Review: Thor: The Dark World
An ancient evil is awakened when some incredible power is happened upon by the casual girlfriend of the one God who has to take up the fight. Typical. A heinous elf lord wreaks havoc on Thor, his family, and kingdom, all while strange anomalies are taking place on Earth, with Thor’s love Jane Foster, at the center of it all.
In case you missed it the first two times on the big screen, Chris Hemsworth is Thor, a Norse God living in Asgard alongside Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Idris Alba, and Jaimie Alexander. Natalie Portman is his human love interest, and her team of scientists includes Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard. And will there be a cameo or two? Who can say!?
It is not with a breath, but perhaps a cyclone or tempest of fresh air that director Alan Taylor brings to Thor: The Dark World, a film starring one of the two more problematic franchises in the Marvel superhero universe (the other being Captain America, fate to be determined in Spring 2014).
The Norse God is after all mostly brawn and beauty, described by his mischievous sibling as ‘witless,’ and not especially interesting on his own, unlike say Tony Stark aka Iron Man, who can have conversation with a robot or even just himself and still be entertaining.
Following his two-hour introduction in 2011, directed with a heavy hand by Kenneth Branagh, Thor here, along with a colorful assortment of characters given much more to do, is allowed to simply have more fun. It is after all, a story about gods battling demonic elves as worlds align and some special energy is up for grabs, with some astrophysics thrown in for good measure.
Even though we have to go through the obligatory myth-telling as the film begins, one that recalls The Lord of the Rings, Taylor and company rightly make this a film about the characters and their ever-changing relationships, and not necessarily about whatever test they have to face.
Those first few moments in the film are tense – not because of the actual conflict waged on screen (it is oh so familiar but thankfully not as esoteric as it could be), but because for a moment it seems that once again, the cocky Adonis of a hammer-wielding hero will be given a laboring story filled with moral conflicts and Shakespearean infighting.
It disappears quickly, and with Thor’s first dramatic introduction there is a sense that his character has been fully figured out. Of course he should be shown running, jumping, and attacking some bad guy in slow motion with his golden locks flowing in the wind. He then needs to make a quick barb, slay a giant, and then be seen with his shirt off. As all of that is what the audiences wants, and that is what Thor is about.
It’s not to be confused with superficiality, however. Some of the most fascinating parts of this sci-fi film dressed up as a romantic superhero adventure are its subtleties and humanistic banter, especially between Thor and his imprisoned brother Loki, who like so many others, is given room to have fun and liven up the screen.
Loki, who famously beset New York City with a barrage of alien marauders in The Avengers is given a quiet, furnished cell in which to bide the rest of his lengthy existence. That is until, his services are required by Thor and company, as Asgard becomes the target of an evil albino elf that is especially groggy from an eternity of slumber.
The worlds Thor is sworn to protect are in jeopardy too, but perhaps more importantly to him, the life of Jane Foster, his star-crossed lover, is in the balance. She and her merry band of scientists – the familiar and suddenly kooky Erik Selvig and Darcy, the funny/obnoxious hipster intern who now has an intern of her own (how ironic), happen upon an ancient energy. It consumes Foster, beautifully and terrifying, and thrusts Thor into action.
The mythology doesn’t especially matter though, as Taylor avoids falling into too many convoluted traps. He keeps the visuals stunning and arresting, brightening up the luminous Asgard and creating an eerie space in the Elves’ dark world. The powerful sought-after energy appears as blood red wisps, almost sentient, and perfectly creepy.
While luring you in with visuals – and even offering some earnest moments of love and despair, what sets Thor apart most from its predecessor is that it’s genuinely and surprisingly funny, especially in the third act when the film threatens to exhaust the audience before a lengthy climax. To be sure, it’s laugh out hysterical in some moments, whether it’s the repartee of Thor and Loki, the latter’s playful holograms, or the former’s continued fish-out-of-water status on Earth. Even Kat Dennings is funny before become insufferable.
It is a finale too that avoids recent blockbuster pitfalls, making sure that the finish isn’t just about leveling buildings and cranking up the noise, and not trying to pretend that every single moment has to be of grave seriousness.
This second entry into the Thor franchise is handled with conviction, holding serving following the deserved successes and praises of The Avengers and Iron Man 3. Far more satisfying and enjoyable than the first, Thor isn’t as trimmed as it should be, but offers more heart, humour, and perspective than expected – and maybe deserved.
Should You See It?
Well yes, and of course stay through the credits – all of them. You wouldn’t want to miss the exciting…well, you’ll see.