Friday, November 08, 2013

THOR: THE DARK WORLD: A Marvel Mess Of A Sorry Super Hero Sequel

Now playing at multiplexes in all of the 9 realms:


(Dir. Alan Taylor, 2013)

One thing certainly hasn’t changed for me in this follow-up to both Kenneth Branaugh’s 2011 origin story, and Joss Whedon’s 2012 super hero ensemble smash THE AVENGERS:’s Thor, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, remains my least favorite member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However Hemsworth, who showed some decent chops in Ron Howard’s RUSH earlier this year, isn’t the one to blame. It’s the fault of screenwriters Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who fail to make the Norse God into much of a compelling character. They also don’t succeed in creating much excitement in their unwieldly plotline, which I struggled to follow through tons of nonsensical exposition and a bunch of boring set pieces.

This installment deals with Thor being forced to team up with Loki (Tom Hiddleston, reprising his villainous role from THOR and THE AVENGERS) in order to stop an ancient race of Dark Elves led by Malakith (Christoper Eccleston) from conquering the 9 realms, of which Earth is one. Threading through this is the threat of a floating red fluid life force called the Aether that infects Thor’s love interest, the returning Natalie Portman.

Also reprising their roles from the first one are Anthony Hopkins as Thor’s father, Idris Elba as Norse God Heimdall, Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Erik Selvig, Rene Russo as Thor’s stepmother, and for comic relief there's Kat Dennings, taking a break from her trashy sitcom Two Broke Girls.

So there’s a likable cast caught up in all this mayhem, and fans of the formula will surely appreciate the surprise 
appearance from one of the other Avengers, the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, and the requisite after the credits stinger, (sadly Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson doesn't pop up as he’s busy with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. these days), but these elements just don't have their usual zing here.

No matter how high they try to make the stakes, what with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, it never really seems like Thor or anybody or anything is in any danger. 

As you’ve probably seen in the trailers, Thor obliterates a ginormous rock monster into tiny boulder bits with just one swing of his mighty hammer and then casually tosses off a standard action hero one-liner: “Anyone else?” This got a big laugh at the screening I attended, but I groaned. The scene is intended for us to be impressed by the power of our protagonist, but for me it perfectly displays that the indestructible Thor is one smug douche. And people say Superman is boring.

Of course, we don’t trust Loki to begin with so none of the twists in their scenario have any impact, but there’s a little fun to be had with Hemsworth and Hiddleston’s bickering - a little. 

Unfortunately again there’s zero chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman, who acts like she’s an awkward lovesick character in a fluffy rom com, except when she’s in an alien space junk-induced trance in strained close-ups.

THOR INTO DARKNESS, sorry, THOR: THE DARK WORLD doesn’t even try to be bigger and better than the first one. It’s just another big ass CGI-saturated sequel outfitted in useless 3D – seriously, I can’t recall a single instance of the imagery being helped by the tediously trendy device.

The only real surprise for me was the odd bit of casting of Chris O’Dowd, the Irish comic actor who comedy fans know as Kristen Wiig's love interest in BRIDESMAIDS and Roy in the British sitcom The IT Crowd, as a guy who goes on a blind date with Portman early on in the movie before Thor returns to earth.

O’Dowd is only in two scenes: the date scene which gets interrupted by Dennings, and a later bit in which O’Dowd phones Portman for a second date, and his signal somehow helps her and Thor reconnect to another realm or something, I can’t remember exactly how.

O’Dowd is on the sidelines disconnected from all the chaotic events, with no character being straight with him, or caring that he has no idea what’s going on. In the mist of this Marvel mess, I so know how he felt.

More later...

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