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New Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christopher Eccleston, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Alba, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jonathan Howard, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo
Over half of Thor: The Dark World's running time is spent on the title character's home planet of Asgard, and it's a good thing too, because it is one of the most gorgeously visualized fantasy realms I've seen in the movies. The original movie gave us only a glimpse of this majestic kingdom, spending most of its time on Earth in a barren town in New Mexico. Director Alan Taylor (TVs Game of Thrones) takes us further into it here, and with the help of his highly talented behind the scenes crew, he creates a luminous, enchanting, and fully realized world. For a special-effects extravaganza, Thor: The Dark World conjures up some truly breathtaking images. It's in the writing that the movie falls short.
The story this time involves a evil being named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the King of the Dark Elves, who plans to use an indestructible weapon called the Aether to destroy the universe once all Nine Realms make a rare convergence. He made an attempt before during the time of Thor's grandfather, but he was eventually defeated by the soldiers of Asgard, and was put in some sort of computer induced stasis, and has been ever since. When Thor's lady love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) somehow stumbles into another portal (located in an old warehouse in London) and gets infected by the Aether, Malekith awakens from his long slumber and decides to give it another go. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) tries protecting Jane by taking her back to Asgard, but when that fails, he is forced to team up with his conniving adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is currently doing time in an Asgardian prison for the crimes he committed in last year's The Avengers movie.
Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård reprise their roles as Jane's intern Darcy and her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig, although they're not given much to work with this time. Dennings isn't given much to do except spout off a lot of one-liners that fail to elicit so much as a chuckle, and her character actually gets more than a little irritating as the movie wears on. Skarsgård, on the other hand, embarrasses himself here, as his Dr. Selvig has apparently been possessed by something that makes him act nutty and walk around half-nude. In the earlier moments of the film, he's arrested for streaking around Stonehenge, and later he's seen giving a science lecture, with his hair all frazzled, at a psychiatric facility. These scenes are meant to be humorous, but they come across as forced, and Skarsgård is so over-the-top that it hurts to watch him.
If Thor's human companions are badly written this time, then the villain of the piece fares even worse. As a character, Malekith is about as one-dimensional as a superhero villain can be, and given the way Eccleston plays him, he's neither menacing or particularly memorable. There's nothing about the character that really stands out. The action scene he and Thor engage in during the climax is admittedly entertaining, as the battle shifts from planet to planet while Thor's hammer flies after them trying to keep up, but even then, he gets upstaged by the spectacle.
In fact, the same thing can be said for the movie overall. The screenplay, penned by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, is essentially a clothesline on which to hang the special-effects. There are very little human elements to keep us involved this time, and what little there is receives only scant development (like Thor and Jane's romance). The many stabs at humor fall especially flat, including the groan-inducing scene where Thor hangs up his mighty hammer on a coat rack upon entering someone's apartment (ha-ha!). The only character we find ourselves even remotely interested in here is Loki, who is just as devilish, if emotionally ambiguous, here as he was in the first film. He also walks away with the film's best joke, a bit that involves Captain America (I won't say any more than that).
One of the crucial problems with this film is that Thor is kind of dull this time. The reason the original movie worked so well was because of the way it developed him. In that film, Thor was an arrogant punk who was banished by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, back again) and stripped of all his power. In order to have his power restored and to get back in his father's good graces, he had to undergo a change of character, but since he completed that arc in the first movie, Thor: The Dark World isn't sure what to do with him now. Hemsworth is just as ruggedly charming as ever, but his charm alone isn't enough to change the fact that his character is kind of a bore here.
Oh, well. At least the movie is always a pleasure to look at. The film's opening battle scene contains a number of spell-binding images. The golden city of Asgard, with its towering spires and rainbow bridges, is wondrous to behold. There's a funeral scene halfway though, held at the shores as Asgard, that is strangely hypnotic. There's even an action scene involving Thor's mother (Rene Russo) that is surprisingly satisfying. Yet as good looking as the movie is, in the end, I found that I just didn't care about any of it. If you go to see it, here's what I recommend: Lower your expectations considerably, ignore the lame attempts at humor, shut off your brain completely, and just enjoy the beautiful images. It won't be as satisfying an experience as the first film, but you might end up having a decent time.
Final Grade: ** ½ (out of ****)
What did you think of the movie? :)
- Mark Reviews Movies: THOR: THE DARK WORLD
- Thor: The Dark World | Film Review | Slant Magazine
Superhero movies aren't going anywhere, nor is their standard, on-to-the-next-fight structure, so it's heartening to see a gem that grandly and amusingly fills in the blanks.
- Dustin Putman's Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013) - 2/4 Stars - Might technically be larger in scope, but it is also grindingly frivolous and pedestrian in the extreme.