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New Release Review - Thor: The Dark World

Thor must unite with Loki to save the universe from an evil elf.

Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Chris O'Dowd




It's two years after the events of the first 'Thor' and Jane Foster (Portman) is now living and working in London, awaiting the return to Earth of Thor (Hemsworth), last seen battling his traitorous brother Loki (Hiddleston) in New York as part of The Avengers. Since then, Thor has been kept busy battling forces led by the evil elf Malekith (Eccleston), who is intent on lining up the nine realms, thus bringing darkness to the universe. In London, Jane and her sidekick Darcy (Dennings) locate a portal between the realms in an abandoned industrial plant. To save the universe, Thor is forced to reluctantly enlist the aid of Loki.
The critical post mortem of the 2013 summer blockbuster season suggests it was the worst in recent memory, in terms of quality if not box office profits. The greatest criticism has been leveled at the lack of originality in the bigger action based tentpole movies, with several films climaxing with an overblown and emotionally uninvolving destruction of a computer generated city. We're now into autumn and the trend seems set to continue as this is exactly what we get once again with 'Thor: The Dark World', the latest installment of Marvel's ever growing superhero saga. (Once again it's London under threat; the real estate of the UK capital has become the most overused product placement of the last year.)
It's an ambitious project Marvel have set out on (even entering TV with the SHIELD series) and from a commercial viewpoint it's a piece of marketing genius. While the character of Thor may not have the gravitas of Iron Man, Batman or Superman, comic book movie fans will flock to it out of a fear of missing important plot developments that might impact next year's Avengers movie.
It would seem the execs at Marvel/Disney are aware of Thor's standing as a secondary character and thus aren't too pushed to deliver a memorable movie for the character rather than one that feels like a case of reluctant obligation fulfillment. While acclaimed writer-director Shane Black was brought on board for this summer's mega hit, the excellent 'Iron Man 3', this latest chapter in the franchise has been handed over to a director from the TV world and the writers of 'Pain & Gain'. Alan Taylor's direction betrays his TV background, lacking in any kind of cinematic invention; it's serviceable, which I guess is better than the shaky cam histrionics of Michael Bay and his clones, but entirely by the numbers and Taylor does nothing to integrate the 3D. Perhaps it was post-converted without his knowledge but I doubt this movie would ever have been intended not to use the gimmick. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deliver a script completely lacking in any of the wit of Black's IM3. The humor they inject is groan inducing and tiresome, delivering gags as old as the hills, such as a character constantly being called the wrong name and another who refuses to wear pants.
The relationship between Thor and Jane has plenty of dramatic potential but nothing is done with it and the two actors have a lack of chemistry as a result. The supporting cast is full of talented performers like Hiddleston, Hopkins and O'Dowd but they're all wasted. To think what a good writer could have done with that line-up!
Where the first 'Thor' took its inspiration from eighties fish-out-of-water sci-fi flicks like 'Masters of the Universe' and 'Starman', this sequel finds itself somewhere between the aesthetic of  Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' saga and the 'Star Wars' prequels. Whatever criticisms you wish to level at either of those series, they both achieved a sense of scale, something which is lacking here, despite its numerous realms.
4/10


Eric Hillis

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