Film reviews

Oct 29, 2013

Thor: The Dark World movie review: a superhero craptastrophy

In some circles superhero movies have a bad name. Want to know why? Go see Thor: The Dark World.

Luke Buckmaster — Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist

Luke Buckmaster

Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist


Skip itThere are too many superhero movies! Hollywood is infantilising audiences! These days directors care more about action figurines than real characters!

Take a deep breath. Relax. And shut up.

While teenagers and young adults continue to inject windfalls of cash into the film industry — literally buying bucket loads of popcorn and snacks and investing heavily in ancillary markets such as VOD, DVD and video games — the argument continues that Tinseltown is pumping out way too many salt-burn superhero pics that are way too similar.

Before we go further, let’s clarify two things. First: that argument is more or less right. Second: it’s almost always made by people outside the genre’s target demographic.

In addition to the intended audience and those who would never step foot into Thor 2: The Dark Age unless their glasses fogged up and they accidentally veered into the wrong cinema to discover Captain Phillips has a massive magical mallet and Tom Hanks sure looks good for his age, there are two other primary audiences. They are the “had a long week” crowd understandably lured by the promise of spectacle and escapism, and those dragged in by association (parents, guardians, aggravated partners, emergency response teams, etc).

To the first group my advice is to stay away from director Alan Taylor’s sequel about a thespian-voiced Summer Bay lookalike with a huge hammer (not a euphemism) and a humourless one-eyed version of Anthony Hopkins for a father. It’s drab, bloated and stuck together with special effects that look like high-end Microsoft screensavers. To the second group, my commiserations.

Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the titular “Mighty Avenger” who battles to save Earth against “the Nine Realms.” If “the Nine Realms” sounds to you like questionably thought-out back-story hokum spun with spiffy fantasy/SCI-FI vernacular, you’d be right. And that’s before we factor in words such as “Malekith,” “Odin” and “Asgard.”

A meaty opening prologue — such is the cookie cutter template for a self-important multi-world fantasy picture such as this, riddled with uninteresting histories about chequered dynasties of the yada yada yada and so forth — is tacked onto a story that switches between Earth and the orange-hued SFX-stuffed planet our hero calls home.

Earth has Natalie Portman, playing superhero accessory and “scientist” Jane Foster. The latter has vast CGI backdrops, otherworldly locales and strange gnarly beasts. Through a jerry-built plot contrivance those beasts spill onto Earth, a symptom of a wider problem: the team of writers can’t seem to decide which universe to settle on so they settle on both and neither.

The film wraps itself around each world as delicately as a slap band landing on a fat hairy arm and the resolution, from a writer’s POV, is a perfect storm of idiocy: characters, beasts and random objects cross through portals connecting “this world” and “the next” like a goofy souped-up version of Sliders, with Jerry O’Connell presumably face-planted somewhere between realities, wiping white fuzz off his face.

Occasionally Thor: The Dark World writes itself out of tragedy by inhaling a pinger of fish out of water comedy — i.e. Thor catches the train and Thor hangs his hammer on a coat rack. But even by the generous allowances afforded to superhero shenanigans, if this is the kind of storytelling pass-carded by critics, may God have mercy on us all.

One wrote that “Chris O’Dowd is great comic value,” neglecting to mention he appears in just two short scenes separated by an hour and a half of running time. The same critic described Natalie Portman as “highly decorative and suitably feminine.”

Suitably, sorry, what? Does that mean Portman looks like she’s on a diet of salary (ho ho) and chickpeas and spends the lion’s share of the movie either gazing longingly at the alpha male of her dreams or waiting obediently for his return?

Get real. Wake up. Go see Captain Phillips.

Thor: The Dark World’s Australian theatrical release date: October 31, 2013. 

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7 thoughts on “Thor: The Dark World movie review: a superhero craptastrophy

  1. Kreative Insanity

    If Thor was not bad enough Go see Captain Phillips. Another US propaganda film glorifying how good americans are and how evil somali pirates are. First US troops will mass execute thousands of innocent somalis and then spread lies using hollywood and pentagon. This cricey had nothing to do with independent thinking.

  2. Harry Rogers

    Luke you just have to accept the “dumbing down” argument about the movies these days.

    If people are “dumbed down” you get “dumbed down” movies.

  3. rysiu

    Looks like Luke really touched Rory’s nerve with this one!

    I will accept his point that there is a legitimate basis for the nine realms rooted in Norse mythology, but whenever I watch this sort of film that catches you up on a complex back story involving a host of powers and names that I’ve never heard of before in the first 5 minutes, my eyes glaze over too. Maybe I’m slow and it is simple and straightforward, or maybe it’s the sort of thing that seems self evident if one is already schooled up on it (as Rory clearly is).

    Don’t see the problem with endorsing another movie released in the same week… why not? If you want to see a new release this weekend, choose this one rather than that one.

    While we’re at it, why not question another reviewer’s opinions? All opinions are most certainly not equally valid, everyone just has a right to their own… heaven forbid people start disagreeing with each other. I particularly enjoyed that the charge of arrogance on account of Luke disagreeing with another’s opinion was delivered by someone taking the time to disagree with Luke’s opinions… we’re all just part of the 5 billion after all. Better yet was the anti-Marvel conspiracy angle, although I could just be blind to Luke’s persistent pro-DC bias (it’s so obvious now!).

    In any event, I’m now marginally more inclined to see just to be able to judge the rights and wrongs first hand… given my low expectations, I’d probably enjoy it.

  4. cynthia dower

    I saw it today and really enjoyed it. I am not a comic book fan and I very rarely go to see super hero films but a combination of the lightness of touch and brotherly love made it worth watching. I even enjoyed the action scenes more than I thought I would. It had bits that are reminiscent of Lord of the Rings but as a fan of both the film and the books I enjoyed the similarities at the same time as enjoying the other elements involved.It’s not Bafta/Oscar material but it is enjoyable and worth seeing it just for Tom Hiddleston’s layered Loki.

  5. Tom

    Rory does have a point, although he doesn’t know the difference between a homonym and a homophone.

    The “nine realms”, Odin, Asgard etc are all straight out of the Norse tradition. They’re part of the premise.

    Your remarks on that score are quite embarrassing Luke. Guess you’re probably not too far off about the merits of the film, though.

  6. rory ocampo

    First of all, the “nine realms” is not a “questionably thought-out back-story hokum spun with spiffy fantasy/SCI-FI vernacular”. It’s from Norse Mythology. The comic book which this movie is based from, is in turn based on the actual Norse Myths, hence the names such as Odin, Thor, Loki, and hence the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, Alfheim, Vanaheim, Svartalfaheim, Niflheim, Muspellsheim, Midgard and Hel. They are not “yada yada yada chequered dynasties”. Incidentally, the prologue is not riddles by “uninteresting histories”…it was a flashback scene to explain why the Dark Elves are mad at the Asgardians. It’s so simple and straight forward. If that tripped you up, I suppose that explains why you like so much a movie about sea pirates. And about that…Second, it’s in poor taste that you have to endorse a film while reviewing another. You didn’t like Thor 2, fine. But it’s weak to compare it to another movie which is not even in the same genre. Third, you’re also quoting another reviewer and questioning why he or she had such opinion about the film? Are you really this arrogant? Your review sounds like the ramblings of a DC fanboy, desperate to undermine a Marvel movie just because. Where do you come off and question another person giving a review of the movie? Your opinion is just as valid as any other person’s. It’s neither special, nor is it of moral ascendancy over another. Your opinion is just one among 5 billion. It’s low that you questioned that reviewer’s opinion. You’re reviewing the movie, not his or her review. Fourth, “Portman looks like she’s on a diet of salary and chickpeas”. You do mean “celery”, right? Oh, were you being “clever”? Using a homonym of celery? But then, if that’s the case, then your paragraph questioning the reviewer about using the term “suitably feminine” to describe Natalie Portman makes zero sense. Fifth, Chris O’Dowd’s role is hilarious. It may not have been as substantial as what you expect, but he made a mark in the movie nonetheless. And lastly, I don’t mind a negative review, if the one doing it has the necessary intelligence to know that to “infantalize” is to condescend or treat another like a child. How in all the nine realms can a movie condescend? But a reviewer who parrots all the silly comments why super hero films are bad and at the same time endorsing another film which is supposed to be artsy-fartsy, is the height of condescension.

  7. sottile6

    Maybe this movie is aimed at the scfi/graphic novel fans who understand the memes of the genre very well. Maybe many of these people are women of many ages who like the eye candy that is Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Maybe it is cashing in on the Joss Whedon fanbase who also watch because of Whedon’s Avengers. They won’t like it however if there are supine female characters and they will punish the franchise for it.

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