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?
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.
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?