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Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings

Written By: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sheldon Lettich Directed By: Sheldon Lettich

The Short Version

Escapist adventure awaits!

Just try to ignore the headline romance.  And most of the Earth stuff.  And the plot.

Tom Hiddleston steals every scene he’s in.  Of course you won’t mind.

Natalie Portman has romantic screen chemistry with exactly no one.

Just remember that this is a comic book flick, and there’s fun to be had with Thor: The Dark World.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


A perfectly acceptable standby.

Pairs Well With...


Mead’s too elegant for this, but the beer equivalent works.





So, what are you expecting from Thor: The Dark World?

This may seem like a silly question to ask about a comic book movie, but after the expectations set by many of Marvel’s efforts of late – especially the first Thor – it truly isn’t silly.  Some have been straight up action flicks, some have been character studies, some have been “Thea-tah.”  And then there’s the not-so-small detail that Thor was directed by Kenneth Branagh, and looked like it.

So, I ask again, what are you expecting from Thor: The Dark World?

With the full realization that you’re going to see this flick anyway (and I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from doing so), let’s affirm/temper some of those expectations, shall we?

Thor: The Dark World is a comic book movie.  I don’t just mean that it’s a movie based on a comic book character; I mean that the movie itself is written and plays out in comic book fashion.  (Indeed, this is one of the most comic-feeling movies to come out of the Marvel gates since their heroic resurgence.)  Its major sequences play less like Cinema Acts than they do Comic Book Issues, and they Simply Do Not Care how realistically they come across.  Things like physics and logic do not apply even in a stretched sense.  (One doesn’t suspend disbelief here; one sends it out bungee jumping.)  The writers are also very clearly more focused on story arc than they are on fined-tuned story.  And that’s fine.  In fact, it’s quite entertaining.

“World of Thorcraft.”  That was the first phrase that came to mind as I saw the film’s two initial battle sequences, which take the modern video game route of old school swords-n-hammers fantasy mixed with dashes of sci-fi and sorta-steampunk.  Then as the movie went on, I couldn’t help but pick out elements that seemed directly lifted (and I do mean uncannily so) from yet another popular multiplayer video game, which brought to mind the title “Star Thors: The Old Republic.”  The media are mixing, ladies and gents.  Oh yes they are.  And that’s fine.  In fact, it’s quite entertaining.

Kenneth Branagh did not direct this movie.  This means that things liked carefully crafted themes and characters and profound interactions end up in the “optional” pile.  (The director’s priorities define the writers’ priorities.)  This means that Asgard feels less like Shakespeare and more like HBO.  (A keen viewer could probably guess that director Alan Taylor has spent most of his time in television without cheating.)  This means that the concept of balance between the fantastical worlds of Norse Gods and real locations on Earth has gone straight out the window.  (London and Greenwich seem utterly silly in this film after the goings-on in other realms, as though they are the unreal locations, whereas the rural New Mexico of the first film struck a balance with lush Asgard.)  And that’s… okay.  A little awkward and jarring whenever we come back to Earth, but all that “Thorcraft” stuff is so entertaining that this is very easy to overlook.  Just remember…

The story is paper thin.  We’re talking rice paper.  This script’s entire complexity allocation is spent on a single subplot (involving Loki, of course); the rest of it is just an excuse to move from candy sequence to candy sequence, with an understanding that the movie has to end a certain way and the script will therefore employ the most expeditious means possible to get there, even if the solution for beating the villain at the end (don’t even think of calling that a spoiler) is utterly contrived deus ex machina convenience to the extreme.  And the villain?  He’s not so much a relevant character as he is a plot device, though he does stalk quite nicely.

Performances are very hit and miss.  I’m sure this will shock exactly no one: Tom Hiddleston gives the movie’s best performance as Loki, who also happens to be the most interesting character.  Renee Russo doesn’t get enough screen time as Frigga, but she makes the most of what she’s got.  Anthony Hopkins phones it in, but the beard and the costume do a lot of the acting for him.  Jaimie Alexander gets the short end of the stick – again – as an interesting character well played but with not enough to do.  Kat Dennings takes a character who at this point could easily be called a silly add on and makes her way more interesting than the actual female lead.  Speaking of which…

Natalie Portman has romantic chemistry with exactly no one.  Remember the Padme/Anakin disaster of the Star Wars prequels?  Well, here we go again, only the whining has been replaced by complete, utter indifference.  One of the two major axes of Thor: The Dark World is this allegedly epic romance between Thor and Jane, and I am just not buying it.  Chris Hemsworth does his part as the lovestruck jock, but Portman seems to have decided that he’s got muscles so he should carry the whole thing.  What chemistry Kenneth Branagh was able to coax out of them in the previous film is completely absent here, despite the fact that it is more important to the this film – by far – than it was to the last one.  (Is it too late to have Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman switch places?  Please?)  As for the rest of her acting… She’s got two decent scenes, one of which requires her to be totally oblivious to the person she’s talking to.  Guess we’re back to par for the course.

The coolest visual involves a Viking funeral.  On the plus side: cool scene!  On the minus side: damn you, Joss Whedon, you’re not even officially on the credit list (even though he did, of course, have not-insignificant input)!  That signature gets really old really fast!

Of course you’re staying past the credits.  Thor: The Dark World has two postscripts.  One comes just a few moments into the end credit roll that provides an obvious early setup for the second Avengers arc, and it is very cool, especially for the character (and casting choice) it introduces.  The other happens at the very end, finishes off this specific film, and due to factors suggested earlier made me want to throw up a lttle.

After reading the stuff above, you’ve probably clued into the fact that I came away from Thor: The Dark World feeling disappointed.  All things considered, I really was expecting a better, more complete film with more interesting stuff happening between the characters and a script that didn’t play out as though the writers thought having to keep to a plot was a burden.  However, this does not mean that I didn’t like it.  As a fan of the Golden Age of Action Movies (80s and early 90s, for those new to my writing), I can certainly enjoy a flick with exciting action sequences, fun visuals, and the occasional cheesy joke or one-liner to carry things through while things like characters and plot are just “kinda there.”  So yes, I had fun.  It’s just not the fun I was expecting to have.

Bottom line, Thor: The Dark World is an enjoyable comic book action flick, but if you’re expecting it to be like the first one, you’re going to want to wind those expectations back a bit.  Just sit back, stop thinking, and enjoy the comic panels as they flash in front of your eyes.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2013

More From The Bar! | Iron Man 2 | Man of Steel | The Wolverine | Warcraft |

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