Thor: The Dark World (2013) Walt Disney Pictures
1 hr. 51 mins.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings
Directed by: Alan Taylor
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction/Comic Book Fantasy/Action & Adventure
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
Well, Marvel Comics’ favorite hammer-wielding Norse god is back and assumes the spotlight while his other mighty crime-fighting cohorts take a break most likely prepping up for their next super-charged sequels. Director Alan Taylor’s comic book epic Thor: The Dark World bursts onto the big screen (in the wake of filmmaker Kenneth Branagh’s modest successful Thor from 2011) looking to continue the wave of popular bombastic superhero sagas that have been carrying on the cinematic Marvel brand with frivolous flair.
Although Thor: The Dark World strives for the familiar sentiment of grandiose sci-fi kitsch and redemption that its contemporaries (read: Iron Man, The Avengers, Spider-Man, The X-Men, Hulk, etc.) have effectively benefited from an entertainment standpoint, Taylor’s Game of Thrones-esque mythological landscape feels bloated and derivative, The Dark World does possess a more crisp and imaginative spark than its predecessor but that is not saying much for this generic noise-making narrative that shamelessly resembles every known sophisticated popcorn pleaser from The Lord of the Rings franchise to cheesy mythic god movies from another cinematic era.
Thor: The Dark World pretty much follows the standard credo of a resourceful powerful source (folks…that would be Thor and not your overbearing mother-in-law) putting his neck on the line to save the Earth from skillful undesirables. Naturally, the blond-haired Thor suffers from his inner struggles with his familial issues-a notable revelation among the revolving angst-ridden static that can hinder a resilient superhero during his line of duties. Stern and garrulous eye-patched patriarch Odin (Anthony Hopkins reprising his role from the original movie) is on board to render some high-minded Shakespearean oration. Thor’s impish and insidious sibling Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is figured into the mix. How can the God of Thunder overcome such distraction?
Apparently the hammer-holding Norseman has bigger fish to fry. When the Nine Realms is jeopardized (the weapon Aether is unleashed-not a good sign according to Norse mythology. Go figure!) this allows the opportunity for the dastardly Malekith (Christopher Eccoleston) and his villainous Dark Elves to penetrate the universe through convenient portals that will prove costly for mankind. With Malekith and his mangy minions on the prowl Thor must prevent these ancient baddies from manipulating the planet at all costs.
As convoluted as this premise sounds even for a comic book caper such as The Dark World, the attempt to instill some off-kilter humor with some techno-blather about ritualistic philosophies, exotic creatures, Vanaheim armies and a dash of romanticism (yes, Thor gets to reunite with his long lost love in scientist Jane (Natalie Portman) who’s instrumental in discovering one of the supernatural portals in London) seems all too cluttered and chaotic.
Of course the arbitrary questions pile on top of another: can Thor defeat the vicious Malekith and the Dark Elves before Earth is turned into their personalized perverted playground? Will Jane’s injected poisonous body cause further concern for the hunky hammer holder as she may possibly leave him once again? Can the shifty Loki be trusted to battle on with his brother Thor as they take on the sinister agenda of their calculating foes?
Thor: The Dark World seems to be overflowing with stock characters to help along the tedious tempo of the heavy-handed storyline. Among the cast of characters include eccentric astrophysicist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), Heimdall the Gatekeeper (Idris Elba), Thor’s warrior-blooded female partner Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Jane’s hanger-on pal Darcy (Kat Dennings from TV’s “Two Broke Girls”).
Regrettably clunky and pedestrian, Thor: The Dark World chugs along with uneven energy. At times this CGI-potent popcorn pleaser hits its mark with the occasional sight gag or off-kilter reference. Still, the movie bogs itself down in overstuffed sci-fi static that it forgets to accentuate its breeziness as a superhero escapist flick. As Thor, Hemsworth has the ideal physicality for the noble Norseman but somehow exudes a stiffness thus cramping whatever charisma his thunderous hero was supposed to maintain. Portman’s Jane is simply as plain as her name. Only Eccleston’s madcap Malekith resonates with any off-the-cuff deceptive excitement. Kudos can also be given to Skarsgard’s brainy Selvig for parading around without pants because hey…it allows him the freedom to think creatively. Whatever floats your boat, right?
When the dust clears, Thor: The Dark World ends up being another brash entertainment spectacle that showcases its special effects flourishes and waxes its big-budgeted whimsy but leaves out the core element of simply tooting its humble horn as a compelling down-to-earth Marvel Comics sideshow. Just think that somewhere in the Marvel universe Thor’s fellow heroic handlers are not losing any sleep to the strained adventures that exist in this disposable spry presentation.