Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World must be considered in light of its place in Marvel Studios’ attempt to create an epic, interlocking series of films that involves both core characters like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and lesser known heroes in films yet to come. This installment of Thor has a job to do then ; it must carry the macro-story forward while still developing the characters and situations introduced in Kenneth Branagh’s first Thor film. That The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor, succeeds to a large degree should be considered a sign of the overall health of the Marvel project. The opening scenes find Thor bringing peace to the Nine Realms (locations like “Vanaheim” appear in titles on the screen) with the help of old friends like Sif (Jamie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson). A reluctant Thor is being groomed to become King of Asgard by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) while brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) languishes in prison because of his actions in The Avengers. In the unlikely event that The Dark World is your first stop in the Marvel Universe then you should know that Hiddleston’s Loki is looking like Marvel’s insurance policy, a character that can be hauled out at any point to make mischief. That certainly happens here, but only after a good deal of the story has already unfolded.

The central villain of Thor: The Dark World is called Malekith and played by an unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston. There’s a good deal of exposition around Malekith’s desire to use a substance called the “Aether” to bring darkness to the universe. The search for the Aether intersects with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her Earthbound friends Erik (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings, holding up the comic end well). Jane discovers a dimensional portal which leads to her merging with the Aether, a reunion with Thor, and an a race to stop Malekith from destroying everything. Though The Dark World lacks some of the charm of the first Thor it tells its story with great efficiency. The battle scenes aren’t overlong and Hemsworth is good at conveying just how much Thor’s efforts cost him. I wish that Malekith had been individualized a little more, he’s a little too close to the anonymous aliens of The Avengers, yet Eccleston layers on the menace skillfully and makes a little something out of the part. The rendering of Asgard has improved since the last film, but the people there are still far less fun than Jane and her crew. Only Idris Elba as the watchful Heimdall suggests depths beyond his function in the plot. I’ve no doubt that there are hidden things here that non-comic readers like me will miss; that didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the film. Finally The Dark World is a bridge from one Marvel film to another, but if you’re already on the ride then it’s a bridge worth crossing.

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