Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thor: The Dark World

The Marvel Universe’s train is still trekking along, getting stronger and stronger as it cruises onward, gathering more and more steam as its studio—along with its owner, Disney—releases great movies and doing justice to the comic book source materials the films come from.

Who would’ve thought that the first film of this Avengers saga, Iron man, would’ve developed into this huge juggernaut of a franchise that crossed over so many beloved characters most of us comic book geeks know so well. From the moment that Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury shows up to talk about the Avengers Initiative, we all knew Marvel Comics took the cake and seized the comic-book-to-movie idea, improved upon it, and made dreams of many geeks and nerds come true. Not only have they created a one-of-a-kind multifaceted series of interrelated films, they’ve also perfected the little after credits scene that some films add as an Easter Egg of sorts, but made it important as it represents a cliffhanger of what’s to come next.

Well, the Marvel Universe is far from slowing down when it comes to these films we’ve been getting since 2008 and Thor: The Dark World is definitely keeping the train on the tracks.
The sequel to 2011’s Thor, Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor, opens with a little history of a universal war between the Asgardians and beings called the Dark Elves. The Dark Elves try to obtain a powerful weapon called the Aether which will bring the universe into darkness, but the Asgard warriors put a stop to them, leaving the leader of the Dark Elves, Malekith
(Christopher Eccleston), to retreat and wait for another opportunity. The film moves to present day, where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is seeing anomalies on Earth, similar to the ones present before Thor (Chris Hemsworth) came to Earth two years prior. Hoping it’s a sign of him coming back to see her, she goes to investigate and is drawn into some sort of wormhole. As Thor, back on Asgard, is told by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), to stay on their world in order to keep peace to the nine realms, he is told by Heimdall (Idris Elba), who is able to look into all the realms and observe everything, he can no longer see Jane on Earth, as if she has disappeared. Thor returns to Earth just as Jane reappears. However, he notices that when local authorities try to arrest Jane for trespassing onto property where she was trying to locate the anomaly, an energy source pulses out of her and blasts them away. Thor, then, takes Jane back to Asgard to find out what’s wrong with her, but this is the time that Maekith returns to seek out the Aether and try to bring the universe into darkness once and for all. Seeing that Thor is going to need help, he has no choice but to ask his imprisoned brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), for help. Thor doesn’t know if he can trust his brother. But does he have a choice?

Although we had Iron Man 3 to kick off what Marvel Studios called Phase Two of films leading into the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World is what really feels like the start of it. As a fan of these series of films, knowing well what’s to come, it’s very exciting and still hard to grasp that it’s really going to happen. But once again, it’s a damned shame that more Marvel characters can’t be pulled into this world—which I’ll call the REAL Marvel world—because it’d be so awesome to get Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four involved into this. The bottom line, however, is that it’d be great, but Marvel doesn’t really need them. Because, as you can see, Sony is trying to create some sort of Spider-Man universe as they’ve announced spin-offs and hinted about an ongoing plotline (probably the “Sinister Six” saga) throughout multiple movies. Fox seems to be going that direction as well with the X-Men franchise and we all know about the Warner Bros. plans for a Justice League film.

But let’s stick to Thor: The Dark World for now.

As a stand-alone film, it was quite a spectacle, showcasing Thor as the mighty warrior he is and how he and his fellow Asgardian combatants are there to keep peace within the Nine Realms. Instead of keeping most of the film on Earth, as it was in the first movie, we get more of the Asgard landscape and scenery, looking as mesmerizing as ever. The funeral scene in the Asgard Ocean is quite beautiful, giving us a good balance between the splendor of the scenery and the depressing interval for the characters.

Chris Hemworth, returning as Thor, is really making this character his own, not hamming it up, but playing the part seriously. Because, how easy could it be to telephone the part in as you realize you’re playing a guy who runs around in a cape and beating up pretend monsters with a big hammer? He takes the mythology earnestly and gives us a Shakespearean-esque hero we can all cheer for, and I think he realizes what these superheroes mean to most of the fans who are devotees of the comic books these movies represent.

Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, pretty much takes over any scene he’s featured in. He undeniably provides the balance this film needs for the audience to step back and see a little flippancy in the story. We still understand he’s the villain that caused all the chaos in New York within the Avengers film, as we see reactions from each character he comes into contact with who was
affected by what Loki did. But Loki is still his impish self, not giving a care or feeling contrite, even when he’s called upon to help Thor out. Hiddleston still portrays that roguish part without cheating us into changing his character to some sort of compassionate hero. What he does, he does to get himself ahead, but there’s still love for his mother and brother, and Hiddleston nails that inner battle within Loki.

Once again, the supporting cast returns to move the plot along. Natalie Portman returns as Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, still studying the anomalies found on Earth. Jane’s assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings), along with Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), both return for a little bit of comic relief, especially Skarsgård’s character who’s still dealing with what happened to him during the attack on New York in the Avengers film—his actions in this film are pretty funny. Not seen as much as they were in the first film is Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, Rene Russo as Thor’s mother, Frigga, and taking over as Fandral is Zachary Levi.

Yes, overall, the film is grand in scale—especially all the scenes in Asgard—and the action is intense. The special effects are pretty spectacular with the ideas behind them well thought out. I love those grenades the villains throw around that create small black holes that suck their enemies in to implode or explode them—really cool. One cameo to look out for is a nice walk-on and sudden entrance of another hero (but it’s not really him) which is awesome, yet funny, as it takes place in Asgard and totally out of place. Another surprise appearance (well…maybe not a surprise), who is a staple in most Marvel films, is a cameo of Stan “The Man” Lee in a hilarious scene that made me giggle.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Thor: The Dark World?

The saga continues, giving us a sense of hope that the heroes will all be around and sharing the same space of the world and universe with one another! It’s an awesome display of how each movie works with the next, yet stands alone as a single superhero film! You do need a bit of knowledge from each subsequent film—or at least The Avengers—but I think if you’re jumping into this film, you’ve already invested yourself in the whole kit and caboodle. I think every generation needs a big fantasy world, like what Star Wars or The Matrix gave us, and Marvel is definitely giving us the 21st century equivalent of that. If you haven’t seen the three Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America stand-alones, and, of course, 2012’s The Avengers…then what are you waiting for? Pick them up, watch them in order of release dates, and then finish it up with Thor: The Dark World. It’s a superhero world that will never be matched!

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.