Thor: Love and Thunder – A Movie Review

Maybe I’m a prisoner of the moment, but Thor: Love and Thunder is absolutely one of my favorite Marvel movies.

First of all, even though the special effects are completely epic, the storyline itself is fairly straightforward and each character’s motivations are clear. This goes a long way with a mainstream crowd. On the one hand, I’ve seen every MCU movie and witnessed Thor’s evolution in real time. On the other hand, my wife has barely seen any of the Marvel movies, yet, thanks to flashbacks and addendums, she completely understood Love and Thunder and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. That’s quite a feat for a fourth installment to achieve!

Secondly, even though this is comic book movie full of larger-than-life events, the acting really is superb thanks to incredible actors. Let me throw some names at you: Natalie Portman. Christian Bale. Russel Crowe. Tessa Thompson. Bradley Cooper. These are big names with real acting credentials. Let’s toss in sheer star power as well with Chris Hemsworth (obviously), Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, and Vin Diesel. Furthermore, there are some very big cameos that I won’t spoil for you. And the person who helped write the story, directed the movie, and even acted in it as well? Taika Waititi.

Third, it’s just plain fun. The tone, the costumes, the jokes–it’s all a blast. Screaming goats, people! Screaming goats!

However, that brings me to my fourth and final point. Even though the jokes are fast and furious, I’ll also admit to you that this is one of the few MCU movies that truly gave me the feels. I teared up on several occasions. Is that the quality of the story, the acting, or the combination of the two? I’m not sure, but I was definitely invested in these characters, particularly Thor and Jane Foster.

Speaking of whom, I was thrilled to see Natalie Portman back as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor. I was also so relieved that they treated both Jane and Mighty Thor with the utmost respect. They nailed her story, they got the costume exactly right, and they let Natalie Portman have a little fun even as she also had to do a lot of the emotional heavy lifting.

Finally, I never would have guessed they could keep Thor interesting, but they keep finding ways. Chris Hemsworth has truly captured something magical in this character, merging the buffoonery of the Norse myth with the heroism of the Marvel comic’s character, and Taika Waititi has found a way to let Hemsworth walk that very fine line.

Obviously, I highly recommend Thor: Love and Thunder. It’s an entertaining two hours that brings both the laughs and the emotions while closing plotlines from the past and opening more for the future.

Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness – A Movie Review

No pun intended, but it’s very strange to me that Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen have, in many ways, become the heart and soul of the MCU. I happen to really like both of them as actors, but I never dreamed Cumberbatch would play such a significant role across many MCU films after his initial Dr. Strange movie, nor did I expect Olsen’s character, Wanda, to undergo so much growth after first appearing in Age of Ultron.

Furthermore, Multiverse Of Madness seemed to be the crux of several previous MCU storylines. WandaVision, Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home and more all seemingly led to this film, which, obviously, created high expectations.

Finally, adding Sam Raimi to the mix elevated the excitement even more. In many ways, Raimi is the unofficial grandfather of the MCU thanks to his Spider-Man movies, and, if you check out his IMDB page, is no stranger to making weird horror films. He felt like the perfect fit for Dr. Strange.

So what did I think of Multiverse Of Madness?

No spoilers, I promise.

In the end, I liked it.

In the beginning, I didn’t.

I felt that Dr. Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness started off maddingly slow. Additionally, the special effects were … not good. Almost laughably bad, in fact. But, the good news is that the movie soon picked up speed and maintained a quicker pace, and the special effects got much, much better. I’d also like to say that some of those slow beats in the beginning paid off in the end. I was surprised that, for a film spanning multiple realities, a coherent, connected storyline eventually emerged.

Dr. Strange is a ridiculous looking character. Benedict Cumberbatch, at first glance, looks ridiculous as Dr. Strange. Yet, somehow, someway, Cumberbatch infuses a strange mixture of arrogance, charm, regality, intelligence, and even heroism into his performance in such a way that the audience quickly accepts all of the visual silliness and commits to the story. There were moments in this movie when I felt that Cumberbatch appeared as though he stepped right out of a comic book panel–and I mean that as a compliment. Cumberbatch plays very similar characters–he’s been typecast to a degree–yet there’s something different about him as Dr. Strange. Even apart from the hair and goatee, his entire appearance and demeanor just seems … different from his real life persona. A transformation occurs.

Of course, who knew Elizabeth Olsen would take an initially paper-thin character like Wanda from Age of Ultron and eventually turn her into perhaps the most sympathetic, relatable, and horrifying character in the MCU’s entirety? Again, no spoilers, but Multiverse Of Madness zigged when I definitely thought it was going to zag. I appreciate the fact that it proved unpredictable, and much of the film’s originality hinged on Olsen’s performance. No matter what, I’m Team Wanda, and I think most people are. That’s absolutely due to Olsen’s portrayal.

As stated earlier, Sam Raimi fit this movie perfectly. On the one hand, there were some obvious Sam Raimi choices. Overlays, fade-outs, audible cues–you’ll easily identify his fingerprints. On the other hand, his experience with horror and super heroes truly paid off. Dr. Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness had some genuinely scary moments. This is not the typical MCU kid gloves. Characters look scary, frightening things happen, and the gore, given it’s the MCU, shocked me on some occasions. I’m not sure we got full Raimi, but we got way more Raimi than I expected! I’m not convinced Dr. Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness was perfect for him, but he was certainly perfect for it.

Let’s quickly touch on some other performances. I loved Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez. Her character’s arc drove the film’s plot, which meant Gomez had to do a lot of work. She had to win over the audience, be both vulnerable and capable, and strike the right chemistry with her co-stars. No easy feat for a first appearance! Chavez pulled it off and I look forward to seeing America again.

Of course, Benedict Wong always steals the scenes. I love that his Wong has somehow become an MCU touchstone.

I’m also so glad that they finally gave Rachel McAdams something to do as Dr. Christine Palmer. The MCU was not especially gracious to its female “love interests” in the beginning, but they seem to be course correcting now. McAdams is an exceptional actor who is finally getting to show her skill to the MCU audience.

I guess we should address the anticipated cameos, right? Wrong. I’m telling you nothing. I’ll just say they made me so, so happy. Yet, like everything else about this movie, things did not go as expected. I’ll just leave it at that.

Credit scenes? Yep. The mid-credit scene is vital and has me SO excited for future possibilities. The post-credit scene is not must-see, but I loved it. It’s the perfect Raimi send-off.

Dr. Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness will prove polarizing among fans and critics alike. It dared to go against the grain, which will surely create some controversy. Another pain point for audiences could be that it does not have any interest in catching people up. It assumes you’ve seen all the Marvel shows and movies, and if you haven’t? Try to keep up. It’s not the best Marvel movie, but Raimi’s direction, the performances, the utter weirdness of it all, and the titillating cameos made for an entertaining experience.

Eternals – A Movie Review

Let’s get right down to it – this movie is far better than the critics would have you believe. Is it a touch too long? For sure. Is it a tad melodramatic at times? Most definitely. However, knowing what I know about Eternals from the comic books, I told people not to expect Avengers or Spider-Man. I told them to expect a cosmic think-piece, and I stand by that prediction. A cosmic think-piece is exactly what we got.

I’ll try to boil the plot down without spoiling any of it. The Eternals are a group of powered entities sent to protect humanity specifically against an otherworldly race of predators. Once they rid Earth of these creatures, their mission will be complete. However, they are banned from interfering in any way that does not involve the predators. We span thousands and thousands of years in Eternals, with many cuts back and forth throughout time. Eventually, the Eternals believe the time to go home has finally arrived. And they are right, but for reasons they never could have imagined.

Eternals hired very good actors for a purpose – it needed them to bring these unknown characters to life and to make us care about them. (I mean, come on! Who doesn’t love seeing Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, and Richard Madden in the same movie!) Again, yes, the movie is too long – no one is arguing that. But, that long runtime allows us to really get to know each and every member of the Eternals – all ten of them. They each have distinct personalities and philosophies, and the respective actors playing each character do a nice job with showcasing these unique attributes. This is a family of sorts, and we’re meant to believe that they’ve been together for thousands of years. As a result, their relationships are complicated. For the most part, I believe Eternals delivered a smart plot with fully developed characters. In fact, there were a few twists in this movie that I didn’t even see coming. I quite enjoyed that.

It’s important that Marvel begins to recondition their audience with a film like Eternals. I imagine Marvel wants to allow a bit more room for its characters to breathe. It wants to explore the deep, sometimes even trippy, imaginings of luminaries like Jack Kirby. It wants to present morally complex tales that exist beyond “good guys” and “bad guys.” It’s hard to do this with established characters or properties. We know we’re getting weird from Dr. Strange, but not necessarily deep characterization. We know we’re getting funny from Guardians Of the Galaxy, but maybe not cosmic philosophy. Eternals attempts to tackle this endeavor while still remaining part of the MCU. But think about how hard it is to break the mold with largely unknown characters! The audience isn’t familiar with any of them, nor do they have a preexisting affinity for them. Studios keep remaking movies from the past with well-known characters because that guarantees a certain audience draw. Marvel rolled the dice on a largely dramatic movie like Eternals, and they did so with a director not known for these kinds of films.

By the way, I love that Marvel took a chance on Chloé Zhao. Getting fresh perspectives, styles, and voices is important if you want to keep leviathans like the MCU feeling new. On first view, though, I didn’t get a huge sense of where Zhao’s sensibilities shook things up. She’s also the writer, so perhaps her macro level influence is exactly what I’m talking about. Slower pace. Deeper characterization. More complex plot elements.

Consequently, Eternals is not a total departure from established Marvel trends. It’s still funny at times, though there are far more tears than we’re accustomed to seeing. There are still great action sequences, though they are spread out further than what we’re used to. The special effects are fantastic, and the costumes are magnificent. Eternals also opened up a lot of potential storylines, both within the movie itself and with its credit stingers. (There’s two, so stay all the way through the credits.)

This film is honestly a big swing for Marvel. Eternals is an epic story involving ten main characters while spanning millennia. It’s addressing what has come before, the present, and setting up stories to come. No, it does not provide pulse-pounding excitement, but it does present an interesting story with fully realized characters that I came to care about. Too long? Yes. Too much crying? I think so. Worth seeing? Absolutely.