Marvel's latest epic takedown of all things DC reconvened two weeks ago when Thor: the Dark World opened Internationally to over $100M. It was shocking enough that one of Marvel's former B-listers woud have any heat from the BILLION-dollar hit Avengers but that the sequel would hit out the gates in International territories with such force. It was a shock because I'm a DC guy and I'm a business guy who used to license content--DC has always beaten Marvel IMO because DC's characters are just so iconic whereas Marvel's seemed very tactile for modern times but never rose to the status of iconic. For every Batman, Justice League and Superman incredible storyline that can be adapted--Marvel's heroes and comics simply do not have that style of legacy. Most would struggle to name 10 hugely popular Captain America or Thor comic book storylines whereas Batman can produce this without fail--even Flash and GL can. That said--Marvel is now really cruising with a MASSIVE Avengers' franchise; individual character franchises and the Shield tv show.
THOR: The Dark World is the confirmation that Marvel's problems with their characters is going to get rekindled in short order on film for mainstream audiences. This film just seems "okay". Whereas Iron Man 3 seemingly ran out of creative steam for the franchise, it still succeeded in large part to a sense of being the birthplace of Marvel's cinematic universe (many of the ideas informed Agents of Shield) and it had the reliable and charming Robert Downey Jr.
So what works?
It's funny! It's really funny at times thanks to a Joss Whedon-enhanced script and an excellent Stellen Skaarsgard portion as the crazed Doctor Erik Seilvig.
Watching the film, I couldn't be more thrilled at the idea that as I approach my 40th birthday, I'm now able to see a comic book literally brought to life. Thor: The Dark World has some very pretty effects and the scope is bigger (some of it takes place in London, in addition to a few realms including Asgard) which is nice when considering that cardboard New Mexico location they used for the first Thor. Also, props must be given to Marvel--I have to admit that seeing Thor and Captain America on screen--those guys LOOK like superheroes. They have muscle proportions that are at home in comic books but not at all what we could have imagined a few years ago when superhero movies were defined by superhero costumes with fake muscles sewn in to 'appear' more brawny.
Finally, the casting comes across far better here. The excellent Idris Elba gets a moment as Heimdall while Frigga (Rene Russo), Fandral (now played by Zachary Levi) and the incredibly sexy SIF (Jaime Alexander) all get some unique scene time that demonstrate that these are some serious and worthy actors.
That said, Loki was truly great and I'm the first to admit that I feel the love and devotion shown by comic sites and Marvel fanboys to be a bit much for Tom Hiddleston. Loki getting his own movie??? That's just silliness of the highest order IMO.
So what's the problem?
Well, Loki--is the problem. And by that, I mean the movie simply has no decent plot if the most interesting character is the reformed (?) bad guy from the last movie! For Loki to have literally the only character arc in the whole movie then it simply demonstrates either how lame Thor is as a superhero or how tough it is for Marvel to adapt their characters into major film franchies when they literally lack decades worth of strong material the way DC has. While Man of Steel was horrid for many reasons -- the biggest issue I had with Superman's latest film was that it simply lacked any sense of fun and intelligent resolution. This traditionally never been a DC problem but Marvel seems like this is definitely their issue. Malekith lacks any characterization and essentially is defeated not by Thor's brawn or brains (nor is Kurse for that matter and he is the one who kills Thor's....oh well) but by a weapon designed by Jane (Natalie Portman's) lunatic colleague and a building falling onto him.
In fact, Thor here seemed like a Twilight character. His romance with Jane seemingly fueled by Marvel's wishes to play to female audiences and there being nothing that truly drove or interested moviegoers beyond the "will Loki betray them?" subplot. So lame was this that not only do we not care what happens to Jane and Thor but more importantly, the 'ending' scene between these two occurs AFTER the credits.
By now, we all know that Marvel has excellent end sequences meant to captivate us until another 6 months later when the next film comes out. This mid-credits sequence (as I stated--the "Thor" ending actually occurs after the credits) is the real-hook of the film and seemingly sets up Guardians of the Galaxy. Is this important..I guess. Nothing major happens and since the plot involves something that I've never thought was a cool Marvel comics story then--I won't ruin it but suffice to say I need more than this to get hyped about Guardians or Avengers 3 (yes--there is NO WAY this affects Avengers: Age of Ultron). More importantly--the 'villain' played by Benicio Del Toro (aka the Collector) looks RIDICULOUS! I mean he looks like a 1970's Dr. Who villain and THAT MADE ME CRINGE.
The Verdict = MEH.
Thor: The Dark World is proof that we are living in an amazing time. We have access to technology and talent that can literally reproduce the comic books of our youth. That being said, now that we can literally pull off anything in a feature film--then the STORY BECOMES GLARING IF IT'S MISSING. Thor: The Dark World is fun and great stop-gap of a Marvel movie but it feels literally meaningless and without any significance to what has become the main event--the Avengers franchise.
To put in another way--this is the really neat Chewbacca movie that the hardcore "fans" say they want but the truth is that everyone really is waiting on Episode 7.
Review by Frederick L. Jones
Frederick L. Jones is the creator of MyFutprint, Saturday AM and the comic, Massively Multiplayer World of GHOSTS!