Tag Archive: Idris Elba


Thor: The Dark World: Grade: B-

original

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Written by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo

Until Thor: The Dark World was released, the only individual franchise in the Marvel Studio universe that had a sequel (and I am not counting The Incredible Hulk as being a sequel to The Hulk) was Iron ManThor: The Dark World is a bigger test for Marvel than Iron Man 2 was primarily because (1) audiences gravitated toward Robert Downey, Jr.’s defining performance so much that the actor alone ensured a huge box office in the first weekend alone; (2) a billionaire playboy who suits up in a electronically sophisticated flying robotic armor is more interesting than a mythological god whose only weapon is a fucking hammer and whose world looks like a poor man’s version of J.R.R. Tolkien; and (3) Tony Stark’s pop culture-infused sharp sarcasm is funnier than Thor’s old English dialogue. It is far less risky to have a wisecracking Robert Downey, Jr. in a real world setting than a Viking god from outer space, played by a relatively unknown actor.

With Thor: The Dark World, I am disturbingly finding myself walking out of the theater thinking once you have seen one Marvel film, you have seen them all.  These films are beginning to feel more like TV episodes (or I guess you can say issues of comic books). While I overall enjoyed Thor: The Dark World, I was disappointed to find that it was not much of an improvement over its predecessor.

In this sequel, Asgard is faced with a new threat in the form of the Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his minions, who are these ancient creatures called Dark Elves and who seek to return the universe back to eternal darkness. Malekith intends to accomplish his goal with the use of the Aether during the Convergence, an event that occurs once every like 10,000 years in which all of the nine realms of the universe align together. Thor: The Dark World takes place right after the events of The Avengers. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to Asgard and the villainous brother is condemned to spend eternity inside a dungeon. Thor remains busy bringing peace to the various kingdoms. In the meantime, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), his heartbroken love, continues her research into finding barriers between worlds. During her research, she stumbles across the Aether and is possessed by it. Thor finds her and returns her to Asgard to separate the Aether from Jane. However, discovery of the Aether reawakens Malekith, who descends upon Asgard to possess the powerful object.

If you can’t tell from my summary, Thor: The Dark World steeps itself a lot more into the fantasy Asgardian elements of this property than the first film. As one of the main directors of the hit TV show, Game of Thrones, director Alan Taylor is better suited to handle the fantasy aspect of the story than Kenneth Branagh, the director of the first film. This time Asgard feels more grounded and gritty and you get a sense that there are actual inhabitants outside of Thor, Odin and Loki. Taylor also does a fine job bringing back the humor the first film had and giving Thor: The Dark World a touch of lightness that the Marvel movies all seem to have. Here, it is obvious Joss Whedon exercised a heavy hand in many of this film’s humor, with gags and a great cameo from another Marvel superhero. Taylor also manages to avoid the typically dreadful third act climax/showdown that Marvel movies are sometimes plagued with (see Iron Man 1 and 2) – the final set piece is an inventive action sequence that, although not exceptional, is fun to watch.

However, despite the film’s virtues, Thor: The Dark World is held back by a number of elements. For one, Malekith is a woefully under-developed character, which is a real disappointment given how the very talented, charismatic, and versatile Christopher Eccleston (Mads Mikkelsen was originally cast to play Malekith, but he dropped out because of Hannibal) was cast to play this character. Aside from some decent design work on Malekith and his elvish minions, he doesn’t do a whole lot. Most of Malekith’s interactions occur with his henchman Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). He has one forgettable exchange with Thor and that is pretty much about it.

It is obvious that the studio decided to give short shrift to Malekith’s development in favor of allowing for more screen time to Loki, probably the most popular and memorable character in the Marvel movie universe next to Iron Man. Tom Hiddleston again proves himself to be indispensable to the enjoyment of this movie. He deftly combines a little boy vulnerability with his malevolent trickster traits. By now, Chris Hemsworth and Hiddleston have starred together in their third movie and you can see the two actors really hit their stride with these characters. At the same time, we are getting the same Loki that we saw in the first Thor and in The Avengers. There is no real character development here with him. The outcome with his character in this film seems to be setting him up for a third Thor film.

I have to say that I did not dig this more mature, noble Thor. I miss the cocky, impulsive, arrogant Norse god that we saw on display in the first film and in The Avengers. Now, he’s just some dull superhero who takes everything too seriously and much of the comedy he provided in Thor is gone (except for what Loki provides).

As for the rest of the characters, I was pleasantly surprised to find an expanded role for Rene Russo, who plays Thor’s mother. One of the best scenes in the film occurs between her and Malekith as she tries to protect Jane Foster from the dark elf. Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard also return to serve as more comic relief. For awhile I was expecting to see the story delve into an interesting love triangle between Jaimie Alexander’s Sif, Thor, and Jane Foster, but other than a few hints here and there, nothing comes of this sub-plot. Many have pointed out that Anthony Hopkins barely registers in this film as Thor’s father, Odin. I disagree and I found the performance to be far better and memorable than what Hopkins did in the first film.

I had the misfortune of seeing Thor: The Dark World in 3D. Reportedly, director Alan Taylor was not told that his film would be converted to 3D and it shows. The 3D make the whole image darker for one, and the technology was not utilized in the least bit. There is some very nice design work and landscapes in the Asgardian scenes and you totally miss it by watching it in 3D.

Ultimately, Thor: The Dark World is a fun, escapist romp that’s worth spending a nice Sunday afternoon in the theater to see (without the 3D). There is nothing original in terms of storyline, visual effects, or characters, but you weren’t really expecting that anyway, were you? Its unfortunate the talents of Christopher Eccleston are totally wasted, but at least we get a large dose of Loki instead, which is always welcome. Make sure you stick around for the end credits (like you should do with every Marvel film) for a nice teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Maybe if PROMETHEUS had not been set in the Alien universe, Ridley Scott would have ended up making a decent movie. Maybe if Ridley Scott had spent a longer time developing the script before heading into production, PROMETHEUS would not have been the disastrous mess that it was. There are a lot of maybes with PROMETHEUS and only the test of time will determine whether PROMETHEUS will attain cult-like status among sci-fi nerds (like BLADE RUNNER, which was met with indifference by audiences and critics alike upon its initial release) or it will become a mere footnote in Scott’s illustrious career (like LEGEND, 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE, and ROBIN HOOD, three previous attempts by Ridley Scott at making an epic). As it stands now, PROMETHEUS has sharply divided nerdom. There are those who regard this film as a worthy addition to the Alien canon that poses thought-provoking questions and there are those that view this film as an ungodly mess that isn’t worth your time or money. I belong to the latter camp.

PROMETHEUS essentially deals with the search for God. The film begins with two scientists who discover ancient cave paintings that are linked to a star map. The map in turn leads them to a planet that supposedly contains evidence of who or what created humankind. A ship is sent on an expedition to this planet where the crew finds a giant structure. They go inside the structure and find out that the atmosphere inside the structure is breathable. They also find a bunch of passages and rooms, one of which has a giant head surrounded by capsules. The crew somehow triggers an alarm that causes the capsules to leak black liquid. The liquid turns out to be organic and turns into a snake-like creature similar to the facehuggers from ALIEN. These creatures attack and kill two of the crew members and infects one of the main scientists, turning him into a mutated killing machine. Eventually, the crew finds out that the “Engineers” who built the giant structure intended to come to Earth with this black goo thousands of years ago. However, something went wrong (presumably the black goo infected the Engineers and killed them).

If you’re going to see this film, then you might as well experience the only salvageable part of the film in the best possible way. If nothing else, PROMETHEUS is a stunningly beautiful film to watch and if you are going to throw money away to see it, then you might as well check it out on the 3D IMAX to fully experience the cinematography (I’m talking real IMAX, not the fake ones AMC likes to advertise). Shot by Dariusz Wolski (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films and THE CROW) on the RED Epic camera (NOTE: the upcoming THE GREAT GATSBY was also shot on the RED Epic and I can’t wait to see what Baz Luhrmann has done with it), PROMETHEUS utilizes the alien-like landscape of Iceland to create the moon planet the expedition lands on. It’s a nice reprieve from the usual method of creating alien landscapes entirely from CG.  The world looks more authentic (because it is) and consequently, it does a great job of suspending our disbelief and making us believe we are actually on an alien planet.

Now on to the show. Why did I not like PROMETHEUS? Lets begin with the casting. The two main scientists/archeologists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, are played respectively by Noomi Rapace (Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO trilogy) and Logan Marshall-Green (TV’s DARK BLUE, TRAVELER, THE O.C.). There is a reason why most of you have probably never heard of these actors. They are horrible and annoying. I know this is below the belt, but Rapace’s face reminds me of the Gelflings from THE DARK CRYSTAL. I was constantly wondering whether there was something naturally off about her face or whether one of the black liquid goo alien things had infected her and was causing physical facial deformations. As for her performance, she is definitely no Ripley. Despite all of her running around and being action-like, never once does she exude any confidence or initiative. Shaw is merely trying to survive and proceeds through the story reacting to everything going on around her. Not until the very end of the film, where she takes a beheaded David with her, does she make a determined choice to go find the Engineers’ home world. In ALIENS, Sigourney Weaver became a heroine and took control of her situation. She saved Newt from the aliens and ultimately took on the Alien Queen. Ripley was certainly a much stronger woman than Shaw is. Here, I felt that Shaw spent the majority of her time crying over the failed mission. Her few moments of heroism are overshadowed by her reactionary and emotional approach to everything.

As for Charlie Holloway, let’s just say I’m glad he dies halfway through the film. I’m dumbfounded as to why Ridley Scott and his casting director felt that Marshall-Green was a good choice to play Holloway. The “actor’s” performance reeks of bad TV acting. Worse, I was never convinced Holloway was even a scientist. His vocabulary, mannerisms, and body language fail to make me believe this guy has intelligence. The lowest point of the movie with this character is the supposed romance scene between he and Shaw where he knocks her up. The dialogue was so poorly written and it was so poorly performed that the scene came off as something between a porno and an episode of THE O.C. (which Marshall-Green used to be in).

With the exception of Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, the remainder of the cast is both underdeveloped and misdeveloped. For example, the crew is also comprised of a medic (played by Kate Dickie) and the ship’s pilots (played by Emun Elliott and Benedict Wong). These characters are severely underutilized and two dimensional. Consequently, you can care less what their fate is going to be. To again contrast with James Cameron’s ALIENS, in that film every marine character was developed enough so that each was memorable. You can probably put a face to every one of those characters and even recall their names. Not so here. Considering the film is over 2 hours long, Ridley Scott did not use his time efficiently to establish all his characters. That or he should have simply released a longer cut of the film (which apparently exists and will be released on blu-ray).

The crew of the ship Prometheus has two other characters who stood out as being entirely inconsistent with the types of characters they should have been. One of the characters is a geologist played by Sean Harris. The other is a biologist played by Rafe Spall. For one, based on some vague statement he makes with further explanation, the geologist was apparently on the expedition for money. Not only did we not get any clarification as to what his (or many of the other crew members) intent was, but it seems kind of strange that a geologist would accompany a scientific expedition in order to make money. What’s stranger, he acts like he never wanted to be a part of the expedition. Later in the film, when the geologist and biologist are lost (and how in hell can they get lost when the entire structure has been mapped out and the rest of the crew can guide them?) inside the giant alien structure, they behave like complete morons when they encounter the black alien goo. Not only is the set-up of the scene so painfully predictable, but it runs counter to how a scientist, especially a biologist, would act in that situation.

As I allude to above, I enjoyed Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender’s performances. Theron plays Meredith Vickers, who is a Weyland Corporation employee and is sent to monitor the expedition. Fassbender plays David, an android like the ones in ALIEN and ALIENS. I wish the story actually had something for Theron to do because an interesting character like her is completely wasted here. In fact, I was hoping she would end up being the Ripley of this movie. As it is, Theron does little more than pace around her ship waiting to hear news from the expedition. As for David, Fassbender gives a terrific performance, especially in the very beginning of the movie when we are introduced to his character. However, a major problem with David is that for someone (or something) that is supposed to be emotionless, David exhibits quite a bit of emotion towards the crew members. Specifically, Charlie Holloway basically tells David that he’s just a robot and so he will never know what its like to be a human. David responds by setting Holloway up to have the alien goo infect him. The idea of a supposedly emotionless robot acting evil has been done in the past (2001, ALIEN, MOON), but in those films, the robot was not really evil, but it was actually executing an order that it was programmed to carry out. Here, David is not given such a task (or at least I didn’t interpret it that way) so his behavior is inconsistent with what we are told he does.

Those who praise PROMETHEUS make much of the philosophical ruminations spouted by the characters. The film’s themes explore creation and faith. Interesting choices that are perfect for a science fiction film. Unfortunately, the script was handled by the man many consider to have ruined LOST, Damon Lindelof, and science fiction hack, Jon Spaihts (THE DARKEST HOUR). What they have concocted is something that, given its heavy themes, lacks any substance. The plot developments and devices in this movie are hilariously obvious and the story seemed to be lifted directly from Brian De Palma’s moronic MISSION TO MARS. One would think that going off into space to explore the origin of humankind would be kind of a big deal to the crew members. Nope. Everyone seems totally unfazed by the weight of their mission or by what they later discover.

The scene that got the most laughs in PROMETHEUS and is probably the most talked about is the scene where Shaw performs abortion on herself in the span of what seems like a few minutes. Immediately after the surgery, she continues to run around the ship as if nothing happened. Undoubtedly medical technology will be far more advanced than what it is today, BUT unless human evolution takes some sort of giant leap forward and turns us into virtual super-beings, such rapid healing is preposterous even in the future. What’s more, as Shaw runs off, the crew appears to not give a damn about what just happened to her. Say what you want about this scene, but it clearly showed that the filmmakers were much too lazy to sweat these very important details.

Although I enjoyed the use of practical landscapes to depict the alien planet, I was less impressed by the designs for the alien pyramid structure and the crew’s ship interior. The designs looked uninspired and way too derivative of what we have already seen in countless sci-fi movies, including the ALIEN films. I have been waiting for some time for Hollywood to give us a totally new conception of alien beings, ships, structures, etc. I hoped Ridley Scott would be up to this challenge, but apparently he isn’t and we pretty much see the same old stuff.

In the end, I wish PROMETHEUS had not been set in the Alien universe. I suspect that the Alien canon restricted Ridley Scott to a degree that he was unable to give us a truly epic science fiction movie. I can only guess at what PROMETHEUS would have been had the Alien not been woven into the story. What we ultimately get is a plot that is incoherent, a cast of shallowly conceived characters, and a film that totally lacks the tension that we got in ALIEN and ALIENS. PROMETHEUS is nothing more than a production designer’s wet dream. I was actually offended that Ridley Scott had the gall to include a scene from LAWRENCE FROM ARABIA (a film that I consider to be the greatest one ever made) as if the epic scope of that film can be compared to the crap Scott has made. If you truly consider PROMETHEUS to be great, then its pretty safe to say that you would buy just about any big budget shit that Hollywood would fling on a screen. If you want to see a truly thought-provoking science fiction film, do yourself a favor and rent (no, buy) Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

WARNING: ULTRA NERD DISCUSSION ABOUT TO COMMENCE: Thor has always appealed to me the same way that Iron Man has, which is to say that neither has ever held any appeal for me as a comic book reader/collector. The only time I have cared to read these characters is when they have been members of The Avengers superhero team. My problem isn’t with the characters themselves as they’re both coolly conceived creations. Their lack of appeal stems from the fact that they have never had great story runs or an interesting rogue’s gallery like Spider Man, Daredevil, Punisher, Fantastic Four, or the X-Men have had. Consequently, Thor and Iron Man have usually been considered second-string characters in the Marvel Universe except in those instances where they have fought as members of The Avengers or have been involved in some huge comic book crossover like Secret Wars or Civil War.

For this, I have great admiration for Marvel Studios for being able to take these characters and craft superb film adaptations that equal if not surpass the Spider Man and X-Men movies. THOR in particular was a project that worried me the most. Unlike IRON MAN, who is basically Marvel’s answer to Batman, who has the advantage of being played by the larger than life Robert Downey, Jr., and whose costume/powers look very impressive to kids who love Transformers, THOR is kinda cheesy and lame. For one, its about a hammer-wielding dude who speaks in Old English and who comes from a magical place called Asgard that has a Rainbow Bridge. Second, Thor is a god from Norse mythology, a mythology that no one is familiar with and that is nowhere near as cool as Greek or Roman mythology. Finally, Thor is a somewhat arrogant fellow who thinks highly of his god-like status and who lacks the humor and charm of Iron Man. Suffice it to say that Marvel Studios had its work cut out for it in making sure THOR did not become a massive embarrassment for Paramount and a huge setback for next year’s THE AVENGERS movie.

I have to admit that despite the surprisingly positive reviews THOR received, I went into this film with low expectations. The trailers for the movie never managed to grab my interest and it looked like just another dumb, summer popcorn movie that would be weak on story and characters and big on unimpressive-looking CG effects. Also, the fact that Kenneth Branagh, a director who is known mostly for adapting Shakespeare to the screen and for directing the horrible FRANKENSTEIN, would be helming THOR didn’t help to assuage any doubts I had about the movie. However, after allowing a few days to pass so that I can properly gauge my feelings about the movie, I can confidently say that THOR is one of the best Marvel comic film adaptations to date and even surpasses X-MEN (but not X-MEN 2) and SPIDER MAN (but not SPIDER MAN 2).

THOR (Chris Hemsworth) is a Norse god and the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Odin is the ruler of Asgard, the capital of the Norse gods and one of the Nine Worlds. Thor is groomed to become the next ruler of Asgard, but at his coronation, a breach of security has occurred in Asgard by a group of Frost Giants, a race of beings that have warred with Asgard in the past and have maintained an unsteady truce with the Norse gods since their defeat at the hands of Odin. Thor decides to teach the Frost Giants a lesson and disobeying his father’s orders, he and his trusty band of companions head to the realm of the Frost Giants and engage them in battle. Upon learning of his son’s defiance, Odin denies Thor the throne of Asgard and banishes him from Asgard entirely to live upon Earth. However, unbeknownst to Odin and Thor, Odin’s other son Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has struck a deal with the Frost Giants. Loki, who is jealous of his brother and the favoritism that has always been bestowed upon him, manipulated events to result in Thor’s banishment so that Loki could take over the throne. Meanwhile, on Earth, Thor befriends Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a scientist who discovers him in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Along with her father (Stellan Skarsgard) and assistant (Kat Dennings), Jane helps Thor to reclaim his hammer and get back to Asgard so he can defeat Loki.

Even if you don’t care much for Marvel’s film adaptations of its properties, the one thing that Marvel has consistently pulled off with great success is in casting its superheroes with the perfect actors (exception: Ben Affleck as DAREDEVIL….no). I had no clue who Chris Hemsworth was before THOR, but I give Marvel huge kudos for finding an actor who flawlessly embodies the Thor character (despite the fact that the actor is Australian and the character is, well, not). I think in the hands of bad management, Marvel could have easily messed up this franchise by casting a UFC or wrestling star instead of someone who not only possesses the physique of an immortal, but also has the acting skills to portray the character convincingly. Hemsworth gives Thor a nice blend of humor and drama while maintaining a strong screen presence befitting a god/superhero. Although Thor possesses a streak of arrogance, Hemsworth is able to play it down enough that he doesn’t put off the audience. Like Christopher Reeve, who forever defined our perception of Superman, Hemsworth does the same for Thor.

As with any superhero movie, the quality of the film depends just as much if not more on its villain. Here, we have Loki, the god of mischief and deceit. Loki is to Thor as what the Joker is to Batman, but the former have a more interesting relationship by virtue of the fact that they are brothers. Loki is going to be the villain in next year’s THE AVENGERS movie so proper casting and development of this character is especially important. Again, we have a great performance from Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki as a quiet and thoughtful villain whose jealousy of his brother consumes him to no end. I have read various portrayals of Loki in the comic books and some of have really played up the mischievous aspect of his character to the point of making him sound like The Joker. I like that Branagh decided to veer away from that portrayal and present Loki as a more serious and cunning villain with a mad streak. It makes for a more menacing antagonist and such a character strikes a stronger contrast with Thor’s braggart, outgoing personality. I also think Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean background really benefits in drawing out the complexities and nuances of the relationship between the two characters in a way that we might not otherwise have seen in the hands of a lesser director.

The remaining cast does a serviceable job in filling the rest of the roles. I was actually a little surprised that Natalie Portman decided to take the role of Jane Foster. I’m sure the opportunity to co-star in a high profile, franchise picture like THOR was Portman’s primary consideration because I can’t imagine how anyone would see this character as presenting an acting challenge. Jane Foster is just like any other superhero love interest. Foster is an intelligent and ambitious scientist who finds Thor in the middle of the desert one night. Like Lois Lane, Vicki Vale, and countless other superhero love interests, Foster falls for Thor and she’s eventually put in a situation where she must be saved by him. I think the challenge for Natalie Portman was in trying to find a way to take her pedestrian dialogue and spice it up any way she could and avoid creating a two-dimensional character. Another character worth noting is that of Heimdall (Idris Elba), who is the gatekeeper of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge. Elba does a fantastic job portraying the character as a noble, fierce, and loyal warrior. The scenes with him are all high points in the movie and I hope to see much more of him in the sequel or maybe even in THE AVENGERS.

The best part of THOR (and many of the other Marvel films) is the scenes that connect the character to the rest of the Marvel Universe. After this summer’s release of CAPTAIN AMERICA, we will be ready for the culmination of Marvel’s efforts in next year’s THE AVENGERS. Each of these individual Marvel superhero films (IRON MAN 1 & 2, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and now THOR) have given us clues to THE AVENGERS. We have been introduced to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. Each of the films have also interconnected with each other (i.e. IRON MAN 2 showed Captain America’s shield) and we see more of that in THOR. By the way, make sure you stick around for the end credits as another glimpse of what is to come next year will be shown. My favorite scene in THOR is where we get introduced to Hawkeye (for you comic fans, you no doubt know who Hawkeye is as he’s the leader of the West Coast Avengers). Hawkeye is played by Jeremy Renner, who is one of my favorite actors working today. The scene with Hawkeye is brief, but unbelievably cool.

Sadly, THOR isn’t perfect. There are a few problems that I already knew would be present just from seeing the trailers alone. For one, the depiction of Asgard looks like a giant blob of multicolored CG. The world lacks a consistent design and delineating any of the buildings or other features of the realm is confusing. I wouldn’t put Asgard on the same level as Oa, the world that is depicted in the upcoming GREEN LANTERN and that looks absolutely horrendous, but it nevertheless smacks of something you would see on the SyFy Channel.

Furthermore, I wish the action scenes had been staged by a director or DP with action experience. The scene where the giant robot attacks the small town in THOR completely lacks any suspense. Branagh clearly relies on CG effects to impress his audience rather than create a sequence that truly raises the stakes for our heroes. The problem recurs later in the film when Thor battles Loki. Although this battle was far more suspenseful and engaging than the end battles in IRON MAN 1 and 2, I was still hoping of something along the lines of the final battle sequence in SUPERMAN 2 when Metropolis gets completely destroyed.

Aside from these minor criticisms, THOR is an entertaining film and it marks a great start to the 2011 summer movie season. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time its dramatic enough to give both kids and adult comic nerds like me a satisfying experience.

For a reason I’ve never been able to explain, Hollywood loves to set action sequences in industrial port harbors. Directors probably feel that such locales offer striking visuals and opportunities to have their characters run across cranes, ships, and in between large crates. Maybe its cheap to shoot in these types of locations. Or both. Regardless of the reason, setting an action sequence in a port harbor smacks of laziness and cliche. We’ve seen it in way too many movies and we see it again in The Losers, a film adaptation of the popular Vertigo/DC Comics’ comic book series of the same name. Despite my issue with the filmmaker’s choice of setting, The Losers is not a bad movie, but its not great either nor very good. Its a mixed bag that contains some really cool shit and some not very cool shit.

The Losers is about a group of special ops guys who go out on missions for the CIA. The film begins on one such mission in Bolivia where the group is ordered to take out some drug lord. However, the group discovers that accomplishing their mission will result in the killing of a bunch of children so they abort. Consequently, their CIA contact turns on them by attempting to kill them off. They survive of course and they plot out a scheme to get their revenge on the CIA contact who betrayed them. Along the way, they meet Zoe Saldana’s character, whom little is known of for most of the movie.

Until I saw The Watchmen, I had never heard of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and even after I saw that film, I didn’t remember his name. Apparently, women everywhere were already very familiar with him due to his long run on Grey’s Anatomy. Although he bears a striking resemblance to Gerard Butler, I can see why he’s a big deal for many as he does a great job to help carry this film. He possesses charisma, charm, humor, and a tough guy attitude thats hard not to like. Fortunately, Morgan is not the only actor who gives a good performance in The Losers. The movie’s biggest success lies in the chemistry between all the actors who play the protagonists and the dry, likable asshole played by Jason Patric. Without this casting, I can confidently claim that I would have walked out of the theater. By the way, I’m sure many guys are going to see this film just to stare at Zoe Saldana for a couple of hours. In case you’re wondering whether or not she’s worth the price of admission, she most definitely is. She has one particular fight scene with Jeffrey Dean Morgan thats as intense as it is sexy. However, where she really earns her pay is toward the end of the film when she does something that was lifted right out of a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film. Finally, I can’t talk about the characters without giving high praise for Jason Patric’s antagonist character. Talk about scene stealing. Patric has had the unfortunate curse of always starring in big box office flops (and based on this weekend’s past box office take, The Losers is no exception). Sadly, his lack of commercial appeal has overshadowed his talents and they especially stand out here. The writer saved the best lines for Patric in this movie and many times I found myself getting impatient for the next Jason Patric scene.

Some critics have referred to The Losers as the poor-man’s A-Team. Valid point? Well, yeah, especially when you consider that The A-Team movie comes out in a few short months. However, I don’t think this should lessen this film’s appeal. After all, its not like The A-Team was an original concept or even that it was the best use of the concept. The idea of a team of special operations soldiers or mercenaries contains an infinite array of possibilities that has already been explored in countless TV shows, movies, and comic books. The Losers is simply one more of those. As I’ve alluded to above, the best thing about this film is not its story, but its casting. The plot is as cliche as you can possibly get. As I’ve never read the comic book series, I don’t know if this problem is attributable to the story contained in the comic or the screenwriter’s lack of imagination. Whatever the source of the problem, the story plays like a SNL spoof of your typical action movie. The good guys get framed by the bad guy. Of course. The bad guy wants to cause World War III. Of course. The mysterious girl turns out to have a surprise secret in her past. Of course. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before. Even the good guys are cheap carbon ripoffs of previously established character types.

I’m probably not the only one to think this, but the style The Losers is shot in reminded me a lot of your typical Michael Bay movie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for a movie of this type, but like most Bay movies, this film suffers from the same annoyances you see in Bay films. You see it all here: shaky cams, fast cutting, slow motion, and loud obnoxious music. Admittedly, although most of the action scenes were simply copied off shit I’ve seen in much better action films, a few scenes were rather cool.

In the end, The Losers is a purely popcorn movie thats to be seen, at best, at a matinee. Its harmless fun that will require you to check your brain at the door. The Losers is a classic example of style over substance and, you know, sometimes thats ok. I don’t expect all my movies to be masterpieces of cinema (especially when the film is made by the director of Stomp the Yard and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) because I know most filmmakers out there are not great. If you’ve already seen all the films I’ve recommended to have come out so far this year, then you might want to see this at a matinee. Otherwise, do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Kick-Ass, which is one of the best comic book film adaptations I have ever seen or How to Train Your Dragon.