If I had a hammer… “Thor: The Dark World”

November 11, 2013

thor the dark world poster

Oh swell, there’s a new Thor movie. I have to ask, did we need this? I mean, the first Thor was basically just a means to set him up for The Avengers. It was so when he appeared in that movie audiences wouldn’t wonder if they were suddenly watching a gay orgy. The story was pretty uninvolving with almost no stakes, per se, except for a tiny New Mexico town, or if you happened to care about Thor’s home town of pipe-organland. Alas, Marvell isn’t done taking our money and has to set up a separate film franchise, so we get Thor: Dark World.

So, this Thor begins by setting up the bad guy. Seems back when the Universe was new and all Thor’s people fought a war against some creatures called simply “the Dark Elves” (and yet aren’t members of a high school metal band). The Grand Pooba of the Dark Elves,  Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) wanted to bring darkness over the Universe, because, well, why not. To this end, he tried to use something called the Aether, which is another one of those glowey MacGuffins like the Rubik’s Cube of Unlimited Power from Captain America. Only this one is red and it makes you—I don’t know—like invulnerable or something. Except not really. But it actually does when the plot needs it to.

This is a real waste of a Doctor Who.

This is a real waste of a Doctor Who.

Whatever. Point is, Thor’s people repelled the Dark Elves and Malekith escaped. Flash forward to current times, and we find Thor and his merry band of Dungeons & Dragons characters dealing with the fallout from the first movie. You may recall that in that film the gay-pride bridge that the, uh, Thorians use to travel between worlds (they call them “realms” here, because, well, it seems more Norse) was destroyed. This stranded Thor and his ilk on their home planet (except, you know, when it doesn’t). So, when this movie begins they’ve rebuilt the bridge and are now reasserting their control over the realms (yeah, they say they’re “restoring order” but that’s a PR euphemism if I ever heard one).

Meanwhile, down on Earth, Thor’s estranged gf, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and her droll assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) have just discovered a weird anomaly in a London slum. Jane falls into one and discovers the Aether, which had been hidden in a big rock someplace. Well, Thor hears about this through his buddy Heimdall—who’s like the Thorian’s answer to NSA in that he just watches over the nine realms, and, apparently, peeps on Jane to keep Thor up to date on her activities. Yeah, it’s just that creepy.

"Yeah, sorry for kinda blowing you off last time I was on Earth."

“Yeah, sorry for kinda blowing you off last time I was on Earth.”

So Thor rushes to Earth, only to discover that Jane has been infested with the Aether. He whisks her to his home of Pipe Organ City to try and treat her. Unfortunately, the Aether has also woken up Malekith, who was racked out in his surviving dreadnought. Naturally, he’s a bit pissed off, so he makes a beeline to Thor’s kingdom and promptly launches a devastating attack. Tons of people get killed in the battle, and everyone gets real somber, proving that the filmmakers have at least seen both Star Trek Into Darkness and Skyfall.

Thor teams up with his imprisoned brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston—who’s fast become the breakout star of these movies) to draw out Malekith by using Jane as bait. Thor and his posse commit treason, defying King Odin, in order to bring Jane to another realm where they can square off against Malekith without fear of collateral damage and innocent casualties. So, yeah, just Skyfall.

Well, all this ties into the dimensional anomalies in London because of…um…a planetary alignment, which, uh, makes the Aether….do something. Something bad. Okay, I’m not going down this rabbit hole. I haven’t a clue what’s supposed to be happening with the sci-fi in this movie. It reminds of one of those subpar Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes where they have no plotline except some technobabble crisis, so instead of having a real story, we end up follow Geordi around while he dings around in the engine room. Suffice it to say, all it does it set up a big fight between Thor and Malekith.

For Dark Elves they're actually kind of shiny.

For Dark Elves they’re actually kind of shiny.

I didn’t love the first Thor, since it was pretty clear the movie was just a placeholder until we got to The Avengers. Now that we’ve had that movie, this one feels even more pointless. Additionally, the first had a fish-out-of-water plotline, which was goofy fun and grounded the movie nicely. This movie eschews anything fun and asks us to take all those weird names and funny hats and pseudo-science deathly seriously.

Along with that, Thor: The Dark World, to me, just felt tedious. I’ve generally been a fan of Marvel’s movie canon, but they’re starting to get repetitive. You can only see CGI creatures fight CGI superheroes so many times before it loses its novelty and with this movie, they may well have hit the tipping point. This summer’s Iron Man 3 at least tried to tweak the formula a bit by allowing Shane Black to make it into a stealth Lethal Weapon movie. Thor: The Dark World, unfortunately, doesn’t try anything fresh.

Add to that:

* Okay, Thor’s mother gets a scene in which she battles Malekith’s (before he runs away). Okay, filmmakers? When your villain gets his ass handed to him by the hero’s mom, well, you have a problem with your villain.

* Malekith’s army attacks with fighter ships and laser-rifles. The Thorians use, uh, swords and spears. Really? Millions or billions of years later, and the Thorians never even tried gunpowder? No advaces in weaponry at all? Are you sure we’re supposed to root for these guys?

* Watching Dark Elf ships attack Pipe Organ City gave me Phantom Menace flashbacks. Man, that’s never what you want your movie to evoke.

* Odin doesn’t approve of Jane and tries to push Thor toward the comely Sif (Jaime Alexander) in a scene in which he basically says, “dude, she’s so much hotter…and she lives a real long time.” It’s one of the most awkward father/son conversations ever.

Take a good look. It's about the only thing you see Sif do.

Take a good look. It’s about the only thing you see Sif do.

* For comic relief we get a frequently nuts and naked Stellan Skarsgard. Someone decided that Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings shouldn’t wear anything even remotely flattering, but we needed to see Stellan Skarsgard pantsless. That’s like the definition of a bad decision.

* Man, there are whole scenes when characters throw around sci-fi jargon and comic book names that literally sounds like they’re speaking a foreign language.

* One chyron identifies a location simply as “Svartheim.” You can’t just put on the screen like it makes sense!

* Chris Hemsworth’s voice gets all husky and mumbly for the last third of the movie. No idea why.

Oh swell. We get to see Thor's O-face.

Oh swell. We get to see Thor’s O-face.

* The inter-credits sequence with Benicio Del Toro dressed up like TV’s Frank from MST3K hits new heights of WTF?-ism. These movies are increasingly becoming a comic book-readers-only club. 

So that’s Thor: The Dark World. It’s kind of amazing how much money and talent can be expended to produce so little of note.

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