dir: Alan Taylor
Yeah, you think you’re Thor: I can hardly walk, because I just watched The Dark World.
And here I thought it would be a screening of childhood favourite The Dark Crystal. Thor fights a giant Crystal and loses!
No I didn’t, I’m being a jerk. My beloved partner and I went to the flicks to celebrate the anniversary of the day of her birth. What better way to celebrate such a golden day than let her watch many scenes of Australia’s Own Chris Hemsworth showing off that incredibly chiselled physique? Those granite abs, that geography of musculature and those planes and angles of flesh she’s hopefully not going to be able to touch in real life with anything other than her eyeballs?
It was a golden day for all concerned. Maybe not Hemsworth, since he was probably busy all day long oiling up those quivering muscles, but I’m sure he’s doing all right.
This is his flick, yeah? The next instalment out of the Marvel Machine that is no longer content with just taking the hardly-earned money out of teenage losers’ pockets and middle-aged shut-ins’ bank accounts with comics has Thor! taking centre stage again after that grand occasion of The Avengers getting together last year.
The first instalment was pretty much a comedy entry in the franchise. I know the other ones have elements of motor-mouthed comedy and such, specially the Iron pantsed ones, but this branch of the franchise somehow comes across as the most inherently ludicrous.
I mean, it’s the Norse God of Thunder. He should be on retro album covers perhaps, or at most on those of comics, or on the biceps of guys who got a tattoo of him in the 1970s and can’t afford to get the laser removal until that check finally comes through from that meatpacking job they were fired from 15 years ago, but there was something to do with worker’s comp, and it’ll definitely come through any day now.
Instead of buffooning around Asgard, fighting anyone that looks at him funny, getting tricked by Loki again and again not only because Loki is a trickster god, but because Thor is thick as shit in the old fables, instead he’s the hero of a film where some dark elves want to make the whole universe dark again.
Huh? What? What sort of a dumb motivation is that? What, they’re too light-sensitive? Get some fucking sunglasses you whiny brats. How about you godawful antagonists just shut yourselves in someone’s basement, order takeaway constantly and just smoke lots of weed instead? The only light you’ll see is from the telly that will never be off, otherwise the other bright lights of the universe will be of no consequence to you ever again.
That’s not enough for these goofballs. Apparently, 5000 years ago, these doofuses decided to wipe out everything and got into a war with the Asgardians, you know, like Thor’s grandfolk. They were going to use this red stuff called Aether, as opposed to that great stuff that makes you sound retarded when you inhale too much of it, ether, to turn everything into dark matter.
Dark Matter. Yep, quake in your boots now, audience.
The Asgardians somehow triumphed, and these pale, pasty Goth types all mostly died. Mostly. The dumbest of them, I think he’s their leader, basically killed off most of his own people just for kicks, or for revenge or something. And now he wants revenge for the people, his people, that he killed, on both Asgard and the entire universe?
It doesn’t matter, does it, really? The threats in these things are never credible and are always overblown, stupidly so. It’s one thing to accept that New York, or some other city, an actual place, is at risk. When it’s something like “the whole universe is a risk, and only one spider-guy/green angry giant/guy in a metal suit/guy with a shield/ Norse God can save us”, there are no stakes. The stakes are too big at that level to be stakes that we care about.
Don’t get me wrong; I care about the universe, and wouldn’t want it destroyed by Dark Elves from Svartalheim, because who wants to be beaten by dudes who look like pasty homeless kids who come from a place called Svartalheim?
They know how goofy these elves look, so they beef some of them up with performance-enhancing rocks, and come up with this really original and radical name, calling them Kursed (it’s all in the ‘k’), which means they’re big ogre-like guys for a while before they’re either killed or they die for some other reason. Just like footballers.
Ogres? Elves? Doesn’t this sound a bit whimsical, a bit fey for what’s meant to be a beefy, busty, buxom, raucous, explodey blockbuster? Well, funny you should ask, because what this really ends up looking like is Lord of the Rings having a fight with Star Wars and Star Trek, with some comic relief.
I know how dismissive, how cringeworthy that sounds, but I couldn’t stop the mental images from cross-multiplying. That’s just kind of what it looked like to me.
I have a bit of a hard time reconciling the idea that Asgard, instead of being a heavenly realm where the Norse Gods of old cavort, fight and get drunk heroically, is instead an advanced society of humanoid-aliens who have super technology but really like the retro medieval look because they’re such fans of Game of Thrones. And then when a bunch of dudes who’ve been ‘sleeping’ for 5,000 years come knocking, what with their space ships and all, they’re mostly going to be fighting them with spears and axes and stuff. It’s too goofy for words.
It’s like watching robots riding dinosaurs, ninjas fighting cowboys, or astronauts fighting cavemen. It sounds like a science-fiction / fantasy obsessed nerd’s wettest of wet dreams combining all the various genre stuff they’re into, into one giant unholy stew.
And into all this they throw one god who wields a magical hammer that only he can lift and which comes back after he throws it, and his evil god brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has more villainous twists and turns than a WWE wrestler, and what do you get?
You get something that strains credulity and begs for unwilling suspension of disbelief more than you could possibly believe. Of course none of these flicks are even vaguely based on what we call reality, but sometimes you can stretch the fabric of believability too far to engage me in the craft of the storytelling on display, or not on display, as the case may be.
There are, of course, enjoyable elements to the movie. Even after all that criticism, seriously, I actually enjoyed most of it. I know it doesn’t sound right after dismissing it as a generic genre exercise that adds nothing to this world or its inhabitants, but I am nothing if not tolerant of just this kind of crap. Because this is the kind of stuff made for people like me in mind. They’re catering to me, pandering to me, if you will. Thing is, I’m not very keen on being pandered to.
As an action spectacle, it covers all the kinds of stuff you would expect and it does them in fine style. Dramatically, well, who really cares? Thor moons over a girl he met for a few hours two years ago. She, being Jane to his Tarzan, moons over him too. I never found out why, other than it’s in the script.
The ‘science’ is all over the place, but the ‘convergence of the realms’ leads to some pretty funny moments in the climax, as Thor and the rest get booted all over the cosmos and London as well, leading to probably my favourite moment when Thor has to ask for directions back to Greenwich. Darcy (Kat Dennings) provides an overabundance of comic relief, but she’s good at it as she is good at providing that in everything she does. Poor Stellan Skargard is reduced to a gibbering idiot running about with his googlies out, but he gets a funny moment while giving a lecture (coupled with the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, which is decent in this one).
Of course Tom Hiddleston is great as Loki, but he spends most of the flick in Asgard jail, which is probably the piss-poorest jail outside of the ones they show in Westerns where a horse can pull the bars out of the wall with ease. So much for a technologically advanced society. Of course the best moments of the flick dramatically or otherwise involve Loki curling his lip and turning a phrase that drips with malice and sarcasm into another ice-cold weapon, or turning it back so we think there’s still some heart behind his actions. And then he turns it again, like the twisting of a blade, again and again. There’s no end to his machinations, and there’s no end to the delight he brings.
The final conflict probably was well done, though it didn’t leave me with warm and fuzzy feelings about any future instalment. It’s made half a billion dollars so another one is probably inevitable, independent of his inevitable appearance in another Avengers film (ye gods, when are these going to stop?)
As for that post-credits stuff? Benicio Del Toro in a fright wig looking like Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Sometimes when they do these scenes, introducing some really goofy element from the comic books of thirty years ago, they make you embarrassed that you watched the film in the first place, and reluctant to watch any future instalment. Maybe it has a different effect on other viewers, but it soured me slightly on the film I just watched, which probably wasn’t the idea.
If it was, well, Great Job, Marvel!
6 times they need to be giving Loki his own film right now out of 10
“I wish I could trust you.”
- “Trust my rage.” – okay, finally, we’re getting somewhere – Thor: The Dark World