Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review: New 'Thor' movie pure superhero fun

This review was originally posted on KPC Media Group's website and published in its daily newspapers. Read the original column here. Republished with permission.

As much as I appreciate deep, dark comic book-inspired films, like Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, sometimes geeky girls just want to have fun.

Thank goodness, then, for movies like "Thor: The Dark World," which excellently blends a solid save-the-world story with a dash of humor, sprinkle of romance and a lot of pure entertainment value.

And, honestly, could a "Thor" movie work any other way? He's a Norse god who's really an alien who occasionally shows up on Earth to save humanity, and sometimes teams up with a group that includes a supergenius billionaire in a flying metal suit, a World War II supersoldier and a scientist who turns into a giant green monster when he gets angry.

It's actually quite a testiment to everyone involved that the movie works at all, and doesn't devolve into complete ridiculousness - although it does teeter on the edge of ridiculous more than once.

The movie follows astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) - Thor's love interest from the first "Thor" movie - who, when investigating some really weird scientific happenings, gets sucked into another world and infected with some very powerful energy. The energy is called the Aether, and it is being sought by the long-defeated dark elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings Jane to his home of Asgard in hopes of curing her, but instead Malekith seeks Jane in order to extract the energy from her to destroy the universe.

It's a ridiculous mix of fantasy - Elves! Armor! Swords! - and sci-fi - Aliens! Spaceships! Physics! - that shouldn't work at all. And occasionally, it doesn't. There are a few too many scenes of battles between sword-wielding Asgardians and elves with sci-fi blasters jumping out of spaceships. The movie stretches out just a tad too long and gets a smidge tedious at points.
But just when I would start to think, "OK, this is just getting ridiculous," something delightful would happen, and I'd be sucked right back in. And more often than not, I wouldn't be sucked in by Thor and his quest, or his relationship with Jane, or the impending doom of Asgard and Earth at Malekith's hand, but with the other major character in the movie - Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who provides many of the laughs and most of the emotional core to the movie.
Loki, if you've kept up with the quickly growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, was the bad guy in "The Avengers," but for "Thor: The Dark World," he's back to being a complicated, tricky antihero. Without Loki, this movie would be just another sudsie hack-and-slash superhero movie, but with Loki - and Hiddleston's gleeful, nuanced performance, which is the best in the movie - this "Thor" outing is elevated. It's still not a particularly deep or artistic movie, but it has some depth.

Still, the movie's depth isn't too deep, and when things start to get too dour and serious, a good dash of humor is inserted to keep the audience smiling. Chris Hemsworth spends a good chunk of the movie playing the straight man to trickster Loki, but Hemsworth is a master at playing his ridiculous character with just enough of a wink to the audience to make Thor not only bearable, but fun. And, let's face it, without that undercurrent of knowing humor, Thor would be an unbearably boring, stupid and, probably, rather unlikeable character. The excellent chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston brings it all together into an entertaining and intensely watchable package.

"Thor: The Dark World" is not even close to the best movie in the "Avengers" franchise. This is no "Iron Man," and it doesn't even touch "The Avengers," but it takes what worked in 2011's "Thor" and improves upon it. There are certainly some bumps along the way, but, wow, is it a fun ride nonetheless.

Jenny's Take: See it tonight.

(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content. Runs 112 minutes.)

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