Thor: The Dark World Review

A SEQUEL IN THE DARK WORLD


 

Another movie review from my old blog that has come to light. Enjoy! Whether by Odin’s Beard or by Thor’s Hammer, 2011’s Thor, a fantastical “Fish Out of Water” tale that is part fantasy, part science fiction, part mythology, and part superhero film had its skeptics and naysayers, but ultimately prevailed over them at the box office; so much so that the movie’s two lead actors (Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston) reprise their roles as Thor and Loki in the unprecedented superhero team-up film Marvel’s The Avengers that following year. Now, with Marvel studios (and Disney) rolling out the Phase II saga of their MCU, Thor returns to Midgard (Earth) for another cinematic adventure with Thor: The Dark World. With a new director at the helm, is the next chapter in the mighty Asguardian tale worth seeing or should the film be permanently exiled to Svartalfheim (The Dark World)?

THE STORY


Taking place after the events of both Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Asguardian army are trying to bring balance to the Nine Realms and restore order under Thor’s father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) leadership. At the same time, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is still a little bit distraught over Thor’s departure from the first movie, accidentally stumbles upon a primordial power source called the “Aether” that takes refuge within the young astrophysicist. This action triggers the awakening of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his contingent of Dark Elves who’ve been from sleeping for eons, waiting for a sign of the Aether’s hidden location. Fearing for Jane’s life, Thor reunites with her on Earth and brings her to Asguard in an attempt to find way to remove the Aether from her. However, it’s to no avail. With Malekith desperately searching for the Aether that is inside Jane and to use its powers to plunge the Nine Realms into eternal darkness, Thor must seek out an uneasy alliance; placing his trust in his now imprisoned and traitorous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

THE GOOD / THE BAD


While some didn’t like the whole “fish out of water” aspect in Thor, I personally did. It also made it interesting with the whole “Shakespearean” conflict with Loki (alienation, sibling rivalry, and betrayal). Plus, I’m a fan of mythology, so it hearing stuff from Norse mythology (names, places, gods, etc.) was pretty cool to see and infused into a modern day superhero movie. So yeah, I did enjoy Thor with much joyous fun. Besides that, I am a big Marvel movie fan (especially with all these installments for the MCU). So when they released the trailers for Thor: The Dark World, I was uber excited. After seeing the movie, I felt that Thor: The Dark World, while not as poignant as its predecessor, is still an effective superhero movie that helps expand Marvel’s growing cinematic universe.

Director Alan Taylor, most notably for directing several episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones, takes a more grandeur approach to the mythological superhero film in its scope and in its ambition. Rather than being bounded on Earth for majority of the first film, The Dark World journeys to other worlds within the Nine Realms, offering viewers more to see (and awed over), while also expanding Marvel’s universe to the cosmos. You can also get a sense that the movie has a “bigger” budget as visuals effects more frequent and tad bit smoother. This is abundantly clear when viewer’s return to the world of Asguard as it seems much more “alive” and “fantastical” than in the previous feature.

For the most part, the story in The Dark World is straightforward and plays to the classic troupes of fantasy movies and (more recently) superhero films (a powerful relic, the resurface of an ancient evil, the damsel-in-distress, an epic “visual” final confrontation, etc.). As a side-note, the movie does keep the MCU’s ongoing continuity, with the central conflict dynamics between Thor and Loki carrying over from the first film as well as mentioning the “Battle of New York” from Marvel’s The Avengers. Apart from its expanded locales classic narration of heroes and villains, Alan Taylor also revamps the action sequences to be more intense and fearless than in the first one. Even the musical score for the movie, composed by Brian Tyler, is cinematic pleaser, filled with rousing themes and melodies.

Unfortunately, The Dark World has that “sequel” syndrome that plagues a lot of franchise. Meaning that the movie doesn’t quite raise the bar in either the “Thor franchise” nor in Marvel’s MCU. It’s a good popcorn fun for a superhero flick, but it’s not as impactful or strikingly poignant as it was in the first film. The movie’s narrative has some bumps that aren’t smoothed out, creating several “plot” holes here and there that comes at the expense of “overstuffing” the feature with key characters, a loose “McGuffin” object (The Aether), and the cosmic level event (The Convergences). While director Alan Taylor expands upon the action and the idea of world building into the movie, he takes away screen time from the minor characters of the story. With a running time of just under two hours, the film could’ve been longer; giving more time to shine upon the film’s side characters (most notable in the “Warriors Three”) who seem more developed in the first movie rather than this movie where there of little importance for brief comic relief or to move the plot forward at various points.

There’s even a sort of love triangle between Thor, Jane, and Sif is sort of created and would’ve been interesting to see it play out, but this idea is never fully realized and is quickly dropped and forgotten.  Speaking of Jane, the little chemistry that Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth had in the first film, is still realized in the Thor: The Dark World. There’s simply not enough substance for her and her character of Jane Foster to create in the allotted time given, resulting in a weak love story narrative. As for the central villain of the film, Malekith isn’t really that intimating as villains go and is sadly a weak antagonist to pit against the mighty Thor. To me, Christopher Eccleston is a great actor, but the audience doesn’t really get to see that with the little screen time he gets and with his faces buried beneath the heavy prosthetics as he never truly reaches a well-rounded villain, but rather a flat, archetype “baddie”. I mean coming off of such a charismatic villain such as Hiddleston’s Loki, any villain would be flat and boring.

Chris Hemsworth returns the mighty god of thunder and recaptures that same character persona of a man, albeit a godly one at that, who is still trying to forge his own path in the universe while also dealing with matters of the heart. Like his character, Hemsworth is not “a fish out of water” when returning to the role to Thor (thanks to his appearance The Avengers) as he seems more comfortable in the godly superhero persona and the character is more confident and heroic (not as cocky and arrogant). Sharing the spotlight (and who practically steals the “thunder” from Hemsworth) is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. The central villain of both Thor and The Avengers returns and does a masterfully job of bringing the same charisma, smooth talking trickster god character that makes him outshine other that share the same scene with him. You just simply love to hate him and that’s what makes a good villain.

Much of the supporting cast from the first film reprise their respective roles (with the exception of Josh Dallas who is replaced by Zachary Levi in the character of Fandral), bringing a sense of familiarity of old acquaintances rather than wasting time to introduce a slew of new ones. As I said, the Warrior Three (Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun) and Lady Sif don’t have a strong presence in the movie than in the first Thor movie, but they’re still presence, offering up overall continuity and fun bits (still wish they would expand upon them). The same goes for the watchful “guardian” Heimdall, played by Idris Elba. Seasoned actor Anthony Hopkins also reprises his role as the Odin and continues to bring a sense of theatrical weight to the feature. Like the others, he’s character isn’t as impactful in The Dark World, but is still great as the powerful “Allfather”. Interestingly, the character of Queen Frigga, played by Rene Russo, has more screen time than in the 2011 movie. Back on the Earth, Kat Dennings Darcy and Stellan Skarsgard return and bring their comedy angst with Darcy and Dr. Erik Selvig as well as the newly appointed newcomer “intern to the intern” Ian, played by Jonathan Howard.

Also, (this might sound stupid, but maybe this just bothers me), where is S.H.I.E.L.D in all of this? Ever since Marvel’s Phase two movies began, there has been a physical absence of the organization in both Iron Man 3 and The Dark World and are only regarded by name only in a couple of scenes. I understand that they have their own TV show (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) and know that one of their episodes will take place after the events of this movie, but you would think a secretive organization that deals with the strange and abnormal crises on a regular basis would show up at any point of this movie and help out Thor and Jane in some way. Building on that idea, where the rest of the Avengers at? I know they have their own movies and stuff (and filmmaking legitics), but still a “sizeable” event that occurs on Earth and none of them show up to  help Thor and his friends. (Come on, Man!).

Finally, there is the secret easter egg that comes halfway through the film’s credits. I won’t go into great detail, but this particular scene has a dual purpose. First, it bridges this movie to another Marvel movie that is due out next summer (Hint: Guardians of the Galaxy), while the second further plants the seed in a story thread that began in Marvel’s The Avengers that will potential lead into future Marvel movies. There is another easter egg at the very end of the credits and though it’s not as important as the first one, its still a cute scene.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Hemsworth’s Thor returns to the big screen to battles against the evil Malekith and the all-powerful “Aether” in Thor: Dark World. Director Alan Taylor second installment for the mighty Asguardian god expands the mythos of its chief character and its nine realms as well as expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t capture enough of the spirit (less character development, a weak bad guy, uneven story complexity) to fully surpass the original movie. However, along with plenty of actions and better visuals, the film does deliver a satisfying sequel that will please most fans and moviegoers. Given everything that has been said and speculated, it’s safe to assume that Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role as Thor in the next superhero collaboration in 2015’s Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but what about Jane Foster, Darcy, and the other denizens of Asguard? Will Marvel Studios green light a third installment for Thor is this the last time viewers will journey to the land of Asguard and beyond? Here’s to hoping that we get to see Thor 3 sometime in the near future.

 

Update 6/30/16: As many now know, Thor 3 was “greenlit” by Marvel Studios, titled Thor: Ragnarok, which will be released on November 3rd, 2017. So far, Hemsworth, Hopkins, Hilddeston, and Elba have signed on to return, while newcomers will be introduced, including Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk.

3.8 Out of 5 (Recommended)

 

Released On: November 8th, 2013
Reviewed On: November 9th, 2013

Thor: The Dark World  is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content

 

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