Friday, November 8, 2013

Thor: The Dark World - Review


In the beginning, there was darkness. 

Okay. A bit sketchy theologically, but I’ll buy it. 

And the darkness had no personality. Or character arc.

In short, it did not work as a bad guy.

First time I saw it, I didn’t like the prievious Thor movie. Then I grew up, watched it again, and thought, “Hey, this is a good movie. This transcends superhero movies.”

It had a number of things in its favor.

  1. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh.

  1. To offset its necessarily over-solemn Norse god feel, we spent a lot of time in a small town interacting with ordinary people. Utilizing this idea to far more effect than Iron Man 3, this link to the commonplace grounded the film firmly on, ha ha, Planet Earth. It didn’t take itself too seriously. Thor the god of thunder was spotted in a T-shirt. Thor the movie could’ve been corny as all get-out. Instead it was amusing, moving, and possibly even a little deep (for a superhero movie.) 

  1. While Thor’s friends were completely one-dimensional, Jane, Erik, and Darcy acted as fun, interesting, quirky companions to the larger-than-life Chris Hemsworth.
  1. Tom Hiddleston.

  1. At its core, Thor was a movie about virtue. Thor starts off as an arrogant, spoiled brat, and learns through suffering wisdom, self-sacrifice, and humility. In a twist on the classic western show-down, Thor does something Clint Eastwood would never have done—lay down his weapons. Unlike most superheroes, Thor is allowed to have human connections, and not be the eternally isolated loner who will sacrifice nothing.
  1. Loki ought to have been the hero, by modern politically correct standards. He was snubbed, looked down on, and, on top of it all, an adopted frost giant. He’s the underdog. He’s got low self-esteem. But for once, the underdog is the villain. We empathize with Loki, but we don’t condone his actions. We think, instead of: “Oh, poor Loki’s had a rough childhood” – “Loki’s had a rough childhood.  But he should rise above his circumstances.” It’s the ultimate reversal of the entitlement mindset.

So how is Thor 2?

  1. Not directed by Kenneth Branagh.
  1. Set mostly in Asgard, or others of the nine realms, or glitzy modern London. While moments of blissfully usual life creep through, they are few and far between. Also, we’re supposed to take Chris Hemsworth’s accent seriously. And his poncho.

  1. Thor’s friends are still one-dimensional, which is made worse because one of them is supposed to be a rival love interest. Darcy and the new arrival Ian the Intern were mildly amusing at times. Erik was actually funny, in a slapstick sort of way.

  1. Tom Hiddleston is still awesome. Even when he’s playing Captain America. (You just have to see it.)

  1. At its core, Thor 2 is a movie about rebellion (something new, please?). Odin isn’t all-wise, after all. Sure, I know he’s not actually a god, but he stood in as a god figure in the first film, and this fall from wisdom isn’t justifiable by the plot. At most it could be construed as a morality tale: “power corrupts.” Which totally undoes the first movie’s premise – yes, power corrupts, but humility is the only way to combat it. See Samwise Gamgee. Loki makes a joke that Thor wants to solve all his problems by punching things. Well, in this film, he can.
  1. Christopher Eccleston may’ve been great as The Doctor, but between hiding behind an alien mask, having his voice distorted almost beyond recognition, and having to ramble on about the darkness taking over the world, Malekith is unmemorable. And the whole dark elf idea, complete with five-minute prologue where the good guys beat the bad guys way back when, was a total Lord of the Rings rip-off.

That said, it has its moments. Despite my bone-deep cynicism, there were several things I didn’t seem coming from a mile, and amid the ridiculously grim plot, moments of levity—mostly due to the chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston—made me sink back into my seat, kick back, and think, this is pretty fun.

Fun, but I’d sign a petition to Bring Back Branagh in a second. 



  1. I actually liked the second movie better than the first.
    At first I thought Odin was a little out of character myself until I factored in all the stress he had been under since the first movie. A war between the realms (something he had tried to prevent), his son Loki, and last of all the death of his wife. I think all that combined is enough to make even the wisest man go over the edge.
    On the plus side, there were more funny lines from Loki. :) I also loved the Captain America moment.

  2. Ahhhh, just coming back to your blog after a long hiatus, and this is exactly what I wanted to find. Thank you for an entertaining review. :)

    RE Thor 1, nah, it was still corny as all get-out. But fun. :-) And Tom Hiddleston, oh dear, I can't... He's still so adorable even though the look they give him for Loki is actually kind of unsavory. He's so much more handsome when his hair and his face are their respective normal colors. Have you seen his work in The Hollow Crown? Fantastic. He's so cultured and funny and well-read and just plain nice, it's a shame he's also a typical shallow British leftist/secularist. It's always disappointing to see someone who's ridiculously gifted not recognizing where all his gifts are coming from. And also a little bit sad to see the girls who don't merely like him but are OBSESSED with him. I mean, I'm not above dropping a visit to the Hiddles tumblr every once in a while, browsing fan art, watching cute Youtubes to unwind, etc., but some of these female fans seem like they're just desperately lonely. Like they're using him to fill some kind of void in their lives. I just wish I could give them all a hug. Hmmmmm, there's a blog post in there...

    Anyway, about this movie. I watched a cam rip online (shhhh, don't tell) so maybe I wasn't able to appreciate the visuals properly, such as they were, but I thought it was fine for a throwaway popcorn flick...and not much else. Loki's character development wasn't advanced much at all. The fact that... well, not to spoil it for anyone else who might be reading, but let's just say there's not much ambiguity about where he's going by the end of the film! However, I get what you're saying about how he would typically be the hero in a Hollywood film, but he's clearly the villain. At the same time, you do see Hiddleston and all the producers/writers use the word "sympathetic" to refer to Loki. And I flatly disagree. Just because he has mommy/daddy issues doesn't excuse any of the evil stuff he's done. However, I do like how they portray Thor's conflict over Loki and his love for him despite everything. Because of some personal experiences of my own, that's the one aspect I find the most moving. You do feel a sadness that the brothers can never be reconciled.

    However, I liked SOME of the humor here, and was glad that Natalie Portman was asleep for half the movie. Seriously, the less of her and her non-existent chemistry with Chris Hemsworth, the better. My favorite line, hands-down, was when Loki and Thor are trying to escape and Thor is going crazy pushing the button to turn the ship on. "Don't hit it brother, press it gently." "I AM PRESSING IT GENTLY, IT'S NOT WORKING!" I was chuckling ridiculously at random moments for days afterwards. Perfectly captures exactly how I feel about my laptop touchpad!

    1. As a superhero movie, Thor 1 was one of the best I've ever seen. Well, to clarify, as a child-friendly superhero movie. Nolan's Batman is on another level entirely. I do tend to look at these things from a philosophical point of view, though.

      Frankly, Thor 2 is Hiddleston's movie. He's the most complex character in it. You're right - his looks go downhill as Loki. :)

      I've seen bits of him in The Hollow Crown, but by the time I got around to wanting to watch the whole thing, it had expired. What I did see was good. Kenneth Branagh will probably always be my favorite Henry V, but Hiddleston was very good. At the moment, I'm enjoying David Tennant in Hamlet.

    2. Well... *looks around carefully* I kinda sorta downloaded all the episodes, but if you'd rather not... :-)

      David Tennant as Hamlet is great, though the modern get-up distracted me. Although I really liked Joss Whedon's contemporary spin on _Much Ado_.

    3. I actually like the modern take very much. The direction was so creative. The pov from the security cameras was a stroke of genius.


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