Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

It's been two years since New York and the Chitari invasion, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is just finishing cleaning up Loki's mess. Now the nine realms are back in order. And soon, they'll literally be in order, as they're aligning -- a phenomenon that happens thousands of years apart. Last time, Thor's granddad was king, and he barely prevented the dark elves and their leader Malekith from covering the lands in darkness. Malekith escaped of course, and now is back, and bent on bringing the darkness with him.

Malekith is played by Christopher Eccleston, and half the time speaks a made-up "dark elf" language. I understand that the idea is to give them credibility, but while reading captions it is very hard to pay attention to anything else, so while I was halfheartedly trying to do both, I did neither. Malekith sadly ended up a rather generic bad guy. His sidekick, however, made up for it a little by being impressively creepy and intimidating.

This is neither Malekith nor his number one, just some typical creepy elves...

There's also a secondary plot resolved at the end of the second act, and its climax was more climatic than the third act, which sets up a huge climax, but then falls short. (See spoiler #1 at the bottom of this post) The main plot has an intriguing premise and it slowly builds throughout the film until it reaches enormous proportions. It was so great that, apparently the writers had a hard time figuring out how to beat it, and their solution was underwhelming. (See spoiler #2)

I doubt it needs saying, but Loki is what I enjoyed most out of this film. All Loki needs to be his incredible self is the equally incredible Tom Hiddleston, who is as good as ever here, (as always) but it's interesting to see the slight changes that different directors have directed in the character. Branagh's influence on Loki made him pitiable; Whedon's made him an awesome villain, and this director, Alan Taylor made him unpredictable, and mysterious. And Taylor did nothing wrong -- Loki is still by far the best character in the film, and funnier than ever -- but he seems to just be humoring us Loki fans instead of actually being interested in developing the character for himself, and appreciating the importance of a character like that. (Spoiler #3) No matter how small a part he is, he's still a step above, so why not include him more throughout movie, and let the movie benefit from the boost? The majority of Loki is seen in the second act, and that was definitely the peak of the film.

Loki takes up light reading.

All the concentration was centered on Thor and Jane, and I'll get to them in a minute, but what is it they have against Fandral, Sif, Hogun, and Volstagg? They had bigger roles in the first film, and I was hoping they'd get some more development and screen time for this one. Especially since Zachary Levi is now playing Fandral. But no, we're only teased with the characters' development, and they're only used until they're not necessary anymore. Levi does get more than the rest, but Jamie Alexander's Sif is only shown enough so we know she's jealous of Jane, and Hogun and Volstagg get next to nothing.

And that's not even mentioning these guys. The supporting roles from Earth. Though they do get more screen time than their Asgardian counterparts.

If attention had been more evenly spread it wouldn't have mattered at all that the hero, Thor's character arc was more like a flat line... or flat-line. Starting out as a great hero with no personal problems, he didn't have anywhere to go -- a common problem with sequels, and something of a catch 22, as it would be arguably worse to redo the character's original arc than for them to have none. The main drama with Thor this time around is between him and Jane. (Natalie Portman) She's hurt and confused that it's taken this long for him to return, but really there's not much drama to be had here. Everyone knows Thor is way too gentlemanly to ditch Jane, no matter how petty (and tiny) and clingy she is.

Humans.

Besides being slightly more boring as a flawless hero, Thor's character was much improved since his first solo. He wasn't a blooming idiot anymore, and was wise to the ways of Earth as he should be. Still, he doesn't belong there, so there are some very subtle fish-out-of-water moments with one being exceptionally hilarious. (Spoiler #4) Still, the only time he really come to life is when he's bantering with his cheerfully evil brother.

They really do act like brothers. You can almost hear Thor saying, "Loki! Stop it, you're annoying me!"

The Dark World may be more confused, but is definitely prettier than its predecessor. The special effects got an upgrade, and were used to their best advantage. Asgard was breath-taking, and beautifully developed to a realistic, living city, slightly reminiscent of something out of The Lord of the Rings. On Earth, instead of being in the middle of nowhere, we get to see London and Greenwich, and two or three other realms in a little less detail. This huge increase in scope is probably the best improvement on the first Thor film. You can see where the budget went, and it is far from useless.

Action scenes also felt the good effects and are longer and cleaner and more epic in true Marvel style. They've found their formula, and will not be abandoning it anytime soon. On one hand this is good, because it guarantees a certain quality, and on the other, bad, because formula is the edge of a slippery slope that ends in a rut -- and Marvel may have slipped down it already.

But in the end, Thor is... solid -- and his movie is too. It was consistently funny with two particularly great jokes, (Spoiler #4 & 5) and it never turned too cheesy, or dull and generic that I couldn't enjoy it. It may not have met my grandest expectations, but it succeeded in its purpose of being a fun, visual and action-packed Marvel blockbuster, and a great backdrop for Loki to shine against. Not that last part? Watch the movie, and see for yourself.

The end. Thor is now protecting you from evil spoilers.

WARNING: SPOILERS! If you haven't seen the movie, I have located the spoilers here, away from the rest of the review for your convenience to avoid. If you have seen the movie, read on, and I ironically apologize for the inconvenience.

Spoiler #1 - The secondary plot has to do with Jane being infected with a substance which Malekith needs to succeed in his plan. The whole second act revolves around Thor and Co. trying to get it out of her while still keeping it away from Malekith. This plot was way more interesting and involving than the main one, and it resolved awesomely with Loki playing for the bad side, but really for the good side, but really for his own side.

Spoiler #2 - In the end Jane tinkering with her data-collecting Earth technology is the key to ruining Malekith's plan thousands of years in the making, which really brings the epic climatic levels down a lot.

Spoiler #3 - He puts his death scene at the end of the second act, and even though he didn't really die, he doesn't appear again, and the third act suffers the loss. And while I'm on the subject -- the death scene wasn't traumatic enough, so as soon as they walked away from the body and cracked a joke, I knew he was fine.

Spoiler #4 - When he hangs Mjolnir on the coat rack -- brilliant.

Spoiler #5 - When Loki turns into Cap. I did not see that coming and it was great -- in fact that entire scene was hilarious.

8 comments:

  1. "Loki takes up light reading" haha, that's perfect! :)
    I liked the new actor for Frandal (is that how you spell the name?), even though we don't see him a whole lot he seemed to fit the role very well.
    I kinda like how Thor doesn't have many personal problems (aside from a certain relationship with a certain brother), it makes him just, as you said: a 'solid' character. I can see how that may be boring, but I like solidness - good-solidness. Maybe I'll understand better what you mean when I see the movie again, so much more to see every time! :)
    Spoiler #4 -- man, that really was exactly brilliant! :D Just so, so clever. Such a good use of something that is usually thought of as being taken for granted, and yet Thor has probably never seen before. :)
    My favorite act was the second too, it had so much going for it.
    Yes, it is so easy to imagine him saying that! :) And that scene in the plane-thing, too, when Thor is trying to concentrate and Loki's driving him nuts. :) In an interview I watched with my sis. interviewing T.H. and C.H., C.H. said they had wanted that scene to feel like a car ride with siblings, where you love all your sibs to death but the smallest things drive you nuts. :)
    Your note about Thor's character being like a catch 22 is interesting, I'd never thought about it like that before!
    Great review! I enjoyed reading it. :)

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    1. Haha, thanks! :)
      Me too! Even though this is the first movie I've actually *seen* him in... but he did the voice for Flynn in Tangled so I already knew he was awesome. ;) It's actually Fandral, but I always want to say it Frandal too. I had to look it up. I'm glad you liked him too!
      It's so hard to have a compelling character who has already developed fully, so while I like that Thor is a good and solid character, he was more compelling in the first Thor, where his character grew over the course of the movie. It's not a huge complaint though, and I don't know how they could have done it any better.
      Yes, it was a magical moment. :D
      Glad you agree. :)
      Oh, that's coll, and they definitely succeeded with that scene, it was great.
      Thanks, and thanks for reading! :)

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  2. Good review Sarah.

    I enjoyed the significantly more than you did, almost as much as Iron Man 3, maybe even more. Hiddleston was so amazing in the film, and while I agree he could have been in the movie more, I liked that there was a balance between Thor and Loki, even though Loki is still my favorite part of the movies. Alan Taylor did an excellent job at bringing Asgard and the other realms to life, and I really like his darker style and the entire design of everything.
    By the way, here is a link to my review if you want to check it out. :)

    http://jandjproductions1809.blogspot.com/2013/11/thor-dark-world-review.html

    -James

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    1. Thanks James!
      I do have more problems with it than you it seems, but overall I was still able to enjoy it a lot. Mostly because of Loki, but still. I understand what you mean, there needs to be more of Thor's character than Loki's. I don't think they should have given more to Loki, I just wish they'd spread him out more, over the whole movie instead of grouping his role mainly into one spot. I really felt the loss in the third act. But yeah, the re-vamping of Asgard and the other realms was spectacular, and I liked the grittier tone too.

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  3. Didn't read this entire review (yet!) Sarah because I've not seen Thor 2, however I'm so glad Thor is a "better" character in the sequel. He *was* kind of goofy (as was the entire movie) in the first film, that'll be something to look forward too. Silly or not, I love these super hero flicks - they're fun and a "nice escape." :)

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    1. Ah, well I'm glad I decided to separate out all the spoiler-y bits then! The other one was rather goofy wasn't it? But this one, yes, is much bigger and darker and more classic of Marvel movies nowadays. But still a great escape movie too. Hope you enjoy! :)

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  4. My feelings on this film are pretty much the same as yours. There was stuff in this film that I did really enjoy (all the Loki scenes, Frigga, seeing more of Asgard, the humour) but other stuff that disappointed me, all of the things that you've pointed out. I still liked it but I much prefer the first film. I think if I gave The Dark World a rating it would be something like 3 or 3.5/5 stars and Thor would get a 4.5/5.

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    1. It's too bad because they took a step forward in some ways, like visuals (and the humor was WAY better!) but a step back in ways that are actually more important to me, so I mostly prefer the first too. But not by quite as much -- I gave it 4 stars, and this one 3.5.

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