Sam Raimi has been having a renaissance recently with his return to the directing chair for Dr. Strange. We thought it would be fitting to check out the last movie he directed. The massively budgeted, universally panned, poorly conceived tale of a corporation trying to wring a few dollars out of an established property.
Check out our thoughts in this weeks three minute review…
This movie is probably best known for a book written about the film’s production called The Devil’s Candy by Julie Salamon. Brian de Palma granted her complete access to every element of the film from script to screen. The stories behind are absolutely incredible.
Fir a breakdown of just one of these stories check out the excellent video essay from Patrick Willems about the single shot that cost over $80,000.
Action stars of the 80s and 90s team up to avenge the death of a member of their elite strike force in the 2012 sequel to The Expendables. Find out what works and what doesn’t in this over-the-top action romp!
This 1980 American musical fantasy film was written with a big vision and even bigger execution. Its big swings were so misguided they inspired the Razzies. Find out what our hosts think of this picture on this week’s review!
This latest Marvel adventure is the most movie you can get, the most comedy, the most action, and the most stories. That doesn’t necessarily add up to a satisfying movie.
The film picks up with Thor the god of thunder played again by Chris Hemsworth. After letting himself go and getting fat in Avengers Endgame, he is more ripped and muscular than ever before. The most muscles. He’s also a complete doofus. He’s the most jokey he’s ever been. He’s traveling the galaxy going on adventures and being full of himself. However, when a dark force threatens his home and his people, he returns to earth to find his ex girlfriend, Jane Foster played by Natalie Portman, has picked up his old hammer and is running around performing his superhero duties.
The movie is funny. I laughed out loud many times during the film. It was written and directed by Taika Waititi who was the man behind the superior Thor Ragnarok. That film infused with Waititi’s off beat style redefined the character of Thor. Here his sense of humor is all over the screen, and I mean all over it. Every line is packed full of jokes and humor. The movie never has a chance to breathe. It is suffocated by characters at war with each other over who can deliver the big punchline. There’s an early scene between Thor and Chris Pratt’s character Starlord, in which the punchlines keep going and going like the 30 car pile up on the freeway. It’s funny, but it’s also a mess.
Too many jokes wouldn’t be a problem if they were executed with a structure behind them. The scenes just drag on until they run out of punchlines. There isn’t a forward momentum to the jokes that build up to a big punchline and then the scene can end. It just goes and goes. They also aren’t broken up by any meaningful moments of story development. There’s no room for drama when every line is a joke. When dramatic moments occur or story beats are introduced, they are peppered with jokes that only serve to undermine the seriousness of the situation.
I don’t want to just say negative things about this movie, but as I’m thinking about it the positives sink below the surface and the negatives are glaringly apparent. My biggest negative is the story, or stories. The movie opens with Gorr, he’s played by Christian Bale. He is a priest in a desperate situation. He prays to gods who do not answer. His daughter dies in his arms and he vows vengeance against the gods. It’s a compelling story. He has a character arc that could be interesting.
We are then reintroduced to Jane Foster. She is dying from cancer. She picks up the magic hammer and gains super powers, but those powers are taking away her body’s ability to fight the cancer. Her super powers are also killing her. It’s a deeply compelling idea.
We are then reintroduced to Thor. He tells us what his arc will be and then cracks jokes for the next few hours.
We then meet Valkyrie. She’s got some stuff going on. There’s also a subplot involving kidnapped children overcoming their fears. There’s also Korg who is really just superfluous comic relief in a movie stuffed full of comic relief characters.
So who’s story is this? No I’m really asking because the movie doesn’t make it clear. Just taking the three main characters, Gorr wants revenge against the gods who betrayed him. He learns that love is better than hate. Jane wants to be a hero and live, and by the end she accepts her fate. Thor is a loner who keeps people at arms length, but I mean he just tells us that he does that. There’s no actual evidence that he does this. He learns to love Jane again or something. We have three sloppy character arcs that don’t coalesce in the end. So who’s story is this? I guess it’s Thor because his name is in the title, but he has the least convincing story. At the end of the film I was unclear what I was supposed to take away from any of it.
Now Waititi’s direction is very good. He creates big elaborate worlds. His editing rhythm serves the humor very well. He gets great comic performances out of all his actors and give Bale the space to be as menacing and villainous as possible.
Hemsworth is great as Thor. He’s funny and charming. He has found something special with the character, if only he had material to back it up. The rest of the actors are all delightful. They’re good performances and there’s fun to be had with them.
There is a lot here to enjoy. I don’t want to take that away from anyone. This would be a very easy movie to shut off your brain and enjoy the jokes, colors, and action. But as we saw with Thor Ragnarok, you can have the colors, jokes, and action while also telling a coherent story. And I’d have have both.
My overwhelming feeling at the end of the movie was this… I think I’m done with Marvel. I didn’t like Dr. Strange. This left me with nothing. They are moving to the streaming show model, so the movies won’t matter much anymore anyway. But the shows are mediocre. They are headline grabbing, but they aren’t anything special in terms of character or story. The movies are ads for the next movie, and the shows are just eye ball grabs in order to boost streaming numbers. If this is what we’re going to be getting from here on out, then I’m done. Until they can figure out how to tell a story again I don’t need to give them any more of my money.