Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thor: The Dark and Average Sequel

     Marvel knows what they're doing: after the success of the Iron Man films and then the gigantic The Avengers, they realize that any fan of their work will shell out a dozen dollars to witness the next spectacle in their different "phases". The problem with this situation is that the company has to keep surprising and satisfying us at every turn, or else the movies start to feel stale. Thor: The Dark World--unfortunately--falls into this category: featuring the powerful titular character and his brother Loki, this sequel to the (amusing) first film falls a bit flat, failing to exceed any expectations and failing to be funny even when it tries to be--a problem the first film didn't have.
     Thor as a film has a much tougher sell than most of the Marvel universe: it's necessary to balance the scenes in Asgard (where Thor is from) and the scenes on Earth, and the symmetry has to be seamless for it to work--unlike Tony Stark in Iron Man, who is much easier to relate to due to his snarky humor and based-in-reality (to an extent) situations. The Dark World jumps all over the place: the nine realms are about to converge, which is a sign of trouble when some Dark Elves (led by Malekith [Christopher Eccleston]) take the opportunity in this rare event to try and take control of a dangerous force to turn the galaxy to darkness.
     What turns out the lights? This mystical floating substance called the "Aether", that when consumed causes the consumer to become incredibly powerful and power-hungry, looking to rid the world of everything beautiful. This is where Thor's love interest from Earth, Jane (Natalie Portman, probably regretting that she has a contract to keep appearing in the sequels), comes into play. Accidentally coming across this substance in some sort of weird inter-dimensional warp thingy, one that allows people to switch back and forth between worlds, she gets fully consumed like a ghost entering a host in a horror movie. Going on a road trip to Asgard after Thor comes to the rescue, the battle for the Aether that's inside of Jane between the Asgardians and the Dark Elves becomes the main focus for the second half of the film.
     One of the main problems with this new incarnation of Thor are the poor attempts at humor. In the first film, Thor's brutish and confused nature when first coming to Earth was charming and funny (like his uttering of "I Need Sustenance!" when eating at a diner). Since that novelty has worn off, and Thor the character is familiar to us now, he's just not too funny anymore. Sure, there are moments that induce chuckling--like when he hangs his trusty hammer on a coat rack--but they are few and far between. And Jane's assistant, Darcy (portrayed by one of the Broke Girls, Kat Dennings), is incredibly annoying at every turn, trying to make us laugh with bad jokes and an irritating nature. That's the script's fault--but her delivery does it no favors. Thor: The Dark World does have some interesting aspects: the story can be interesting and Loki (wonderfully portrayed by Tom Hiddleston again) is always entertaining, and the climax involving a multi-world battle where Thor and his foes switch between worlds through numerous invisible warps is well done and clever. But nothing comes close to the battles in The Avengers.
     And this is Marvel's problem now: because of The Avengers, it feels like every standalone film involving their characters is more of a place holder than an actual event of awesome entertainment. Well, maybe not Iron Man, but the others. Take the trailer for the new Captain America film that enters theaters in March: does it look cool? Maybe. Does it look good? Sure, it has potential. But it doesn't feel like an "event" anymore, and my wallet is starting to get the feeling that Marvel has sucked me into paying for all of their films. And maybe it has: I just wish my return on investment was more than just average.     (C+)

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