In a little under one week, Thor will raise his mighty hammer and bring it crashing down on US theaters, with The Dark World getting its Stateside theatrical release.
It is also the last chance for 2013 to get a truly great comic book movie.
Now I know some of you are about to get your incandescent rage on, call me the son of an Asgardian harlot and Hulk smash your Tony Stark Limited Edition Pencil Case, but hear me out.
As dawn broke on the first day of 2013, the CBM landscape for the coming 12 months looked magical. Ahead of us lay the promise of returning heroes and rebooted old favorites. In Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and The Wolverine, this was going to be the year when superheroes again flexed their over-sized muscles and gave us some truly great movies.
Except they didn't.
While the box office numbers suggest this was another stellar year for the genre (and in terms of studio profit, it certainly was), for us fans, it failed to hit the heights promised.
In May Iron Man 3 swooped in and, on the back of 's charisma and well-sculptured facial hair, made serious bank. It was entertaining, funny and occasionally spectacular, but the second act was a buddy comedy featuring a tempestuous kid and the climactic battle fell flat as Tony Stark morphed into a mullet-less Martin Riggs and logic exploded faster than a Mark 42 suit. And can a movie that mistreats the Mandarin so badly really be considered great?
Next came 's much-anticipated reboot of the Big Blue Boy Scout, Man of Steel. An alumni of the "more is most definitely more" school of film making, Snyder gave us a Supes that was low on subtlety and high on flying dragons and spaceships. Man of Steel worked best when it stopped with all the crashing and banging, whooshing and smashing. Unfortunately there was less of this and more of SEE HOW MANY SPACESHIPS I CAN GET ON SCREEN AT ONE TIME, AND THEY HAVE GUNS AND ROCKETS AND LOOK AT THE EXPLOSIONS, AREN'T THEY LOUD! HOW D'YA LIKE HAVING TINNITUS NOW?
At least when the Avengers were laying waste to NYC they did it with a smile on their face...
A film that was the definition of "solid but unspectacular"
Then there was The Wolverine, 21st Century Fox's latest attempt to give the iconic character the stand-alone movie he deserves. Relocating the action to Japan and taking away Wolverine's life-extending powers suggested this could be the Logan movie we'd been waiting for, but what we got was a film that was the definition of "solid but unspectacular." was great as always, there were some nice set pieces and it was better than Origins - although being better than that disaster of a movie should never be used as a measuring stick for success. But The Wolverine had the feel of being made by committee, with no discernibly-unique style or flair.
We can look at it this another way. 2012 had both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises and while 's final installment of the trilogy was a flawed beast (and with a 165 minute run time, it really is a beast of a movie) it was better than anything 2013 had to offer.
Which brings us finally to Thor: The Dark World. As the final CBM of the year, it's our last chance to get a really great superhero movie. I'm not talking "7/10-entertaining, loved Loki and Hemsworth's hair" great, but "holy Mjolnir this is the best thing my eyes have looked upon since the invasion from Vanaheim back in the day" great.
All the ingredients for an excellent movie are in place. Game of Thrones helmer is directing, the scope and scale of the sequel is inter-dimensionally huge, Loki is back for more mischief and Thor's hair is so wondrous it makes me dribble a little out of the side of my mouth (a lesser man would make a joke about Thor's hair having more depth than the Man of Steel script, but I'm better than that.)
Here's hoping that Thor: The Dark World, the final CBM of 2013, will go out with a bang, not a whimper.
What are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh or were you also a little underwhelmed by this year's efforts? I'd love to hear your opinions on this.