Thor: The Dark World: A Beyond the Bunker review

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BTB Reviews Movie

Marvel’s got a hell of a challenge ahead of it, particularly with Thor. With Robert Downey Jr hanging up his french waiter moustache and goatee until Avengers: Age of Ultron, the weight of convincing crowds that Marvel has what it takes to make us deal out the dosh to see Captain America: Winter Soldier, Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy before the next team building exercise and universe bending threat to humanity falls on the not insignificany shoulders of the God of Thunder himself, this time directed by Game of Thrones' and first time blockbuster movie director; Alan Taylor.

Of the three (four) big hitters in the Avengers, Thor's films are by far the broadest in setting and effectively most responsible for setting the outer limits of the Marvel Universe, presenting a massive challenge. It was the villain of Thor (Tom Hiddleston's Loki) that represented the threat in the showcase movie Avengers (we don't call it Avengers Assemble here) after all – so while Thor is the least profitable (by a small margin) and arguably the slightest of the original three movie franchises that lead to Avengers in spite of capable direction from Shakespearite Kenneth Branagh – it carries with it the burden of being potentially the most influential. This film is no different, with Iron Man 3 resolving Tony Stark's story arc until the new Avengers film and the trailer for Captain America making it clear that it's focus is one of internal conflict and very human warfare, the onus is on Thor to kick the excitement for Avengers: Age of Ultron up a notch. This it does with absolute aplomb, a wry sense of humour and a sense of it’s audience rarely seen in an established franchise.

We find a cast very much changed by the events of Avengers, some of which finally have the opportunity to be developed more effectively with a plot that deals much more with the nine realms of which Earth (Midgard) and Thor's home (Asgard) are only two. Most improved are the formerly peripheral and comic book mainstays otherwise known as the Warriors Three (Hogun, Fandral and a slightly less voluminous Volstagg) and Thor's female interest in Asgard, Sif. Though Tadanobu Asano's Hogun is out pretty early on. The film pauses deliberately to present these characters a little better, Volstagg now better realised by the brilliant Ray Stevenson (Rome, Punisher: War Zone) and Zachary Levi as dashing Fandral stirs memories of old Robin Hood movies. Sif's clear love for Thor as a subplot is an interesting and welcome development in Sif's character, though she is used sparingly in action sequences and the first to be removed from the equation when the action begins to heat up, something regrettable as Jaimie Alexander is such a capable actress, Sif an interesting character and both are such bona fide hotties.

Rene Russo's Frigga, as Thor's mother takes a more prominent role in proceedings as well, as the influence she has over her husband Odin (Anthony Hopkins), her real son, Thor and step son, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the linking subplot that allows three warring characters to find any common ground.

But, hilariously, it's the master stroke of Stellan Skarsgård's Dr. Erik Selvig and his burgeoning mental illness that wins the film over. Rather than sideline him as a result of him being driven mad because he 'had a god in my head', Selvig becomes welcome relief from earnest and worthy moments threatening to become too overbearing and tipping the plot into farce by taking itself too seriously. Kat Dennings' assistant Darcy Lewis and her 'interns intern Ian Boothby played by Jonathan Howard create very neat comic moments and IT Crowd's Chris O' Dowd as Dr Jane Foster's (still ably played by Natalie Portman) doomed alternative love interest rounds out a very well used set of side characters.

Playing Doctors and Norses: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) meet up in a pub car park....

Playing Doctors and Norses: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) meet up in a pub car park….

If I haven’t mentioned the primary cast of Hemsworth, Portman, Hiddleston and Hopkins (and Idris Elba as all-seeing Heimdall) it is because there is little change amongst any of them. They are uniformly great, with only Hopkins seemingly phoning it in a little at the very beginning. They occupy the centre of the plot brilliantly, each fulfilling the potential of the characters well. Hemsworth himself proves himself a generous and humble actor in scenes with others, giving a the god of thunder the depth of storm clouds in quieter moments and allowing other characters to share the limelight in one on one scenes.

It is perhaps the familiarity of the archetypes that causes the film to slightly dip in the centre however. Away from the cast of unusual and offbeat side characters the course the characters take is almost unavoidably predictable. Not boring at any point, and peppered with nice moments which will make you laugh unexpectedly. However, the main tract of the tale take second place to the decidedly enjoyable character moments. When the main plot takes over, it can’t help but become a slightly predictable, if exceptionally well paced and directed, fantasy fare.

Aside from occasional hiccups in the edit the film is littered with curiousities and odd decisions that are later satisfactorily resolved, which highlights how this film isn’t being written by template. It can be argued it under utilises a cast capable of greater emotional depth but it does so in order to remind itself that it is a superhero yarn and one that demands a heavy dose of fun and would suffer from too much hand-wringing. Never the less the relationship between Odin and Thor at loggerheads in the first film as a loving father and son incapable of agreeing on anything is satisfyingly realised here. The writing of a character as unpredictable as Loki leaves you guessing how many bluffs and double bluffs you’re seeing with red herrings subtle and layered as the God of Mischief tries to justify his actions enough to disappoint everyone all over again – a highly enjoyable tight rope walk for a sympathetic character – and one that pays off nicely.

Portman’s involvement draws parallels with the Star Wars franchise and there are touches of Padme Amidala in her appearance, but it is the blend between mythology and science fiction, well realised in this case, that makes Thor: The Dark World the film the Phantom Menace and Clone Wars should have been. The idea that technological advancement creates worlds reminiscent of fantasy epics works because secretly it’s an ideal existence, a comfortable blend between nature, control of physics (advanced science giving rise to magic that utilises great power) and balance. Here, the Marvel universe draws together the ideas that the Star Wars saga failed to and it’s exciting and impressive to behold.

Perhaps most notably for a resident of the denizens of London, it looked (with only one exception) like the city we know well, a refreshing change from interesting global landmarks used as interchangable backdrops for unintelligible action sequences or the foppish, lamp lit London of Richard Curtis romantic comedies. Neither does it rely on overly recognisable landmarks, this film is brave enough to put the action away from the obvious tourist track and for that it deserves credit – though recognisable landmarks to Londoners are used briefly and effectively to raise a smile. Having said that, those with a clear knowledge of the underground will definitely take umbridge with one otherwise well placed London Transport gag. Put simply, without showing the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s, the O2, The London Eye or Trafalgar Square this film manages to depict a city both recognisable to Londoners and attractive to tourists. Something it’d be good to see in other films.

Enormous ideas are realised with effective visual shorthand and a recurring light touch. Happily, having watched a film that involved alien starships, multiple dimensions and gods the thing I admire most about it, particularly after the seemingly pointless carnage of Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel, is it’s self control. Thor maintains the Marvel tradition of understanding that devastation doesn’t have to be global, total or even city wide. With effective set pieces the final battle, while grand, is geographically contained (at least while limited to this dimension) but is more engaging as a result.

This an incredibly assured debut to mainstream film making, with the risks that Marvel are taking paying off film after film. If any of you are waiting for Marvel to falter, this film most certainly isn’t it. Based on the trailer of Captain America: Winter Soldier and the now traditional title sequence clips, Marvel isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. Unexpectedly, perhaps, the concern over the end of Downey Jr’s run as Iron Man as a franchise in it’s own right was misplaced, his absence now allowing focus to fall on extremely worthy elements of the Marvel Universe. We say more of this and Marvel will secure its place with one of the finest legacies in movie history.

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“The Best of British” – Geek Planet Online on Moon #2

Just in time for next week’s London Super Comic Con, the good folks at Geek Planet Online just posted a review of Moon #2. The good news is that they liked the book, the bad news is…well there isn’t any bad news really, they really did like the book.  Here’s a little snippet:

“The wry, postmodern sense of humour is still intact and if anything seems to have more confidence this issue…It’s the best of British and I hope the audience continues to grow.”

You can read the full review here and if it peaks your interest then you can order the book from our online store or pick it up from us next week at the Super Comic Con (we’ll even sign it for you).
Moon Morning lightThanks to Dave at Geek Planet for continuing to support the book. The site has been one of the great champions of our work and we really appreciate it.

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Prometheus Trailer

Much has been made of the apparent prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien. An expansion of the universe (and reportedly directly relating to aspects of Alien; namely the giant alien astronaut corpse found in the space ship wreck) there is a great deal of anticipation. Reports from the set suggest that Ridley Scott is entirely unswayed by any of the conjecture surrounding his latest project. As you’d expect of a great director moving towards a potentially seminal piece of cinema he’s keeping things firmly to his chest. It is however, supposedly a matter of success or destruction for the entire Human race. How that works is still uncertain but it looks like it could be a great ride finding out according to this intriguing trailer.

Geek Planet Online Reviews Tales of the Fallen

We’ve been pretty quiet on the Unseen Shadows front since the release of Tales of the Fallen last November. There’s still plenty going on at the publisher and we are most certainly involved in some of it, but it’s mostly stuff we’re not allowed to talk about just yet. Still, Tales of the Fallen is still out there and seems to be gradually winning more and more fans. Geek Planet Online ran an excellent review of the book this week and I thought I’d share a link to it here. If you’re thinking about picking up the book, this review gives you a nice overview of what to expect. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“The book as a whole achieves its mission of telling good stories for newcomers while offering background to long term fans. People going in cold should find enough to entice them to seek out Fallen Heroes. It will be interesting to see what else comes from the Unseen Shadows stable in the future.”

 

 

You can read the full review HERE and if it tickles your fancy you can pick up a copy of Tales of the Fallen (or digital copies of the work we contributed to it) from the BTB Store

“Fast paced, snappy and very funny” – Liberation Frequency Reviews Moon #1

Last week we posted up a link to our interview with Pop-Culture website Liberation Frequency. Well, they also promised to run a review on Moon #1 and said review is now live. It’s always nice to see what other comics fans have to say about the book, especially when it’s as positive as this.

You can read the full review HERE and if you tune in to their next podcast you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of the comic! Lovely.

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Bizarre Magazine Gives Moon Four Stars!

Moon has always been a fan of the bizarre but now it seems that the bizarre has become a fan of Moon! The latest issue of Bizarre Magazine contains a review of Moon #1 and it seems that they rather like it. In a section of reviews on alternative comic books they described our beloved little child as “vibrant and action packed” before going on to award us a glorious 4 stars!

We had a lovely chat with some of the magazine’s reporters at Kapow and at the time they seemed pretty keen on getting the book mentioned somewhere, but it wasn’t until today that we found out just what kind of mention it would be. A thumbs up from a publication as big as Bizarre is a massive boost to a new company like us so as you can image we’re over the…er…orbital-rock-based-satellite.

You can pick up the magazine from any newsagents as of today. If you read the first Kapow article then be sure to have a little look for Mr Penfold in one of the photos, it’ll be like the oddest game of Where’s Wally you ever played. 😉

If you’re a new follower of Beyond The Bunker after reading the review then welcome to the site. Please have a look around and make yourselves at home. You can buy the comic HERE or read more about it HERE and there’s a metric asstonne of other stuff to read and enjoy around the site, with more added each and every day. Welcome to our odd little family!

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Moon #1 Review Roundup

Most of the reviews are in for Moon #1 now and so I thought it was about time that we collected them all together so you can see what the critics have been saying about the book.

Geek Syndicate –  5/5 – “Iconic”

Major Spoilers – “Very impressive”

The Void – “A great cast of characters”

Small Press Big Mouth Podcast – “Very slick, very professional, very witty…you’ll love it.”

Geek Planet Online – “Deserves to be a breakout hit.”  (Heres a LINK to the interview I did alongside the review)

Good Comic Books – “Like if HBO made Blackadder…awesome fun!”

Hi-Ex! Blog – “Complex and exciting…Buy it!”

Comic Buzz – “Huge fun and was a pleasure to read. I’ll be back for Issue Two and I’m willing to bet that everyone who reads this will be too!”

We had faith that people would like the book when we put it out there but the sheer level of enthusiasm that people have shown for it has been frankly staggering. We are hard at work on issue 2 right now and we’re still aiming to have in in your hands by the end of summer. If you’ve not bought a copy of the book yet please order one online or come and see us at Bristol, MCM or any of the other cons we’ll be visiting this year. The faster we sell issue 1, the faster we can put issue 2 out. Bunkerites, we need YOU! (I may even stop calling you Bunkerites if you help us sell a tonne of them 😉 )

Please, please, please take a bit of time to hop on twitter/facebook/whatever and give us a quick shout out. We really appreciate the help you guys give to this rapidly accelerating project.

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Suckerpunch: It’s gonna….

I decided a while ago that I would try and hate this film. Mr Thompson is of the opinion it must be shit because its Zach Snyder, though I was perhaps a little intrigued as to how the director of Watchmen would do with his own material even if he is a bit of a ‘copy and paste’ kind of director focussed predominantly on the visual. I have tried hard not to like it and thought that the trailer had given me an excuse. I thought the Mental Hospital was an orphanage – though I’m still a little surprised by the fairly impressive condition of the inmates. Can’t remember the last time I saw mental patients portrayed as neon blonde models but I’d guess this is from the ‘Chicago’ stable.

I’m seeing Rodriguez, Jackson, Tarantino and Wachowski in the design and cinematography but nothing that matches any of them. Snyder, I admit is a student of film rather than a practitioner in it but he handles his tools well. Its the obviousness of the enemies that perhaps bothers me most, as if Snyder has ‘realised’ that taking two cool things and putting them together makes them cool. It does but you always have to add an extra element so it’d be interesting to see whether he has. Samurai Demons with miniguns, German can’t- be-Nazi-but-seem-to-be (?) World War I zombies, Guardsmen androids on a steaming sci-fi train, oh – and a dragon. Snyder always lacks that final layer of intelligence just below the surface of his characters and I suspect that’s what we’re going to see here.

Almost certainly worth a look if you’re bored, alone and have some cash in your pocket but it doesn’t seem like one to see with your mates – more of a guilty pleasure – like 300 and Watchmen. However there is some beautiful design work in the associated anime films.