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‘Ender’s Game’ (Gavin Hood, 2013)/‘Thor: The Dark World’ (Alan Taylor, 2013)

I read, and enjoyed, the Orson Scott Card novel of Ender’s Game some fifteen years ago, though any residual affection hasn’t really passed over to this competent, albeit unremarkable, adaptation. I’m not sure how long the development process has been going on for, but I can’t help feeling this film probably should’ve been shot in the eighties, with plastic sets and dodgy wirework giving a nostalgic sheen that slick, modern special effects will never share. I feel bad for director Gavin Hood, the pressures of a sizeable budget forcing a thoughtful text to conform to audience expectations of a visually punchy seasonal blockbuster. Elysium, another troubled late-summer mixed bag, had similar problems – on that occasion the heavy-handed commentary was layered on too explicitly, and it felt swamped by the mess of interesting ideas fighting for space over its limited runtime.

Thor: The Dark World (aka – character actors play dress up) is every bit the pantomime of the first. A couple of years ago I praised Kenneth Branagh’s confident troupe for embracing the theatricality of this nutty universe and getting away with playing it so broadly with their OTT costumes and ever-so-slightly exaggerated accents. Replacement director Alan Taylor, like Branagh, combines his skill as a dramatist with a certain lightness of touch that continues to help this fantasy/comicbook hybrid franchise ride its wave of innate silliness without so much as a flicker of doubt. For their unashamed silliness, the Thor films are probably my favourite of the current Avengers standalones. May they never mature.

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