Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thor's Second Outing Offers Fun

Thor: The Dark World is a solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one that's better structured than the first Thor, which I still loved. Thor at times tended to feel like it was a bridge to The Avengers, rather than a full-fledged Thor film with its own identity. That being said, director Kenneth Branagh had a lot to juggle with that film. The story-centric stuff works, the characters are good and the tone is handled well enough, it's just that the story does tend to hit some bumps on the road but it all ends nicely and is overall hugely entertaining.

The sequel, directed by Game of Thrones episode director Alan Taylor, fares better in the consistency department as the film does feel like a Thor film, and not an Avengers link. Asgard looks even better this time around, much more vibrant and elaborate. We saw a little bit of Svartalfheim, which looked interesting but we could've seen a little more. The designs of the Dark Elves' ships are great, Malektih's design is also very good (Christopher Eccleston nails the role). The action is better shot and much more exciting, and there are nice little twists along the way. The earthbound scenes are surprisingly delightful too, and the other human characters make a nice welcome return and supply a majority of the comic relief although it does get a little too goofy at times.

What I was also happy to see was that the color scheme was actually nice on the eyes, the trailers and posters (the marketing for this film was pretty bland and by-the-books) mostly implied that this was going to be another boring, desaturated, teal-and-orange spectacle. I especially didn't want another one of those after Man of Steel's washed out quasi-depressing color palette. Thankfully I was wrong, Asgard pops and the action shines. Asgard is a lot more inviting this time, along with other scenes. Give Marvel props for making movies that don't try to be needlessly gritty and "grounded".

Unfortunately, its first hour tends to drag a little too much and the second half is way too fast. The final battle is inconsistent, especially with the technology Jane, Darcy and Selvig are using. Selvig also comes into the picture out of left hand and not much is really done with him, which is a shame considering how good of a character he was in the first film. Even Jane feels a bit underused at times, and Malekith - despite his great menacing looks - is kind of a dull villain. He's basically an obstacle seeking to fulfill a goal that Asgardians prevented him from getting. Not bad, but I expected a little more. On the other hand, Loki steals the show and plays the usual tricks.

The only problem with this film is that it feels rushed, they didn't flesh too many of its ideas out: Thor's relationship with Odin, Loki being something of a good guy, Thor and Jane's relationship, Selvig going nuts after the events of The Avengers, even the death of Frigga. The Warriors Three were underused, too - I loved them in the first film, they made a great team with Thor during the fight with the Destroyer. It just seemed too lean and too fast, maybe it should've been a bit longer (112 minutes is surprisingly short for a Marvel film like this, 130 minutes would've sufficed) and more developed, because there are great ideas in this film. Surprisingly, not much was shown of the dark world itself…

Now the mid-credits scene is great (the credits themselves are lovely to look at), where we get a weird-but-good taste of the craziness that'll be Guardians of the Galaxy. The post-credits scene is an okay stinger, nothing too special. It's about on par with Iron Man 3's final seconds; amusing and brings a good laugh. Speaking of which, it was cool to see a Jotunheim beast appear as well! Also, Marvel Studios' new logo is neat.

If you see the film in 3D or IMAX 3D, you'll get a five-minute sneak peek of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The trailer for this film was great to begin with, this blows it away. The piece promises us that this next Phase 2 chapter will bring intense action, a great plot and high stakes thrills. To be honest, I was really looking more forward to this than this film.

That all being said, Thor: The Dark World delivers a good dose of Asgardian action, humor and fun. It doesn't quite rock the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's an entertaining ride and it at least feels like its own film. Again, I would've liked a much more fleshed out film that wasn't racing its way to the pretty short finale, but it's enjoyable in its own right and a worthy addition to the growing shared cinematic universe. Recommended...

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