Sunday, February 9, 2014

Thor: The Dark World review

    Bland but kind of entertaining.

    Kind of.

    Thor: The Dark World is a sequel that's technically competent, reasonably well-acted, and filled with fun action. There's also oodles of Marvel comics fanservice that makes me smile. It's also a movie which might have been made with a random plot generator.

    The original Thor movie was a surprise because Kenneth Branagh managed to turn what everyone expected to be a big dumb action movie into a surprisingly nuanced family drama. Thor: The Dark World, instead, uses the nuanced family drama to pad out a big dumb action movie.

    The premise of Thor 2 is an ancient relic of the Dark Elves has been found by Jane Foster and they want it back to kill everyone in the universe. That's it. Already, this shows repetition as the first movie was all about a Doomsday Device and both the Avengers as well as Captain America: The First Avenger dealt with a different one.

It's a pretty big and dumb action movie.
     The original Thor managed to subvert audience expectations by making it clear the Frost Giants weren't pure evil monsters but this movie makes it abundantly clear the Dark Elves are. As a result, it not only is a boring depiction of alien life but makes the original movie less entertaining.

    Chris Hemsworth does a serviceable job as Thor but doesn't have much material to work with. He's required to be exceptionally noble, crush on Jane Foster, and hit things with his hammer. The only decent plot, that Thor is not happy with all the moral compromises he'd have to make as a monarch, is dealt with in an off-hand manner.

    Natalie Portman's Jane Foster is less entertaining than in the first movie, serving first as a Maguffin to start the plot off and later a plucky adventuress. Her romance with Thor is paper-thin but it's enjoyable for what it is. Likewise, it's nice to see her given something to do other than simply moon over Thor.

    Tom Hiddleston has a reduced role as Loki but I'd say his is the best story arc in the movie. After his depiction as a straight-up villain in the Avengers, he regains some of his previous ambiguity but maintains a nasty edge that lightens up the movie considerably.

Loki's treatment as a prisoner is simultaneously degrading and hilarious.
     Unfortunately, Thor and Loki's motivation in the movie requires the death of a major female character and this is the very definition of fridging (see TV for an explanation). Worse, it's unnecessary since they already have the destruction of the universe to bring them together.

    Christopher Eccelston is utterly wasted as Malekith, mostly existing to stand there and look menacing. His henchman, Kursed, exists to serve as his Darth Vader figure and the two of them don't amount to more than the kind of villains you'd find on an old He-man cartoon. Actually, not even that, since Frank Langella gave an amazing performance as Skeletor in the Masters of the Universe movie.

    Special mention also goes to Kat Dennings who serves as unnecessary but very welcome comic relief. The Darcy Lewis character is a bright spot in a movie which, otherwise, would have taken itself far too seriously. I love superhero comics being taken seriously as much as the next man but, really, life needs more comedy. It's a pity they've already used divine possession in this movie since she'd make an excellent Hel.

No one will ever accuse the Marvel Cinematic Universe of failing on the action.
    The special effects in the movie are impressive, no surprise there, with the best moments being the battles between the Dark Elves and Asgardians. They involve lasers, swords, space-ships, and superpowers to the point I felt like I was watching Knights of the Old Republic: The Movie. If they can get Star Wars: Episode VII to be like this, I'll be satisfied with it.

    A small complaint for a dedicated Thor fan is the continued marginalization of the Warrior's Three and Sif. Admittedly, there's not much room for expanding on everybody but they barely get enough room to be introduced before they're out of focus again. If they could only include one, I wish they'd focus on Sif and give her something coherent to do.

    In conclusion, Thor: The Dark World is a thoroughly okay movie. Do I think they could have done better? Yes, by Odin, I do. However, there's something to be said for not doing worse and they did very well in not doing worse. Let's just hope the next volume in Thor's story isn't quite so unambitious.


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