Thor: The Dark World
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (screenplay), Don Payne and Robert Rodat (story)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard
In a post-Avengers world, it’s difficult to get excited about more solo adventures featuring individual superheroes, especially when it comes to Thor, who is arguably the silliest and least interesting of the bunch. However, he also offers something completely different from all of the others both in terms of visuals and backstory. Marvel understands this and they have taken another brave step towards fully embracing the fantasy setting in Thor: The Dark World.
Thor also happened to have one of the most memorable villains from the first batch of Marvel movies, which is clearly why they made Loki such an important part of The Avengers as well. Now that Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are starring in their third movie together, they’ve really hit their stride with these characters. Their interactions are among the best reasons to see the new movie… if only everything else could measure up to those moments.
The story picks up with Thor and Loki returning to Asgard where Loki is imprisoned for his war crimes. Back on Earth, Jane Foster and her intern discover an abandoned factory in London where the laws of physics are being turned upside down. She is briefly transported to another dimension where she is infected by a dark energy known as Aether. This awakens the Dark Elf Malekith, who seeks to use the Aether to destroy the universe. While a cosmic event known as the Convergence starts randomly opening portals between the Nine Realms, Thor has no choice but to recruit Loki to help him defeat Malekith once and for all.
As you can tell, the plot of this movie is complete and utter nonsense, but fortunately it’s largely irrelevant. It’s somehow easier to swallow much of the goofy exposition when we are spending time in a fantastical place like Asgard, which, with the help of Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor, actually feels more grounded this time around. You get the sense that there are actual inhabitants outside of Thor, Odin and Loki, and it’s nice to see supporting characters like Heimdall (Idris Elba), Frigga (Rene Russo) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) get a little more screen time.
Visually, Thor: The Dark World blends fantasy and sci-fi in ways that few movies have done successfully (Krull comes to mind). There are definite nods to Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, especially when it comes to sound design and score. There is a lot more eye candy this time around and the special effects budget was clearly bigger than on the first Thor film. The dark elves look like sinister Star Trek villains (and speak their own language), while the Kursed feels like a cross between the Balrog and Peter Jackson’s Uruk-hai. Many of the armor and spaceship designs are impressive as well. While I can’t say any of this stuff was completely unique, none of it felt overly derivative either. Suffice to say, the production design exceeded my expectations.
Sadly we cannot have a Thor movie that takes place entirely on Asgard without being connected to what’s happening on Earth as well. This means that we eventually end up back in London where there is another giant battle causing mass destruction in a major city. In my opinion, Thor is not that interesting to watch in action… he mostly just throws his hammer at everything. Although they try to do some creative stuff with teleportation in the final battle, it just feels sloppy. It doesn’t help that he is a god and it never truly feels like he is in danger.
The second act of the movie is easily the highlight, simply because it brings Thor and Loki back together. They find a great way to give the movie some emotional weight while also enabling the former adversaries to join forces. There is a true sense of unpredictability here and the stakes feel high. This is problematic, however, because the movie’s actual finale pales in comparison.
The movie has some nice touches of humour here and there, but a lot of the snappy dialogue gets a bit grating. (Joss Whedon supposedly did some touch ups on the dialogue, which is both a good and bad thing.) The interplay between Kat Dennings and her new intern falls into this category, as does Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The I.T. Crowd) who turns up briefly as an unfortunate guy attempting to date Jane Foster. Ironically, Thor does not actually seem to be a more compelling suitor as their romance contains very little spark, and it’s actually even harder to understand what Thor sees in her.
If you’re already a full-blown convert to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you probably won’t have any major complaints about this movie. It’s fun, it’s breezy, and it features characters you’ve grown to love. Still, aside from the production design and the visuals, it’s not all that memorable either. For me, Thor: The Dark World is an improvement on the first Thor film, but it still has trouble balancing the two worlds of Thor. What scares me is that eventually they’re going to run out of excuses to include Loki, and then just imagine how boring this would all be. — Sean
Recommended If You Like: The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, John Carter