Marvel’s demigod sequel soars

Previously printed in the UVU Review.

Thor-The-Dark-World-Poster-003“Iron Man 3” opened up a huge summer of blockbusters with its action, humor and superhero aesthetics that can only be found in a Disney Marvel movie. Although Robert Downey Jr. set a high bar for the Avengers Phase 2, somehow Chris Hemsworth and the “Thor” crew took it as a challenge.

2011’s “Thor” served as a launching pad for the title character. It was a simple story of a strong-headed demi-god who is humbled by mortality and love. Even though it wasn’t the strongest movie pre-Avengers, it was essential to know his origins and what Thor (Chris Hemsworth) values and why.

“Thor: the Dark World” begins a couple of years after the events of “The Avengers.” Thor is busy watching over the nine realms with his hammer, Mjolnir, and his might. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned in Asgard for his failed attempt to enslave and rule the people of Earth.

To gain revenge and the state before time, Dark Elves, lead by Malkith (Christopher Eccleston), attempt to find the “aether,” which was hidden by Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) father a millennia ago. Luckily, the aether finds its way into Thor’s love interest Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) veins. Simultaneously, Foster acts as the boon and damsel in distress.

Yes, the plot sounds ridiculous, but the way it is told is never overbearing or confusing. It slowly guides you from plot point to plot point by the hand which any viewer can appreciate.

The visual effects are the most stunning in most of the Marvel films. In a fully realized Asgard, the action sequences reflect a blend of “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” prequels kinetic joy. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) handles fight scenes and fast paced aerial shots with care and cohesiveness.

There are many bait and switch moments which act as major plot devices, but you can’t really be upset about them because the movie makers tell you time after time to watch out for them. You can tell that the screenwriters (Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely) love and respect the source material and are having a blast with it.

No good superhero movie is without its humor, and “Dark World” is brimming with it. Some of the humor it is out of place and some doesn’t land right, but when it does it hits hard. You will walk out with countless “remember this part” moments with your friends to laugh about later. The humor doesn’t diminish the hard hitting drama when it delivers.

Where the movie truly shines is when Loki finally teams up with Thor. Hiddleston’s Loki brings charisma and tension to the screen to balance Thor’s stiffness with great ease. The two create remarkable sibling chemistry that only a guy with a brother can fully appreciate.

Marvel is only one of Disney’s powerhouses that turn out hit after hit, but it’s safe to say that they have overtaken Pixar as their safe moneymaker. In the last few years Pixar has lost its place as Disney’s favorite poster boy with their less than impressive “Brave,” and “Cars 2” movies.

In the last two summers, Marvel has released two huge hits that joined the billion dollar club: “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” and don’t seem to be letting up. As hard as it is to say: Marvel is the new Pixar.

Like most of the Avengers movies, “Dark World” furnishes the right mixture of CGI, compelling charaters, stakes, action, adventure, romance and geek fandom into a compressed package. If this is any indication of the Phase 2, then we have our expectations for April’s “Captain America: the Winter Soldier” sky high

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“Ender’s Game” didn’t click.

For months my wife would get as giddy as a school girl when she saw anything pertaining Ender’s Game. She even has swept through the all the Orson Scott Card books to prepare herself. Me? I haven’t read the book. Don’t even have a desire to. And that didn’t change after watching the movie last night. endersgame-finalposter-full

If you’re as ignorant as me, I’ll give you the basic lowdown. After Earth is destroyed by an alien race the military recruits children to groom them into commanders because they process information faster than adults do. Ender Wiggens (Asa Butterfield)  is a special kind of boy. Although not fully explained why, we are to believe that he is somehow designed to become an elite commander. He is a mix of his brother and sister, empathetic and violent which makes him a good balance to be what the military needs. Col Graffen (Harrison Ford) recruits Ender to a battle school. Here he is takes on leadership role by questioning and challenging authority. That’s all you need to know because from there it gets a little too complicated.

For the most part, I did enjoy it. It kept my attention and interested in Ender. As for the rest of the cast, not so much. I applaud Ford in his hard-ass commander role. You could tell he was desperate to protect Earth from another attack. As for the rest of the cast, they felt flat, boring and didn’t care too much about. Except for Bonzo (Moises Arias) who was incredibly unlikable, it was a shame I had more negative feelings toward that character than positive for any of the others.

I’ve heard a ton about the weightless Battle Room and I was actually looking forward to it. And of course it had to let me down. It seemed too slow and lazy. The rules of the game, even though I understood them, made the game more exciting than it actually was. There was a point where Ender steps up the plate in a game and wins, but the cheesiness of it just blemished the whole scene.

As for the acting, I usually give a pass for child actors. Butterfield didn’t need a pass because I understood the character and his mindset but I wasn’t pulling for him either. The other actors seemed flat and silly when they spoke. I was aware that they were acting albeit unconvincing. I got the impression that they were trying their hardest to do what they could with the material they were given. For that, I blame the screenplay written by the director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

What made the movie altogether worth it for me was the philosophical message that culminated at the end. What happened and how Ender handled it really hit home for me.

As for being an adaptation, I knew they can’t put every word from the book onto the screen. I get that. I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and movies and could never understand why a non-reader wouldn’t fall for it like I have. My meh-ness of Ender’s Game has helped me understand that. It just didn’t click with me. Valiant effort nonetheless.

What did you think of Ender’s Game? Did you read the book? Tell me your thoughts.