THOR: THE DARK WORLD (PG13)
They say lightning never strikes twice. Sadly, this is the case for
the god of thunder's second solo film outing.
After Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wreaked havoc in The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been busy cleaning up his adopted brother's mess in the Nine Realms, of which Earth is one of them.
Meanwhile, his love interest, astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), stumbles upon an interdimensional wormhole in London, whereupon she gets infected with Aether - a MacGuffin of mass destruction that resembles a malevolent lump of Play-Doh.
Turns out the movie's big baddie, a vindictive Dark Elf named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), wants some of this gooey stuff to send the Nine Realms into darkness.
Up against a formidable foe, Thor turns to Loki to escort Jane to Svartalfheim, the world of the Dark Elves, in a bid to lure Malekith out of hiding.
Thor (2011) has the distinction of being the first and only Marvel movie to make me sob in the powerful climax where the titular hero gets his second wind on the brink of death. It was a compelling story of an arrogant lout who is literally brought down to earth, where he learns the value of humility and selflessness.
There is none of that character transformation nor emotional wallop in this sequel. The heroes and villains remain the same characters at the end as they were in the beginning.
Thor is still as fearless and good-looking as ever. Jane is still the wide-eyed ingenue and Malekith doesn't do much beyond looking very cross and hissing threats in Elven.
Even Thor's Asgardian warrior buddies - Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Zachary Levi) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) - get shortchanged, showing up in two brief action sequences before disappearing.
The film's saving grace is Loki, the villain everyone loves to, well, love. Fans of the god of mischief will relish the generous screentime devoted to him, and Hiddleston milks every second of it.
You never quite know which side the trickster is on, and his smarm-laden jibes at practically everyone ooze with charisma. His resentment at being an outcast also gives the pathos which this flick sorely needs.
Kudos, too, to Kat Dennings' goofy-yet-adorable performance as Jane's intern, Darcy Lewis, whom I feel would make a more interesting female protagonist.
If you're craving eye candy, you won't be disappointed. Asgard is more magnificent and lived-in than in the first film. The battles - especially the Portal-inspired showdown - are awesome. Hemsworth's abs - in a gratuitous scene of fan service - look, uh, splendid.
It's a shame, though, that for all its sturm und drang (storm and stress), Thor's latest adventure takes as much risk in its plot and character development as a Saturday-morning cartoon.
And while the man with the mullet and mallet is back, it's his brother who brings the thunder.
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