Friday, November 8, 2013
Thor: The Dark World
I wasn't a very big fan of the first Thor. I wouldn't have picked Kenneth Branagh to direct a comic-book movie, any more than I would've picked Ang Lee. I thought Branagh was rather a lousy special-effects director, and didn't know how to handle the action scenes (bad action scenes are rather typical of American superhero stuff, in my opinion) and while Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, and Tim Hiddleson, as Thor, Odin, and Loki respectively, were all pretty good, the story was bogged down, as origin stories usually are, by a lot of exposition you didn't care about. Also, having grown up on the original Thor comics, where the Norse gods were really the Norse gods, and not aliens, I didn't like the whole SF aspect of the thing...making them aliens might've made them fit more (kinda) with the other Marvel superheroes, who are all basically SF, but why bother...none of it makes sense anyway.
All that being said, I just saw Thor: The Dark World, and enjoyed it quite a bit. For one thing, the thing looked way better than the first one did. The photography was better, it looked to me as though they had a way bigger budget this time around, the production design was niftier, the imagery was cooler (I particularly liked the Norse/Byzantine Icon picture book that depicted the bad guys, the big geary things in Heimdall's hangout, and the giant evil black vehicles), and we got right into the story pretty damn quick. Aside from the evil elves, who were introduced pretty efficiently right off, we knew who everybody was, and we didn't spend a lot of time spinning our wheels. The special effects were way better, and almost all the humor was funny---the audience I was with was laughing quite a bit, and me and the wife were too. There was a surprising amount of violence, too, and that goes a long way with sadistic old me.
The story, which bears more than a passing resemblence to the Titans-returning plots that have figured in our Greek Mythological fantasies lately (Wrath of the Titans, Immortals), Dark World serves up the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who ruled the universe back when all was in tenebrae, got beaten by Odin's father Bor, and has been waiting for a chance to come back and reassert the primacy of Basic Black. If I have a problem with the movie, it's him; they don't really provide him with a philosophy, and they should've. That being said, he's very creepy looking (kinda like the Makers from Prometheus) and he's got a horde of henchmen who are visually satisfactory too, including his beefy bristling-with-spikes chief enforcer.
We're coming up on a once-in-five thousand-years realignment of "The Nine Worlds," whatever they are, and Malekith's got a shot are getting his hands back on the Aether, a substance which will grant him ultimate power, etc. etc. But the Aether has gotten into Thor's mortal girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who's been whisked up to Asgard by her hammer-wielding boyfriend; Malekith and company storm the place in a pretty damn spectacular assault, grab her, and head back to the Dark World, which is Iceland with the lights off. Needless to say, Thor decides to go get her, and, disobeying Odin, recruits Loki---who's in prison after his Avengers hijinks---in an attempt to breach Malekith's domain, free the babe, and destroy the Aether.
The movie's been fairly amusing up till this point, but it picks up considerably once we get a bunch more Loki. he was definitely one of the strongest things about The Avengers, and he's got a much bigger part here, with a certain amount of emotional depth. Moreover, he makes up, somewhat, for the lack of a proper main heavy...he's engaging, he's funny, he's not all bad, but he's a snake too. He's definitely the best character in the film (he certainly puts poor old steadfast Thor in the shade), and he's almost enough to sell the movie all by himself.
Let's see...the screenplay, by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely features some good writing. As I said, the movie is consistently funny when it means to be, and it manages to be affecting in ways that are kinda surprising. There are spots where I couldn't figure out what the eff was going on, particularly towards the end, but even when I was confused, something would make me laugh, so I never quite got cranky. Director Alan Taylor does good job with the people, the special effects and the action, and I hope he gets to direct the next installment. In short, I had more fun than I've had with any Marvel movie since the first Iron Man. I'm just sort've pissed that Marvel got bought by Disney...I had some Marvel stock and made quite a bit of money with it, but I couldn't care less about the Mouse, and bought something else...