Saturday At The Movies: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Earlier this year, when the first trailer to Thor: The Dark World was released, I found myself surprisingly excited. Here was what looked to be a bit of a throw back film; a bit of a Marvel Studios homage to the those great swashbuckling sword and sorcery movies of the early 1980’s: Conan, The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Beastmaster and Krull. Those were movies that I loved as a kid – and love even more now.

With Thor: The Dark World, it seemed liked the eightification of comic book films was upon us. And in this particular case, I was ok with that. There was no better decade for this kind of genre than the decade that spawned all of those cool movies of my youth, happily spent at the video rental store.

Thor: The Dark World, was more than that, though. It was a movie that combined muscular heroes and dreaded villains with big-budget sets and fantastic special effects with well-known actors, working inside a shared fictional universe, playing well with at least three other important film franchises. A truly twenty-first century aesthetic.

It’s Saturday. Let me tell you more about the movie, Thor: The Dark World after the jump.

Thor the Dark World posterOne of the greatest things Marvel Studios has done with their series of comic books films is have them coexist within a shared universe. Not only has this decision allowed for interest in films people might not otherwise have an interest in, but it’s also kept and increased that momentum of interest in all of their cinema properties. Thor: The Dark World, (if you saw it in specialty theatres like the Ultra AVX theatre I saw it in), came with an extended cut of the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier film, due to be released on April 4, 2015. Through these five minutes, which included an explosive fight scene between Cap and at least six assailants (and Frank Grillo!) all confined within an elevator, a montage of story elements and the revelation of the character called Winter Soldier, this movie looks absolutely spectacular! Audiences cheered, excited for its potential, and Thor hadn’t even started yet.

That’s good decision-making.

What was even better, however, was that Captain America, played by Chris Evans, makes a brief cameo with Thor: The Dark World, and that scene garnered cheers and applause from cinema-goers. Not only was it a fun treat, but it was another nod to his own upcoming film. Pretty sweet!

Thor: The Dark World, meanwhile, starts like a Lord of the Rings film, as Anthony Hopkins’ character of Odin details the origins of the Dark Elf Malekith (played threateningly by Christopher Eccleston, whom you barely recognize under all of his makeup), as he seeks to destroy the universe with the power of a weapon known as the Aether during a previous age. He’s defeated, of course, imprisoned for all eternity – but is able to escape by the release of the Aether in present times via Nathalie Portman’s Jane, who has a lot more to do in this film than in the previous one. Malekith attempts to bring about the end of the universe once more, an act that can only be accomplished with the Aether and during the very rare “Convergence” of the nine realms – a sort of dimensional eclipse. The “Convergence” as it turns out, is about to happen again.

jaimie alexander as sifThere’s a lot of comedy in Thor: The Dark World. Somewhat inexplicably, Chris O’Dowd (whom I like) is a affable suitor to Jane, and adds some chuckles during an early restaurant scene that is railroaded by actress Kat Dennings’ Darcy, who herself brings many laughs throughout the film during various eccentricities and foibles. A crazed Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), naked and avoiding the authorities while running through Stonehenge, drew continuous laughs from the audience. Titular Thor (an impressively huge and barrel-chested Chris Hemsworth) and strong and focused Sif (played by the beautiful Jamie Alexander, whom some say may be ready to walk the aisle over to DC land and play Wonder Woman!) have moments like these as well. Here is a group of actors who are enjoying their time together during filming and it’s evident for all to see.

It was great to see Rene Russo as Frigga, Queen of Asgard, once more, this time is a much more meaty role where she gets to show off her skills as a warrior. She’s definitely not a Queen to take at face value. That said, this is still Tom Hiddleston’s film. We all love the other characters, and we all love to see them save the universe, but it’s deliciously scheming Loki that elevates Thor: The Dark World into something greater. There’s no way Marvel Studios could ever kill off that character. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a villain that is so damn likable. He drew cheers and accolades and gasps of surprise from the audience like never before – all before a ringing of cheers when he commits his most despicable act ever. Keep your eyes open. Mischievous Loki always has a plan.

Thor and loki 2Directed by Alan Taylor, best known, perhaps for his directorial work on television via The Sopranos, Mad Men and Game of Thrones, has a sure hand on the world that is Thor. His Asgard is fully realized for the first time – and it is beautiful to behold. The 3D process, added in after actual filming left something to be desired. Once again, here was a film that didn’t really need it. In addition, it didn’t really take full account of the offerings that the ATMOS sound system allows, which is a shame. So far, in using this new technology (which you can read about here), only The Hobbit has successfully charted those revolutionary waters. Directors, and sound engineers, I suppose, are still leaning the intricacies of it.

Thor: The Dark World is a great and fun romp through sword and sorcery that will make you recall those fun films of yesteryear while making you excited for the Marvel franchise films still to come in this century.

Speaking of which, and to my dismay, at the end of Thor: The Dark World we get a tease of next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy film. And it’s really too bad. Starring Benecio Del Toro as the character called The Collector, this scene looks cut from a different decade: the 1970’s, aping something out of the Buck Rogers television show of that era. You could have had Gil Gerard and Hawk thrown onto this set. Make up. Set design. Costume design. Script and acting. I know it was only a minute or so in length, and you can’t take too much away from that, but the clip looked bad. Real bad.

Good thing we still have Loki.

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