (from the original, and superior, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), playing a character named Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (yeah, I couldn’t get the Doctor Who reference out of my head either), gives herself an abortion. It is every bit as horrifying, and more so, as it sounds. Definitely one of the hardest things for me to watch in a movie in quite some time. Consider yourself warned.
There’s a terrific ensemble cast including Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Wong, Guy Pearce, and the always terrific Idris Elba. Can that man do no wrong? There’s also Sean Harris, who played the assassin Micheletto, the best thing about Showtime’s “The Borgias.” He is equally as good at scene stealing here too.
Worth seeing, but with several provisos, you have been warned.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance ~ I’m in the minority. I’m one of the few people on Earth, other than Nicholas Cage, who liked the first Ghost Rider movie. There are folks who hate Cage, folks who disliked the mixing and matching of different Riders in it, and the campiness of it. I thought it worked. There was an earnestness that I liked, and honestly I’m not that well versed in GR continuity to argue those points. But I liked it.
When I heard Cage was making another one, I was pleased and couldn’t wait to see it. I mean, really, how bad could it be? Now months later I finally get to see it on DVD. Wow. I was wrong.
There are moments of animation throughout that have promise, but they are only moments and soon replaced by the plodding terrible acting of Cage and the rest of the cast. He can be good, but here he’s just phoning it in, long distance from a bad cell. Wow. Even terrific actors like Idris Elba and okay actors like Christopher Lambert are pulled down into this vortex of stink.
Even the special effect of a skull on fire is done badly here. Visually at least, this should have been as stunning as the first. The script is by David S. Goyer, so this is another craptacular for him to notch on his belt. When he’s good, he’s good, but when Goyer is bad… man oh man, is he bad. Avoid this flick.
Thor ~ This Marvel Comics film is one of conflicts and contrasts, most of them terrific. If you loved the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics, and even the Lee and John Buscema comics, you will be swept up in a world conjured by those stories. Some of the themes and explanations have changed, but unlike a lot of things the DC Comics have done, these changes are for story logic.
There’s a rough beginning where astrophysicist Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (an odd job change for her character but it works in the context) is looking for an anomaly and ends up hitting Thor with her car. When we’re hooked, we’re hit with the real beginning. The wonderfully cast Anthony Hopkins as Odin clues us in to the origins of the Norse gods as beings of superior science and technology, which we perceive as gods and magic. We meet the family, his sons Thor, about to ascend the throne, and his darker brother Loki.
More great casting comes with their friends the Warriors Three. I love Josh Dallas who is the de facto substitute for Cary Elwes in parts the original is too old and chunky for. The main roles of Loki and Thor are also perfect cast. Tom Hiddleston has the correct slinkiness and sneakiness in his voice and physical stature. And nobody else could ever have played Thor better than Chris Hemsworth in my opinion.
There is one bit of casting that seems to have caused a controversy in some dark corners of our world, and that is Idris Elba as Heimdall. Some racists have made a big fuss about the character being African-American. Now if these were truly Norse gods, one could make the argument that the Norse would perceive their gods as like themselves, as in white skin. But it should be noted in the context of the movie, the Asgardians are not Norse, they may not even be human, and can be of whatever race. Just because the Norse thought Heimdall was white doesn’t mean he is. Add to this Elba’s amazing performance, and I have no problems at all.
It’s just like Lawrence Fishbourne being cast as Perry White in The Man of Steel. There’s nothing that says he isn’t, or can’t be. I think there are a small handful of characters who are definitely of one race or another. Established African-American characters can’t really be white. For instance you just couldn’t do it with the Black Panther or Black Lightning (and not just because of the names), but Blade could very well be portrayed as white. Of course you will get an argument from me on Wonder Woman. Sorry, Beyonce, but Wonder Woman is Greek. But enough on this sidetrack, suffice it to say, Idris Elba’s Heimdall is one of the highpoints of the flick.
Once Odin’s explanation of the universe is over we move to a very special occasion – Thor becoming his replacement as king of Asgard. The ceremony is ruined by a break-in by some Frost Giants trying to steal back the Casket of Ancient Winters. Thor wants to attack the Frost Giants and start a war, and his father disagrees, seeing this as a bad kingly decision. Like a good spoiled brat prince, Thor gets his brother and his friends together, and off they go to Jotunheim to rumble with the Frost Giants.
This is Lee/Kirby/Buscema made live on the big screen. This sequence is among the best of the flick. I love it and can watch it over and over again. I know the story of Thor is him on Earth, but man oh man, what I wouldn’t give for a Thor in Asgard chilling and killing with his friends movie. Note should be made of the movie Asgard. The realm Eternal is a glorious place, not necessarily that of the comics, but a beautiful vision of futuristic and mythic society. Comparisons could be made to the cityscapes of the first Star Wars trilogy (one of the few things I liked about those movies). And take note, DC Comics, the awe inspired by Asgard is what viewers should have felt when they saw Oa in the Green Lantern film.
After attacking the Frost Giants, Odin has had it with his spoiled brat of a son, and banishes him to Earth to learn humility, just like in the comics, and we come full circle in our movie story. Following a weird light anomaly in the sky, Jane Foster – along with her scientist friend Erik played by Stellan Skarsgard and her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) – whacks our exiled thunder god with her car. Some great fish out of water scenes follow, and we soon learn that the first anomaly Jane detected was Thor’s hammer falling from the sky as shown in the post-credits scene in Iron Man 2. Nice continuity there, Marvel.
Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is a bit of an anomaly herself, going from nurse in the comics to astrophysicist here. The job change needed for both story logic and because Thor’s human alter-ego of Dr. Donald Blake doesn’t really exist in this tale, although the name does pop up as an Easter egg for comics fans. Jane really only exists here as a romantic foil for Thor. Her mentor has all the keys and her intern does all the work. I would have rather had Jane have all the answers and the intern be her sounding board. Skarsgard wasn’t really needed here. Please give me strong women in the movies made from the comics, if not the comics, ya know? Jane Foster could have been that character.
There are great scenes at the hammer drop site of folks trying to lift it, including one with creator Stan Lee. While Thor plays fish out of water on Earth, and SHIELD takes over the hammer site, Loki takes over the throne of Asgard. Loki also sets his sights on bringing all the realms to their knees, and sends the Destroyer to, what else, destroy Thor. Also, Avengers fans, don’t miss the fifteen second cameo by Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye the Marksman. When the Warriors Three come to Earth, it’s total coolness, though I wish more had been made of it. The same goes with the battle with the Destroyer. When the only real complaint one can have is that I wish there was more of it, that’s a good thing. When is Thor 2 again? And, geekgasm, how about a Lady Sif and the Warriors Three movie?
Things are beginning to resemble a Thor comic at this point, and that’s a good thing – because it works. Director Kenneth Branagh has succeeded in repeating the magic with which Jon Favreau brought Iron Man to the big screen. He brings what made the comics special to the screen. Thor is near perfect. Along with the original Iron Man and Captain America which followed Thor in July, it’s a perfect trinity of Marvel’s greatest characters.
This bodes well for 2012’s Avengers movie. And speaking of which, don’t forget, as with all Marvel movies, don’t forget to watch the post-credits sequence with more foreshadowing of the Avengers film. Thor is easily one of the top ten, perhaps top five, superhero movies of all time, do not miss.