Film: ‘Thor: The Dark World’ an Entertaining But Generic Piece of Escapism

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash
Thor: The Dark World
| Directed by Alan Taylor | Rated PG-13
RATING: 3/5

thor the dark world posterIt if hasn’t become apparent yet, Marvel is now no longer a company. It’s a brand.

As soon as Disney bought them, the company has been turned into another part of the machine, spinning out superhero product after superhero product while the public at large eats it all up like kibble. Producer Kevin Feige is the ringleader of this operation, orchestrating this merry band into ringing out more and more money from the public.

Marvel no longer seems to make movies: they now manufacture merchandise. This has become all the more apparent in Thor: The Dark World.

Really, the cracks began to show in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. But, thanks to Joe Johnston’s affectionate direction and Joss Whedon’s zippy dialogue and strong characterization, both films could be saved from becoming generic by-products of Disney. Not so much with Iron Man 3 earlier this year, however.

While, in the end, the Iron Man sequel was able to become a decent piece of entertainment, there was no denying the apparent soullessness that began to creep its way into the film. Despite being under the competent pen and direction of Shane Black, the film was missing the style brought by previous director Jon Favreau and, despite Robert Downey Jr. still bringing in his wit and charm, the film’s bland direction definitely made for a rather disappointing experience.

Unfortunately, Thor: The Dark World suffers from similar problems. Ultimately, the sequel, like Iron Man 3, is missing a creative pulse. It feels like a movie made by studio executives than it does a film driven by creative incentive. Where Iron Man 3 benefited from some witty writing from Black, however, Thor: The Dark World’s biggest hang-up comes from its lackluster writing, from a script by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely with a story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat.

In an interview, director Alan Taylor revealed that the script was among the last things considered for the film, as it was constantly in a state of flux before, during and even after production. Based on what was seen on the screen, that was quite apparent. Throughout the film, the dialogue is quite banal, with most of the characterization having been based on what was seen in the previous film and plotting often appearing quite predictable and routine. Hence, the movie feels more like machines made it than humans.

Because of this, a lot of the great acting pieces that were found in the first Thor movie are not as notable here. Tom Hiddleston is still great as Loki, and continues to look like he is having a ball with the role. Everyone else, however, looks like they are just going through the motions. Chris Hemsworth was fantastic in Rush earlier this year, and, while he is not bad here, even as the title character, he doesn’t really get a lot of do thanks to the script. Even worse, Natalie Portman looks like she doesn’t really want to be there, Anthony Hopkins just looks bored and Kat Dennings is so far into comedic sidekick relief overdrive that I half expected a laugh track to play every time she came on screen. Perhaps the worse offense of all, the villain is dull, often nonexistent and totally forgettable.

So, with all that said, why do I still give the film a (mild) recommendation? Because, ultimately, in the end, the film is still able to provide the one thing that it promises: escapist entertainment. The action throughout the film is always shot well and continuous. The film is well edited, and is able to keep things moving, even if it is in the most routine of ways.

Beyond this, the film certainly has it moments of blissful engagement. One in particular involving shape shifting features one of the best cameos of not just any Marvel movie, but of the year. Additionally, the climax is inventive, unique and a good bit of fun. It’s the one time the film really shows itself thinking out of the box. Additionally, the costumes, makeup and sets are well done and, given his background in Game of Thrones, Taylor knows how to show them off without it getting in the way of what story is here.

Overall, Thor: The Dark World is not the worst movie I saw at the theater this year. It certainly has some things going for it, and what works does work well enough to make the whole experience worth it, warts and all. But I really hope that Marvel begins to think of their films as films again, and not just by-products of the characters they own. Marvel is lot like a car company these days. They make fine, well-oiled machines, but they don’t really have any creative drive in themselves anymore.

Based on the trailer for Captain America: The Winter Solider, it looks like they are going to be bringing some style back into their films again and I can expect Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man to have at least some style thanks to the creative hands James Gunn and Edgar Wright, respectively, driving them. So, perhaps this is just a stalling point for Marvel for them to figure out what they are doing. They haven’t made their bad film yet as their own individual company, but, at this rate, they are getting pretty close.

Also, guys: DON’T FORGET TO STAY DURING THE CREDITS! Yes, ALL OF THEM! I feel like this is common knowledge with the Marvel movies by now, but people don’t seem to know/remember this. C’mon guys.

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