By Ryan Maddux and Andy Stuckey
---- — GREENSBURG – With Andy having super-hero fatigue (only half joking), I’ll be flying solo, tackling Marvel Studios latest film “Thor: The Dark World” (PG-13). Chris Hemsworth is back as the god of thunder and this time around he must stop a universe-destroying threat by the evil Dark Elf (Christopher Eccleston). The usual suspects round out the cast - Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings and Stellen Skarsgard.
Ryan: With their nostalgia-inducing restaurants, Cracker Barrel has perfected the art of monetizing comfort food for the public. When I go to a Cracker Barrel, I’m normally satisfied with my meal. It’s never great, but it’s also never bad; it is what it is. Likewise, Marvel Studios has mastered the idea of “comfort cinema.” I use that analogy purposely, as Cracker Barrel restaurants have positive, negative and indifferent connotations. Most people don’t have a problem with their nostalgia-driven formula, but it’s also true that some people are put off by the inherent phoniness of it. It’s clear to me that Marvel Studios is sticking to their own Cracker Barrel-esque formula. While it’s financially successful (and comforting to most moviegoers), the equation is starting to limit what these movies can be. And that’s my biggest issue with “Thor: The Dark World.” While it’s entertaining, it’s also burdened by its adherence to blueprint. There’s some action, some wordy exposition, a witty one-liner and then more action. For better or worse “The Dark World” completely nails Marvel’s checklist. And while the box-office rewards will be solid, the desire for wanting something more with these Marvel super-hero films is again squandered.
There are two reasons why “Thor: The Dark World” is watchable – Hemsworth and Hiddleston. These two good casting decisions continue to pay dividends. Hemsworth does more than just look the part. There’s actually a small degree of character development with Thor, and Hemsworth again captures the awe of being a super-hero god. As for Hiddleston, he continues to be the only villain that matters in the Marvel cinematic world. He makes every scene in which he appears in better. Marvel has struggled mightily with creating compelling villains for their other heroes, but Hiddleston’s Loki is the exception. The interaction between Thor and Loki sustains the film over its more bland moments.
This is going to sound harsh, but the biggest problem with “Thor: The Dark World” is the film’s story. It’s recycled (crazy portals being opened in the sky – “The Avengers”) and redundant (an ancient race seeking a powerful weapon from the Asgardians – the first “Thor” movie). The film gets off to a rough start, too, with tedious exposition, and things didn’t get any better from there. To even try to explain the main villain’s motivation for wanting to find whatever evil doohickey he was after is completely frivolous and senseless. Christopher Eccleston’s talents are completely wasted as the film’s main villain and, as I mentioned earlier, Marvel’s lack of success at producing memorable villains continues.
At the end of the day “Thor: The Dark World is a (mostly) fun film.” While its sitcom antics and adherence to the Marvel blueprint is tiring, it’s still a watchable blockbuster. Final grade: C+.