“Thor: The Dark World”: Holy Competence

Thor: The Dark World

There’s nothing especially wrong with Thor: The Dark World, the latest in a seemingly endless string of Marvel projects leading up to the megalith The Avengers 2. The special effects are serviceable, the story moves along at an enjoyable clip and the performances are almost uniformly solid.

But there’s nothing especially right about it either. Needless convolutions cloud an already questionable narrative. Natalie Portman’s love interest Jane Foster is as bland and underwritten as any character of her kind in recent memory. Director Alan Taylor offers little visual distinction from Kenneth Branagh’s appealing but forgettable original. A week from now, give or take a Tom Hiddleston or a Kat Dennings, nearly everything that happens in Thor: The Dark World will be a distant memory.

Marvel has no reason to do anything different. If kajillion were a legitimate term of measurement, these movies have grossed several of them worldwide. People flock to these movies as a ritual, regardless of their artistic ambitions. Why would Marvel mess with a formula that works?

Maybe they should. The box-office returns for Thor: The Dark World have been solid but a little lackluster, at least in comparison to Iron Man 3 earlier this year. Are audiences tiring of formula movies without deviation? Maybe not yet, but everything has an expiration date. It would be nice to see Marvel take a chance on some visionary filmmakers and innovative screenwriters to offer their takes on the popular characters. As an audience member who usually enjoys these movies even at their laziest, I’d welcome some change.

Other Thoughts:
*As I wrote in my review of Rush, Chris Hemsworth is a movie star now. I only hope that Hollywood hands him the right roles. His best moments are lighthearted and breezy, though he’s at least a passable brooder. He’d be ideal for a comedy role in the vein of Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street.

*Veteran TV director Taylor doesn’t botch this movie by any means, but the main rationale for his casting appears to stem from his credentials as an in-house director on the massive-scale HBO series Game of Thrones. Indeed, he seems more comfortable with the disparity between Earth and Asgard than Branagh. Not so much in Taylor’s wheelhouse: banter, fantasy portent, narrative machinations – all three of these fall flat on several occasions.

*The plethora of talented actors giving likable performance in this and other Marvel movies is both enjoyable and disheartening. Enjoyable, because these actors lend gravitas and self-awareness to stories that might be outlandish in the wrong hands. Disheartening, because these actors (in Thor: TDW: Hiddleston, Dennings, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi) could easily handle more interesting roles in more interesting movies if given the chance.

*The exciting trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier that debuted just before this movie gave me hope that there’s life in these franchises yet. (Plus, Robert Redford. Can’t go wrong.)

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