Movie review: 'Thor: The Dark World' hammers home the Marvel formula for success
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Run Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson
Directed by Alan Taylor (Palookaville, Kill the Poor)
Thor: The Dark World (opening today) is the second "post-Avengers" movie, following May's Iron Man 3. Chris Hemsworth again stars as the god-like Thor, protector of the nine realms and master of the powerful artifact, the hammer, Mjolnir. The film kicks off where the last one left off, with Thor's villainous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), in shackles and on his way to eternal imprisonment.
Of course, as in the comic books, no villain stays captured (or dead, for that matter), for very long. A convoluted plot - something about a "convergence" - threatens all nine realms of the universe and you can bet that Loki will play a part. Thor actually is forced to enlist his brother's help to battle the cosmic threat, brought on by the ancient dark elf, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston).
Any comic book fan knows (having been a huge collector, my first job was actually managing a comic book shop) that for as long as these "gods" have battled each other in the cosmos, so has Marvel Comics fought against DC Comics for ultimate supremacy. Marvel has blown far past DC Comics in recreating their universe on the big screen, but Thor: The Dark World felt an awful lot like this Summer's Man of Steel, centering on a sort of "been there, done that," uninspired plot and framework. It also closely mimics the Superman movie by sending our hero's innocent girlfriend (Natalie Portman, whose Jane Foster may as well be named Lois Lane, or even simply "damsel in distress") deep into space, or by giving us huge alien beings that battle and destroy much of Earth without even a care.
Wouldn't a threat of this magnitude had brought on The Avengers? Sigh.
Thor: The Dark World is not one of the greatest efforts Marvel Studios has given us thus far. In fairness, The Avengers was so darned good, the bar may have been set a bit too high for the likes of any one superhero to carry a film all on their own.
But there is a formula to these films that we have come to expect, and even anticipate. It is the most basic and boiled down comic book formula that one could imagine, but it's so damn delicious that we continuously crave more, even when some helpings are more filling than others. You simply take your good guy, your bad guy, your plot of world destruction and then pepper in a series of light - and hilarious - side characters and bits of dialogue. Insert your mandatory cameo by Marvel legend Stan Lee and a few stinger scenes during the end credits and - voila! - you have yourself a successful recipe for a Marvel movie.
Will we ever grow tired of inserting new heroes, villains and cataclysmic plots? Probably not. The true beauty of the Marvel movies has been how perfectly it has recreated the comic book reader's experience: Not every issue is as good as the last one, but you can't get enough if the major players are to your liking. It's not a definitive story with an ending, it's a serial adventure that has no end.
Yes, there has yet to be a film in this canon that has not been fun and/or enjoyable. Thor: The Dark World is enjoyable enough, if it does exist only to wet our appetite for a better, more meaningful film that will undoubtedly come.
Speaking of future Marvel films, per norm, stick around for not one but two "stinger" bonus scenes during the end credits, setting the table for next Summer's The Guardians of the Galaxy as well as future installments of The Avengers. One is a bit amusing and the other will at worst, peak your interest and at best - like if you are a giant comic book nerd at heart - will make your head explode.
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