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Nov 8, 2013

Film Review: THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013): Marvel at its Most Average

Chris hemsworth Thor The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013) Film Review, a movie directed by Alan Taylor and starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jamie Alexander, and Rene Russo.

The average Marvel Cinematic universe film is made for kids and fans and nobody else and this is the reason why I have never been able to take seriously Marvel’s films. Iron Man (2008) was awesome because there was some connection to reality and I could engage with the character and the world. Afterwards Phase One got infested with magical worlds, ridiculous historical villains and boring, clichéd, predictable story-lines.  The best thing about the Marvel films became the jokes and the action scenes and it still is. Jokes and action scenes are not enough to make a good film for me (it all starts to look like a Michael Bay picture but without the insults, the explosions and the pornographic shots of the actresses.).

This happens to be the same reason why I disliked Thor: The Dark World. The second instalment in the franchise of the Norse God superhero is much better than the first. There’s more drama, better acting, it is more visually glorious and the action scenes are much more dynamic and thrilling. The reason why I stayed until the end was Tom Hiddleston’s superb acting and the occasional refreshing humour. The battles were great but they bring absolutely nothing new to the table. Nothing impressed me enough to stay with me after the film ended, except Hiddleston’s performance. Even if I managed to swallow the absolutely ridiculous storyline (even by comic-book measures), regardless of its dramatic charge, I would still enjoy the film only as long as there are laughs to be found, enemies to be killed and charismatic mischievousness to be depicted by Loki. All of these however are mere enjoyments. The film was too poor in terms of originality, surprises or potent thrills.

The positive sides of Thor: The Dark World are few. Firstly, it is the visual splendour and the action scenes. Asgard is as beautiful as ever, the fantastical supernatural events taking place are a very decent eye-candy. The action here is more creative than in the past Thor films. The hammer is swerving amongst buildings and enemies. Thor is jumping and catching it in mid-air as he is heading off in the battle. The scale of the battles have been ramped up-they are bigger, better, more spectacular.  The other cinematically artistic positive in Thor: The Dark World is Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki, which just might be his best yet since his screen time in The Avengers was more limited. He gets the chance to show his blistering evil, dark humoured cynicism, charismatic villainy and yet in the same time, his humane, compassionate side. It is exactly because of Loki why the evident bromance between Loki and Thor works on-screen. Loki is undoubtedly Marvel’s greatest, onscreen villain ever eventhough he is surely not the best superhero villain. The irresistible way he always hangs on the border between the hope for good and his devotion to evil and the way he reflects that opposition upon the audience is undeniably special-after all, we all know Loki is a villain but we love him for his humor and his charismatic aura. It is like the viewer is seduced to believe Loki, to accept him as one of the good guys.

Unfortunately, this film is not about Loki, it is about Thor and Thor is as clichéd a hero as you have ever seen. In Thor: The Dark World, the clichés try to suffocate every bit of originality and enjoyment. Thor is the good guy, the undefeated hero, who destroys everything in his path. I might not have seen this a million times before but I have definitely seen it enough to not care about this story and this character at all. We have seen this undefeatable model of a character in every single Marvel movie. Just in The Avengers we saw this plot-device multiplied by six. Where is the challenge here? Where is the possibility of one failing? What is the point of a heroic tale if there is no such thing as a feeling of dread and doom? Yes, the narrative here does make it look like Thor is in a greater danger and is facing a more worthy adversary but eventually it is the same old story-a mighty hero just fighting and destroying bad guys. We do get something new in Thor: The Dark World and that is the personal sacrifices, but this is a refreshing plot element by Marvel storytelling measures not by measures of the rest of the blockbuster cinematic world. Afterwards we have the cliché of the magical, weakling, scientist saviour who comes up with some sort of a device that plays an important role in the final battle. The Avengers and Thor showed this in their plots throughout the course of the last two years. Now in 2013, I saw the same thing and I’m not inclined to be impressed.

The other big problem I had with Thor: The Dark World was how unbelievable the storyline was. We are talking about a comic-book film and fantastical elements are supposed to be present but when it all looks ridiculous and completely detached from reality I just can’t bother to buy it anymore. Good fantasy always has some connection to reality; otherwise it can’t be believable enough. The scene in which Jane Foster got a call from her last date on Earth while she is in a cave in Asgard, billions of light years away was so ridiculous it was actually funny. It is good that it’s funny but how does Alan Taylor expect me to take a film with such a scene seriously. Not to mention the fact that this scene took place right after possibly the most important dramatic event in the film’s story, completely annihilating the dramatic effect of it. It feels like the film’s creators sacrifice every cinematic value for the sake of comedy and battle scenes (the drama and the meaning out of the film are just so utterly wiped out). This is just one example of the ridiculous laughable situations found in Thor: The Dark World.

In order to watch Thor: The Dark World, you have to accept it the way you see it and not try to justify with any logical means what you see. Jane Foster gets transported to Asgard just like that and she is totally fine with it-there is no reaction, physical or emotional, except of gratitude. The field in which an opening battle takes place features tree lines which are obviously from Earth. The only reason why you know that this battle takes place on a foreign world is because a subtitle appears beforehand to inform you. The Power Rangers feeling is still there-sadly not only in terms of production design but also when it comes down to emotional impact. The costumes of the heroes still look as ridiculous as ever, fake and overdone, as if made of plastic and so do their weapons. Ultimately, it is obvious that Marvel is aiming at the fans here because only fans can accept the ridiculous world of Thor willingly without having to justify it. I am not a comic-book fan and I need to be convinced first in the believability of the world and then in loving the characters. Pretty looks, mighty hammers, clichés and jokes can’t make me admire a character. Thor: The Dark World takes for granted that its audience will not simply be immediately immersed into the world and its characters but that they will also be emotionally engaged in it and rightfully so-the fans of the franchise are numerous. What about the rest of the countless potential viewers who are not ready to kill in order to meet with a real-life Loki?

I admit that I might have treated Thor: The Dark World as a good pop-corn blockbuster if the whole film was filled with fantastical battles, humour and Loki every single minute. Unfortunately, it is not; even if it was, it would certainly not be enough to make me go back and watch the film again. Marvel films like these that leave me with nothing but the fading memory of little joys simply feel worthless. Watching both Thor and now Thor: The Dark World feels like eating a MacDonalds meal. It’s boring but it’s tasty and once I’m done with it I forget it in microseconds. I understand why Marvel fanboys and girls like this sequel. If they admire Thor as a glorious, legendary hero every time he is on screen and if they are mad for Loki (hardly new news), this would be as powerful and affecting a film for them as The Lord of the Rings films (another franchise set in a magical world) are in the eyes of the ordinary viewer. If you are not a fan, it is just impossible to care for anything more than the actions scenes, the jokes and sometimes for the performances-in this case of Tom Hiddleston. If normal viewers are aged above 13 or 14, I don’t see how they can feel thrilled or moved even if we are talking about death scenes or the romance because the story feels utterly ridiculous and unbelievable. Thor: The Dark World is a comic book film and fantastical things should happen but why can’t they happen in a new, thrilling, interesting, emotionally involving way that we can care for? Thor: The Dark World is not a film for grown-ups or one that leaves a lasting impression on you. If you are not a fan, it is worth watching it with a big box of popcorn. You will enjoy both in equal measures and when the popcorn box is empty, the movie will go in the thrash along with it.

Rating: 5/10