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THOR: THE DARK WORLD (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno
Produced by Kevin Feige
Screenplay by Christopher Yost, 
Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Story by Don Payne, Robert Rodat
Based on Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Directed by Alan Taylor
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, 
Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, 
Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Zachary Levi,
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson,
Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo

Marvel Studios/Disney / Rated PG-13

The sequel to Thor and the eighth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: The Dark World converges on the Nine Realms with Chris Helmsworth once again starring as the title character opposite a returning ensemble cast which includes Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Natalie Portman as Earthly love interest and scientist Jane Foster.

Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander return as Marvel favorites The Warriors Three: Volstagg, Hogan and The Lady Sif (joining them in this installment is Zachary Levi as warrior Fandral).

Also returning is Stellan Skarsgård, as scientist Erik Selvig, now somewhat damaged from his participation in the events from The Avengers.

The stellar cast mixed with the fantastical elements of Asgard, the technological advances of the evil Dark Elves makes for a terrific sci-fi fantasy film. Fans of epic space battles as well as swords and hammer swinging are in for a raucous good time.

Before the current reign of Asgard, a powerful force is hidden from the universe, The Aether, by Odin’s father Bor, who has defeated the Dark Elves. In the present, a survivor of the Dark Elves, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) seeks to harness the power of the Aether and destroy the universe upon harmonic convergence of the Nine Realms, an event that happens only every 5000 years.

The Dark Elves are a formidable foe to Asgard and allow the story and visual storytelling to take a leap into scifi from the magical ornate Asgardian temples and statues. The flat black spaceships of the Dark Elves are more Giger than Kirby certainly, evoking a production design choice to ape Prometheus down to the 3D blue hologram display in the cockpit. Introducing a breach to the Rainbow Bridge is even a foil to the sentry Heimdall (Idris Elba) when the ships attack.

On Earth, Jane is out for a lunch date with a man named Richard (Chris O’Dowd) when she is interrupted by the pushy and somewhat annoying intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) to show the her readings on one of her devices. Perhaps her date is Richard Rider, aka Nova? That is what the rumor mill is churning out! Foster longs for Thor, so she abandons Richard and travels to the London countryside to follow the readings. There, the gang stumbles upon the Aether, Thor brings Jane to Asgard and kicks off the movie.

On Asgard, we’re reminded of Loki’s imprisonment (from the end of The Avengers) while Frigga, Queen of Asgard (Rene Russo) dotes over her manipulative son in an Asgardian jail cell, contained by the magic of the realm.

Touched by The Aether, Asgardian nurses seek to cure Foster from the power, but not before Malekith senses the force and brings his army to the Realm.

The intern Darcy, along with her intern Ian (Jonathan Howard) track down a fashion-challenged Selvig to reconnect with Jane.

Predictably, from here on out is a pretty straight forward action film, whereby circumstances dictate that Thor breaks Loki out of jail because ‘he can’t do it without him’, the sons of Odin betray the Allfather’s direct orders and huge monster fight scenes explode in glorious action. The Dark Elves themselves look a lot like Cybermen, perhaps a nod to the London setting on Midgard.

The Anglophile fetishism of the whole movie might be a bit heavy handed at times, revealing Selvig at Stonehenge and even perhaps referencing Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” with the representation of the Nine Realms “Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky”, but moving from New Mexico, to New York and then Tennessee in the latest Iron Man, The Avengers really are starting to be protectors of the globe as a whole. Perhaps leading us to a bigger outer-space scope in the next phase of movies (such as the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy).

The cameos in this film, along with the Marvel Easter Eggs are delightful of course, and don’t forget (how can you not by now…) to stay after the credits to get a nice teaser for upcoming Marvel movie breadcrumbs.

In conclusion, this is most assuredly worth the watch, but seems like a small chapter between Avengers films, like Iron Man 3, this paints a picture of what is happening on Asgard and how Thor and his mighty swinging Mjolnir can take on epic space battles and even have a bit of romance, but I found the scifi space elements a bit out of my comfort zone.

Thor and Loki are piloting a ship at one point (couldn’t tell if this was Star Trek: Into Darkness or a Marvel Movie) when I thought to scream “Bro-Metheus”! at the screening. Luckily I kept that for my notebook and saved myself the embarrassment of being escorted out.

Thor doesn’t have the swagger of Stark or the fish out of water of Cap, but he does have the classical Shakespearian dialogue and the personal history on par with a Lord of the Rings story.  This movie does a good job of appealing to those fans but also references the New York scenes in The Avengers and introduces gigantic space ships to the mythos. I’m totally OK with that by the way, but perhaps more loyal Thor fans might have issues with the mashup.

My feelings about Thor: The Dark World are generally positive, and I recommend the 3D for this one if you are so inclined. There’s lots of punching, hammer throwing and action, including some from The Warriors Three. Marvel may have done a disservice to this Thor sequel by releasing Captain America: The Winter Soldier footage right before the release, either that or they are geniuses.

We can’t wait for the new Cap, but I may pass up Guardians of the Galaxy for the midnight movie session.

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