Thor: The Dark World
*SPOILER ALERT!!! – for those who haven’t seen the movie, this review contains spoilers)*
‘Thor: The Dark World’
– Director: Alan Taylor.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston
*Judita’s Score: 6/10 *
– The second instalment of Marvel’s Thor franchise has arrived in the form of Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor. Straight off the bat I must commend the overall execution of the look of the film. Alan Taylor definitely shows that he knows how to make what is on screen look good. As a director on top TV shows like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Rome, Mad Men and most recently Game of Thrones, his pedigree speaks for itself. He is well versed in the language of television, which demands an ability to captivate and entertain an audience quickly and maintain that. One can only assume that translating a skill set that he has so mastered on the small screen to the big screen must have provided him with a playground he could thrive in. Observing the look of Thor: The Dark world I would say that thrive he did.
Now, to 3D or not to 3D? That is the question! Just because you can does not always mean that you should. I am all for 3D, when it is used in context with some kind of constructive application. Does it enhance the scene? Is it truly necessary? Would the movie suffer without it? These are all questions that were they answered honestly a lot of people (myself included) would be spared a lot of frustration. I certainly commend the way the 3D looked but it was not always well placed or even necessary. 3D has a nasty habit of getting in the way when you just want to see what is happening. For instance, in large battle scenes, there is something to be said for 2D because you are not forced to focus on what is right up in front of you and nothing else. In the battle scenes at the start of the movie there were moments when I was literally trying to peer around a massive, 3D, Thor-shaped protuberance leaping out of the screen at me, in the vain hope that I might see what else was going on in the battle behind him. I think of Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Saving Private Ryan and Lord of the Rings. These films all had battle scenes staged on a grand scale with immense landscapes, which you were able to enjoy. Why? Because you could actually see it! God knows if I had to contend with a giant 3D Gandalf or Maximus Decimus my tale would be a very different one. Thor: The Dark World, to 3D or not to 3D? Not to 3D!
Moving away from the aesthetic of the film I come to the story. To me movies are like opera and Giacomo Puccini once said that a great opera starts with a great libretto. For a man world renowned for his music to say it would be nothing without the words first, that perfectly sums up the importance of a good story to a film. You can have the greatest CGI and all the box office smashing names you like, if your story is sub-par, so too will your movie be. Words build story, story builds characters and characters build the movie. Any and all the components of this food chain are integral, compromise one and you compromise the lot. This is what I felt happened to Thor: The Dark World. To read the text of the movie alone it screams for a colossal amount of editing. There are too many redundant scenes and characters. Blockbusters today show an infuriating trend of fleshing out the story with tedious fodder, sometimes for ill-fated attempts at humour, sometimes with the aim of broadening their viewing demographic for a bigger pay day. In this film you get scenes essential to driving the plot inter-cut with nothing short of slapstick sketches created for a quick laugh, which I would hasten to add was hardly ever successful. As tough a pill as it may be to swallow, even though you’ve spent a lot of money filming it, it may still belong on the cutting room floor. What this all comes down to is a simple reality check. You cannot be all things to all people so what do you want? Do you want to make an excellent movie or an instantly disposable cash cow with the burn out rate of a ball of cotton wool on a lit barbecue grill?
Pfff, why even bother asking? It is always about money.
Although, Should I be surprised about the writing? After all, the screenplay for this movie was partly written by Christopher Markus who was kind enough to have also had a hand in the Chronicles of Narnia screenplays. The prosecution rests your honour!
That leads me quite conveniently to the issue of characters/actors. Now I could wax lyrical about this all day but I shall restrain myself. Here goes …
Some performances, as per usual, were a sure fire bank. Anthony Hopkins, for who performing well and outshining his co-stars in movies like this must be like painting-by-numbers for him now. Also Stellan Skarsgård, who surprisingly was under-used in this edition of Thor. Wrapping my head around that decision has proven difficult when I think that one can have an actor of Stellan’s calibre at their disposal but choose to marginalise his contribution in favour of characters as pointless as Darcy, the proverbial sidekick, and her newly contrived cohort “Ian the intern”! That was bad enough but to add insult to injury a decent actress like Alice Krige was cast as possibly the most throw away character of the movie, yet I had reams of Kat Dennings coated celluloid unleashed upon my person. Kat Dennings in 2 Broke Girls is one thing but as Darcy she did very little for me in the first Thor and somehow managed to do even less for me in this one. Where is the justice? The very fact that the character of Ian was included in this film is evidence to me that it had been noticed that Kat Dennings falls short on her own and needs fleshing out so with Natalie Portman inconveniently relocated to Asgard, Kat would inevitably need help on screen and Stellan would only dwarf her. Suggestion … perhaps a different actress? Just saying!
In Hollywood today it seems everyone only speaks one language, the language of comic book adaptations. Gone are the days when winning Oscars for stellar performances in dramatic films made you world famous, now it is Lycra and fantasy worlds that put you on the map. As they say, “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” and it pleased me no end to see Christopher Eccleston getting a seat at the head table and carving out his slice of comic book pie. For years his acting talent has been cherished on British shores and now the world en mass gets to enjoy him too. Few may even remember him as Ewan McGregor’s flatmate who slowly loses the plot in Danny Boyle‘s Shallow Grave (I do!). Aaah there is some justice! His performance as Malekith was unpretentious, measured and full of on-screen dominance. I say bravo Mr Eccleston and kudos to Marvel for approving his casting. Mega kudos also to Marvel for the introduction of Benicio del Toro (who is quite literally my reason for living) to the mix, as The Collector. I just hope the writers know how to capitalise on his talent. Writers if you need help maximising Benicio in a role like this, please direct your attention to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Usual Suspects. You are welcome!
Ironically I haven’t got much to say about the eponymous lead Chris Hemsworth. He was as he was, I was neither offended nor was I inspired by his performance, which in itself is a big complement nowadays. So many of his peers have made a hash of their outings as comic book heroes, Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen you stand accused! Natalie Portman too was competent and predictable. She painted the character as it was written. I say if you do a job, if you can’t excel at it, at the very least don’t do it badly. So to that extent credit goes to both the leads.
Oh Tom Hiddleston! Where to begin? To look at you is always a delight but from the offset I questioned the casting of an actor of Tom Hiddleston’s flavour in a dish like Loki. As a performance in itself Tom, for what he brings to the table as an actor, played Loki well. However, there is something intrinsically ill-suited about a polished, theatrical style, young British actor cast as a villainous God from a comic book. It just doesn’t work for me. One thing they did get right is that Loki and Thor like Tom and Chris come from completely different worlds. Loki is a comic book super villain and he is a rich, dynamic, twisted and Machiavellian character and getting and upper middle-class gentleman to play him just strikes me as employing the same logic it would take to employ Barbie to pilot Apollo 13.
I don’t blame Tom Hiddleston, at the end of the day he is a working actor. When you are offered a great job you take it and do the best job you can, which he did. Tom has proven in the past that in the right film (The Hollow Crown, Midnight in Paris, The War Horse) and the right role he can be riveting on screen, but Loki is not a good fit. Casting a posh guy as a conceptualised lunatic is too much of a stretch. Tom is a single malt and Loki is absinthe, both remarkable but not sympatico. I understand that every director would like to lay claim to their own Heath Ledger – The Joker revelation but such things are a rarity. Very much like the chances of my disproving Fermat’s Last Theorem, probably possible but highly unlikely! Not to worry, when I point out problems I am always willing to propose a solution. If not Tom Hiddleston then who? I would suggest an actor like Sam Rockwell, who has characters with a strain of insanity in his repertoire, the kinds that correlate with Loki. No need to thank me, I am always here to help.
So Thor: The Dark World, survey says? Quite entertaining but sadly forgettable.