Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thor: The Dark World Review

There's nothing I live for more than sitting down and checking out the latest movie from Marvel Studios. I may be a little biased with the Avengers logo tattooed on my wrist but I don't think there's been a series as solid and enjoyable over the course of so many films.

This movie is our eighth film the series. Eight movies that can both stand on their own and stand together in a cohesive universe. That's a remarkable achievement. Personally I don't think there's been a bad movie in the bunch. Iron Man 2 and the Incredible Hulk may be often bagged out but they aren't horrible by any means. Some of my friends may disagree but I really enjoyed Iron Man 3. Marvel have the formula down to a fine art.

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Perth premiere of Thor: The Dark World last night at Event Cinemas Innaloo. (The goings on at the premiere itself were fantastic and I'll cover those in a separate post.)

Does the movie continue Marvel's run of fantastic blockbusters?

The original Thor was easily the most ambitious and risky film Marvel had attempted in phase 1. All its predecessors had been grounded on Earth and in science while Thor is a deity of legend who lives in space. That's quite a departure. Yet this influx of myth and magic to the universe worked incredibly well. The film was a fantastic blend of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and Thor did not seem out of place amongst the Avengers afterwards in the least. The risk paid off.

While Thor was set mostly in a small town, Dark World's scope is at the entire other end of the scale. The entire nine realms is our playground and we spend a great deal of time in Asgard itself. The city feels far more alive this time around, a massive, gorgeous, sci-fi fantasy metropolis brimming with life. The Jack Kirby influence can be seen through and through. We see it from the throne room right down to the local pub. Fantastic.

The fantastic design elements extend to the costuming and all other parts of the film. This is the third iteration of Thor's outfit and it's my favourite so far. We've shied away from the bright colours he donned in Avengers and we have a darker, more battle ready look. It really furthers on the terrific sci fi/fantasy blend the entire film carries. The same can be said for the look of every other inhabitant of Asgard from All-Father Odin down to the lowly grunts. The creature design on Malekith and the other dark elves is wonderful and creepy. Eccleston is unrecognisable in every way. The assorted ships and crafts of both races are also terrific. Can't praise it enough. This film is visually terrific in every way.

The larger scope extends to the plot itself with not only Asgard, but the Earth and the entire universe on the line. It feels like someone threw Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and a dash of Game of Thrones into a blender. Far off planets, powerful aliens, space ships, kings, queens, death and destruction. It's not all doom and gloom though as it retains that fun tone all the Marvel films share. There's plenty of humour in Dark World and it all hits the mark.

The action scenes, in particularly the climax, are inventive and well executed. After eight films Marvel have been very careful not to make them all feel the same. They have to reinvent the wheel a little every time. The climactic battle is so very unique. I am really keen to see it again to take in all the little nuances.

The movie moves at a brisk pace, clocking in at around an hour and 40 minutes. This isn't to a detriment at all as there aren't any wasted moments. There's no bloat. We take a breath halfway through (in a really gorgeously shot scene) and we ramp up from there. The plot is solid and you won't get lost. The villain and premise set up in Odin's opening monologue (that feels very LOTR) and we hit the ground running from here.

Downey Jr is praised so very much for owning the character of Tony Stark in every way. He is Stark, plain and simple. After Dark World I can give that same ownership to Chris Hemsworth of Thor. I just can't see him played by anyone else. He's downright charming, sure of himself, slightly cocky yet full of humility. This is a role that could of come off downright silly by someone else. And of course he's a good looking, mountain of a man. Oh and don't worry, he does get shirtless for a little bit if that's your kinda thing. Slightly gratuitous, but its good to see that gender role flipped.

I could praise Tom Hiddleston as Loki forever. Another man who completely owns his character. A true creature of the grey area, Loki is a terrible villain yet we still completely root for him to redeem himself. He's a complex character that we want to continually unravel. He could of easily of stolen the whole film given the chance but he is smartly handled. We dont see him too much in the first hour and he doesn't share a scene with his brother until past that. From there though Hemsworth and Hiddleston play off each other perfectly. They feel like brothers. There's love, jealousy and betrayal underlying their relationship and it works so very well. You feel it.

Natalie Portman returns as Jane Foster. I do like that the love interests in Marvel films are very capable and hardly damsels in distress.  While Jane does delve a little too deeply into swooning territory when Thor shows up (and who wouldnt?) she remains useful. Kat Dennings is back as her snarky intern Darcy and brings some good laughs. Same goes for Stellan Skarsgard who's a little worse for wear mentally since encountering Loki in Avengers.

The rest of the ensemble all get their small moments to shine. Jamie Alexander as Sif is a character I really want to see a lot more of. She plays it so well. There's hints of a love triangle that don't go anywhere. I hope this is picked up in future. The Warriors Three are fun sidekicks and all get little character moments. Idris Elba gets a little more to do as Heimdall and carries it very well. Hopkins is an older, wearier Odin and plays it as well as the first time. Rene Russo gets a little more fleshed out as Frigga which I really enjoyed. Her relationship to Loki is really key here.

As you've no doubt realised from my gushing, I really enjoyed Thor: The Dark World. It continues the Marvel tradition of grand and fun action adventures. It does everything a movie of this kind should. The series remains strong as we look to Captain America: The Winter Soldier next year.

Also don't leave early! There's both a mid credit scene and a post credits scene


  1. Marvelous (spoiler-free) review, Luke! :)
    You've pointed out all the relevant elements (character dev/plot/overall feel) that I look forward to seeing, when I watch the movie. Well done.

  2. I think Jane Foster actually comes off as the most damsel of all of the Marvel females in the movie franchise thus far and I cannot say this movie offered any different - she was actually better in the first film and that says something. It's a shame because Foster is a capable character and Portman has demonstrated in other films that she is a talented actor. Still feels a little too cautious and unrealistic for me unfortunately.