Thor: The Dark World

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Thor was bad because so much of it was what Douglas Adams termed “a beautiful void” (speaking of Adams, the movie is also one of the better adaptations of his works); very good looking, but with almost nothing in the way of character development or plot. Sure, people are talking and moving around with haste, but for long stretches of the movie it’s never clear what they plan to accomplish.

Thor: The Dark World recognizes this problem in its predecessor, and addresses it by giving it an even thinner, less interesting plot that only serves as an excuse for a veritable toy box of a film – a combination of loosely connected performances, set pieces, scenes, locales and pithy lines that exist mostly for their own sake rather than to combine into any kind of story.

As such, this review will be on its terms, not mine, presenting a binary judgement of each of these items in chronological order, with minimal connective explanation from yours truly.

Rest assured, the fact that I’ve got my hands so full this month with Catching Fire, Frozen and Day of the Doctor all in five days has nothing at all to do with this.

TITLE

THUMBS UP: It’s correct – Thor is the main character in the movie, and the Dark World is a crucial location

THUMBS DOWN: Even worse than Star Trek Into Darkness when it comes to the endless parade of “dark” titles – Knight, Shadows, Of the Moon…uh, City, Crystal, Star…Souls…


The movie starts with an

OPENING MONOLOGUE

THUMBS UP: Feels more like a LOTR film than the Hobbit movies do

THUMBS DOWN: It’s also completely unnecessary, only telling us the names of the villain and the MacGuffin.


We also learn that Thor’s presence in The Avengers was part of a huge series of battles fought by Thor to create peace when he is to ascend to the throne (so, a Viking political campaign, I guess). This means that we’re headed for an

OBLIGATORY BATTLE SCENE

THUMBS UP: The Los Angeles Angels of Vanaheim (pictured above) are some great designs for movie monsters, Thor has a great professional wrestler style stage presence when he’s fighting, the battle is actually over pretty fast so we can get down to the plot

THUMBS DOWN: None of Thor’s buddies get any characterization for the entire movie, other than “loyal to Thor” and “Good fighters”


But none of them are as important as

CHRIS HEMSWORTH AS THOR

THUMBS UP: Sure, he looks and behaves like you’d expect a Norse God to, and they’ve toned down the fake Shakespearean english.

THUMBS DOWN: They made the right decision in not giving him an arc or development – there’s not much you can do with him.


His missions complete, he reports to his father, the dying King of the Gods

ANTHONY HOPKINS AS ODIN

THUMBS UP: He’s Anthony Hopkins

THUMBS DOWN: He’s not Brian Blessed


They have a chat, as we get long, languorous shots of

SPECIAL EFFECTS – ASGARD

THUMBS UP: We see more of it that doesn’t look as bad as all the Emerald City stuff.

THUMBS DOWN: All the Emerald City stuff still takes up a big part of the movie.


Over this, Thor and Odin talk about Thor’s girlfriend Jane. We check in on her and her sidekicks, who make up

OUR HUMAN CHARACTERS

THUMBS UP: Like the above, they show up less in the movie…

THUMBS DOWN:…and what does that being a positive say about them?


After some clowning around, they go back to their extradimensional research and discover

SPECIAL EFFECTS – SPATIAL ANOMALY

THUMBS UP: It looks a lot like Portal, which is always fun to see.

THUMBS DOWN: It’s heavily based around black sludge, which is rarely fun to see.


They mess around with this anomaly, which turns out to be a space alarm clock for

CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON AS OUR BAD GUY

THUMBS UP: The idea of being “Made of dark matter” is exactly the kind of pseudoscience I like to see – also, not giving him more backstory and motivation makes sense with how crowded this movie is.

THUMBS DOWN: He looks boring for such a crazy space guy – just your average pale, hairless, elfin dude.


He starts putting his plan in motion, which is noticed by

IDRIS ELBA AS HEIMDALL

THUMBS UP: Sure, he’s a cool Viking dude.

THUMBS DOWN: I don’t see why everyone was head-over-heels for the casting – it’s not hard for him to play a cool Viking dude.

He immediately takes Jane to Asgard-Plainsborough Teaching Hospital, where it’s discovered that she’s been infected with some black sludge that is

OUR MACGUFFIN

THUMBS UP: It’s a perfectly functional MacGuffin, and it does some cool stuff at the end

THUMBS DOWN: It’s exactly like all the other MacGuffins in these Marvel movies (I do have to give them credit for making them all part of the same collector’s item, though).


As this is going on, some lady who got a big paycheck and not much to do goes to tell this news to

LOKI

THUMBS UP: It’s Loki, folks – he doesn’t need an actor credit because he transcends and exceeds Tom Hiddleston.

THUMBS DOWN: I feel sort of sad knowing I share opinions with the Loki Army – it’s the same way I feel about stuff like Doctor Who, that means I can never really enjoy it as much.


This conversation is interrupted by

SPECIAL EFFECTS – ATTACK OF THE BAD GUYS

THUMBS UP: Looks great – the bad guys have some great art direction that interacts in fun ways with the Emerald City.

THUMBS DOWN: It still goes on long enough to feel like the “Nothing’s going on” parts from the last movie.


Thor, Odin and the Asguards manage to fight off the bad guys, but not after the bad guy kills the lady without much to do.

DEATH AND FUNERAL SCENES

THUMBS UP: Some fun crowd shots of all the gods, Asguards, and miscellaneous weird mythspeople.

THUMBS DOWN: See above, re. “beautiful void”, “going on too long”.


Asgard lies in mourning, and Thor realizes he has to go on a secret mission to fight the bad guys, and that he needs to take Loki. This leads to a

VIKING ROAD TRIP

THUMBS UP: The one-on one with Thor and Loki is what everyone came here to see, and it doesn’t disappoint.

THUMBS DOWN: There should be a better way to spread this buddy-cop dynamic out more evenly over the course of the film.


The road trip ends in the titular Dark World, where the brothers are quickly trounced by the bad guy’s forces. Loki “sacrifices” himself.

DEATH AND MOURNING SCENES

THUMBS UP: They’re placed at exactly the right point in the story to have the death almost – not quite, but almost – feel like it might be for real.

THUMBS DOWN: It’s mostly done in a wordless montage of sadness, which doesn’t do the film’s wallpaper soundtrack any favors.


Dejected, Thor has nowhere to go but his human pals. They haven’t gotten much to do, but now we find out that they’ve been studying the pseudoscientific effects of the bad guy’s attacks. They explain that a big final battle will happen in London.

TECHNOBABBLE

THUMBS UP: There’s usually some comedy going on to distract us from it…

THUMBS DOWN: This comedy is never very good.


The bad guys show up thanks to this pseudoscience – to be specific, the Portal physics returns, and a fight takes place as it constantly phases between all of the locations we’ve seen before, like those weird fights in Far Cry 3.

SPECIAL EFFECTS – INTERDIMENSIONAL BATTLE

THUMBS UP: It’s the definition of schlock, with all sorts of dumb yet hugely satisfying moments in it – London landmarks, people punching each other through portals, the military getting in on the whole thing, and so on

THUMBS DOWN: This lack of focus means it’s hard to understand or care what’s going on or why.


After all this outlandishness ends, Thor stops the bad guys by using the humans’ technobabble solution to strengthen the occult boundaries between worlds, drawing their power from the bad guy’s life force…at least, I think.

DENOUEMENT

THUMBS UP: It wraps things up, I guess, and it does in a way that implies we don’t have to see most of the human characters in the next movie

THUMBS DOWN: Most of it is a complete steal from previous Marvel movies, including having them all eating food in battle gear for no reason.


After everything is wrapped up, Thor has a final heart-to-heart with Odin, who smiles and reveals that he’s Loki in disguise!

TWIST ENDING

[NO IMAGE DUE TO SPOILERS]

THUMBS UP:It’s the plot equivalent of a jump scare – cheap but effective

THUMBS DOWN: It’s the plot equivalent of a jump scare – cheap but effective


POST CREDITS SCENE

THUMBS UP: It gave me an opportunity to get lots of obscure comic book trivia that I feel happier for knowing.

THUMBS DOWN: It’s such a blatant trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy that it barely has anything to do with the movie it’s still a part of.

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