Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. (from MovieWeb.com)
Marvel has been having a real good thing going with their film series these days. Since launching "Phase One" with Iron Man in 2008, the film studio has been building on and developing a really, really impressive series of films that work as individual and crossover stories. "Phase One" was completed with 2012's The Avengers and the film series hasn't even begun to slow down as we see the characters continue to grow and change from film to film. This year's Iron Man 3 was the first post-Avengers film and Thor: The Dark World is the latest entry in "Phase Two," which follows the events of Thor and Avengers as a kind of second-but-actually-third film in the Thor series.
One criticism Iron Man 3 widely received was that, if the Avengers had assembled previously to save New York (and the world), why weren't they coming to the aid of Stark when his home was being destroyed on national television by a terrorist? It sounded slightly nitpicky, but at the same time, it's actually a valid question. When the dark elves visit Earth in the climax of Thor: The Dark World (don't worry, that's not a spoiler; it's one of the first shots in the trailer), one might be tempted to wonder the same thing, but it's just not as easy a solution as some might want to believe. Either way, Thor: The Dark World takes place after the events of The Avengers where Loki has been imprisoned and Thor is doing his best to bring peace to the Nine Realms after the destruction of the Bifrost in the first Thor. For The Dark World, TV director Alan Taylor takes the reins from Kenneth Branagh, who brought the character to life on the screen in 2011. Branagh had created an epic feel to Thor that gave it a strong, otherworldly sense. There were lots of fantastical shots and scenery and effects, and it made Asgard feel as tremendous and mystical as it's supposed to. However, Taylor's approach to Thor is actually much different; almost too different, in fact. Thor began on Earth where a group of scientists in New Mexico, lead by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), literally ran into the god of thunder after he'd been banished to Earth. In Thor: The Dark World, we're given a brief history of the dark elves by voiceover from Odin (Anthony Hopkins) that also introduces a new evil source of power called Aether. But while Taylor's direction is different--he also opts for less grandiose shots and more of a down-to-earth and smaller scale feel for much of the film--all of the main cast return for the next installment of Thor. (The only difference, however, is that Chuck's Zachary Levi replaces Josh Dallas as Fandral... for no real good reason apparently.) This helps make the sequel feel even more so part of the lore, but Taylor's direction disrupts the flow of the series a little bit too much. This is evidenced by how dry the film feels until, quite literally, Loki is brought into the fold. Suddenly, the movie springs to life and feels like an entirely different film. Jokes seem to fly left and right and the spark that had been missing for much of the film seems to have been magically ignited. But it's not just because Loki has appeared; even the approach to humor just seems to bring about the kind of movie fans of Thor and Avengers were most likely expecting. Taylor spends so much time setting up the story--which isn't always a bad thing--but it largely feels lifeless.
In Taylor's defense, he's got a great deal riding on his shoulders from scene one. Avengers picked up a lot of new fans for the film series, and few were expecting much when the 2011 film hit screens. But it garnered a lot of praise and Avengers only seemed to add on to that. So Thor: The Dark World is most likely facing the kinds of great expectations that those disappointed in the underrated Iron Man 2 had gone into the theater with. But as a comic book film, Thor: The Dark World delivers. It sets out to be entertaining and move the overall Marvel story forward and it gets the job done nicely (a cameo mid-film is so priceless it's probably going to be the most talked about scene in the film). But those who like a solid, not-too-coincidental story will have lots to gripe about. Where the story would be most appropriate on the paper pages of a comic book, aspects of it seem just a little silly on screen. Things like Thor's earthly love interest being the one to find the hidden and much-sought-after Aether on her own, and be pulled into the troubles of the Asgardians, just seems a bit too contrived for comfort. But the movie explains it well enough to be forgivable (after all, it permits some great sequences), but it still feels a little too convenient for its own good.
The content for Thor: The Dark World is mostly of the violent variety. We see some battle footage and scary-looking creatures fighting. Also, two elves are turned into horned, almost demonic, beasts after crushing a firey stone in their palms. One character is stabbed, off screen, and one of these stones is inserted into their wound (only heard as squishy sound effects, not seen). Later, they remove the stone and we see dark blood on their hands, clothed abdomen and on the stone. Another scene involves a character's hand being sliced off. We briefly see the stub looking kind of burned and maybe slightly bloody. (SPOILER: we later find out it wasn't real and was an effect.) There's also mass destruction in Asgard and on Earth with buildings and vehicles being thrown around and demolished, sometimes with fatal results. Language is mostly mild with Darcy saying "Holy S---" emphatically early on in the movie and then her saying it again, but kind of cut off by the sounds of destruction. Jane says "Oh my G-d" a couple times and there are just a couple uses of "h*ll" and "d*mn." The only sensual content is seeing Thor without his shirt (y'know, a gratuitous hunk shot for the ladies) and some passionate kissing between Thor and Jane. And we see footage of a fully naked Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) running around on the news with his privates (and butt) pixelated for TV. It's meant to be funny and it certainly isn't expected.
Thor: The Dark World is an entertaining entry into the Marvel saga but certainly not the best one, nor the movie I'm sure diehard fans are expecting. Still, it's got enough fun, excitement, and action to keep audiences satisfied. And be sure to stick around during the credits; there's an additional mid-credits scene that sets up the Marvel franchise to go further (with a celebrated Hollywood actor making a first-time cameo) and then another nugget that's included just after the credits finish (that brings some resolution to the Thor: The Dark World story, as well as adds a great laugh afterward).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/8/13)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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