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‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review

thor the dark world

Finally, another Marvel installment! There’s no denying the fact that Marvel (more specifically, their brilliant strategist Kevin Feige) has caught us in the grips of Marvel Madness with Thor: The Dark World.

Let me just preface this by saying that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything that Marvel has put out since Iron Man, and while some movies were better than others, Thor: The Dark World is definitely high up on the list.

Here is where you may want to stop reading, because I’m going to be discussing various plot points aka spoilers. If you do not wish to continue, just know that this film delivers, and goes beyond expectations that the previous Thor movie had set up. I recommend watching it!

Now, on to the film itself. I’d like to break it down into four parts. The story, the acting, the technical, and the “I-want-more-Marvel” factors.

The story itself, in my opinion, was probably the weakest category out of the four listed. It had a lot of plot holes that, in the moment, you won’t notice, but will come back and bother the viewer like a fly you just can’t swat. Mainly for me, the question is “Where are the rest of the Avengers?” This is a question that every single Marvel movie is going to have to face now that they’ve made a movie where all the superheroes joined forces. It just doesn’t make sense now that when one of them is facing an entity that could “rip the fabric of the Universe and cast it into darkness” that the rest of the Avengers wouldn’t stop fighting whatever other unimportant foes they have to come help each other out.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, here’s what happens: Jane (Natalie Portman), two years after The Avengers, is still moping about Thor not coming to visit her. While on an awkward date with A Cute Guy (Chris O’Dowd), Darcy (Kat Dennings) interrupts her, saying that there are strange readings reminiscent of the ones they had in New Mexico, when they first stumbled upon Thor (Chris Hemsworth). This sets up a chain reaction of events, namely the “dark ether” that has the power to cast the Universe back into darkness is absorbed into Jane’s body. Oops.

Thor must now try to find a way to stop Malekith from killing Jane and sucking the dark energy into his body to take over the Universe. Once again, during this whole thing, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t make a single appearance, and none of the Avengers come to the rescue. Because obviously, there are more important things out there than saving the universe… right. Looking past that point, the pacing of the movie itself is simply a little clunky. After Jane absorbs the energy, Thor takes her to Asgard (humans can breathe in space?), where she is treated like “a goat at a banquet” until they find out she has the dark ether inside her.

Before they can do much about it, Malekith, the evil Dark Elf (Christopher Eccleston), invades Asgard – destroying the entire city, and killing Asgard queen Frigga (Rene Russo), who dies when she tries to protect Jane from being taken by Malekith. From there, the plot stutters, as Thor jail breaks Loki (Tom Hiddleston) out of prison, so Loki can take them all to the Dark Elf Planet. Thor attempts to kill Malekith and destroy the dark ether, only to realize the ether is not destroyable (it is an energy of the Universe). Malekith sends out a giant evil henchman/monster, and then climbs into his handy dandy spaceship and teleports to Earth, having somehow absorbed the dark energy from Jane.

In the meantime, Thor is losing against the monster, when Loki manages to kill the monster, but dies in the process. Thor is thrown into a rage, and he and Jane travel back to Earth, where there is one final showdown between Malekith and Thor. Except, Thor doesn’t really actually kill him, it’s with the help of “earth technology.” Jane possesses four mega-sized golf ball tee sticks, which have the power to warp gravity, time, and space physics (all of her explanations are very mumbo jumbo and hand wavey).  In the end, Thor throws the sticks at him, as well as his hammer, and Jane presses a button on her handheld device to activate the gravity sticks, allowing Malekith to be transported back to Evil Elf Planet and die in a fiery explosion reminiscent of the last scene in Star Trek… hmm.

After all is said and done, Thor returns safely home and has a heartfelt conversation with his father… who is later revealed to be Loki. And that’s where the film concludes.

So, while the plot is certainly action packed, the narrative doesn’t quite weave together. Like, once Malekith possessed the dark ether, why did he return to earth instead of destroying Asgard and taking over the realms like he said he would? Or better yet, how did some puny “gravity sticks” (that apparently no one even knows how to use in the film) made from humans stop the “oldest force in the universe”? Or even, once Thor knew he was in that much trouble, wouldn’t he have told his friends (Avengers, and his friends back in Asgard) to stick with him to help him fight Malekith on Earth? Yet, the movie makes us forget all these questions while we are watching the film, which in itself is a success. Hats off to you, Feige.

The second most important thing to discuss is the acting. The first Thor movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, and just from hearing that name, you know that the acting is going to be top notch. Classically trained by RADA in Shakespeare and general theatre, there is very little in the world of acting that Kenneth can do wrong. He understands the nuances of character emotion and growth, and while the first film was not as fast-paced or action-packed as the second, it had much better quality acting. This film, directed by Alan Taylor, focused too much on the action; thus, the acting suffered. It also doesn’t help that Alan Taylor has very few credits under his directing belt, which unfortunately showed in the movie. It’s a big shame, because the stellar cast could have had the opportunity to shine, had it not been for the new director and the clunky plot. Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins are both Academy Award winners, and Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth both have a very respectable amount of movies under their belt. It is a shame, then, that their talents did not come through.

In addition to the plot, the comedy in the movie actually hindered the acting, as well. After Iron Man 3, and some key comedic moments in The Avengers, the writers most likely felt pressured to provide some funny moments in Thor 2. There is only so much people can take of “the universe is ending” without feeling at least a little upset… which makes the comedy understandable. It was fairly well executed, and I found myself chortling because of the sheer absurdity and non-reaction of the actors in crucial situations. For example, Thor and Loki are committing treason and flying an enemy ship towards the menacing Malekith, and all they can do is bicker.

However, the comedy was used just a little too much. I can only pinpoint a few key scenes where the actors really got to flash their acting chops; it’s those moments that were the highlights of the film. It’s also upsetting that the brilliant Chris Eccleston really didn’t get to shine in this movie. The plot was crafted in a way that made me feel like he wasn’t really the true “bad guy” in the film, but rather the dark ether was the main evil character. Eccleston had very few (if any) moments to really demonstrate his ability to act evil, and those moments fell flat in the film – his character was by far the least nuanced in the film. Despite this, I thought that in the given precious moments that the actors had to show their acting, it was very well done.

Onwards, to the technical side. Now, I won’t go into too much detail, but leave it to say that they used a lot of CGI in the film. Some parts worked, some parts didn’t. The scenery was crafted beautifully, with Asgard a shining beacon of light compared to the hellish arena of the Dark Elf Planet. The cinematography and sound editing cut together quite seamlessly – beautifully shot, with very clean cut camera work. The one thing that I found that proved to be both a blessing and a curse was the very fast editing that was used throughout the film. The editing really helped nail down some of the one-liner comedy moments, but also seemed a little too rigid at times.

The transition from scene to scene (particularly in the final fight sequences) were fast and choppy, enough to send the audience reeling, trying to run after and keep up. This could have been a purposeful move on the director and editor’s part (they want us to feel breathless during the fight scenes), but it was also just plain disorientating at times. It’s always a dangerous line to play, between dragging the audience behind you and pushing them too fast. The thing that saved the choppy editing was the advancement of action and quick blips of funny dialogue in between. Overall, a beautifully shot, but slightly questionably edited, piece.

And finally, the “I-want-more-Marvel” factor. This is, actually, the most important factor, at least to Kevin Feige and the Marvel team. Ever since Iron Man blasted into Hollywood like a rocket, Marvel has been milking and pushing the superhero genre to new heights, always looking to make the audience cry, laugh, and, well, marvel, at their movie screens. It’s a transformative experience they’re looking to get, and as of right now, they’ve always been able to hit the bar. Thor 2, I would argue, has pushed that bar even further. It’s heightened the dangers; now that The Avengers has opened up the door to the possibility of alien creatures, and species from different realms, anything is game. As a viewer, it’s very exhilarating to see that, and to wonder what could possibly happen next. This film played up on that idea, pushing us to wonder and thirst for whatever adventures Marvel has to offer in the upcoming Captain America 2.

Overall, I give this film a 4/5 stars, and would recommend it for anyone who is looking for a good old fashioned superhero action movie, with a splash of the unexpected.

four stars

  • Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
  • Directed by: Alan Taylor
  • Running Time: 112 minutes
  • Genre: Action