Thursday, November 7, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW — THOR: THE DARK WORLD


While Thor: The Dark World is not among my very favorites of the movies produced by Marvel—I’d place it in the second tier, alongside 2010’s Iron Man 2—I found it to be an enjoyable film, with great action, high drama, well-placed humor, and strong performances all around. I must admit, in the wake of last year’s The Avengers and last summer’s Superman reboot Man of Steel, this sequel to 2011’s Thor feels just a wee bit derivative. But for the most part, it manages to overcome that with charm and likable characters.

Taking place about two years after the first film, with the events of  The Avengers having occurred more recently, the plot involves the re-emergence of an ancient race of beings called the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). They are intent upon plunging the universe back into the total unending darkness that existed before the dawn of creation. Their previous attempt was thwarted thousands of years ago by the Asgardians, under the command of Bor, father of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and grandfather of Thor (Chris Hemsworth). But when a long-lost weapon called the Aether is rediscovered—with human scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) directly involved—the Dark Elves set out to seize this source of power that will enable them to carry out their plans. With Jane’s life in jeopardy, Thor springs into action, determined to stop Malekith and his minions and save the Earth woman he has come to love and every other living thing in the universe. 

Like The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World depicts an Earth city (in this case, London) being invaded and attacked by Forces From Beyond. There’s a lot of mayhem and destruction as a result, with innocent bystanders in great danger. But Thor is facing the threat alone this time, which is how it echoes Man of Steel. However, unlike Zack Snyder’s Superman film, which was unrelentingly grim, serious, and even brutal during the super-powered showdown, The Dark World never loses its sense of fun. There are moments of levity and laughter amongst the doom and destruction, mostly provided by Stellan Skarsgård as Jane Foster’s hapless and eccentric mentor, Dr. Erik Selvig, and by Kat Dennings’s Darcy, Jane’s sassy unpaid intern. This time around, Darcy gets an intern of her own, a British chap named Ian, and really, there’s no compelling reason for either of them to be in the film at all—but they’re so endearing, and there’s such a cute payoff involving them—that you don’t really mind.

As the central villain, I found Malekith to be underwritten and underdeveloped, which was the same problem I had with Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger (though I enjoyed that film very much). 


Introducing Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves.

Fortunately, the presence of Tom Hiddleston as Loki more than compensates for any disappointment I may have felt about Malekith. I think Hiddleston—who seems to truly relish his role—is Marvel’s secret weapon, and I would argue that he has become nearly as important to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Robert Downey Jr. Hiddleston’s Loki remains the most complex, multi-dimensional, multi-layered, and well-developed of all the villains in the Marvel films and I hope we continue to see him for years to come. 


Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki, Thor's devious half brother.

The Dark World does what a sequel is supposed to do: it maintains tight continuity with what has come before, but it propels things forward and doesn’t shy away from shaking up the status quo. (Let me put it this way: don’t assume that every character who appeared in the first film is going to make it out of this one without a scratch.) Nearly all of the returning supporting characters are further developed and have something important to contribute—particularly Idris Elba as Heimdall, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, Rene Russo as Thor’s mother, Frigga, Hopkins as Odin, and Jaimie Alexander as Sif. 

In fact, there’s some key character stuff with Sif that is finally introduced here—I’d been waiting for it since the first film. It’s played somewhat subtly in The Dark World, but it’s there, and I was glad to see it. Hopefully it’s a hint of things to come in future films. 


Jaimie Alexander as Sif—more, please!


In the interest of saving you a few bucks, I can tell you that the 3D didn’t really add all that much to the viewing experience, so I recommend seeing the standard version. 

Oh—and as if you didn’t already know (it is a Marvel movie, after all)—stay to the very end of the closing credits. There are two extra bits, one during the end credits, and one after. The first one sets up future continuity, presumably that of next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, while the second one includes a cute little punchline to something that happens earlier in the film. 

Overall, Thor: The Dark World is thoroughly entertaining—very  good, not great—but would have benefited from a more fully developed central villain. I think that would have helped make it stand out a little more amongst the ever-growing crowd of superhero movies. Nevertheless, Thor’s return is promised at the end of the film, and I’m looking forward to seeing where his cinematic adventures take him next.     


© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2013.

5 comments:

  1. Dude, we bith wrote pretty much the same review: http://cinemiscreant.blogspot.com/2013/11/thor-dark-world-2013.html

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  2. It's fun, but then again, it's a Thor movie, so you can't expect much else. Good review Glenn.

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  3. Pretty much the same reaction I had, Glenn; the same points, though I was somewhat harsher. I give it a B-. --Chris C

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