Saturday, November 9, 2013

Review: Thor: The Dark World

The first Thor, it has taken me a lot of maturity as a filmgoer to admit, is not a very good movie. Not a bad one mind, just not a very good one. It’s got some good action and some good performances, but it’s mired by a weak script and some shoddy character work. It’s good then, that Thor: The Dark World is actually much better, still mired down by some of the same issues, but overall an improvement.

The plot is going to have you mostly lost unless you’ve seen both Thor and The Avengers, as it leans heavily on those two movies and doesn’t slow down much to explain it. Thor it seems has been on a bunch of missions to repair the damage Loki did in the first Thor, and true to Thor’s personality these missions mostly consist of him hitting shit with hammers (it seems his presence in The Avengers was one of those missions). But back on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman’s character…yeah her) has been looking for Thor and winds up accidentally possessed by the Aether, an ancient super weapon of some kind, which causes Malekith, the king of the Dark Elves, to come looking for it.

As with all superhero movies and Thor in particular, we’re mostly here to see Chris Hemsworth hitting things with a hammer, and this movie delivers quite a lot more than it’s more direct prequel. The movie is in quite a hurry to get to the action beats, and it’s quite understandable as they’re all quite well put together. The big final action sequence in particular is rather entertaining and inventive, for reasons I won’t spoil, and the lead in action beats are also a lot of fun. It was directed by Alan Taylor, best known for directing a bunch of episodes of Game of Thrones, and he does a good job, even if the color scheme is a tiny bit too reminiscent of Thrones, especially on...well the planet from Prometheus.

It’s just a shame that they had to eat into a lot of the story to get it. The movie is in such a rush to get to the action sequences that a lot of story and characters gets rushed or skipped entirely, which kinda hurts the emotional stakes. It also causes them to telegraph twists or chekovs much too obviously (a character shows off a previously unmentioned ability, gee wonder if that’s going to be important), which cuts the tension a bit. Oh and I guess the tone is a little jarring at times (what’s supposed to be a major character moment is undercut by being followed by a comedic sequence).

The other major casualty of this rushed approach is some of the minor characters. Some of the secondary characters are mostly just reduced to sitcom characters, a single sentence character sheet description defining them entirely (the most obvious one is Kat Denning’s Darcy, but Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Selvig, the Warriors Three and even Loki get hit by it too) and Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith is the worst off, basically just a generic psycho villain with nothing else going on.

Still as I said earlier, I like the movie and for more than just the action scenes. The acting is overall quite good, with Hemsworth still occupying Thor very well. Hiddleston and Hemsworth have a good back and forth during their inevitable teamup (Oh come on, that’s not a spoiler, it was in the freaking trailer). Natalie Portman is still obviously enjoying herself and while Kat Dennings’ hipster chick shtick has gotten old by the end of the movie, she gets a solid number of laughs, and all of the laughs in the movie are genuinely earned. It’s also got a fun aesthetic, with the often bizarre mixing of medieval and sci-fi, and while they can occasionally clash, the movie is highly committed to the aesthetic, which makes it feel more engaging.

Ultimately I don’t know what I can say about this movie. Reviewing the Avengers movies are largely pointless these days. If you’ve been enjoying the Avengers lead ins and follow ups, and Thor in particular, you’ll probably enjoy this and have, odds are, already gone to see it. And if you, for whatever reason, haven’t been enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, this isn’t the movie to change your mind. But for what it’s worth, I quite enjoyed Thor: The Dark World and if you’re reading this, it’s likely you will too.
Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he thinks it’s hard to take a villain seriously when he literally gets beat up by the main character’s mom.

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