Thor: The Dark World Review: A Completely Forgettable Experience
At this point in time, the Marvel film formula has been so overused and re-tread that it’s borderline exhausting. The big, handsome hero comes in, faces off against an evil villain, and saves the universe and the girl in one happy ending, all while generously giving us little comedic quips and jests along the way. It’s wash, rinse repeat, with each movie only changing by way of the characters and whatever doomsday plot a villain might have. There’s nothing at stake, no risks taken, and nothing remotely revolutionary or interesting about it.
Thor: The Dark World is no exception to this.
For the film’s premise, take the above-stated formula and insert your heroes and motivations in the blanks. In Thor: The Dark World, our musclebound and hammer-wielding hero finds himself fighting against a Dark Elf named Malekith, a creature who wants to revert the nine realms back to the darkness that he and his kind thrive off of. He does this by seeking out the power of the Aether (pronounced “ether”), a charming Macguffin so poorly explained that it nearly punches holes in the plot all on its own. Conveniently, a random (and might I mention fortunate) encounter with the red, flowy liquid leaves our intrepid heroine Jane Foster as the host for the…stuff, thus pitching her headfirst into the conflict between Malekith and her God-boyfriend Thor.
The plot is incredibly thin and held together only out of desperation and some seriously strained suspension of disbelief. It constantly bounces back and forth between explaining itself and breaking its own rules, leaving one with the sense that no concrete rules actually exist in this story or in this universe. Truly, it’s a shut-your-brain-off film, which should almost be taken as insulting to audiences at this point. It’s one thing to set up a world with unique physical laws and try to create something new for us to explore. It’s quite another to then take these laws and then force them down a garbage disposal for the sake of the plot.
For example: When they find out that Jane has become the host of the Aether, they discover that she repels anyone who tries to detain her with a massive blast, which is later explained as the Aether “protecting itself” and its host. But this only happens twice during the film, and she constantly comes in close contact with everyone else throughout the rest of the story without any repercussions. If it wants to find its way to Malekith, then why wouldn’t it repel anyone that isn’t him? To me, it’s a bit like introducing the ring’s power in The Fellowship of the Ring by showing us what happens to Frodo when the story calls for it, but letting him wear it as a fashion accessory for the rest of the film. It’s just silly, and continuity for the film takes a huge hit as a result.
Also, the film can’t decide if it’s a sci fi or fantasy story, instead choosing to combine both elements by having fantastic battles with swords and spears and laser guns. Often, it feels like a seven-year-old choreographed the battles after playing with his Star Wars and Lord of the Rings action figures in his room. And honestly, looks just as silly and doesn’t make a sliver of sense. After all, the old adage says you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Why, then, if the Asgardians have laser cannons, would they still choose to arm themselves with sticks and blades? What purpose does it serve?
Sadly, I can answer that question in one word: ‘sploshions. It looks pretty, and audiences will eat up the CGI effects like they’re second helpings at Thanksgiving dinner. Never mind that it only helps to bolster the ridiculousness that Thor: The Dark World is riddled with.
The characters in Thor exist merely as archetypes, and it’s assumed that you’ll like or hate them based solely on what the film tells you to think. Thor is the good guy, since he favors honor and love above all else; Jane Foster is the damsel in distress that occasionally gets her moments to shine (like every other female in any Marvel film), and Malekith is bad because he speaks with a British accent, wears dark clothing, and wants to turn all the lights off in the nine realms. There’s no character development, no depth, and absolutely no reason to care about anyone in the film whatsoever. Even the reasons why we’re doing the things we’re doing are so poorly executed that it’s possible you’ll be cheering for the “bad guys” just to see a faster end to the film.
Pacing and structure is just about as bad to boot, with each of the scenes feeling almost like a carbon copy of each other. Intrigue and action sprinkled with romance and predictable comedic punchlines keep the bore coming in a never-ending stream of stale content that makes the film completely predictable. Even worse, in the wake of The Avengers, we’re now privy to seeing every single film in the Marvel universe tie itself back to last year’s summer blockbuster hit in ways that feel like nothing more than annoying elbow prods going “Huh? Huh? Remember that? Isn’t that funny?” Thankfully, the film never really seems to drag, although that’s not enough to save it in my eyes.
Probably the worst part about Thor is that it has so much opportunity, but chooses to make nothing of it. You know that, at the end of the film, the hero will walk away triumphant, the villain will get his dues, everyone will live, and true love will win out. There are no interesting risks taken, no actual stakes involved, and nothing truly interesting taking place at all. Even the moments where the film tries to get dramatic or shock you are pointless, since you know they aren’t genuine. It’s really disappointing, too, because there are moments in the story line where the film actually could have tackled some interesting ideas. Instead, it chooses to run back to the familiar and dispose of the more interesting threads in throwaway one-liners.
The performances are decent enough, provided that the actors have to figure out ways to deliver boring and needlessly expository dialogue in an effort to explain things to an assumed stupid audience. Chris Hemsworth doesn’t show great emotional range and is, at times, hard to understand (the person I saw this with commented that he sounded like he had a cold for the duration of the film), but gets the job done nonetheless. Natalie Portman is ridiculous as ever playing the role of a smart and sexy Astrophysicist (just go with it), Kat Dennings delivers the punch line in every single scene and serves as a human embodiment of the comedic ba-dum-cheesh! drum bit, and Idris Elba holds his own as one of the more interesting characters in the film. Truly, the best part of Thor’s cast was Tom Hiddleston, whose Loki is just as deliciously devious and cunning as always. I’ll happily admit to being anti-Loki in the past, but his moments on screen were by far the most compelling of the film.
For all of its problems, Thor: The Dark World does have some bits that aren’t necessarily redeeming, but do make up for some of its missteps. Although it’s egregious at times, some of the comedic bits were actually pretty amusing, such as Darcy’s interactions with her intern and any of the moments that Thor interacts with our world. But sadly, they’re washed out by the litany of other throwaway lines that serve to cheapen a lot of the drama that unfolds.
Like every other Marvel movie in the now-extensive franchise, the film does end with a solid half hour of action while the hero fights against the villain and his army in order to foil whatever cut-and-paste plot is occurring. And even though it results in not much more than brawling, seeing Thor and Malekith jump between worlds while duking it out is a visual treat. Sadly, it’s all reduced to unexplainable science that looks really pretty and the tired trope of the hero’s almost-death at the end.
While we love the familiar, Thor: The Dark World is a perfect example of what happens when we’re given familiarity all too often: it becomes tiresome and boring, unwilling to take any risks or tread any ground that might be considered controversial. It’s safe, clean, mindless fun, almost to an insulting point. It assumes you’re ready to turn your brain off, then moves forward with this assumed knowledge by barely constructing a plot and inserting it into Marvel’s tired formula and spoon feeding it to you. As a superhero fan it really pains me to say it, but Thor is a completely forgettable and throwaway experience and easily the weakest film in the Marvel lineup.