"Thor: The Dark World" Review
The Thor sequel is finally here! And it's...pretty silly.
Yes, spoilers aho!
(Also, it appears my CBM account is having some trouble loading pictures, so we'll have to do without!)
Film sequels have been around for a long time. Science fiction sequels have been around at least as long as Son of Kong in 1933. But in 1977, Star Wars popularized high-concept science fiction adventure like never before, and in 1980 and 1983, it's sequels set the modern precedent for a film trilogy.
Historically, the second films in series tend to be darker, with more gravitas, going deeper into the mythology, and into the characters. The first film introduced us to these people and their relationships The second film should flesh them out, testing them, putting them in a bigger and worse situation than before, and bringing us further along the arc that is planned for them.
Besides The Empire Strikes Back some other sequels that have followed this formula are...
1981: Superman II
1982: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
1986: The Karate Kid Part II
2003: The Matrix Reloaded
2004: Spider-Man 2
2008: The Dark Knight
Thor: The Dark World tries to emulate this to an extent, but fails on many levels. It is by no means a horrendous movie, but it also had the potential to be far greater than it was.
The first problem the film suffers from is a lackluster villain. Roger Ebert once said "Superhero movies live and die on the quality of their villains." Ironically, this was said in his Thor review while criticizing Loki (whom we all loved). I can only imagine what he would say about Malekith. But I think I can imagine quite well.
Malekith has to be one of the most flat, one-note villains I have ever seen in a film. With about four lines said in English, the filmmakers make no attempt to turn him into a charismatic villain or a memorable part, which is sad considering it's the Ninth Doctor himself, Christopher Ecceleston, playing the part. He is simply there to initiate the necessary universe-destroying plot to give Thor something to do.
Adding to the villain himself, the entire villainous plot is not only incredibly generic and cornball, but quite hard to understand. I suppose because we're in the middle of a "once in five thousand years" alignment of planets, he's going to use it to turn the universe dark again. What does that even mean, he's going to turn out all the lights? It's an extremely mundane, cliche, and hokey villainous design, and doesn't hold much interest to an audience, especially coming from such a flat character. Most of the enjoyment simply comes from the characters of Thor and Loki.
Which brings me to my second problem, which is, in fact, the use of the characters. Now, the one real emotional point the film actually hits is the death of Thor's mother, Frigga. And among the film's highlights is the scene where Loki and Thor escape Asgard together. This relationship is clearly the heart of the movie, and what the filmmakers wanted to get across.
But what about Jane? One of the biggest complaints about the first film was the underdevelopment of the romance between her and Thor. Well, not only does it not get much better here, but Jane is still completely underused as a character. A plot device reintroduces her into Thor's life, and he has to shuttle her around between realms, but there is never any real meat to her part, or reasons we see that she makes him a better man (which they state at the end of the film). Heck, in the aforementioned scene, she literally faints to give Thor and Loki more screen time together. It's a complete waste of Natalie Portman's talents, and does nothing to advance the relationship that is at the crux of this film series.
Lastly, the film suffers from a severe overdose of comedic relief. Like, Transformers level severe. Watching Stellan Skarsgard run around naked and Kat Dennings shout one liners is entertaining to a point. But when it starts to creep into every ten seconds of the third act, it tends to annoy. Watching Thor and the villain jump between realms is entertaining, but it is constantly interrupted by Darcy being funny and falling for her intern. This just adds to the silliness of the villain's plot, as well as the silly solution that the characters come up with to stop it, and it makes the entire third act feel more like that of an action comedy like Rush Hour than a Marvel Studios film.
Ultimately, Thor: The Dark World fails as an upstanding sequel to the first film, and as a middle chapter in a trilogy. It makes me feel like Marvel Studios is really dropping the ball with "Phase Two." They put a lot of thought and care into making some truly great origin stories for these characters, but they don't seem to know how to make very good continuations. Which makes me very worried about Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
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