Movies based on Marvel comics have been such an easy way to make a quick buck for filmmakers. The recent splash of the Marvel comic book adaptations in recent years have been more or less based on the Ultimate line of comic books with some alterations to fit the original 616 universe. True, those who follow my reviews know my dissatisfaction with most of the movie franchises, but I cannot deny the fact that they were made for commercial viewers and so, despite their weaknesses they do come together nicely as one whole. Following 2011’s “Thor” and last year’s successful “The Avengers”, Marvel Studios are trying to continue the box-office successes they had with this year’s “Iron Man 3” and now, “Thor: The Dark World”.
I suppose to appreciate this film, one needs to accept that all these Marvel films are tied together, and while each part is weak by themselves, they do fulfill some kind of universe. Following the events of “The Avengers”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has brought Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to face judgment and has been imprisoned by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to pay for his crimes. But things have just started to heat up as something is poised to threaten reality and the walls between the Nine worlds, and in the middle of it all is Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). A threat from the past has risen again and its name is Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Thor must form an uneasy alliance with his step-brother Loki to face this threat.
The story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat weaves a tale of revenge and ancient secrets. The screenplay itself is driven by what has been established as “Marvel movie formula” meaning great visuals, outlandish action and subtle humor. It does somewhat work from an entertainment standpoint, but (watch people call me a geek again) the overall experience feels a little hollow. It isn’t that it is empty, but the way the film flowed lacks that needed sense of suspense, that feeling of urgency and the feeling of excitement amidst all the action and stunning visuals. I am not sure, while admittedly there were some nice touches and surprises, the emotions just could not hit home. While the first “Thor” film was no means an ambitious undertaking when it came to its screenplay, it tried to be clever to its comic book references. This sequel further lacked the feeling of majesty and grandeur that I had hoped for and barely felt like a film about Marvel‘s god of thunder.
Perhaps I expected a little too much, but there was just so much room for improvement in the 2011 film. Here, the film felt like another one of those alien-invasion film with all the ray beams and spacecrafts, despite the attempt to envision something like “ancient power”, it felt like a movie about aliens fighting aliens who wanted to look like Vikings. The way it wanted to mix science and magic had its good points when it came to Foster and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), but the film left so many devices undeveloped and several things undefined. Malekith here looked like a reject from “Star Trek” or “Star Wars”; no “The Wild Hunt”, no vulnerability to iron, no ’shadow power’ and he had little skills in sorcery. Here, Malekith was a villain without any personality and he was very boring; he was just another one of those would-be conquerors that you know the hero would stomp out in the finale. The film tries to tickle the comic book nerve by incorporating an underdeveloped Kurse into its screenplay, and while there was indeed a battle between Thor and Kurse, it proved a little too underwhelming for my tastes as it also opened up two plot missteps. (remember the enchantment that Mjolnir will return to its master’s hand no matter what bars its way?- meaning nothing save a another creation of Odin or himself could stop it). Odin here is reduced to a stereotype, a king with a duty with no how of the Odinforce. Sure it was fun to see Mjolnir being swung and thrown, but I have to tell yah, there is nothing magical and amazing in the film’s screenplay.
I also wasn’t too pleased with the screenplay’s portrayal of Thor. Perhaps it was due to its budget constraints, but this felt like a weaker version of the thunder god. I know the writers probably wanted to focus on the Shakespearean themes such as sibling rivalry and the developing ‘triangle’ between Thor-Sif-Jane Foster, but it just fails to sell the threat of Malekith and the dark elves. The battles were alright, but far from the Godly battles that a Thor fan would expect. The visual effects were pretty and the film is a handsome one, but somehow, I was not too happy with the camerawork since it made the battles feel a little too animated and choreographed. They lacked the emotional drama needed to inject suspense and excitement, as the viewer knew that the heroes were going to win out in the end, just a matter of how and when.
I do have to admit that the humor this time around was cleverly timed (unlike Iron Man 3), director Alan Taylor was smart enough to place the giggles in-between the action and drama. It did have some nice surprises that added some ‘punch’ in its narrative, so there were some things that it manages to do correctly. The performances were decent given the shortcomings of its script. Sif (Jaime Alexander) was still a presence to behold and was convincing as the one goddess that Thor could one day love. Portman is her usual self, full of charisma with her usual acting chops. Hemsworth was satisfactory with his portrayal but Hiddleston did somehow steal the show. Hopkins was a little underused in the screenplay and Frigga (Rene Russo) made a mark in the script despite her limited screen time.
Yeah, some may say that I am a “Thor fan boy” and a comic book geek. But remember, geek means a passion to a hobby or an interest. One can be a ‘car geek‘, sports geek or a ‘book geek‘, so I wear that badge with honor, and the hell with those who uses that word as an insult. I am not the fan boy who likes anything comic book related, but rather, I tend to scrutinize, and ask for more respect for the source material as Nolan did with his “Dark Knight trilogy”. “Thor: the Dark World” is not a horrible movie, but a film that lacked ambition and inspiration. It does have its entertainment value and is aimed for commercial viewers (kids and teens), but movies like this are easily forgotten. I just feel that Marvel’s Thor character deserved a better movie, but then again, this could have been worst. It just seems like director Alan Taylor and company did not research their characters more thoroughly, or is this just Marvel being “Disney-fied”? Probably so. RENTAL [3 Out of 5 Stars]