Avengers franchise movies will make a boatload of money. The Avengers was the top-earning film of 2012, becoming the third-highest grossing film of all-time. I've liked all of the movies to varying degrees with one major exception, 2011's Thor. I really didn't like this one, but come on, I've got to keep up with the franchise, right? Right?!? Here we go with 2013's Thor: The Dark World.
Following the adventures/misadventures in New York (in The Avengers), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to Asgard with his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), in tow, set to waste away for his crimes. With the universe threatening to tear itself apart, Thor has gone about bringing about the Nine Realms back together. His quest though is halted when his love back on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), accidentally comes into the possession of the Aether, an ancient powerful weapon that dates back eons and has remained hidden and buried all that time. The Dark Elf who previously possessed it, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), wants nothing more than to reacquire the Aether, hopefully to tear Asgard, Earth and the entire universe to pieces with his new-found power. Hoping to save the universe, Asgard and Jane, Thor is left with few options, forcing him to turn to an unlikely ally, Loki himself. Can his brother be trusted?
I don't know what it is. I can't peg it down exactly what doesn't work for me about these Thor movies. I can say that I liked this second movie more than the original. Director Alan Taylor's superhero flick still isn't perfect, but something just seems more self-assured. It's still heavily flawed, but it isn't the deal-killer that I found the original Thor to be. There's a lot of issues I have I guess. One, I'm being hypocritical. I've watched the Lord of the Ring series, the Star Wars movies and countless other science fiction and fantasy movies so that in itself isn't a deal-breaker, but I struggle to go along with all the Asgard history and lore. Writing that plot synopsis, I felt like I should be reading it in MOVIE TRAILER voice. All the mythology and history and Aethers, it's all very cartoonish and comic book. I can't say that for the other Avengers movies. Based in comic books but rising above it...except for Thor.
One thing above all else is not in question, AT ALL. That would be star Chris Hemsworth who has become an international movie star courtesy of these movies. Talk about epically perfect casting. From the visual look with his long blonde hair to his commandeering physique to his booming voice that deadpans his way through his scenes, Hemsworth is the best thing going for these movies by far. I won't go as far as saying he's the only good thing, but it's closer than you'd think unfortunately. He commits to the part completely but it never seems jokey or forced. It's serious with some laughs. Hemsworth handles the action effortlessly from beginning to end -- his Thor hammer is one of the best cinema weapons ever -- and adds a touch of humor too. Some quick, little scenes work perfectly, including Thor hanging up his hammer like a coat as he enters an apartment. Hemsworth's performance is the heart of the movie, a great lead.
Now the unfortunate thing is that as many big names and potentially cool characters as this movie has, very few leave a positive impression. The biggest exception to that statement is of course, Hiddleston as Loki, Thor's treacherous brother who is obsessed with power and taking over Asgard. The chemistry between the brothers is great, their scenes together in the last hour my personal high points for the movie. As for the rest? Meh. I like Natalie Portman a lot, but she still seems out of place in the Thor movies. Anthony Hopkins is cool but given little to do as Thor's father, Odin, while Rene Russo returns as Thor's mother, Frigga. Idris Elba is as cool as ever as Heimdall, all-seeing Asgardian sentry who watches over the entry point to Asgard. In the annoying comic relief department, the usually reliable Kat Dennings is shrill and annoying as Jane's assistant, Darcy, Stellan Skarsgard is relegated to crazy scientist in background duty, and Darcy even gets a goofy British intern (Jonathan Howard).
But wait, there's more! Eccleston is pretty decent as the villainous Malekith, obsessed with destruction, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje his freakishly strong enforcer, Algrim. In the wasted department are Thor's Warriors Three from the original, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi (a new arrival) and Tadanobu Asano, mostly given cameo-like appearances, Jaimie Alexander also returning as Asgardian love interest (of sorts), Sif. And because the Avengers franchise is interested in coverage across all their movies, Chris Evans makes a quick appearance as Captain America while Benicio Del Toro makes an appearance in the credits scene as a hint of where the Thor series will go.Also look for Chris O'Dowd in a small part.
And here we sit. I know what I want to say, but it's going to sound harsh. My biggest complaint of the Thor movies is that they seem almost generic without a whole lot of heart. They're fun and flashy, blending action and comedy, but that doesn't necessarily translate to "interesting." Thor is a really cool character, but what else is there to offer? 'Dark' clocks in at 112 minutes, but once you take away an incredibly long credits sequence (even taking away the minute scene added on) we're still looking at a movie that's now 101 minutes. Too much going on, too many ideas and characters, a story that bounces liberally among its countless options, and a coldness in general that the other Avengers movies manage to avoid in a big way. It's better than the first movie, but it's still not that good.
Thor: The Dark World (2013): **/****