It’s been all of six months since the last so-so Marvel superhero movie, and yet here comes another weak entry: Thor: The Dark World. Despite the hype, this one is easily skippable. Here are six reasons why the Thor franchise is strictly B-list.
1) A hammer? Seriously?
Thor’s all-powerful weapon “mjolnir” is simply and literally a blunt instrument. What else can you do with a hammer except smash things with it? It’s not like flying, or the ability to cast webs out of your palms: It doesn’t open up a world of possibility.
A hammer is such a short extension of reach and force that Thor might as well just punch enemies in the face. And when he winds up the hammer by swinging it in super-fast circles he just looks as ridiculous as a character from an old Warner Brothers cartoon.
Superhero weapons are supposed to be deeply marinated in myth, not in cheap jokes, and yet you can tell from Thor: The Dark World exactly how seriously the writers take this supposed all-powerful item when Thor, on a visit to Earth, simply hangs the object on an ordinary coat rack. Isn’t the hammer supposed to be so heavy only Thor can lift it? Why doesn’t it rip the coat rack off the wall and maybe smash through the floor below it?
2) Thor is a bore.
Thor, a dull character whom actor Chris Hemsworth plays like a slab of beef, lacks all of the interior qualities that make the best superheroes. He doesn’t have the tortured association with crime that Batman has, or the underdog quality of Spider-Man, or the lost orphan status of Superman. He’s just a big oaf who is good at wrecking things.
He doesn’t even have the family issues of the others: For all the bluster, he gets along better with his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) than the average teen. About the worst (and the most) you can say about him is that he’s arrogant, but arrogance (minus, say, Tony Stark’s genius) isn’t a particularly interesting or attractive trait.
3) Loki is a low-cal villain.
Smirking and capering and shapeshifting and making cute remarks, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is like a watered-down Joker before Heath Ledger re-imagined the character and brought out the most sinister and terrifying elements.
For all his treachery and tricks, the slight and pale Loki never seems like a real rival to the mighty Thor. He’s like a waterboy who makes jokes about the quarterback: Who really cares what he has to say? He’s not even funny, much less scary.
4) The love interest is barely there.
Natalie Portman is a fine actress, but the romantic scenes between Jane Foster and Thor don’t even register as much as the Brandon Routh-Kate Bosworth interactions in Superman Returns. Neither actor seems interested in the other and the directors of the first two Thor films (Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor) never devise a situation that makes us feel the magic between the two the way Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst played off each other in the Spider-Man movies.
Portman bragged about reading biographies of scientists to prepare for the role, and there’s her problem: she comes across as more nerdy than sexy. Did she really need to know about actual science to reel off the sci-fi gibberish she delivers on screen? Maybe she should have studied the moves of Mila Kunis instead of Madame Curie. As for Thor, he seems interested in her mainly because she happens to be the random earth girl he encountered.
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5) The silliness is painful.
About the worst thing you can say about a superhero movie is that it was campy without being funny. Both Thor movies fail here. Whenever the script goes for a laugh, it doesn’t do so in the manner of a Dark Knight or Iron Man movie — both of which have witty central characters — but instead keeps undermining the seriousness of what’s going on in the manner of a self-conscious, tongue-in-cheek Buffy the Vampire Slayer script.
If Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) is running around naked at Stonehenge and Darcy (Kat Dennings) is wisecracking about how ridiculous the story’s details are, we start to notice the artifice too. And the illusion fails. That makes it impossible for all the CGI blowout action scenes to have much impact beyond, “Well, that kinda looked cool.” A movie is supposed to have more soul than a trailer.