Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thor: The Dark World

Directed by Alan Taylor.
2013. Rated PG-13, 112 minutes.
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth
Natalie Portman
Tom Hiddleston
Anthony Hopkins
Stellan Skarsgard
Idris Elba
Chris Eccleston
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Kat Dennings
Rene Russo
Ray Stevenson

Following the events of The Avengers, Thor (Hemsworth) finds himself back home on Asgard longing for Jane (Portman), the woman he left behind in the first movie. And since a superhero's work is never done, there's a new evil to deal with. This time, all the fuss is over something called the Aether, the evil force Malakith (Eccleston) was using way back when in his quest to rule everything. He and his top dawg Algrim (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) fled before being killed. The Aether was said to be destroyed, but was just hidden really well. Lo and behold, after however many years, Jane not only finds the stuff here on Earth, but it uses her body as a host. Now that the Aether is out in the open, Malakith will stop at nothing to get it back and once again try to conquer evertything. He makes things so bad for Thor that our hero has to turn to his arch-nemesis/half-brother Loki (Hiddleston) for help.

Like the previous Thor and even The Avengers, this is a movie about the relationship between Thor and Loki more than anything else. It is a formula that repeatedly pays dividends. First of all, Chris Hemsworth continues to be the perfect Thor while Thor himself continues to show growth. His maturation process from overgrown child to a man worthy of his father's crown has been wonderfully handled across three movies. Still, a perfect Thor is almost no comparison to Loki as far as intrigue goes. The writing of the character and the performance of him by Tom Hiddleston is pure magic. Without question, he is a guy we simply love to hate. The trick is we still have a trace of sympathy for him. At his core, he is a guy rebelling against his parents because he doesn't feel wanted, particularly by his father. The hurt that feeds his hatred always shines through. Those parents, Odin (Hopkins) and Frigga (Russo) are played excellently, as well. Hopkins shows us Odin's thorough disappointment in and disdain of his son while Russo lets Frigga's motherly approach work wonders even though we can see that she's being very cautious with him.


Secondary characters, especially the human ones, don't really add much. As the damsel in distress, Portman does nothing to prove that she is the only one who should play that role. In other words, while having someone other than Gwyneth Paltrow play Pepper Potts would be a major blow to the Iron Man franchise, swapping out Portman for someone else would hardly make a difference. Don't get me wrong, she's a wonderful actress, just not given much to do. Others are there almost purely for comic relief with varying degrees of success. The relationship between the two interns played by Kat Dennings and Jonathan Howard is hit or miss. The hijinks surrounding Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) is much more successful. It helps that he actually matters to the plot. Our uber-villain Malakith and top henchman Algrim give us pretty standard bad guys and aren't particularly memorable.

No matter how the rest of the movie comes together, or doesn't, it would all be for naught if the superhero stuff doesn't work. It does. When pulled into battle, Thor mightily wields his hammer. Just as importantly, the visuals back him up. Asgard looks beautiful and parts of it get destroyed quite nicely. The action involves lots of fisticuffs and spaceships and looks great. The best part is that while Algrim isn't the most memorable henchman, he is a formidable one and poses a real threat to our hero. Later, even Rene Russo impresses us in a fight scene, making us recall her days as part of the Lethal Weapon franchise.

Marvel Studios continues to bring us comic book flicks that strike a nice balance between taking their heroes seriously and providing a fun experience. It pushes the saga of their shared universe forward without relying as much on what happened in The Avengers as Iron Man 3. It's mentioned, but not the crutch upon which the entire movie leans. the ending feels like a cheat, but I'm sure we'll get some explanation of this later. Therefore, I'm willing to let it slide until a later film sheds some light on things. If viewing this as a stand alone, I can see how it would be a pretty big knock on the movie. As part of a series, as it is, it gives us something to anticipate.

12 comments:

  1. Great review! I really loved this film, but I agree Portman is pretty replaceable. I never thought she and Hemsworth had any chemistry together anyways. I did love Dennings and Skarsgard though.

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    1. Thanks. Portman and Hemsworth aren't exactly setting the screen on fire. Still a pretty good flick, though.

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  2. Glad you liked it! Hiddleston really is amazing in this role. Such charisma. The villain in this one is so weak and the memory of Loki being the big bad in two movies only makes him look worse. But i still enjoyed the movie, I love the romance between Thor and Jane, it's so sweet and her entourage is always bringing the laughs.

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    1. You're absolutely right about Hiddleston and about Loki stealing the thunder from this movie's villain. I'm not so big on what's going on with Thor and Jane, it lacks sizzle for me. Solid movie, overall.

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  3. I liked this one more than the first because it was funnier and we got to see more of a sensitive side to Thor as well as being more mature. Plus, more Loki.

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    1. They're really close for me. My initial grade for the first Thor is slightly higher, but it's dropped in retrospect. I wouldn't argue it either way.

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  4. I feel so out of touch that I haven't seen either of the Thor films. I really should buckle down and watch them :-P

    You have me interested.

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  5. I thought this movie was pretty funny, in addition to being just solid in general. Little to do or not, I would never replace Portman in anything.

    All that said...totally Loki's movie. Hiddleston is the man.

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    1. The sentiment on Portman is understood. I wouldn't be opposed to them just calling the movie Loki, either.

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  6. I wasn't taken with Thor and this sequel bored me even more. Jane and Thor have no chemistry. I can't see why they even supposedly like each other. One thing I like is Loki and Hiddleston is great as him. Next to Loki, Thor is so bland, just muscle man child. What is Thor without Loki? Which makes me wonder if they can ever make a Thor movie without Loki in it.

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    1. I did like both, but I'm with you on the whole Thor/Jane thing. A Thor movie without Loki would be a hard sell. They'd have to find another dynamic villain.

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