Friday, January 15, 2016

Thor: The Dark World Film Review


Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddelston, Christopher Eccelston
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 Minutes

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Thor is Heyah!

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe chugs through its “Phase Two” films, I began to wonder if anything good would come out. Iron Man 3 was an utter disappointment, and the trailer for Thor: The Dark World didn’t give me much hope. Not counting The Wolverine, which was fantastic, it seemed that the MCU had lost all its steam. Well, the good news is Thor: The Dark World is an unexpected surprise. I went in prepared to see another disaster like Iron Man 3, but instead what I got was a pretty enjoyable action film.

Picking up after The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World finds our hero (Chris Hemsworth) quelling vicious rebellions across the universe as Odin (Anthony Hopkins) prepares him to take the throne of Asgard. Loki (Tom Hiddelston), after his explosive battle with The Avengers in New York, has been thrown into Asgard’s prison and condemned to a life of isolation. Meanwhile on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has discovered a strange portal in an abandoned warehouse in London. After falling through the portal, she becomes the living vessel for an ancient power known as the Aether. As the Aether awakens, so does the last surviving members of an ancient race known as the Dark Elves. The Elves’ leader, Malekith (Christopher Eccelson), who was defeated countless centuries before by Odin’s father, plans to track down Jane and extract the Aether from her so he can cover the universe in a never ending darkness. Sensing danger, Thor returns to Earth and brings Jane back to Asgard for safekeeping as Malekith prepares his forces for battle.

Where a good chunk of the first Thor was dedicated to his comic mishaps as he tried to blend in with humans, this new Thor is a mile a minute action fest. Which is extremely beneficial to the film, as Thor is the weakest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s characters. Instead of following him as he tries to fit in, we get to see him bash the shit out of everything with Mjolnir.

The action scenes have a epic, but hardly impersonal, quality to them. As big as the battles get, there is still a good focus on Thor, Jane, and the others as they race to survive the chaos. It never felt like the end of Iron Man 3, where the film suddenly just threw tons of super powered bad guys at you to try and raise the stakes. Everything leading up to the fights builds logically, and ultimately, makes the action scenes that much more satisfying.

Adding to the film are two great performances from two great actors. Tom Hiddelston has become a fan favorite since his first appearance in Thor. So much so, that extra scenes with him were added before the film’s release to expand upon his character. As a result, we get to see Hiddelston play with his fiendishly charming incarnation of Thor’s brother to full effect. His character is probably the one with the most development, and therefore he’s the most interesting to watch.

Christopher Eccelson, while not receiving the amount of screen time he should have, works with what he’s given and succeeds admirably. His delivery of the fictional language of the Dark Elves is filled with rage and fluency. You can feel his passion for his people, and his sadness at their losses, as he thunderously proclaims his demands. As Marvel villains go, he’s probably one of the best. Sadly, he’s barely on screen, and if you blink too often you might miss a scene with him.

For a film that’s whole premise rides on a superhero demi-god saving the universe from total annihilation, the plot often looses sight of itself in all the action. The whole thing with the Aether is very poorly explained. Somehow it can bring darkness to the universe and kill everything, while simultaneously existing as a parasitic energy that requires a host. Trying to think through this weak plot is the wrong way to watch this movie, but still sometimes it becomes so distracting that you can’t help but wonder just what the hell the problem is.

Another set of weak points for the film are its totally unsatisfying ending, and it’s weak, underwritten, and quickly forgotten subplots. For about five minutes of the movie, Odin tries to convince Thor to dump Jane for his fellow Asgardian warrior Sif (Jaimie Alexander) who is just as beautiful and can kick a whole barrel full of asses to boot. Aside from one scene where Sif tries to get Thor drunk, and another moment where Sif stares down Jane, this subplot is totally abandoned just as it begins to develop. It’s really no major loss, as a love triangle melodrama really has no place in a film where the main character bludgeons mystical aliens with a flying hammer, but still why all the set up if you’re going to do nothing with it?

Speaking of set up, Much like Machete Kills, the ending to this movie basically plays out like a “to be continued…” episode in the MCU. Nothing was more irritating than to have a major plot point rear its head, just to have the credits begin to roll. It felt like the only reason this movie was made was to advertise the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film. Where The Wolverine was smart and kept it’s cliffhanger-y nonsense in the post credits scenes after neatly wrapping up the story, Thor: The Dark World ends on such a sour note that it kind of spoils the whole experience.

Still, for the most part I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World. What it lacks in brains and character, it more than makes up with explosive action and a few clever plot twists. This was certainly not my favorite Marvel film, but it is a million times better than the godawful Iron Man sequels and even the original Thor.

Score: 7.5

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