Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thor: The Dark World Review

I loved the first 'Thor.' The story of a vain, arrogant and war hungry god having to learn of the strength in humility and the precious nature of all life was a gem that stood out in a summer crammed with prequels (X-Men: First Class) and origin stories (Green Lantern, Captain America: The First Avenger). Filled with gorgeous visuals, larger than life action, and touching insights into the human condition, Thor succeeded in hitting nearly all the right notes and aside from 'The Avengers' which I want to put in a whole seperate category altogether, it is still a pretty tough call between the god of thunder's cinematic debut and Robert Downey Jr.'s first turn as Iron Man for which one is my favorite Marvel studios film to date.
After having very much enjoyed 'Iron Man 3,' Marvel Studios' first film in it's post Avengers 'phase two" stage, I had very high hopes for 'Thor: The Dark World." Perhaps a little too high as it turns out.
While not a terrible movie, 'TDW' fails to recapture the charm, majesty, and out right sense of wonder that radiated from its predecessor. Unlike the first 'Thor' which, under the inspired and innovative vision of actor/director Kenneth Branagh almost every bit as much a shakespearean drama as it was a stylish and fun action adventure film, 'TDW' often feels like a clunky, plodding, by the numbers sequel, amping up the elements that worked well in the first movie but to little effect since the film, like its antagonists, the dark elves who want to return the universe back into a place of chaos and nothingness, ultimatley feels ill devised, overproduced, and hollow.
In the begining of the film, we learn that the nine realms have been plagued by war since the bifrost, a cross dimensional bridge allowing safe passage to and from worlds has been destroyed and marauders are using the opportunity to strike against Asgard's weakened defenses. Down in the trenches with his fellow comrades Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leads the effort to repel the vile forces that would seek to do harm against his home turf along with the other neighboring realms that fall under his protection as heir to the throne. With the worst offenders locked away with his half brother, Loki, in the dungeons of Asgard, the fiercest fighting seems to be behind him.
However, a threat of untold magnitude rears its pointy ears in the form of the Dark Elves, led by Maliketh "The Accursed," (Christopher Eccleston) who plans to annihilate all life as we know it with the obvious exception of him and his vampiric like race by harnessing the power of a mysterious antimatter/tomato soupy looking substance called "the aether." Through lengthy exposition we also discover that this is not the villain's first bid to wipe out all of creation, and that the aether can only be utilized as a cosmic eraser every 5,000 years when all of the nine realms align in an event called "the convergence."
Of course, were else would the aether be hidden than right here on earth/midgard, where Jane Foster, who is still in romantic detox after being seperated from her man/god at the end of the last film, comes across some wierd going ons in an abandoned warehouse across the pond and unwittingly becomes a key piece in the cosmic struggle that is about to unfold. As the threat level rises and the stakes reach an all time high, Thor is forced to seek out help from his traitorous half brother, Loki, knowing full well that he may be inviting a knife in the back at any given moment.
Despite my misgivings about the film as a whole, there were some components that I very much enjoyed. The primary two being Chris Hemworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. As Thor, Hemsworth once again does an outstanding job of making someone as seemingly unrelatble as a god completely relatable to everyday people. How can anyone not relate to someone who is crazy in love but saddled with obligations and the high expectations of work and family? As Loki, Tom Hiddleston once again turns in an unforgettable performance as the slithering, sarcastic villain you cannot help but like and hope will come around to good though he always has a dubious trick waiting up his sleeve.
I also liked that Thor's mother, Frigga (Rene Russo) had an actual role to play in this movie and was not just relegated to background scenery. Anthony Hopkins once again gives a good performace as Odin though in my opinion, his character came off as a little too cold at times. As Maliketh, Chris Eccleston has a pretty cool asthetic but his character is dull, uninteresting, and not as great of a physical challenge for Thor as he should have been. As Jane Foster, Natalie Portman does a good job conveying the emotional rigors of wanting a normal relationship with her man/god and how his cross dimensional galavanting complicates things a bit. Not to mention she looks georgeous but that is the subject of another blog.
I really wanted to like this movie and to its credit, it is quite a bit of fun, but not a whole lot more than that which is a bygone conclusion when a studio lets netting the largest audience they can take precedence over telling a good, meaningful story and making the best sequel possible.