Thor: The Dark World

"You must be truly desperate to come to me for help."

If I had to sum up Thor: The Dark World in a simple, buzzy sentence that would look great on a poster, then it would be "Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings."

The Thor movies are different from other superhero movies in that they aren't really superhero movies. This is classic mythology with a sci-fi twist. Never is this more evident than in the opening prologue. You see, once upon a time, the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim decided to destroy the universe. I'm not really sure why exactly, I can only assume because they're bad guys and destroying the universe is kind of what bad guys do. Luckily for future Starbucks customers everywhere (they even have branches in Vanaheimr), the Dark Elves were defeated by those regular defeaters of bad people, the Asgardians. Honestly, I think all the Asgardians did in ancient times was go around the Nine Realms and get into fights with all the other races.

Fast forward several thousands of years and Thor, god of thunder, son of Odin, one of Earth's mightiest heroes and beautiful Disney princess, is battling across the Nine Realms, cleaning up the mess caused by the actions of his scheming adopted brother, Loki, who has been locked up in the Asgard dungeon, denied his throne and that interview with Ellen he was so looking forward to. Luckily for the captive god of mischief, the ancient Asgardians did not do a better job of placing the Dark Elves' doomsday machine, the Aether, in a place where no one could ever find it, because Jane Foster, Thor's mortal love, has stumbled onto it and all hell is about to break loose.

The Dark World is a grander, more epic film than its predecessor. It is also a much funnier film. I laughed my ass off more times than I could count, none more so than when Thor had to jump on the Tube to get back to Greenwich in time for the final showdown. See, DC, this is where you went wrong with Man of Steel. And yet, at the same time it has a disappointingly familiar plot. Bad guys (Frost Giants/Dark Elves) want to get hold of a magical thingy (Casket of Ancient Winters/Aether) and do bad things. Loki gets mixed up in all this somehow and Thor saves day by smashing things with his mighty hammer (no snickering) all the while maintaining his gorgeous hair. The film's primary villain, Malekith the Accursed, is a fairly generic adversary. He wants to destroy the universe and that's about it. It's a bit of a thankless role and really a waste of an actor as good as Christopher Eccleston.

Game of Thrones' Alan Taylor steps in to replace Kenneth Branagh in the director's chair. With a new director comes a new look. Odin has been doing some redecorating since we last visited Asgard. The realm eternal is less shiny and gold. It now has a more textured and lived in look. It also feels more magical. This is how I imagine a city of Viking gods would look like. While Taylor does a good job with the film's other action set-pieces, the final confrontation in Greenwich does fall a little flat.


Chris Hemsworth is as likeable as ever, but Tom Hiddleston sneaks up behind him, ties his shoelaces together, and makes off with the film before the Aussie hunk has a chance to react. Loki is the undisputed star of the film. The film really steps up a gear whenever he and Thor are together. The troubled relationship between the sons of Odin is the only one in the film that has any kind of dramatic weight.

Sadly, the Thor/Jane relationship, which worked rather well in the first film, falls completely flat this time around, despite the best efforts of Hemsworth and Portman. The two characters actually work a lot better when they are apart. Foster is so much more fun when she's running around with Erik (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings, effortlessly stealing every scene she's in as usual) and geeking out over science stuff.

Notes and Quotes

--Chuck's Zachary Levi replaces Once Upon a Time's Josh Dallas as Fandral, one of the Warriors Three. Not that you'd notice given how underused Sif and the Warriors Three are. Poor Hogun barely appears.

--The Kronan, the stone creature Thor fights at the start of the film, is an alien being that appeared in Thor's first comic, Journey Into Mystery #83.

--What's the best way to promote your blockbuster movie? Simple. Just put your charismatic villain with a bunch of kids and watch the magic happen:


Jane Foster: "I saw you with the Avengers in New York!"
Thor: "I was defending the Earth!"
Jane Foster: "Is that your excuse?"
Thor: "Yes!"
Jane Foster: "...It's not terrible."

Darcy: "Look at you. Still all muscly and everything."
Thor: "Thank you."

Loki: "It's not that I don't love our little talks, it's just... I don't love them."

Three out of four interviews with Ellen.

6 comments:

Freeman said...

This movie was acceptable. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad. In what seems to be an emerging pattern for me with the Marvel movies as of late, I enjoyed the film, but i couldn't see myself really watching it over again. It was an enjoyable romp that ultimately had me leaving the theater with a feeling of ambivalence.

The action was pretty good, but after Man of Steel I guess I subconsciously expected more. It was basically two gods fighting each other in this movie and they sorta just fell on top of each other a few times. Kinda weak. Sif and the Warriors Three were just there, and the emotional beats didn't seem to have any oomf. It also kinda bugs me that the Marvel movies are sorta becoming action/comedies rather than action movies with humor. That's just personal taste though. And much like the first movie, even though the stakes were obviously high, they didn't feel high.

I enjoyed the revamped Asgard though. Much more interesting on the eyes. There were some very funny moments, I particularly liked the cameo from a certain Avenger.

I felt like Natalie Portman was phoning it in here. Granted she didn't really have much to do but look sick and float. But really three movies in and I am still not sure why Thor loves Jane Foster so much. She's about as interesting as a dry sponge. The romance in the Thor movies is just weaksauce altogether really.

But again, overall an acceptable movie.

Honestly I'm just holding out for Winter Soldier, baby. Captain America all day everyday.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Loved the Loki commerical. Of course Loki was the star, but I thought Hemsworth did a good job as the hero. He even had some of the best moments in the film, even though Loki had more.

I actually liked the Thor/Jane stuff. But the Villain was kinda meh, not the worse, but not really all that memorable. Of course with Loki on screen, I'm not sure anyone could compete.

Just so everyone knows, there are two big extra scenes. One after the initial credits (the animated ones), and the second is at the very end which is even more important.

I'm also really looking forward to Captain America, the trailer looks pretty impressive.

rebecca_s921 said...

In spite of many nice action set pieces and a couple of surprising (for me) dramatic turns, he humor definitely elevated the film. Love the repartee between Thor and Loki, the aforementioned Avenger cameo, and the scene with Eric Selvig, Jane, Darcy, Darcy's intern, and Mjolnir made me laugh out loud.

I wasn't that invested in the love story between Thor and Jane. The scene where Thor was speaking to Jane overlooking majestic Asgard scenery brought to mind Star Wars Episode III, and any association of Anakin and Padme kills the mood for me. Though by the end of the movie, the two of them have been through enough that I kinda feel they've earned me cheering them on.

Any scene of Thor showing biceps made me think of Maria Hill's assessment of his godhood. I shudder to think the number of chicken breasts Chris Hemsworth have to ingest daily to maintain his physique.

Nox said...

As far as the Dark Elves and their motivations are concerned, I understood it to be because as Dark Elves they're preferred, perhaps even necessary, means of survival is in darkness. They existed before the creation of our universe, so the introduction of light was devastating to them (remember they live in a dark planet). I don't think the Aether would have destroyed their world or them. It simply would have destroyed all light/energy/stuff-we-need-to-survive-and-they-don't.

That being said, I really enjoyed this movie. It was in many ways a very generic action film, but it had some shining moments—the creativity in the final battle scene, the humor, every scene Loki was in... I know it would never happen, but I really wish Loki could get his own movie. His interaction with Thor was easily the best part about this film and having a whole film dedicated to it, centered around Loki has the potential be extremely interesting if it were well-done. Alas, it will never happen, but that doesn't stop one from wishing.

sunbunny said...

FINALLY saw it. I really enjoyed it and not because of the gratuitous Chris Hemsworth shirtless scene. Well, not JUST because of that scene. As usual, I found all the flobatnum pretty confusing so I just ignored it. The effects were great and Hemsworth and Hiddleston played off each other even better than in the first one.

Tom Hiddleston is (rightly) so renowned for his Acting I feel like Chris Hemsworth doesn't get enough praise. Written down, some of his lines pretty damn ridiculous but that doesn't even occur to you while watching. Someone give that man a cookie. I really want to see Hemsworth and Hiddleston do Shakespeare together. Someone call Joss. Make this happen.

I've never been a Jane Foster fan. With one (maybe two) exceptions, Marvel love interests tend to be underwritten, because screentime is needed for exposition of crazy science things and blowing shit up. It makes me laugh that Natalie Portman has a freaking Oscar and her most challenging work here was taking a nap in a magic gondola thing.

At least Gwyneth (who has an Oscar of her own) had more to do in Iron Man 3. Speaking of women, where was Sif throughout the whole thing? Boo. Plus I didn't like the implication she had a crush on Thor. I mean, who wouldn't, but I like her better as a tough woman who don't need no man. At least they didn't take the 'love triangle' any further.

I really liked Asgard's makeover. Much more LotR, less My Little Pony.

Josie Kafka said...

The Thor movies are different from other superhero movies in that they aren't really superhero movies. This is classic mythology with a sci-fi twist.

Well said, Mark. I'm gradually coming to terms with the idea that I just don't like most superhero stories, but the parts of this movie I did love were all the mythological bits: I could stare at Asgard for days, and the idea of various realms converging was just a mind-blowing way of thinking about the nature of the universe.

I also enjoyed some of the humor.

But the action sequences left me feeling blah. Part of that might be due to watching it in standard definition on a TV screen: like The Avengers, this movie had that washed-out gray look that a lot of 3D films do. (Except in Asgard and London, which both looked real and alive. Well, London was a little gray, but I think that's just London.)

One thing I'm really, really confused about: what was with all the shoe jokes? Darcy makes a joke about throwing shoes into the gravity well thingamabob. Selvig asks the other patients for shoes to make a point. And Thor discovers many shoes (and says "Why are there so many shoes here?") as he and Jane make their way to Greenwich. It felt like an in-joke that I'm not in on.