Movie review: Thor: Ragnarok

Movie reviews

Hello!

What a time to be a nerd! A new Marvel movie is in theatres every 4 months! Is this heaven or what? Without further ado, let’s discuss Thor: Ragnarok!

IMDb summary: Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

If it wasn’t obvious from my intro, I’m a huge MCU fan and have reviewed quite a few films of the franchise, thus, I’m linking the said reviews here: Captain America 1+2, Ant-Man, Guardians 1 and Guardians 2, Avengers 2, Civil War, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

This review is SPOILER FREE. The discussion involving SPOILERS is located at the end of the page.

Writing

Thor: Ragnarok was written by Eric Pearson (writer of a few MCU one-shots (I wish they were still making them) and writer on Agent Carter), Craig Kyle (comic book writer, producer the first two Thorfilms and of some of Marvel’s direct-to-video animated pictures), and Christopher Yost (longtime collaborator of Kyle, writer of Thor: The Dark World). I loved the writing for this film.

To begin with, I appreciated how dense the narrative was. So much happened in this picture and every second of that 2-hour runtime was packed with plot. It felt like this movie consisted of a couple of films, which was exactly the case. Thor: Ragnarok contained the first third of a Hulk solo movie – the middle part and the ending will probably be folded into Avengers 3and 4. I was a bit worried that the Hulk sideline will feel tacked-on but it didn’t – Bruce Banner and his green friend fit into this picture organically. I loved the fact that we got to see more of Hulk and find out about his own separate personality.

In general, the majority of the main characters had very satisfying character arcs. First of all, Thor went on a journey on finding his path again, while Valkyrie also had to re-find her purpose in life (I loved how she was both badass and had her flaws). Loki attempted to redeem himself in the most questionable and Loki-appropriate way possible and Heimdall got to do something meaningful for once in these films. Skurge’s questioning of morality was great, while Grandmaster’s hijinks were hilarious.

Speaking of the comedy in the film – it was just wonderful. The situational relatable humor, the reactions, the call-backs, the references, and the jabs at the previous MCU events were extremely funny. However, the film also had some heart to it. One particularly touching moment occurred in Norway at the beginning of the film. That scene’s location – Norway – was also a neat nod to the Norse mythology roots of these characters.

MCU films have been notorious for their lack of great villains. I didn’t think that Hela followed this trend. She was both memorable and menacing. I also loved how she had a family connection to the protagonist, and, thus, how the film got an opportunity to explore the notions of family and home. I also enjoyed seeing her be actually threatening, setting the stakes high and having a lasting impact on both Thor and Asgard (physical and emotional).

Directing

Thor: Ragnarok was directed by the incredible filmmaker from New Zealand – Taika Waititi. I was only introduced to his work last year with the awards’ nominated delightful and heartfelt comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Before going to see Ragnarok, I also watched his brilliant vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Needless to say, my expectations were high and I’m so glad to say that Waititi delivered on them 100%! Thor: Ragnarok had the heartwarming feeling of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the jokes of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the trippy visuals of Doctor Strange. Nevertheless, it wasn’t just a rehashing of elements from other films, but a refreshing, unique, and immensely entertaining take on them.

The color palette of Thor 3 was just so gorgeous and super vibrant. The location and the character designs have never looked better in a Thor film (the looks reminded me of a mixture of Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and just 1980s style). The action was just so dynamic and energetic. It was also varied: we got to see a couple of one-on-one fights as well as some epic scale battles and a few spaceship chases. One of my favorite action pieces was the short opening fight between Thor/Loki/Hela in the rainbow bridge. Not on it, but in its stream. The music (by Mark Mothersbaugh) was also nicely incorporated into the film. I’m gonna listen to that Led Zeppelin song every day at the gym now.

Acting

  • Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters, The Huntsman, In the Heart of the Sea) had his 5th and best outing as Thor. We already knew that he was great a the role of a hero, but here he also displayed all his comedic chops!
  • Tom Hiddleston (High-Rise, Kong) was sly and charismatic as Loki again (I love the character, so I’ll never complain about seeing him).
  • Cate Blanchett (Carol, Cinderella) had a snake-like quality to her performance of Hela. At the beginning, I thought that she was bordering on being too cartoonish a too bit much but I think she quickly found her footing.
  • Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, The Dark Tower, Star Trek Beyond, Bastille Day, Beasts of No Nation) returned as Heimdall and got a chance to do something more in the film than just stand in one room!
  • Jeff Goldblum (ID2) was perfect as Grandmaster. He was doing his Jeff Goldblum thing (I can’t explain it) and that fit the character so well! He, in my mind, had the leeway to go cartoonish and I’m glad he went there at least a bit.
  • Tessa Thompson (Creed) was wonderful as Valkyrie. I loved how Thompson portrayed her character’s flaws, regrets, and determination.
  • Karl Urban (Pete’s Dragon, Star Trek Beyond) as Skurge. I hope that Urban’s involvement with a new comic book property means that he might go back to one of his old ones – the role of Dredd. Nonetheless, I loved seeing him here.
  • Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) delivered a short but sweet performance as Bruce Banner / Hulk. Immense props to him for his comedic timing too!
  • Anthony Hopkins (Transformers 5) only appeared briefly as Odin but he was responsible for the most touching and the most emotionally-challenging scene of the film, as a dramatic actor of his caliber should be.

In short, Thor: Ragnarok was without a doubt the best Thor film but it also might be one of the best MCU solo films ever! Not only worthy of watching once, but repeated viewing is recommended!

Rate: 4.8/5

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SPOILER-Y PART: 

Since I saw the movie super early (thanks, UK release schedule), I didn’t want to talk about spoiler stuff in the main part of the review, so I’ll just unpack some ideas in more detail here:

  1. Thor: Ragnarok had a great cameo by Doctor Strange. Those, who saw Doctor Strange and waited for the post-credit scene of that film, knew that Sorcerer Supreme will be showing up in Thor 3. It was wonderful to see the character appear on film as being closer to his comic book counterpart – way more advanced in his skill and more in control of his powers than he was when we last saw him.
  2. Matt Damon, of all actors, had a super funny cameo as an Asgardian actor playing Loki. It’s always nice to see a great actor doing some bad acting and Damon nailed his. Stan Lee also had an amazing cameo as the hairdresser. I’m glad that he was the one who supposedly got a chance to change Thor’s look. I feel like, since that change came from Lee, it is somehow automatically canon.
  3. Hela was turned into Thor’s and Loki’s sister for the film (she is the daughter of Loki in the comics). I liked the change because it allowed the movie to explore the differences between Odin’s relationships with each of his kids. Also, the fiction vs truth idea came into play in the movie because of that change.
  4. Some of my favorite jokes, which I didn’t want to spoil were: the Sakar’s infomercial sequence; Loki’s reaction to Hulk throwing Thor around like a ragdoll – Loki experienced the same fate in Avengers; Thor’s attempt to calm Hulk down with Black Widow’s lullaby; and the jabs at Tony Stark. Even if RDJ is not in the film, his presence is always felt. Another delightful comedic part was Taika Waititi’s motion capture and vocal performance as Korg. Waititi is a great comedic actor and I’m glad he got to showcase that here in addition to directing.
  5. Lastly, Thor: Ragnarok had two end-credits scenes. The mid-credits scene was a very vague tease for Avengers: Infinity War, while the post-credits scene was just a fun nod to this particular film.
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Movie review: Pete’s Dragon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie review of this summer! We close the blockbusters season with another live-action fairy tale from Disney – Pete’s Dragon!

IMDb summary: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.

Pete’s Dragon is quite an unusual film for Disney because it is quite small – both budget wise and story/scope wise. However, small doesn’t mean bad – it just another type of picture. It is actually quite refreshing to see Disney spending time and money on newer and lesser known projects. Of course, I have to mention that Pete’s Dragon is not an original film but a remake of a musical with the same name from the 70s. I haven’t seen the 1977’s picture and I doubt that I’ll watch it because it is not a timeless Disney classic and it doesn’t have that good of a rating. Moreover, the new Pete’s Dragon more than satisfied all my wishes.

Writing

The film was written by the director of the feature David Lowery and the screenwriter/producer Toby Halbrooks. Halbrooks has written a few shorts and is also writing a script for 2018’s Peter Pan for Disney to be directed by Lowery. In addition to having his next directing gig sorted out, Lowery will also be writing the script for a war film The Yellow Birds. 

I really enjoyed the story that the duo penned for Pete’s Dragon. It was simple, yet well-crafted. The ideas about family and finding a place where you belong were classic Disney themes but they did actually work because of their universality and wide appeal.

The character development was also quite pleasant. I loved how Pete and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Grace felt connected through nature. I also enjoyed the father-daughter relationship between Grace and her father, played by Robert Redford. The friendship between the main character Pete and his pet dragon Elliot was also cute and reminded me of other great films where children befriend various animals/beings – Max and E.T. are just two of many.  The main antagonist of the film was a cliche character but he served his purpose well in this family adventure picture.

Lastly, I kinda thought that Pete’s Dragon was a spiritual succesor to another live-action fairy tale of 2016 – The Jungle Book. If at the end of Mowgli’s story, he would have been found by humans and Baloo would have gone looking for him, we would most likely have gotten a Pete’s Dragon type of a situation.

Directing

David Lowery, who has only recently started to dip his toes into the blockbuster business, did quite a nice job with the film. The action scenes were entertaining, the mise-en-scene (the forest and the mountains) – gorgeous and the movie’s direction good as well.

The character design of Elliot – the dragon – was a bit weird. He didn’t really look like a dragon, more like a furry dog or a soft teddy bear that could also fly. I heard that a lot of people hated that the dragon was fury and didn’t have any scales. Personally, this change didn’t bother me – I think that it actually helped Elliot to stand out as a different kind of dragon. Also, from the business standpoint, a furry dragon is way more marketable and more merchandise friendly – what kid doesn’t want another soft plushie toy to his/her collection?

I saw the film in 3D but, honestly, it didn’t add anything to it. The effect actually made the whole film darker and, since a lot of scenes were already happening during the night, the 3D only made it harder for me to see the human characters and Elliot.

Music

The 1977’s Pete’s Dragon was a musical, but the studio decided to remake it as a drama/adventure film and drop the songs. However, the 2016’s film still had an interesting soundtrack by Daniel Hart. It seemed to me that the flick had more of a country-music inspired soundtrack and vibe. It was quite refreshing to hear some deep voices and guitar sounds after a lot of EDM and pop music in all of the other films this summer.

Acting

The main character of the film – Pete – was played by Oakes Fegley. When did the child actors have gotten this good? He was excellent in the role – sweet, relatable to children but still able to display acting chops that some adult actors lack. He has a bright future ahead.

Jurrasic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard played the adult-lead Grace and did a nice job. Grace was very different from Dallas Howard’s Jurassic World’s persona – more motherly and way more nature-orientated. Going forward, the actress has a drama thriller Gold coming up. Also, funny fact, I only recently realized that she was the one playing Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3. I did not recognize her with the red hair.

Karl Urban played the main antagonist of the film and was okay. Since I’ve only seen him in Star Trek as the caring doctor Bones, it was quite strange to view him as this unlikeable douchebag. He will be one of the villains in Thor 3, so, I guess, I’d better get used to this.

The cast also included Wes Bentley (We Are Your Friends, Interstellar), Oona Laurence (Southpaw, Bad Moms) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) among others. Bentley didn’t have much to do – he mostly reacted to stuff that was happening around him. Laurence was good too, while Redford was also believable as loving but a bit weird grandpa/father.

All in all, Pete’s Dragon was a good movie from Disney. It was well-written and nicely crafted. The film was not groundbreaking or the most original but it still made for some pretty good time at the cinema.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Pete’s Dragon trailer

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Movie review: Star Trek Beyond

Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to another blockbuster review of this summer! This time, we’re talking about a film which I was really excited about and couldn’t wait to see – Star Trek Beyond! So, let’s go!

IMDb summary: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

Star Trek Reboot

I am not familiar with the original Star Trek films or the various TV shows, however, I have seen the rebooted movie and its sequel numerous times and absolutely loved it. I even think that Star Trek was the first space-opera type of a franchise that I fell in love with – yes, that means that Star Wars came in 2nd. I might not know all the references and Easter Eggs but I don’t think that you need that knowledge to enjoy the new movies. J.J.Abrams’s direction for franchise made it extremely accessible. I kinda wished that Abrams would have returned to direct the 3rd film, but I kept an open mind and really wanted to see what would Justin Lin do with the property. The casting choices, since the first film in 2009 were also great. I was really happy to find out that Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella joined the cast for Beyond.

SPOILERS AHEAD 

Writing

Star Trek Beyond was written by a TV scriptwriter Doug Jung and a member of U.S.S. Enterprise crew himself – Simon Pegg a.k.a Montgomery Scott. Pegg has some writing experience – he co-wrote Edgar Wright’s Ice Cream Trilogy – Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy also know as the satirical look at British life or the best comedic franchise ever. Overall, I did enjoy the story of Beyond and loved the different aspects of it, especially the jokes. However, some ideas seemed really cliche.

Things I loved:

  1. The expansion of the universe – we got to see some more species of aliens and actually explored the deep space. We also got to see a new(old) ship and a new station.
  2. The references to the original continuity in the death of Ambassador Spock and that photo of the original cast.
  3. The fact that they had the guts to completely destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise – one of two most recognizable fictional ships in the world, other being the Millennium Falcon – in the first act.
  4. The villain with some genuine character development – Elba’s character had an actual motive to be angry at Federation. He also seemed pretty scary and efficient with that life-prolonging technology. I also liked the concept that his character introduced into the film – people born during the times of war will never be calm during peace.
  5. The different pairs of characters: Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, Spock and Bones, and Scotty and newly introduced Jaylah – the ending suggests that we will see more of her and I can’t wait to get more of her backstory. Bones’s and Spock’s duo was my favorite pair – loved their back and forth banter that was actually quite serious (‘ Fear of death is illogical. Fear of death is what keeps us alive.’) and the jokes (‘You gave her radioactive jewelry?’).
  6. The main idea of the film – strength comes from unity – was also nice, but, sadly, it sounds kinda ironical in today’s world.
  7. The dedications at the end. I liked that they dedicated the film to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and I also liked the different forms of dedication. Nimoy’s mention seemed official, so as to show respect for his long career and to acknowledge his importance to the Star Trek lore, while Yelchin’s dedication was more friend-like and simple, yet equally emotional.

Things that could have been improved:

  1. Beyond villain’s plan was very similar/ exactly the same as the plan of the Admiral in Into Darkness – they both wanted to start a war.
  2. The tiny ships acted liked bees and resembled a cloud – while it definitely looked cool it has been done numerous times and felt too repetitive.
  3. The solution how to destroy the bee ships with musical frequencies was kinda cheesy. However, Star Trek used to be a much less serious and more camp-y franchise in the previous century, so maybe it was a nod to that.

In general, I feel that Beyond had the simplest story of the new franchise because it didn’t create an alternative universe, like the 1st film did, or dealt with iconic characters, like Khan (2nd film). At the same time, it was a fine story on its own and, while some of the developments were kinda cliche, the others were really neat and unpredictable. However, if this narrative was done outside of the Star Trek brand, I don’t think that it would have turned out as good as this one did.

Directing

Justin Lin, of the Fast and the Furious franchise, directed the film and did a good job. Although, I did miss Abrams’s lens flares, I really liked the visuals that Lin created for Beyond. I loved the massive scale of the deep space and the architecture of Yorktown. The action was also exciting and energetic. As I have said, the tiny ships did look cool and were efficient in their job. The space CGI was breathtaking and flawless, but a few sequences of the ground could have been improved a bit more. Some of the motorcycle shots looked really fake. The ending montage, which showed the Enterprise being rebuild, accompanied with the traditional monolog, delivered by the whole crew, was a really nice way to end the picture. I would like to praise the make-up department for impeccable prosthetics for Elba’s character. The design of Boutella’s character was really cool as well but I wished it looked more alien because now she kinda seemed like a human with white and black foundation.

Acting

The whole cast did an amazing job. Chris Pine (Jack Rayn, Z for Zachariah, Into the Woods, The Finest Hours) shined once again as Captain James T. Kirk, can’t wait to see him in Wonder Woman since the comic-con trailer looks awesome. Zachary Quinto (Hitman) was perfectly logical with some tiny burst of emotion as Commander Spock, later this year he will appear in SnowdenKarl Urban (LOTR, Dredd ) was great as Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy, MD, and I’m looking forward to Urban joining the MCU.

Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy) appeared as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, while Simon Pegg (Mission Impossible films) portrayed the Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott and both delivered nice performances. John Cho was amazing Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu and had quite an important supporting role, which I enjoyed. Seeing Anton Yelchin as annoying yet sweet Pavel Chekov was a really bittersweet moment. His sudden passing really shocked me and made me appreciate life a bit more.

The newcomers: Idris Elba (Prometheus, MCU, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Bastille DayBeasts of No Nation) as Krall and Sofia Boutella (Kingsman, upcoming The Mummy reboot) as Jaylah were also good. Elba was believable and threatening as a villain, while the inclusion of Boutella’s character opened a lot of possibilities.

In short, Star Trek Beyond was simple, yet fun and exciting addition to the Star Trek universe. The acting was great, the action exciting and the writing – amazing for the most part. I definitely recommend it to all the nerds who read my blog.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Star Trek Beyond

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