Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Movie Review - Thor: The Dark World

Thor has had a pretty good run in theaters over the past couple of years. In 2011 he had his own film which I generally enjoyed. In 2012 he came back to light up the screen with his lightning again as a central member of the Avengers team. And now in 2013 we have Thor: The Dark World. I went into this Thor sequel with many of the same fears I had going in to Iron Man 3. Specifically, would it be possible to return to a franchise with just a single super hero after having had a blockbuster film in which that super hero was part of an over the top team? In other words, could Thor 2 be an adequate follow up not only to the first Thor film, but also to The Avengers. From the trailers, I wasn’t entirely sure.

The film starts out with a few minutes of backstory as we learn about a race of Dark Elves who literally live in a world of darkness and centuries ago created a weapon (the Aether) which, if used at the moment when all of the realms of the universe are aligned (the Convergence, could plunge the universe into the complete darkness that existed before any “let there be light” moment way back when. Odin’s father apparently fought in the war to defeat these Dark Elves and take control of their weapon. Unfortunately the weapon was too powerful to be destroyed so it was hidden deep away in some undisclosed location. The Asgardians thought they had utterly destroyed the Dark Elves so they weren’t too worried. Naturally they were over confident for the leader of the Dark Elves cloaked his ship in some sort of invisibility shield and then he and his crew placed themselves under a deep sleep to be awakened when the next universal alignment is imminent.

Fast forward to 21st century Earth. We’re quickly reacquainted with Jane (played by Natalie Portman) and her intern Darcy (played by Kat Dennings). I like both of these actresses and was especially pleased to see Darcy getting a lot more play in these first few scenes (she’s even hired herself an intern). There was a lot of very cheesy and quirky banter between them as they investigate strange phenomena in London in search of a way to find Thor. Naturally the Convergence of the realms is about to happen. This is creating wormholes of sorts and all sorts of physics-defying anomalies. Jane and Darcy stumble across one of these anomalies and Jane manages to get herself into trouble.

Thor, meanwhile, has been battling for peace all across the universe but instead of celebrating and enjoying life he frequently checks in with Heimdall to vicariously spy on Jane. When he learns that there’s a possibility that Jane is in danger, he whisks away to Earth to find her. Upon seeing the nature of the problem he then brings her back to Asgard, much to the chagrin of Odin. At the same time due to the arrival of the Convergence, the Dark Elves have awakened and are on their way to Asgard. They arrive shortly after Jane and there’s a big battle with all sorts of explosions and popcorn-blockbuster-movie special effects. Thor comes up with a plan to save the universe but more importantly (to him) to save Jane. Of course the plan relies on Thor being willing to release Loki from his cell and trust him to help save the day.

Up to that point the movie had been fun and rather entertaining. Once Loki starts getting his screen time alongside Thor, the humor and fun stepped up to a new level. Loki and Thor just have a great chemistry and work very well together. They both seem to be having a ton of fun with their roles. Loki is as mischievous as ever. In spite of his rotten side he is played out as a sort of tragic hero and the audience is given plenty of opportunities to try and sympathize with him and to root for his success.

As the movie progressed, the plot grew increasingly thin and unbelievable…but hey, it IS a comic book movie after all so we’re supposed to ignore those distinctions (my biggest question was why Thor, Loki and Jane are all alone when fighting “big bad”…where were Odin and company?). The plot was just good exciting comic-book sci-fi fantasy adventure. Plenty of running, fighting, exploding.

In the first Thor movie, the main character development focused on Thor learning what it took to be a hero. I felt like the main character development in this movie was around Loki and his place in the world. And yet, because of Loki’s duplicitous nature, it’s difficult to adequately read his motivations and to get a good idea of what he’s ever planning from moment to moment. His sly grin suggests that he has things planned out well in advance. As a result he often takes us by surprise and keeps us off balance. All in all, I felt myself rooting for him as much or more than Thor. I was glad he had a good sized role and I am very curious to see how his plans play out in the future.

As with other Marvel movies there is a stinger once the credits roll. Two stingers actually. The first stinger happens partway into the credits (similar to the one at the end of Avengers) and actually presents a significant plot element to come in the overarching story of the large series of comic movies that are happening. The other stinger is after all the credits roll and is just cheesy fun to keep the crowd happy and smiling.

All in all I really enjoyed Thor 2 and thought it did a good job of following in the path laid out by Thor 1 and The Avengers. It is definitely an action-adventure film and it pulled back a bit from the grandiose scale laid in The Avengers while still maintaining some great action sequences. It also had some great heart and nice character development and fun intrigue. Frankly I thought it was a better Avengers follow up than Iron Man 3 and I ended up liking Thor 2 as much as the first Thor. So if you’re looking for a good fun super-hero adventure, give Thor 2 a try.

4 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

nice...fair review...i actually enjoyed thor 2 more than i did the first one...and you are right its a comic book movie so you expect some of the over the top...

and def has me waiting on guardians now too..ha