Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Thor - The Dark World

Better do this before the year suddenly stops.

Marvel Studios continues its cinematic universe with Thor: The Dark World, a sequel to 2011’s Thor as well as last years The Avengers. Like many of Marvel’s movies this one had a hard time getting off the ground due to issues finding a director. Kenneth Branagh, who directed the first film, did not return for this one. Initially Marvel hired Patty Jenkins to step in but she quit a few months later citing “creative differences”. If you believe the rumors Marvel has a very bad habit of being extremely controlling over their films which supposedly is what caused friction between the studio and Jon Favreau during Iron Man 2 and Edward Norton during The Incredible Hulk. Anyway Marvel eventually settled on Alan Taylor who hasn’t directed a feature film in ten years. He has been working in television this whole time and most recently worked on The Game of Thrones, which is almost certainly what got him this job. Reviews for this movie were a bit mixed, much like every nerdy film this year it seems, but as a fan of first movie and The Avengers movie I was never going to avoid this flick.

Full review after the jump.


A romance for the ages...
So long as you can keep awake for it
Since the battle of New York and the defeat of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) the Bifrost bridge has been repaired and Asgard is once again connected to the Nine Realms, which Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been charged with pacifying following two years of being left unchecked. Despite being revered as a hero Thor only wishes to return to Earth to be with the mortal Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) against his father’s wishes. Meanwhile Jane and her team discover a portal on Earth to another realm where she discovers and absorbs something called “The Aether”. This event awakens Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), an ancient enemy of Asgard, who wishes to use the Aether for his own apocalyptic agenda.

I don’t want to be redundant as a lot of the good things I have to say are just repeated from my review of the first film two years ago. Asgard is pretty, it’s well cast, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is the best part of the movie and the flick doesn’t totally use the standard superhero formula. Actually if I can talk about Loki for a bit I really think it’s fascinating how popular Hiddleston has become playing this character, especially as he’s consistently awesome in the role. Although I hesitate to agree with screaming fangirls, especially as I think these might be the same fangirls who think Iron Man and Captain America should hook up (and I maintain Cap would prefer someone significantly less arrogant than Tony Stark), but I think Marvel should seriously consider having a Loki movie. The superhero movie genre already suffers from predictability; having a film starring a known villain would shake things up and there is no better choice than Loki at this time. DO IT, HOLLYWOOD!!!

We all pretty much came here to see Loki
My favorite part of this movie, aide from Loki, was the final fight scene between Thor and Malekith. I believe that it is the best superhero fight scene ever Hollywood has ever done. It was the perfect blend of fun and epic, without resulting in a titanic destruction porn scene like in Man of Steel. In fact I will go ahead and say that this fight scene makes Man of Steel’s look like over produced garbage. Now that I think about it the same can be said about the whole film. Man of Steel is not a fun movie but Thor: The Dark World manages to be. When I think superheroes I think “This is supposed to be fun”.

Where the movie stumbles is with key characters. While most everyone is fine, maybe a bit underused, the Warriors Three and Sif again get very little to do despite their tremendous potential. In fact I think they actually do less here than in the original movie, which is crazy! Hell, Hogun shows up for maybe five minutes before disappearing and playing no role in the story whatsoever. All of this pales in the failure of the film’s villain Malekith played by Christopher Eccleston who is wasted here. Malekith is dull; so dull. Like, “paint dry” dull. He may have a personality but the filmmakers decided not to bother showing it. A huge reason for this may be that the vast majority of his dialogue is a made-up language which doesn’t have a lot of acting involved. If you’re going to hire a Doctor Who to play a villain in a movie at least have the common sense to allow him to be a larger than life character. When G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra can say they did something better than you then you know it’s time to retire in disgrace.

Loki managed to keep the movie interesting despite the lack of compelling villain (when is Thor 3 coming out?) but even Hiddleston couldn’t balance out the plague that was Jane Foster. I mentioned in the previous Thor review that the character of Jane Foster was not very interesting but the problem is much more apparent in this film mostly because Jane plays a key role in the film’s conflict. The movie, basically, centers on her which would be fine if she was a good character. But since she’s as compelling as a pet rock it really hurts the film. [Writer’s Note: If the pet rock happens to have googly eyes glued on then it becomes more compelling than Foster]. She does nothing and says nothing worth remembering in this movie, which is not helped by Natalie Portman’s wooden acting (though to be fair she has nothing to work with here). And the romance between her and Thor is sleep-inducing. There is zero chemistry partially become I’m suspect Jane is a robot who doesn’t understand love. Not to say that the romantic subplot is unwanted because if Thor was romantically linked to Sif, who has a lot more reason from a storyline perspective to be involved with Thor, or even Darcy, who would have at least made the romance funny (I imagine she would keep ignoring Odin’s warning because she was distracted by Thor’s muscles), then the movie would have been twice as fun to watch. As it is its kind of painful.

To be fair anything where Kat Dennings is the star is better for it
Despite that I found myself really enjoying this film. I walked out having had a great time and thinking very highly of what I saw. I had a much better time watching this than every other nerdy movie this year, even the ones I gave 4 Pandas to. Even though it had major flaws I think the strong points will keep people interested. I’m not sure if it’s a better film than the original but I will say that the original spends a good chunk being a snore (when they Thor gets to New Mexico and precedes to be terrible at playing human) but this film does not have the same lull. So it might be but it will likely depend on how offended you are by the failure of the villain’s portrayal. 

I give Thor: The Dark World 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


Pros 

-Look great 

-Feels less like a superhero film and more like a fantasy film 

- Tom Hiddleston does it again 

-Has a great fight sequence 

Cons 

-Key supporting characters are absolutely wasted, including the villain 

-Jane Foster is boring and thus makes everything around her less interesting

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