‘I’ ON CULTURE
My problem with the new movie Thor: The Dark World is Thor himself. The movie itself is a reasonably good example of the superhero genre, a bit of a treat in a season that tends to specialize in smaller, more intense films. But, while enjoyable, there is just not a lot there. The problem, frankly, is that Thor is a boring superhero. He is good, intelligent, loyal — a perfect Boy Scout. He doesn’t even seem to get too angry while fighting battles. His only weapon aside from his fists is a hammer, and, well, that sets up the villains as stand-ins for nails. As a result, the best part of the film has very little to do with him. The other heroes of the world of Marvel are far more fun: snarky Tony Stark, patriotic Captain America, the double-trouble fun of Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Thor mainly takes up space.
At the end of the first Thor movie, our hero (Chris Hemsworth) leaves Earth for Asgard, leaving the love of his life, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) behind while he and his friends battle for peace in all of the Nine Realms. At the start of the new movie, we hear of the ancient battle against the Dark Elves where Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), their leader, has a super-weapon, the Aether, a form of jelly with enough power to destroy the universe, but is not able to deploy it before having to escape. The movie then focuses on Jane who, as we might expect, actually finds the Aether in London and is taken over by it. Thor, of course, comes to the rescue. He brings Jane to Asgard in hopes of saving her, but because the Aether has been released at the time of a mystical convergence of universes, the Dark Elves attack and almost destroy Asgard. Thor recruits his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) into an uneasy partnership as a way of eventually defeating Malekith and saving the universe. That, of course, allows for some great battle scenes with the expected superb computer-generated images.
While all of this is going on, Jane’s intern (Kat Dennings) is running around to rescue nutty Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), taken into custody after running around naked at Stonehenge. Most of all of this is pure fluff, but it provides a series of great comedy scenes that, until the end, have not much at all to do with the plot. But considering how dull Thor himself is (not to mention Jane, who seldom has witty dialogue), it is necessary.
The comedy is useful because this plot has been used many, many times before. There is a bit of Star Wars, some Lord of the Rings and almost all the really dumb science fiction movies of the past providing plot points. To have an interesting superhero movie, you need a great super-villain, and Malekith does not qualify. Loki, who manages to combine both heroic and villainous elements, is far more interesting.
The cast does its job. Hemsworth looks the part of Thor and goes through his lines well. Unfortunately, he has far more chemistry with Hiddleston than Portman. Portman is, as noted earlier, fairly boring. She is taken over, sees Thor again, does no real fighting, but is decorative. Hiddleston steals the film. He manages to seem as untrustworthy as usual, then shows some real feelings, then plays games again, then joins in that truce with Thor.
I personally would rather see a Loki movie. He was a great villain in Avengers and plays the trickster wonderfully well in the current movie. Perhaps we need an anti-hero movie. Eccleston is properly evil, but it is hard to give a performance showing real emotions under the many layers of makeup he wore. Anthony Hopkins as Odin seemed a bit bored but got through his lines well enough, and Rene Russo as his wife Frigga was excellent. Dennings is wonderful as the intern. She steals every scene she’s in, managing to lighten up the film. Skarsgard comes across as a bit of a fool, but does have the best line in the film.
In summary, this is an OK summer film released in the late fall. You won’t be sorry going to see it, but it is best if you go in without high expectations. There will be better movies coming out this season.