Chat Cave: Thor – The Dark World

Thor 2 came out this weekend. Both commercially and critically, it did well enough. Does anyone have any strong feelings about this movie? Oh, hey, we might. Welcome to the Chat Cave.

Patrick: You guys, Thor is fine. The movie doesn’t try to make any serious statements about heroes or families or gods or whatever. It’s a fun, funny action flick — one that demands to be evaluated on those terms. And like most lighthearted action flicks, the success or failure of it is going to hinge on the relationship between the action and the comedy. The Dark World went kinda heavy on the comedy, and it’s strange to me how there are basically three discrete vehicles for humor in this movie: Thor, Loki, and Kat Dennings.

I remember really liking Dennings’ performance in the first movie, but her presence here rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know if its because 2 Broke Girls has since soured my opinion of her, or if it’s because her brand of humor is so patently unnecessary, but every single one of her jokes — even those that made me chuckle — pulled me out of the film. There’s just so much good, character based comedy that gets mileage of out the Thor / Loki rivalry, or even Thor’s meatheadedness, I don’t know why the script needs to be poisoned with that character’s sarcastic sense of humor. It’s even stranger because Dennings’ character is basically the glue that insists on holding all the human characters together in this one — she’s simultaneously the most negative and the most positive. At the end of the day, that just makes her a joke / plot machine. And that’s boring.

It’s almost like she’s there to act as the cool wingman for the nerdier comedic beats. I was at a midnight showing, so naturally, the crowd erupted at the Captain America “cameo.” I wonder if that sort of thing just doesn’t play to 90% of audiences, while a pretty girl being sarcastic will. Drew, did your crowd love that moment?

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Drew: Oh man, did they ever. Old man that I am, I went and saw this at a matinee showing, which meant a sleepier audience than you might expect for the opening weekend of a big-budget superhero flick, but Cap’s appearance flipped a switch for the audience, and we were laughing out loud at basically every comic beat from then on out. That embarassing phone call from Jane’s would-be suitor? Yep. Thor hanging Mjolnir on a coat rack? Of course. Stellan Skarsgard in tightie whities? You betcha. Those may not be the most sophisticated jokes, but you certainly don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the Marvel fan club to get them (and in the pantheon of Marvel superhero movies, Thor 2 is certainly a deeper cut than Avengers — and probably Captain America, too — so I imagine anyone seeing this movie is going to appreciate the cameo just fine).

My biggest hang-up was the production design. I appreciate the Arthur C. Clarke-inspired notion that Asgard’s “magic” is actually incredibly advanced technology, but I felt like the design team often fell back on technological standbys, rarely getting inventive enough to really create magic. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for spaceship chases, but I’m not sure lasers and bullets really make sense in a world where one of the most dangerous weapons is a really big hammer. Shouldn’t they be throwing runes at each other or something? The viking funeral, on the other hand, found the magic beautifully, to such a degree that I think I’m going to have to arrange my own flaming boat that disappears in a puff of fairy dust for when I finally shuffle off to Valhalla.

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Greg: Two flicks into the cinematic world of Thor’s solo adventures, and I don’t think we’ve gotten a truly great solo Thor flick, yet. What I think we have are two films that do one thing really well, and biff up the other things. What I think we need are a big ol’ screenwriting hammer to smash these great elements together, and make a truly great movie.

Patrick, you’re correct in pointing out the emphasis on humor and humanity (give or take varying mileage on Ms. Dennings), and I think that’s this movie’s biggest strength. Conversely, in the first film, every time we stepped away from Asgard and into the human realm, it suffered. I was happy to spend time in a zippy, screwball, goofy cinematic world…

…until it tried to get its serious emotional beats and gave us unearned, forced, and unintentionally funny moments of random yelling and vamping from the three main H’s of Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Hopkins. Conversely, in the first film, Kenneth Branagh’s experience finding the most emotionally accessible presentation of Shakespearean texts meant his big emotional moments delivered strongly.

I was also bummed by the bombardment of info-dumping and establishing of scientific and magic “rules” that dulled me, rather than organically clue me into how the world is going to work. Hopkins’ solemn narration doesn’t cover up the fact that what he’s saying is maddeningly vague, reeking strongly of screenwriting glue. “We didn’t clearly say what we needed to about Aether in the movie, so make Odin talk for hours about it in the beginning!”

There’s lots of things done well (including the rousing score from Brian Tyler), but ultimately too much squandered for this to be an unqualified success. And truthfully, though it is just a fun, funny action flick, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a great fun, funny action flick, is it?

10 comments on “Chat Cave: Thor – The Dark World

  1. My heart lightens each time someone mentions Kenneth Branagh, because he reminds me of an hilarious movie I saw some years ago, “The Boat That Rocked.”
    I’m fond of Stellan Skarsgard as well, because he played a supporting character in one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting. I do suggest you to watch it if you haven’t.

  2. More on the magic thing — in spite of trying to give everything else a sci-fi explanation, Thor’s still able to will thunder and lightning into existence. He’s the god of thunder — no pseudo-science necessary.

  3. I liked it overall, Loki was a lot of fun and his jokes were really good. I’m still pissed though that there was a post-credits scene; I assumed after the mid-credits scene that that would be it and left along with everyone else in the theater… AGHHHHHH! Anyhow, aside from that it had some flaws which you guys mostly pointed out but it was fun and it took my mind off my exams for 2 hours, so good enough for me.

    • Gino, I think you landed on it. These movies are quickly become reliable sources of fun for the two hours you’re watching them, and little else. I think that’s great, personally. If one or two of them reach out beyond that to try something better, then that’s cool too, but it’s not like every comic I read rocks my world. It’s escapism, and nice comfy escapism at that.

      • Exactly, plus, I know Thor from the Marvel movies, I’ve never read a Thor comic and frankly I don’t expect to, so I don’t have the same kind of expectations going in to this film than I do for a Batman flick. Of course, that’s not to say these films shouldn’t strive to be the best they can, Iron Man 1 still stands out to me as probably the best Marvel movie (although I should give the Avengers another viewing) and it would be great if all their films were that good, but every Batman isn’t TDK either.

        Also, and perhaps this just comes from having few expectations because I’m not as familiar with the characters, but at least these films don’t make me feel like the director doesn’t understand his characters and how they operate *coughSmallvilleandMetropolisinRuinscough*

    • Hey, speaking of the mid-credits scene: they’re pretty clearly setting up the infinity gems as the plot for whenever Thanos finally arrives (which is probably Avengers 3). That scene reveals that the tesseract is an infinity gem (my guess is the space gem, given the portals it opens), as is whatever the aether turns into at the end (maybe the time gem, given that the whole dark elf plot is to return the universe to the “dark times”). I’ve also seen it theorized (compellingly, in my mind) that the blue stone in Loki’s staff might be an infinity gem (maybe mind or soul, given how Loki could turn people into puppets), leaving three more gems out there to be found.

      • I know next to nothing about the infinity gems (next to nothing being: Thanos wants them and when put together they’re fucking powerful) but I heard that Thanos and the gems would be a central point of Guardians of the Galaxy, so we might find out sooner than you think. However, that is the mid-credit scene (which I did see), the post credits (I googled it) is apparently similar to the ending of Iron Man 3; Thor joins Jane Foster on Earth and essentially seems to be hanging up Mjolnir for good (possibly on a coat rack).

        • No, the best part of the end-end credits scene is the reveal that the space-dog-monster is still running around on that abandoned lot, chasing birds. Somebody should really go take care of that.

  4. I only just got around to seeing this today, and I’m sad it took me this long, because I thought this one was “fantastic!” I enjoyed the first Thor film, but it’s possibly my least favorite of the Marvel movies (give or take Incredible Hulk or Iron Man 3), but I thought this one blew it out of the water. No problem with Kat Dennings (the scene when the four humans all run into each other, each yelling each others’ name, then Mjolnir flies by and Darcy yells “Meowmeow!” slayed me), and I thought the rest of the comedy worked particularly well. Despite the comedy intersecting with the action/drama quite often, neither one brought down the other; they play off each other quite well.

    I wish we had seen a little more of Sif/The Warriors Four, but their scenes worked well, and Loki worked especially good for me in this one. I fell for every one of his tricks, and the scene where he and Thor confront Malefik was especially a stand out. I absolutely fell for him supposedly turning on Thor, fell for it hook, line, and sinker. It should be fun to see him in Thor 3 (I”m assuming) and see what he did to Odin.

    I thought Malefik was a bit wasted. We don’t really know anything about him and he didn’t have much personality. He has a cool visual, and Eccleston’s voice is a tremendous voice for the character and for a villain in general, but they didn’t give poor Eccleston a chance to do anything with the character, which is a shame, cause he’s my favorite Doctor and I was looking forward to seeing him in a new role 😦

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