Chekhov's Gunman

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“Something Actually Happened in This One!”- THOR: THE DARK WORLD Review

thor the dark world

There are no spoilers to be found here that can’t be found in the trailers.

The first Thor was hardly even a movie. If we’re going by traditional three act structure, it was two hours of first act, followed by a quick ten minute reprieve of third act. That last bit was a nice break after an entire film of set up for an ending that wouldn’t happen for another 2 years, but hardly served to turn Thor into what we in the ticket-purchasing business would call a “movie.”

Thor: The Dark World seeks to remedy this transgression by doing exactly the opposite. The film’s three screenwriters seem to have as little interest in Exposition in New Mexico as we do, so this sequel takes off at a blistering pace.

Boom, Prologue! Boom, Thor faffing around on Asian Asgard! Academy Award Winning Actress Natalie Portman becomes possessed by cranberry juice! We’re in, we’re out, we’re done, the movie has started everybody!

It’s actually impressive how quickly things move. A lot of this is accomplished by a very simple prologue that fans of fantasy films made in the last, oh, decade or so will find incredibly stinking familiar. Basically, Malekith (Christopher Eccelston) is the harsh leader of a race of Dark Elves that seek to conquer the Nine Realms of Asgard under tutelage of Saruman, or something, I often get confused between my voice-over laden prologues made up mostly of impossible battles fought on the black surface of a big hill between two fantasy races that ends with the good guys winning and the bad guy’s weapon being dispatched of beneath the Earth. I’m being a little overly harsh, but the similarities remain.

As far as the main plot goes, it’s simple: Thor has been so busy beating up Chitauri and clearing the Nine Realms of chaos and doing everything he can to not appear on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that he has neglected to make contact with his girlfriend Jane Foster (Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman). But after she gets infected with Malekith’s lost weapon (something the film calls “Aether,” but that I cannot stop looking at as sentient cranberry juice), it’s Thor to the rescue! He takes her to Asgard the film really starts kicking.

Thor 2 is truly an ensemble piece, the second Marvel has ever done and honestly it’s best. My apologies to The Avengers. I think they’ll get over it. The ensemble is mostly made up of people from the last Thor movie, except this time you actually like them and they get more than thirty seconds of screen time. They take characters who weren’t even characters in the first film, gave them their own arcs (everybody has an arc in this movie), and made it work. Everyone grows, everyone changes, and we walk away richer from it. Some new character, Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman’s intern’s intern, has a total and complete story arc. Someone should really teach a class on this, using this film as a prime example.

The entire ensemble is winning (with one major exception that I’ll get to later). This movie made me care about the romance between Thor and Jane Foster, when I was convinced no chemistry existed between Chris Hemsworth and Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman. It’s a Christmas miracle. Do you vaguely remember any character from the first Thor? It doesn’t matter, because they’ll have an arc and prove to be really useful throughout the film and you will grow to love them. I actually was sad every time a character left the plot so things could be narrowed down to the climax. I was loving the ride the whole way through, but that’s the downside of a good ensemble.

Iron Man 3 revolved totally and completely around Tony Stark, which is probably just the way he’d like it, which was a great choice for him, but Thor has such an (apparently) rich supporting cast it would have been a shame not to use them. The proper choice was made.

Hm. . . it’s almost as if tailoring your narrative to your main character makes the films more interesting. . .

Also, and I don’t want to linger on this too long, but it should be brought up how well Marvel has been using its romantic leads as of late. It’s a shame we haven’t had the great female superhero film yet, but it’s not as much of a problem when the superhero girlfriends are as useful as these have been since Captain America. Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World both did a great job making their non-super ladies instrumental in their final battles, capable of fending for themselves (often saving the hero on multiple occasions) and with their own agency based on their abilities. Again, it’s a really great thing to see in a genre known mostly for Maggie Gyllenhaal being tied to chairs and redheads shouting, “Peter!” as Octopus Men threaten their lives.

And speaking of the Final Battle, this one is awesome. Creative, zippy, forceful, and surprisingly funny, it’s a great way to end a great time at the movies. Goes right up there next to Iron Man 3 in terms of great use of a protagonist’s ability to creative an exciting and memorable sequence that doesn’t feel like something I have seen before.

The main villain himself is sort of whatever. Eccelston does the best he can, but ultimately it’s not really a part. He is just playing evil. Malekith just wants to destroy the realms. That’s it. It’s hard to reign in a great performance when you’re playing Voldemort or Darth Vader, someone hell bent on evil without much else going on. I believed him every step of the way, but everything else in the movie was more interesting than the bad guy turned out to be.

The only real weak link in the film is Anthony Hopkins. He’s hardly even giving a performance in this. He’s not just phoning it in, but he’s phoning long distance while driving through a tunnel, causing us to lose connection right when the big emotional moments with Odin are supposed to play out.

In the end, Thor: The Dark World is a wonderful film, and a great showcase for veteran television director Alan Taylor. It’s a spectacular ride and if we’re going to get two of these damn Marvel films from now until eternity as it right now seems we might, let’s hope they keep spitting out ones this good, especially since one of the end tags suggests that things are about to get… weird. So far, Phase 2 has been great, with both Iron Man and Thor giving us hilarious, touching films that stand on their own laurels give us something to look forward to in the currently dreadful slate of blockbuster nonsense. Most notable the dreadful Superman-related ones.

Final Verdict: 7.5/10 Anthony Hopkinses. Really a very fun movie. What more of these things should strive to be.

Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of moves and TV and current writer of horrific fan fiction about the Thor/Sif/Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman love triangle. Be sure to leave your comments below, and follow or subscribe above for more updates.

Keep coming back for all the best movie and television reviews, as well as our regular Good Stuff.

You can also find my writing on What Culture!

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He was adopted.

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