Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World was directed by Alan Taylor and written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (hey, wasn't he the delivery man on Mr. Rogers?), and is the eighth film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Taylor directed several episodes of Game Of Thrones (among many other things), and Markus and McFeely wrote all three Narnia movies and both Captain America films. So, pretty good track record here.

The first Thor film was OK, but I liked this one much, much more. It had pretty much everything-- action, adventure, space vikings and a great sense of fun about it. What more could you want in a film? Wow, a superhero movie that's actually fun instead of gloomy and mopey (I'm lookin' at you, entire Dark Knight Trilogy).

It's definitely miles ahead of the execrable Iron Man 3. At least here they didn't reveal that Malekith was an out of work British actor posing as a Dark Elf.

Actress Jaime Alexander, who plays Lady Sif in the film, suffered a severe back injury on set when she slipped on a wet metal staircase and chipped eleven vertebrae (among other injuries). She was sidelined for a month, but fortunately recovered and rejoined the shoot.

Supposedly once principal shooting was completed, the crew did reshoots in order to feature more of Loki. This was no doubt done because of actor Tom Hiddleston's burgeoning popularity. I have no idea what the extra scenes are, but if I had to guess I'd say they might be the ones between Loki and Thor on the flying longship.


The Plot:
Loki is in prison in Asgard. Thor brings peace to the Nine Realms by beating up everyone, and returns to Earth to see his girlfriend Jane Foster.
The dark elf Malekith is trying to destroy the universe with something called the Aether. Thor can't stop Malekith on his own, so he enlists his evil brother Loki. All kinds of hijinx ensue.

Thor: The Dark World is a surprisingly humorous film. And in a refreshing change of pace the humor is actually funny rather than cringe-inducing.

• Tom Hiddleston is great as always as Loki. He plays him with a depth and a hint of vulnerability not often seen in a comic book villain. Do not be surprised it Loki gets his own movie one of these days.
• I loved all the technology on display in Asgard. Imagine a medieval world that also has high tech weaponry and vehicles, such as flying Viking longboats.

If anyone ever decides to make another He-Man movie, they should study this film to see how to get the look down right.

• I've always been a sucker for plots in which the good guy has to team up with the bad guy, so I was happy to see Thor & Loki going on a mission together.

• Stan Lee pops up in another cameo. Too bad Jack Kirby didn't live to be a part of these films as well.

• The return of Mew Mew!

• Speaking of Thor's hammer Mjolnir, once again we see him spin it rapidly, then hurl it into the air and hold on in order to "fly." It doesn't make a lick of sense scientifically of course, but damn if it doesn't look cool!

• I like Thor's little extended Earth family. Jane Foster's his gal pal, Professor Selvig's the wacky uncle, Darcy Lewis is the little sister, and newcomer Ian Boothby the annoying little brother. Let's hope they're all back for Thor 3: Asgardian Bugaloo.
• I liked the unusual vertical design of the Dark Elves ships. 

One thing I didn't like-- the flying Asgardian longboats sounded exactly like the ships/flying cars in the Courascant chase scene in Attack Of The Clones. Anything that reminds me of the Prequels is double plus ungood in my book.

• I think this is the first time we've gotten two post-credits scenes. The first one, featuring The Collector, is obviously setting up next year's Guardians Of The Galaxy. I'm curious to see how this film will be received. So far most of the Marvel movies have been fairly grounded in reality (well, in a comic book reality). This one's going to be a Star Wars-like space romp, so it'll be interesting to see if audiences accept it as they have the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

• At the end of the film it's revealed that Loki is using his shape-changing powers to pose as Odin. So what happened to the real Odin? Did Loki kill him? Unlikely, considering he's played by Anthony Hopkins, who'd no doubt demand a proper onscreen death. Is he being being held in one of the bathroom-less dungeons. I guess we'll have to wait for Thor 3 to find out.
• Malekith's plan was to steal the Aether so he could destroy the Nine Realms, and the universe too while he was at it. 

And THEN what? Was he planning on recreating reality to suit him, or was he just going to float around in nothingness for eternity? Some clarification of his goals was in order.

By the way, "Aether" is spelled with an A. You can tell that's something dark and mysterious because it's spelled with an "ae" rather than just "ether."

• Do Asgardians (or inhabitants of the other Realms) ever go to the bathroom? When we see the Asgard dungeons the cells all consist of antiseptic white rooms that are completely empty. Nary a commode to be seen anywhere. Maybe they fold out of the wall? Either that or these villains all have warrior-sized bladders.

• Christopher Eccleston was extremely bland as Malekith, especially when compared to Loki. You need to really chew the scenery in a big, loud and bombastic film like this, and he barely registered at all. 

Come to think of it Eccleston wasn't very good as Destro in the first G.I. Joe movie either. I hate to say it but I'm beginning to think he's just not a very good actor. Or he needs to stop trying to play villains.

There's a line in the trailer that's missing in the film. In the trailer Jane Foster's walking around in Asgard and she says (in voice over), "Maybe our worlds are separate for a reason."

I don't know why but it bothers me when that happens. 

• At one point Thor asks Heimdall-- the gatekeeper of the inter dimensional portal to Earth-- if he can sense Jane Foster. Heimdall tells him that yes, he can see her and she's doing fine.

I don't think I like the idea of an inter dimensional Norse god who's able to see my every movement.

• Thor's mother Frigga is killed protecting Jane Foster. Everyone's sad and there's a big funeral.

Frigga's death might have been more tragic and had more emotional weight if she'd had more than ten minutes of screen time in both movies combined. Hard to work up much grief for a character we don't even know.

• In this film and the previous one, the filmmakers are determined to make Asgard a more racially diverse place. To that end, they cast an Asian man to play Thor's comrade Hogun the Grim. Hogun hails from the realm of Vanaheim, which is an Asian name if ever I've heard one (that was a joke, son). Oddly enough Hogan speaks with a thick Japanese accent. So does that mean the people of Vanaheim-- which is somewhere in space, in another dimension-- all somehow speak Japanese and learn English as a second language? Huh.

I'll probably be raked over the coals for saying this, but... doesn't it seem kind of silly to integrate Asgard? Asgard, the mythical place that was invented by the Scandinavians? The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavians? Who most likely had never seen a person of color when they created this mythology?

Look, I know why the filmmakers do this. It's because they want to appeal to the widest possible audience, and they fear that a cast of all white actors will be off-putting to ethnic groups. But does this integration really increase the box office take? Do you think there's ever been a case where a black man stood in the theater lobby and exclaimed, "I was going to see that new Madea movie, but I hear there's a black guy in Thor! I'm gonna go see that!"
• Another strange example of diverse casting: Malekith is a Dark Elf, and has very pale, almost pure white skin. His right hand man, er, Elf, appears to be a black man. So there are white and black Dark Elves? Or are they all supposed to be black and Malekith is an albino? I'm confused.

We'll probably never know, as every other Dark Elf seen in the film is wearing a weird mask that covers their entire face. 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet that these two posters were designed by the same artist. Where's Drew Struzan when you need him? 

Thor: The Dark World is a fun and funny techo-space-viking adventure. I give it an A-.

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