When Marvel Studios released Thor in 2011, they entered into a different realm with their productions. Iron Man II and Incredible Hulk had begun laying the groundwork for The Avengers but the tone of those films were very similar. They were scientifically based superheroes, if you want to use that word, operating on a very heightened level of reality. With Thor, Marvel pushed the limit and blurred the lines between fantasy and sci-fi in a way that was very impressive, considering that had it failed to connect, the Avengers as a project may never have come together the way it did.
Thor – The Dark World, the sequel to 2011’s Thor is very much another example of Marvel pushing boundaries with how they want to test the public’s acceptance of genre-bending comic adaptations. Which is why Thor – The Dark World is basically the best Star Wars movie to come out in the last two decades. Looking at parts of it, Thor – The Dark World seems like a space opera in a fantasy setting more than anything else. Truly, it is astounding how fearless they were in putting this whole thing together. Moreso than the first Thor film, The Dark World asks a lot of the audience in terms of world building and genremashing filmmaking.
Of course, The Dark World is as much a sequel to The Avengers as it is the first Thor Film. They have much more leeway to play with themes and story-lines here than they otherwise might. The fallout regarding Loki is paid off here, and the second and third acts of the film are very much Loki-centric. Tom Hiddleston continues to shine as the darker foil to Hemsworth’s Thor, but their chemistry together here cannot be understated. Chris Hemsworth’s role as straight man to Hiddleston’s charming rogue is as just as deserving of praise, if not more. If Marvel has done anything right in their movies at all, it has been casting actors for these roles that play off against each other magnificently. Downey Jr. and Ruffalo, Hemsworth and Hiddleston, etc. All of these actors elevate the material in ways lesser actors could not.
The Dark World is definately a step up from 2011’s Thor, if only because the scope is intensified tenfold. We get more of Asgard here, more witty interplay between our central characters, and action that while not as grand as the climax as the Avengers, is perfectly in line with a sequel of this nature. The only shortfall that I can find with the film is that Christopher Eccleston is mostly wasted in his role as Malekith. Eccleston is a fine actor and his role in G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra had more meat on its bones than he is able to display here. I think much of that may stem from the fact that he is speaking an alien tongue for 90% of the runtime, but also his motivations and reasons for being the central antagonist do not get developed beyond rudimentary exposition dumps.
I think they truly nailed this one. Not many will find fault with this entry. They take risks that pay off well in the end. Those who so strongly opposed Iron Man III‘s narrative twists will not find anything similarly enraging here. This is the Marvel Phase II film that folks have been waiting for.
This is probably the first legitimite comics related article I’ve written in a while since I’ve been unable to get my books in a timely manner that is conductive to reviewing the actual comics. I guess the film adaptation of a comic is about as close to comics reviews as I can manage for the moment. I’m sorry. I may start reviewing books about a month after they hit stands just to make sure I get my opinion out there but I’m not sure I will even bother.
But the focus today will be the adaptation of Thor.
I am happy to report that it’s the best Marvel film they’ve made since Iron Man. I don’t know if it’s as good as that film, as I remember being dazzled by how entertaining it was but Thor does an admirable job of capturing the same sort of magic that Iron Man did. They also avoided the pitfalls of Iron Man 2 simply by virtue of not having the time to shoehorn an obtrusive amount of *wink wink* side characters into the story. There’s the obligatory cameo of a character who’ll play a major role in the Avengers. You probably already know who I’m talking about. But he isn’t mentioned by his hero moniker and if you aren’t familiar with the character you’ll wonder who the hell he is, what he’s doing and why the hell he chose that as a weapon when there was a perfectly good sniper rifle available.
The biggest achievement that Thor really grabbed was taking the source material and making it manageable in a way that it never felt hokey. The Asgardian elements could have been laughable but Branagh handles them in a way that seems reverent and respectful while tossing aside the needless “thou’s” and “thee’s” in exchange for dialogue that could have felt perfectly at home in the Lord of the Rings. Basically, the bombastic elements never felt overwhelming.
I have to say that Marvel is on a roll with their casting. Chris Hemsworth is charming as the God of Thunder and his natural charisma allows us to like the character when at times we have to agree with Odin’s belief that he is a petulant child with a rash attitude. Natalie Portman is a perfectly acceptable Jane Foster by way of her adoreable sweetness. Kat Dennings could have been cut from the film and nobody would have noticed but I still have a crush on her. I’m not going to lie, that chick’s busom is mesmerizing. Shamefully it’s not on display here and for that I will give the producers a disapproving shake of my head. Thor’s comrades are given a surprising amount of screentime and while I wished that Volstagg were more festively plump, Ray Stevenson plays him as you would imagine Volstagg should be. But the true revelation of the film was Tom Hiddleston as Loki. The man reminded me of a young William Fitchner who himself would have made a fine Loki were he about fifteen years younger.
It has its share of flaws, the somewhat abrupt ending being one of them, but it’s a step above Iron Man 2 or The Incredible Hulk due to the sheer enjoyment factor. The film does a great job of sucking the viewer into this world and not just sucking.