Thor: The Dark World

Image from Mis-Matched Siamese Twins Monthly

Image from Mis-Matched Siamese Twins Monthly

The original Thor film was a curiosity of 2 parts. Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, the scenes on Asgard, the home planet/realm of Norse God Thor (Chris Hemsworth), were treated as weighty drama filled with Shakespearean import while the scenes on Earth were imagined as being somewhere between Hanna Barbera, Playschool and Charlie Chaplin. Suffice it to say, it was the latter sequences which stood out, while Asgard was stuffy, emotionless and ultimately tedious (as well as being a brilliant advert for Mr Sheen).

Thor: The Dark World looks to repeat the formula, though the lack of a Brannagh makes the Asgard scenes that little bit more approachable while the story sidelines the fantastic Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for the bland Makelith (Christopher Eccleston, who does his best in a thankless role), a trade off which perhaps balances the two sides a little better but still fails to produce a truly thrilling ride.

The story sees Makelith and his men imprisoned by Thor’s father some time ago, and escaping in the modern day to track down the magical Aether, a mystical power source which will enable Makelith to take over the world. Or something.

Meanwhile, Thor’s earth-bound girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) stumbles across the Aether because of a thing. I mean really – does it matter? Is it even explained? Not really. Does it make sense? No. Does that matter? Not really.

The pace of the movie is just about fast enough, though the scenes on Asgard still drag it down, but ultimately the film is redeemed with a fantastically fun end sequence using portals. No, that doesn’t make sense either, but it’s pulled off with enough comic panache that it gets away with it.

Fun while it lasts.

B-

Film length: 1hr 52mins – Feels like: 1hr 50mins

Rush

movies-rush-poster

The most interesting thing about Rush is that it avoids doing what you would expect every other film to do with its lead characters – it doesn’t take sides. Rush is the story of the rivalry between James Hunt, the prototypical Formula 1 playboy, and Niki Lauda who, while Austrian, could be considered the template for the stereotype of the hardworking German in search of precision and perfection. These two faced off over the course of the 1976 F1 World Championship, a season notable for a number of fatalities and horrific injuries.

The typical way to tell this story would be for Lauda to be presented as the bad guy. He was the incumbent world champion, he was cold, blunt, brusque. Hunt, on the other hand, was naturally skilled but didn’t care for preparation, relying on his wits. He was handsome, charming, a crowd-pleaser. I guess what prevented that narrative was the accident that happened partway through the season in which Lauda was almost killed, receiving terrible burns across his face, leaving him disfigured. Casting him as the bad guy would be harsh to say the least.

Instead, the film challenges the audience to make up their own minds, which is refreshing from a mainstream venture. It’s an interesting challenge. I have always sided with the guys with the natural talent, and the guys who show their emotions – people like Seve Ballesteros – over those who practice, practice, practice and keep their emotions inside – Tiger Woods for example – but Rush seeks to open up that more mechanical persona and turn it into something more human.

Overall, the film is enjoyable, solid mainstream fair, drawing engaging characters and relationships (though reputedly playing fast and loose with Hunt and Lauda’s off-track friendship), and I only really found it lacking in the driving sequences, which isn’t as big a miss as it sounds. The heart and soul of the film is in the characters, and so the fact that the on-track scenes don’t have you on the edge of your seat isn’t crippling but it’s certainly a disappointment.

B

Film length: 2hrs 3 mins – Feels like: 1hr 45mins