Friday, November 29, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Director: Alan Taylor

Spoiler-Free Summary & Review:

Thor is back in Asgard, some time after the events in The Avengers. Thor is also spending time on the various other nine realms in order to pacify certain violent elements. As he dedicates his efforts to this, an ancient threat reemerges. The surviving members of the Dark Elves, a race that predates the creation of the universe, arise and are led by Malekith, who seeks to reacquire a substance known as “ether” – a purely evil substance that can inhabit and overrun nearly anything. The Dark Elves mount a massive assault on Asgard itself, laying waste to several parts of the main city and even claiming the life of one of Thor’s family. Thor enlists the aid of his traitorous brother, Loki, and the mortal friends whom he had made in the first Thor film. This group pursues Malekith and his collection of Dark Elves, in trying to prevent them from using the ether to cast the entire multiverse into utter darkness.

To give some context, I should be clear that I am a pretty big fan of this recent wave of “Avengers” Marvel films. Of the six “core” films in the ongoing series, I’ve enjoyed them all, to one degree or another, with the first Iron Man and The Avengers being the clear standouts. Though I didn’t think it was phenomenal, I did like the first Thor movie, also. So I was looking forward to this sequel.

Don't just stand there. Let's get to it. Strike a pose. There's nothing to it.Thor.

The movie does not start very well. For the first ten minutes, I was sure that I was in store for the weakest of the entire Avengers film catalog. However, it does pick up steam and gets moving well. I would caution any viewer to not expect an overly novel, intelligent, or tightly-plotted story. If you start thinking too much about it, there are certain holes that are never fully addressed. And the pacing of the film can seem a bit herky-jerky, especially in the early-going. The arrival of Thor, as he quashes a rebellion on one of the nine worlds, seems like an odd jump into the movie The Beastmaster, with a better budget. Hokey fantasy clich├ęs and bad jokes abound for a few minutes. But this is about as bad as it gets.

Some critics are citing their displeasure with the confusing melding of Norse mythology and science-fiction elements in the movie. I actually have no problem with this, as I like the concept of Asgard being a world rooted in medieval structures but incorporating an advanced hybrid of magic and science (as Thor explains in the first film). Most of the movie takes place on Asgard and a few of the other worlds beyond Midgard (Earth), which is fun enough. Some might find the hypercolor world a bit too heavy on the visual effects, but it didn’t really bother me.

Hiddleston's Loki smile is as welcome in the film as it is smarmy.

I’m far from the first viewer to consider Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki as an overwhelming strength of the film. The guy is great as Norse mythology’s ultimate trickster. And Thor: The Dark World actually adds some depth to the character. No longer is he a pure villain, as portrayed in The Avengers. In this film, we actually see more of what he was at the beginning of the first Thor film – someone who actually has a sense of family connection. Yes, he’s still the cunning deceiver with the perfect mischievous grin. But we also get a character who can feel loss and suffering, which pushes the story beyond the cut-and-dried bad son/good son dynamic that it could have been. Hopefully, the Marvel movie writers see fit to work Loki into some of the future stories, and Tom Hiddleston is willing to take on the role a few more times.

So Thor: The Dark World is good, solid fun. No, it’s not going to blow you away with its intellectual depth or creativity, but it is good fun for any fan of this type of movie.

Coming Soon: Retro Film Review! The Commitments (1991)