Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thor: The Dark World: Movie Review

Thor: The Dark World: Movie Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings
Director: Alan Taylor

So, the Marvel juggernaut keeps on going.

With Captain America - The Winter Soldier due next year and another Avengers film, The Age of Ultron, on the way, it seems like the universe is somewhat overflowing with these flicks.

But it's pleasing to report that the shadow and after effects of The Avengers are still hanging over this, giving the feel that there's some kind of ongoing plan for the franchise. Whereas New York's mopping up after the antics of the Chitauri, Loki's behaviour's caused ructions in the nine realms and in Asgard, with Chris Hemsworth's Thor thrown into the mix to try and re-unite the warring factions at his father Odin's behest.

However, the mallet man's heart isn't fully in it, with thoughts turning to Natalie Portman's Jane Foster who's back on Earth and struggling with the same affliction.

But when Jane accidentally finds herself infected with a mysterious substance known as the Aether, she inadvertently awakens a long-buried threat, believed vanquished from within Asgard itself - the Dark Elves, headed up by the revenge-seeking Malekith (Christopher Eccleston)..... is it time for Asgard to fall?

Thor: The Dark World is a darker, grittier film than the first, but it becomes a little weighed down by some of its own intentions and a myriad of ideas.

There's such a mix of themes and motifs here that the whole thing feels tonally choppy in places as it shifts from one to the next, juggling way too many narrative balls in the air, and trying desperately to drop none of them.

It starts with a grand almost Game of Thrones / Lord of the Rings-esque prologue that details the ancient war between the Dark Elves (with their impassive white mask faces) and the Gods before shifting focus onto Tom Hiddleston's reptilian Loki, then onto Thor's attempts to quell the Nine Realms' discord before settling into some comedy scientist hijinks, led by Kat Dennings' Darcy, whose role is severely comically expanded this time around. Add into that mix, some gut-wrenchingly emotional moments in the second act of the film which are almost derailed by the sudden tonal shift,  a sub-plot hinting at romantic tensions between Thor, Jaimie Alexander's Sif and Jane Foster which is dropped mid-way through, a 9/11 style attack on Asgard, some sci-fi MacGuffins as well as a rather neatly and abrupt conclusion and the piece, while blockbuster in every sense of the word, feels a little like a mixed narrative journey. (Albeit, an enjoyable one if you're prepared to overlook all of these things.) For example - A great sequence involving a truly moving Viking burial barely has time to settle before Taylor's back to the comedy elements - it may work for the end of a comic book and the start of a next chapter, but on screen, it jars.

In terms of character, Hemsworth's adopted the rather stilted and stuffy tone for Thor, playing his fish out of water ways for laughs (a great scene sees him hanging up Mjolnir at a house the same way one does a coat); but his interaction / love interest with Portman's Jane is a little lacking this time around, with their onscreen time cut dramatically and their relationship suffering because of it. Equally, Eccleston's Malekith suffers in the shadow of the snakelike Loki, brilliantly portrayed by Hiddleston once again. While Eccleston brings the grim determination and vengeful might, there's little dimension or depth to his baddie, with the final showdown lacking the weight you'd expect. Meanwhile, Hiddleston provides much more nuance and layers to Loki this time around, turning a villain of the piece into something more Machiavellian than you'd have expected as the brotherly bonds of love and grief are played out.

That said, the epic feel and sense and scale of Thor 2: The Dark World, coupled with some measured and impressive action sequences and some top notch FX work, make it a film for the masses and a flick which ensures Marvel's still on the top of its genre game.

Ultimately though, if the Thor franchise wants to grow and continue, maybe some of the myriad of elements need to be taken out of the mix to help the story and characters breathe - before they risk becoming too one note and tired.

(Oh, and make sure you stick around for the credits - there are two post credit scenes in Thor: The Dark World....)


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