This is the thought that kept going through my head while revisiting Thor on this runup to Infinity War. Back in 2011 I hated this movie, thought it was just simply the worst of the worst and a huge, boring misstep for Marvel Studios. Today I look at it and see that it’s a movie developed in a world where comic book movies hadn’t yet entered their modern age, and the film has echoes of a landscape where David Hasselhoff played Nick Fury and where superheroes and their enemies usually had their final battle in a warehouse, or on docks, or on a bridge. Marvel knew how to make more grounded characters like Iron Man or more familiar characters like the Hulk work, but Asgardian gods? Space cities? Magic and high weirdness? They weren’t quite ready to commit just yet. Looking back from the post-Thor: Ragnarok vantage point how can we say anything but “How quaint”?
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Walking into Murder on the Orient Express – the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s hyper-famous detective story – I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s 2017, after all, and big budget movies are generally spectacle these days. The trailers certainly promised lots of CGI, and perhaps even some two-fisted action. I’m no purist – I read Orient Express in high school, during a period when I discovered detective novels aren’t for me – but I couldn’t imagine a modern adaptation of this work would feel like anything but bloated bombast.
So imagine my surprise when the movie ended up being rather small scale and even intimate, with the camera crowded into corners of sleeping compartments and often peering down from overhead. Yes, there’s plenty of CGI – every establishing shot looks like Star Wars – but Kenneth Branagh’s take on Christie keeps the scope small and most of the action mental.
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