Movie Review: Thor – The Dark World (2013)
Out in theaters now is Marvel Studios’ latest addition to The Avengers universe, Thor – The Dark World. Without Kenneth Branagh at the helm for the second go around, Thor pivots away from the pseudo-Shakespearean lilt of the first film in favor of a lighter tone, while doubling down on the action. The all star cast of the first film returns, with the only new comers being the villains. While sporting its share of silly comic book movie tropes, Thor manages to make lightning strike twice.
The action of the film centers around another Asgardian grudge match against evil intruders from another realm. Gone are the Frost Giants, but in their place we get the Dark Elves, a sparsely explained race that preceded the creation of the known universe. These beings detest the light, and wish to return everything to the uncreated darkness. To do so they harness a magical weapon, the Aether, which can destroy the worlds. Odin’s father intervenes with the nascent military might of Asgard, and the Aether is stolen from the Dark Elves leader, Malekith, who retreats into deep space with the surviving members of his species.
Generations pass, and the Aether is hidden away from even the gods of Asgard. Loki has been imprisoned for his mischief from The Avengers movie, and Thor secures his reputation as the all-around heroic type by bringing peace back to the 9 realms. Well, it doesn’t last. Thor‘s physicist girl friend, Jane, stumbles upon the Aether while attempting to find a bridge between realms so she can sex up the thunder god. It possesses her, and Thor must bring her to Asgard to determine the nature of the trouble she is in. No longer hidden between realms, the Aether calls to the last surviving Dark Elves, and well, they want their toy back, please and thank you. In dire straights, Thor must team up with his evil half-brother Loki in order to stop the end of the universe.
Norse Goes South
The movie succeeds where it stays fun and airy. Little story is devoted to fleshing out the evil Elves, who are pretty much generic baddies attempting to blah blah blah take over the world. The film hops between worlds rapidly, making any attachment to the setting impossible. Indeed, most of the action of the film takes place in a drab and rocky wasteland, though Asgard itself is quite beautiful. Each world visited is merely for plot convenience, and at some points the planes-jumping becomes quite silly, like when the heroes are stranded on the above mentioned mud ball planet and just happen to wander into the one cave where they can travel between the worlds. Cause it was raining out. And it was the only cave with cell phone reception. I’m not kidding.
So, Shakespeare it is not. A story of Norse Mythology it ain’t, either. When Branagh left, he apparently took all of his notes on Nordic myth and culture with him. This is clearly a comic book movie plot by the numbers. Unfortunately, its been done before…in The Avengers. Don’t see Thor expecting astounding new insight into the epic movie genre.
Good for a Laugh
What saves Thor from its silly script is the fact that it is a ton of fun. While not boasting the best choreographed action out there, it makes up for it’s shortcomings by tenaciously clinging to humor at every chance. Chris Hemsworth is not the most eloquent actor of our generation, but he is affable and easy on the eyes, and doesn’t stand around brooding all day like Henry Cavill in Man of Steel. His group of loyal warriors, including Ray Stevenson, are sarcastic and jocular, bringing a sense of gaiety and fun to the action sequences they share, without falling into campy hijinks like a bad episode of Xena Warrior Princess. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is basically stealing the entire Avengers franchise away from whatever cast you put him in with his devilish antics. If they make a third movie, they can just cut to the chase and change the tittle to The Amazing Adventures of Loki.
As far as acting goes, the script wastes much of its talent. Anthony Hopkins is rarely given much to do, except dress down his unruly children.
Natalie Portman feels like a place holder in the script which read “insert pretty actress here.” She’s given little motivation, and her portrayal of a scientist is cringe-worthy, culminating in dropping jargon at random intervals while waving around “scientific equipment” that looks like it came from Radio Shack.
Rene Russo is obviously chomping at the bit, which is a crime since she not only has a wonderful rapport with Hiddleston’s Loki, but also has the best fight scene in the whole movie, laying a mountain of whup-ass on Malekith. Can I amend my suggestion above to The Amazing Adventures of Loki and His Bad-Ass Mother?
In the final accounting, I couldn’t help myself but enjoy Thor – The Dark World, despite all of its short-comings. I wanted to dislike this movie, but found myself carried along on the witty banter and mindless action. The pacing whips you around and keeps you aloft, hiding the film‘s flaws from your critical mind until the ride is all over. It’s the definition of a summer popcorn flick, only shifted three months forward into the colder months. I guess that’s kind of Norse then. Kind of.
[schema type=”movie” url=”Deluxe Video Online” name=”Thor The Dark World” director=”Alan Taylor, James Gunn” actor_1=”Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston ” ]