Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Review: Thor - The Dark World (second-pass) - SPOILERS

World of Blackout Film Review

Thor: The Dark World Poster

Thor: The Dark World (3D) (second-pass) (SPOILERS. LOTS.)
Cert: 12A / 112 mins / Dir. Alan Taylor

It almost pains me to use the word spoilers, because there really isn't that much to spoil. Other than the demise of the one character that Marvel could bear to let go of, of course (who, let's face it, can easily return in dreams, flashbacks and visitations anyway). The biggest problem (for me, at least) is that by the end of the film, not much has actually changed outside of the number of presents Thor has to buy at Christmas, and the addition of a new line on the London Underground network, whereby Charing Cross is three stops away from Greenwich*1. Any shakeups in Asgard and other adjacent realms are largely meaningless to the casual viewer as they were barely explored in the previous installment, and only fleetingly visited here. A villainous sect (with two named characters) is introduced and disposed of with clockwork efficiency, and Loki is once again prowling and scheming away (which comes as no great surprise, let's face it; that's what everyone wants him to do).

When it comes to the new additions of The Dark World, they leave much to be desired. Christopher Eccleston is given very little to do except walk around in a bad mood, and his character Malekith's aim seems too broad. He wants to destroy the universe. All of it. Why? …Plot Reasons™. There's no personal conviction or vendetta driving him, just an instinct to bring about destruction that he will presumably survive (even though it's not explained how. The Dark Elves were borne from the darkness remember, they can't exist if all the matter in the universe is destroyed).

And for the underwritten villains to prosper, they're going to need an underwritten method of destruction. Cue The Aether, which is essentially a wobbly, slightly more malevolent version of The Tesseract from Captain America. It's origin, intent and limitations are so shrouded in mystery that Anthony Hopkins can barely bring himself to explain it in his introductory voiceover; it just is. It's a capable enough plot device, albeit a little transparent.

Now, if you're still reading this and I haven't put you off completely, I should point out that this isn't what I was thinking during the film (even the second time around), these are just the thoughts I was left with afterwards. Thor: The Dark World is bloody good fun, and a must-see for fans of the Avengers series. Unfortunately, the preceding films have set the bar so high for me that this was bound to happen sooner or later. A bland macguffin and a directionless antagonist mean that while the film is a rollercoaster of destruction, there's never any sense of actual threat; evident in Marvel's apparent reluctance to kill off any of its named characters, which also removes any sense of consequence, too...

Outside of my moaning, I have some questions:

• If The Aether empowers Jane to the point where it defends her against the Asgardian guardsmen, why doesn't it use Jane malevolently as a vessel and start destroying everything around her before Malekith gets there?

• Moreover, if The Aether is 'conscious' within Jane, why can't she harness its powers to defend herself against Malekith? She'd knock him into a cocked hat, surely?

• We're told that the Aether's power is draining Jane's life-force, but other than her being a bit sleepy on the Asgardian gunboat, we get no indication of this. It doesn't even seem to affect her behaviour or attitude, other than her getting dark-eyes every so often and seeing visions of The Aether which impart no particular message to her. After The Aether is stolen back by Malekith, she tells Thor 'I saw him on Earth', so presumably she's been getting farsight glimpses that the haven't been shared with the audience? Why not, please?

• Why doesn't Malekith's extraction of The Aether kill Jane?

• Will someone just explain the point of The Aether to me, please?

Oh, and I had wondered about the significance of the Norman Emerson & Sons branded-truck used in the warehouse scene, but apparently there isn't any, it just looked good. So another Flight 5434 right there, then.

And outside of my questions, I spotted an easter-egg:

• I'd previously compared the final scenes of Thor to Revenge of the Sith. The SW references appear to continue in The Dark World with a lot of the ground-level shots of Asgard looking suspiciously like the prequel-era's Naboo (especially with Natalie gliding around in her wrap with a waterfall in the background), and with Thor losing his hand in battle (well, kinda, but we do see it). The best one though has got to be Jane's flat in London. When she's sitting moving her Shreddies around the bowl, there's a Star Wars calendar on the wall in the background, bearing this image of the Millennium Falcon in Hyperspace:

Thor: The Dark World - the most blatant Star Wars reference

…I'm not sure if it's from a published calendar or just a one that the set designers knocked together as a joke. If you know for sure, give me a shout in the comments box, there...

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I laughed and gasped.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Financially, undoubtedly. Artistically..?

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Cinema. Big things getting smashed and looking big = good.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shouldn't imagine so.

Will I watch it again?
I will.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Didn't hear it, no, BUT let me know if you spotted one.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
When Thor hangs Mjölnir on Jane's coat-rack, shouldn't it pull the peg/rack right off and then go plummeting through the floor? Wouldn't Thor's absent-mindedness and subsequent surprise/realisation be a better punchline to the comic moment than just casually hanging up the hammer in a domesticated manner?

*1 No, I'm not going to let that one go. To the point where I'm going to start a superhero-themed rock/metal band called 'Three Stops To Greenwich'. For reals.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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