UPDATE 11/10/2013: Read our own review of Thor: The Dark World here.
Let’s go back to a far away time known as last April and May. ‘Twas a more innocent time then. The United States government shut down and Miley Cyrus’ twerking had yet to pass. More to the point, though, this was a time when domestic film audiences were placed in the unfamiliar position of having to wait to see big movies. We had to look overseas in envy at our foreign brothers and sisters in geekdom in countries like the U.K. where Iron Man 3 and Stark Trek Into Darkness opened a full week earlier. Well, history is about to repeat itself as Thor: The Dark World gears up for its international debut in 24 different territories, including Hong Kong, the U.K., and Brazil, a week from today before making its domestic debut a week later (11/8).
With The Dark World‘s world premiere just around the corner, reviews are starting to trickle in. There are currently 11 of them on RottenTomatoes for an early fresh rating of 82%, with more reviews being added every day. There were multiple signs during production that The Dark World was shaping up to be a potential hot mess. Joss Whedon was literally flown in and then out to perform emergency script re-writes, Alan Taylor admitted he had given no thought to the 3D presentation when directing the movie, last minute re-shoots were performed to add in more scenes with Loki, etc. The film’s foundation was already shaky enough already. Kenneth Brannagh was the perfect choice to direct the Shakespearan brother drama, stranger-in-a-strange-land comedy of the first Thor, and his departure as director makes Alan Taylor a big question mark despite his previous work on Game of Thrones. Plus, it remains to be seen if a non-humbled, non-Earth-bound Thor can be an interesting one, as The Dark World aims to explore more realms of the galaxy beyond Earth, Asgard, and the land of the Frost Giants.
The early reviews all point to the same problems, chief among them a muddled story and ineffective villain that both seem to justify early fears about the film. However, for those willing to grant leniency the film reportedly makes up for its fault by being a lot of fun with winning performances from most everyone. Chris Hemsworth, Tom Middleston, and Rene Russo (!!) are receiving the most praise, with criticism of Christopher Eccleston’s villain and returning players Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings isolated to the writing, not performance. Some praise Alan Taylor’s more adept handling of the fantasy elements than Brannagh while others find him an ill-suited replacement. Like Iron Man 3 before it, Thor: The Dark World has the feel of a movie which will be fun to watch, easy to forget, and even easier to nitpick (if you go in for that kind of thing). Here are some excerpts from selected reviews (follow the link to each individual review for more detailed, light spoiler-y discussions of plot):
1 Critic Who Loved It –
Germain Lussier from SlashFilm.com:
“So Thor: The Dark World hits the ground running with fully realized, charismatic and confident portrayals of all the characters involved. It’s defined by Thor being an ultimate hero and Loki being a mischievous villain. That, coupled with plenty ofAvengers-size action, laugh-out-loud humor and Marvel Cinematic Universe easter eggs help make Thor: The Dark World one of the best Marvel films to date.”
3 Critics Who Were Mixed But Ultimately Liked It –
Alonso Dularde at TheWrap.com:
“So while the story is pretty basic superhero stuff, “Thor: The Dark World” uses this familiar backdrop as a springboard for some interesting character moments. Screenwriters Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely give us less of Thor’s lieutenants this time around, but that allows for some witty asides from gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) and a show of backbone (and swordsmanship) from Asgardian queen Frigga (Rene Russo).
There’s even room for some rope-a-dope and reversal from characters from whom we’d least expect it […] Unlike so many of the current crop of big-screen heroes, Thor doesn’t really get to have much of a sense of humor or of self-doubt, but Hemsworth manages to make this old-school, square-jawed titan fun and relatable. Whether he’s reuniting with Jane (after having been pining for her since the last movie) or tumbling through and atop some of London’s oldest and newest edifices, this is a guy who knows how to hold our attention.”
Ben Child at The Guardian:
“The problem is that no amount of tool-wielding heroism can save The Dark World from being a startlingly unbalanced movie. It’s no secret that Loki was gifted extra scenes in the post-production process, while Eccleston’s Malekith had a whole lot of backstory wrenched from beneath his elven feet. The result is a film in which an unmissable Hiddleston once again does a superb job of blending vulnerability with searing evil as he’s freed from prison to help Thor take down the new threat. Yet there are times we almost forget Malekith is in the movie. The latter comes into his own in the film’s spectacular endgame, played out in conveniently tourist-friendly parts of London. But it’s all a lot too little, rather too late.
Thanks to Hiddleston and Hemsworth’s impressive collective charisma, Thor: The Dark World is far from a franchise killer. Yet the film is missing Branagh’s delicacy of touch: there are numerous comedic interludes, but nothing to match the ingenious cutaway scene from the first film in which Thor walks into a pet shop and cheerfully demands a horse. Taylor provides plenty of weepy material – but there is not a single segue to compare with the brief, pathos-laden shot from Thor of the power-deprived Asgardian hero ignoring his woes to serve a simple breakfast to his human comrades.
Thor and Loki shared just one genuine superpower in Branagh’s film: an unexpectedly touching humanity. The Dark World’s loss is that it does not shine quite so brightly the second time around.”
William Bibbiani at CraveOnline:
“So Thor: The Dark World places its emotional focus entirely on Loki’s inner turmoil and uncontrollably deceptive impulses. Loki has to reconcile his misguided hatred for his adopted father with his seemingly genuine love for his adopted mother, Frigga (Rene Russo). Loki has to decide whether to set aside his jealousy towards Thor (Chris Hemsworth) long enough to do the right thing, if only for his own selfish reasons. Loki gets to play at possibility of redemption, toy with the inclination towards betrayal, and bait the fanpersons who love him throughout every single second of his classically theatrical subplot.
Meanwhile Thor – who technically gets the most screen time – apparently learned such a valuable lesson about maturity in the first film that he had nowhere to go but nowhere. Thor doesn’t have to evolve much as a character ths time out, so he remains heroic and noble throughout the whole ofThor: The Dark World. That’s all fine and dandy, since he’s a hero (and a nobleman), but it’s not nearly as interesting as what Loki gets to go through….
…even the unnecessarily complicated plot and the villain’s overly simplified motivation can’t keep Thor: The Dark World from at least being fun. Let us not allow the towering standard erected by films like Iron Man Three, The Avengers and Captain America to ruin a perfectly sumptuous, good time at the movies. Not every superhero movie has to be better than the film that preceded it. Not every superhero movie has to be thematically resonant or the absolute apex of what the lead character stands for. Thor: The Dark World gets by reasonably well with a series of memorable and inventive action sequences, some beautiful production design and the seemingly effortless charm of its many stars, all of whom turn in wonderful performances.” rock-’em-sock-’em robots.” Read the full review here.
2 Critics Who Didn’t Like It –
Oliver Lyttleton at IndieWire.com:
“The result is a film that is enjoyable in spots, but haphazard and ultimately unsatisfying. As with “Iron Man 3,” these films are increasingly feeling like episodes of TV shows or, perhaps more appropriately, issues of comic books. For all the good gags and eye candy, this ultimately boils down to yet another quest to find a magical MacGuffin that will stop a portal in the sky from opening (seriously, has that become one of the Seven Basic Plots at this point?). And while the hardcore geek crowd may eat that up, the rest of us need these films to distinguish themselves a little more if we’re going to have one every six months.”
Tim Robey at Telegraph.co.uk:
“The movie needed more grandeur and less dim attitude – above all, it needed a vision. Entrusted to director Alan Taylor, best-known for multiple episodes of The Sopranos, Mad Men and Game of Thrones, it feels entirely made by committee – the definition of house style, without a personal stamp in sight.
For many, this won’t necessarily be a problem. The Avengers megafranchise is nothing if not the biggest corporate merger in recent filmmaking history. No one’s really allowed to rock the boat, even when it’s a Viking longship cruising through space. Kenneth Branagh declined to return to the director’s throne, and Patty (Monster) Jenkins, who would have been the first woman to helm a major superhero blockbuster, was reportedly fired from this because of a “lack of clarity” in the way she wanted to take it.”
The Gist: If you like Thor and Loki The Dark World will at the very least entertain; if you weren’t won over by the first Thor, The Dark World isn’t up to the task to convert you. BTW, there are two post-credits sequences ala The Avengers, one a comedic cameo and the other setting up a future movie.
- ‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review: Laughs and Character Make for One of Marvel’s Best (slashfilm.com)
- First Full Reviews For THOR: THE DARK WORLD Hit (comicbookmovie.com)
- Thor: The Dark World – REVIEW (betheredcarpet.co.uk)
- ‘Thor: The Dark World’ reviews – Critics give Marvel sequel thumbs up (digitalspy.co.uk)