Review: Thor: The Dark World
PLOT: With Loki (Tom Hiddleston) safely locked away in the dungeons of Asgard, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his warrior comrades Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fendral (Zachary Levi) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) can set about uniting the nine realms. With their work almost complete, an ancient enemy, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) - ruler of the Dark Elves- returns from exile to take over the realms with an ancient evil force called the Aether, which happens to be on Earth and possessing Thors love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
REVIEW: Marvel Phase Two continues with THOR: THE DARK WORLD, which like IRON MAN 3 and now AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D continues to deal with the fallout from the Battle of New York that was featured in THE AVENGERS. Considering the scope of the series, its kind of unique that rather than try to outdo THE AVENGERS, were instead getting a series of stand-alone movies that are more focused on developing each of the heroes independently of their super-teammates than trying to come up with bigger and better action sequences. The only downside to this is that while arguably IRON MAN 3 was conceived on the same scope as AVENGERS, its clear that if those were A-Marvel movies, this latest THOR is more of a B-yarn.
Unlike the first THOR, which set the majority of the action on Earth, much of THE DARK WORLD is devoted to Asgard, with not only fan-favorite Heimdall (Idris Elba) the sentry having a more prominent role, but also a lot more screen time for Anthony Hopkins as Odin and especially Rene Russo as Thor and Lokis mother Frigga. If the makers of THOR seemed reluctant to delve too deeply into the fantasy aspects of the Thor universe, thats NOT the case here (although like the first film, the 3D is unimpressive). More than any of the other films, THE DARK WORLD plays out like a sci-fi fantasy. Its maybe not STAR WARS or LORD OF THE RINGS caliber, but if you think of something like KRULL youre not too far off.
Director Alan Taylor, a veteran of GAME OF THRONES, seems comfortable with the far-out, fantasy-action elements of this universe, even if the action scenes start to blend together after a while. Similar to the first film, its the fish-out-of-water element of the story that proves to be the most memorable part of the movie. In a reversal of the first film, now Jane Foster finds herself the outsider, being taken to Asgard and meeting Thors folks. Its nice to see Portman get a little more screen time, and her chemistry with Hemsworth is strong as usual. Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård have smaller parts this time, with most of the action taking place in other realms than Earth until the big action climax. One thing thats immediately obvious is that the humor has been dialed-down considerably from the first film, with THE DARK WORLD being more serious fare, although Chris ODowd has a funny cameo as one of Janes potential suitors.
For his third go-round as Thor, Chris Hemsworth is charismatic as usual, even if the character, with his God-like powers cant help but be the least interesting (for me anyways) of The Avengers. There are a few funny nods to Hemsworths new heart-throb status; with a funny bit on a London tube opposite an amorous fan of his (I also love all the Londoners taking photos of Thor on their cell phones now that hes a superstar after the battle of New York).
If Loki was the more interesting character in the first THOR, and memorably chewed the scenery in THE AVENGERS, Tom Hiddleston once again steals the show in THE DARK WORLD. An early twist sees him and Thor being allies, and Hiddleston manages to somehow make you like the mischievous, if evil Loki. Surely thats the sign of a good villain. By contrast, Christopher Eccleston is bland as Malekith the elf, with very little of the surprisingly short 112 minute film devoted to his villainy. Similarly, the Warriors Three barely get any screen time here, although theres a brief mention of Lady Sif having designs on Thor, while Zachary Levi proves himself more than capable of filling in for Joshua Dallas as Fendrall.
Still, THOR: THE DARK WORLD cant help but feel a little familiar (although I suppose Marvel would call it consistent). Like the other non-AVENGERS movies, it feels like just part of a build-up to AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, rather than its own stand-alone movie. Certainly the fans will enjoy it, but with all the movies Marvel is pumping out (not to mention the TV series and One-Shots) franchise fatigue cant help but set in a bit. Luckily, a teaser for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY that pops up mid-way through the end credits makes it seem that the Marvel Universe may be getting a unique new addition in a few months that should shake things up a bit (THE WINTER SOLDIER also looks very good, although the new five minute teaser was not attached to the version of DARK WORLD presented at the press screening). Until then, this new THOR will obviously tide everyone over, and even if its not especially memorable, its always enjoyable.
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