Monday, November 23, 2015

Old School Supergirl

I don't know how much buzz there is for the new Supergirl television show as compared to anything else, but I came across an image of a comic book cover from 1962 that illustrated the day when Superman revealed Supergirl to the world.

In the original canon, Kara Zor-El came to Earth in 1959 after the domed Argo City, which had been thrown clear of the explosion of Krypton, stared emitting radiation dangerous to its inhabitants, even though they weren't exposed to the rays of a yellow sun and thus having super powers (Kryptonite can't hurt a non-super Kryptonian, so this was some form of anti-Kryptonite). As in Kal-El's origin, there was just room in an experimental rocket for one person, young Kara, Kal-El's cousin. Her father Zor-El had been able to monitor Superman's activities on Earth and so not only launched Kara there, but created a costume for her similar to her heroic cousin's.

Superman, upon Kara's arrival and after hearing her story, decided to send her to an orphanage (no such thing as foster families in the late 1950s I guess), telling the administrators that her name was "Linda Lee" and her family had been killed in a flood that destroyed her home town (no records). She hid her identity under a brunette wig and only used her powers in secret. Superman felt she needed practice before doing heroics publicly.

The cover below shows the day, three years later, when Superman decided to tell the world about his younger, Kryptonian cousin, the day when Supergirl became a hero in the light rather than in the shadows.

Eventually, Kara/Linda was adopted by the Danvers, a childless couple (no older sister like in the TV show).

Thought folks might enjoy the look back.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Does Supergirl Have Pierced Ears?

Does Supergirl (played by Melissa Benoist) have pierced ears? If so, how? Being invulnerable, nothing should be able to pierce her earlobes (or anything else) unless she's weakened by Kryptonine.


Look closer. See that right earlobe? It doesn't look like a clip on.

See! I told you. That sure looks like an earring to me, and I can't see how it could be a clip on.

OK, are there other such photos? Most of the time Benoist's hair is down so it's difficult to see her ears but in this photo, it could be an earring (click on each image to see a larger version).

While there doesn't appear to be one here.

Kara, as opposed to Supergirl, most often wears her hair in a ponytail or otherwise off her ears. Let's see what we can see.

Yes, an earring.

Same here.

Same here.

In other words, either her earrings are held on by a magnetic backing (and that would be a pretty strong magnetic field to keep them on her during fight scenes), or the folks at CBS made a big goof.

How else can you explain this?

OK, I'm taking a small detail and blowing it up way out of proportion, but on the other hand, I'm a trivia nut and I really get off on little details like this one.

What next? Superman with unexplained facial piercings?

Oh, I got the first image from the DC Comics blog.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Pilot Episode of Supergirl: A Review

I hadn't originally intended on watching the pilot episode of Supergirl starring Melissa Benoist in the title role, but it was online, it was free, so I figured, what the heck. I didn't expect to like it all that much, but I was curious how CBS was going to adapt decades of Superman and Supergirl canon. My reaction is mixed.

I've read a few of the other reviews of the pilot, both before and after I saw the episode, and they range from "good but not perfect" to "triumph for everyone wanting a strong female hero for a change". You can see examples at Yahoo News, IGN, The Mary Sue, and The Los Angeles Times.

The episode started out with a summary of how Kara Zor-El came to Earth. Launched from a doomed Krypton just minutes after her infant cousin Kal-El, 12-year old Kara was charged by her parents with taking care of the baby after they both arrived on Earth. Granted, no one would have had a clue where Kal-El was going to land on the alien planet and under what conditions, but sending a mere 12-year-old on such a mission was a long shot at best. Still, the writers had to inject her into the canonical story of how Superman got to our planet somehow.

Then, her space pod is caught in the shock wave caused the Krypton's explosion and is sent hurdling off course and into the Phantom Zone where time doesn't pass.

Some years later (at least as time passes outside the Zone), her ship is mysteriously freed and somehow finds its way to its original destination...Earth. When it lands, the pod opens and Kara is greeted by her cousin, grown to an adult, and already sporting the blue and red.

(At this point, I figured out that this show isn't leveraging the film Man of Steel (2013) starring Henry Cavill and instead represents a separate canon)

You only see Superman in silhouette and he's never called "Superman," but it would be impossible to tell key portions of Kara's story without acknowledgement to her more famous cousin.

Kal-El places the orphaned Kara (really, the kid must be freaking out -- her entire race and home world are long gone, her parents dead, her only relative (an infant cousin who is now 12 years older than she is) and fellow Kryptonian is the most powerful hero on her new alien home planet, and he places her with Jeremiah (Dean Cain) and Eliza (Helen Slater) Danvers (I liked the nice, continuity piece of choosing these two actors, both with ties to the television and film appearances of Superman and Supergirl respectively).

I wonder how Kal-El managed the legal niceties of getting Kara adopted or was able to explain to the authorities (since adoption requires the involvement of the civil court system) who Kara is, where she came from, how her parents died, and why she doesn't have any relatives or home community to take her in...a person with absolutely no recorded history before age 12?

This was glossed over (ignored) and we next meet Kara Danvers (no need to adopt the name from the comic books of Linda Lee Danvers apparently) working as a 24-year-old "gofer" uh, assistant, to Cat Grant, owner of her own media company Cat Co.

In spite of the fact that she has decided to play a low profile in terms of her powers (the world doesn't need another superhero) and to "fit in," she's wearing glasses, which she doesn't need, as if she's maintaining a secret identity. It's true that when she finally decides to adopt the Supergirl persona (although the "girl" part was first coined by Grant), she'd need to separate Kara from the young woman in the red cape, why did she decide to wear glasses in the first place?

Benoist imbues Kara with a wholesome, naive charm and she's instantly likable. Although she's attractive, I kept relating to her more like my best friend's sister than as any sort of "hottie". I was almost taken off guard when she went out on a blind date (with someone who quickly gave her the brush off). I was also slightly surprised when she reacted to Jimmy, uh...James (Mehcad Brooks) Olsen (who admittedly is a solid hunk) with attraction (although she clearly wasn't sure what to do about it). Benoist convincingly portrays Kara as "the girl next door," the friendly, kind, helpful girl, the one you'd never think to ask out.

Kara grew up with an older (adoptive) sister Alex who has a big secret. She's an agent for a government agency created after the first appearance of the alien Superman in orter to investigate other alien appearances on our planet.

Kara doesn't know this, of course...well, not at first. She doesn't even want to be super. Not until she has to rescue her sister's overseas flight from crashing, which she barely manages (hey, even if you're super, you still have to deal with things like mass, momentum, and inertia).

It was cute when her date asked Kara where she's from originally. It was cute when we saw Kara with wide eyed wonder, shoveling down pizza while watching herself on the news rescuing the airliner. In fact, I was beginning to be overwhelmed with cute. Is this show only written for young teens?

With the help of her friend Winn (Jeremy Jordan) Schott (isn't that the last name of the Toyman?), the IT guru where she works, Kara slowly transforms into Supergirl. Kara took a big chance telling (and showing) Winn who she really is. She couldn't have predicted how he'd react. Their boss would no doubt pay a lot of money to anyone who could deliver the exclusive story of who Supergirl is and where she could be found (right under your nose, Cat).

But Winn plays the loyal if nerdy friend and helps design her costume. Well, the first one was without a midriff and our modest Kara wouldn't wear it to the beach, let alone to rescue people.

That's actually one of the things I like about the way the show characterizes Supergirl. It's not about an overwhelmingly sexy, or even cute nymphet Supergirl doing daring do. Kara, if anything, is a bit conservative, both in how she dresses and how she acts and reacts. She's like a lot of people her age, still trying to figure herself out and walking into walls (not literally) half the time. Now she's got to figure out how to be both Kara and Supergirl.

But things get muddy fast. Turns out on one of her first missions, she's all too easily captured by Alex and her boss Hank (David Harewood) Henshaw, the director of the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) using Kryptonite darts and holding her in Kryptonite bindings. Henshaw doesn't like aliens (even though the DEO has her spaceship) and demands that Kara stop being Supergirl. Alex backs Henshaw up, at least this time, but circumstances pull the "Maid of Steel" back into the fight.

When Kara's ship left the Phantom Zone, it didn't leave alone. Somehow (a lot of somehows), it brought along Fort Rozz, formerly Krypton's high security prison facility, crammed full of the biggest, baddest, aliens (apparently not all are Kryptonian) in the galaxy...and now they're on Earth conspiring to do what...take over the planet?

That part is left vague, but they're also plotting to bring someone called "the General" to our world, and they sabotaged Alex's flight in an attempt to kill her.

An alien prisoner named Vartox (Owain Yeoman) who wields a mean, super-heated ax, calls Kara on a special high frequency only she can hear (I think I saw this done in one of the old Christopher Reeve Superman movies) to come out and fight. Turns out these aliens not only know Kara but her Kryptonian mother, who was a judge back in the day, and had sentenced all of these interstellar tough guys to Fort Rozz. Now they want revenge against the daughter of their jailer (also a theme from the second Chris Reeve Superman movie).

Long story short, Supergirl almost gets her head handed to her (literally) but her sister arrives just in time with some serious artillery to save her. Although Henshaw again warns Kara to hang up her cape, this time Alex encourages her to be the hero she's destined to be.

In the final battle between Supergirl and Vartox, with the DEO having her back, as Kara is about to lose, Alex delivers a stirring "I believe in you" speech which turns the battle around and Supergirl saves the day (it was pretty cliche and internally, I gagged a little).

Vartox commits suicide rather than be captured, but issues the dire announcement that he's only the beginning, forecasting that future episodes will feature the alien baddie of the week with the mystery of who the General is and what she...that's right, she, wants.

As if I didn't dump enough spoilers on you already, the General is none other than Kara's aunt, leader of the band of miscreants, who would like nothing better than to see her niece dead.

So like Team Arrow and Team Flash, Supergirl now has a team, or more accurately, she's now a covert super agent for the United States Government. That's truly terrifying.

It's also concerning that Henshaw, in the 1990s comic books, became the villainous Cyborg Superman. Shades of a future story arc?

Impressions: The show tries to be a little too cute (didn't I say that enough?). I get that we're supposed to like and even feel protective of Kara, but it's hard to imagine this sweet little millennial getting the chops to play in her cousin's league. I know a hero like Wonder Woman would probably embody more of the feminist ideal, an already strong, developed, self-assured figure, so it's difficult to understand why Supergirl would be appealing as the leading female-driven superhero show on television. I suppose emerging power laced with vulnerability makes her more relatable to young girls and women than a commanding personality like Diana Prince.

From the look and feel of the show, it's seems the main demographic must be between the ages of 12 and 20. Sorry, but a lot of what I watched seemed very juvenile. Maybe I'm jaded by the darkness of most of the other superhero TV shows and films. But the Flash is light hearted and "young," and yet you get the impression that adults are also supposed to relate to the main characters. By comparison, the pilot episode of Supergirl seemed a little more "cartoonish".

I didn't outright dislike the show, but I wasn't immediately hooked either, the way I was by Arrow and The Flash. Also, the show promises to be "formulaistic" as I already mentioned, with a built-in conspiracy delivering the super villain of the week for Kara to sharpen her teeth on (not literally, of course..if you want teeth, watch The Vampire Diaries).

I do believe that the world needs more female oriented superhero shows and films, but I can also acknowledge that all of the source material for each and every one of them today is at least fifty years old. Half a century ago, comic books were overwhelmingly male driven, with just a few token females on various teams (Wonder Woman being one of the notable exceptions) to break up all that "maleness". If entertainment producers want female characters more easily adapted to modern audiences, they need to read more recently created comic books. The 1960s weren't particularly progressive compared to 2015.

All that said, I wish the show success and hope the writers manage to develop the character and her supporting cast and environment into something slightly more mature people can connect with. The show isn't bad, and I know most pilots have a lot of rough edges, but the Supergirl television show has left itself a great deal of room in which it needs to grow.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

DVD Review of Arrow the Pilot Episode

I've heard nothing but good about the television series Arrow (2012 - ) for quite some time, but I rarely watch shows while they are current, so I have been missing out. I was considering renting the DVDs of the first season when I saw a discounted box set of season one in the store yesterday. Throwing caution and my budget to the winds, I bought it. Last night I watched episode 1 of season 1: The Pilot.

Assuming Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen/Arrow, does his own stunts, I'm impressed. The episode starts out like a shot with this mad figure scrambling quickly over rough terrain, running up seemingly impossible angles, and then shooting an arrow an incredible distance down to the beach of an island to explosively ignite a wood pyre, signaling his rescuers.

The mystery begins from the very start of the show. Who is this guy? How did he get on the island? What happened to him there?

The story of Oliver Queen of five years ago is told in flashbacks, with just enough information to tell the audience this is no simple "stranded" story. There are actually multiple mysteries. Who is Oliver's father and why, after their yacht exploded in the South China Sea, was he willing to do anything, including commit murder and then suicide, to insure Oliver's survival? Why does Robert Queen (Jamey Sheridan) tell Oliver the truth only at the end, and expect his son to right all of Queen's wrongs in Starling (not "Star") City? How did he know that Oliver would not only survive, but that his spoiled, playboy son would take on the mission set before him as well as acquire the drive and the skills to do so?

As Oliver's doctor told his mother Moira (Susana Thompson), he may not be the same son she knew five years before. That's something of an understatement.

The original comic book story was very simple fare by comparison. Millionaire playboy Oliver Queen is shipwrecked on an island for some years and, in order to survive, he taught himself archery. After he is rescued, for no particular reason, Oliver takes on a ward, Roy Harper, creates identities for them as Green Arrow and Speedy, and recreates all of Batman's gimmicks and gadgets (Arrow Cave, Arrow Car, Arrow branded everything) redone in an archery motif, and then fights crime with a bunch of tricked out arrows.

Of course, this was back in the day when comic books were written primarily for children. The 1970s saw Ollie evolve after losing his fortune (Roy grew up, moved away, and became a heroin addict) into an angry maverick with a hyper-developed drive to help the underdog and massive distrust of the establishment. But that was then.

Green Arrow, prior to this series, was most recently featured in a live action show in the landmark television series Smallville, but Justin Hartley's emerald archer was no where near as dark as how he is played by Amell. He was still darker than the world's ultimate boy scout Clark Kent (Tom Welling), but in order to keep Smallville at a certain level of "goodness," Hartley's version of "Arrow" could only fall so far.

Not so this Arrow who commits cold-blooded murder because "No one can know my secret." I only know this person from one episode of the show, but I would guess that his secret isn't just that he plans to fight crime while wearing a green hood and shooting arrows.

In fact, with few exceptions, Queen's arrows have no gimmicks and they do what arrows are supposed to do: put holes in things and people, including fatal holes.

Oliver's family is just as mysterious and troubled as he is. His mother was remarried (presumably they had Robert Queen declared legally dead since there was no definitive proof -- that is "a body" -- he was deceased) to Walter Steele (Colin Salmon, formerly "Charles" in the Pierce Brosnan "James Bond" films), his teenage sister Thea ("Speedy") is into drugs, and his best friend and "wingman" Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) has been spending time in the sheets with his ex-girlfriend Laurel Dinah Lance (Katie Cassidy).

But while re-connecting to his former life is heavily on Oliver's mind, the greater weight in contained in a small notebook of names, the first one on the list (actually, it's in the middle of the list) is Adam Hunt (Brian Markinson).

Oliver isn't after the common thug in the street. He's pursuing men formerly associated with his father, men who all had a hand in the ruin of Starling City, men who Oliver will make (literally) pay, and he'll do anything to succeed...anything.

Oliver's baptism of fire is a kidnap attempt by a group of thugs wearing skull masks. They seem to know more about Oliver than the audience does. Did Tommy wake up in time to see his best friend take these guys out with ridiculous ease or was he telling the truth when he later said he was still too drugged to see more than a blurred movement?

Five years ago, Oliver was on the yacht having an affair with Sara Lance, Laurel's sister. Laurel isn't the only one who blames Oliver for her death. The detective in charge of investigating Oliver's and Tommy's kidnapping is their father Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Starling City must be a small town for people to cross-connect so closely.

Oliver came back from that island with not only enhanced survival skills, but the ability to speak Russian. Also, he's not only scarred and burned (which didn't happen in the yacht sinking) but tattooed front and back. He couldn't have tattooed his back by himself, so he wasn't alone on that island for those five years.

By threat and brute force, "Arrow" (his alter ego isn't given a name in the pilot) extorts $40 million from Hunt but leaves him alive. His brand of justice or revenge doesn't demand death but it does demand a lot of money, which is funneled into the bank accounts of (presumably) Hunt's victims.

After the kidnapping attempt, "Mommy Dearest" assigns a bodyguard to Oliver, an ex-military type named John Diggle (David Ramsey). How is Oliver going to sneak out at night with his own personal shadow tagging along? You can only grab and knock out a guy so many times before he starts to get suspicious.

The pilot episode is full of surprises, particularly how Oliver's mother was the one who arranged for him to be kidnapped in the first place.

Nothing is as simple as it seems. What was Robert Queen, Oliver, Sara, and four other people doing aboard a yacht in the South China Sea? Did the yacht sink because it was caught in a storm or did something more sinister happen? The last we see of Sara, she's falling into the water and disappears. Robert, Oliver, and one other person survive the initial sinking. Did Sara really die or will we see her again?

It almost seems as if Oliver's destiny to become "Arrow" and to avenge the wrongs done in Starling City was set in motion even before the yacht sank. Is there a master player or organization manipulating events behind the scenes?

Laurel Lance is named after the comic book character Black Canary. Does she have a future as a superhero? Oliver called his sister "Speedy" which is the comic book identity of Green Arrow's teenage sidekick. Would this show create a brother-sister crime fighting team? Who is Tommy? There are indications he's not just the happy-go-lucky pal he seems to be on the surface. What does his relationship with Laurel mean? Why would Sara betray her sister by sleeping with her sister's boyfriend?

The pilot episode of Arrow creates a good balance of mystery and action right from the beginning. It's as if Oliver, in trying to rediscover his life in Starling City is also rediscovering himself. We have seen only a tiny fraction of what happened after the yacht sank five years ago and Oliver was inexorably swept to the island which would become his home, prison, training ground, and I suspect so much more. What else will the series reveal about the secret of Oliver Queen and the person who will be known as "Arrow"? I'll post my impressions as I continue to review the first season of this series.

DVD Review: Non-Stop

The film was released to theatres last February and is now on DVD. I'm putting in plenty of spoilers so if you've not seen this film and you want to be surprised, don't read any further.

Liam Neeson must be basing his career on playing failed fathers who are law enforcement or ex-law enforcement officers. In the 2008 film Taken (which I didn't review here), he also played a "fallen cop" who was on the outs with his daughter but who, though the action of the film, managed to redeem himself. In Non Stop (2014), Neeson plays Bill Marks, an ex-NYPD officer fired after falling into despondency over the cancer death of his eight-year old daughter nearly ten years before. He's somehow managed to become a U.S. Air Marshall who's not doing so well as evidenced by his drinking and smoking habits.

Just another routine flight to London but of course, it doesn't stay that way.

Boarding the plane, he meets a little girl named Becca (Quinn McColgan) who is traveling alone to visit her father (no mention of her mother or other circumstances are given), which is the set up for Mark's redemption during the climax of the film.

The other most notable player is Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), the woman with a fetish for the window seat and who has something of a mysterious past.

Once airborne, Marks receives a text message from someone claiming to be one of the passengers. He (she?) wants $150 million transferred into an account or the texter will kill a person on board every twenty minutes.

Jack Hammond (Anson Mount), the other Air Marshall on the flight, thinks it's a hoax but Marks wants to notify the flight crew.

In an ironic twist, at the end of twenty minutes, Marks is the one who carries out the killing by defending himself when Hammond pulls a gun on Marks. That pushed credibility over the edge since the hijacker/terrorist had to have been able to manipulate both men with amazing precision. What if Marks had simply knocked Hammond unconscious? What if Hammond had shot Marks? No, the movie wouldn't continue with Hammond as the Marshall trying to stop the terrorist, Marks was the target all along. The account the money was supposed to be transferred into is in Marks' name.

Marks starts pulling together people he thinks he can trust (but can he?) in an effort to find who on board is texting him.

I wrote off the Arab/Muslim doctor early on as too obvious and discounted one of the terrorists (that's right, another twist, there's more than one) when Marks actually accused him of being in on the plot and taped his hands together (Marks carries a small roll of duct tape on him so he can cover the smoke detector in the plane's bathroom and have a quiet cigarette).

Next, the pilot dies by apparent poisoning leaving only the co-pilot to fly the aircraft (no engineer on board like in other "air disaster" movies).

In another twenty minutes, someone else is going to die and Marks' life and reputation unravels with each passing minute. Finally, no one trusts him except Jen, not his bosses at TSA, not the co-pilot, and not the passengers, who eventually see a news feed accusing Marks of hijacking the plane.

In the middle of all this, Marks discovers, thanks to the hijacker's texting, that Hammond was smuggling a large amount of cocaine in his brief case (Marshalls can just walk through security, no questions asked). He also finds a bomb. Apparently the hijackers never intended to leave the plane alive and it was never about the money...or so Marks believes.

Marks becomes (apparently) more unstable, announcing he's the Air Marshall on board, even after the co-pilot, under orders from TSA, takes Marks' badge and gun (Marks takes Hammond's credentials and gun shortly afterward), searching the passengers and reviewing their texts, including an off-duty NYPD officer. Unbeknownst to Marks, another passenger (not a hijacker) has been taking videos of Marks' actions and sending them back home, and they end up on the news, fueling the belief that Marks himself is hijacking the aircraft.

The co-pilot is ordered to make an emergency landing in Iceland and is escorted by two fighter jets. Marks is attacked and overcome by a number of the passengers who fear that Marks is going to kill them all by crashing the aircraft in a "9/11" type of terrorist attack.

By telling the passengers about the bomb and finally confessing his various failings as cop, father, and human being, he restores his credibility enough to regain some trust.

The video clips taken of him, once Marks finds out about them, give him the clues he needs to find out who one of the terrorists are but he neglects the other until it's too late.

Marks has placed the bomb at the rear of the aircraft and told the co-pilot to descend to 8000 feet to give the plane and passengers the maximum possibility of survival when it goes off (unlike other, similar films, no one on board can disarm the bomb). The fighter escort refuse to allow the descent into civilian airspace, but with only minutes left until the explosion, the co-pilot risks being shot out of the sky and sends the plane into a nose dive.

Speaking of 9/11 (major spoiler here), the two men who are hijacking the plane are ex-military who want to give America a lesson in how TSA anti-terrorist activities are a joke and there is no security. For one of them, it was also about surviving by parachuting (apparently, though I never saw any chutes) from the plane and collecting the money which was transferred into the designated account.

However the other terrorist is a martyr and plans for no survivors. For him, it was never about the money. It was about sending a message.

All hell breaks loose as the plane dives, the bomb explodes, and a gunfight takes place between Marks and the two hijackers.

Marks, of course, is the only one of the three who live through the shooting, but as the plane attempts to land, it starts falling apart in mid-air. A section next to Becca breaks off and Marks and Jen struggle to keep her from being pulled from the aircraft.

As expected they succeed in saving Becca from death, which redeems Marks since this is one little girl he can save. The plane lands more or less in one piece, the fighters never get the order to shoot the plane down (almost a moot point since it nearly crashes anyway), and Marks is publicly vindicated of hijacking and is announced to be the hero.

Nice action film with some interesting twists (I didn't specifically reveal the identities of the hijackers so you'll have to see the movie for that piece). I'm sure real pilots and Air Marshalls, as well as anyone familiar with networking, watching this film picked it apart over the various technical errors. However, if you put those to one side, it's a very watchable film. The ending is more or less predictable, but enough mystery, tension, and action is present to hold the audience's attention for the 106 minutes of running time.

The major plot hole I spotted was the level of information the two hijackers possessed on both Air Marshalls. I'm sure it wasn't hard to figure out Marks' past and his obvious alcohol abuse, but how the heck did they know about Hammond and his cocaine unless Hammond was in on it? That's the only explanation since the bomb was hidden in the cocaine, but Hammond was set up to be the first death on board. The film could have been about fifteen minutes longer so it could have the time to explain why any of this was happening and what would prompt Hammond and the two terrorist to commit such heinous crimes, fleshing out the characterization a bit more.

I don't think it was worth the amount of money I'd have had to spend to see this film in the theatre, but it was a good DVD selection.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

DVD Review: Thor: The Dark World

Since this film as been out for awhile, even on DVD, I'll liberally sprinkle in spoilers. You have been warned.

First off, Thor: The Dark World (2013) was infinitely better than the original movie Thor (2011), which was just about a total waste of film and time. I know some sort of Thor movie had to be made so this character could be included in The Avengers (2012), but translating the comic book "God of Thunder" into a live action film was always going to be a challenge. Of all the founding members of the Avengers, Thor was most likely to be voted "Should have stayed inside his own comic book."

Somehow, within the context of the Avengers, he isn't so bad, but all by himself in the otherworldly Asgardian realm, he seems ridiculous, and he even appears more silly on Earth among mortals, at least in the original movie.

I think "Dark World" took the right tack this time. It seemed a bit more "Lord of the Rings-ish," which has always played well on both the small and big screen. When you pull a total disconnect from "the real world" and keep Thor (Chris Hemsworth) a larger than life "god" in a sweeping saga of ancient legends and fables, he's more or less "OK" to take in. The tricky part is to toggle back and forth between the fantasy and reality worlds. In this case (as opposed to the previous films), that wasn't so bad either, and it had to be made to work this time, because Thor, in order to be an Avenger, must be perceived as a child of both worlds.

I'm still having trouble seeing Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as an astrophysicist and somehow, even with her Star Wars background, she is out of place in the Thor films. I did kind of like how Thor took her to Asgard, hearkening back to the Silver Age comic book Thor when he took Jane to Asgard and asked Odin to make her an immortal (Journey into Mystery vol. 1, #125, February 1966). Also, it was inevitable that Jane and Sif should meet and Sif must be asking herself, "What does this little mortal twit have that I don't have?"

Unpaid interns having unpaid interns of their own. Comedy relief. Cute. One wonders how they live.

Erik Selvig (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) gone mad and prancing around Stonehenge naked. I guess having a "god" in your brain would do that to a fellow.

Loki (the always impressive Tom Hiddleston) in prison, pondering his fate or just plain being bored. Maybe waiting for his chance to escape (for after all, being long lived if not immortal must make one patient). Who loves Loki and is he capable of love in return? A mother's love, especially an adoptive mother, is iron clad, and Frigga (Rene Russo) is the only one to harbor affection for the villainous Loki in her heart. Fathers, once disappointed by sons, tend to hold them at arm's length and to mask love with anger as did Odin (Anthony Hopkins), yet though Odin would be within his rights, he did not totally banish Loki nor did he have him killed.

I liked the "lunch scene" between Thor and Heimdall (Idris Elba) but my understanding is that Heimdall must always stand guard at the Rainbow Bridge. He doesn't get vacations or even coffee breaks. Who's watching out for Asgard's safety?

Not that Heimdall was much help. I didn't think anything escaped his vision, but the Dark Elves had magic (technology) that defeated even him.

During "the great escape" Thor once again proved Loki is the brainier of the two brothers by far, but then Hemsworth portrays Thor as courageous, noble, heroic, but not particularly bright. I guess when you have guys like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner as part of the Avengers, you have to counterbalance all of those "smarts" with "big and dumb" (and the Hulk can't have all the fun in that department).

The battle scenes reminded me of any action film. Lots of shooting and explosions but it's shooting and explosions that would have been just at home in any movie, even one that was more real-to-life action and non-fantasy. It was actually kind of jarring. Hand-to-hand, swords, hammers, yes. Machine guns and cannons, no.

Loki's seeming betrayal (and it was believable because of who Loki is) and then reversal and then double-cross at the very end was well handled, and the Thor movies would be barely enjoyable without Hiddleston's "Prince of Mischief" gracing their frames. The ploy to get Thor to renounce his claim to the Throne of Asgard for the love of Jane Foster was smooth if not brilliant, and I didn't see Loki replacing Odin in illusion coming at all. This begs the question of what happened to Odin, and now that Frigga is dead (giving her life to heroically defend Jane damn!), who's to see through the mask of "Odin" to find the face of Loki beneath?

Not Thor who's too busy making out with Jane in London and waiting for Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) to be filmed.

I watch the Thor movies for two reasons: because they're part of the overall continuity of the Marvel Avengers universe, and the various (two in this film) after end of credits scenes speak of other films to come, as did Sif and company meeting with The Collector as a set up for the movie Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014).

I suppose I'm not a fan of Thor in film for the same reason I never got into reading Thor in the comic books. He just seems too odd. He doesn't really "do it" for me as a standalone character. Like I said, he's OK in the Avengers where he doesn't have to be the center of attention, at least for very long, but all by himself, carrying a full length motion picture (or long lasting comic book series), he's not for me.

I'm glad I watched Thor: The Dark World but I wouldn't pay to watch it again, nor would I add it to my film collection. It was good, basic entertainment and it completed my view of the Marvel Universe related to the Avengers, but now that I've seen it and filled in the knowledge gaps, it's time to move on.