Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Director: Alan Taylor, James Gunn
Screenplay: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Today we’re honored to have David Rendall of Freak Factor fame join us in reviewing Thor: The Dark World. Welcome, David.
Thanks! I’m glad to have an opportunity to do a review with you guys. Reel Heroes is a great idea. I’ve always been teased for taking movies too seriously. It’s nice to meet other people who see that movies are more than just entertainment.
Yes, the seriousness of our reviews is quite a Thor subject with us!
We’re introduced to the Dark Elf Malekith – eons before the first humans were thought of. He’s out to destroy the universe because, well, he likes things dark. He has harnessed the power of a strange substance called Aether. But before he can get far, Bor, the grandfather of Thor, thwarts his attempts and hides the Aether where none will find it. The Dark Elf goes into hibernation awaiting the day he can exact his revenge on Bor.
After this, we are reintroduced to Jane, the scientist and Thor’s girlfriend from the original movie. She and her assistant, Darcy, are noticing some strange phenomena on earth and have started to investigate.
Meanwhile, on Asgard, Loki, Thor’s brother, is being sentenced to life in prison for his misguided attempts to rule the universe. It seems like he has a lot in common with the Dark Elf.
At the same time, Thor is trying to restore balance to the nine worlds by defeating the enemies of peace.
Gentlemen, I found Thor: The Dark World to be mildly entertaining. The best phrase to describe it is that it’s a feast for the eyes but a famine for the brain. Let’s face it: Ender’s Game spoiled me. It proved that watching good science fiction films doesn’t require me to turn my brain off. The only mental challenge while watching Thor was keeping up with all the Thorrish jargon such as the aether, realms, Asgard, rainbow bridges, convergences, infinity gems, etc.
Dark World gives Thor a bit more to do than previous movies. Thor, being a god, has it all over most mere human heroes. He’s pretty much indestructible and has a powerful hammer that can do plenty-o-damage. However, we are exposed to a more sensitive side to Thor. He has a soft spot for the women in his world. In particular the mortal earthling Jane. Because he fears for her safety, and the safety of all humans, he can be manipulated by their impending doom.
And there’s a lot of focus on the other characters, as well, as they struggle with their roles as either heroes or villains. At one point, Loki’s mom challenges him to be honest about his mistakes. “A true king admits his faults.” We are left wondering if it is possible for him to redeem himself.
Thor’s father also wrestles with good and evil. In an argument with Thor, he pledges to sacrifice the lives of all of his people to defeat the Dark Elf, Malakith. Thor responds by asking “then how are you different from Malakith?” This challenges our self-centered bias that the use of power is honorable when done for a good cause (our cause) and that sacrifice is also honorable, even when it might be avoidable or unnecessary.
My view is that heroes are willing to sacrifice themselves in the service of others, but villains are all too ready to sacrifice others for the sake of themselves.
Great point, David. I also found the dialogue, at times, to be quite telling about the characters and where they stand. There is one great exchange between Loki and Thor during which Loki declares, “Sacrifice is not in my nature,” to which Thor replies, “Surrender is not in mine.” These two values epitomize the true nature of villainy and heroism.
But overall there is minimal character development in this film. A female character dies about half-way through the movie and all the characters are quite somber. But it’s hard, as the audience, to muster up much emotion when we know virtually nothing about the woman. Most of the characters in Thor are rather one-dimensional embodiments of good or evil.
I don’t know Scott, that character mattered to Thor and that’s all that really matters. Showing that a major character (and one so close to Thor) can be killed sets the stakes pretty high. We know that almost anything can happen.
I hate to agree with Scott on anything, but I put my mind on autopilot during this film. There are sibling rivalries, atonements with the father, and even a bit of personal growth for Thor at the end. However, while all the elements of the Hero’s Journey are in place, it was very much a slash and hack fest.
Before we get too far along, I want to recognize the role of strong women in this film. Every female was either a warrior or a scientist. No weaklings here.
Good point, Greg. As the father of three daughters, I really appreciated that part of the movie. I mentioned something to that effect during the movie when Thor’s mom was battling the Dark Elf. The women didn’t fall into the traditional “princess” role. They were smart, resourceful and active participants in the story.
Additionally, there was a strong theme of love and hate in the movie. Most of the characters were acting from a personal motive to protect someone they loved or to attack someone they hated. It wasn’t always clear if they were fighting for peace in the universe or for the safety of their family, friends and community. I guess those aren’t mutually exclusive, but the personal seemed to be more meaningful than the universal.
I even found myself sympathizing with the pain experienced by one of the villains and sharing his desire for vengeance. But maybe I’m just a sucker.
David, why does it not surprise me that you empathized with the villains? You either have a heart of gold or you are a villain sympathizer!
One thing I liked about the movie is that it didn’t try to take itself too seriously. For instance, there is a scientist who works in his underwear and likes to hug everyone he meets.
Scott, I agree. The movie wasn’t overly earnest. I didn’t get the feeling that they were trying too hard to make a point.
To answer your question, I think I tend to empathize with the villains because I know that negative actions often obscure our view of a person who is, or could be, good. There was a lot of pain and isolation and rejection in Loki’s past. I found it easy to see the root of his alienation.
Spoken like a man who truly does believe in embracing uniqueness by flaunting weakness!
And speaking of Loki, he reminded me of Data’s evil twin brother Lore in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Pale skin, dark hair, evil snicker indicative of a defective emotion chip.
Scott, I believe everything reminds you of Star Trek. I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World insofar as it went. It was more of a summer popcorn movie than some of the more cerebral fare that we get in the Fall. I liked the hero’s journey and Thor delivered all that we expect from a Marvel movie: high stakes, big heroes, and a lot of on-screen action. I give Thor 3 out of 5 Reels for good action/adventure. Thor, the hero, did pretty well in this installation. We fleshed out a bit more of his personality and he performed in the classic, mythological style. I give him 4 out of 5 Heroes.
Thor: The Dark World was a spectacular visual fest that lacked substance. It was pretty to look at but entirely forgettable. I felt like I bit into a huge chunk of chocolate only to discover it was as hollow as Greg’s head. For that reason, the movie can only muster 2 out of 5 Reels for me. The hero story was slightly more substantive, as it did adhere to the classic hero’s journey in several ways. However, I would hardly call it inspiring, as everyone just appeared to be going through the motions. I’ll give it 3 Heroes out of 5.
First, let me say that I’m shocked by the hostility between the two of you! Not very heroic I give you both 1 out of 5 heroes. 🙂
Second, I’m an easy grader. I instantly get lost in almost any movie or television show. I don’t watch from the outside.
I’m also a sucker for hero movies and meaningful themes, and I have realistic (or low) expectations. Thor delivers on what it promises and I really enjoyed it. I give it 4 out of 5 reels.
As far as heroism, Thor seemed reluctant to be a hero at times. He also seemed to be putting his personal needs before those of others at different points in the movie. But when it really mattered, he fulfilled his role as a hero and used his power in the service of others. He was willing to sacrifice himself to save the universe. I give Thor: The Dark World 4 out of 5 heroes.
David, Scott and I want to thank you for visiting ReelHeroes.net and sharing your perspective on this week’s movie. Readers can learn more about David Rendall and his book “The Freak Factor: Discovering Uniqueness by Flaunting Weakness” by visiting his web site http://www.drendall.com.