Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World- A Relatively Entertaining yet Uneven Standard from Marvel Despite a Horridly Sluggish and Uninvolving First Half

Thor-2_2709663bIn their decision to create the broadest appealing superhero movies in existence, Marvel has embraced the admirable business savvy safety of churning out the expected products their fan base willingly accepts while also backing themselves into a creative corner where formulaic familiarity makes everything quite predictable. Predictability not only numbs an audience into experiencing nothing more than uninvolved vicarious pleasure but it also can end up numbing the aspects of a film that are most important, including character growth, dramatic exposition, and supposedly tense action sequences. The unfortunate reality is that the laziness of creative involvement to grow Marvel’s superhero franchise beyond their low demographic appeasement has begun seeping into the gaping quality holes in their films with Thor: The Dark World being one of the first post-Avengers victim to get the brunt of the dulled hammer so to speak. Last time we visited the flying Asgardian Norse god it was a passable experience with director Kenneth Branagh containing the more possibly ridiculous qualities of the comic hero by guiding the story through a Shakespearean influenced melodrama that had some occasional deviations into relatively engaging action. This time around in Thor: The Dark World we not only have a drastically messy first half, somewhat saved by a fairly well contained second half, but it also becomes an entirely opposite experience from the first Thor where a lack of focus in the dramatic makes the plot, the characters, and the dialogue come off as overtly ridiculous and the action barely making it beyond the adjective “familiar.” If it weren’t for the credible acting chops of both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddelston, who as a villain ironically saves this movie from obscurity, or the refreshing pickup in some quality action and effective humor during the second half then Thor: The Dark World wouldn’t even be fit for rental viewing. Marvel might have tapped into our basest of expectations on delivering entertainment, with some adventures more entertaining than others, but sacrificing quality for the assumption that you’re currently safe with the market trend will eventually become their own Shakespearean pride before the fall morality play. Thor: The Dark World follows the Marvel formula and delivers on expectations or what can be described as an overall engaging adventure, minus the mind numbing bore that is the first half of the film, but it has hints that perhaps Marvel’s magical hold on the superhero trend might begin to wane.

Right at the start of the too many cooks in the kitchen script written by Christopher Yost (animated Marvel movie veteran) coupled with writing team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America, Chronicles of Narnia), with the story written by Don Payne and Robert Rodat, there never seems to be a sense of urgency to the drably narrated backstory. Many years ago there was a species of Dark Elves led by a power hungry tyrant named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who wanted to use a developed dark energy source called the Aether to banish all of the realms into a perpetual state of darkness. If you happen to fall asleep during the yawn fest that is this Lord of the Rings rip off opening fret not because the lack of dramatic thought that follows throughout the rest of the script requires some free time to explain it again. Explaining the plot to an audience twice in a film is an indication of two things, the first being that as a storyteller you’re talking down to the peons who can’t be trusted to understand the simplest of plot devices and the second is that you are simply wasting time. Most of the story elements are merely stated either through characters overtly revealing their thoughts and feelings or through an expository break from awkward humor that the Marvel formula has become addictive to in its dependency. It almost seems as though the first half was a chore to write in order to get to the more inspired second half that involves more back and forth between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a fairly well thought out action sequence involving portals to multiple realms. However, story wise the characters seem less involved and less inspired as they’re trapped in the Marvel formula of delivering on the expected rather than delivering what could be the best story possible for the Thor part of the Marvel universe. Thor: The Dark World combines some exhausted creative choices featuring a run of the mill villain, a fairly uninvolving love story, and generic action sequences that are put together just well enough to carry on to the next big Marvel event. The number of admirable creative choices and memorable moments could be counted on one hand with them mostly involving the presence and brand of Loki as an undeniable force in the franchise and not necessarily inspired by the direction of newcomer Alan Taylor.

thor2

Alan Taylor is an incredibly accomplished television director with numerous episodes of The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men under his belt giving off the impression that when it comes to serious, potent dramas that might have an action sequence or two he can deliver some quality work. However, it seems the transition from directing quality television and the occasional offshoot into independent cinema didn’t prepare Taylor for the exaggerated comic feel that would be required in order to make a film such as Thor: The Dark World into a believable and engaging adventure. Taylor’s pacing in the first half of the film is about as detrimental as the script’s lackadaisical approach to the plot as a whole since the opening action scenes seem slow and lack a true sense of tension or just pure basic fun. Even the drama between the characters seems stilted and the obvious intention of the typical Marvel humor falls flat on numerous occasions (an unfortunate waste of Chris O’Dowd’s talent in the first half is a disgrace). However, Taylor begins to redeem himself when the script’s layout begins picking up as Loki becomes more involved and the darker elements of the story involving sacrifice, vengeance, and multiple world genocide begin to take precedence. The final action sequence in its choreographed magnificence, all thanks to the marvelous controlled editing work of Dan Lebenthal and Wyatt Smith, spanning from multiple worlds and transitioning time and space will definitely make up for the sluggishness of the first half alone. Overall the technical qualities are all more than pleasing with solid Marvel standard cinematography from Kramer Morgenthau and the Marvel standard of detailed yet unexceptional special effects that blend with most other blockbuster franchises and never truly stick out. It’s unfortunate that the director of the infamous Game of Thrones episode “Blackwater” was given a script that was lazy in its opening exposition and failed to ignite dramatic passions throughout its build up because Alan Taylor can certainly deliver a far better dramatic and action experience than what Thor: The Dark World showcases. Thankfully his directing experience brought some final uplift to the entire experience near the end but it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the acting talents involved in most of the cast, most notably Tom Hiddleston.

Hiddleston has fallen upon the truly rare description of being essential when it comes to doing a Marvel film that includes Thor as a leading character due to the fact that as a villain he possesses absolute charm coupled with a knack for being absolutely threatening. Every scene he isn’t controlling as a presence in Thor: The Dark World loses a great deal of entertainment because his creation of Loki is definitely one of Marvel’s more animated and talented villains confirmed by the fact that they refuse to kill him as they do a majority of the other less memorable villains. However, it’s truly amazing to note how terrible dialogue can detriment the quality, impact, and scale of a performance even in regards to Hiddleston who delivers terrible lines with such confidence and skill. He isn’t the only actor to suffer from the scripts detrimental effects of poor dialogue and pacing since veteran Sir Anthony Hopkins often times comes off as silly and the less skilled acting from Natalie Portman is far from inspired. Perhaps it’s the fact that Portman is exceptionally overrated as a quality actress or it’s the mere fact that she called in her performance from the bank but her lack of involvement here certainly diminishes the film since her love story with Thor is a huge part of the script’s focus. Not many recognize the name of Christopher Eccleston, unless you’re a Doctor Who aficionado, and you certainly won’t recognize him physically as the villain Malekith in Thor: The Dark World but he commands the screen with brooding villainy and an Elvish vernacular despite the script’s inability to heighten his character’s threat until deep in the second act. But it all really hinges on the acting abilities of Chris Hemsworth who brings a likability and essential believability to the potentially ridiculous character of Thor and he continues this trend beyond the aid of having the charismatic team members of the Avengers around him. Luckily all of these veteran actors from Sir Anthony Hopkins to Christopher Eccleston to Tom Hiddleston bring vibrancy to Thor: The Dark World when the film could have fallen apart due to the lacking script and the odd pacing that anchors the first half down to a level of practically zero entertainment.

thor3

Thor: The Dark World can be described in the most positive light as a superhero film amongst the Marvel Avengers franchise that follows suit with the usual formula of superhero melodrama, interruptions of action, and awkward pockets of humor delivering to the masses nothing short of the Marvel standard. However, it’s certainly a quality departure from the first Thor, arguably wasn’t even close to being the best in the Marvel releases, delivering a lackluster backstory on top of somewhat disengaged action and uninspired drama. This uneven film touts only a handful of memorable occurrences that come incredibly late into the film and are mostly driven by the charm and talent of Tom Hiddleston who lifts the on screen action to a passable entertaining level. Thor: The Dark World might satisfy the most basic of entertainment needs based on its adoption of the Marvel formula but it certainly drops the ball in pacing and quality, especially in the first sluggish half. For many getting the same results from their formulaic Marvel heard of films have become a pleasant pastime since they never disrupt the experience with a contemplative thought or a deep character allegory that is quite possible for each of these potentially complex characters. It’s a business savvy strategy that’s working incredibly well for attracting the lowest demographic of attendees who return loyally for expected results but it’s a strategy that doesn’t put quality of material on equal footing. Any storytelling venture that begins to sacrifice any ounce of quality will begin to wane but the question left here is simple, when?

Grade: C

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: