Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World

Released: 2013

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman

Synopsis: Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.


I was really lucky to be invited to an extra-early preview screening of Thor a week before it premiered here in Australia (which was a week or two before America). When Tom and I arrived at the cinema there was a group of cosplay girls dressed up as Loki - and a lone guy wearing an Iron Man glove - a hammer/strength game and a crowd of bubbling, excited fans.

Unlike the excited crowd, I was mostly motivated by the exclusivity of the screening and the promise of free chocolate and popcorn. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the first Thor. In fact, given my preference for theatrics I think I was one of few people who really appreciated the campy humour Kenneth Brannagh brought to the film. And even more than that I really, really loved Loki and Tom Hiddleston's brilliant portrayal of that character. Plus, do I need to remind you of how handsome this dude is?

I'm gonna do it anyway because, *drool*
So I don't really know why I wasn't excited for the sequel. Maybe it's superhero fatigue. There are just so many of them and there are no signs of them waning what with Netflix's recent announcement for 4 new Marvel series. Maybe it's because it's Marvel and I tend to find Marvel a little...sterile? Maybe it was Natalie Portman. I mean she's fine, but she was the weakest link in the original film and *yawn* I find her really boring. Maybe it was all three of these things and a bunch of other smaller issues. I don't know, all I knew was that I didn't have high hopes for this film.

But I ended up really, really loving it. It's a well-balanced film that manages to weigh the LOLs with the KAPOWs to great success. Since Batman well and truly won the dark and gritty superhero awards, Marvel - in particular with the Avengers - has really pushed for the comical superheros. While I don't always enjoy this approach (I find it works infinitely better in the actual comics) in Thor it works so well, perhaps because they fully embrace how ridiculous the concept actually is. Thor gets to be the alien-god out of water again, winning laughs when he hangs Mjolnir up on the coat rack in Jane's apartment and then proving himself to be Avengers-worthy when he takes on a monster 4 times his size with a wink and a smile. It's campy and silly but it reigns it in just enough to make it work. The humour also manages to mask some of the larger plot holes or inconsistencies, while also balancing out the family drama occurring between Thor, Loki and their parents.

I guess I should tell you what it's all about right kids? Basically there are a bunch of dark elves helmed by an unrecognisable Chris Eccleston (Doctor Who) as Malekith. For reasons I didn't fully understand, he wanted to eliminate all reality and plunge the universe back into darkness. Would that mean the end of the dark elves too? I don't know, and hopefully one of you can help me make sense of that in the comments. In order to achieve this dastardly plan Malekith needs the Aether - a  shiny red goo looking sentient (maybe) substance - but before he can use it his plans are dashed by Odin's father and the warriors from Asgard. The elves got away leaving the Aether, however since the Aether can't be destroyed the Asgardians decide to hide it away and it's basically forgotten about for centuries. Cue current day. Jane Foster (Portman) is now in London doing her physics stuff and trips across a wormhole and ends up coming face to face with the Aether which melds with her. She returns to Earth, Thor finds her, realises something is wrong and takes her to his home to meet the folks and have some Asgardian medics take a look-see. But when Jane joined with the Aether Malekith and his dark elves were revived from their hibernation, and they come looking for the Aether so they can finally succeed in their plans to return everything to darkness.

The majority of the film takes place in Asgard and the 9 realms, which was a great choice. To see something as beautiful and as unique as Asgard being attacked by dark elves is a completely different experience to the prototypical New York/NY stand-in invasion and fight. Not only is it something you haven't seen 15 times in the past 5 years, but it manages to eliminate the "Superman killed everyone in Metropolis" issue everyone had with the recent Superman film. And while the final climactic fight takes place in London, it also doesn't, which sounds confusing but I can't explain it further without spoiling something. Let's just say that the new and often-changing setting made up for the less-than-phenomenal fight sequences.

Have I talked about enough that I can get to Loki now? While everyone acted well in this film (Rene Russo doing an exceptionally good job) Tom Hiddleston, once again, took the crown. His scenes in the prison cell were so wrought with emotion that they elevated the film to an entirely different level. His portrayal of Loki is so nuanced, so complicated that it will forever change the way Loki appears in the comics and is viewed by audiences. In this film Loki is finally having to deal with the ramification of his actions in the previous Thor and Avengers films and it takes its toll. There are a few brief glimpses behind his mask, but he's so fortified that it's hard to know if we ever actually get to see some genuine remorse or anger from him, or if everything is part of some grand scheme. I've loved Hiddleston in plenty of things, but damn if Loki isn't one of his greatest achievements.

All superhero films look best on the big screen and should be enjoyed in this way, preferably with a bucket of popcorn, and Thor: The Dark World is no exception. There are absolutely problems in this film in terms of plotting and dialogue, but the overall production is one that I can't imagine not enjoying. And of course be sure to stay during and after the credits for the stings. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the Guardians of the Galaxy film, which is probably the next Marvel film I'm actually excited for.

Also, if someone doesn't re-cut the trailer and/or film to fit this Chinese Thor promotion then I will riot.

Read the whole delightful story here


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