Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: "Thor: The Dark World"

So much darkness in our popcorn movies lately. Everybody wants their comic book and sci-fi heroes to be brooding fellows trapped in grim, dim circumstances. We know it to be so because -- apparently not confident in their own ability to express it onscreen -- Hollywood keeps putting the word "dark" into the titles.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" is a fit example, both for the curious lack of a colon as well as being colossally inaccurate. (Might I suggest: "Star Trek Into Regurgitation.")

So now Thor, the mighty, grinning blond Norse god of thunder, has gotten himself mired in a patch of inky intrigue. Things are looking bad for his home world of Asgard, which has been invaded by an ancient evil: dark elves! And they've got some nasty red goo called the Aether, which floats around and gets absorbed into bodies, making people all-powerful.

"Thor: The Dark World" is a muddle of a movie, and not entirely because it's trying to be dour. Mainly the problem is that director Alan Taylor and his trio of screenwriters can't decide between a sober action/drama and a doofy superhero flick, and end up with ingredients for both. It's not that either way is better or worse, but that they simply don't taste good together.

For instance, it might not be apparent to Taylor & Co. that the death of a major character tends to have less of an impact when someone makes a joke about it not five minutes later.

That's the thing about dark movies -- you've got to keep at it. Trying to brighten things up with little rays of sunshine and humor just fouls it all up.

The movie also lacks the one thing necessary to a really good super-hero movie: a terrific villain for him or her to match wits against. That's entirely a loss here, with the main bad guy sporting a mouthful of a name, Malekith, and actor Christopher Eccleston buried under mounds of pasty white makeup and costume.

Seems he's been sleeping the eons away, waiting for his chance to reclaim the Aether and avenge himself upon Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the rest of Asgard and the nine realms. Those universes are about to sync up in a once-in-5,000-years Convergence, which could result in a return of eternal darkness, something dark elves tend to like.

Returning for another go is Natalie Portman, Thor's totally unnecessary girlfriend, who's also an astrophysicist studying the links between her world and Asgard because she's sweet on the big guy wielding the big hammer. Meanwhile, Thor's been too busy saving worlds to check in on her, despite a lengthy stop in New York for that Avengers thing.

As he was in the first Thor movie, Tom Hiddleston is the best thing going as Loki, Thor's adoptive brother and chief rival for the throne of Asgard. He's now languishing in Odin's dungeon for his past crimes, but you know it's just a matter of time before he gets sprung for one reason or another.

Smirking and charismatic, Loki is the lovingly loathsome bad guy this movie desperately needed. Instead, he's given one last chance to prove he's not the turncoat everyone thinks by teaming up with Thor against the elves.

"Thor: The Dark World" features lots of screwy action scenes, including one where Thor and Malekith fight while being transported multiple times between worlds. Up is down, left is right, and nothing really makes a lick of sense. That's pretty much how it goes for the rest of the movie.

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