Sunday, November 24, 2013

Current Reels - Thor: The Dark World is a feast for the eyes and soul

Brains and brawn team up: image courtesy of Marvel, Inc.
The trouble with movie sequels is that they very rarely live up to the original in the qualities of aesthetic and storytelling. This seems to be the case particularly in the superhero genre. (Let's not even get started on the Tobey Maguire atrocity that was Spiderman 3).

Thor: The Dark World not only equaled but surpassed the quality of the original film, which, helmed by powerhouse directors Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon, was already pretty amazing. Director Alan Taylor, whose work on the HBO series Game of Thrones' influence is clearly seen here, and James Gunn teamed up to give our Asgardians (even the extras) a serious upgrade. The Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars aesthetic, introduced in the first and nurtured in loving detail in the second, is a strange concoction that is executed brilliantly. Everything is better - the ongoing character development, the plot, right down to everyone's hair. Loki's look in particular (Tom Hiddleston) was much improved over The Avengers, ditching the greasy gelled up villainous 'do and the helmet that looked like it came from a Halloween rack at Target rather than being forged in the smithies of Asgard.

Speaking of helmets, the ones belonging to Thor/Odin/Loki there were nary to be seen in this film. It somehow seems a fitting symbol for the theme of the plot, which is in the face of tragedy, one has to make him or herself vulnerable to what needs to be done despite the impulse to arm oneself with selfish thoughts and desires. Odin's wife Frigga (Rene Russo) gets significantly more screen time and even a chance to kick some serious butt. A pleasant carryover from the first film is the bemusing way the extraordinary fits into the ordinary world (aka: Earth) - one particular sequence that got some good guffaws out of the audience was when Thor enters a home and proceeds to hang Mjolnir on what my companion mentioned must've been "a very sturdy coat rack." This theme continues in the bonus footage at the very end of the credits, so sit tight!

Father and son time - image courtesy of Marvel, Inc.
It is those small, deft touches that adds depth and humanity to both the characters and the situations. Indeed, the movie fits in a ridiculous amount of plot in a compact package just shy of two hours. The expert pacing and balancing of spitfire dialogue  and inventive action sequences make sure the film doesn't lag or or get caught up in monologuing. The pitfall of many sequels is that the time they gain not having to introduce characters is often never used to its full advantage, filling in the holes of a mediocre plot with bad dialogue with gratuitous action sequences. (The only gratuitous sequence I can think of is a short scene where a shirtless Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is seen washing up after battle - which the actor reportedly objected to - but I for one am very glad that the deliciously good-natured Australian actor bit the bullet and gave us some fanservice.)

Where this film really shines is the plotline focusing on the strained relationship between Loki and Thor, and the tragedy that ultimately brings them together again. One fault in the otherwise enjoyable film - unless one is a fan of the Marvel comics or knows his or her Norse mythology - Loki's gift of shape shifting and illusion and the fact he gets those powers from his mum is a plot point that seemingly comes out of nowhere, seeing that it was given no real attention (that I can recall) in either the first film or in The Avengers. If I'm wrong, by all means, lay the truth hammer down on me! 

Toby sez: This movie; I like it. ANOTHER! *smashes water bowl*

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