Friday, November 8, 2013

Thor: The Dark World review; Marvel does it again

Marvel just can't miss.  Since 2008's Iron Man, they have had one success after another.  Their films offer up a great balance between action, comedy and drama.  2011's Thor was no different.  It took the Marvel cinematic universe to outer space.  Our mighty hero Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, in all his muscular glory.  His brother, the God of mischief, Loke... played by the devilishly handsome Tom Hiddleston.  Their dad, the Allfather, Odin, was played by the incredible Anthony Hopkins.  There was something so gracious and grandiose about the film.  Something Shakespearean.  While the first film felt a bit 'small' compared to other Marvel films; that is simply not the case with the sequel.  Thor: The Dark World is bigger, better and funnier!  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Tone
In my opinion, the Marvel films do well because of their tone.  Not too serious, not too light.  As I mentioned earlier, their movies have the perfect balance of action, comedy and drama.  And adding to that point, 'The Dark World' may be Marvel's funniest film yet.  The movie never gets too serious.  After all, this is a film set in modern time about the God of Thunder.  C'mon!  It shouldn't be too serious.  The action in this film is much much better than that of the original stand alone film.  The set pieces are bigger, but lend themselves to the story.  It's not Thor vs. 1,000 guys for the sake of eye candy.  It's Thor and his men vs. an army to move the story along.  And the drama is wonderful in this film.  I got choked up a few times when the director and company toyed with my emotions.  Great, great tone in this film.

The Acting
Not to beat a dead horse here, but no one appeared to take themselves too serious in this film.  Hemsworth demands attention as the titular character.  And I love what the writers did with his story arc, following the events of The Avengers.  Hemsworth presents the audience with a nobility, few young actors could pull off.  And it doesn't hurt that he's totally chiseled in this film.  Whoa!

Tom Hiddleston is amazing in this film!  Unlike his mono-tonal performance in The Avengers (which I loved), he has much more to work with in this film.  Even more so than the first Thor film.  He portrays angst, anger, sympathy and more.  Hemsworth and Hiddleston's banter in the film felt genuine and real.  I have a little brother, and I could imagine saying some of the things the characters were saying to each other.  Just great stuff written for these two tremendous actors.

Supporting roles are executed fairly well here.  Natalie Portman returns after her absence in The Avengers.  The writers found a clever way to make her integral to the story (which I'll discuss in a moment).  Jaimie Alexander returns as Lady Sif, and has a few wonderful hints of jealousy towards Portman's character.  While they don't have much to do, Alexander and Ray Stevenson play great friends of Thor.  Kat Dennings again gets the funniest lines in the film.  She does wonderful in this goofy role that I can't really picture anyone else playing.  Stellan Skarsgard also brings some comic relief, as he reprises his role as Dr. Selvig.

Idris Elba gets an expanded role from the first film, and does well (as he always does mind you).  Christopher Eccleston joins the franchise as a very cool villain.  Really liked his performance; and it shined through even with all the makeup he had to wear in the film.  This cast is great.  Each actor brought something to the table; and was able to add something to the film.  While not all the characters have a notable arc, the ones that do, really shine through.

The Music
Brian Tyler delivers one of the most emotionally charged scores I've heard in a long time.  There is one particularly sad scene that had no dialogue whatsoever.  Just a few scenes with Tyler's music playing in the background.  I was nearly in tears.  The action packed leitmotif, and the slowed down drama pieces were very well done.

The Director
Alan Taylor elevated the franchise to new heights.  Most of his choices are spot on!  The tone, the editing, choice in music, set design, costume, etc.  He took the world built by the previous director, Kenneth Branagh, and took it up a notch.  I really admire a lot of his choices on this film.  Let's think about this for a second.  This is a superhero film, that takes place in outer space with a ton of CGI; what could go wrong?  Green Lantern, that's how it could go wrong!  Taylor keeps the film grounded, but light on its feet.  He has the protagonists showing off his abilities much more than the first film where Thor was stuck in a small town in New Mexico.  So happy with Taylor's decision to direct this sequel.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Insanely Stupid Story
How many times have a seen a movie that begins with an event that happened years ago (5,000 years in this case); and the current time of the film is the next time this great, big, huge event is going to happen again.  And our hero needs to stop it before the villain takes advantage of this once in 5,000 years great, big, huge event?  I can think of 5 films off the top of my head that use this generic, gimmicky, creative-less story telling device.  Writers Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely did so many things wrong, I had a hard time appreciating what they did right.

The story is dumb, and certain characters' motivations for their actions are dumb.  I left the theater asking, 'well why would that character do that?  It seems like an awful lot of trouble for that.'  Certain characters are written into the film just to ensure they have a reason to be there.  And there's quite a bit of there he is!  No he isn't!  THERE he is!  And I really hate when writers get lazy and default back to those creative-less ways of moving the story forward.  I do have to give the writers credit for two thing.  The first being that most of the film took place on Asgard, and I loved that!  The fish out of water bit worked in the first film, but would have been redundant in this film.  And the second; as the trailers have given away, Loki helps Thor in his mission.  The writers did an amazing job giving him motivation to ignore their past, and have the two brothers help each other.  And we never really know which side of the fence Loki stands on.  That was good!  See, not that harsh right?

The Verdict:
An Extremely Entertaining, yet Formulaic Film
'The Dark World' is an extremely entertaining movie.  The tone of the film is just right for this character.  It has found its place in not only the Marvel cinematic universe, but in the comic book film genre as a whole.  It was never afraid to make fun of itself, which I really loved.  There is action, comedy and drama; but the poor story stopped me from making this an top-five favorite comic book film.  Stilled enjoyed it very much and would recommend everyone checks it out!

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