Thor: The Dark World Review

Posted: November 17, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

thor-073113-1Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Since 2008’s Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a consistent source of solid entertainment. None of the films have been truly transcendent, but even the worst have some strong elements and the best of which are a lot of fun. Next to The Avengers, Thor is my favourite film in the Universe and also the film that sold me on the idea of these films being a universe. What stuck out about Thor was the unique setting which helped set it apart from other comic book films. I’ve looked forward to returning to this world and now Thor: The Dark World is here to bring me back.

The film opens with a prologue taking place thousands of years ago, as Odin’s father leads the Asgardian’s against the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith plans to use an ancient power called Aether in order to destroy the universe. However he is defeated and he and what remains of his people go into hiding. The Aether is too powerful to be destroyed so is hidden. Cut to the present and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is tracking strange anomalies. In the process, she finds the Aether thus triggering the return of the Dark Elves and putting the Universe in danger. Naturally, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must save the day.

The first half of Thor: The Dark World is problematic to say the least. I was a bit annoyed when the film opened by dumping exposition on me, and exposition regarding a lame and one-dimensional villain no less, but the first film opened similarly so I hoped it could rebound soon. And they do. We then travel to present day Asgard, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) being punished for his crimes while Thor and his allies attempt to restore balance throughout the nine realms. It’s nothing special, but it’s fun and interesting. However the film takes a nose dive quick when it shifts focus to Jane and Darcy (Kat Dennings) on Earth. These scenes are pretty lame and are also filled with horrendous attempts at comedy. Things do improve in the second half, mostly due to some solid action scenes and Loki becoming a more prominent part of the film. But that excitement quickly fades way when you realize this all supports a pretty bland and uninteresting villain scheme.

I mentioned the film’s failed comedic elements, but that really doesn’t do justice to how badly they hurt the film. Comedy is perfectly fine for movies like this; in fact the first Thor had a lot of comedy. Except there, the comedy felt natural, never overstayed its welcome, and was consistently amusing. In Thor: The Dark World, it couldn’t be more opposite. The comedy is extremely forced, won’t go away, and is rarely funny. I don’t want to sound like some fun hating grump, after all I laugh at Tony Danza, but the jokes here just fall flat constantly. What’s worse is the comedy will often come in immediately after serious moments, throwing off the tone entirely. I will give the film some credit. Loki has some fun lines and the film does have two really good jokes, one being an amusing sight gag and the other being an unexpected cameo. These moments work, but they don’t make up for so much laugh-less gags.

The cast here is also problematic. Most of the principles, Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Anthony Hopkins, are fine, but beyond that things get dicey. Kat Dennings role from the first film is expanded here and she’s all kinds of annoying. In fact she’s largely responsible for the film’s lame comedy. Worse still is Stellan Skarsgard who’s given embarrassingly stupid material to work with. Speaking of embarrassing, let’s talk about Natalie Portman. I’m a big fan of Portman, and I liked her in the first film. Her character and her relationship with Thor were nothing special, but she was likable and a fun personality. Here, she is given almost nothing to do except make doopey eyes at Thor. This is an Oscar winner we’re talking about here. She deserves better than this. The last major role is Christopher Eccleston as the villain Malekith. He’s boring and does nothing special, moving on.

Where the film earns most of its points is in the action scenes and some of the visuals. Though the action here is never truly awe-inspiring, the set-pieces are a lot of fun and certainly have a larger scale than the first film. I especially enjoyed a scene of Thor and his allies performing an escape of sorts and the climax which involves portals and gravity distortion is pretty creative, even if it gets messy and has some more irritating comedy thrown in. I also still really like the look of Asgard. It does still feel artificial, but the design itself is cool, particularly the fusion of Norse mythology and sci-fi elements.

I might be more forgiving of the film’s many flaws if they had been tied to some ambition or risks on the part of the filmmakers, similar to how I give Iron Man 3 a lot of credit for the chances it took. But the fact is as a film, Thor: The Dark World plays things rather safe, its shortcomings not a result of misguided ambition but instead poor storytelling. If this were early in the Marvel Cinematic Universe I might have been less harsh, but being the eighth film of the series in a genre that’s already oversaturated brings higher expectations, and Thor: The Dark World fails to deliver.

D

Comments
  1. ianthecool says:

    Kat Dennings still isn’t as annoying as she is in her TV show…

    I felt much the same as you, especially with the humour and tone issues.

  2. brikhaus says:

    Interesting review. You make it sound good. But I’m so sick of the Marvel cinematic universe at this point., I’d rather not see it. Obviously, they are a business and are going to pump out the movies for as long as they are possible, but I’d love it if they took a break for a while.

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