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Uneven “Thor” sequel disappoints dedicated fans

“Thor: The Dark World,” the highly anticipated sequel to “Thor” (2011) and the latest installment in Marvel’s “The Avengers” (2012) franchise, brings some of our favorite comic book characters back to the big screen – but does it hold up to standards as a stand-alone superhero film? While the film is certainly an action-packed visual feast, this sequel threatens to disappoint dedicated Marvel fans due to the critical setback of a subpar screenplay.

The plot is standard fare: an ancient source of malevolent power reenters the world, reawakening a Dark Elf named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who threatens to cast the Nine Realms, including Asgard and Earth, into eternal darkness. As this power source coincidentally enters Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must join forces with his maniacal brother, Loki, (Tom Hiddleston) so that Thor can save Earth… and Asgard… and his love interest.

Unfortunately, “Thor: The Dark World” fails to live up to the imaginative quality for which the Marvel film franchise is known. It resorts to yawn-worthy clichés, plot holes that are a mile wide and dialogue so bland that the characters lose their agency. Why is the villain a two-dimensional character that wants to take over the world for no particular reason with a power source that is given no context whatsoever? Are we really supposed to believe that Jane would find the one wormhole that leads to a possessive evil power by coincidence? And how do Dark Elves possess guns after being asleep for thousands of years?

Oddly enough, the script eventually comes back with a valor that makes it easy for the audience to forget the terrible blight of the first hour. The characters become more engaging and the plot is saved by richer dialogue, well-timed jokes, and unpredictable action. It is almost as if the first half was written by someone who had no idea what they were doing – which may in fact be the case. It was reported that the screenplay was so bad at one point that director Alan Taylor requested to have Joss Whedon (of “The Avengers” fame and co-director of the original “Thor”) to be flown in “like a SWAT team” to help rewrite select scenes in the screenplay. Too bad he didn’t rewrite the entire screenplay.

Ultimately, “Thor: The Dark World” is a film with both a dark and a light side. Does the film succeed as a stand-alone piece of cinema? No, not really. Should fans of “Thor” and “The Avengers” still go to see this film? Yes, probably. It is wonderful to see these characters on the big screen again, but my suggestion is to wait out the first hour and hope that the Marvel franchise learns from these rookie mistakes. Dedicated Marvel fans will also be pleased by the surprise ending, and, as always, do not forget to stay for the after-credits scenes that hint at an incredible storyline for the already confirmed “Thor 3.”
“Thor: The Dark World” opens in theaters on Nov. 8, 2013.

 

Contact Melissa Gordon at mbgordon@stanford.edu.