New ‘Thor’ misses its mark
They say that lightning never strikes twice, and it seems Marvel’s god of thunder is no exception.
“Thor: The Dark World,” the sequel to 2011’s surprise hit, “Thor,” features some terrific performances and action sequences, but they’re not enough to offset its meandering pace and less than compelling plot.
With the original, director Kenneth Branagh (“Hamlet”) and company delivered a comic-book movie celebrating the wonder, wit and charm of its source material. He brought some fantastical characters to life for a surprisingly human story about, yes, an ancient Norse deity.
But the sequel, directed by the talented Alan Taylor, who’s helmed numerous — and very memorable — episodes of some outstanding cable series, including “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones,” misses the mark.
The writers, too, seem more than fit for the task, with a team composed of Marvel film and TV regulars. Yet “The Dark World” just doesn’t work. It’s as if all were told, to use the parlance of our times, to “go big or go home.” And as Hardee’s Double Bacon French Dip Jalapeño Cheddar Sausage Barbecue Monster Thickburger has taught us, bigger isn’t always better.
The film picks up some years after the original, with Asgardian hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth, “The Cabin in the Woods”) fighting to restore peace to the universe’s Nine Realms, following his brother’s botched attempt at world domination.
With his brother, the sadistic and mischievous Loki (Tom Hiddleston, “Midnight in Paris”), now imprisoned, Thor sets his sights back to Earth — specifically on former flame and noted astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, “V for Vendetta”), who’s since abandoned the search for her godly love interest.
When Jane and intern Darcy (Kat Dennings, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) discover a spatial anomaly in an abandoned Greenwich, London, warehouse, she unwittingly releases the Aether, an ancient weapon that — ages ago, at the hands of the nefarious Dark Elves — nearly destroyed the entire universe.
Having been infected by the Aether, Jane is rescued by Thor, who whisks her away through space and time to Asgard, where she can be properly treated. Thor’s father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins, “The Mask of Zorro”), vehemently disagrees with his son’s actions (courting a mortal is frowned upon in Asgard and bringing one home even more so). But upon learning that the Aether is involved, Odin realizes the gravity of the situation. The Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, TV’s “Doctor Who”), are planning to make a second attempt at universal destruction, and they’ll need the Aether — and Jane, by default — to do so.
To stop them, Thor must partner with the most unlikely of allies — Loki.
Although straightforward on paper, the plot feels convoluted and scattershot on celluloid. Uneven pacing and an off-balance blend of drama and humor make matters all the muddier, yet it’s undeniably fun to see these characters back in action. Put simply, “The Dark World” feels like a hot mess.
While he’s an expert in his field, director Taylor just doesn’t seem to mesh well with this brand of storytelling. Maybe it’s all the computer-generated imagery, which seems to dominate the bulk of the film. Although visually appealing, it’s still not very convincing, lacking the tangibility and authenticity of practical special effects.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, is the cast, all of whom seem to be having a blast, particularly Hiddleston and Stellan Skarsgård (2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), who reprises his role as wayward astrophysicist Erik Selvig. Hemsworth and Portman again share an undeniable chemistry, and even Idris Elba (TV’s “Luther”) as Asgardian guardian Heimdall has fun in an expanded role.
“Thor: The Dark World” is easily the weakest entry, to date, in the Marvel film series, but its few strong points shed just enough light to appease die-hard fans, while setting things up for an inevitable sequel.
“Thor: The Dark World,” rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.