Monday, November 11, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

Out of all the first wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the one I expected to like the least was Thor. As a comic book character he always seemed kind of one note and boring to me, don’t ask me why. How interesting can a god be? Not enough to convince me to buy any of the graphic novels that’s for damned sure.

Well, when I saw the flick I changed my tune completely. Not only was Thor a great character, his world was unique, fun and very Shakespearean. And holy crap was the movie hilarious to boot! It definitely made instant stars of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectfully, and helped to solidify the direction of the films as they led up to The Avengers. I was sold (and I picked up a few trade paperbacks too!)

And now we have the sequel I’ve been waiting patiently for for the past two years – Thor: The Dark World.
An ancient villain, the dark elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), has returned to Asgard to reclaim a deadly weapon that will allow him to cover all the realms in a never-ending darkness, the Aether. When Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is infected by the Aether, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must find a way to cure her before Malekith tracks her down. To do this he enlists the help of his traitorous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

With all the character and world building out of the way, Thor: The Dark World gets to the point almost immediately. We are quickly brought up to speed on the history of Malekith and the Aether, and we see Thor beating the everloving crap out of a bunch of villains attempting to conquer one of the realms due to the Bifröst being destroyed in the first film, thus limiting the travel of the Asgardians. It’s fun and fast paced. Some of the humor has been toned down a bit in the process, but I didn’t mind.
Once the story really gets rolling with Jane being infested by the Aether we see all the major players from the previous film return in grand fashion. Not only does Frigga, played by Rene Russo, get more screentime and a chance to whoop some ass, but we also see more of Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Darcy (Kat Dennings). Each person serves a purpose in the story and there are very few wasted moments.

The acting is top notch here, but I did feel that Thor seemed a little less interesting here than in the previous film. Now that we know he is a do-gooder and not some arrogant asshat he seems to have lost a bit of the edge he had in the previous film, but Hemsworth still plays him with a certain amount of bravado and earnestness that keeps him appealing. Natalie Portman still seems slightly out of place in these films (as she did in the Star Wars prequels), but she comes out unscathed. Everyone turns in a fantastic performance, especially Tom Hiddleston as the untrustworthy Loki. His enthusiasm and love of the character shines through every time he’s on screen. He was perfectly cast back in the day and without him these films wouldn’t be half as entertaining as they are.
I do think that Christopher Eccleston as Malekith was a bit of a letdown. He isn’t all that interesting and his motives basically boil down to “I’m evil, that’s why”. Sure it’s cool that he learned a new language for his part, and the make-up he wears is kind of rad. He just comes off as a generic villain, but I blame that on the writing.

You can definitely tell that there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen when it comes to the script. There were no less than 5 writers - Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Don Payne (who died back in March), Robert Rodat and some uncredited tweaking by Joss Whedon, and it shows at times with some murky motivations of the characters and a lot of missed opportunities, most notably the implicated love triangle of Thor, Jane and Sif. But the script feels as if it’s a natural extension of the original film, and that’s a very good thing. And they managed to sneak in a few surprises along the way that I definitely didn’t see coming. They definitely amped up the comedy during the last half and I was thankful because the humor in the original was one of the aspects I liked the most.
The direction by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) isn’t especially flashy like Kenneth Branagh’s in the original, but he knows exactly what to capture on film to tell the story visually and have it make sense. He certainly knows his way around action and vast battle scenes. He tends to trip up during the dramatic moments, especially Thor’s entrance when he returns to Earth for the first time. But damn if he doesn’t keep things moving at a brisk pace so that I never was bored once.

I have to give special props to the designers of the dark elf technology. I loved the look of their ships, especially those sword shaped shuttles that would zip in and out of tight spaces and constantly change their orientation depending on the situation. They not lonely looked cool, but did a lot of rad shit during the Asgard invasion at the midpoint of the film.
When the movie ended I had a big smile on my face. I had a blast with Thor: The Dark World and hope that we will get a third film during Phase 3. These characters deserves at least 3 or 4 more sequels of their own. And it looks like we may just get that with the way this film ended. So cool. Thankfully these flicks are very self-contained while dropping in a few nods toward the overall universe they take place in. If they were just big commercials for the next Avengers flick I don’t think I’d enjoy them as much as I do.

Bring on Captain America: The Winter Soldier!

3.5 out of 5

P.S. I shouldn't have to tell you to stay through the end credits. There are not one, but TWO extra scenes. One sets up Guardians of the Galaxy!!!

1 comment:

  1. In Puente Antigo, New Mexico, the physician Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is researching a phenomenon in the desert with her professor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and her mate Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Out of the blue, Thor is hit by Jane’s truck and she takes him to the hospital. Thor unsuccessfully tries to retrieve Mjölnir that is protected by agents of the government SHIELD. When the Machiavellian Loki sends the Destroyer to Earth to kill Thor, he needs to retrieve his hammer to save not only the humans, but also his Allfather Odin and Asgard from the evil Loki.,> Reviews Thor 2011
    he takes matters into his own hands, traveling to the Frost Giant's realm with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and compatriots Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and Fandral (Josh Dallas) in tow. When the encounter with the Frost Giants ends with tensions re-ignited between the two factions, Odin decides that his son is not prepared to lead his people, and exiles Thor, sans his powers, to Earth.
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