by Andrew Mooney
Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Alan Taylor (Dir.), Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth’s Abs, Chris Hemsworth’s Chiseled Jaw, Chris Hemsworth’s Back, Chris Hemsworth’s Baby Blues into which the Souls of Mortal Hetero Women Have Cascaded into a Furious Epidemic of Blue Tubes, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgaard, Jaime Alexander, Rene Russo, Chris O’Dowd, Ray Stevenson, Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins’ Body Double So He Can Spend the Day in His Trailer Sucking on a Teat Filled with a fine Chilean Chianti
Ah yes, the Kingdom of Marvel has trotted out one of its lesser champions once more. This time: the eminently lickable and not-in-any-way-turning-me-gay dreamboat that is Chris Hemsworth’s utterly uncharismatic titular Thor. Now, about two years ago, before I had this blog, I charged from the movie theater frothing at the mouth after witnessing Kenneth Branagh’s ham-and-cheese scenery-chewing feast that was the original Norse-hero flagship. It was clear that the poor nerds over at the Marvel juggernaut had zero ideas on how to approach the most absurd chapter in The Avenger’s almost Sisyphean build-up. For some reason, in between coming up with men turning into angry big green monsters and mouthy teenagers getting bitten Jeff-Daniels-in-Arachnophobia-style by inexplicably radioactive spiders, Stan Lee said to himself, “I don’t have any more ideas right now. I mean, I think I’ve run through every animal and DC rip-off I can do…why don’t I just fucking steal an entire mythology?” Luckily aliens with infinitely dense hammers and really gay rainbow bridges beat out his other possibilities such as: Osiris with magical embalming skillz! Or perhaps even Shiva: The Bitch With Too Many Hands (note to self: awesome comic book idea). But no, we were offered a bemusing retelling of Henry IV, just with Frost Giants, indestructible robots, and a bad guy who wears a helmet that looks like a mountain goat after a visit to Bling Night in Boy’s Town.
No. I did not enjoy Thor. Marvel had no idea how to marry a flamboyant romp through various realms of the universe with Iron Man’s pseudo-realistic character study. How do you solve this? That’s right, hire the fucker responsible for the slow motion CGI spear at the end of Hamlet…you know, the uncut 4-hour shitshow where Jack Lemon does to the Bard what I do to the French language (let’s just say ex-President Sarkozy won’t be inviting me round for a croissant anytime soon); the guy who not only directed and produced it, but also starred in it. I half expected the goateed British bastard to show up as EVERY CHARACTER. Also, Kate Winslet’s boobs. But that’s because she is legally obligated to show them in every movie ever. So, what does the Branagh do with Thor? Well, his job. He made it more glittery and Hopkins-ish than a Ke$ha/Silence of the Lambs themed rave. It was confusing. Tonally, it wasn’t just all over the map, it WAS the fucking map. We have ironic, flat hipster humor from Kat “I Have Boobs” Dennings, flashes of greatness of a man who’s diet is composed of nothing more than set dressing, Tom Hiddleston, as well as the best “I’m Getting a Fucking Paycheck” performance from Natalie “I Really, Really Don’t Have Boobs. Have You Seen Black Swan? Yes, the Groping Scene Confused Me Too. Is it Groping if There’s Nothing to Grope?” Portman since Anthony Hopkins was in Thor 2: Into Darkness.
But, guys, time passes. The Avengers happened. It seems that Mr. Hemsworth, a man whose very presence in this movie could be considered lewd and provocative (no joke, the theater applauded during his first shirtless scene. Notice how I said ‘first’?), has had time to settle into the duality of his character. It helps when you have Joss “Bitch, Please” Whedon helming you at some point. Unfortunately, Alan Taylor, of Game of Thrones fame, isn’t up to quite the same standard as Mr. Whedon. On countless occasions he forgets that this is an action movie and not a story enamored with the intricacies of mythological politics. Also, he must have had the job of having to prod Sir Hopkins whenever he was meant to speak, seeing as the guy somnambulates his way through every freaking frame of film. To combat the utterly incredulous battshitery of the first film’s almost Gilbert and Sullivan-esque bombast, he has cured the scenery chewing by simply adding so much goddamned scenery that Mr. Hiddleston would die of asphyxiation before he can gobble the thing down. Throughout the film’s lagging and nearly nonsensical first half, we are offered an expansive and intriguing look into the sure-to-be-a-Disney-ride fantasy of Asgard. Seeing as these days Marvel only needs to waggle its penis in the general director of a movie theater and they make a gajillion dollars, they can afford to throw some cash at the screen. And throw they did. Every second of this film, when not constrained to London, is gorgeous, offering a more vibrant and believable universe than Branagh’s towering columns and Hopkins-bellowing.
So, what is this one about? Well, there’s a lot of shit in it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. There simply is a lot of pointless refuse tossed into the script-crafting process that both muddles and stretches the run-time to excessive lengths. Much like its predecessor, Thor: Darkness Falls opens with a prologue almost literally torn from Peter Jackson’s excessive LOTR footage explaining more than you would ever need or care to know about the blandest blandies since Blondie bonded with Bono during a Battle of the Blahs. Otherwise known as ‘Dark Elves’. Why elves? Who knows! We have an evil Doctor Who (Eccleston) who seems to have gone full white-face Drow and, like a redneck teenager, grown his rattail to a length that makes everyone uncomfortable. He is Malekith…who we can tell is evil because 1) he’s white and 2) well…his name is Malekith. Also, did I mention he’s white? Anyway, this fella wants to destroy existence. Why? Why not? Sounds legit. He has this thing called the Aether, a catch-all uber-destruction device-cum-evil-infection cum-let’s-give-a-reason-for-Natalie-Portman-to-be-in-this-movie. Aaaaaaaaaaand that’s about it. Thor has to stop him. Now there is far more stuff concerning Rene Russo turning into a CGI bladed whirling dervish and the African guy from LOST turning into a lava rhino…but the entire movie is simply waiting, like a child slobbering over an empty plate, until Mr. Hiddleston shows up.
Seriously, thank god for Loki. Up until the second act, this movie has about as much humorous glee as a clown at a funeral. Once they finally manage to contrive the character actions and plot twists to the point that Loki can finally escape from prison and leap into a delightful will-he-won’t-he tet-a-tet/knife-in-the-abs with his Goldie Locks of a brother, the movie remembers that it is meant to entertain. And entertain it does. Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston play off of each other like a young Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart…if one of those two were basically Michaelangelo’s David come to life in a bizarrely classy retelling of the seminal Kim Cattrall classic Mannequin. Also, Natalie Portman is there, and this is true, ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS IN HER CONTRACT. I’m not saying that the Oscar winner phoned it in, but let’s just say her relationship with her character is as long-distance as that time my ex-girlfriend moved to China. I’m surprised she didn’t have her assistant carry around an iPad with her skyping into every scene. At least, if they had done that, Hemsworth and Hiddleston could have just started playing Words With Friends whenever the Port-meister got boring.
Luckily, however, the second Hiddleston joins the party, the movie takes off. Even Hemsworth is instantly revitalized, tossing about quips that legitimately made me giggle. It takes a long while to get there, but the director finally realizes that you can frowny face your way through a comic book movie, a la C-Noles, and come away with a pretentious cautionary tale with harshly mediocre fight scenes…or you can have Chris “If He Were an Ice Cream Flavor He’d Be The Opposite of Chubby Hubby” Hemsworth beat the shit out of Doctor Who. Luckily, once Mr. Hopkins was convinced to stop randomly yelling in a Merlot-filled rage at anyone with a beard, the movie leaps into action. I will say this, the final fight is possibly the most inventive the MCU has seen in a long while. It seems as though Marvel, after painting themselves repeatedly into a corner by making every movie in their brutally successful anthology about “THE WORLD IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED. MUST SAVE IT WITH BOOM-BOOMS”, instead of retreading the obvious ground, they’ve simply kicked in the fucking wall and decided they need more square footage. The final fight between Thor and Malekith is not only exciting but freaking hilarious, a flash of genius that, like Pope-Bubbles, the catholic body wash, almost totally washes its sins away.
In the end, Thor: The Dark Side of the Moon: Transformers: Revenge of the Sith succeeds despite itself. Much like Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, it only truly feels fun when its characters get to banter. The explosions go boom and we get to see more of the same antics we know and love. Also, Tom Hiddleston should be required to be in every movie ever. Right next to Kate Winslet’s boobs. Shockingly, the Marvel gurus have managed to create an action-based universe where the action is the least interesting component. In a way, it’s genius. To see a Marvel movie from, say, Michael Bay or John McTiernan would be horrifying. This is no metallic ballet of mediocre misogyny. No, no! Mr. Kevin Feige, the supposed god of all that is this MCU juggernaut, has harvested a healthy crop of intelligent and unique directors who will hopefully supply us with another slew of quality character studies that just happen to go BANG BOOM. We’ve got Captain America: The Winter Solider: Why the Fuck Are There So Many Colons?: The Andrew Mooney Story coming up next directed by the boys responsible for NBCs insane and brilliant Community, as well as Edgar Wright’s sure-to-be-rikonkulous Antman. Most perplexing of all is the red-headed step-movie/money trap that is James “Slither/Super” Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which gets a teaser in the final credits of this film. With its nonsensical mis en scene and cheaply shot digital framing, to say the footage is out of place is to say the black man who accidentally walked into a KKK rally has a small case of egg-on-face. Let’s just say Benecio Del Toro shows up as his character from The Usual Suspects but if he went through a Liberace cloning device. Poor Jaime Alexander and Ray Stevenson, the two actors look utterly lost on the cobbled together set stolen from a lost episode of Doctor Who, their expressions captured by the most uncomfortable close-ups since my brother snuck into my room with a camera while I was dreaming about that time with the emu and the peanut butter sandwich.
Don’t ask. That story is only meant for my therapist.
Also, I’m really glad that the Marvel Comics Universe has finally incorporated Chris O’Dowd into its cast. I can dream that one day we’ll see him and Richard Ayoade offering S.H.I.E.L.D. IT help. That would be the tits.