Thor (9/22/12)

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In Thor, the titular hero is banished from Asgard to Earth while his brother Loki schemes to become the new king.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of Asgard, wages war against the Frost Giants to prevent them from taking over the nine realms. The Asgardians win and steal their source of power. Flash forward to present day and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is going to become the new king of Asgard when the Frost Giants attack again. Thor travels to another realm with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and breaks a truce between the realms, thus causing Odin to banish him and his hammer, Mjolnir, to Earth. Cue S.H.I.E.L.D. to investigate. On Earth, Thor is stripped of his powers and meets a group of scientists, notably Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to assist him as Odin slumbers to regain his strength and Loki tries to rise to power.

Fanboys be warned, this may get you riled up. I have never been a fan of Marvel Comics Thor and as such found the movie adaptation incredibly dull and pointless, if not for the fact that it ties into The Avengers. If you put Thor and Clash of the Titans/Wrath of the Titans side by side I would struggle to be able to say which I thought was the better movie. If Thor didn’t have the comic license behind it it would be pretty bad movie.

I’m not sure if the plot of Thor was confusing or if my brain just didn’t care enough to process what was happening. It seems like I’m not the only one that tuned out, most of the actors seemed like they didn’t want to be there either. Natalie Portman gives an especially awful performance on the heels of her Oscar win for Black Swan. Idris Elba, who plays Heimdall, the gatekeeper, and who I didn’t even recognize at first gives one of the best performances of the film and he has maybe 10 minutes of screen time. Even Tom Hiddleston, who I thought was great in The Avengers as Loki seems to be reading cue cards off-camera. I get it, it’s a licensed superhero action movie, but come on, people!

The visuals are really the only saving grace that kept me awake during Thor. The movie does look good and the color palates for Asgard especially were neat and made for tasty eye-candy. The set and costume designs for the realms were true to the comics but also with a shiny new movie sheen to them. So basically, I shut my brain off and looked at all the pretty pictures while the movie played out for about 2 hours.

Did I hate Thor? Well, “hate” is a strong word… Do I think Thor was unnecessary and do I wish I left it unwatched? Yes. The problem here is that the source material, while rich in mythology, didn’t spark any interest in the character (or the comics)  for me. At least Captain America ended up being more than a setup to The Avengers. The fact that the movie studio thinks there needs to be a sequel to Thor confuses me, but maybe the second time’s the charm? I don’t think I’ll be finding out.

I give it 2 “I’m Thor!”s out of 5.

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Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (6/27/12)

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Earth’s mightiest heroes must team up to defend the Earth in Ultimate Avengers.

During World War II, Captain America fights nazis who end up being aliens. An explosion blows him into the ocean and freezes him. He is thawed out around 70 years later by Nick Fury of SHIELD. Bruce Banner (The Hulk) is working on recreating the Super Soldier Serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America, something Banner thinks can help him control Hulk. The aliens, Chitauri, attack Earth and SHIELD assembles Thor, Wasp, Iron Man, Ant Man, Captain America, and the Hulk to fight them off.

If you’re wondering why my synopsis for Ultimate Avengers sounds so dry and lifeless, you probably have no interest in watching this animated film because I treat the story with as much finesse as the film does. For those of us that watched the live-action Avengers on the big screen, the plot here is largely the same only devoid of any life (that’s not an animation pun). Nothing here is new or exciting and even the art style and animation brings nothing new to the table.  That is not to say it’s bad, it’s just uninteresting.

Unless you’re a huge fan of Marvel’s characters or the Avengers in general, see the live-action Avengers instead. For some reason, though sharing much of the plot, the live-action version is much more enjoyable. If you still want an animated Avengers fix, watch the surprisingly good Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series and skip Ultimate Avengers.

I give it 3 seriously, watch Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes out of 5.

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The Avengers (5/12/12)

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The Avengers is the culmination of several Marvel Comics movies from the past several years, bringing Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and more together on the big screen.

I think at this point every movie blog I follow has had coverage of The Avengers in some form so this may be a partial retread for most of you.

If you have seen either Iron Man film (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), or to a lesser extent, The Incredible Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers, but Edward Norton in the original film), then you are likely aware of some of the setup for The Avengers. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), head of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is essentially a heavily funded black ops organization, has recruited some of Earth’s mightiest heroes to locate the Tesseract, an all-powerful cube stolen by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother. The team first has to come together, then has to defeat Loki, who has used the Tesseract to call upon the Chitauri, an alien race that wishes to destroy humanity.

The main draw to The Avengers is the fact that Joss Whedon both wrote and directed it. Whedon is beloved in the nerd community for helming the ill-fated sci-fi drama Firefly as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. Whedon makes the action tight and the script fun, there is obvious love for the material here. I have two fairly big issues with the film on a whole. First, the run time, which clocks in at just under 2 1/2 hours. There is a lot of material packed into that time frame, which leads me to my second gripe…The pacing of the first half of the film. For awhile there I had completely forgotten about the Tesseract and the Chitauri threat because the plot was idling around the Avengers internal conflicts. It’s necessary to the story, but could have really been trimmed of some fat.

Once the second half picks up the film grabbed me and didn’t let me go until the credits rolled. The nerd in me wanted more as soon as it was over but once the thrill of the theatrical experience wore off I was less enthused about the film. That’s not to say it’s bad, I guess all the hype about how great it is propped me up for a bit of disappointment. However, The Avengers is proof that Marvel Comics films can still be a lot of fun without needing to take a dark edge like Nolan’s Batman films to be good or successful. I will say that I look forward to the inevitable Avengers sequel very much.

I give it 4 many faces of Hulk out of 5.

(In case you are wondering, 1) Avengers 2) Incredible Hulk 3) Hulk 4) Incredible Hulk (TV series))

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Captain America (2/28/12)

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Captain America surprised me. When Marvel announced they were going to make an Avengers movie, I was kind of excited. I haven’t been a big comic fan in the last decade or so, but comic books have always been something I enjoy. Captain America is not one of my favorite comic books, so I expected a rushed movie just to sell the Avengers down the road. I was wrong.

Captain America has been made into a movie before, and actually that was one of the first DVDs I ever watched. Needless to say, it left a sour taste in my mouth for the character. Luckily, the new movie about Cap treats the franchise with utmost care and it turns out to be a pretty good action/superhero movie.

As an origin story to the character, we see Steve Rogers as a 90 pound weakling that wants to get into the army during World War II. He is eventually accepted into a program that turns him into a super soldier by enhancing all of his qualities, not just his bulk. At the same time, the Nazis are formulating a similar program and the film’s villain, Red Skull, is created in the same manner as Captain America. Obviously the effects are the opposite on his personality and he ends up horribly disfigured.

The film really gives us a detailed account of what makes Steve Rogers become Captain America. Almost too much detail. While I thought the action in the second half of the film really made the time fly, there is quite a bit leading up to those points, some of which may not have been absolutely necessary. Overall, Captain America tells a great story and sets up the upcoming Avengers movie perfectly.

I boldly stated that Captain America was in my top 5 superhero movies of all time, but after thinking about that for a minute discovered that isn’t true (I had forgotten about Nolan’s Batman movies somehow). Most likely in my top 10, though. I was surprised that I would be interested in seeing Captain America’s origin story play out, but it really does make a good movie. Fans of the comics should be pleased.

I give it 4 “I didn’t know Stanley Tucci was in Captain America!”s out of 5.

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