Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review: Thor - The Dark World (2013)

Review by Malcontented Moose

Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston
Writers: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

There have been a few Marvel movies now; each one following the same thread throughout their individual story lines that would eventually come to fruition in the Avengers. And boy, did it ever. But where to now for each of the heroes of New York? What could possibly be left for them to do, that both required something more than human, but did not draw on the needs of the group? With Iron Man 3 being the first out the gate we saw the fallout on the human side of things; the PTSD and emotional scarring carried by Tony Stark after his not exactly death at the climax of the Avengers, but with Thor: The Dark World we see the farther reaching - let us say - inter-stellar ramifications of a war only just avoided.

Opening with a quick history of the Dark Elves and why they will be our villains for this evening (Malekith – here played exceptionally well by Christopher Eccleston – tried to beat up Odin's dad and take over the universe by plunging it back into darkness) the film proceeds to remind you where everyone was left, story- wise, after both the first movie and post Loki's attempt to take over the universe. This involves some quick battle scenes showing Thor and co mopping up what is ostensibly the last remaining hold outs again Asgardian order, Loki himself being imprisoned for war crimes and Jane and her earth bound friends attempting to re-establish contact with Thor while also trying to find Eric Selvig, who has gone slightly barmy after having a god mess around with his head.

So, now that we have established the basics, Thor: The Dark World is actually quite a well done sequel. The overarching premise of mythical gods existing as actual aliens is handled simply with no overt pantomiming of incredulity on the humans' part and the requisite bad guy of the day is arresting enough that you feel the inclusion of Loki – post maniacal universe conquering almost war – develops naturally from preceding story threads rather than being forced through fan desire. A few scenes setting up Loki's imprisonment on Asgard at the behest of his mother, Frigga (death to the traitor being more Odins' wish) and her attempts to reconcile Loki to his abducted adoption and her continuing love for him do well to show both the range of Tom Hiddlesons' acting chops and Loki's conflicted and waring feelings towards his family. This parallels nicely with a father/ son scene between Odin and Thor where we see the distance he now views his Asgardian life with as he pines for Jane, left on Earth after the first film. Even the subtle offering of Sif as more “worthy” partner does not dissuade him. This connection of disconnect felt by both brothers is played well throughout the film, helping to create some excellent comedic scenes between Loki and Thor during a later escape.

Back on Earth, Jane and her friend/intern Darcy (Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings respectively) are investigating an area in London currently experiencing spatial displacement due to the nearing conjunction of the 9 realms; previously explained in Thor to be the various levels of  Yggdrasil ,the world tree from Norse mythology, also known here as the mulitverse. Jane discovers, and is infected, by the “Aether”, an indestructible substance that can be used to *what else* end the universe. This infection unites the disparate worlds and story threads of Thor: TDW by giving a reason for Jane to visit Asgard thus awakening the Dark Elves to the return of the Aether, leading them into an excellent sequence where Asgard is attacked and reason is given for Thor and Loki to combine their skills to defeat Malekith. Which I will not spoil here but suffice to say could see coming from a mile off.  
“But is this actually any good?” I hear all the non existent readers cry. Well, yes. The further characterisation of each member of the group is handled well in relation to the others, leaving only a few people feeling cut short. The cinematography is lovely, with a number of shots framed beautifully, heightening the emotions of the actors and really bringing to the fore how good of an ensemble they have managed to secure for these films. The over-arching story is fairly well rounded for a mid piece but does sometimes feel hurried, something that does not seem to be a fault of pacing, rather that the story is trying to set up one too many pieces for the inevitable third film. This is strongly felt in both the short scenes with Sif -Thor's long time friend here being portrayed as a possible replacement for frail, mortal Jane – and Jane herself. Her character here is used more as a catalyst for events and gets no further expansion directly. In fact, she is not even recognised as being anything of import at all to Odin until it is revealed that she is infected. A pity, as Jane was my favorite character in the first film; a smart, driven woman pursuing her own career, here unfortunately relegated back to the role of love interest and catalyst. I give props to Natalie Portman though, she really brings to the fore a character that in other, less qualified hands would have faded into the background.
Overall, if you haven't seen this film I would highly recommend it, if not for its witty dialogue, excellent performances and beautiful design, then simply for the fun of the ride.

1 asgardian hammer out of 1 A fun look inside the Asgardian world
1 asgardian hammer out of 1
Scripting is clever and tightly written 
1 asgardian hammer out of 1
Acting is excellent
1 asgardian hammer out of 1
The best kind of directing; subtle
1 asgardian hammer out of 1
Cinematography, lighting and score all work well to create great ambiance 

5 asgardian hammers out of 5
The film is well shot, well written and a fun, joyful ride. Go see it!

1 comment:

  1. I agree about Jane! Hoping the inevitable next movie has more awesome career lady!Jane.

    Tom Hiddleston's performance kind of made the movie for me. All his scenes with Frigga were amazing.