The way I work, I generally try to avoid giving up too much by way of “spoilers” when it comes to reviewing movies that are still playing simply because I’m never sure how much anybody out there who might be reading this stuff wants to know about any given flick before they’ve actually seen it. Call it common courtesy, I guess, if you’re feeling generous, or weak-kneed fear of the always-on-the-alert hordes of internet “spoiler police” if you’re not, but nevertheless, it’s something I try to adhere to, however tough the going may get.
And Thor : The Dark World makes it very tough indeed. The simple fact is, you just can’t heap all the criticism on this film that it so richly deserves without giving away numerous key plot points, so here’s what I’m gonna do instead : for those of you who want a meticulously-detailed, blow-by-blow analysis of how and why this big-budget boondoggle fails every single logic test known to humankind, I humbly suggest you follow this link to a lengthy review by the ever-reliable Julian Darius over at the Sequart website : http://sequart.org/magazine/32555/id-need-a-lobotomy-to-enjoy-thor-the-dark-world/ . Julian’s one of the more articulate and intelligent writers the web has to offer on all things comic-related, and while his grammar and syntax are occasionally a bit uncharacteristically all over the map in this particular piece, I get it : he had a lot to vent about, and sometimes ya just gotta let off steam. In any case, his analysis is absolutely spot-on here and, if anything, he’s being too kind to this putrid mess of a movie.
For those of you who want a short, “spoiler”- free summation of why this film sucks so badly though, , here’s the bare essentials — Thor : The Dark World is built on so many glaringly obvious logical inconsistencies, ten-trillion-to-one coincidences, rehashed story elements that worked much better in the first film, plot holes that are big enough for an entire army of Asgardian warriors to charge though, and problems brought on by the idiotic actions of the title character himself that it well and truly boggles the imagination. This is, in short, a complete and utter celluloid train wreck that requires such a heaping dose of suspension of disbelief that even people who can accept the most outlandish premises imaginable will have a hard time coming to grips with this one. It also doesn’t help that the characterization of most of the leading players seems to have taken a leap back toward the dark ages, the dialogue is hopelessly inane from start to finish, and that director Alan Taylor (a seasoned TV veteran, and it shows) brings exactly none of the Shakespearean-rooted vision of Kenneth Branagh to the proceedings and opts, instead, to film things in the rapidly-evolving (and hopelessly uniform) Marvel “house style” best exemplified by the likes of Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon. Sure, their Iron Man and Avengers films, respectively, have earned tons of fan accolades (not to mention box office dollars), but let’s be honest — the directorial work on either of those properties is virtually (okay, who are we kidding, completely) indistinguishable from the other. So, hey, welcome to the lowest-common-denominator club, I guess, Alan.
On the plus side, the CGI is pretty cool here throughout, though, and since that’s probably what half the audience (at least) for these things is there for, said half (again, at least) of the audience should walk away feeling quite satisfied.
For those of us who like a movie that at least tries to make sense, though (or fails to so earnestly that watching it becomes a kind of sublime pleasure in its own right), there just ain’t much of offer here. Natalie Portman goes from intelligent astrophysicist to love-struck schoolgirl the minute Thor hits the scene (we later learn she’s only continued with her career at all in hopes of running into him again — there goes a few decades’ worth of tepid progress for female characters in genre cinema in about one second flat) and spends the rest of the film making puppy-dog eyes but not doing much else; Chris Hemsworth plays up the dull nobility of his character with none of the reckless humanity we saw in the first film (even though he organizes mass treason here — again); Tom Hiddleston wildly accentuates the effeminate qualities of Loki in a way that pretty much screams “you can’t trust this guy, he’s obviously queer“; Anthony Hopkins mails in his performance from behind a shining suit of armor; Rene Russo fulfills her one character requirement by d— whoops, that’s right, “spoliers”! ; Kat Dennings essentially plays the same character she does on TV’s Two Broke Girls ; and Stellan Skarsgard does his best to make sure we all know nervous breakdowns are nothin’ but harmless fun, his character having gone mad due to the purportedly “traumatic” events he endured in The Avengers (a bit of a reach given that even its most fervent partisans would admit that’s essentially a big-budget “popcorn movie” with little to no actual thematic depth whatsoever — they just think it’s a particularly well done “popcorn movie”). In short, if you’re getting the idea that Thor : The Dark World is risible, superficial nonsense with some deeply offensive takes on gender roles, (alluded to) homosexuality, and mental illness, then congratulations! You’re exactly correct.
Christopher Eccleston does his best, I suppose, considering the mountain of makeup he’s buried beneath, as chief villain Malekith, but given the preposterous nature of the character he’s asked to portray (head of the evil “Dark Elves,” who alone has the power to track down a mystical force powerful enough to unmake all of creation called the Aether — except for, ya know, that time he lost sight of it for literally eons when it was purportedly “shielded” from him in a wide-open cave — and even if you buy that, you’d have a tough time explaining why he couldn’t trace it while it was being taken right there), I guess there’s only so much the poor guy can do. Still, I give him credit for at least appearing to want to do more than simply go through the motions here. It’s more than I can say for anybody else, apart from Idris Elba, who does inanimate stoicism better than anyone in his role as Heimdall. Not that he’s really got that much to do, mind you, but he stands around with a hell of a lot of conviction.
At the end of the day, though, I dunno — Thor : The Dark World is still a Marvel studios product, which means that it won’t get nearly the critical scrutiny it should and that legions of loyal followers will proclaim their undying love for it even though it is, by any standard of bias-free critical measure, an absolute clusterfuck of a movie. They, like the Asgardians in the film, will still see Thor himself as a heroic figure even though his decision to bring Portman’s Jane Foster character to his mythic home ensures its invasion by enemy hordes, and they’ll no doubtpraise the film for its forced moments of flat, shoehorned-in “humor” (although even I have to admit the cameo-of-sorts by Chris Evans as Captain America is fun) and equally-forced “dark and somber” tone. This will probably be proclaimed as a “mature” and even “sophisticated” film in many quarters, and needless to say, those of us willing to call bullshit on it will be vilified by Dinsey’s unpaid internet army.
No matter. The simple truth is that Thor : The Dark World is a movie that insults it’s audience’s intelligence in ways that even Roger Corman would never dream of, and goes about its dull and tepid business with less interest and heart than Roger and his barely-compensated filmmakers, actors, and crew ever brought to the proceedings. It’s easily and unquestionably one of the absolute worst films of the year — hell, of the last several years —even if only a few of us have the guts to say so in public. Dis/Mar thinks you’e a sucker with no taste or intelligence who will blindly queue up for anything they churn out. They hold their audience in contempt and at this point are openly daring you to keep forking over your cash for their garbage. How long are you willing to prove them right, and keep playing along?