Hey! Marvel’s got a new opening graphic!
It debuts with Thor: The Dark World. Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) long, boring narration shows that the dark elves, lead by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), once tried to destroy all of creation 5,000 years ago when the Nine Realms last aligned around Yggdrasil. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s a quin-millenial occurrence, and right on queue, Malekith wakes up and starts causing trouble again.
The energy he was using, called Aether, infects Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) because the main character has a crush on her, and she starts to get all black swany. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings her to Asgard, which is promptly besieged. In order to avenge his home, Thor must free Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is the entire reason this movie exists.
Thor: The Dark World plays out more like a spoof of an action movie than a real one. In most complete scenes, tropes are played up to be laughed at.
However, many scenes are incomplete. There are, consistently, establishing shots that are just… missing. At one point, a major character is killed, and Thor is like, “Nooo!” and throws his hammer at the killer. But there was no shot establishing that Thor was even in the room. So instead of being sad for Thor, the viewer reaction is, “What the hell, Thor’s here? Why didn’t he save the person?”
Frequently lacking this sort of smoothing shot makes The Dark World one of the worst technical films ever made.
The sequel also carries over many faults from Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 fiasco. Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and The Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi and Tadanobu Asano) exist only to be not as cool as Foster and Thor, respectively. But they’re shoved down the audience’s collective throat for at least 10 minutes, which would be better spent developing Malekith, expanding Thor’s and Foster’s romance beyond them both being really pretty, or establishing basic framework for those bothersome incomplete scenes.
The gimmicky Power Rangers set design returns, in this film mixed with a distinct Star Wars aesthetic. It works even less for a film about Norse mythology.
Or rather, a film about a comic book about Norse mythology. It’s always upsetting to see Hollywood poop on the rich heritage of non-Christian religions, but here they’re pooping on a rich tradition that had already filled the Norse-Paganism-pooping-on niche. When is Donald Blake going to show up in this series? Why is Foster an astrophysicist instead of a nurse? Does Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) have any comic book basis? Any at all?
Marvel hasn’t truly brought a comic book to life since 2008’s sublime duo of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, and sadly, they seem to have abandoned the idea. They still put out basically entertaining, and sometimes even good, films, but the days of satisfying hardcore comics fans with modernized, classic storylines seem like they’re mostly over. X-Men: The Days of Future Past looks like it’ll be exactly that, so hold out hope, but The Avengers series has lost its basis. They’re just action movies from here on out.
None of this is to say Thor: The Dark World isn’t a fun trip to the movies. It may violate several basic rules of filmmaking, but hey, so does Lord of the Rings. And The Dark World has something that series doesn’t — Tom Hiddleston.
Oh, Tom Hiddleston. Twenty years from now, when the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just starting to slow down and DC has bankrupted itself trying to follow through with a comparable undertaking, someone is going to edit together all of Loki’s scenes, and that one movie will sell more copies than the rest of the MCU combined. From a story perspective, Loki is the only reason this film was made, and from an entertainment perspective the same could be said of Hiddleston.
He lights up the screen every time he takes it, which isn’t nearly often enough. Alone, his performance is well worth the price of admission.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out in April, and looks to actually deconstruct what’s going on in American security today by juxtaposing it with a superhero who’s supposed to represent the exact opposite. I can’t wait to be bitterly disappointed.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. If he cast the ninth Doctor and put him through six hours of makeup for a role, he would actually develop and use that character. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back in a couple of weeks for a review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.