Tag Archives: Thor

Review – Snow White and the Huntsman (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Hollywood has a thing for bastardising stories. With varying enjoyment, films like Troy, Kingdom of Heaven and Eragon all had little to do with their original narratives to the extent that one might be surprised that their respective creators bothered to keep the right names for the characters. Similarly, Snow White and the Huntsman might be entertaining, but it has little to do with the German folklore tale, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, that was first written down by Brothers Grimm in 1812.

Queen Ravenna, in all her splendour, furious to learn that there is one fairer than her.

The film opens with three drops of blood falling onto snow after Queen Eleanor (Liberty Ross – Thinly Veiled, W.E.) pricks herself. Eleanor is praying for a beautiful and fair daughter with raven-black hair, and the strength of a red rose against snow. Yet, not long after she gets her wish and gives birth to Snow White (when young played by Raffey Cassidy – Dark Shadows; when of age played by Kristen Stewart – Twilight I-V, On The Road, Still Alice), Eleanor dies. Shortly afterward, King Magnus (Noah Huntley – The Chronicles of Narnia I, Your Highness, Jappeloup) marries Ravenna (Charlize Theron – Monster, Prometheus, Hancock I & II), a woman with terrible supernatural powers to keep her forever looking young and strikingly attractive.

No sooner is the king betrothed to Ravenna she usurps the throne and locks up her young step-daughter. As the years go by, Queen Ravenna regularly turns to her magic mirror to remind herself that she is the fairest of them all. That is, until one day when the mirror tells her that Snow White is fairer. It is then that Ravenna orders her brother, Finn (Sam Spruell – The Hurt Locker, Defiance, Enemy of Man), to bring her the imprisoned princess.

But it is then that Snow White escapes, fleeing to the Dark Forest where Ravenna has no power. So Ravenna hires Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth – Thor I & II, The Avengers Assemble, Red Dawn) to find and kill her…

Snow White and the Huntsman is an enjoyable movie. Set in a medieval-like world (even though the story originates from around the eighteenth-century), the sceneries are fitting, and the towns and villages, not to mention their inhabitants, are filthy in a realistic way for the period.

Snow White, wet and filthy, trying to defend herself against Eric the Huntsman in the Dark Forest.

Nevertheless, the plot has as much accuracy to the Grimm Brother’s tale as Patroclus does being Achilles’ cousin in Troy (when he is meant to be his lover) and Arya having reddish-brown hair in Eragon (when she is meant to have raven-black hair). Indeed, Snow White and the Huntsman has a multitude of storyline deviations, such as Queen Eleanor shedding three drops of blood (since that comes from another folklore story, called ‘Snow White and Rose Red’) and the huntsman being hired by the evil queen to find Snow White (since in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ he helps Snow White escape to the Dark Forest to save her from Ravenna).

Ravenna as the ‘evil queen’ is one of many clichéd characters in the film. On screen, Ravenna rules in a typically cruel manner and is invariably screeching wicked commands at her advisers; Snow White is an idyllic (dull) angel who hardly knows how to hold a knife, let alone kill someone with it; the huntsman is the stupid, axe-wielding, drunken lout turned noble protector of the princess; and the seven dwarves (at least that stays true to the original story) are almost as one-dimensional as in the 1937 Disney cartoon animation.

Thor… Eric the Huntsman ready to bury his axe into anyone attempting to hurt Snow White.

Due to the lack of depth in all of the characters, the cast has little room to show their talents. Oscar-winner Charlize Theron gives a distinctly ordinary performance as Ravenna; Sam ‘Anders Breivik lookalike’ Spruell is nothing short of wimpish and pitiful; Kristen Stewart gives a stronger performance than she does in the Twilight saga, but she only ever has one expression on her face throughout the film, and her pre-battle speech is laughably appalling; Chris Hemsworth’s display is ostensibly the same as his hammer-swinging one in Thor and The Avengers Assemble, just with a humorous Scottish accent and minus the overt arrogance; and Ian McShane (The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean IV, Jack the Giant Killer), Bob Huskins (Hook, Made In Dagenham, Aleksander Rouge), Ray Winstone (The Departed, Edge of Darkness, The Sweeney), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul, Cuban Fury) and Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hunger Games, The Girl) are all funny as the gruff dwarves, but they pale in comparison to Peter Dinklage’s performance as the deeply complex, witty Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.

All-in-all, Snow White and the Huntsman is an enjoyable film with decent settings and an attractive cast. The actors might give average performances and the characters they portray might be over-simplistic caricatures of good and evil, but it is the movie’s drift away from the original tale that is most striking. Just like with The Iliad, the history of the Third Crusades, and Eragon, Hollywood has shredded a good story in an attempt to make it fit a narrative supposedly more suitable to modern day audiences with a derisible outcome.

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Review – The Avengers Assemble 3D (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 4/5

The Hulk, Iron Man I & II, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were all made to ready audiences for The Avengers Assemble, the culmination of Marvel’s superhero comic-books turned movies. But could throwing together a bunch of supernaturally-gifted souls work in practice? The Avengers Assemble demonstrates the folly of those who doubted the project.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at SHIELD, puts the Avengers Initiative into motion to save (or avenge) the world from Loki.

The film kicks off with Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Thor, Midnight In Paris, Black Wings Has My Angel) opening up a portal to Earth. After seizing control of the minds of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner – The Town, Mission Impossible IV, Mission: Impossible V) and the scientist Erik Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard – Angels & Demons, Thor, Romeo & Juliet), Loki steals the Tesseract, the translucent and supernaturally-powerful cube that belongs to King Odin of Asgard.

Fearing the worst for Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson – Star Wars I-III, Iron Man I-II, Captain America II), the director of SHIELD, reactivates the ‘Avengers Initiative’ to bring together a group supernaturally gifted individuals to save the world against foes beyond man’s conventional capacity. Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson – The Prestige, Iron Man I-II, Her), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo – Shutter Island, The Kids Are Alright, Thanks For Sharing), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man I-III, Sherlock Holmes I-II, Due Date), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I-II, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America II) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Thor, Snow White and The Huntsman) all answer the call.

Despite their differences, the group must co-operate in order to defeat the onslaught upon Earth that Loki shall unleash with the power of the Tesseract behind him.

The villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), smirking as he tells Nick Fury that nothing can stop his plans from coming to fruition.

There is nothing remotely complex, original or realistic about the storyline for The Avenger’s Assemble. Nevertheless, it is greatly entertaining. It has plenty of action scenes and an amusing clash of egos (of Godly proportion) between Thor and Iron Man.

Without being a comedy, the film is littered with banter and jokes. This is because (thankfully), like in This Means War, none of the actors in The Avengers Assemble take their roles earnestly. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark would have looked utterly preposterous if they had tried to seriously discuss astrophysics before turning into a green beast or donning an iron costume.

The Hulk and Iron Man might be the most dominant characters in the film, but director Joss Whedon gives each member of the cast a chance to shine. He gives them all a back story as well. This does not mean that the protagonists in The Avengers Assemble are any less divorced from the society that they have promised to defend; and nor does it mean that they have the depth of the Bruce Wayne of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy or some of the mutants in X-Men: First Class, such as Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven. Yet, it ensures that Whedon’s comic-book heroes are not mere kick-busters in ludicrous outfits either.

The Avengers in action. Captain America, the all-American hero wearing the stars and stripes, leads the group as they attempt to defend the world from the metal monsters coming from outer-space.

Irrespective, though, of whether the narcissistic Tony Stark has come to like his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man I-III, Contagion, Thanks For Sharing), as much as he likes himself, or if Bruce Banner explains the injustices that have led to him turning into a green monster when he gets angry, the special effects are consistently brilliant throughout The Avengers Assemble. Again, there is little new to behold (the highly destructive flying caterpillars have become standard among alien invasion movies since last year’s Transformers III), but the effects assist the action scenes remarkably well. Even the 3D works a treat!

Over-all, The Avengers Assemble is a thoroughly entertaining and humorous movie. It has an affable group of protagonists, who all seem to have great chemistry on set, plus fantastic fighting scenes and superb special effects. The film might not be original or complex, and it certainly has no deep moral message. Yet, The Avengers Assemble is everything that a light-hearted, comic-book, superhero movie should be. Bring on the sequel!

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Review – Midnight In Paris (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

<<guest review by KJF>>

Woody Allen’s popularity at the Box Office has waned of late; some of his recent films didn’t even get a UK distribution. The glory days of Annie Hall and Manhattan seem a long time ago. This, however, is set to change with his delightful romantic fantasy, Midnight In Paris. Owen Wilson (The Royal Tennenbaums, The Wedding Crashers, Little Fockers) plays Gil, a screenwriter who has given up the day-job to write The Big Novel. He’s spending time in Paris with his high-maintenance fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams – Mean Girls, The Notebook, State of Play), and her parents, all the while looking for inspiration. Wandering the streets late at night, Gil finds himself transported back to the Parisian world of the 1920s .

Gil (Owen Wilson), Inez (Rachel McAdams) and friends getting a drawn-out talk by Paul (Michael Sheen) in ‘modern day’ Paris.

Allen’s film is a loving homage to Paris. The opening scenes are wordless shots of the city’s famous sites, accompanied by a jazz soundtrack. It also has gentle digs at the tourist culture it has spawned, particularly the behaviour of Americans in Paris: the brash types who just want to shop, eat and don’t bother attempting to learn the language, or know-alls who like to preen around celebrated cultural artefacts and spout off all they know. The latter is wonderfully encapsulated in Michael Sheen’s (The Deal, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) performance as the pompous academic, Paul.

When Gil finds himself in the 1920s, almost everyone he encounters is a famous face from the time. In fact, Allen unleashes a whole parade of illustrious writers and artists from the period, along with a series of knowing in-jokes as they interact with Gil. There’s, for instance, a brooding Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll – Law & Order:LA),  a youthful F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston – ArchipelagoThor, The Avengers Assemble). Gil even gets the majestic Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates – Misery, Titanic, Alice) to read a draft of his novel. This is overall a wonderful set-up, and Wilson travels through it with engagingly wide-eyed delight. It does occasionally feel a bit schematic as we are introduced from one artistic type to the next, without finding out that much about them. The 1920s scenes, though, are joyously shot whether we’re led through the wonderfully nourish streets or experiencing the lovingly realised parties, full of dancing and Cole Porter songs.

Gil also comes across the beautiful Adriana. She’s played by Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Inception, Contagion) playing another variant on the ‘dream woman’ as seen in Inception. Naturally he falls in love with her, and finds himself conflicted between the ironically ‘old world’ of 2010 and the beautiful ‘golden age’ of the 1920s.

Adriana (Marion Cotillard), one of the wonders of Paris in the 1920s.

As if just to dazzle us with famous names of the past wasn’t enough, Allen drops into a film a living famous name, in the shape of Carla Bruni, wife of the current French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. She cameos as a rather restrained museum guide. A little casting quirk, which is delightful to spot, but doesn’t add much to the story.

Are Gil’s time-travel exploits just occurring in his head as he seeks to find himself a direction in life? Is the theme of the film that we are all seeking our own personal ‘golden ages’? We are left to ponder these questions. Yet, the journey Allen conjures up is so infectiously entertaining that in the end they don’t really matter.

KJF

Review – Captain America: The First Avenger 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2/5

Since when did a man wearing a bright, tight costume become a symbol of heroism in war? Only in the world of comic-books could this be possible. Indeed, whilst watching Captain America: The First Avenger (a prequel to The Avengers Assemble, due out next spring), one has to remind oneself where this (Marvel) superhero comes from to remotely appreciate the film.

Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) suddenly all toned after coming out of the machine that turns him into a superhero.

Captain America is set in the early-1940s, during World War II. Steven Rogers (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I & II, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Avengers Assemble) is a small, scrawny young man from Brooklyn, who is desperate to join the American army. Except, he keeps getting rejected. It is only when Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci – The Devil Wears Prada, Burlesque, The Lovely Bones), a German-American doctor/scientist, wants to conduct an experiment on him that Steven is given the chance to enter the war.

Dr. Erskine wants to turn Steven into a super-strong human weapon, capable of defeating Johann Schmidt/Red Face (Hugo Weaving – Transformers IIII, The Wolfman, The Hobbit I), Erskine’s other experiment that went awry. Schmidt is a Nazi, and one of Hitler’s main henchmen. Schmidt, however, has his own intentions, such as destroying the world by using the almighty power in the Tesseract, a translucent cube, of King Odin of Asgard, Thor’s father. Only the enhanced Steven – Captain America – armed with a shield bearing the stars and stripes, can stop Schmidt from implementing his plan.

Captain America’s nemesis, Red Face (Hugo Weaving). If he’s a Nazi, where’s the swastika insignia on his arm?

The storyline can be followed easily and runs at a fairly decent pace. But at two hours, the movie could have done with being a bit shorter. Undoubtedly, one has to take the plot with a pinch of salt. When one watches Captain America take on whole armies in military fortresses, cheesy images of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger with double-barrelled machine-guns (and seemingly limitless ammunition) spring to mind. This never bodes too well for a modern-day action movie, and Captain America is not immune from this either.

If the late-1980s/early-1990s action scenes don’t make one laugh, then the piteous acting and dialogue certainly will. The eponymous characters in Iron Man I & II and Thor (the other prequels to the upcoming The Avengers Assemble) may have lacked the depth of the main characters in X-Men: First Class, not to mention those in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, but at least Iron Man and Thor had arrogance, swagger and humour. None of the characters in Joe Johnson’s (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman) Captain America have any real substance. They take themselves daftly seriously, with perhaps the exception of Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Men In Black I-III, Lincoln), playing Colonel Chester Philips. Apart from him, the cast (including the usually sound Hugo Weaving) come across as wooden and shallow. They also say some embarrassingly cliché lines (even for a comic-book movie!) that do them no favours.

Captain America all dressed and ready for battle.

The music is little better than the acting. The same can be said for the special effects and the 3D. That does not mean that the special effects are disastrously poor; they are just not of the exceptional quality as those in Transformers III. The 3D, however, is virtually unnoticeable.

Captain America is unquestionably simplistic and appeals almost exclusively to Marvel comic-book fans. It distinctly lacks all the appeals and complexities of Nolan’s Batman series or Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class. Then again, with a propaganda-inclined title, what else should one expect?

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Review – Thor 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating 3.5/5

Another superhero movie? Haven’t we seen it all before? In fairness, one probably has seen a great deal of what Thor has to offer; especially if one is interested in this genre. Nevertheless, despite being a predominantly male-orientated film, Thor is an enjoyable movie with some awesome special effects.

Thor, left, standing behind his father, King Odin, and alongside his brother, Loki as they approach their enemies..

Thor is about (surprise, surprise) a young man called Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Red Dawn, The Avengers Assemble). He is a ferocious, unnaturally powerful warrior and heir to the throne of Asgard. Yet, Thor is arrogant and cruel. After disobeying his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins – Hannibal series, Mission Impossible II, Fracture), he is stripped of his powers and his hammer (the source of his powers); and banished from Asgard.

He wakes up to find himself in the desert of New Mexico, America, to be surrounded by a scientist called Jane (Natalie Portman – Black SwanStar Wars IIII, Lawless), plus her assistants Darcy (Kat Dennings – The 40 Year Old Virgin, The House Bunny, Lives of the Saints) and Erik (Stellan Skarsgard – Pirates of the Caribbean II & III, Angels and Demons, The Avengers Assemble). Thor is determined to do whatever it takes to regain his god-like powers and return to Asgard. Meanwhile in Asgard, in Thor’s absence, a traitor increases his influence over the ailing Odin and his court. This will set Asgard to war, again, against the frost-people of Jotenheim.

Despite being about fictional realms, the plot for Thor is easy to follow. The director, Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Frankenstein, Valkyrie), has structured the film well so that each scene flows nicely after the other and the pace of the film is just right. As a result, Thor is a very entertaining movie. Undoubtedly, the action scenes in the film are the highlight as they are superb and will leave viewers wanting more.

The movie may lack the goriness of Watchmen (not to mention the political connotations of that film); yet, Thor makes up for it in special effects. Regardless of whether they are accompanying the action scenes or are merely backgrounds for the fictional sceneries of the different worlds, the special effects throughout are fantastic. In some ways, they are so good they almost rival those in Avatar. It is a shame that Asgard is explored less than Pandora because some of the sceneries in Thor have the same ‘wow’ factor; particularly during the credits at the end. The 3D assists and makes the effects a little more spell-binding; however, on the whole, Thor is another example of a 2D film that has been converted, post-production, into 3D.

Thor promising Jane that he will return to Earth to see her.

Unlike the action scenes and the special effects, the acting in Thor is quite average. Chris Hemsworth performs adequately as the main character. But, as Thor, he is not given the depth of personality to make himself stand out in the same way as Christian Bale does as Batman. This results in him coming across as quite immature and superficial.

It is a shame that less attention is given to Thor’s younger brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Conspiracy, Midnight In Paris, The Avengers Assemble), as it could have made for interesting viewing. But, alas, we are deprived of this. Instead, we have the standard ‘lesser’ brother who wants to emulate his older, more decorated sibling. The other characters, for better or worse, are not given much time on screen. Again, they all have little by way of depth and do not add much to the film. (Yes, even the gorgeous Natalie Portman.)

Ultimately, Thor may initially have the feel of ‘yet-another-superhero-movie.’ It may not have the violence of Watchmen or the deep characters of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, or the political nuances of those films. Nevertheless, Thor is a fun film with plenty of action and some awe-inspiring sci-fi-style special effects.

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