crap i have watched recently #20

malekithBy the beard of Odin, there are SPOILERS within!

Thor:  The Dark World (2013):  This is the latest installment in Marvel’s vast (and getting vaster…) collection of Avengers-related movies.   The film does not stray terribly far from the parameters laid out in the first Thor film.  At the start of the film we are given a bit of back story.  Before everything else existed the universe was basically a dark place ruled by dark elves who liked the darkness and wanted it to stay dark (or something along those lines).  To that end their leader Malekith intends to deploy an energy weapon called the Aether that will basically destroy the universe (I’m wondering if he thought this cunning plan all the way through).   The dark elves, wearing really creepy armor that I am sure to see cosplayed at every con I attend in the next year, are defeated by Odin’s father Bor, although a few of them, including Malekith, escape.  The Aether cannot be destroyed so the Asgardians cleverly hide it some place where it “will never be found.”  Heh.

Of course the Aether is found.  It is found by none other than Thor’s earth girlfriend Jane Foster.  While exploring an abandoned factory that is willfully thumbing its nose at the laws of physics she is separated from her interns, sucked into a portal of some sort, and lands basically at the base of the giant stone vessel that hides the Aether.  Of course she touches it and of course it immediately possesses her and of course Malekith, sleeping out in his ship, wakes up as soon as the Aether is released from its prison.  He wastes no time heading for Asgard to claim his weapon and get a little revenge on.  Thor rescues Jane from the peril of being arrested for trespassing and takes her to Asgard, where he’s told the Aether will eventually kill her.  Odin does not seem particularly worried by Jane’s fate.  He’s more concerned about the imminent “convergence of the nine realms”, an event that causes the barriers between worlds to collapse.  Odin knows that once the worlds align they will be vulnerable.  Malekith’s attack on Asgard sets in motion Thor’s complicated plan to lure  him back to Svartalfheim and save Asgard, Earth, and the rest of the nine realms from destruction.

Chris Hemsworth reprises the role of the studly but not terribly bright Thor.   He is brave and earnest and as handsome as, well, a Norse god.  Everything he says is uttered with gravity and sincerity.  He falls for every one of Loki’s tricks but some part of him never stops hoping that he can trust his brother.  It is deeply unfortunate that he and Natalie Portman have no chemistry whatsoever.  Fortunately for the rest of us, he has considerable rapport with the screen itself.  If he were paid for nothing more than standing around and cracking that endearing grin once in awhile, I’d probably pay to see that.  So it is an added bonus that there is a bit of fan service for us ladies (and some gentlemen as well) when Thor partially disrobes and takes an entirely unnecessary (plot-wise) bath.  Beyond that, he plays Thor as a simple and honest hero, one who’d rather be a good man than a great king.   I admit, I like this.  He’s not complicated.  You need that once in a while.

Hiddleston has returned to form as the clever, amoral, self-serving Loki and it is a joy to watch him manipulate everyone around him, bad and good alike.  I saw Vincent Price speak once and he remarked at length on how much fun it is to play an evil character.  Leading men, he said, always have to behave a certain way.  They have to be good, they have to be honest, and they usually have to be handsome.  But the actor who plays a bad man has a great deal more freedom.  He can risk more because the audience will accept almost anything from a bad man, even the occasional good deed.   I am reminded of this when I watch Loki bend his anger and jealousy toward the dual purposes of helping Thor thwart the dark elves and furthering his own designs on the throne.   I get the impression that Hiddleston really likes the role and he is the only person in the film who appears to be having any fun.

Christopher Eccleston (otherwise  known as the 9th Doctor) plays Malekith as a tragic figure.   He is nearly unrecognizable under white pancake makeup, with long white hair cinched back into a tight braid, and glowing blue eyes.  His armor is black from head to foot and his ships are black metal behemoths that shimmer into invisibility.  His soldiers’ armor mimes his own facial features and the effect is distinctly creepy.   When defeat is imminent he sacrifices his people in order to destroy the Asgardian army and escapes to plot his revenge and triumph.  He has lost everything, the universe he knew, his family, his army.  He has only a loyal friend, a few soldiers, and his hatred to fuel his attack on Asgard but he leaves the palace in rubble and almost indefensible.   The film-makers for some reason enhance his voice and the voices of all the dark elves so they sound hollow and sort of amplified; I’m not really sure what the point of that is.  He sounds far creepier and more malevolent when he speaks in a normal voice about the hell he is going to bring on the universe.

The rest of the cast is basically unchanged and unremarkable.  Natalie Portman is back as Jane Foster, Thor’s inexplicable love interest and possibly the most unscientific scientist ever.   Kat Dennings again plays the goofy Darcy; she’s now followed around by a puppy dog of an intern.   Stellan Starsgard is the magically not crazy anymore Dr. Erik Selvig, Jane’s  mentor and an inventor of arcane stuff.  Anthony Hopkins is somewhat uninspired as Odin; he seems primarily interested in looking kingly rather than being kingly.  It is occasionally difficult to see what Rene Russo’s maternal and wise Frigga sees in him.  The Warriors Three are standard issue swashbucklers in this one and we get a glimpse of Sif’s love for Thor (who of course is clueless).  Stan Lee has a cameo as a patient in a psychiatric facility.

I enjoyed the movie while I was watching it, as I usually do, but now I’m hard pressed to tell you why.  It’s loud, it’s convoluted, and it makes no sense if you think about it for more than five minutes.   I will admit that is sometimes hard to properly review these Avengers movies, or indeed almost any major blockbuster these days.  They are so interchangeable and so thematically incoherent that it is difficult to keep them in mind once they are over.  The farther away one gets from the theater the more one’s memories consist solely of the loudest, brightest parts of the film.  Thor: The Dark World throws more mumbly-gook at you than most films, from the dark elves’ back story to Dr. Selvig’s rantings about gravity spikes and whatnot to the grand convergence of worlds, it often seems like the writers were just brainstorming weird shit for the hell of it.  (Disclaimer, I do not read the comics.  For all I know this is canon.)   Some parts of the film were jarring (anti-aircraft guns in Asgard?  Really?) and other parts were sublime (Odin’s wordless mourning), but mostly it was just more of the same.  Like most of these films the plot appears to exist solely to drive us from one explosion to another, from one big effects extravaganza to the next.   Yet it contains brief and indelible moments of grace:   Thor’s bumbling sincerity, some occasionally operatic special effects (Malekith’s doomed fleet crashing into Svartalfheim in particular), the hubris of a man who can look at his children and not see his own failures, a son’s silent and lonely grief for his mother (not Thor’s, Loki’s), the trust that leads honest men and women to follow a friend into treason, the pain that makes a man sacrifice his family and friends and subjects for a chance at future redemption.  There is nothing wrong with action, with explosions, with drama and conflict, but it is these short glimpses of human frailty, even in gods, that give the meaning to all that noise.  They are hard to see in The Dark World but they are there.

Plus, you know…fan service!

Score: meh

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~ by gun street girl on November 18, 2013.

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