First Critic-al Thinking review! Tis a good day! And now the disclaimer:
I am in no way shape or formed trained in critique nor do I really know what I’m talking about. I’m just speaking from my personal views and feelings. Because let’s face it… I’m the type of guy who looks for movies on Rotten Tomatoes that got terrible critic reviews, but the fans loved it.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING SECTIONS HAVE MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS. IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN UNSPOILED (OR JUST DON’T WANT MY LONGWINDED REVIEW) CLICK HERE OR SCROLL DOWN TO READ MY WRAP-UP
In case you haven’t heard, Thor: The Dark World had a smashing weekend pulling something like $86 million on opening weekend. That’s not a bad haul eh? But is it just Avengers carry-over, or does Thor 2 really hold a torch of its own. Let’s have a look, eh?
Teaser Synopsis – No Spoilers
So in the wake of Avengers, it seems that there’s a bit more to the Thor storyline then just hunting Loki down. Apparently, Thor’s been out and about trying to bring peace to the nine realms in the wake of the bifrost getting blown to smithereens. And Midgard, i.e. Earth, was on that list. At the top of it as it would appear. But Thor has prevailed, Loki is incarcerated and the nine realms are at peace. At least until an ancient darkness wakens from its failure-induced slumber to track down its ancient weapon of INCREDIBLE power and attempt to use it to snuff out all light and life in the multiverse.
Just another day in the life of a marvel superhero.
Along the way we get some insight and looks into the characters that are the Thor movie universe. Some good, some bad and some downright obnoxious. So let’s jump right in with the goodness (and there’s a lot) before I rant on what went wrong. Last chance, spoilers below!!
Epic Movie is Epic
Ok, so first things first. Let’s talk about Loki. Cuz I mean, come on, it’s freaking LOKI. Tom Hiddleston has done for Loki what Heath Ledger did for the Joker. He’s took his character and ran with it. Usain Bolt style. I have zero negative things to say about Mr. Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki. It’s absolutely fantastic. Second on the list to get out of the way: What a fucking gorgeous cast! Sif, Jane, Thor, Loki, Frigga… hell even Anthony Hopkins keeps his old, classy swagger. I’m personally in the camp of people who feels that Jaimie Alexander (Sif) is a scene stealer. That woman oozes badassery from every step. I saw a rumor on yahoo I think about her being looked at to do a Wonder Woman role. HELLZ YEAH!
So fanboy gushing aside, this movie has a lot to be proud of. The CG work is fantastic, the acting is pretty top notch, there’s some great easter eggs for the geeks and nerds out there (I’m looking at you Chris O’Dowd) AND manages to have a cool plot with great action and comedic timing. I’m not going to go in-depth here, because this isn’t a plot synopsis, this is a review, so I’m just going to touch on a few scenes that really stood out to me and in my opinion made the movie. In no particular order:
Frigga gets some pretty awesome screen time in this movie, which is cool. I love it when they show bad-ass women doing bad-ass things. Thor 2 also barely passes the Bechdel test, a rarity these days. The Bechdel test is simply when a movie has more than one female actress who has conversation with another female actress and it isn’t about men. Frigga and Jane Foster have some dialogue together and Frigga gives her life to protect Jane when the Dark Elves first invade Asgard, looking for the Aether. It’s a very powerful scene, especially when Thor arrives just a moment too late to save his mother. The funeral scene is one of the most beautiful sequences I’ve seen in cinema in a long, long time. Most everyone I went with had at least a little dust in the eye during that scene. There was several comments and scenes that really related just how important Frigga was. From how much Loki still loved her deeply as his “mother” to how she influenced Odin and made him a better king. It really was great stuff and I truly believe her character was one of the best and most thought out in the movie.
Loki and Thor
Let’s face it, anytime we get to see goldilocks with psycho mantis on screen together, it’s a great freaking day. And there was plenty to inspire that here. Once Thor’s mother dies, he realizes that to spare more Asgardian lives he has to take the fight away from Asgard. So he hatches a plot to escape Asgard with Jane Foster and confront Malakith himself. The only hiccup is that he needs Loki to do it. The warrior’s three do a great job of aiding in the springing of Loki, and Heimdall again is in on the action. Once Loki is freed, there is a scene between him and Thor as they are walking down a hallway, Thor all paranoid and Loki like a kid in a candy store. He goes through several illusions as he taunts and jests with his “brother” including copying Captain America in a hilarious parody of the character. It’s truly one of the highlights of the film. Thor has lost all his trust in his brother, something that obviously pains him. And when they do escape, thanks to Loki’s help, they have a brief argument regarding the death of their mother after which Thor admits, “I wish I could trust you”. The delivery of that line and the look on Thor’s face is pure acting gold. Followed by the amazing delivery of “Trust my rage” from a whispering Loki. The dynamic of the two of them together is magical and I can only hope we have such forays in the future.
The Supporting Cast
When you have powerhouses like Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston mastering the characters of Thor and Loki, it would be understandable if the supporting cast was overshadowed. I can’t tell you how pleased to say they are not. Well, not all of them. Four in specific really helped make this movie feel fantastic to me. I’ve already touched on Frigga, who has one of the top three scenes in the movie, so let me give some praise to the others.
Dr. Erik Selvig went from being a brilliant, calm man in Thor, to an insane genius in the Avengers to a… well a TRULY insane genius in Thor 2. The portrayal of the character in his insanity yet clarity is masterfully done by Stellan Skarsgård. He absolutely steals the scene a couple of times in the movie by embracing the insanity of his character, much like Tom Hiddleston does with Loki.
Jaimie Alexander is a goddess. Pure and simple. Whenever I see her onscreen as Sif I have the same two questions: why don’t we get more of her and why is Thor going after Jane? I’ll touch more on that later, but as mentioned above I think Jaimie Alexander has a fantastic portrayal of a confident, warrior woman. Between her and Frigga you just get a needed display of female kickassery, something that Jane Foster just doesn’t provide. In a testosterone filled muscle fest like Thor, it was great to have Sif be able to step up and just be the embodiment of a fierce warrior, right alongside Thor. I know why they didn’t do this, but I really wish we could have scene her use her sword-staff. I saw that thing and had a total nerdgasm.
Lastly, this is just a personal shout out. I ADORE this guy. Idris Elba, otherwise known as Heimdall in the movie. Mr. Elba is one of those actors that can just run away with a scene totally on accident, much like Mark Ruffalo did in the Avengers. And he does so here too. I fell in love with this guy when I saw him in Losers. And in Prometheus he was one of the only three likable characters in the whole movie, the other two being his co-pilots. He was just downright badass in Pacific Rim and even though he only gets a little bit of screentime in Thor 2, when he does you’re just like hell yeah. From his voice to his presence, it’s just fantastic. The scene where Heimdall is talking about the convergence and when Thor initially hatches the plot with him to betray Odin’s orders are fantastic. Mr. Elba brings a whole new level to the character, emotionally speaking, in both of those scenes. That’s something difficult to do as the other times we had seen Heimdall, he was a stalwart, quiet guardian.
There’s a few key aspects of the story that I truly enjoyed.
I loved that Thor inadvertently brings about the death of his mother because of Jane. It’s a subtle plot nuance that really dials in the darkness of the tone this time around. It shows the price of action on a completely different scale. Previously it was all about war. But this cost came out of love. Injecting that little bit of sorrow-filled irony really added to the story for me.
The descent of Loki was another brilliant piece. Watching him at war with his self was intense, especially the last time he and his mother talked. How much rage must Loki have been filled with to know the last words he said to Frigga were “You are not [my mother]“? You could see clearly that it pained him to even say it, even as he warred internally to try to separate himself from a family lost to him. You see glimpses of hope for Loki amidst his megalomaniacal mind, such as when he saves both Thor and Jane from death. I was pleased to know that the predictable faking of his death was indeed truth, and grinned like an idiot to see him sitting upon the throne of Asgard.
The overall story was pretty well done I feel. A basic premise, but one well executed with a lot of little bits between to bolster and strengthen the relatively simple conflict.
Where Thor 2 Falls Short
Let’s address the elephant in the room:
I hate, I hate, I HATE PETER PAN… wait sorry, wrong movie… JANE FOSTER!
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Natalie Portman does a GREAT job of playing the character as it was given to her. I just think they TOTALLY dropped the ball on what could have been a moving, interesting, intense character that was worthy of Thor’s affections. Instead we get a cute, bumbling, socially-inept genius that is endearing, but poses a very powerful question: Why on Asgard would Thor pick HER over Sif?
Let’s come to grips with two things here: Jane Foster and Sif are both strong, attractive, powerful women. One as a scholar, the other a warrior. Both obviously mean a great deal to Thor. Where I lose it is when you think about all the battles and such that Thor has gone through with Sif, you’d think they’d have built up some sort of deep connection. And you get glimpses of that. Glimpses that Sif holds a love for him that she has yet to bring to bear because of his lack of indication that he holds the same. And I do get it to a degree… Jane was the one who showed him the error of his ways, so to speak. It was protecting her that gave him a new purpose in life other than to be a spoiled brat turned warrior-of-the-ages seeking glory. That’s powerful. But the… silliness of Jane’s character loses a lot of that weight for me. In the comic books, she was a teacher. I think if that was the case here, I’d swallow the pill more willingly. If she was someone who was making a difference in the lives of other people directly, something Thor could witness and latch onto, I’d be ok with it. But as it stands now, I just have to think in my head that Thor sees Sif as a sister-comrade and that’s why he hasn’t taken her up on the BLATANT offer she’s given him.
Ok… now that that’s out of my system. I have two other major complaints. One is the pacing of the movie and the other is the villain of the movie.
As to the pacing, in GENERAL I feel it was pretty good. But it dropped the ball a few times. The intro was unnecessary. All that could have been explained in the library when they were researching the Aether. A better intro might have been a brief fill-in of what’s gone on in the multiverse up to this point. Not only was the intro unnecessary but it was LONG. And that’s a shame because the movie, in today’s standards, was SHORT. Cut out that fat and gives us some more meat! There were half a dozen or more scenes that BEGGED to have just a few more precious minutes of interaction that just didn’t get it. The actions scenes were fantastic, but character development man! Give me more! MAOR!
Thor is a unique property in that the initial film truly felt like a filler movie that was just establishing some characters and relationships. But it did that WELL. Why? Because now you bloody care about those characters! Give me less Darcy and intern and give me more Thor and Loki! More Sif! More Odin and Frigga! More Frigga and Jane even! MORE HEIMDALL!!! He finally gets a badass action scene and he uses shortswords? Give that fucker his broadsword and let him lay waste for a bit! There are so many characters in the Thor universe that we care about, yet I feel the movie just didn’t give them enough time. There was enough to tell the story, but not enough to satisfy the need that story generated.
And that brings me to the villain: Malakith. Speaking of characters you care about, here’s one that you don’t give a flying baheezafuck (don’t ask) about. Malakith ISN’T the villain of Thor 2. LOKI is. And that’s ok, I don’t have a problem with that, I really don’t. But that’s because I’ve seen all the other movies, I know Thor’s comic culture to a certain degree and I had no problems with Malakith taking backseat to the stars of the show. But not everybody is that informed. And I think that was gamble. He was a one-dimensional cookie-cutter minion turned mob-boss. Hell, his lieutenant had more depth than he did. I really think the writing team failed in making anyone care at all about Malakith other than as a plot device. Again, there could have been a lot more done here, but oh well, at least we got plenty of Loki action!
As a final note… screw whoever decided to give more onscreen time to Darcy (not the actress the character)… god what an annoying waste.
Wrap-Up, otherwise known as TL;DR
On a scale of 1-10, here’s my wrap-up on Thor: The Dark World
I really think the story was overall pretty good with just a few things that could have been done differently to make it just a bit meatier.
There are some FANTASTIC scenes in this movie. And even the brief glimpses we get of the other realms throughout the film give you an idea of what they embody (which is accurate to norse mythos as well as the comic if I remember correctly). Can’t say enough good things about the camerawork, the CG or the overall design of the film. Just masterful and beautiful all day long.
I don’t remember the soundtrack. So why am I giving it an seven? Because a great soundtrack pulls you into the scenes of the movie without overshadowing the movie. And that’s what the soundtrack did here. There was no memoral Avenger’s theme, but the soundtrack helped pull me into the world presented onscreen without making me stop watching and go “Hey that’s awesome!” However, because I didn’t do that, I can’t rightfully give it higher than the seven I did, and that is actually probably being a tad generous. I’ll have to watch it again (twist my arm).
The acting in this film is SUPERB. End of story. Even the ever-annoying Darcy was well-acted… just really freaking annoying. Fantastic cast.
Enjoyment Factor: 9
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I was a little scared with the slow-paced intro, but once the movie got going, I was hooked from start to finish. I’d not only see it again, I’d see it again in THEATER.
Another solid Marvel entry. Enough loose-ends to bring you back for more. I swear, Marvel/Disney has found the key to my wallet and I’m smiling the whole time they are taking my money. I’d say this one was much better than the first movie, and if you were concerned about the sequel because of Thor 1, don’t be. It’s a fun watch.
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