Coriolanus

Gone are the days where you could only watch West End theatre in person; now with the art of digital downloads theatre is so much more accessible. National Theatre live are taking the process of bringing people closer to theatre by bringing it into cinemas. Across the UK and worldwide, various operas and stage shows have been available in the cinemas and my first venture into this new genre of theatre in a cinema was to see the Donmar Warehouse production of the William Shakespeare play Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role with support from Mark Gatiss.

The production itself was absolutely fantastic – with such a small theatre space it was utilised to its full potential, keeping the set quite minimal and using only a small array of props (chairs were very well used, and I enjoyed the Brechtian style of having the company sit across the back wall for most of the play). The company itself were great, with several of them having dual roles; Hiddleston was the main reason I wanted to see this production and he didn’t disappoint. The Shakespearean language rolls of his tongue as if he were born to say it, bringing wit and comedy but also passion, anger and Coriolanus’ ignorance to the role.

There was some stand out moments in the production; it was quite physical at times, particularly an early fight scene between Coriolanus and Aufidius which was quite complex. The end scene between Coriolanus, his wife, his son and his mother was really beautiful to watch; you could feel the emotion pouring from all of the actors, with genuine tears from Tom Hiddleston. The end which sees Hiddleston stringed up with blood dripping from his throat is powerful and signals the end of a power driven play.

As well as the actual production being amazing, another element to consider in this review is the element of live theatre steamed into a cinema. It of course made it slightly less authentic, having carefully placed cameras surrounding the theatre space, but it also made the audience feel as if they were there. A movie experience but with live theatre – you wouldn’t have seen facial expressions that close up, everything’s a lot bigger, more focused. However that doesn’t mean to say at time there were some awkwardness; there was one moment which caused a small commotion in the cinema when the gay overtones in the play were explored in which Aufidius kisses Coriolanus. Of course this wouldn’t have been allowed in the theatre (or at least you would have got some dirty looks off fellow theatregoers). We also wouldn’t have had the annoying lady introducing the play and the constant promos for other plays but that’s just an outside aspect.

The thing that stuck out the most was the very end; the curtain call. Of course you want to show your appreciation, and there are only a few occasions I’ve wanted to clap or have at the end of a film in the cinema but this was live theatre – do you clap? They won’t be able to hear you so what’s the point? Nonetheless I clapped, and so did others, but it wasn’t sustained or particularly enthusiastic despite the brilliant performance. Perhaps this is where the notion of theatre in cinemas falls down – the live appreciation is lost.

A fabulous production, however and I left with an invigorated love for Tom Hiddleston (who has the most beautiful blue eyes)

Thor 2: The Dark World

The next installment in Marvel’s Phase Two plan was released back in November and stormed its way to the top of the box office. Chris Hemsworth was back as the God of Thunder in Thor 2: The Dark World and it didn’t disappoint.

Alan Taylor takes over directors duties from Kenneth Branagh as Thor and the Asgardians try and make peace across the 9 realms. Thor (Hemsworth) is leading the charge but all the while pining for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is also missing the God, but finding her own mission after discovering an anomaly in central London. Hoping it could lead her to Thor she investigates but absorbs an unknown energy. Thor returns to Earth when Heimdall (Idris Elba) notices Jane disappearing when she is investigating the anomaly. When Thor brings Jane back to Asgard, they discover the unknown energy is in fact the Aether, a mystical weapon that basically spells trouble for all worlds. It can only be used every 5,000 years and it just so happens, that it’s that time of year. A race that was believed to be extinct called the Dark Elves, led by their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is now searching for Aether, in a bid to turn the universe to darkness.

From the point of Jane coming to Asgard, the action really picks up as Thor must hatch a plan to keep the Aether away from Malekith and to keep Jane safe. Asgard is attacked and in the panic, Thor’s mother Frigga is killed, causing Thor to take drastic action and to seek an alliance with the one person he wishes he could trust – his estranged brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki really has turned into one of Marvel’s greatest weapons –through the three movies he’s appeared in, and even though he’s very much established as a villain, he’s become a firm fan favourite (which has been helped along by Hiddleston’s bundles of real-life charisma). Even though Thor 2 is still very much Chris Hemsworth’s movie. Hiddleston manages to steal every scene he’s in as Loki, getting the funniest moments but also some of the more vulnerable moments. He gives the character so many layers, and the audience never really knows what Loki’s true motives are; each sneer and smirk are calculated moves, yet the charisma also jumps off-screen, leaving also just a hint of regret and guilt that Loki feels. The best moments in the film are when Thor and Loki are together, the brotherly quabbles are quick-witted and well acted by Hemsworth and Hiddleston.

The movie as a whole flows really well, moving from Earth to Asgard, and introducing and re-introducing the characters. It also visually looks fantastic, and sets a much different tone to the first movie:  the funeral for Thor’s mother is particularly beautiful and moving. The rest of the cast also work well, with Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth re-creating their chemistry from the first movie. While a lot of comedic moments are given to Loki, Jane’s companions of Darcy (Kat Dennins) and Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) offer some more funny moments.

There are some downsides, quite a few missed opportunities: Jane finding it easy to readjust to Asgard, and an inference that Sif (Jamie Alexander) has feelings for Thor. However the film as a whole is a fantastic action ride from start to finish and continues Marvel’s steam train of success. And the ending leaves us with some tantalising questions (and that’s even before those post-credit scenes.)

Volstagg: If you even think of betraying him…
Loki: You’ll kill me?! Evidently they’ll be a line. (Thor 2: The Dark World)

Thor

When the time came for Thor 2’s release, I’d realised I’d yet to watch the origin film, so I settled down to watch it on the eve of my trip to the second. My first glimpse of Thor as a character was in Avengers so I was surprised at the arrogant, hot-headed and frankly a danger to others version that was in this film.

Starring Chris Hemsworth as the Asgardian God of Thunder, it lays the foundation story of Thor, devoting the first 30 minutes to his back story, the relationship between Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his two sons Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and also Thor’s status as a protector for Asgard. As I said above, Thor at the beginning of the film is arrogant, boisterous, tearing around creating havoc, usually because his temper got in the way. Thor almost causes a war to break out with another world and this is where the story really starts. His father banishes him to Earth to teach him a lesson; he meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) along with fellow scientist Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy (Kat Dennings).

Once this foursome comes together, it makes for hilarious viewing and this is where Hemsworth comes into his own; he’s comedic and like a fish out of water as he tries to adjust to life on Earth. He delivers the lines with a certain sarky quality and charisma, but still remaining incredibly arrogant about who he is. At times you can see how much he feels defeated about his situation, but the progression of his character to a wise, brave and humble God is brilliant.

As well as the narrative on Earth, back in Asgard, Loki attempts to become King, a position he views as rightfully his. He’s deceptive, slimy but enigmatic and Tom Hiddleston plays him perfectly. He has a gravitas about him and even though there shouldn’t be any likeable qualities to Loki due to his constant betrayals, Hiddleston manages to create a firm fan favourite.

I do enjoy this movie; it’s a great start to Thor’s overall story in the Marvel universe and it has some great elements to it, particularly the role that S.H.I.E.L.D play; Clark Greg gets some much valued screen time with some brilliant gags and we even get a small appearance from Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. The promise of the return to Asgard for Thor 2 is a welcoming one and I for one can’t wait to see how all the characters progress.

Jane: I’ve never met him before
Darcy Until she hit him with a car
Jane: I grazed him with my car and she tasered him
Darcy: Yes I did