THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THOR: THE DARK WORLD"
My general philosophy is that, when I'm in a theater seat, I'm just another member of the audience. It's not until I get back to my computer that I become a film critic. What I mean by that statement is that I allow a movie to give me its experience, for better or worse, and analyze my reaction to it later on. Movies like Thor: The Dark World are why I have this policy. Sitting here now, I realize this sequel has a lot of problems, but while I was watching it, I was having a really good time. Does that make it a worthy film or a bad film? Hard to say. What I do know is that people who go see it will most likely be looking for fun. They probably won't care too much about the problems, either.
The plot is needlessly complex, so let's simplify it. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of longtime Asgard foes the Dark Elves, is seeking a substance known as “Aether” that would give him the power to plunge the world into darkness. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has to stop him, but his earthly girlfriend, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), becomes entrenched in the battle after falling into a wormhole. The key to saving both Jane and Asgard may lie with Thor's traitorous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, again stealing the show). That's a nice tidy description of the plot. The way it actually unfolds includes all the supporting characters from the first movie – including those played by Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings – as well as a few new ones.
Certain things about the story feel a little fudged. We don't always know all the rules about Aether, or the wormholes that play a key role. That's what makes it complicated. Malekith, meanwhile, is not a very menacing villain. He looks creepy, yet such little time is spent developing him as a character that he never seems like much of a credible threat. His motivations are unclear, beyond the basic I want to control the world with my evil stuff. Another weak point is the romance between Thor and Jane, which feels more perfunctory than involving. Thor loves her and wants to save her, but that's about as deep as it gets. (The one interaction we really want to see them have is buried after the end credits.) Several moments in Thor: The Dark World also feel a little too Marvel-ized. While it's cool what the company is doing with the movies based on its characters, a cameo from another Avenger feels very forced, as do some of the references to previous Marvel efforts.
Those are the things my head tells me. My heart reminds me of the good time I had. Thor: The Dark World has a number of things going for it. For starters, it's a great looking picture. Most of it takes place on Asgard or in the realm of the Dark Elves. Those locations are visually dazzling and appropriately comic book-y. The action scenes are really good too, most notably the climactic confrontation between Thor and Malekith. The concept behind this extended sequence is quite clever, unlike anything I've seen before. It represents the moment when Thor: The Dark World goes for broke, and succeeds in delivering a wholly original final battle that enthralls the audience. Many of the film's jokes hit the bullseye, too. This sequel maintains – and even expands on - the original's self-knowing humor. A willingness to not take itself too seriously helps fuel the overall sense of fun. The last, but certainly not the least, pleasure is Tom Hiddleston. He's certainly an MVP in the Marvel cinematic universe, once again playing Loki with just the right amount of lovable maliciousness.
Directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), Thor: The Dark World is a goofy movie, yet it's that very goofiness that allows it to overcome some undeniable flaws. Comic book-based movies have generally become quite serious over the past few years. This one recaptures that feeling of running home with a new four-color comic, opening the pages, and delighting in the out-of-this-world adventures detailed within. In this case, that's good enough.
( out of four)
Thor: The Dark World is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content. The running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.
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