The latest Marvel epic, Thor: The Dark World, is severely lacking in connective plot tissue and logic, but is highlighted by a steady dose of laugh out loud moments which make the film a mild success.
Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) takes over the director’s chair in place of Kenneth Branagh, and brings a distinctive feel and energy to Asgard. The realm of Thor feels like a place that one would like to walk around and explore, rather than a made up universe that has little personal quality. Despite all the nerdgasms had by Thor maniacs due to pure fantasy in the original film, one always desires at least a tiny bit of reality that help can help move the narrative along. Asgard brings a sense of calmness to Thor: The Dark World, even if Odin (Anthony Hopkins) isn’t quite convinced that his son Thor, the Big Swingin’ Hammer, is ready to take over the throne. The only alternative option for the King of Asgard is the menacing Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but Odin has him locked up and left to rot. Quiet drama slithers the streets of Asgard, but Thor roams his land with a cool confidence devoid of any macho posturing or arrogance. He speaks calmly with the locals and treats them with respect.
Thor is no stranger to mild heartbreak, and his scientist love interest Jane (Natalie Portman) is now working in London and waiting for the Great Hammer to touch her once again. The London storyline is surprisingly hilarious, even if its purpose is only to show how Jane contracts the mysterious Aether. That’s right, off all the people in the world it is Jane who comes across the very thing Malekith, the villain, is looking for. The supreme leader of darkness and his Dark Elves speak in their own language and have existed since before the beginning of the university. Odin narrates their story at the beginning of the Thor: The Dark World, and details how the Aether was buried and lost long ago. The plot becomes a bit ridiculous when Jane happens to stumble across the substance in an abandoned building. Despite all this madness, the opening London scenes provide many laughs due to the pure likeability of Jane’s intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her quirky humor. She also has her own intern, Ian, and you can’t help but cheer them both on. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the appearance of Chris O’Dowd, who plays the potential love interest of Jane. The oddly smooth-talking gent is aware that Jane’s scientific heart may belong to someone else who wields a huge hammer. wisecracks have excellent comedic timing, and it would be great to see a storyline with him and Darcy. Overall, the early London scene is highly flawed but sets the stage for the comedy found through Thor: The Dark World.
Die-hard fans often seem to focus on the pure spectacle and technicalities of the Marvel flicks, which are indeed important, but at the heart of the Thor: The Dark World is a story of sibling rivalry. Thor wants to trust his brother Loki, but is well aware of the trouble that he can bring. The film is always better when Loki is on screen, and the constant zingers take it to a new level in the second half. Several visual goofs come at the expense of Thor, and it’s clear that one can truly never know what Loki is up to or what his intentions are.
The comedy of Thor: The Dark World is always on point, and emotionally powerful scenes come as a surprise. Asgard looks amazing during a moving funeral procession, and the judgment of the Odin makes the family stakes seem significant, even if the universe could be destroyed at any moment. Thor travels back and forth from Asgard and is clearly happier when with Jane. However, he sees the bigger picture and must protect all so he can mend his personal relationships.
The performances are nothing special, but Tom Hiddleston is the exception as Loki. He owns every scene and the oddball humor and comedic timing will surely please audiences. The character seems a bit over the top compared the more controlled Thor, however one could argue the dynamic makes them the ideal double-act of comedy for future Marvel flicks.
Chris Hemsworth is the perfect Thor and comes into his own in Thor: The Dark World. The honorable demeanor and subtle swagger makes the character highly likeable and the voice is quite amazing. Thor seems to be in his own personal realm most of the time, and it would be nice to see Hemsworth bring a bit more depth to the role in future films. Thor walks around valiantly among his friends in Asgard, but the relationship with Jane feels contrived.
Kat Dennings and Chris O’Dowd bring the funny with every scene they are in, however actors such as Rene Russo (Frigga) Anthony Hopkins (Odin) and Idris Elba (Heimdall) are all quite average in dressed-up roles. Thor’s fellow fighter Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is intriguing not only because of her looks, but because she could be a potential love interest for Thor. A brief, menacing glance at Jane on Asgard hints at the idea. Oh, and Stellan Skarsgard (Erk Selvig) is psychologically damaged and has his pants off for most of the film.
Thor: The Dark World is a fun time and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The film is logically flawed, but it’s not the latest Scorsese flick – it’s a Marvel blockbuster so just have fun and make sure you stay through the credits…all the way to the end.
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