Saturday, June 14, 2014

DVD Review: Thor: The Dark World

Since this film as been out for awhile, even on DVD, I'll liberally sprinkle in spoilers. You have been warned.

First off, Thor: The Dark World (2013) was infinitely better than the original movie Thor (2011), which was just about a total waste of film and time. I know some sort of Thor movie had to be made so this character could be included in The Avengers (2012), but translating the comic book "God of Thunder" into a live action film was always going to be a challenge. Of all the founding members of the Avengers, Thor was most likely to be voted "Should have stayed inside his own comic book."

Somehow, within the context of the Avengers, he isn't so bad, but all by himself in the otherworldly Asgardian realm, he seems ridiculous, and he even appears more silly on Earth among mortals, at least in the original movie.

I think "Dark World" took the right tack this time. It seemed a bit more "Lord of the Rings-ish," which has always played well on both the small and big screen. When you pull a total disconnect from "the real world" and keep Thor (Chris Hemsworth) a larger than life "god" in a sweeping saga of ancient legends and fables, he's more or less "OK" to take in. The tricky part is to toggle back and forth between the fantasy and reality worlds. In this case (as opposed to the previous films), that wasn't so bad either, and it had to be made to work this time, because Thor, in order to be an Avenger, must be perceived as a child of both worlds.

I'm still having trouble seeing Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as an astrophysicist and somehow, even with her Star Wars background, she is out of place in the Thor films. I did kind of like how Thor took her to Asgard, hearkening back to the Silver Age comic book Thor when he took Jane to Asgard and asked Odin to make her an immortal (Journey into Mystery vol. 1, #125, February 1966). Also, it was inevitable that Jane and Sif should meet and Sif must be asking herself, "What does this little mortal twit have that I don't have?"

Unpaid interns having unpaid interns of their own. Comedy relief. Cute. One wonders how they live.

Erik Selvig (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) gone mad and prancing around Stonehenge naked. I guess having a "god" in your brain would do that to a fellow.

Loki (the always impressive Tom Hiddleston) in prison, pondering his fate or just plain being bored. Maybe waiting for his chance to escape (for after all, being long lived if not immortal must make one patient). Who loves Loki and is he capable of love in return? A mother's love, especially an adoptive mother, is iron clad, and Frigga (Rene Russo) is the only one to harbor affection for the villainous Loki in her heart. Fathers, once disappointed by sons, tend to hold them at arm's length and to mask love with anger as did Odin (Anthony Hopkins), yet though Odin would be within his rights, he did not totally banish Loki nor did he have him killed.

I liked the "lunch scene" between Thor and Heimdall (Idris Elba) but my understanding is that Heimdall must always stand guard at the Rainbow Bridge. He doesn't get vacations or even coffee breaks. Who's watching out for Asgard's safety?

Not that Heimdall was much help. I didn't think anything escaped his vision, but the Dark Elves had magic (technology) that defeated even him.

During "the great escape" Thor once again proved Loki is the brainier of the two brothers by far, but then Hemsworth portrays Thor as courageous, noble, heroic, but not particularly bright. I guess when you have guys like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner as part of the Avengers, you have to counterbalance all of those "smarts" with "big and dumb" (and the Hulk can't have all the fun in that department).

The battle scenes reminded me of any action film. Lots of shooting and explosions but it's shooting and explosions that would have been just at home in any movie, even one that was more real-to-life action and non-fantasy. It was actually kind of jarring. Hand-to-hand, swords, hammers, yes. Machine guns and cannons, no.

Loki's seeming betrayal (and it was believable because of who Loki is) and then reversal and then double-cross at the very end was well handled, and the Thor movies would be barely enjoyable without Hiddleston's "Prince of Mischief" gracing their frames. The ploy to get Thor to renounce his claim to the Throne of Asgard for the love of Jane Foster was smooth if not brilliant, and I didn't see Loki replacing Odin in illusion coming at all. This begs the question of what happened to Odin, and now that Frigga is dead (giving her life to heroically defend Jane damn!), who's to see through the mask of "Odin" to find the face of Loki beneath?

Not Thor who's too busy making out with Jane in London and waiting for Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) to be filmed.

I watch the Thor movies for two reasons: because they're part of the overall continuity of the Marvel Avengers universe, and the various (two in this film) after end of credits scenes speak of other films to come, as did Sif and company meeting with The Collector as a set up for the movie Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014).

I suppose I'm not a fan of Thor in film for the same reason I never got into reading Thor in the comic books. He just seems too odd. He doesn't really "do it" for me as a standalone character. Like I said, he's OK in the Avengers where he doesn't have to be the center of attention, at least for very long, but all by himself, carrying a full length motion picture (or long lasting comic book series), he's not for me.

I'm glad I watched Thor: The Dark World but I wouldn't pay to watch it again, nor would I add it to my film collection. It was good, basic entertainment and it completed my view of the Marvel Universe related to the Avengers, but now that I've seen it and filled in the knowledge gaps, it's time to move on.

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