Am I truly desperate? Not really. Am I mad? Possbily. But I liked Thor: The Dark World quite a lot. The film is not without its share of flaws which I shall address, but this film certainly manages to strike a much better note than did it’s predecessor, simply titled Thor. However few critics seem to keep my company on this opinion — well, at least few share my opinion that Thor was not a great film. Indeed, the Tomatometer for Thor sits at 77% while the Tomatometer for Thor: The Dark World sits at only 65% as of this writing.
In short, Thor has been busy restoring order to the nine realms now that the rainbow bridge has been rebuilt. He’s been too busy putting things in order to go see Jane Foster — and well, that’s not the only reason he hasn’t been to see her. Apparently according to Odin she’s nothing more than a goat (Odin seemed, if anything, even more foolish and less likable than the previous film). But for reasons not yet known to Thor or Heimdall, the later is not able to see Jane Foster for a short period of time. This is concerning enough to Thor that he takes time out of his busy schedule to go see what happened. She seems to be infected with some dark matter they find out is called Aether. It’s very nasty stuff and it’s protective too as it won’t let anyone try to get it away from her. Apparently only the leader of the dark elves can get it out. And quite unfortunately, it will apparently kill her sooner rather than later. Then the dark elves attack. They are warded off, but not without great cost. Thor would like to pursue and has a plan. Odin persists in his foolishness and would rather wait for them to come back and kill everyone in Asguard.
Thor enlists the help of Loki and commits treason. He, Loki, and Jane head out to do battle with the dark elves and get the Aether out of her.
The problem with the first Thor film, at least for me, had to do with the lack of emotional core. Chris Hemsworth as Thor himself did a fine enough job and was likeable enough, as was Natalie Portman as Jane Foster. But they had no chemistry together — an issue which I now, having seen Thor: The Dark World place squarely on the shoulders of Thor director Kenneth Branagh.
I can say in this film that chemistry between Thor and Jane seems to be in place quite well. They feel comfortable with one another, they can talk to one another easily and are in general a joy when they are on screen together.
Here too we have the best chemistry between Thor and Loki that we have ever seen. Enemies still, they have united for one common cause of which, if I speak too much, may spoil the shock and surprise of the event in the film so I will leave it at that. Suffice it to say that I was quite happy with how they interacted on the screen. I think we see here between these two lingering influences of Joss Whedon from The Avengers (and yes, he was even brought in to work on the writing of a couple of scenes). Joss influence on the Marvel universe as a whole is nothing but positive in my opinion. Things can and do often get serious. But they can be lighthearted and funny too. The stakes are real and they are high, but that doesn’t stop the film from having a little fun from time to time.
While the first film had some humor in it, at the same time it felt a bit off key — like they were hitting the wrong notes in the song of humor for that film. This film manages to hit most of the notes correctly, even if a couple of the plays for humor feel a bit too much like a gag. But as an instance of where the humor really worked, as Thor walks into Janes apartment (I think that’s where they were at), Thor casually hangs his hammer up on the coat rack. It’s quick and almost meaningless, but it’s as funny as it can possibly be. And the film is filled with wonderful little moments like that.
And I think this film may have the best pseudo cameo of all time in the form of Captain America — or rather, Loki’s portrayal of him. Which of course brings me to Loki himself. As continues to be the case, Tom Hiddleston sort of steals the show. He’s the villain we now love to hate. He plays the part of Loki with relish, and with a new twist on the character due to some events that happen in the film.
I continue to enjoy the fact that Thor sort of blurs the lines between fantasy and sci-fi. Nothing going on in this film is even remotely possible, making it a fantasy film, but then you’ve got Jane Foster running around with scientific equipment and science equations, and for me at least, it works quite well.
Then you’ve got the whole “god” aspect of the Asguardians. But it’s spelled out even more clearly in this film. Odin reminds Loki that they are not gods, but that they do die, just like the humans even though it takes them a lot longer. What they have is longer life and technical advancement. That does not make one a god. I really like this angle. Were you to take a man from, oh I don’t know, say 5,000 years ago, and place him on the streets of one of the big cities of the United States like maybe Chicago, what would he have to say about those who commanded the power of the tall buildings, or even just the cars? It would be magic and mystical to him. And I like this angle for Asguard as well. It’s very difficult to do a film about an invincible God. But when you’re doing a film about a flawed being who happens to live longer and be more advanced, well that’s much more interesting.
Another thing that this film has that I think the first film sort of lacked is real stakes. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to care about so much in the first film. Plus, let’s face it, the whole Odinsleep thing felt really stupid. But now in this film, there’s a lot at stake, and we love all the key characters, and the danger feels real. The dark elves are menacing and especially with the Aether stronger than Thor. This film definitely captures the epic quality that I think we usually want from a good Marvel film. And while I don’t think every film has to be the most epic thing ever, this film seemed to strike the chord just right.
As I alluded to earlier, Odin is, if anything, much less likable than he was in the first film. And it’s not like I liked him in the first film. He’s arrogant and a bad parent and generally doesn’t make decisions that make a whole lot of sense. His actions in this film put not just Thor, or Jane, or those around him in danger, but everyone in the universe. He’s stupid and pig headed. The thing that bugs me is I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be, or if I’m supposed to like him or not. I have decided that I don’t like him and I suppose that’s good enough.
If any of you keep up with my writing, you may remember that I predicted we would see Loki find some manner of redemption. Not complete and total redemption, but that he would do the right thing at the right time and then die in a somewhat heroic fashion. I was almost right — and truth be told, it feels like I was right, but then they changed it. I have read some things to that effect.
I do not say this because I hate to be wrong. I don’t mind being wrong. What I don’t like to be is toyed with. I actually got a little misty eyed at Loki’s death scene. He was really and truly dead to me, and he did so in a manner that befit the character. Though still deeply flawed and unrepentant of much of his past evil deeds, he had done a good thing. He had reconciled somewhat with Thor, he had sought to avenge his mother. He died while doing it, and he was left on the planet. I was happy with this.
But then they did something stupid. In what looks for all the world like an insert scene, they show Loki taking the appearance of another Asguardian who had come to check on things and presumably would have found Loki dead. How did this happen? He looked pretty dead in the previous scene. And what about his massive gaping chest wound? We’ve already established that Asguardians are mortal and can be killed. And we “killed” Loki, right?
This is toying with the audience, pure and simply. They should not have done it. I would argue that he should have really died. But if they really and truly needed Loki for Thor 3 or whatever, don’t lie to us and make us think he died heroically, only to show, nope, he’s just up to his old sly dog tricks again.
My remaining gripe with this film has to do with one more thing I alluded to when I was speaking of the humor of this film. I hinted that once or twice they did push it a little too far. Basically, anytime Eric Selvig was in a scene, I was not happy with the film. He should be a much more serious character and they used him for comic relief in a way that was very degradating to the character (and to the actor for goodness sake). Running around without pants on? I ask you, what’s the point?
But as you can see my likes for this film far outweigh my dislikes. While every film must be judged on it’s own merits, it is also worth noting that this film is far better than its predecessor. And not only that but I like the film on its own as well. It’s a film I was genuinely glad I went to see and I’m glad to see that Marvel is still turning out some pretty great films.