Summer Movie Mania!

I felt the need to break from my recent movie-posting naming scheme since the titles of the four movies I plan to talk about would make a rather long title when concatenated.  It is, perhaps, an indication that this post is long overdue.

In my defense, however, the past month has seen me actually making some progress on my research, plus teaching, plus actually (*GASP*) reading some books.  For fun.  In the past few weeks I have read three or four books, in fact.  I should probably blog about those at some point.

But not now.  Now, I have some summer movies to talk about.  I had meant to give Thor its own post, but alas, the God of Thunder shall receive short shrift from me tonight.

Please note, there may be spoilery comments, but nothing major.


Marvel Comics has brought another of its lesser-known heroes to the big screen with Thor, in a film that introduces a character that will be part of next year’s The Avengers.  The Marvel version of Thor is a loose adaptation of actual Norse myth, and this film is a loose adaptation of the Marvel comics.

However, it is an adaptation with a famous director (Kenneth Branagh!), Oscar-winning actors (Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins!), a suitably godlike Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and a strong supporting cast, and it totally worked for me.  That is not to say there weren’t some things I wish had been handled different, but it was a satisfying movie overall.  I especially enjoyed the creative designs for the gods’ city of Asgard and their magic and technology.

My major complaints are primarily about pacing.  Without giving too much away, I feel that Thor learned his lesson in humility awfully quickly, almost as fast as he and human Jane Foster fell for each other.  (Though, to be fair, since Foster was played by Natalie Portman, I could hardly blame him.)  What was there was done well, but it felt like the movie played out over a handful of days, and I think the character development might have been better served with a “living like a regular dude” montage in there somewhere.

In terms of Marvel-produced movies, I would put this up there after Iron Man, but above Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk, both of which were good movies, but I think I liked Thor just a little bit better.  I felt happy coming out of this movie.

X-Men: First Class

I’m not entirely certain whether X-Men: First Class is a reboot or a prequel.  I am certain that it was very well done.  Set in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it shows how Charles Xavier first formed the X-Men with the help of Erik Lensherr (who becomes the villain Magneto), and centres around the tragedy of their parting of ways.

The movie looks great, with groovy ’60s fashion and a solid cast of lead and supporting actors.  There are a few familiar characters first seen in previous X-Men movies, but not too many, and so we get introduced to a number of new characters and special powers.  (Some of the characters would be familiar to readers of the comics, but in many ways this is a hindrance, as their origins are nothing like the comic book versions.)

As I suggested above, I really enjoyed this movie, and thought it was well done.  But, as with Thor, I think there were some minor issues with the pacing of the story.  Not in terms of action versus character moments, but rather in the friendship between Charles and Erik.  The key thrust of this movie is that it is a tragedy, that these two great friends eventually became bitter enemies.  But they don’t really give a lot of time on screen to the development of that friendship.

While I haven’t put together a detailed timeline or anything, I got the feeling that their friendship played out over months (if not weeks).  While I can see that they became good friends in that timeframe, it lacks a certain gravitas.  Had they been working together for years, it would have made more sense to me.

(This also reminds me of another irritation: the close relationship between Charles and Mystique.  If this is a prequel, nothing of the sort was alluded to in the earlier movies.  In the context of this film, however, they grew up together from a young ago.  Their parting was in many ways more tragic that Charles and Erik’s.)

Overall, however, this was a very well-done movie.  Certainly a million times better than X-Men: The Last Stand.  I was happy with this one.

The Hangover Part 2

This movie does not really fall within my usual sci-fi/fantasy purview, but I saw it and feel obligated to say a few words.  Those words are this: if you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one, because it is the exact same movie.  As such, it was quite funny, but lacked the element of pleasant surprise and discovery that accompanied the first one.  I enjoyed it, but it is not a movie you need to go out of your way to see.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides

I saw On Stranger Tides in 3D unfortunately, which was entirely a waste of money.  But then, 3D always is.  Apart from the pointless 3D conversion, this movie was okay.  It wasn’t great, like the first one, and while it was less stupid in many respects than the 2nd and 3rd ones, it had its problems.

In this movie, Captain Jack Sparrow becomes our main character, and that, perhaps, is the first problem.  He is fantastic as a supporting character when you can’t wait to see what he’ll pop up and do next, but as a main character—especially when all the other lead characters are also scenery-chewing pirates—he lacks anyone to be outrageous in comparison to.

The plot also seems unnecessarily complicated.  There were several times during the movie when I was bored waiting for two characters on screen to explain what they were doing and why.  From what I understand, this movie was very loosely adapted from a novel by Tim Powers.  I wonder if shoehorning Sparrow and Barbossa into an existing plot led to its overlarge cast and sometimes languid pacing and unnecessary subplots.

But the characters were fun, and the action sequences good, and so overall the movie was okay.  There was some stuff that was definitely big-screen worthy, and there were some cools bits, so I don’t feel disappointed that I saw it.  But it wasn’t awesome or anything; it was just okay.