It’s been a few days since I’ve seen this movie, and I’m still not sure what I have to say about it.
Thor: The Dark World is obviously the follow up to Thor, and the next chapter of Marvel’s Avengers-related movies. Thor is probably the Avengers lead that I’m inherently least interested in, but that has not kept me from enjoying this film quite a bit. It’s a lot of fun, full of grand battles, crazy high-fantasy images, and enough characterization to get you through.
Thor as a hero, played by Chris Hemsworth, is likeable enough, and this time around we only have to accept him being in love with Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman), which is a slightly easier sell than having to accept him falling in love with Jane Foster, so it’s a step up from the first film in that regard. I don’t remember the first movie so well, but actually overall the impression is that the sequel is bigger, grander, and crazier than before (so you know, like a typical sequel).
Christopher Eccleston (who I enjoyed a lot as the lead role in Doctor Who back in 2005) appears as the film’s ostensible “main” villain, and rarely has a more threat with less personality reared his make-up covered face on the big screen. The script gives Eccleston nothing to do except to be mean and fierce, so our focus isn’t the plight of Malekith and his merry band of Dark Eves, but rather on the internal politics of Asgard, the home of the mythic pseudo-gods that Thor hails from. And these politics mainly have to do with the royal family’s response to the wayward son Loki, whom the plot contrives to turn into a necessary ally of Thor’s. Many have said that Tom Hiddleston’s performance is one of the highlights of the Marvel movies, and while I’m not as convinced, he certainly is the most interesting antagonist here. He manages to be in turn both pitiable and menacing. Of course, it’s no surprise that it turns out that Loki is also sneaky and deceptive, but still the eventual reveal of what he is up to is unexpected.
So overall, I like Thor: The Dark World, but I also find it quite unsurprising, like it’s the inevitable result of every other action or adventure film ever made. I realize that’s a comment that could be leveled at all sorts of blockbusters coming out of Hollywood, but I somehow felt more aware of it as Thor‘s story unfolded before me. It started right at the opening, which is straight out of The Lord of the Rings – with an extended narration-driven flashback demonstrating how a previous generation defeated a master-villain and his omnidestructive super-weapon, but couldn’t actually destroy the weapon and couldn’t totally defeat the villain either. It continued as we saw Thor defeat with one blow a really big opponent in a moment that echoed a favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The feeling returned when Thor and Jane returned from that remote planet they were trapped in via a coincidence as convenient as the one employed by Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek. Other things kept bringing it up as well – the Doctor Who-like mystery of the strange time portals (as well the special effects of the journey to Asgard looked abit like the time vortex), the Silence of the Lambs-like cells that Loki is imprisoned in, the way being far beyond our mortal ken waging war in our backyards wearing pseudo-mystical battle armor was reminiscent of Man of Steel, so much more.
I’m overstating it a bit, but really, there was bit after bit that kept bringing other movies and shows into mind. I’m almost tempted to see it again so I can keep a log. Now, it’s not that any of that makes this a bad movie. Again, I liked it. It just feels like very much a product of it’s time – a well-prepared meal made up of favorite ingredients, all cooked up into a satisfying but familiar meal.