Earth becomes that corner where King Odin sends his kid for a time out in director Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, Marvel Comic‘s latest lead up to The Avengers, due out May of next year. When his homeland is attacked by his father’s enemy, the son sets out on a reckless course that will potentially cost more than the attack that provoked it…yes, I’m talking about the movie Thor; the homeland is Asgard and the enemy is Jötunheim. Because this is a comic book movie, there’s a father to stop the son before he does something really stupid, and Thor is banished to Earth without his power until he can prove himself worthy of it. In other words, with great responsibility will come great power. Thor is found in the American southwest by a team of scientists (played by Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård) and their driver (played by Kat Dennings). Meanwhile, back on Asgard, younger brother Loki becomes the interregnumm ruler after Odin falls into some kind of grief-related coma governing in a way that befits the bearer of that name. At its best, with the small town setting and a superhero learning to live without his powers, Thor recalls Richard Lester’s Superman II (1980), and it never really gets boring; at it’s worst, it’s unconvincing CGI with inexplicable oversue of tilted angles; but overall, Thor is fun and watchable even if mostly forgettable. Chris Hemsworth is believable in the title role and Skarsgård is credible as a scientist, but much of the casting seems to have been influenced by marketing. I had higher hopes for the American film debut of Tadanobu Asano.
A version of this review has also been posted here.
The odds of you seeing a movie dumber than Fast Five this summer are just about the same as your odds of seeing a movie more fun. As a parsing of the title suggests (adjective number), this fifth installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise, under the direction of Justin Lin for the third time in a row, is being steered into the heist territory of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s movies, albeit exchanging Danny Ocean’s wit for Dominic Toretto’s brawn.
Fast Five opens with ex-Federal Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) breaking the latter’s brother Dominic (Vin Diesel) out of custody on his way to jail in an action sequence that doesn’t challenge the your ability to suspend disbelief so much as your ability to suspend intelligence. Once past this scene you are either initiated into the willing or…well it occurs early enough in the movie to refund your ticket (though you may want to check your theater’s return policy before taking my word for it).
On the lamb, the three reunite in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and in case you ever forget where they are, there are no less than three over the shoulder sweeps of Christ the Redeemer to remind you. In a favela in Rio, the three reteam with Vince (Matt Schulze) from the first installment in the series. Lest you suspect, Fast Five is too innocently cartoonish to ever quite reach the level of exploitation as something like City of God, though it does test the limits of playing up preconceived notions of lawlessness and incivility of an exotic, third world country.
After their first job in the new country, the team quickly finds themselves on the outs with both the most feared gangster in all of the Brazil (because the these car thieves are just too awesome too make enemies with any lesser criminal) and U.S. Federal agents led by monomaniacal Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who spends the film’s one allowed-by-the-MPAA f-bomb to politely tell the local law enforcement to stay out of his way. In order to exact revenge on the crime boss and clear their name with the Ahab-like Hobbs, the team of carjackers finds it prudent to do just one more job.
The action sequences are fun enough to make it worth overlooking obvious flaws like the supposed good guys’ utter disregard for collateral damage, or why burning money gets better results than just stealing it (other than the obvious reason of mimicking The Dark Knight). The runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes could be cut down by 20 to 30 minutes, and more than a couple members of the team could have been cut.