Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013) movie review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: Spectacular production design, top notch acting, excellent cast chemistry, epic story that expands the franchise, significant character development

The Bad: drop in standard of special effects, forgettable villain, muddled plot, badly timed humor, disappointing soundtrack

3D Readiness: None. Post Production 3D conversion. Fast paced and tight action scenes do not lend well to 3D.
IMax-ability: None.

Lightning does not strike twice with the follow up to 2011's THOR. Thor The Dark World does not live up to the standard set by its predecessor. Although it ups the ante with the action, it lacks that personal focus of the first movie. Thankfully, a stellar cast and amazing chemistry saves the movie from falling into mindless blockbuster territory.

With a combined movie universe, it begs the question of how come other heroes do not appear to intervene in the various world shattering crises that other heroes face in their individual movies. THOR: THE DARK WORLD provides just such an explanation by setting most of its action off earth. After the events of AVENGERS, Thor leads an Asgardian force to bring peace back to the 9 realms. On earth Jane Foster, Thor's love interest from the first film, stumbles on an anomalous place with portals that transports items, and herself, to another world; the so called "Dark World". There, she unwittingly bonds with an ancient weapon of tremendous power called the Aether. This alerts the evil Dark Elves, technologically advanced ancient enemies of Asgard, and their leader Malekith.

As villains go, Malekith and his Dark elves are no where as memorable as one would have hoped. Like a crossbreed of LORD OF THE RINGS's Uruk-Hai with STAR WAR's Sith Lords and Clone Troopers. They have superpowered "Kursed" warriors, who are like Berserkers on steroids, they have space age technology centered around the manipulation of gravity (and novel use of mini-black hole grenades); all these are quite cool but seem to clash with the more fantasy-tech of Asgard. Malekith himself is a one note villain who is out to destroy all realms. Zero depth, zero development. Then again, what do you expect? He is not the star of this movie.

What Thor The Dark World succeeds very much in is its world building. It crafts and expands upon the Marvel movie universe, adding much needed history and depth to the people of Asgard. This depth extends to the characters; this time focused mainly on the relationship between Thor, Loki and their parents. While Chris Hemsworth does a marvellous job as a heroic yet humble Thor, Tom Hiddelston is magnificent as Loki. He just oozes nuance in his performance, portraying the trickster as a truly tormented soul torn between the love for his mother and the hatred for his brother. You never know his true intentions or where his loyalties lie. If anything, this is more of a Loki movie than a Thor movie where your tragic villain outshines the titular character, stealing every scene he is in.

Sadly, this leads to all the problems inherent in the movie. THOR: THE DARK WORLD has a great story. Yet its execution is muddled in direction and its general look and feel. Also, its character development is almost non existent except for Loki. As it opens up the Marvel cinematic universe into the far reaches of space age science fiction, the whole thing feels very much like the "Star Wars" prequels. High speed chases in space ships accompany the ever present  laser guns, cloaking technology and plasma turrets. That sequence where Thor and Loki escape a blockaded Asgard with Jane just reeks of a similar scene in STAR WARS EPISODE 1. 

Then there are the romance and comedy. For most of the movie you have Thor and Jane pinning for each other like teenage love birds. Once together, they clearly look like they should be in love yet there is feeling of "fakeness" to their romance. Thankfully such scenes are few, with the focus on bigger action. In this department, the movie does not disappoint. The action is clearly of an epic scale and the stakes are high. Yet the movie sees fit to throw in as much inappropriate humor as possible into such heavy scenes. The humor just does not fit and in fact pulls us out of the moments. Moments where reality itself is crumbling and a character cracks a joke just feels like Disney at work again, killing another chance to take comic book superheroes seriously.

Alas THOR: THE DARK WORLD is not a bad movie, it is good. It is just not as good as the first THOR movie, and this is likely due to executive meddling trying to get all new Marvel movies to follow the tone of Avengers. In trying to squeeze different types of stories into a single mold (no doubt to further cement their shared universe concept), you kill what made the concept great to begin with. Gone is Patrick Doyle's unique and spirit lifting symphony replaced by Brian Tyler's disappointing rehash of his CHILDREN OF DUNE soundtrack spliced with LORD OF THE RINGS and (believe it or not) Marvel's AVENGERS.

In a similar vein, gone is what made THOR unique to begin with. It may not be a typical mindless blockbuster, but it is becoming a typical Marvel movie. Like Iron Man 3, like Avengers, and quite possible like all subsequent marvel movies; chock full of comedy, big action and cartoon style dialogue with no effort to try and take superheroes seriously or to craft a deep themed tale of costumed vigilantes gifted with awesome powers.
*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: B+
Story: B-
Acting: A
Characters: A-
Music: C+
Replay value: B+
"Brains": D+

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