Marvel is starting to become this generation Star Wars and Indiana Jones in their popularity and box-office tallies. A unique quality of those movies is that when one in the series isn’t very good it’s hard to accept it or even judge it on the same level as other movies. Like any of those movies I recommend Thor: The Dark World, even though I don’t really want to.
This most recent outing of the godly surfer Thor (Chris Hemmsworth) doesn’t continue off from where The Avengers left him—mush like Iron Man 3 did for Tony Stark—but instead poses more of a sequel to the 2011’s Thor. Normally this would be okay for what is technically Thor’s second solo outing, but considering the gravity of the events in The Avengers there seems to be a gap of information.
Aside from that, there’s a lack of development in Thor himself. Despite a glorious entrance on the battle field, bashing monstrous-looking villains (done with real make-up, not CGI. You heard me right, folks) he spends most of the first half of the movie moping around spouting ho-hum dialogue like “I thank you for your sword and your council, good lady” when someone gave him advice. You would think going to America would alter he vocabulary a bit.
At least he gets to mope around Asgard, which is more physically explored and richly detailed. The production designers did a fantastic job of creating realistic environments, some of which we have never seen before and expand the knowledge of the greater Marvel Universe.
Back on Earth Thor’s lady love, Jane (Natalie Portman) is given something productive to do when she finds a magical substance known as Aether, and is thrust into his world. The villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) plans to use this red stuff to pair with an astrological event known as The Convergence and turn the Universe into a realm of darkness. I’m not sure how it works, but it reminded me of the plot of Disney’s Hercules, which was quite good.
As for that villain, it’s hard for him to compete when Loki (Tom Hiddelston) is still slithering around. Malekith’s stoic brooding is no match for his charm and unpredictability. But Loki has been the dominating antagonist the last three times, so maybe a legitimate physical force was needed to break up the ice a bit. That’s fine I guess, Malekith can stare and stomp his way throught the scenery all he wants—Loki is given the best, most surprising scenes anyhow.
While watching Thor 2 I couldn’t help but see a startling resemblance to an earlier superhero flick: The Wolverine. Both movies feature characters we’ve come to love over the last few years (but haven’t really progressed thematically) that are gigantic physical presences, require some deeper exploration, have messy and lacking stories, but most importantly could benefit some truly groundbreaking detours. The Wolverine had that moment when they initially took away his power of healing, but then coped out by giving it back so he could walk his way through the climax. Thor 2 has that moment when Loki shockingly cut off Thor’s hand. It was an amazing and brutal development for the future of the franchise and even very Shakespearean. Unfortunately, it was all a trick against the villain and Thor remained healthy and untouched just in time for the finale.
This could’ve been the defining moment of the movie, the one to make up for all the half-assed story-telling and shifting tones from spectacle to fish-out-of-water humor. Not only would this have been an extraordinary development for the Thor franchise, but even future Avengers movies. Tony Stark lost his power source in Iron Man 3, Thor loses his arm, and Captain America loses his faith in America when he sees Honey Boo Boo and 72 ounce sodas. They become a disheveled group of heroes who must find other means of saving the world. But, just like The Wolverine, the people behind Thor 2 thought it’d be better to have their hero in tippy-top form, unchanged.
On top of all this, there is surprising lack of detail from director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones). Numerous scenes feel rushed and unfinished while characters and objects jump from set piece to set piece without any real explanation for how they got there. One second they are on a ship in the middle of space and the next they are in a group of people on another planet. Not to mention a scene where Agard gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) notices an invisible ship very easily sneaking into the kingdom, hoping they aren’t noticed. All I could was being said in the ship was, “Hope he doesn’t see us, hope he doesn’t see us, crap, he saw us. Go! Go!”
However, no matter how much wrong there is with Thor: The Dark World, I kept coming back to that whole Star Wars/Indiana Jones comparison. Even though Star Wars had Episodes I and II, and Indy has Crystal Skull, I will never in my life not want to watch those movies. The overall mythology and gravitas of the characters and settings will always spark the passionate movie goer in me. And that’s just what these Marvel movies are doing for me today, even ones like Thor 2. It’s without a doubt the second weakest post Iron Man movie (Incredible Hulk takes the bitter cake), but I can’t say it’s a bad movie simply because even though it squandered an immense opportunity the overall presence of Thor and Loki and the whole Marvel Universe are too engaging to hate. They have become a new Achilles Heel for me…those bastards.
That being said Thor does not get a recommendation from me just because of the universe it plays into; the honorable use of set design, make-up and all around more grand set pieces do the job of expanding the world that surrounds the Marvel Universe. Not to mention fine performances from Hiddelston and Hemmsworth, who does the best he can with the lacking material. Though it’s a lot like The Wolverine, it’s much easier to enjoy, and therefore recommend. This may just have to be the one chink the Phase 2 chain. But they really should have done a better job at hammering in that chink….yes, consider your joke quota for the day filled.