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"Thor: The Dark World" is Fun if You Don't Look for Too Many Answers Review

A man strides slowly and purposefully into the sunlight, burdened only by a multitude of rippling muscles and a pair of pants. His flowing blonde locks sparkle in the sun. And… scene! Shirtless Thor striding around a pretty movie set for a few seconds, neither saying or doing anything to advance the plot, perfectly encapsulates Thor: The Dark World: It’s pure fan service.

The scene outlined above, for instance, occurs less than 10 minutes into the movie and is actually the only time Chris Hemsworth appears without his shirt. But don’t make the people wait! Give them what they want. So what do they want, aside from washboard abs? How about great actors, for one.

The Thor subset of the Marvel movie universe actually boasts the most impressive cast of any of the non-Avengers movies; Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Chris O’dowd, and Alice Krige in addition to Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, and Stellan Skarsgard. That’s a lot of acting chops to bring to a superhero movie sequel. Like any movie with such an extensive ensemble, you’re left wishing some actors had more to do - Elba in particular - but Thor 2 actually does a pretty excellent job of doling out screen time and lines.

People also want their favorite characters doing the things they want. Thor does Thor things (looking strong, being unflappable, occasionally cracking a smile), Loki does Loki things (being an annoying little shit, but coming from the likeable Hiddleston, it’s sort of endearing), and everyone else finds time to deliver some funny lines. The chemistry between Thor and Loki is really pleasurable to watch. In most cases, this consists of Hemsworth playing the straight man to Hiddleston, which both actors clearly relish. I will also add that there is a truly excellent cameo that everyone who enjoyed The Avengers should dig quite a bit.

There are a few keys to enjoying Thor: The Dark World. Key number one is to not ask questions. Nearly any movie will suffer greatly from nitpicking questions about the plot and its intersection with reality, action movies even more so. Superhero movies even more than that insist that you leave any questions about the universe therein, no matter how reasonable, outside the theater. You may find yourself involuntarily wondering “But why would you even bother with a sword or an axe if you have access to lasers, energy weapons, and starships?” Nope. Just stop. You’ll have a bad time.

Which would be a shame! Because it’s easy to have a good time with Thor. You get more of Hopkins in this movie than in the first, which is a win for everyone. Frigga, played by Russo, is a badass. Denning’s character might actually be physically incapable of going more than a minute without cracking a joke.

The best action scenes in the movie do not involve Thor. A lot of this, I think, comes from the fact that watching a guy hit things with a hammer is not super compelling to watch. Watching Russo be a whirling dervish with a sword, however, is awesome. So is watching Loki take on a group of bad guys with just a dagger. Thor has pretty much two go to moves, hit with hammer and ground punch for a lightning shockwave type deal. There’s a third move that is throwing his hammer and missing, but it’s fairly ineffectual. Basically, you’d rather watch anyone other than Thor fight.

Quibbles like this aside, however, the movie is a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the other Marvel movies, you will enjoy this. If you did not enjoy them or you think you wouldn’t be able to handle a Lord of the Rings/Star Wars crossover situation, you should avoid it.

"Thor: The Dark World" opens November 8, 2013 and is rated PG13. Action. Directed by Alan Taylor. Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston.

Nov
09
2013
Richard Procter • Staff Writer

Richard Procter enjoys writing words about stuff he is interested in, and has done so for a variety of publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, and Decades magazine. He has an abiding love of portmanteaus and has never had a donut. Really. 

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