Friday, November 8, 2013

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Thor - The Dark World

I didn't even realize this was coming out this weekend. Luckily, a friend reminded
me in time for me to catch it on opening day...

So, I believe "Thor - The Dark World" is the second film in Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if I'm remembering correctly, following Iron Man 3. The M.C.U. is the main line of Marvel Comics-based movies; the one that includes the Avengers and the current Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, which everyone seems to agree has only been so-so, but I'll continue watching it, because I love the M.C.U., Agent Coulson is awesome, and there are some CUTE girls on that show, but more on that topic in my Crush of the Week feature later on. The M.C.U. is also the line of Marvel films that Marvel actually has control over, if I understand correctly, and it's the line of films owned by Disney. A shame they don't have the film rights to Spider-Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and probably some of the other Marvel characters. That's weird and terrible how that happened to be the case, but maybe someday they'll get control of those properties too. I believe they reacquired a few of the strays already, such as Daredevil and I forget who else. Anyway, let me get on to the topic at hand, but first, anyone catch the cameo by Thor's Hammer on "Once Upon a Time" a few episodes back? Very cool! It was in Rumpelstiltskin's castle, among his collection of magical objects! Not only that, but a creature from Star Wars (the Sarlacc) was mentioned on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland a week or so ago! Also very cool, but very off topic, sorry. On to "Thor - The Dark World".

Okay, first, my usual disclaimer. I've been a comic reader all my life, but not superhero comics. I grew up reading Uncle Scrooge and the other Disney stuff. Lifelong Disney fanatic in general, and I was REALLY into the comics (especially in the 80's and 90's; too broke to get them these days). I also read Star Wars comics a lot for many years (not the classic comics, but the Dark Horse ones). However, I still have been a lifelong fan of superheroes too, but mostly from movies and TV. There's a derogatory name for that type of superhero fan. I can never remember it though. Even still, I was mostly a DC fan: Superfriends, Christopher Reeve, Adam West, and stuff like that... My Marvel knowledge was mainly the Incredible Hulk TV series (Bill Bixby) and the Spidey/Hulk Hour on Saturday mornings (Spidey and his Amazing Friends; mmm Firestar). I knew of Captain America too, but not sure how. He probably did a cameo on one of those cartoons. Anyway, Thor is not a character I knew well. I knew OF him, because I've frequented comic shops since I was 10 or so. However, as I said, I didn't read those types of comics. I would love to get into them, but it's hard to not feel that you are nearly 100 years behind on the plots, ya know? I am starting to dabble in superhero comics a bit though. But, as for Thor, before his first movie and Avengers, I had only seen him on that Hulk TV movie where he was played by the dad from "Good Luck Charlie". It was a very different interpretation, let me tell ya. As for my first introduction to Chris Hemsworth as Thor for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was the character I was least psyched about as far as the solo movies went. I thought the first movie was okay. I thought Thor and Loki were great though, and I really loved them in "The Avengers".  "Thor - The Dark World", however, is leaps and bounds better than the first Thor film!

Now, I went to see this one at the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline in North Austin. It's the second closest Drafthouse to me, but it's the one I prefer of the two (hate the dating tables that cause all sorts of awkward seating situations, but love that it's a big new theater with the Law-Giver statue from Planet of the Apes in the lobby; I miss Lake Creek's casual couch area though). Also, I went to see this in 2D. I did a bit of research, and I found that this film's 3D is as unimpressive as most 3D movies are, so I chose NOT to pay extra money for a visual affect I'd adjust to and not even notice after getting absorbed into the story on the screen. Plus, I didn't have to watch the whole movie in sunglasses (the only 3D I've been impressed with so-far has been Oz the Great and Powerful, but still not on the level of theme park 3D for whatever reason).

"Thor - The Dark World" picks up right after "The Avengers", with Loki being sentenced to his punishment for the events of that mega-blockbuster film. This is, however, after a bit of pre-history showing a backstory about Odin's father battling the Dark Elf Malekith, who intends to use a weapon called the Aether to destroy the universe. Odin's father defeats Malekith, of course, but cut back to modern day, when Thor's human love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and her friends soon discover that the coming alignment of the 9 Realms has caused the Aether's secret location to be revealed, and it is soon absorbed into the body of Jane herself, who is immediately taken by Thor to his home of Asgard for medical attention. This also causes Malekith to reawaken. You can pretty much figure out what that means. The film is a struggle to protect Jane, Earth, and Asgard, heck, the whole universe, really, from Malekith's evil desire for destruction. But saving the universe may be impossible without teaming up with, of all people, Loki himself!

The original cast is back from the first Thor film, by the way, including Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin the Allfather and Rene Russo as his Queen. Of course, that means Chris Hemsworth is back as Thor and Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki, and Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, and, oy, Kat Dennings, are all back as the Earthlings in Thor's life. Let me start off by saying that there was only one thing about this movie I didn't love, and that was Kat Dennings in the role of Jane Foster's intern, Darcy Lewis. You may remember her as the annoying comic relief from the first Thor film. Yeah, she was pretty useless except for being the younger eye candy with big boobs and "funny" comments. Well, in this film, she is sooo much worse. I mean, basically in this film she was a Lori Petty you wouldn't mind being bare naked with. At least she did some useful stuff here though. If she did anything useful in the first film, I sure don't remember it. And when it comes to eye candy, Portman is waaay more my type. Thor may be the god in this film, but Portman is certainly still a goddess. On the plus-side though, Darcy Lewis is the only thing I didn't like in "Thor - The Dark World"! Everything else was pretty much awesome! And that's coming from someone who was somewhat underwhelmed by the first film.

"The Dark World" was sooo much better than its predecessor. It was full of action, drama, and humor, like the other Marvel films and especially the previous Thor, but it did a much better job of absorbing me and getting me to like the characters, especially Portman's, than the first film did. In the first Thor movie, I really didn't like the human characters much. There was something about them that felt 2-dimensional. I didn't get that here, at least not with Portman, and not with Skarsgard's character of Erik, either. They were much more interesting and believable here. I also liked Asgard more, especially early on, when we got those Lord of the Rings-esque scenes of the people of Asgard in celebration. And, yes, this film has a lot of CGI in it, but, for the record, it all looks fantastic. The movie has amazing sights and some very dramatic and clever moments that I couldn't discuss without spoilers. There's a great cameo, sort of, by Captain America, kind of (ha, hard to explain, but yes, it's Chris Evans), and there are not one, but two clips after the film. One is during the credits, and stick around to the end of the credits for the second! By the way, one of them is a cameo by Benicio del Toro that is definitely worth seeing. Also, some really cute, pink girl, ha. This is, apparently, a lead into "Guardians of the Galaxy". That later clip is basically the ending of this film, so, yeah, you need to stick around. 

Oh, and I nearly forgot, the main villain, the Dark Elf Malekith, is played sufficiently by the Ninth Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston. Honestly though, you'd never know if you didn't know. I say sufficiently because, I don't know, while it didn't really bother me, Malekith wasn't particularly interesting. He was sorta like Shan-Yu in Mulan. Convincingly evil, impressive looking, but not super interesting. Yet, that was a great movie too, and I don't dislike either villain. They are no Loki or Judge Claude Frollo, but they are menacing and everything else for the most part was great, so they do okay by at least providing a serious threat for the good guys, if not much personality.

 With that in mind, I guess you COULD nit pick that the film had room to be even better. The Kat Dennings problem particularly can't be flat out ignored. However, overall, "Thor - The Dark World" is a really great movie, miles above the previous Thor and right up there with the other great Marvel films. Okay, it is hard to compare anything to the Iron Man films. I mean, Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark? But this is a completely different animal. I'm still gonna give "Thor - The Dark World" a high recommendation. A much better film than the first and a really good time at the movies! Can't wait for the next M.C.U. film!

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