Film Review: Thor – The Dark World

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(2013) USA, 112 minutes

DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor | CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Kat Dennings | RATING: 2.5/5

THOR: THE DARK WORLD is the sequel the 2011 movie THOR. It is the third outing for the hammer-wielding crown prince of Asgard who also appeared in THE AVENGERS (2012). All three movies are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which refers to the movie continuity created by Marvel Entertainment. It includes Iron Man and Captain America and will include the forthcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014).

THOR: THE DARK WORLD has a fairly dull and unmemorable title. The Dark of the title reflects the involvement of its bad guy threat known as The Dark Elves. Turns out the Frost Giants of the first movie were not the lamest villains of the Nine Realms (a.k.a The Universe) it’s these guys. These naughty Elves want to kill Thor’s people the Asgardians. The Asgardians are portrayed as benevolent space knights, policing the Realms, maintaining order, stopping, frisking and profiling anyone who isn’t Asgardian. I may have made up the last bit.

In the olden times just after The Rolling Stones released their Steel Wheels album, the swarthy elves from Svartalfheim attempted to Destroy Everything and Make The Universe Dark. These guys are to the Nine Realms what the Tea Party is to US politics. Their leader, Malekith is like a deathly white, pony-tailed version of Ted Cruz. Their weapon of Mass Destruction was a cosmic power-slime known as the Aether. Luckily for all of us, the Dark Elves lost control of the Aether and they lost the war. Now thousands of years later, they are back in the ring to take another swing.

It’s all about timing, see. According to THOR: CITIZENS ON PATROL The Nine Realms are set to converge, thus bringing them closer together, thus requiring much less effort and energy to pass from one Realm to another. Enter astrophysicist and proponent of the Foster Theory, Jane Foster. She discovers the Realms are bleeding into each other. Yeah and she used to have a boyfriend from Asgard called Thor, but that’s not the main event here, people! Superhero movies cannot be about the ROMANCE! They’re about superhot beings fighting other superhot beings and BLOWING SHIT UP! KA-BOOM!

Sidenote: I guess someone could remake the movie of THE NOTEBOOK with superheroes and it would be about love, commitment, fidelity and not blowing shit up. I think it’s unlikely to happen because commonsense informs us that a male superhero is not great material for a monogamous relationship. Apart from Superman they’ve all got that rockstar-badass routine going on, they’re in better shape than an Olympic Village full of athletes and you will never be the centre of their attention. Captain Save-The-World doesn’t go missing for a couple of hours because he’s vaguing out at Bunnings, he’s  deactivating a dirty bomb at the U.N. And so it goes with THOR: THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD. It’s not really about Jane hooking up with Thor, which probably makes a certain type of fan breathe a sigh of relief, but it annoyed me. End of sidenote.

Thor’s family problems continue, his father Odin, is still the distant, controlling authority figure. They argue less frequently now, because Thor has evolved into a caring, modern warrior as a result of his hot, asexual triste with Dr Foster. The stepbrother Loki who went through a fascist phase in THE AVENGERS: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS is still pissed off at his brother and dad. He seethes indignantly in an Asgardian cell waiting for his revenge.

Thus is the stage set for a battle of unparalleled fury. Not since the last one of these Marvel movies has the threat been so menacing, has the universe been more in danger, have the stakes been so high.  You may find the familiarity of this set up makes portions of the film rather predictable.

The Dark Elves are not sufficiently well drawn to represent a threat. I also found most of the Asgard scenes rather dull visually and in terms of the story. The high ceilings, great halls and golden glow of Thor’s home have the feel of a glitzy mausoleum. Actors dress in faux armour, affect British accents and employ pseudo Olde English to create a yawn-inducing world of shining boringness. As in the first movie, the scenes back on Earth play with more snap.

There are things to like about this curate’s egg of a movie. It’s good to see Kat Dennings back as Darcy and Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig. Renee Russo gets a couple of nice moments as Thor’s mother Frigga. (Apparently her time in the first movie was scaled back after editing). Chris O’Dowd from the IT CROWD has a pleasing comedic cameo. CHUCK’s Zachary Levi takes on the Errol Flynn-like character of Fandral (of The Warriors Three). He replaces Josh Dallas who had to complete his commitments on ONCE UPON A TIME. Hiddleston’s Loki remains a very entertaining creation. Watching him interact with Hemsworth is still great fun.

I wasn’t sold on this film, but I enjoyed myself more than I didn’t. After finding the first two thirds of the movie intermittently engaging, I was pleased to discover the last third was solid. The big climactic battle is executed with wit and humour to undercut its computer-generated been-there-before-ness. THOR: I AM…SASCHA FIERCE more or less defies criticism. Certain fans will give it a pass because of its Marvel-ness. They should go immediately to their local multiplex and pay for a ticket. If like me, you aren’t a Marvel fan, then you may find as I did that this sequel is not the equal of the original.

I rated the original THOR 3/5.

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