By Lvenger 5 Comments
I finally got the time to watch Thor: The Dark World yesterday and have decided to spend part of my evening writing this little old review on it since I haven’t blogged on a topic in a good long time. The first Thor film was fun but could have used some tweaking on certain aspects of it to make the film a more well rounded experience. And before watching the film, the trailers made the sequel seem like just the ticket. Now I will be discussing SPOILERS to varying degrees in this review so if you haven’t had the chance to watch Thor: The Dark World and don’t want to be spoiled, I would recommend scrolling no further.
Of course, if you don’t give a toss about spoilers, I’ll begin my review. The movie starts in exactly the same way the first Thor film did ie a Antony Hopkins narrated introduction of who Malekith, the villain of the piece is, what his plan was and how Asgard, led by Bor came into conflict with the Dark Elves over their plans for darkness and power via the Aether, an unlimited source of destructive energy. This does set the tone of the film up well and it does make the conflict that’s about to come seem epic but it is a repetitive derivative of the first film’s intro and brings up a problem about Malekith which I will expand upon later.
As for the film’s plot, it isn’t anything special but it’s easy to follow and is paced well throughout the film. The discord in the Nine Realms is a good way of highlighting the impact the first Thor movie has had on them all without Asgard to supervise them all and it’s a good place to tie up loose ends from the first Thor film. For what it’s worth also, Jane, Darcy and the intern’s intern (can’t remember his name) were tied into the story quite well as they went looking for Thor based on anomalous readings resulting in Jane being possessed by the Aether. I found it to be a relevant way of working Jane and the supporting Midgardians into the overall story. From there, we get Jane being taken to Asgard, the return of the Dark Elves and Thor being forced to team up with his treacherous half brother to seek out Svartelfheim and destroy the Aether. It’s not a bad plot at all in my mind but of course, it isn’t going to win the best awards for screen writing. There are suitably placed points for character development, action sequences, humourous gags, plot developments and shocking twists I never saw coming. So in terms of pacing, it’s much more well rounded than the first film was at crafting an overall cohesive plot.
Another short note on Thor’s plot/themes is its greater use of a ‘grounded’ so to speak perspective of the mythology of the Nine Realms. I think this is why Taylor was brought in as in his Game of Thrones directing, we saw a deft balance between the splendorous high courts of King’s Landing to the downtrodden everyday activities in Winterfell. A similar approach is attempted in Thor: The Dark World as Taylor gives us a more grounded view of Asgard. There are more scenes set in ordinary barracks, ‘halls of merriment’ as I shall call them and everyday streets of Asgard. Not to mention that Vanaheim and Svartelfheim are given their appearances in the course of the film. It’s a strange balance between a broader and yet also a more localised view of the Nine Realms. As for the sci fi/fantasy mix, it seems like a strange combination yet, given that Asgard is seen as possessing more advanced technology than magic, it is visually impressive to see pimped out Viking boats fly around and cannons firing. Plus the dark technology of the Dark Elves works well in contrasting them from the Asgardians in technology and thematically fitting with the film. Another great way the mix works is in the funeral scene of a certain group of fallen Asgardians, including Frigga who’d been killed by Kurse. In that scene, the Asgardians are given a traditional Viking funeral of burning ships that is quite touching to see yet once they move out into the sea of stars, their bodies evaporate and become part of the universe. Aesthetically, it’s beautifully moving. Of course, there is the problem of Asgardians bringing swords and shields to a gun fight during the Dark Elf attack which doesn’t go too well for them honestly.
Now onto acting. Again I have similar things to say about it really as I have been throughout this review. Hemsworth plays a much more mature Thor who’s more responsible and noble with a hint of bravado and charm from the first film making a pleasant mix in characterisation very reminiscent of Aaron’s portrayal of present day Thor. Portman does an able job as the female lead of the film though she could have used more confidence in her delivery at times. Kat Dennings and Chris Dowd from American and UK sitcoms respectively bring some excellent light hearted moments in this film in which there are plenty and their presence is much appreciated by me in the laughing department. Hopkins brings his brand of kingly authority to Odin once again blended with some excellent grieving and despairing emotions over his wife’s death and losing sight of what the Dark Elves are capable of. He manages both quiet and conflicting scenes very well. But the star of the show once again is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Hiddleston exudes sinister malevolence in his portrayal of Loki that moves forward from how he acted in The Avengers and produces a maniacal and unpredictable performance that is both funny and disturbing at the same time. Yet he also brings a great deal of complexity to the role evident in his reaction to Frigga’s death spiralling him other the edge and masking his true feelings on the matter. Not to mention that a certain betrayal and um, parting words scene brought a great dichotomy to what Loki truly feels about the situation in the movie.
Clearly, superhero films make action sequences a big part of their focus and this film is no exception. We get plenty of fight scenes from the LOTR inspired Asgardian clash against the Dark Elves in the introduction to Heimdall being a badass in bringing down a Dark Elf ship on his own. But I’m going to focus on two specific spoilery ones. The first is the best of the fight sequences from the film IMO, meaning the Thor and Loki vs Kurse fight. Kurse’s purpose in this film is basically the attack dog, not gonna lie but in that action sequence, I was absolutely 100% fine with that. The Kurse fight was brutal, tense and packed with epic clashes between Thor, Mjolnir and Kurse. Thor’s raging attacks lashing out against Kurse’s brutality made Kurse seem like an absolute beast. When he knocked Thor away like a fly, lifting a massive boulder like it was a book or when he started beating the snot out of Thor gives you the propensity (to quote a friend) to think “oh ****” because it looks like Thor might not win. Kurse is just that brutal and that dominating in the fight. Oh and visually it’s so awesome to see two powerhouses go at each other only for the villain to be double teamed and blinded into losing the fight in a neat way. Secondly, there’s the climatic Thor vs Malekith fight. Admittedly it doesn’t end as awesomely as the Kurse one does, it’s a bit anti climatic actually. But what it lacks in finality it makes up for in inventiveness and ingenuity. The portals to the Nine Realms are now closer than ever and Thor and Malekith bounce between the realms in a creative and actually rather funny way. This gag is also played out well in the attacks of the Dark Elves on Jane, Selvig and Darcy rather humorously. Additionally, Mjolnir gets separated from Thor and is involved as part of the gags in the final fight too as it keeps zipping around to home in on its wielder. It’s surprising to see such a high stakes battle contain a good amount of levity in it. One can say it detracts from the seriousness but there’s nothing wrong with this in my eyes.
Speaking of humour, this is actually one of the funniest Marvel and comic book films to date IMO. The humour is not sacrificed for the serious plot and antagonism posed in this film. The humour works for a number of reasons from performances given by Chris Dowd and Kat Dennings to the context of the humorous scene such as a hilarious cameo from a certain Avenger and Thor hanging up Mjolnir on the coat rack when he enters the apartment. Arguably, it may be overused but there were regular chuckles and laughing in the theatre over the gags in the film so if you’re entertained, I don’t see the problem in the use of humour.
Of course, I’ve been mostly positive about this film but there are several major weaknesses in it. First and foremost is the antagonist of the piece, Malekith the Accursed. Honestly, we never see much depth to Malekith at all. The intro establishes him as wanting to cover the universe in darkness and gain ultimate power. And that’s it, nothing changes in the film. Malekith is only made a threat in the film through his actions in the plot and his attack dog Kurse whose basic role is just that, Malekith’s brutal enforcer. We don’t see any reasons or motivations for what Malekith does, he does it just because he wants to with no ultimate goal or foresight at all. It is a weak portrayal of a formidable Thor villain which is really a shame because he’s portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, a very capable actor. It would seem the prosthetics of Malekith he has to wear coupled with speaking in Dark Elvish for most of his appearances limited Eccleston’s ability to give Malekith any distinctive characteristics or reasons why he’s truly evil.
The second criticism I shall make is the remnants of an abandoned love triangle dumped in the film in favour of streamlining the Thor/Jane romance. There are remnants of a possible love triangle between Thor, Sif and Jane and it was hinted that there would be such a triangle in the film in multiple interviews. Yet all we get is cryptic references and certain scenes which don’t lead anywhere and have had to be kept in for time that would have been used at providing a love triangle in the film. Abandoning this development has removed a potential area for interesting tensions between these 3 characters which would have balanced out well if executed correctly. Yet all that is for nought in favour of keeping the Thor/Jane romance. Whilst that is attempted to be fleshed out more, there’s still no real reason for the flame between Thor and Jane and the relationship between these two character doesn’t really go anywhere, similar to the first film’s romance not building up to anything particularly meaningful.
Thirdly, Thor’s Asgardian supporting cast is delegated to minor roles in this film and that really is a shame. Sif and the Warriors 3 presence in the first Thor film gave personality to the realm of Asgard via their interactions together. But here, the Warriors 3 and Sif are demoted to being mere decoys for Thor, Jane and Loki’s escape from Asgard. That’s it. No grand purpose, no real development, nothing significant like that. Rather, all they’re used for is a lackluster distraction and we don’t even get to see Sif fight off Asgardian soldiers unlike Volstagg and Fandral. Still, at least that’s better than Hogun being dumped in Vanaheim in the first 20 minutes (Does Hogun even originate from Vanaheim? He’s an Asgardian right?) Obviously, this lack of balancing between the roles the Asgardian cast plays in the film hampers one's enjoyment of it greatly since their appearances are essentially nothing more than glorified cameos.
I could nitpick even more but I’ll draw it to a close here. So my final view is that I enjoyed it for what this sequel was worth. Was it anywhere near perfect? No, absolutely not. Was it a really fun, well rounded film that improved on most of the errors of the last one and actually respected the source material? Yeah it was. There are stale areas such as the romance, the villain’s motivations and the lack of fully providing important roles for every member of the cast, especially the Asgardian ensemble. But I enjoyed myself watching Thor: The Dark World. It’s a worthy and enjoyable sequel to the original that makes improvements on what came before. And sometimes, that’s all one can ask for in a film.
Final Score: 8/10 (just)