Monday, November 18, 2013

WGTB Reviews Thor: The Dark World

As 2013's comic book movies go Thor: The Dark World was the one I was most looking forward to. As a long-time Thor fan (this blog was named after a Thor splash page) and someone who enjoyed the first film very much, I figured Marvel Studios would be able to capture the same magic in the bottle they did in 2011. Which is why, even though I'm a little late with this particular review, I felt compelled to write and give an opinion of the film. You see, I was very disappointed with Dark World finding it a convoluted mess plot-wise, loaded with gratuitous and needless destruction (yes, even for a comic book movie) and weighed down by weak and disappointing female leads.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Huddleston, Stellan Ksarsgard, Christopher Eccleston, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander and Anthony Hopkins.  RATED: PG-13,  TIME: 112 Minutes 

The plot tells the story of an ancient Dark Elf named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who, long ago having been conquered by the Asgardians, returns to look for a key source of his power, a weapon known as the Either. Taking place in modern London and Asgard, we learn that in ages past right to the present day, the Nine Realms occasionally converge to make it easier for travel between them. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her fellow researcher Darcy (Kat Dennings) stumble into an area in the British capital where a gateway between worlds has opened and Jane is taken into one where she somehow merges with the Either. Thor shows up and takes Jane back to Asgard six hours later with the remainder of the story involving Malekith trying to get his weapon back and destroy his ancient enemies. 

To start the substantive portion of this review, let's look at the positives. The visuals of Dark World are fantastic (Asgard looks especially good) and the battle scenes were also very well done. Unfortunately, these elements could not make up for a plot that didn't make a whole lot of sense. Nobody explains why Foster acquired the Either or why all the doors between realms always happen to be exactly where the heroes need them to be, among so many other plot failings.

And, of course, no-one in the Marvel films has yet to explain why the Norse gods are real while the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Japanese, Hindu, etc. pantheons are not or why the regions that originated the Norse gods have yet to be mentioned. I know filming in Oslo or Reykjavik might be cost prohibitive (and this point is somewhat tangential) but I'm really starting to get frustrated that the peoples who worshipped Thor, Odin, et al, are not mentioned in these films. Just a throw-away line about how the doorways to the Nine Realms of the ancient alien God-Heroes was once located in Scandinavia would do the trick. But I digress...

I found the real issue with Dark World is how plot takes a back-seat to gratuitous violence and destruction with no real point. Let me be clear: action scenes that drive the story forward are good and necessary for action films. But in Dark World we watch the Royal Naval College, one of the most spectacular locales in London get destroyed, but I still can't understand why except they needed a nice place to wreck. The 'all-star' nature of 2012's Avengers lent itself to the cataclysmic events of Manhattan being torn apart, but Dark World, like its summer cousin Man of Steel, didn't need so much violence to make the point. So I need to ask: has destroying large metropolitan areas become the pro forma climax of comic book films? Perhaps. But I think it's the wrong way to go. Both Marvel's and DC's characters are great and deserve writers who treat them as such. 

This magnificent structure, the Royal Navel College (now the University of Greenwich), was destroyed in Thor: The Dark World. It remains one of your humble blogger's favourite areas of London. 
I also found the female lead characters weak. Yes, there were some of the funny one-liners we now expect from Marvel’s movies and Kat Denning offered some comic relief that levitated the story. But Jane Foster was feeble and this is especially odd considering Natalie Portman is one of Hollywood's most intelligent and self-assured actors. Unfortunately, in Dark World, while not being devoid of strength, Foster comes across as a needy weakling who is hung-up on Thor. An example of this is seen early when, upon meeting Thor for the first time in two years, Foster slaps him in the face and seconds later appears hopelessly in love with him and starts talking about how she cried when he left. Also, Sif (Jaimie Alexander) while given a prominent position in the movie poster and subsequent marketing of the film, is a tertiary character at best and hardly the presence she is in the Marvel comic universe. Indeed, the strongest female character is Thor's mother, Frigga, Queen of Asgard and she dies mid way through the film. 

Consistent readers of this blog will know that I hate panning films. But I needed a cathartic release after this recent offering by Marvel Studios. If you think I'm off-base or missed something please leave a comment and I'll reply when I can. Things have been busy on this end, so I haven't been as frequent with the blog as I would like. But thank you never-the-less for reading and please keep visiting. The visuals save Thor: The Dark World but it still only gets a 2/5 STARS overall.


  1. Good review Mark. Not as good as the first, but still a whole bunch of fun because it never gets too serious, or too jokey. Just right somewhere in the middle.

    1. Thanks for comment, Dan. You have a great looking site and II'll looking forward to looking around.