Friday, November 15, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

I saw Thor: The Dark World on opening night, with Thor and The Avengers before it, all in 3D. The Avengers was #2 on my 2012 list, while the first Thor almost made the top ten in 2011. The second Thor is better than the first, but not as good as The Avengers. That movie is wonderful. The three movies together do feel like a trilogy, since Thor and Loki feature prominently in The Avengers, so it was nice to see them all in a row.

The things that work in Thor 2 are mostly the same things that worked in the first, but all the actors are more comfortable in their roles, and the story is better. Which is not to say that the story is fantastic - the Dark Elves don't have much in the way of depth. They exist to be villains, and otherwise there's not much to them. They do make pretty decent villains, though, and I rather like their ship designs.

In general, the set design and costuming are very good. I still get a bit twitchy at the obviously fake armor, but it's a fantasy/sci-fi movie and everything fits in that context. There is quite a bit more of Asgard in this movie than in the first, and it looks much better, like an actual place rather than a set painting.

As with the first movie, I was least impressed by the most decorated actors: Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins aren't bad, they're just not great. The fault for that lies partly in the writing, of course. Odin gets to chew scenery now and then, but the movie isn't about him, and Jane just isn't very interesting. She is actually much improved in the sequel, but for my taste Thor, Loki, Frigga, Darcy, and even Ian the intern are better characters.

Chris Hemsworth is outstanding once again as Thor. He is the perfect combination of brooding, brave, childish, and heroic. He's also incredibly good looking, and while the long slow shot of him walking around shirtless was certainly gratuitous, the man deserves it for the amount of work he put into getting that body.

Tom Hiddleston has quite the fan following, and while I don't think he's that attractive, he is very very good at the part of Loki. I appreciated having a more nuanced role for him, in which he is not the primary villain. He gets scenes that are both wonderfully emotional (one involving an illusion in his cell, in particular) and comic (the walking scene with Thor is probably the best part of the film). And while that last scene is great for reasons other than Hiddleston's acting, he did help pull it off.

This movie sort of passes the Bechdel test - there is a scene where two women exchange words that aren't necessarily directly about a man. It is still a very male-centric movie, though, given that the main characters are Thor, Loki, and Malekith (the main Dark Elf). Jane has her moments as the only female major character, and Darcy, Frigga, and Sif all have good parts in limited roles.

As far as racial representation, this movie is somewhat confusing. As in the first Thor, the Asgardians are mostly white except for Heimdall, who is inexplicably black. The token Asian character, Hogun, is revealed to come from an entire world of Asians. I don't know what to make of that.

But is it fun? Yes. Thor: The Dark World has some good action sequences, once of which is quite inventive; it has romance, some of which is cute; it has a surprising amount of humor - not too much, but of high quality.
I liked it rather a lot.

1. Gravity
2. Much Ado About Nothing
3. Now You See Me
4. The World's End
5. Ender's Game
6. Despicable Me 2
7. Star Trek: Into Darkness
8. Thor: The Dark World
9. Oblivion
10. Pacific Rim
11. Rush
12. Iron Man 3
13. Kick Ass 2
14. Man of Steel
15. Jack the Giant Slayer
16. Beautiful Creatures
17. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
18. The Family
19. RIPD
20. Oz the Great and Powerful
21. Epic
22. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
23. The Wolverine
24. Elysium
25. Monsters University
26. Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters
27. The Grandmaster
28. Machete Kills
29. The Great Gatsby
30. The Lone Ranger
31. This is the End

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