Friday, November 8, 2013
I wasn't a very big fan of the first Thor. I wouldn't have picked Kenneth Branagh to direct a comic-book movie, any more than I would've picked Ang Lee. I thought Branagh was rather a lousy special-effects director, and didn't know how to handle the action scenes (bad action scenes are rather typical of American superhero stuff, in my opinion) and while Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, and Tim Hiddleson, as Thor, Odin, and Loki respectively, were all pretty good, the story was bogged down, as origin stories usually are, by a lot of exposition you didn't care about. Also, having grown up on the original Thor comics, where the Norse gods were really the Norse gods, and not aliens, I didn't like the whole SF aspect of the thing...making them aliens might've made them fit more (kinda) with the other Marvel superheroes, who are all basically SF, but why bother...none of it makes sense anyway.
All that being said, I just saw Thor: The Dark World, and enjoyed it quite a bit. For one thing, the thing looked way better than the first one did. The photography was better, it looked to me as though they had a way bigger budget this time around, the production design was niftier, the imagery was cooler (I particularly liked the Norse/Byzantine Icon picture book that depicted the bad guys, the big geary things in Heimdall's hangout, and the giant evil black vehicles), and we got right into the story pretty damn quick. Aside from the evil elves, who were introduced pretty efficiently right off, we knew who everybody was, and we didn't spend a lot of time spinning our wheels. The special effects were way better, and almost all the humor was funny---the audience I was with was laughing quite a bit, and me and the wife were too. There was a surprising amount of violence, too, and that goes a long way with sadistic old me.
The story, which bears more than a passing resemblence to the Titans-returning plots that have figured in our Greek Mythological fantasies lately (Wrath of the Titans, Immortals), Dark World serves up the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who ruled the universe back when all was in tenebrae, got beaten by Odin's father Bor, and has been waiting for a chance to come back and reassert the primacy of Basic Black. If I have a problem with the movie, it's him; they don't really provide him with a philosophy, and they should've. That being said, he's very creepy looking (kinda like the Makers from Prometheus) and he's got a horde of henchmen who are visually satisfactory too, including his beefy bristling-with-spikes chief enforcer.
We're coming up on a once-in-five thousand-years realignment of "The Nine Worlds," whatever they are, and Malekith's got a shot are getting his hands back on the Aether, a substance which will grant him ultimate power, etc. etc. But the Aether has gotten into Thor's mortal girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who's been whisked up to Asgard by her hammer-wielding boyfriend; Malekith and company storm the place in a pretty damn spectacular assault, grab her, and head back to the Dark World, which is Iceland with the lights off. Needless to say, Thor decides to go get her, and, disobeying Odin, recruits Loki---who's in prison after his Avengers hijinks---in an attempt to breach Malekith's domain, free the babe, and destroy the Aether.
The movie's been fairly amusing up till this point, but it picks up considerably once we get a bunch more Loki. he was definitely one of the strongest things about The Avengers, and he's got a much bigger part here, with a certain amount of emotional depth. Moreover, he makes up, somewhat, for the lack of a proper main heavy...he's engaging, he's funny, he's not all bad, but he's a snake too. He's definitely the best character in the film (he certainly puts poor old steadfast Thor in the shade), and he's almost enough to sell the movie all by himself.
Let's see...the screenplay, by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely features some good writing. As I said, the movie is consistently funny when it means to be, and it manages to be affecting in ways that are kinda surprising. There are spots where I couldn't figure out what the eff was going on, particularly towards the end, but even when I was confused, something would make me laugh, so I never quite got cranky. Director Alan Taylor does good job with the people, the special effects and the action, and I hope he gets to direct the next installment. In short, I had more fun than I've had with any Marvel movie since the first Iron Man. I'm just sort've pissed that Marvel got bought by Disney...I had some Marvel stock and made quite a bit of money with it, but I couldn't care less about the Mouse, and bought something else...
Sunday, November 3, 2013
I’m a big Hindi-movie fan, and I just got back from a showing of a Bollywood superhero flick called Krissh 3, which I really enjoyed. It was made by a production company called FilmKraft, which is the brainchild of the Roshan brothers, Rakesh and Rojesh, and they make the kind of films that Aintitcool folks like. Back in the nineties, they did this blood-soaked action-supernatural movie called Karan/Argun, which featured Sharukh Khan and Salman Khan as brothers reincarnated to avenge their own murders on Temple of Doom villain Amrish Puri...Mr. Puri also handled the bad guy duties in another FilmKraft actioner called Koyla, which had Sharukh in it too, and was an brightly-colored mashup of Forrest Gump, Rambo, and Braveheart. In the 2000's the Roshans branched out into science-fiction with Koi Mil Gaya, which was part Charlie and part ET, with cuddly alien Jadoo bestowing smarts upon super-handsome Hrithik Roshan (Rakesh’s son), who does a mean turn as a simpleton who sure can dance and gets the girl.
In Krrish, which is a sequel to Koi Mil Gaya, we skip to the simpleton’s titular son, (also played by Hritihik,) who, because of Jadoo’s intervention, has a bunch of super-powers, his exploits choreographed for us by HK action genius Ching Siu Tung. To make a long story short, dad gets kidnapped by evil genius Naseruddin Shah, who’s plotting to supplant himself God Almighty by means of time travel...much mayhem ensues, and the son gets the girl (Priyanka Chopra) this time.
Okay, so, even though there was no Krissh 2 because you had Koi Mil Gaya and then Krissh, we get Krissh 3, and it’s an improvement in many respects on the second installment. A lot of Indian movies go on so long they seem like double features, and sometimes the halves are radically different, say, the first half being a lot of horrible comedy, and the second being a fairly good, vicious revenge yarn, with no attempt whatsoever to paper over the change in tone.
But while Krrish took forever to get past the comedy/romance stuff, and there were a number of distracting musical numbers, 3 holds the singing, dancing and mush rather to a minimum; the villain’s introduced right off, and that’s followed by a bunch of pretty competent special effects/ superhero whatnot involving a jetliner with stuck landing gear. You can tell that about eighty percent of the special effects are going to be up to western standard, and you can kind of relax. A grisly plot unfolds...our heavy is a crippled telekinesis-using bad guy named Kaal (Vivek Oberoi) who has a pharmaceutical company...in order to get his quadriplegic body up and going, he inflicts horrible plagues on places like India, then rakes up tremendous profits by dispensing the cure. Kaal also has a small army of mutants that do all all sorts of freaky things (one has a really long froggy tongue and Krrish swings him hard into into things with it), my favorite being a shape-changing siren played by the luscious Kangana Renaut, whose ability to morph results in a slew of story twists...she falls in love (of course) with Hrithik. The final dustup in downtown Mumbai is a far cry from your usual Indian FX fare, blending good-to-excellent CG with great wirework and action directed by the aforementioned Mr. Ching. Hrithik is a pretty damned awesome athlete, and looks great in his impeccably-choreographed fight scenes...he and Vivek Oberoi destroy quite a bit of Mumbai skyline line, smashing each other straight through skyscrapers like planes on 9/11.
The story doesn’t serve up anything as clever as the time-travel element in Krrish, but it’s still serviceable, the subplot with Kangana Renaut is surprisingly effective, and Vivek’s malefactor is well-drawn and has a fiendish secret. Rakesh Roshan is a good director, and knows when to step back and let Ching Siu-Tung do his thing...the music by Rajesh Roshan goes down easily enough. All in all, I had a better time with this epic than with many western superhero movies, and you should catch it...given the fact that Hollywood isn’t turning out so much product anymore, Hindi films are appearing in our multiplexes more and more. They also show up on Netflix. I particularly recommend the straight-out gangster slaughterfests.