It’s Hammer Time
In the Marvel movie hierarchy, Thor is a middle of the pack hero. With a limited skill set and a heavy Shakespearian style storyline, the Nordic looking hammer wielder doesn’t have the heat of the true Avengers star, Iron Man. Back in 2011, I gave the original Thor a rather friendly 80% due to the likeability of star Chris Hemsworth and the interesting far off space world of Asgard. Thor: The Dark World, directed by HBO alumnus Alan Taylor, fixes some of the problems from the original movie but with every step forward, he takes another step back. The end product delivers more of the same with different tasty ingredients to make it worth trying again.
In the opening back story sequence, we learn a race of creatures known as the Dark Elves were at war with Asgard eons ago. Lead by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the plan was to cast the nine realms into darkness using the Aether, a mystical CGI generated liquid that oddly looks similar to a melted T-1000. Thanks to the warring Asgardians, the Dark Elves are defeated, Malekith puts himself into hibernation and the Aether is buried where nobody will be able to find it. I’ll give you three guesses where that is but you’ll only need one.
And you’ll never guess who discovers the all powerful goop. None other than Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). An improvement from the original, Portman has a bit more to do here than simply play a damsel in distress. With her knowledge of gravitational fluxes and mumbo jumbo science, she actually has a purpose this time around. The rest of her cohorts, Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and newcomer Ian (Jonathan Howard) are only there for the occasional, cornball comic relief. For every working joke, there are three stinkers. Alan Taylor is no Joss Whedon.
Of course, when Dr. Foster discovers the stuff, it sets the rest of the film in motion. Malekith somehow awakens from his slumber and attempts to pull the same trick he tried a millennium ago. Foster also stumbles upon an event known as the convergence. Evidently, when the realms align, they get their gravitational strings tangled, creating random portals which connect to random realms, unless the script needs to move the plot along. When that occurs, the mystical space gates appear wherever the writers want them to. Fantasy movies are not reliant on reality, but the screenplay needs one too many Magical McGuffins to keep the farfetched story together.
Luckily, reason doesn’t have to factor in too strongly in a November superhero flick. The bulk of the action takes place on Asgard, which is more visually interesting than the one horse cow town of Thor 1. When the movie moves closer to home for the final act, the drab scenery and grey skies deaden the drama of the final fight. Unfortunately, the fight itself doesn’t have much punch to it either. Relying on sight gags, predictable hammer play and a jumpy, confusing cat/mouse game involving the aforementioned gravity portals, the last confrontation is devoid of any tension. It may be a strained reference, but imagine the video game Portal without any of the logic and that’s essentially the movie’s coda.
So why the 80% score? The movie’s best moments are when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor share the screen. The two don’t get a ton of screen time but when they do, the interplay is perfect. In fact, I would love to see a feature film where they get to tag team a potential baddie or go on an adventure together. The chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston is natural and convincing, making this sequel worth seeing.
The above line sums it up. Thor: The Dark World, despite some issues, is a worthwhile entry in the ever expanding Avenger universe. While it doesn’t break new ground, it makes some improvements to the formula and sets things up, once again, for more films in the Marvel canon. Thor may not be the shining star of the Stan Lee solar system, but that doesn’t make the movies any less enjoyable. Sometimes, it’s not the worst thing in the world to be second fiddle, especially when you’re a part of a kick ass symphony.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
NOTE: This movie was screened in standard 3D (no IMAX). While there are one or two moments where extra dimension is used effectively, there’s no reason to pay the extra $5 to see it 3D. Regular Digital 2D is perfectly fine.