Friday, June 13, 2014

Movie Review: Maleficent

Lately, Hollywood has been on a fairy-tale kick. From the show "Once upon a Time" to the movies "Snow White and the Huntsman" and the upcoming live-action "Cinderella," the writers have become determined to re-tell classic fairy tales, often by dramatically changing the story. The difference for the new film "Maleficent" is that the writers harken back to the Disney 1959 version for inspiration and essentially retell that version. Because of this, I will make frequent comparisons between the two.


As I mentioned, this movie is a basic re-telling of the Disney 1959 version and offers up potential backstory. There are two kingdoms: the kingdom of greedy humans and the Moors, a beautiful place where fairies and other magical creatures dwell, and these kingdoms are constantly at war with each other. Young fairy Maleficent befriends the orphan boy Stefan, and they remain close for years. However, Stefan, due to his ambition to become king, betrays his childhood friend. Angered by this, Maleficent becomes bitter and takes it out on his newborn daughter Aurora by cursing her. But, Maleficent soon begins to grow attached to the young princess and befriends her, which makes her question the curse that she placed on her.

The plot was pretty quick-moving and pretty easy to understand. In one sense, I like how the writers offered up back story on Maleficent: why she had horns, why she did not have wings, why she used a staff, where her crow came from, why she cursed Aurora, etc... It was fascinating and offered up a good explanation. However, after Aurora was cursed, the entire storyline shifted from the 1959 version into something completely different. The embittered Maleficent, in place of the incompetent fairies, begins looking after the young princess and even ends up befriending her. It changes even further when Maleficent tries to stop the curse, and then she and her shape-shifting companion Diaval get caught in a battle with Stefan and his soldiers. Personally, I liked the back story but was not a big fan of the story entirely changing after that (partly because of the characters, which I will detail later).

The cast was decent. Angelina Jolie had enormous shoes to fill since Eleanor Audley did such an amazing job back in 1959. She had her moments, namely in the cursing Aurora scene, where she did a good job, but elsewhere I got very mixed feelings about her character. Maleficent (as evidenced by her name, which comes from the Latin word for "bad") was portrayed as truly evil villain in 1959, describing herself as "the mistress of all evil." Here, she's nothing more than a very conflicted person. She has her moments of hatred and bitterness then moments of being mischievous (like pranking Aurora's three caretakers) then moments of being more concerned and perhaps even loving. For me, it felt like her character was inconsistent; in the film, she is described as being neither villain nor hero, but in the end it makes her a muddled character that I'm not sure whether to dislike or like. Sharlto Copley, who plays Stefan, did a good job portraying the ambitious, schizo-paranoid king though the role reminds me of his similar role in "Elysium." Elle Fanning was an ok actress, but I had more problems with the character of Aurora. In this movie, Aurora is portrayed as always happy and smiling and comes across as being a ditz; there is a way to portray a happy person without being totally innocuous, and I wish the writers had given Aurora more personality. As for the three fairies who serve as Aurora's caretakers, I did not like their role in this movie. They came across as completely incompetent caretakers (which makes sense given that they know nothing about humans), but they spent most of their time fighting with each other. While the 1959 film had the three disagreeing, at least they had personalities and had a decent role in the story, putting the castle to sleep and aiding Philip in his battle, but in this movie they have very little part to play and come across as unnecessary.

Along the lines of the characters, I have heard of contentions over the film being feminist. My take on it is this: I don't care if the females or the males are heroes, but my big problem is adding characters into the story who are passive or have very minimal roles to play. Prince Philip is the biggest offender. In the original film, he has to defeat Maleficent and kiss Aurora to wake her up, but here he has neither role; he is pretty much either carted around by Maleficent or looking at Aurora like a love-sick teenager, making him a passive character. The three fairies are also passive, fluttering around and fighting instead of being productive. Even though the entire story was changed, the male and female characters, even the minor ones, should have some active role to take part in, not act like leftovers from the original.

Another issue that I had character-wise was the portrayal of the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora. I have read some reviewers who called it "slighty queer." I admit I have no idea what the writers were really meaning to convey, but this is because the relationship is not developed much. Montages show Aurora being saved by Maleficent or Aurora gleefully running all over the Moor while Maleficent watches, but I got little from the montages. Montages in film can offer development, even for characters (a friend and I discussed this, and I offered up the eight-minute montage in "Up" as an example), but the lack of dialogue between the two means that the relationship seems to be conjured out of thin air. I personally did not find the relationship to be like that of a mother and a daughter, but I cannot define what exactly it was like other than being a bit strange.

Some of the special effects were beautiful. I loved the flying shots over the Moors, and the Moors at night reminded me of Pandora from James Cameron's "Avatar." However, some of them looked a bit silly, like the mud-throwing creatures and the numerous nameless ones, which was a bit of a contrast to the beautiful enchanted kingdom. However, some of them, like Diaval in his dragon form, were not as compelling, especially in contrast to the 1959 dragon.

In the end, I enjoyed some parts of the film. I liked the concept though not all of its execution, and now I am interested in seeing the original version again.

I give it two stars out of five.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit- Desolation of Smaug

After feeling let-down after watching the first "Hobbit" movie, I was reluctant to see "Desolation of Smaug" in theaters. So I held onto my money and waited until the DVD was released.


The movie picks up shortly after "An Unexpected Journey" ends. Gandalf goes on his own mission to Dol Guldor to discover the identity of the mysterious Necromancer, leaving Bilbo and the dwarves to get through Mirkwood, escape from elves, evade a band of orcs that are after them, get through Lake-Town, and enter Erebor without getting burned by a dragon. In the meantime, the elf prince Legolas and the female warrior Tauriel pursue the dwarves eastwards.

The movie's plot takes up a decent amount of "The Hobbit," but unfortunately, despite having more action, it came across as bloated and very slow-moving. It felt like Jackson, not having enough material to work with, decided to add unnecessary tension (like the section on Laketown, where the company has to sneak in, prepares to sneak out, is discovered and welcomed with open arms, then leave). Another drawn-out section was inside Erebor, both when Bilbo and Smaug are talking then Smaug chasing the company around. Gandalf's secret mission to Dol Guldor also felt unnecessary and like it truly accomplished nothing in contrast to the dwarves' part of the movie. Then, in other parts, it felt like Jackson wanted to skip over big sections; for example, he skimmed over both the visit to Beorn's house and also the trek through Mirkwood (which was a mere montage). This left for a very uneven pace in the film and left it feeling bloated and also rather boring.

Another plot-related issue was how much was taken from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Bits of conversation, objects like athelas, certains scenes, etc... were directly taken the previous three films but felt lazy and like they had no real place being there.

A third plot issue was the addition of the romance between Tauriel and Kili. This really irritated me for several reasons. One, there was no precedent to the romance; the only inter-racial romances that Tolkien wrote were between elves and humans, never dwarves and another race. So it was a massive departure from Tolkien's universe. Two, there was no reason for the two to fall in love. In their brief conversations, I found no reason for Tauriel to become infatuated with Kili and for the elf to follow him all the way to Laketown to save his life. It was a romance that was pulled out of thin air just for the sake of the movie having a romance. Three, Kili's sexual joke was in very bad taste and had absolutely no place in something based off of Tolkien's world. And how is that supposed to be romantic in any way? In the end, it was crude, stupid, and useless.

The cast was ok, but if I had issues with the actors, I blame the writers for the faults of the characters. Bilbo had a smaller role in this film than in the previous one, and half of the time he was nothing more than a member of the party and not the central character in the previous movie. Benedict Cumberbatch was an excellent choice to play Smaug, but his character at times did not seem as threatening and dangerous because either the writers had long, drawn-out scenes with him or because he did not look impressive visually. Luke Evans as Bard was neither here nor there for me, as I felt like his character was not developed enough or was not special enough to warrant attention. But, by far, the biggest offender was Evangeline Lily as the Silvan elf Tauriel. Not only was there nothing memorable about her character, but she seemed like she was added simply for the sake of having a pretty face in the movie, probably because no female characters in "The Hobbit."

The movie was not helped by the graphics and visuals. Again, the visuals looked fake in several locations. Mirkwood, which was supposed to be a creepy, haunted forest, did not send a shiver down my spine like Fangorn did. Smaug looked like he was from a B-movie, which did not make him a memorable villain. The spiders also looked fake, taking away the creepiness that they should have had (think of Shelob in "Return of the King." She still gives me the heebie-jeebies every time I watch the movie). The scene between the elves and orcs while the dwarves are in the barrels also looked strongly animated and fake. All in all, I had a difficult time not comparing these graphics to the ones in the original trilogy, which were amazing and still are to me.

In the end, I was very disappointed in "Desolation of Smaug." The plot was bloated and boring, the characters were not memorable, and the visual graphics were poorly done. This is the first Tolkien adaptation by Jackson that I honestly did not like, and I can only dread how the third film will turn out.

I give it one star out of five.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America- The Winter Soldier

When I first saw the trailer for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," I was hopeful and yet also worried. I enjoyed "Thor: The Dark World" but worried that the new Marvel would be a dud like "Iron Man 3." After hearing good reviews about it, I went out and saw it last weekend.


"The Winter Soldier" takes place a few years after the events of "The Avengers." Steve Rogers is working for S.H.I.E.L.D and also adjusting to the modern world. He, however, is suspicious of Fury's secrecy and about S.H.I.E.L.D making new helicarriers that could wipe out thousands of people at a time. After Fury is attacked by a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier, the Captain, suspicious of Fury's boss Alexander Pierce, comes under suspicion and is forced to flee from the company. He must team up with Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Sam Wilson/The Falcon to find out the truth and discovers that an old enemy from his past is alive and well.

The story was a bit difficult to understand in some places, namely because it is a conspiracy with different players. I was confused about whether Fury was really involved in the pirating attempt or if he was being framed, but a second viewing may clear this up. I generally liked the plot and the tie-ins to the first "Captain America," though there were a few inconsistencies. I also wasn't sure about the leading up to the last, big battle and if the helicarriers were a mere test run, but again a second viewing may explain this better. I did like the humor that was thrown into the film; much like "Thor: Dark World," it was well-placed and added a lighter element to an otherwise serious story. I also liked that the story was moved from the World War 2 era to the modern era, which made it a bit darker and more realistic in tone.

The characters were also good. Scarlet Johansson had a bigger role as Natasha Romanoff, and she and Chris Evans formed a good partnership; on a related note, I was relieved that there was no romance between the two. Robert Redford was a good choice to play the sleazy, scheming Alexander Pierce. Sebastian Stan also did an excellent job as the brainwashed Winter Soldier, a good rival for the Captain. Fury had a bigger role, though I was a bit unsure about his role in the entire scheme though that was more of a plot issue. Anthony Mackie plays Sam Wilson, who teams up with the Captain and Natasha; he wasn't a bad sidekick, though he could have been better developed.

The effects for the film were good. More than half, I believe, was not CGI, which proved for good action scenes. The action scenes were well-done, and the pace of the movie was generally good.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying "The Winter Soldier." I found it a worthy addition to the Marvel universe and am definitely looking forward to seeing it again.

I give the film four out of five stars.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Movie Review: Gravity

While on spring break this year, I did some traveling across the US and watched "Gravity."


"Gravity" is a film set in space inspired by the Kessler Syndrome (a theory about space debris). Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are on a mission dealing with the Hubble Telescope when debris from a Russian satellite destroys their shuttle and sets them adrift in space. After the two are separated, Stone must find a way to get to another space station or die in space.

The story, mostly seen from Stone's perspective, is easy to follow and pretty much is about a situation where everything in space goes wrong. The film is definitely intense and keeps you interested; I spent most of the movie sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. The only scene that I didn't like was when it looked like Kowalski ended up miraculously surviving but instead turns out to be a hallucination who urges Stone not to give up; I can't really explain it, but I wasn't overly fond of how Stone found the motivation to keep living.

The actors were well-chosen. I liked Clooney as the talkative, charming Kowalski who acts calmly and bravely in the midst of the chaos. Bullock did an excellent job as Stone, who is afraid and doesn't know what to do; she acts like all of us who have absolutely no experience in space, and it makes you sympathetic to her and what she feels.

The film is visually beautiful, and the effects are amazing. The views of earth in orbit and the stars are stunning, and the effects for no gravity and how things react in no-gravity are well-done. What really impressed me was how realistic the sound was. In most space movies like "Star Wars," you get sound in outer space; however, the director Cuaron does an accurate portrayal so scenes where the space stations are being destroyed are silent, except for any sound that the characters make, and this makes those scenes even more intense.

All in all, I enjoyed the film. It definitely deserved all those awards that it was nominated for and won. It is a bit too intense to be something that you watch over and over again, but it's certainly worth an occasional viewing.

I give it four and 1/2 out of five stars.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sherlock: Season 3 Review

I admit that I am a fairly late-comer when it comes to BBC's "Sherlock" series. I had heard about it but had not shown any interest until the past six months when I (and the rest of my family) got hooked on it thanks to Netflix. Generally, I have enjoyed the six episodes of the first two episodes and was chomping at the bit for season 3.

Unfortunately, I came away feeling more than a bit disappointed in what I saw in season 3.

I will examine each episode individually and then the entire season as a whole.


"The Empty Hearse" opens up two years after Sherlock's supposed suicide from the top of St. Bart's. It is revealed that he has been unraveling Moriarity's vast network, and now he is summoned back to London to deal with a terrorist strike. But first, Sherlock will need to tell John that he is alive if he wants to get his friend back into the game.

When I first watched the episode, I admit that I felt a bit let-down for several reasons. First (and these are not in any particular order), I was not sure what to make of Sherlock's "fan club." "Supernatural" is the only show that I know of where the writers can use episodes to poke fun at or cater to their fan base, which is hilarious; however, using something similar for "Sherlock" did not seem to fit in given the tone of past episodes. Second, the episode seemed less focused than previous ones. Sherlock uncovering the terrorist attack was a minor subplot while there were other subplots of his spat with John, John's kidnapping and rescue, his day with Molly (which includes a mysterious skeleton) and his parents' visit. Not to mention that some of the subplots did not feel like they truly belonged in the episode and certain scenes felt the same way, especially the whole Sherlock vs. Mycroft in "Operation" and "let's see who can out-deduct each other." In the end, it did not come across as being a particularly well-written and well-organized episode. Third, another problem I had was with the whole scene towards the end where Sherlock manipulates the situation to apologize to Watson and then laugh at him for believing they were about to die; it seemed like a cop-out for a tense situation and resolved the spat between the two a little too neatly. While I am happy that this thread was tied up in the first episode, it could have been better resolved.

"The Sign of Three" takes place about six months after "The Empty Hearse" and deals with John and Mary's wedding day. While Sherlock must give a best man speech, he must also figure out an unsolved murder and its connection to the wedding.

This episode also had its own problems. First, it was too disorganized. The episode is constantly jumping back and forth between wedding preparation, a stag party, Sherlock's mind palace, an attempted murder, then the wedding reception. It was confusing and made the plot a bit hard to follow. Some writers can jump around like this without confusing the reader/ viewer, but unfortunately this was not the case. Second, the connections of attempted murder, the dating ghost case, and the wedding was not very clear. It seemed shoddily thrown together and did not logically move from one to the other. A related issue was when Sherlock uses his mind palace to figure out what connects the five women who dated the "ghost"; he eliminates the possibility that they all work for the same person, but then it somehow turns out that that possibility was the correct one. It left me scratching my head, even after a second viewing of the episode. Third, the pacing was off. The speech took too long (mostly because more than half of it is flashbacks), and I kept wondering when it was finally going to be over.

"His Last Vow" takes place at least a couple of months after "The Sign of Three" (given Mary's progressing pregnancy). Sherlock goes to master blackmailer Magnusson to get back some incriminating letters when he discovers that Mary has a past that she is trying to hide and which Magnusson is fully aware of.

In the past finales for "Sherlock" have left me on the edge of my seat, wondering what is going to happen next and then at the end of the episode leaving me wanting more. This is the first time I did not feel that way about a "Sherlock" finale. First, the plot had issues. It kept jumping between Magnusson as the villain and Mary as a semi-antagonist, which made me wonder which plot was the more important one: the blackmail or the woman with a dirty secret. Also, the original case of Sherlock trying to get back the letters reminded me of Sherlock trying to get incriminating photos in "A Scandal in Belgravia," and it bugs me when a show has two episodes that have a similar plot. Second, I was not a big fan of what they did to Mary. I really liked Mary's character in the first two episodes and believed she fit in quite well with both Watson and Sherlock. Suddenly turning her into this assassin on the run from her past did not fit with her character and made me dislike her afterwards, even by the end of the episode. It also seemed resolved too neatly that she and Watson made up, and things go on as they have ever since the beginning of season 3. Third, the episode also does some jumping around though not as bad as "Sign of Three." Maybe it was done for dramatic effect, but it made had the opposite effect on me. Fourth, I didn't like the finale. The mysterious Magnusson could have been a good villain, but I was disappointed to see him killed off. Sherlock is sent into "exile" (which would literally be a death sentence for him) and then a few minutes later is summoned back because it appears that Moriarty has miraculously returned from the dead.

Now for an overall look at season 3.

I came into season 3 with high hopes for the same quality that fans have come to expect from "Sherlock." I understand that the season was delayed because Cumberbatch and Freeman had some big-screen roles, but I think the delay in the season caused the writers to lose momentum. As a result, the writing quality went down this season.

One problem was what I will call "strange camera scenes." It is sort of hard to describe, but sometimes "Sherlock" has had scenes that seemed suddenly thrown in/ have an abrupt transition from the previous scene and which take a second viewing for me to figure out why the scene was where it was (there were two for me in "A Scandal in Belgravia": when Irene understands how the hiker died and when Sherlock is returning to Baker Street after he realizes Irene is alive). There were quite a few in season 3, which made things a bit confusing; one big offender was Sherlock's thoughts when he was being shot by Mary. Which brings me to a related issue. In the past, the viewers have occasionally got a glimpse into Sherlock's mind and how he thinks (like his mind palace in "Hound of Baskerville," which was cool), and even if it is quick, it generally makes sense. This season, however, it seemed a lot more scatterbrained and did not make a lot of sense, like when Sherlock was being shot.

A second problem was the plots generally were a mess. All of the episodes have big plot holes (granted, I have found holes in previous "Sherlock" episodes, but I have been willing to forgive smaller mistakes) or have too many smaller plots running alongside each other to keep things coherent. The pacing was also off. We first see Magnusson "introduced" in "The Empty Hearse," he is briefly mentioned, and then he is the big baddie for the finale; it seemed like he had too little screen time and like he was just thrown into the finale only to be killed off. Then you have small plots that seem thrown in and had little bearing on the rest of the episode, like the allusions to Sherlock's drug habit (it has briefly been implied in the premiere but has never been mentioned again, so it seemed abruptly added to the finale).

On a related note, I did not like the portrayal of the villains this season. Moran could have been given a lot more detail, but he was skimmed over in favor of the other mini-plots (I couldn't help but compare him to the cabbie in the show's premiere; we don't get a lot of screen-time for him or realize who he is until late in the episode, but he came across as a much better-written and convincing villain than Moran). The murderous photographer was not well-portrayed either, but I think this is because the episode itself was poorly written. Then we have Magnusson. I liked him very much as a villain and was rather disappointed to see him killed off in the finale. Then Moriarty's face begins popping up on screens all over Britain. It felt like the writers were bored with Magnusson and decided to shock the fans. My big issue is that we saw Moriaty shoot himself and fall down dead; Sherlock's death could have been explained easily because a. we saw him jump and [b]something[/b] land on the pavement, but there was wiggle room for him to survive b. in the Sherlock Holmes canon, he survives his plunge into Reichenbach Falls, so fans know he has to survive. So while I am willing to accept Sherlock's survival, I am having a much harder time with Moriarty's. It makes me wonder if Moriarty is really, really back or if someone else is just using his image and he is still dead. Whatever the case, I hope the writers have not written themselves into a corner.

I was saddened by the lower quality of season 3, and I hope this is not a sign that the show is going downhill. Especially if there is another long delay between seasons. I will keep my fingers crossed that "Sherlock" can return to the quality of the first two seasons, and hopefully there will not be another delay.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Reviews: Monsters University

As a child and a teen, I loved Pixar's movies and grew up on their stuff. As an adult, I liked their newer offerings less but still love the earlier films, which are among those that remind me of my childhood. After being disappointed or at least not very impressed with "Cars 2" and "Brave," I was unsure what to expect of "Monsters University" and delayed seeing it until yesterday.


"Monsters University" is a prequel to "Monsters Inc." It starts off when Mike Wazowski is in elementary school and has dreams of becoming a scarer. He works hard and gets accepted into the Scaring school on the campus, where he meets slacker James Sullivan and timid scarer Randall Bogs. Tension between Mike and Sully erupts and causes both of them to be flunked out of their scaring class by the stern Dean Hardscrabble. Still wanting to pursue his dream, Mike reluctantly teams up with Sully and an unpopular fraternity to compete in a series of games, and the group learns about teamwork and friendship.

The story was easy to follow, though it was by no means as clever or memorable as the original film. It was good, but the last part of the film where Mike, desperate to prove that he can be a scarer like Sully, enters the human world and wrecks havoc with Sully until both manage to return thanks to Mike's quick-thinking. The last part, to me, felt like it was an attempt to keep the film going and to maintain some consistency with the first film. I appreciate that the writers did not want to make it that easy for Mike to win the games, but it seemed a bit shoddy to me and could have been handled better. The movie did not seamlessly fit in with the original, but there were some references back to the original that were handled well without making it seem like they were just ripped from "Monsters Inc" like sequels tend to do.

Only three characters in this film are from the first one: Mike, Sully, and Randall. They seemed, however, less developed than the original ones; perhaps it was because this is meant to be when they were younger and is meant to lead into what they will later become, but it was not as good. However, there are several new characters and much more interaction among them, which makes this film different from the original. The Oozma Cappa fraternity has cute and fairly memorable characters, and Hardscrabble made for a stern and somewhat creepy dean. And there is plenty of humor with several characters playing off of college stereotypes.

The visuals are interesting as Pixar introduces all kinds of new and different monsters onto the campus. However, they are not as amazing as the ones in the original.

One problem I did have with the film is that some aspects of it reminded me of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Namely the following: Hardscrabble's entrance by dramatically closing the curtains, the Scaring Games (which reminded me of the challenges that Harry and the other contestants faced), Mike getting into trouble when entering the competition (like Harry when his name came out of the goblet), and Mike and his teammates being humiliated by the other competitors (again, like Harry being bad-mouthed by his fellow students) to name a few. I am not sure if this was intentional or not, but the two seemed a bit similar.

I started watching the movie having low expectations for it, but I was a bit surprised. It is not up there with Pixar's earliest films, but it has its memorable and redeeming moments. Definitely good for a rental and for seeing it now and again.

I give it 3 and 1/2 stars out of five.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Movie Review: Thor- The Dark World

I was never raised on comic books and comic book characters (though I was aware of characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider-man). However, that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the Marvel Avengers series that started several years ago. After seeing Iron Man 3, however, I grew a bit worried that perhaps the franchise was showing signs of dying in terms of quality, which made me a bit worried about Thor: The Dark World. Nonetheless, last night I went and saw it.


"Thor: The Dark World" picks up about a year or so after Thor has returned from Earth with Loki in chains and the Tesseract. Since the Bifrost is now repaired, Thor and his warriors have been busy putting an end to wars in the Nine Realms, but he still misses Jane. Jane, in the meantime, still misses Thor but is trying to move on. While in London, she accidentally finds herself transported to a mysterious place and possessed by an ancient evil weapon known as the Aether. Thor finds her and brings her to Asgard, where the Dark Elf leader Malekith (who had previously possessed the Aether and plans to use it to unleash darkness on the entire universe) attacks the world, looking for the Aether. When tragedy strikes, Thor reluctantly turns to his imprisoned foster brother Loki to help him destroy the Aether and save the universe from being destroyed.

The story was fairly easy to follow, but some of the scientific aspects were a bit off, which left holes in the overlying plot. Like where exactly Odin's father Bor buried the Aether and how Jane managed to find it. The idea of the Nine Realms converging every five thousand years was a cool one, but it didn't make sense in that how Earth managed to survive the last time the convergence happened. Despite a few issues, the writing was pretty good. Even though the story has a fairly dark tone, there was plenty of humor to balance it out; much like "Avengers" and quite unlike "Iron Man 3," the humor was well-placed, in-character, and memorable (I absolutely love the scene where Loki imitates Captain America).

The characters were generally well-done. Hemsworth did good as Thor, and Hiddleston was excellent as Loki; I liked their interaction in this film, as we never got to see a lot of direct interaction in their previous films together. I also liked the briefly expanded roles for Frigga (whose strong, motherly personality comes out more) and for Heimdall. Erik Selvig (who has gone crazy because of the events of "The Avengers") and Darcy (whose humor is still there) also have somewhat bigger roles. The only character I wasn't happy with was Jane Foster. I know Portman can act, but her role as Jane is not one of her better ones, and I don't think there's much chemistry between her and Hemsworth either.

Visually, this film is stunning. I loved the new look for Asgard and a more detailed look into its people and its Viking-esque culture; that and watching it get destroyed by Malekith made Asgard feel more real and less like a shiny, untouchable city on the other side of the universe. I enjoyed seeing parts of the other Nine Realms, which were beautifully done. The makeup and effects for the Dark Elves (not your Tolkien-esque elves) and other creatures were also impressive. And, not to mention, that it was nice to see another city other than New York get destroyed in the last battle of the film.

Oh, and a brief shout-out to Brian Tyler, who did the soundtrack for this film. It was amazing, and I am looking forward to listening to it again.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed "Thor: The Dark World," way more than "Iron Man 3." Even though its different from its predecessor, I found it memorable and believe it is a worthy addition to the "Avenger" movie series canon.

I give it four out of five stars.