We Belong To The Night (Nightcrawler, 2014)

nightcrawler-posterJake Gyllenhaal is lowlife Louis Bloom.  He makes his living stealing and pawning stuff.  He is also not above harming people to get out of situations.  One night he discovers Joe Loder…a camera man who patrols the night for accidents, murders and other tragedies so he can sell the footage to television news.  This ends up to be a perfect job for Louis.

A lot of films are about an arc…a good character being corrupted…a corrupt character finding redemption.  That is not this film.  Louis is soulless, lacking any compassion.  This serves him well as he starts excelling at the exploitation of people’s pain and suffering.  Gyllenhaal is intense and frightening in the role.  He is a sociopath, filming the suffering of even people in his own life.  The footage is what matters, not the people.

In spite of the darkness of Louis, this film makes it hard to look away and draws you in, hoping for that moment where Louis might show a spark of humanity.  But Louis is cruelly satisfied with who he is.  Nightcrawler is a good and effective film, but also unrelentingly dark.

Elves! But DARK Elves (Thor: The Dark World, 2013)

thor_the_dark_world_posterThor’s post Avengers story stays outside of the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man and Captain America.  It focuses squarely on Thor, Jane Foster and Asgard.

The story opens with Odin telling the tale of how the universe had once been in darkness, and after a time, the dark elves sought to plunge the universe back into the darkness.  They were stopped by Odin’s father who had their weapon (the Aether) hidden deep below the ground of…somewhere.  Jane Foster is doing the whole “Chasing Anomalies” thing and stumbles on the Aether which she absorbs.  Thor shows up because suddenly the Bifrost Bridge has been restored.  He brings her to Asgard, the Dark Elves show up, things go very badly and Thor is forbidden from heading out of Asgard.  So Thor frees the imprisoned Loki for help in slipping out “unnoticed”.  This is one of the film’s big set pieces.  Eventually Thor tries to destroy the Aether and is unsuccessful, and the dark elf Malekith gets hold of it.

There is a battle on earth which nearly succeeds in destroying everything.  But Thor saves the day (with help from none of the Avengers) and the universe does not blink out of existence.

Thor: the Dark World is not terrible.  It has some real fun moments, mostly provided by Loki.  And the action scenes are very well done.  Taylor is a pretty accomplished television director, including Game of Thrones.  He is able to frame exciting battle sequences.  Hemsworth is likeable as Thor, Hiddleston’s Loki is entertaining as usual.

The film attempts to really show Jane Foster is a scientist.  There is a cute moment where Jane asks if a magical piece of Asgardian equipment is a quantum field generator.  The person working it states it is a “Soul Forge”.  Jane asks if the Soul Forge transfers molecular energy from one place to another.  The person responds, “yes”…and Jane  quietly tells Thor proudly that it is a Quantum Field Generator.

Loki gets most of the best character moments, both in humor and drama.  But the story has holes.  Why do the Elves want to erase the universe?  Why not bring in the Hulk to fight the nearly indestructible Berserkers?  If it is not Odin on the Throne towards the end…just where is Odin. It is pretty average, especially in comparison to Captain America: the Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.  It also does nothing to advance the characters beyond where they already were.  It is primarily to introduce the Aether, which will be part of the third Avengers film.

Hammer Time (Thor, 2011)

thor-posterAs Marvel worked their way to the Avengers, they had a bit of an issue.  Thor is supposedly a god, as are all his friends and family.  How does this fit into the Marvel world?  Their resolution was that they are mistaken for gods, but really their magic is just science we do not understand yet.

Thor is introduced as a brash young man, a drunkard who cares more for fun than responsibility. This frustrates his father Odin to no end.  On the other hand, his brother Loki is a schemer who wants to rule.  All of this leads to Thor being cast from Asgaad and his powerful hammer being taken from him.  Thor discovers he cannot wield the hammer until he proves himself worthy.  After being found by scientist Jane Foster and her team Darcy and Erik Selvig, they find themselves being watched by S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically, Agent Colson.  They have found the hammer, which nobody can move.

The film is a fish out of water story.  And Hemsworth, who was not a name brand actor at the time, had a certain charm he brought to the role.  Of course, eventually Thor must get his hammer and put an end to Loki’s plan.

The human characters suffer in this film.  Clark Gregg knows his role backwards and forwards.  And Kat Dennings has a lot of fun as Darcy.  Stellan Skarsgård is entertaining as father/scientist figure.  kay, it seems like it is mostly Jane Foster.  The film tried to set her up as the smart scientist, but she really spends hr time mooning over Thor.

The Asgardians are a fun lot of both character actors and name talent.  Anthony Hopkins brings a regal presence to Odin, while Renee Russo brings wisdom and motherly compassion to both her sons.  The Warriors Three and Sif are strong warriors, but also know celebration.  Tom Hiddleston plays a Loki who is both very likeable and duplicitous.

The film makes some choices that seem rather counter intuitive.  Supposedly the destruction of the Bi-Frost severs the connection from Asgard to earth, but that does not last long.  Nor is it really ever explained.  In addition, a big plot whole is…if Thor has never been to Earth before this…how are there legends of his exploits??  Unlike Captain America: the First Avenger, Thor feels more like it is busy setting things up for the Avengers than being it’s own story.  It is an enjoyable film overall, but it feels like it could have been stronger, especially considering the talent at the directorial helm of Kenneth Branagh.

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