Commentary

November 15, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Dimly, Through Glass’, and ‘Thor: The Dark World’

Dimly,-Through-Glass-cover

Available online:

‘Dimly, Through Glass’

New author Dirk Knight, after publishing his first short story, has released his first novel, titled “Dimly, Through Glass.” Though its tone and subject matter may alienate some readers, the characters and story are enough to keep other readers invested.
After having to kill a man in self-defense following a fit of road rage, Dennis Foster has been cleared by the Phoenix Police Department of murder or any crime.
This event had a serious, psychological effect on Dennis, however, as much of his repressed (and not-so-repressed) feelings and frustrations start to come loose, and his fractured identity becomes a threat to those around him, from innocent bystanders to his own ex-girlfriend.
The gut feeling of detective Carron Staley, however, leads into a game of cat-and-mouse, especially once Dennis involves someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Dimly, Through Glass” certainly has a lot of tension in its story; there were quite a few moments where I really needed to know what would happen next. Fortunately, there aren’t many times when the payoff is a letdown. Even in one scene that has a metaphorical “bomb-didn’t-blow” outcome it felt believable and worthwhile.
The story is also laid out pretty well, with the point of view changing between characters from chapter to chapter, from the mouse to the cat and others. Sometimes, however, the point of view seemed a little mixed up in the scenes with a larger cast involved.
Also, one character only has a single POV chapter devoted to him and he only appears a few times later; this made his role a little distracting, as I was expecting a bigger impact from him.
Speaking of characters, every one of them was described in heavy detail. Sometimes it felt like too much, but it helped diversify them for the most part. I say most part because at times I felt they all had a similar voice and vocabulary. Still, I was rarely confused on motivations, and the reader is given the back story of the characters gradually instead of immediately, something I personally appreciate.
I also liked that I did not find myself rooting for the hero of the story from the beginning. It was a slow process as his character was fleshed out over time. The antagonist, on the other hand, was unlikable at the get-go, which I think proved to be a lost opportunity to show the tragedy in the character (though, to note, the role of “antagonist” and “protagonist” seem to switch often between the two characters).
The atmosphere and the tone of the novel is a double-edge sword for me. This is a very, very dark and graphic story, with subject matter that may be too much for some readers. On the one hand, it fits, because the characters are indeed dealing with very serious situations. On the other, there were parts I found very hard to continue reading. Readers who do make it past these scenes will know they have some good real-life messages in them (I will never get mad while driving again). I just wish the story held back a bit on the cynicism, as many of the details surrounding the story, like a woman walking her dogs, are cast in negativity.
While the story could have eased up on the pessimism and has a few issues, “Dimly, Through Glass” is an entertaining and compelling thriller.

 
Thor-The-Dark-World-poster

And in theaters:

‘Thor: The Dark World’

It’s been about five years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was started, a comic book film series that proved to be a pretty awesome idea to bring everyone’s favorite characters together without shoving them all into a single movie from the get-go. With Phase One coming to an excellent conclusion with “The Avengers” (excellent being the only professional term I can think of to describe it), Phase Two got off to a rocky start; I’m of course talking about “Iron Man 3.” The demigod’s second film, however, “Thor: The Dark World,” seems to have put Phase Two back on track with its good balance of serious drama and humor and overall improvements of the original.
After the events of “The Avengers,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to his home of Asgard to perform his duties as protector of the realms. When his human love interest/astrophysicist, Jane (Natalie Portman) finds herself linked with a dangerous, alien weapon, Thor returns to save her. Finding the weapon, known as the Aether, awakens the long-since thought extinct Dark Elves, who plan to take it back and use it to throw every world into darkness. In order to fight them, Thor has to make an important decision, one that involves his traitorous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
Where I think the story trumps that of “Iron Man 3” is that it feels more like a continuation of the overall story. It probably helps that the villain of “The Avengers” is directly involved in this film, but Thor’s character development seems much more effectively connected to previous installments; Thor is still a little hot-headed on the battlefield, but has truly evolved into a responsible guardian. While I’m still not entirely sure how the Aether works, which did bug me a bit, I was never really lost on motivations or any other plot developments. I do wish we would have gotten to see more of Asgard as a culture, but even then we get more than we have before, which is good. Also, the plot lines “The Dark World” sets up for future installments have me eager to see what happens next.
There’s nothing really bad to say about the acting in this film, save for Anthony Hopkins coming off as a little bland during some of his scenes as Odin. Kat Dennings’ Darcy is hilarious and used well, and Stellan Skarsgård’s Dr. Selvig has taken an interesting and oddly believable turn. Thor is still a hero one can root for, even if this film seems to have more of an ensemble cast this time, and Tom Hiddleston is as charismatic as ever as Loki. What I particularly enjoyed is the chemistry between Thor and Loki, which has become entertaining and even a little heartbreaking. Nothing special can be said about the villains, Christopher Eccleston does his part well as the Dark Elf king Malekith, though I wish the rest of his villains were more threatening than their appearance made them, save for one powerful goon.
Not every superhero movie can pull off the dark, realistic tone that “Batman” can, and I am very glad “Thor: The Dark World” didn’t try to. There’s a pretty good balance of humor to keep the serious scenes from getting too dark without lessoning their impact too much, and there’s still some drama going on through some very big moments that clearly affect the characters. Sometimes the special effects came off a little wonky, and I’m still not sure if I like how Asgard is kind of toned down in “magnificence,” (aka, shininess), but Thor’s abilities are shown off very well and some of the set and character designs are awesome.
I was a little nervous for the Marvel Cinematic Universe when “Iron Man 3” fell way below my expectations, but “Thor: The Dark World” renewed my excitement.
And for the love of fandom, people, don’t walk out of a Marvel movie until the credits are done; you all should know this by now.
“The Dark World” is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence.




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