The Weekend Warrior: Thor: The Dark World, About Time
November 5, 2013
Welcome back to the Weekend Warrior after our longest hiatus since I started this crazy thing 12 years ago. I missed a pretty crazy month also with Alfonso Cuaron's excellent Gravity dominating and making far more money than anyone could have ever expected and other movies bombing even worse than many previous October releases. Anyway, the Weekend Warrior is back hopefully without any more breaks before year's end, barring any health complications. Thanks again to my boss and you readers for your patience with me.
The second weekend in November is when the holiday movie season starts to gear up, which may be why Marvel Studios chose the unconventional time of year to release their anticipated sequel Thor: The Dark World (Marvel/Disney), which brings back Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as his evil half-brother Loki from the popular original movie and even more popular The Avengers.
The sequel is directed by Alan Taylor, making his first feature film after years of directing Emmy-winning television shows such as "Mad Men," "The Sopranos" and most notably "Game of Thrones," which probably helped him get the gig. More importantly for fans of the Kenneth Branagh original, much of the cast from the movie is returning including Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Anthony Hopkins as Thor's Daddy Odin, Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings, plus many others playing various Asgardian Gods. The big addition this time is former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the Dark Elf, a character from the Walt Simonson era of the title, though probably not as known among the general populace.
The original Thor kicked off the summer of 2011 with $65.7 million--relatively light compared to the previous showings by Iron Man and its sequel--and it went on to gross $181 million domestic and nearly $450 million worldwide, which isn't huge. But what happened just one year later was Marvel's The Avengers, which to date still boasts the biggest domestic opening for a movie with over $207 million in a single weekend. That movie's success already gave a nice boost to Iron Man 3's opening weekend earlier this year as it went on to gross $408 million, and there's a good chance that movie's success will greatly help Thor: The Dark World as well. Wisely, Disney is marketing it as "the return of an Avenger." The movie already opened internationally and grossed over $109 million in its first three days, although international accounted for a larger percentage of the first movie's gross than other Marvel movies.
Still, the November release means that school being in session may slightly limit its opening especially on Friday, not to mention that it will be competing against football all weekend. Those things alone will probably keep it from going over the $100 million mark although Monday being Veteran's Day will help greatly and an $85 to 90 million opening isn't out of the question, helped by the premium ticket prices for IMAX and 3D--the latter now advertising an exclusive five-minute preview of next year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
"Thor: The Dark World" Mini-Review: The difficulties of creating a sequel to a popular movie are legendary, but "Thor: The Dark World" also has the onus of creating something that can follow the scale of 2012's "The Avengers" and in that sense, it succeeds where "Iron Man 3" failed.
The film begins with a "Lord of the Rings"-style flashback battle sequence with exposition about Malekith and the Dark Elves and how they used the Convergence of the Nine Realms and their weapon The Aether to make a play to take over the universe. They're defeated by the Asgardians and go into hiding, but 5,000 years later, they're reawakened as the Nine Realms prepare to realign. (Don't overthink it—these concepts will be rehashed and reexplained throughout the film in different ways.)
Probably the most impressive thing about this sequel, the feature debut of TV directing vet Alan Taylor, is that they essentially took a couple of fairly forgettable characters from Walt Simonson's run and built a completely new story behind them, successfully embedding it within the universe that's been created through the earlier movies.
A lot more time is spent on Asgard this time around and while there's still a few big Shakespearian scenes, the sequel does a far better job at humanizing the Asgardians, making them more 3-dimensional with real warmth and emotions. The film also greatly expands on the science and tech of Asgard to the point of having a couple of spaceship battles that would not have been out of place in "Star Wars."
Once again, Sir Anthony Hopkins goes whole hog on giving the All-Father Odin real weight and grandiosity, while Idris Elba's Heimdall, Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif and the Warriors Three all get larger, expanded roles in the sequel to help solidify their roles in this world.
Christopher Eccleston gives a fairly low-key portrayal of Malekith with not a lot of the normal villainous grandstanding but also not having nearly as much personality as Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who literally steals the movie from its star every time they're both on screen. In some ways, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje's Kursed Dark Elf is more effective as he silently plows through anything put in front of him.
In fact, Chris Hemsworth's Thor may be the weakest part of his own movie since the character seems far more one-note compared to almost everyone around him and even from the first movie where he mixed courage and bravado with a naivety at being on earth. Thor's romance with Natalie Portman's Dr. Jane Foster is also greatly played up, which gets somewhat tiring, especially watching her pining for Thor despite clearly being a brilliant scientist who should have other things on her mind. Much of the film's humor, a relief from all the darkness, the exposition and the mush, comes from the Earth scenes with Kat Dennings' Darcy and her new intern Ian.
Ultimately, it's the mix of all these elements that makes "Thor: The Dark World" such an entertaining blend of fantasy and science fiction with just enough of the Marvel superheroics and wit that those who only know the characters from the movies won't be disappointed either. It's not the perfect sequel, but it gets pretty damn close.
Offered as counter-programming is the nationwide expansion of About Time (Universal), the new film from Richard Curtis of Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral fame. His latest romantic film involves an odd time travel premise and stars Rachel McAdams, who has starred in more than her share of romantic dramas and comedies including the similarly-themed The Time Traveler's Wife, co-starring Eric Bana.
The film's unconventional romantic lead is Domhnall Gleeson, best known for his role as one of the Weasleys in the "Harry Potter" films but not exactly someone who can get women into theaters like some of McAdams' previous leading men--such as Channing Tatum and Ryan Gosling. More importantly, the film stars Curtis good luck charm Bill Nighy, who should help with the film's targeted older female audience (and Curtis devotees). Curtis' film opened in 175 theaters this past weekend where it grossed just over a million dollars, which isn't great even as it gives Universal another week to work on the marketing and hope for strong word-of-mouth. This is actually a fairly typical release pattern for Universal and production company Working Title Films as they took a similar approach with Love Actually, but that opened in 576 theaters this same weekend ten years ago to the tune of $6.9 million and then expanded into nearly twice as many theaters the following week on its way to nearly $60 million. Since we don't have a definitive theater count on About Time's expansion this weekend, it's hard to come up with a final prediction, but we think it will probably end up somewhere in the $4 to 5 million range in the lower half of the Top 10.
As Steve McQueen's Oscar-bound 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) continues to expand nationwide--this weekend approaching 1,000 theaters--we expect it to continue to grow its strong word-of-mouth business, which should keep it in the Top 10 for a couple more weekends.
This weekend last year saw the release of the 23rd James Bond movie Skyfall (Sony) and the third installment starring Daniel Craig, this one directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and co-starring Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris and Ralph Fiennes. The film franchise celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a huge $90.6 million opening weekend, the biggest domestic opening for a Bond movie ever, as it began an impressive run to over $300 million domestic. The Top 10 grossed $159.4 million, which is definitely in striking distance for this weekend's offerings.
If you're a Justin Long fan--and seriously, who isn't after his recent appearances on "New Girl" and "Mom"?--then he has two movies coming out on Friday, neither particularly wide:
He co-wrote the romantic comedy A Case of You (IFC Films), directed by Kat Coiro (Life Happens), in which he plays a New York writer named Sam who falls for a local coffee barista, played by Evan Rachel Wood. When he finds her Facebook profile, he starts changing himself to try to become her perfect man even though he knows he'll eventually have to come clean with her.
It may be a little harder to find Long's other movie Best Man Down (Magnolia) since it only opens in Vancouver on Friday, Ted Koland's dramedy co-starring Jess Weixler and Tyler Labine with Long and Weixler playing a couple whose best man (Labine) dies at their destination wedding in Phoenix, forcing them to pick up the pieces.
Prolific documentarian and Oscar winner Alex Gibney's latest doc The Armstrong Lie (Sony Pictures Classics) covers the last four years in the life and career of cycling champion Lance Armstrong. Gibney started following Armstrong around in 2009 to chronicle his return to cycling after retiring to fight cancer, having unprecedented access to the athlete and those around him, culminating in Armstrong being found guilty of and admitting to doping.
Opening this weekend with hopes to expand wider is the adaptation of Markus Zusak's bestselling novel The Book Thief (20th Century Fox) about a young girl, played by newcomer Sophie Nelisse, who is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany, played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.
Saoirse Ronan and George MacKay star in the adaptation of Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now (Magnolia), the latest from director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), in which Ronan plays an American teenager named Daisy sent to live with her relatives in the English countryside. When the country turns into a violent military state, she goes into hiding, trying to survive along with a boy named Edmund (MacKay) with whom she had struck up an innocent romance. Already On Demand, the movie opens in select cities in quite a large number of theaters. You can find out more about where it's playing here.
Satosho Miki's Japanese sci-fi hit It's Me It's Me (Pictures Dept.) stars pop sensation Kazuya Kamenashi as a young man whose cell phone scam backfires when it turns everyone around him into duplicates of himself. Holy Multiplicity! It opens in select cities including at New York's Cinema Village on Friday.
Legendary indie filmmaker John Sayles returns with his 18th film, Go for Sisters (Variance Films) starring LisaGay Hamilton and Yolonda Ross as two former best friends Bernice and Fontayne, who reunite after 20 years with the latter a recovering addict released from jail and the former as her parole officer. When Bernice's son goes missing across the Mexican border, she calls upon her friend to try to infiltrate the Tijuana crime organizations along with a disgraced LAPD detective, played by Edward James Olmos. After premiering at this year's SXSW Film Festival, it opens in New York on Friday and in Los Angeles on the 15th.
June Diane Raphael and former "SNL" cast member Casey Wilson co-wrote and star in Ass Backwards (Gravitas Ventures) as two childhood friends who met when they lost their local beauty pageant. Now living in New York City, they're invited back to the pageant so they decide to return home to reclaim the crown they weren't able to win. This gets a simultaneous theatrical and VOD release.
Directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the latest adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (Main Street Films), starring Jeremy Irvine and Holiday Grainger as Pip and Estella and co-starring Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes (all from the "Harry Potter" movies, oddly enough), opens in select cities Friday.
Other movies out this weekend include the Polsky Brothers' The Motel Life and Bruno Barreto's Reaching for the Moon (Wolfe Releasing), which you can learn more about by clicking their titles.
Next week, the month of November and the holiday movie season gets real with the sequel The Best Man Holiday (Universal). Seriously, how did that movie get a weekend all to itself?
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