Nov. 07--Another superhero movie is, well, uh, what can we say? It's another superhero movie -- no more nor less.
Smashing and awesome in special effects, "Thor: The Dark World" is nonetheless thoroughly forgettable. With enough subplots and secondary characters to people a Shakespearean tragedy, it comes across as so much nonsense -- yet another ultra expensive effort to "intellectualize" a comic book.
Movie theaters are going to have to live in the shadow of the phenomenal 2012 blockbuster "The Avengers" for years to come. Copycat is the theme when looking for sure bets. Disney has bought Marvel Comics as well as "Star Wars" and there's going to be a whole lot of noise in movie theaters for a long time.
They'd better not overdo it, though. Remember what happened to westerns? Who would have ever thought the cowboy genre would die out? Superheroes are already in danger of running out of obstacles to overcome. How many more times can they dream up a kyrptonite threat for Superman?
Thor, whom his mischievous brother Loki somewhat accurately describes as "a witless oaf," has a hammer -- and knows how to use it. Loki, the bad brother, played by Tom Hiddleston, again, steals the movie. But Chris Hemsworth has, perhaps, the largest arms of any actor working today. (He might get competition from The Rock, but neither of them is going to be doing bicep curls with an Oscar).
Movies like "Thor: The Dark World" are more about set pieces than plot. Things here open with a lively battle between The Dark Elves -- so called because they prefer the night life -- and Asgard -- the home of Thor where his Daddy, Odin, rules. The Elves are defeated but they get away with the Aether, which is (shudder) all powerful.
"Unleash the Aether" is supposed to get us just as excited as when someone yelled "release the Kraken" in "Clash of the Titans." It isn't the same. (For the record, the Aether looks something like floating, red Jell-O).
The elves bury the Aether for centuries but somehow it surfaces in the body of Jane, the Earth gal Thor has fallen for. It's a perfect solution for Jane, played by Natalie Portman, because otherwise she'd be just another damsel in distress. It's kinda kinky, though, to think of how they expect to get the stuff out of her. (We won't go there).
Hemsworth is saddled with even less to do here than in the original "Thor," but the actor remains likable and models his cape well. He takes his shirt, cape or whatever off for just one scene to prevent rebellion from the female ticket-buyers. His stock, though, has fallen a bit with the disappointing box office for "Rush," his recent race car movie.
Hiddleston returns as evil brother Loki, stuck in an underground prison until the bros have to admit that, like it or not, they must join forces to fight Malekith, the ugly elf. (Spock should sue him for having similarly pointed ears).
Anthony Hopkins proves that he can suggest level-headed authority with only a few lines, as Odin. Rene Russo (where has she been?) still looks great as Thor's mother.
Directed by Alan Taylor, this is better than the first "Thor," if only for momentum and the fact that the characters don't need to be introduced. There are some 3-D moments that, refreshingly, give some reasons to wear those pesky glasses -- which make the film look darker than even intended by the title.
There is no hint of danger to either Thor or any of the bad beings. Even when Thor's hand is cut off no one is excited. It's back in the next scene with some hint that it was not reality. The characters try to keep things going with repeated threats: "Are you ready to die?" "The realm shall be destroyed." And, "You will suffer before you die." All such threats are for naught. We know nothing's going to happen.
Even the last showdown is lightened to suggest that it's all played as some kind of trick photography. Much is saved by pithy, mod asides such as when Thor yells "Who's next?" after one of his victories.
As a show of digital pyrotechnics, "Thor: The Dark World" serves. Nothing more.
Mal Vincent, 757-446-2347, firstname.lastname@example.org
"Thor: The Dark World"
Cast Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba
Director Alan Taylor
Screenplay Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Music Brian Tyler
MPAA rating PG-13 (cartoonish, silly, violence)
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