Hammer and Thor
By Adam Sturrock
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Director: Alan Taylor
Writer(s): Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Christopher Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christopher Ecclestone, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins
So with a little uncertainty, I watched the second of the Thor films: The Dark World in 3-D. With my feelings still fresh I thought I should type them up if I can. Did I like it? Kind of….
The first film in my opinion, was a little bit cautious and rightfully so; it was cramming the lore of the comics in and doubly trying to build the film up in preparation of the (then) upcoming Avengers Assemble film. It introduced the main protagonist, the Nordic God of Thunder, Thor (Hemsworth) and his adopted brother, Loki (Hiddleston) and introduced Jane Foster (Portman) as the human love interest. I felt the story was hit and miss- Chris Hemsworth was an admittedly convincing, yet somewhat stiff hero and often relied on his fish out of water schtick to endear himself to viewers. The charismatic Tom Hiddleston definitely carried the three marvel films that he appeared in as Loki (T1, AA, T2). In a similar fashion as Robert Downey Jr, he can gracefully switch between comical and serious scenes with ease and has therefore built up a very vocal fan-base from the films. You could argue that the British/English actor is more popular than Thor; well, at least within the Asgard universe.
It becomes very apparent that the marvelous Loki has been reduced to a side role and makes way for the new “baddie”, the Dark Elf leader, Malekith played by Christopher Eccleston. Disappointing. Fans of Doctor Who may recognize the actor’s name from his stint in the first two of the rebooted series, but you might not be able to discern who he is under the layers of white make-up; he could challenge the girls of TOWIE with this amount of slap! At no point did I see him as a threat as his motives were never truly explained. The comics may have a greater depth of lore but in the film his aims for multi-universal destruction is a shrug: “he’s a dark elf, he wants the universe to be shrouded in darkness”. Really, Marvel?
The entire plot revolves around the discovery of this powerful force called Aether, a dark entity that Malekith wants to use for the Universe’s demise. Thor’s grandfather fought against Malekith in a great war over this volatile force and defeats the Dark Elves; forcing them to SACRIFICE THEIR ENTIRE ARMY to flee. As you do with most powerful forces, the Asgardians buried it underground to be kept hidden and the Dark Elves hibernate in preparation for their search. This is explained in roughly 5mins. Skip to the current time period and Portman & Co have uprooted to London in their quest to understand mysterious signals messing with their equipment. This seemingly extremely dangerous Aether is eventually found via a portal by Jane Foster, still mildly peeved that Thor did not see her on his earlier romp through New York. Accidentally, she absorbs the Aether and thus awakens Malekith and his army which brings about the events to come: Thor arriving et al. The problem that I had that stopped me from enjoying the film was that at very few points did I feel much involvement with the story: very few of the characters seemed to be fleshed out to the extent that made me feel worried about their wellbeing. Being just a bit shorter than the usual Marvel runtime of two hours, it feels as if too many elements of the plot could have been fleshed out if the film was a little longer.
The romantic plotline between Hemsworth and Portman seems shoehorned in parts as it fails to build upon the chemistry from the previous Thor film. It acts merely as a device to draw Thor to Earth and nothing much else; rumors that Portman tried to quit shooting the sequel may have added fuel to the fire for a reason for her lack-luster performance. The introduction of a possible love triangle fails to be developed in order to keep the film relatively short; maybe we can see more of this in sequels or in the director’s cut?
With many of the cast struggling to step up to the plate, it’ll soon become the Loki-show in a similar fashion to Jack Sparrow in the POC series as Hiddleston becomes the sole element that punters look forward to outside of a topless Hemsworth. Having betrayed the crown for bringing about the events of the Avengers, Loki is banished to a high security prison where he waxes lyrical about being the adopted son. This is temporary as Loki is employed by his brother to take down the Dark Elves and this 30 or so minute section of the film is the highlight of what is a fairly dark (get it) plot. Tom Hiddleston is the driving force for a large majority of the set pieces.
I would like to mention the smart choice by Marvel to hire Game Of Thrones director, Alan Taylor. Carrying over his experience of fighting set pieces from the previously mentioned TV series, battles seem beefier in the way they are filmed; more in your face hand to hand action is great! The use of Thor’s hammer involves less throwing and more beating the crap out of enemies from up-close. Well done! What about the age-old question of if you should see it in 3-D? Three dimensional films often have to tread between gimmicky reaching for the screen or avatar-eque integration. Thor on paper should shine with its stunning CGI cities and action sequences but most of the time, I barely noticed anything of note that justified forking out extra money for the glasses. This seems to be yet another example of cashing in on the three dimensional boom experienced at the moment.
The film has the potential to be a great Superhero film but I felt the story became a short story that simply couldn’t fit in enough sub-plots to engross me; the plot rarely deviated from an A-B quest to the end battle which seemed somewhat lackluster with regards to the fairly one dimensional antagonist. With the final scene of the film hinting at another Thor adventure, it seems that the God of Thunder is here to stay and this film leaves plenty to build upon, character progression wise. A decent Marvel film nonetheless.