Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World is strong on story and action and enhances the characters of some previously under-developed folks. It’s got fun dialogue as well.

It doesn’t have quite the spark and heart that the first one had, but it’s still solid entertainment.

You will like Thor: The Dark World if you had fun at:
Thor
Iron Man
Marvel’s The Avengers
The Amazing Spiderman

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released November 8, 2013

Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Don Payne, and Robert Rodat. Based on the comics by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby.

Directed by Alan Taylor

Starring Jaimie Alexander, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Tadanobu Asano, Anthony Hopkins, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Stellen Skarsgard, Idris Elba, and Chris O’Dowd.

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Thor (Hemsworth) first came to Earth, meeting Jane (Portman), Darcy (Dennings), and Eric Selvig (Skarsgard) and working with them to stop Loki and other baddies from taking over the world. Then he left, promising his beloved Jane that he would return.

But the Bifrost (the bridge between realms) was destroyed in the battle with Loki and Thor couldn’t return, although he did show up in New York City with the other Avengers a while back.

Now Thor has been trying to bring peace to the nine realms, along with his compatriots Siff (Alexander), Volstagg (Stevenson), Fandral (Levi), and Hogun (Asano). After finishing one major battle that opens the film, they think they’ve achieved their goal.

But the Convergence is coming– a time period in which the realms are very close and portals and the like open up between them. These portals cause laws of physics to go haywire on Earth, and Jane– ever the curious scientist– goes with her intern Darcy to investigate one. She stumbles through one of the portals, encountering a seething red/black substance called Aether. She is possessed by it, and this awakes some real baddies: the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Eccleston).

These creatures want revenge on Asgard for the destruction of their planet, and they go right to it, wreaking great havoc and bringing lots of death to Asgard, at the same time that Jane is there with Thor after he went to find her. See, he’s been keeping tabs on her through Heimdall (Elba), but when she encounters the Aether, Heimdall can’t see her. So Thor goes and gets her.

Now Jane is going to die if the Aether doesn’t get out of her, but the only person who can get the Aether out is Malekith, and we don’t want Malekith to have it because it will make him unspeakably powerful and then he will proceed to destroy Midgard (Earth) and Asgard and probably more realms. Besides, Malekith is already ruthless and very powerful– he strikes at the very heart of Asgard with almost no effort.

So Thor has to get Loki’s help– and Loki has been in an Asgardian jail cell for a while now. These two can’t trust each other, but it sure is great to have them together.

So while Thor is trying to stop Malekith, Jane and her colleagues find a way that might make Malekith vulnerable and actually help save the realms. With all kinds of great visuals and solid set-pieces, we get an extended and very cool showdown.

Critique

Thor: The Dark World tells a solid, complex story that is driven by people following their hearts and getting into trouble or making deliberate trouble because of it. It’s a good, satisfying story. What would make it more satisfying is more risk for Thor, less overacting for Anthony Hopkins, more scenes between Loki and Thor, and a greater understanding of Malekith and the Dark Elves.

Highlights abound, however. There is some great humor, some of it very finely tuned and timed. Tom Hiddleston knows Loki through and through and steals every scene that he’s in. Portman can do better work than this, but she is frankly not given enough to do. Her moments with Dennings are delightful, though. Skarsgard is just great. His fragile hold on sanity makes him all the more interesting. Eccleston doesn’t get enough screen time, but he is menacing and great also.

The production values are high, of course, and the pace is wonderful- the movie feels shorter than it is, which is always a good sign.

A little more heart, a little more time spent for some characters, and Thor: The Dark World would have been the equal of the first installment. As it is, it’s worth your time and money.

Content warnings: Some minor salty language, plenty of wham-bang-destructo comic violence.

Writing: 4          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 4

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Thor

First off, I saw Thor in 2D. I have yet to see a film in 3D and hope to keep it that way.

Overall impression is that it deserved to be #1 in the country for a couple weeks. It’s a very entertaining film, it satisfies most fanboy/girl needs, and does not take itself too seriously (hear that, Transformers franchise?).

Here are the deets:

Released May 6, 2011 (It is this year’s Birthday Flick)

Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and 6 others (oy! usually a bad sign)

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh (Yes, Mr. Shakespeare himself.)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Stellen Skarsgard, and Kat Dennings

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Thor is the story of a god who isn’t really a god, really. Or of gods who aren’t so much deities as they are incredibly powerful beings that are basically mighty humans living in a city built not on Rock and Roll but on science and magic. They are vain and selfless, jealous and sharing, benevolent and evil.

So they’re essentially superheroes. The film treats them as a different species of creature called Asgardians.

As most know, the world of Thor is taken from Norse mythology. We have a rainbow bridge, frost giants, a bunch of gods, one that rules the gods (apparently as king), and a line of succession- along with battles and stuff too. This movie starts with Thor, a young and reckless godling, being groomed to take over for his dad, Odin. He has a brother, Loki, and the two brothers are very devoted to each other.

Or so it seems.

The Asgardians are at war with the frost giants, although there has been a fragile peace for some time now. When the frost giants make a surprising incursion into the Asgardians’ realm, Thor recklessly leads his pals on a vengeful strike on the frost giants. Cool action set-pieces ensue and we see that Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, is pretty freaking awesome. Because of this foolhardy attack, he is banished from the gods’ realm and is sent down to earth. Odin places a ward or something on Mjolnir so that only a worthy person can wield it, and that whoever wields the hammer will have Thor’s power.

Mjolnir ends up stuck in a stone. Nice archetype there, writers.

Portman plays Jane, a scientist who is studying… something important. It involves stars, the sky, and maybe weather. She and her team, played by Stellen Skarsgard and Kat Dennings ( whose comic timing is excellent ), encounter a power-bereft Thor in the middle of a storm.

Thus begins Thor’s journey through mortal life, through which he, the outcast, will learn and grow and ultimately sacrifice himself for people whom he has grown to love.

Nice archetype again.

Meanwhile, Loki is up to some pretty slick tricks as he usurps control of Asgard. We find out that there is much more to Loki than meets the eye and his machinations are nicely motivated. Loki is played very well by Tom Hiddleston.

A story of power-grabs, a mighty being forced to become humble and inspired by admiration of Natalie Portman, I mean Jane, and people giving it all up for love ensues.

This is a well-crafted and well-told story. The effects do NOT (listen up Transformers) usurp the place of character and story. Each character is well defined, and each character that we care about must find a way to change in order to overcome the central conflicts of the story. The movie, as can be expected from getting this fundamental right, is thus very engaging. It helps that Hemsworth really found a way to get to the heart of a being who starts out as justifiably full of himself, but who finds that he has a long way to go to be worthy of admiration and power.

The people feel real. It is actually from the realism of the characters that much of the excellent humor flows. Kat Dennings is a champion, by the way. She gets some great moments.

And of course, there is a love story. I don’t mind a good love story, and you know that Thor and Jane are going to end up falling for each other, but this is a weak area. To be fair, Thor sees Jane being determined, vulnerable, and kind- which can be appealing. And she’s Natalie Portman. But Jane sees Thor being bumbling, arrogant, and apparently deluded. They have a nice moment as the 2nd act comes to a close, but you need more of those kinds of moments to inspire the kind of devotion that results from their interactions. I wanted more development there, but as I’ve thought about it, this really is a minor critique.

I won’t give away any of the crucial catharses or epiphanies, but I will say that you’ll want to cheer a little when Heimdall does his thing.

There are a lot of reasons to love this film. It’s wonderful to look at, willingly laughs at itself, cooks along at a nice pace, demonstrates excellent craft when it comes to storytelling, is nicely acted, and hits the emotional keys deftly. I really liked this movie and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like it.

Pens (writing): 5

Cameras (acting): 5

Screens (the entire experience): 5

 

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