Typically, I go into a movie theater watching experience with expectations. Usually, if it is an installment in a franchise that has produced good films, or an adaptation of some other sort of medium that I enjoy, my expectations are rather high. I hated Iron Man 3 because it was a betrayal to the previous two franchise films (and the good ideas of the comic book medium), while conversely I loved Pacific Rim because I had no expectations whatsoever. Rotten Tomatoes gives Iron Man 3 a 79% “Fresh” Rating, whereas they give Pacific Rim a 72%. However, I hated the former title and thoroughly enjoyed the latter, all based on expectations.
This all being said, I went to an opening night showing of Thor: The Dark World with average expectations. I liked the first Thor movie, which although far from perfect was fun to watch. I disliked the need for political correctness by creating a multicultural Asgard (which runs adversely to all Norse mythology), and thought that the chemistry between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) was very poor, creating an unconvincing dynamic. I did like the visual elegance that director Kenneth Branagh brought with him, and praised the acting of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who stole the show from his pretty-boy brother. The plot was simple enough, and featured a vulnerable Thor who was stripped of his superpowers for arrogant abuse by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, in need of a paycheck) and marooned on Earth. In it, we found out that what they classified as “magic” in Asgard is the same as science on our planet, with the explanation for the Bifrost transportation being that it was an Einstein-Rosen bridge. Although a complex concept in reality, it was simplified enough to fit into the movie and actually make sense at its inception. The ending also perfectly set up the following film that would star both Loki and Thor, segwaying in a way that made linear sense. I gave it a 6.8/10 in my Marvel movie reviews, and I stand by that. Nothing particularly special, but a solid if not spectacular installment on the road toward The Avengers.
Now though, we’ve entered “Phase 2” of The Avengers storyline. It started off with a box office bang with Iron Man 3, which was still riddled with as many plot holes and problems as all of Tony Stark’s bullet-ridden suits. Seeing that I thought Thor was the weakest installment in “Phase 1” (at a 6.8/10), I quite rather enjoyed the other origin stories up to and culminating with The Avengers, increasing expectations. With a change of director for the second Thor movie, my expectations started to plummet, as Alan Taylor (whose only pertinent credits are directing six episodes of Game of Thrones) was handed the keys of this movie, in a typical Marvel cost-cutting, quality disassurance move. Expectations started out high, but started coming down like Mjolnir being summoned into the hand of the god whom Thursday is named after.
Beware, there are spoilers below. I don’t know how to go in-depth with a review without hitting on some major plot points, so only read this after you have seen the movie (if you plan to see it), or if you do not plan on seeing it.
The film starts out embarrassingly bad. In an attempt at a Peter Jacksonesque Lord of the Rings prologue, it is explained that Odin’s father (Bor) was in a war with a race known as the dark elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who seeks to destroy the universe by covering it in darkness using a weapon known as the Aether (which is basically PCP). Obviously, he loses the war, and somehow tricks the King of the Asgard into thinking he died when in reality, him and some of his followers simply went into suspended animation to be awoken when the Aether returns to the universe. Bor takes the Aether and places it in a stone column, and hides it where “no one can find it” (OBVIOUSLY somewhere on Earth).
Let’s pause this all for a second. Malekith has the dumbest motivation of any villain yet. He has no sensible goal. “Destroying the universe” means destroying everything, including himself. Even if he manages to somehow survive, what is he going to do once the universe is destroyed? Sleep in because everything is dark now? How does he even know that Bor hid the Aether? And if he was defeated once with it, how is it going to make him into an unstoppable force when he comes back?
Okay, I will shut up. But these questions seriously entered my mind during the opening ten minute sequence. I was horrified. It could only get better from here I thought, as the movie switched to present-day Asgard where Loki is due to stand trial for his crimes from The Avengers. He is pretty much given a slap on the wrist, and is mostly bawled over by his mother who is just so disappointed that her adopted son felt like becoming a king in his own right, since his road to the Asgardian throne was blocked. He gets set up in a nerfed prison cell, where he is left to look like an emo strung out on crack cocaine, even though the only thing that is actually punishing him is absolute boredom.
Thor, of course, is off being an oppressor. Apparently him and his compatriots have to go re-conquer the “Nine Realms” because after the destruction fo the Bifrost in the original Thor film. they decided they wanted to be free from Asgard’s rule or something like that. Of course, Thor will have no part of this, as he must go easily slay hundreds of their warriors to beat them into submission and into bowing to the Crown. The entire fight sequence is confusing. Enemies wear what seem to be iron helmets and other sorts of medieval gear while wielding laser guns, all the while being beat up and murdered by axes and bows and arrows. Nothing makes sense, but the freedom fighters must be quelled.
Of course, back on Earth we immediately visit Jane Foster (Thor’s unconvincing love interest) who is attempting to get back in the dating scene in London, but she just cannot keep her mind off of the thought of washing her clothes on Thor’s abs just one more time. As luck would have it, her partner in crime Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) is there for some welcome comic relief, as she impolitely interrupts Jane’s dinner date with shocking coincidental news of a scientific phenomenon (cue techno-babble). They come to an abandoned warehouse where objects start disobeying laws of physics and disappearing in midair, at times reappearing in strange places. Jane craps herself due to the scientific constraints of such a discovery, and starts theorizing on what it could be when all of a sudden she discovers the column, where in a trippy LSD moment she is teleported to some dark space and infected by the Aether. Ruh-Roh Raggy!
(Side note: if you add a red gleam and a bit of a gaseous presence to the Venom life form from Spiderman 3, you will get what is exactly the Aether. This movie would have been amazing if after being infected, Natalie Portman’s character returned to Earth and ripped open her jacket to reveal a black Spidey suit. That would have made my life complete.)
All of a sudden, I had a (second) glimmer of hope for this movie. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a horrible nonsensical plot twist where instead of being a superhero film, Thor : The Dark World is about the dangers of Class A recreational drugs and how crystal methamphetamine affects the body and makes you see weird things, like thinking that the prologue of the movie was awesome. Unfortunately, this isn’t a D.A.R.E. production, but instead an actual Hollywood film that someone somewhere thought was a good idea.
The foray into dramatic demon possessed existentialism ends with Jane reappearing in the warehouse with her friends outside talking to police, realizing that she has been gone for several hours in what seemed like moments to her. Before she returns though, the movie quickly cuts to Thor in Asgard talking to the racially incorrect Asgardian gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) who alerts the god of thunder that Jane has apparently disappeared (Heimdall is assumedly all-seeing and can see even tiny specks of humans on other planets) off the grid and cannot be seen. Concerned for her safety, Thor takes the Bifrost to Earth as soon as she “reappears” and lands next to lame Jane in the parking lot being surrounded by police. With bad script writing in conjunction with pitiful acting, Foster is overcome with fake emotion when the Norseman she loves finally reappears. Of course, even with the Bifrost being repaired, it becomes known that Thor has not visited Jane since the first Thor film, which makes for a thoroughly unconvincing relationship even though he claims he loves her and misses her, despite possessing the ability to visit Earth at any time. But oh no! The Aether within Jane acts out, and Hemsworth’s character is utterly astonished, and beams the duo back to Asgard to ascertain what is wrong with her.
As Jane and Thor materialize at Asgard, all of a sudden Jane has a flashback! She’s been here before, except with a Jedi Knight instead of a God! There’s even a scene where the two of them are whispering sweet nothings to each other on a bench in front of a waterfall. And then you realize that Star Wars Episode II : Attack of the Clones has nearly interchangeable scenes with this movie. And then you start laughing, because it is hysterical how similar the two are. This is the beginning of the end. Scenes that do not contain Loki and are not the final battle scene are eerily reminiscent in a horribly bad flashback way of Star Wars Episode I and II. What we soon learn is that Asgard = Naboo = Theed. Same space ships, double-bladed swords, Gungan bubble shields, fighter ships, and defense lasers. It is cringe worthy. At this point in time, my friends and I were just sitting in the theater disruptively laughing and quoting the horrible lines from the first two Star Wars prequels. We got shushed multiple times as we quoted Anakin and Padme, as I swore that if Thor and Jane started running playfully through a field that I would walk out of the theater.
But it gets better! Romeo and Juliet realize that the mortal earther is going to die (even sooner than expected) if she doesn’t get the venom removed from here, so off to the Asgardian emergency room they go! As Jane lies on the table, she gets analyzed by their high-tech equipment and she starts spouting some more techno babble about how this magical equipment is actually some type of medical scientific technology they have on Earth. The thing she does not realize is, that NOBODY CARES.
This is where, if you sit and think about it, the movie gets its most embarrassing. Unlike a fantasy film where supernatural forces are merely explained as being simply such, the movie attempts to become science fiction, which is fiction grounded in a somewhat feasible sense of futuristic reality. They try to explain how certain miniscule things work that have no relevance to the plot whatsoever, and instead leave gaping holes where they should at the very least attempt to form roots.
Of course, the movie simply cannot go five minutes without a predictable ‘plot twist’ or mindless action. As we saw a little bit previously, the release of the Aether on Earth triggers the alarm clock that happily awakens the singular emotional dark elf villain and his second in command, who he for some reason that they wrote into the script, has to be turned into an enhanced warrior known as a “Kursed” (I think it might help their cause for universal domination if they learned to spell correctly. Or wait, maybe that is why they want to destroy the galaxy, because they disagree with how things are spelled). Somehow, Celeborn the dark elf of Lorien obtains supersecret stealth cloaked spaceships that he transports an army of uglies on to obtain the Aether and destroy the Asgardians forever.
But lo! Watching is Heimdall the Seer, guarding the city of Asgard from all foreign dangers. Of course, he should have been canned in the first movie for failure to fulfill his duties as gatekeeper, but here he commits the gravest sin of all by failing to see these supersecret poorly cloaked ships, even though he can see Natalie Portman walking in London from galaxies away (makes sense, right). Even Captain Kirk can find a cloaked ship, but Heimdall utterly fails.
Actually, this is a lie. Because he does see one as it flies past him, which further exemplifies how this movie makes zero sense. It is like the classic Sam Rockwell scene from Galaxy Quest. Heimdall sees the ship, but is just totally flummoxed by his own imbecility that it takes a bit to register in his scatterbrain what is going on.
After about a millenia of watching the tortoise fly across the sky, he comes to his senses and takes out a dagger, charges it, and takes a flying leap to disable it (that’s exactly how it should be approached, right? See invisible spaceship. See spaceship fly. Fly spaceship, fly! Run at spaceship. Pull out dagger. Attack and destroy spaceship with dagger and bare hands). Whaaaaaaaaaaaat just happened.
At this point, I am just going to stop recapping the movie because it is simply too painful. The rest of the movie includes the villain’s best bud who is supposedly invincible getting inexplicably stopped, the meaningless and emotionless death of Thor’s mother, the scientific jargon techno babble that spouts from Jane’s mouth that makes sense to nobody (including these pole like weather instruments that function as teleportation devices that Jane somehow creates), and the reveal that Loki can now shape shift instead of simply casting holograms (would not have this been useful in The Avengers?).
The bright point of this movie is Tom Hiddleston. Every scene with him is practically gold. Even though the storyline and plot points that involve him make ZERO sense at times, he is a pleasurable dandy to watch on-screen. If it were not for him, this movie would rank up there with the worst Marvel has ever created.
For its pure entertainment value, the final fight sequence is fun to watch even though it is nonsensical. Although it makes you wonder. The scene takes place in London with a seemingly familiar alien invasion occurring. The main question I have in my mind is, where is S.H.I.E.L.D and why isn’t somebody trying to let a nuke off the chain like in The Avengers? The series continuity and logic is so impeccably flawed that it is hard to imagine that all the Avengers characters really do exist in the same universe.
The glaring problem with the fight scenes in this movie is that Thor is never actually in danger himself. He’s basically invincible when he has his hammer and his powers, and doesn’t outmaneuver his opponents, just inexplicably outbrawls them. The fun with the first movie was that his powers were stripped from him and he was just a normal human being. In this movie, he full wields his superpowers in a way that does not put him within a 39 1/2 foot pole of being in actual danger. Who knows, maybe if he lost the fight he could join the pointless “dark elf” Malekith with his evil plan to sleep in past 8 AM.
To conclude, this is a film for the ADD generation. Scenes are sloppily and quickly cut, assorted and jumbled together, with witless dialogue intertwined with bright lights and fancy stylized action that features weapons and combat that makes little practical sense. There are a few witty jokes written in, with most given to Loki (it is my opinion that Tom Hiddleston ad libbed them because the script was so bad) who just as in the previous two films that he is featured in, creates quite the splash. Unless you like brainless action (in other words, if you’re a fan of Transformers 3 or Die Hard 5), please do yourself (and the world) a favor and avoid throwing Marvel more money than they don’t deserve. I’m sorry they got my $8 so quickly, make sure you don’t make the same mistake. 4/10
My Year at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen in theaters this year)
2. Star Trek Into Darkness
3. Man of Steel
4. Pacific Rim
5. Despicable Me 2
6. Monsters University
7. The Great Gatsby
10. Oz the Great and Powerful
11. Fast and Furious 6
12. Iron Man 3
13. Hangover Part 3
14. Thor : The Dark World
15. A Good Day To Die Hard