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Thor: The Dark World – Review

November 4, 2013

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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When the writing credits of a big blockbuster that’s part of a Marvel Studios, comic-book-based franchise amount to an astounding grand total of five names (two “story by” and three “screenplay by” credits), allow me to be mildly concerned or skeptic at the very least about what the final outcome is going to be like. And well, as it turns out, my perplexities were more than legitimate, since to break it quite gently, Thor: The Dark World is an uneven and extremely repetitive piece of loud, heavily CGI-ed Marvel action that adds nothing remotely new or exciting to the Avengers universe.

Kicking things off with your average, expositional, voice-over-laced prologue, Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Odin narrates a piece of Asgard’s history that sets up the events of the film’s overly derivative plot. In the old age, Odin’s father had vanquished the Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who wanted to return the universe to its state before creation using a force called the Aether. Odin’s father defeats Malekith’s warriors and traps the Aether within a stone column. But Malekith, his lieutenant and other warriors manage to escape into suspended animation. In the present, the Asgardians learn that a rare alignment of the cosmic Nine Realms is imminent, and that passages are created in certain areas where the Realms touch.

On Earth, scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who hasn’t seen Thor (Chris Hemsworth) since his return to Asgar at the end of the first film, is taking an unsuccessful crack at dating when her goofy intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) interrupts her far-from-idyllic dinner to reveal she’s discovered some strange activity around a factory. Jane and Darcy find a passage that also happens to be the location of the stone column where the Aether is contained. As Jane inspects the strange substance, the Aether seeps through and enters Jane’s body, turning her into a vessel for the destructive dark force. Meanwhile in Asgar, Tom Hiddleston’s villainous, yet hilariously entertaining Loki is being trialed for the crimes committed in the first film and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life locked up in the dungeons. But when Malekith and his dark forces are awakened by the release of the Aether and start wrecking havoc both on Asgar and on Earth, Thor is left with no choice but rely on Loki’s help to face such a threat.

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If you had anything to complain about the Shakespearian gravitas Sir Kenneth Branagh brought to Thor’s origin story in the franchise’s first film, let me tell you that at least he tried to actually direct the material with personal touch. For this sequel however, Alan Taylor, who’s built an illustrious career directing some of the best television dramas of the past decade (including most of Game Of Thrones), sadly feels just like a director for hire and to be fair it’s not really his fault. It’s mind-boggling how it took five people to write such an unexciting script. Sure this sequel is bigger and louder but when your plot has been overly done to nausea and most importantly, when you waste Christopher Eccleston as a villain whose development goes no further than his cheesy make up, enough is said.

Now, I may be the farthest thing from a member of the comic book geek-dom but I’m not necessarily prejudiced against the genre, if only studios managed to inject anything remotely fresh into both storytelling and character development. The silver lining here is that at least the humor saves the day, like in most Marvel extravaganzas. Tom Hiddleston is especially commendable for his flawless timing in delivering witty sarcasm and the chemistry with Chris Hemsworth is as solid as ever. Their relationship is the only thing that’s remotely compelling about the film. Kat Dennings is once again Loki’s earthling counterpart as far as comic reliefs go whereas Natalie Portman is quite forgettable in the look-good, pretend-to-be-smart Jane Foster. And yet I can only blame the script for not providing her with the meat she needs in order to prove her Oscar worth.

The bottom line is we all know this is nothing more than campy fun and that mass audiences crave for the ultimate mind-blowing spectacle. This is pure entertainment and this industry is a business. But this is also the business of telling stories and good stories need to be compelling to fully succeed at entertaining. I recently had an interesting diatribe about the injustice of comic book movies not being taken seriously from an artistic standpoint hence being snubbed by the Academy Awards. Maybe you’ve already forgotten that The Dark Knight actually took home two Oscars, including best supporting actor for the late Heath Ledger. It is possible indeed to blend in mass entertainment and artistic value. If the Marvel franchises haven’t accomplished that yet, I guess they need to dig a bit deeper…

Thor: The Dark World is out in UK cinemas.

Francesco Cerniglia – Junior Film Editor