Movie: Thor: The Dark World; Director: Alan Taylor; Studio: Walt Disney Pictures; Rating: PG-13; My finding: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.
"Thor: The Dark World" will spellbind you with extreme computer graphic imagery and an unquestionably fast pace. That's all well and good if you pay to go into a dark room to look at all the pretty lights reflecting off shiny surfaces. But there's little other reason to recommend this second installment in the Thor franchise, part of Marvel Pictures' ongoing onslaught of superhero releases.
The movie is not bad, but it starts out uninteresting and ends up being merely satisfactory.
Chris Hemsworth most recently had an outing as Formula 1 racecar driver James Hunt earlier this year in Ron Howard's biopic "Rush," and he really shined in the fresh role, eating up his lines as the cocky driver people couldn't help but rally behind. But this is his third stint as Thor, and while he has grown very comfortable in the role, it also seems that he may be a tad bored. But, in his defense, the worst part of this movie is the writing.
Thor will be king of the alternate-dimension, Viking-populated realm of Asgard when his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dies one day. As king of Asgard, one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology, it will be his job to maintain order throughout the universe. But, as much responsibility as that is, he has other plans.
Those plans involve the boring human scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), with which he has no discernable chemistry - but they are apparently very much in love. So, he comes back to her after two years which is apparently the time frame from the last outing and that brings her nothing but joy, even though his coming also means universal disaster is about to strike and he has to muscle-hammer his way through every obstacle.
Once again, the writing fails the entirety of the film.
Here's the plot: For some unexplained reason, thousands of years ago the Dark Elves race (which lives in a different realm in the Norse nine worlds mythology) wanted to use some floating red stuff that was mighty powerful to drown out the light in the universe and cast the entire world into a darkness. The purpose of this idea is not explained, but we just have to assume that these are just some bad guys who want to do some bad things.
In actual Norse mythology, the Dark Elves were bad guys and whispered bad dreams into the ears of sleeping creatures,
including humans, and were deathly afraid of light. They were unable to be touched by the sun's rays or they would turn to stone.
But explaining that, even in a cursory manner, seemed too much for the writers of this movie. Instead, the elves are just bad and filled with hate, and they are willing to force genocide on nearly the entirety of their own race to survive long enough into the future to fulfill that dream of darkness.
Instead, what the writers do have time for is an annoying woman named Darcy (Kat Dennings). This woman, who apparently is making a lifelong career as an unpaid intern for controversial scientists, is supposed to be "quirky" and leave us saying something along the lines of, "Oh, that Darcy!" with a twinkle in our eye. Instead, I felt like I was having my teeth pulled. They also have time to waste money on hiring Stellan Skarsgard again to be the head scientist whose entire purpose in this film is to be naked or near nude as a sight gag.
Anyway, the most evil elf, the ruler Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) has awoken because the red floating ether is back in the form of Natalie Portman, and now he has his chance to reclaim his destiny as ruler of the night.
As said before, the visuals are absolutely amazing, especially those of the other worlds, and particularly any time the evil elves are on screen. In fact, the silliness of the rest of the movie almost seems forgotten when the mood utterly shifts to darkness, and I actually enjoyed having paid to be in the theater watching them talk in their foul-sounding language.
Another joy is the end fight, wherein the production found someone creative enough to make an engaging battle scenes that relies on inter-dimensional travel run haywire in the middle of England.
(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews appear in Thursday's Arts &?Entertainment section.)